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    As I and others have argued before, when it comes to autonomous cars, "hand-off" is a terrible idea. I firmly believe that autonomous cars have to be all or nothing.

    "Assisted driving" might seem like a good idea in the short term, but I believe it will prove to be a lousy idea in the long term, as it helps desensitize people to the act of driving, making them subconsciously rely on the safety net.

    Thatcham Research, a nonprofit British auto insurance research center, put together this short video to disabuse viewers of the notion that they can rely on assisted driving to remain safe:

    My own distaste for assisted driving means I don't even use cruise control; I feel it is up to me, as the driver, to maintain the safety of myself and the motorists around me.

    Blind spot warnings are neat, but can we rely on them 100%? When I owned a car I had a little adhesive-backed, curved plastic mirror that stuck to the sideview mirror and perfectly revealed the blind spot. That brilliant safety device cost me a couple of bucks and paid for itself countless times over.

    The only techno-safety features I like:

    - Backup cameras, since auto designers seem hellbent on fattening C-pillars, raising rear sills and generally obscuring rearward visibility.

    - ABS brakes, because you can mash on them in the rain without fear of locking the tires.

    What automated safety features do you, as drivers, like or dislike?

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    Welcome to Mediaplanet, a content marketing, and content creation company focusing on both print and digital products. Your role as an in-house freelance designer will be to diligently and accurately design 8–24 page print campaigns adhering to Mediaplanet's style guide and under the art direction of the senior designer.

    View the full design job here

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    The 3D Designer is responsible for all creative for a specific group of accounts to include staff supervision and work production. Will plan, develop and execute original creative projects. Provide leadership, motivation and conveys the vision to staff while maintaining a hands-on and flexible approach to managing deliverables and deadlines.

    View the full design job here

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    For reasons covered in Part 1, I've decided to buy a brand-new stickshift all-wheel-drive station wagon. Both station wagons and manual transmissions have fallen heavily out of favor, with few manufacturers offering both. I figured the dearth of options would make the selection process easy--but was astonished at the poor job most carmakers do with communicating to would-be buyers what their wares offer.

    Before I get into that, here are the five 2018 AWD stickshift station wagons available for purchase in the U.S.:

    Left to right: Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, VW Golf Alltrack, Mini Clubman, Mini Countryman, Subaru Forester

    Let's start with Mini. I had a helluva lotta fun learning to pilot their vehicles in the snow up in Finland and am sold on the company's AWD acumen.

    Mini offers the Countryman and the Clubman, two models of what I would barely consider station wagons (they look pretty small to me). 

    I clicked onto their website to learn more about the cars. The first question I had, of course:

    What's the Difference Between the Models?

    That's a pretty basic question, yet when we go to the landing pages for each vehicle, there's no usable up-front data, just marketingspeak:

    So one is apparently bigger than the other. It doesn't say in which way--taller ride height? Larger cargo capacity? Longer wheelbase?

    If we scroll down further, to the features, perhaps we'll learn more about what distinguishes one model from another? Nope:

    Then we get down to each model's three different trim levels:

    And then, confusingly, a "Line-Up" for each model--is that different from the trim levels?

    A spreadsheet-like comparison page makes it a little easier to see, side-by-side, what the difference is between the line-ups:

    However, there's nothing that simply says "Here is the practical difference between our two station wagons, the Countryman and the Clubman." This is bewildering to me. If you walk into a restaurant and there's two $19.95 chicken entrees on the menu, right after each dish's name is an italicized sentence describing each's preparation and ingredients, so that you can make an informed decision.

    I clicked over to the website for Subaru's Forester, to see if it was laid out more sensibly. The Forester offers six different trim levels:

    I found this layout less confusing than Mini's "Line-Up" presentation. Each iteration on Subaru's page is a progression of the model before it, including its successor's features and adding a list of new ones. The fonts and layout are easy to read and straightforward.

    Clicking on the "Compare Specs" link provides an easy-to-parse checklist-style spreadsheet, by which I'm easily able to understand the difference between the trim levels.

    Subaru's website also offers the helpful ability to compare vehicles, both in-brand and external. Ironically, this tool helped me see, side-by-side, some of the relevant differences between Mini's Countryman and Clubman:

    Next I looked at Volkswagen's two offerings:

    Again, there's nothing on the model page that indicates the difference between these two very-similar-looking cars. Clicking on the "Explore" links for either brings you to a bunch of lifestyle photos and statistics that appear identical between both models. The only difference is the Alltrack photos show it driving on dirt.

    This car can fit a Dalmatian
    SportWagen or Alltrack?
    Alltrack or SportWagen?

    Clicking on the "Build Yours" link for the SportWagen reveals only one of the trim levels, the "S with 4Motion," fits my AWD criteria:

    All of the Alltracks are AWD. However, the "Build Yours" link for the Alltrack does a poor job of helping you understand what the difference is between trim levels:

    Of the three brands whose websites I looked at, Subaru's presentation is superior, offering a comprehensive look at what each variant offers in addition to the succeeding trim level. That VW's marketers expect you to distinguish between trim levels using a measly three bullet points is disappointing.

    I found that both Mini and Volkswagen's websites do a poor job of allowing a potential buyer to quickly hone in on a model. Perhaps they'd prefer you visit a dealership in person? While that's probably an inevitable part of the process, anytime salespeople are involved I try to do my homework before meeting face-to-face.

    In the end I had to rely on an exhaustive series of car magazine articles and tons of YouTube videos to really get a sense of what each car and trim level offers.


    Up Next: Part 3, Design, Interior UX and Aesthetics

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    [This is an excerpt from our History of Soccer Balls post.]

    Up until the 1966 World Cup, soccer balls looked like this:

    That bland color was simply the natural color of the leather. Not very telegenic. But as matches increasingly became televised, the telegenic problem was solved in 1970 by Adidas with the advent of a high-contrast black and white design called the Telstar (Television Star).

    First used in the 1970 World Cup, this design was chosen specifically so spectators watching black-and-white televisions could clearly see the ball, with the black accents on a white background revealing the ball's direction of spin. The pentagons-on-hexagons pattern of 32 panels, called an icosahedron by math geeks, would remain part of the design for many years.

    Adidas has revived the design, sort of at least, for the 2018 World Cup with their Telstar 18. We'll post about that shortly.

    Click here to see how soccer ball designs have evolved over the years.

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    It wouldn't be the World Cup without Adidas designing a new soccer ball that the players can complain about. For 2018's Cup they've introduced the Telstar 18, a graphic update on the classic, black-and-white-TV-friendly Telstar from 1970. (Thus far goalies reportedly hate it, finding the ball unpredictable and slippery.)

    Adidas' designers opted to place an NFC chip inside of the ball. Why? Beats the hell out of me--in this interview with one of the designers, his explanation is wildly unsatisfying:

    There's a YouTube channel called What's Inside that, well, looks inside of things. In this one they cut a Telstar 18 open, then an original Telstar to see the difference:

    Thus far one, possibly two of the Telstar 18s have burst during match play, during the France-Australia game. It remains to be seen whether this is an anomaly, or will turn into a consistent disaster on the level of the Jabulani.

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    This speculative design project sets out to investigate the global decline of the bee population, focusing particularly on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is a phenomenon that leads to the majority of worker bees leaving the hive and eventually disappearing. This project is set in 2030; since many scientists say that if we don't change the way humans live; we won't be able to figure it out a solution for CCD and the time with which to fix it will have passed.

    View the full project here

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    About one month ago, Instagram opened their second office, housed in what used to be Manhattan's Wanamaker department store showroom. In their short time of existence, the expanding social media platform has come a long way since their very first office space, which was a tiny garage next to Facebook's massive office. 

    The new office's sprawling warehouse build naturally lends itself to an open concept layout, with desks neatly arranged along the perimeter in attempts to hug the natural lighting. 

    What we find most interesting about this space is the way Instagram went about creating quiet corners for employees who need a break from all the real life social interaction with coworkers. Besides an array of cleverly named conference rooms and a private photo room, the quietest corner of them all is the "library", a small space completely shut off from the hub of desks but still in close proximity to natural lighting. Closely following the "library" is the above corner, which hosts a single chair and table under a staircase.

    The "library"

    There are a few other areas meant for chilling out, however most still feel like social spaces, due to the layout of furniture:

    Instagram definitely has their employees covered when it comes to food. The office not only includes a fully-stocked kitchen—think a fridge filled with the entire rainbow of La Croix flavors—but also a hybrid juice and gelato bar. 

    Gelato and juice bar

    Another cool office feature is a variety of small installations, which are presumably there to create instagrammable moments for both staff and visitors.

    An example of an installation

    And finally, our favorite feature, a tech vending machine that we're assuming is free for Instagram employees (apologies for the blurry phone photos):

    Dongle replacements, anyone?

    Overall, the new Instagram headquarters is exactly what we hoped it would be. The space is trendy enough to attract young employees but refreshingly tame compared to many other trendy tech offices, which overwhelmingly aim to be the apartment, office and hangout space for millennials all in one. 

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    Kickstarter has taken note of Oscar Lhermitte's clever "Quickstarter" model, recognizing it's positive message of showing that designers can learn just as much thinking on a smaller scale as they can thinking on a larger one. The crowdfunding platform just announced a landing page within their site called Quickstarter that invites designers, makers and creators to think small and launch their own Quickstarter projects based on Lhermitte's original model.

    Tape Stickers was the first project in designer Oscar Lhermitte's "Quickstarter" series, in which he decided to launch a series of quick, one-off experiments on Kickstarter.

    The rules are almost the same as Lhermitte's initial Quickstarter rules, but the updated ones reign participating campaigns in even more:

    1. Plan it in 3 months or less

    2. Keep the campaign under 20 days 

    3. The funding goal should be under $1,000

    4. Offer rewards under $50

    5. Shoot the video in one day

    6. No PR or media outreach (unless contacted) (Editor's Note: We love to break rules)

    7. No paid ads on social media

    8. No stretch goals

    9. Include "Quickstarter" in your campaign name

    For its launch, Lhermitte and Kickstarter reached out to a few designers to create campaigns that would get everyone's creative juices flowing. Here are a few of our favorites from the initial set:

    Dog-Eared Shelf is a small shelf inspired by books with curled dog-eared corners by Ella Merriman.

    No Commercial Value Zine #1: A zine created by Creighton Berman, the mind behind one of our favorite Instagram accounts, @no_commercial_value.

    Wall Flower Coat Hook is a clever 2-in-one hook designed by Cemal Okten.

    The Lazy Postcard by Audrey Julien is an easy way to avoid writing heartfelt messages on postcards. The message area is obstructed with cutouts in various patterns, so it's the thought of mailing something that counts with these.

    Oscar Lhermitte's second Quickstarter project is Studio Offcuts - Tangrams, a series of puzzles he created using offcuts from his studio.

    Up for the Quickstarter challenge? Get started with your campaign here.

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    Trump just announced plans to create a military presence in space effective immediately:

    Based on the very minimal information we have been given, your brief is simple: Go forth and design a logo for "Space Force". The logo has to be as good as the Air Force logo, but different. You know, separate but equal. If you're worried about funding for the Space Force, don't be. Mars will pay for it.

    Please email your best sketches to Any emails that go on political rants will be ignored. We only want to know how you envision the "Space Force" logo. 

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    Gelcomm is an award-winning design agency, based in Downtown Los Angeles. We are seeking freelance and fulltime packaging designers with consumer packaged goods experience. We design from an informed point of view. Market research, rigorous insight, and dialog with brand/client stakeholders inform how we develop

    View the full design job here

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    An architect choosing a house to buy, a fashion designer shopping for a shirt, an industrial designer buying a car: We are extra picky within these categories because we've spent time studying them, and we know how the sausage is made.

    It's important to me, when selecting a car, that the design makes sense. I don't care what it looks like to others, or what image it projects; I mean that when I look at the exterior, the lines cannot be jarring or scream CAD. The interior design has to be clean, with the controls laid out sensibly and ergonomically.

    My hunt for an AWD stickshift station wagon has resulted in just three viable choices: The Mini Clubman, the Subaru Forester and the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. I'll go over each in order.

    Mini Clubman

    I narrowed my Mini choices down to their Clubman over their similar Countryman because the former has marginally more cargo space.

    The exterior design of the Clubman looks "honest." By that I mean it looks as if it was designed by sculpting clay, rather than by some CAD monkey arbitrarily pulling splines around their screen.

    It also looks great in silver, my favorite color for a car.

    I like the clamshell rear doors and would be curious to see how they differ from a conventional hatch during long-term usage.

    Moving on to the interior, I like what the designers have done with the speedometer and tach:

    Image by Car and Driver

    However, this shot swiftly knocked this car off of the list for me:

    What the hell is that in the center of the dashboard, a time machine?

    Having a large centered circle makes no sense. It visually competes with the steering wheel. And for a circle to contain a roughly rectangular screen makes even less sense.

    Image by Car and Driver

    The Start/Stop switch looks like it would be fun to press…

    Image by Car and Driver

    …but the overall shininess of the center console, and the bright colors, say "manufactured fun!" to me.

    Image by Car and Driver

    Overall the interior is too garish for me, so this one's a pass.

    In reality a lot more went into this decision--chief among them, my brother recently bought a Mini and the reliability has been terrible--but I wanted to offer my take on these cars' designs (and at the end, solicit yours).


    Up Next: The Forester.

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    In contrast to the Mini Clubman, the interior of Subaru's Forester looks sober and utilitarian. Nothing here screams for your attention, which is what I prefer.

    However, the exterior loses me right away. 

    The designers have repeated the sin committed by everyone producing a crossover these days, which is to introduce an arbitrary angle into the rearmost side window to make it "interesting." 

    In this case it's a jump ramp at the end of the beltline. This interrupts and ruins what should be the longest and most eye-pleasing line of the car.

    The designers' lack of restraint can also be seen in the headlights, taillights and even rearview mirror. It's as if nothing is permitted to have a clean, honest shape, but must at all costs be interrupted by random angles, notches and half-hearted curves.

    The surface changes across the hood are distressing. It's as if someone asked "Should the hood be concave or convex?" and the designers screamed "BOTH!"

    Here's a fine example of visual chaos where none of the lines relate to each other.

    Let's extend them and see how they intersect:

    It's busy, random and distracting. The car practically looks like it was designed during a game of "Exquisite Corpse."

    Subaru probably can't be beat for practicality. The company has a great reputation for reliability and AWD prowess. Two friends of mine are part of Subaru's cult following and rave about how fantastic the cars are to drive and how hardy they are. But there's just no way I could own a car that looked like this.


    Up Next: The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

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    Volkswagen offers two types of AWD stickshift station wagons: The Golf SportWagen S with 4Motion, and the Golf Alltrack (in three trim levels). Both are identical except the Alltrack has a marginally higher ride height.

    I narrowed it down to the Alltrack for a practical reason: The Sportwagen S offers only cloth seats, whereas leatherette comes standard in the Alltrack (below). I own two dogs and am moving to a farm where the animals outnumber the humans by a factor of 50. I am going to get dirty. The interior of the car is going to get dirty. And cleaning cloth seats is a bitch.

    For exterior automotive design I like clean, simple lines with a minimum of fuss. I don't like arbitrary bulges, flares and surface changes. With this criteria in mind, compared to the other two contenders, the Mini Clubman and the Subaru Forester, the Golf Alltrack is clearly the hands-down aesthetic winner.

    The Alltrack's designers used restraint and discipline. There are no extraneous lines nor, in the details, any meandering stylistic paths to nowhere. There are no chicanes, switchbacks or stupid Z-curves. This car looks, to me, like it was the subject of a rigorous design review led by a single individual with an authoritative sense of aesthetic simplicity.

    The interior is Teutonic, rational and no-nonsense.

    Image by Car & Driver

    The steering wheel does look a little complicated to this automotive Luddite--the steering wheel of the last car I owned featured only a horn--and I suspect I'll ignore its functionality altogether.

    I double-checked that the car met all of my earlier requirements--high crash test ratings, quickness, reliability--then started the process of purchasing a 2018 Golf Alltrack.

    For Research I Used:

    - Car & Driver, my favorite of the car magazines. Of the majors, their sensibility aligns most with mine and their coverage is top-notch. I gleaned more useful information about the car and its trim levels on C&D than I found on Volkswagen's website.

    - YouTube, where there are countless video reviews of any car you can think of. You do have to sift through them a bit, but the good ones you'll find are very informative.

    - My own history. The last car I owned was a 2001 Volkswagen Golf, which I had from 2001 until 2005. Fantastic car, reliable, built at the same plant in Mexico where the Alltracks are now built.

    How I Acquired One:

    I was after the base trim level, the Alltrack S, because I don't need fancy features.

    The first thing I learned is that stickshifts are hard to come by. Nobody wants them anymore, so it's a miracle VW still offers them. Local dealerships did not have a single stickshift Alltrack S in their inventories, and could not find one within a 500-mile radius of New York City.

    One dealership eventually called back and said they found one they could have transported to New York. They quoted me roughly $28,000.

    I then caught wind of a website called After plugging in my search criteria, it instantly revealed four stickshift Alltracks around the country. None were in the S trim level I desired--yet all were priced lower than the estimate I got from the dealer in New York.

    In the end, I contacted one of the dealerships through Autonation. Last week I signed the papers on an Alltrack SE which, even with the delivery charge and higher trim level, was far less than the other quote. I don't need a moonroof nor push-button engine starting but I'll take it. Sadly I couldn't get the interior/exterior colors that I wanted, but that's life.

    At press time the car had been delivered to a local dealership, and I should be picking it up sometime this weekend. At some point I'll write an in-depth review.

    Your Take on the Car Buying Process

    Designers among you, what criteria do you employ when acquiring a car? Are you extra-picky about things like design and interior UX?