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A Closer Look at MoMA Wholesale's Ongoing Product Design Collaboration with SVA PoD


The MoMA Design Store has been a retail destination for design lovers for years, but many people don't realize that MoMA Store has their own wholesale product brand developed in-house to accompany many of the classic design items they have available. 

Around five or so years ago, the MoMA Store team was seeking fresh ways to connect with new designers and finding new products to produce under their brand. The team began researching new ways to connect with fresh design talent, and during a conversation with their curators came to the decision to start a dialogue with some of the design schools right here in New York City.

Paola Antonelli was on the Products of Design faculty at SVA at the time, so she was able to directly introduce the MoMA Design Store team to SVA's Products of Design chair, Allan Chochinov. From there, the two sides of the collaboration began a speculative discussion around what the structure of this new program could be. "We decided to have it be a more casual option for the students. We would come in and do a presentation about what we think modern art is, what MoMA's design story is and what wholesale is, and then issue the students a challenge or inspiration to design around," said Chay Costello, Associate Director of Merchandising at MoMA Design Store. 


Now, every Spring, Costello and Gabrielle Zola, Manager of Business Development at MoMA Design Store, work closely with SVA's Chochinov and Sinclair Smith to define a brief for the students. After the brief is decided, Costello and Zola host a kickoff meeting at SVA to present MoMA's wholesale model and the project brief to the students. Costello and Zola then return a few times over the course of the semester to view product development and to provide feedback. 


"The first meeting is almost like speed dating. I meet with each student, and they have three minutes to go over all the designs they have in their heads while I give them rapid fire feedback," notes Costello. "In the next meeting," she continues, "they share the results of that, which is a more circumscribed product proposal. We give them more feedback from there, and then they make a prototype." At the final presentation, representatives from MoMA select products that they could see themselves manufacturing. They then work directly with the students over the following months to refine the product and bring it to market.

"It can be surprisingly difficult to get students to shift gears and just create the most beautiful products possible with simple functionality."

On SVA's side, Smith and Chochinov work with the students to create as many products as possible that they believe can get into MoMA's catalog. "My role in all of this is to guide the students and help them with product development," says Smith. "If this were a credit course, I suppose myself and Allan would be the instructors. We meet with the students in groups and individually to review their sketches and to help refine the product concepts to best suit MoMA's needs."

Smith notes that leading this process is very different than how he and Chochinov typically teach product design at SVA. "Our approach to product design has a strong focus on asking questions about the role and relevance of our output as product designers," he says. "Working with MoMA is the closest we get to good old-fashioned industrial design. It can be surprisingly difficult to get students to shift gears and just create the most beautiful products possible with simple functionality."

Multi-ccino Mug


The collaboration is currently in fourth year, and MoMA has selected around 15 products for development, six of which have already been produced and released on the market.

One of the main bestsellers to come out of this collaboration so far are the Geo Stacking Coasters by Panisa Khunprasert, which are a set of multicolored silicone coasters with different geometric shapes as edging. "Panisa originally designed this as a series of snack bowls, but we were talking about the practicality of how often they would be used and where they would be stored," explains Costello. "She then redesigned them to be coasters, which was super reproducible because we already had a source for silicone coasters."

"The Tic-Tac-Trivet by Alexa Forney was something that the second you saw it you knew it was a great idea," she continues. "I love that it solves three problems—it functions as a coaster, a trivet and it's just something fun to do."

Josh Corn's Multi-ccino Mug is also popular because it takes some of the most common coffee recipes and puts them together on one comprehensive cup. "Josh was a very interesting student to work with because he has a background in performance magic, which was fun to see tie into his designs," notes Costello."Even with something as common as coffee—there's a recipe and a solution to it, but this mug makes it seem like you created something magnificent."

Geo Stacking Coasters


The MoMA Design Store Team is exposed to thousands of products every year, but they are rarely involved in the actual design process, and with this new perspective comes valuable lessons. "Sometimes we give feedback and the students challenge our feedback, but I think that's one of the most valuable parts of the experience. It allows me to re-think some of the assumptions I have about what good design is and what it could be in the future," says Costello.

"Sometimes there is no room or time for explanations—a product just has to sell itself."

And from the students' perspective, they have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of designing wholesale products through the eyes of the well-established MoMA Design Store. "Our students frequently hear Chay and Gabrielle respond to their product proposals with, 'We would sell that, but we wouldn't make it,'" Smith explains. "The first time the students hear that they are baffled—What's the difference? But they need to learn that MoMA retail can buy and sell a few thousand units of a quirky product from a brand like Kikkerland, and if the products don't sell, there's not much at stake. But they cannot manufacture tens of thousands of those units under its own name—there's too much risk."

"Just because the MoMA store will sell a product, doesn't mean the MoMA wholesale brand will make it," he continues. "The students learn a lot about sales and business structures through this collaboration, and they learn from trial and error that sometimes there is no room or time for explanations—a product just has to sell itself."

View more from the SVA x MoMA Design Store collaboration here.

Starting tomorrow night, stop by either NYC MoMA Design Store (on 53rd Street or in SoHo) to check out the newly-designed window displays by participating SVA PoD students. 

Reader Submitted: Airo: "A Personal, Yet Not Personalized Radio"


Airo is a personal, yet not personalized radio. It challenges the filter bubble phenomenon and explores an alternative way of experiencing social media.

It reads out tweets for you. When expanding the fan, you are also expanding your horizon by hearing more about what is happening not only relevant to you, but also around the wider world.

View the full project here

This Kickstarter Hit Finds a Way to Unlock a Whole New Coffee Market


On Kickstarter, it feels as if designers are constantly coming up with new ways to redesign a device to brew your coffee or a product in which you can enjoy your beverage. In a world rife with likely unnecessary coffee products, it's hard to imagine something that actually creates new demand for a product that is both novel and useful. But as shown by the smashing success that is IA Collaborative's Kelvin coffee roaster, the need for a product that helps the everyday consumers roast their own coffee beans proves to be in very high demand. 

What are the benefits of roasting your own coffee at home, you might ask? For one, the optimal time to enjoy the flavor of the coffee bean is when they're freshly roasted. That means when you buy those big bags of coffee, it's likely the beans are stale, as they only stay fresh for about 3-4 days after roasting.

Secondly, premium unroasted coffee beans are well under the $15-$20 price you would pay for a premium roasted bag (unroasted beans normally go for about $5 to $7 a bag). A product like Kelvin combines both the opportunity for optimal flavor and notable yearly savings. 

When it came to the possibility of roasting coffee at home, one person at IA Collaborative highlighted a serious lack in availability, as AI Collaborative Founder and Chief Design Officer Dan Kraemer noted: "an architect who works with us pitched this idea of home roasted coffee. He has a buddy who home roasts his own coffee, I think he uses a hot air popcorn maker, which believe me, is not ideal." 

After digging into some research, they noticed a few things. There's a niche market of consumers with a serious dedication to excellent coffee, but there are several suspect products and methods for roasting beans at home that hardly promise consistent results. There's also the fact that the pathway to ordering your own raw green coffee beans is incredibly confusing and obtuse. So with Kelvin, they designed both a product that roasts your beans as well as an app that allows you to easily order green beans according to your preferences. 

IA Collaborative believes the app gives Kelvin the utility of both a product and a service and is where they are creating new demand. Normally to buy raw beans, Kraemer noted that "you have to search these websites that don't explain exactly what you're buying." Kelvin's app gives you more information about the beans you order and some suggested roast times, which they hope encourages people to learn more about the art of coffee roasting. "We're looking at coffee making as more of a culinary experience," says IA Collaborative Design Engineering Director Luke Westra, "you are taking this food product and you're cooking it, releasing aromatics and oils, so we're excited to show people that journey and have people engage in what for a very long time was a very functional beverage." 

Kelvin takes less than 10 minutes to roast your coffee beans and allows for endless experimentation: "once you experiment, you could get 500 different variations," says Kraemer, "flavor can change by the second." In addition to a sleek look, Kelvin also has double-wall construction so it remains cool to the touch, an auto-cool down function to ensure the roast of the bean is exactly to your liking, and it collects coffee bean skins for easy disposal.

IA Collaborative is of course known for initiating a long overdue re-release of Henry Dreyfuss's Humanscale manual, which they noted was of great help to them in the process of developing Kelvin: "referencing Humanscale for Kelvin, we asked what's the optimal diameter of this front handle? And the affordance here so you can pull it out easily? It even has strength, like what's the maximum the thing should weigh in order for an average adult female to pick it up." To develop both the product and the app, they also worked intimately with a number of craft roasters who would give feedback on the flavor of the beans roasted on their working prototype and they helped to develop a collection of beans to make available on the app that would be best utilized in a home roasting environment.

All in all, IA Collaborative used their extensive experience in product development with their clients to ensure they were creating a product that felt intuitive, ergonomic, and perhaps most importantly, was a more essential addition to the growing coffee industry than just another french press or coffee machine. As of the time this article was published, Kelvin was well over its $40,000 goal clocking in at $243,414 with more than 30 days left to go—so as it seems, products like Kelvin have promising potential to dominate their very own sector of the coffee industry by putting the power of coffee roasting into the hands of the consumer. 

Access+Ability Exhibition Features Products Developed by and with People with Disabilities


Access+Ability is an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum on view now through Sept. 3, 2018. It features products, projects and services developed by and with people with disabilities—physical, cognitive and sensory—in an effort to improve their ability to lead independent lives and engage with the world.

Over the past decade, products are not only becoming more accessible and functional, but fashionable. A theme throughout the exhibit is that beautifully designed products can empower people with disabilities. The exhibition features over 70 works, from products that assist with daily routines to smart tech that aids in social interactions and navigating an environment:

Emma Watch, 2016, developed by Microsoft researchers Haiyan Zhang and Nicolas Villar.

The Emma Watch is a wearable device that uses haptic vibration technology to allow users with tremors to regain the use of their hand.
Emma Watch, 2016, developed by Microsoft researchers Haiyan Zhang and Nicolas Villar.
Los Angeles County Voting Booth (prototype; to be produced for the 2020 election), 2015, designed by IDEO, Digital Foundry and Cambridge Consultants

This digital voting booth addresses all types of voters. It's design is very open to make access easier for users in wheelchairs and large yellow buttons stand out for people with low vision. The booth is programmed with audio in several languages for people who speak languages other than English. This feature also serves those with low vision or blindness who may prefer to have their ballet read to them. The designers considered what obstacles disabled users face when voting, which is why headphones are included with each booth. In the past, people had to bring their own headphones to plug in because they were not readily available.
Prosthetic Leg Covers, ca. 2011, designed and manufactured by McCauley Wanner and Ryan Palibroda for ALLELES Design Studio.

These prosthetic leg covers add a human silhouette to prostheses in a large variety of colors and patterns. This variety allows the user to shop for them in the same way they would for clothes or shoes.
Bedazzled and Bejeweled Earring Aid, 2014, Designed and manufactured by Elana Langer

Intended to be worn as jewelry, this bedazzled hearing aid shows that an assistive device can be a fashionable part of your wardrobe. The museum is trying to make the case that there is an enormous demand for products that focus on people with disabilities. Deregulation of hearing aids last fall has enabled more design innovation and competition in hearing aid market. For a more discrete user, the exhibit also features some more minimalist hearing aids that resemble Apple products.
Bedazzled and Bejeweled Earring Aid, 2014, Designed and manufactured by Elana Langer
Various Cane Designs

Each of these canes have innovative features based on observing user interactions. One cane has light on top to help with navigation around the house at night, while others try to solve the problem of canes falling to the ground and the user is unable to bend to pick it up. There are also two Touch Objects, showing the handles of different canes. The museum is trying to incorporate more touch objects into exhibits to make them more interactive and accessible to people with low vision.
OMHU Cane, 2009, Designed by Rie Nørregaard (Danish) and Allen Zadeh (American)

The OMHU cane has a band of material that prevents it from slipping when leaned against a wall. This feature is a response to the fact that the user might not have the mobility to bend down to pick up their cane if it falls.

Get $2 off your tickets by purchasing online here

Yo! C77 Sketch: How to Add Texture to Your Sketches


Many of my analog sketches have this great texture to them. The secret is a piece of mesh textile that I put below the surface of the sketch that transfers through by rubbing the paper with a colored pencil. I show off the technique in this shoe sketch. Give it a try in your drawings and tag us if you post it on instagram. 

As always, if you have any questions or comments on the techniques shown, leave them in the comments below. What other techniques would you like to see?

Yo! C77 Sketch is a video series from Core77 forum moderator and prolific designer, Michael DiTullo. In these tutorials, DiTullo walks you through step by step rapid visualization and ideation techniques to improve your everyday skills. Tired of that guy in the studio who always gets his ideas picked because of his hot sketches? Learn how to beat him at his own game, because the only thing worse than a bad idea sketched well is a great idea sketched poorly.

The World's Most Remote Restaurant?


Somehow I doubt the veracity of this, but an e-mail forward asserts that the mountaintop restaurant in China pictured above offers diners a free lunch...if they can navigate the torturous trail to actually reach the place. Hit the jump to see photos of a journey I cannot imagine being hungry enough to take. I'm afraid of heights so even if I did make it there, guaranteed I'd vomit that meal up on the way back.

View the full content here

LAYER and kvadrat Announce Shape-Shifting Retail Shelf System Ahead of Salone del Mobile


Today, industrial design studio LAYER and danish textile manufacturer kvadrat announced SHIFT, a shape-shifting retail shelf system that will launch at at Salone del Mobile in a couple of weeks.

At first glance, SHIFT looks like a basic wall panel, but when you (literally) peel back the various top layers, a few different shelving options are revealed along with accompanying pop-out brackets.

The star of the show is Really's Solid Textile board, which is made from compressed upcycled textiles. Intelligently machined kerf grooves are able to take the solid material and bring it back to its flexible nature in carefully selected areas. This allows the shelving system to act as both an acoustic wall unit when not being used for storage and a shelving unit that peels back when necessary.

The flexible system uses no screws or bolts in its construction, making it an ideal solution for retail spaces that frequently need to transition into event spaces. Using retail spaces as community gathering points for events has been a trend in recent years, so it's interesting to see what a system designed for that model looks like. 

You can SHIFT in either blue made from recycled denim, yellow and grey. Or, if you like to live life on the edge, the white version is made from recycled hospital bed sheets. It's neat how the fabric dictates the Solid Textile Board's color.

"At LAYER we are really focused on sustainability and for us that means the materiality must be responsible, the functionality be flexible and the aesthetic be timeless. SHIFT represents all three; a simple adaptable shelf with an economy of construction using a super recycled material."

If you're headed to Salone del Mobile this year, you can see SHIFT in person at via Palermo 1. A series of 13 shelves in various configurations and sizes will be on display.

Book Review Pt. 2—Brutally Honest: No Bullshit Business Strategies to Evolve Your Creative Business


Our readers, our staff and Kickstarter enthusiasts alike have shown a huge interest in seasoned design consultant Emily Cohen's new book, Brutally Honest: No Bullshit Business Strategies to Evolve Your Creative Business. So, we decided to publish a second excerpt in advance of the full release. Brutally Honest still has 13 days left in it's campaign, so if you like what you read, you still have the opportunity to get on the "no bullshit" train to design business success. Without further ado, here's part two of Chapter 8: It Is Not Cold Calling:


Chapter 8: It Is Not Cold Calling (Pt. 2)

The Excuses

Over the 25 years I have been in this profession, I've heard all the excuses that designers use to justify why they are not currently pursuing new opportunities. Many of these rationalizations may be all-too-familiar to you:

"I don't know where to begin."

"I'm a quiet, modest or shy person."

"I don't need to. I get all of the business I can handle through referrals."

"Eventually I want to find a partner or hire someone to do that."

"I don't have time."

"I will... as soon as I finish updating or re-doing my website, positioning, elevator pitch, case studies, SEO strategy, [insert some other marketing tool here]."

"I do. I send out e-mail blasts."

My Relationship Curation Strategy

The following is one simple strategy that I have developed for my time-challenged clients.

Week 1: Research and identify 5 contacts (that's only 1 per day!)

Week 1 & Day 2: Write and mail customized letters to these 5 contacts and attach 2-3 case studies

Week 2 & Day 1: Call the 5 contacts from week 1 (refer back to cover letter and case studies)

Week 2 & Day 2: Research 5 new contacts (see who to reach
out to below)

Week 2 & Day 3: Write and mail letter and case studies
to 5 new contacts

Weekly: Repeat the above each week, be diligent,
and never stop

The goals of this strategy are: Keep it simple. Stay consistent and focused. Build new relationships. Make relationship curation a habit. Dedicate time each week.

New Business Efforts

To grow a more sustainable and viable business, consider how you allocate your limited time to new business development efforts. Here is one way to think about how you do that:

New Business Opportunities

The following highlights some obvious, but often neglected, strategies and tactics for developing new relationships. But, let's start out with a few ways to expand your reach.


Live outside your work and family. Engage with the world. Meet people outside your immediate circle. I once heard the successful apparel entrepreneur Johnny Earle, of Johnny Cupcakes fame, speak at an AIGANational conference in New Orleans. He humorously, but perfectly, captured this approach by suggesting the audience "meet strangers unless they drive a white van." You can meet people in the elevator, at sports events, while waiting on line, or even while on a subway, plane or train. You will meet people in the oddest places, so be open to that experience.


You never know where new business will come from. But, you have to take initiative. It's not about exchanging business cards willy-nilly or being overly aggressive. It's about reaching out and talking to people that you admire or want to work with or for. It's looking for opportunities to connect and not just build business.


Attend local, smaller events or large national conferences where your prospects and potential connectors meet and gather. Speak at these events. This is so important that I've devoted the next chapter to this tactic. But, the key word here is "actively."


Connectors are your best ally and strongest referral source for new business. Connectors are non-competitive firms or individuals that offer a complimentary service within your target market and with whom you can collaborate with. They can include, but are not limited to: social media strategists, marketers, writers, new business consultants, developers and operational or industry experts. If these connectors, or strategic partners, also share your specialization, then you can also pitch business opportunities together.


Send a handwritten thank you note to people who referred you, and a nice-to-meet you and stay-in-touch note after you meet someone new. And, send
a thank you to your parents for teaching you this skill (while you kicked and screamed along the way).


Without a strong position and a compelling and clear message, your connectors, followers and colleagues won't know what to say when they recommend or talk about you. In fact, they may say the wrong thing. Make sure you give them something to say about you by doing great work and providing them with memorable anecdotes and stories to tell others.


Personally and publicly promote and praise the work and efforts of your clients. If they wrote an article, read it, quote it, post on social media about it, tell others. If they win an award, congratulate them. If they have a baby or get married, send them a gift. Spread the love. They will reciprocate.


Stay aware of trends and trendsetters. Stay updated on business and industry publications, blogs and social media postings. Listen to industry podcasts and webinars. Actively attend industry events. Research and identify companies and specific individuals that you admire or who are doing intriguing things in their field.


If you don't specialize by industry, your potential prospect opportunities are vast, unmanageable, and overwhelming. That is the primary reason why most firms that are generalists are stymied by new business development efforts; it is just too much to manage and they don't know where to start.However, by specializing, you immediately narrow your focus. It makes new business development much less overwhelming, more focused, and frankly, very easy. (I discussed this more in-depth in Chapter 3, Specialization.)

Who Do You Reach Out To? ("Contacts")

The following are only a few ideas around how you can find and/or researchpotential candidates:


This is a great time to slowly (5 contacts at a time) re-organize and maintain the names on your current mailing list/CRM.


Periodically, perhaps each week, include 1-2 new contacts not already in your current database. These names may be researched and culled from: 

- inspirational media you've read (blogs, articles, books, podcasts) 

- inspirational speakers you've seen speak or have met at industry events 

- contacts you've met while attending, or ideally speaking, at industry events (those events where you can meet/schmooze with potential clients)

- your top wish list of companies you'd love to work for (these may be a reach, but why the hell not?)


Brutally Honest: No Bullshit Business Strategies to Evolve Your Creative Business is now available on Kickstarter

Office Chairs Made from Recycled Fishing Nets!


Humanscale's latest task chair, Smart Ocean, is an inventive update to the Diffrient Smart task chair, made with recycled fishing net material. The approximately 2 lbs. of recycled plastic used to produce the chair are sourced from ocean plastic pollution-driven company Bureo. Bureo's Net Positiva program transforms plastic fishing nets into pellets that can later be used to manufacture various products.

Smart Ocean is the first product to emerge from NextWave, a small initiative consisting of office solutions design company Humanscale, Bureo and other like-minded companies, including Dell and Herman Miller. NextWave's ultimate goal is to redirect materials away from the ocean and into each participating company's supply chain.

The chair's design obviously doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it is the first tangible product available for purchase from NextWave, signaling a further shift in driving the concept of a circular economy in furniture design.

Smart Ocean is available for purchase here

I think Parley should get some for their office.

Design Job: Start Your Career as a Junior Industrial Designer at Western Digital Corporation in Milpitas, CA


We are seeking highly motivated students to be a part of our Launch Client Solutions program. These full-time paid roles are designed to jump start your career, offering on-the-job and supplemental training and a robust mentorship program. You get to work alongside the brightest minds in the industry to drive the innovation necessary to outpace new demands and challenges created by data. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what data can do. Help unlock its full potential.

View the full design job here

Reader Submitted: Philipp Aduatz & incremental3d Experiment with Construction Materials During the Furniture Design Process


For Milan Design Week 2018, Philipp Aduatz and incremental3d decided to team up for a group exhibition. The basic concept of the exhibition is to show innovative and experimental applications of construction materials in product design. There will be new experimental unique pieces like the "Gradient Tiles Chair" or the "Cloud Chair" by Philipp Aduatz on display as well as realized other projects designed and produced by incremental3d. The main project of the exhibition will be a 3D printed concrete chaise designed by Philipp Aduatz, developed in collaboration with incremental3d.

Cloud Chair
Designed and produced by Philipp Aduatz
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
Cloud Chair
Designed and produced by Philipp Aduatz
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
Digital Chaiselongue
Designed by Philipp Aduatz, produced by incremental3d
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
Digital Chaiselongue
Designed by Philipp Aduatz, produced by incremental3d
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
Digital Chaiselongue
Designed by Philipp Aduatz, produced by incremental3d
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
Digital Chaiselongue
Designed by Philipp Aduatz, produced by incrememental3d
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
Digital Chaiselongue
Design by Philipp Aduatz, produced by incremental3d
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
Gradient Tiles Chair
Designed and produced by Philipp Aduatz
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
Gradient Tiles Chair
Designed and produced by Philipp Aduatz
Credit: Paris Tsitsos
by incremental3d
View the full project here

Vitra and Robert Stadler's Typecasting Exhibition Sheds New Light on Iconic, Forgotten and New Vitra Furniture


When performing personal necessity-driven tasks like sleeping, eating and sitting, we often neglect to consider what the furniture we use during our most personal activities says about ourselves. The objects we choose to surround ourselves with speak miles about who we are as individuals, but that's easy to forget when we're trapped in our daily routines. But what if we looked at furniture as characters with personalities instead of strictly focusing on function? 

On that note, Vitra will presentTypecasting. An Assembly of Iconic, Forgotten and New Vitra Characters at this year's Salone del Mobile. Curated and designed by Paris-based designer, Robert Stadler, the exhibition will showcase Vitra pieces from the archives in a new context: as characters typecast into different roles based on nine communities common to the human race. To get a better understanding of the structure and the ideas behind Typecasting, we chatted with Stadler about this vision when curating the exhibition:

Can you tell us a little more about Typecasting and what we can expect to see?

The main thing is that I'm presenting the furniture as characters. As the title also says, Typecasting, this whole presentation will resemble a huge film set, and the furniture is not presented in the usual design categories, but as characters; characters that are grooving within the different communities. I established nine different communities for the exhibition.

"It was important for me that this exhibition talks as much about us as it does about the furniture that is shown."

Concerning this transhistorical approach, the main community is called the Communals, which is all about communal living, co-working, co-living, et cetera. For this community in particular, there will be six new new communal sofas, including one of my own. It's interesting to see how many of the communities are relevant today but have been in existence already in, say, the 60's, in the hippie era, or maybe even in the 30's, in the reform era.

What was it like collaborating with Vitra for the first time? How did you go about selecting the pieces for the exhibition?

I actually had access to all the research products, including the archive and the collection of the Vitra Design Museum. It was very exciting to be able to see and to be able to choose between all those objects. What was also important to me for this exhibition was to have what I call a transhistorical approach, so to really show objects as much from the past as their contemporary production. Because I'm not presenting the furniture in the usual categories of furniture design, which would be seating or indoor, outdoor, office, working, home, et cetera, it was important for me to show that certain concepts or communities had already existed in the past, like with the Communals.

"Design is always an indicator or a seismograph of social changes. Sometimes it sets the tone, sometimes it's just reacting to it, but by presenting objects as characters with these nine communities, I tried to present a panorama of people's current attitudes."

What was your main goal in having the social function of furniture be the central point of focus in Typecasting instead of keeping it more practical?

Design, just like fashion or other artistic disciplines, is always an indicator or a seismograph of social changes. Sometimes it sets the tone, sometimes it's just reacting to it, but by presenting objects as characters within these nine communities, I tried to present a panorama of people's current attitudes. 

The communities are of course a subjective choice of mine. They're not a scientific truth, and they can also be accumulated—for example a person can be as much Spartan as they can be a Compulsive Organizer, which are two of the communities. By throwing the usual practical categories of design overboard, it becomes clear that this exhibition talks as much about us as it does about the furniture that is shown. 

It was also important to me that this exhibition enables people to view the furniture from a different perspective than we're used to seeing it in. This is especially important because many of the pieces are well known, so we don't even really look at them anymore. Looking at the pieces from this perspective or grouping them as I did in Typecasting enables not only this, to see them from a different perspective, but also to create different relationships between them.

On that note, can you run us through the different communities you focus on?

All nine communities reflect what we do today when we want to be part of a particular community. So the nine different communities are the Communals, the Compulsive Organizers, and then we have the Slashers, which is a term used to describe people that are always accumulating different jobs and different activities—like a graphic designer, slash Uber driver, slash et cetera. 

The objects I put in the Slashers group are series of objects that have the same form but that radically change materials. There's one emblematic work of Naoto Fukuzawa that talks about that. It's a series of nine different chairs with very simple form and very contrasting materials, each one of them. There's one that's made out of plexiglass, one out of wood, one out of felt, et cetera.

"Looking at the pieces from this perspective or grouping them as I did in Typecasting enables not only this, to see them from a different perspective, but also to create different relationships between them."

Then we have the Restless, and the idea behind the Restless is that on one hand, its groups of moving objects, so like office chairs and things like that, but it also includes objects that make us move. For example, there's an object called the Tool Stool, which is a stool made for an occasional way of sitting, so that we get up and don't sit too long like we would in a comfortable office chair.

The Athletes community is something that's kind of contemporary because we are very body conscious today. Athletes are the objects that are defined by a structural strength where it becomes an aesthetic feature.

And then there are the Dating Site Enounters where I grouped all the objects by pairing them like two people. Sometimes it's a perfect match—some objects fit together because they have a similar shape, or they want to achieve a similar function. But sometimes it's a total clash, which is something that happens in real life as well. Then the Spartans are very minimal objects that act as a critique of over consumption. 

"In a way, each group has contemporary relevance, but they also always say something about the past and how things inhabit our evolving."

And finally the Dreamers community has to do with escapism—escaping from this over-rational world. Those are objects that either have animals or animal motifs. They are not totally rational or totally pragmatic in their function. They sometimes use different, unusual materials for industrial production.

What's interesting about these communities as a group is that some of them have been around for forever, and some are much more modern. Was this your intention?

Well, as I said with the Communals, it's an old idea. In a way, we never really invent something new. It was interesting to show how those things existed already, almost always, but when they reappear in a different time it's always for a certain and also very different reason. They also look completely different because we have different technology and different materials than we did before. 

I gave you the example of the Communals, but it's also true with the Compulsive Organizers. It's interesting in that sense because we had this furniture typology called a secretary—you know, those desks where you can put stuff inside. But today a lot of our stuff is virtual, and a lot of these organizing devices are replaced by an iPhone since we organize our stuff in a computer or cellphone. In a way, each group has contemporary relevance, but they also always say something about the past and how things inhabit our evolving.

What can we expect to experience with 'The Communal Sofa' aspect of the exhibition?

Vitra asked five designers to produce a communal sofa, and six new prototypes or studies will be shown within the Typecasting exhibition, specifically within the Communals group.

You created one of them, right?

Yes, one of them is mine. Mine is called 'Hybrid,' and what I tried to do is combine an individual way of sitting, almost the classical way of sitting, with a communal way of sitting. What I always find difficult with other landscape or communal sofa concepts is that you can only use it in that way, and you have to take your shoes off. 

What I tried to do is make it so that within one same piece of furniture, you can have a solo way of sitting and working, but when you swivel the backrest inwards, you have the option of a more communal way of sitting. They recline, so you can sit together, and take off your shoes and be in a more communal situation. I tried to combine both into one piece of furniture. 


Typecasting will be on view at Salone del Mobile from April 17 to April 22 at La Pelota.

Removable Handlebars for Easier Bike Storage, Yea or Nay?


If it weren't for those pesky pedals and handlebars--you know, the means by which you actually drive and steer--a bicycle, narrow as it is, might be a relatively easy thing to store. This thought has occurred to industrial designer Trevor Heder, who then tackled the wider of the two problems, the handlebars:

I like that they've designed the wall rack to incorporate the handlebars, though I can't say if I'd actually use it as intended. Another potential UX hang-up might be what to do with the handlebars when shackling the bike up outdoors; would you be willing to carry them around with you, or risk theft?

At press time the Kickstarter campaign for Billibars was at $6,849 in pledges on a $15,000 goal, with 23 days left to pledge.

I support the effort and spirit of Billibars, but as a Citibike user, am probably not the target market. For those of you who own your own bicycles, what say you?

Festo's Incredible Mobile Biomimetic Robots


When Season 2 of "Westworld" premieres in a few weeks, I wouldn't be surprised to see that the androids were created by a future version of Festo.

Festo, a German robotics company whose power-tool spin-off Festool is well-known amongst many of you, specializes in biomimetic robotic technology. Whereas Boston Dynamics is into dogs, Festo models their prototypes after less domesticated creatures. Here are some examples:

A Flying Bat:

A Somersaulting Spider:

A Leaping Kangaroo:

Self-Charging Ants:

Flying Butterflies:


Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Batavia's Three-Function Barbecue Grill


Last week we looked at Robert Brunner/Ammunition's design for Fuego Grills, a low-hassle, easy-to-use product. This week we're looking at Batavia's 4Grill Barrel Barbecue, which in addition to grilling, can also be used as a smoker or a slow cooker. (The manufacturer cites "fireplace" as a fourth function, but we're only interested in the cooking applications here.)

Fuego and Batavia's products offer vastly different user experiences (particularly during the often overlooked not-in-actual-use phase). The multiple functions of the 4Grill sound attractive, but looking at the set-up/breakdown, I'm not confident I'd be inclined to do it that often (and I am confident I'd somehow lose at least one of those pieces):

It continues to be freezing cold in New York, so I keep looking at barbecue grills online as a form of escapism. I'll try to find a new one each week until it's warm enough for us to actually use one. In the meantime, sound off: Would you use the 4Grill, or do you prefer a dedicated smoker?

Design Job: Big Fan of Industrial Design? Hunter Fan Company is Seeking an Associate Industrial Designer in Memphis, TN


The role of the Associate Industrial Designer is to help develop ceiling fans and accessory product designs. This is a full time position based in Memphis, TN. Essential Duties and Responsibilities • Conceptual development of ceiling fan and accessory product designs under direction provided

View the full design job here

Resin Casting Tips & Tricks, Part 2


If you work with resin, you undoubtedly found industrial designer Eric Strebel's 7 Resin Casting Tips & Tricks useful. Now Strebel's back with another eight tips, covering how to eliminate air bubbles, tips for keeping the worksurface clean, how to think an excessively thick resin, how to put leftover or expired resin to good use, the importance of experimentation and more. Check it out:

Bizarre Optical Illusion: Stare at This One and the Colors Disappear


Most optical illusions make you see things that aren't there, but this one is quite different--it makes what you do see, disappear. Stare at the center of this image, and observe what starts to happen around 15 seconds in (at least for me).

Bizarre, no? This phenomenon is due to what's known as the Troxler Effect, which the Illusions Index explains thusly:

When we attempt to fix our gaze on an object, the eye undergoes extremely rapid and relatively large-scale sudden movements called microsaccades, in contrast to saccadic drifts or small oscillations. Microsaccades cause the pattern of activity which forms the retinal image to shift across hundreds of photoreceptors at a time, providing a constant "refreshing" of the image. The Troxler Effect occurs with any stationary stimulus, but it is particularly fast-acting and noticeable with low-contrast stimuli.

Here's another example of it, with a jarring effect. Stare at the cross in the GIF below:

By TotoBaggins at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Two different things happened for me while staring at the cross. Rather than tell you what you're supposed to see, I want to hear--what happened when you stared at the GIF?

Brilliant Design for Visual Measuring Cups


I've had these Joseph Joseph measuring cups for a couple of years. I bought them because they take up very little space when not in use.

However, I absolutely hate using them. I really have to squint to see the numbers of the sizes, they're practically invisible.

I contrast, I absolutely love the design of these Visual Measuring Cups, particularly as a geometry-minded person:

And yes, they nest!

The Early Bird sets ($20 a pop) are going fast. You can back their Kickstarter here.

Material Implications for the Future of Mobility


The following is a sponsored post, courtesy of Covestro.

It used to be that the lines between various key industry sectors, such as automotive, electrical/electronics, appliances and healthcare were relatively clear and distinct. No more. 

Current trends—as underscored by various pronouncements and product introductions at the CES 2018 trade fair in Las Vegas and the recent North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit—indicate a convergence of technologies and industries on a scale never seen before. Look no further than the fact that CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) now claims to be the fifth-largest stand-alone automotive show in the United States. 

Paul Platte

The rise of "smart" technologies, electric and autonomous vehicles, and always-on connectivity between users and every type of conceivable device, is prompting a radical makeover in the very essence of the automobile. And the implications for design and materials choice are profound.

For materials supplier Covestro, this (r)evolution spells opportunity, according to Paul Platte, a senior marketing manager for automotive at the firm's North American headquarters. As the world's largest producer of the tough, clear, lightweight engineering thermoplastic marketed as Makrolon® polycarbonate (PC), Covestro sees future vehicle trends as lending themselves to the properties of that material.

Chris Lefteri

"The huge cultural shift that is going to happen in cars in the next 10 years will change the relationship owners have with their vehicles, and materials are going to be the biggest instigators of this change," according to Chris Lefteri, a London-based designer and materials expert. "Motivations for car use are going to be redefined and no longer primarily about getting from A to B. It will also be about the pleasure of the journey and wanting to share time with friends while experiencing a great view will be another. As a result, it's going to be how passengers want to feel."

Covestro sees strong demand for TPU films in the automotive cockpit of the future. (Illustration courtesy of Covestro)

Polycarbonate already finds use in a number of automotive components, from panoramic roofs and rear spoilers, to touchscreen displays and lighting systems. At roughly half the weight of glass, PC can greatly reduce vehicle weight. This is vital since automakers are seeking to save every possible gram, with a view to reducing fuel consumption or boosting the battery life of electric vehicles. For these reasons, Covestro predicts the share of its materials in vehicles will rise dramatically as vehicles move from conventional to electric vehicles. 

Polycarbonate additionally offers design freedom to vehicle designers. Nowhere was this more evident than on some of the latest model launches and concept cars unveiled at CES and NAIAS.

"The convergence of technologies is going to mean that materials for car interiors need to have electronics, lighting and sensing devices embedded that are going to change the passengers' interactions with the interior," said Lefteri, who heads Chris Lefteri Design Ltd., which also has offices in Singapore and Seoul, South Korea. "Lighting is already huge and it's going to become even more so. As such, PC is going to be a material that facilitates this, not just through light and color transmission and light diffusion, but also through transparency and larger lightweight windows that will help to create effects that can be changed depending on mood."

Byton unveiled its mid-size, electric, autonomous, China-built SUV at CES. (Photo courtesy of Byton)

At CES, a Chinese automotive startup called Byton launched its first concept vehicle —a mid-size, electric, autonomous SUV that it says it will make at its plant in Nanjing and sell in China by the end of next year, and in the U.S. and Europe in 2020.

It offers a broad slate of futuristic features, including facial-recognition cameras embedded in the B-pillars for unlocking the doors, side-view cameras instead of traditional side mirrors, and a "shared lounge experience" in the cabin. The interior focal point is a huge, curved 49 x 9.8-inch touchscreen that's positioned where the instrument panel typically resides, along with three additional display screens, and front seats that rotate 12 degrees inward.

The new Byton SUV features a curved touchscreen that measures more than 4 feet wide. (Photo courtesy of Byton)

Many vehicles at both events focused on passenger interaction, display screens, and sensors such as those used with LiDAR to enable autonomous driving. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging—a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser that can detect, locate and measure objects and their variable distances. Platte explains that LiDAR systems can be solid state (non-mechanical, but with a limited field of view, requiring multiple fixed sensors to capture all necessary angles), or mechanical (often involving an encased, "spinning top" type of device that offers accurate, 360-degree detection).

Both systems—as well as lenses for such things as on-vehicle cameras—require a very high degree of optical purity in the lens material to ensure accurate readings, he notes. A further challenge is the desire by automakers for these lenses to appear opaque to the human eye, but to be fully transparent to the LiDAR device when operating.

The Smart Car showcased on the Mercedes-Benz booth at CES offered an example of how a front-end display might be used. (Photo by Robert Grace)

Electric vehicles also do not require a radiator or venting in the vehicle's front grille area, freeing that real estate to be used as an electronic display, if desired. Some concept cars at those recent shows demonstrated, for example, how such displays might be used to welcome the driver to the car, or to alert pedestrians of the direction the car intends to turn.

Dr. Ignacio Osio

Dr. Ignacio Osio, Covestro's lead on Electric Vehicle Battery Packaging, notes that EVBP is another key growth area for Covestro's global polycarbonates business. "We have multiple products targeting multiple applications, but a key combination is our Bayblend® FR3010 PC/ABS grade targeting the manner in which the batteries 'package' into EVs," Osio says.

In addition to being used to package the batteries, Covestro materials also contribute to the cooling of the battery cells, as heat can build up during the rapid charging cycles demanded by today's EV owners. These material needs also extend beyond electric cars, to include other forms of transportation, such as electric buses, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, charging station stands, and the like.

The expected rise of autonomous vehicles—combined with the "sharing economy" principles embraced by many in the Millennial generation today—will lead to an increase in "mobility as a service" (MaaS), experts note. Driver-less vehicles will pick up and drop off passengers, deliver goods and services to consumers at home or work, and provide vehicle-sharing opportunities.

Toyota used CES to roll out its new e-Palette Concept Vehicle. (Illustration courtesy of Toyota Motor Corp.)

Many automakers already are investing heavily in this area, with Toyota Motor Corp. among those taking a leading role. Toyota President Akio Toyoda at CES announced its new e-Palette Concept Vehicle (and related e-Palette Alliance of partners), which features three different-sized autonomous vans (from 4 to 7 meters long), each with a highly customizable, open-interior design layout.

Mercedes displayed its EQA concept car at CES, with some nifty lighting features. (Photo by Chris Lefteri)

Platte points out that MaaS brings with it materials-related implications in such shared vehicles, which will require extreme levels of durability and cleanability, connectivity via touch-screens and displays, ambient lighting, and design cues for differentiation (brand to brand, or vehicle type to vehicle type)—all of which offer great opportunities for polycarbonate resins. In addition to the design of increasingly complex and intelligent headlight systems, the next generation of vehicles also promises to employ lighting in many innovative ways, from mood-setting ambiance to personalization. There was no shortage at CES or NAIAS of such examples, with production and concept vehicles alike cleverly incorporating LEDs, light pipes and light blades to create 3D or "jewelled" styling effects, as well as ambient lighting inside the cabin.

Volkswagen's I.D. Crozz autonomous crossover concept vehicle also showcased a creative use of lighting, both on the exterior, with its lighted front badge, and inside, as an ambient mood-setter. (Both photos ©2018 Copyright Volkswagen US media site)

One good example was the concept EV crossover coupe, I.D. Crozz, that Volkswagen AG displayed in Detroit. It included an illuminated VW front logo as well as a solid, wide light bar connecting the right headlamp to the logo and left headlamp, along with extensive colored lighting runs inside the vehicle that not only can personalize the vehicle but also help to make the interior look bigger.

Technology is redefining transportation and the future of mobility. These changes will create challenges while also generating enormous opportunities for designers and suppliers of advanced materials. Covestro has shown it is fully prepared and already rising to take on the challenge.


Covestro is one of the leading producers of high-performance polymers in North America and is part of the global Covestro business, which is among the world's largest polymer companies, with 30 production sites worldwide and approximately 15,600 employees. Through research, innovation and a commitment to sustainability, Covestro manufactures high-tech polymer materials and application solutions for products used in nearly every area of daily life. Main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, electrical and electronics, and medical industries, as well as sports and leisure, cosmetics and the chemical industry itself.

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