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Best Product Review Ever: Conan O'Brien Producer Jordan Schlansky Reviewing a Battery-Operated Body Groomer


I can only assume Philips Norelco paid to have their product featured on Conan. Conan then gave their battery-operated shaver to Jordan Schlansky, his famously…"off" Producer, to review on-camera. We're guessing this is not what Norelco had in mind:

Design Job: IDEO Is Looking for a Senior Digital Product Designer to Create Digital Products on Web, Mobile, & Beyond


In a nutshell: IDEO is searching for a Digital Product Designer with experience shipping web and mobile products in close collaboration with engineers. An ideal candidate has a strong point of view about digital product design and process and is able to articulate its value to internal collaborators and

View the full design job here

Production Methods Experiment: Can You Cast Metal Using Kinetic Sand?


It sounds like the kind of conversation two industrial designers might have at a bar: Could you cast metal using kinetic sand? Kinetic sand, you may remember, is that colored, polymerized sand that behaves more like Silly Putty than the stuff you find at the beach. It's better at holding detail than standard sand; how would it behave when acting as a vessel for molten metal?

YouTube channel The King of Random asked and answered the question, using both molten aluminum and gallium, the latter of which has a melting point of only 85 degrees Fahrenheit:

From Tree Fibers and Crab Shells, Georgia Tech Researchers Develop Bioplastic Film for Food Packaging


Chitin is a fibrous substance found in crab and shrimp shells, and the last time we looked at the stuff, Chinese scientists were using it to make an eco-friendly adhesive. Now researchers at Georgia Tech's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering are using chitin, along with cellulose from tree fibers, to make a transparent bioplastic.

Specifically, they've been able to form these ingredients into a transparent and flexible film that they envision being used for food packaging. According to Science Daily,

"The main benchmark that we compare it to is PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, one of the most common petroleum-based materials in the transparent packaging you see in vending machines and soft drink bottles," said J. Carson Meredith, a professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. "Our material showed up to a 67 percent reduction in oxygen permeability over some forms of PET, which means it could in theory keep foods fresher longer."
Image credit: Allison Carter, Georgia Tech
… Environmentalists have long looked for renewable ways to replace petroleum-based materials in consumer products. With the amount of cellulose already produced and a ready supply of chitin-rich byproducts left over from the shellfish food industry, there's likely more than enough material available to make the new films a viable flexible-packaging alternative, Meredith said.

The next challenge will be scaling up the production process; while technology to extract cellulose from wood already exists, cost-effective chitin-processing machines do not. It will likely be up to manufacturing engineers, and a deep-pocketed, environmentally conscious corporation to back them, to make crab/tree bioplastics a reality.

Jaguar's New I-Pace, Part 2: Going Over the Design Details with Production Studio Director Wayne Burgess


When designing a new car, the key consideration around which all other decisions must be based is where to put the engine. What happens when that engine disappears, and designers can start with a blank slate?

During our introduction to the I-Pace, Jaguar's all-electric SUV, we got to hear from designer Wayne Burgess on the challenges and opportunities presented when designing an electric car from the ground up. As Director of Jaguar's Production Studio, Burgess is aware of why every surface, line and angle is where it is, and he gave us a walkaround of the car while explaining the factors that drove a variety of design decisions.

(The following has been edited for length and clarity.)


Wayne Burgess: I count myself very lucky to be working in the car design industry at this point in history, because it's a time of a real pendulum shift in the acceptance and volume of electric vehicles we're going to see in the marketplace. And when we on the design team heard that we were going to be working on I-Pace, we were really excited to maximize every opportunity that an electrical architecture gives us.

Because we could take the I.C. [internal combustion] engine and the gearbox out of the car, we said "For the cabin, why don't we push the windscreen forward, why don't we give this car a real cab-forward dynamic."

Looking at the profile of the I-Pace, it has much more in common with our C-X75 concept midengine showcar from a few years ago than it does a conventional two-box SUV.


The footprint of I-Pace is about the size of a Porsche Macan, but the cabin, because it's over two-thirds of the length of the car, is actually about the same as the long wheelbase XJ. And that's one of the wonders straightaway that you get from electrical architecture: The size of the cabin versus the footprint of the car is much more optimal. So we have that very different, very dynamic profile to the car.

Then we thought "Well, this car has to be very modern from a design point of view, but also has to be very efficient aerodynamically." And that was something that we really enjoyed developing as well, because we had to come up with new solutions to make the car more slippery than anything we'd done before.

If we start at the front of the vehicle, we have a fairly recognizable Jaguar grill. We decided to do this for a very important reason: Jaguar's still a challenger brand, we're still growing our brand and trying to raise the recognition factor for Jaguars when you see them on the road. So we thought it was quite important that it had a Jaguar face that you'd recognize.

Because it's an electric vehicle, it doesn't need to draw in quite so much air as an I.C. engine vehicle. But when we started building prototypes and testing these cars, we found it does actually need to take some air in there to cool both the motors and the batteries. So whereas the grill was originally a solid surface, we've opened it up to take some air in.

But the big design feature is the fact that the grill surface rolls into the air duct in the hood, and the best way to view it is when you're getting into the car--if you look [down the nose of the car] you can see daylight through that extraction vent. 

That's something that you can only really do with a car that doesn't have an I.C. engine in the front. We were able to drop that duct into the space where normally you'd have the front of the engine. The air coming into the duct basically accelerates over the windscreen, then stays attached and passes under the flight and rear spoiler. It's a drag reduction device.

The headlamps have the familiar Jaguar J-blades, there's a quad signature in here, and that's just to remind us that premium British vehicles like the first generation XJ and every XJ since always have this quad lamp graphic so we thought even in a car with all of this technology and LED lamps etc. It was nice to have that quad lamp signature in there.

Moving down the bumper, air curtains--these intakes channel air onto the outside face of the tire and keep it attached down the side of the vehicle. Again, it's an aerodynamic management device.

As you come around to the side of the car, 22 inch wheels, obviously designers like to have a great wheel-to-body relationship,if we can have a big diameter wheel, that's always a win for us.

People have been very impressed with the fact that this car looks very much like the I pace concept that we launched in LA are year ago last November. And I've said, well what's actually the difference, the differences are tiny. From an exterior point of view, the wheels are the same design, but they are one inch smaller, so the concept car we went even bigger, we had a 23-inch wheel just to make a bigger statement, and the wheel arches were flared by 10mm more per side just to give the car a little bit more stance.

The production car is actually slightly narrower because it reduces the frontal area, and it improves the drag, and therefore improves the range. So we did that for very practical reasons. The drag factor is .29.

Moving down the side of the car, you'll notice that unlike most Jaguars, I-Pace is very sheer-sided. The body side is flush with the wheels, again that is about keeping the air attached. And this led us to design the car differently. If you look at a car like an F type, for the E type that inspired it, historically Jaguars have had lovely tapered tails. Lots of plan shape, it really sweeps off behind the rear wheel arch. The problem with that is it's not good from a drag point of view. 

So on an F-type, the air tends to detach around about the middle of the rear wheel arch because of that beautiful tapered tail, the E-type even more so, so we had to really think about the car differently in terms of giving it sheer sides and a fairly square plan shape. But to give it that voluptuous, sexy feel that Jaguars have to have, what we did is we overcompensated in side view so you got these really voluptuous front and rear fenders.

There's a beautiful curve over that front wheel arch, and then that drops through the waist, and then a lovely long, muscular rear fender. Again, feeling a little bit like the C-X75, it's got that cab-forward feel to it, but we really amplified the side elevation of the car because we couldn't do the usual hips-and-waist Coke bottle treatment that we like to do on Jaguars.

Also, because the car is quite deep, because it's an SUV by classification, we introduced this graphic device down here:

This is a gloss black insert that has the Jaguar script on it, to give the car the feeling of some planned movement around there. The fact that it rises, and then drops down again gives the sense that there is some Coke-bottle by using a graphic to convey that feeling.

Where we could get sculpture into the car, are these little aerodynamic skaggs behind the front wheel and ahead of the rear wheel. And again, they're about keeping the air attached to the outside faces of the wheels and reducing drag.

You'll notice the rear of the car has, for a Jaguar, quite a square plan form. Again that is good for aerodynamics. Keeping the corners out and square, and having a very clean separation point, that's the lowest drag solution. It's more like a cam tail. So you'll see that we've got a hard crease in the rear fender, and in the tail lamp graphic as well, and that's about giving the car a very short, clean separation point right at the back of the car. And if you can keep the air attached for as long as possible, and separate it cleanly, it results in minimum turbulence, minimum aerodynamic drag.

One of the things I love about the rear screen of this car, apart from the fact that it's very three-dimensional and looks like a visor from a racing helmet, it's that it's so aerodynamically optimized that we don't need a rear wiper. 

If the car's moving forwards, the rear screen stays clean. When the engineering team was testing that, they couldn't believe it themselves--they ran the tests three or four times before coming back to us and saying "No, really, as long as it's moving we don't need a rear screen wiper. It doesn't create turbulence and it doesn't soil the rear screen." So that's, again, another testament to how aerodynamic the car is.

We've still got very Jaguar-like, slim LED tail lamps. We've kind of evolved that lovely F-type tail lamp graphic, which is the horizontal bar intersecting the rondel (inspired, of course, by the Series One E-type tail lamp). We've given it more of a graphical feel, and introduced what we now call the "chicane line," which is this little line that dives down here. It gives it a bit more of a modern, progressive feel in the graphics of the car. But it still has that sort of slim horizontally-biased tail lamp feel that you'd expect from Jaguar.

Moving down the rear bumper, obviously a Venturi on the rear of the car in the trailing edge, which really does separate the air from the vehicle at that point. 

One of the benefits of electric vehicles, particularly the ones that have the battery packs underneath them, is that they have a very clean underflow. When you see one of these cars being built, it's completely smooth under there, which is great from an aero management point of view.

So we've been very capable of managing the air over the top, down the sides and underneath I-Pace to make it as slippery as we possibly can whilst giving it decent cooling, whilst giving it decent downforce at speed. And you will have discovered on the track today that it does plant itself pretty well actually at high speeds on the track.

And because we've got quite a square plan shape, it is an SUV, we've actually got a very practical load space in the vehicle.

Then there were the challenges of being as progressive on the interior of an electric vehicle as we are on the exterior. The exterior kind of defined itself: We get rid of the engine and gearbox, we pull the screen forwards, we make it cab-forward, you've got a statement.

For the interior, we thought really hard about what we could do to make the I.P. (instrument panel), the dashboard, much more differentiated. But the truth is, when you put in the building blocks required of a modern car--an HVAC unit, airbags, knee bolsters, etc. it actually defines a fairly normal architecture for the IP. 

Where we've had fun is in the center console area, where you need access to the controls for the heaters, you need stowage, you need an armrest, and the car is actually really useful in that respect. The stowage bin in the center console, when you pull out the cupholder lid, you can actually put two bottles of wine side-by-side in there. Or a small ladies handbag, or two large bottles of water, so you get a very big, practical stowage vacated by the area where the prop shaft would be.

Once we've launched the car you'll have capacitive charging underneath the console controls there. The dashboard itself has a large central touchscreen and a digital display that helps you manage the energy and helps you drive in a way that suits your style, whether you want to drive to regenerate, or to drive quickly, you can see exactly what the car's doing. So we had a bit of fun with the graphics.

We also engaged with some Hollywood-based sound guys to figure out what sound we wanted this car to make when it was really being gunned in anger. At the track today some of you were discussing whether it sounded more like a turbine or an X-wing fighter. Either way you'll notice it takes on a different tonality when you really go hard on the vehicle, and that's just to give you the aural stimulation that you expect as a human being when you're going quickly--you want it to sound like it is doing something more.

Beyond that, we also found that with this--our first electric vehicle--when you take the exhaust note and I.C. engine noise out, you're left with all of the road noise, the wind noise and so on. So we really focused very intently on making this the quietest, most refined cabin experience you could possibly get in a car when you're not driving quickly. That's a Jaguar core value; cars like the first generation XJ were known for their serene cabin environment, that magic carpet ride.

All in all the I-Pace speaks to the core values of Jaguar. It handles well, it accelerates and performs very well, it's very refined, it meets all of those expectations that you'd get from a Jaguar.

I remember when Ian Callum and I joined the company, one of the visions Jaguar had was that we wanted to return ourselves back to the forefront of automotive design. We wanted to be the progressive company that had inspired us all through the golden era, when (Jaguar founder) Sir William Lyons and Malcolm Sayer (designer of the C-, D- and E-types) were really creating some genre-defining cars. I think I-Pace is our genre-defining car. It really is going to be the tipping point and something that defines the brand moving forward.

Design Job: Life Really IS Good: Life is Good is Seeking a Graphics Manager in Boston, MA


We are looking for one special person who yearns to make our beautiful work - original art - work more beautifully. If you're that person, you just got a chill, and we've got a pretty good idea about how you operate ;-). You have a knack for finding the bottlenecks and creating flow. You thrive on purging unnecessary steps in a process and cleaning the organizational "junk drawer".

View the full design job here

What is the Application for Segway's Self-Balancing, Powered Single-Wheel Rollerskates?


Segway has applied their balancing technology to a new product called the Drift W1, a pair of strapless, single-wheel, powered rollerskates.

While that in itself sounds neat, their promotional video is ridiculous, and I mean that pejoratively:

That being said, we were still curious to see how one would actually use these, and if there's any practical application beyond Looking Cool to Awful Music. Segway hired a man who always seems to be on wheels, Casey Neistat, to do a sponsored content post on the drifts, and here we can at least see the learning curve and get a better look at the product's form:

The Drifts reportedly hold enough charge for 45 minutes of riding time--but, as with the original Segway, it's technically impressive without providing any clear application. Is there any circumstance in which you'd find these things useful?

Reader Submitted: This Student-Designed Cookbook Aims to Transcend Language Barriers Through a New System of Symbols


The Look Cook Book will be the first printed book to convey over 70 recipes in a format that is understandable in and language. The project brief was to standardize the written cooking format into an international visual language, with healthy and delicious recipes that could be made for $1.50 a portion with easy to access ingredients.

The goal was to bring healthy (yet delicious) food into the hands of low income families, refugees and notoriously pasta-ridden students via one single format.The Look Cook Book stands as a humanitarian application of design to enrich life within recession and post recession economies.

The Project is currently funding on Kickstarter, and the video is available on YouTube.

View the full project here

The Everyday Blade: A Tiny Flip-Out Knife That Takes Standard X-Acto Blades


Everyday Carry remains a hot product category, and aspiring design entrepreneurs among you should note that multitools and knives are what will enable you to get your foot in the door. The latest offering in the latter category is the Everyday Blade, a diminutive gizmo that takes standard No. 11 (i.e. X-Acto) blades:

It seems more useful for studio-roaming RISD sophomores rather than Montana militiamen looking to secure the compound, but I can't deny that the design is well-considered, from the dial interface to the take-anywhere size.

It's anyone's guess as to whether the Everyday Blade will cross the Kickstarter finish line. At press time they had $16,629 in pledges on a $25,000 goal, with 36 days left in the campaign.

Killing Mosquitoes With Lasers


In this last week on the farm, I have been bitten by mosquitoes more times than in the past few years of living in the city. Even when I am able to spot and slap a 'skeeter flat, it's sort of like killing a gangbanger in self-defense--the relief of victory is quickly replaced by the dread of knowing the rest of the posse will come looking for you.

Would it not be amazing if you could instantly kill an infinite amount of mosquitoes with pinpoint accuracy? Why yes, it would, and that's why Intellectual Ventures Laboratory, a sort of tech skunkworks outside of Seattle, invented this system of assassinating mosquitoes via laser beam:

The Photonic Fence, as IVL calls it, was originally designed to combat malaria. (IVL's skipper is Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's ex-CTO; his buddy Bill's Gates Foundation put out an open call to combat malaria.) You'll notice that the video above is dated 2010, so, eight years later, where the heck is this wonder device?

The full tale of why the Photonic Fence has yet to reach market is here. (The tl;dr version is: It's expensive, there are bugs--haha, hoho--to be worked out, and Myhrvold has a lot of other things on his plate.)

You Have Until Tomorrow to Get $100 Off Your 2018 Core77 Conference Ticket


Want to know everything it takes to launch your own product line or run a design studio? Secure an early bird ticket to our 2018 Core77 Conference to learn how to do it & save a few bucks. Deadline for securing discounted tickets is July 31st! Get your ticket now.

View the full content here

Design Job: Create Packaging with High Luxury Aesthetic as a Designer for Estee Lauder 


Designer, Global Package Design, Aramis & Designer Fragrances at the Estee Lauder Companies Principle Objectives: Assist in creating and developing innovative graphic art direction for packaging with high luxury aesthetic, within budgetary and timetable restraints of all programs. Responsible to maintain and uphold all

View the full design job here

Sketch Nerds: Want to Help Kickstart This Designey Felt-Tipped Pen?


There is the "jotting something down" version of sketching, where you grab the nearest mark-making object and scrap of paper to capture an idea; some gewgaw drawn in lipstick on the back of a receipt. Then there is the prepared type of sketching you do in the studio, where many of you probably prefer to have a tightly curated arsenal of pens/pencils/markers at your disposal.

This product is for the latter type of sketching, and it's pretty niche: When you want more single-pass line weight than a rollerball can produce, but less than what a marker puts out, industrial designers Tony Badu and Coco Lombarte hope that you'll reach for their unnamed felt-tipped pens in aluminum or titanium.

If you want one, you'd better spread the word, and fast: At press time there were only three days left to pledge, and they'd only garnered $11,245 on a $39,373 goal. If you want to help get it across the finish line, here's the campaign.

The Magic Creeper: A Mechanic's Creeper With No Wheels


Unless you've got a hydraulic lift, a mechanic's creeper is an indispensable tool for getting underneath a vehicle. But you've got to be on a smooth surface to use one, and ensure there aren't any air lines, extension cords or tools in your path. Plus there's a height issue with low-slung vehicles. And creepers can be awkward to store.

Well, here's the Magic Creeper, which serves as a great example of how understanding a material's properties can be used to re-think an object entirely, and solve a host of problems:

The following videos have been included partly for SEO reasons but mostly because at least one of my bosses is on vacation and not checking the blog.

Also, some of my favorite covers:

You're welcome!

Nissan's Senior VP of Design, Alfonso Albaisa, on His Design Process, Working in Japan & Advice for Young Designers

Image via Group 1 Nissan

Nissan's Senior VP of Global Design, Alfonso Albaisa, started his transportation design journey at a very young age, crafting mini paper replicas of yachts driving by his childhood home in Miami. With the support of creative family members—both his father and uncle were respected Cuban architects prior to the 60s revolution—Albasia decided to take his passion and turn it into a career path. Through a few unexpected twists and turns, he is now the VP of design at one of the most well-known transportation companies in the world.

During his 30 years at Nissan, Albasia has designed both yachts and cars, including concepts like the IMx and Xmotion, as well as more bread and butter vehicles in their lineup, such as the 2019 Altima. What sets Albasia apart from many transportation designers is his fine art background—a background that ended up launching him into the industry at an unexpected speed. Albasia is also Nissan's first non-Japanese principal designer, which has lead to a memorable series of learning lessons for the designer, in both work environment and daily life. Because of his unique, well-rounded background, Albasia's work skillfully marries the best of Eastern and Western influences, and his design involvement scales all creative industries. I sat down with Albaisa in a park one sunny afternoon during the New York Auto Show to pick his brain on making it as a transportation designer, the car design process and working with traditional Japanese craftsman:

Can you start by giving a general overview of the car design process?

Well, everything starts with an idea, and then somehow you have to take that delicate flower of an idea and bombard it technical restraint. It's frustrating but also happy. I don't know what heroin's like, but I imagine it's a similar rush. You have an idea and you want to keep certain elements of your original design, but you also have to change some to bring it to market. 

2019 Nissan Altima (photo via Nissan)

People always ask me how I can manage this process for 35 programs plus the business of the whole operation. Well, we're 800 people, which helps, but you also just keep getting better at everything. Eventually, your drawings start to become more efficient, and then you work on two programs together. Once you survive that, you move onto working on three programs at once. Then you begin managing young designers in a group—helping them grow and teaching them how to get an idea. And then eventually you wake up, and you're head of the whole thing.

Do you still love your job after 30 years?

I love designing. I just love it. I'm always worried and happy at the same time—there's nothing like it. When your ideas become full-sized to scale as clay models, it's still impressive. I still love sitting there and watching when they add color to the models because that's when you begin to see the vehicle's character.

Clay modeling process (photo via Nissan)

This is the part that's challenging for my partners and me because the model becomes a shiny object that reacts to the sun. The brown clay looks heavy, but sometimes adding clay will make the part look lighter because it will make the reflections move in different way, which is difficult to imagine.

Clay modeling process (photo via Nissan)

You have to learn all of these things through trial and error because there's no rule book. It's an artistic endeavor, and you want to make something unique, so by definition that means something that wasn't done before. It's hard to make a car that doesn't look like another car, but when they're in their early days, when we're doing little scale models without all the criteria, they are unique. The thing that makes cars more similar to one another is when you start putting people in the vehicles. Humans create an envelope that brings familiarity to each design.

Is learning about lighting and how light affects the shape of the car also something you've mastered overtime?

You learn that while working on the actual shiny object—at least I did because I studied a bit of fine art. Figure drawing was actually my main passion in school, at Pratt. So I was familiar with light on form, but most forms aren't shiny. When you make a form reflective like with a car, it's another challenge.

Clay modeling process (photo via Nissan)

It's interesting that you have a fine art background...

It's because I was going to fail out of engineering school. At first I went into aerospace engineering because I thought I should know aerodynamics. I was wrong. I can read, but I can't retain the information. I'll finish a whole 20 pages and then realize I wasn't paying attention. If you expand that a few hundred times, that's an engineering curriculum. I didn't know what was going on and failed almost every test. Then my mother told me, "I don't want you to fail out of school, so can you move into a fine art department until your grades come back?" because she thought an engineering degree was how I could become a car designer.

So you always knew you wanted to be a car designer, you just had to figure out how to get to that point?

Yeah, but when I found art, I didn't want to be a car designer anymore. I loved it.

What brought you back?

It was a complete accident. Pratt was a sponsor of an East Meets West award, and Nissan received the award. They came to the school, and I explained the curriculum of the school to them because I was an assistant to a professor there. I loved the school, so I spoke passionately about it. I used to do figure drawings, but then I would also make industrial designs where I would apply art forms using the same techniques. Nissan found this curious, so they invited me to go to California. 

Nissan Research Center Silicon Valley (photo via Nissan)

I didn't want to go, so I said, "Thank you, but I want to stay here." And they said "No, come. It's no big deal. It's just a free trip." So I did, and I was shocked. I had no idea [their headquarters] was going to be more like an incubator. It's so top secret that you go in and everything closes around you, but it's a beautiful building with modern architecture and crass concrete. Then I started working for them. The first yacht I did was at Nissan when I was 23 years old—it was for a private client who called us. I just found it to be like I was in a different world where I was not not human in a sense. I was just making things. I learned a lot, although I was always in trouble. I remember one day the president brought me into the office because I couldn't keep my mouth shut during meetings.

Nissan HQ in Yokohama, Japan (photo via Nissan)

[Laughs] I think that's a trait of many successful designers. Now you're working in Japan. Can you talk a little bit about the differences between working in California vs. Japan? 

To work for a Japanese company is really unique because Japan is completely different than any other part of Asia. For example, the pigeons we're looking at now in this park are cute pigeons, but they're filthy. In Japan the pigeons look like they got blow dried.

Nissan HQ in Yokohama, Japan (photo via Nissan)

Everything in Japan is extreme, and my work is like that—extreme. [Their mentality] drives me nuts sometimes because I'm impulsive—I want crazy things to happen fast. But instead of getting straight to it, they'll have seven meetings to understand what I've asked for, to see if it's possible, to see if it's likely, to see how we can do it, and all these things. But I've become addicted to this way of doing things. I have learned that in the Japanese culture, their sense of preparation and understanding of the impact of your actions actually allows them to make things very quickly because once they make something, there are no unknowns. Wherein in my process, or maybe the Western process, you start the design process, and along the way you have discoveries and make changes. But in Japan, all that stuff is done way before the design process even starts. I love that.

How can you know for sure that something you design will still be relevant once it's finished, especially with the amount of preparation your team puts into an idea before executing?

You don't know for sure, so you're always trying to push your ideas a little bit beyond the comfort curve. It's very tough because you can easily go too far. You want to make something that defines or shakes up a segment, but the definition of that is risk. You must always ask, "Are we pushing enough?"

So in that case, does designing concept cars keep you on your toes?

Yeah. Concept is the first time we can start a conversation with people and really learn what they are thinking about our new ideas.

Nissan IMx concept (photo via Nissan)

I saw your IMx at the Tokyo Motor Show last year, and it blew me away—especially the interior design. Can you speak on how auto interior design is shifting?

We did a little study of the anatomy of the interior around 10 years ago. Probably 80% of the effort that we did at the time was shape and 20% was technology, but now that is not the balance. Now, technology dominates. But you still need that 80% focus on shape design, so now it's like 116% focus in total. With the IMx, I love how we captured our Japanese DNA especially through digital art and new technology.

Nissan IMx concept interior (photo via Nissan)

So then what about the design process of Nissan's more everyday cars?

Bread and butter cars are the things that we need, and we see them in a positive way. I personally love bread and would prefer to eat bread than the courses that follow it. Right now, the challenge is that sedans are actually losing popularity and SUVs are becoming more popular. It's given us an opportunity to bring a little bit more life into our SUV category because there are no longer some of the constraints of practicality that it used to have. Now, they can be a little more special.

2019 Nissan Altima (photo via Nissan)

And then we're working on 12 electric vehicles, while many companies, which I still applaud, are only working on one or two. I'm not only proud of what we're doing, but they're a lot of fun to design. It's like how when you change your drawing tool, the result is different. The shapes that you make for electric cars are different because the way you're drawing them is simply different. There's a lot more room to play with shapes and space without needing to make room for an engine. People also have great hopes for the technology, so you're playing with a different emotional response of humans, which you need to respect and amplify. And at the same time I need to keep my head around how they are going to really live in the real world. It's great fun.

Nissan Xmotion Concept (photo via Nissan)

The recent Xmotion concept vehicle was done in collaboration with traditional Kyoto-based collective, GO ON, and you continue to work with them on other projects. Why does this particular collective stand out to you?

GO ON consists of six Japanese artisans in their 30's, but each one of them is the son of and now head of a multi-generational company. For example the guy who does ceramics is 16th generation. Imagine that—it's not even a concept you can wrap your head around. He told me his family had been doing this for over 400 years. In his little studio, he had clay that is 100 years old. I thought, "Is it still good? I don't want to smell that," but he had it wrapped perfectly and told me it was only for very special occasions. 

I am still fascinated by this collective because the artisans are young, so they have this instinct to leap forward and do something with the modern world, but they also have a hundred years or more of family history. Their family history isn't necessarily holding them back, but somehow it has a gravity that the rest of us don't have. So I do a lot of work with them. Sometimes I just ask them to come in and talk, or sometimes they work with us on materials. 

GO ON Collective (photo via Nissan)

Do you have any advice for young designers looking to get into transportation design?

The reality is, you're not alone trying to get into the transportation design industry. When I started out, I was not deeply aware of how the other kids were drawing. I naturally had a figure drawing technique that I would apply with charcoal usually on newsprint. My portfolio was made up of huge works—it was like carrying a billboard around. Nissan later told me that this surprised them, and that it was memorable for them. Against all of the portfolios that consisted of conventional drawings, I had a style that was different, and my shapes were different because of my technique.

"If you can draw or express yourself, that means you are of huge value to companies because you can make their dreams happen—and that gives us a huge advantage."
GO ON Collective (photo via Nissan)

So advice number one: avoid falling into the trap of loving a drawings that are common. Now with the internet you can see everyone's portfolio, and you become so influenced by the techniques of designers better than you that you allow your individuality to go away. I sit down once a month and look through 35 portfolios, and they all look the same to me, so when I see something unique, I gravitate towards it. I already have 800 people who work for me, and I have no urgent need for more. So when I hire I want them to be unique and different somehow. Make sure you find who you are and find techniques that look like you.

Then once you're in the industry, take care. You want to win, so it's easy to take shortcuts. You just need to take your time learning because it's tough, and you need the practice. Don't think about success. Forget about every cool, successful project you do right away because they won't help you. The projects that didn't work will help you because they make you mad, they make you hungry, and they make you turn inward and find out why your message wasn't heard. Those lessons are much deeper than the lessons of success. What I've noticed over these 30 years is you need the people that stay hungry all the time on your team because they learn every day. Their hunger is not about money, and it's not about a claim. It's a hunger inside that makes them want to discover something.

Along those same lines, you've started a program where you visit schools around the world and teach them about design as a career. What inspired this program?

I'm very lucky because my dad was an architect, so he noticed early on that my quietness and introverted nature was probably because I was a designer from infancy. I was lucky that he supported that, and that when I told him I wanted to be a designer he didn't say no. I feel that it's better now than it used to be, but still in many parts of the world, people don't feel that a life in the creative arts is sustainable.

Nissan Xmotion Concept interior (photo via Nissan)

So now when I go on a business trip, we try to find a high school wherever I am in the world and spend half a day with the kids. I show drawings from all kinds of disciplines, including fashion, furniture and architecture, and I talk to them about the real potential of all of these careers. If you can draw or express yourself, that means you are of huge value to companies because you can make their dreams happen—and that gives us a huge advantage. 


This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Making a Spare Tire by Wrapping Duct Tape Around a Bare Rim Actually Works


I have learned a lot of useful things on YouTube: How to fix a leaking shower handle, sharpen handplane irons, detach a Husqvarna lawn tractor deck, et cetera. The platform contains many informative and educational videos that I am grateful for.

On the other hand, the platform also contains videos like the following, which are dedicated to answering questions people generally ask when they're drunk. Such as: Is it possible to make a functional spare tire out of just a bare rim lined with lots of duct tape?

Although the end result was neat to see, I found the video just about unwatchable. Sploid's GIF below contains all you really need to see…

…particularly since the fellows in the video don't even mention how many rolls it took. (Or maybe they did, during the numerous times I had to fast-forward because I was getting the DC's.) The car appears to be a late'70s/early '80s Toyota, with 12" rims and wheels with overall diameters of roughly 22". While they didn't appear to match the sidewall heights exactly, I am curious as to how many rolls it would take to generate a functional tire. (But not curious enough to sit through every second of this.)

Design Job: Peloton Is Seeking a UI Designer to Create Elegant & Intuitive Interfaces for Their Exercise Products


Peloton is seeking a Product UI Designer to create simple, elegant, and intuitive interactive interfaces for our core engagement products : large-scale, complex, and function-heavy product systems such as the Peloton web and mobile apps, the Peloton Bike, and the Peloton Tread. This role is focused

View the full design job here

Reader Submitted: KICKR Headwind: A Fan Designed for Indoor Cyclists


Kickr Headwind, the first purpose-built smart fan with targeted full body airflow designed for indoor cyclists to simulate the experience of open road riding. Headwind is another building block in the Wahoo ecosystem of connected indoor training equipment designed to create the ultimate indoor riding experience.

View the full project here

Clever Object Allows Photographers to Shoot Through Glass Without Unwanted Reflections


When I lived in New York, I'd occasionally see photography crews shooting store windows in SoHo. To eliminate reflections and window glare, they'd erect a gigantic black fabric screen behind the photographer. It looked like a real pain in the ass.

Another situation in which reflections are undesirable is when shooting through the window of an observation deck. Photographer Josh Smith, frustrated with reflection-marred shots he'd taken on a trip to Japan in 2015, thus invented this Ultimate Lens Hood:

Here are examples of how the ULH makes a difference:

It can also, if flipped back over the camera, offer some protection to the camera body from rain:

Smith also offers a ULH Mini for smartphones.

via PetaPixel

The Revol: A Well-Designed Collapsible Dog Crate


Dog crates are a product that hasn't received much serious design attention. A startup called Diggs aims to change that with their Revol, a well-considered collapsible design that allows multiple access points and easily breaks down for storage:

Here's a demonstration of the features:

At this point Diggs is taking pre-orders for a small-dog crate only, with larger sizes reportedly in the works. And while they're targeting canine owners, I'd think the Revol would be great for transporting a variety of animals.

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