Category Archives: product design

Designing Our Perception of Time

Image Credit: Spoon & Tamago

Long before the railroads gave us standardized time, people used hourglasses to measure its passage. A precise amount of sand falls from one chamber to another and a set duration of time goes by; flip it over with the same result. Its shape is iconic, so much so that its form colloquially represents time itself despite the fact that it has all but obsolesced as a functional tool.

This year’s Milan Design Week saw the hourglass—unchanged for centuries—completely reimagined by Japanese design studio Nendo. Folks at the studio not only restyled the object but used it to explore our very conceptualization of time by altering the mechanisms by which we normally expect an hourglass to perform. Some of the redesigns incorporate a series of chambers allowing bold-colored sand to travel between them at different rates. See all four inventive takes and their explanations here.

Source: Spoon & Tamago

Digitally Fabricated Interior Design

In the near future, there are few industries that 3D printing does not stand to change, if not revolutionize. Interior Design is one industry where 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is currently changing the game. The new Loft flagship store in Ginza, Tokyo is a prime example of this fact.

The architecture firm DUS has been using additive manufacturing in their architecture for several years, but is now implementing that expertise in its interior design work as well. For the Loft store, DUS was inspired by Japanese paper folding traditions, and incorporated complex geometric designs in furniture and merchandise displays. These were shapes and ideas that would have been nearly impossible to model or fabricate without digital technologies and additive manufacturing.

When it comes to model making, research has already begun to show that the opportunities presented by 3D printing are beginning to change the way designers think. A study undertaken with interior design students showed that access to 3D technology shifted the modeling process  and resulted in quick prototypes with more consistently accurate scales, compared to model making by hand.

Source: Archipreneur and Emerald Insight

A Film Camera for the 21st Century

Image Credit: Reflex

Analog photography is getting a revamp. The first Single Lens Reflex (SLR) film camera designed since the 1990s was successfully backed on Kickstarter at the end of 2017. The project, simply titled Reflex, is on track to be available for sale in August 2018.

In many ways this camera takes everything back to the very basics: it requires one to manually focus the lens and advance the film. However, a few key features make this film camera a massive leap forward compared to the Pentax K1000 bodies still found on eBay. The Reflex team was determined to create as flexible and modular a tool as possible.

First, the interchangeable “I Plate” lens mount allows photographers to use lenses they already own from brands like Pentax, Minolta, Canon and Olympus. An interchangeable film back means changing from color to black and white film is easy, or from a fast film to a slow one. Bluetooth connectivity, while it might seem gratuitous on an analog camera, will allow photographers to quickly take notes on their shots as they compose them, and log their settings for future reference. Finally, Reflex is determined to allow open source development for their camera using 3D printing so individuals can create their own accessories.

While the price point will likely be comparable to an entry level Digital SLR, revived interests in almost-obsolete mediums like vinyl LPs have shown that people are willing to invest in keeping older formats alive. With the flexibility and the promise of open source development that Reflex offers, it’s hard to imagine they won’t have some enthusiastic adopters.

Source: Reflex Kickstarter and The Guardian.

Japan’s Reusable Housing Revolution


Photo Credit: Nate Berg

Japan’s population is aging, and is expected to reduce dramatically in the next 50 years as younger generations have fewer children. The population is also concentrating itself more than ever in urban areas, leaving many smaller communities with a growing vacancy problem. The tradition of replacing homes with new construction every thirty to forty years is only amplifying the growing problem.

Companies like Sekisui House and Daiwa House have succeeded in a market that demanded prefabricated housing on a near constant basis. Now, they must learn to adapt and are for the first time beginning to offer renovated or “refurbished” homes. New companies are also entering the market, specializing in the modernization of existing structures. Younger people are looking for simple, affordable homes close to work and family.

Younger families, who may not have the money to purchase a new prefabricated house, are becoming more and more likely to select a refurbished home instead. A 39 year old father of two noted that “the renovated home located close to my parents’ home has much higher value than a newly built home that is far away.” This is a clear reversal from the Japanese attitude towards housing that saw homes completely losing their value within thirty years.

As the population of Japan continues to decline and shift to urban centers, communities are going to have to get creative about reusing structures. One looming challenge will be in addressing failing structures, considering how many prefabricated buildings were never intended to live longer than 40 years.

Source: The Guardian

Compact, Portable Architecture Builds Itself in Minutes

Photo Credit: Weburbanist

Ten Fold Engineers, based in the United Kingdom, have developed small portable structures that can unfold and expand, building themselves within minutes. The design of the structures may seem simple, but the mechanics of unfolding are extremely sophisticated. The buildings are off grid, but they have the potential to connect to plumbing and electricity. The company is currently working on larger two-story models to expand the potential of mechanically built buildings.

Source: Weburbanist

A Bother for the Nose, A Delight for the Eye

Image Credit: DesignBoom

The microscopic structures of pollen were used to derive the forms of these 3-D printed lamps. The chosen types of pollen—such as ragweed, dandelion, and ash pollen—cause hay fever across Europe. The lamps are an exercise in converting two-dimensional images from under a microscope to 3-D virtual and physical models. The very things that bother the noses of Europeans can now delight their eyes.

Source: DesignBoom

Engaging Experiment by Google Chrome

Image Credit: Chrome Experiments

Google Chrome has devised a new way to get to know our planet. Through doodling a curve onto its interface, Land Lines reveals a corresponding landform, along with its physical location. This is an application that allows users to happen upon parts of the world to which they would otherwise be oblivious.

Source: Visual News

Jewelry that Captures a Moment

Image Credit: Dezeen

Image Credit: Dezeen

Love & Robots has created personalizable jewelry that can represent a specific moment in time as well as a geographic location. One chooses a location and a date on the store’s website, resulting in an animation of a fluttering metal cloth showing that day’s wind patterns. The customer can then pause the animation to produce a still, windswept form. The metal is either 3D-printed or a mold is 3D-printed and the metal is cast inside.

Source: Dezeen

Meet Kuri, the Home Robot

Image Credit: Dezeen

Image Credit: Dezeen

Kuri is a home robot that promises to improve a person’s living space in a wide variety of ways. Whether by monitoring one’s house while away or acting as a mobile speaker device that follows you from room to room, Kuri seems to fit the role of an active helper and, perhaps, even a family member. Kuri, the “real live robot,” avoids the realm of “uncanny valley” by possessing certain anthropomorphic features such as eyes that blink and a glowing heart. The coming months will tell whether such an invention will be successfully absorbed into the lives of the people of the 21st century.


Stair-Treading Wheelchair

Image Source: Scewo via Designboom

Image Source: Scewo via Designboom

The Scewo stair-treading wheelchair represents a major advancement in electric wheelchair technology. This chair has two elements that have been added to it: rubber tracks that allow the bottom surface of the chair to cling to steps and a pair of small, retractable wheels that prop the chair up. The success of such a chair is particularly relevant to the way in which architects will design ground surfaces in the future.

Source: Designboom

BUILD: A Real-Life, Physical Design Space by Autodesk

On October 5, 2016, Autodesk announced “the opening of its Boston-based Autodesk Building, Innovation, Learning and Design (BUILD) Space, a unique industrial workshop and innovation studio focused on the future of making things in the built environment.” The space allows designers to utilize specialty equipment such as waterjet cutters, robots, routers, and a 5-ton crane. There is a “BUILDers in Residence program” for which project teams may apply and, once admitted, may participate free of charge as long as the team provides its own materials.

Source: Autodesk BUILD Space

Interview Reveals the Origins of Comic Sans

Image credit: The Guardian

Image credit: The Guardian

Typeface Comic Sans—created in 1994—has generated more controversy than perhaps any other typeface. Vincent Connare, who developed the typeface while working for Microsoft’s typography team, explains the origins of Comic Sans in a new interview. Connare was attempting to develop a typeface suitable for Microsoft Bob, a software meant to help children learn computer skills. Microsoft Bob’s speech was written in Times New Roman, which Connare found inappropriate for a children’s software. Although he has only used Comic Sans once, Connare finds the backlash to the font “…just amazing—and quite frankly funny.” Read the full interview at The Guardian.

Source: The Guardian