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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)


As we've written before, building an urban home in Japan comes with two built-in issues: Earthquakes and tight spaces. Muji's latest iteration of their pre-fab home, the Vertical House (which now has a model available for public viewing in Tokyo's Arakawa district), addresses both of these issues via design.

What's interesting, at least to this Westerner's eyes, is the way they went about it. First off, the anti-earthquake joints. Traditional Japanese construction features complicated mortise-and-tenons (below right in the line drawing) where beams meet columns. Under Muji's design (below left in the line drawing) the individual components are beefed up and wooden tongues are replaced with robust hardware designed to maximize strength under seismic loads.


Secondly is the way they've chosen to subdivide the space. Building upwards in a plot with a tiny footprint is a no-brainer, but rather than have contiguous floors, they've opted to first bi-sect the house with an open staircase...


...and then build slightly staggered levels to either side to create six different "zones."


It's like having a succession of differing-height lofts rather than conventional levels or stories. By staggering floors in this manner, each "zone" is distinguished and delineated by the position its floor occupies in space, rather than by potentially claustrophobic walls contained within such a small footprint. (Cultural note: While this wouldn't fly in privacy-obsessed America, consider that traditional homes in Japan are far less likely to invite "company," or non-family members, into their houses; and that the traditional Japanese notion of privacy involves nothing more than a rice-paper-thin sliding door.)



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Oct 2014  |  Comments (1)


The design world has been rocked by allegations that the Super Friends, the so-called crimefighters whose Saturday morning reality show once documented their exploits, are in fact a bunch of design thieves with little respect for the laws they are sworn to uphold.

Years ago the vigilante group decided to construct a headquarters. In the security footage screengrab below, you can see them inspecting the site under the guidance of Superman:


Without obtaining permits, the team then constructed their headquarters in violation of zoning laws, and subsequently angered local trade unions by having Aquaman perform the plumbing himself. The cell phone "selfie" taken below shows the team after completing the sub-basement.


It was implied that the structure was self-designed, indicating one or more of the Super Friends had a background in design or was associated with a name-brand architect. However, it has now been revealed that neither the 'Friends, their associates nor even their foes have any connection with architecture whatsoever. For example, while archenemy Lex Luthor is often described as the "architect of destruction" of this or that, our research provides no evidence of his having obtained a degree in architecture from any accredited institution.

Instead it appears the design of the structure was ripped off wholesale from Cincinnati's Union Terminal, the Art Deco structure designed in the 1930s by accredited architects Alfred T. Fellheimer, Steward Wagner, Paul Philippe Cret and Roland Wank.



The resemblance is too close to be a coincidence, and with mocking arrogance, the 'Friends named their headquarters the "Hall of Justice."

But it gets worse:


Posted by core jr  |  31 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)


Apropos word that industry stalwart Smart Design is closing its San Francisco studio after nearly a decade and a half in the Bay Area, our Discussion Boards are abuzz about what may well be an industry-wide shift that finds its epicenter in Silicon Valley. OP jarman65 follows up to his opener with a link to a Peter Merholz blogpost unpacking the phenomenon; forumite Cyberdemon initially chimes in with the pros and cons of in-house vs. consultancy and a general shift in the industry, later concisely summing it up: "Smart and the big guys got contracts from the mega-corporations who could afford their hefty price tag, and those are the guys who now have fairly large and mature design teams internally." Meanwhile, Surface Phil puts it bluntly:

I think it's time to face the music that if you are an agency whose core offering is industrial design alone (i.e. designing plastic) chances are this service can be found elsewhere. Whether it be in-house design resource or outsourced overseas. You better be bringing something else to the table. UX, business innovation, commercialization strategy. Something...

Commentators also note that Smart Design recently opened a London office (after quietly dissolving a Barcelona satellite) and there is no indication that the company is in anything less than ship-shape—which is precisely why some, such as Merholz, conclude that the trend is a symptom of the ascendancy of tech companies. In short, these juggernauts are increasingly investing in design, which may spell the demise of the brand-name consultancy as we know it. That, or maybe it's simply the case that Shoreditch is the new SoMa:

All told, it remains to be seen as to whether the shakeup at Smart Design is a Bay Area bellwether or an isolated incident. The second page of the discussion thread broadly addresses the facts, with more of the nitty-gritty from industry vets bepster, Yo, FluffyData and slippyfish; speculation though it may be, their comments speak to the dynamic—and sometimes outright political—nature of the relationship between consultancies and their clients.

» Join the conversation

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  30 Oct 2014  |  Comments (1)


In 1990 Dennis Amodeo, a carpenter from Long Island, won a rather amazing VH1 giveaway: A collection of 36 Corvettes, one from each year from the model's birth in 1953 up to the then-recent 1989. Something like that is an American boy or man's dream come true, the crappy 1980s models notwithstanding.

But it's also an American man's dream to receive six-figure checks, so when pop artist Peter Max offered $250,000 for the collection that same year, Amodeo handed over all five pounds of car keys. Max had some kind of art project in mind for the cars, and got as far as taping up the sides of some of them for color tests. But that's as far as Max got, so the cars just sat. And sat. And sat. For decades.



Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  30 Oct 2014  |  Comments (1)


What kind of organizing products get funded (or try to get funded) on Kickstarter? Having written about the HYVE system, I wondered what else I'd find there. When I went looking, I found designers offering a wide range of interesting stuff.

Anyone who carries keys and a smart phone in the same pocket might be interested in using the KeyDisk 2 to hold those keys. And even those who don't might be intrigued by the design. It can hold up to nine keys, and has a car fob attachment. Membership cards can fit inside, too. It's made from sandblasted and anodized aluminum and uses custom-made screws. People who funded the original KeyDisk are coming back to fund this updated version, which is slightly lighter and holds more keys. The one disadvantage is finding the right key quickly; you need to remember where each key is relative to the KeyDisk logo. This product has already met its funding goal, and will go live on Dec. 5.


For those who aren't happy with the multitude of cable organizers currently on offer, there's the CableStop. CableStop has a polycarbonate body and two stainless steel interior weights. The plans are to manufacture CableStop in Portugal; this makes it more expensive than products made in lower-cost countries, but it also means it will be made with significantly lower pollution. The designer, Philippe Guichard, is both an industrial designer and a mechanical engineer and has over 20 years of experience. CableStop has until Nov. 4 to meet its funding goal.


End users who want to make the most of their refrigerator space might be interested in bottleLoft, a magnetic bottle holder for the refrigerator. The plastic rail is held in place with a strip of 3M VHB (very high bond) tape, a special low temperature application grade suitable for a refrigerator. The bottleLoft can be removed using a plastic putty knife/scraper to shear the adhesive sideways, and replacement adhesive strips will be made available. The designer, Brian Conti, has had four other Kickstarters that funded, including one for Strong Like Bull magnets—and this Kickstarter has met its funding goal, too. It goes live on Nov. 9.


Posted by Ray  |  30 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)


Hot on the heel-plate-attachment-points of Noonee's "Chairless Chair," the team at Mono+Mono has launched the "Sitpack" on Kickstarter. The Copenhagen-based design consultancy has developed what they're calling "the world's most compact, foldable resting device," and they're looking to bring the pocketable monopod to market via a crowdfunding campaign. Designed in keeping with the seven universal design principles, the form factor looks like something made by, say, Beats, but the device itself is actually entirely mechanical: The canister splits laterally into wings (which serve as the seat), revealing a telescoping leg that extends to up to 85cm (33in). We know it's that time of year, but don't try this with your kid's lightsaber toy:

Originally known as "Rest"—hence the references in the video—the "Sitpack" is essentially a further reduced version of portable camp stools or those canes with a built-in tripod-stool (both of which I came across in the USPTO archive, after a commenter tipped me off about the original 'wearable chair'), as they indicate in a tabulated side-by-side comparison on their Kickstarter page. They're available for the discounted price of kr175 DKK (about $30 USD); retail will be in the kr270 DKK ($46 USD) range—not bad, considering that they're looking to manufacture it in Denmark—see more here.

Sitpack-SketchesRenders.jpgProcess sketches & renders

Sitpack-Team.jpgThe Team

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  30 Oct 2014  |  Comments (1)


Portland-based Frank Howarth isn't your average ivory-tower paper architect, but a man who actually makes things with his hands—and shows you his design/building process. With a YouTube channel dedicated to "Architecture at a small scale expressed through woodworking and filmmaking," Howarth presents shop-built projects in a clever, entertaining way. I also like the man's flair for practical, attractive designs.

A good case in point is his series on French-cleat-based projects he built around his house. We've all got one of those closets filled with household cleaners and other domestic spillover, and here's how Howarth handled his:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  30 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)


Like these envelope-pushing urban downhill cyclists, we American motorists are also stretching boundaries—unfortunately, of our waistlines. And while we Yanks have been getting fatter for years, it took until now for someone to notice that crash-test dummies still look like they're in shape.

That's a problem, because having crash-test data from an average-sized dummy isn't much good when we are no longer "average-sized." And since we can't seem to get our fitness and diets together, leading dummy manufacturer Humanetics is going to start making, well, fat crash test dummies.

"Obese people are 78% more likely to die in a crash," Humanetics CEO Chris O' Connor told CNN. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat." This skews the data between in-shape, in-proper-position dummy and out-of-shape, out-of-position accident victim, so Humanetics' obese prototype weighs north of 270 pounds and has a Body Mass Index of 35. (A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered healthy/fit.)


"[Our] obese crash test dummy... is capable of measuring belt and airbag loads generated from heavier occupants during crash events," O'Connor reported in Crash Test Technology International. "The initial prototype dummy was made available in August 2014 for sled evaluations. Collaborating unversitites and companies will continue evaluations in the later part of 2014."

What we expect to see next: A celebrity or politican fat-shaming one of these dummies, then being forced to apologize on Twitter.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  29 Oct 2014  |  Comments (2)


Cities like New York and Washington D.C. were designed with nice, rational grids. Cities like Tokyo and Kyoto were reportedly designed to confuse invaders with twisting, irrational angles. And cities like Valparaiso, Chile and Taxco, Mexico were designed in reaction to Mother Nature, being built as they are atop a number of rugged hillsides.

The crazily-narrow, winding alleyways of Valparaiso and Taxco follow gravity and topography more than logic, and as it turns out, this makes for an extremely compelling downhill bike course. Organized downhill racing through urban environments has existed since the '90s, but this year a bunch of sponsors got together to organize the City Downhill World Tour 2014, spanning Valparaiso and Taxco as well as Santos, Brasil and Bratislava, Slovakia.

Last week's race was held in Taxco, and the on-bike footage from rider Filip Polc is unsurprisingly insane—this seems like the entire reason GoPro cameras were invented:

How is this not a video game yet?

Posted by Ray  |  29 Oct 2014  |  Comments (2)


I can't for the life of me recall where or when, but I once heard that you turn a bicycle ("cornering," as we call it) not by steering with the handlebars but by 'pointing your belly button in the direction you want to go.' It comes naturally to anyone who has surmounted the learning curve, but it's easy to forget that we aren't born with the ability to ride a bike. Jersey City, NJ-based brothers Steve and Rich Thrush sum up the problem:

As you probably know, the experience of riding a traditional tricycle or a bicycle with training wheels is quite different than riding a bicycle. In fact, because you cannot lean into turns on a traditional tricycle nor a bicycle with training wheels, kids riding these toys often develop bad habits which they then have to unlearn when learning to ride a bicycle.

The recently Kickstarted Dreisch leaning tricycle addresses the counterintuitive physics of muscle memory by shifting the steering to the rear axle via a hinge and a pivoting swing-arm that runs the length of the frame. The result is a 'natural' turning mechanism.

As big-time bike nerds, we're glad to see a genuine innovation in bicycle design, albeit for a specific subset of riders. By sheer coincidence, a commenter suggested a use case for a certain much-discussed concept bike just this morning: "Age 2–5 kids glider bike I think. Gonna make one." We'd be curious to see the results if he or she does, as this would be a bicyclic evolution of a baby walker—for which trade names include Exersaucer and Jumperoo—though I'm not exactly sure if a harness has any advantages over a traditional balance bike or, say, Andreas Bhend's convertible take on a child's first bicycle.

Via Bike Rumor