Part 1: Ignoring War and Sabotaging Nazis on Their Way to Producing Funky, Iconic Cars
Do you think it was harder, or easier to design cars when your main competition was horses and carriages? Whichever you believe, imagine you're a car designer or engineer and this is the brief you receive:
We need you to design something that's going to remain in production for over four decades.
- It has to be cheap.
- It has to be easy-to-maintain.
- It has to be easy to manufacture.
- It has to get good mileage, let's say 78 miles per gallon.
Maybe you'd stall by asking who the target buyer is and what the car's performance needs are. So they come back to you with
It needs to be able to carry four farmers and over 100 pounds of their goods and harvested crops to market over unpaved roads. And they might be carrying eggs. Yeah, so make sure the car can drive across a ploughed field while it's loaded up with eggs, and that the eggs won't break. Also, sometimes they might need to carry big stuff like furniture, so make sure you design in a solution for that.
As impossible as all that sounds, that was what the development team at Citröen was facing in the mid-1930s, when France was still largely rural farmland. It didn't take long to figure out the car would have to be small to meet the first set of criteria, and the project was dubbed TPV for Toute Petite Voiture, or "very small car."
It took 47 prototypes, but by 1939 the TPV was deemed ready. To achieve the light weight the car was made using a lot of aluminum (which back then was so cheap that over in America Singer had begun building their Featherweight sewing machines out of the stuff). The car's seats were even lighter--they were pieces of fabric slung from the roof by wires, like a hammock. The roof was canvas and could be rolled back like the top of a sardine can, from the front windshield almost all the way down the back to the rear bumper. It only had one headlight and one taillight. But it worked, and it satisfied the brief, so the company came up with a snazzier name—the 2CV, for Deux Chevaux-Vapeur or "two steam horses," and prepared to try a first production batch of 250 cars.
Then World War II broke out.
As the Nazis invaded France, Citröen probably realized that their factory would soon be building Wehrmacht trucks. So under the direction of company president Pierre-Jules Boulanger a/k/a PJB, they started hiding the 2CV plans and destroying all of the prototypes. A few prototypes needed to be saved, however, presumably because they contained some winning formula of engineering that would be difficult to recall, so those were buried underground or hidden in barns. And one prototype was modified to look like a pickup truck so it could hide in plain sight.
Amazingly, in 1995, three of the original TPV prototypes, the ones that PJB had ordered hidden during World War II, were found in a French barn.
Posted by Sam Dunne
| 18 Sep 2014
Lee Broom opened doors at his Shoreditch studio last night to launch an opulent new collection of lighting and objects under the tongue in cheek title, 'Nouveau Rebel.' Recognized on the design scene for his contemporary twists on classics and high-end finishes (see his Crystal Bulbs from 2012) Broom's collection this year shows some creative and incredibly crafted use of marble—thin tubes of the stuff, for example, making even strip lighting look swanky.
Moving away from generic studio opening format or indeed the mock shop of previous LDF's, last night's dramatic exhibition ushered visitors down monochromatic corridors of curtains with only the collection to dramatically lighting the corners and crevices.
Tomorrow Scotland will hold a historic vote on whether to break away from the United Kingdom or not. Never mind the social, political, economic ramifications of secession—if the Scots bail out, there will be a bit of a graphic design problem to address.
That's because the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, is in fact a 19th-Century mashup of three different flags: The English's St. George's Cross blazon...
...Northern Ireland's Saint Patrick's Saltire (a "saltire" being a diagonal cross)...
...and Scotland's Saint Andrew's Cross, which is technically a saltire.
Put them all together, and you've got three great tastes that (perhaps used to) taste great together:
If you are a fresh industrial design student, you'll most likely have your first try at 3D printing this semester or this year. And while a lot of focus has been on the printers themselves, it's equally important and fascinating to look at the materials we can use.
There are surprisingly few limitations placed on the kinds of materials used to print 3D objects. As additive manufacturing develops into a widespread practice it's important to focus on the potential of the ingredients used. Here's a rundown of the popular and the strange.
The most commonly used materials today are the thermoplastics (polymers.) Typically the polymers are in the form of filament made from resins.
- Acrylonitile butadiene styrene (ABS) also known as lego plastic, is perhaps one of the most commonly used plastics in 3D printing.
- Polylactic acid (PLA) has the flexibility to be hard or soft and is starting to gain popularity. There is also a soft form of PLA that is rubbery and flexible.
- Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is a dissolvable material that is used as a support, that then gets washed away once the object is created.
- Polycarbonate requires high-temperature nozzle design and is in the proof-of-concept stage.
Plastics can be mixed with carbon fiber to make them stronger without adding weight.
There are also several metals that can be used for additive manufacturing:
- Stainless steel
Several types of processes work with metals and metal alloys. These are direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), electron-beam melting, selective laser melting (SLM). SLM can worth with plastics, ceramics abut also metal powders, and can produce metal objects that have strikingly similar properties as those of traditionally manufactured metals. (We previously posted videos of each of the methods listed above.)
The key characteristic of a Military-Industrial Complex is that armaments manufacturers want wars to keep going, so that they can keep making profits. Thankfully for the human race, not all industrialists are willing to propagate this system. France's Andre Citröen, an engineer by training, was one such enlightened individual.
See, Citröen was responsible for mass-producing armaments for France during World War I. But he realized the war wouldn't last forever, and knew that the factory he was running was going to be shut down unless there was something else to mass produce afterwards. With six years of pre-war experience working for the early French automobile manufacturer Mors, Citröen decided he'd produce a car—and he started working on it as early as 1916, two years before the war even ended.
That's why, when Allied victory came in late 1918, Citröen was ready to roll out a car just four months later. The lightweight, relatively affordable 18-horsepower Citröen Type A was a success, and by 1920 the Parisian factory was producing 100 per day.
They cranked out some 24,000 units before Citröen succeeded the Type A with the Type B2.
Posted by Sam Dunne
| 17 Sep 2014
With festivities now in full swing, first stop for many (us included) on the London Design Festival trail is a whiz 'round the various goings-on at the illustrious Victoria & Albert Museum in the city's Brompton district. As the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design (housing an estimated 4.5 million objects in the permanent collection), the grand Victorian edifice has become a fitting hub for the design festival in recent years. As in previous years, the V&A hosts a number of LDF exhibits dotted around the maze-like galleries and corridors of the museum, as well as an impressive program of talks and debates.
Amongst the highlights, new trio Felix de Pass (product and interior designer), Michael Montgomery (graphic designer) and Ian McIntyre (ceramist) have taken over the dimly lit climate controlled tapestry galleries with a spellbinding installation entitled "Candela.' A large rotating disc floating above the gallery floor rotates to display evolving glowing partterns—a light fixture at the bottom of the piece effectively 'printing' light onto the discs phosphorescent surface (similar, apparently, to that used by the sponsoring watch brand). As the disc turns and the printed pattern evolves, a pleasing depth is created as previous rotations slowly fade.
Posted by core jr
| 17 Sep 2014
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Photos by Kyle Oldfield, winner of our design school photo contest
Yesterday we published the last installment of our D-School Futures series, in which we interviewed the chairs of 11 leading industrial design programs about the evolution of ID education. Along the way, we gleaned quite a few insights into what it's like to be an ID student today, how schools are reacting to rapid changes in the industry, and what all of this means for incoming students and recent graduates. For those of you who haven't had time to read the full series—or who just love a good listicle—here's our shortlist of five essential takeaways.
1. Now Is a Really Good Time to Launch a Design Career
OK, so you would expect the chairs of design programs to be bullish about the profession; they couldn't very well tell us that now is a crummy time to get a degree from one of their programs. Even so, our interviewees gave us the distinct impression that now actually is a really good time to be getting into industrial design, or any design field for that matter. With the economy looking increasingly healthy, design firms are hiring new graduates at a steady clip—and, more importantly, businesses of all stripes are continuing to recognize the importance of design to their bottom lines.
2. Designing Physical Stuff Is Not Becoming Less Important—If Anything, the Opposite Is True
Worried that designers of actual, physical stuff are going to become obsolete in the coming decades, as more and more of our daily tasks are handled by digital tools? Don't be. As several of our interviewees noted, physical objects are not going away anytime soon—and, besides, as digital tools become more advanced, people will expect richer and more nuanced experiences in ye olde three-dimensional world. "While our tools and experiences are moving toward digital interactions, there will always be physical, visual or multi-sensorial manifestations that are part of the input and output of those interactions," Art Center's Karen Hofmann told us. "Design will be the differentiator in how successful or meaningful those product experiences will be."
As someone recently introduced to regular bicycling by Citi Bike, New York's bicycle share program, I love bike lanes. I just wish there were more of them; their relative Manhattan scarcity, and my unwillingness to brave the laneless streets with the battle-hardened bike pros, mean I must often choose circuitous routes in order to safely remain a wussy.
I assumed NYC won't add more bike lanes because of the added cost and the resultant auto traffic congestion (more room for bikes means less room for cars). So I was very surprised to read a NYC Department of Transportation study [PDF] released this month that found that adding bike lanes actually increased the flow of auto traffic.
How is this possible? In two words, clever design. But before we get into the details, for those of you not familiar with the style of NYC's newest bike lanes, let's have a look at the old system:
As you can see, placing the bike lane there leaves the cyclist in danger of getting "doored" by someone getting out of a parked car without bothering to look first. And the painted buffer between the cyclist and moving traffic offers zero protection from a car that veers out of control. So in 2007 they started shuffling things around like this:
With this improved design, the cyclist now rides adjacent to the sidewalk. The painted five-foot buffer prevents the cyclist from getting doored by a parked car, which now resides in a parking lane that provides a solid physical barrier protecting a cyclist from colliding with a moving auto. And if you look at the dimensions listed, you'll see the buffer can now safely be reduced by two feet in width, while the bike lane got wider by the same amount.
So right off the bat this second design is smarter than the first, and the numbers bear that out: In 2001, the old-style lanes were in effect. In 2013, the new-style lanes were in existence. And there has been a "75% decrease in average risk of a serious injury to cyclists" in that time period.
Posted by Coroflot
| 17 Sep 2014
The Rockport Company is seeking a Men's Footwear Designer with a global perspective on fashion, performance and lifestyle trends who will be responsible for the ideation of new concepts and the creation of compelling footwear designs that reflect Rockport's unique heritage of product innovation, style and comfort. The Rockport Design Team in Canton, MA carries on the Rockport tradition of improving their customer's lives by introducing advanced technologies into casual shoes.
Working at Rockport will require you to stay current with relevant trends, and apply this understanding into designs to ensure products are contemporary, on trend and market relevant. You'll also need to be able to present designs to the Head of Design, VP and other team members, as needed, in addition to providing product conceptualization, illustration and technical detailing of product, graphics, technical specifications. Apply Now.
Posted by erika rae
| 16 Sep 2014
, a high-speed optical Internet service provider in Japan, has created what may be the best commercial I've ever seen.
I've always been a fan of Rube Goldberg machines—I was even in a club in elementary school whose sole purpose was to create one to compete against other schools in the state. Now, we've covered plenty of Goldbergian machines that are purportedly the best of the best—all awesome machines that are worth revisiting—but au Hikari has a new twist on the contraption. A commercial for the Japanese high-speed optical ISP features a Rube Goldberg machine that is 'powered' by a single beam of light as it is reflected, refracted and magnified by various lenses and glasses throughout the two-minute sequence.
In keeping with the solemn, tenebrist ambiance of the mechanism, the commercial features naturalistic sound; an American company would probably have opted for non-diegetic audio—listen to OK Go in the background if you must. Check it out for yourself:
Editor: In the previous entry of this Automoblox origin story, the plucky Pat Calello had put together a sweet distribution deal with BRIO. Which would have been great news—if the factory hadn't screwed up on the tooling. How can Calello meet the order and save his start-up?
Despite my clear specifications and a detailed evaluation of all molded samples along with detailed engineering analysis, my manufacturer, Swift Tread, never was able to achieve the standard with respect to functionality. After the disappointing trip to China in March 2004, I was forced to accept defeat; my manufacturing partners in Swift Tread weren't going to provide the quality I required.
By this time the expiration date was looming for BRIO's Letter of Credit, and 10,000-piece order was quickly slipping away. Because of the production delays, BRIO missed out on the spring selling season, and by their own estimation would not even be able to sell 10,000 in 2004. They were now seeking a lower price because of lost sales, and were considering other changes to the distribution strategy. I couldn't swing a lower margin, and concluded that I would be better off financially if I managed distribution in North America myself for the first year. As a consequence, I reluctantly cut ties with BRIO.
I had a new problem though. I no longer had the 10,000-piece BRIO order, but Swift Tread had already begun production of 15,000 parts—of which only 5,000 were spoken for by my international customers. Ultimately, Swift Tread was able to assemble only 13,000 pieces. I ordered an inspection by an independent company to evaluate the quality; the shipment failed inspection. A second inspection requested by Swift Tread also failed. My options were limited, to say the least. I had 13,000 products sitting in China that failed to meet my quality standards... so much for a brand strategy and four years of blood, sweat and tears. To me, releasing products that did not measure up to my own standards made me feel like I was selling out on my dream—and that was not acceptable.
I was in a tough situation. If I refused the goods, Vinnie from Swift Tread informed me the factory would simply sell the goods to a broker or distributor to regain their investment. (Despite the fact that each product embodied my global patents and trademarks, Vinnie had no qualms about breaking international intellectual properties laws and selling them on the open market.) In this scenario, it was likely that Automoblox would be on sale somewhere in the world and I would not get one thin dime of the revenue. I had to make a difficult decision. I felt a fervent need to protect the carefully crafted Automoblox brand, and decided to accept the goods at a discount. My plan was to distribute them in the US, Japan and UK, and to respond to consumer quality claims as they came in. By the time the dust cleared and the freight company actually delivered the goods to my warehouse, it was mid-July.
Posted by core jr
| 16 Sep 2014
[Editor's Note: This product was sent to us from Savora for review.]
Among food lovers, graduating from "parmesan" powder out of a green cardboard cylinder to freshly grating Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table is a rite of passage. So too is grating your own nutmeg and zesting your own orange peel. The staggering selection of graters at a Williams-Sonoma indicates that more Americans are willing to GIY (Grate-It-Yourself). You can find graters in all shapes and sizes, tailor-made for specific ingredients (nutmeg, ginger, citrus zest, chocolate and coconut, to name a few). But with 3,795 search results for "grater" in Amazon's Home & Kitchen department, do we really need another one to throw on the pile? The people at Savora, a line of culinary gadgets owned by the North American Lifetime Brands, think so.
The Savora Hand Grater, a relative newcomer, combines rasp-like perforations with a removable container in one racy handheld grater. The company's lead designer, Sid Ramnarace—who has previously worked with Ford Motors—is behind the ergonomic designs that "mirror the smooth, aerodynamic lines of a modern automobile." Indeed, Savora's products have a whiff of something newly acquired by a man in a midlife crisis.
Posted by Anki Delfmann
| 16 Sep 2014
Photography by Anki Delfmann for Core77
Burning Man is a bombastic playground for all participants, but it's paradise for the enthusiastic designer!
Starting with the preparation, no matter what you plan to do to get involved, what ludicrous costume you've thought up, or how good your survival equipment is, there will be tinkering and building, sketching, planning and teamwork. You might end up inventing the next generation of collapsible shade structures along the way, spend hours getting the heat sensor settings on your LED suit right, improve your dust mask for simultaneous karaoke singing, or sew the ultimate protection bag for your camera equipment.
On the Playa, it's time for co-creation and non-intentional design at its very best. The whole event is based on participation, so if you help to build a sculpture, engineer the best way to evaporate your gray water, or choreograph a new dance-based typography, you'll find creativity is oozing from all corners in Black Rock City. And the radical inclusion principle is both enjoyable and surprisingly productive.
Make sure to bring along your all-time favorite basics like lots of tape, markers, sugru, ziplock bags, hooks, clips, sewing kit, and the basic tools. There is use for everything, if not by you, then surely your camp neighbor. And the very best: once the event has started, there are no deadlines, no show stoppers, no best practices. And instead of blue sky thinking there are only blue skies.
Alongside all the productivity and involvement, don't forget to take lots of time to explore the art on the playa, and visit the many theme camps around you. There are some brilliant examples of experience design out there, and a lot of fun to be had. Imagine all your favorite classes in university thrown into the middle of the desert. Remove all requirements and grades, add some unnecessary decoration, stick an LED on it and always have a chilled drink at hand. Enjoy!
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Posted by core jr
| 16 Sep 2014
This is the final installment of D-School Futures, our interview series on the evolution of industrial design education. Today we have answers from from Lisa Norton, director of Designed Objects within the Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects (AIADO) Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Tomorrow we'll have a list of what we consider the biggest insights and lessons from this eleven-part interview series.
How different is industrial design education today than it was ten years ago? Will it look very different ten years from now?
Industrial design education today is vastly different with respect to technology, manufacturing, distribution and the roles of designers within changing and expanding markets for their skills and offerings. Due to the exponentially increasing speed of the diffusion of innovation and the fact that design touches all sectors, I think it's safe to say that both design education and design practice will experience decisive shifts generated from within and outside of academia.
What would you say to a prospective student who worries about the relevance of an ID education in an increasingly digital world?
Industrial design practice and pedagogy are always changing in order to keep pace with emerging digital tools and new possibilities. Many leading programs in industrial design have long ceased making a distinction between digital and analog approaches to design education. Digital and analog methods are complementary avenues along a continuum of technological developments. Given the wide range of research, ideation and production choices available to designers today, it is no longer possible to make meaningful distinctions between these terms.
Lisa Norton and student work from the Designed Objects progam
Posted by core jr
| 16 Sep 2014
The Aronoff Center at UC DAAP, shortly after it opened in 1996 (L) and present day (R). Photos by Patricio Ortiz and Kyle Oldfield.
For our September 2014 Back-to-School Special, we're going back to the basics and delving deep into the Core77 forums to answer common student queries. This seven-part series of crowdsourced wisdom includes an attempt to define Industrial Design, a comparison of ID degree options, some pointers on teaching (and dealing with teachers), insight into why it's never too late to get into ID, a handy list of resume do's and don'ts, and advice on overcoming design OD. This is our ultimate list of pro tips.
Like any forum, the C77 boards are full of smack talk and advice, but some corners are more sage than others. For our seventh and final Discussion Board Digest, here is our updated and evergreen collection of the choicest advice and insight that older designers wish they'd had when they were students, aggregated and adopted from the OG discussion thread "If I Knew Then What I Know Now."
Ready? There are a lot of 'em, so pay attention:
Food and sleep. Skimp on either and it'll dock your ability to think and work effectively. Yes, you will be broke sometimes. Yes, there will always be tight deadlines and red-eye projects. But if it comes down to getting a couple more hours of sleep vs putting the maximum finish on a model before a critique, opt for the sleep: you'll be more coherent, more convincing and able to get more out of the feedback. And basic nutrition is required for basic neural functioning. The guy who lives on ramen is probably not doing so well synaptically, and your ability to think critically and remember stuff is the point of being in school. Balancing your diet right now is worth having to balance your bank account later.
Get in the Studio!
Spend as much time as you can bear in the studio. As several people have mentioned, it's impossible to do great work at your desk in the dorm, and having a dedicated space to get your thoughts out and work through ideas is important. Camaraderie and company are helpful too, and you can learn a ton from peers. Though it's less sexy than a bolt of inspiration from on high, good work truly only comes with effort and hours, or as Frank Tibbolt put it: "Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action." So get in there.
...But Get Out of the Studio Too
A breath of fresh air can make all the difference when you're stumped on creative pursuits, and inspiration strikes in unexpected places. Leave the studio if you're feeling stuck, take a walk or get a coffee, do something else with your eyes and mind and body and you'll find it easier when you get back. When you're not on assignment try to visit new places, different departments, and take in work outside of your focus. Movies, plays, lectures and art are all idea-stimulating and easy to find on campus.
Spend a lot of time improving your sketching. A lot. Really. Like, you can't spend too much time doing it, so stop reading and start sketching. Of all the technical skills a designer is expected to have, this is regarded as the single most important one. Practice a lot, not to impress anyone with your art chops, but so you can stay out of your own way and uncover ideas while problem solving. Sketching is faster than any other form of model-building or rendering. It's a portable, cheap, and (if you're good) immediate communication of ideas. It's the tool at the very core of being a designer. Careers have been launched over great napkin sketches—don't blow it off.
Brooks Stevens was a Raymond-Loewy-level industrial designer, and in fact, formed the IDSA in conjunction with Loewy and a group of other ID'ers. And while his name never seemed to achieve the recognition of Loewy's, he had a career every bit as colorful and influential. Upon his death in 1995, The New York Times called him a "giant in industrial design" and revealed that back in the 1940s, he nailed a certain appliance's form factor that still exists today:
One of his early successes was with a prototype clothes dryer, which had been developed by Hamilton Industries in Two Rivers, Wis. At the time, the only way to dry clothes was to hang them on a line.
Hamilton's engineers had developed a metal box with an electrically powered rotating drum inside and equipment for gas heating. The device was featureless except for an on/off switch.
"You can't sell this thing," Mr. Stevens recalled telling the developers. "It's just a sheet metal box." Mr. Stevens suggested putting a glass panel in the front and loading it with the most brightly colored boxer shorts the manufacturer could find for demonstrations in department stores. That is what happened, and modern clothes dryers still follow the same basic layout.
As another example of design longevity, Stevens designed the 1949 Harley-Davidson Hydra Glide. Harley-Davidson's 2014 Heritage Softail Classic has essentially retained the same front fender and tank-mounted speedometer.
A year earlier Stevens had designed a very different vehicle: These sweet Skytop Lounge passenger railcars produced by Pullman-Standard in 1948, and used to run the route from Chicago to the Twin Cities. The Skytop Lounges remained in service until 1970.
As Louis C.K. sits in a coffee shop, a millennial staring into a smartphone bumps into him. Instead of looking up or apologizing, the kid keeps his eyes glued to the phone and bumps into him repeatedly, like a fly at a window. In the background we see the place is filled with young phone-gazers bouncing off of each other like billiard balls.
While the scene was just a gag for C.K.'s show Louie, a stroll down any New York sidewalk shows you it isn't much of an exaggeration. And it's not just New Yorkers and Americans, of course; as the UK designer Kenneth Grange told Dezeen, "I see people in the street walking around like zombies unaware that there's a person two feet from them, all glued to this bloody screen." And in China, if this Xinhua News Agency report is to be believed, the city of Chongqing has rolled out a bike-lane-like "phone sidewalk."
The topmost photo of this entry seems Photoshopped—something about the intensity of the arrows and the lack of shadows around the people—but it's possible that it's real, or at the very least not difficult to imagine.
So, file this one under Unintended Consequences of Technology. Who could have foreseen that creating tools that improved long-range communication would cause pedestrians to completely ignore their immediate environments?
Also, etiquette question: Do you guys walk around staring into your phones? As a New Yorker who well remembers the high-crime days of yore, if there are other people near me on the sidewalk I get out of the way and put my back to a wall, facing outwards, before checking something on my phone. It is inconceivable to me that a person would walk the length of a crowded block with their head down, completely oblivious to their surroundings. NYC's rash of phone-snatchings—some quite violent—is, I think, something like nature's cycle of predators and easy prey. Staring into your phone and forcing others to walk around you isn't just rude—it can get expensive, and dangerous.
Editor's note: Sadly this has been debunked as of this afternoon, but the implications are still valid.
Posted by core jr
| 15 Sep 2014
Content sponsored by Autodesk
Autodesk had a big presence at the inaugural Core77 Conference, "Object Culture." Not only was technology futurist Jordan Brandt one of the morning's most energetic presenters, but attendees also had the chance to view a number of innovations from the company in the foyer area of 501 Union, where the Autodesk Fusion 360 team was stationed.
If you didn't get the chance to make it to Brooklyn to see the work in person, here's a look at a few that were on display (you can also check out our recap on the entire one-day event here):
Adam Mugavero Eyeware
It started as an unfortunate accident when Adam Mugavero broke his glasses at a concert. He had been working on a wooden sculpture project and decided to use the remnant wood to fix them. The idea became a much more than a one-time fix and he began hand-sculpting couture eyewear. As his client base expanded and his creative interest in new materials—such as diamond wood, composite wood products, 3D printing and electroplating—grew, he decided it was time to make his eyewear more accessible through manufacturing. He starts by sculpting glasses by hand for a specific person then he reverse engineers the design in Fusion 360 to prep them for manufacturing.
Posted by Ray
| 15 Sep 2014
Locale for Herman Miller (2013). Images courtesy of Industrial Facility unless otherwise noted
Given the current vogue for local, handwrought, artisanal or otherwise bespoke goods, the tide has effectively turned against mass production as millennials forgo the efficiencies of economies of scale in favor of purportedly more meaningful modes. The appeal of these objets is ostensibly the deeper level of personal connection—the prospect of shaking the very hand that made your wallet or dress or dining table is simultaneously atavistic and avant-garde—that justifies the cost of championing local production in the face of, um, faceless overseas manufacturing. This resurgence finds its most fundamental expression not in made-to-order heirlooms but in locavorism: Food products are literally rooted in a place, yet the fact that they are perishable precludes preciousness.
It's ironic, then, that "America has this great tradition of keeping kitchen appliances on the countertop." Kim Colin, co-founder and partner of design firm Industrial Facility, brings it up in the context of the broad shift away from the materialistic mentality of yore, rattling off a few generations' worth of examples. "Mr. Coffee's been there, the Kitchenaid's been there, George Foreman's grill was there for a while, the soda machine might be there now..." That these appliances have a shelf life (with the exception, perhaps, of the stand mixer) is a testament to the consummation of a consumer culture that revels in excess, the food itself being incidental. Whether or not we use them frequently enough to justify the countertop real estate, our society has long kept these objects on display, not only as status symbols in themselves but also because we have the luxury of space.
Or at least we did, before the world's metropolises drew in the majority of its 7.2 billion people and twentysomethings found themselves with less space and fewer things anyway. More kale, perhaps, but less of the other stuff.
The Branca Stool for Mattiazzi (2014)
"We don't go out and find work, people find us."
Industrial Facility is arguably the best-kept secret in certain circles that extend far beyond its geographic locale of London. In contrast to the likes of Philippe Starck (with whom IF collaborated on TOG) or, say, friend-of-Apple Marc Newson, Kim Colin and her partner Sam Hecht opt for fly-by-night anonymity, much like one of their longtime clients. "[Muji is] not using design as a personality... if there is a personality, it would be Muji." Like kindred spirit Naoto Fukasawa, Industrial Facility's work dissolves into the client's brand—assuming, of course, that the client shares their refined, purposeful design philosophy.
When Colin notes that "there's a kind of strange public awareness about us—we have what I would characterize as a cult following," she's referring to clients—Established & Sons, LaCie and Issey Miyake, to name a few—but the statement is true of consumers as well. It's not so much a signature style (again, they're designing for the likes of non-brand Muji) but a perspective that guides with their sub rosa appeal. "We're very interested in the actual ways we're living and the ways that's changing," Colin says. "We study it through the different kinds of clients we have... we learn how they're seeing the world, and we often have a very different point of view." She continues: "Those companies then realize that we have more to offer than a specific project on its own, and that we might have something to say about their business, or growth, or direction." Naturally, these deeper relationships tend to be self-selecting, and it's telling that Industrial Facility works closely with companies like Muji and Herman Miller in a design advisory role. "Our clients are unafraid of our level of questioning."
Hence, Colin draws the distinction between their design practice and that of the 21st-Century artisan. "I think there are a lot of people working in design that are doing local products. Those are small batch, limited production or production-on-demand," she matter-of-factly declares. "Our scale is mass production, really, and that's why we named our studio Industrial Facility and not Sam Hecht and Kim Colin Studio. We want big companies not to be afraid to use design."
Formwork for Herman Miller (2014)
Prototypes of Formwork
Posted by core jr
| 15 Sep 2014
Vehicle design by Brett Stoltz, exhibited at DAAPworks 2014
This is the latest installment of D-School Futures, our interview series on the evolution of industrial design education. Today we have answers from Craig Vogel, associate dean of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP), and a professor in the School of Design with an appointment in Industrial Design.
How different is industrial design education today than it was ten years ago? Will it look very different ten years from now?
ID has continued to evolve since it came of age in the 1930s. The last decade has witnessed several key changes. Design process has continued to decrease in time from concept to market. Globalization in development and distribution has continued, and new markets continue to grow as emerging economies have developed a middle class hungry for products and services. Major markets have shifted from the U.S. and Europe to Asia, South America and countries in Africa. Companies are realizing that green design is not only responsible but profitable as well. Baby boomers in the U.S. and their peers in global markets are creating new market demands in inclusive design, and women dictate much of the consumer spending for domestic products.
Perhaps the biggest change, however, is the shift in emphasis from standalone products and interfaces to interconnected products integrated into the growing service economy. MAYA's concept of trillions provides a clear insight into this factor, and products like Nest demonstrate the need for designers to think of products embedded in systems.
Sports and performance products will continue to be a major area for design, as humans around the world seek to be more active and healthy. The concept of soft products overlapping with fashion has continued to complement traditional "hard" product categories. Shoe design is the new car design. Medical design continues to grow and expand with the emphasis on empathic centered healthcare, the percentage growth of individuals over 75, and the decentralization of healthcare. More patients are healing at home or choosing to age in place. Interest in opportunities for socially responsible design is also growing. Companies and individual designers are seeking to serve the needs of a global community at the base of the pyramid, who lack the resources to pay for design but are desperately in need of design services.
The role of design continues to expand horizontally and vertically as design processes and ways of thinking are seen as valid for strategic planning as well as product implementation. Finally, entrepreneurial opportunities are increasing and will continue to grow in the next decade as the cost of product development and introduction into small and medium markets allow young designers to start their own companies. Many students come to college today seeking to launch their own companies rather than looking for consultant or corporate opportunities. Students are combining social responsibility with new funding options, and they can compete in local markets and global markets with new ways to develop and distribute products. Cincinnati is one of many cities creating the new economy of young entrepreneurs networking locally and globally. Design Impact is a small Cincinnati-based company focused on local and global design for social change. Design also exists at various levels of scale; LPK and Spicefire are two examples of global consultancies based in the city. P&G continues to maintain its commitment to design integration across their business units and in R&D. Clay Street is a novel design-innovation function within the company, and Shane Meeker is the only industrial designer running one of the largest company archives in the world.
Left: Craig Vogel. Right: Scooter by Miranda Steinhauser and wheelchair concept by Sandra Lin, both exhibited at DAAPworks 2014
Shoe design by Jon Kosenick