Korean Amulet Helmet

In many ancient cultures, traditional patterns are imbued with symbolic meaning that turn the objects on which they appear into amulets believed to bestow powers that protect a person from danger or harm. What better place to add this extra measure of safety than on a bicyclist’s headgear. Korean designers Kim Jungwoo, Kim Yoonsang and Park Eunsug found that the dramatic Sun Ja Mun pattern, a symbol for love, living and luck, was well suited to the cut-out design of a bike helmet, and also appealed to the bike rider’s philosophy of life.

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OXO Founder Sam Farber’s Lasting Legacy

It is with sadness that we note the passing of our friend, OXO GoodGrips founder Sam Farber, who died Sunday at the age of 88. Farber, who received the “Design of the Decade” award from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and BusinessWeek magazine in 2001, proved that ground-breaking innovations don’t have to be based on cutting-edge technology nor even have mechanical parts.

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Pantone Partners With Sephora

The Pantone Color System is nuanced and exact, which is why it is common to see designers agonizing over Pantone swatches to find the precise hue, tone, tint and saturation they want. When Pantone decrees the “Color of the Year,” designers in every industry pay attention. So it is not surprising that the cosmetic giant, Sephora, has teamed with Pantone to turn out a Sephora-Pantone Universe Color of the Year collection. Pantone 17-5641 Emerald is Pantone’s choice for 2013 Color of the Year, and Sephora has issued the color in a limited edition line of products for 2013. If emerald makeup isn’t flattering to you, maybe you can settle for an emerald makeup brush just to be in on the hottest trend.

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Soup as Art; Art as Soup

To mark the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s famed “32 Campbell’s Soup Cans” painting, the soup company has just released a limited run of pop art soup cans in select Target stores around the country. The commemorative packaging is a collaboration of the Campbell’s Global Design team and the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Warhol, who died in 1987, had an eye for what was iconic in American culture, albeit a soup can, Brillo box, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, or Mao Tse Tung. The founder of the Pop Art Movement, Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator, then manipulated our view of everyday objects so we could appreciate them as high art.

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Morandini’s Constructivist Monogram Alphabet

From the Past Print blog comes this account of how Marcello Morandini designed a colorful Constructivist alphabet for German ceramic company, Rosenthal, in the late 1980s. At the time, the renowned Italian industrial designer/ sculptor/ architect was engaged in designing Rosenthal’s new office building in Selb. Morandini’s decorative letters were not meant for publication, but to serve as a special-order monogram for Rosenthal’s studio line of dinnerware, three-sided vase and wall plate. Customers could have any two initials they wanted inscribed on these products. To promote this custom-order offering, Rosenthal created a fan-deck booklet displaying Morandini’s alphabet, one letter per page. But alas, if you want to buy a Rosenthal Morandini Alphabet plate now, you’re out of luck. The company apparently discontinued this product line.

L’Occitane Brand’s African Connection

When French skin care company, L’Occitane, came out with a new limited edition shea butter hand cream, it departed from its usual simple packaging design and chose a colorful traditional African textile pattern, called mudcloth, instead.

Aside from the fact that the design is eye-catching and that tribal prints are in fashion, mudcloth, also known as Bogolan, seemed like an unusual choice for a company associated with the fragrances of Provence.

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A Soft Drink for Grown-Ups

Two guys from the London brand/design consultancy Wonderland WPA walk into a classy bar and ask for a soft drink that is not the kind you can get out of a vending machine or in the refrigerated section of a truck stop.

That may seem like the set-up for a joke, but it is how Story beverages came to be invented. Finding the choice of alcoholic drinks in fine restaurants and bars limitless, but the availability of upscale nonalcoholic ones few and far between, Wonderland WPA saw a market niche begging to be filled. They defined a new category of soft drinks that would be offered exclusively in bars, restaurants and hotels, and created a brand identity that looked stylish and grown-up. The simple, elegant packaging enhanced the perception of being sophisticated and worthy of drinking on a special night out. Launched in August 2011, Story will initially be sold only in the UK, with plans to introduce it into export markets in 2012.

Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of Good Design

World-renowned German industrial designer Dieter Rams defined the latter half of the 20th century with a parade of landmark products. Head of design for Braun A.G. until his retirement in 1998, Rams’ many designs — coffee makers, AV equipment, consumer appliances, calculators, radios, record players, office products – found a permanent home at many of museums, including MoMA. His Universal Shelving System for Vitsoe is still considered as contemporary and functional as it was the day it was introduced. Rams once described his design philosophy as “Less is Better.” In the early 1980s, he pondered the question: What is good design? The result is the 10 principles stated above.

A Plug for a Plug — USB Wall Sockets

A USB socket that doesn’t need an adapter? It’s about time!! Product designers and engineers have focused on extending the battery life of laptops, iPods, cell phones, digital cameras, wireless headphones and the like. That’s all well and good, but at some point, they still all need to be recharged. They still all require a clunky AC adapter to plug the device into the wall socket. Here’s a solution that approached the problem from another direction – not by redesigning the electronic gadget, but by redesigning the electrical outlet.

The U-Socket is a duplex AC receptable with built-in USB ports that can power any device that is capable of being charged via a 5V power adapter. Replacing the standard 3-prong AC wall socket with one that has two USB sockets alleviates users of the need to have an adapter. In addition to making consumers happy, it would seem that any portable electronics device-maker would welcome this change. Here’s the rub: You have to swap out your wall sockets if you want to live in an adapter-free world. The best place to start, in my opinion, is in hotel rooms. Not having to haul around a tangled mass of cords and adapters would free up space in your luggage and make it lighter to carry too. A USB socket would be a hotel guest amenity that beats having a piece of chocolate on your pillow at night.

Food as “Protagonist” of Manga Plates

Manga Plate

As a senior project at the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan, designer Mika Tsutai came up with this manga comic drawing approach to decorating Japanese-style plates. It’s a sight-gag that really works best when dining Japanese style, where each dish is served on its own small plate, rather than served with side dishes and entrée placed together on one large dinner plate.

On Tsutai’s manga plates, the food itself becomes the “hero” or subject of the story — e.g., the fist drawing striking a pulverized food mass; the strawberry slices forming the woman’s earrings, a volcano erupting a red lava flow. The presentation is meant to be appreciated as a single visual image. Even the arrangement of plates imitates the panels of manga comic strips. This is just as Tsutai intended. “By placing these dishes in a particular manner, you can transform your dinner table into a story, just like that of a page from a Japanese comic,” he says. It’s an interesting concept for those who like to be entertained while eating, but it’s hard on the cook who has to plan the menu around the storyline. Via Design Boom.

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A Shoe That Floats on Air

This looks like a high-school science project, but it is really a commercial for Asics new Gel-Blur 33 athletic shoes, which Asics claims offers lightweight, cushioned comfort to all 33 joints in the foot. To illustrate the tagline “Gravity, Meet Your Archenemy,” Southern California-based creative agency, Vitro USA, strung multi-colored ping pong balls on fishing lines and pumped compressed air into a glass chamber, causing the balls to rise into the shape of an Asics 33 shoe and float in space. As with some of the amazing 3-D projection mapping videos now coming out, the behind-the-scenes making of this commercial needs to be seen to appreciate the feat achieved.

Bookcase for Non-Readers,
Light Readers and Heavy Readers

The REK bookcase, designed by Rotterdam-based architect Reinier de Jong, is ingenious both in its simplicity and functionality. Made in five parts, the zigzag-stacked components slide in and out of each other – expanding to accommodate more books or to fill a longer length of wall, if desired. Compressing the shelves together allows the bookcase to fit into a smaller space or avoid a half-empty look if there are only a few books to display. The zigzag construction automatically creates sections of different height — big ones to fit tall books, artwork or sound systems, horizontal slots for magazines or a DVD player. The owner can play with the design to customize a look or add more bookcases to create a larger library or architectural pattern. Finished with a high-gloss white laminate on the outside and a warm gray stain laminate on the inside, the REK adapts to most any décor. The more we studied it, the more we admired its smart, flexible design.

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Philatelic Pursuits

Whether the trend is being driven by improved automated postal sorting machines or the insatiable demand of stamp collectors for ever-more novel designs is unclear, but lately more nations are issuing commemorative stamps that arouse the urge to lick, sniff and touch.

Austria has been a pioneer in this area. In addition to joining forces with Austria’s famed Swarovski Crystal to create a swan stamp imbedded with bits of real glass crystal, the Austrian post office honored the UEFA European Championship by creating a soccer ball stamp out of a synthetic mix of rubbery polyurethane. To immortalize Andi Herzog’s winning soccer goal in the 1998 World Cup, it put a three-second moving image of the goal on a postage stamp, and to honor simultaneously a native craft and national flora, Austria issued embroidered stamps featuring its Edelweiss and Clusius flowers.

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Finally, A Bright Idea

“It’s strange that the bulb, an object synonymous with ideas, is almost entirely absent of imagination,” comments Plumen on its website. The UK-based compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb maker is determined to change that. Calling its product the “world’s first designer energy-saving light bulb,” Hulger, the British electronics company that designed Plumen, has challenged the notion that CFL light bulbs can only come in three shapes and must, by necessity, look unattractively utilitarian.

Plumen — which draws its name from “plume,” a bird’s showy feathers — is bending the gas-filled tubing the way a glass blower manipulates molten glass into sculptural forms. Like other energy-saving bulbs, Plumen products use 80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last about eight times longer. The savings may not just be in the electricity usage; consumers may decide to forego the cost of a lampshade and just enjoy the decorative style of the bare bulb. Right now Plumen bulbs are only available in the UK and Europe, but the company says they will be introduced in the U.S. soon.

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Over the Moon Cakes

The must-do gift of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival season, mooncakes have become more luxurious and lavish in their presentation than ever. In China, mooncake gifting is a multi-billion dollar industry. Opulently packaged mooncakes, typically sold in boxes of four, cost upwards of $45, with each cake elegantly displayed or nestled in its own container. As pricy as this is, Chinese social etiquette pretty much demands that everyone give these sweet delicacies to friends, family, co-workers, clients and sometimes even government officials during the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival.

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Tale of Two Kleenex Packages

Repackaging is a popular way to refresh an existing product, and sometimes capture more off-season sales. Take the case of Kleenex tissues, which enjoy the greatest sales during cold and flu season, but during the warmer months, not so much. Kleenex looked to spur year-round demand by designing packaging with decorative seasonal themes. Last summer it introduced wedge-shaped “fruit” boxes at Target stores. Offered with colorful watermelon, orange and lime illustrations done by Los Angeles-based artist Hiroko Sanders, the novelty boxes were a huge hit with customers who wanted to add a happy slice of summer to their décor. This year Kleenex has extended its award-winning fruit packaging to major retailers nationwide.

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