Technology

Biomimicry: Learning Design from Observing the Birds and the Bees

Noted science writer Janine Benyus, who coined the term “biomimicry” in 1997, has provided convincing evidence that there is a lot that designers can learn from nature. Often times designers aren’t so much innovating new forms and technological concepts as they are shamelessly stealing what the animal and plant kingdoms have worked out over the span of millions of years.Through biomimetics, designers are adapting nature’s best practices into products, systems and processes that are revolutionizing our lives. This video, co-produced by Vox Media (Christophe Haubershin) and 99% Invisible (Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt), explains how biomimicry underlies discovery of exciting new ideas. A highly recommended must-read is Janine Benyus’s book ”Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.”

Technology

Nike Unlimited Stadium

Nike opened a new pop-up running track in the heart of Manila, Philippines. Designed by BBH Singapore, the Unlimited Stadium installation is shaped like the sole of Nike’s new Lunar Epic shoe. Lined with LED screens, the 200-meter racetrack invites runners to run alongside their own digital avatar. But first runners must attach a radio-frequency sensor to their shoe to record their initial track time. With this individualized data, runners are challenged to outdo their avatar, besting their own record with each lap. The temporary running track is able to accommodate 30 runners at a time.

Pop Culture

Barbie Dolls for the Rest of Us

New_Barbies
Confession: Even as a pre-teen, I resented Barbie. She was too blonde, too shapely, too well-dressed, too popular with the right boys (Ken), too comfortable and self-assured in any setting. She rode around in a red convertible, while the rest of us had to slump down in the back seat of the family station wagon. Her boobs were perky enough to look good in an evening gown and swimsuit. Never in our wildest dreams did most young girls feel we could grow up to be like her. She wasn’t a role model; she was an in-your-face taunt. It’s one thing to aspire to an ideal and another to reach for the unrealistic and impossible. It’s an instant inferiority complex at age 10. In retrospect, I realize that Barbie was very shallow, self-absorbed, and not likable at all. She probably was the type who would never read a book or have an opinion on anything other than the latest fashion.

So, I suppose it is a good thing that Mattel has issued updated Barbie dolls in different body types – tall, petite, and curvy. This is a follow-on to last year’s introduction of 23 new Barbies, with different skin tones, hairstyles, outfits and flat feet (not meant for high heels only). It’s a start. Now to accessorize her with books and turn her into a team player.
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Viral Marketing

Marketing Mascot Dies at age 16; A Nation Mourns

stationmaster-toma

More than 3,000 mourners came to the rural Japanese village of Kinokawa last weekend to pay their final respects to Tama the super stationmaster of Kishi Station, the last stop on the Wakayama Electric Railway line. Tama was elevated from stray cat to stationmaster in 2007, at a time when the regional rail line was $4.7 million in the red, forcing the layoff of all employees at Kishi Station and leaving the stop unmanned. Reluctant to evict the charming calico cat that hung around the station, the railway’s president announced that he was appointing Tama the super stationmaster of Kishi Station — a position that included free housing in the ticket booth, her own litter box, and an annual salary paid in cat food. For her official duties of meeting and greeting passengers, Tama was outfitted in a tiny custom-made stationmaster cap and cape.

What started out as a playful marketing ploy to raise awareness of the railway’s plight quickly turned into a media sensation with tourists from across Japan and around the world flocking to the village to see Tama at work. Train ridership increased significantly, and Kishi Station itself became a tourist attraction.

The railway’s management capitalized on Tama’s appeal and developed an extensive line of souvenir items bearing a cartoon likeness of Tama, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, stuffed animals, and even a full set of dining room furniture featuring carved silhouettes of cats. In 2009, Wakayama Electric Railway rolled out a train car decorated with cartoon images of Tama, and redesigned the exterior architecture of Kishi station to resemble a cat’s face.
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Product Design

Irresistible Trade Show Treats

Chocolatexture_1

Tokyo-based Nendo creative agency was just awarded “2015 Designer of the Year” at the Maison & Objet (M&O) trade show in Paris. Nendo won for designing a special chocolate lounge and candy named “Chocolatexture.” Instead of basing the names of the Chocolatexture line on the usual attributes – e.g., country of origin, flavor, percentage of cocoa butter content, technique, etc., Nendo based the names on shape. The nine different chocolates are about the same size, but differ in texture. The product names use Japanese colloquial terms to describe the specific shapes. Thus, “Tubu Tubu” implies tiny chunks of chocolate drops; “Goro-Goro means that there are 14 connected points; “Suka-Suka” means a hollow cube with thin walls, etc. The packaging features shape silhouettes as well.

The Nendo chocolate lounge was open for a limited time only during the M&O show in January. The design delegates who attended the event probably wanted to take the well-conceived packaging home to show their staff, but it is questionable how many were actually able to resist the delicious treat.
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Product Design

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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Product Design

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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Product Design

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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Pop Culture

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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Typography

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.

Packaging

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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Product Design

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.

Design Education

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.

Product Design

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.

Product Design

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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Advertising

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.