Mark Newson's range for Smeg.

Application of natural mapping for a user centric hob.

Having criticised Marc Newson on my design and technology blog (here) for his non-user centric approach I was surprised to come across a range of kitchen appliances he designed for Smeg which contradicts the view I previously held of him. This range of kitchenware, in particular the hobs, appears to be pretty user friendly. The knobs for turning on the rings are naturally mapped out unlike most hobs, this is something Don Norman talks about in his book The Design Of Everyday Things. Most hobs, like mine, simply have a row of four knobs corresponding to a rectangle of four rings, this configuration would require diagrams to show which knob turns on which ring, without diagrams (the diagrams on my hob have rubbed off long ago) the user is left with 24 options! If the first knob can turn on any of the four rings, then the next knob can turn on any of three rings, the next could turn on either  of the two remaining rings, then one final knob for one final ring, so 4x3x2x1 = 24 options! It is no wonder it took me so long to memorise which knob is for which ring, I still make mistakes though, if only the knobs were mapped out naturally to mimic the arrangement of the rings like on Newson’s design for Smeg, then I would never get it wrong.

 

The Original 1227 Anglepoise

A task lamp with an incredibly low footprint and a huge locus of possible positions.

The Anglepoise lamp, designed by George Carwardine is a British design classic but this is certainly not what makes it great design. Some might think it cliche to blog about the anglepoise but it is truly a piece of engineering and design I love and use every single day. The simple system of springs that counter balance the weight allowing it to be positioned at any point required is what makes it great.

 

Carwardine was an engineer who specialised in car suspension systems and was the chief designer at the Hortsman Car Company. He patented the first iteration of the anglepoise with a four spring equilibrating mechanism in 1932 after working from his garden workshop. Soon demand outgrew the small scale company so Carwardine let Herbert Terry & Sons (who were already supplying the springs) take the...

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Steve Reich's Pendulum Music

An experience that unifies the senses and the mind.

Great design often comes from the ethos behind it, which is driven by the designer’s philosophy and outlook on life. The minimalist philosophy that shaped a lot of great design from the mid 20th century and later can also be seen in other disciplines. Around the same time I was introduced to Braun’s 20th century work I was lucky enough to see works by Philip Glass and Steve Reich as part of Glasgow’s Minimal music festival. I loved seeing the way that one set of ideas could be implemented in a different field. So having developed an interest in minimalist design and music, I was excited to see a recording of a performance by Steve Reich when visiting the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern.

 

The performance involves setting a number of microphones into oscillation. Each microphone is suspended over an amplifier which is set to a volume such that feedback occurs when the microphone approaches the amplifier...

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Oxo's Good Grips Range

Products that follow the principles of inclusive design and make everyday tasks easier.

In second year my tutor delivered a presentation in which he talked about how designers aught to notice everyday problems, be curious and question why things are the way they are. He mentioned  that when peeling potatoes he’d noticed lots of design flaws in the potato peeler, it was uncomfortable and awkward to hold as well as being slippy in wet hands making it tricky to control, it took off a much thicker layer of skin than it aught to wasting too much of the potato, the skin would get caught in it and it would be fiddly to wash. He saw the opportunity to design a potato-peeler that could function better but found that Oxo had bet him to it.

 

After mentioning this in passing to my parents they decided to get me one for my Christmas so I can confirm that the Oxo peeler effortlessly removes the skin with minimal waste, that the “soft, comfortable, non-slip handle cushions hand during repetitive peeling motion” and that a quick rinse is enough to clean it.

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g31’s Aquazoo Löbbecke Museum Branding

“A flexible, typographic system translating abstract content into emotional design language”

What I love about this branding and in particular the typeface is it’s playfulness, it makes me want to go to the zoo, it looks fun. The font manages to be functional and adaptable at the same time. It’s easy to read despite how decorative it is, it works in a variety of contexts, on a poster, on a letter, on a ticket etc. it also works with deep sea creatures to arachnids.

 

Perhaps the reason I find the font impressive lies in the fact that I would have no clue as to how one would begin a design process that would result in a font which has such an appropriate feeling for it’s context. G31 explain that “the flexible, typographic system was elaborated in three, interchangeably combined cuts. Thus, a wide range of animal expressions can be reflected in each word – from rigid to dead, or from lively to playful.” The studios aim is to translate abstract content into emotional design language, in order to tell an interesting story. I think it is important for design to have an...

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Éléonore Delisse’s Day & Night light

A lamp conscious of the impact our environment has on our daily lives.

 

Éléonore Delisse’s Day & Night light is a lamp conscious of the impact our environment has on our daily lives, which is why I think it is good design.

 

The lamp uses a pane of circular dichroic glass which rotates in order to give off different colours of light depending on the time of day. In the morning, at 6am, the lamp starts off with a dark blue light and gradually over six hours makes a half revolution producing a brighter and brighter blue. The light turns off at noon and does nothing until 6pm when it turns on again with a yellowish light. Over the next six hours it makes another half a revolution producing a darker, deeper, warmer red the later it gets until midnight when it turns off again. Warmer coloured light tends to encourage our bodies in the production of melatonin making us sleepier while blue light discourages the production of melatonin, so the overall effect of the light is intended to rebalance our circadian rhythm.

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Lapka's Personal Environment Monitor packaging.

 

Lapka's PEM app and unboxing

Russian industrial design firm Lapka’s award winning personal environment monitor connects to your phone and asses your environment. There are four devices which measure radiation, electromagnetic fields, humidity and how organic your produce is, the results are compared to average guidelines for each individual environment. Although I like the idea of being able to precisely measure the invisible world of particles, ions, molecules and waves I do not see the necessity for it, what I admire is the meticulously thought out experience of the product; the process of opening the box, using the device, viewing the results on the app. Each experience looks enjoyable. Watch the video to see the process behind opening the box, it's what prompted me to write this post. It is Lapka’s ability to tell a story beautifully that caused the $24 billion travel company Airbnb to buy the small Russian industrial design team of six to help story board a perfect, cinematic, end to end experience when traveling.

Barcelona and it's proposed superblocks

How would you solve the issues that traffic congestion bring such as air pollution, noise pollution and delayed traffic. These are obvious characteristics which define traffic congestion, however when looking at the problem in some context (Barcelona) and in more detail we see other issues which arise as reported in the Guardian:

 

“A study from the local Environmental Epidemiology Agency determined that 1,200 deaths could be prevented in the city yearly just by reaching EU-mandated levels for nitrogen dioxide levels (this would mean a five-month rise in life expectancy). Add to that an estimated 18,700 fewer asthma attacks, 12,100 fewer cases of acute bronchitis and 600 fewer cardiovascular-related hospitalisations, and the problem becomes apparent for a city with a population of 1.6 million. Traffic is also the first cause for noise pollution in the city; 61% of its residents live with noise levels higher than those deemed healthy by legislation… The city has only 6.6 sq metres of green space per inhabitant (with the figures standing at just 1.85 in Eixample and 3.15 in Gràcia), closer to Tokyo’s three than to London’s 27, or Amsterdam’s staggering 87.5. The World Health Organisation suggests every city should have at least 9 sq metres per capita.”. So how does Barcelona propose to solve these said issues?

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A cheap and sustainable solution for a city saturated with traffic.

 

 

Kiridashi Craftsman's Knives

This hand forged knife utilises a triple layered san-mai construction, meaning; a core of ‘blue paper’ hagane steel which has a high carbon content (1% to 1.5%), making it hard, strong but brittle, is sandwiched between some lower carbon content steel which is more ductile. This allows for a fine, hard, sharp cutting edge but avoids the likely hood of the brittle steel snapping or fracturing. The blade is double beveled making it ideal for a wide range of general purpose applications (as oppose to single bevel blades which are for more specific applications). The traditionally wound silk handle provides a good grip but is soft to the touch. The combination and application of the materials used make for a beautiful and useful object.

 

Hand forged knife with a traditional silk bound handle.

 

St Catherine’s College, Oxford is a refined and modernist building. The college looked to a number of international architects, including Jorn Utzen (who was too busy with the Sydney Opera House to take on another project) before deciding upon Arne Jacobsen. The project is a great example of total design, Jacobsen designed the entire building and everything it contains. He was fastidious in his approach, paying the closest attention to the smallest of details. He designed everything down to the cutlery, plates, clocks, furniture and apparently plug sockets so that the entire building and it’s content worked in harmony. The proportions and geometry of the building and it’s interiors create a sleek, minimalist aesthetic. I’m not alone in recognising it’s historical and architectural value as it is a grade I listed building.

 

Arne Jacobsen's St. Catherines College, Oxford

An example of Total Design.