Tag Archives: design

Lives of their own

We’re surrounded by objects 24/7, we claim their ownership, make them do things, exchange them for newer models, throw them away, but also play with them, love them, take care of them, spend our lives’ fortunes on them. I’ve always wanted objects to have a little bit more soul to them as much as they always seem so tied to their original functions. Perhaps this thinking is coming out of my not-so-recent infatuation with Miyazaki’s films, working with kids, or just my head, not sure. Anyhow, I really like IKEA’s Robotics project.

IKEA Robotics created furniture that responded to its environment in animal-like ways, whether looking for attention or threatening those who get too close. Behaviour-responsive furniture sounds like a great idea, though perhaps non-animal-like behaviour might be a little more useful.

[Via the fantastic Pixelsumo]

Trojan Design

Blu Dot decided to create an experiment for its new chair and see how people would interact with it if they just found it in the streets of NYC. The resulting video tries to analyse what good design is and what that means to users. The chairs are abandoned in NYC streets and then tracked as their journeys unfold. Very nice.

[Via Asi]

The Digital Cloud

Picture 3

I’m way too busy to blog this properly, but you must read about this. There is a new project from an international team of architects and designers to create a giant floating connected and publicly accessible cloud in the London skies. The project will be sponsored on a donation basis, which has some chances of failing, but then again, could inspire some rich pockets if they get sufficiently inspired by it.

The construction would include 120m- (400ft-) tall mesh towers and a series of interconnected plastic bubbles that can be used to display images and data. The Cloud, as it is known, would also be used an observation deck and park.

Its designers plan to raise the funds to build it by asking for micro-donations from millions of people.”It’s really about people coming together to raise the Cloud,” Carlo Ratti, one of the architects behind the design from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) told BBC News. “We can build our Cloud with £5m or £50m. The flexibility of the structural system will allow us to tune the size of the Cloud to the level of funding that is reached.”

‘Data streams’

The Cloud was shortlisted in a competition set-up by London Mayor Boris Johnson. The structure draws on work by artist Tomas Saraceno, a German-based designer who has previously shown off huge inflatable sculptures.

The Cloud infographic

It is envisaged that the spheres would be made of a plastic known as Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), the material used to build the Beijing Aquatic Centre. The different spheres would act as structural elements, habitable spaces, decoration and LCD screens on which data could be projected.

“We could provide a custom feed of…searches made by Londoners during the Olympics to give a real time ‘barometer’ of the city’s interests and mood,” said Google, one of the supporters of the project, which has also offered to provide the information feeds.Ramps, stairs and lifts would carry people to the top of the structure to look out over the city.

‘Zero power’

The inflatable elements of the building would sit on top slender, lightweight towers, stabilised by a net of metal cables. Damping technology, similar to that used in Japanese skyscrapers to resist earthquakes, would prevent the towers being buffeted by the wind.

The structure would also be used to harvest all the energy it produces according to Professor Ratti. “It would be a zero power cloud,” he said. As well as solar cells on the ground and inside some of the spheres, the lifts would use regenerative braking, similar to that in some hybrid cars. That way, the designers say, potential energy from visitors to the top of the tower can be harnessed into useful electricity.

The team have launched a fundraising website called raisethecloud.org and are now looking for a site for the tower.


Public-centered design (please!)


I’m from time to time thoroughly startled and unimpressed by how public services and businesses work around time. Businesses and public services exist by getting money out of the public. In other words, the public (yes, we), pay their wages and allow them to exist. The question I have is then this: why don’t public services in particular serve the public in times of day that are more appropriate for the public? How is it meant to be agreeable to not be able to see a doctor or register at a GP in the UK without having to take off work? Seriously, something is way off here.

I can let go of why businesses work 9-5, it is their decision about when and how much money they want to make and what kind of customer relationships they want to build. Nevertheless, I don’t quite understand why they stick to their working hours as they do – opening your shop for longer or different hours would give you a better competitive edge over other businesses and possibly make your customers happier. Businesses already ‘get it’ in the south of Europe – it’s nothing unusual to find shops open at 2pm and closing at 10pm. To sum it up, later opening hours could bring businesses:

  1. higher income
  2. better customer loyalty
  3. better competitive edge

Any thoughts? Is it too much to expect people who want to profit from me to let me give them money when I choose to? Or having public services available when the public is?

The rise of the sensor citizen


Anne Galloway published a fantastic essay on community mapping, locative media and their potential impact on everything from pollution control to politics and just fun things like emotion mapping in urban environments.

Community mapping and sensing projects that use commonly available consumer electronics as environmental measurement devices, enable people to collect and view a wide array of location-based data. As a form of public science, such projects stand to reinvigorate environmentally focused civic engagement. However, given public concerns around environmental risks and their connections to technological progress, I believe that this kind of active citizenship should promote more critical reflection on the values and goals of the very projects that expect to create such profound changes in these domains, and carefully consider the limits of its own power.

Read full article here.

Experience is the product

Innovation can have roughly 3 purposes: technological progress, monetary profits and creating something useful or engaging for people. To me, the people-centric view has always been the most important in my perception of design and new technologies. Still, design and  marketing often feel as though they are enveloped in their own little realms. Their innovation focuses too much on the first two of the 3 purposes, in other words on the product or service itself rather than how it can be useful or engaging to users. The end connection with people is crucial for any service or product, otherwise it may as well not exist or will simply die by natural death of being outsmarted competitors. Peter Merholz from Adaptive Path presents ‘Experience is the product’ that shows how technology and feature development are merely the first 2 steps to success:

Grow your own patch


Hardly anything comes close to being as soft and plush to walk on as moss. The first time I saw hope for setting foot on moss outside of forests and meadows was when Nguyen La Chanh brought out his design of a moss carpet. His design is based on a decay-free foam called plastazote, so no soil as such is needed. The patch doesn’t need much attention as it sucks up any moisture produced in the bathroom whether through vapour from showers or dripping wet feet getting out of one. Beyond the comfort and looks this ‘carpet’ can deliver, I think it must also provide a good solution to all those forever fighting mould that thrives in many-a-London bathrooms.

3473473210_92cb5056a1_oIf you want to go beyond your bathroom, you should soon be able to populate your home with naturally growing moss. Makoto Azuma collaborated with Unitika Ltd. to create indoor and outdoor moss carpets. If moss isn’t your thing precisely, you can also go with grass patches that can go on your desk or just about anywhere else you please. The project comes from the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel, but no one is exactly sure if these things are for sale anywhere.


[Via Inhabitat 1 & 2]

When Twitter Does Make Sense

Apart from the live news reportage usage of Twitter, I haven’t been seeing it as as much of a world-changing tool as some people around me do. Many digital things including Twitter happen when they become either playful or useful. The former case would be the by now semi-famous Baker Tweet, a tool designed by POKE to let them know when the hot buns are coming out of the ovens from the bakery across from their office. This win-win-win project has given regulars from the area the ability to know when edible bread is available, increased the sales of Albion, the bakery involved in the Twitter project, and given POKE extra publicity.

A case of a useful tool connected to Twitter has been recently created by Energy Circle, a company that sells energy-saving products and has created a new energy-monitoring system that sends home energy usage stats to Twitter. The system uses an energy measuring device called TED to create Google Visualization enabled charts that are then tweeted to everyone involved. Google itself has been working on a similar project, but it’s still in it’s non-practical stages. The designer’s family has been using the device for six months and claim that they’ve since managed to lower their energy use by 15%.

[Via ReadWriteWeb]