Product Design Archive

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    It seems inevitable now that all future technology will require us to interact with it in a much more direct way – by chatting to it and letting it learn from our behaviours. This happens in the online sphere already, but there’s very little in my home that I can command with my voice or expect to understand my tastes. Not so with Aether Cone, a new thinking music player that you control by speaking to it and which can learn your musical and general audio preferences every time you use it.

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    This won’t be the best-shot, best-edited film you’ve seen all day but it’ll definitely be the most exciting. Volvo (the car manufacturer) have just released a luminous paint that’s invisible during the day and then brightly fluorescent at night as soon as car headlights bounce off it. Spray it on your bike, helmet, clothing – maybe even your face – to make sure you’re lit up like a Christmas tree whenever you set off on nighttime rides.

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    Introducing Phil Ross, an artist who’s a huge fan of mushrooms, but less in his spag bol than as a medium with which to create his artwork. For almost 20 years he has been experimenting with mushrooms for their recycling properties, growing them in new formations to make them stronger and more versatile and then using them as a material with which to build, among other things.

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    Film and furniture go together like peas and carrots, like Thelma and Louise, like Amelie and a creme brûlée. To honour this, Paula Benson (co-founder of design agency Form) created the site Film and Furniture, billed as a “lovingly curated resource directing you where to find the décor, art and furniture you spot in your favourite films.”

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    Is there nothing Kyuhyung Cho can’t do? He popped over in 2011 with his experimental take on typography; wowed us in 2012 with some simple, effective graphic design; and nigh-on reinvented not just the stool, but shelving as well.

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    Yesterday we brought you the full list of nominations for the graphics category of the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year, and today we thought we’d take things down a notch, and present five things from the other categories that particularly tickled our fancy over at It’s Nice That. As ever, the nominations are a wildly varied bunch so it’s not been easy, but here goes:

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    Jesper Kouthoofd’s Teenage Engineering is one of the most technologically exciting outfits in the field of audio. The experimental design lab has only released a small run of products since its inception in 2007 but has a hard-earned reputation for incredible quality and style. It has built stunning wireless speakers and one of the world’s most sought-after synthesisers, as well as collaborating with the likes of Absolut on unusual branded products. It has just released a new edition to its line in the form of Pocket Operators, three miniature synthesisers that can fit in your jeans.

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    Once again the annual circus of strange, often useless gadgetry and salivating tech-geeks, Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show, has rolled around. While there’s undoubtedly some very smart little digital happenings being shown off, what’s often most fun is a look at the more ludicrous end of the spectrum, which this year has beamed out such treats as a plant pot that automatically waters your flowers, electric roller skates and a rather frightening looking belt that adjusts with your waistline and tries to shame you into reducing it.

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    Don’t get us wrong, we’re not here to knock big Scandinavian furniture empires, but there’s something about the homegenisation of our homes that’s getting a bit silly now. That’s why we’re always keen to hear about ventures which are tackling this domestic sameness, and Feathr.com is going in all guns blazing.

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    When the winning Dyson Award Winner is announced each year, every time it’s humbling proof of the power of design for change, and the power of young designers to make the designs that can make those changes.

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    It’s a well-established fact that even the most conceptually exciting product designs can fall flat on their face if they’re photographed poorly. Imagery can often make or break these projects. And while of course this isn’t the be-all and end-all, it’s worth taking this part of the process seriously to maximise the chances of your work cutting through the noise.

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    When it comes to product design; our tastes tend towards the more offbeat end of the spectrum and so Ernesto D. Morales’ Magnifying Spoon is right up our street. Allowing users to inspect their food before they dive in: " On approval, the same tool is used to scoop up a healthy mouthful," the inventor tells us. The spoon is part of Object Solutions, "a fictional company that develops inventions for solving everyday problems. Its laboratorians are fixated on halting inconvenience, discomfort and imperfection, by producing an ever-growing set of hyper-specialised tools.

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    Many a blue-sky-thinker and envelope-pusher has been extolling the virtues of meditation and mindfulness to pseudo-spiritually swell their business jargon lately. So it’s refreshing when a beautifully branded, creatively-minded product emerges that promises to offer that lucrative “pause from modern life.”

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    We often take colour for granted in this digital age where our rich tapestry of tones and hues comes as standard on a computer tool bar and getting the right shade is just a few clicks away. Columbian designer Laura Daza wants to shake us out of this complacency, and her project Colour Provenance is an investigation into the ancient origins of colour pigment.

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    Everyday 24 million journeys are made across the London Transport Network, which is why the unveiling of the latest fleet of London tube trains is a pretty big deal. Of all the design we come across, not much of it affects as many people as trains that millions of Londoners will use day in, day out.

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    It wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a Wes Anderson film or in a Roald Dahl story but believe it or not, the Flavour Conductor exists in our very own world. Magicked into being by the Willy Wonkas’ of the design world, Bompas and Parr, in collaboration with Johnnie Walker Blue Label, it is a musical instrument like no other. This is no ordinary church organ; it’s part of a multi-sensory theatrical experience combining music and imagery to transform the audience’s appreciation of whisky and even make its taste change in their mouth.

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    Innovative eyewear brand Etnia Barcelona has carved out a niche for itself through collaborations with artists like Araki, Yves Klein and McCurry, and its new collection riffs off the mainstream fashion trend for floral prints. Art Flowers takes inspiration from various flora and abstracts colours, shapes and patterns to create a striking new range with an expressionist aesthetic well in line with Etnia’s cultural cache.

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    These have been doing the rounds a bit this week but it’s not hard to see why – Israeli designer Lee Ben David’s Very Specific Cutlery range is a middle-class gourmand’s perfectionist dream. A graduate of the BEZALEL Academy of Art And Design, Lee believes “that the products that surround us should make us smile, laugh and think beyond,” and this project does just that.

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    It’s the little things that make a difference, as the expression goes, and the creative brains behind memobottle have taken this sentiment very much to heart. In a pledge to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic water bottles and to get rid of annoying clutter in your bag,they’ve invented memobottle, a drinks container the same size and shape as a notebook, or laptop.

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    If we’re honest we lost interest in 3D printing for a bit there. After all the home-made gun controversy and the constant assurances it would democratise production processes forever more we had to deal very quickly with the reality that most desktop 3D printers were only capable of producing very small objects, and the materials they made them from were structurally unsound. We’re still holding out hope though.

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    Former Fabrica designer and art director Dean Brown has just upped sticks and left the confines of Treviso in Italy to set up shop in London. He’s spent the last four years honing his skills designing conceptual products, installations, interiors and exhibitions with collaborators at both Fabrica and COLORS as well as further afield. Last year we fell in love with his witty take on rug design, and now he’s impressed us again with his ability to turn knitwear into an engaging, immersive environment through texture and colour.

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    It’s no secret that Studio Swine are forever pushing boundaries in the world of product design, taking uncommon materials and putting them to universal use. But their latest project is extremely unusual, even by their own standards. For Hair Highway the pair ventured into the heart of mainland China to the epicentre of the global human hair trade. There they acquired enough human hair to use it as the basis for a number of luxury bespoke objects – the carefully-maintained strands preserved in deep amber resin, creating stunning patterns and textures. To top it all off they’ve made this lovely film to document their journey, the people behind this strange trade and the finished products themselves.

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    The interplay between design and the cultures they both respond to and help shape is not always easy to decipher. An interesting exhibition currently on show in London examines 20th Century Soviet Russia through the objects which defined it on a very human level – the toys and appliances, vehicles and sports equipment. There are products that became iconic such as the Chaika vacuum cleaner and others that may never have been feted before.

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    Epiforma is a brand new Portuguese design studio founded by Felipe Ferreira and Francisco Ribeiro in Porto. In spite of their newness it would appear they’ve long been busy working on all manner of projects across many facets of design. As well as practicing the more traditional graphic arts of branding and type design, they also produce high-end modular furniture, unusual board games and limited edition products. Judging by their website they’re also pretty good web designers and art directors too. In short, these guys appear to be very much the complete package and we’re excited to see what their first year of business holds in store.

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    I’m one of those people that will always need a desk-tidy. No matter how hard I try, I remain ineptly disorganised in the world of stationery – pens have missing lids, a pencil will rarely get re-sharpened and I’ve not been able to draw a straight line since I lost my ruler two years ago.

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    I’m always interested by the paradox which means that small exhibitions are often the most impactful, and the new show at the Design Museum, entitled Time Machines: Daniel Weil and the Art of Design is a prime example. Though it occupies a relatively small space, tucked in on the top floor next to the expansive Designs of the Year show, it seems to catalogue Daniel’s original approach to design perfectly.His new series of clocks demand attention first; finely made with all of their parts exposed, they maintain the dematerialisation that he first established with his Bag Radios, exploring new means of conductivity, but they seem to have progressed to a more finely-tuned, beautiful state.

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    Here’s an unbelievable statistic – 3.4 million people die every year due to water-related illnesses. The latest weapon in the ongoing war against this horrifyingly avoidable epidemic comes from ad agency DDB and super-clever scientist Dr. Theresa Dankovich who have created the world’s first Drinkable Book for the Water Is Life charity.

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    As part of this year’s DesignMarch in Iceland, one of our favourite illustrators and designers, Siggi Odds, got together with a few collaborators to produce something 3D and tangible. He and Geir Ólafsson, Hrefna Sigurðardóttir and Þorleifur Gunnar Gíslason all work in a predominantly digital fashion, producing things that are transient and rarely made physical. To counter that they partnered with product designer Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson, and working under the name Børk created a selection of bespoke quilts, printed with custom graphic imagery that’s evocative of Iceland’s landscapes and natural environments, borrowing elements from traditional mythology and folklore.

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    We can all pretend that we don’t care that much about design awards but the truth is that it’s always interesting to see who wins what; particularly when it comes to the Design Museum’s prestigious Designs of the Year. This morning the seven category winners were announced and they are as below; the overall winner will be announced on 30 June and the show continues until 25 August.

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    It’s laudable that designers are working on worthy projects that will have a practical impact on building a better future, but we’re big believers that creatives should be engaged in making tomorrow a bit more fun too. Luckily for us, there are institutions like the Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL).

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    Us Brits are meant to be huge fans of queuing but in actual fact we’re even bigger fans of speeding up these processes. Already we’ve seen contactless payments remove the time-consuming pin-entry procedure but now a Swedish student has gone one better with a system that SCANS YOUR VEINS.

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    Ever see “ice” hanging around someone’s neck and and think to yourself, “you know what, I could bloody do that.” Well, now is your chance! Brand new jewellery brand & Sparkles is offering you a chance to pick a design from a selection of over 150 different items in their collection and transform it into a personalised piece of exclusive jewellery. The company will then take what you create and craft out a real item from conflict-free gold or platinum.

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    StoreDot have just invented a small, rectangular device that when attached to your Smartphone can charge it from 0% to 100% in 30 seconds. I don’t want to appear shallow and disillusioned, but this is quite literally the answer to my prayers. Sometimes you wonder, don’t you, why things just don’t exist when they should, and this is a totally classic example of that. Just think in our lifetimes we’re going to wave goodbye to all of life’s annoyances. Goodbye, tangled cables! Sayonara, no WiFi! People still insisting on riding horses? See you later. I’m so excited about the future, and this is MERELY THE BEGINNING.

  34. Terrazzo-list

    “Terrazzo is a composite material produced from layers of cement interspersed with chips of glass, marble, quartz, granite and other appropriate material. The invention of terrazzo can be traced to the 15th Century when Venetian artisans started to exploit construction residues to make highly resistant, low-cost surfaces principally used in flooring." Interested? Probably not. But the Terrazzo Project wants to change that.

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    One of the best things about the internet is the proximity it creates between makers and and the people who covet their products. Hundreds of thousands of miles are almost magically reduced to a series of clicks, so that you can easily bypass mass-produced products and go straight to the source, to own the original inspiration behind some big company’s designs.

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    Joseph Guerra and Sina Sohrab are Visibility, a New York-based design studio specialising in the creation of simple, functional products. None of their designs rely on the use of expensive materials or fitting into a collective design aesthetic. Rather, each answers its own unique problem, exploring the limitations of products that currently exist on the market and improving them through small but important modifications to their function. Among other things they’ve created a beautiful briefcase fashioned from laser-cut polypropylene – which transforms it from luxury item into universal object – and they’ve revolutionised the humble broom, adding a pivoting head to give it increased usability and minimise damage in storage. Seriously clever stuff.

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    Lesser people might be insulted by the suggestion from a friend that their pottery “looks like fruit and vegetables”, but interior stylist and ceramicist Hsian Jung took the comment in his stride, transforming his burgeoning pottery project into The Fruit Shop, a greengrocer-inspired online store selling beautiful handmade pots.

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    The stars have aligned and two design worlds have brought their skills together to create something powerful! Big ol’ fashion house MANGO have had a helping hand in designing the new SEAT Mii and, rather than just releasing it to to the baying public, have asked a bunch of famous fashion bloggers to review it. Cool huh? Also, to mark this collaboration, SEAT and MANGO are inviting “global artists, illustrators, fashion designers and creators to use the template provided to submit accessory designs” as part of their fashion and design challenge.

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    The world would be a very, very sad place without beautiful objects. And I’m not referring to enormous oil paintings in the Louvre or really, really expensive and rare furniture in London boutiques – sometimes the more humble the object, the more magic it can contain. This project backs this theory, as it is a jumble of truly beautiful “things” created from discarded materials.

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    The start of February means only one thing for the people of Stockholm; Design Week. This year is no different from any other and the city’s streets will be littered with the produce of Scandinavian and international craftspeople. As ever the annual Örnsbergsauktionen is in full swing, with some truly bizarre and beautiful objects up for sale from the likes of Nathalie Du Pasquier, Lex Pott and Stina Lofgren. There’s luxury jewellery made from human hair, a table that glows in the dark and an extraordinary machine made from a mutilated SodaStream – which is why we keep on enjoying this auction year in, year out.