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.”

Architecture

It’s a Bridge! It’s a House! It Unfolds Before Your Eyes!

Ten Fold Engineering in the UK is bringing a 21st century twist to the concept of portable housing. The Ten Fold building unfolds and is walk-in ready in just ten minutes. No foundations, builders or cranes are required. Delivered to the site on a flatbed truck, the structure self-deploys using a hand-held battery-powered drill. Better yet, the process is fully reversible, so if you want to move, you can fold up your house as fast as it takes to dismantle a pup tent.

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Typography

Nike Bats a Home Run

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The beauty of Old World craftsmanship is expressed in this Home Run King bat trophy commissioned by Nike. Featuring the exquisite lettering and design of Salt Lake City-based Kevin Cantrell and New York-based Juan Carlos Pagan, the trophy is designed with a typographic treatment that circles the entire circumference of the bat. Richmond, Virginia-based firm, Big Secret, handled production, engineering the artwork to be laser-etched around the bat’s circumference in a seamless finish.
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Industrial Design

The Reincarnation of Trash

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Finished drinking that Coke? Don’t throw away the empty bottle. Turn it into a pencil sharpener.

Coca-Cola knows that the downside of drinking lots of Coke is the litter that results from trashing the empties. Coke wants consumers to give the bottle a second life, either through recycling or repurposing. To promote this idea, Coke turned to ad agency Ogilvy & Mather China to come up with another use for the bottles. The agency developed a 2nd Lives kit that contains 16 modified screw-on caps that will turn empty bottles into bubble blowers, whistles, paint applicators, squirt guns, pencil sharpeners, baby rattles, hand weights, condiment dispensers, spray bottles, drums, and other functional tools and toys. To start, Coke gave away 40,000 2nd Lives kits to customers in Vietnam. Coke’s 2nd Lives initiative extends the bottle’s usefulness and, hopefully, the bottle will find its 3rd life in a plastics recycling plant.
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Industrial Design

Designs That We Take for Granted

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The death of Kenji Ekuan, a Japanese monk-turned-industrial designer, last week is reason to recall his most iconic design — the ubiquitous red-capped Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. Omnipresent in Japanese restaurants and in most Japanese homes worldwide since it was introduced in 1961, the soy sauce dispenser is as much a dining table fixture as salt-and-pepper shakers. Globally, more than 300 million bottles have been sold to date. The teardrop-shaped bottle with a red plastic cap is synonymous with soy sauce. Ekuan reported that it took him three years and more than 100 prototypes to come up with the smooth contoured glass form that could be held firmly between two fingers and had a screw-on cap that integrated into its design a double-sided dripless spout. The choice of clear glass, too, made it possible to see how much soy sauce was still inside without unscrewing the cap. As with so many commonplace objects that we take for granted, Ekuan’s dispenser design deserves to be considered more closely and appreciated for its simple elegance and intuitive functionality.