Archives For Industrial Design

Sugru is a pretty amazing product. Well, let me say up front that I’ve never actually tried it, so it might be more appropriate to say Sugru sure looks like a pretty amazing product. It comes out of the package as a putty with great adhesive properties, but when it dries it becomes a kind of durable rubber. Fine, that seems interesting enough, but what’s it used for? That, my friends, is the question, and the lack of a definite answer is what makes Sugru so compelling.

See, Sugru is marketed as the world’s first “hacking putty.” The idea is that it can be used to improve, fix, or customize just about anything, and that this modification can be carried out by anyone. Because it starts out easily moldable it can be made into any shape, but it’s hardened qualities – strength, shock absorption, grip, etc. – make it useful in almost any situation. Or so the company would like you to think.

The problem with a new product that’s so open ended is that we aren’t really sure how to use it. We need concrete applications, at least to get us going until we’re used to it as a product. Fortunately, the smart folks that make the stuff foresaw this pitfall, and their entire marketing campaign revolves around presenting dozens and dozens (and dozens) of things you can do with Sugru. Some fun ones involve making a digital camera drop-proof and kid-friendly, customizing the grip on a bow used for horseback archery, and preventing your carabiner from cross-loading.

This stuff is seriously incredible. Forbes Magazine called it “20th century duct tape,” and Time Magazine rated it the 22nd best invention in 2010 (beating out the iPad by 12 spots). If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, I highly recommend checking out this video that interviews Sugru’s inventor, Jane ní Dhulchaointigh, and walks through the design process and the philosophy behind the product.

But underneath all the hype and the utility surrounding Sugru, there’s a simple paradigm shift waiting to be adopted. At it’s core, what Sugru offers is a new way of interacting with products.  Industrial designers often operate with the conceit that they are optimizing a particular object, but the truth is that no one optimization will work for all of us. We each have different preferences and different bodies, but most of us are too scared to try to customize the sleek gadgets and simple tools we use every day. What the team at Sugru is trying to do, through DIY videos, regional demonstrations, and an online maker community, is to popularize the idea that any one of us has the power to shape the objects we interact with. This is a revolutionary idea, and one that has more weight than ever with a product like Sugru on the market.

One of the most intriguing things to evolve from this idea is a new fencing grip that is meant to be modified with Sugru. This is a huge step, because it represents the first substantive move toward products that are incomplete until customized by the user. Sugru is a great product, but not all products have left room for individual adaptation. A truly anthropocentric, ergonomic future is one where products are purchased unfinished, ready to have their final tweaks made by their new owner. And not in a superficial way like colors and cost, but in a very real, tactile way that impacts comfort and usability. It’s a way of thinking that would require a profound turnaround, and a reinvestment in the durability and long-time ownership of things, but it ultimately leads to a future of greater satisfaction and less waste.

I think the real challenge for people going forward is going to be taking that first step. Most of us don’t notice when things don’t quite fit, so we don’t have the instinct to change them; we’ve learned to live with our imperfect things. But once you make that first change or that first fix, I imagine it’s difficult to stop. If we want to move away from our current culture of disposable consumerism, we have to start small. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go order some Sugru.

Sources: DezeenForbes, Sugru.com.

Karin Kneffel is a German hyperrealist painter with a new exhibition that features the interior spaces of the architect Mies van der Rohe. The buildings Kneffel has chosen to focus on are Haus Lange and Haus Esters, two brick homes built early in van der Rohe’s career. What makes these paintings so unique though, is the way Kneffel seems to impose dripping panes of wet glass between the viewer and the rooms she paints, blurring and distorting the objects inside.

While this effect is stunning for its realism, it is also done with conceptual purpose. The furnishings in Kneffel’s paintings are primarily those installed by the owners of the homes, pieces not particularly in line with van der Rohe’s original aesthetic. But she has also added furniture designed by van der Rohe into each scene, presenting a juxtaposition of creative intent and practical use.

The Gagosian Gallery in New York, where Kneffel’s new show is on display, says of her work, “Kneffel addresses the threshold between interior and exterior, and real and fictive space through a sophisticated play on reflectivity, opacity and transparency. Seaming together heterogeneous spaces and times in a flawlessly executed, seductively realist manner, she paints pictures that are perfectly constructed impossibilities.  Although many of her sources actually exist, her image is first and foremost a surface, highlighting painting’s simultaneous ability to uphold and destroy illusions.”

It is refreshing to see such a poignant confluence of talent and philosophy on one canvass. Kneffel is clearly an amazingly gifted painter, but her allusions to architectural and aesthetic significance provide depth and greater meaning to her already beautiful work.

The exhibit runs through October 22. If you’re in New York, it seems like a must see.

Source: FastCo.Design, Gargosian.

The Weekly Rundown 4

Riley —  June 3, 2012 — Leave a comment

I’ve been busy with other things for a while now, so these are all older sightings (sorry, we can’t always be cutting edge!). Don’t worry though, they’re still worth checking out.

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1. Wood Casting – Designer Hilla Shamia is making some amazing furniture with wood and aluminum. The work uses whole wooden logs, seared and cast in molten aluminum. It’s a great way of synthesizing organic and industrial qualities, and creating a beautiful object that remains true to its basic materials. Check it out over on Archetizer.

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2. What It Means That Urban Hipsters Like Staring At Pictures Of Cabins – A great essay from the Atlantic that looks explores the significance of the rise of the popular blog, Cabin Porn. It’s full of ideas relevant to modern design, urban planning, and environmentalism, and expresses a point of view similar to the one in our past post, The Trouble With Wilderness.

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3. Tree City – A surprising look at the way tree cover has actually increased in some major metropolitan areas since the spot was first colonized. Tim de Chant raises some interesting questions about the nature of the urban ecosystem and the role cities play in the environment.

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4. Gardening Outside the Apartment Window – Urban gardening is becoming all the rage, but finding space to garden is a difficult obstacle to overcome. French design collective Barreau & Charbonnet have released a design concept for a drawbridge style garden that would extend out from the window of an apartment. You can see more of the concept media here.

That’s all for now, hopefully I’ll have more stuff coming up soon!