Core77

Combining Bed Risers with Power Strips—Badly 

We here at Core77 are always on the lookout for things that need designing, in hopes of inspiring you entrepreneurial designers to attack the problem and make yourself some bread. So take a look at this thing, the unwieldily-named Studio 3B 4-Piece USB Bed Lift Set:It's ugly as sin, innit? Yet it exists and people are buying it, because there's a need. Folks want power near their beds to charge up their phones and tablets, and adding height to the bed is meant to clear up storage space beneath it.The reason we say it's an opportunity is because although the product is sold at major outlets like Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon—indicating there's demand—it's getting awful reviews. (Sample: "Don't waste your money. Wish we'd bought cinder blocks and a power strip instead!")The problem, according to the reviews, is that the product doesn't seem to last for more than a couple of months. Those ugly vertical ribs that are apparently meant to strengthen the structure don't appear to offer true durability and the product breaks. One person reports that their bed collapsed, another writes that they bought three sets and all of them broke, et cetera. So you've got your work cut out for you. Can you design something durable that fits a variety of bed post sizes and perhaps has different height options? How would you handle cable management, which this product does not appear to offer? And for those of you that don't want to go through the UL certification process, perhaps you could design your product to simply integrate, say, a commonly-available Ikea power strip? Lastly can you hit, or beat, the $29.99 price point?If your answer to some or all of these is "yes," we've got one word for you: Kickstarter. Get it right, and we'll help you promote it here with an entry.

The City Disrupted: How MIT’s Changing Places Group is Redefining Urban Futures

A future where cities are any more crowded than they already are is commonly imagined as a dystopia. But when Kent Larson looks at the current estimates placing 60% of 9 billion people in cities by 2030, he only sees opportunities to radically reimagine the way our cities work. As the director of the Changing Places Group and co-director of the City Science Initiative—both at the MIT Media Lab—the architect has found his bearings fostering the field of mechatronics (equal parts mechanical, electric and systems engineering) as he spearheads research initiatives in his main areas of expertise: responsive urban housing, new urban vehicles, ubiquitous technologies and living lab experiments. Working across these emergent fields, he proposes that as today's cities become connected and automated, design can, and should, make sustainable living the easiest option.One of his early projects, the electric CityCar, is a personal vehicle that takes up a fraction of the space a traditional car does on the streets, and even less when it's parked. CityCar began questioning new ways for people to relate to their city, and Larson's following projects pushed the notions of mobility further. The ideal transportation system, Larson says, would be shared, electric and self-driven. These principles take the form of the Persuasive Electric Vehicle (PEV)—a bike system that Larson describes as a "driverless, lightweight Über system." Users would "flag down" the bike with an app and either hop on or use it to send packages. Afterwards, the PEV could drive off by itself to meet the next customer, virtually eliminating the need for parking space. As a self-driving vehicle, it runs on electric energy; but the PEV also has a pedaling option for the more athletic commuter. The lego buildings in CityScope reflect data in real time, which means that planners can play around with landscapes and immediately 'see' their effect on social patterns. One of Larson's most exciting explorations involves big data as a tool for urban planners. CityScope taps into crowdsourced data to display colorful information onto model cities made out of white legos. Buildings and streets light up to reflect Twitter feeds, traffic density, weather patterns, and more. CityHOME changes from living room, to dining room, to study or bedroom at the will of its occupant. The future will likely see people living in tighter quarters and for Larson's latest scenario, CityHOME, his team proposes an optimistic angle on density. Their tiny apartment model is configured with a system of robotics that allow dynamic transformations to take place, keeping the space flexible while satisfying all the purposes of the traditional home—with only a few pieces of (adaptable) furniture. As our cities and homes grow increasingly more dense, designers and technologists find that multipurpose and shared technologies are quickly becoming the standard. But, as Larson shows, that could be the best way forward.

An Unusual Design for a Massive Bit Holder with Moving Parts

Variety is useful for a designer to encounter, and I love seeing how different people solve a shared design problem. It's also fun to try to figure out, absent a clear explanation, what a particular designer was thinking just by studying the form they've come up with.The CNC + OCD drill bit organizer I made had a chest-of-drawers form factor because, as I explained in the design process video, that was what the object demanded; it basically designed itself. But a fellow CNC mill user named Jerry Burks, who needs to store a heckuva lot more bits than I do, came up with something very different:Staring at just that one photo above, I couldn't figure out some parts of the design. Assuming form follows function, the little "fingers" sticking out from the sides of each "leaf" seemed to indicate the leaves were meant to be lifted out. But then what? Those leaves could presumably could not be set down on edge or they'd topple over, and the fact that the bits load from the top mean setting it on its side would be inelegant to use. And what are those routed slots in the sides of the overall piece for?Thankfully there was another shot, this one from the side:Aha. Here we can clearly see there are dowels resting in the routed slots and pegged into the sides of the leaves. We can also see the tops of the side members are wavy, with the fingers resting in the valleys. Now the fingers make more sense: The leaves can indeed be lifted, but their travel is limited by the dowel in the routed slot. So it appears the leaves can only be moved forward or backward by one valley, perhaps to make access easier, or highlight which leaf is currently being used by creating space around them.Here we can see some of the bits sitting in plastic bushings, that I imagine are friction-fit into the drilled holes:The color-coding appears to be the sole method of "labeling," which wouldn't work for me; but I'm guessing Burks has a better memory than I do.One thing I can't figure out, by looking at that last photo above, is why there are two long slots machined into the faces of each leaf. Anyone have any ideas?

Unusual Door Designs from Brazil, Part 1: The Boxtail Hinge

Here's a door with a rather unusual hinge design:Because this exact photo has been so passed around on social media with no attribution, I am sadly unable to determine whom the original designer, or even the fabricator, are. But it appears that the door came from Brazil, and poking around on various Brazilian designer's and fabricator's websites reveals doors of this design are readily available for purchase there.In this shot of a similar design, we get a slightly better look at the hinge. Notice that the boxtails affixed to the frame have their grain running north-south, in contrast to the east-west grain orientation of the door:This variant of the design appears to be made from reclaimed lumber, or has convincingly had the wood distressed. It's also got much shorter tails, though ones affixed to the frame contain both the odd- and even-numbered members:These two below have super long tails, and the grain of the frame-mounted fingers running in the same direction as the grain of the door:Here I got excited thinking there was a double-door version, but alas, it appears the one on the left does not open, judging by the lack of a handle:If any of our Portugese-speaking readers have any idea who designed this—Google Translator has failed me, I'm afraid—please do let us know in the comments, so that we may properly credit them.

Designs for Small Kitchens: Dish Racks

Many apartment dwellers and homeowners need to cope with small kitchens, or at least kitchens with limited counter space. A big countertop dish drainer isn't going to work, but they need something for those dishes, glasses, pans and cutlery that don't go into the dishwasher (if they even have a dishwasher).The client who asked me for help with this challenge wound up choosing an in-sink dish drainer; that's a nice solution for end users with a large enough sink.The Basin from Umbra, designed by Helen T. Miller, is intended for use either on a countertop or in the sink. Purchasers generally find the design works well; the slots are big enough to hold thicker plates just as those from Fiesta, the cutlery section is appreciated, and the size is good for small countertops. However, they note one major drawback (in some kitchens): the spout doesn't work well when used on a countertop with a top-mount sink. The spout is fairly short and doesn't extend over the sink edge, and putting the drainer on the sink edge messes up the drainage angle.The DishGarden Dish Rack from Chef'n is also designed to fit in a sink—although it could also be used on a countertop (perhaps with a drainer mat or a towel). It has an unusual round design, which seems as though it would waste space, but purchasers note how much it holds for such a small dish rack. As one purchaser wrote, "Hanging cups on the outside frees up the inside, the little plastic posts on the bottom allow for much more versatile loading than the usual wire separators, and large pieces like cookie sheets fit beautifully with their ends through the sides." The two utensil holders can be placed wherever the end user likes, adding yet more flexibility.Another sink-based design is an over-the-sink drainer, such as this one from Polder. It's made of stainless steel to resist rust, and it's adjustable to fit varying sink sizes. Purchasers miss having a silverware holder, though. The Prepworks over-the-sink dish drainer also has extendable arms, and it does include a utensil holder (which can be removed for users who don't need it). Additionally, it collapses to 1/3 its original size for easy storage. It's a more closed design than the Polder dish drainer; that means there will be a reduced air flow, and dishes won't dry quite as quickly. Surpahs over-the-sink multipurpose roll-up dish drying rack takes a different approach, providing a rack that would work for glasses or pans but not for a stack of dishes. (And some end users might be nervous using it for glasses, since it would be pretty easy to knock them off of this rack.) It's made from silicone-coated steel. It has the added advantage of being a dual-purpose product, since it can also be used as a cooling rack. And it rolls up for easy storage.Other collapsible or foldable racks are not designed for in-sink or over-sink use, but they still save on storage space. Most of these are X-shaped, such as the Hutzler folding dish rack. As with most other racks of this type, there's no drip tray included, so end users will need to come up with their own solutions for that. While purchasers of some other such racks sometimes complained about the racks collapsing (yikes!) or dishes slipping out of the grooves, this rack gets much more favorable reviews. It's a nice reminder that a good design starts with ensuring the basics are solid.The Extend dish rack from Joseph Joseph is expandable, which means users can use it in a small space and take advantage of the extra drying space if they move to a place with a larger kitchen. The designer was Studio17 Design.Dish drainers can also be hung on the walls over a countertop; Ikea's Grundtal dish drainer is an example of that approach. Not all users will have free wall space, or be allowed to attach something to the walls in a rental situation, but for other end users this could be a nice space-saving solution for their countertops. The drainer folds up when not in use.Photo by Jarno Elonen, via Wikimedia Commons Dish draining closets are common in countries such as Finland, Spain, Italy and Estonia. With an open bottom, the cabinets allow dishes to drain into a stainless steel sink (or onto a stainless steel countertop) as they dry. Since kitchens in North America don't come with such cabinets, designers have developed products to help users modify existing cabinets or build new ones.

A Smaller, Sportier Rolls Royce: A Look at the New Silver Dawn Convertible

The new Silver Dawn is a re-think by Rolls Royce, reaching toward a new slice of the market (hopefully younger) to those who had considered a Phantom convertible but weren't ready to take on that much car. The idea of a smaller Rolls Royce convertible as compared to the huge Phantom is a good one. The Phantom convertible (which the Brits call a "drophead coupe") is fine as a luxury conveyance but even with four people on board the car is so big that people look tiny—lost in the splendor of it all. The car is daunting. It is almost embarrassing to drive a car that large. The Silver Dawn, on the other hand, is smaller and lighter and represents a car aimed at a different age range with more sporting potential considering its size.Last month at Monterey Car Week, I had an opportunity to preview a pre-production prototype of the new Silver Dawn in a small garage at Pebble Beach. The car is not all new. It is based on the existing hardtop coupe but Rolls says 80% of the body panels are new—not straight off the coupe model. Below is a preview of the new Silver Dawn and thoughts on why Rolls, with the Phantom DHC still in production, created a second-tier ultimate luxury convertible.FRONTSetting the grille a few inches inside a brushed metal surround was a brilliant decision as it makes the whole grille look solid as a rock (hewn out of solid steel). The front hood (or bonnet as they call it in England) has a central chrome bar, reminding one vaguely of the old Rolls Royce Silver Cloud and the Phantoms of the '60s, with two lines spreading out from it which they describe as a, "tapered wake channel" emanating from the radiator mascot's (Spirit of Ecstasy) wings. Rolls got a little too poetic when describing it, saying it, "evokes the sight of a jet's vapour trail, hinting at the car's dynamism."About the headlamps. The LED surround encircles the whole headlamp (I hate when they go 3/4s of the way around as if they ran out of money to finish the job) but I don't care for the odd shape—why couldn't they just go rectangular? The LED display is part of the car's image, Rolls saying they, "give the car a distinctive signature whilst augmenting safety at the same time."Aside from the LED surround, the lights themselves are: "…Significantly enhanced by adaptive technology. Electronically controlled reflectors move in the direction of travel in response to wheel turns to give a greater depth of vision when cornering and a whiter, brighter light ensures effortless and safe driving on dark roads whilst helping reduce driver tiredness."A very space-age feature of the lights is that they employ a heat detection system that detects both human and animal heat signatures, and when it detects either in the car's path issues an audible warning to the driver.SIDEIn the side view Rolls says that they sought to maintain a 2:1 wheel height to body height ratio with a long bonnet, a short front overhang (beyond the wheelwells), a long rear overhang, and, "an elegant tapering rear graphic" (meaning as you go rearward the body tapers inward) and a high shoulder line. Windshield pillars are now "normal,' i.e. body colored not brushed stainless as in the optional package on the larger Phantom DHC. This Rolls has a bit of bright metal in the cabin area for a more "private" look, a stainless steel "waist line finisher" designed to "work in harmony with the stainless steel door handles, polished wheels, visible exhausts and front and rear bumper jewellery, to create a priceless look and feel." They may be right, as there are plenty of lower cost convertibles that lack this bright "waist line" trim and thus have a more formless look.By far the most timeless feature offering a bit of prewar glamor is the "opera" door—a stroke of brilliance carried over from the larger Phantom that adds to the Dawn's appeal. "Evocative of the classic sports car profile, they add considerably to the easy entry and egress of rear passengers from Dawn's luxurious embrace. The rear passengers do not merely 'get out' of a Rolls-Royce Dawn, but rather stand and disembark as if from a Riva motor launch onto a glamorous private jetty in Monaco or on Lake Como." In other words, the opera doors allow one to make a grand entrance, as dramatic as that of the driver or passenger exiting a Mercedes gullwing coupe of the Fifties.The C-pillar—the third pillar, the windshield being "A" and this having no "B" pillar— is blind with no window cut into it. Surprisingly, Rolls likes the privacy angle and the bit of rakishness that adds, saying when viewed from side-on and roof up,"the car looks akin to a low-slung 'hot rod'."The car has run-flat tires—if the tires get a hole in them, they deflate but the car can still be driven 100 miles The stock wheels are 20" tall while optional 21" wheels with 10-spoke rims are available. Alas for traditionalists like me, the presence of run-flats means no spare wheel and jack, which frees up space in the luggage compartment.TOPThe first question might be: why did they have a soft top, a cloth one, when the technology exists to have a hardtop convertible? The first reason is that a hardtop convertible takes up a lot of trunk room, and presumably buyers of this ultimate luxury car might need the room for grand touring. Also, a soft top is very traditional in a Rolls drophead. As the press release explains:"The only choice for a Rolls-Royce was a fabric roof for reasons of aesthetics, romance and brand appropriateness. There is nothing more romantic than driving a convertible in the rain at night and hearing the drops pattering on the roof. In conversation with its customers, Rolls-Royce realized that they felt the same way."So forget that much lower priced four seater convertibles are available with a retractable hardtop. That is irrelevant—romance is what this model sells.The convertible top achieves its smooth look with a six layer top, and the wood on the rear deck is what they call "open-pore Canadel paneling" that is chosen by the customer to suit their individual taste. In addition to being on the tonneau, it flows down into what Rolls calls a 'waterfall' between the rear seats, and around the cabin clothing the interior door panels.Rolls is quite proud of the woodworking in the car. Rolls really went to town on the wood, making sure the wood on the surfaces of the console trays are also book-matched down the center console in a chevron pattern pointing forward providing an accelerated feel. For some reason, automakers compete with each other in bragging about soft tops that are deployable while the car is still moving, Rolls claims their top can be erected in 20 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/h. My question is: why would you want to take the chance of going a tad too fast and blowing it out if the wind catches it?INTERIORRolls chose to not only have the wood on the rear "hard boot" covering the top but on perhaps 80% of the doors, and even a large patch between the two rear seats. I think this last piece is going too far, as if they looked at the interior and said, "where can we have even more wood" and put it in a place you wouldn't expect. The dashboard though, has about an equal amount of wood to the'50s and '60s Silver Clouds and Phantoms, thus eschewing the temptation to use polished aluminum, swirl-finished stainless, carbon fiber or other materials that stray too far from what you expect in a Rolls. Overall, I think it's too much wood, especially those vast areas on the doors, but then again their marketing research must show that Rolls customers expect wood and leather.The treatment of the instruments show great attention was paid to the material used (metal if possible) and the finish of the metals. For instance, the instrument dials have individually applied polished metal chaplets around the dials not unlike you would see on a hand-made, luxury wrist watch, whilst the matte chrome centers 'float' in the middle of each instrument.Having two rear center console air conditioner vents is recognition that, for at least 70 years, there has been precious little offering of rear seat blowers to give the rear seat passengers air cooling equal to that being enjoyed by the front seat passengers.Just behind the two rear seat headrests, one can see sections that cover the hidden roll-over protection device roll bars that deploy in just a fraction of a second. A ratchet system then locks them in place. This roll-over protection system also encompasses the entire windscreen surround of the car.REARThe rear is solidly traditional in shape, a combination of other themes already used by Rolls—the width of the chrome bar over the license plate area automatically conveys that "this is a car used by Europeans" because over there, license plates are about one third wider. The use of chrome horizontal exhaust tips is sporty, yet not as sporty as the round ones on Ferraris. Oddly I find the badging on the rear very discreet—merely a vertical RR insignia in the center of the chrome bar that houses the license plate light. It doesn't spell out "Rolls Royce" or "Silver Dawn"—those who know what it is know, those who don't recognize it, so be it.MECHANICALSUnder the hood is a twin-turbocharged, 6.6-liter V12, same as in the Ghost, rated at 563 horsepower with 575 pound-feet of torque. I would have preferred the V8 with a twin turbo but then you are talking a car that weighs 5,644-pounds. That engine is coupled to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. With that many gears, up shifts are almost imperceptible.________________________________________________________________________ Rolls has accomplished a lot with this car, and it will no doubt achieve market penetration to those who, previously, had been put off by the sheer size of the Phantom DHC feeling it, "made too much of a statement." In effect, they created a Junior Phantom drophead that still maintains its own distinctive style.The inclusion of the wood on the rear boot continues what they had on the Phantom DHC, but the Dawn goes further in the use of the wood. Not offering the brushed metal finish on the bonnet, which is available on the Phantom, separates the two cars further. Now the only question is: will they go sportier in optional packages in the future in order to blunt Bentley, who with various packages, markets their GTC convertible as a luxury car with the performance of a sports car (even having a package that goes over 200 mph!) . Bentleys, even when they were produced by Rolls and merely rebadged, were always more sporting than Rolls. But it remains to be seen today, now that they are two separate and competing companies, if Rolls, in response to Bentley's endless reinventions of itself, might also be tempted to offer a more sporting model. Even if one never plans to be in the market for such an ultimate luxury car, as a design critic I enjoy seeing how many of the features of ultimate cars may indeed "trickle down" to cars occupying levels a few steps below. We at those lower price levels live in hope.

2015 Dyson Award Finalist Faves: A Clever Way to Carry Clean Water in a Dirty Oil Can

We're pleased to see that design students around the world are killing it! This year's James Dyson Award received a record 710 entries, and the judges have finally whittled them down to 20 finalists, released today. We're going to show you some of our faves.First up is Chloe Louisin, an Industrial Design student at France's Strate École de Design. On a humanitarian mission to Togo and a trip to the Congo with Doctors Without Borders, Louisin saw firsthand how difficult it is for folks in those places to obtain clean water. They often have to travel far to get it, and the most readily available vessels they can use to tote it are old plastic jerrycans formerly used to carry oil or gasoline.The jerrycans are ergonomically sound. They have handles for carrying and are robust enough to survive the journey. They're also readily available. However, the petrol and bacteria within the containers contaminates the water.Louisin's clever solution, the Wat'bag, was inspired by "bag in a box" wine. She developed a sterile plastic pouch, with its own neck and cap, that the user inserts into the jerrycan. They then simply fill the plastic bag, and the water inside is kept clean and separate from the dirty insides of the container.Whether or not Louisin wins a JDA, she's already achieved something very important: Doctors Without Borders has chosen to develop the Wat'bag. Congratulations to Louisin!

2015 Dyson Award Finalist Faves: Shock-Absorbing High Heels

I have plenty of female friends who enjoy wearing high heels for their aesthetic value, but I don't know a single one who claims they're comfortable. And I think we've all seen the woman with the spaghetti strap dress walking home from the party barefoot at the end of the night, stilettos dangling from her fingers, preferring to get sidewalk grit on her bare feet rather than enduring another minute in those shoes.Dyson Award finalist Yasuyuki Yamada, a grad student at Japan's Science and Technology program at Keio University, reckons he can make high heels more comfortable. "in order to achieve both the style of high heels and comfortable walking without impact," Yamada writes, "I developed YaCHAIKA's heels with leaf spring plates and high-vibration damping rubber sheets."If you're wondering about the capitalized part of the name, Yamada explains: "CHAIKA is the call sign of Valentina Tereshkova, who was the first female astronaut. I named my design in honor of her great contribution to science. It also means 'seagull' in Russian. The heel shape is inspired by the seagull's shape as it is flies, gracefully spreading its wings."The shoes look a bit strange to my eyes, but certainly appear more comfortable than the alternative. However, who cares what I think: I am a male writing about a male-designed product intended for usage by females. So to those of you actually in the target market, what do you think of these? Would you wear them?

2015 Dyson Award Finalist Faves: An Easy Way to Turn All Plugs into Mag-Safe-style Connections

This next Dyson Award finalist is Matthew Burton, who's studying Industrial Design at the University of Houston, where he crossed paths with fellow student Justin Farley. Farley, who has cerebral palsy, is the founder of UNlimiters, a website that showcases product designs that help the differently-abled live independently. Some of these objects are electric and may need to plugged in or unplugged every day, like an electric wheelchair that needs to charge.During a study with Farley, Burton learned how the constant need to plug and unplug electronics impacts Farley's daily life:Justin is constantly cycling through and making use of electronic devices in attempts to ease his daily tasks. It was made immediately clear that dealing with the cords and plugs of electric devices was difficult for him. In fact, I found that Justin came into contact more frequently and had more issues with electronic plugs than kitchen utensils during an average day. This problem spurred on the development of a new outlet system that could ease Justin's daily tasks.Burton came up with Connect, a cleverly-designed module that plugs directly into a standard outlet, providing three perfectly circular, magnetic, female connections. The user then caps the plugs on their devices with male magnetic projections. With this system in place, all plugs essentially become Mag-Safe-style connections that are easy to plug or unplug, and which obviate the need to rotate the plug to any particular orientation.I dig that it transforms two plugs into three! And Burton is forecasting a wide market for the system. "While Connect is specifically designed to increase the functionality and usability of electrical outlets for those with physical limitations," he writes, "I found that it can be of great value across markets and across generations. Whether it is a lack of grip strength, or failing eyesight; a bad back, limited dexterity, or a lack of height; Connect is the answer to easing the process of using household electronics; especially those which are frequently plugged in and out."