Taming the Kitchen and Dresser Drawers 

Anyone who's tried to find one specific item in a large, crowded drawer will appreciate how drawer organizers can help make things easier. DrawerDecor from KMN Home is one cool way to provide that organization, with a silicone mat (which can be trimmed to fit) and repositionable pieces. It's easy to install and easy to clean—and it makes it extremely easy to find things. It can be configured as needed by each end user. However, not everyone has enough drawer space for this approach.The Dream Drawer Organizers from Dial are spring-loaded, so they're easy to install—no tools required. They come in two sizes to accommodate different drawer sizes. These organizers subdivided the drawers while still allowing a group of kitchen tools, for example, to overlap.One concern: A number of purchasers have complained that while the taller-but-shorter dividers are supposed to expand from 12 inches to 18 inches, they didn't actually compress to 12 inches, and therefore didn't fit into some shorter drawers. The expandable drawer organizers from Axis are also spring-loaded. One added feature are the notches which allow for horizontal pieces to be added to subdivide the rows into smaller sections—a nice option. However, purchasers noted these dividers, like the Dream Drawer Organizers, didn't fit drawers on the shorter side of the given range. And one purchaser had a drawer destroyed when the compressed spring let loose.The OXO drawer dividers come in two sizes; they provide the same ease of installation as the spring-loaded drawers, but use a different mechanism. The end user pushes down on a button to expand the organizer to fit the drawer. However, a minority of purchasers have reported problems with the dividers staying in place. The slotted interlocking drawer dividers from Sorbus are also easy to install and configurable to the end user's needs. Each set has three strips that snap apart without the need for any tools. Using these dividers will require the end user to do some pre-planning and measuring, though, to get the configuration right before snapping the strips into pieces. That may sound trivial, but for some end users it will be a challenge.The custom drawer organizer strips are another fully-configurable design. As The Container Store says, "You just measure, score, and snap dividers to the length you need; then slide them into the self-adhesive mounts in whatever configuration you want." However, some purchasers found the "score and snap" part to be somewhat difficult. The honeycomb drawer organizer from Whitmor is intended for small things such as socks and underwear. The pieces just snap together; purchasers agree the installation is simple. But they also note the sections are pretty small, and work better for a child's items than for those of an adult man. (Any organizer like this, with set compartment sizes, can't possibly work for everyone.)Some organizers are designed specifically for tall kitchen drawers. The Tra-Sta Deep Drawer Kit from Omega National includes three prefinished maple dividers and six predrilled mounting rails. They can be trimmed to fit various drawer depths, but the height is not intended to be altered. (Trimming the bottom would remove the finish from the edge and void the warranty.)The deep drawer inserts and the kitchenware and plate organizers from Häfele use a base plate and posts. This seems like an effective way to store plates in a drawer, but no one I've worked with would care about organizing pans that way, especially since it would seem to reduce the number of pans that could fit in the drawer.The Hettich Orgastore 100 kitchen drawer storage set, designed specifically for Innotech drawer systems, uses yet another configurable approach: a rail system with dividers.Some drawer organizers are designed to meet a very specific need. That's the case with the diagonal cooking utensil divider from Diamond Cabinets, which gives the end user space for large utensils that might not fit in a drawer with standard dividers.

Design Job: Yarn-ing for a new job? Join Warrior Sports as their next Knit Technician in Warren, MI

Seeking an experienced knitwear technician with programming and hands on knowledge on flat knitting machines. High level of competency in fully-fashioned programming and knitwear machines is required. Ideal candidates can manage large and complex 3D knit development projects. Extensive knowledge of yarn selection, gauges, stitch techniques, patterns and layouts required.View the full design job here

How a Traditional Korean Inlaid Lacquer Box is Made

For those of us who are beginner or even intermediate level woodworkers, making a delicate box with a perfect finish is hard enough. Imagine that you get all of that done, and then the real work starts.If you've ever been to Korea, you may have seen some of these lacquered boxes inlaid with what looks like pearl or shells:In fact they're shells, and while a purist might say the techniques used to get them in there aren't proper inlay, well, watch this guy (master craftsman Lee Kwang-Woong) make one and see if you'd find it any less difficult:"I was about to ask how much one of these boxes go for," writes one commenter on the YouTube page, "but then I saw it takes one year to make one of them so I think I'm better off not knowing."

Slow/d: “The First Distributed Design Factory”

At first glance, this design for a stacking chair called the RJR might not seem like much:It's simple, clean, consists entirely of 90-degree cuts and looks like anyone could make one. But that's actually the point. That's because Italy-based industrial designer Mario Alessiani designed it for Slow/d, an Italian outfit that bills themselves as "the first distributed design factory." What Slow/d is shooting to be is, in essence, a production company with no warehouses, no inventory and no fabricating facility of their own; instead individual craftspeople and artisans scattered throughout Italy are their production arm.Under Slow/d's scheme, designers submit their designs to the Slow/d site for approval. Consumers peruse the chosen designs, and when they purchase one, an artisan local to the consumer that's been pre-approved by Slow/d is then tasked with building and delivering the piece. "In this way," explains Alessiani's entry to the VModern Furniture Design Competition, "everyone works and we have less transportation and pollution."The aim of the designer was to make a wooden chair that can be [built] by the most number of carpenters in order to make the net of artisans capable of doing it as big as possible. The idea was to create a design that could be done with base carpentry tools but with something more that makes the chair recognizable and functional.Thus far Slow/d claims to have some 1,300 designers and artisans signed up, but I could only find 20 products currently for sale on their site. Some examples of the furniture currently being sold are Nicola Dalla Casta's Woodrope, a flatpack stool with structural stability being provided by rope in tension:FareDesign's similarly flatpack Join coatrack:Mess+Simoni's Cullatonda cradle:All of the designs feature straightforward construction similar to Alessiani's. While design snobs might sniff at what they perceive to be "idiot-proof" construction designed to attract producers of varying talents, I think the idea of distributed manufacturing has merit, and the long-term environmental benefits, if such a thing were to work, are undeniable.Less clear are some of the details of the precise payouts offered. First off, the site states that designers score a 10% royalty on each piece sold—if that percentage sounds low to you, it's still far higher than what you'd get from an established furniture brand—and the initial fabricator who helps them prototype that design gets a 5% royalty. Those numbers seem fine to me, and is a particularly good way for a fabricator to continuously earn a little coin after a one-time job.Where it gets murky, at least for me trying to puzzle through the badly-translated English description, is that once a particular design's "manufacturing license" is sold to the fabricator who will ultimately build the exact version going to a consumer, the designer gets 65%; is that a one-time fee, and who determines the price of the license? Furthermore, that last-mile fabricator is said to receive only 5%. The website is not clear on whether the fabricators are also paid for the actual materials and labor, but I imagine they'd have to be; otherwise the payout in building a €280.60 (US $305) RJR chair only amount to €14 (US $15.25) per unit for the last-mile fabricator, which hardly seems worthwhile for what is likely several hours of labor.In any case, here is Slow/d's pitch, and I hope they can hire a proper translator in the future to make the financials a bit more clear: Slowd connects designers and artisans to redraw the furniture supply chain from Andrea Cattabriga on Vimeo.

Germany Building Bicycle-Only Highway That Will Link Ten Cities

The ADFC is Germany's bicycle advocacy group, and they've come up with a funny term: MAMIL, which stands for Middle-Aged Man in Lycra. What they're referring to are studies that show it's typically macho dudes in their 30s and 40s who feel most safe riding a bike, particularly in adverse conditions; the number of bike-riding females, elderly, and well-parented children are kept down due to safety concerns. MAMILs"With MAMILs only, you cannot build a cycling nation," the ADFC states. "[There must be] younger and older people, fathers with children on their way to school, well-dressed women on their way to work, girlie girls in pink, ministers and doctors, teenagers on their way to sports training, musicians with double basses on their backs, elderly ladies on their way to the library [all riding bikes]."If you hit the "studies" link above, you'll find another study reporting that "in European cities with separated bicycle infrastructure, women account for 50% of riders." In other words, bike lanes bring equality. And now there's good news for the ADFC, as well as the residents in the Ruhr region of Germany: The country is launching a 100-kilometer (62-mile) fully-paved roadway dedicated entirely to bikes, no cars allowed.This "bicycle Autobahn," as is calling it, will be located in the densest part of Germany. The Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area has a population exceeding 12 million people spread over nearly a dozen cities, and thus this super bike lane will connect ten cities and four universities. Almost two million people live within two kilometres of the route and will be able to use sections for their daily commutes, said Martin Toennes of regional development group RVR.Aided by booming demand for electric bikes, which take the sting out of uphill sections, the new track should take 50,000 cars off the roads every day, an RVR study predicts.For now the bikeway has been kicked off with a 5-kilometer stretch that's 4 meters (13 feet) wide, as the rest of the path is projected to be; in order to complete the remaining 95 kilometers, financing is required. At €180 million (USD $197 million) the bikeway isn't cheap, and the question of whom will pay for it must be negotiated. So far the RVR is off to a good start: While they paid for 20% of the initial run, they got the local state government to pay for 30% and the EU to pick up the rest. With any luck, the ADFC will soon get their wish of seeing MAMILs and non-MAMILs alike all pedaling to work.It's not really called the "bicycle Autobahn," by the way; the cycleway's official name is the RS1 or Radschnellweg, which I believe translates to something like "Fast cycleway." (Can any of our German-speaking readers clarify?)

Bring Candy! 5 Transformative Lessons from the 2015 Core77 Conference

Hosted in downtown Los Angeles, the second annual Core77 Conference celebrated many facets of design with the theme, Designing Here/Now. An exploration of the spaces between design disciplines where today's most impactful work is taking place, this year's speakers are changing the very definition of designer. Organized around four central ideas—collaboration now, making now, business now and the future now—the conference was a deep dive into what it means to be creating impactful work in today's competitive landscape. The speakers presented groundbreaking projects and incredible ideas over the course of the day (check our #Core77Con15) in the dramatic setting of the Vibiana, a former catholic cathedral in the heart of downtown LA. Even if you weren't able to join us for this year's event, here are five transformative lessons designers can put into practice today. Storytelling 101: Bring Candy!Storytelling will become even more critical in the age of co-creation and interdisciplinary practice. Jessie Kawata of NASA JPL working on prototypes for mission design.In Jessie Kawata's presentation about design thinking for space exploration, the creative strategist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shared how fundamental tools of design like asking the "what and why" can help engineers and scientists connect ideas and problem solve. In one example, Kawata led a workshop with NASA scientists asking them to prototype ideas for space missions using materials from the 99 cent store. Besides the wonders of pasta propulsion and coffee filter parachutes, the biggest learning from the exercise was that these storytelling opportunities provided a venue for new ideas to be born. Prototyping with mundane objects meant that the scientists weren't as attached to their ideas spurring a brainstorm of far out ideas that could just lead to the next mission innovation. (How did she get these rocket scientists to participate? "Candy helps.")[Editors Note: For more on design thinking and science, read Jessie Kawata's post, "Is Design Thinking Rocket Science?"]Sly Lee, a marine scientist, shared the value of the world's coral reefs as well as the challenges facing ocean ecologies. Communicating the urgency of these challenges continues to be a huge hurdle for the scientific community. The Hydrous was founded to, "Make scientific data sexy!" Lee declares. Through 3D imaging tools, The Hydrous is now able to map and 3D print models of coral reef, creating better data sets for scientists to chart growth and development while providing better storytelling tools for the public. By engaging technology, citizen scientists and the scientific community, The Hydrous is working to create open access oceans and storytelling is a key component in accomplishing this mission.Sly Lee's full presentation for Designing Here/NowPeople FirstWhether through a community-driven design practice or working on your most important design project (yourself), putting people first in the age of technology can sound pretty radical. Attendees sketching their heroes as part of Ayse Birsel's first exercise for designing the life you love.The award-winning product designer Ayse Birsel introduced her newest work, a book and workshop that applies her human-centered design practice to life's biggest project—the Self. Design the Life You Love is about creating meaning and purpose through a series of exercises that form the basis of Birsel's client work. Birsel's book and workshop shift the familiar tenets of human-centered design to a self-centered design practice which can be both empowering and transformative.Process video for manufacturing Brendan Ravenhill's Grain lamp shade in Los Angeles.Brendan Ravenhill gave the audience a glimpse at what it means to be a designer-manufacturer in Los Angeles. The lighting and furniture designer often works with local manufacturers to produce his work and he argues that the link between the two is more important than a passing trend. "The new designer-maker movement is helping to fill the void of manufacturing jobs going overseas," Ravenhill explains. By putting people first, designers working with local manufacturing in turn supports local economies and allows for a type of co-creation that is beneficial for both parties. Ravenhill's Grain pendant is a prime example of how manufacturing locally can allow for a complexity that wouldn't be able to be achieved by working remotely.[Editor's Note: Read the Core77 Questionnaire with Brendan Ravenhill on switching from boat building to industrial design, working in Los Angeles and how his bottle opener jump-started his business.]Whereas Ravenhill's community is driven by production and economics, the fiber artist and designer Tanya Aguiñiga defines community in a broader sense, placing it at the center of her work. Whether its in her woven installations and the relationship with a viewing public (see "Crossing the Line" where she transforms a gallery space into a loom) or in the physical interactions of her felting interventions, Aguiñiga's work explores her own identity and a connection to a broader community—mothers, outsiders, multinationals, women. Designers of all disciplines can learn much from her "craft-centered, local problem solving," approach and the ways that it has not only transformed her work but also the people around her.[Editor's Note: Read the Core77 Questionnaire with Tanya Aguiñiga on designing outside your own reality and using craft as a way to diversify conversations in society.]Models of Impact workshop led by Matthew Manos and verynice."What if everyone in the world lived to create a model of impact?" Matthew Manos of the global design consultancy verynice, asks the audience. "What if the $8 billion nonprofits spend on design services could be spent on serving the cause?" Manos has inspired a movement with #GiveHalf, his business case for giving away half your work away for free by taking on probono nonprofit clients. By building in a probono strategy into a consultancy's workflow, "your capacity for projects can grow while your fixed costs stay low," Manos explains. If the success of verynice is any indication, putting people first can be transformative not only for the client, but for the consultancy as well. [Editor's Note: Read the Core77 Questionnaire with Matthew Manos on Giving Away Half Your Work for Free.] Mickey McManus rang the alarm in his first book, Trillions, where he described a state of, "unbounded, often malignant, complexity." In his talk, he argued for a "people first" approach as we design the future. Instead of designing an Internet of Things, McManus argues for a "community of things" that can be agile in a rapidly shifting environment. "How does design need to change?" in an age where the intersection of machine learning, digital manufacturing and feedback loops from the Internet of Things demands new and dynamic systems.Design ecosystems, not products.As technology and design merge to create complex, more connected and adaptive products, it is more critical to design ecosystems that enable users to create new interactions. The market is flooded with smart, connected devices that rely on what Mickey McManus, also an Autodesk fellow, identifies as a sea of information. "We'll have to try to create symbiosis between [products]…this will be more like growing a garden or raising children rather than like building products, houses and factories." Being a designer will mean co-creating ecosystems where machine intelligence, data and connectivity must be harnessed.Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group and Levi's are a great example of the potential for co-creation. The two American companies have partnered to develop Project Jacquard, a system for weaving connected, touch-sensitive textiles, into a commercially-viable denim garment. "Project Jacquard creates a new ecosystem of open source garments," Paul Dillinger, Vice President of Global Product Innovation at Levi's underlined in his talk. "It is not a gadget, it is a platform that adds value in a world of fast fashion."NewDealDesign's Project Underskin.Gadi Amit's presentation on technology design took a more concrete approach to designing ecosystems. In his work with wearables, Amit is already creating customized technologies that draw from complex systems of information. Project Underskin, is a new kind of "wearable"—a sensor embedded under the skin that is designed to interface between the body and external cues from the environment or other people.[Editor's Note: Read the Core77 Questionnaire with Gadi Amit on assimilating technology into society, being 'a very actionable guy,' and his favorite productivity trick.]Sochi Olympic fountain designed by WET Nadine Schelbert, director of design and branding at WET Design gave a powerhouse presentation that shared how their consultancy own every aspect of designing and manufacturing water features for their clients. From precision engineering, custom built simulation software, manufacturing custom designed hardware, Schelbert explained that designing a water feature means designing space, form and performance. "Owning the design, systems, hardware and software development and build give us creative freedom and pushes boundaries," Schelbert told the audience. The workings of WET's interdisciplinary design practice is a great case study for developing robust ecosystems of the near future.MAYA: Most Advanced Yet AcceptableRaymond Loewy's principle of "Most advanced yet acceptable," continues to be a guiding touchstone for designers. In our current age of rapidly shifting paradigms and new technologies, the concept of MAYA can help navigate some of the more thorny ethical and business questions posed to designers today. Can collaboration be competitive? Core77 contributor and vice president of design at Sonos, Tad Toulis, made the case for creating an internal culture that encourages designers to "challenge assumptions and push people" in order to deliver something truly good. In a 2011 essay for Core77, Toulis made, "The Case for Competitive Competition," and at this year's Core77 Conference he revisited the idea and reminded the attendees of the power of deep engagement, prototyping ideas, embracing ambiguity, pushing people and most of all, humility. "Explain, explain, explain," Toulis encourages. "Maybe you'll find what the project is REALLY about instead of what you thought it was about."Tesla Model S, 2013In Javier Verdura's talk with CARLAB's Eric Noble, the Tesla director of product design reiterated the importance of balancing advanced technologies with the demands of business and consumer expectations. Unique to the industry, Tesla positions itself as both an automotive manufacturer and an energy storage company. The responsibility of the designer is delivering on the brand promise of a luxury, forward-thinking vehicle while also honoring the vision of its founder, Elon Musk. "When people hear the Tesla brand," Verdura explains, "they already think, 'That is so cool.' My goal is for them not to be let down by anything else they touch."Teddy Ruxpin designed by RKSBelkin Charge Dock for Apple Watch + iPhone by Pip Tompkin StudioPip Tompkin (Pip Tompkin Studio) and Ravi Sawhney (RKS Design) discussed the business of running an ID consultancy with Core77 contributing writer Rebecca Veit. In their wide-ranging conversation, the two industry veterans discussed the delicate dance between clients and consultancy. On one hand, the business world, "understand the value of design," Sawhney told the audience. "They know they need design, they just don't know how to get there." On the other hand, "design encourages risk," Tompkin cautioned. Oftentimes risk-adverse business can be "truly frightened by design." Savvy consultancies must balance the demands of the client, hire balanced interdisciplinary teams and stay ahead of the market to thrive in this environment. Loewy's axiom seems especially prescient in today's competitive landscape.Think WrongUnconventional ways of thinking and problem solving are extremely valuable (and can be taught) in a fast-moving and agile market.John Bielenberg is a pioneer in social impact design. Since founding Project M, a program to engage young designers in social impact work, Bielenberg has gone on to form COMMON, the world's first collaborative brand, with Alex Bogusky and more recently the Silicon Valley innovation firm Future Partners. In his years of experience working with young designers and entrepreneurs, he's come to the conclusion that "thinking wrong" is the fastest track to finding ideas that matter and Future Partners is on a mission to share and teach the thinking wrong methodologies. The six tenants of the process include:• Be Bold• Get Out• Let Go• Make Stuff• Bet Small• Move FastWebsite for Kenzo x Blue Marine Foundation by OKFocusNJ(LA)If Bielenberg's success isn't convincing, the conversation between Ryder Ripps (OKFocus) and Nicole Jacek (NJ(L.A.)) offered a glimpse into the unconventional methodologies their consultancies use for creating powerful work for companies like Nike, Red Bull, Kenzo, Good Magazine and Adobe. "There is a lot of room to divert from the template," Ripps responds when asked about the work being labelled weird. "Being 'weird' is survival." Jacek's work relaunching GOOD magazine has helped reposition the beloved publication and online community for a new print audience that is fluent in the language of digital culture. She notes that a number of corporations are taking cues from agencies like hers by establishing internal departments dedicated to trying new things. Thanks to everyone who made Designing Here/Now a huge success! For more information and scenes from the conference, check out the full Core77 Conference 2015 photo gallery!

The Soap of the Future: Bubbles!

Back in my ambulance days, we were taught to wash our hands after each shift in warm soapy water—while mentally humming a segment of "Yankee Doodle Dandy." This would take us, they reckoned, to the 30 seconds required for the soap to kill whatever germs might have got past the gloves. To this day, I still hear that silly song in my head when I'm washing up in my kitchen after handling raw meat. Now researchers at the UK's University of Southampton have come up with a faster way to disinfect, and it's chemical-free. The method is also theorized to get us out of the medically-problematic situation we've created, where we take so many antibiotics that the bugs are forced to evolve, creating ever-hardier strains. Amazingly, this new cleaning system is…bubbles!It's fascinating that they can turn bubbles into something that cleans mechanically just via ultrasound. (Perhaps less fascinating to jewelers, as ultrasonic jewelry cleaners have been on the market for some time.) Being able to clean something that ordinarily takes 20 seconds in just six means less water is wasted. Also, not mentioned in the video is that the water needn't be warmed in order to clean, which reduces energy expenditure.If the team can get this Starstream device successfully commercialized, and integrated into kitchen taps, I'd happily pay for one if I never had to buy soap again. It would be less chemicals, not to mention money, water and energy, down the drain.

My Vote for This Year’s Best Halloween Costume, and How Casey Neistat Built the Most Viral Costume

Call me a simpleton, but I think this is the absolute best Halloween costume I saw this year:Sadly there's no attribution, though the photo's all over social media. As awesome as that get-up is, in this day and age it of course was not the most viral. That honor goes to this mythical, Disney-appropriated character and his special mode of transportation:As you probably recognized at the end, it was none other than Casey Neistat, and co-conspirator Jesse Wellens of the PrankvsPrank YouTube Channel, behind the costume and rig. Here's how they (well, mostly Casey) put it together:Thinking back to the porcupine: You reckon that kid can't sit down until he gets home?

Making the Ultimate Minimalist Pen

In 2012, Brooklyn's CW&T raised more than $280,000 on Kickstarter for Pen Type-A, a stainless-steel upgrade to the Pilot Hi-Tec-C, a plastic gel pen with a cult following among writers, designers and other pen connoisseurs. But almost as soon as CW&T shipped its last Kickstarter reward, its founders had a realization—they needed to make another version. The Pen Type-B"We designed the pen and we were super happy with it, but we realized that it's not something that we can take everywhere with us," says Che-Wei Wang, who founded CW&T with Taylor Levy. "I literally took a Pen Type-A and ground its edges off so that it could go in my pocket. And that was silly."So the duo set about designing a new version—Pen Type-B—that could fit comfortably in your pocket, thanks to its newly rounded form. But the new iteration is not only more portable. "There's a big difference in all of the parts," Levy says. "We've tweaked tiny little things about it to make the pen itself work a lot better." Indeed, Wang and Taylor spent four years refining their design, testing numerous materials (titanium, aluminum, steel, brass) and finishes (glass bead blast, polish, black oxide), and sending drawings back and forth with the multi-generation machine shop in Vermont where they fabricated the first pen. Like its predecessor, Pen Type-B is precision machined from solid metal for ultra-high tolerances that create a piston-like effect between the body of the pen and its sleeve. But the latest edition also introduces a magnetic closure, which posed a host of manufacturing challenges. While Pen Type-A was milled and turned from a block of 304 stainless steel, Type-B uses three types of stainless steel of varying ferritic properties to achieve that closure. The tip is 400-series stainless (magnetic), the cylinder is made out of 300-series stainless (non-magnetic) and the dime screw at the end (for replacing the ink cartridge) is cold-worked stainless (slightly magnetic, but just the right amount). "We're just trying to balance magnetism on both ends so that it feels right," Wang says.Finding the perfect magnet to embed in the brass sleeve of the pen also proved tricky. The team initially started with rare-earth machineable magnets, which—despite their name—proved exceedingly difficult to machine. One day when browsing K&J Magnetics for another project, however, Levy stumbled upon a doughnut-shaped magnet with an interior chamfer that could perfectly hug the ferrous tip of the pen. "It was literally the perfect magnet," she says. The brass sleeve is made from two parts, the barrel and the end cap. These pieces are joined together through supercooling the end cap, and allowing it to shrink enough to be slip-fit into the barrel; then the cap expands so that it's permanently fixed and the seam between the two parts disappears. Machined using a massive gun drill, the barrel has super tight straightness tolerances and a mirrored interior finish on the sleeve. A rubber piece on the interior protects the tip of the pen behind the doughnut-shaped magnet. In addition, a flat edge was added to the sleeve to prevent the pen from rolling—off your desk and far, far away. The sleeve is left uncoated to allow for a gradual patina to build over time.In addition to the doughnut magnet, another prefabricated piece is the ink cartridge itself. As with Pen Type-A, Type-B uses a black gel .3mm Hi-Tec-C ink cartridge manufactured in Japan. "They really are the best," Levy says. "But they can be a bit finicky sometimes and hard to work with." Levy and Wang made small adjustments to the tip's outer and inner openings to help improve ink flow, adding a radial pattern of tiny holes near the pen cylinder tip. Those perforations create airflow into the pen that assists with that flow of ink, and that also equalizes the air pressure on the ink cartridge as the pen is pulled from its sleeve. Each raw cartridge ships to the factory in Vermont with a small rubber cap for protection and to keep the ink from drying out. Wanting to use every piece efficiently, the factory even went so far as reuse the typically discarded rubber cap in the sleeve of Pen Type-B, providing a tight seal around the tip of the pen and ensuring that it won't dry out when not in use. "They're basically salvaging this tiny rubber thing stuck inside this plastic cap for each pen," Wang says. Since the cap is used to keep the ink fresh, the factory had to be strategic about the amount of time the cartridges spend un-capped from its rubber counterpart. "There was a problem for a while where, if there was a pause in production, the pens would dry out," Levy says. "Last week, we asked them how they worked around that and they showed us a jig they built, so that the last operation in the production takes the rubber thing out, squeezes it (since it's rubber) and shoves it actually under the magnet already embedded in the tip. They're totally in love with solving little problems like that."As with any additional introduction to the manufacturing process, adding a magnet to the sleeve of the cap or changing small diameters added new layers of complications that rippled down to the final prototypes — requiring even more incremental tweaks to the pen. "From the width of the flat on the pen to how far the pen sticks out from the cap, just these little things," Levy says. She and Wang went through several prototypes, making minute changes to the length of the barrel, getting the flat edge to be just the right size. "They're all like little picky things because we're picky people," Wang says. "We're trying tackle all these issues as early as possible so they don't show up when they go into production." Levy and Wang see their Pen Type-B as an exercise in reducing the writing instrument down to its essence. They also promise that this is their very last pen—they swear. But perhaps they shouldn't be too quick to abandon the product category, given what is clearly a powerful demand for such obsessively considered writing instruments. The Type-B Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in mere hours, and it has now raised over twelve times its goal of $12,000, currently clocking in at nearly $165,000. Nonetheless, the pair is already onto their next project, which they say they might to turn to Kickstarter to fund as well. "[Kickstarter] just works for us," Levy says. On the last day of their campaign, though, she won't be watching the dollars tally up. "It makes you kind of crazy," she says of the individual Kickstarter notifications that you can turn on for every backer. "It's a bit of an unhealthy habit."

A Kiosk That Spits Out Free Short Stories

While slicing fruit, crushing candy and swiping faces have become commonly accepted forms of smartphone-based time killing, can't we do better, in terms of our intellectual health? Entrepreneur Christophe Sibieude thinks so. Thus he started Short Edition, a French "community publisher" that has users of its smartphone app trading short stories that they themselves write and consume. The Short Edition community is open to all ("male, female, old, young, blond, bald…"), and in four years has attracted some 140,000 members.In an effort to further immerse society in humble literature, Sibieude conceived of a kiosk that would dispense, for free, short stories. Placed in a train station, airport or one of France's famously bureaucracy-saddled municipal services buildings, the device would allow the line-waiter to disappear into a story, if only for a few minutes at a time.It sounds crazy, but what's even crazier is that the machines have actually launched. The Mayor of Grenoble, a city of 150,000 colloquially known as "The Capital of the French Alps," ordered eight of the machines placed throughout the city center. Users can select a one-minute, three-minute or five-minute story, and the machine instantly spits it out on recycled paper. (Amusingly, the stories still appear to be shorter than your average CVS receipt.)"The idea came to us in front of a vending machine containing chocolate bars and drinks, Sibieude told Agence France Presse. "We said to ourselves that we could do the same thing with good quality popular literature to occupy these little unproductive moments."While it might sound like an impractical idea to some, RT reports that interest in the machine is high:"We are getting a lot of requests from all over the world for this invention. Once we will sort out our costs, we will ship these machines anywhere – for maybe a month, several months or even for a few years," Quentin Pleple, one of Short Edition's founders, told RT.There is an unembeddable, French-language news video showing the machines here.