Design Job: Imagine the Next Gen of Wearables as Huami’s Lead Industrial Designer in Mountainview, CA

Seeking candidates to imagine the next generation of smart wearable devices. You'll lead projects from product definition to manufacturing. You'll need 5+ years of experience, strong sketching skills, a proficiency in 3D modeling, and excellent 2D/3D rendering skills. Experience with design research including user, trend, color, material, and finish required.View the full design job here

A Radical Board Design from the 1920s Set Surfing Up for Popularization

Back in 1927 Tom Blake, a competitive swimmer from Wisconsin, found himself working on an interesting craft project in Hawaii. Introduced to this weird Hawaiian activity which came to be called surfing, he'd been exposed to the sport through fellow swimmer and surf pioneer Duke Kahanamoku. Blake had spent three years trying it out and visiting a museum in Honolulu to look at early surfboard/paddleboard designs, called olo.Olo were gargantuan affairs. They were some fifteen feet in length, three to four inches thick, made from a local wood like koa in Hawaii or redwood in California, and required plenty of muscle to haul around; some weighed well over 100 pounds. Blake was building replicas of the olo he'd studied in the museum and wondering if he could make them lighter.Image: Surfing Heritage Foundation The idea he came up with was to drill hundreds of holes in the board, just to remove mass. Then he skinned both sides with thinner layers of wood in an effort to seal the surface. Blake's invention worked well enough that he continued down this road, eventually striking upon the idea of not starting with a solid piece of wood at all, but instead cutting thinner pieces of wood into ribs and a spine, in the manner of an airplane wing. He'd then skin the skeleton in wood, creating a relatively watertight surface—a plug was needed to drain whatever water got inside after each session—and succeeded in getting the weight down to around 40 pounds. By 1931 he'd applied for a patent, and the following year was awarded U.S. Patent No. 1,872,230 for his design (amusingly referred to as a "water sled").By 1932 Blake had opened a business producing his innovative surfboards and paddleboards in Venice, California, and later licensed his designs to other manufacturers. In 1935 he came up with another idea—adding a fin to the underside of a board—and again found success, as the simple addition provided lateral stability and gave the surfboard better maneuverability. By 1936 he was holding classes to each others how to build his designs… Image: Surfing Heritage Foundation …and by 1939 his designs had been published in both Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, with Blake writing accompanying articles on how to DIY them.Popular Mechanics, July 1937, Volume 68, Number 1. Image: The Wood Buddha Popular Mechanics, July 1937, Volume 68, Number 1. Image: The Wood Buddha An end user in Lanai with one of Blake's designs that had been published in Popular Science. Image: The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Along the way Blake had begun surfing competitively and winning competitions like the Pacific Coast Surf Riding Championships, America's first such organized event. And his innovation wasn't limited to board construction; he came up with the idea for a waist-mounted leash so that boards wouldn't get away from him after a wipeout, and so in love was he with the sport that after learning photography, he invented a waterproof housing for a Graflex camera that allowed one to shoot surfers from within the water. As GoPro would do decades later, Blake's invention allowed the public to see images of an exciting new sport from a perspective they'd never before seen, like this:You can read about a couple more of Blake's inventions here, but let's get back to the boards for a moment. What Blake's modifications achieved cannot be overstated. His innovative and lightweight design suddenly opened the sport up to folks for were previously either unable or unwilling to lug 100 pounds up and down a beach. According to Steven Kotler's West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief,"Blake altered everything," surf journalist Drew Kampion wrote in 2001. "He almost single-handedly transformed surfing from a primitive Polynesian curiosity into a 20th century lifestyle." Blake accomplished this despite having no industrial design training—heck, back then most people didn't even know what industrial design was—and indeed, lacking a formal education, as Blake had dropped out of high school. So, would-be design entrepreneurs among you, I'd urge you to look around at objects within your own realm of experience. There is something around you that more people would like to use, but do not, because it's too heavy, too light, too big, too small, too unwieldy, too hard to learn, or in some way inaccessible. Think about how you might be able to improve it, and if you've got the passion to see it through, perhaps you could be the Tom Blake of [fill in the blank].Here's a look at a Blake design from the 1940s:Blake's hollow boards eventually became supplanted by better material technology, and today polystyrene foam, fiberglass and resin are the rule. But that doesn't mean that all modern-day boardmakers have forgotten what a Blake board was like. Stay tuned.

Modern-Day Small-Batch Hybrid Production Techniques: Combining CNC with Hand Tools for Effective Results

When Tom Blake was designing his revolutionary surfboard in the 1920s, I'm sure he had no notion that it would change surfing. Nor could he have any idea that his design would eventually be usurped by foam and plastic. Nor could he have possibly envisioned that nearly a century later, a small shop would go back to wood and produce new designs inspired by his, and that this shop would not be located in his stomping grounds of Hawaii or California, but way over in England.Cornwall-based Otter Surfboards produces Blake-inspired hollow surfboards, featuring a skeleton with sturdy ribs that nevertheless might have appeared shockingly thin to Blake. To adhere the rails and surfaces they use adhesives with efficacies Blake could only have dreamt of. And while he'd recognize some of the hand tools Otter uses, the CNC mill would likely throw him for a loop. Check out the hybrid techniques they use to put their boards together:This will sound naïve to those of you familiar with the usage of Japanese hand tools, but I was amazed at how he used a ryoba to cut curves. I have so much trouble getting the flexible blade to cut straight, it never even occurred to me that you could intentionally bend it and cut without binding.I do wish the video was edited a bit less; I would've liked to see more footage of how he built up and contoured the rails during that time jump between 2:36 and 2:44.For those of you within proximity to Cornwall—perhaps you're headed to see boatmaker Ben Harris?—the chaps at Otter offer workshops ranging from one to five days in length, where you can learn to build surfboards, bellyboards or handplanes (the swimming kind, not the wood-shaving kind). Click here to see more of their stuff.

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.

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."

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

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.

Using Design and Technology to Produce a Safer Football Helmet

As the devastating effects of football-related concussions become better understood, many are worried that one of America's great sports is in danger. Non-football-fans likely don't care, as it's easy to dismiss football players as knuckleheads; but to the American communities and youths who are bound together and individually shaped by football—read H.G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, or see the stunning, 96%-on-Rotten-Tomatoes documentary Undefeated—it's a big deal. Yet American sporting goods companies have not been able to create a helmet that can adequately protect the braincase of a 300-pound man being crashed into by other 300-pound men.The problem may be intractable, but now a Seattle-based startup called Vicis is attempting to tackle (ahem) the issue by integrating better design and technology into their Zero1 helmet. The company reckons that by pulling together a superteam of doctors, designers, engineers and manufacturing experts, they can produce a cutting-edge—and extremely expensive—helmet that better protects the brain. Image courtesy of ArtefactFor the design part, Vicis enlisted Seattle-based consultancy Artefact Group, who "understood the critically important need to merge safety, form and function into the design of our new helmet," says Vicis CEO Dave Marver. "When we review our helmet designs with current and former NFL and NCAA players, they are consistently impressed by the look and the feel of the ZERO1." Here's what they've come up with:The LODE SHELL – Absorbs impact load by locally deforming, like a car bumper. Automotive safety engineers have used local deformation to protect people for decades. We're the first to bring this proven innovation to football helmets.The CORE LAYER – Employs a highly-engineered columnar structure that moves omni-directionally to reduce linear and rotational forces. The columnar geometry used in our CORE Layer is based on principles first described by Leonhard Euler, a Swiss physicist in the 1700s.The LODE Shell and CORE Layer work together to reduce impact forces, leveraging well established engineering principles and materials long-used in stringent aerospace and automotive applications. Tested to withstand multiple seasons of play, the VICIS ZERO1 delivers 21st century innovation built on bedrock scientific principles.Even if Vicis has gotten it right—thus far the testing has been limited to laboratories and simulations, with independently-executed field tests forthcoming—the Zero1 will initially be out of reach for most, as the $1,500 asking price is well beyond what your average high school can afford. (A typical youth helmet starts under $100.) But the price will be a drop in the bucket for the National Football League, for whom each team is worth roughly $2 billion, and Division One colleges will also likely be able to muster up the scratch. And "eventually," Bloomberg reports, "[Vicis] hopes to develop lower-priced models for high school and youth ball."Sorry to hit this point again, but if you are not a football fan and cannot understand the culture, I highly recommend you watch Undefeated. It will change your perspective by introducing you to the little-seen, positive effect on character in young American males.