Using Cradle to Cradle to Eliminate the Concept of Waste

Presented by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and Autodesk, the Product Design Challenge asks emerging designers to develop new solutions for improving our environment through sustainable design. Each iteration of the challenge brings us closer to realizing the imperative to create a circular market standard. After receiving applications from 18 countries, the design challenge recognized winners in four categories: Best Student Project, Best Professional Project, Best Use of Aluminum, and Best Use of Autodesk Fusion 360. Find out more about their work below:Best Student Project: Gabriella Jacobsen, Onward BagJacobsen developed an aluminum stamp to press a wavelike pattern onto the finished bags—a storytelling element meant to instill a connection between user and nature. "It is not enough anymore to just design a computer bag. One must ask, 'Why should this computer bag exist? and 'Where in our product system does the life of this computer bag fit?'"The Virginia Tech student responded to the growing issue of plastic bag waste, which is a major pollutant of oceans and waterways despite the fact that the High Density Polyethylene used to make plastic bags is 100% recyclable. Her laptop bag is made from 60-70 recycled plastic bags, organic cotton canvas, canvas thread and biodegradable dyes. At the end of the product's life, users need only cut a few stitches to fully separate the two types of fabrics, allowing the entire bag to be recycled and composted respectively. Best Professional Project: Barent Roth, BikeShare Helmet"I envision a time when sustainable design thinking is so completely integrated into the process that it does not even require to be defined as such, it just is. With 80% of a product's environmental impacts being determined in the design phase, it is imperative that ecological solutions be woven into the design process of every object."Designer and educator Barent Roth designed a simple unisex style bike helmet intended to integrate with the growing bike share community as an optional purchase accompanying bike share memberships. The BikeShare Helmet uses a recycled aluminum foam shell and a sustainably grown cork liner to provide maximum protection with minimal bulk and weight. He incorporated mechanical flanges into the sides of the cork liner so the two layers could "snap" into place, so no glue is necessary to secure the cork to the aluminum shell. Best Use of Aluminum: Michiel Meurs, AtoB Seat"To me, Cradle to Cradle is a design-philosophy that turns the way we look at things upside-down."Along with his team, Meurs designed a seat for public transportation made from recycled aluminum, recycled PET and formaldehyde free bamboo plywood. In the research phase, they found out that current commuter seats require a whopping 60-120 parts for construction. Their design is focused on creating a far simpler approach, requiring just a basic aluminum frame, a continuous, ergonomic seat panel and customizable upholstery options. The category Best Use of Aluminum was a new addition in this round of the challenge, meant to highlight the "infinite recyclability" of the material. Best Use of Autodesk Fusion 360: The Engineers for a Sustainable World Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Chapter, Sweeping the Nation with ChangeThe design incorporates a mechanism at the base of the broom handle that allows the handle to be adjusted between 0°, 45° and 90°. "This feature allows a customer to afford the functionality of three separate brooms for the material and monetary costs of one," note the designers. "The design-led revolution is ingrained in our generation and, as engineers, we see ourselves playing a large role in transforming today's industries."A group of RIT engineers developed a recyclable broom with a bristle head made of highly biodegradable material that can be replaced independently of the broom's other components. "We looked at everyday household items and wanted to transform one of the biggest wastes into something sustainable," they explained. "Broom bristles don't last very long and so the entire broom is then thrown out to go to a landfill." The product uses recycled aluminum, steel springs and wheat straw—an abundant crop with low commercial value to keep the final product cost-effective. The bi-annual Product Design Challenge is an ongoing platform. If you're interested in the Cradle to Cradle approach to design, keep an eye on our Calendar for updates on the upcoming call for submissions.

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.

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.

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

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.

ERNIT: A Piggy Bank for the 21st Century

The idea of gathering savings at home in a slotted container has been around for a long time—the first such example we have is a miniature Greek temple with a slot in the pediment and a locked opening in the back, dating back to the 1st century BC. But it turns out the beloved pig form, which has become a symbol of financial education around the world, was the result of a linguistic accident. In the Middle Ages, people collected their savings in clay pots and jars, made out of an inexpensive, orange-colored clay called pygg (pronounced "pug"). After the Great Vowel Shift of the 14th-18th centuries, the pronunciation of English vowels evolved, changing the "pug" sound into its modern-day pronunciation, "pig." After a time, the pygg clay was no longer widely used, but the "pig pot" had a ring to it and artisans began crafting the porcine vessels we are all too familiar with. Early examples of piggy banks. The removable plug element wasn't added until the 19th century and destruction was a necessity, so very few of these remain. [Image courtesy of]Now that we're historically up-to-date, the question of the day is: What does the modern piggy bank look like? More often than not, we end up handling intangible money—studies have shown that since 2010 annual mobile transactions have increased from $52.9 billion to $431.1 projected for 2015. And without a real grasp of where (or how quickly) it's going, financial literacy is more complex than ever. How do we instill good habits and a sense of value in kids without the physical exchange of currency? This is precisely what 3 dads-to-be were contemplating while celebrating New Year's Eve a few years ago—a "what if" chat over a bottle of wine that would become ERNIT, a piggy bank for the modern family. "I believe designers have a responsibility for delivering improved solutions and this also includes cultivating everyday habits," says ERNIT's lead designer Lars Larsen of the motivation behind the product. ERNIT's curly tail and snout are reinterpretations of the classical features of a piggy bank. Visualizations of the saving progress in ERNIT's app. The new piggy bank typology that they've devised is a digital system composed of a wi-fi enabled interactive "piggy bank" and accompanying app. Kids are invited to set different goals for both large and small purchases, a new bike or a new soccer ball, for example. Once a goal is set, family members can begin sending money (or bitcoins) to the ERNIT app. In order to do so, adults have to set up a bank account and connect it to the app—so ERNIT isn't actually holding any of the money itself, just reading the balance in the account. A ring of LED lights around the pig's snout serves as a reminder of progress; when it lights up all the way around, the goal has been reached. A main concern of the design was finding a way for it to "bridge between parents and children," as ERNIT CEO (and former editor-in-chief of Denmark's largest financial magazine, Penge & Privatøkonomi) Soren Nielsen recently told us. "The design invites families to talk and interact. I see ERNIT as much more than just a toy for kids. It is made to start a conversation between generations both online and offline." The focus with ERNIT is really on the learning experience, not the object itself or even the money. In order to make the intangible tangible, the design mixes tactile, visual and aural experiences to create different ways of interacting with the product and understanding the distinct actions taking place. "That is why the buttons on the snout are big, the eyes are animated to show emotions and the piggy bank has an organic touchable shape and a soft surface," explained Lars Larsen, the founder of Kilo, and the lead behind ERNIT's design.With just about 3 days left in their Kickstarter campaign, the team is just a few ERNITs away from their funding goal. Watch their video below to see the little pig in action:

Father Studies Special Effects Online, Learns to Build Awesome Wheelchair-Based Halloween Costumes

Oregon-based Ryan & Lana Weimer have five children, three of whom have Muscular Dystrophy and require the use of wheelchairs. So several years ago Ryan began taking online courses at the Stan Winston School of Character Arts, in order to learn the modelmaking skills necessary to create costumes large enough to incorporate wheelchairs.So successful were Ryan and Lana's subsequent costume designs that they formed Magic Wheelchair, a nonprofit dedicated to producing wheelchair-friendly costumes for families across the country. "Our vision is to put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair," they write, "by transforming their wheelchairs into awesomeness."Here's Ryan and brother-in-law Daniel Saunders cranking the costumes out in the Weimer's garage, and the work will undoubtedly remind ID students of your hours in the studio:They face a seemingly impossible task: While they estimate there are "more than 121,000 children under the age of 15 confined to wheelchairs," this year the organization could produce just eight costumes. That's because each takes roughly 120 man-hours (not to mention $2,000 to $4,000 in materials) to craft. Here's Ryan walking you through one of the builds, giving you a sense of what goes into it:Again, I'm struck by how much this resembles ID school studio time. Which makes me wonder if industrial design students and departments couldn't do something to help Magic Wheelchair expand their capabilities. While materials costs are fixed, perhaps the processes could be improved? Fabricating bespoke items like these costumes requires the same shop-based problem-solving skills as your standard Prototypes class. Could the articulating mechanism for those wings be standardized and speedily produced, for instance? And/or could the sheer manpower of ID students already learning to build things be brought to bear?If you're a design educator or student, consider bringing Magic Wheelchair to the attention of your program. If every ID school's Modelmaking class was producing costumes and/or devising more efficient fabrication solutions, perhaps the gap between eight and 121,000 would start to close.

Hans Peder Sahl’s Beautiful Water-Cooled Workstations

Most objects we design and interact with, whether blenders, cars or computers, are enclosed. Meaning we can't see the mechanically marvelous operations happening inside them. That's why cutaway drawings, functional steampunk contraptions and Toyota's KIKAI concept are so fun to look at. So, too, are the "case mods" performed by the subculture of tinkerers who rig their computers up with robust liquid-cooling solutions, the better to deal with the high temperatures generated by the heavy processor use of intense gaming.Denmark-based Hans Peder Sahl is one such case modder, and with his background—he studied "engineering specialized in Integrated Design," according to his bio—he's able to skillfully combine what works well with what looks darned purty. Check out his liquid-cooled R40 Engineering Workstation project, where the simple act of adding liquid dye adds visual pop to his elaborate plumbing set-up:Sahl's earlier Project N.V. build introduced hard angles into the tubing and utilized milky-colored fluid, giving the piece a colder, more Tron-like aesthetic:It's amazing how much difference the color and the geometry of the plumbing has on the overall aesthetic. And if his color mixing experiments, below, are any indication, hopefully we'll see more variants from Sahl in the future.Check out the rest of his work here.