November , 2013
These foldable helmets from Japan are not only cool, but they’re a practical way to enhance safety. Somebody put some thought into these!
September , 2013
A year or so ago I had someone ask me in an interview what designed things I thought were cool. In the heat of the moment I had trouble coming up with things to talk about, but of course on the drive home there were several that came to mind.
First of all, I adore bridges. Unlike many other built objects in our environment, you can usually actually see the structural elements, without them being covered up in cladding or facade or a case. Thus they allow us to fully appreciate the interaction of aesthetics, forces and materials. One of my favorites is the Alamillo Bridge by Santiago Calatrava. One can almost feel the reaching out of the main tower and the tension in the cables.
Some other products that I think are cool:
Smints container. The white inner piece is a single injection molded piece that includes a molded in leaf spring, a stop, and a small cavity large enough for one mint. When you push on the top with your finger, the leaf spring compresses, and the small section comes out the bottom, perfectly dispensing only one mint.
The Sascom international power plug adaptor. This small device can convert between any of 7 different types of power plugs throughout the world!
The Xtracycle FreeRadical This allows your bike to become an actual practical item of transportation, allowing you to take your kids to day care, pick up groceries, or even pick up the other bicycle of the household from the bike repair place.
Those are all things I think are very cool, but don’t necessarily own. But if I think about the things I own and use every day and are Just Plain Right, then I have to go to these:
My teapot. Very similar to this one. The shape is pleasing without trying too hard or being cutesy, the ceramic holds heat in well so that your 2nd cup is as hot as your 1st cup, and the spout doesn’t drip (this is harder to do than it sounds).
Papermate mechanical pencil. This particular pencil has everything needed to work flawlessly, but nothing added only to add fanciness or cost. The clip is metal so it doesn’t break, it’s designed with an eraser that is actually large enough to be useful, etc. I actually own more than one of these.
September , 2013
A very interesting article entitled “It’s not ‘Mess.’ It’s Creativity.” recently appeared in the New York Times Sunday Review. It quotes from studies showing that people put in a messy room tend to choose options labeled ‘new’ over options labeled ‘classic’. They also, while not necessarily having more ideas, were found to have better ideas (that is, more ideas scored by the judges as “highly creative”).
This isn’t necessarily a new idea, though these particular studies may be new. What it makes me think of is that every time I have moved into a new cubicle or office for work, I have been covering the walls with a selection of pictures, quotes, drawings and other things that I found inspiring or beautiful or interesting to look at. This results in a sort of mosaic effect, so that everywhere you rest your eyes, there is something different to look at.
Based on this research, I now wonder if all these years I have been self seeding my creative process by doing this.
What do you do that engenders messiness and creativity in your work life?
June , 2012
As it turns out, a low to medium level of background noise can actually improve your creative thinking! This article from The Atlantic explains.
November , 2011
A recent article explains the change to California law, which now requires kids to be in a booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4’9″ tall, whichever comes first. Previously, the cutoff was 6 years old or 60 lbs, whichever came first.
Making the criterion be height rather than weight makes a lot of sense, because how the seat belt hits a child depends more on height than on weight. For a seat belt to work properly, restrain the passenger, and prevent injuries, the shoulder belt should go across the chest, and the lap belt go across the pelvic bones. If the shoulder belt goes across the neck, or if the lap belt hits the soft tissue of the abdomen, the belt itself can cause injuries. And while safety and crash engineers have put a lot of thought and work into making all the safety features in a vehicle work for many sizes of people, it’s a tough challenge to make something work for children as well as, for example, a beefy football player.
I expect this to be another in the series of changes that have been reducing death and injury in automobiles.
October , 2011
This time of year, I always remember Matt Kahn’s design class (that I took back in mumble mumble year at Stanford). He always had a special class where we carved pumpkins. It had to respect the original folk art and be some kind of a face, though he also showed us a slide show of previous pumpkins and faces of humans and animals to get us started.
Article about the pumpkin carving class: http://articles.sfgate.com/2008-10-31/bay-area/17138809_1_bob-s-pumpkin-farm-annual-pumpkin-folk-art
Article about Matt Kahn’s career in general: http://www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/story.php?story_id=13036
Pictures from the pumpkins from 2009: http://godutchbaby.blogspot.com/2009/10/stanford-pumpkin-art-2009.html
What are you going to carve?
October , 2011
So one of the ways I don’t fit in that well in Silicon Valley is that I’m not crazy for whatever the latest gadget is. Mostly when I hear about them I just think, “Why would I want to clutter my life with that?”. But I recently read about these electronic glasses and thought that they sound actually useful.
The article touts them as useful for people who have multiple pairs of glasses or currently wear bifocals or progressive lenses. But really, they could be useful for almost anyone who wears glasses. Personally, I find that when looking at something quite far away, like a sign a block away, I often end up pushing my glasses very tightly to my nose to get a slightly stronger effective prescription. I’ll bet many of us could use the ability to change our prescription if this new device becomes just a little less expensive.
May , 2011
So Magnus Larsson gave this TED talk entitled “Turning Dunes into Architecture”. His idea is to build a giant wall across Africa, to halt or at least slow down the desertification process that is happening there. The idea is to use bacteria that bond with the sand to make it hard, something like adobe.
It’s such a very cool idea, both useful and beautiful, and I wish I had some skills or knowledge that would be useful to such a project. But unfortunately I have a feeling that, as the saying goes, “technology is easy, politics is hard” and that the things that would stop such a project are political and social.