Someone on LinkedIn just pointed to these chopsticks made by Brunton and I think they’re mighty cool. They look stunning, and while I haven’t tried them yet, I am told by a user that they work well also. I love the honesty of the materials — both the bamboo and stainless steel look like what they are and are not hiding behind veneers or the like. And each of the materials are well suited to the product.

chopsticks

Here’s a really nice article about using nature to inspire more and better ideas. There is so much out there that we have only begun to explore and use as inspiration.

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How reverse engineering nature can spur design innovation

Wow! Foldable helmets

November , 2013

foldable.helmets

These foldable helmets from Japan are not only cool, but they’re a practical way to enhance safety.  Somebody put some thought into these!

 

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.

calatrava

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.

smintssmints2

The Sascom international power plug adaptor. This small device can convert between any of 7 different types of power plugs throughout the world!

sascom

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).

teapot

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.

pencil

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.

Vertical Farms

January , 2010

Taking the “wall of plants” idea to the next level is something called “vertical farming“.  Cool!

Inflatable umbrella?

December , 2009

Imagine a totally new take on the humble umbrella.  Instead of a structure of wires and fabric, one inflates it to provide the stiffness required.  And it looks like the sort of big puffy white clouds that one learned to draw in first grade.  Inflatable umbrella.

Tree house!

July , 2009

Check out this amazing tree house.  I really love the way the curved lines and the straight lines interact with each other, in both the interior and the exterior pictures.  I just wish that there were floor plans too, as I can’t totally picture how the whole thing fits together yet.  Still, a really wonderful design.

Why yes, it really was a wall of plants!  This was probably the coolest thing I saw at Maker Faire this year.  The system consists of a close to vertical wall covered with a polymer mesh that is maybe 1/2 inch thick.  Holes are cut in this mesh and plants grow with their roots under the mesh and the rest of the plant above it.  Water trickles down the face of the wall, watering the roots.  Then this water falls into a fish pond filled with fish, and is then pumped up to the top of the wall again.  The fish waste nourishes the plants, and the plants filter the water to clean it for the fish.  Also above the plant section on the wall there are some solar panels, which power the water pump.

A picture of the setup at Maker Faire is here.

I was dubious when I saw things like squash plants and tomato plants, wondering what would happen when the fruit got ripe and heavy.  But I was assured by the representative there that the system could handle it.  In some cases they might add some stakes or structures to support the plants, but then again in a regular dirt garden one often does this too.  I’m thinking that watermelons would still be difficult, however.  Also they have not had success growing root vegetables with this system.  Still, those restrictions leave a lot that can be grown this way.

This system is interesting because it actually uses less water than the traditional method of growing plants in dirt.  It also uses less space, and is therefore ideal for urban settings where one may not have room for a traditional garden.  In addition to all of that, it is beautiful!  Check out the company’s website for pictures of various places this system has been installed.

Added note:  WordPress found this article on Aquaponics to be related.  Interesting!

Who’d have thought someone could come up with something new and fresh in greeting cards?  So many of them are so cloying, saccharine, or take their humor, if any, from stupidity.  But in the midst of the world of greeting cards, Jumping Cracker Beans has come up with an idea that just netted them the prestigious card of the year honor at the International Greeting Card Awards.

Their cards include “doodads” like buttons, poker chips, lemonade mix, or flower seeds, and then make a pun or play on words on the included object in the card.  For example, the lemonade one is to commiserate with and encourage someone who has just lost their job.  When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, get it?

See here for full article.