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Forays into the physical with thoughts on industrial design from frog's product design team.

Good Intentions

In 2008, China went through one of the most severe food scandals of recent time. Milk producers had mixed the industrial chemical Melamine, normally used in adhesive, plastic, and fertilizer, into milk. In an attempt to inflate the volume of milk produced it was diluted with water. The Melamine was added to trick the quality tests to perceive the milk water mix as 100% milk since the chemical reads as a protein in certain tests. Instead of providing the expected nutrition children who drank the milk got kidney damage. 300,000 children were sickened and several died.

Blink L2 Pedestal Chargers Installed at Qwest Field in Seattle, WA

ECOtality began installations of its Blink Level 2 Residential Charging Stations in EV Project regions nationwide in December 2010, and since then has completed more than 1,200 installations. The company recently began installation of Blink Pedestal chargers in commercial and publically accessible locations over the past month, and held celebration events earlier last month in Arizona and Oregon. As part of The EV Project, ECOtality aims to have all public and commercial charging stations installed, including approximately 1,000 units in Washington State, by the end of the year.

Product as Art, Art as Product

3 years ago I began a series of installations involving match boxes printed with the words "Keep Air Fresh" placed in restrooms throughout New York City. The project makes a deliberate product out of a long used home remedy of lighting a match to get rid of any unwanted bathroom odors. Aside from its humor, the project represents a personal exploration of what it means to be an artist and what it means to be a designer. I am equally passionate about both, so trying to find a way to seamlessly bring the two together has been of interest to me for the past few years. Shortly after the onset of Keep Air Fresh, which has now reached over 200 installations, including the MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum (restrooms), word got out and the matches were picked up and are now sold at various retailers. The project represents the first of many projects where products serve as the medium for art and art in turn provides the material for products.

Outside of Design

It was the morning of the sixth day of my vacation in Oahu. I was driving to an airfield with my girlfriend. My stomach was churning. It was not because of some bad loco-moco from the previous day, but because I had decided to roll the dice with my own life. Three days earlier it was my birthday, and, after taking me out to a magnificent dinner, my girlfriend gave me my present; she was taking me skydiving.

Burn Bright, Burn Out

I love lightbulbs. I have an entire box of lightbulbs (contents of which are pictured above). Over the years, I've added to it and discarded bulbs that have broken or burned out. I've got incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, CFL bulbs, and LED bulbs. When I buy (or make) a new lamp, I bust out my box of lightbulbs and dig through it to find just the right one.

Keep On Truckin'

Recently, I wrote about how folks refurbish old, broken products and “make do” with what they’ve got…and by doing this they customize the object and make it unique. I think about this type of customization a lot and think of many products as pedestals to support the user’s life.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting family on the Southern Oregon Coast and was amazed when a family friend drove up in an old Ford work truck that was completely missing the driver’s side door. He's sort of a cantankerous type, so when I asked him what happened he just said, “I was drivin’ and it fell off, rusted out from the salt air.”

Touch Buttons: Coming to a Car Near You?

Consumer electronics have been trending toward capacitive touch buttons for several years now.  And that’s mostly a good thing:  touch buttons have a lot to offer, making electronics more durable (no moving parts to break), more weatherproof (no seams for water to creep in), and let’s face it, they just look sleek and modern.  And as consumer electronics go, cars soon follow – but putting capacitive touch buttons on dashboards doesn’t work quite as well.  Let’s look at the evidence:

Let's Get Physical

First, allow me to state the obvious.

The digital world is here, and it is here to stay. It will continue to grow and permeate every nook and cranny of our millennia-long analog life. It will force us to reframe our comfort zones, and challenge us with new ways of viewing our world. With that said, I must admit that I am one of those people who is totally fine with technology’s role in this new life. I love the inherent “magic” technology delivers as it instantly converts the invisible ones and zeros into photographs of our loved ones half a world away, or into songs that bring back nostalgic memories. I also love the near obsessive-compulsive organizational abilities technology provides, as it attempts to help us manage our insanely empirical schedules and enable us to poetically update our Facebook status, at any time from almost anywhere.

However. Dramatic pause.

So Happy Together: Designers & Engineers

Designers and engineers don't always get along:  they often have different goals (beautiful design vs. efficient manufacturability), use different tools (Rhino vs. ProEngineer), and just think in different terms (emotional connection vs. practicality). But if years of consulting have taught me anything, they're better off together than they would be apart.

Be Like Water

The design world seems to be drifting away from its heritage. More and more designers are becoming increasingly disconnected from the objects they design. Some of it has to do with the increasing obsession with rapid prototyping and slowly removing us, and our craft, from our work. But most of it has to do with the designer’s process and their need to insert themselves into the equation. Instead of starting with the user, or even the product, most designers are guilty of trying first to win an award, to create some new form for form’s sake, or simply just to wag their tail in the face of the user to show how clever they are.