Archive for the 'Design' Category

The Big Life Fix

I sketch, scribble, and make written notes almost every day.  Whether it’s as part of my job as a lighting designer or a subconscious doodle waiting for a train, doing something with a pen in my hand is something that I take for granted.  And most of us do too I’m sure.

Emma is a graphic designer with Parkinson’s disease which causes uncontrollable tremors, meaning that she can’t write or draw.

Designer and Technologist Haiyan Zhang and the team at Microsoft Research set about trying to solve this problem and the result is just incredible.

Emma’s story is just one of many that is addressed in the first episode of The Big Life Fix on BBC Two.  Watch it here.

Shadowplay Clock

As clocks go you’d be hard pushed to find one that is more minimal than the Shadowplay Clock by design studio Breaded Escalope.

No numbers, no hands, no way of even telling the time.


Until, that is, you step up to interact with it.


A plywood ring conceals 12 LEDs and sensors connected to an Arduino, an open-source, sensor-driven electronics platform, which turns off all but three of the LEDs when it detects your finger.


Your finger casts shadows from the three LEDs that remain on to create the traditional clock “hands” that we are used to.

The hour and minute “hands” are much darker than the faint shadow of the second “hand” to minimise confusion in what the time is.

Now, if only they could make that power cord a bit more discrete I’d definitely be looking to get one!


In most sectors of the design industry mock-ups are commonplace.  They allow in situ testing of colours, materials, spacial reasoning, lighting effects, usability and so forth in a scale simulation of the final design with an opportunity for feedback to iterate and refine the design.

Although worthwhile, they can often be expensive and time consuming for the overall project.  Cue the Protopiper.


Created by a team at the HPI Human Computer Interaction Lab in Germany, the device acts as a mini handheld assembly line.  It draws tape from a roll, shapes it into a tube, seals it, and cuts it off with a wing connector allowing you to join endless pieces together.

Innovation sometimes sits between AutoCAD and balloon animals.

What might have easily have started out as a joke down the pub is actually a very cleverly detailed piece of kit.

It allows for very quick and very cost effective mock-ups of, well, almost anything that you can think of!  Being able to “air sketch” 1:1 scale objects in real space would be an invaluable tool for many architects, interior designers, space planners, and designers in general.

It’s like wireframing in real life.

Ok, so it’s not 100% perfect.  But it does have appeal with an almost whimsical and crafty element to how it looks and performs (as a hacked tape dispenser) that can effectively draw and build ideas in real time.  It’s not always about being perfect but often more getting a feel for something, which the Protopiper achieves rather well.

Read the published paper Protopiper: Physically Sketching Room-Sized Objects at Actual Scale here.

Via Fast Co.

Design Machines

There’s a really rather excellent article on Louder Than Ten: Design Machines.

We need to be better than the machines. It’s time to step up and design with heart.

design machines

In essence, “how will you prove you’re better than a machine?”

Go and read it.  Now.

Design Of The Year 2015 – Lung On A Chip

This year’s shortlist for Design of the Year was an incredible array of design and talent spread over a range of sectors from Architecture to Digital, and Graphic to Fashion amongst others.

I had thought that the brilliant Ocean Cleanup would take the win (or from a popularity standpoint maybe the self-driving car from Google), but it was in fact the phenomenal piece of design and engineering known as Lung-on-a-chip that took top prize.  It is the first time that a design from the field of medicine has won the top prize in the Design of the Year competition.

Produced by the team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering it is, in essence, “a new in vitro approach to drug screening by mimicking the complicated mechanical and biochemical behaviours of a human lung”.  Sounds incredible and it is.

lung on a chip

It combines microfabrication techniques with modern tissue engineering to give all the “biological complexity of your lungs distilled onto a computer chip”.  Wow.

Bacteria can be introduced to mimic infections (you can actually see the white blood cells successfully migrate across to engulf the infection!), or the effect of airborne chemicals and new medications can be tested.

Since the chip is lined with actual human cells it gives a much more accurate prediction than testing on animal cells and is not only a much quicker and smaller process, but cheaper too.

lung on a chip2

The goal is to build different organs and link them to create a whole body.  A team at Berkeley have even managed to model a human heart on a chip!

An absolute marvel.  Truly amazing.

Nendo Glass Tables

With a newborn baby in the house a glass table is far from the most practical, but that doesn’t stop me swooning over this set of absolutely beautiful glass tables from Nendo.


Created as a range for Glas Italia at Salone del Mobile they seemingly contradict the sharp corners you would normally expect from glass boxes and instead end up looking like a soft blur of coloured glass that invites you to run your hand along the surface.




Each table is made up of five sheets of frosted glass and it is the 45 degree cross section at each joint that is printed with colour before being bonded together.

The rear face of the frosted glass is then printed with a pattern to create the blur effect that softens the edges.


Their design intent was  “to create a natural and soft image, as if the colours on the edges were blurring” and I can definitely say they have achieved that with beautiful execution.



 An appearance that contradicts the conventional image of glass, which is of a hard and sharp material, was achieved.



More information on the Nendo site here.

Via Design Milk.




We all need to start making a conscious effort to save energy and on the whole looking after our planet.  I try not to waste energy, but I know I could probably do better.

As an example, kettles consume as much energy to boil a litre of water as it takes to run your fridge for about 7 hours.  Us Brits are notorious tea and coffee drinkers, using a kettle on average over four times a day.  Given this vast energy consumption it would make sense to be as efficient as possible, wouldn’t it?

So, why don’t we measure the water out and only boil the amount we need each time.  Makes sense, but easier said than done.

Typically you  base the amount of water on those markings along the side for how many “cups” you are making.  However, most people don’t drink a “cup”, they have a mug.  Or in our office they tend to use jumbo mugs.

Our kettle at work goes a step further and has a RGB LED indicator that stays red if the water is still hot enough so people aren’t unnecessarily (re)boiling already hot water each time, but, despite best efforts, you still always overfill it.  This results in you waiting longer for it to boil and it uses more energy.  Bad for you, bad for the environment.

Wouldn’t it be handy (and better for the environment) if you could boil the exact amount of water you needed.  Not almost the right amount, not close to the right amount, but exactly the right amount every time.

Introducing Miito.

Miito is the product of designer duo Nils Chudy and Jasmina Grase, and, simply put, is a rod and a base.  The induction base heats the rod, which then heats the liquid surrounding it.  Perfect.


Once the liquid has boiled, the rod signals the base to go on standby. When the rod is fully placed on the base without being immersed in anything, the device shuts off.


It can heat a pot of tea for when you have guests, warm the milk for your coffee, or heat your soup to less scalding temperature than your microwave manages.

Lovely stuff.  More information on the website here.

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