Posts Tagged 'Boris Bikes'

Designs Of The Year 2011

It’s that time of year again, and the “Oscars of the design world” have recently been announced, so to follow up last year’s post on the subject here is my take on the 2011 winner.

Even before the individual category winners were selected I had already chosen what I believed to be the two front runners of the accolade, championing both Barclays Cycle Hire, overall winner of the Transport Award, and Plumen 001, eventual winner of the Product Award.

The Barclays Cycle Hire scheme (aka Boris Bikes) is a fantastic scheme and has been hugely successful, but earlier this week the Plumen 001 was eventually crowned the overall winner of the Brit Insurance Design Of The Year holding off strong competition from more than 90 other entries.

As a lighting designer myself the Plumen 001 holds my particular interest more than most, but this isn’t the reason I believe it to be a worthy winner.  Not the sole reason anyway.  I believe that it won perhaps more for what it represents than what it actually is.  The product itself has been dubbed “the world’s first designer lightbulb” which says a lot.  In a world where we are increasingly being encouraged to save energy and use electricity more efficiently it really is a wonder it has taken so long to get here.

The two intertwined swirls have been designed by Samuel Wilkinson and they really offer the general consumer public an opportunity to utilise an aesthetically superior bulb, which is conveniently a great sustainable alternative.  It’s no secret that previous ‘low-energy’ bulbs have been designed such that they look clumsy, and quite frankly ugly, so getting people on mass to use them as been somewhat of a struggle.  Until now.  The Plumen 001 has been designed to be on view, it deserves to be seen.

The lamp itself is said to use 80% less energy and last eight times longer than the more traditional incandescent bulb tucked up under the shade in your dining room.  These figures are typically on par with existing low energy lamps, but given the choice I know which I’d have.

Chair of the jury panel Stephen Bayley has got it spot on, noting that “the Plumen lightbulb is a good example of the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well, bringing a small measure of delight to an everyday product”.  That, and that alone, is reason enough for it to triumph over all other entries.

Without light, we really wouldn’t see anything, so it’s no wonder that light is considered primary to design.  The design of the light sources themselves are therefore absolutely crucial and a core component of design aesthetic, it’s time people took note of this and used it as a basis to drive forward.  We are, after all, still relatively early on the era of low energy bulbs.  Creating a shape that is as functional as it is beautiful is no easy feat, combining the artistic element with a form that still achieves sustainable efficiency and maintains the best colour of light.  I’m entirely sure one day the Plumen 001 will be bettered, but it may well be a while before we see it.

‘Anything that is made betrays the beliefs, preoccupations and fears of the people who made it, never more than this year. There’s a strong sense of austerity, responsibility and realism here.’  Couldn’t agree more.

All of the shortlisted entries can be viewed in person at the Design Museum until 07 August this year.


London – Paris

A recent trip to the “La Ville-Lumière” opened my eyes to a few cultural differences that exist between London and Paris.  Nothing huge, just little variances I noticed which caught my ever keen attention.

Quite a few elements, unsurprisingly, revolve around Paris’ excellent Metro system.

London typically offers an average singer-guitarist, occasionally someone more talented and entertaining, but nearly always an individual.  Paris swings full spectrum and it isn’t uncommon to have large classical bands or even a string quartet performing for your loose change.

One of London’s more talented

A classical twist from Paris

Metro tickets are deceptively small, I guess the French used to be much more environmentally aware than Londoners were.  Then London got Oyster, which takes the notion of reusable tickets to another level.

The credit card size Oyster

The smaller Metro ticket, about one third of the size

Station Signage
Whereas London feels that consistency is best in the station signage, Paris offers a bit more character and individuality to the station name and decoration.  From the upper-class and elegant Louvre Rivoli, to the beautiful mosaic style of Chemin Vert and of course the more traditional Varenne.

Paris seems to have realised that strangers don’t actually want to sit next to each other, to the point in London where I’ve seen people avoid an empty seat just because there is someone in the adjacent seat!

Crammed together in London

Spaced out in Paris

LED maps (similar to the Barcelona Metro) offer location at a glance.  I have my suspicions, however, that London could be holding back on this concept for, ahem, budgetary reasons.

Particularly helpful for tourists

Door Signage
London sticks to silhouette line art for this, whereas Paris, even with the bizarre introduction of a rabbit character, gets the message across in a much more light-hearted graphic representation.

Spikes automatically emerge as the doors close?

Cruelty to animals?

Paris has had a bicycle hire scheme, or “Vélib”, since 2007 and from what I observed it is still running well, though you wonder how much Barclay’s corporate colour scheme had to do with them winning the London advertising bid, especially when you compare it to the Parisian equivalent that seemingly  blends into the street.

Vélib cycle hire

Boris Bikes

A bit cheeky, but I also love how the French are, almost painfully, obvious in their directions and signage for both large landmarks, and exit routes, clearly overstating on both fronts.

Sorry, where is Notre Dame again?

Which way out?

Overall, and all tongue-in-cheek comments aside, I completely recommend Paris as a city.  Beautiful architecture and museums, fantastic scenery and incredible food – there’s very little not to like!


As a keen cyclist I’m always interested in new products and equipment, however futuristic or conceptual they may be, but this one caught my eye as it’s all about doing something now. Anirudha Rao has developed Kranium – a lightweight and bespoke solution for cycle helmets.

From the mid-range of the helmet market upwards they all become about styling towards aerodynamics and weight reduction. I mean mine’s not heavy, but let’s face it I’m not an Olympic sprinter where those few grams could make a difference. Aside from the odd stint of off-roading I use mine on the commute. Stats reckon that cycling through a busy city averages a speed of around 12mph, which I can indeed vouch for (my 9.5miles takes 42minutes), and so for me (and no doubt many others) safety is becoming more paramount than streamlining.

Your typical cycle helmet is an expanded polystyrene (EPS) core with a thin moulded microshell overlay and we just presume that this is the best material to protect us. I mean, you could spend £100s on a super elite helmet and it would still be mainly EPS (though with increasing amounts of carbon fibre). Recent research however, is beginning to suggest that cardboard assembled in the correct way could offer similar, if not improved, protection. This is largely because EPS tends to distribute impact energy in an attempt to dissipate it, whereas Rao’s design gives the cardboard a crumple zone to attempt to absorb the energy before it reaches your head.

When tested at Imperial College (against BS EN1078 since you asked) it was found that this cardboard arrangement absorbs four times the impact energy than that its traditional EPS counterpart, an impressive feat indeed. Kranium is also really promoting the fact that during testing it can withstand consecutive impacts, though should this reach market I believe that it will fall in line with current helmet guidelines of changing your helmet after a sinlge impact. Testing has very specific and fixed conditions, whereas out in the real world any number of factors can affect results, no doubt erring on the side of caution, as EPS helmets do, is something you simply must do when it comes to safety.

Comfort is a huge factor in people wearing cycle helmets. Head size and shape varies greatly throughout the population yet the majority of helmets merely come in standardised small, medium or large. Whilst Kranium could do this too, why not exploit one the advantages of its manufacturing method.  A fairly simple (and nowadays none too expensive either) 3D head scan could pinpoint coordinates for the laser cut cardboard template giving you a perfect made to measure fit for your ride.  The data could easily be stored on file allowing repeat helmets to be ordered for a fraction of the cost in the future.  Investing in a bespoke product that you’ll use and use again, great idea.

Kranium finished in a blue and red shell option

and in the beautiful white vented option

Obviously a few developments will still be needed to get this product to market. Just looking out the window this evening a wet weather option is a definite must so the cardboard doesn’t degrade, perhaps laminating or wax coating the cardboard is an option.  Should it make it I would really be tempted by the white version above.

One immediate application I can see for this is not necessarily in the bespoke market though, but alongside London’s recently introduced “Boris Bikes”. Following a recent call for helmets to be provided this could provide the mayor with an opportunity of a cost effective and eco-friendly solution.

And you can see how easily it goes together with a neat little clip on Vimeo here.

Images courtesy of Design Boom.

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