Noted science writer Janine Benyus, who coined the term “biomimicry” in 1997, has provided convincing evidence that there is a lot that designers can learn from nature. Often times designers aren’t so much innovating new forms and technological concepts as they are shamelessly stealing what the animal and plant kingdoms have worked out over the span of millions of years.Through biomimetics, designers are adapting nature’s best practices into products, systems and processes that are revolutionizing our lives. This video, co-produced by Vox Media (Christophe Haubershin) and 99% Invisible (Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt), explains how biomimicry underlies discovery of exciting new ideas. A highly recommended must-read is Janine Benyus’s book ”Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.”
Nike opened a new pop-up running track in the heart of Manila, Philippines. Designed by BBH Singapore, the Unlimited Stadium installation is shaped like the sole of Nike’s new Lunar Epic shoe. Lined with LED screens, the 200-meter racetrack invites runners to run alongside their own digital avatar. But first runners must attach a radio-frequency sensor to their shoe to record their initial track time. With this individualized data, runners are challenged to outdo their avatar, besting their own record with each lap. The temporary running track is able to accommodate 30 runners at a time.
Confession: Even as a pre-teen, I resented Barbie. She was too blonde, too shapely, too well-dressed, too popular with the right boys (Ken), too comfortable and self-assured in any setting. She rode around in a red convertible, while the rest of us had to slump down in the back seat of the family station wagon. Her boobs were perky enough to look good in an evening gown and swimsuit. Never in our wildest dreams did most young girls feel we could grow up to be like her. She wasn’t a role model; she was an in-your-face taunt. It’s one thing to aspire to an ideal and another to reach for the unrealistic and impossible. It’s an instant inferiority complex at age 10. In retrospect, I realize that Barbie was very shallow, self-absorbed, and not likable at all. She probably was the type who would never read a book or have an opinion on anything other than the latest fashion.
So, I suppose it is a good thing that Mattel has issued updated Barbie dolls in different body types – tall, petite, and curvy. This is a follow-on to last year’s introduction of 23 new Barbies, with different skin tones, hairstyles, outfits and flat feet (not meant for high heels only). It’s a start. Now to accessorize her with books and turn her into a team player.
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More than 3,000 mourners came to the rural Japanese village of Kinokawa last weekend to pay their final respects to Tama the super stationmaster of Kishi Station, the last stop on the Wakayama Electric Railway line. Tama was elevated from stray cat to stationmaster in 2007, at a time when the regional rail line was $4.7 million in the red, forcing the layoff of all employees at Kishi Station and leaving the stop unmanned. Reluctant to evict the charming calico cat that hung around the station, the railway’s president announced that he was appointing Tama the super stationmaster of Kishi Station — a position that included free housing in the ticket booth, her own litter box, and an annual salary paid in cat food. For her official duties of meeting and greeting passengers, Tama was outfitted in a tiny custom-made stationmaster cap and cape.
What started out as a playful marketing ploy to raise awareness of the railway’s plight quickly turned into a media sensation with tourists from across Japan and around the world flocking to the village to see Tama at work. Train ridership increased significantly, and Kishi Station itself became a tourist attraction.
The railway’s management capitalized on Tama’s appeal and developed an extensive line of souvenir items bearing a cartoon likeness of Tama, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, stuffed animals, and even a full set of dining room furniture featuring carved silhouettes of cats. In 2009, Wakayama Electric Railway rolled out a train car decorated with cartoon images of Tama, and redesigned the exterior architecture of Kishi station to resemble a cat’s face.
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Tokyo-based Nendo creative agency was just awarded “2015 Designer of the Year” at the Maison & Objet (M&O) trade show in Paris. Nendo won for designing a special chocolate lounge and candy named “Chocolatexture.” Instead of basing the names of the Chocolatexture line on the usual attributes – e.g., country of origin, flavor, percentage of cocoa butter content, technique, etc., Nendo based the names on shape. The nine different chocolates are about the same size, but differ in texture. The product names use Japanese colloquial terms to describe the specific shapes. Thus, “Tubu Tubu” implies tiny chunks of chocolate drops; “Goro-Goro means that there are 14 connected points; “Suka-Suka” means a hollow cube with thin walls, etc. The packaging features shape silhouettes as well.
The Nendo chocolate lounge was open for a limited time only during the M&O show in January. The design delegates who attended the event probably wanted to take the well-conceived packaging home to show their staff, but it is questionable how many were actually able to resist the delicious treat.
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