Product Design

Bookcase for Non-Readers,
Light Readers and Heavy Readers

The REK bookcase, designed by Rotterdam-based architect Reinier de Jong, is ingenious both in its simplicity and functionality. Made in five parts, the zigzag-stacked components slide in and out of each other – expanding to accommodate more books or to fill a longer length of wall, if desired. Compressing the shelves together allows the bookcase to fit into a smaller space or avoid a half-empty look if there are only a few books to display. The zigzag construction automatically creates sections of different height — big ones to fit tall books, artwork or sound systems, horizontal slots for magazines or a DVD player. The owner can play with the design to customize a look or add more bookcases to create a larger library or architectural pattern. Finished with a high-gloss white laminate on the outside and a warm gray stain laminate on the inside, the REK adapts to most any décor. The more we studied it, the more we admired its smart, flexible design.

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Product Design

Philatelic Pursuits

Whether the trend is being driven by improved automated postal sorting machines or the insatiable demand of stamp collectors for ever-more novel designs is unclear, but lately more nations are issuing commemorative stamps that arouse the urge to lick, sniff and touch.

Austria has been a pioneer in this area. In addition to joining forces with Austria’s famed Swarovski Crystal to create a swan stamp imbedded with bits of real glass crystal, the Austrian post office honored the UEFA European Championship by creating a soccer ball stamp out of a synthetic mix of rubbery polyurethane. To immortalize Andi Herzog’s winning soccer goal in the 1998 World Cup, it put a three-second moving image of the goal on a postage stamp, and to honor simultaneously a native craft and national flora, Austria issued embroidered stamps featuring its Edelweiss and Clusius flowers.

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Product Design

Finally, A Bright Idea

“It’s strange that the bulb, an object synonymous with ideas, is almost entirely absent of imagination,” comments Plumen on its website. The UK-based compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb maker is determined to change that. Calling its product the “world’s first designer energy-saving light bulb,” Hulger, the British electronics company that designed Plumen, has challenged the notion that CFL light bulbs can only come in three shapes and must, by necessity, look unattractively utilitarian.

Plumen — which draws its name from “plume,” a bird’s showy feathers — is bending the gas-filled tubing the way a glass blower manipulates molten glass into sculptural forms. Like other energy-saving bulbs, Plumen products use 80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last about eight times longer. The savings may not just be in the electricity usage; consumers may decide to forego the cost of a lampshade and just enjoy the decorative style of the bare bulb. Right now Plumen bulbs are only available in the UK and Europe, but the company says they will be introduced in the U.S. soon.

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Product Design

Over the Moon Cakes

The must-do gift of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival season, mooncakes have become more luxurious and lavish in their presentation than ever. In China, mooncake gifting is a multi-billion dollar industry. Opulently packaged mooncakes, typically sold in boxes of four, cost upwards of $45, with each cake elegantly displayed or nestled in its own container. As pricy as this is, Chinese social etiquette pretty much demands that everyone give these sweet delicacies to friends, family, co-workers, clients and sometimes even government officials during the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival.

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Packaging

Tale of Two Kleenex Packages

Repackaging is a popular way to refresh an existing product, and sometimes capture more off-season sales. Take the case of Kleenex tissues, which enjoy the greatest sales during cold and flu season, but during the warmer months, not so much. Kleenex looked to spur year-round demand by designing packaging with decorative seasonal themes. Last summer it introduced wedge-shaped “fruit” boxes at Target stores. Offered with colorful watermelon, orange and lime illustrations done by Los Angeles-based artist Hiroko Sanders, the novelty boxes were a huge hit with customers who wanted to add a happy slice of summer to their décor. This year Kleenex has extended its award-winning fruit packaging to major retailers nationwide.

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Architecture

The Ultimate Brand Extension

Recently a number of Pantone-color inspired products have been introduced into the marketplace. There’s the Pantone chip mug by W2, the Pantone cufflinks by Sonia Spencer, the Pantone stationery and bags by Alpha, and now there is the new Pantone Hotel in Brussels, created in a licensing partnership with a British developer.

Designed by Belgian interior designer Michel Penneman and Belgian architect Olivier Hannaert, the seven-story boutique hotel is alive with chic, contemporary colors, all matched to Pantone’ color swatches. Guestrooms are appointed with white walls and bedding to create a neutral backdrop for Belgian photographer Victor Levy’s photographic installations featuring a spectrum of vibrant Pantone colors. The public spaces equally reflect Pantone’s skill at applying color psychology and design trends to create an environment that is at once convivial, happy, and relaxing.

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Product Design

E-Mook: Buy the Mook to Get the Gift

The e-mook has become all the rage in Japan. An enhanced version of a mook (cross between a magazine and a book), the e-mook, published by Takarajimasha, expands the hybrid concept a step further by including a premium gift inserted in a box attached to every mook. Typically focused on a single trendy fashion label, e-mooks are brand specific, containing articles about the designer, manufacturing process, celebrity customers and a catalog of the latest collection.

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Product Design

Moleskine for e-Book Notetakers

Corporate anthropologists who observe consumer behavior watch out for “workarounds” — solutions that people rig up to overcome shortcomings in the design of a product. These are typically one-off designs that are sometimes ingeniously clever and sometimes humorously strange and barely workable.

In coming up with a Moleskine cover for an Amazon Kindle e-book, Moleskine admits it eavesdropped online when bloggers posted workaround suggestions or wrote wistfully of the satisfaction they got when jotting notes on paper.

“The very idea of this new cover came from ‘notebook hackers,’ who create their own custom-made accessories weaving together paper pages and digital tools,” Moleskine says on its website. “Throughout the web, hundreds of communities and discussions can be found where such Moleskine ‘hackers’ publish their own invention.”

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Sustainability

Things Go Better With Coke

If you think you’ve seen this chair before, you have. Emeco’s Navy Chair has been around since 1944. So why was it such a sensation at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair in April? And why is Design Within Reach hosting events to tout that it has the retail exclusive on the product? It’s because this 21st century model is made from recycled plastic Coke bottles – 111 of them, more or less, hence its name the 111 Navy Chair.

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Product Design

Crayola Color Chronology

Stephen von Worley on Weather Sealed posted this chronological growth of Crayola colors from the line-up of original eight introduced in 1903 by Binney & Smith to the 133 colors available today. By von Worley’s calculations, Crayola colors double every 28 years.

For a product targeted heavily to consumers who are too young to read or to talk about the good ole days when reds were redder, it is interesting to note that Crayola has remained dedicated to innovation, upgrades and product naming. In addition to its standard colors, Crayola has launched specialty sets with names like Magic Scent and Silver Swirl. It has discontinued colors with low market appeal; apparently, Maize, Raw Umber, Blizzard Blue and Thistle just didn’t cut it with seven-year-olds. Other names, of course, had to be retired for political correctness. Prussian Blue was renamed Midnight Blue in 1958, Indian Red became Chestnut. Also, bowing to pop trends, Crayola introduced metallic FX colors like Big Dip O’Ruby and Blast Off Bronze, and glitter shades like Red Violet with Glitzy Gold Glitter (a name that rolls right off the tongue), and Silly Scents like Sasquatch Socks, Big Foot Feet and Alien Armpit. It had to discontinue regular scents like Chocolate and Jelly Bean because parents complained that kids found they smelled good enough to eat – and did.

All this effort makes Crayola even more endearing, especially when you consider that with just four colors – c, m, y, k – you can arrive at any color in the spectrum, and Crayola’s target customers aren’t so jaded that they’d reject a product because it’s “last year’s model.”

Illustration

Stamps to Help Kids Learn

Every year since 1924, the Dutch Postal Service has worked together with the Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland (SKN), or the Foundation for Children’s Welfare Stamps Netherland, to produce a series of stamps to help disadvantaged children both in and outside the Netherlands. The last campaign raised more than 9.3m euros to fund educational programs. The special edition stamps, which cost a little more than regular stamps, have been sold door-to-door by Dutch school children since 1948. Art director Christian Borstlap from Kessels Kramer Creative Collective designed this year’s playful worm-like creatures, which were featured both on the stamp series and on postcards. The little worm people were turned into an animated commercial by Paul Postma Motion Design.

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Pop Culture

Beatles Postage Stamps

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To mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting of Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the UK’s Royal Mail asked Johnson Banks to design a commemorative stamp. The London-based design firm conducted a sweeping audit of the masses of memorabilia surrounding the band and the cultural phenomenon that set off before concluding that “the answer was literally staring us in the face.” The Beatles album covers said it all.

In the end, Johnson Banks picked six covers to make into stamps. They explain on their website that their choices were made up of a “combination of the obvious ones like Sergeant Pepper and Abbey Road, plus ones we knew would look great small (With the Beatles and Help). Revolver was in because of its status as ‘the fans’ favourite album’ and Let It Be felt like a suitable ending.”

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Typography

Entrepreneurial Design:
Turning a Passion into a Product

The Pentagram 365 Typography Calendar now celebrates its tenth year, prompting us to ask its originator Kit Hinrichs what drove him to create this now popular product.

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What was your inspiration for the calendar?
I’ve long been an admirer of Massimo Vignelli’s iconic Stendig calendar, introduced in 1966. It’s classic Helvetica typeface is boldly graphic, contemporary and easy to read. If I may speak for Massimo, it was “Perfetto!” Yet as someone who loves and uses type, all kinds of type, I felt there was room for a wall calendar where the typography was in more than one face. So many people, designers included, have no idea who designed the beautifully crafted typefaces that are very much a part of our everyday life. I wanted to enable people to become more aware of type as a designed object.

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Industrial Design

Dyson Reinvents the Fan

Sir James Dyson continues to innovate with his bladeless fan, “The Air Multiplier.” Using the same technology from his “Airblade” hand dryer to create an addition to his long list of unique products. Although not available in stores until next year, you can get into the queue at Dyson.co.uk.

Industrial Design

A Film Celebrating Industrial Design

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From Gary Hustwit, the independent filmmaker of the award-winning “Helvetica,” comes a new documentary on industrial design. “Objectified” explores the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. A stellar lineup of the world’s most talented industrial designers talk about how they re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. “Objectified” is a look at personal expression, identity, consumerism and sustainability. It is currently screening at film festivals, cinemas and special events worldwide. Check here to see where it is showing in your part of the world: www.objectifiedfilm.com.

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Product Design

Sprinkles: Not Your Mommy’s Cupcakes

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Describing a cupcake as sophisticated may seem like an oxymoron, but in the case of Sprinkles, it applies. Long the favorite finger food of preschoolers, cupcakes aren’t just for kids anymore. In fact, everything about Sprinkles defies how we think of cupcakes, beginning with the fact that the flagship cupcake-only bakery café got its start in upscale Beverly Hills.

When founder Candace Nelson and her husband decided to establish a cupcake business using all-natural, high-quality ingredients, they brought in Austrian modernist architect Andrea Lenardin Madden to design the shop and provide creative direction on everything from the retail displays and packaging to the look of the cupcake. Lenardin Madden avoided cutesy kids’ décor and designed an environment with the exclusive feel of a chocolate truffle shop or a Eurostyle cafe, with white oak paneling and wire bar stools for the window-facing counter eating area.

The cupcakes themselves were made to appeal to adults, with flavors like chai latte, ginger lemon and the wildly popular red velvet. Color-coded wafer dots on the swirled icing of each cupcake identify the flavor – an ID system carried out on the printed flavor cards too.

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