Announcing the Design for (Your) Product Lifetime Student Challenge

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When I was a kid, my friend’s Dad spent his whole weekend fixing stuff. He’d sit at his workbench and repair old phones, old radios, gadgets and appliances. I never understood why, never saw any value in those old electronics and couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever repair old stuff when they could buy cool new stuff.

My friend’s Dad wasn’t an industrial designer or engineer, but, in his workroom in the garage, he was helping to break the chain of throwaway thinking. Throwaway thinking supports the short-term needs of our culture and industrial systems. But, it doesn’t do much for any us in the long-term.

Products like electronics have components that can fail or need to be upgraded, well before the rest of the product needs to be replaced. As a result, we throw away millions of tons of electronics worldwide each year. Disposable, non-repairable electronic products put an enormous strain on ecological systems: they create huge amounts of e-waste and require a constant stream of raw materials and energy.

No matter how easy a product is to repair, however, it’s hard to keep it from becoming obsolete as new technologies roll out. Designers can intervene by making it easy for makers, users and recyclers to extend the lifecycle. In addition to overall product lifecycle, consider design strategies such as architecture and form, materials, connections and information, for consumers and end users.

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Building on our successful first invitational challenge last year, Core77 is launching the second Design For (Your) Product Lifetime Student Challenge sponsored by Autodesk and iFixit. For students and recent graduates, this challenge asks designers to present a new “smart” product that’s also smarter environmentally: repairable and designed to last, even if some of its components need to be replaced. Examples may include household appliances, electronics, lighting, toys—any and all kinds of products are ripe for a lower-impact redesign.

The challenge launches today and entries are due by Wednesday OCTOBER 10th. Check out the full challenge overview here.

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The OMG CNC

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If this large-scale CNC machine had been built in America we’d be using it to carve swimming pools and skateparks, because that’s how we roll. But the higher-ups at Germany’s EEW Protec mechanical engineering firm are using it for more sensible things, like carving one-piece molds for 50-meter turbine blades.

The machine has an X-axis of 151 meters which, despite the metric, sounds more like an American dimension to me. Because that’s what we do over here. A neighboring firm makes one first with an X-axis of 150 meters, then we add an extra meter and casually bring it up during the inter-company softball game. “No no, that’s great, Bob,” we’d say. “I’m sure 150 meters is big enough for the projects you guys work on. But ours maxes out at, you know, 151 or 152.”

You may notice that there’s a guy standing in the mold. He’s probably German, so I can’t tell you what he’s doing in there. If he was American, I could tell you that without a doubt, he’s a bored engineer patiently playing a dangerous game of CNC chicken. Because that’s how we…ah, you get the idea.

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Peugeot’s New Design Lab Seeks Non-Automotive Design Gigs

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Like Porsche, Mercedes and BMW, Peugeot is now seeking to spread their design expertise into objects that don’t have four wheels. The French carmaker has announced that their newly-formed Peugeot Design Lab, based within their Design Centre in Paris, is open for business and seeking external clients.

In conjunction with the opening, Peugeot has released a non-automotive portfolio of work presumably targeting the industries they’d like to attract.

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At press time their U.S. website carried no mention of the development, so it’s not clear whether they mean to focus purely on clients in Europe/Asia/South America, or whether the American branch is simply running late.

Though based in Paris, PDL will reportedly draw on the design manpower from their branches in Shanghai and Sao Paolo as well.

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Relationship Tables

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More than one ex-girlfriend has made the classic dinnertime gripe that I’m not listening to her. To paraphrase Dana Gould, I maintain that this is due to her choice of subject matter: If she was discussing the role that snipers played in the battle of Stalingrad, I’d be more inclined to tune in than if she’s asking me what I think Stacy’s boss meant by sending that e-mail.

Furniture design can’t address such problems—or can it? I’m reminded of a table I saw by the artist Frank Kunert, a German photographer who creates and shoots miniature interiors that offer wry social commentary:

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Also along those lines is a design we caught a glimpse of at Milan; here are more shots, and an explanation of, designer Marleen Jansen’s Courtesy Table.

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Things That Look Like Other Things: Curb Your Lamp

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Seb, a.k.a. Whatshisname, is pleased to present a pair of lamps—the “Good Puppy” table lamp and its big brother “Good Boy“—that are more or less self-explanatory. (Hint: they’re controlled via footswitch… and the designer notes that the “puppy is in its natural pose, looking around with a bit of surprise on her face.”)

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Although “both lamps were supposed to be part of London’s the Art Below exhibition on London Underground stations, they were banned by London Underground due to being offensive.” (Perhaps a particularly snarky autocrat was so turned off by the notion that he saw fit to poo-poo the idea with a pithy “No can do.”)

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Well, at least it’s not things that smell like other things (or things that feel like stepping other things)—and considering that the “Good Puppy” is a table lamp, you’ll have to tap that on/off switch with your hand… plastic bag optional.

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Ishinomaki Laboratory: Tsunami Recovery through Design

IL-IshinomakiLab-0.jpgKeiji Ashizawa – Ishinomaki Bench (front left); Taiji Fujimori – “Endai” bench (front right)

Located in the Miyagi Prefecture, just 50km from Sendai, the Ishinomaki Laboratory was established in response to the 3/11 earthquake. With the support of Herman Miller Japan, a team of designers led by architect Keiji Ashizawa created a “public space and community center open for local people, to encourage them to restore and reconstruct the area by themselves.”

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To that end, Ishinomaki Laboratory provides not only the plans for the understated furniture designs but also training for local high school students, who receive engineering lessons in exchange for their efforts, including workshops with professional designers as the instructors.

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In keeping with their mission, Ishinomaki Laboratory hopes to build a sustainable company in order to provide job opportunities for local residents. Representatives from the Lab were happy to share their story and products at the recent InteriorLifestyle show in Tokyo.

IL-IshinomakiLab-table2.jpgYasutaka Yoshimura’s “Saw Elephant” (center) is a riff on a saw horse; the “Skydeck” rail-mounted table (right) was one of several designs by Torafu Architects in the Feel Good Store section of the show

IL-IshinomakiLab-birdhaus.jpgJin Kuramoto – Bird House made from local materials

IL-IshinomakiLab-stools.jpgL: Koichi Futatsumata’s “246 Stool” is made from six 2&times4s; R: 220 of Keiji Ashizawa’s Ishinomaki stools were constructed with the help of elementary school students.

IL-IshinomakiLab-screws.jpgThe red cedar stools are fabricated with the guidance of Herman Miller craftsmen

More information (in Japanese) is available at ishinomaki-lab.org/.

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David Rasmussen’s WUD Plates to See Sharp Sales In-Klein

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It’s not often that something as mundane as a dish draws design attention, but furniture designer David Rasmussen’s sweet-looking WUD Plates caught my eye.

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The Danish-Modern-looking platters, made from solid walnut or maple, began life last year as a custom order from a coffee shop local to Rasmussen; customers began clamoring for them, and soon the Colorado-based designer found that every batch he made “immediately sold out.”

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Since then the WUD plates have come to the attention of one Calvin Klein, who liked them so much he’s commissioned a charger and tray for his furniture line. Not too shabby, Rasmussen!

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Peterbilt & Local Motors “Roll Out” a Truck Cab Design Competition

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I’m a Mack

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I’m a PB

Optimus Prime was a Mack truck in the cartoons, but in the Transformers movies he switched over to Peterbilt. And if the Peterbilt brand is good enough for the leader of the Autobots, they’re surely worthy of your design attention.

Peterbilt Motors, in conjunction with (Core77 Design Awards Transportation Judge) Local Motors, is holding a competition to redesign their next-generation Peterbilt Icon cab. Entrants are asked to incorporate traditional Peterbilt styling into the new RIG2 (Road Icon Generation 2), to “Provide a design to stir the emotions of the owner while still communicating practicality and functionality.”

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The competition’s splash page is pretty helpful, spelling out the terminology of the parts entrants will need to be fluent in, and both Photoshop and CAD models are provided to serve as underlays.

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Here’s a quick look at how you’ve got some wiggle room with some of the underpinnings:

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Sofia Design Week 2012: Konstantin Achkov’s Groove and Tenon, Flatpack Plywood Furniture

konstantin_achkov.jpegReporting by Temenouzhka Zaharieva. Images by Hristo Kirov with exception of above image courtesy of Tenon.

Last night was the opening exhibition of Groove and Tenon for Sofia Design Week 2012. This is the first solo exhibition for Konstantin Achkov, a young Bulgarian designer who graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts, Sofia with a Master’s degree in sculpture. The exhibition presents some of his most new projects—a series of plywood furniture joined together using only interlocking shapes and pins—groove and tenon.

SDW-KonstantinAchkov-Stack_Frame.jpgGreen Frame Chair, Stack Chair and Table

The exhibited furniture includes two chairs of the Frame series and a new product series, designed especially for Sofia Design Week 2012, named Stack. It features elements resembling puzzle pieces—when assembled they turn into chairs, tables and stools. You don’t need glue, nails, screws or any other fasteners—all the furniture pieces are designed to be assembled easily, by anyone—alone at home, using only the instructions. There are boards on the wall showing the way a disassembled chair is flatpacked. As the designer explains, these are old but forgotten techniques that allow the user to dismantle, repair and move the furniture, if necessary. Visitors can also see small cardboard models of the furniture.

SDW-KonstantinAchkov-cardboard.jpgCardboard Models

The exhibition also marks the launch of Tenon—a new furniture manufacturer that will produce Achkov’s designs. “Any furniture that we do is a challenge to the status quo. The way we do it is to create products with beautiful design, easy to use and user friendly.”

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Typography in Four Dimensions by LoSiento

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Barcelona-based graphic design studio LoSiento has been exploring ‘four dimensional’ lettering for at least a year now, honing their craft alongside client projects. As in the iconic cover of Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, the 3D object is an ambigram—i.e. it reads from multiple perspectives.

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Of course, no one said it was easy: check out the video below:

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