Mobile Dining Goes Upscale: Jon Darsky’s Big Bucks Deluxe Food Truck

0delpopolo03.jpg[photo by Eric Zepeda]

In America, food trucks used to be dingy, substandard affairs that rolled up to construction sites to feed cheap meals to day laborers. But nowadays they’re increasingly gourmand-targeted operations with Twitter followings, niche cuisine offerings and secret recipes.

While the food trucks’ on-board cuisines are different, the one thing they all have in common is their similarity of appearance; despite sporting different logos and colors, each truck is just a paint job away from being part of the Mister Softee fleet. No one has really stepped up the design of the trucks.

Until now, that is. Pizza maker Jon Darsky has started prowling the streets of San Francisco with what has to be the ultimate food truck to date: An M2 Freightliner truck hauling a converted 20-foot shipping container housing a freaking 5,000-pound brick pizza oven.

0delpopolo04.jpg[photo by Eric Zepeda]

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Different Designs for Shooting with an iPhone

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I’ve become an expert at this sort of awkward, clutching grip I use when shooting with my iPhone:

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And most of you probably look like this when you shoot with yours:

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A company called RHP Media reckons there’s a better, more ergonomic way to shoot. Their MirrorCase (and attendant app) for iPhone allows you to hold the camera lower and shoot from the top of it, rather like pointing a remote control at the TV. A physical mirror inside the case directs the image towards the camera lens, and the MirrorCase app’s software flips the image into the proper orientation.

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The Italian God of Concrete’s Palazzetto dello Sport

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[photo by Nick Tyrer]

I was poring over TyrerTecture, architecture student Nick Tyrer’s blog primarily detailing his fascinating digital fabrication experiments, when the photo above caught my eye mid-scroll. This one’s not one of his projects; it’s a photo he shot in Rome of the Palazzetto dello Sport, otherwise known as the basketball stadium for the 1960 Olympics, designed by Pier Luigi Nervi. (The structure still stands and has been used to hold a variety of athletic events.)

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Nervi was what’s known in Italy as an ingegnere edile, which literally translates as “building engineer” and in practice is something like a cross between a structural engineer and an architect. He’s also been called “The Great Italian God of Concrete.” A student of ancient architecture as well as an early proponent of reinforced concrete, Nervi proved to be a designer who could masterfully blend techniques from the past and future to create a compelling present.

For the Palazzetto dello Sport, Nervi drew upon the geometry-based domes of ancient Roman architecture and combined it with reinforced concrete and radical-for-the-era prefabrication techniques. His design for a ribbed concrete dome, more than 60 meters in diameter and supported on the exterior of the building by Y-shaped concrete buttresses, was cast in prefabricated sections and snapped together in just 40 days.

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Now that we live in an era of 30-story buildings going up in 15 days, 40 days may not sound like a short period of time; but consider that Nervi masterminded this thing using technology from 1957, the year the Palazzetto went up. If time-traveling ancient Romans could see the building and hear Nervi’s nickname, they might ask who the Italians were, but they’d probably agree on the “god” part.

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AELLON’s Grace: Sustainable Furniture from Uhuru and a 61-Foot Fishing Boat

aellon-digbybeamtable.pngDigby Beam Table, from structural beams that framed the Grace’s hull.

With dumpster divers, salvage supply warehouses and innumerable upcycled interiors dotting the landscape, Brooklyn might be home to some of the thriftiest and innovative recyclers. Brooklyn-based designers Uhuru are no strangers to using reclaimed material. The design duo of Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf were name-checked in a recent NYTimes article about their 2010 Coney Island line made from reclaimed boardwalk Ipe wood and we wrote in-depth about their 2011 War Craft collection made from planks salvaged from the USS North Carolina’s deck.

aellon-liefstool.pngHand-carved from leftover pieces of boatwood from the shop. You might recognize the style of the Lief Puzzle Stool from Uhuru’s previous work for the New Museum lobby or from their 2008 ICFF collection.

While visiting Indonesia, Horvath came across a 61-foot fishing boat that had washed up in a monsoon. The 45-year-old boat, aptly named Grace, was constructed with now-threatened rainforest woods and was being disassembled to be sold off, piece-by-piece, for firewood. The designer made an offer to the boat’s owner and now Grace has come to the shores of Brooklyn to find a new life as beautifully hand-crafted furniture.

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Made in the USA: KA-BAR Knives, a Bona Fide Slice of Americana

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Film production company Common Machine doesn’t mince its words when it comes to their latest project, for KA-BAR knives: “The company may be more than a century old, but its emerging marketing philosophy is (if you’ll forgive the pun) cutting edge: No more old media, just badass branded entertainment for the Web.”

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Which shouldn’t detract from your viewing experience in the least: the sub-2.5-minute short hits that double sweet spot of American manufacturing heritage and superior production value.

If that doesn’t make you want a KA-BAR knife, I regret to inform you that you’re not a blue-blooded American… perhaps you’d be more interested to see the Australian and European alternatives (for manufacturing videos, not knives… Crocodile Dundee has nothing on us).

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via aarn_

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When the Packaging is Part of the Product

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There’s an old adage for anyone who has kids (and/or cats). You spend all the money on a new toy or technology, but what does the gift recipient end up playing with most? The box.

But never fear. Tube Toys, designed by London designer Oscar Diaz for NPW, makes the packaging a part of the toy. From a car to a tractor to a fire truck, the toys are simple vehicles with all the parts inside for assembly, including the wheels, axles and stickers for labels. The tube part comes in when you start putting the toy together by using the tube for the vehicle’s body.

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The only wasted parts? The label wrapping, which doubles as instructions, and the sticker paper, after the stickers are removed. That’s part of the value statement of Tube Toys, which emphasizes the green part of its toys, noting that the packages reduces “considerably the amount of material discarded after purchase, and the added cost that traditional packaging involves.” What’s more, Diaz notes that the materials themselves are made of “recycled and/or recyclable” materials.

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As a designed object, Tube Toys represent a creative way to incorporate the packaging. I got a chance to play with the train and it was easy enough to assemble the pieces and then disassemble them at the end of the toys. The tubes could easily be stacked end to end in a special box, making storage at the end of the day a cinch as well. It will be interesting to see if Diaz can expand his concept further, with other toys that incorporate the packaging.

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Limited Edition Goods vs. Mass Manufacturing

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We’ve touched on this topic only briefly before, so I’d like to hear impressions on the topic of limited-edition goods—impressions specifically from the industrial design community, as ID’s raison d’etre, of course, is mass production. We all have our different views and opinions of things, but I’m starting to worry than mine is veering so far outside of what’s currently normal that I’m in danger of no longer being able to comprehend the normal consumer’s thinking.

Here’s what sparked this. These are shots of the Deux X Makr Tool Roll, a collaboration between Australian handbuilt motorcycle outfit Deus Ex Machina and Florida-based bag manufacturer Makr Carry Goods.

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As you’ll see in the quick vid below, the bag looks beautiful and appears nicely functional:

It was intended for a small production run, but “unprecented demand” meant the bags sold out extremely quickly. This prompted Deus and Maker to order up another production run, which seems logical. But what struck me was this comment left on their page by a purchaser of a first-run bag:

Glad I brought one before they sold out! I hope thought [sic] that there is a point of difference between these and your next re-run. I brought one because there was potentially only 50 available—that justified the price I paid for it. Please don’t dilute the value of these awesome rolls by producing more than was promised (in this design anyway).

I understand the part of society where we pay more for things that are scarce, a model based on the allocation of natural resources. I get that we make houses out of wood and engagement rings out of gold and diamonds. What I’m not keen on is the notion of contrived scarcity, where seemingly every manufacturer with a stylish product artificially limits the production run purely to justify a higher price tag. I understand this practice’s value in fashion, where two society women at a party don’t want to show up in the same dress; but I’m having a problem mapping this notion onto machine tools.

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Book Review: Making It: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design, by Chris Lefteri

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In this digital age, an encyclopedia seems downright archaic. Especially in the context of modern manufacturing techniques like EBM (“Electron Beam Machining”), where a beam of electrons bores holes denominated in tens of microns through thin materials—in a vacuum no less, because the electrons could be thrown off by air molecules (!). Into this neo-futurist world, Chris Lefteri has provided the second edition of Making It: Manufacturing Technologies for Product Design to catalogue all of the manufacturing tools modern designers have at their disposal. While it may be possible to find more detailed or technical information on the processes he describes, Making It stands as a robust resource for a product designer looking into a new manufacturing technique, an eye-popping compendium for a scientifically minded student, or, perhaps most valuably, as a vehicle for increasing designer awareness of new innovation in manufacturing.

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Designers live in a mildly cloistered world where they can concentrate on form factors with a vague awareness of parting lines and minimum thicknesses, but really leave it to the engineers to complete their visions. Making It reads like a layman’s engineering primer, not a product design book. Each manufacturing technology gets its own 2–4 page spread with a glossy product shot, accompanying text, our favorite buzzword “process shots,” and a highlighted info box of the characteristics of the technology.

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What Moves? Culture & Interaction Design

Milan12-DAE-NiekdeSnoo-DrawingthePassageofTime.jpg“Drawing the Passage of Time” by Niek de Snoo; photo by Ray Hu

When What Is Natural for Some Is Not for Others: Culture and Design

I was in Asia, giving a talk. I was given a remote controller for advancing my slides. This one had with two buttons, one above the other. I dislike traditional slides with long streams of text that the speaker reads to the audience, so I have a rule: “No words.” Most of my slides are photographs. I was all ready for the first photograph, but when I pushed the upper button to advance to the slide, I was flustered: I went backwards through my slide set, not forward.

“How could this happen?” I wondered. To me, top obviously means forward, bottom backwards. The mapping is clear and obvious. If the buttons had been side-by-side, then the control would have been ambiguous: which comes first, right or left? It isn’t clear. But this controller used the correct mapping of top and bottom? Why was this control designed incorrectly?

I decided to use this as an example of design for the audience. I showed them the controller and asked: “to get to my next slide, which button should I push, the top or the button?” To my great surprise, the audience was split in their responses. Many thought that it should be the top button, just as I had thought. But a large number thought it should be the bottom.

What’s the correct answer? I discovered that as I asked this question around the world that some people firmly believe that it is the top button and some, just as firmly, believe it is the bottom button. Each is surprised to learn that someone might think differently. Who is correct? Both are.

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Choreographed Metal Rain Would Make an Awesome 3D Display

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This is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long time, and your must-see video of the day. Singapore’s Changi Airport commissioned German “new media” firm ART+COM to design an art installation for their Departure Hall for Terminal 1. What they came up with is “Kinetic Rain,” this gorgeous, CNC-controlled moving sculpture made from 608 copper-clad aluminum raindrops suspended from the ceiling:

Aside from the sheer artistic beauty of “Kinetic Rain,” how cool would this thing be as a 3D display? It would admittedly be low-res, and you’d need to work out a way to increase the “pixel density,” but when I saw that airplane I was like man—mechanical hologram!

Here’s how it works:

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