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PD+I 2015 Conference, London

The PD+I conference is back on 20-21 May 2015 at a brand new London venue and – building on the great work of Kevin McCullagh in the first four years – a new conference chair, Chris Lefteri. Chris is an internationally recognized authority on materials and their application in design, as well as editor and creative director of Ingredients magazine, and founder and owner of Chris Lefteri Design. Watch the highlights video and read our review articles below for a taste of the inspirational 2014 event. Contact Tom Harris tharris@crain.com to hear about the 2015 conference.



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Pulling power: a zip that goes round curves

27 February 2015

The zip fastener is a product that is over 100 years old. Yet, in all that time no-one has come up with a design that allows zips to go round a curve. Wendy Howard and her partners Andy Honour and Ray Pitman think they have come up with the answer and are looking for manufacturers with the vision to take their innovation into production, writes David Eldridge. Read our feature on the design and development of ZipZag. Wendy Howard will be presenting at PD+I 2015, discussing How to Improve the Effectiveness of Studying Industrial Design. 


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Pulling power: a zip that goes round curves

 
27 February 2015
 
The zip fastener is a product that is over 100 years old. Yet, in all that time no-one has come up with a design that allows zips to go round a curve. Wendy Howard and her partners Andy Honour and Ray Pitman think they have come up with the answer and are looking for manufacturers with the vision to take their innovation into production, writes David Eldridge.
 
Howard, a design engineering consultant based in the UK, says she hit upon the problem that so frustrates fashion designers when studying for her degree in product design at Brunel University in London. She needed a zip fastener capable of curving in all three dimensions for a product with a 3D geometry. But try to force a zip round a curve and what happens is the tape puckers on the inside of the curve and folds over on the outside. Also, the teeth form a solid column that is impossible to bend in 3D.
 
Work beckoned after graduation, but like all good designers Howard returned to the problem in her spare time.
 
“I was doodling on the train while I was commuting and I thought, there’s definitely something here,” she said. Why should clothing be restricted to having straight zips? She saw huge potential demand for zips that curve, not only in clothes, but also boots, bags, luggage and more.
 
Howard spotted an innovation opportunity and set to work looking at existing zips. There are three main manufacturing methods, but zips are all similar in the basic design of the interlocking teeth and in using a textile tape for attachment to the article. The tape incorporates a cord as an anchor for attachment and equal spacing of the zip teeth.
 
The most common zips, accounting for about 50% of the market, are polyester monofilament zips. In the manufacturing process, a coil zip made from a monofilament yarn coil is incorporated into a woven tape then the distal edges of the coil are thermoformed into the tooth undercuts.
 
An older method of zip manufacture uses stamped metal teeth which are then machine crimped onto an existing woven tape to produce zips for jeans. The plastic variant uses injection moulding for overmoulding the teeth – usually made of acetal homopolymer – onto an existing tape. 
 
 
Howard’s solution to the curving zip problem initially relied on injection moulding and for that expertise she turned to Andy Honour, a specialist in two-shot moulding tool design who has worked at Euromoulds in Chesham, UK. Honour also works on other intellectual property (IP) projects with Ray Pitman, who is a specialist in garment manufacturing with useful experience from his career as a technologist on the buying team at Marks & Spencer. 
 
When the three met, they hit it off, combining as effectively as a neatly working zip. “Three is a good working number,” said Pitman, as three different thought processes can be more productive.
 
The partners have formed Raw IP Ltd as the company that owns the IP to ZipZag – the registered trademark name given to the curving zip product. In January, their patent for ZipZag was published under a Patent Cooperation Treaty filing, which will enable them to protect the invention in many countries in the world in due course.
 
ZipZag has a different tooth geometry to all other zips. Returning to first principles of a how a zip works, Howard found an alternative to the interlocking teeth of conventional zips: a sort of crescent design that suits a curve just as much as a straight zip.
 
“It’s a sort of ball and socket mechanism, but flattened out,” said Pitman.
 
Just as important to the functioning of ZipZag is the positioning of the cord that links the teeth together. Without this feature, a zip will fail to fasten together securely, but in conventional zips these cords lock the teeth in a ridged straight line. ZipZag remains fully flexible when done up, resulting in the possibility of using zips formed into supple 3D compound curves.
 
A third innovation tackles the dreaded folding and puckering of the tapes. The zip is attached to the product with semi-stretched tapes, so on a curve the inside tape stays relaxed while the outside tape stretches further. This final innovation enables ZipZag to free up coil (monofilament) zips so that they can form supple 3d curves as well. 
 
These are the strikingly novel parts of ZipZag’s mechanics and are all key claims of the patent. 
 
Zip manufacturers have been attempting curves using various textiles and fabric treatment techniques, but, according to Howard: “As far as we know, there’s nothing out there that addresses the problem as wholly as ZipZag.”
 
Howard, Pitman and Honour put a lot of work into prototyping, using the full range of 3D printing technologies. Howard made the first large-scale models in cardboard and refined her ideas with SLA and acrylic laser cutting equipment.
 
Dissatisfied with the limitations of these technologies, the partners moved on to Objet’s polymer jetting technology. Howard said there were particular benefits when they used an Objet Connex machine, because its multimaterial abilities allowed them to create a prototype where a hard plastic was used for the teeth and a rubbery material for the tape.
 
Pitman said that going through many iterations during prototyping allowed greater refinement. The large scale prototypes they have showed prospective partners are made using SLS technology, as the resulting zip is robust enough for repeated demonstrations.
 
 
ZipZag’s partners, left to right: Ray Pitman, Wendy Howard and Andy Honour
 
The development work was financed by the three partners and supported by grant funding from the Manufacturing Advisory Service. The next stage, though, requires manufacturers to step up.
 
“We want someone who can see the benefits of ZipZag, then we will discuss with them about a partnership,” said Pitman. Licensing of the IP is just one possibility, as the three are open to suggestions. “We want to see ZipZag in the market and see the fruit of our labours,” he said.
 
Tool trials and process evaluations are best undertaken by manufacturers and so the partners have held discussions with companies based in the UK and other countries. 
 
They feel they have a compelling proposition for zip manufacturers, who can now offer fashion companies a true innovation in ZipZag’s curves, potentially transforming the industry from commodity-based to design-led. 
 
Adding even more to that proposition was the discovery during prototyping that patterned zips could be created from the tooth geometry. The teeth could be shaped as hearts, skull and crossbones and potentially logos, enabling clothes designers to add aesthetic value to the functional innovation.
 
ZipZag’s design and innovation seems so simple, so obvious in its potential. But the three partners are knocking on the door of an industry dominated by major groups YKK and Coates-Optilon, with a multitude of other smaller companies. What if these industry groups put up barriers to adoption? What will it take to persuade them about ZipZag?
 
Howard’s reply was assertive: “It’s going to take enough of their customers going to them saying, ‘We know curved zips are out there, so why aren’t you making them for us?’”
 
Fashion brands are always looking for something new, so in their strategy for ZipZag the partners are speaking not just to zip manufacturers but also to those influential brands. 
 
“Fashion companies have a lot of pull with clothing manufacturers,” said Pitman, capturing the strategy with an apt pun.
 
Finding a product champion in one of these companies would really advance the cause of ZipZag, and so would getting it seen on catwalks, Howard said.
 
In the century since the zip was invented, there have been a few advances in manufacturing and some small changes in functionality, but no major design innovations. If any technology is due some disruption, it’s the humble zip.
 
* Wendy Howard can be contacted by email wendy@rawip.co.uk. She will be presenting at PD+I 2015, discussing How to Improve the Effectiveness of Studying Industrial Design. 

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Priestmangoode takes the challenge of designing new tube trains

10 October 2014

Paul Priestman spoke at our PD+I 2013 conference, revealing how the user experience is just as vital to designing for transportation as it is to product design. All the knowledge accrued by Priestmangoode in its design work for airliners will be needed for its new project working on the design of new tube trains on the London Undergound – where the expression from passengers about their experience is often one of anger. But the very public project offers an opportunity as well as a challenge.

Paul says: “Transport for London wanted the New Tube for London to celebrate the great history of transport design in London, whilst acting as a beacon of innovative 21st century public transport. We took inspiration from iconic London landmarks and key attributes of British design to create a tube that is beautiful, simple, functional and maintainable.” There is a video of the new tube train designs at Priestmangoode.


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Digital design breaks out of the box at DOTY 2014

31 March 2014

It must be increasingly difficult for the Design Museum to allot nominations to categories in its Designs of the Year (DOTY) awards. It created a Digital category to recognise great work in new media, but this new context for design is proving to be leaky. Some nominations could be included in either the Digital, Graphic or Product categories. 
As with anything new, designers are exploring the possibilities of digital design and when old boundaries are met they are being crossed. The Lego Calendar is a playful project which has a clear physical presence – a wall planner made of Lego where colour coded bricks represent time spent on projects. Take a photo of the planner (pictured above) with a smartphone and all of the events and timings are synchronised to an online calendar. Read our feature article.


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Digital design breaks out of the box at DOTY 2014

31 March 2014

It must be increasingly difficult for the Design Museum to allot nominations to categories in its Designs of the Year (DOTY) awards. It created a Digital category to recognise great work in new media, but this new context for design is proving to be leaky, writes David Eldridge. The 2014 nominations include Metro Trains: Dumb Ways to Die, which is a smartphone game, interactive posters, a book and more, designed by McCann Melbourne to make young people think about rail safety. It’s in the Digital category, but could have been placed in the Graphics section.

And what about the Touch Board – is this Digital, Graphic or Product? Designed by Bare Conductive, the Touch Board (pictured above) is a way to turn any surface into an interface, by means of painted and conductive images linked by electrodes to the functioning object. At the DOTY 2014 show, you can make sounds by playing a keyboard painted onto the exhibition wall, or touch a switch graphic to turn on a lamp.

As with anything new, designers are exploring the possibilities of digital design and when old boundaries are met they are being crossed. The Lego Calendar, another nomination in the Digital category, is a playful project which has a clear physical presence – a wall planner made of Lego where colour coded bricks represent time spent on projects. Take a photo of the planner (pictured above and top) with a smartphone and all of the events and timings are synchronised to an online calendar.

The Lego Calendar’s designers at Vitamins Design could have made the planner in a more conventional way, but the choice of Lego makes an amusing and more memorable point about our reliance on digital interfaces. “In a world where work seems to increasingly take place digitally and ephemerally, the Lego Calendar turns time into a tangible thing once again,” said Jocelyn Baily, who nominated the work for DOTY 2014.

Designs of the Year 2014 exhibition at the Design Museum. Pic: Luke Hayes

Grand-Central also mixes digital with analogue. This diploma project by Thibault Brevet at ECAL/University of Art & Design Lausanne is an open internet platform where users send a text message which is then written in marker pen by a mechanical printer. Standing in front of the large paper roll at the Design Museum, this feels like digital trying to break out of its smartphone box and finding new platforms for expression.

Another digital project sequesters street furniture as catalysts in communication. Pan Studio ran a project in Bristol last year called Hello Lamp Post (alluding to the line in Simon & Garfunkel’s song Feelin’ Groovy). This was an interactive system that enabled people in Bristol to talk with each other via the city's physical infrastructure. Residents and visitors used identifier codes that label items of street furniture to send text messages to particular objects. The digital-physical experiment resulted in 25,000 texts being sent in just eight weeks.

This willingness to engage with objects using digital channels may encourage those who have pinned their hopes on the Internet of Things. The nominations in DOTY 2014 include a few designs that fall within IoT – at least, the IoT category as it is understood at the moment.

Nest has made a name for itself in the US with its learning thermostat and its presence at DOTY 2014 is in the form of its Protect smoke and carbon dioxide alarm. Among its features, it sends a message to a mobile device if its batteries run low.

The Foldable Mini-Spectrometer (pictured above) can transform a smartphone into a visible and near-infrared spectrometer. Designed by contributors to Public Lab, which aims to develop community-based environmental assessment tools, it is hoped the spectrometer will make analysis of pollutants cheaper and more accessible.

The old boundary between product design and other disciplines has become increasingly porous. Digital design is spilling over to physical objects. The struggle with terms and categories perhaps reveals the efforts of designers to understand the direction their profession is heading in. “Industrial design” is preferred to “product design” at the British Industrial Design Association, but does the term also encompass developments in digital design?

The Designs of the Year 2014 exhibition runs from 26 March – 25 August 2014 at the Design Museum. 


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Gadi Amit talks about wearables

27 March 2014

PD+I 2014 speaker Gadi Amit of NewDealDesign features in BloombergBusinessweek’s Design Issue 2014. There’s a video on the magazine’s site where Amit makes some general comments about industrial design, but more interesting are his views on wearable tech in the brief article. He mentions some of the challenges of designing the Fitbit wrist device, and expresses concern that Google Glass wearers may not communicate naturally with their eyes.

At our May conference, Amit will take part in a session on “UX: Bridging the physical-digital interface”, along with Jason Mesut at Plan and Jim Blyth at The Alloy. Amit wowed the crowd at PD+I 2012, showing the innovative and highly desirable Lytro camera which NewDeal designed. 


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Wearable tech may not wear well

22 January 2014

Wearable tech formed part of a session on designing for the Internet of Things at our PD+I 2013 conference. Jamian Cobbett, design lead at Nike Digital Sport, discussed the Nike Fuel Band, which has figured in the first group of wearable tech products that also includes Fitbit, Jawbone and Google Glass. Kevin McCullagh, director of Plan design strategy consultancy and chair of the PD+I events, has given his forthright opinion on Why Wearable Devices Will Never Be As Disruptive As Smartphones in an article for Fast Company’s website. “The biggest threat to the wearable nirvana is the smartphone,” he says, as it can easily serve the functions of dedicated devices for activity monitoring.


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A view of the world like no other

1 November 2013

If you dream of floating in a tin can high above the world, then check out PriestmanGoode’s vision for a near-space experience. The group has designed a concept capsule, which will be lifted by balloon and take passengers to the edge of space in a project by World View in the US. Nigel Goode said: “This is a dream project to work on. It’s incredibly exciting to be part of this nascent industry, defining the experience of premium space travel.”


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Disco or calm? The driver chooses in Mini’s new vision

26 July 2013

Elements of the future design of the Mini have been shown in images revealed by Anders Warming, head of Mini Design, at the Mini Design@Home event.

Signature elements such as the clear separation of the roof, glasshouse and body are apparent in the Mini Vision presentation. There is more novelty in the interior, where a “Driving Experience Control” switch allows the driver to choose between a pure and focused or fully-interconnected mode.

The modes are expressed with lighting: the first in colours that are calm and clear and the second in dynamic, energy-charged shades. A highlight of the fully-interconnected mode is the "Mini Disco" floor.

The Driving Experience Control switch can also change the Mini’s circular central display from the classic, analogue-style view to a 3D look which provides a new depth. 


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Grcic's move from bulb to system

16 July 2013

At our product Design + Innovation 2013 conference, Paul Thursfield, creative director at Philips Design Consumer Lifestyle, discussed how lighting is moving from a century of light bulbs and fixtures to a new era of LED systems which put the user in control.

The Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design website says: “The world of lighting has undergone a fundamental shift from conventional bulbs to a variety of new lighting technologies which in themselves are creating new opportunities for the design and manufacturing of lamps.”

The context is the Grcic studio’s work on the OK Lamp for Flos (pictured above right). This is based on the Parentesi floor-to-ceiling lamp (pictured above left), “which had always celebrated the bulb in the most direct and beautiful way,” says Grcic.

In the OK lamp, the incandescent bulb has become a flat disc and the handle for moving the lamp up and down the cable incorporates the electronic engine which drives the LEDs.


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