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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Drop the Chinese dragon
8 July 2013
PDD has started a series of three blogs called 'What is Design for China?' Its first line of enquiry is the approach of western brands that use dragons and other traditional images, such as Ferrari and its 458 Italia China Limited Edition from last year.
As well as being an overused design motif, the dragon has become associated with cheap quality, says PDD. When the PDD Hong Kong team, comprising German, American and Chinese designers, created a series of water bottle concepts for the China market, it was not the ideas of the non-Chinese team members that were selected by mainland Chinese participants.
At our 2012 Product Design + Innovation conference, UK design consultancies came in for some criticism about their approach to the Chinese market. PDD is tackling the issue head on by opening a Hong Kong studio. Another consultancy, Teca is also learning about Chinese consumers.
Shaking up foam aerosols
4 July 2013
Cambridge Consultants has developed a low-cost alternative to aerosols for foamed consumer products such as shaving foam and hair mousse. The technology does away with flammable propellants and could also provide a new market for PET bottles.
The group’s new foaming technology does not require dissolved or liquefied gases such as VOCs. Instead, the foam is formed simply with compressed air or nitrogen. The bubbles produced have a diameter of less than 40 microns, giving a very creamy texture.
Eliminating flammable propellants opens the way for foamed products to be packaged in PET instead of aluminium cans. PET has environmental and cost advantages and provides greater freedom in packaging design, said Cambridge Consultants.
As well as personal care products, the group said: “The technology could also bring molecular gastronomy at the touch of a button into the home – opening up the possibility of picking up restaurant-style foams in a bottle with the weekly food shop.”
Google Glass designer on simplicity
2 July 2013
At a conference in Los Angeles, Olsson said: “I told the team that we have to remove everything that isn’t completely essential.”
For Olsson, it seems that wearable technology should be stripped back. The technology is hidden and even the eyewear aesthetic seems to be about adaptation, not making a statement. So Google Glass is simple, light and scaleable.
One of the difficulties Olsson raises about wearable tech – that it needs to transform over time – was also discussed by Nike Digital’s Jamian Cobbett at our Product Design + Innovation conference in June.