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How the Customer Interview Illuminates Innovation

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Often our most painful experiences lead to our best lessons. Here's a story of an awkward moment that inspired one of the most widely used practices in modern innovative thinking.

Steve Blank is the creator of the original Lean Startup methodology, a movement that started in the early 2000s and is now used by modern startups as well as established companies. At its core is the iterative development of products, where each iteration is highly informed by customer feedback. This iterative feedback is what Blank calls "Customer Development." Blank is famous in Silicon Valley, having been a serial entrepreneur beginning in the 1980s, and his ideas around understanding and speaking with customers have become a mantra for startups. But he originally got the idea from a tough and abusive boss.

In the late '80s, Blank was an experienced marketer within the computer science industry and he had recently joined Ardent, a supercomputer startup. One morning Ardent leadership met to discuss the specs for a new supercomputer design. They explored the necessary trade-offs between what would be feasible and what the customers (in this new market) might want. Engineers around the table dove into computing details like double-buffering, 24 vs 32-bits of color, etc. And Blank, as the marketer, chimed in with the customer point of view as he knew it, "I think our customers will want 24-bits of double-buffered graphics." At that moment silence filled the conference room. The Ardent CEO turned to him and asked, "What did you say?" Blank, feeling very proud of himself, repeated the statement and confidently went on to add all the reasons why customers wanted this feature. The 15 leaders around the table remained silent. CEO Alan H. Michaels, who had a long history of startup successes, responded quietly, "That's what I thought you said. I just wanted to make sure I heard it correctly."

And then everything changed for Blank. Michaels continued, but this time he screamed, "You don't know a damn thing about what these customers need! You've never talked to anyone in this market, you don't know who they are, you don't know what they need, and you have no right to speak in any of these planning meetings." Blank went white with shock and embarrassment. Michaels kept going, "We have a technical team assembled in this room that have been talking to these customers since before you were born, and they have a right to an opinion. You are a disgrace to the marketing profession." Blank felt about '6 inches tall' and then it got worse, "Get out of this conference room and out of my company, you're wasting our time!" With that, Blank shrunk even more and got up to leave, when Michaels then added, "I want you out of the building...talking to customers, find out who they are, how they work, and what we need to do to sell them lots of these new computers."

When Blank reflects on this moment he says that he did not appreciate the yelling, but adds, "...I've learned over time that the smarter the person you are dealing with and the larger the ego, sometimes the message has to be delivered with more than a memo. If it had been a memo I wouldn't have heard it." And with Michaels' direction, Blank went out of the building and spent time with customers, one-on-one. He met with the inventors of the IBM 360, he went to Brown University, Boeing, NASA, and spoke with potential supercomputer customers.

This experience became the basis for Customer Development and the Lean Startup. As Blank puts it: "No facts exist inside the building, only opinions."

This might seem obvious, but in my experience working within established companies, as well as startups, very few people commit the time and due diligence when connecting with their customers and end users. There are two challenges that continually get in the way:

1) The curse of knowledge, a psychological phenomenon where we forget what it was like to not know everything about our product, and this "curse" results in wrongly predicting what our users want, need or even understand.

2) Connecting with customers is not about yet another focus group or just sitting down with your product user and ask for their opinion. Rather, Customer Development is about conducting well curated one-on-one conversations.

Today, more than 20 years since Michaels schooled Blank on understanding customers, there is a new formal process to the one-on-one customer interview. Past methods are riddled with dangerous biases. You cannot simply ask people what they want because that rarely leads to an innovative solution. As Henry Ford is quoted saying, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said, a faster horse." And old-school focus groups are compromised due to compensation and 'group think'. Even during one-on-one conversations, if you frame questions a certain way, as in, "So do you like this chair?" you will almost always get a, "Yeah, sure." Even if they hate it.

People are also incompetent historians of their own behavior. They'll say they lead a healthy lifestyle, despite smoking on weekends and eating chocolate croissants every morning. People will say they'll pay for something but then at the moment of purchase everything changes. People will even be wrong about their problems, saying that finding a new solution is a top priority, when in fact they have a mile-long list of other urgencies ahead of it. So how do we receive accurate data in our discussions with customers?

There are many ways to write up the basic questions and much depends on the product, but the ever present rule is never mention your product. The customer interview is not about you or your product but rather about them, uncovering their needs and their unmet desires.

Here's a list of the standard rules for interviewing customers in the lean customer development model:

- No leading questions. Instead ask open-ended questions. e.g., Don't ask, "Are you a healthy eater?" Ask, "Tell me what you ate for dinner last week?"

- Focus on stories and experiences. e.g., "Tell me about your last trip."

- Focus on past behavior. e.g., Don't ask, "Will you do more of X in the coming month?" Ask, "How frequently did you do X last month?"

- Do not lead the interviewee. e.g., Don't ask, "Do you like this app?" Ask, "What do you think about this app?"

- Ask "Why?" or "Tell me more" often.

- Use silence. People will open up more when you remain silent.

- Pay attention to anything that surprised you, any contradictions, and any failure or success stories.

- Pay attention to emotions. When you see an emotional reaction, stop and ask a question about it.

Here is a standard set of questions that can work for most products and services.

Tell me about your recent experience with [insert specific task, procedure, product, experience].

Describe the best part.

Describe the worst part.

Tell me more about that.

What have you done to solve that problem?

How satisfied are you with that solution?

How important (urgent) is it for you to find a better solution? (Relative to other current priorities, ask them to rate importance on a scale from 1-5)

Why is that?

I heard you say x, y, z [summarize some key statements] -- is that accurate?

Is there anything else you would like to tell me about your [experience/process]?

Try these rules and questions with your next customer conversation, and if you haven't started scheduling regular calls with a sample set then I recommend booking a day to do it. I know the time and resources spent on having these conversations will pay off not only for your current products and their successful use, but with innovative sparks into the next decade.

Adidas' Director of Sustainability Alexis Olans Haass discusses materials, experiments and sustainability

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

This post is presented by the K-Show, the world's No.1 trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. Visionary developments and groundbreaking innovations will again lead the industry into new dimensions at K 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Alexis Olans Haass
Director Sustainability adidas PURPOSE

Alexis heads adidas brand's sustainability program from global headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Her responsibilities include directing adidas brand's sustainability strategy, developing new sustainable innovations and business models, and coordinating sustainable product creation across adidas' business units and global creation centers. Alexis' previous work revolved around sustainable product development and clean technology with companies such as IDEO, P&G, and Transfair USA. Alexis has an MBA in Marketing, and a MS in Sustainable Systems from the University of Michigan.

There is possibly no other product category that is more dynamic and experimental with materials than the sportswear industry, and in particular athletic footwear. Being part of the fashion industry, it is also an area that needs to be held environmentally accountable for the high turnaround and volume of products that it generates. As such, this interview with Alexis Haass, Director of Sustainability at Adidas, looks at the role of plastics from the perspective of sustainability and high-end design, materials and consumer expectations.

Chris Lefteri: Could you explain your role within Adidas?

Alexis Haass: I'm the director of sustainability in Adidas Purpose. I lead the team that focuses on sustainable product and how sustainability impacts our brand strategy. We work with teams across the company to determine which sustainable innovations we need, what new business models we should pursue, how we engage our consumer - anything that goes more towards the consumer side of things.

CL: Sustainability is a hugely complex process in terms of materials for products. How do you break that down into manageable chunks?

AH: So that's actually quite a challenge for us as a brand, not only on the products themselves but even just thinking on the strategy we wanted to pursue because the topic is so huge. We broke down our strategy into three areas – we call them three Loops. We're trying to make this transition from that linear economy that we all know - where we take something out of the ground, you make it into a product, and then it gets thrown away - and transition over to a natural circular economy. In order to do that, we've got three Loops that are all part of the solution.

The first one - The Recycled Loop - is where, instead of that straight line, you start to bend the line back. In the Recycled Loop, you're putting waste in at the front end instead of virgin material. Parley product and our recycled polyester Moonshot fit here, making sure that we can cut off the flow of virgin material and move only onto recycled materials. For our Moonshot, we are committed to using only recycled polyester in every product and in every application where a solution exists by 2024.

The next stage is the Circular Loop – not only using recycled materials, but also ensuring the product itself is circular. That it's made to be remade. Here it's not just design - you'll need new business models to ensure that products go round and round. The last Loop that we have is Bionic Loop, where we are trying to loop with nature. Products here, if not made with recycled plastic, will need to be made from nature, and – in case they ever escape the loop – should harmlessly return to nature.

This is a transition we are trying to go through as a product company and as a brand. We want to engage our consumers not only in the eco-innovation we're doing, but also how these topics could apply to their lives. That's why with Parley products we focused on not just making shoes out of ocean plastic, but also on engaging consumers to make a commitment to get rid of single use plastic in their lives. With the Futurecraft Loop shoe we're trying to spur on the conversation about the need to transition to a new circular economy.

The goal is to create an exciting vision that our consumers want to participate in with us. Where we can bring the power of a big brand to innovate in this space – be it in the materials, products, or even brand activation – to make inroads in this transition towards a circular economy where we loop with Nature.

CL: I'd like to probe a little bit more because there was an interview that I read where you talked about the difficulty of using lifecycle analysis tools. On that very narrow level of just looking at material and material choices, how do you balance and approach materials selection of one material being better than the other?

AH: We lean very heavily on lifecycle analysis in shaping our strategy. What we don't want to do is solve a small subset of the problem over here and then create another big problem with the replacement over there. We have in our team lifecycle analysts who actually help review those innovations and who give that full picture that guides both our strategy, our products and materials. There are times when something comes out as a bit of a wash about which innovation is a better way to go, and then we go for what illustrates the story of transition better. When it comes to something that is not communicated the right way and could be perceived as greenwashing, we need to take into account if it is really going to help our consumers. Is this going to get them excited? Or maybe help them relate to a problem that's otherwise pretty intangible? If that's the case, then we could prefer one over another.

CL: Yes, exactly. I gave a talk recently and I talked about this aspect of product and sustainability and there has to be that element of desire. It isn't just about feeling guilty, you want to be optimistic and you want enjoy the process of being more considerate. Which brings me to the next question, are there any instances where sustainability in terms of materials in your products has driven the aesthetic of the product?

AH: Actually both Futurecraft examples - the one we did for the Recycled Loop and the other for the Circular Loop – the sustainability of the material drove the original aesthetic. I'll talk about them one at a time.

Our first Parley shoe – the UN shoe – was Futurecraft. That shoe was an experiment - we had this problem of new material (gillnet pulled from the ocean and plastic bottles from the Maldives) that was not of the quality or calibre that we normally expected. We were trying to weave it into a product and find a way we could turn this threat into a thread, and so had to turn to a new technology we were trialling in the lab. When we wove in the gillnet with this new technology, it created a particular look where you see waves on the line of the shoe. The tech made somebody really be able to see and visualise that the net was a part of the shoe.

The same effect wound up happening with Circular Loop, and the Futurecraft Loop shoe. We wound up with very different aesthetics and looks because of making it from just one material. The material has a natural color and behaviour properties. We're already seeing - as we go through future generations of recycling those shoes in the lab - that the colour of the material changes over time… So recycling itself creates a desirable aesthetic that tells a generational story. Does that make sense?

CL: Yeah absolutely, very nice. I brought that up just to give a little context because I asked this question to Alistair Curtis of Logitech, when they used the speckled effect on their K780 keyboard. Although it wasn't a project focused on eco materials it was whether consumers would accept products that were less perfect and had a degree of variance on them. In the US it wouldn't work at all which is why I'm interested in the aesthetics of sustainability and why I asked that question.

AH: That's not what we've seen – I think we're still experimenting with what people would and wouldn't accept. Consumer's interest in these topics is driving excitement around some of these new aesthetics. Recycled used to be a dirty word - in fact anything that gave you a visualization of that felt sort of crunchy in a way that most mainstream consumers didn't want. Talking about ocean plastic, enabling people to visualize and understand the plastic problem, is starting to change the desirability of recycled products. If you get it right in positioning the topic in such a way that it can grab consumers, actually that preference around aesthetics will start to change. So, I don't think it's a permanent thing, I think it's more a question of how much resonance you've been able to create and how simple and clean of a story for consumers to touch them in the right way. Not preachy, but in a more exciting, innovative way that makes them desire that future coming; and then they're all on board.

CL: In terms of these new types of materials, which generally have higher costs or are hard to get hold of how do you scale up from new and innovative materials? How do you overcome that at Adidas?

AH: So, at Adidas we have this thing called Futurecraft. Essentially this is our way of opening up our doors and letting people see in when our innovation is pretty far along but not fully baked. That's what we did at the beginning with Parley - we opened it up and we launched initially with one concept shoe. We were trying to create the demand or the desire for recycling where it otherwise wouldn't be, where it made no cost sense for it to be, such as plastic from beaches or from small island communities. We've been able to drive huge scale by positioning the topic right – by sending the call out to the industry while also making it exciting for our consumers, there's more demand for that story.

But we need to make sure we're not only driving up the demand for ocean plastic, but for recycling overall. That's why we are also talking about our recycled polyester Moonshot, where we've committed to having 100% of our polyester, which is also the material that we use the most of, transition fully to recycled by 2024, in every product and on every application where a solution exists. When you couple those together - the very good story and visualisation at the top and then a big call and commitment with the Moonshot material behind it - you generate consumer demand and awareness with our supply base on the outside, as well as mobilise people on the inside. The pull effect moves quite quickly.

We've created a replicable model with Futurecraft in this space. With the UN Parley shoe, we have a track record - going from a concept shoe to producing 11 million pairs of shoes with Parley Ocean Plastic by the end of 2019. You can really build scale if you couple the inspiration at the top with a big Moonshot plan at the bottom.

CL: Have you had feedback from retailers such as Footlocker about the projects, any of them? In terms of the aesthetics?

AH: Oh gosh, yeah.

CL: Do you do that sort of testing before launching?

AH: Could you clarify which sort of testing you're talking about?

CL: Well let's say the Parley?

AH: What we've seen from our key accounts is that they all really want this story, and that actually it's more of a question of trying to keep up with the demand of landing that story in the right way and making sure it comes across. We don't want to just sell products with that story, it's also about activating awareness and education around the problem we're trying to solve. That's where Run for the Oceans, RFTO, comes in. RFTO is Adidas x Parley's global mobilization initiative to encourage runners around the world to engage with the problem / raise awareness of the plastic pollution threat to the world's oceans. 60,000 runners took part in 2017, almost a million last year and around 2.2 million people ran in 2019, raising $1.5 million, which we're investing in the education of future generations on the issue of marine plastic pollution.

So for us, it's more about making sure that the story lands holistically, not the lack of demand. In fact, it's more us running behind it trying to keep up. This is what happens with opening up early with Futurecraft – putting that call out engages our wholesalers like Dicks and Footlocker, as well as engaging our key suppliers. People start approaching you afterwards saying 'look, I see your commitment to it and we're ready to go to scale with you'. I think that's the power of putting something out before it's perfect or 100% there, to create the pull.

CL: In an article that I read the interview where you talked about Solar City being an inspiring example of sustainability from a particular angle. Do you have a case study outside of Adidas that is a product that you were inspired by? In terms of how they had dealt with sustainability?

AH: Wow, there are so many. This is just me personally talking, but several of the car company models are changing the desirability around electric mobility. Tesla was quite early in that race, but there are more now. The thing that I found exciting about this moment is there used to be a perfectly functional electric car before, but those cars didn't put desirability first and foremost, so many consumers were stuck feeling they had to make a sacrifice to stick to their values. The success of Tesla has been in pulling the transition to electric forward 10 - 20 years because they made that switch to prioritizing desirability, while providing availability. If we can be so lucky as to do the same for accelerating the transition to sustainable consumer goods, driving up demand for moving away from virgin plastics and towards looping with nature… I would consider that success.

This post is presented by the K-Show, the world's No.1 trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. Visionary developments and groundbreaking innovations will again lead the industry into new dimensions at K 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Design Job: Get your bass in gear as an Industrial Designer for White River Marine Group in Springfield, MO

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Seeking a highly creative, self-motivated individual that works well in a fast paced, collaborative environment. Must be able to work on multiple projects simultaneously and manage time effectively to meet project deadlines. You are passionate about the details and have a proven track record of creating products that are authentic to a brand, and connect emotionally with consumers.

See the full job details or check out all design jobs at Coroflot.

Dust London is Transforming Tea Waste Into Covetable Homewares

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Roughly 160 million teabags—which often contain polypropylene to keep them intact—are thrown away in Britain every day as Brits around the country fuel up with their drink of choice. Designers Michael McManus and Matt Grant launched their homeware line, Dust London, in part to bring more awareness to the potential of recycling natural materials and their first collection features a range of home accessories made primarily out of tea waste.

The initial drive behind Dust London was "to step away from the computerized and the mechanistic," as the designers wrote to us in a recent email. After exploring various natural materials, they gravitated toward tea waste for its "range of natural pigments and subtle textures." They also thought it would be a good conversation starter to get people talking about the potentials of sustainable design. "As a nation of tea drinkers in Britain, we find that people can relate."

First, they collect used tea bags from local cafes and separate the loose-leaf remains into different types—their current collection uses a palette of chamomile, peppermint, rooibos, English breakfast, and black tea. "We thoroughly dry them out and blend them so that they are ready to mix with a non-toxic binder. After much experimentation, we settled on jesmonite as our binding material. A key part of ensuring the strength and surface finish of our pieces is balancing the ratios of tea waste to the binding material. Once we have achieved the desired consistency, the material is ready to pour."

A vase and coaster showing off different tones, all achieved with peppermint tea.

The designers use temporary molds inspired by origami techniques. "We begin with a sheet of paper; scoring, folding and pinching to create the desired form," they explained ."A key part of this technique is balancing the tension between the curved facets. We then reinforce the paper and work through a series of steps to create robust and seamless silicone molds."

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign at the end of last year, their focus now is on adapting the process to make permanent molds that will allow them to ramp up production and add more objects to their collection, which so far encompasses vases, coasters, and planters. The Tate Modern will start stocking the pieces in their homeware and furniture store later this year.

Reader Submitted: The Pacific all-day shoes using materials destined for landfill

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Taking materials that would be otherwise destined for landfill, The Pacific is an eco-conscious footwear line made entirely from recycled materials including algae-based foam, chrome-free recycled leather trimmings and tree-based linings.

View the full project here

Explore the Evolution of the Office (and Possibilities for the Future) at A/D/O's Latest Exhibition

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

"If the office is no longer spatial, what has it become? Where work and life are conflated, what is the relationship between the office and identity?" These are some of the questions posed by Out of Office, an exhibition exploring the evolution of the office from 1950 to a speculative 2050. Taking place at A/D/O—a fitting venue to explore shifting paradigms of work—and co-curated by Andrea Hill of TORTUGA Living, Alex Gilbert, and Soft-Firm, the exhibition tracks "the feedback loop" between design, technology, and the office.

The show is comprised of four installations. First upon entering, the interactive Water Cooler Talk places the ubiquitous conversation starter next to a live feed from a Slack group to suggest how "the symbolic heart of the office" has shifted, while phrases like "Step away" and "Work smarter, not harder" remind us of the negative repercussions of our always-connected culture.

There's a sense of what we're losing in The Supply Closet as well, which showcases an array of office supplies, many of which are now nostalgia-inducing. "It's rare that we interface with anything other than a computer these days," the curators told us in a recent interview. "What would it take to reinvigorate our senses and make for more inspiring modes of communication and creation? Can something as simple as receiving a letter in the mail help diminish our digital fatigue? We believe that the manual tools of work can continue to spark productivity even as they become less directly tied to our output."

The meatiest component is the Evolution of the Desktop, a graphic timeline that tells "an associative story of how the office evolved alongside global events, cultural and political shifts, labor movements, and pop culture," through the lens of several narrative arcs: from job security to flexibility, hierarchy to horizontality, profit-driven to innovation-driven, control to autonomy, homogeneity to diversity. The cloud-like graphics (likely inspired by Charles Jencks's Evolutionary Tree diagram) express how "these values overlap and bleed into each other, setting the stage for inventions, emergent technologies, IPOs, and work movements," the curators say. "It isn't meant to be a definitive survey from 1920-2050...we intended to create an installation that offered a great deal of information about the evolving office in a single glance."

Beneath the graphic, a standing desk prototype designed by Robert Propst—the originator of the cubicle furniture system—for Herman Miller in 1963 and SO-IL's speculative furniture system designed for Knoll in 2014 bookend an array of workplace innovations, "from the curious to the canonical."

Tucked away in a separate room, the dimly lit space of Wellness 2050 offers a place to rest under the familiar glow of a projection, which shows a bucolic landscape—more or less a stand-in image for wherever a worker would prefer to be. Will conference rooms be transformed into wellness rooms? "With the increasing virtuality of work and nature, spaces for escaping and unplugging from our new reality may be the new normal."

Each distinct installation expands on the exhibition's underlying questions and teases out even more strands of thought to chew on—but don't go in expecting any answers. Ultimately the show hopes to "prompt designers to expand their role in the creation of new, humanistic formats for work."

What do the curators forecast for the future of office design? "Office design has become increasingly about wearables," they say. "Building technology will become smarter over time (like a device) and office technology will catch up to the algorithm."

Out of Office will be on view in the atrium at A/D/O through September 6, 2019.

The Weekly Design Roast, #12

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

"My research shows that people often misplace chairs. What could be more frustrating than getting back to your desk, only to discover you've lost the chair again? Well, with my design, that never happens!"

"I've joined the legion of clever designers who design a thing that doesn't work well, but is cool because it's made out of another thing."

"I designed this sofa for people who have friends who smell and/or have annoyingly loud voices."

"Here's a great application for generative design: Wine decanters that are impossible to clean with a bottle brush."

"I designed this chair so that I could read a book while my wife scans the lawn for intruders."

"It's true that pushing it shut and zipping it closed makes it very difficult to get in and out of, but it's worth it for those times when I want to undress in the middle of the living room when I'm having people over."

"I designed this so that I can walk and text in the rain. It doesn't leave my hands free to hold an umbrella, but what's more important, keeping myself dry or my phone dry?"

"I like my cylindrical tiny home, but sometimes when the neighborhood kids roll it down a hill, I do wish I had chosen a different shape."

"I wanted to combine the beauty of living in nature with the inconvenience of a three-story walk-up."

"I'll tell you when he goes to lunch, then all you'll have to do is sneak in and loosen two bolts. It'll look like an accident, and we'll split the insurance money fifty-fifty."

Reader Submitted: Metamorphose - portable stain remover

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Many techniques and methods are used to remove clothes stains including scrubbing, dabbing and rinsing. It can quickly become an overwhelming task to do particularly for beginners. Metamorphose aims to provide a single but honest process of removing stains effectively, eliminating the unnecessary stress and embarrassment that comes along with one.

View the full project here

Design Job: Quench your thirst for a new job as a Product Developer at Takeya in Huntington Beach, CA

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Takeya USA is seeking a detail-oriented and team-minded individual to become our Senior Product Developer & Technical Project Manager (SPD) to oversee all Takeya Product Development projects. Project management responsibilities include the coordination and execution of project tasks and completion of projects on time, within budget and within scope in

See the full job details or check out all design jobs at Coroflot.

A Hand-Operated Rolling Bridge Planned for London Redevelopment

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

As part of a masterplan reimagining Cody Dock in East London, architect Thomas Randall-Page was inspired to create a modern version of the retractable rolling bridges first invented during the Industrial Revolution. The small-scale pedestrian bridge will use a system of hand-operated mechanisms and counterweights to rotate a full 180 degrees, accommodating boats and barges that need to pass underneath it.

"Rolling parallel to the channel it crosses, this design owes much to its Victorian forbears. They knew that moving large heavy structures efficiently requires that they are a balanced system and my design works on this same principle," Randall-Page says. "Finished in painted steel the bridge design aims to be understated in its rest position but celebratory and playful in its movement creating a memorable event for spectators when operated."

Teeth alongside the railings enable the bridge to be moved in a steady gear-like motion, while counterweights built into the rounded square frame add further stability and prevent it from getting stuck in a particular position. A single cable will attach the structure to a crank handle, allowing just one person to invert the bridge. All in all, it'll be much easier to operate than other movable bridges.

Despite the nod to Victorian-era engineering, the project looks forward to the future of motion-based architecture, as Fast Company already noted, also citing the operable roof of New York City's Shed museum as a recent example of the latest trends in kinetic architecture and responsive urban design.

Randall-Page has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for construction which will be part of a larger masterplan for the area—a former industrial neighborhood that hopes to become a new hub for creatives—by PUP Architects. The bridge will connect walking and biking paths on either side of the canal, increasing connections between planned artist studios, exhibition spaces, and fabrication workshops along the banks of the Lea River.

Currently Crowdfunding: A Modular Guitar, the Latest From Oru Kayak, and More

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Brought to you by MAKO Design + Invent, North America's leading design firm for taking your product idea from a sketch on a napkin to store shelves. Download Mako's Invention Guide for free here.

Navigating the world of crowdfunding can be overwhelming, to put it lightly. Which projects are worth backing? Where's the filter to weed out the hundreds of useless smart devices? To make the process less frustrating, we scour the various online crowdfunding platforms to put together a weekly roundup of our favorite campaigns for your viewing (and spending!) pleasure. Go ahead, free your disposable income:

Designed by a master luthier and built out of injection-molded plastic, the Boaz One guitar features a system of interchangeable modules that can support up to 50 different combinations. Each module promises to feel like "picking up a whole new guitar." Unlike guitars made out of wood, this one isn't affected by temperature changes or humidity. It also comes with a built-in kickstand-style guitar stand and an optional built-in amp.

Two Scottish engineers have taken their side project to the next level with POTR, self-watering origami planters made entirely out of recycled materials. Backers will receive their pot flat-packed in an envelope with a cotton cord that functions like a drawstring to pull the form into shape. The cord does double-duty by placing one end in the water reservoir at the bottom and the other into the soil—a simple way for the plant to draw up moisture when it needs it. The semi-transparent design makes it easy to see when water is running low.

Here's another origami-inspired creation, the latest product from the team at Oru Kayak, The Inlet. Made for flat water, the extra-wide design incorporates an integrated floorboard, an adjustable footrest and backrest, bow fairings and bulkheads to reinforce rigidity. Best of all, it weighs only 20 pounds and comes together in mere minutes so you can focus on getting out on the water.

Ideal for VR, gaming, and music buffs, Woojer's Vest Edge (pictured above) and the more subtle Strap Edge (which is like a belt that can be strapped on to different parts of the body), uses haptic technology to create an immersive, "mesmerizing audio experience." You won't just hear the bass tones, you'll be able to feel them course through your body.

Detachable hexagonal tiles made of a rubber-like material allow you to customize this doormat endlessly. Though the campaign claims it's weather- and wear-proof, you could also place it in less trafficked areas of the home.

Do you need help designing, developing, patenting, manufacturing, and/or selling YOUR product idea? MAKO Design + Invent is a one-stop-shop specifically for inventors / startups / small businesses. Click HERE for a free confidential product consultation.

Volunteer at the 2019 Core77 Conference, "The Third Wave"

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Want to help out at this year's Core77 Conference? We're looking for a few volunteers to lend a hand throughout the day!

The 2019 Core77 Conference takes place on Friday, October 4th at New Lab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and we need a few people to help make conference attendees' experience the best it can be. This year's conference, "The Third Wave", will focus on an emerging approach to design that veers away from our current commercial understanding of innovation and market disruption, instead asking designers to use their skills and insights to help shape a more responsible, inclusive world.

Applying for a chance to volunteer is easy—simply sign up via our via the link below, and we'll get back to you within a few days of applying. Please note that volunteers must be able to be in Brooklyn on October 4th to qualify.

Start your volunteer application here

Artist Joshua Vides Collaborates with Converse on a DIY-Style Chuck 70 Sneaker

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

The DIY wave in streetwear is still riding high. On August 16th, Converse will answer to the call for more one of a kind footwear with a new sneaker designed by artist Joshua Vides. Vides, who is well known for his comic-like graphic illustrations and experiential collaborations with Takashi Murakami, designed his own take on a Chuck 70 high top by integrating Velcro panels that come in multiple Pantone shades. The provided Velcro hook and loop panels allow the wearer to create ultra-custom sneakers they can swap on a daily basis.

The black and white version of Vides' Chuck 70 also features the artist's signature black and white illustrations, which appear on the outsole and give the sneaker silhouette a surreal graphic look. The hand-drawn, additive quality harkens back to the origins of the iconic chuck, a sneaker known to many as a wearable canvas for personal expression.

The opportunity to redesign an iconic shoe like the Converse arose somewhat out of chance—as Vides mentions, "while I was in NYC, a member of the Converse team introduced themselves and mentioned they were interested in meeting. Maybe an hour later, we were sitting down to discuss a potential collaboration." The collaboration took a little under a year from idea to release, and is the first Converse sneaker to feature an entire upper with a separate Velcro panel.

Is ultra-customization the future of streetwear? It's still hard to tell, as sneakers with the same offbeat spirit as Vides' are popping up regularly in an almost viral fashion. Trends in sneaker design such as this stand as an interesting challenge to designers, who are increasingly prompted to create products that allows for personalization and putting consumers in the creative driver's seat.

Whatever the future holds, Vides' is on board for encouraging widespread design-mania, as he told Core77: "I'm in the position I am today only because I felt the need to create. As much as the collaboration is part of me, I looked at this opportunity as a opportunity to give back. Anyone who has the product in their hand, now has the ability to customize an iconic shoe literally within seconds."

The Joshua Vides Converse Chuck 70s will be available starting August 16th at Converse.com.

Design Job: Help solve brand and business problems as a Product Design Manager for Pepsico in New York City

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

PepsiCo Design & Innovation is a creatively driven team that leverages the power of Design Thinking to solve brand and business problems that drive meaningful value and growth. Our team’s mission is to lead the innovation agendas in order to accelerate and transform PepsiCo’s Global brands

See the full job details or check out all design jobs at Coroflot.

This Limited-Edition Bike is Made Out of 300 Nespresso Pods

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-08-20 20:15

Consumers are increasingly discerning about making sustainable choices and brands have to keep up. In a new attempt to find creative uses for the billions of single-use coffee pods that are discarded around the world, Nespresso partnered with Swedish start-up Vélosophy to make a bicycle out of recycled pods. Each RE:CYCLE bike is made out of roughly 300 pods and dons the distinctive purple hue of the Arpeggio blend. 1,000 bikes were produced as part of the limited-edition collaboration, and they retail for $1,446.

RE:CYCLE was initiated by Jimmy Östholm, a former IKEA communications manager, serial bike entrepreneur, and founder of Vélosophy. Östholm had used recycled aluminum from unknown sources in previous bicycle designs but wanted to encapsulate the circular economy in RE:CYCLE by being able to tell people exactly where the material originated. The main challenge was figuring out how to make the lightweight aluminum used in the capsules rigid enough to meet bicycle manufacturing standards. RE:CYCLE spent two years in development.

Designed with eco-conscious coffee drinkers in mind, the seven-gear city bike has a few details that nod to its origins: the Arpeggio purple frame, a bell shaped in the form of a Nespresso capsule, and a front carrying basket made of steam-bended wood with two cup holders.

Recent statistics show that one in three households owns a single-use coffee maker and an estimated 56 billion single-use capsules end up in landfills each year where they take roughly 150 years to decompose. Their environmental impact has long been under scrutiny. Even though recycling aluminum is an easier, less energy-intensive process than recycling plastics, only 35% of all manufactured aluminum ends up being recycled, and that's in large part because consumers tend to throw aluminum products in the trash rather than the recycling bin.

Nespresso has been ramping up efforts to make recycling easier and bolster its sustainability agenda. In the US, Nespresso offers pre-paid recycling bags in 48 states, allowing users to mail back capsules to be recycled. Alternatively, consumers can drop their bags off at one of 88,000 UPS drop-off locations, or one of 500 collection points at Nespresso retail partners. The capsules go to a certified recycling plant that separates the aluminum shells from the coffee grounds, which are made into compost, topsoil or turned into biogas. Still, the company's most recent recycling rate was estimated at a rather paltry 25%.

The driving idea behind the collaboration was to create a product that would encourage users to recycle their capsules. "Through our collaboration with Vélosophy, we're illustrating to coffee lovers the potential of recycling their aluminum Nespresso capsules," said Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO of Nespresso, in a statement. "We have been inspired by working with Vélosophy, and I hope the RE:CYCLE bicycle inspires people to recycle." Previously, Nespresso partnered with Victorinox to make Swiss army knives out of recycled capsules and French stationery brand Caran D'Ache to create a ballpoint pen.

Design Job: Design consumer tech products and work with startups as an Industrial Designer at Bould Design in San Mateo, CA

Core 77 - Mon, 2019-08-19 20:06

Bould Design is growing and we are looking for an exceptional designer to join our award winning San Mateo studio on a full-time basis. As a part of our team, you will collaborate on all phases of the design process from conceptualization to production. We offer an intense, yet informal environment for focused, highly motivated designers. Our client list includes industry dominating brands such as Roku, Daikin and Hunter Douglas as well as nimble start-ups like Eero, Rylo, Poynt and Proxy. Our p

See the full job details or check out all design jobs at Coroflot.

Reader Submitted: 7 day project to redesign the Yamaha YXZ

Core 77 - Mon, 2019-08-19 20:06

I was given a wide-ranging brief to re-design the Yamaha YXZ side by side, and a short 7 day deadline to deliver concepts.

View the full project here

Atolla's Skin Health System Drivenby Machine Learning is Designed for You and Only You

Core 77 - Mon, 2019-08-19 20:06

After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2018, Atolla—a customized skincare company born and bred at MIT—has launched its first product. The Atolla Skin Health System is a monthly subscription model that costs $45 a month. The Atolla subscription includes a skin analysis kit, a skin health tracking app, and finally, a serum created just for you. Customers will receive a new serum each month that adjusts according to an algorithm that incrementally factors changes such as seasonal weather, diet, and skin pH. The difference between Atolla and other skincare companies is a future-forward solution made to help people ailing with skin problems through pinpointed data and skin science.

CEO Meghan Maupin's original idea for Atolla stemmed from her MIT thesis research on the skincare industry's environmental effects and her personal skin troubles. "I have super sensitive skin, and when I got to MIT, I found myself dealing with a whole new set of skin issues," says Maupin, "I couldn't understand what was causing my skin freakouts or how to solve them." With COO Sid Salvi, Maupin formed the idea to leverage advanced machine learning algorithms to log precise skin data around individual consumers to create hyper-personal serums.

The process of designing customized skincare turns out to be a complicated business. To blend precise skincare formulas, the Atolla team had to employ a modular customization manufacturing model, which meant finding manufacturers excited about their technology's potential. As Maupin noted: "[finding manufacturing partners] takes someone who understands where the industry is going to go and that the future of manufacturing in any industry is data driven. To us, it seems like a chemist's dream—we have all this data about people's skin, what they like and what will work. We're so excited about this, so we had to find people and partners who also thought it was equally cool."

User testing and app updates were another huge undertaking for Atolla pre-launch. Atolla used their crowdfunding customer base after the campaign to continue design research. This user research helped them reach small UX breakthroughs for their final app. For example, Atolla subscriptions begin with an online intake survey, followed by the skin analysis kit sent in the mail shortly after. As Maupin told us, "originally in our user testing, [the intake survey and skin analysis kit were] lumped together, but then we found that people completed more often if we split them up into two parts—it made it more digestible." The Atolla app helps you track your skin's progress and how different beauty products might be affecting your skin. Maupin says in addition to providing a product that works, "we can help people solve and figure out issues that they're having that they haven't been able to figure out on their own. That's the prime application of our model."

Finally, establishing the right tone for the brand's overall design was an important factor in Atolla's launch plan. "From a branding perspective, we've done a lot of testing. A big thing we've been trying to do with our visual was adding warmth, to both images and [physical] materials." The packaging maintains a feel that lies in between the cosmetic and pharmaceutical, which signals a sense of trust mixed with a fun attitude reminiscent of your other favorite skincare brands. In accordance with the brands sustainability goals, the team also put a big emphasis on their product packaging and shipping materials being either recyclable or compostable. "Obviously we're shipping something to someone each month so we wanted to make sure that all of our packaging could easily be recycled," says Maupin.

The Atolla team has big plans for new products and helpful app features in the future, but for now, introducing a personalized serum into the market allows the brand to easily merge into consumers' daily skin routines. "We're not, as a new brand, asking people to replace their favorite product with us," says Maupin, "we're building their trust by helping them solve an issue." After all, the company's purpose isn't just to become the new skincare product that customers are addicted to using. Atolla's entire mission is to reimagine the future of skincare by creating a system gives users agency in understanding what products will truly work for their skin.

Atolla CEO Meghan Maupin will be speaking at this year's Core77 Conference, "The Third Wave". Don't miss your chance to attend, get your tickets now!

3D-Printed Prosthetic Hand Learns Wearer's Movement Patterns

Design News - Mon, 2019-08-19 05:00

Researchers have been making great strides in recent years to make artificial limbs as close to the real thing as possible to help make life easier for amputees.

Now a team of researchers has added smart capabilities to a 3D-printed prosthetic hand that allows the device to learn and adapt to a wearer’s movement patters so they can perform daily tasks with more ease.

Different hand positions of a prosthetic hand developed by researchers at Hiroshima University. The prosthetic hand uses signals from electrodes (arrow) and machine learning to copy hand positions. (Image Source: Hiroshima University Biological Systems Engineering Lab)

A team at the Biological Systems Engineering Lab at Hiroshima University Professor Toshio Tsuji in the Graduate School of Engineering developed the hand, which coupled with a computer interface is reactive to motion intent, he said.

The prosthetic is part of research that proves it’s possible to “combine the human body and machine like one living body,” Tsuji said.

“The patient just thinks about the motion of the hand and then robot automatically moves,” he said in a press statement. “The robot is like a part of his body. You can control the robot as you want.”

Mimicking Common Movements

The team achieved this by mimicking how an ECG measures heart rate—putting electrodes in the socket of the prosthetic equipment to measure electrical signals from nerves through the skin. The technology sends the signals to the computer, which can decide how the hand can move in five milliseconds, sending those signals back quickly to the motors in the hand.

Researchers designed a neural network--called the Cybernetic Interface—that can recognize movements from the five fingers to combine them into different patterns. The movements they trained the hand to recognize include how to turn scissors into rock in the “rock, paper, scissors” hand game; pick up a water. However, the device can learn more to adapt to a user.

“This is one of the distinctive features of this project,” Tsuji said in the press statement. “The machine can learn simple basic motions and then combine and then produce complicated motions.”

The team published a paper on their work in the journal Science Robotics. 

Researchers tested the prosthetic with amputee patients in the Robot Rehabilitation Center in the Hyogo Institute of Assistive Technology in Kobe, Japan. Through a collaboration with Japanese company Kinki Gishi, researchers also added a socket to accommodate the arm of patients to fit the device.

In the tests, seven participants performed a variety of tasks with the hand that they would do in their every-day lives, such as picking up small items or clenching their fists.

Researchers report that the hand performed with a high rate of accuracy in its similarity to the real-life movements, with 95 percent for simple motions and 93 percent for more complicated motions that had yet to be learned by the machine.

While the technology is promising, researchers acknowledged that it does have its limitations that they hope to correct in the future. Users reported muscle fatigue when wearing the hand for a long time, among other issues.


Researchers plan to create a training plan to help those wearing it to make best use of it as well as improve the technology itself before it goes to market, they said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America's largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.
Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!


10 VR Companies to Watch in 2019

Design News - Mon, 2019-08-19 04:00

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.