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The Re-vive Table Legs, created by UK design firm Cohda, offer a way to reclaim discarded materials and offer more functional flexibility than many traditional, non-sustainable solutions. The product consists of four patented, vice-like clamps that secure legs to any flat, rigid surface, converting that old piece of plywood in the garage or beautiful oak door found in the alley into a new table suitable for any use. If use dictates new needs, the legs can simply be removed—without any tools—and reattached to any other surface. It’s a wonderfully intuitive solution and a beautiful way to make new objects from old. Cohda already has a gallery up for Re-vive owners to share their reclaimed table ideas.
While online music distribution avenues like Apple’s iTunes have had moderate success in keeping the music industry alive in the wake of the disintegration of CD sales, the new music consumer still prefers downloading the best or most popular tracks off the album, leaving the rest behind. Some music traditionalists and certainly record labels bemoan the death of the physical album as a complete, physical package, and not just for the fatter sales tapes, CDs, and LPs procured for the latter. Beyond the simple fact that stores and labels could charge more for albums, the sentiment persists that there was some artistry to the physical album itself; that there was a richness in the experience of exploring and simply apprehending the visual accompaniment to the music.
La Rinascente, Milan’s landmark 150-year-old upscale department store, recently received a much-needed shot in the arm from retail aesthetic guru Vittorio Radice. Radice renovated a floor in the store’s lower levels, unveiling La Rinascente’s new ‘Design Supermarket’—an upscale, affordable selection of masterful Italian design objects, arranged in an approachable, minimalist retail setting, with entire shelves devoted to esteemed brands like Kartell, Alessi and Nespresso. The store’s prices are meant to be as friendly as its interior, with design items available for as little as 9 euros.
In a brilliant work of perspectival illusion, the projection artists at Urbanscreen have transformed O. M. Unger’s Galerie der Gegenwart in Hamburg into a surreal plane of shifting form. The project, inspired by the concept of a “dreaming” building, truly does ascribe a sort of material consciousness to the structure’s facade; giant hands press and pull bricks apart and around, walls collapse and expand, and vivid multicolored forms swirl and merge. The optical effects are fantastic to behold via the video alone; we can only imagine what the experience would be like in person.
Navigating the line between augmented-reality-as-buzzword-of-the-moment and the technology’s genuine utility can be tricky of late, and Jonas Jäger’s new Augmented Business Card technology is indicative of the problem. On the one hand, the concept is certainly cool—enriching a traditional paper business card with a rotatable quasi-3D image of yourself along with live Twitter updates, contact links, and gesture-controlled media. But beyond the undoubtedly slick presentation, we have to ask ourselves; will this have any relevance once the gleam and polish of augmented reality wears off, and the crumpled shrink wrap is on the floor? Augmented reality is melding functionality and gimmick to a near-inextricable degree, and it seems problematic when applied to the business card, one of the most distilled instances of the medium being the message.
As gaming systems become increasingly integrated with the physicality of the gamer, developers are seizing upon the intricacies of our actual environments for new ways of having fun on-screen. Aspyr’s Treasure World for Nintendo’s DS and DSi handhelds is one such attempt to bridge the gap between the real and the pixelated, launching players on a virtual treasure hunt that requires exploring one’s surroundings for actual wireless networks. Real-life WiFi spots are converted into in-game “treasure,” which can be traded in for items. The game can even be played with the handheld closed—at which point one is literally just wandering around waiting for their DS to grab hold of a network. If this sounds like it could be dull, you’re in good company—Treasure World has garnered a highly mediocre cumulative 67% on Metacritic—but the effort to make the actual part of the virtual is an essential movement in advancing video gaming beyond the living room, though somewhat poorly executed this time around.
Last month we told you about Quirky, a crowdsourced product design site that lets the community collaborate and deliberate about each step of the conception and manufacturing process. We’ll admit that we were a bit skeptical of the whole process, and Quirky’s first release, a universal cord retractor, didn’t exactly blow us away. But the Quirky crowd’s newest idea, the Split Stick USB drive, gives us hope that the crowd of amateur innovators has the potential for truly good ideas matched with a powerful new distribution model.
A team of young German architects is envisioning a new method of construction that challenges our very notion of building materials. Many a design plan strives for an ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ appearance, one that seems to blend into and coexist with its environment, but Oliver Storz, Ferdinand Ludwig, and Hannes Schwertfeger, are constructing buildings from the environment itself, bending and grafting trees around and into each other to form sophisticated structures. The architects build their ‘arbo-architecture’ structures around metal support frames, which guide and constrict the growth of young trees into set forms. Once they mature, they are pruned so that they meld into one organism strong enough to support a roof and flooring, making the hybrid structure fully functional.
As ugly as most advertising billboards are, what’s even uglier is that most of them are made out of non-biodegradable vinyl, and that over three million billboards’ worth (that’s 10,000 tons) get thrown into landfills every year. TerraCycle and Yakpak, who will be turning discarded vinyl into durable backpacks and messenger bags. The material happens to lend itself exceptionally well to tough conditions—it was used for the outdoors, after all—and accordingly the bags come with a lifetime warranty. Yakpak is going to great lengths to ensure the manufacture of the bags is ethically sound—they own their own factory in El Salvador powered by a hydro-electric plant, the employees of which are paid fair wages. The Billboard Bags (along with smaller cases, wallets, and totes) come in a variety of eye-catching designs and forms.
Target, which has long built its reputation on its eye for good design, is further distinguishing itself as a purveyor of finer taste (by big box retailer standards, at least). The 1,700 location chain is using its ‘Bookmarked Club Pick‘ program to turn its loyal shoppers into rabid readers—and catapulting unwitting authors into significant sales territory at the same time. By positioning Target-exclusive editions in prominent shelving locations throughout stores, authors like Tatiana de Rosnay—whose initial dud Sarah’s Key went on to sell 145,000 copies through Bookmarked—are finding themselves with a second chance at a literary career.
Oxfam International, a non-governmental group dedicated to the fight against poverty and social injustice, tapped Spanish design study Hey for a series of promotional shirts, posters, and other cause-worthy accoutrement. The studio’s designs use clever iconography, typography and vivid color for a look that is as visually arresting as the important issues behind them. More images from the commission can be seen at Hey’s project site.
No matter how complex and diverse our online communities are, and how sophisticated and evolved the new ways in which we interact with one another seem, buying and selling still remains at the fore of the online world. Though the basic act of commerce has not changed, many entrepreneurial minds have envisioned new ways to facilitate our transactions, and bring business beyond cash and coin. Here are ten currencies we’ve been tracking: