An Alternative to Helmets

Product designers often seek solutions to the seemingly small problems in life that has not been solved by any current designs. Two designers, recently, from Stockholm- Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, had certainly filled in one of the many present gaps by offering a solution to the troubles which bicycle helmets bring. Today, an increasing number of people doesn’t wear helmets when cycling.  Especially for women, they complain that helmets are too heavy to carry around. They also often find it difficult to match the color of the helmets with their outfit and are fearful that wearing helmets would ruin their hair.

To address to these hassles, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin offered an alternative to Helmet designed for both safety and fashion purposes. It is called the Hovding that does not even sit on your head. “We wanted to develop a protection for cyclists that take account of the requests we got in our investigations. The protection would include preserving the sense of freedom and not ruin your hairstyle,” Terese Alstin, one of the inventors said.

Hovding is a discreet collar that cyclists wear around his/her neck. Made of a small, helium gas cylinder with motion sensors, it inflates into an air-filled cushion around the wearer’s head within 0.1 seconds when it detects an impact from any accident. Much like a car’s airbag, it has gone through rigorous testing with test dummies to insure rider’s safety with wearing this new invention.

Available in many different styles and fabrics that will be launched in its new collections, “Hövding is a practical, handy accessory that is easy to carry, stylish and unobtrusive in its design, while it saves your life,” says Anna Haupt.

It is definitely a gorgeous piece of fashion that may attract many women in buying. However, with an estimated retail price of $50 per collar, a consumer will really have to consider if it’s worth it to sacrifice their hair than their lives with a traditional helmet which has proven to be much safer (and yet so much cheaper.)


To learn more about the product, click here

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The case of McDonald’s Coffee Spoon

Sometimes an object does not take onto the function it was intended to.

In the late 1970s, it had came to McDonald’s attention that their small plastic coffee spoon for stirring hot beverages was widely being misused for measuring and snorting powered cocaine as well as PCP, an animal tranquillizer with hallucinogenic properties. This practice became such a fad amongst the drug users in the United States that it was dubbed the “Mcspoon” and often sold in Detroit spoons in a bundle of ten to twelve.

To protect its image from anymore association with illegal drug activities, McDonald addressed to the problem by redesigning the coffee spoon. It replaced the end of stirrer with a flat paddle. While the redesign didn’t stop people from using those stirrers for drug use, it did, to an extension, saved McDonald’s reputation from further damage.

As much careful thinking and research went into the design of this coffee stirrer, McDonald nevertheless would not expected that its primary function to distribute sugar in hot drinks overtime could go through such dramatic change. Objects constantly evolve and adapt in terms of its function and design. How it arrived at such usage is completely by design accident. It so happens that the coffee spoon would have the right size and surface to contain cocaine. A new culture had entered and created a new need; coincidentally, McDonald’s spoon-ended coffee stirrer considered by drug users was the right existing tools  to adapt its need.

This problematic functional change  did not occur out of the product design’s flaw though, but rather in the society’s fluctuating needs.  All businesses have to understand how external environmental factors can impose on their products. Although when left alone, some of these factors are out of their control, like McDonald, in case these do happen, initiate more of a thoughtful change to the concerned product’s design.

Source: Stirring response

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Little Fish Water Basin

Wasting water is part of our daily lives activities and we are often reminded to consume less. However, as we all know, to change a habit is usually uneasy and takes a long period of time. To encourage more people to save water and make it an easier practice, Lan Yu, an Industrial designer from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, turns the act of saving water to more of a ‘fun’ and emotional-stimulating experience.

The “Poor Little Fish basin” as he calls it and designed “offers an emotional way to persuade consumers to think about saving water, by making consumption tangible.”

When in use, the level of water in the fish bowl gradually lowers (but never fully drains out.) In desperation to save the fish from without water, it is expected that we, humans, will experience a natural urge to turn off the water tap as soon as we can. Don’t worry, though; water will automatically returns to its original level after usage. The water from the tap is also clean as it is connected to its own pipeline.

The “Poor Little fish basin,” indeed, would be a very beneficial way of contributing to the environment. The only problem is that the design has not considered about the fish’s ability to deal with the constant change in the bowl’s water level.

More about the designer

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Future Rechargeable Volvo Cars

It is one of the most common problems facing hybrid and electrical car manufactures: heavy batteries adding to the weight and bulk to a vehicle’s design but now Volvo is trying to address the problem. Partnering up on a material development project conducted by Imperial college of London, Volvo hopes to use a whole car’s body as a rechargeable battery. It is visualizing cars with the ability to store braking energy when you drive and plug in to be charged overnight.

To push this idea into a reality, Imperial College developed a composite blend of fibers and polymer resin which can store and charge more batteries faster than conventional batteries.  The material is extremely strong and pliant, that means it could change shapes in building the battery into the car’s body. If the replacement of car steel panels for the new material is successful, a car weight could be greatly reduced by 15%.

The only thing is that the car’s spare wheel recess will be needed to convert into a composite battery.  “This is a relatively large structure that is easy to replace. Not sufficiently large to power the entire car, but enough to switch the engine off and on when the car is at a standstill, for instance at traffic lights,” says Per-Ivar Sellergren, a development engineer at the Volvo Cars Material Centre. “Our role is to contribute expertise on how this technology can be integrated in the future and to input ideas about the advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost and user-friendliness.”

It is estimated that this project will continue for 3 years. For now, Volvo is focusing on developing the composite material so it will be able to store more energy, additionally, studying ways to produce the material in a more massive scale. It is only in the final stage where the battery will be fitted into a car.

Immense interest is demonstrated toward this project, currently.  Besides charging cars, there are many other application areas of this composite material: Mobile phones could be as slim as credit cards and laptops will go on for a longer period of time without having to be charged.  There is definitely an optimistic outlook for future rechargeable Volvo cars.

For more information, please see: Volvo’s press release

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Finger measuring without tape

How many times when you have held up two fingers apart from each other, saying “this close” to illustrate the approximate distance between one object and another?  For most, it will be million times and without an accurate result. With the “SmartFinger,” you can do the same thing and produce an exact calculation to the person whom you’re telling the story to. Created by three Korean designers, Choi Hyong-Sulk, Jung Ji-hye, and Yoo-Jin Park, the SmartFinger is used to address the regular mistakes human makes in estimating measurements.

A device which caps your thumb and forefinger (or just any two fingers), SmartFinger uses the signals relayed between two fingers to calculate the measure. Regardless of finger sizes, anyone can comfortably put their fingers in for its shells are made out of silicone.  With a few simple push of buttons, the small device measures length, breathe and volume. Calculation is done on the basis of the time taken to beam signal from one device to another and end result is displayed on its LCD-screen. Additional to measuring, it also records and stores measurements, calculates volume and area. Users are also allowed to adjust the text’s size and position according to their preference.

Now, this might just be a sign that people are getting spoiled. Technological innovation is getting people to the point where they don’t need to get a measuring tape, instead, you just pick up two SmartFinger devices and measurement will be automatically calculated. It is a very cleaver device indeed which could enhance our ability to live more efficiently (that is, if only if it exists.) SmartFinger is only a concept at the moment, so there is no telling whether in the future if it will ever make it to wide production. But, in the mean time, you can you can look at the pictures below to get a first-hand taste.

– via yankodesign

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Discovery of a new passion

Three summers ago, I was at the Incheon International Airport in Korea walking aimlessly around the white spacious area.  I had already gone through the checking point, bringing me an hour and a half closer before the boarding time. To take advantage of the humungous time gap, I decided to go around visiting the various, surrounding stores. So, for the next few minutes, I strolled through a clothing shop within seconds and browsed through all items at the Korean gift shop in which I find nothing worth buying.  Later on, I managed to stay at a bookstore for a whole 20 minutes, flipping through all in-store magazines. As I stepped out of the bookstore, an hour still remained. As I pondered about time speed and what more meaningful activities could I do within the next hour, I came across a perfume store.  Is visiting a perfume store more of a meaningful activity? I doubt it and despite never having any interest in using perfume before, I went in. A typical thing to do at a perfume store would be to spray a sample of perfume onto a piece of paper, then smelling it. I tried several whose packaging seemed appealing to me. After having done a couple of samples as I overlooked the store, to my sudden realization, EVERY SINGLE ONE of the perfume bottles on shelf, in terms of shape and design, are unique! It amazes me that there are so few perfume bottles resembling each other. Fascinated, I questioned how artists determine each design of the bottles. I had never see things in such a way before- identical category of product having different designs to them? It may seem cliché but during that moment, I felt the finding was extraordinary. The technique of bringing out the different sorts of personalities in still objects is what I find most challenging about designing a product.

Such a small, simple coincidental moment, but then the field of product design has ever since become one of my main passions to pursue. On this blog, I’ll be sharing some of the best international’s product design and analyzing them. I hope after reading, you’ll get as excited as I was in the perfume store.

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