Why the BMW i Vision Circular Concept looks so unique and attractive, and what automotive designers can learn from it

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

Nobody ever designed anything iconic by following the rules. The BMW i Vision Circular Concept works on the same principle – it has an appearance that’s car-like enough to not be mistaken for anything else, yet the design team takes deliberate decisions to deviate from certain norms, creating a car that looks and feels really refreshing. Here are a couple of my takeaways that could become design lessons in the future… and yes, I’ll be bringing up the Tesla Cybertruck.

Just to cover the basics, the i Vision Circular Concept debuted at the Munich Auto Show as BMW’s first-ever ‘100% recyclable’ car. Designed for the year 2040, the i Vision Circular Concept comes with a design featuring parts that are completely detachable (thanks to the use of intelligent fasteners like cords and press-fit joints instead of glue and welding) and easy to fix/repair. The car’s body is made from recycled aluminum, its interiors use fabric made from recycled plastic, and even the tires are made from a “sustainably cultivated” natural rubber. As one would expect with any eco-conscious automobile, the i Vision Circular Concept runs on an electric powertrain too… and while managing to balance all those bits of innovation, the i Vision Circular Concept looks like an absolute stunner. It’s unconventionally shaped, looks decidedly modern, makes incredible use of volumes, surfaces, edges, continuity, and lighting, while still ensuring that the car follows BMW’s brand DNA and retains its iconic design language… and if that wasn’t impressive enough, the car also doesn’t use a single drop of paint.

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

A futuristic form that’s edgy, but friendly.

Angular straight lines play a dominant role in visual futurism – a theory that the Cybertruck has pushed to its very limits. Straight lines can never be found in nature, so the use of them automatically makes something look artificial or man-made. Play with those parameters enough and you’ll arrive at something that looks so artificial it feels like it’s from the future. While that may have played to the Cybertruck’s strength (because the ultimate consensus, whether you liked the pickup truck’s design or not, was that it looked hyper-futuristic), it isn’t necessarily what the i Vision Circular Concept is going for. Sure, the use of sharp edges and angular lines play a major part in allowing the car to look futuristic, but the gentle use of curves give it a more friendly, relatable appeal, making it look appealing and warm instead of robotic and cold.

As far as form and surface treatment goes, the i Vision Circular Concept doesn’t really go by the book. For starters, it has a panoramic windshield that extends all the way from the front to the top and the back, and even to the sides. The front is a continuous curve too, highly reminiscent of Lamborghinis, and gives the car a wedge-shaped silhouette that’s wider than the kind seen in Lambos, but is still unmistakably different from almost every other car. It even comes with a chasm or a valley running down the bonnet, creating that bit of drama by breaking the surface, while providing a neat area to house the BMW logo. There’s also an incredibly low overhang over the front and rear wheels, resulting in a car that looks incredibly tight, yet with curves in the right places.

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

Eyes so pretty, you can’t stop staring at them.

Chances are that the first thing you noticed about the BMW i Vision Circular Concept was its headlights. Over time, cars have anthropomorphized to form faces, where the headlights look like eyes – a feature that’s allowed car brands to give their automobiles character and emotions, which is why the slim headlights of an Audi make it look aggressive, and the round headlights of a VW Beetle make it look fun and friendly. The i Vision Circular Concept’s eyes rely on an incredible contrast created by angular white lines on a black background. The angular lines give the car a discerning appearance without necessarily looking mean or angry, and the headlights aren’t simply relegated to a bulb and reflector located on either side of the car’s front… instead, the angular lines travel all the way across the front from left to right. BMW’s designers even used this genius move to turn the headlights into a makeshift kidney grille, fulfilling a design detail that can be found on every single BMW car from the very beginning. Since the i Vision Circular Concept doesn’t have a gas-powered engine (and therefore doesn’t need a grille on the front), the angular lines take its place, making the car concept equal parts path-breaking yet true to BMW’s legacy.

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

Not a drop of paint.

Easily one of the most wasteful processes in a car’s manufacturing, the paint-job needs to be conducted in a highly controlled environment by specialized robots with highly expensive equipment. The process can take days at an end, result in a massive amount of wasted resources and paint, and if gone even fractionally wrong, needs to be done all over again from scratch. Cleverly enough, the i Vision Circular Concept dodges this process entirely, saving resources and energy, but also potentially millions of dollars in the process.

The car’s eye-catching matte gold finish is the result of a process called anodizing, which involves electro-chemically layering a thin film of color on top of the car’s metal body. It’s time-saving, foolproof, and adds a thin layer of color over the metal, as opposed to multiple layers of paint. The gold color transitions to a wonderful blue-ish hue at the back that’s achieved through heat-treatment, a process often employed with steel. BMW wasn’t clear about how laborious or expensive these processes are, but just on paper, they seem quicker and more cost-effective than spraying on 7-8 layers of automotive paint onto an entire car.

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

The i Vision Circular Concept ultimately aims at showcasing BMW’s vision for the future, while also giving us a glimpse of what technologies they’re developing to make that future a reality. It’s pretty likely that BMW won’t ever release this car, because its purpose is more demonstrative in nature than anything else – which just makes it a perfect example of what trends automotive designers can expect to see moving forward in the industry. There’s a fair bit to learn from the i Vision Concept – from its different design decisions to how it manages to perfectly balance sustainability with style. More importantly, the fact that BMW’s designing recyclable cars is, in itself, a massive flex for the company and is definitely a direction that more automotive companies should be taking in the future.

Designer: BMW

BMW i Vision Circular Concept

The post Why the BMW i Vision Circular Concept looks so unique and attractive, and what automotive designers can learn from it first appeared on Yanko Design.

Domestic Robots are a new frontier for Industrial Designers: Whipsaw CEO, Dan Harden

“We are finally seeing an inflection point in the industry”, says Whipsaw CEO and Principal Designer, Dan Harden as he talks about how robots are slowly entering our households. Back at the beginning of the 2000s, the only robots you could find around the house were probably either toys (RC cars, RoboSapiens), or domestic cleaning robots like the vacuum cleaner or the lawn-mower. Today, home service robots are increasingly becoming an emerging trend, creating a unique new opportunity for designers to establish the identity, personality, form, function, and usability factors of these soon-to-emerge home service robots. “It is one of the most exciting design frontiers since the very founding of our profession”, Harden tells Yanko Design.

The west has been rather slow in adopting robots in domestic settings (something I often attribute to films like Terminator, iRobot, or Transformers, which haven’t really made robots look too friendly), while countries in the east like Japan and China (who haven’t been inherently exposed to ‘evil robots’) have traditionally been much more accepting robots in their domestic lives. Obviously, the ‘evil robot’ archetype’s been balanced out by robots like R2D2, Wall.E, and Jarvis, whose prime objective has always been that of a human-serving side-kick. The burgeoning domestic robot movement (domestic as opposed to industrial) has always sought to follow this trend – of serving humans by handling menial repetitive tasks. Boston Dynamics’ robot dog was used to patrol roads during the lockdown in Singapore, the Cafe X Robotic Coffeebar in San Francisco uses a robotic arm to prepare and serve you fresh coffee, and perhaps the most prime example of a domestic robot, your beloved Roomba cleans your floors with more accuracy and efficiency than a human.

Follow Whipsaw’s work and read more on their blog here

The 2021 IDEA Award-winning Bizzy Robot

Human-inspired, pet-like, or alien – What must a Robot look like?

The holy grail of robotics has always been to build a multi-purpose bionic ‘butler’ – a dream that Whipsaw’s been working on for a better part of the past decade, but has been pretty vocal about its elusiveness. “Robots are complex and therefore expensive electro-mechanical machines, unlike toasters and washing machines”, Harden mentions. “For a robot to do just the most basic things like pick up laundry, fetch a drink or clean a countertop, without crashing into furniture, dropping valuables, spilling milk, or running over your dog is tough. It needs to know where itself is in the house, where and when it needs to go to perform a task, how to identify objects, how to retrieve and manipulate those objects, and how to respond to people and pets.” It’s a complicated problem where the hardware and software rely on each other so closely, there’s extremely little room for error.

The 2021 IDEA Award-winning MARTIAN Robot

A robot that performs tasks that a human/animal can do, eventually looks like a human/animal…

The California-based design studio’s tryst with domestic service robots started with robotics research lab Willow Garage who needed a robot that could assist with simple household chores. The funding dried up midway as Willow Garage shut shop in 2013, but it allowed Whipsaw to cement relationships with other clients with a keen interest in robotics, namely SRI (Stanford Research Institute), Rosie Robotics, Bizzy Robotics, and Aeolus Robotics, all of whom envisioned a simple low-cost home service robot. For Whipsaw, however, the design brief was a little more nuanced – “What should this home robot look like?” Was it better to be functional, honest, and minimal, or have it be more expressive or even human-looking? “Our opinion was to make it what it wanted to be – a purposeful and efficient tool with self-explanatory design cues and details”, Harden explained. However, as they started designing it, they soon realized that it was hard not to look like some type of creature. By the time you put cameras where they need to be in order for the robot to see, arms that can reach and lift, and hands to grasp objects, you inevitably end up building some form of ‘animal’. Harden admitted, “We decided to embrace that logical consequence and just let these necessary elements define the robot’s identity.”

KODA Robot Dog

KODA Robot Dog – The first consumer-based robot dog to run on a Blockchain Network

Around 2018, Whipsaw was also approached by KODA Inc. to help integrate their revolutionary fusion multi-processor and AI-based software into a robot. The KODA Robot Dog holds the title for being the first high-end domestic robot-dog running on a decentralized blockchain network, with its ‘own brain’ – an 11 teraflop processor capable of A.I. machine-learning. The dog-type quadruped robot relied on a decentralized network to share data and optimize behavior, making all KODA dogs smarter by relying on a hive-mind of sorts. “For example, a KODA dog in Phoenix can use the knowledge it automatically receives from other KODAs that are based in colder climates, like Anchorage, Alaska or Toronto, Canada”, Harden mentions to Yanko Design. “Without ever having set foot on ice, the KODA in Phoenix will learn how to avoid slipping. This includes warning its owner as well.” Armed with that incredibly powerful software, Whipsaw’s design took an interesting-yet-logical decision of ensuring the KODA robot dog (as intelligent and capable as it was) still retained a friendly, cute demeanor.

Functionally, KODA was designed to assist the human condition. Fulfilling the myriad of roles and responsibilities of dogs, the KODA monitor and protect properties; help disabled people see and navigate safely; play with and teach children; and serves as a tech learning platform for individuals, schools, and robotic research institutions. For Whipsaw though, the roles and responsibilities of KODA set a variety of constraints. The aesthetics of KODA had to be just right. If it looked too dog-like it would be weird. If it was not dog-like at all, it would be an unfriendly machine. Every aesthetic decision had to be respectful of this perception, while at the same time taking on the mammoth task of integrating all the components and sensors into the robot’s animal form. The result was an incredibly sleek canine-inspired bot with four 3D surround-view cameras and 14 motors, including in the neck and tail, which gave it dog-like gestural qualities. If you had to assign a breed to KODA, Whipsaw’s team says it’s a cross between a friendly labrador and an athletic and slightly intimidating Doberman. It can run at a respectable speed of 2 meters a second, climb stairs, monitor large areas with its sensors and cameras, and even respond to its owner’s commands as well as their emotions – a testament to the dog’s incredible AI brain. Whipsaw even designed the dog’s body in a way that put the battery pack in its abdomen… so when KODA needed to recharge, it could simply walk over to its charging station and lay down (quite like a dog resting), bringing its belly in contact with the charge nodes. KODA was unveiled this January 2021 at the virtual CES, and even secured the iF Design Award this year. Today, over 850 people own KODA dogs, either as pets, surveillance dogs, or guide dogs. Yanko Design covered the KODA Robot Dog back in January and you can read more about it here.

The bright future of Domestic Service Robots… and how Industrial Designers can seize this new opportunity

Robots are more than just basic products, they’re entities – this provides Industrial Designers with a massive variety of opportunities that go beyond simply just designing an exterior or ‘solving a problem’. “The mere fact that a robot moves on its own and its scale is close to a human makes it seem alive, including the feeling like it even has emotion. As a designer, you have the opportunity to not only design the thing itself but that emotion too. It’s like adding a fourth “E” dimension to your XYZ design problem”, Harden mentions. It’s a unique and expansive region that covers a lot of different aspects, because robots are inherently very complex systems, and we perceive them differently from a ‘lifeless’ product. As the Industrial Design profession evolves, transitioning from tangible products to intangible ones (I completely fault UI/UX designers for stealing the phrase ‘Product Design’), the area of robotics has a redeeming quality to it, providing a dizzying number of areas of intervention, from form-giving to functional problem solving, user experience, technology integration, machine anthropology, emotional design, and purpose. Harden calls it “a veritable feast of design challenges.”

Bizzy Robot

It’s something Whipsaw’s passionately involved in too. Prior to designing KODA, Whipsaw even worked on the Aeolus R1, a humanoid helper which debuted at CES 2018, the MARTIAN robot, a one-handed robot on wheels, and the BIZZY, another single-armed robot that could be controlled by touch or even respond to voice commands. A winner of the IDEA Award in 2021, Bizzy was equipped with a wide range of motions thanks to the way it was designed, featuring a height-adjusting arm that could reach on countertops to clear up for you and arrange your tables before meals, or even ‘bend down’ to pick up objects from the floor or water your plants.

Rosie Robot Maid

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Whipsaw’s portfolio of work encompasses a healthy variety of tech and innovation-led products, although the massive smart-home industry is merely a stepping stone for the next evolutionary step – domestic service robots… and Whipsaw’s team believes that designers should really feel excited for all the opportunities it brings to help draft the human-robot dynamic and potentially rewrite civilization. In a blog-post on Whipsaw’s site, Harden says “How the human-robot dynamic ultimately influences and changes our society and culture is to be determined, but in the meantime, the design profession should be excited. It has never had a better quest or more interesting subject than the domestic robot.”

Visit the Whipsaw Website to view their latest projects and read more about Design + Robotics on their blog.

Experimental Industrial Designer Michael Young describes his diverse work as “Industrial Art”

It’s really difficult to pinpoint Michael Young’s style. A lot of designers develop a very recognizable quality that allows you to box their work into a certain category, but that’s far from true in the case of Hong Kong-based Industrial Designer Michael Young. Young’s work is best described as experimental, as he dips into a world of creativity shaped by his life in Britain, Iceland, Taiwan, Brussels, and finally Hong Kong. Young’s studio specializes in creating modern design through exploring the endless possibilities Asia’s technological ingenuity provides, while constantly pushing to experiment with new materials and see how they inform the design of different products within different categories.

Yanko Design had a chance to reach out to Michael and take a closer look at some of his work from the years gone by. Michael graduated from Kingston University in 1992 and set up his design studio the following year. With nearly 3 decades in the industry, he’s made a name for himself as one of the leading international figures in his field, and the Michael Young Studio aims at providing exclusive, quality design services across an eclectic range of markets – from interiors to technology. His minimalist, elegant, and sophisticated style is a trademark in his body of work, which has always attracted the attention of the industry and has been acquired by public institutions such as the Pompidou Center and the Louvre Museum. “It is Design as Industrial Art that interests me, not just as a limited edition, but on a scale of mass production”, Michael says about his approach to creativity and design.

Click Here to visit Michael Young’s website and view his work

Michael Young x Coalesse – LessThanFive Carbon Fiber Chair

A winner of the iF Gold Award, the LessThanFive chair gets its name from the fact that it weighs less than 5 pounds. Made entirely from carbon-fiber, the chair was a collaborative project between Michael Young and Coalesse, a Steelcase brand. The chair explores carbon fiber as a material for furniture by pushing the boundaries of what the material can do. The chair’s form is so elegantly slim that it can only be made out of carbon fiber (any other material would cause it to buckle), and even though it weighs less than 5 lbs, it can hold a stunning 300lbs of weight!

Michael Young x O.D.M. – Hacker Watch

The Hacker Watch encapsulates Young’s east-meets-west approach rather perfectly. “ODM was a local brand and at the time had not worked with an international designer at this level. Paul So, the CEO, is a great thinker and had predicted world timepiece recession, due to smartphones, long before they became household items”, says Young. The watch was designed as a result of this approach, and combined an iconic design along with an affordable price, making the watch instantly desirable, even in an age where people just read the time on their smartphone. The watch was designed and manufactured in 2011, when the smartphone movement had just picked up pace.

Michael Young – MY Collection

The MY Collection first premiered at Gallery ALL in LA and Beijing, and comprised a chair, a side table, a writing desk, a round coffee table, a console, and a lounge chair. The unusually designed pieces featured polished stainless steel honeycomb frames, inlaid with white enamel surfaces. Each piece consisted of a cluster of hollow metal extrusions capped at each end and covered with enamel, making the furniture look less like conventional home decor and more like eye-catching jewelry. “A while back, I had worked with cloisonné in Northern China and began to look at how patterns and colors came together and how metal could be shaped to create divisions of form”, Michael mentions. “Some of my earlier attempts were inspired by oil on water and the natural patterns generated by this when taken in a snapshot. For Gallery ALL, we looked at these in a new way by self-generating forms created by the computer, and then we extracted the patterns in two-dimensional slices.”

Michael Young x Moke International – Moke Car

Initially produced to share some of the Mini’s mechanical parts, but with a more rugged body shell to give it a life intended for the beach, the Moke holds its own as a historic and cult car with a rich 50-year history that was sadly put out of production in 1993. However, when Young got an email asking if he would work on redesigning a Moke reissue, he called it a “call of duty as a Moke Enthusiast”. It was essential to strike an equal balance for the old enthusiast and the new generation of Moke drivers, like himself. After redesigning and reengineering more than 160 new parts the MOKE was brought back, better than ever. “It has the same spirit, the same style and is just as suave as the original Moke”, says Young.

Michael Young x CIGA Design – Templates Watch

The Template watch hopes to merge the movement and face into one singular piece. It isn’t as much a skeletal watch as it is a work of art that also displays the watch’s fine engineering. Yet another winner of the iF Gold Award, the Template Watch flips the tradition of having a plain watch-face and integrating a transparent exhibition back to showcase the watch’s movement. Instead, the ornately designed watch-face itself lets you peer through and see certain aspects of the watch’s movement. It balances its ‘industrial aesthetic’ with curved edges on the watch-face, that give it a softness to the appearance.

Michael Young – Oxygen Chair

Perhaps one of the most unusual projects in Michael’s body of work, the Oxygen Chair has a strangely relic-esque quality to it… along with an incredibly interesting manufacturing method. The chairs are molded out of aluminum that’s injected into steel casts along with high-temperature gas at immensely high pressures (hence the name Oxygen Chair). The process is somewhat similar to how rocks are formed, and the resulting chair looks less like metal and more like an excavated block of stone with imperfect, porous surfaces that are almost in line with igneous rocks. Finally, to give the furniture its color, it’s coated in a way similar to ceramic glazing, but with absolutely rustic and unusual results. The final chair challenges the archetypes of furniture and craftsmanship, offering a radically experimental manufacturing method that results in chairs fit to be in a museum!

Michael Young x Lasvit – Homune Table

Once again challenging the archetypes of furniture, the Homune Table combines jewelry and furniture design into one absolutely eye-catching final product. The Homune Table’s base comes hand-blown from amber-glass, giving it an almost gem-like appeal that’s accentuated by the geometric design of the base. The honeycomb structure isn’t just an aesthetic detail, but rather gives the table strength too, while the complete glass design really sets it apart as bordering on glass solitaire.

Michael Young x Christopher Farr – Voronic & Tessellation Rugs

Designed to look less like a fabric rug and more like stained-glass art, the Voronic & Tesselation Rugs is a result of a long-time partnership between Young and rug-company Christopher Farr. The use of voronoi patterns gives the rug an aesthetic that’s a massive deviation from the oriental and occidental rug styles, or even contemporary rugs, that are either rectangular or circular in shape. ‘Voronic’, a hand-knotted rug, and ‘Tessellation’, a hand-tufted version are both designs configured through Young experimenting with a voronoi pattern. This motif is found in nature – where it is perhaps most instantly recognizable as the pattern of a giraffe’s skin, or even in the cellular patterns found on leaves. With various points of shape and color, this rug is infinitely customizable, allowing it to expand as a series, or even be tailor-made to certain spaces/rooms/interior styles.

Young’s work spans nearly three decades, multiple continents, and features clients/brands like Steelcase, Titan, Lacoste, Coca Cola, Absolut, Hair, CIGA Design, Native Union, and many more. He’s been a recipient of multiple awards, including the iF Design Award, Red Dot Design Award, Tokyo Good Design Award, German Design Award, and the Eurobike Awards, among others. Young’s work has even found itself a home in institutions like the Louvre, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Design Museum. Click here to visit Michael Young’s website and see his other works.

The Olympics’ ‘anti-sex’ cardboard beds were designed for sustainability… now they’re preventing virus superspreaders

Back in January 2020, when the interiors of the Olympic village were first unveiled, the sustainable low-carbon beds immediately grabbed attention. They weren’t your normal-looking beds, in fact, they looked a little more ‘recycled’ than usual; because they were. The Japanese had made it abundantly clear that they were going to focus on keeping the Olympics as environmentally friendly as possible. The medals would be made from recycled metal, the Olympic torch was fabricated from pipes previously used in temporary refugee housing during Japan’s deadly earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The beds in the Olympic village too, were crafted from high-resistance cardboard that could easily take on weights of up to 200 kilos… fine for one occupant, maybe not for two. Back then, the design was hailed as a champion of sustainability with a low carbon footprint. Now, it’s a critical design feature that’s helping keep athletes safe by being a social deterrent.

It’s not entirely clear where the rumor began, but like everything viral on the internet, the ‘anti-sex bed’ theory started somewhere on social media. It’s no secret that the Olympics are also an incredibly social event for the athletes, to put it mildly (type ‘Olympic village’ into a Google search bar, and the suggestion invariably recommends ‘condom’). While the beds aren’t “anti-sex” per-se, Tokyo officials seem to be pretty glad that athletes are a little thrown off by the fact that their beds are made of ‘cardboard’. As Japan is dealing with a coronavirus health crisis (much like the rest of the world), it just seems like common sense to not want the athletes to intermingle (2 athletes already tested positive with 21 more kept in isolation). That said, it seems like Airweave – the designers behind the cardboard bed and the recyclable mattress that goes on top of it – isn’t amused at people trolling their high-quality furniture. “Cardboard beds are actually stronger than the one made of wood or steel,” Airweave said in a statement!

Designer: Airweave for Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Ever wondered how those viral TikTok ‘Sunset’ lamps work? Here’s what is inside them…

YouTuber BigCliveDotCom calls it a low-power floodlight using “undesirable LEDs”.

Whether you’re on TikTok or even on Instagram, chances are you’ve stumbled across these ‘sunset’ LED lamps. They’ve pretty much shot to popularity over the last month or two, known for creating a perfect circular projection of ambient light, looking like a sunrise, sunset, or even a circular radial gradient of the rainbow spectrum. Influencers are sharing pictures about it, VICE even wrote an entire article on it, and it’s been plagiarized so many times over, I honestly don’t know who the original creator of this lamp is. What I DO know, however, is that it isn’t worth what it costs.

How the TikTok Viral Sunset Lamp works

The sunset lamp can be basically broken down into three components – the LED, the lens, and a dichroic film that helps get that unique color-gradient. Both the lens and film are made of plastic, and the LED is a basic off-the-shelf component that barely costs a couple of cents when purchased in bulk. To be brutally honest, perhaps the most expensive part of the Sunset Lamp is its shipping fees… but enough product-bashing. Let’s just look at how the lamps work, and how you could potentially build your own for under 5 bucks.

How the TikTok Viral Sunset Lamp works

The way the lamp works is similar to a floodlight, or a car’s headlamp – an LED emits light, which is focused using a lens. Similarly, the sunset lamp uses a small 3W LED along with a dome lens, that refracts the light beams in the shape of a perfect circle. Given that car headlights need to be bright, they even use reflector panels to ‘multiply’ the light, but that isn’t really the case with a sunset lamp that’s more focused on creating an ambient ring of soft light. The Sunset Lamp does, however, come with a special dichroic film that’s glued to the back of the lens (you can see it in the teardown image below) that creates that unique gradient. Different lamps use different films, creating everything from an orange halo to a light yellow one, to even those psychedelic rainbow gradients. The dichroic film changes color depending on the angle at which a beam of light hits it – causing that halo effect with colors changing from the center towards the edge.

How the TikTok Viral Sunset Lamp works

What you’ve got at the end of the day is quite a masterclass in branding too. Calling it a low-intensity floodlight wouldn’t move as many pieces as calling it a ‘sunset lamp’ does. It’s easier to grasp, sounds more poetic, and resonates well with its audience – the same way a ‘Retina Display’ sounds much better than a ‘display with high pixel density’. Couple that with the fact that the lamp absolutely took off on TikTok and it really helps explain the product’s sheer success.

If you still find the idea of a Sunset Lamp rather intriguing but you don’t want to spend an average of $25 to buy your own, you could easily build one using parts available online. Just look for a good ‘condenser lens’ on the web (they come for a bunch of cents on AliExpress) and pick up a cheap nightlight from your nearby hardware shop and you can practically put together your own sunset lamp for a couple of bucks. You can get your hands on dichroic film from a gift shop too (just test out those metallic gift-wrapping papers) or better still, just take a marker to the back of your dome lens and color it in.

Or if you’re just plain lazy, go ahead and buy one off Amazon.

How the TikTok Viral Sunset Lamp works

How the TikTok Viral Sunset Lamp works

Click Here to Buy Now

How Michelangelo’s Statue of David helped inspire one of the most beautiful, home-friendly speaker designs ever

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

The fact that fabric is now considered an industrial design material can be directly attributed to Google. When the company first designed smart speakers for homes, it deliberately looked to interior decor for inspiration. In came soft forms, fabric clads, leather trims, and home-friendly color palettes. Google’s smart home products played a pivotal role in reinventing how home appliances are designed to fit into their domestic surroundings rather than look like gadgets, and it’s something the Torso Speaker embraces so incredibly well with its statuesque design that draws inspiration from marble sculptures from the Greco-Roman times. The speaker’s bust-shape is a rather literal interpretation of turning gadgets into home-friendly decor, but there’s something immensely poetic about how it draws a balance between the two! By drawing from the beauty and perfection of marble sculptures, the speaker echoes those very attributes too – elegance, beauty, perfection.

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

What the Torso does is quite literally show us that we’re in a Renaissance period of smart home-appliance design. Speakers are being made to blend into surroundings, with them sometimes looking like lamps, furniture, or even as IKEA’s demonstrated, photo-frames. Designer Yang Dong Wook created the Torso speaker in the image of Michelangelo’s bust of David, bringing its nuanced classical qualities into product design. Created as a part of Samsung’s Design Membership Program, the Torso speaker explores the relationship between interiors and gadgets (sort of the same way Samsung’s Serif TV did). The speaker looks remarkably like an abstract bust you’d proudly place on your mantelpiece, displaying for all your guests to see. It adopts the same shapes, contours, and tilts as the Bust of David, with the slanted shoulders and the slightly angled head, resulting in an incredibly expressive form.

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

The speaker’s built to scale and serves a highly elevated decorative purpose in its surroundings. Its neck acts as a vessel, allowing you to use the speaker as a vase or a place to hang your ornaments, and that gray finish gives it a pristine marble-like appearance too.

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

While the upper part of the Torso serves as a vase-like container, its collar area comes outfitted with the speakers, sitting under a fabric clad. The speakers fire forwards (because of how the Torso has a very definite front profile), while passive radiator channels in the bottom create a reverberating bass.

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

The controls for the speaker are located on the shoulder of the bust. A power button on the left lets you switch the Torso on or off, and a Bluetooth button on the right lets you connect a device. The shoulder-bridge sports a touch-sensitive volume slider, so increasing or decreasing the volume becomes an incredibly interactive, almost sensual experience, as you drag your fingertip down the Torso’s shoulder. Talk about a product having sex appeal!!

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

The Torso speaker does a few things pretty adeptly. For designers and companies, it shows how inspiration can be found practically anywhere. For a consumer, it unlocks an absolutely new category of products that redefine tech and home decor completely, combining the timeless beauty of Greco-Roman sculptures with a contemporary, functional product… but most importantly, for the vast design movement, it shows how a design can have a timeless quality to it, by borrowing from something that’s truly iconic, classical, and evergreen in its allure!

Designer: Yang Dong Wook

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Facebook just filed a patent for a baseball cap with a built-in AR headset and it looks terribly cringe

This is an opinion piece. All views expressed in this article belong to me, the editor.

I don’t believe in punching down. As the editor of a pretty well-to-do design magazine, it makes little sense to call out individual designers and students over their work. I do, however, believe in being able to hold larger companies and billion-dollar OEMs to a different standard. There is power in being able to critique designs and help the world understand what’s measurably good and what isn’t… which is why I think it’s alright to sometimes critically look at Apple’s Cheesegrater Mac, the Tesla Cybertruck, or in this case, Facebook’s AR Baseball Cap which is frankly ugly enough to make Google Glass look cutting-edge.

Outlined in a patent filed back in 2019, and spotted just this week by Founders Legal, it looks like Facebook’s working on a more accessible AR headset that can be worn everyday, anywhere. The AR headset exists as a snapback-style cap (although there’s a fedora version too) with a flip-to-open display built into its visor. Facebook describes the design for its forward-thinking headgear as an alternative to traditional AR headsets and goggles that can often appear thick and clunky. In doing so, instead of opting for a more sci-fi design, Facebook believes that integrating the headgear into something like a cap or hat that people wear around every day, is a much better solution. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help cringing at the very thought of a sci-fi fedora. In fact, Facebook even indicates that this foldable display system can easily integrate into different cap styles, including potentially even (and this was actually referenced in the patent file) cowboy hats.

Gizmodo writes: It might look extremely silly, but in its patent filing Facebook says there are some notable advantages of a design like this. It makes it easier to position potentially hot electronics farther away from someone’s face, thereby increasing overall comfort and wearability. The length of the visor also makes it easy for Facebook to position AR components like cameras, sensors, etc. It sounds practical in theory, but looks far from aesthetic if you ask me for my completely subjective opinion. The idea of having to wear a cap so that I can access AR functions seems odd. Not to mention the fact that casualwear and cutting-edge tech don’t necessarily go hand in hand. It’s an incredibly delicate tightrope when you’re walking between tech and fashion – Apple’s excelled in this domain, Google’s had a few hits and misses. I don’t think Facebook’s got this one in the bag.

With news about Apple working on AR glasses, it would almost seem like the sensible move to adopt that direction too. More than 70% of all adults wear glasses as opposed to probably the 20-ish percent who wear baseball caps and fedoras on a daily basis. That’s discounting the fact that an even smaller number of people actually wear caps indoors. Besides, I really don’t know if there’s any data on how many people want cyberpunkish fedoras with built-in AR displays. Those numbers are yet to be collected.

Images Credits: Andrew Bosworth (Facebook Technologies, LLC.)

The only thing I absolutely hate about the Google Pixel 6 is how ugly its cases are going to be…

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

The Google Pixel 6 is coming… and with it, a barrage of hideous cases that completely destroy its beautiful aesthetic.

Roughly a month ago Jon Prosser claimed he had credible information regarding how the upcoming Google Pixel 6 would look. The images he shared with the world showed a radical new design that had a pretty standout visual detail – an elongated camera bump that covered the entire phone’s width… it was less of a bump and more of a ‘bumper’. My own personal thoughts on the design were mixed, although I have to admit it was refreshing to see Google investing effort into its Pixel range after an extremely lackluster performance last year. I am, however, having second thoughts after seeing the kinds of smartphone cases appearing on websites like Alibaba as we slowly approach the Pixel 6’s launch.

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

You see, that camera belt may be a design feature, but it’s also a major design flaw once you consider that most smartphone users would end up buying protective cases to shield their expensive smartphones from damage. The benefit with almost every smartphone’s camera bump is that its camera exists INSIDE its body, so when case-designers make cases, the simple solution of navigating around the smartphone’s camera bump is to create a cutout there. The case has a rather manageable hole through which the camera peeks through, sort of like a ski-mask. That, however, isn’t possible with the Pixel 6… A look at the image below should explain why.

The fact that the Pixel 6’s camera module extends all the way from the left to the right makes it very difficult to create one single cutout. If one were to simply go about creating a camera hole, you’d essentially have a case that exists in two parts that are barely connected together near the middle. The case becomes a merely decorative product that simply protects the edges of the smartphone, giving no cover to the cameras, which in the case of the Pixel 6, are dangerously exposed. The only way to really overcome this problem and make a proper case would be to design OVER the phone’s wide camera bump, adding another 1-2 millimeters to it and making the bump EVEN LARGER. The cutout would then exist only around the lenses and not the bump itself… as you can see in the image below.

This ‘technical’ solution spells disaster for the Pixel 6’s aesthetics. It exaggerates the phone’s elongated camera bump, turning an elegant detail into an ugly caricature… and the minute you choose an opaque cover over a transparent one, it practically conceals every element of the Pixel 6’s design, making it look like “just another phone”, albeit with a monstrous bump around its camera, exposing a major flaw in Google’s design approach to the Pixel 6 – that smartphone designs exist in a bubble where phone-makers expect you to NOT put protective cases on expensive and fragile phones. Not Okay, Google.

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

Images via: Alibaba

Tesla hasn’t produced any new cars in over 2 years… but it can’t stop announcing them.

[This is an Editorial. The views, opinions, and positions expressed in this article are my own.]

Tesla’s most popular car to date, the Model 3, was announced in 2016. Its most recent production unit, the Model Y, was announced in March of 2019, more than 2 years ago. Ever since that moment up until now, Tesla’s debuted the Roadster 2nd Gen, the Tesla Semi, the Cybertruck, the Cyberquad, and finally today, an updated Roadster 2nd Gen (SpaceX Package). It hasn’t committed to a delivery date for any of them.

Imagine you ordered the iPhone 12 in 2020, and Apple said it would deliver the smartphone to you in 2021. You wait for a year and instead of receiving an iPhone 12, you receive news that Apple, instead of working on producing and delivering the iPhone 12, spent all that time designing an iPhone 12S. Apple now has two conceptual products in its catalog, and you, the consumer, have nothing in your hand. That’s the short story of the Tesla Roadster. If you’re one of the thousands of people who have been waiting for the 2nd Gen Roadster since 2019, you probably feel pretty annoyed that Tesla already announced a better version without even delivering on its previous version. You can’t even buy the Roadster 1st Gen since the company promptly discontinued it. In short, the Roadster is basically a myth at this point… quite like the Cybertruck.

Along with its Roadster 2nd Gen update, Tesla also sent a shoutout mail to the millions of people who ordered a Cybertruck saying… well, saying that the company hadn’t even begun producing it yet. The pickup truck, which was scheduled for delivery in 2021 will start production at the end of 2021. In short, that $100 pre-order you gave to the car company was just one massive paid newsletter program. You’re not going to receive cars by a long stretch in time… you’re just going to receive updates.

All this sort of proves one point that many people have been making for a while now. Let’s first start by acknowledging that producing cars is HARD. It’s an absolute herculean task taking a sketch or a concept render all the way to production – it requires a tonne of money, man-power, infrastructure, a robust supply chain, international cooperation, extensive testing, and a marketing team on steroids. That being said, it’s safe to opine that Tesla isn’t selling cars anymore – it’s selling hype, and more than an entrepreneur, Elon is a hypeman. There’s no doubt that Tesla is at the very forefront of innovation, but it’s difficult to digest that the company’s worth shot up from $75 billion in 2019, to $559 billion today when it hasn’t produced a single new car in the interim.

Full disclosure, I own Tesla stock. I saw its meteoric rise last year and fall this year. I’d love to drag Elon through the mud for being the market manipulator dudebro he is. Ever since his $420 tweet up until now, where he somehow has the power to make cryptocurrency values rise or fall just by tweeting about them, Musk is nothing but a self-proclaimed hustler but this isn’t about him, it’s about the effect he has on Tesla’s ability to hold its ground as a car manufacturer instead of becoming a hype manufacturer.

For the sake of context, let’s just look at what Tesla announced this weekend. The company’s NY account announced that the Roadster prototype was being showcased at the Petersen Automotive Museum, to which Elon promptly announced that the production model would look even better than the prototype, and a special SpaceX package (courtesy a collaboration between two of Elon’s companies) would see the Roadster getting a major acceleration upgrade of 0-60 in 1.1 seconds, thanks to the presence of cold air rocket thrusters built right into the automobile. Sounds fancy, right? Well, it also sounds imaginary because the Roadster IS imaginary. Those specs mean nothing if the product doesn’t exist. It’s a lot like Musk’s fancy underground tunnel network, which was supposed to help cars avoid traffic by blitzing through sub-surface tunnels at nearly the speed of sound. A demo video released by The Boring Company showed pretty much that, except the cars were moving at a paltry 40mph. Musk also was responsible for major fanfare around Neuralink, his revolutionary brain-augmenting hardware company. Their first major demo had nothing except for a few pigs demonstrating how the Neuralink chip could read brainwaves. Impressive, sure. Is it what Elon promised? Not by a far shot.

The irony of me being the editor of a design website that primarily covers conceptual content isn’t lost on me. However, those concepts don’t trade on the stock market. After a certain point, what’s the difference between Tesla and some designer with a Behance profile – they both announce concepts, except one of them’s a $559 billion-dollar company. What’s the point of innovation if it won’t exist for another half-decade (a conservative guess, no less)… we’re also assuming that Tesla will actually deliver on these promises – so if it doesn’t, how is Tesla any different than Theranos or Magic Leap??

You see, the reason I used Apple as an example earlier on is that barring the AirPower, Apple’s always been absolutely 100% certain of its capabilities. It announces products it intends on delivering in the near future. Apple is great at innovating WHILE managing its expectations… and if Tesla wants to be treated as a disruptor and a company modeled on the fast-paced Silicon Valley modus operandi, it better deliver too. Not on ideas, not on random flip-flops between fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies, but on expectations. Sure, I understand that car-companies often announce models that take a year or two to produce. However, Tesla isn’t most car companies, and the Roadster still doesn’t have a definite set-in-stone delivery date even 2 years post its announcement. Heck, the Cybertruck was announced 20 months ago and it still won’t begin production for another 6 months at the least. There’s no doubt in my mind that electric cars are the future… but let’s face it, every tweet Elon sends needs to end with “Terms and Conditions Apply”.

Designer Charlie Nghiem imagines what the Tesla Roadster SpaceX Package could look like

Ten Podcasts you should listen to if you’re a Creative or a Designer in 2021

Working from home comes with its perks, but also with its fair share of loneliness. I like being the king of my castle and working in my pajamas, but for most of the time I spend working, I stay alone. I’ve been listening to YouTube videos in the background for a while now, but I only installed my first podcast app in 2018. Over the last two years (primarily 2019), podcasts have been my way of surrounding myself with informative (and sometimes comedic) chitchat. Podcasts are a great way to pass time while you’re sketching, or searching Pinterest for mood-board images, or selecting multiple edges and faces of a solid to apply a complex variable fillet on. I personally love listening to them as I eat, travel, edit images I need to add to my articles, or while tinkering around with design software. These podcasts are a lovely way to fill the silent gaps in your average WFH day, and offer a great alternative to the discourse you’d have at your workplace, be it about design, tech, creativity, self-help, or occasionally, even politics. Here are my 2021 picks for podcasts to listen to if you’re a creative.

1. TheFutur Podcast

Led by TheFutur team and Chris Do (who recently launched a book too), TheFutur Podcast is literally like going to design university for free, which is why we put it on the top of our list this year. Chris Do is one of the most prolific design gurus of our time and offers excellent advice on common design problems, whether it’s what to charge as a designer, to whether you should follow your passion or paycheck. TheFutur Podcast oscillates between insightful debates to meaningful interviews with designers in the industry who share their own tips and tricks to ‘making it’ in the diz-biz (that’s what I’m calling it from now on). They have some great videos on YouTube too.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify

2. Solvable

Solvable showcases the world’s most innovative thinkers and their proposed solutions to the world’s most daunting problems. Conducted by Malcolm Gladwell (Revisionist History) and Jacob Weisberg, these interviews explore and acknowledge the complexity of the issues while inspiring hope that the problems are, as the name of the title suggests, solvable. The show tackles broader systemic problems like global hunger, vaccine distribution, destructive agriculture, the tech gender gap, and so on.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify

3. Food by Design: an IDEO Podcast

Perhaps one of the biggest systems challenges to ever present itself to us – the way we grow, produce, distribute, and consume our food. From the fine chaps at IDEO, this podcast tackles the various aspects of our complex food chain… from how we grow our plants to how much we tip our waiters. Listen in just to get a sense of how one of the world’s largest creative consultancies thinks and works.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify

4. Designed This Way

Designed This Way is the east’s answer to Design Matters with Debbie Millman. Hosted by Kawal Oberoi, a graphic designer and brand consultant from India, Designed This Way lets you be a fly on the wall as Kawal has candid conversations with leading designers from India and even outside the subcontinent. The podcast helps uncover “not just the stories of courage, hard work, and success but also the stories of mistakes, rejections, and doubts.” A great podcast to listen to if you want to know more about a country that is only just discovering the power of design, and more about the people leading the way.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify

5. The Honest Designers Show

The Honest Designers Show is one of my most frequently recommended podcasts for designers. Rather than dealing with in-depth interviews, it feels like sitting in the break room with fellow designers and literally talking about design. Hosted by Tom Ross, Ian Barnard, Dustin Lee, and Lisa Glanz (all accomplished designers in their own right), the podcast never fails to tackle relevant topics and deliver some key insights to designers about various things, from working with creative blocks, to using social media to your to propel your portfolio, determining your value as a freelancer, and even working effectively with your clients.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify

6. Should This Exist?

A question every designer must ask before creating a product or a solution, ‘Should This Exist?’ tackles the toughest part of being a creative. It questions whether products are solving problems or exacerbating them, and presents you with a perspective that makes you wonder whether the act of creation requires more scrutiny. Give this podcast a listen, it’ll recalibrate your empathy and world-view. The podcast hasn’t released any episodes this year, but every one of its episodes from the past is a gold-mine. Personal favorite episodes – “When your invention becomes a weapon”, and “Tell your troubles to the chatbot”.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify

7. This Week In Tech

The last word in tech is the first news of the week. This Week In Tech is hosted every Sunday night, so you begin your week with the freshest news and perspectives on the world of tech. Hosted by Leo Laporte, this one’s special to me because it’s the first podcast I ever listened to. In fact, it’s been running for so long, it used to be called a netcast before the word podcast was in the mainstream. Leo brings his wisdom and humor together along with a panel of the who’s who in tech journalism. Add this to your list if you like a slice of technology news along with your design breakfast every week. The show is available in a video format too, you can use the YouTube button below to view their episodes.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube

8. Creative Confidence Podcast

The podcast follows in the footsteps of the book Creative Confidence by IDEO founders David and Tom Kelly. Think of it as a TED Talk just for creatives – The IDEO U Creative Confidence Podcast hosts candid conversations with some of today’s most inspiring change makers, design thinkers, and creative minds. What’s even more refreshing is that the show meticulously sources and invites guests from incredibly gender and race-diverse backgrounds.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify

9. Working

The greatness of design is that its goal lies in helping uplift other industries and fields. Being a designer often means working with (and often looking at the world through the eyes of) people from a wide variety of professions, whether they’re businessmen, scientists, doctors, engineers, celebrities, etc. Working is a podcast that dives into how different professions work and how professionals in these fields go about their day. With over 200 episodes and counting, Working interviews a complete gamut of people, from curators at MoMA, to husbands of influencers, coders at NASA, firefighters, and even a few designers too. A great way to understand how professions work, how systems function, and even to help spot areas of intervention in these systems for creative problem-solving.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify

10. Product Hunt Radio

Coming from the popular product discovery site, Product Hunt, this weekly podcast show has Ryan Hoover and Abadesi Osunsade interview founders, investors, journalists, and makers to discuss today’s products and tomorrow’s topics. Whether it’s in the field of design, funding, marketing, or even of podcasts, the show finds out how people found success in their industries, and what lies in the future for them and the world.
WebsiteApple PodcastsSpotify