LAYER Design’s flexible chair is based on human psychology and sports

Being in the house all the time, many of us are on Pinterest making mood boards of furniture we wished we had! On that board is my all-time favorite studio, LAYER Design, who has unveiled a chair called Membrane which I want for two reasons – 1) a change of scenery in my home so I can have something new to chill on and 2) because it is a beautifully crafted product that works for a flexible lifestyle. The current times have taught us a lot, and one of those things is choosing products that are highly functional in various situational settings.

The Membrane has been described as a highly engineered, ultra-lightweight chair that resonates with the flexible needs of future homes which truly shows in the details of its build. Its form and function were based on qualitative research from the sports industry and combined with minimal visuals which resulted in this sustainable chair. The assembly is simple – there are 8 supporting tubes with 2 ring-like tubes that form the structure of the chair. You then pull the stretchy, cushioned fabric over the assembled skeleton and that’s it, that is your chair. If you move houses or want to carry it out for camping, you can just fold the fabric and collect the short tubes to set it up wherever you like.

“We deliver technically demanding solutions that respond meaningfully to human behavioral trends,” says the team. The chair is portable, modern and based on a design strategy that accounts for emotion as strongly as functional needs. The materials used give it an airy appeal unlike the bulky furniture we are used to, it truly lightens (see what I did there?) up the room. LAYER Design wanted to create a chair that was innovative with its material use but also based on the ever-changing human needs and they have delivered it with Membrane.

Designer: LAYER Design

Layer Design’s sustainable glass straws double up as visually engaging centerpieces!

January’s almost coming to an end (yes I know!) and with 2020 hurtling along in full force, being eco-friendly is now a way of life. There’s simply no excuse for hurting the environment, which includes using the nefarious disposable plastic straws. Metal and paper alternatives are available, but metallic straws tend to alter the flavor of our drinks, and the paper ones disintegrate before we can even manage to finish our drinks.

In an attempt to create a solution, Benjamin Hubert of London-based design agency Layer collaborated with design magazine Surface to produce the Surface Straws! Created from recycled borosilicate glass, these straws are sculptural beauties. Recyclable, reusable, hypoallergenic, and easy to clean and maintain, these aesthetic straws also make for eye-catching centerpieces! Each straw comes in different height and diameter, so they’re perfect for sipping on any drink, whether it’s a stress-relieving cocktail, a frothy milkshake, or maybe that glass of water your body needs! The triad of straws come in subtle shades of green, with one bordering on grey. The different heights and complementary color schemes of the straws add on to their visual appeal.

Placed within a glass bell jar, supported by a recycled rubber base, the straws resemble the branches of a tree, interweaving with another to create a nature-inspired organic display. The glass straws can be used time and again, ideal for hot and cold drinks, with their visual appeal transforming them into items we can use every day with joy!

Designer: Benjamin Hubert of Layer with Surface Magazine

These colourful chairs and screens were surplus parachutes once upon a time!

Today designers leave no material untouched in their attempt to create the most unique and innovative designs. Whether it’s recycled metals, cork, coconut fibers, you name it and the best of designers can incorporate it! Benjamin Hubert’s design agency Layer and the responsible fashion studio Raeburn came together to explore such a territory. Their ‘Canopy Collection’ consists of recycled parachute material wrapped over welded steel frames to create four rocking chairs and two screens. The collaboration was an attempt to merge both the respective brands’ passion for sustainability and their ever-growing interest in “recontextualizing undervalued materials”.

Designers: Layer x Raeburn

Combining two completely different worlds; industrial design and fashion, “The collection presents a timeless design language of strict geometry which acts as a framework for Raeburn’s innovative and forward-thinking recycled parachute upholstery.” Layer and Raeburn scrounged through the archives of Raeburn, to study how the brand has previously repurposed surplus ex-military parachutes to create statement fashion pieces. The unique ideas were transformed and integrated with furniture design.

“The Canopy Collection uses the strict geometry of the steel frames as a base on which to experiment with innovative and forward-thinking recycled parachute upholstery,” said the masterminds behind the collection. It is inspired by the semantics of a parachute in-flight “The lounge chair gently rocks back and forth whilst the re-configurable screen takes inspiration from the section and construction of a wing.” The entire collection reminds me of a billowy parachute wavering in the air, and then subtly settling onto the ground.

Though all the rocking chairs are crafted out of surplus ex-military parachutes and aircraft brake parachutes, they all exhibit varied auras and forms. One of them is multi-colored, boasting vivid tones of orange, white and olive green, while still possessing a very simple aesthetic. The screens are a result of the parachute material being stretched tacitly on the metal base, following a color scheme of orange, green and white as well. Reconfigurable, the screens can be easily opened and closed and moved to wherever you would want them to be placed.

Whereas two of the other rocking chairs showcase a tousled-feathery look, created by draping layers of the material over the steel structure, giving the entire piece a raw and rugged feel. They come in shades of black and white respectively, providing a stark contrast to one another.

Launched during the London Design Festival, the collection is all set to be exhibited at Raeburn’s new SOHO, London store. With an intense combination of fashion, sustainability, a well thought out design, and vibrant colors, this collection is sure to be a hit!

Layer x Panasonic’s line of futuristic products to improve everything, from cooking to skincare!

With our hectic, fast-paced lives wherein we barely get a moment to breathe, paying attention to our well being has never been more critical. Benjamin Hubert’s Layer and Panasonic have decided to lend us a helping hand with this! Their recent collaboration led to the creation of ‘Balance of Being’, a collection of six near-future design concepts that were presented at IFA 2019. The collection has one and only one aim: to promote our wellbeing and help us feel better with products that can be used at home! It explores “how we can have meaningful engagements with products and how we take care of ourselves.” The products consist of a smart cooking appliance, a skin analyzing device combined with a smoothie maker, a smart head massager, an LED light treatment for hair and two more smart skincare devices (yes, skincare is high up on their list of concerns).

“Balance of Being aims to close this gap between technology and our lifestyles, focusing more on human interaction, comfort, enhancing our lifestyles, and providing truly meaningful experiences with technology allowing us to bond with one another instead of our devices,” added Rowan Williams, creative lead from Panasonic Design’s London team. And I must say, their products do seem to be a reflection of that.

The Grow device uses advanced LED light treatment to promote hair growth. Grow understand’s every individual’s hair condition and structure to identify the appropriate treatment for our hair and it’s follicles!

Lift is a smart cooking and food maturing appliance which uses advanced heat and pressure technology, along with a sensor positioned within the device to ‘lift’ the food to its optimal nutritional state or in other words to retain all the much-needed nutrients! The device was created with an intention to encourage all members of the family, including younger generations to participate in cooking and healthier eating.

The Shot is the device I find the most interesting! It’s a two in one skincare device and smoothie maker! The Shot uses a camera placed at the front of the device and AI to analyze our skin. After receiving the results, Shot creates a smoothie specially curated for our skin type and it’s unique needs using a concoction of frozen fruits and vegetables. The smoothie is jampacked with vitamins and minerals to enhance your health, giving you the perfect radiant skin you have always wanted by addressing your health concerns from the inside.

Tone is a skincare device that will sit comfortably on our necks while using LED and steam treatment to improve our complexion and health of our skin. It uses AI to examine our skin, and devices a personalized self-care regime, so our skin has the glow it truly deserves!

Need a stress-relieving head massage? Well, that’s exactly what Wave is here for. Wave is a smart massaging device that can be used to relieve stress anywhere at any time (yes, even at work)! The portable massager maps and evaluates the level of tension and then determines the length of time, method and intensity of the treatment.

Layer and Panasonic have added another handy skincare device, but one that works when we’re asleep! It understands the needs of skin even in our sleeping state, to provide us with a lighting and steam treatment that enhances our skin. Asleep or awake, it seems like the Balance of Being has got all our needs covered!

“We are curious about how we engage with products and the knowledge that they can build of us and our families,” said Panasonic Design’s creative director, Takehiro Ikeda. And it seems like their curiosity has lead to a series of products that provide assistance in almost every aspect of our personal health and well being. We don’t know when these products will be available to the public, but here’s hoping it’s sometime soon because we all need some self-pampering and as for me well I need it ASAP!

Layer Design and Airbus bring the ‘class’ back to economy class

The bane of air-travel, aside from noisy children and overpriced peanuts of course, is the fact that you’re stuck in an uncomfortable chair with practically no cushioning and hardly any leg-room. The economy class of an airplane is designed to be just that… economical. It sacrifices comfort, the need of personal space, and probably even its share of functionality just to make sure it can host as many passengers on the plane. We justify this mild discomfort because “it’s only for a few hours, right?”

In collaboration with Airbus, Benjamin Hubert of LAYER Design has developed what may just be the future of the economy class. An 18-month long project, Hubert’s transformed the very idea of the economy class without compromising on the quantitative nature of economical travel. Introducing smart fabrics that fit futuristic possibilities into a single sheet of cloth, and a thin, strong frame that holds everything together (along with a pretty remarkable tray system), Hubert and Airbus’s design, titled ‘Move’, allows seating to remain thin yet comfortable, and even makes accommodations for entertainment, storage, and even the so-far-unsolvable problem of legroom. The result is seating that occupies less space, but doesn’t let that be perceived as a con. It makes up for everything with top-notch design, engineering, and technology, allowing the economical class to feel classy.

THE SEAT – MATERIAL

The Move employs a smart textile seat cover (polyester wool blend – for heat regulation, robustness, and tactility – with integrated conductive yarn) that’s mounted on a robust aircraft grade aluminium and carbon fibre frame. “The knitted seat cover has zones of various density knit that offer different levels of support to the body. Throughout the journey, the Move seat automatically adjusts based on passenger weight, size, and movement to maintain optimal ergonomic comfort”, says Hubert. “This is made possible by passing current through the conductive yarn to vary the seat tension. The passenger can make additional adjustments to the seat based on personal preference using the Move app. The Move app can also be used to engage different seat modes, such as ‘massage’, ‘mealtime’, or ‘sleep’.”

THE SEAT – COMFORT

With a set fabric that can change density, flexibility, and even temperature, the Move doesn’t need to worry about integrating foam panels for cushioning, and even ditches the reclining mechanism. The reclining mechanism helps chairs feel more relaxing by changing one’s posture. However, a posture change also results in the eternal legroom problem. “The position of the seat is fixed – which addresses the issue of ‘legroom rage’ caused by passengers unnecessarily reclining on shorter flights”- instead, the chair’s fabric possesses the ability to learn from your posture, build, and body temperature, helping you sit in a way that feels comfortable to you. This could mean heating the chair up or cooling it down… or even tightening the fabric near the kidneys for greater lumbar support, or relaxing the overall textile for a more hammock-like feel.

THE TRAY TABLE + STORAGE

The Move also integrates a display and tray unit on the back of each seat. The display unit delivers key information, and even comes with an optional In Flight Entertainment module that can fit in its place. The tray unit combines functionalities too, serving as an emergency exit map when closed, and a fully height-adjustable tray when opened out. Right under it is a pocket to store your belongings, and the Move even comes with a sleeve to store laptops and tablets underneath the seats (between individual chairs). The laptop sleeves come made with a pressure sensitive yarn too, reminding you to collect your belongings while deboarding the plane.

DESIGN DETAILS

Move’s design is quite a departure from the usual defensive design of economical class seating which sort of acts as a psychological reminder that the Business Class is better and more desirable. Hubert uses a beautiful gradiented fabric to make the plane’s interiors more eye-catching, feeling more like a theater and less like the waiting room at an ER. Height adjustable armrests let you go from compartmentalized to bench-style seating, and the headrests even curve inwards, providing a great pillow to rest your head against, while also allowing you to get that private, cocooned feeling. My favorite detail is the fact that they even come with the seat number embroidered/printed directly on the headrest so you’ll never find yourself struggling to locate your seat by constantly holding up your boarding pass to double check for your spot! And it does all this without altering or tinkering with the orientation or the layout of seats, but rather just upgrading the seat as a singular unit.

Designers: Benjamin Hubert (LAYER) & Airbus.

A Maker of Morning People

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The latest in a history of collaborations between the designers at LAYER and tech brand nolii, the aptly named Rise lamp aims to make each day one you look forward to!

First and foremost, it works wirelessly, eliminating the need for cumbersome cords while giving users the ability to take it from room to room, wherever dimmable LED light is needed. A battery located in the base provides up to 12 hours of light time and it can even supplement power to your smartphone and other devices with an integrated USBC ports. That’ll also come in handy because you’ll be able to use your smartphone to control the light which also works in tandem with your alarm. Speaking of which, the design sports a “sunrise alarm” feature that will gently ease you into the day with a natural light progression that mimics that of the morning sun–which has been shown to improve your mood and overall outlook on life!

Designer: Benjamin Hubert of LAYER for nolii

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Footwear that Never Ends and Only Changes

A recent winner of the 2018 James Dyson Award, the Layer shoe explores modularity and sustainability without sacrificing style. Designed using biodegradable and recycled materials, users can customize their shoe from the start and continue to repair and reimagine their footwear to keep up with trends or adapt to their changing style over time.

The product arrives with the uppers, soles, insoles, and fastening laces fully assembled. If one of the components wears out, users can replace just that part. Its unique lacing system requires the user to fasten the upper and sole when replacing any of the 3. This encourages the wearer to have a greater connection to the footwear in which they’ve had a hand in making. Using a convenient online ordering platform, users can cipher through a selection of different recycled parts in a variety of different colors and finishes to create a look that’s all their own.

Designer: Evan Stuart

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INSPIRATION

Recently, “Fast Fashion” trends have resulted in shoes becoming seasonal, cheap and disposable products. However, at what cost to our planet and our society? Unfortunately, it is a fact that it is incredibly difficult to recycle footwear. Each year, roughly 22.5 billion pairs of shoes are made and 300 million pairs are discarded to landfill because they cannot be recycled. Most casual footwear is designed to be bonded and glued together in manufacture but are not designed to be repaired. Layer was designed as a possible solution to reduce footwear waste. It is a statement to the industry that sustainable footwear is a viable alternative.

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DESIGN PROCESS

This project required an in-depth understanding of the current issues of footwear recycling, product manufacture and it’s end of life. Initial research began with several interviews with industry experts in textile recycling and multiple site visits were arranged to view textile recycling companies. Over the course of 2 months of research, process studies and focus groups it was discovered that most footwear waste is generated because shoes cannot be easily separated back to individual materials. With this key insight, ideation and concept generation began. The importance of developing ideas in tandem with verifying them in a physical form was essential. Over 43 physical working models were explored to design a viable attachment mechanism. A lacing method was chosen. Initial prototypes were generated using EVA foam and cardboard reinforcing. These low fidelity prototypes were essential in understanding basic footwear principles. After analyzing and improving the design, a high fidelity functional prototype was created by utilizing various design techniques including CAD, 3D printing, molding and casting. Polyurethane was used to create flexible soles, while all other materials are the intended final materials and sourced from suppliers specializing in recycled polyester fabrics.”

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HOW IT WORKS

Based on the idea that footwear waste can be eliminated from landfills around the world, Layer allows users to repair and customise their shoes to keep up with trends. By creating products from biodegradable plastics and recycled polyester fabrics this decreases the overall impact of the product. Initially, the product will be purchased by the customer and arrive fully assembled. Comprising of four key components: The Uppers, Soles, Insoles and a Fastening Lace, the shoe is totally repairable. In time, as parts wear, tear and date, the user can replace individual parts with ease by ordering new ones online. A lacing system is used to sew the uppers to the shoe soles. Beginning at a start point, the user threads the lace through both parts until the reaching the endpoint. These endpoints fasten the parts together, preventing the lace from coming undone.

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Layer’s new wearable crypto-wallet is a CMF paradise!

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Aside from being a state-of-the-art piece of tech that houses your crypto-coins in an un-hackable offline device, the Trove is just refreshingly different to look at. Shaped literally like a coin, the Trove is simply secure, and its designers call it unhackable and unloseable.

Keeping your crypto-coins offline, the Coin is a physical representation of a cryptocoin, and something that you can wear on your person as a necklace or a wristband. Aside from safely storing your cryptocoins offline, it comes with a state-of-the-art ECG sensor to even take the worry of remembering passwords. Simply press your skin against the Coin and it reads your unique bio-rhythm (the rhythm at which your heart beats) to identify you from the others, eliminating the need to remember complex passwords for your crypto-wallet. With a slim Kvadrat wristband and neckband, you can wear the Coin on your person, carrying it around with you, and pairing it with your phone to use the cryptocurrency within.

Aside from the remarkable technology behind the workings of the coin, it’s more of the aesthetic that we’re wowed by. Benjamin Hubert pushed for a finish that’s virtually unseen with the “Aerated Aluminum” construction of the coin. Looking like a pristine, polished piece of pumice rock, the Coin is simply wonderful to look at and has a tactile quality that’s unmatched. It looks wonderfully ornamental on one’s person, and pairs brilliantly with the Keep, a charging platform made for the Coin. The Keep is actually made from pumice, a volcanic rock that’s known for its bubbly, aerated physical appearance. Place the Coin on the Keep and it inductively charges the wearable, while the two of them look just beautifully complementary with their perforated aesthetic. The keep even comes with a tinted acrylic case to ‘preserve’ the Coin, making it look almost like a relic.

The Trove aims at making cryptocurrency storage more secure, while effectively introducing another category to the wearable market. It also showcases a new type of aluminum production, aerated aluminum, that not only looks incredibly natural and unique but also results in lighter products that use less material too. I can’t wait to see this being used more!

Designer: Benjamin Hubert/Layer

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