By Blog of Lists - Friday, December 7, 2012 - 0 Comments
1. Lucky iron fish: When Cambodian villagers were hemorrhaging during childbirth due to a lack of iron, University of Guelph researcher Christopher Charles found an answer—throw a small chunk of iron, designed to look like a local river fish, into cooking pots. The result: a huge decrease in anemia. “The iron fish is incredibly powerful,” says Charles.
2. Double-red traffic light: One in 10 Canadian men are colour-blind, a potential problem when driving. But in Quebec, Omer Martineau’s double-red traffic light design helps drivers distinguish between frequency and shape, proving that two reds are probably better than one.
3. Water Bobble: Each year an estimated 100 million plastic bottles flow through Toronto’s waste system. But the Water Bobble bottle, by Karim Rashid, has a replaceable carbon filter able to filter chlorine and contaiments from up to 150 l of water, all for $9.99 a Bobble.
4. Palm fibre packaging: Earthcycle Packaging, based in B.C., with design company Tangram, created compostable palm fibre packaging. Earthcycle’s coffee holders and produce netting decompose in about six months.
5. The Nouse: The Nouse—or “nose as mouse”—is from the National Research Council of Canada and allows disabled users to control computers with the tip of their nose and to click with a double-blink.
Source: David Berman, author of Do Good Design
Have you ever wondered which cities have the most bars, smokers, absentee workers and people searching for love? What about how Canada compares to the world in terms of the size of its military, the size of our houses and the number of cars we own? The answers to all those questions, and many more, can be found in the first ever Maclean’s Book of Lists.
Buy your copy of the Maclean’s Book of Lists at the newsstand or order online now.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 4:05 PM - 0 Comments
One of the more interesting revelations to come out of Apple’s management shuffle this week, which saw iOS software head Scott Forstall turfed because of the Maps fiasco, is the apparent war on skeuomorphism inside One Infinite Loop. For those who aren’t design-minded, a skeuomorph is a product design element that hints at something which previously served a functional role (like spokes on a car’s hub caps).
Forstall was a big proponent of using these sorts of ornamental—some say “tacky”— flourishes in Apple’s software: the green velvet background of the games application, the leather binding on iCal or the wooden bookshelf in Newsstand. The late Steve Jobs also favoured the approach, believing it helped put a soft edge on the sometimes cold world of technology. In fact, Jobs instructed Apple’s software designers to use a linen-like texture in the iPhone’s notifications menu, which is swiped down like a roman blind.
By Scaachi Koul - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 10:27 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian architect’s design faces setbacks as congress refuses to greenlight funding
A proposed memorial for former U.S. president and five-star general Dwight “Ike” D. Eisenhower has stalled after months of controversy, and a Canadian architect is at the centre of it.
Frank Gehry, 83, was initially asked to design Ike’s Washington memorial. Few, however, appear pleased with his designs. The Toronto-born architect wanted to focus on Eisenhower’s humble roots, which bothered conservatives who said that would diminish the legacy he built up during his later years. His family agreed.
Gehry then wanted to erect metal mesh screens around the four-acre plot to hide the drab neighbouring office buildings. Eisenhower’s granddaughter Susan said the screens brought to mind the Iron Curtain, comparing the memorial to those created for Marx, Engels and Lenin. “That was the point at which I could have left the stage,” said Gehry. Perhaps he should have.
Last week, a congressional committee nixed nearly $60 million in funding for the memorial, reflecting growing concern over the controversies. Gehry, however, is pushing ahead. Hope is not lost, says Chris Kelley Cimko, spokesperson for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. After all, she says, “It took some 40 years to build the Roosevelt memorial.”
By John Geddes - Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
The spherical Nexus Q, the new Google device Jesse Brown writes about with critical insight here, is meant to connect your TV, stereo speakers and the movies you’ve rented online. It’s interesting as a bid by Google to grab a technological edge, but the lack of edges on the thing itself is also worth noting.
Roundness is the obvious antidote to the persistent linearity of modern design. Your phone is a rectangle. So is your iPod. The mid-century modern look that defines mainstream cool now more than ever is dominated by corners and cubes and clean lines. Think of the Mad Men offices (or read about the show’s look here). When we talk about the way we’re connected to the world, we use a metaphor of infinite right angles: the grid.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 12:43 PM - 9 Comments
Someday, the USDA Food Pyramid will be a core case study in disaster for design students. The New York Times reports that the administration is reversing the incomprehensible 2005 decision to divide the famous pyramid into coloured wedges instead of labelled ascending slices. This was an idea which, and stop me if this seems obvious, contradicted the whole pretext for a pyramid-shaped infographic. You depict something as a pyramid when you want to imply a quantitatively large and fundamental base—in the ideal diet, whole grains and vegetables—and a smaller, less important top, which in the original plan for the pyramid was basically occupied by meat and eggs. The Meat ’n’ Eggs Lobby (i.e., the agriculture industry that the USDA exists to serve) didn’t like the hierarchical implications, and so the pyramid became, in the words of a nutritionist quoted by the Times, a diagram “which basically conveys no useful information”.
I’m eager to see the new circular “plate” that will replace the pyramid this week. The government doesn’t want to call it a “pie chart”, although homemade pies in round tins seem pretty low on the list of public-health threats in the year 2011. The archetypal chubby kid in old black-and-white comedies who made a habit of stealing pies off window sills was at least playing outside and getting a fair amount of fruit; he’d be considered a paragon of health now.
By Anne Kingston - Monday, November 29, 2010 at 3:20 PM - 1 Comment
Koi fish coordinated with the woodwork? Barbra Streisand’s epic home reno out-Marthas Martha Stewart.
A few years ago Barbra Streisand was in crisis: the stonework on her primary residence was a tad too pale. So she turned to America’s doyenne of home betterment who, of course, had a solution. “Martha Stewart told me that if I brushed it with cow urine and buttermilk it would turn darker,” Streisand writes in her new book My Passion for Design, a glossy coffee-table tome that chronicles the painstaking creation of her four-house Malibu compound—and gives new meaning to the term vanity press.
The legendary performer, said to insist that rose petals be floating in the toilet bowls of her hotel rooms, felt sullied by the thought of bovine pee. So she ignored Martha’s advice, choosing instead to plant ivy and climbing roses to mask the offending rocks.
Streisand is famous for her obsession with detail (before appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2003, she insisted a black microphone be painted white so as not to clash with her ivory Donna Karan outfit). Her insistence on privacy is equally legendary, which makes the arrival of this over-the-top show-all so surprising. In 2003, she slapped an environmental preservation group with a US$50-million lawsuit for uploading an aerial photograph of her former clifftop estate. The case was thrown out but gave rise to the “Streisand effect,” the term used to describe the viral publicity generated when someone tries to quash online information.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
A number of Canada’s top architects have been leaving their mark on the American capital
Washington likes its buildings imposing, their walls stone-solid—and the activities inside concealed and guarded 24-7. The city’s century-old height limit preserves the iconic views of the Capitol at the cost of imposing a bulky and boxy shape on most large buildings, from concrete government complexes to cookie-cutter condo developments. But lately, a stream of Canadian architects have been bringing a different touch.
On Oct. 25 the American capital will see the gala opening of the biggest new cultural complex since the Kennedy Center opened in 1971: the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theatre, built on the Washington waterfront by Vancouver-based Bing Thom Architects. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are the honorary chairs of the event.
The 200,000-sq.-foot complex is in many ways a very un-Washington building. Instead of imposing, it is playful. Instead of opaque, it is wrapped in a curving wall of 35,000 sq. feet of transparent glass. In the place of neoclassical columns that adorn so much of the city’s official architecture, there is a decidedly West Coast feature: five-metre wood columns—made by B.C.-based StructureCraft Builders out of Parallam, a material engineered from strands of the province’s Douglas firs—that rise around the building like streamlined totem poles supporting an expansive cantilevered roof. To build the unique structure, the architects said they had to prove the material’s strength and fire resistance, and get a local building code amendment. The elliptical beams, a metre in diameter, taper as they near the floor—making the columns seem lighter, as if giant trees had put on ballet shoes and risen up en pointe. “I’m very proud of it because we need to look at using wood in new ways,” said Bing Thom in an interview, adding, “We have this memory of the timber war with the U.S.—this is the Canadian revenge.”
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Before James May could climb his Lego stairs, take his Lego shower, pat his Lego cat and sleep in his Lego bed, there were a few obstacles
Opinions may differ on what it takes to think of constructing a full-sized Lego house. On a spectrum running from “genius” to “arrested childhood,” observers might reasonably locate the idea just about anywhere. But as British TV host James May—a man who inspires the same gamut of responses from viewers—demonstrates in his new book, James May’s Lego House, it takes real ingenuity to actually build one. For starters, no planning department in its right bureaucratic mind would give the go-ahead for a dwelling made entirely of the ubiquitous (300 billion worldwide and counting) Danish children’s building blocks. The insurance premiums were not, as might be expected, brutally high, but that’s only because no insurer was willing to take it on at any price. Then there’s the matter of the necessary components: 3.3 million pieces, mostly the standard eight-stud, 32-mm-long brick model, put a strain on the supply chain, not to mention the labour force. And don’t even start on the issue of fashioning a functioning Lego toilet. In short, there were miles to go and endless questions to answer before May could open his Lego door, climb his Lego stairs and go to sleep in his Lego bed, albeit without wearing Lego pyjamas.
The genesis of the project came from the fertile imagination of the 47-year-old May, co-host of the BBC automotive show Top Gear, victor over chef Gordon Ramsay in an infamous animal penis eating contest during a 2007 episode of the foul-mouthed Ramsay’s F-Word TV series, and all-round champion of toys-for-grown-boys. In 2009, May, a passionate evangelist for what he considers “real” toys—the ones from his childhood, as opposed to the virtual toys and games of the video era—created a six-part series called James May’s Toy Stories. After crafting a plastic model of a Second World War Spitfire fighter plane, a Plasticine garden, a Meccano footbridge and a plastic slot-car racing track—all constructed from traditional children’s play kits but made fully life-sized—it was on to the Lego project. (The final episode saw the construction of a 16-km railway from model train materials.)
By Andrew Potter - Monday, October 26, 2009 at 8:28 PM - 8 Comments
A year or so ago, a group of graphic designers asked themselves how they…
A year or so ago, a group of graphic designers asked themselves how they could best use their skills and talents to help Barack Obama. The solution was “Design for Obama”, which is just an elliptical way of saying, “propaganda”. I’d guess that no president in history has been given the full Warhol the way Obama has, from the infamous Shep Fairey HOPE poster to the racist Russian Obama ice cream.
Anyway, the Design for Obama project is going to be a book from Taschen. Meanwhile, you can check out the website for all the submissions, or just dig this image I snapped in an alley just off the Bowery a while ago:
By Alex Shimo - Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 3 Comments
Cardboard’s being used to make everything from footbridges to cribs. Caution is advised.
Designers and celebrities have a new eco-sustainable, authentic material to champion: cardboard. Long derided as a “hobo’s IKEA,” it’s being used to make, among other things, furniture, handbags, pianos, even bridges. There are horse-print cardboard wall coverings in the changing rooms of Stella McCartney’s Paris store; English actor Colin Firth’s London-based furniture shop sells corrugated cardboard chairs, and the elite design firm Vitra offers Frank Gehry’s “Easy Edges” cardboard line.
In the upscale Toronto restaurant Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, cardboard stools complement leather sofas with suede and satin pillows. Designed by Vancouver-based Molo, these iconic “Softseating” pieces are now in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Installed in the restaurant last November, the stools no longer look new: cardboard tends to look “pretty beaten up” very quickly, says restaurant manager Jane McMahon, which is “apparently part of the appeal.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
British design guru Sir Terence Conran predicts the current economic downturn will purge the…
British design guru Sir Terence Conran predicts the current economic downturn will purge the dross from the high end of the marketplace and offer a creative catalyst for good, affordable design, reports the Times of London. The demise of venerable Wedgwood didn’t surprise the design innovator and restaurateur, whose business continues to thrive. A few years ago he recalls he told the Wedgwood directors: “You’re making products that nobody uses . . .There’s nothing for people to break and replace.” He also expresses hope the recession “will stop all that ersatz Tudor-beathan ridiculous stuff,” noting that while mass house builders continue to reproduce bad design “in front of that house is a rather intelligently designed car and inside there is good audiovisual equipment, good kitchen equipment. It’s only the house that holds it all that is still so out of date.”