Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pint Sized Italian

I've been a huge fan of the new Fiat 500 since their release a few years ago. You see them all over Europe and now they're becoming a common site in California as well. It was only a matter of time before sucomed to the lure A true cross cultural effort, the of the design engines made by Chrysler in Detroit, built in Toluca Mexico, but for some reason I prefer to think of it as Italian. Over two feet longer, and 700 pounds heavier than my Smart Car, it feels a world apart in solid road handling and build quality.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mid-Century Salad Serving

Herbert Krenchel designed these sleek matte black serving utensils way back in 1953. Now reissued by Normann Copenhagen, the Krenit Melamin Salad set looks as up-to-date as ever. Slim and elegant, the streamlined pair of serving utensils is made of lightweight melamine and surprisingly reasonably priced. They feel wonderful in the hand — solid, well balanced, light but still with enough heft to feel useful, their beautiful matte surface very easy to grip — they mix and toss mixed greens with ease. Even the box they come in is elegant and minimal.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Just a pinch, in black and white

My favorite kitchen design store in London — David Mellor — calls these little bowls "pinch pots." Perfectly proportioned and circular in section, they are the ideal size and shape for holding just the right amount of salt and pepper — ready for a pinch, should you be so inclined. Carved out of solid marble, these thick-walled, relatively heavy containers stay put when you reach into them, solidly supporting your seasonings.

David Mellor sells a great selection of fine kitchwares, and have been designing and manufacturing their own fine cutlery and silverware for decades.

Friday, September 2, 2011


I've been aware of several attempts Coca Cola has made over the years to make their namesake beverage stand out in a container more special than the standard vending machine can. Previous iterations have added swollen curves and flutes to the sides of the cans in an attempt to render some semblance of the iconic Coke bottle shape into aluminium but they have ended up looking bloated and forced.

Here's the most successful to date: — They've finally given up on the trying to make it a pop-top can and just stamped a whole screw-top bottle out of aluminium. Problem solved — Great product differentiation leveraging Coke's strong brand and vending machine capable (with some customization to allow for the taller form factor). Available in upscale markets for a hefty premium over that standard cans, these beverage containers are pure style — but they look cool and feel great in the hand. Not sure what Coca Cola has in mind as far as rolling out this new variant. I suspect the smaller size (250ml, 8.5 oz) will limit its widespread adoption, at least in the US.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Butterfly Stool

DRAFT Probably one of my most beautiful possessions, this stool designed by Sori Yamagi, has wonderful flowing forms that evoke the graceful flight and wingspan of a butterfly. I purchased this piece of decorative furniture a few years ago, back before it got really expensive, DRAFT

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fellowship of the Ring

This ingenious hybrid of a household key and the standard key ring - aptly named Keybrid - functions even better than it looks. Its distinctive, unusual form shows off it's main function clearly - ordinary keys can be attached to one of these eliminating the separate keyring. But there are other things hoing for it. upon wider use reveals it's advantages become clear. But even if you don't use it as a ring ( i don't - I use a single house key slipped into my wallet) it has several other advantages. The large hole in the center allows you to conveniently stick a finger inside and The wider diameter of the ring offers greater leverage when twisting, making a crisper clean experience. Feels very solidly made, even though it is fused

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bumble Bar Wrap

A colorful carnival of typography rolls across the wrappers of this line of healthy energy bars. Sporting a retro theme executed in a contemporary manner, this package evokes a joyful exuberance of a festive roadside attraction from days gone by. It instills a sense of fun and excitement that, to be frank, overstates the rather bland, healthy product within: a ho-hum combination of seeds mashed together in a bar that is neither soft nor crunchy. The product just doesn't live up to the joy depicted on the packaging.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Holey Dish

When is a dish not a dish? When there is more air than substance...DRAFT

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Contour Writing

A wonderful little notepad my girlfriend brought back from Japan - embodying humor and style, rendered with subtle sensibilities
Each level is marked with numerals as if to denote elevations on a map, however in this case it's page numbers

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Skeletal Grip

Looking like the prop from a MadMax movie, this version of the familiar compact Leatherman tool goes over the top in styling. Mixing materials a dark anodised metal along with the silver there'c\s even a carbon fibre cor. I t folds down into a fairly compact form:

With the blade pulled out it makes a wicked looking knife.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Mighty F4

It's easy to forget how dominant Nikon was in the professional photo segment back in the film days. In the late eighties they stood unchallenged in the 35mm arena - the standard issue for journalists, travel shooters and serious amateurs.

The "F" series was their powerhouse camera - when it was released it brought state of the art technology to the top of their line. Legendary Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro was brought in to style Nikons flagship (he had previously been hired for the industrial design of the lowley EM and the F3. A heavy solid beast this was pure functional design knobs and latches everywhere a perfect fit in the hand design honed from decades of use by pros in the field. What strikes me though is are the aesthetic direction chosen by Nikon and what a departure their current lineup is.

First the graphics on the lenses - numerals, markings Logo and model designations - are now done in gold (yuk! - who's in charge over there?) Harder to see in dim light and at the same time rather garish. Compare a lens from the late 90s with a current sample - function, and the aesthetic rightness inherent because of that - has been overturned.

I picked this DRAFT

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Silver Spider

I bought this sleek nut racker in a charming little town in Bavaria called Lauf last summer. Glinting brightly in dazzling chrome, the Philippi Spider Nut Cracker cuts a sharp, menacing profile, looking a lot like a streamlined squid. It's the perfect form for enclosing wallnut-sized prey and because of it's third leg, it avoids the usual problem of the nut popping out of one side of the cracker. All three legs (arms?) pivot open fully, maybe a little too easily, making handling a tad unwieldy until you get the hang of it. The packaging claims it's designed primarily for cracking walnuts rather than seafood, inspite of its crab claw looks.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Other Wright

DRAFT Russel Wright was an industrial designer that pioneered a kind of soft flowing modern style, mainly in dishware and table accories, in the early to mid 1900s. DRAFT

Monday, January 3, 2011

Clear Cutting

I ordered these on a whim from MOMA a couple months back. About six inches long, these compact scissors are made by that designer Japanese retailer Muji, noted for their philosophy of creating spare, clean products in minimal packaging. Much of their trademark is the use of transparent materials in the design of pens, notepads and storage containers — and they have incorporated that same aesthetic here — I like the way the black anodized blades contrast with the clear plastic handles. They are comfortable to hold and a delight to use — what more can you ask from a general purpose pair of scissors?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Moretti Magnificence

I when I embarked on my trip to Europe last summer knew I would have to pick up some more glass trickets from Venice. Mille Flora is on display everywhere on the island — that rather busy-looking glass made from bundling together extruded glass rods that is then sliced up like a roll cake to reveal a detailed pattern. The process is used to make everything from necklaces and earrings to plates and vases, and frankly, most of it is downright ugly. Predominantly blue and white in color with red accents, the decorative motif overpowers any form or shape of the object itself.

But the stuff from Ercole Moretti, a local studio/designhouse/manufacturer, is markedly different in three distinct ways. Their designs are simpler, less flowery, more modern in shape; They use a sophisticated, more-muted color palette including a fair amount of black; and all their items have a wonderful matte finish, in sharp contrast to the usual gaudy glass baubles. This small dish, about 5 inches square is the finest piece I saw on the entire Island of Murano — the "Glass-Making Island" — which I promptly purchased as a gift for my girlfriend. I love the color pallete — the warm yellows and greens — and the primitive circlar shapes, the random arrangement of the bunches of color, all the while looking very contemporary.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sleek Drive

Portable hard drives have become quite the designer objects in recent years. As the drive mechanisms themselves have become a commodity, the only real point of differentiation has turned out to be the external case design. Even a few big designer names have been lured into the category. It's surprising to me how much inventiveness and imagination has been poured into what is essentially a basic rectangular brick.

Pininfarina is a revered name in the annuals of automotive design. Car companies as varied as Ferrari, Peugeot, Hyundai and Cadillac have all hired the the Italian coachbuilder at some point to put their styling touches on everthing from sportscars to minivans. Known for their evocative flair, Pininfarina's styling themes are usually more fluid and curvaceous — dare I say feminine — than their competitors. Their designs stand apart from the more demonstratively masculine Bertone and the overt functionalism of Giugiaro. Occasionally Pininfarina has strayed beyond their traditional realm into the more mundane consumer product sector — and nothing is more static and prosaic than an external hard drive.

I love these little 2.5 inch hard drives. Their big benefit is not just the smaller size but the fact that you don't need a separate power cord and AC adapter brick like their full-size brethren — just the one data cable does it all. This drive connects via USB only (I prefer Firewire but the availability of those drives are getting rarer all the time) but still, it's 500 GB capacity performs well.

You may question the need for its streamlined shape in a product whose primary function is to remain stationary, but its sleek shape actually works nicely when sliding it cleanly into the internal pocket in my computer bag. It has a wonderful matte, black rubber coating on its sloping horizontal surfaces, which contrast well with the piano black inserts on each side. And to top it off, it sports the same distinctive script "Pininfarina" logotype on it's flanks as the legendary Ferarri Daytona!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple Tablet

Today was the big day — With great fanfare Apple announced their new tablet computer — the iPad. It was pretty much what all the pundits were expecting — maybe even a little less. I was reminded of a similar level of hype around the launch of the Apple Newton back in the early nineties. The product was positioned as a game changer — a whole new paradigm of computing. I bought into the hype and splurged on the first generation Newton. It had wonderfully snappy performance as long as you had nothing on it, but it really bogged down when you loaded it up with, say, your full address book. I bought a few accessories including the monstrous 2 MB card (I believe it was something like $175.00). It was a little big — too wide to comfortably hold in one hand. But It did have a wonderfully grippy surface — one of the first products to have a rubbery coating on its plastic shell. Created in a dark grey-green color, it was released without its ultra cool batman hinged screen cover (that had been revealed in prototype photos) — a real shame. Its much vaulted handwriting recognition was a little ahead of its time and proved to be its Achilles heel. After a couple of generations the product was quietly withdrawn.

The diminutive Palm Pilot walked away with resounding success a short time later and the category was eventually ceded to Palm, Compaq and HP for the next decade. Eventually the Smart phones took over this functionality. I recently found my old Newton — alas, the battery holder is lost so I can't fire it up and see the old monochrome, pen-interface.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Slim Suits

These elongated, capsule-shaped playing cards from Umbra initially appear to be brilliantly functional — the slimness of the design should allow you to hold many more cards in your hand at once. However in practice, they're really not much more accommodating than a conventional deck. A fanned hand only needs to reveal the slender sliver on the left with the card designation — the rest of each card is overlapped, so the overall benefits are pretty minor. And the the downsides are kind of annoying — they're difficult to shuffle and challenging to keep stacked in a pile. And of course, you're not going to pull these out for the guys on Poker night — you'd be laughed off the table. Still, they have a friendly, curving form, their oversized (5-inches) length charmingly playful. Umbra is a familiar name in housewares — mostly kitchen and bath stuff — so it's nice to see them branching out. All their products have a strong design focus — although the manufacturing quality could be a little better.

The cards even come in a cool, translucent capsule case, a shape that complements the cards wonderfully.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Minimalist Flatware

Designed by Sori Yanagi, this set of silverware from MOMA has an aesthetic that gracefully straddles the line between being beautifully elegant and cleanly modern. It's curvaceous, organic shapes stand out from other contemporary flatware designs, combining minimalist form with a certain rich sophistication. Made of 18/8 stainless steel with a wonderful brushed satin finish, the set is elegant and completely functional — the spoon's flatter-curved bottoms feel great and stir well; the knife's bulbuous, tulip shape works like a charm. And yes, unlike my silverware from Dansk, this set can be used easly in the English manner — fork upside down in left hand and knife in right. I ordered a single place setting from MOMA initially, just to to make sure I really likes them, and then happily ordered a full set a short time later.

Spiral Scissors

These diminutive nail and cuticle scissors look pretty conventional at first glance. But then you notice the unusual split all the way down its length — a twirling, twisting break, that when opened, reveal the the full curvature of the form. Made in Switzerland by Rubis and finished exquisitely in satin-finished stainless steel, these scissors are a marvel of finely crafted detail — a design that's directly derived from its function. I really appreciate the extra effort someone went through to make something special out of an ordinary a pair of scissors.