Sunday, November 30, 2008

Novelty Design

In this class, we’ve explored many aspects of Industrial design: environmental, humanitarian, use of emerging new technologies, art and/vs. design, etc. And as this semester draws to an end, I have realized that I never got to explore a subject that I’ve been increasingly interested in: novelty design. Redesigning items that may already exist, but in such a unique, light-hearted and amusing way, that people can’t help but smile or laugh at. Items that bring some humour and child-like tendencies back into the blandness that has been plaguing the lives of too many. Items that you don’t really need, but NEED.

One of my favourite design companies that are consistently producing successful novelty designs is Fred & Friends. Most people will have heard of or seen many of Fred’s products, from the Pick Your Nose cups to the assortment of ice cube trays in the shape of dentures, shot glasses, dinosaur bones, or jewels, to the Foot in your Door doorstops. They use industrial design to introduce play and liveliness into the little things in life, wherever you may be: whether singing in the shower, blowing bubbles while doing the dishes, talking through a telephone receiver connected to your cell phone (the anti-Christ of the Bluetooth headsets), or listening to your music through giant ipod ear buds.

Novelty items allow people to be more individualistic, and to show and display their personality or interests with the things they own, or to just stand out from the crowd. Since the worthiness of a novelty item differs drastically to each individual, and is quite impossible to design for the general public. What Fred & Friends has so successfully done is to use clever and witty puns or other wordplays to appeal to a bigger audience, like the Ear Ring, Sign & Seal, or Packin’ Heat (OK, so maybe not that clever and witty, but still very amusing right?)

I believe that play is just as important, if not more, as work, and the world (or at least just public spaces) would be a better place if everyone just lightens up a bit, smile at others (or at least the quirky novelty things they might be carrying), even if they’re strangers. And I believe that designing novelty products has the potential to do just that.

“I think I know how you feel. Numb…from the avalanche of cutesy picture frames, the reek of bayberry, floormats in your choice of dog breed. I feel your interior ennui, but what’s more…I’ve done something about it. My crackerjack design team and I have traveled the four corners of the globe in search of truth, justice, and the ultimate in style. Stuff that works, puts a smile on your face, and doesn’t cost a fortune. I’m Fred. Why not let me into your home? I promise to help out around the house…



Saturday, November 29, 2008

Changing the meaning of Luxury

Going through the list of links to different galleries and artists, one link finally got my attention: By:Amt, a company founded by Alissia Melka-Teichroew. The first work I saw from their website, was the Inside Out Glasses, which were a series of beverage containers that had the form of the wine/martini/champagne glass on the inside while the outside silhouette is a basic, simple tapered cylinder. When filled with a liquid, the shape inside shows much more clearly, creating a contemporary and engaging piece of art, seeming as if the drinks are floating in space, creating in space the shape of the vessel it is supposed to be in.
All her works, allow us to see quite ordinary objects in a very different way. She makes diamond rings just a beautiful (or more beautiful in my opinion) as the tiffany-set diamond ring, without the diamonds, made out of acrylic, silver or gold. Or the 3D Silhouettes of a series of life-sized Victorian era furniture, made just from painted pieces of mdf that allows people to rearrange their “furniture” everyday, changing the scenery at home without the strenuous task of actually moving real furniture.
Another designer I found on the list of links was Tobias Wong. He seems to be trying to do what Alissia Melka-Teichroew is doing; to change what “luxury” means, but in a very different, and quite opposite way. While By:Amt appreciates what the current norm of a luxurious item is (using expensive, rare materials). She uses this to introduce another way of seeing luxury; using normal/non-luxurious materials such as plastic and making them into a seemingly luxurious, expensive piece of jewelry. Tobias criticizes the current definition of luxury (“bling bling!”). He uses what is already a luxurious and expensive item (a crystal chandelier) and covers it with a normal/non-luxurious material (industrial rubber), making it seem less valuable.
I think that the current definition (of most people in 1st world countries) of “luxury” is overrated, and shouldn’t mean covering yourself in designer clothing and precious metals and diamonds. And although both By:Amt and Tobias Wong are commenting on this idea of “luxury”, I personally think Alissia Melka-Teichroew has been more successful.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Bamboo is a type of woody grass that is very renewable resource and is just coming into the limelight one of the most eco friendly materials available today. It is very quickly becoming the popular material of choice for housing, furniture, accessories, and various other products. And here’s why:
Bamboo can grow up to 1.5 meters (4’11”) a day (or 2 inches an hour), as well as grow in almost any environment, without pesticides, herbicides, or much water. It is the strongest wood/plant on earth, and is even stronger than graphite and mild steel. It lasts for decades. It can be used for a wide variety of products such as the housing construction, piping, bamboo plywood, used for flooring, wall paneling, furniture, etc., bamboo pulp for paper and fabrics, as well as food and medicines. And it’s 100% biodegradable!
Houses can be made very cheaply and quickly using bamboo, and is much stronger than a house made from other materials equivalent in price. Since bamboo is resilient and lightweight, bamboo houses can even withstand earthquakes.
We could potentially replace many of our current wood products (that are rapidly decreasing our rainforests) as well as other materials such as cotton fabrics and replace them with bamboo. Since bamboo can grow in many environments, it can be harvested locally (in North America), saving oil, reducing toxic emissions, and reducing greenhouse gasses. Also, since it is renewable, it would probably always be a cheap material.
A disadvantage that I found on bamboo is that it is resistant to stains. Which isn’t really a disadvantage in my opinion because I think the colour of bamboo is quite nice.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

media coverage on the other 90%

I was watching CNN some time ago, and they were covering a story on Britney Spears. It seems that new channels are spending more and more airtime covering useless stories such as which celebrities are pregnant and who’s dating who, and not covering actual world news. The United States seem to be so preoccupied with themselves, they rarely care for world politics and issues (and if they do, it’s only because they had been affected). If major American media sources covered more world issues, I’m sure that more people will actually take notice and care. If we were constantly bombarded with information or a specific issue, people are more likely to take some sort of action. Take the recent American presidential election for example. Every single form of media resources was constantly covering the election, scrutinizing over details and ‘flip-flops’. Everyone started talking about the elections, and the result: one of the highest voter turnouts in American history (just 1.3% lower than the record high in 1960, Kennedy vs. Nixon) where over 133 million Americans voted.

If the same type of enthusiasm and persistence were to be put to bringing the other 90% into the spotlight, I believe the world would be a much better place. The United States of America is one the major super-powers of the world and has a huge impact on the world. If we focused on educating the people of 1st world nations on world issues such as famine, war, AIDS etc, or popularizing them, there would be more people willing to take actions to solve these problems. If America could use their power and wealth towards promoting life instead of death (war on Iraq) I believe the world would be a better place.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

sex toy research

For my appliance studio class, I have chosen to design a sex toy targeted to couples. Our first assignment for this project was to do research on preexisting or similar products. And I must say, there are quite a few very interesting toys out in the market today, but they are more for masturbation purposes. One of my favourites is the boditalk vibrator that vibrates when your cell phone is in use.
Another one, is the Cone, is designed to be able to be used by both genders.

For the next part of my research, I went around and asked a few people what they
thought of sex toys being part of their sex life with their partners. I was happy to find that all the people I talked to were very open and willing to talk to me about their personal views on sex toys. Most people did not like the idea of using toys in bed. I seemed to be getting a lot of the same opinions, which were all along the lines of:

-Seems too unnatural and foreign

-Too “kinky”

-Real sex shouldn’t need to rely on external objects, and should be kept “pure”

-Doesn’t bring anything new into the sex life, and doesn’t do anything that a person could do themselves.

-Has too many connotations to masturbation, and masturbation and sex should be kept separate.

-Only for people with boring sex lives (usually people who are in a long term relationship) who need help sparking up their relationship.

-Could replace the partner

They seemed to be open to the idea of trying it out, but just for curiosities sake. I feel that sex toys are still too closely linked to the porn industry and the average people don’t see themselves “kinky” enough to be using sex toys with their partners.

Although sex toys may feel a bit unnatural, there are many plus sides to using them. They can help prolong and increase the intensity of an orgasm and reach or find erogenous zones more effectively and quickly or help turn sexual fantasies to reality. While toys help in the physical act, people provide the emotional pleasure that partners need.

On a random side note:

I have just recently found out that men are able to have multiple orgasms:

Also, here is just a little educational bit on the female orgasm:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The population of people on Earth has been growing at an exponential rate, especially after new medial advances causing a rise in life expectancy and a fall in infant mortality rates. In many countries, the population density has become so high; the land available in those countries can no longer support the amount of people living there, let alone be able to bury their dead. Burying the dead in dense cities has become either impossible or very expensive. We can see various ways different cultures have tried to solve this problem, such as cremation and sky burials in Asia, as well as ossuaries and catacombs in Europe.

Issues involving space or the lack of it are becoming increasingly important in our current day and age. Many of these problems are being solved by compacting living spaces and building progressively taller buildings. A great example of a culture attempting to adapt to these new situations can be seen in Japan. Most families living in Japan (especially in a city like Tokyo) are forced into tiny apartment buildings. Japan also has the infamous Capsule Hotel, which is a hotel with tiny cubicles that fit only one bed that a person would rent out for a night. I have just recently noticed that it strongly resembles a catacomb, but for the living.

China has also been trying to control population rates, by instilling the One Child Policy, in which a family is only allowed to have one child, and are required to receive permission by the government to have an additional child, and are also taxed for it. The parents are then sterilized, or the government forces abortions if they get pregnant a third time.

With human life taking over earth’s available land, we are finding it increasingly challenging to find places to put human remains. Burying the dead is also significantly more costly than other methods, such as cremation, promession, and resomation; all of which, takes the remains of loved ones, and reduces it to its most basic matter. A cost for a burial in New York City would be around $6500, while cremation costs around $780.

Aside from being expensive and taking up more space, burials are more environmentally harmful than other new alternatives such as resomation and promession. Toxic chemicals used for embalming could leak into the earth, the ground water, and other water sources. The making of caskets also uses up our natural resources. Many people prefer to use rare woods such as mahogany for caskets and subsequently reduce our natural resources and kill off our ever-decreasing forests. Promession and resomation on the other hand uses economically friendly processes that do not emit any harmful chemicals into the environment. With the resulting ashes from these alternatives, relatives and loved ones also have the choice to spread the ashes of the deceased, bury it, or keep it close by, in their homes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


For all societies and communities, there seems to be a need to have and distinguish its leader. The most global means of showing ones leadership within the community or empire appears to be a throne or crown. I have chosen to pinpoint some thrones made in various countries and times that have become quite famous throughout time. Though not similar in shape, size or form, they all share a need to stand out from all other forms of seating through being richly adorned with jewels, or in a shape that demands power.