There is something universally pleasing about a cube. The symmetry is easier to grasp and to describe than a sphere’s. Cubic forms are primary building blocks both in physical construction and in the realm of thought.
[Viz: if we recognize that a two-dimensional line drawing of a cube really shows us a “shadow” of the actual 3D cube, we can think of the 3D cube as a “shadow” to imagine the 4D version, and so on up the dimensional ladder.]
Manufacturer Arca-Swiss has a cube that’s a bit of both. A few years ago, the company, which is well-known for ball-head tripod attachments, released the C1 cube [PDF], which “simultaneously achieves mastery of control with an appearance approaching the status of jewelry.”
The elegant C1 is a precision geared tripod head that can hold and position heavy, professional camera rigs, and weighs less than 25% of anything comparable.
Outfitted with bubble levels, the head adjusts on two sets of x-y axes, and allows for tilt and pan, all while keeping the image plane — or lens nodal point — in pretty much the same spot. (Jack Flesher has a great review with more details from a photographer’s perspective.)
The only drawback to this cube is that Arca-Swiss appears a bit snobbish. The company eschews an online presence, having no website and contact emails with addresses like aol.com and swissonline.ch. And, the price tag: yours for only $1,699.
Good design is a synergistic meeting between form and function, not a compromise where one overshadows the other.
It’s always disappointing when something looks wonderful, but does not perform.
This stainless steel tea infuser from Kitchen Craft, for example, seems like it will be pretty cool.
It sports an attractive, sleek shape, and the way it opens — by pressing down one end so the tea-holding ball slides in half — is fun. But it completely fails at its intended task.
When you release the tip to close the ball after dipping in loose leaves, the halves slide back over one-another, pushing out a good deal of your tea.
When you want to empty the used tea, you discover that even when you push the spring-end as far as it will go, the two hemispheres don’t completely separate. Much of the dredge is stuck in the ball. It takes a few uncomfortable swipes of the finger to clean it out.
“Form follows function” has been a popular credo of modern design movements, from architecture to products to programming. The idea and phrasing is usually attributed to Louis Sullivan, who in the late 1800s designed the first modern skyscraper.
But aesthetics are intrinsic to perception, and can play an important role in the success or longevity of an object. And as the New York Times noted recently, the digital age has allowed us to move farther and farther from the need to connect the two. The tiny iPod Shuffle is their premier example.
And sometimes it’s worth conceding a bit of practicality: the Cube Jigger was derided by a few bartenders as unusable for the quick pours needed in a restaurant setting. But for a home user, the cool look makes it a fair trade off.
Have you run into an object that sacrificed functionality for good looks? What was it? Was it worth it?
It’s not often that a new product come along that makes total sense, is wonderfully sensitive to the environment, AND is affordable.
The Vapur™ Anti-bottle is a foldable 16oz plastic water bottle. It contains no BPAs — the chemicals in rigid plastic bottles that leech into liquids over time — so it’s completely refillable and reusable.
When full of liquid, the brilliantly-designed bottle stands upright. When empty, just roll it up and stuff it in a pocket, or even flatten it and slip between the pages of a book.
Vapurs are available in an assortment of colors, and come with a carabiner for easy carrying when full. They can be frozen for use as an portable ice-pack, and are dishwasher safe.
Lay your hands on one for the bargain price of $8.95, or a set of four for under $30. You can even buy extra screw or squirt caps separately.
Introduced in late 2009 by a California-based company, the bottles are manufactured entirely in the United States, and ship flat (taking up 90% less trucking space than comparable rigid plastic bottles).
Packaging is printed using wind power with soy-based inks on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. The company also participates in the 1% for the Planet program.
Compare that to the approximately 17 million barrels of oil it takes each year just to manufacture standard water bottles for the US market, and the fact that an estimated 30-40% of water is wasted while filling these bottles for sale.
Sure, you can use an expensive, bulky aluminumcanteen instead. But why would you?
But for those addicted to appreciative of cocktails: the Cube Jigger.
Inspired by traditional Japanese sake cups, from which the drink is sipped at the corners, Philadelphia designer Josh Owen came up with this elegant bar tool in 2007.
Made from aluminum, the jigger provides an elegant way to mete out the six most common drink measurements, compactly arranged in a single 3″ x 3″ x 3″ cube.
Owen is an educator as well as designer, teaching at both UPenn and Philadelphia University. His design philosophy describes him as “simple, practical and quietly innovative” and states that he “defines function in humanistic terms.”
Available online for $30 at Kikkerland or in person for $25 at Portfolio, the museum store at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Cube Jigger might just make it into our home bar collection very soon.
[via mealticket — we knew there was rationale behind our addiction to food blogs]
It’s widely recognized that Scandinavians have got something going when it comes to industrial design. (Most commonly known example: Ikea)
Three top Danish design firms have recently merged, forming KiBiSi, whose logo itself is a statement in functional modernism.
One of their first collaborations is the wonderfully happy EXPO Chair.
These are the chairs that will be placed in the Denmark Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010.
This year’s World Expo in Shanghai has the tagline Better City, Better Life and is “just like an arena and stage for countries and international organizations worldwide to show their originalities and wits.”
The Danish Pavilion will be a Möbius-strip-like perpetual loop through which visitors can ride one of the free provided bicycles and get a feel for Danish life. In the center is a swimming pool filled with fresh water from Copenhagen, and topped off by their national monument “Little Mermaid” statue (that of Hans Christian Anderson — and subsequently, Walt Disney — fame).
With the colorful EXPO Chairs lining the way, it’s bound to be a cheerful ride.