The first mini-farthing bicycle has made its way to market.

The YikeBike is an electronic powered transportation device that folds up to fit in a backpack.


Weighing less than 22lbs (10kg), it’s designed to go wherever bicycles do, plus some. Fold it, pick it up and hop on a bus, or even into a taxi.

YikeBikes can handle short curbs and bumps and have a tight turning radius.

yikebike3You sit upright, and grasp the handlebars by your sides, instead of leaning forward.

Combined with the anti-skid brakes and speed that is electronically restricted to around 12mph (20kph), YikeBikes claims this makes for a much safer ride.

None have shipped yet, though you can put down a €100 deposit to reserve one. When production nears, you’ll learn the full price, estimated to be between €3,500-€3,900 ($5-6,000).

Overall design is based on the penny-farthings, the Victorian hi-wheels that were the first actually efficient bicycles.

The YikeBike is motor-powered only, but the New Zealand-based company is looking for others to license designs to create a pedal-assist version, as well as a small size meant for kids.

They also postulate about future mini-farthing highways: light suspended roadways traversing a city; a kind of private public transit system, where the bikes could be freed to go much faster.

Hey, it’s good to dream. All in all, sounds better and more flexible than the Segway, and much better than Mr. Garrison’s IT.

[Via print edition of Time Magazine. I knew print was good for something.]


LED Pocketwatch
If only technological advances always meshed this well with honored traditions.

Paul Pounds took his grandfather’s 1925 Elgin pocketwatch and converted it into a fully functional digital timepiece.

The time is not displayed as cyphers, however.

The face is a beautifully designed set of LEDs that mimic analog clock hands with concentric circles of light.

Gorgeous not only in looks, but also in user interface, the watch boasts an audible “tick” for each second, easy time-setting via the stem, and a custom alarm.

After 15 seconds, the watch goes into standby mode to save batteries.

When you open the face, it lights up again.

At each minute interval, it sets off a swirl of LED color!

Some additional deets: Paul wrote the program in C (and fit it in a 2KB code-size limit), used 133 surface mount LEDs, and engraved a tiger eye under the micro-chip.


[h/t @bre]

Savvy Espresso

Wonderful set of espresso cups.

Bamboo tray with inset saucers, & demitasse spoons resting across the tops of sleek squared-off porcelain cups.

Love those student design contests — this was a 2008 winner by Fellina Sok-Cham. (Which contest? No one seems to say…)

At the MoMA Store.

Sincerest Form of Flattery

Swiss Re HQ in London
Swiss Re HQ in London

Everything around us comes from nature. Computers, toasters, steel mills, polyester, even superconducting super colliders, all “natural” in origin.

Technology is nothing more than a human byproduct.

However, most of our creations are mal-adapted. Unlike the byproducts of all other living beings, most things we’ve designed are not degradable, not reusable, not able to change with the environment or be reabsorbed by it.

If we can change this, we can better secure the future of our society, our species and our planet.

Can borrow from the way life has been designing for thousands and thousands of years and tangibly apply these lessons to our modern age?

This is a growing movement — highlighted by a recent talk given by Dayna Baumeister of the Biomimicry Guild at BuildGreen09 — and there are real-world examples already in production and use. A few of my favorites:

1. Eastgate Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe — Passive cooling

This office and retail complex was designed to be ventilated and cooled by entirely natural means, and was one of the first to do so. By using passive cooling, the building consumes around 10% of the energy needed by a similar conventional structure. For inspiration, architect Mick Pearce and his engineers looked to the locally common termite mounds, which are built to catch any breeze and pull cool air in from the earth while sun-warmed air vents out through flues on the top and sides.

Another structure borrowing this technique is the visually notable Swiss Re headquarters in London.

2. MothEye and MARAG™ films — Anti-reflective and anti-glare coatings

Top: close-up of moth's eye
Top: close-up of moth's eye Bottom: close-up of MARAG film

Moths rely on light sources to communicate and find food and mates. Their eyes, unlike most other animal species, do not glint in the night, which would distract from important light sources (such as your porch lamp…). Moth eyes are anti-reflective. This is achieved with a surface covered with many micro-cone-shaped protuberances, which break up the light and stop it from bouncing back uniformly. MacDermid Autotype has reproduced this type of patterned surface and developed non-toxic, non-reflective  films that can be used industrially.

When used to coat solar panels, for example, the non-reflective films will absorb much more energy from each ray of sun that hits. The easily-degradable anti-glare films are also used on computer and cell phone screens.

3. Insect Tape – Extra strength reusable adhesive

Almost half of the materials in our landfills end up there because of glue. For example, a simple chair of wood, metal and fabric is glued together so strongly that the parts simply cannot be separated in a reusable way. Most industrial adhesive is also toxic.

However, geckos and many insects walk on walls, and they don’t use suction to defy gravity. Instead, their feet are covered with rows of tiny hairs, that utilize molecular attraction to adhere to any surface. Scientists have begun producing tape and adhesives using this technique, resulting in glue-free products that can stick to dusty surfaces better, can be washed with soap and water, and can be reused multiple times.

4. Sto Lotusan — Self-cleaning exterior paint

Lotus Flower
Lotus Flower

Lotus flowers grow up through the muck of ponds and swamps and bloom into gorgeous, smooth, colorful flowers. The molecular structure of their petals makes it so that water not only rolls off, but carries with it any surface dirt. Companies like Sto Worldwide have mimicked these hydrophobic qualities, and produce exterior paint that is not only water-tight, but essentially self-cleaning, minimizing the need for detergents or for repainting at all.

These are all examples of the kind of design Dayna calls “fitting IN, instead of fitting ON.”

We need to keep stimulating this kind of innovation!

I’ll end with the same mantra she did, good advice for anyone, no matter what discipline or field.

~    GO OUTSIDE      ~      BREATHE      ~      LISTEN      ~      CREATE    ~

Classical Update

neoviolinAustrian designer Gerda Hopfgartner has created a visually beautiful update to one of the most classic instruments of classical music: the violin.

Electric violins have come in a wide assortment of shapes and styles for some time, and there’s even a very interesting looking (but badly named) Squidolin, a digital instrument designed to help novices learn how to play.

But the sleek black Gavari neo-violin appears to be one of the first re-imagined acoustic versions.

It’s set to be presented at the end of the month at Tokyo Design Week, where hopefully some live performances will take place.

Interested to know how it sounds; is it comparable to the baroque versions that have held court for over 500 years?

Hopfgartner hopes so: “Maybe it will change the classical music business,” she writes.

Beautiful curves –> beautiful music?

[via Core77]

20/20 Hindsight

How many silly inventions does it take to come up with a winner?

The 20th century in the US saw a burgeoning industrial design atmosphere. From automated dishwashers and automobiles to rockets and computers, our society was fundamentally changed by these lasting engineering designs.

But quite a few others were suggested that didn’t make the cut. Looking back now, they seem silly, even absurd. But they were much more in keeping with their time.

What will our future counterparts laugh at? Segways? “Smokeless” cigarettes? Swiffers? Will they seem as foolish as some of these?

Some of my favorites from the Life Magazine piece follow. Continue reading 20/20 Hindsight

Key Stone

Rosetta Disk Top FaceThe Rosetta Project and the Long Now Foundation are building an archive of all documented human languages.

Founded in 2000 — or 02000, as they like to write, the project published their first edition Rosetta Disk in 2008.

The disk holds 1500 languages from around the world.

Made of double-sided micro-etched nickel, the disk is a visual archive, not a digital one. Not format-dependent; all one needs to read the disk is magnification. Like microfiche, but with much more density.

One side of the disk is a guide to the main archive on the reverse. It is etched with a central image of the earth and a message written in 8 major languages:

Languages of the World: This is an archive of over 1,500 human languages assembled in the year 02008 C.E. Magnify 1,000 times to find over 13,000 pages of language documentation.

The message is printed in concentric spirals, both maximizing the number of people who will be able to read something immediately upon picking up the disk, as well as implying how to use it – magnify to see more.

Continue reading Key Stone

Dream Ball

dreamball1Industrial design with a political conscience.

Unplug Design’s mantra is:

Pull out the plug from the system and plug in the community.

(ASIDE: While I am a fan of electronics, hopefully soon we will realize Tesla’s wireless energy transfer on a large scale, and not rely on plugs to be “connected” any longer.)

The Dream Ball is packaging.

Specifically, a packaging design idea for famine relief supplies.

After the supplies are unpacked, the pre-perforated cardboard containers can be easily weaved into soccer balls!

Does not seem that tough to implement. And if a small percentage actually use the balls for recreation, it’s worth it, versus simply creating more packaging waste.

The Dream Ball will be showcased at the London Design Festival, occurring next week, as part of Designersblock.

Unplug Design (whose website is currently down for me) is based in Seoul, which becomes apparent when reading the English step-by-step instructions for Dream Ball construction.


I think the main point gets across, anyway.


[via Core77 and GreenMuze]

Technorati Thing

Seems I have to post the code below to claim my blog on Technorati? Hmmm.


We shall see.

Meanwhile, check out this nicely designed single-serve coffee machine by WMF. I refuse to write a whole post about it on the basis that I’m sure it doesn’t make excellent coffee. But my coffee standards are very high, and it’s probably very handy.wmf coffee pad

[via Living with White, one of my new favorites]

The Fourth Dimension Squared

qlocktwoA beautiful amalgam of word and industrial design, the QLOCKTWO tells time in a “typographic format.”

It has a quadratic matrix of letters, where some of the letters are illuminated. The time is displayed in five minute intervals. Just like how people talk to each other. If you need to have a more exact time, look in the corner at the illuminated dots.

It’s available in an impressive six different languages, and five different colors (though according to their twitter feed, it appears they are offering a new “qolor” STEEL as well).

Released in Spring 2009, QLOCKTWO is handmade in Germany, so although the price was lowered after a flurry of press and awards, it will still set you back €885 (around $1,265).

At the heart of this square beauty is a DCF-77 time-signal receiver, so you don’t ever have to set the time. There are four brightness modes, and an auto mode that adjusts according to ambient light.

Bonus: There is also a 99 cent  iPhone App, in German and English.

Additional geeky bonus: The image of the clock on their website displays the actual time, syncing with the clock on your computer.

Super cool.

[via swissmiss]