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Almost every small business today is looking for “the great what’s next” — how do we navigate the current challenges and what will things be like when we’re through them? This is becoming increasingly difficult predict but like everyone else, we’re working on it.

Of course no one really knows what’s coming. …


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fig40 b-sides

Fig40’s B-Sides.

“Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).”

-Bruce Mao, An incomplete manifesto for growth

In the days of vinyl singles, the song you bought was the A-side. But there was always a B-side, and you never new what that song was. The B-side was often viewed as a song that didn’t quite make the cut, a kind of filler to inflate the value of the A-side — but there is another, far more intriguing way to look at them — they are the safe place to try something new. …


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Panton Series 430 Chair

Transubstantiation

To call a work of architecture or design beautiful is to recognize it as a rendition of values critical to our flourishing, a transubstantiation of our individual ideals in a material medium.

Alain de Botton
The Architecture of Happiness

I suspect few designers would argue with the above statement. Stefan Sagmeister & Jessica Walsh, in their immersive exhibition “Beauty”, state that “Beauty is a combination of shape, form, color, composition, material, and texture to please the aesthetic sense, especially the sight.” Beauty is at the core of much of who we are, the appreciation of it, the desiring of it and the striving for it. For a designer, it drives the creative intent and rises to the top of the importance of design requirements. But as I look at all the design press, the revered objects and the endless list of pinned images, all capturing or pointing at beautiful objects, I wonder why have these things been identified as beautiful? Are they truly a rendition of the values critical to our flourishing? I can look at them and agree that there is beauty in much of what I see, but it is occasionally, somehow incomplete. …


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https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/living-here/bulky-items-and-appliances.aspx

Things left at the curb on garbage day make me sad.

I’m one of those people who thinks ‘things’ have identity, they have character and personality. Seeing them at the side of the road, has a whiff of death about it. I can’t help but think that someone bought that thing, and (I would hope!) with a sense of delight they brought it home. They went to a shop, looked at all the options and eventually thought, yes! That’s the one!

As it sits at the curb, I have to wonder what happened? What led to its fall from grace? Did it break and couldn’t be fixed? Did it not live up to its promise? …


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Milan

Design week in Milan is a really glorious affair. To start with, it’s in Milan, it’s in the spring and it’s the culmination of so much of the world’s creative energy. On my first visit a few years ago I came away with much more than I anticipated going in, as is so often the case with events like this.


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Mr. Rodgers | http://time.com/5290424/excerpt-mister-rogers-biography/

neighbour: ‘(of a place or thing) being situated next to or very near (another).’

We all have neighbours. We’ve all had good ones and we’ve had bad ones. Just to say you have a neighbour tends not to tell you much about them. But the act of being ‘neighbourly’ is something different, it does tell you something about them. They tend to be the good kind — they are someone you can count on to do the right thing, to shovel your drive in winter or get groceries for your aging neighbour. …


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Tesla Manufacturing

How we became better designers.

A few years ago I saw a video of the Tesla Model S being assembled. To this day it remains very clear in my memory. It was an early prototype or pre-production car set in the beautiful Fremont factory complete with shiny red robots. The video featured 1 or 2 workers building the front end of the car. What struck me when I watched was how different it was from other manufacturing facilities I had seen, and I’ve seen a few. I thought ‘this is why Tesla will be successful’, because they are completely unencumbered by what came before. It’s very rare that an auto manufacturer can do this. …


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www.thesun.co.uk

Power access in public spaces

Anyone who has traveled through an airport over the past 10 years will be familiar with the sight of people sat on the floor so they can be near a power outlet. They’re using computers, talking on phones, even sleeping, next to their devices as they charge. It drives airport facilities management people nuts and is really not so great for the poor folks on the floor.

Recent travellers will no doubt be familiar with the wide variety of scenarios on offer to solve the above problem — essentially creating a port in the storm.

These succeed in varying ways. …


Every designer has influences. We are not always as conscious of them as we should be, and so at the beginning of this new year I thought it would be good to step back and dig into ours in an effort to become more conscious of them. Admitedly, these have a furniture bias (we’re aware of that!) but do have relevance well beyond.

Here are 5 that appear particularly present.

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e15 Kazimir | solid European walnut top + brass base

1. Materiality

The quality of a material, particularly in furniture has always been important. Contract office furniture seems to straddle a line between products and furniture, and as the visul and functional tone of offices continues to move toward the residential, the quality of a material is of increasing prominence. Natural materials such as solid wood over veneers, glass over acrylic and even concrete are becoming more common. Curiously, synthetic finishes, laminates in particular are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and muddy this perspective some, but perhaps are a further nod in the direction of an increase in the quality of a material. …


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Perplex Bench — Cast Concrete + GRIPMetal — 14' long

Every designer is intrigued by the potential of being able to do something they’ve never been able to before. New materials and new processes can often hold the promise of that potential. They can also be solutions in search of problems, which, as compelling as this can be, can be dangerous, leading to what can be called ‘shoehorning’ — forcing something that really has no business being forced.

So what can you do? Well an opportunity like this came our way a number of years ago, and what follows here is how it went, and what we learned.

About

Lee Fletcher

Industrial Designer & partner at Fig40 and CommunityForOpportunity.

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