for designer

February 13, 2009

Wooden Gadget by COOL HUNTING

As technology continues on its upward trajectory, designers occasionally grow nostalgic for simpler forms. Consumers also want the basic aesthetics of yesterday, without sacrificing the technological advances of today. One way to get the best of both worlds is wood-based electronics. Whether for the eco-minded, who prefer it to non-biodegradable plastic, or for pure classicists who are charmed by its timelessness, the wooden form is at once visually striking and practical. Here are some of the better examples we've come across recently.

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Magno Wooden Radio
The Magno radio is the brainchild of Indonesian entrepreneur Singgih Kartono. Handmade by local carpenters from sustainably-harvested wood, it comes in two sizes (pictured above). In addition to AM and FM frequencies, Kartono satisfies the true retro-philes with two bands of shortwave radio. He also bows to modern conventions by including MP3 compatibility. It's currently available from Areaware, with the small version costing $200 and the larger $250.


Maple Phone
The Maple Phone was designed by Hyun Jin Yoon and Eun Hak Lee, who won the silver at this year's International Design Excellence Awards. It's comprised of two slender pieces of maple that function as a slider, revealing the LCD display stored inside. A sensor on the back turns the block of wood into a fully functional, touch-sensitive phone with MP3 compatibility and a digital camera. Though still in prototype form, the creators expect to manufacture the phone at an affordable rate so that it's available on a large scale. Keep an eye on the designers' blog for production updates.

Since 2002, this Swedish company has been producing electronics embedded in polished wood. They claim to bring a "more human" feeling by using warm, natural materials on their computer monitors, television screens and accessories. But despite the unconventional material, they didn't skimp on technology. Their engineers designed one of the world's thinnest TFT-LCD monitors and didn't sacrifice on usability. Swedx products cost are close to the industry standard, and you can buy them from their website.

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David Burel Plywood Headphones
These distinctive headphones are as elegant as they are simplistic. Dissatisfied with wood used as a marketing device for environmentalists, David Burel made sure his phones made wood an integral feature of the design. The "wood arch" is made from Finnish birch plywood and uses the same molding technique employed by furniture and skateboard designers. The resulting arch has a width of 1.2mm, so it's lightweight and flexible, while providing the precise, resonant sound that only wood can produce. They're being launched under the title The Perfect Unison, where you can preorder one of 100 units currently in production. Since they're made from one continuous piece, you'll have to measure your head for proper sizing. While it ensures a perfect fit, it's also a built-in excuse to reject your friends' request borrow them.

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Wooden LED Clock
This clever timepiece looks like an ordinary block of wood when it's deactivated. Once operational, thought, an interior light lets the numbers glow from behind its surface. It can be run like a normal clock with a constant display, with the digits flashing every 2.5 seconds or in "slide mode," where the numbers scroll one digit at a time every minute. It doesn't have an alarm or any advanced features, but what it lacks in function, it makes up for with eye-catching fashion. You can buy one for $150 at ThinkGeek.

Also on Cool Hunting: Suissa: Enlighten

Plastic Logic Reader


Still one year out of consumer reach, the Plastic Logic reader is already being touted by some sources as the Kindle killer. At this week's Tools of Change for Publishing Conference in New York, I had a chance to see the reader prototype in action and get my hands on one, albeit briefly.

With a form factor equivalent to that of a legal-size pad of paper, though coming in at half the thickness and weighing under 16 ounces, it's easy to see the reader's instant appeal. Compatibility with document formats like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDFs, in addition to newspapers, periodicals and books, means that users will no longer need to stuff carry-ons or briefcases full of papers when traveling. The reader has the capacity to store thousands of documents, all of which can be synced wirelessly or with wired access. Publishing partners already include fictionwise, the Financial Times, Ingram Digital and USA Today.


So how about the image quality? The reader utilizes an E Ink active matrix display, initially produced with a grayscale screen that adequately replicates the effect of reading newsprint (plans for both a flexible reader and color screen are in the works). Unlike typical glass silicon displays, the flexible plastic substrates used in the reader allow the device to be both thinner, lighter and rugged. These features, coupled with the ability to see the reader in broad daylight, makes for a strong case indeed.

The touch-screen interface uses simple gestural commands similar to those on Apple devices, allowing for toggling between pages, zooming in and out and bringing up the keyboard for annotations. A simple home button in the upper left corner brings users back to the main page. Check out a demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show in the AP video below.

All in all, I was more than impressed with Plastic Logic's reader. Holding the device in my hands felt little different than holding a sturdy copy of The New Yorker. Although the device is somewhat finalized, a few contentious points remain with regard to the physical design.

As we all learned from generations of iPods, rounded corners are nice, but rounded edges are even nicer. The reader could benefit with a miniscule tweak of this detail while also changing the backside to a more tactile material. Additionally, the color palette chosen for the prototype is highly reminiscent of the beige CPU towers that took us decades to do away with—we still tend to judge books and magazines by their covers. While Plastic Logic may be alluding to the color of paper or newsprint, the device is devoid of the sensual appeal that Apple brought to its iPod line-up. Lastly, the company may want to consider untethering the device to its name. Unless they can team up with some real branding gurus, we're guessing a name like Plastic Logic will do little to inspire consumer lust.

MoMA Design Store: Destination Seoul

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We were lucky enough to attend the opening for the MoMA Design Store's new product collection, Destination Seoul, which highlights designers and products from South Korea. Buyers selected young, emerging Korean designers and their creations across a range of categories for a diverse curatorial of goods usually only found on the peninsula.

As part of the MoMA Design Store's destination series and sponsored by HyundaiCard, the Korea Institute of Design Promotion (KIDP) and , it's the first Korean design collection of its kind in the States, further cementing Korea's place in the international contemporary creative scene. Products range from spoon reimagined as a bottle opener to mini replicas of Bibimbap, but our favorites from the collection have to be the Sandwich Sponge ($10), Wooden Block Rattle Set ($18) and the Cloud Memo Pad ($8).


Designed by Jaewon Yang and Hyung Jeong Lee, the Sandwich Sponge is an absurd take on the cleaning utensil, playing on the similarity between breads and sponges, as well as the idea of cleaning food with food. The Wooden Block Rattle Set designed by Jae Keun Song is a clever combination of two childhood toys. Made from natural wood finished with linseed oil, each wooden block features a different face and makes a distinctive sounds. And Ami's favorite, the Cloud Memo Pad, designed by Mi-Jung Ju, features Korea's traditional color stripes in the form of a cloud shape. The pad consists of an array of lined and unlined paper of different colors.

All the Destination Seoul products are exclusive to MoMA and available for a limited time online.

Nova by Northern Lighting

Norway's Northern Lighting presents a new mood lighting series called Nova, which consists of three pendant lamps designed by Sweden's Anu Moser. The shades are three layers of mouth-blown glass: transparent, white and transparent. Transparent glass pieces are then added to create the individual models. The series is inspired by the dusky light seen in the Nordic sky on a clear night, and each light is named after a star: Callisto, Miranda and Ophelia.






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