Fluidforms – tableware for the discerning prosumer.

Earth Bowls

Austrian design firm Fluidforms have created Earth bowls: fruit bowls generated from Google Earth topographical data which is translated into physical form by CNC routing laminated beech – a cool concept undoubtedly, but the clincher for me is in the web interface. They say:

Our website enables you to design according to your own preferences with but a few clicks of the mouse. Create your own unique forms, and bring to life your own individual Design.

They’re clearly into the idea of user-level customisation in the same sense that platformdesign.org are, giving the user just the right tools and amount of control to not get lost in the experience of defining their product’s form (without altering the function). So have a go at designing your own Earth bowl here. In addition to that, one can also customise the form, colours and materials of their own salt/pepper seller, candlestick and pestle.
The interfaces are wonderfully straight forward and really shows how important the interactive, or service design aspect is to offering customisation at the point of sale. Here’s me designing my Glasgow fruit bowl (I never summoned up the courage or funds to hit ‘Add to cart’!), and a DRIFT salt/pepper seller below that.

Roy's Glasgow Earthbowl
Roy's Fluidforms Candlestick

Other interesting projects from Fluidforms are:

Customers design with their fists – Orginally an installation using a punchbag to alter the form of a lamp, the site has a Flash version of the same (far bottom).

Custoemrs design with their fistsRoy designing with his fists

Fingerprint sculptures – Using a fingerprint scan to create a unique 3D form.

Fingerprint Sculptures

Fluidforms appears to be the brainchild of consultancy firm Formatory which enigmatically offers ‘prosumer solutions’.

UPDATE: I remembered what led me here! It was in fact Scott Johnston’s own version of topographical CNC’d bowls. He just ‘wrote some programs’ to help get from a google map to a bowl. Showoff!

Personal Factory Projects for Weddings

Plus Make Your Own wedding stuff with FREE design files!Summer is traditionally the time for weddings. Apparently, back in the day people would marry in June because that’s when they had their annual bath. Bridal bouquets have similar origins – they were used to mask body odor. Seeing that June is nearly here, and the thought of the long awaited annual bath is probably as exciting as the upcoming nuptials, it’s time to roll out some wedding ideas.

Some people dread having to attend a wedding, and if their experience has been that of banal cookie cutter ceremonies, then the sentiment is pretty reasonable. The weddings where the contents of the bar are the main highlight for most guests are a sad abomination and are especially repelling for those with a creative streak.

Often, a lavish wedding doesn’t guarantee an iota of personality, and at the dinner table you find yourself daydreaming about being let loose with a permanent marker or a box of felt pens to escape the whitewash austerity. Of course, then you’d have to answer to the mother of the bride, and you can be pretty certain that there’s a weapons arsenal hidden under her feathered hat. It’s best to keep drinking quietly, while imagining how amazing this wedding would have been had it been you designing it.

“Amazing” is exactly the type of wedding you can magically concoct with some DIY imagination, regardless of the budget. Creative genius will do more with a stack of cardboard and some string than what you’d get from an overpriced generic package. At Ponoko we regularly see designs for wedding related fabrication, and it’s fantastic to come across unique and fully personalized ideas.

Not surprisingly, the availability of digital fabrication services has translated into customised designs for weddings. While fashion design star Iris van Herpen doesn’t specifically aim to address that niche, her elaborate 3D printed dresses can certainly inspire avant-garde wedding gown design.Check out loads more wedding project ideas after the jump:


Ten Great Examples of Ingenuity in Contemporary Product Design

Best of the Blog 2010 — functional art + objects

The 21st Century has so far witnessed a public obsession with design. Phrases like “to the trade” and “industry insider” almost sound silly in the face of today’s every-day design bloggers, curators, and lovers.

So for our object loving public, here’s our product design top ten from a category we call functional art + objects.


He Don’t Do Retro – Interview with Matt Sinclair Pt.1

In a previous post I mentioned the we don’t do retro site/blog written by Matt Sinclair, PhD student at Loughborough University, in the Design Practice Research Groupthesis is “An investigation of the feasibility of product architectures to facilitate consumer-created designs in the consumer electronics industry, using rapid manufacturing technologies as an enabler”

Matt has been kind enough to grant us an interview so we could delve into his perspective of mass customisation.

What specifically brought on the idea to start incorporating consumer involvement into product design?

I had always been interested in designing for people who are at the fringes of mainstream consumerism. When I was at the RCA my personal tutor was Tony Dunne, and he got me interested in the idea of looking at how people subvert products, (ab)use them in ways that weren’t intended by the designer. A mundane example is using a screw driver to open a tin of paint, a more “colourful” example is using a vacuum cleaner as a sex aid(yes it is on youtube). His theory was that you could learn a lot by looking at the way people invent new uses for products. Nowadays this isn’t particularly controversial, Eric von Hippel has written a lot about how mountain biking and kite surfing were “invented” by people abusing existing products, but at the time it seemed very new, at least to me.

When I first started at Nokia there wasn’t much opportunity to put these ideas into practice, at least not at first. But Nokia was the first company to introduce customisation into mobile phones in the form of user-changeable covers. That led to a lot of concepting exercises in the design team, thinking about how customisation could be expanded further. I guess that’s where I first started to realise the logical conclusion of consumers customising products is consumers designing their own products. But at the time there didn’t seem to be any way it could be possible.
we dont do retro 1
What from this experience inspired you to undertake your PhD into consumer created designs?

To be honest, that wasn’t the focus of the PhD when I started. It began with me looking at the way rapid manufacturing technologies would change the industrial design process, and I was thinking more along the lines of consumers working alongside designers, what’s usually called user-centred design. Again whilst I was at Nokia, I had run a project where we worked with professional sports people to design a range of products; we interviewed them at the beginning of the project, and then repeatedly asked them to review the designs and models and to give their feedback. But as my PhD research continued, I started to realise that the user-centred design process is still a process where the designer is in control, where the designer is the “expert” and has the power to veto features or suggestions from the user. And it became clear that the reason for this is that the designer has access to the means of production, ie factories and machines, which the user does not. Rapid manufacturing changes that completely. When 3D printers are available to consumers, they will begin to design and make their own products whether professional designers like it or not.

Speaking of 3D printing, Current rapid prototyping techniques seem to be the starting point for consumer driven design outside of the current standard paradigm which in most cases is really just multiple choice. What do you see the major limitations of an RM model once the cost is reduced/out of the equation?

There are two main ones, which both come down to the question of “quality”. The first is that the surface finish of parts made by rapid prototyping or rapid manufacturing is relatively poor compared to mass manufactured products: they tend to have ridges, or rough surfaces, and the colours are limited. But these are gradually improving, and it’s worth remembering that injection moulding is a process that’s 140 years old. 3D printers and other rapid manufacturing technologies are still in their infancy by comparison. The second limitation is the tools that consumers have available to design their own products. This is hard enough in 2D, which is why I imagine Ponoko has introduced Photomake, for people who can’t use Adobe Illustrator. 3D Computer Aided Design is much harder to learn, most designers take at least three years to get good at a single CAD package. So there needs to be much simpler modelling tools, and that’s now a significant part of my research. But again there are signs that things are moving: Google SketchUp and 3DVia Shape are undoubtedly consumer-oriented, and Shapeways Creator and FluidForms show some interesting approaches. I also think there’s a hell of a lot to learn from Spore Creature Creator, in the way it both helps and restricts you in designing new creatures.

One thing that’s important about “quality” though, is that it depends how you view things. Consumer culture is primarily visual, and we judge the quality of products, at least in the first instance, by how how they look. We’ve come to judge the quality of a product by it’s appearance, and in that sense the production values of mass manufacture are a lot higher than those of rapid manufacture. But think of another category such as film. Blair Witch Project or 28 Days Later or Dogville had much lower production values than a typical Hollywood blockbuster, but people ignored the rough edges and focussed on the quality of the idea rather than the polish of the celebrities or special effects. I think that when we can make products in much lower volumes, they will be better able to meet the needs of individuals rather than the mass market which products are aimed at nowadays. And it could be that if a product is designed specifically for you, especially if you’ve designed it yourself, those rough edges won’t be as important as the idea behind the product.

Thanks again to Matt, Interview will continue in next post:

In future posts I will also be speaking to some of the speakers from First Annual MIT Smart Customization Seminar for more insight into mass customization.

From barcodes to trees, and beyond.

Daniel A Becker’s Barcode Plantage appeals to me as a good example of exploiting digitalism and computing in order to generate art and design. Written in the highly accessible Processing scripting language (designed specifically for artists and designers), Barcode Plantage is a neat little program. It takes a barcode and processes it using certain algorithms to create a tree-like image unique to the code, complete with key info such as country of origin and manufacturer. The program also plays you a momentary melody also based on the barcode chosen (for me, the program only seemed to work with certain of the random barcodes provided, so keep trying if nothing happens).

Barcode Plantage

I love the idea of taking already-computed processes and using them to drive another – hence applying digital terrains to CNC’d bowls, vector face profiles to 3D printed candlesticks or waveforms to laser cut jewellery (using Ponoko). Its as if one is handing over creative control to the machine – we design the system that it operates, but from there on, the conception and synthesis of the end product is out of our hands and given over to a completely digital process.

The barcode example is particularly exciting as barcodes are a peculiarly tangible by-product of the information age: surrounding us, packed full of machine code, yet simple bars of ink and non-ink – one could write them oneself. As a source code they excite me almost as much as the ZX Spectrum tapes! Another great use of barcodes I came across recently was the Beats from Barcodes project, using a barcode scanner as part of a multitracking drum machine to generate beats in the supermarket!

I’d like to see what laser cutting .eps files can be automatically generated from barcode data!
via Core77