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Clear Favorite: Boskke’s Self-Watering Planter

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boskke cubeNeither snow nor freezing rain nor the Super Bowl can keep thousands of retailers from NY NOW, the twice-yearly trade show that fills the Javits Center with giftables and homegoods galore. Enlisted to prowl the aisles of the “Accent on Design” section as a judge for the show’s “Bloggers’ Choice Awards,” we emerged with a clear favorite: the Boskke Cube, a new self-watering planter offered by Brooklyn-based neo-utility.

Designer Patrick Morris deconstructed the traditional plant pot and added an ingenious irrigation system to create this transparent planter, which acts as a reservoir for a month’s supply of water. “The clear plastic body reveals the water, soil, and roots of the plant, allowing you to witness firsthand the mechanics of plant growth,” says Morris of the Cube, which comes in assorted sizes. “And great for all those travelers…you only need to water it once a month.”

Quote of Note | Dan Neil

ford f-150

“Ford changed the game this week when it unveiled its aluminum-intensive pickup truck, the 2015 F-150, that is as much as 700 pounds lighter than a comparable steel-bodied vehicle. To the casual observer, the anticipated 3 mpg (20%) increase gained by Ford’s high-tech ‘light-weighting’ (a term of art) may seem marginal, but I assure you it is a figure of immediate and national consequence.

[Gives example of fuel economy gain and resulting net efficiency of Toyota Prius, which averages 50 mpg, with that of low-mpg vehicles like pickups, in which the fuel-saving effect is multiplied: to nearly four times that of the Prius, in his example.] Now reckon with the Big Multiplier: 763,000. That is the number of F-series trucks Ford sold last year, a figure that on its own would make the F-series the seventh largest vehicle company in the U.S. market. By virtue of the hundreds of millions of miles rolled up by the F-series annually, you are looking at the single biggest real-world advance in fuel economy in any vehicle since the Arab oil embargo.”

-Dan Neil, in his “Rumble Seat” column in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal

Parrish Art Museum, Adidas by Tom Dixon Among Travel + Leisure Design Award Winners

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adidas tom dixonBefore planning your next trip, be sure to review the newly crowned winners of the Travel + Leisure Design Awards, which will be featured in the magazine’s February issue (on newsstands next Friday). The winners, announced today, range from a brilliant Nordic eatery and Tom Dixon‘s Adidas travel togs (at right) to the latest Ian Schrager-meets-Marriott project and an intimate Bhutanese getaway. Many of this year’s favorites will come as no surprise, including the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Parrish Art Museum and Jawbone’s travel-ready Mini Jambox. Meanwhile, 2013 T+L Design Champion Thomas J. Pritzker, executive chairman of Hyatt Hotels, joins past honorees such as Vitra chairman Rolf Fehlbaum, ubercollector Micky Wolfson, and Standardbearer André Balazs. Tasked with choosing “the best new examples of design” in 18 categories was a jury moderated by Chee Pearlman that included fashion designer Thom Browne, MoMA’s Kathy Halbreich, and interior designer Ilse Crawford. Keep reading for the full list of winners.
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Extreme Design Documentary Follows Stanford D.School Students

Design for extreme affordability. That’s the challenge presented by one course at Stanford University’s Institute of Design (better known as the d.school); how students address it—drawing on methods from engineering and industrial design in combination with ideas from the arts, tools from the social sciences, and insights from the business world—is the subject of a new documentary. In Extreme by Design, now available on iTunes, filmmakers Ralph King Jr. and Michael Schwarz follow d.schoolers as they create and test potentially life-saving products for those in the developing countries they visit. Here’s the trailer:

Volvo Gives Illustrators Sneak Peek at Latest Concept Car

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Pining for the fjords. An image of the Volvo Concept XC Coupe in Norway.

Volvo is keeping its Concept XC Coupe under wraps—mostly. In advance of the big reveal later this month in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show, the company has released a lone image (above), in which the vehicle—”inspired by modern high-tech sports equipment”—plays peek-a-boo with Snøhetta’s Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion in Hjerkinn, Norway. The next phase of Volvo’s curiosity-piquing campaign was to offer a sneak peak at the Concept XC Coupe, the second in a line of three concept cars, to six illustrators: Mark Riddick, Lovisa Burfitt, Blair Frame, David Puckney, Jesper Waldersten, and Gary Barker each had the opportunity to look at and interpret the car. Here’s what they each came up with…
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Master Class: Seven Questions for Melanie Courbet, Founder of Atelier Courbet

Courbet Interior Shop
(Photos courtesy Atelier Courbet)

Melanie Courbet PortraitNew York’s latest design destination is Atelier Courbet, a new gallery and shop that brings together exquisite objects, furniture, textiles, and home accessories handpicked for their sublime old-school craftsmanship. In an age of touchscreens and disposable everything, many of these one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces combine traditional techniques with contemporary design. “Our intention is to highlight the revered talent behind every object,” says founder Melanie Courbet, who convinced renowned craftsmen Domeau & Pérès to make their stateside debut at Atelier Courbet. “We would like to inspire our clients to curate their home and their lifestyle based on the appreciation of the material and the details of their environment.” We asked Courbet to tell us more about the new venture, including its home in the historical Brewster Carriage House (located at the corner of Broome and Mott Streets) and some of her favorite straight-from-the-workshop pieces.

Why did you think that it was the right time to open this gallery and shop?
It was the right time in my life as I matured for seven years my relationships with most of the manufactures or craftsmen I represent today. On another note, I believe my desire to shift the focus to the master-craftsmanship over the design or creative aspects is a response to a context. Our market—like our global culture—shows a shift in the consumer’s behavior. There is a general trend at different levels of consumption that reflects a global desire to nurture a sense of community and connect with the makers behind our belongings or the goods we consume. Brand equity is now often built upon emotional connections with the provenance, a sense of cultural heritage and traditions. I hope for Atelier Courbet to convey that story and to allow for our clients to find that connect with each handmade piece presented.

What qualities unite the designers and companies represented at Atelier Courbet?
Atelier Courbet selects and represents master-craftsmen based on their abilities to fabricate for the contemporary art or design scene while carrying on a heritage, discipline and centuries-old techniques.

Atelier Courbet 1How did you come upon the Brewster Carriage House? Why did the building appeal to you?
It’s my friend’s building. He and I have similar visions and passions. It sounded natural and such a great fit for a gallery and shop focusing on master-craftsmanship and heritage to set the stage in a building that has that incarnation.

The Brewster Carriage Building goes back to the mid-nineteenth century when it used to house the famous carriage makers’ workshop. We kept the boilers doors as well as a carriage that was made here by the Brewster Company’s workers. Ross Morgan and I would like to make this corner a destination that stages both the heritage of the building, the neighborhood and selected centuries-old manufacturers from around the world. The Atelier Courbet and the Brewster Carriage Corner will become both a design gallery and a lifestyle shop.
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PackH2O Wins People’s Design Award

PackH2O

PackH2O packThe people have spoken, and selected PackH2O as the winner of the 2013 People’s Design Award, announced by presenter Todd Oldham at the Cooper-Hewitt‘s National Design Awards ceremony and gala held last night in New York. Designed and manufactured by Greif, the water backpack—a life-changing alternative to buckets and jerry cans designed to carry water home—takes its place alongside past winners including Design Matters, Trek’s Lime Bike, and Toms Shoes.

“Our goal is to ease the daily burden of water transport for women and children, enable fast, high-volume emergency relief and provide simple, affordable micro-business opportunities,” say the team behind Columbus, Ohio-based PackH2O, which bested a slate of 20 nominated works, ranging from popular apps to medical devices, that emphasize how innovative design can make a difference in daily life.

Documentary on Lela and Massimo Vignelli Screening at IFC Center, MFA Boston

“If you can’t find it, design it.” Following that motto has led Lella and Massimo Vignelli through a design career that spans products, graphics, publications, furniture, and more. Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra‘s documentary, Design Is One, traces the Vignellis’ legendary achievements–from New York’s subway signage and identity programs for Bloomingdale’s to Heller dinnerware and Venini lamps–alongside personal anecdotes from the likes of Richard Meier, Milton Glaser, Michael Bierut, and Jessica Helfand. Catch the film this month in New York City at IFC Center and later Symphony Space. It opens October 31 at the MFA Boston.

Talkin’ Toys with Kidrobot Founder Paul Budnitz

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ARTGIANTS4FootDunnyArtist, designer, author, filmmaker, entrepreneur, creator of stunning titanium bikesPaul Budnitz is a man of many talents, but he is best known as the founder of Kidrobot. More than a decade after its founding, the company’s ever-changing family of limited-edition art toys ranges from blind-boxed, collect-them-all figures to a high-gloss uberDunny that stands four feet tall–and will set you back $5,000.

Budnitz returns to his toy design roots with a new twist on the DIY Munnys that remain among Kidrobot’s top sellers: on October 16, Skillshare will launch his “Beautiful Plastic” online class in toy design. We seized the moment to ask Budnitz how he got his start, the first toy he designed, and what toys have caught his eye lately.

How did you get started designing toys?
In 2001 I fell in love with some very early Michael Lau toys that I saw in Hong Kong. And almost simultaneously, discovered that Bounty Hunter was making toys in Tokyo. I thought they were beautiful–a perfect combination of pop-art, design, pop culture–just these amazing little sculptures. Because they were all limited edition, when they sold out they were gone forever. That made them precious. I founded Kidrobot in 2002 to make toys with my friends, mostly street artists and designers and graphic artists.

Do you remember the first toy you ever designed?
I think the first toy was actually Dunny, with Tristan Eaton. I have to credit him with the brilliance of that toy, he is one of the greatest illustrators alive in my opinion. We spent about a year on it (I think) trying to get the design right. The idea was to make it the best canvas possible for other people to draw on. That is why the face is so big and flat and round. It’s also got attitude. We put one foot in front of the other, and cut the shoulders at an angle, so when the head turns in looks a little menacing. It’s still Kidrobot’s most popular toy.

What is your toy design pet peeve?
I left Kidrobot several years ago to work on my bicycle company and do some other things, since I just felt like it was time for me to move on. I love the company, but it is difficult for me to see the direction it has taken. I know that the people over there are working to renew some of the original spark and originality. I encourage them to do so.

To me it’s sad when great things get watered down and become obvious and corporate. Creating magic through design is difficult to maintain!
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Beautiful Plastic: Creating a Great Designer Toy

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Hold on to your Dunnys and Munnys, design fans, because Kidrobot founder Paul Budnitz is making time in his new life as a maker of beautiful bicycles to guide Smorkin’ Labbit lovers–and anyone else who is interested–through the process of creating a great designer toy. Budnitz has signed on to teach “Beautiful Plastic: Creating a Great Designer Toy,” an online course that launches October 16 through Skillshare.

“The goal of the class is to help artists sketch their own toy,” Budnitz tells us. “I talk about the basic history of designer toys, since it’s important to know the medium in which you’re working. There’s also a discussion about appropriation and juxtaposition, two elements of design that are found in most good art (and toys), and some ideas of how to apply this to your own toy.” And of course, he’ll offer plenty of pointers on how to design and draw a toy, with an eye to getting it off the page and into into production.
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