Archive for the 'Books and Magazines' Category

‘Material Witness’ Spring 2011 Innovation

The 2011 Spring Edition of Innovation is now available and was edited by yours truly, Warren Ginn, IDSA, Principal of Ginndesign, LLC. I was invited to be guest editor for this issue because of its focus: Materials. Entitled ‘Material Witness,’ this issue highlights how design is contributing to both the business of product development as well as the suppliers who support it. For those of you not familiar, Innovation is IDSA’s quarterly journal and is the highest profile magazine for 3000+ industrial designers and managers today.

I sought out authors from around the world to write articles that celebrate how the designer’s intimate understanding of materials and manufacturing drives innovation in product development and how they have become instrumental in leading the materials and manufacturing industries to recognize that innovation starts at the concept level. In addition, I wanted to offer articles that explore how we educate young designers about these technologies in our schools as well as how professionals continue their learning and apply that knowledge to new product innovations.

I’m personally very proud of the collection of authors I’ve assembled and I hope you’ll take the time to read it. It’s pretty good, if I don’t say so myself. If you’re an IDSA member, you should have already received your copy of Innovation (or will soon). If you’re not a member (and why not?), you can follow the link below to become a member and/or get your copy. There’s even some preview articles to whet your appetite.

[The 2011 Spring Edition of Innovation]

Book Review: Plastic Dreams by Charlotte and Peter Fiell

So I got my copy and basically the Core 77 review accurately depicts what this book is, but maybe not what this book isn’t

What it is:
This book is a very nice historical retrospective of plastics in product design. It gives the reader an opportunity to understand the context of how these materials were first applied to product design and how they transformed the design process. The pictures are lovely and it makes for a very nice coffee table book for industrial design enthusiasts.

I’m not sure I’d keep the orange plastic “slipcase” designed by Edson Matsuo and manufactured by Melissa. As described in the book, the specially developed Melflex flexible PVC has a strong “tutti-frutti” scent (which I can only imagine is meant to mask the smell of the plasticizer–think “new car smell”), but it’s too strong and I had to get rid of it… Yuck.

What it isn’t:
In any event, this book is a good reference for those looking for inspiration, but it’s not terribly useful for those looking for more instructive information on how the different plastic forming processes work or how to design for them. There’s a short glossary in the back with just text and no illustrations, again confirming that this book is intended as a historical review, but not much more. I’d prefer to see more detailed images and illustrations of how these products came to be (there are the occasional concept sketches, which I like), but how ’bout chopping some of these part in half and letting us see what’s inside? I’m a big fan of product autopsies as a way to learn about materials and processes… But that’s not really what this book is about.

All in all, I think this book would be a useful addition to the libraries of design schools and those of us who just like well-photographed beauty shots of plastic products. And for $30, that’s not such a bad thing.

[Order it on Amazon]

Hydro Aluminum Design Manual, Case Studies

Hydro Aluminum has published a very nice design guide for aluminum extrusions.  It covers pretty much everything you need to know from the basics, design, technical data, forming, fabrication and finishing. This is one that I’ll add to my design library.

In addition to the design guide, they’ve got a series of case studies oriented around the design and construction of the SylvanSport GO mobile adventure trailer. This well thought out product won a 2008 IDEA Gold from IDSA.

Extrusion Anatomy has five parts:

  1. Introduction – Shows all the different extruded profiles used in the trailer.
  2. Alloys – You’ll notice that different alloys are chosen for different areas of the design.
  3. Bending & Welding – Nice illustrations and videos on how the aluminum tubing is bent and welding to place.
  4. Adhesive Bonding – Unlike the other structural elements, the floor is assembled using adhesive. There are several images and videos here.
  5. Aluminum, the “green material” – which explains how aluminum is green because it can be recycled.

A very nice presentation and definitely worth a look.

Exploring Materials: Creative Design For Everyday Objects

[Via Core77]

Ellen Lupton, design luminary and curator at the Cooper-Hewitt Nation Design Museum, and product designer and teacher Inna Alesina introduced their new book, Exploring Materials: Creative Design For Everyday Objects at Baltimore’s Design Conversations. Their book, published by Princeton Architectural Press, is divided into five sections that cover topics like: how to get inspired by materials, how to use materials to solve design problems, and how to transform prototypes into sellable products. Another section of the book reminds designers to make a positive impact on the world by considering topics like sustainability, accessibility and social responsibility. This theme appears throughout the book since many of the products are made from repurposed materials. From the publisher’s website:

Exploring Materials invites you to get inspired by physical forms and substances. Materials are like words. The richer your design vocabulary, the more design solutions you can see and express. Foam, mesh, wood, plastic, and wire each have behaviors and properties that suggest different types of structure, surface, and connection. Each has its place, consequences, and cost. Understanding materials is essential to design, and understanding materials through hands-on experiment is absolutely crucial. Use this book to begin looking at design with new eyes. Ignore what you already know, and find out how substances such as cardboard, cloth, metal, and rope can yield surprising structures with unexpected functions.

Go to the post on Core77 for more coverage of the Baltimore Design Conversations event and the book.

Materials Driving Product Innovation in 2010

[Via Fast Company]

The folks at Material ConneXion recently gave Fast Company a peek into their annual Material Technology Reports for 2010. Here’s five of the twenty significant developments they’ve identified in the report:

1. Newsflash: plastics are made made from oil. So a lot of research is going into finding real-world feasible alternatives to the black goo. Pictured above is a skiboot which performs to the same specs, but is made from Dupont’s Hytrel RS bio-plastic–part of a new generation of plastics made with plant-based derivatives rather than oil. (Do a search for “bio-plastics” in this blog for more related articles.)

2. Recycled products used to be the province of cheap, low-end goods that would simply be thrown away once used. As companies begin managing the entire product lifecycle which creates new opportunities for recycled materials. As an example, Recycline’s Preserve line of products can  can be returned, at any time, to the manufacturer for 100% reuse. Pictured above is their “paperboard” cutting board, which mimics wood but is made completely of recycled paper.

3. Despite their Earth-friendly source, bioplastics create their own problem because can’t be recycled–they’re not included in the waste streams recognized by the seven recycling symbols currently in use. But now The Society of Plastics, which developed the symbols, is creating a new designation for PLA, a corn-based plastic . Problem solved.

4. Imitation is the kindest form of flattery. Biomimickry is finally making its way into mass-produced products. One of several examples outlined in the Material ConneXion report is Sharklet (pictured above, lower right). Sharks don’t have to clean their skin because the skin itself prevents microbes from growing on it, thanks to its microscopic texture. Sharklet mimics that in an adhesive film that can replace chemically based anti-microbial treatments.  Sweet.

5. Plastic, it turns out, is filled with all kinds of nasty stuff that can seep into our bodies; we’ve only now begun to understand all the disastrous effects that those can cause. But Plastic doesn’t have to be toxic, and one company, Green Toys, is making an entire line of products that are free from BPA, phthalates, and lead paint. (Pictured above, lower right.)

Free Plastics Design Articles from IDES


IDES has assembled a very nice collection of free plastic design guides and articles that you should consider downloading for your personal library. Just add them to your cart and they’ll send you the link. Here’s a few I found really useful:


Designing With Plastic: The Fundamentals from Ticona is a classic (if there is such a thing in plastic design guides). Last updated in 2006, this single guide presents all the basic information regarding plastic and part design for injection molidng. This is definitely a must-have.


The Design Solutions Guide from BASF is also a very complete review of the subject. Is it better than Ticona’s? Download both and see for yourself… they’re both free


The Snap-Fit Design Manual from BASF is just that: It reviews all the ways you can snap parts together including the fairly easy-to-use stress calculations for each (to make sure you’re not over-stressing the plastic).

There’s 66 articles in total, but you’re probably not going to be too interested in some of them (like Cold Jet – Industry Overview: Plastic Mold Cleaning or Effective & Economical Purging of Plastics Processing Machinery). But you should check out most of them… again, because they’re free.

In addition, IDES has a really decent collection of free on-line articles covering design, materials, processing and other related subjects. All you have to do is register (for free).

I’m a Fan: MAKE


This will definitely bring out the kid in you… Someone described MAKE as a cross between WIRED, American Woodworker, Popular Mechanics and Scientific American. Published once a quarter, each issue features four very detailed DIY projects, along with short descriptions and general guides to a few others. Combined with the DIY info, there is the usual mix of opinion articles, political commentary, news summaries, letters, articles about crazy DIY-folk, also called “makers”.

But for my fellow industrial designers, be forewarned: Makers are not necessarily industrial designers or manufacturers–slick and finished is not what a maker does. Makers are about function, not form.

So why feature this mag on a blog for industrial designers?

Continue reading ‘I’m a Fan: MAKE’