Dezeen Debate features "an intelligent re-use of an industrial structure"

Kunstilo art museum

The latest edition of our Dezeen Debate newsletter features the Kunstsilo art gallery in Norway by Barcelona studios Mestres Wåge Arquitectes, BAX and Mendoza Partida. Subscribe to Dezeen Debate now.

The Kunstsilo art gallery in southern Norway is located in a converted 1930s grain silo and was designed by Barcelona’s Mestres Wåge Arquitectes, BAX, and Mendoza Partida.

The aim for Kunstsilo was to preserve and celebrate the architecture of the former grain store, completed by Norwegian functionalist architects Arne Korsmo and Sverre Aasland in 1935.

Commenters praised the conversion, labelling it “an intelligent and quite positive re-use of an industrial structure,” while another remarked, “Love a good adaptive reuse project.”

The Line as part of Neom in Saudi Arabia a risk to birds
Saudi Arabia authorised “lethal force” for Neom land clearance reports BBC

Other stories in this week’s newsletter that fired up the comments section include a report by the BBC that Saudi Arabia has authorised “lethal force” for Neom land clearances, a house in Dulwich extended by local studio Proctor & Shaw and a shell-like brick pavilion in China by architecture practice HCCH Studio.

Dezeen Debate

Dezeen Debate is sent every Thursday and features a selection of the best reader comments and most talked-about stories. Read the latest edition of Dezeen Debate or subscribe here.

You can also subscribe to our other newsletters; Dezeen Agenda is sent every Tuesday containing a selection of the most important news highlights from the week, Dezeen Daily is our daily bulletin that contains every story published in the preceding 24 hours and Dezeen In Depth is sent on the last Friday of every month and delves deeper into the major stories shaping architecture and design.

The post Dezeen Debate features “an intelligent re-use of an industrial structure” appeared first on Dezeen.

Top 5 Quirky Phone Designs That Actually Make Sense

Smartphones today seem to look very similar, varying only in the shape of the camera bump and the color of their backs. Sometimes, the materials might be different, too, but the same large-sized “candy bar” form factor has become the standard for all the smartphones currently in the market. There was a time, however, when companies were a bit more daring, experimenting with phone designs and features in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. That did lead to some rather eccentric and sometimes even ridiculous designs that make us question the sanity of the minds behind them. But there are times when those odd designs of the past actually have important relevance today. Here are five such phone design oddities that we wished existed or still exist, and some alternatives in case you may have been smitten by their quirky appearance.

Designer: Google, Motorola

Undying Handset: Project Ara

Google’s Project Ara inspired the idea of a modular smartphone whose components you can easily swap to upgrade or repair parts. In theory, this would make the phone last forever, or at least as long as the base is intact and parts continue to be manufactured for it. In practice, it was a very ambitious endeavor that could neither meet expectations nor present a viable business model that wouldn’t bankrupt manufacturers. In the end, that sustainable and immortal smartphone remained just a dream, at least in that idealistic and perfect form.

Alternative: Fairphone 5

Designer: Fairphone

Fortunately, a part of that dream is actually possible and even sustainable in more ways than one. Although you can’t hot swap components on the fly, the Fairphone 5 at least offers a way for owners to change important parts of the phone, like batteries or even cameras, to keep them running almost forever. There are some limitations, of course, but if all you want is a phone that will last you for almost a decade instead of just two years, this self-repairable design pretty much has that in the bag.

Mobile Shutterbug: Nokia N90

One of the biggest uses for smartphones today next to social media is taking photos and videos. In the days even before the term “smartphone” was coined, even the most advanced handsets from the likes of Nokia could barely hold a candle to point-and-click cameras. That’s why the quirky Nokia N90 was prophetic and way ahead of its time, envisioning a day when smartphones would be used like camcorders, though with a bit more awkwardness due to their inflexible designs.

Alternative: Nokia x Nothing Concept

Designer: Viet Doan Duc

While clamshell phones are back in season thanks to foldable screens, the folding and twisting design of the original Nokia N90 remains a distant memory. This concept tries to answer the question of “what if?” and mixes two famed brands’ design languages to craft what could be the perfect camera phone. It makes you feel like a pro photographer or cinematographer, holding up your phone not with shame but with pride, capturing not only the moment but also people’s attention in a good way.

Pocket Book: YotaPhone Dual-Screen Phone

Designer: YotaDevices

E Ink devices are becoming more popular these days, especially after the addition of features like stylus support and color. These displays are easy on the eyes and the battery, allowing the screen to show the same thing for days without requiring a recharge. A few years back, a small company tried to bring those benefits to the smartphone in the oddest way, by putting an E Ink screen on its back. Although it can be used for reading e-books on the go, its main purpose was to have a battery-saving always-on display that is a bit more dynamic and useful than typical AOD implementations.

Alternative: Onyx BOOX Palma

Designer: BOOX

That said, a phone-sized Android device with an E Ink display might be an even more efficient design, which is what the Onyx BOOX Palma is offering. Technically, it’s an e-book reader that’s the size of a regular phone and actually runs Android, which is the standard for BOOX’s devices. This means it has access to the same apps you have on your regular phone, but without color. You also don’t have cellular connectivity via a SIM card, which might be a deal-breaker for a phone but a great deal for distraction-free reading and mobility.

Productive Minimalism: Minimal Phone

Designer: The Minimal Company

BlackBerry might have joined the likes of Nokia and LG as just parts of the annals of mobile history, but its squarish shape and QWERTY keyboard are forever etched in the consciousness of even the least tech-savvy person on the planet. Many have tried to recreate that magic, but this rather elegant yet odd phone puts a twist to it. It combines the iconic BlackBerry design with an E Ink screen and a minimalist aesthetic, promising distraction-free productivity by actually limiting what you can do on the device. It can even make it easier to actually reply to or post on social media, though the drab grayscale screen is probably going to make that a little less enjoyable anyway.

Alternative: Clicks QWERTY Case

Designer: Clicks

The idea of a BlackBerry-like experience might tickle the fancy of smartphone users, but none of them will be willing to ditch their powerful, colorful, and highly functional smartphones. Clicks is a case that tries to bring the best of both worlds, and it’s practically just a case that slides onto an iPhone to provide that tactile typing experience. You won’t have to give up your favorite apps, especially the ones you need to actually be productive, but the burden of being disciplined and ignoring distractions is now on you instead.

Shapeshifting Multitasker: Astro Slide 5G

Designer: Planet Computers

A phone that opens like a mini typewriter has actually been around since the days of the Nokia Communicator and its kin, but that design proved to be more complicated than they’re worth. After playing with that same design, PlanetComputing shifted to a slider that still provides that typing experience while retaining the exact same functions as a phone. Unfortunately, such a mechanism proved to be just as clunky and unreliable, and the software platform didn’t exactly lend itself well to a landscape screen.

Alternative: Any Foldable Phone

Designer: OPPO

These days, you don’t have to rely on a physical qwerty keyboard to have that same mini laptop experience. With foldable phones now more common, you can tap away on a more flexible on-screen keyboard when the device is only half-folded. At the same time, however, you have both phone and tablet functionality in your hands. Admittedly, the design is far from perfect, and we’re still waiting for more affordable foldables coming in the very near future.

The post Top 5 Quirky Phone Designs That Actually Make Sense first appeared on Yanko Design.

Top 5 Quirky Phone Designs That Actually Make Sense

Smartphones today seem to look very similar, varying only in the shape of the camera bump and the color of their backs. Sometimes, the materials might be different, too, but the same large-sized “candy bar” form factor has become the standard for all the smartphones currently in the market. There was a time, however, when companies were a bit more daring, experimenting with phone designs and features in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. That did lead to some rather eccentric and sometimes even ridiculous designs that make us question the sanity of the minds behind them. But there are times when those odd designs of the past actually have important relevance today. Here are five such phone design oddities that we wished existed or still exist, and some alternatives in case you may have been smitten by their quirky appearance.

Designer: Google, Motorola

Undying Handset: Project Ara

Google’s Project Ara inspired the idea of a modular smartphone whose components you can easily swap to upgrade or repair parts. In theory, this would make the phone last forever, or at least as long as the base is intact and parts continue to be manufactured for it. In practice, it was a very ambitious endeavor that could neither meet expectations nor present a viable business model that wouldn’t bankrupt manufacturers. In the end, that sustainable and immortal smartphone remained just a dream, at least in that idealistic and perfect form.

Alternative: Fairphone 5

Designer: Fairphone

Fortunately, a part of that dream is actually possible and even sustainable in more ways than one. Although you can’t hot swap components on the fly, the Fairphone 5 at least offers a way for owners to change important parts of the phone, like batteries or even cameras, to keep them running almost forever. There are some limitations, of course, but if all you want is a phone that will last you for almost a decade instead of just two years, this self-repairable design pretty much has that in the bag.

Mobile Shutterbug: Nokia N90

One of the biggest uses for smartphones today next to social media is taking photos and videos. In the days even before the term “smartphone” was coined, even the most advanced handsets from the likes of Nokia could barely hold a candle to point-and-click cameras. That’s why the quirky Nokia N90 was prophetic and way ahead of its time, envisioning a day when smartphones would be used like camcorders, though with a bit more awkwardness due to their inflexible designs.

Alternative: Nokia x Nothing Concept

Designer: Viet Doan Duc

While clamshell phones are back in season thanks to foldable screens, the folding and twisting design of the original Nokia N90 remains a distant memory. This concept tries to answer the question of “what if?” and mixes two famed brands’ design languages to craft what could be the perfect camera phone. It makes you feel like a pro photographer or cinematographer, holding up your phone not with shame but with pride, capturing not only the moment but also people’s attention in a good way.

Pocket Book: YotaPhone Dual-Screen Phone

Designer: YotaDevices

E Ink devices are becoming more popular these days, especially after the addition of features like stylus support and color. These displays are easy on the eyes and the battery, allowing the screen to show the same thing for days without requiring a recharge. A few years back, a small company tried to bring those benefits to the smartphone in the oddest way, by putting an E Ink screen on its back. Although it can be used for reading e-books on the go, its main purpose was to have a battery-saving always-on display that is a bit more dynamic and useful than typical AOD implementations.

Alternative: Onyx BOOX Palma

Designer: BOOX

That said, a phone-sized Android device with an E Ink display might be an even more efficient design, which is what the Onyx BOOX Palma is offering. Technically, it’s an e-book reader that’s the size of a regular phone and actually runs Android, which is the standard for BOOX’s devices. This means it has access to the same apps you have on your regular phone, but without color. You also don’t have cellular connectivity via a SIM card, which might be a deal-breaker for a phone but a great deal for distraction-free reading and mobility.

Productive Minimalism: Minimal Phone

Designer: The Minimal Company

BlackBerry might have joined the likes of Nokia and LG as just parts of the annals of mobile history, but its squarish shape and QWERTY keyboard are forever etched in the consciousness of even the least tech-savvy person on the planet. Many have tried to recreate that magic, but this rather elegant yet odd phone puts a twist to it. It combines the iconic BlackBerry design with an E Ink screen and a minimalist aesthetic, promising distraction-free productivity by actually limiting what you can do on the device. It can even make it easier to actually reply to or post on social media, though the drab grayscale screen is probably going to make that a little less enjoyable anyway.

Alternative: Clicks QWERTY Case

Designer: Clicks

The idea of a BlackBerry-like experience might tickle the fancy of smartphone users, but none of them will be willing to ditch their powerful, colorful, and highly functional smartphones. Clicks is a case that tries to bring the best of both worlds, and it’s practically just a case that slides onto an iPhone to provide that tactile typing experience. You won’t have to give up your favorite apps, especially the ones you need to actually be productive, but the burden of being disciplined and ignoring distractions is now on you instead.

Shapeshifting Multitasker: Astro Slide 5G

Designer: Planet Computers

A phone that opens like a mini typewriter has actually been around since the days of the Nokia Communicator and its kin, but that design proved to be more complicated than they’re worth. After playing with that same design, PlanetComputing shifted to a slider that still provides that typing experience while retaining the exact same functions as a phone. Unfortunately, such a mechanism proved to be just as clunky and unreliable, and the software platform didn’t exactly lend itself well to a landscape screen.

Alternative: Any Foldable Phone

Designer: OPPO

These days, you don’t have to rely on a physical qwerty keyboard to have that same mini laptop experience. With foldable phones now more common, you can tap away on a more flexible on-screen keyboard when the device is only half-folded. At the same time, however, you have both phone and tablet functionality in your hands. Admittedly, the design is far from perfect, and we’re still waiting for more affordable foldables coming in the very near future.

The post Top 5 Quirky Phone Designs That Actually Make Sense first appeared on Yanko Design.

Astonishing Demos of OpenAI's GPT-4o

So OpenAI has unveiled GPT-4o, their latest flagship AI. The AI can not only speak—in a disturbingly lifelike way, complete with surprise, chuckles and the like—but can use your camera to deduce what’s going on around you. It has to be seen/heard to be believed.

OpenAI won’t allow the videos to be embedded, so click here to get your socks knocked off. The demo atop the page gives you the general gist, and there are more demonstrations—customer service, interview preparation, sarcasm, two AIs talking to each other, etc.—below. Perhaps most disturbing is when the AI starts talking to the dog, more or less perfectly nailing the way humans speak to dogs.

“GPT-4o (‘o’ for ‘omni’) is a step towards much more natural human-computer interaction—it accepts as input any combination of text, audio, and image and generates any combination of text, audio, and image outputs. It can respond to audio inputs in as little as 232 milliseconds, with an average of 320 milliseconds, which is similar to human response time in a conversation.”

Nothing just beat Apple by bringing ChatGPT to all its TWS earbuds… even the older models

London-based tech company Nothing is making waves in the tech world by expanding its integration of ChatGPT, a powerful AI language model, to a wider range of its audio devices. This move comes just a month after the feature debuted on the company’s latest earbuds, the Ear and Ear (a), and their smartphone lineup… and coincidentally, just hours before Google’s I/O event, where the company’s expected to announce an entire slew of AI features and upgrades.

The earlier-than-expected rollout signifies Nothing’s commitment to bringing advanced AI features to everyday tech. This integration isn’t limited to Nothing-branded devices; it extends to their sub-brand CMF as well. Users with older Nothing and CMF earbud models, including the Ear (1), Ear (stick), Ear (2), CMF Neckband Pro, and CMF Buds Pro, will be able to leverage the capabilities of ChatGPT starting May 21st with a simple update to the Nothing X app. It also cleverly pre-empts Apple, which is allegedly working with OpenAI to bring ChatGPT to future models of the iPhone.

Read the Nothing Ear (a) Review here

There’s a caveat, however. To enjoy the benefits of ChatGPT through your Nothing or CMF earbuds, you’ll need to be using them with a Nothing smartphone running Nothing OS 2.5.5 or later. The good news is that activating ChatGPT is a breeze. Once you’ve updated the Nothing X app, you can enable a new gesture feature that allows you to initiate conversations with the AI assistant by simply pinching the stem of your earbuds.

This development signifies a growing trend in the tech industry: embedding AI assistants directly into consumer devices. By offering voice control through earbuds, Nothing is making it easier for users to perform everyday tasks hands-free, like checking the weather or controlling music playback. Imagine asking your earbuds for directions while jogging or requesting a quick weather update during your commute – all without reaching for your phone.

The move comes at a perfect time, right between OpenAI’s GPT-4o announcement, and Google’s I/O event, which will include multiple AI improvements including integration of Gemini AI into a vast variety of Google products as well as with the Pixel hardware lineup.

The post Nothing just beat Apple by bringing ChatGPT to all its TWS earbuds… even the older models first appeared on Yanko Design.

Appealing Transportation Design Concept: The Autonomous Sleeping Mobile

Overnight travel is freaking amazing. I’ve taken overnight trains and buses in the ‘States, Europe and Asia and always loved it. To be unconscious during the boring parts of travel, then wake up at your destination, is the closest thing we have to teleportation.

This Swift Pod concept, designed by Berlin-based creative agency XOIO, aims to put that magic in an autonomous vehicle.

“Boarding at the desired departure point at the desired time – maximum flexibility”

Swift Pod – Autonomous Sleeping Mobile

“The Swift Pod is an internal design study based on the idea that relatively long distances can be covered ‘in your sleep’ at an ecologically acceptable speed. Obviously inspired by the concept of night trains, the sleeper mobile reflects the fascination of waking up in a different place from where you started and, last but not least, the nostalgia of this travel option. We found the fact that the German railways could no longer maintain this monopoly position and that night trains have only been bookable via ÖBB [Austria’s railway service] since 2016 all the more tragic to us.

“With the development of autonomous driving, we wanted to take up the concept again and transfer it to autonomous individual transport.

“The customer(s) would – in accordance with available ridesharing concepts – order their Swift Pod online, which would then arrive at the specified time and place. After ‘take-off’, the system calculates the ideal travel speed in order to bring passengers to their destination in a reliable and ecologically friendly manner. Of course, traveling at night brings the additional advantage of low traffic, which would be conducive to a smooth journey.”

“Minimalism and comfort – Despite the streamlined shape, the interior offers enough space to travel comfortably while sitting or lying down. A fold-out table and online WiFi even make it easy to work.”

“The Swift Pod offers space for 2 travelers. These can travel sitting, although the main attraction is of course traveling lying down or sleeping. Together with a well-equipped media system, the mobile sleeper offers a small selection of snacks and drinks. Luggage can be stowed under the beds or under the seat.”

“The Swift Pod glides through the night.”

“The Swift Pod is named after the English name for the swallow, which spends a large part of its life – including sleep – flying.”

“After a good night’s sleep, you have the option of having your morning coffee at a selected location before completing the last few kilometers to your destination. Fancy a quick swim?”

“Short breaks can be planned as a special feature. The navigation system offers a selection of attractive locations to grab something to eat or freshen up. Our scenario shows a traveler having his coffee at a particularly beautiful location by the lake.

“Finally, we are aware that the minimalist design of the Swift Pod is certainly not the right means of transport for all travelers. We still decided to continue with the iconic triangular shape to emphasize how, with available technologies, travel within a certain distance without flying could be possible in a minimalist way.”

I’m old and will die before teleportation is invented. But this thing could conceivably be built in my lifetime, if a Musk or Bezos type fancies it.

Appealing Transportation Design Concept: The Autonomous Sleeping Mobile

Overnight travel is freaking amazing. I’ve taken overnight trains and buses in the ‘States, Europe and Asia and always loved it. To be unconscious during the boring parts of travel, then wake up at your destination, is the closest thing we have to teleportation.

This Swift Pod concept, designed by Berlin-based creative agency XOIO, aims to put that magic in an autonomous vehicle.

“Boarding at the desired departure point at the desired time – maximum flexibility”

Swift Pod – Autonomous Sleeping Mobile

“The Swift Pod is an internal design study based on the idea that relatively long distances can be covered ‘in your sleep’ at an ecologically acceptable speed. Obviously inspired by the concept of night trains, the sleeper mobile reflects the fascination of waking up in a different place from where you started and, last but not least, the nostalgia of this travel option. We found the fact that the German railways could no longer maintain this monopoly position and that night trains have only been bookable via ÖBB [Austria’s railway service] since 2016 all the more tragic to us.

“With the development of autonomous driving, we wanted to take up the concept again and transfer it to autonomous individual transport.

“The customer(s) would – in accordance with available ridesharing concepts – order their Swift Pod online, which would then arrive at the specified time and place. After ‘take-off’, the system calculates the ideal travel speed in order to bring passengers to their destination in a reliable and ecologically friendly manner. Of course, traveling at night brings the additional advantage of low traffic, which would be conducive to a smooth journey.”

“Minimalism and comfort – Despite the streamlined shape, the interior offers enough space to travel comfortably while sitting or lying down. A fold-out table and online WiFi even make it easy to work.”

“The Swift Pod offers space for 2 travelers. These can travel sitting, although the main attraction is of course traveling lying down or sleeping. Together with a well-equipped media system, the mobile sleeper offers a small selection of snacks and drinks. Luggage can be stowed under the beds or under the seat.”

“The Swift Pod glides through the night.”

“The Swift Pod is named after the English name for the swallow, which spends a large part of its life – including sleep – flying.”

“After a good night’s sleep, you have the option of having your morning coffee at a selected location before completing the last few kilometers to your destination. Fancy a quick swim?”

“Short breaks can be planned as a special feature. The navigation system offers a selection of attractive locations to grab something to eat or freshen up. Our scenario shows a traveler having his coffee at a particularly beautiful location by the lake.

“Finally, we are aware that the minimalist design of the Swift Pod is certainly not the right means of transport for all travelers. We still decided to continue with the iconic triangular shape to emphasize how, with available technologies, travel within a certain distance without flying could be possible in a minimalist way.”

I’m old and will die before teleportation is invented. But this thing could conceivably be built in my lifetime, if a Musk or Bezos type fancies it.

Ten studios leading Detroit's design scene in 2024

North America Design illustration: Detroit

To kick off our North American Design 2024 series, which highlights independent furniture and object designers in North America, we showcase 10 studios creating unique objects in Detroit, Michigan.

The first piece in our weekly series, which will draw attention to design studios in and around metropoles on the continent, focuses on the “lively and very creative design culture” of Detroit, where studios are making furniture made from the ruins of buildings and 3D-printed objects that draw on Turkish craft techniques.

Michigan has always been a hub for design, with powerhouses of furniture production such as Herman Miller located in the western part of the state. Detroit’s automotive history, and before that ship-making and stove production, is also a continuing influence.

While the large furniture manufacturers of Grand Rapids have continued to produce goods, Detroit’s industrial culture has changed as the city experienced economic downturns in the later 20th century.

“A lively and very creative design culture”

Although Detroit is known for its automobile production, and its carmakers continue to fuel high levels of research and development, the city has a strong handcrafted tradition.

“At the same time the automobile was making Detroit one of the most important cities in the world, the arts and crafts scene supported handcrafted production,” Cranbrook Art Museum director Andrew Satake Blauvelt told Dezeen.

“That’s how you get a place like Cranbrook. Both methods coexist here, both historically and contemporaneously. Detroit seems more ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or'”, he continued.

“Today, there is a lively and very creative design culture in Detroit. It seems to be fed more by an artisanal approach to making – limited editions, much of it made by hand.”

A UNESCO City of Design

In 2015, Detroit was named a UNESCO City of Design – the first in the United States to be given the distinction, alongside other places for production such as Asahikawa, Japan and Turin, Italy.

Coming on the heels of Detroit’s fall into bankruptcy, Satake Blauvelt said that distinction was not a sign of a revival, but more a sign of resiliency for the post-industrial city.

“Art, culture, and design did not disappear from the city and magically reappear,” he said.

“They were sustained, nurtured, and cultivated by the individuals and communities, majority Black like the city itself; those who chose to remain, to care for the city when it seemed like outside forces were conspiring to condemn it.”

Read on for 10 design studios working in the Motor City.


Evan Faye Portrait

Evan Fay

Trained at schools in Michigan and with studios in the Netherlands, Evan Fay founded his studio in 2023 after eight years of working on his craft. From vases to sofas, his pieces are typically made using metals such as steel and brass. Many of his seating designs feature thin metal tubes wrapped abstractly in foam-filled plastic.

He said that “rational design reasoning” isn’t top of mind, but he seeks to create striking forms that function well in interiors.

“I prefer analogue methods over digital and archaic over modern technologies,” he told Dezeen. “I like to work with materials proven and familiar to furniture like metal and upholstery and intuitively transform them using my body in a way that is expressive and original.”


Woodward Throwbacks Portrait

Woodward Throwbacks

Founded by Bo Shepherd, who previously worked as an automotive designer for GM and has been designing furniture for the past 10 years, Woodward Throwbacks works with local contractors and builders to source materials for small-batch collections, creating pieces from bulletproof glass and plastic liquor store signs.

“The main problem we are trying to solve is the idea of waste,” Shepherd told Dezeen.”We try to design with materials that everyone else discards.”

“It’s our biggest challenge and reward to create something beautiful with something that was unwanted.”


Nicholas Tilma Studio

Trained at the University of Michigan and Cranbrook Academy, Nicholas Tilma got his start working for Detroit-based direct-to-consumer brand Floyd Home, before founding his studio in 2023. Tilma handmakes many of his projects, using a wide range of materials from wood to concrete and epoxy clay, and also teaches at a local architecture school.

His designs have a speculative aspect, aimed at envisioning a different kind of future, and he is open about his production process in order to spread the knowledge of “how to make things”.

“In a world of ever-present unimaginative design and a societal fear of doomsday scenarios, I seek to create otherworldly objects that can help us imagine different possible futures, futures that are rich with imagination and can offer a romanticization of dystopian aesthetics,” he told Dezeen.


Aleiya Lyndon portrait

Aleiya Olu 

Aleiya Olu has been a force in Detroit’s creative community for years, operating a publicity and marketing firm and running a magazine store in the city. In 2020, she decided to enter the world of design as a maker and released a series of chairs and tables made with wood and upholstery.

She uses black tea, vinegar, and steel wool to achieve an ebonized effect on American cherry wood.

“The wood is rich and has a lot of depth,” Olu told Dezeen. “I wanted to show what wood could do, so I worked closely with fabricators to create a smooth, watery, fluid material from something commonly thought to have hard edges and corners.”


Scott Klinker Design

Scott Klinker has been designing for thirty years, working for world-renowned brands such as Knoll and IDEO, and currently runs the graduate program at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he has worked as a mentor to countless designers.

In 2001, he founded his studio and has been crafting functional and sculptural pieces under that moniker and for larger brands.

“Many of my peers describe themselves as ‘human-centered problem solvers’, but I want to do more than that,” he told Dezeen. “I want my designs to inspire the imagination. In some of my projects I’ve done this through abstract forms that are open to interpretation.”

“In the right context, I prefer forms that read as a question rather than a definitive answer.”


Form&Seek Studio

Form&Seek Studio is operated by Turkish designer Bilge Nur Saltık, who founded the studio in 2013, and shortly afterwards moved to Detroit to carry out the work. The studio draws on the skills and techniques of craftspeople in Turkey to create decidedly modern forms and has recently moved into work using 3D printing.

“I intend to incorporate culture with contemporary design,” she told Dezeen.

“Pairing the old with the new, I work with traditional craftspeople, tapping into their age-old techniques and knowledge – and introducing them to new materials and fabrication processes. This intersection produces unexpected results and design products.”


Chris Schanck

After attending Cranbrook Academy, Chris Schanck founded his eponymous studio in 2011, working in Detroit and drawing materials and inspiration from the industrial local. His pieces sometimes incorporate discarded objects that he and his team coat with resins and composites in his studio.

Schanck told Dezeen that recently he has been called to step away from the “market demands” that have “poisoned” his creativity, and says he plans to start creating public seating and buckets.

“I appreciate a good bucket and think I could contribute something,” he told Dezeen.

“It’s not just about disengaging from the superficiality of the art world,” he added. “It’s a desire to reconnect with the core of what it is I love to do most, bring form to thoughts.”


Thing Thing

Thing Thing is a Detroit-based project made up of three designers – Rachel Mulder, Eiji Jimbo and Simon Anton – who create objects from plastics gathered from industrial and consumer sources throughout the city. Each of the studio’s projects involves different methods of recycling and recasting plastic, from rotational molding to casting and extrusion.

“The problem we are engaged with is the widespread proliferation of plastic waste, though it would be too grandiose to suggest we are trying to ‘solve it’ rather than to creatively find opportunities for discovery, growth and criticality within this context,” Thing Thing co-founder Anton told Dezeen.

“While working with waste plastic over the last ten years, critical conversations keep evolving as we understand more and comprehend the complexity of the problem. In this way, the practice evolves.”


Ayako Aratani

Japanese designer Ayako Aratani studied at Cranbrook Academy and has been creating sculptural furniture pieces in Detroit for the last eight years. Her work includes explorations in metal, wood and fabrics, and many are modelled on natural forms to create warm atmospheres in domestic spaces.

“I find it meaningful to use handcraft skills to transform raw materials into functional objects, and creating my work from scratch is crucial,” she told Dezeen.

“Detroit is a maker town with various kinds of suppliers and fabrication companies and I outsource some processes, such as laser cutting and powder coating.”


Donut Shop 

Ian Klipa and Jake Saphier met in Ann Arbor and then moved to Detroit, where they worked in automotive industries and fabrication shops before founding Donut Shop in 2017. Focusing on wood and metal, the studio has carried out small-scale design projects and large-scale build-outs of interiors.

The pair told Dezeen that their work focuses on an aversion to “throwaway culture” and focuses heavily on assembly and disassembly as well as the use of “common materials”.

“I think our work is also a kind of personal protest, a kind of Luddite-esque response to a world we see as increasingly automated and artificial,” Klipa told Dezeen. “Creating a career for ourselves where we could be creative and make things seemed like a no-brainer.”


North America Design illustration
Illustration by Alex Mellon

North American Design 2024

This article is part of Dezeen’s North American Design 2024 series selecting independent furniture and product design studios from cities across Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The first edition of this series is created in partnership with Universal Design Studio and Map Project Office, award-winning design studios based in London and now in New York. Their expansion into the US is part of The New Standard, a collective formed with Made Thought.

The post Ten studios leading Detroit’s design scene in 2024 appeared first on Dezeen.

The Best Way to Clean Up Oil Spills: Using Human Hair

Brilliant design is when you can take a waste product and transform it into something badly needed.

In 1989 Phil McCrory, an Alabama hairdresser, was shampooing a customer’s head. The TV in the salon was on, and news footage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill was being broadcast. As McCrory saw the tragic footage of otters coated in oil…

…he noticed that the water around the oil-soaked otters was cleaner. The poor creatures’ fur was soaking up the mess.

This gave McCrory an idea for an experiment. He brought home five pounds of hair clippings from the salon. He stuffed the hair into a pair of his wife’s pantyhose, filled up a kiddie pool with water, and dumped used motor oil into the middle. He placed the hair-stuffed pantyhose into the pool.

Within a minute and a half, the water was crystal clear. The oil had been drawn into the pantyhose and was clinging to the hair fibers.

You can try this yourself and see:

As it happens, McCrory’s salon was near NASA’s George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, and NASA scientists were among his customers. He told them about his experiment. NASA then replicated it and got the same results. NASA subsequently put out a press release that stated:

“In an initial test, David Glover, a chemical systems supervisor…filled a 55-gallon oil drum with 40 gallons of water and 15 gallons of oil. ‘The mixture was filtered through nylon bags filled with hair,’ said Glover. ‘When the water was tested after just a single pass through McCrory’s innovative filter, only 17 parts of oil per million parts of water remained.’

“McCrory estimates that 25,000 pounds of hair in nylon collection bags may be sufficient to adsorb 170,000 gallons of spilled oil. Preliminary tests show that a gallon of oil can be adsorbed in less than two minutes with McCrory’s method.

“There is also a potential cost savings in McCrory’s method. Present oil cleanup methods cost approximately $10 to recover a gallon of oil. McCrory’s system may cost as little as $2 per gallon….”

After years of research and development, McCrory patented his idea and eventually partnered with Matter of Trust, an ecological nonprofit. Together they produced booms, long sausage-like netting casings filled with human hair donated by hair salons, and animal hair donated by farms and pet groomers. They also produced doormat-like hair mats. These were used to help clean up the Cosco Busan oil spill in 2007 and the BP Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010.

The old way of cleaning up an oil spill was to use polypropylene sponges to soak it up. This, ironically, requires petrochemicals to produce. Afterwards, the only thing you can do with the oil-soaked plastic is to burn it, or landfill it as hazardous waste. But following the Cosco spill, Matter of Trust developed a way to compost the oil-saturated hair mats:

“We begin by treating the oily mats using oyster mushrooms donated from Fungi.com, then thermophilic composting, and finally vermiculture (worms) to turn the hazardous, bunker fuel waste into healthy compost over 18 months (see the study here). Composting is a viable alternative to conventional methods used for disposal of oil spill waste (for more information on composting visit our Global Compost Project).”

Today Matter of Waste continues to assist with cleaning up oil spills—there are 2,500 a year, they say—as well as beach cleanups. Additionally, they supply municipalities with hair mats and booms for “filtering and cleaning water in cities, airports, truck stops, and more. They can live inside and around storm drains, under heavy machinery, or can even be used as a thick towel. Preventing soil erosion and protecting natural habitats through sandbagging are two more skills the hair mats and booms have added to their repertoires.”

The organization also has a contract with the Department of Defense and provides hair mats to the U.S. Air Force, who are conducting experiments to see if they can adapt them for help tackling contaminated wastewater.

Their raw materials are free. Hair is donated by salons happy to get rid of the stuff, and with hundreds of thousands of salons in the U.S. alone, they have an inexhaustible supply.

Since Matter of Waste is a nonprofit, their production process is no secret. In fact they have a video showing you how the hair mats are made, using a needle felting machine:

You can learn more about Matter of Trust here.

This is North American Design 2024

North America Design illustration

Launching today, Dezeen’s North American Design 2024 series will define the state of independent design in North America, providing a cross-section of a different city each week. US editor Ben Dreith explains more.


Dezeen has zeroed in on cities across Canada, Mexico and the United States, selecting independent furniture and product designers from each who are pushing the boundaries of materials and forms.

Each week over the next months we will feature a different city, presenting a hand-picked selection of designers working in small studios.

We’ve chosen designers who live and work in these cities, who are committed to innovative forms and materials, and who are involved in their local design communities.

Given the limits of visibility in web searches and competitions, we took a two-pronged approach when choosing the members for these lists.

Each designer was asked to recommend a few others, and from these recommendations, we noted repeat mentions and the networks that exist between designers operating as competitors in a market but also as friends, colleagues and collaborators.

The city was a guiding factor

While there are plenty of designers working outside of cities, we took the metropole as the guiding factor in this series, as the city remains a place of gathering and community development and a place of industry. In some cases, we looked outside of the immediate bounds of the city.

Each city has a unique material tradition and economic history that influences the processes at work – and our series is a rare survey of the whole North American continent.

Rather than a ranking, the lists are meant to serve as a cross-section, highlighting the work of independent design studios as they navigate the concerns and materiality of a changing world in their local contexts.

Both emerging and well-established designers will be showcased. While many of the studios included are small in size, some of the practitioners have been operating for decades.

Thirty years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) united the economies and morphed the industries of the three countries in unique ways, designers are tarrying with the pressure of the market and the movement of materials.

Over the years, designers have mentioned how the international markets and styles coming out of Europe put pressure on them to conform. The designers in this list work under those conditions but also embrace the unique history, economic and material conditions of their locale.

“There is a market for good design,” American designer George Nelson once said after taking the helm at American furniture brand Herman Miller.

But designers know that this is not all there is.

Designers realise that there can and should be a balance of orienting one’s craft towards the massive international furniture market while being mindful of the rich heritage of traditional and modern designs that exist locally, as well as the problems of waste implicit in the furniture industry.

Focus on creative and problem-solving aspects of design

Throughout the research, we found designers who are using local materials, ideas and modes of production to limit their supply chain and in some way push back against the cycle of trends and waste that define so much of the world economy.

Whether embracing ideas from Indigenous or folk traditions or reckoning with de-industrialisation and monopolization, the creative and problem-solving work of design goes on.

That can mean utilising 3D printing technologies in Montreal, salvaging materials from crumbling buildings in Detroit or reaching into the material vocabularies obscured during colonialism and industrialization.

The series is being carried out in partnership with London-based company Universal Design Studio, which recently opened in the US, and its sister studio MAP Project Office.

“Last month, we opened our new studio space in Soho, New York, which we now share as part of The New Standard,” said Universal Design Studio creative director Satoshi Isono.

“Our partnership with Dezeen on its North American Design Series is borne out of a desire to celebrate the unsung talents of other creatives across cities in the US, whom we also look to for inspiration and who are creating impactful change through the lens of design.”

Keep an eye out each week as we highlight design in North America.


North America Design illustration
Illustration by Alex Mellon

North American Design 2024

This article is part of Dezeen’s North American Design 2024 series selecting independent furniture and product design studios from cities across Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The first edition of this series is created in partnership with Universal Design Studio and Map Project Office, award-winning design studios based in London and now in New York. Their expansion into the US is part of The New Standard, a collective formed with Made Thought.

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