Critiqued: Inside the Minds of 23 Leaders in Design, by Christina Beard


As a graphic designer and writer (and sometime contributor to Core77), San Francisco-based Christina Beard is in a unique position to investigate the conventions and tropes of design practice and discourse. For her first book, Critiqued: Inside the Minds of 23 Leaders in Design, she subjected her work—a poster advocating hygiene—to the discerning eye of nearly two dozen leaders in the field.

Every designer at some point faces positive and negative criticism.

Most designers have experienced a crushing critique that makes you question your choice to even be a designer. Conversely, many have had a positive critique that left them feeling elated and excited to keep going!

Design is subjective.

I set out to investigate this further, and designed an experiment that took me all over the world to meet with leaders in design. I designed a poster, took it to a designer for a critique and based on that feedback I redesigned the poster, and took the new poster to the next designer—a process similar to the children’s game Telephone.

Each designer shared with me what was working, what wasn’t working and how they would approach their own redesign. The feedback ranged from “you should just start over” to “this is great, I think you’re done!”

L: The poster with Alice Twemlow’s feedback; R: The following iteration, which incorporated those comments


The AIGA Turns 100 This Year! Check Out the ‘100 Years of Design’ Website & Don’t Miss the Upcoming Festivities


Core77 is very pleased to be a media partner for an event that happens literally once every hundred years: 2014 marks the centennial of the AIGA. Since its founding in 1914, the New York-based professional association has expanded to 67 chapters nationwide, boasting some 25,000 members across various design disciplines.

In keeping with their mission to recognize and advocate for design, the AIGA will be celebrating this momentous occasion with several events this spring, as well as the just-launched 100 Years of Design website. Although it is ostensibly a look back at the past hundred years of design, the online gallery also serves as an extensive standalone survey of design history since 1914. Indeed, the AIGA worked closely with Second Story, a part of SapientNitro, to develop “a dynamic online platform documenting significant design works from the last century that have impacted our collective visual experience.”

Viewers are encouraged to add their own favorite examples of design history to the initial selection of works, which are drawn primarily from the AIGA Design Archives and woven together with commentary from leading designers. Driven by participation from designers, students and design enthusiasts, the site invites conversation about design’s rich legacy and expanding impact.

We had a chance to speak to AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefé about the centennial festivities and the story behind the impressive “100 Years of Design” website.

Core77: First of all, congratulations on 100 years! How does it feel to be spearheading the festivities for this momentous occasion?

Richard Grefé: The centennial is a tremendous affirmation of creative professionals—the value of their coming together as a community is to inspire each other, to seek ever-expanding opportunities for the design mind to thrill others with stunning and evocative work, and to enhance the human experience. A century marks a hundred years of growth, change, creativity and achievement, and the beginning of an era with even greater possibility. The festivities celebrate the breadth, depth and diversity of the fellowship of designers who come together as AIGA in order to advance the profession. Pretty exciting!

AIGA-Adler_ClearRx.jpgDeborah Adler – ClearRx (2005)

Regarding, how did you arrive at the five categories? And did you have trouble classifying any of the artifacts, quotes or clips? I imagine there was quite a bit of overlap…

Organizing the story of design over the past century was no easy task. We wanted to move beyond a linear chronology. Ultimately, we decided the purpose of the site should be to begin the conversation, not end it, so we selected five broad categories that most would agree should be among any list of intents for great design. We then invited viewers to consider other impacts by including an open-ended prompt: “Celebrating 100 years of design that…”

Because any work of design can of course have multiple impacts depending on context and the viewer, it was at first daunting to assign works within the structure. Impact is subjective and a work being featured in a certain narrative for this project does not circumscribe its larger meaning. However, key works started falling into place as particularly representative of one impact or another, and then supporting pieces began to make sense in that context.

We pulled quotes from primary sources and books—such as Graphic Design in America, Looking Closer,
?tag=”core77-20″ target=”_blank”>Design Culture
, Nine Pioneers in American Graphic Design, and Design Discourse—that spoke directly to the impacts chosen. For example, Samina Quareshi on the need for design to connect a community; the designers behind the First Things First 2000 manifesto on designers’ imperative to assist in addressing environmental, social, and cultural crises; Paul Rand‘s defense of humor to delight through visual communication; Robert Fabricant on designers exerting influence through every decision they make. The final pieces were the voices of design legends, which help hold groups of work together. Each “impact” such as Delight or Inform contains three themes, and these voices complemented what we called the “narrative glue” that described each theme (for example, here and here in the Connect section).


Core77 2013 Year in Review: Top Ten Posts


These last week of the year is always kind of a weird duration, one that typically feels slow and fast at the same time, a stretch of five or six days that is invariably removed from the epicyclic progress of the rest of the year, demarcated by a pair of holidays. Work and school are generally put on hold in favor of family-related obligations, yet there’s inevitably some project to catch up on—even it’s just sleep—and before you know you it, you’re back at your desk… like you never left.

Meanwhile, the beginning of the new year is both the end of a specific timeframe and an opportunity for a fresh start. Thus, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve seen in the past 360-ish days or so in order to draw insight into what might be on the horizon in 2014.

We’ll start with a seemingly straightforward cross-section of our content mix: the top ten most popular posts this year. Insofar as their viral appeal is predicated on broadly interesting subject matter, many of these stories are not explicitly related to industrial design per se; rather, they illustrate how the natural and manmade world has the power to surprise and delight us.


10.) How a Doctor’s Five-Minute, $15 iPhone Hack Could Affect 600 Million Lives

9.) Owning Two of a Certain Object Indicates Your Kids Will Do Well in School. Can You Guess What It Is?

8.) Underwater Archaeologist Franck Goddio Finds 1,600-Year-Old City that Vanished 1,200 Years Ago

7.) A Drinking Glass That Can Prevent Sexual Assault



How to Make an Audi in 20,000 Basic Steps

AudiFactory-EnthusiasticallyPosedTour.jpgA very close approximation of my factory tour experience

Reporting by Kat Bauman

If anyone ever asks if you’d like to visit the Audi factory, do the right thing. Located in Ingolstadt, at the center of the Free Republic of Bavaria, it’s a hearty drive from most things and soundly worth it. For those of you too physically or mentally removed from Germany, here’s an overview of the delights on offer.

The Ingolstadt factory employs 35,000 people, a substantial chunk of the cobbled city’s 160,000 total population, and winding your way across the complex you start to believe it. The campus covers two million square feet, with facilities running six days a week on three shifts per day. Red bicycles are neatly docked inside and in front of every building for speedier intracampus transit, and despite construction and everpresent cars, the in-between scenery was green and inviting. Almost every single A3, A4, A5 and Q5 is produced at the Ingolstadt factory. The tour was led by smiling, beautifully fluent guides and punctuated with disorienting chauffeured trips across the giant campus. Do not attempt to photograph anything if you value your camera or your hosts’ good graces.

Although I had a chance to see virtually the entire manufacturing process, the true starting point, forging and stamping, remained unseen! I gather they do this on-site, but away from prying eyes. (My guides cited dangerous work conditions, which I resented at the time but now strikes me as only slightly regrettable, considering I nearly walked under forklifts and cargo robots repeatedly throughout the day.) Audi’s base frames are made from either forged steel or aluminum, and every other piece of the car body is made of galvanized sheet steel or a new aluminum alloy. Galvanizing prevents corrosion, while aluminum alloys save weight and sound futuristic. As it was, we joined the cycle after the components were formed.

AudiFactory-TonsofTonelessTTs.jpgTT Time

As soon as we entered the factory floor we were surrounded on all sides by tightly organized production lines. The main factory is heavily mechanized, but robot upkeep and morale takes a good deal of staffing, and the building buzzed with both mechanical and human activity. Down each side of the access corridors were large “rooms” walled by clear plastic, where teams of robots plucked stamped parts from overhead conveyor belts or forklifted stacks and began to fit them together as teams. Parts zoomed overhead, welding crackled, and the sweet, guilty smell of glue drifted freely.

Due to the almost innumerable variants available on the non-American market, Audi has found it most efficient to run cars through production as they’re ordered (essentially one-off) rather than in batches. Despite their different body styles and models, most A3s, A4s and A5s are built on similar base frames, so having a responsive assembly line is still feasible. In practice, this means that each assembly station gets its marching orders via a black box attached to the base frame, and rearranges its clamping and adhering positions for every assembly.

Just about every component is epoxied in place by surprisingly accurate tube-wielding robot arms, squeezed into place by robotic vices, and spot welded by copper-tipped robot fingers. The hyper-jointed arms of the welders and gluers are fantastically flexible and accurate—necessary when working on a variety of parts—reminiscent of many an anime film. The speed of each operation was noteworthy, usually taking far under a minute for setup, attachment and removal. Nearby you could see bins of spent copper welding tips, which are chucked for recycling after around 30,000 welds. The desire to stuff my pockets with blacked copper was only offset by my guide’s friendliness and enthusiasm for rule-following.

AudiFactory-AssemblersErgonomicSeatThingy.jpgErgonomic Seat Thing


Bike Cult Show Builder Profile: Ezra Caldwell of Fast Boy Cycles

EzraCaldwell.jpgPhotos courtesy of Ezra Caldwell

We’ve devoted a fair number of pages and pixels to that singular design object known as the bicycle, and whether you’re a leisure rider or all-weather commuter, weekend warrior or retrogrouch, there’s no denying the functional elegance of the human-powered conveyance. Thus, when Harry Schwartzman reached out to us about lending our support to the inaugural Bike Cult Show, a celebration of the beautiful machine and a local-ish community of individuals dedicated to building them, we were happy to support the cause.

“I think the bike is inherently the most perfect thing that people have ever designed.”

So says Ezra Caldwell, who isn’t exactly known to exaggerate, a framebuilder who holds a unique place among their ranks, not least for his unusual background. At least a couple of clichés—Jack-of-All-Trades and Renaissance Man—come to mind, yet his story is anything but: the son of a woodworker, he enrolled at the University of Arts as an industrial design major, only to discover that he disliked the curriculum and “ended up in the dance department somehow and got stuck dancing for 15 years.” Despite the fact that Caldwell was talented enough to land a cushy part-time teaching gig after a decade in the dance world, he eventually found himself back in the shop; by 2007, he decided he liked bicycles (and had grown disenchanted with the performing arts) enough to dedicate his life to building custom bicycle frames.

Fast Boy Cycles was barely a year old when Caldwell received a devastating diagnosis of colorectal cancer; up until that point, about five years ago, he “really did get everywhere on a bike.” I first learned Caldwell’s story via this beautifully executed short film in the documentary series “Made by Hand”:

If the short doc successfully transcends the tragic trope of a gifted artist stricken with a terminal illness—a trait that threatens to consume the victim’s identity even as he accepts his fate—it’s a bit surreal to see him in the flesh, and in high spirits no less, when I visit him in his basement workshop in an unassuming brownstone in Harlem. “It may not seem possible to believe, but I am so happy right now,” he declares. “There are parts of it that really bum me out, but on balance, I would say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”



Making Promises at the End of Time

Palenque_15.jpegImage from the Mayan ruin site Palenque: Templo de la Calavera ( Temple of the skull ), by Peter Andersen

Every couple of years a crackpot comes along and prophesizes the end of the world. Fortunately for us, the outcome of the Mayan calendar looks a lot more favorable than reviews for Roland Emmerich’s film, 2012. So far, no end of the world cult has gotten it right and as a populace, we remain unsurprised. At the same time, on a very different calendar, an entirely different set of crackpots make promises on a much shorter timeline. This group tends to achieve their predictions, at least in the short term, but their shortsightedness might be just as dangerous as the Mayan’s prophecy from so long ago.

Unfortunately, the second group has far more sway on the global economy. Each quarter CEOs give “guidance” to stock market analysts, which is basically a prediction of the earnings that they expect to achieve in the next quarter. Using an enormous bag of accounting tricks and choosing when to buy or sell assets, they often get their earnings per share estimates correct. When they exceed those estimates, they are rewarded by seeing their share price jump or punished when they miss it. For investors, that “pop” is a nice thing to see in their personal account, but the suits that own their stock aren’t necessarily their customers.

Peter Drucker observed in 1973 that the only valid purpose of a firm is to create a customer, and the recently eulogized Steve Jobs fully understood that insight. Because Apple made an effort to focus on user experience rather than shareholder wealth, the people who invested in Apple shared in the same customer driven joy when it made its way to their pockets in earnings. Jobs, however, retook control of the reins of Apple in 1997 and the full extent of his influence is still being felt today. Jobs was CEO for around 60 quarters, while a design engagement usually takes less than a year. Apple succeeded in part because he understood that business is an ongoing design engagement, not an exercise in hitting quarterly earnings.

Steven Jennings wrote a thoughtful review of Roger Martin’s new book Fixing the Game in Forbes called The Dumbest Idea in the World: Maximizing Shareholder VALUE. Maximizing shareholder value isn’t necessarily the dumbest idea in the world if we view companies as players in a short-term betting game. For product designers, employees and customers, however, product development and corporate survival is not a short-term game of beating expectations, but instead represents creating actual value in the real world.


Space Migration and Designing Our Future Habitat, by Jens Martin Skibsted


This post is part of our year-long series, Apocalypse 2012, where our favorite futurists, resiliency and disaster experts examine the role of design to help you prepare for…the end?

If you asked me what the two most important design tasks at hand for humanity is right now it would be:

1. Preserving human habitat
2. Creating new habitats for humans

The response I often get to these mandates is that the two are mutually exclusive; that if we preserve our habitat, planet Earth, we don’t need to find a new planet. Some might argue that searching for new planets advances unsustainable technologies while simultaneously promoting fatalism with regards to our environment. In other words, the first proposal is proper tree-hugging and the second is dirty, quasi-steampunk.

I believe nothing could be further from the truth. It is an astronomical fact that planet Earth, in the long run, is doomed regardless of how well we handle the present greenhouse effect and related environmental challenges. Secondly, finding alternative habitats will not be feasible if we don’t overcome present environmental challenges. Thirdly, the knowledge needed to terraform planets and to geo-engineer earth is the same.

I do think that we need to take our environment in general—our water and energy supply and global warming specifically—far more seriously than we do. I also don’t think that spacefaring plans should diminish our current obligations to the Earth’s environment. Within design and innovation we are already exploring the next frontier: innovation that breaks away from resource-dependence, where growth is uncoupled from consumption and product life cycles are prolonged.

Spacefaring is tougher to deal with because it seems remote; both physically and in terms of relevance and time. So the stickiest criticism is: “Why invest is space migration now?”


The Path Less Followed (or, Why I Didn’t Work at Circuit City)


A student recently asked me how I got my first professional job as a designer. It reminded me of a particularly difficult journey I hadn’t thought of in years. Looking at my resume my path seems almost predestined. It was easy for me to almost forget how difficult it was to transition from student to professional. It almost didn’t happen at all.

My last year in design school, I was doing sponsored projects for both Nike and Nissan. The Nike project was going extremely well and resulted in Nike flying me out to their headquarters outside of Portland, Oregon a couple of times to meet with the team and David Schenone, then the head of footwear design. A few months out from graduation, Dave made me an offer to come out to Nike full-time. Arrogantly, I asked if I could defer my decision until after graduation so I could weigh all of my options. I wanted to finish up my project for Nissan and I was hoping it also might turn into an offer.

Little did I know that many companies were having a difficult year. In fact it was one of the worst sales quarters Nike had ever seen. I wrapped up the program with Nissan and they expressed interest in me coming there, but they wanted me to get a couple years of experience first. Nike informed me that I was at the top of their list, but they had a 6-12 month hiring freeze. Interest from other companies like Seadoo and Bombardier also cooled when they readjusted their budgets.

This left me with one full-time offer to work on the design staff for a small company that manufactured electric assisted chairs for seniors. While this was a great opportunity, it just didn’t feel like the right fit for the 21 year old me. To the surprise of my friends and family, I turned the offer down, ate a healthy serving of humble pie and moved back in with my parents that June.

ditullo_train.jpgAbove: Sketch from the basement studio days. Hydrogen fuel cell steam train. Charcoal, prisma pencil, and marker on large format newsprint.


Core77 2011 Year in Review: 15 Things to See Before the End of the Year

Wrapping up our Year in Review, we’ve rounded up our top 15 things you must see this Friday before you checkout to ring in 2012!

1. How Pencils are Made

2. Kawamura Ganjavian’s Ostrich for the new Working-Resting Paradigm

3. Sweden’s Hotel of Treehouses

4. Rube Goldberg x Social Media = Melvin the Magical Mixed Media Machine

5. With +Pool, Design Trio Aims to Make Manhattan’s East River Swimmable

6. A Truly Amazing Paper Record Player Invitation


Core77 Year in Review 2011: The Best of Core77

In case you missed it, we’ve been looking back at 2011 this week in our Core77 Year in Review series. Besides our coverage of this year’s news and milestones, we also looked at the cycling movement and visual communication with more trend watching to come. Today, our look back focuses on the best of Core77 features and resources from 2011.

2011YiR-Bestof.jpgOur top 10! Drumroll please…

10. Moto Undone, a stripped down motorcycle concept.
9. Quadror, a new structural joint supporting everything from furniture to housing by Dror Benshetrit.
8. UPenn Engineering Students Present “Alpha”: Possibly the Most High-Tech Bicycle Ever, featuring a switchable integrated free-fixed transmission.
7. Rapid Prototyped Dicemaster, intricately RP’ed dice for the Dungeons & Dragons set.
6. Bertelli’s Biciclette, beautifully built using a mix of found and new parts.
5. I Have Seen the Future, and I Am Opposed, Don Norman reflects on the future of our technologies and warns about propriety controls.
4. Jeff Tideken’s Gravity Bike Gets Up to 60 miles per hour.
3. Light Light’s Sublime Levitating Lamps, skeuomorphic LED lamps.
2. CoreToon: Sixteen Ways to Use Your Wrist now that Watches are Obsolete.
1. A Mindbender for Craftsmen, who knew a piece of wood and a nail would be our top post of 2011?

Click to see if you can figure out how the nail got here?


Since our storied beginnings 16 years ago, the heart of Core77 has always been learning and making. 2011 has been no different. From Paul Backett’s series on rethinking design education, Craighton Berman’s introduction to the art of Sketchnotes to our Sustainability in 7 video series with Designers Accord, taught us that whether you are still in design school or have been designing for 40 years, it’s always exciting to learn something new.

From Sketchnotes 101, by Craighton Berman

In 2011 we learned about the full lifecycle and applications of cork—from harvest to industry—while being mesmerized by the alchemic art of peinture decorative to transform one material into another. Our favorite case studies from 2011—whether it was frog’s work on new electric vehicle ecosystems, Continuum’s Leveraged Freedom Chair for mobility in developing countries or Ziba’s work on creating a digital identity for TDK Life on Record—were also a testament to the transformative nature of design. Our Core77 sponsored competitions also yielded incredible case studies. Aava Mobile saw two distinctly different prototypes in Thomas Valcke’s Blackbox and Alberto Villareal’s Twist. And who could forget our Autism Connects winner (and student winner for the Core77 Design Award in Design for Social Impact), GoBug, an interactive toy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Blink, a new line of electric vehicle chargers for ECOtality

And as we celebrated the history of industrial objects through the design history of icons (like the American fire helmet) and even stamps, we also spent time this year exploring the changing terrain of making. Willem Van Lancker challenged the idea of making physical things in a digital object culture in “O Pioneers.” The persistence of the Open Design movement is becoming more evident as it becomes embraced by a wider audience of designers and consumers. Hand-in-hand with the rise of Open Source design, we saw 3D printing reaching past prototyping into the world of direct consumption with affordable 3D printers, multiple materials and made to order businesses.

From “Q+A with Thomas Lomm&eacutee and the Open Structures Project”

Looking towards 2012, we’ll continue with our Apocalypse series, kicked off by Jon Kolko’s appeal for sensemaking and the humanizing power of design in an uncertain and disjointed world. The urgency of these current times was also addressed in Michael Sammet’s “Building Adaptive Capacity: Towards a Design for Sustainability 3.0”, Dave Seliger’s Redesigning International Disaster Response and Panthea Lee’s ongoing series, The Messy Art of Saving the World, a look at the role of design in international development.


A perennial favorite, Coretoons are the incredible work of lunchbreath and fueledbycoffee, our Core77 artists-in-residence. Besides our 2nd most popular post of the year, here are three of our favorites from 2011: