The work of modernist designer Dieter Rams is the inspiration for many products today most notably Apple products. The modernists strove for "timelessness" in their designs so it comes as no surprise that Rams's visuals hold up. But for Rams and his contemporaries, timelessness was more than just a look. It was about durability. They believed in high-quality products … Continue reading Dieter Rams and Durability
This semester my Ithaca College students in Make Better Stuff Studio are collaborating with Wicked Device Electronics Co., the makers of Air Quality Egg--an affordable, web-connected air quality sensor made in Ithaca, NY--to design an exhibit for EdTech Day at IC. Make Better Stuff (MBS) Studio is a pilot course … Continue reading Visualizing Air Quality Data
This summer Jenn C and I are taking a prototype that we made at Ithaca Generator makerspace and developing it for local manufacture and distribution at Rev Ithaca Startup Works in their Hardware Accelerator Program. What's a Hardware Accelerator Program you ask? It's like an arts fellowship for product developers. The program offers space, support, materials, and knowledge so that … Continue reading From Maker to Manufacture – we speak for the trees!
This time last year I did a workshop with the 5th graders at Fall Creek Elementary on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in the context of toy design. LCA is a tool used by sustainability engineers to assess the impacts of industrial products, services, and systems on the environment and on people. Even though I don't … Continue reading Generative LCA for 5th graders
There will come a time when it will no longer make sense to mass manufacture and ship products all over the globe. This will happen when the convenience and low cost of tools and components for making products in small local factories wins out over the economic and environmental costs of shipping to and from … Continue reading Crafted Products
Food from farmers markets has a lot in common with open source hardware and software. The groups of people that create and use these products want to know similar things: How is stuff made? Where does it come from? How do we fix it when it breaks? Independent makers, like small farmers and open source … Continue reading The Farmers Market and Open Source
I'm a big fan of media theorist Douglas Rushkoff. He predicts the future by looking at the past, pretty far back, to a time before centralized currency. Above is a great interview with lots of gems about a shift towards decentralized currency and manufacturing. This argument is relevant to making better stuff because the global … Continue reading The “Home Field Advantage” for Humans
Last week I facilitated a discussion with two classes of fifth graders at Fall Creek Elementary in Ithaca about the social and environmental impacts of toys. We used a tool called "LCA" which stands for Life Cycle Assessment. It's a tool that designers can use to understand the social and environmental impacts of manufactured goods. … Continue reading Make Better Toys
For the past 10 weeks I've been collaborating with Xraise Lab for Science Outreach and the Ithaca Generator to offer toy-design workshops to kindergardeners and first graders in the GIAC after school program. Creating projects for kids that demonstrate concepts like "design-for-disassembly" has been fun. Kids this age understand and are frustrated with "closed" design because … Continue reading Sustainable Toy Design for ages 5-6
Lovely piece by author Dov Seidman in which he argues for the need to empower stakeholders along global supply chains. Here's a bite: ...real sustainable change for overseas workers won’t rest upon if or when retailers sign a petition—or “how much” consumer pressure will be required to coerce companies to do so. Rather, the question is how will these companies understand and … Continue reading Giving Voice to Supply Chains
This wax lamp by London based designer Merve Kaharan may seem silly but the concept here is deep. What if more of our products and systems had "regeneration" built into their design?
"With fair-trade coffee and organic fruit now standard on grocery shelves, consumers concerned with working conditions, environmental issues and outsourcing are increasingly demanding similar accountability for their T-shirts." Nice piece in the NYTs. Read it here
A great way to make better stuff is to find new uses for existing stuff. SVA's Products of Design Program is finding a new use for their studio. For the second year in a row, they're renting desk space for the summer. It's great for the program as a way to generate revenue and its … Continue reading Multiple Uses for Existing Stuff
Over 300 workers die in factory collapse. This is one of those sad posts that I mention on the about page. Over 300 new reasons to make better stuff. update: Worker rescued 17 days after collapse. Over 1000 dead. here
If you've never seen Annie Leonard's short film The Story of Stuff, then check it out. She defines the problems along the value chain of consumer products clearly then proposes steps to take action, mostly for consumers and voters.