Entries in design (27)


Everyday Design- My Bike Project


My name is Taehak Kwon and I am an Industrial Designer at Essential. This past April, I left South Korea, my close friends, and family to pursue my design career in the U.S. with Essential. Designing and making is a passion of mine that extends beyond the workplace, and since moving to Boston I have picked up creative hobbies that challenge and push me to learn new skills. Here’s some insight into how design is present in all aspects of my life, shaping the way I spend my time outside of the office.

 A few months ago, a friend of mine bestowed me with her old Schwinn cruiser bike before moving back to Korea. The bike was in a poor condition; rust covered the frame and the bike desperately needed serious safety and appearance tuning (see image above).

Although I never owned a bike before and knew very little about fixing bikes, I had a very clear vision for the bike’s design and I was up for the challenge of bringing that vision to life. I found inspiration from bikes around the city, giving me a more clear design vision of the details, shape and fabrics used.

 I wanted to transform the loud red, white and blue bike with old locks dangling from the frame (the keys long-ago lost) into a sleek black satin frame with a brown leather saddle. So I started by stripping the bike of all unessential parts and quickly realized that rebuilding the bike with the design I had in mind would be no simple task (see image below).

 Over a two-month period I spent my evenings disassembling, removing rust, lubricating, stripping existing paint, priming, painting and reassembling the parts. The process required patience and attention to detail but I am now very satisfied with my bike and use it as my primary form of transportation. This project reflected my overall design philosophy, which is pursuing unique, simple and long lasting designs. My bike now has a clean and timeless look but is not yet unique; designing a label for my bike is a project for another day (see image below).


NYCxDesign Week - Part 2

Following the "It" convention of the NE IDSA conference we move to some of the trends from NYCxDesign week 2014. To echo our observations from last year the underlying trend was simplicity, the less is more mantra is still holding strong in 2014. 

Stain it. 

The broad use of colored stains on wood furniture was a pleasant surprise this year; the satin to matte finish quality with the underlying texture of the wood grain worked very well on many pieces. The stand out use of this finishing technique was on the furniture Muuto who has a great line of new products this year. 


Slice it.

Not entirely new, but the diagonal geometry trend is holding strong: Bold and accented lines and intersections; a visual disruption to classic lines. The furniture of Asher Isrealow with intricate brass inlays was skillfully executed, leading into our next trend. 


Bronze it.

The use of warm metallics; bronze, gold, copper finishes has exploded across the furniture and lighting scene. This is a trend we have been following for the past few years and it was fully embraced by designers like Tom Dixon who's booth was a beacon for all things bling. 


Light it.

The advances and availability of LED's for commercial lighting applications as sparked a huge push toward creative lighting solutions. The LEDs are so small that they can fit into anything making it possible to turn any object big or small into a light source for the home or office. 


Print it.

The last of the trends I wanted to share this year was the 3D print aesthetic, these cellular structures, repeating patterns, and natural formations can be related to the 3D prototyping processes that are allowing designers to push the limits of forms and materials. A great looking and smelling piece with this influence was the compressed coffee grounds table created by Amma Studio creates pieces with various reclaimed materials that celebrate this layered 3D print aesthetic. 


Overall there was lots to be inspired by at ICFF and NYCxDesign week this year and we look forward to what the designers of the world bring to the show in 2015!





Preparedness is Essential. 


As I sat working at my desk with a snow storm fast approaching, a thought popped into my head. What does it mean to be prepared? Many people are having the same thought right now with the snow starting to fall heavier by the hour.

As an engineer, I am tasked with the challenge of being prepared to bring any idea that crosses my desk closer to reality. I love this challenge, but there is a large difference between the “what do we do now” conversation vs a series of preemptive “what ifs” throughout a project. This is the essence of preparedness.

At Essential there is a strong connection between the work of our designers, engineers and researchers, enabling the “what if” conversation to occur frequently throughout a project’s lifespan, versus an over the wall handoff. In order to be able to create well designed products and be able to preserve design intent the whole way to market, every member of the team needs to be prepared for each “what if” that could occur to prevent a “what do we do now” moment.

In 1948, Mayor James Curly wrote a letter to MIT president Karl Compton, in regards to finding a way to clean up the record amount of snowfall that occurred that year (proposed in it was the use of a large number of flamethrowers). A true “what do we do now” moment. Though there was a good correspondence between the Mayor and the institution, there was no immediate solution besides the current application of salt to the roads (BostInno did a nice write up of this correspondence). It seems that perhaps this would have been a good conversation to have prior to the snowfall.

Don’t get me wrong, avoiding these moments in our lives is near impossible. Often times it takes a few “what do we do now” moments to frame up a “what if” conversation.  Some of these moments can be the catalysts of our biggest innovations. Conversely, characterizing as many “what ifs” as possible is a good way to be prepared for any “what do we do now” moment!

We can’t avoid the upcoming storm, and similarly sometimes in product development we arrive at a tough “what do we do now” moment. A good way to deal with these moments is to be as prepared as one can possibly be, which means cross collaboration and openness throughout the development cycle. I find that this is one aspect of what makes the Essential team tick.

Happy snow day everyone. 



Lessons in Resolution

As the newest member of the Essential team, I’m constantly learning new engineering and design principles, in addition to many other skills unique to the industry that cannot be learned in school. Every day presents a new challenge as I’m faced with starting a new project, collaborating with a coworker to provide some engineering input, or helping brainstorm on a different project to provide a fresh outlook.  

In college, I often focused for weeks or months on a single problem or concept. In the consulting industry, the pace just doesn't allow for such a deliberate approach.  Over the past few months, I have been observing how my colleagues work and how they interact with one another and our clients. This has taught me an important lesson: I must fine tune the way I communicate when presenting ideas and concepts with coworkers and with clients.

Every day, dozens of ideas are passed between my colleagues and I. The way an idea is communicated often dictates its worth in the present situation. What good is an idea if it cannot be explained to an audience at the time it is needed? Contrary to the way I used to work in college, where often the communication and presentation is at the end of a project, communication is happening at every step of the developmental process. This being said, resolution of an idea is a critical facet of effective design. Be it a hand sketch or detailed CAD model, everything needs to be thought of  in regards to who is receiving the idea and what purpose it serves; a brainstorm, prototype, a small piece to a large puzzle, etc. Sometimes, the simplest of executions, be they physical, through paper or electronic medium can tell the best story in the most efficient manner. 

The idea behind tailoring the resolution of your work for different tasks, environments or recipients allows us to have a faster, cleaner flow of ideas without being held behind by investing too much time in the details too early on. Making several complex representations of potential ideas, when elegantly simple concept illustrations can communicate the same idea, allowing the team to move more quickly and efficiently toward the end goal? Over the course of the past few months, I have learned to hone this and many other new skills I'm building at Essential. Each day I look forward to lessons like these that have helped me become a better engineer in this community and I hope to continue to learn and grow. 




PopTech 2012

Every year, the Pop Tech conference in Camden, Maine brings together an eclectic collection of innovators and thinkers from diverse backgrounds, including science, technology, design, corporate and civic leadership, public health, social and ecological innovation, and the arts and humanities, among others. It’s safe to say that this cross-section of thinkers was well represented at the 2012 conference.

The thought- provoking theme this year revolved around the big idea of “Resiliency”. Over the three days, this central theme was discussed and debated through diverse lenses; resilience to environmental disaster, resilient communities, resilient genetics, resilient economies, resilient climates, resilient cultures and resilient individuals.

Each story presented an inspiring and thoughtful perspective around what enables cultures, individuals and organizations to absorb and adapt to disruptive change through the creation of resilient systems. The idea that resilient innovation is about shifting the discussion from designing systems for risk mitigation to risk adaptation.

Some of the highlights included:

Natural disasters created a relevant backdrop to several presentations. The most meaningful was C.J. Huff's account of resilience and human kindness following the tornados that ravaged Joplin, Missouri. He made the important connection that resilience in this situation is about focusing on the obvious: getting your hands dirty. It’s not just about a monetary donation. Community is the anecdote to disaster and resilience is the requirement that brings it about.

Two interesting tales of personal resilience were brought up. The first was the story of seventeen-year-old, female boxer Claressa Shields, from Flint, Michigan. Through incredible persistence, Shields won the first ever Olympic gold medal for women’s middleweight boxing. The second was the story of Amy Purdy, who lost both of her legs at a very young age following complications from bacterial meningitis. She is now a world-class adaptive snowboarder and has won three back-to-back Paralympic World Cup gold medals. Purdy has since started working for Freedom Innovations, a prosthetic feet manufacturer, as Amputee Advocate. She has gone on to co-found her own non-profit organization, Adaptive Action Sports, for individuals with physical disabilities who want to get involved in action sports.

Social and community innovation was a strong thread throughout the event. Speakers discussed a variety of strategies to enable sustainable economic models in underserved and developing economies, where simple adaptation of technologies such as basic SMS-delivered information about markets, commodities, places to buy and sell and as communication tools to promote community peace as described by Rachel Brown, Founder & CEO, founded Sisi Ni Amani [We are Peace].

From a community innovation perspective, topics ranged from local to country-wide initiatives. For example, Asenath Andrews is reinventing a model for high school in Detroit for teen mothers, providing early education services for the children of those high school moms. Another great example of community innovation is the new community driven constitution in Iceland that rose out of the ashes of economic collapse and is contributing to the country’s recent success. 

Of course, no conversation today could be without a perspective on Big Data. Pop Tech was no exception and for me, this was best exemplified by Jer Thorpe’s incredible visualizations and his expression of the potential meaningful application of data as the tool to shape the way we think about our health, our communities and our economy. As Jer Thorpe stated, “data is the new oil”.

Finally, the conference wrapped with a way to bring together the Pop Tech community.  Pilobolus, a modern performance company enlisted attendees and people form the local community to participate in a large-scale, live performance using umbrellas fabricated with multi-colored LED lights created by the MIT Distributed Robotics Laboratory. It was great way to finish off three days of conversation and inspiration.


In Remembrance of a Brilliant Man and Designer, Bill Moggridge

This weekend, the design industry lost a friend and a design icon. Bill Moggridge changed the way we think, how we work and what we make.

Bill taught us all to think about design in a bigger way, in a truly interdisciplinary manner, bringing together people and teams from diverse backgrounds to create solutions that deliver greater meaning for business and society. In Bill's words:

“Our intuition, our ability to feel, our ability to understand without being able to explain. All of those things are relatively subjective and subconscious. And what design does is to harness those attributes in the process.”

He was an inspiration to so many of us, influencing the content of our work and our motivation to pursue better and more important solutions. His passing is a tremendous loss, but his boundless contribution to design will never be forgotten.

Bill Moggridge, 1943-2012


Hello Boston, Hello IDSA, Hello Essential

We are excited for one of design’s most anticipated events to come to Boston. The IDSA International Conference, running from August 15th through the 18th, will be held at the Westin Waterfront. With speakers ranging from Futurist Syd Mead to the original digital artist Laurence Gartel, this year's theme of "future" in design spans education, sustainability and social impact, medical and technology.

The last time the IDSA Conference came to Boston was 2001 and we're excited to show off what’s been happening here since then. The Big Dig was finally finished, creating an urban landscape fit for a metropolitan area like Boston. The Institute of Contemporary Art has moved to the waterfront, which has helped to revitalize the area, inspire and awe residents and tourists alike. The design community has changed significantly and we’re excited to share it with you by hosting open studio tours across the city.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference and welcoming you to Essential at this year’s IDSA open studio for a fun night of hanging out and catching up. Please join us on Friday, August 17th from 4:30 to 8:30pm.