Industrial Design

What Ya Got Cooking? Things are Heating Up on the Patio.

One of the disadvantages of living in some of the houses I have owned in the last 25 years is that they weren’t suited to owning a grill.

Union Hill had potential. I could have kept a grill in the garage, but the garage was off the basement and the idea of trucking up and down 18 steps to flip burgers had me worn out just thinking about it. Union Hill had an OK sized wooden deck, but how many fires started in Union Hill thanks to an unattended grill on a deck? I know of at least 3.

The house on Lloyd had no patio, and the deck was simply to narrow. If I wanted a grill it meant keeping it in the detached garage and hauling it out every time I wanted to use it. No thanks.

The loft had a small balcony but the idea of having a grill seemed rather bad. The balcony was small, and it was a multi-unit building. I didn’t want to be responsible for a possible fire.

Finally, after having the patio rebuilt at our current and permanent residence we got a grill. After spending most of the winter and spring trying to decide on a grill or a griddle and then trying to find something that wasn’t like every other product on the market we narrowed it down. The criteria were pretty simple. It had to look good, use propane, get hot enough to bake a pizza and be small enough to store in the garage in winter.

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Since it’s just my wife and I weren’t looking for anything that you could cook a whole turkey in, or with enough surface area to cook 24 hamburgers at once. We looked at everything from the Blackstone griddles to the Green Egg and finally settled in on the Fuego Element F21C-H. I have had the grill for a little over a month now and couldn’t be happier. It looks amazing cooks just as good and heats to over 600 degrees in less than 10 minutes – making the perfect cracker crust pizza.

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There is a ton of reviews on all versions of this grill on the internet so I’m not going to go into great detail about how to use it and comparisons with other products. Instead, I am going to talk about 2 things, assembly, packaging and design.

Design

First off I have to say that when the grill is assembled it looks like a statement piece rather than a cooking appliance. Designed by Robert Brunner, the former chief of design at Apple the Fuego Element F21C is a decidedly minimal piece of equipment and maintains quite the futuristic aesthetic. It looks like a tall metallic mushroom with a sort of 1980’s retro vibe to parts of it. I think it is the perforated metal sides that have me thinking that and I’m not sure why. Either way, the grill is quite a stunning piece of industrial design, and quite functional too.

The grill sits atop a four-wheeled base for improved portability and has a long, narrow column that stores the propane tank. All in all, the F21C only measures 21 inches wide by 32 inches tall, which means it’ll fit in on even more minute patio or balcony setups. The hinged lid is offset at 45 degrees so when you open it you are not putting your arm directly over the heat source (something that I really appreciated last week when the temps were hovering in the upper 90’s) The main door on the column has a spring release clasp that opens up to reveal the propane tank inside.

The diffuser tray which sits below the grate is designed to channel drippings away from the burner elements which is a plus. It is designed to help prevent the openings in the burners from getting clogged requiring additional cleaning. Grease and drippings are collected in a small tray that sits below the burner and can be removed simply by pulling the tray out from the front of the grill.

There are stainless steel handles that have dual functionality. They can be used to move the grill and they function as the support base and storage space for the optional side table.

My only real design grip is this. I use the optional table on the left side of the grill. It’s the side away from the lid. I did this because the ambient heat coming off the lid when it’s open is right above where the table sits on the right. The table is well designed and attaches to the grill by hooking under the arms of the handle and using a small support rod. When not in use it slips in between the handle and hangs next to the grill. If the table is stowed, you can’t open the door to access the propane tank. It gets me every single time. All in all, this is a pretty small complaint.

The cooking surface is 346 square inches which are plenty. According to Fuego, you can cook 18 to 20 burgers on this at one time. And the 15-pound porcelain-enamel cast iron grate provides a massive heat sink producing amazing sear marks.

Packaging

The Fuego grill came in a standard cardboard box. About 2 inches from the bottom was a dotted line with “cut here” icons indicating what to do. I used a standard box knife, cut all the way around and simply lifted the top 7/8 of the box off and set it aside. Inside there was a truck-load of Styrofoam. A ton of it. I’m still getting rid of it because I couldn’t get it all out on trash and recycling day and still have room for my regular trash and recycling. I wish they would figure out a way to completely do away with the foam, and replace it with something that is more environmentally friendly.

Everything was neatly packaged and laid out in a way that made sense as I took the parts out of the box. I was able to place everything in a logical order and get ready to assemble the grill in less than five minutes. And this brings me to the assembly portion of this post.

Assembly

I love it when an industrial design or engineer figure out how to create something that goes together quickly and is rock solid when assembled. Fuego nails this. The grill requires just 14 screws to go together and I had my grill built and ready to cook less than 30 minutes. I didn’t time how long it took to put it together but I do know cleaning up the packaging took longer.

All you need to put this together is a Phillips head screwdriver. You can do it with that but if you have a cordless drill with a Phillips head driver attachment I suggest using it. I put the grill together by myself, some of you might want a second set of hands but you don’t need it. The instructions are straight forward and easy to follow. There are a handful of YouTube videos that show people unboxing and assembling the grill if you have any doubts about the simplicity of it.

Accessories.

Get the cover if you are storing the grill outside. It’s not expensive and it does help protect it from the elements. With that said I’ll be storing the grill in my garage over the winter.

I recommend the table attachment. At least one of them. It really does come in handy when you are cooking. I’m not sure you need both of them, but I am toying with the idea of getting a second one.

Skip the Pizza Stone kit. The kit costs 40 bucks. It would have cost me 38 to ship it back to Fuego. The stone is the same kind you can pick up at Target for about $20.00. The pizza cutter was a joke. It was the cheapest one I think I have ever seen. It felt like a toy. As for the pizza Peel, the quality was slightly better than the cutter but not much. I ended up getting a non-folding one that isn’t as easy to store but doesn’t feel like it’s going to collapse under the weight of a medium-sized pie either.

Get the griddle. It’s made from the same material as the grate and it converts the grill into a flat-top in seconds. (Suggestion for Fuego. Make a split version. Half griddle half great. Especially for the 24C big brother version of this grill)

I’m out. I have skirt steak I need to get ready for tonight’s dinner.

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RowFree is Helping Me Row Away My Evenings

I have used a Concept 2 rower for physical exercise for longer than I can remember. It is such a great workout and the C2 is built like a tank. If you can swing it, I highly recommend picking one up.

Like all rowers except for the Hydrow the workout can be a bit boring. You are going back and forth for 45 minutes to an hour with an occasional break for stretching or interval weight training. To combat the boredom I use a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that I have paired with my phone so I can listen to music or books on tape. I also have them paired with my Apple TV so if I feel inclined I can pull the rower into the downstairs media room/office and watch something on the TV while rowing.

The thing is, moving the rower is kind of a pain, and I never do it. Because of this, I started looking for a stand of some kind to hold my iPad and position it close enough to see the screen without hitting it as I rowed. I found nothing that I liked or that I thought would work. Then I found RowFree, and I’m in love.

The RowFree Mount is a quickly installed bracket that can be used with Concept2 rowers, BikeERG, and SkiERG to hold electronic devices like tablets, smartphones, and laptops.  The RowFree Mount is highly adjustable and can be used to quickly position your device exactly where you need it. 

Constructed from aluminum alloy, the bracket is light and durable. The bracket simply slips over the PM5 on my Concept 2 and then adjusts to hold my device directly in my line of sight for the entire workout routine. I love this thing. It is simple, functional design at its finest. It’s not over-thought or overly complicated. It has a simple function and it works. It doesn’t block the readout on my PM5 and it makes rowing a whole lot more enjoyable.

RowFree is a small business located in Bend, Oregon.  Their mission is to provide the best way to interact with tablets, smartphones, and laptops while rowing. I think they nailed it.

Slide Over With HMM

I spend most of my day working on a computer in programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and Premier and on my iPad using apps like Art Rage, or Sketchbook. These tools allow me to create everything from illustrations to motion graphics and video. As great as all of these tools are, they can’t replace the tactile feeling of putting pen to paper and actually drawing.

As a designer, I am always looking for quality drafting tools and drawing implements. That pen or pencil with the right weight balance, and feel in the hand. While it seems like something that should be easy it’s not. The right tool makes all the difference and you can feel it as soon as you pick up a pen or pencil that has it.

Recently I discovered HMM, a Japanese company whose goal is to make “The Ordinary Classy”. The name stands for Human-Mechanic-Method and they specialize in the manufacture of finely crafted coffee ware and office accessories.

“We focus on polishing the details that make utensils unique and human. With selected materials and craftsmanship our products are classic and timeless. They are ready to embellish your daily life.” HMM

What I picked up from them is “Slide“. A winner of this year’s iF Design Award, Slide is a stylish and multi-functional ruler and pen in one. Finely crafted from milled aluminum, and coated in a matte black finish.

The sleek tool features a unique magnetic structure that allows the pen and ruler to be split up into two pieces, or be reassembled back into one with a feeling that is fluid, and smooth.

Slide has a triangular shape to the body with one side that is distinctively flat while the other two roll into a gently curved edge. It feels really comfortable in my hand. The pen writes and draws beautifully with smooth ink flow allowing for a lighter touch and more control. The pen can be used independently from the ruler or with it by simply pushing it forward to expose the tip. With the ruler attached to the pen, the back takes on the same gently curving arch with an almost indistinguishable seam between the pen and the ruler.

The ruler is all metric measurements. That makes sense since it is a Japanese product designed for the world market. That doesn’t bother me at all though. I’m not going to be using it for doing much measuring, I’ll be using it to help me draw straight lines when I need them.

The packaging is impressive as well. Well thought out and executed with sustainable materials. Slide comes in a matte black cardboard sleeve. Inside there is a stacked chipboard container that has been cut to hold the device in place. The container is wrapped in a black paper liner that contains simple instructions on how to refill the pen and use it.

Along with the packaging, there is a really well-designed catalog of HMM products. Minimal layout and simple type treatments really round out the emphasis on the quality HMM put into their product and package design.

McDonald’s Super Straw for Shamrock Shake’s.

So what do you do when you are the largest fast food provider in the world and you have just invented a layered two flavor shake that needs to have those flavors mix while eating? You hire a bunch of aerospace engineers to design a new straw for you, and that is exactly what McDonald’s did for the new Chocolate Shamrock Shake, one of four new seasonal McCafé beverages.

The new McCafé beverage has dual layers of chocolate shake below mint Shamrock Shake, and the new recipe presented McDonald’s with a unique challenge. How do you deliver the ideal flavor ratio of 50% chocolate and 50% mint in each sip, versus enjoying each flavor separately with a traditional straw. To solve the problem McDonald’s turned to highly-qualified engineering firms. JACE and NK Labs created the probably-more-revolutionary-than-actually-needed Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal strawThe STRAW’s j-shape provides optimal flavor flow dynamics.

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Due to the STRAW’s unique design, only 2,000 were produced in time for Shamrock Shake season and it will only be available in select participating restaurants with the purchase of a Chocolate Shamrock Shake. Visit mcdonalds.mwnewsroom.com/US to learn where and when the lucky few will be distributed. (I don’t want the shake, but I definitely want the straw). And, like the seasonal offering of the McCafé Shamrock Chocolate offerings, the STRAW is also available for a limited time.

“It was a puzzling assignment but one with an ambitious goal,” said Seth Newburg, principal engineer and managing partner at NK Labs. “From a physics perspective, it’s actually quite difficult to deliver a proportional amount of both chocolate and mint flavors with each sip. But that’s exactly what we did. It’s a marvel of fluid dynamics. Thanks Fibonacci sequence.”

Panthella Mini

Verner Panton’s Panthella lamp, launched in 1971 and went on to become a design classic and is now being relaunched in a smaller version as the Panthella Mini. To help launch the new product and promote Panton’s iconic product, Frame. was commissioned by Louis Poulsen to create a spot for a lamp, and they nailed it. Frame not only captures the essence of the lamp design, they have created a look that mirrors the materials Panton used to create the original in this fun animated spot.

The legendary Danish designer Verner Panton is known for his use of powerful colors, organic shapes, and unconventional materials – designing everything from furniture to full art installations that looked, and probably felt, like an acid trip. Unsurprising, when you think that he completed a lot of his work in the 60’s.

As a starting point, we investigated Panton’s aesthetic universe and commenced designing a tour de force of lamps, eye-popping colors, and abstract shapes, inspired by the man himself. We were also encouraged by Louis Poulsen to give it our own personal touch so we had the freedom to interpret the unique style of Verner Panton with a unique twist and establish a lighter, more contemporary tone.

In the end, it was all about creating something warm, happy, alive, intelligent and playful – just like Panton himself. To create a setting for the lamps to shine (no pun intended) and allow the focus to remain on these beautifully designed objects.

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A 1955 Classic Reissued by Carl Hansen & Son.

Having spent the last 3 and a half hours working standing up, looking at a well-designed desk that you sit at is a refreshing break. Don’t get me wrong, I choose to work standing up, my desk can raise and lower, and I really do try to work standing for at least 4 to 5 hours a day. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a piece of quality design, and a desk you sit at.

Starting this October you will be able to pick up one of Poul Kjærholm’s tables originally designed for the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in 1955. Poul Kjærholm was a master at blending steel and wood together to create a minimalist yet functional form. His design aesthetic  is expressed perfectly in these two tables. Both are characterized by clear forms and light grace, the tables made a significant contribution to the designer’s reputation as a pioneer of Danish functionalism.

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Produced by Carl Hansen & Son, the tables will be available with tops made of Oregon pine or oak veneer, and with oiled, varnished or black-lacquered surfaces. The steel frame comes lacquered in black or grey. Each table can be fitted with a drawer of either oiled, varnished or black lacquered oak. The Professor Desk (PK52) is 28 inches high, by 72.4 inches long and 33.4 inches deep; the Student Desk (PK52A) is 28 inches high, 55.7 inches long and 33.4 inches deep. Both tables will be available for purchase in October.

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Roccbox Will Rock Your Pizza Craving.

I think I need this. No I know I need this. Not only does it look amazing, but the concept is simply brilliant.

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Roccbox name says it all, it´s a stone in a boxthat gets really hot very fast. This way you get stone baking properties. Not only that, this is portable thanks the compact size so you can take it pretty much anywhere. According to the video below you can bake a 12 inch pizza in just over 90 seconds thanks to an internal temperature of 932 degrees farenhite (500c). The special burner enables the inside to heat up in around 15 minutes, which is really quite fast. The stone on the inside is a refractory stone, which is ideal to preserve and disperse heat through out the cooking chamber. Roccbox features spatial insulation materials, and a silicone outer coating so you won´t get burned if you ever touch its surface. It comes with a wood burner, gas burner thermometer, a pizza peel and a recipe book. I love the part in the video where he is cooking a steak in a cast iron skillet in this thing. They reached funding on Indigogo so this thing is available for order in a handful of countries including the USA.

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