Industrial Design

Fixture or Sculpture? You Decide.

When you think about it, the design of the common bathroom sink hasn’t changed that much in the last couple hundred years or so. It’s basically a large basin with a water source and a drain. More often than not the look is a variable from a common shape, rectangle, oval, square, etc. While there are variations in styling it’s not the kind of thing that most people would show off to their guests and talk about the beautiful lines, and aesthetic appeal of it.

This, however, is something that you probably would show off to your guests, or at least get a reaction from them after using your bathroom. That’s exactly what the AVID sink achieves, with its sculptural form that seems to float. The shape encourages touch and the exploration of form. Inspired by the deformation of a soft surface when we apply pressure to it with a finger, the organic indent forms the basin for the water to be held.

There are two versions of AVID. One that has a thin edge, and another that has an apron extending about 6 to 8 inches below the shelf. Each is equally attractive and functional. The thinner of the two can also be mounted on a cabinet, but in my opinion, that would detract from the shape itself. There is something about the way the thin edge version sits in its space that makes it so appealing.

One thing I am curious about is how you would hide the P-Trap under the drain on the thin edge version? It would be impossible to conceal it unless you ran the drain back into the wall and concealed it within the framing of the structure. Something that seems to be more daunting than leaving it exposed beneath the sink. The better solution would be to use a piece of high-end plumbing that has a lower profile and looks as good as AVID does.

AVID was designed by Nacho Fontelles Arnau & Carlos Granell for Indutec there is no word on pricing or availability. At least I couldn’t find any on the Indutec website.

Thanks to Layer, the Beosound Balance, Looks as Good as it Sounds

I’ve always loved Bang and Olufsen products. I know many people will argue that they aren’t the best sounding audio gear for the price you pay, but you have to admit they make beautiful stuff. Bang and Olufsen’s design aesthetic, choice of materials, attention to detail, and yes, the audio quality in my opinion. Sorry folks my ears don’t hear well enough to play the granular specs game.

Design agency Layer has designed the new “Beosound Balance” for Bang & Olufsen and the look is so nice. The distinctive, sculptural silhouette expresses the speaker’s performance, with a large base unit supporting a textile-covered cylindrical speaker. Controlled with a touch- and voice-activated interface (using Google Assitant) on top. This is sort of Bang and Olufsen’s entry into the smart speaker market.

The result is a room-filling, three dimensional sound from a speaker that takes its inspiration from the design language of domestic objects rather than high-tech electronics products. This is the first project by Layer for Bang & Olufsen and was 18 months in research and development.

The form of Beosound Balance is driven by the speaker’s audio performance, with a simple, cylindrical base unit on which a more expressive form sits. Together, these two elemental forms combine to create a sculptural object – like a plinth supporting a sculpture or vase. It’s this look that sets it apart from the cylinder/block format of most smart speakers in the market today.

The timber base unit contains a large, omnidirectional bass speaker driver, which is positioned with a vertical orientation and topped with a metal mesh screen featuring perforations in a Fibonacci sequence. The bass is reflected off the rounded metal base beneath the top form, maximizing its acoustic potential and providing a room-filling, low-end rich sound. 

The softly sculpted upper unit contains the precise mid-range drivers and tweeters, which complete the warm, well- balanced audio performance. These drivers – which provide directional audio – are positioned under a seamlessly knitted textile cover. 

To reinforce Bang and Olufsen’s positioning of “Beosound Balance” as an object to be looked at as much as listened to, the speaker is crafted from a rich palette of materials that are more readily associated with homewares and soft furnishings than high-tech or audiophile products.

The base unit is made from FSC-approved solid timber, blocked and turned as in furniture production. This material choice not only oozes craftsmanship but also offers quality and superior sound resonance. The upper unit is wrapped textile, with a nod to interior upholstery; while the metal reflector and the interface panel are made from pressed aluminum and inspired by finely crafted tableware. The textile wrapped power cable is long enough that the speaker can be easily positioned around a room as needed, meaning the speaker is not constrained based on power needs. (I love the fact that they used a textile-covered cord. It always seems to be the one thing that gets overlooked.)

Beosound Balance won’t come cheap. It rolls in at $2250.00 dollars. Way more expensive than other smart speakers on the market. It is Bang and Olufsen though, and I’m thinking if you are considering B&O products you can probably afford this price point. You’ll be able to pick this up starting in March of 2020 on their website, third-party retailers and in Bang & Olufsen stores.

Dyson Lightcycle Morph. Well Designed but Pricy.

When you hear the name “Dyson” the first thing that pops into your head is vacuum cleaners. Over the years Dyson has done an amazing job of advertising and marketing their vacuums and it has paid off for them. When I hear the name “Dyson” I think of the design. Industrial design and technology to be specific. Why? Because Dyson has always done a really great job of producing not only very functional products, but beautifully designed products as well.

They are a company that truly understands how form and function do go hand in hand, much the same way Apple does. Because of this, you end up paying a premium price for something that products from other manufacturers do with equal performance, but maybe not with the same quality of design and materials that Dyson offers.

Case in point the Dyson Lightcycle Morph, a new floor and task lamp from Dyson that looks at what lighting does, and how it affects mood.

the Dyson Lightcycle Morph employs local daylight tracking to offer customized solutions that mimic natural light. The lamps are connected to the Dyson Link App, allowing for full adjustability depending on the user’s task, age, mood, and local daylight.

“Task” for focused light, “Indirect” for less intense situations, “Feature” for dramatic lighting and “Ambient” for a warm glow that is designed to mimic candle light. These are the four general light settings the lamp offers. It also offers pre-set modes called “Study,” “Relax,” “Precision,” “Boost,” “Wake-Up,” “Sleep,” and “Away.” Users are able to save up to 20 custom light settings that can be controlled by a dimmer and
color temperature selection feature.

Here’s the kicker though. The lamps cost $650.00 and $850.00 respectively. So what do you get for that? Well, the LEDs are supposed to last 60 years, which if you amortize the cost over that length of time actually is an OK value. (provided the rest of the lamp lasts that long). You also get a lamp that is made from high-quality materials, with a built-in motion sensor to help save energy, integrated USD charging built into the base, and intelligent touch-activated slide controls.

“With the Dyson Lightcycle Morph, our aim was to challenge the fundamental conventions of contemporary artificial lighting and find a solution. So we developed a light that tracks natural daylight and intelligently transforms for different uses – providing the right light, at the right time, precisely where it’s needed,”

Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer.

It’s also a beautiful object in its own right. Thoughtfully designed by the Dyson team, and while that might not factor into a lot of people buying decisions, it will have an appeal for that audience that loves good design. There are truckloads of LED lamps available on the market, but in my opinion, this shows where Dyson’s design thinking extends beyond simply creating a nice looking LED task lamp.

One thing that most people don’t think about are things like packaging and assembly. How they are an integral part of the design process and the end-user experience. The video below shows how Dyson tackled this. Both the packaging and lamp assembly are done well. The packaging not only holds the parts, but it functions as an assembly stand for the base on the task lamp. (this isn’t the case on the floor lamp and in the video, the woman assembling her $850.00 is rolling it around on the floor. I think I would have put down a cloth to prevent scratches) The lamp goes together quickly and is on and ready to explore in minutes. There is some waste in the floor lamp packaging, but that’s to be expected since the vertical shaft is almost 48 inches in length. Overall Dyson did a pretty good job with this though.

“Artificial light is still a relatively new concept for humans. If you were to shrink evolution into 24 hours, artificial light would only have existed for around seven seconds.” Because of this, human circadian rhythms are still mostly in sync with the natural rising and setting of the sun. Lightcycle Morph’s adaptability moves beyond artificial light’s typical limitations to create a more realistic and personalized lighting environment for users.

Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer.

Will I be purchasing either of these lamps from Dyson? No, I won’t. I don’t have any need for either of them at this time. That doesn’t mean I can’t admire what went into the design and construction of the Dyson Lightcycle Morph. It really is a well thought out piece of industrial design that I bet quite a few people will pick up for their home or office.

Braun Audio Returns with the LE1 Reimagined by Precipice Design

Anyone that knows me, knows I am a huge fan of the industrial design work that Deiter rams did for Braun. His influence and the work he did for Braun can still be felt today on so many product lines by other companies like Apple. 

Braun has been absent from the audio world for more than two decades, but original stereo systems from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are still in demand. Not because they offer a superior audio experience, but because of the design and visual aesthetic they present.

The hottest Braun stereo collectible is probably the SK5 “Snow White’s Coffin” record player and radio. It is sublimely minimal in its execution with white powder-coated steel sandwiched between wooden side panels under a plexiglass case. The design was a radical departure for stereo gear when this was introduced in the 1950s. 

Snow White’s Coffin

One of my personal favorites from the Braun stereo family has always been the Braun Audio 1 from 1962. To me, it feels timeless. You can feel where it came from (the SK5) and understand the visual direction Rams was taking Braun over the next decade. 

1965 Braun Audio 1

In addition to the Audio 1, Braun introduced a set of minimalist speakers in 1959, the LE1. The LE1 is so simple in its design form. White rectangular slabs suspended on chrome tubular legs with a perforated black metal grill. The form is almost sculptural in quality and an even more radical departure from stereo systems of the day. You have to remember, in 1959 most stereo systems looked like a large wooden piece of furniture that would blend in with what was in your living room. The LE1 stands out. It’s meant to be seen as well as heard. 

The LE1 from 1959

The LE1 was the first electrostatic speaker available on the German market, the LE 1 provided a new housing for internal electronics produced by English engineering company Quad, then trading as Acoustical Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The LE 1’s electronics were based on the Quad ESL-57, producing a distinctively detailed sound that still stands up well against the standards of contemporary hi-fi systems today. At the time of its introduction, the speaker was technically and aesthetically ground-breaking. Within the Braun audio program of the late ‘50s, the LE 1 was intended to accompany the first Braun component Hi-Fi system, the Braun Studio 2. 

The 2019 LE01 Series

For the first time in 28 years, Braun is back in the audio business. Well sort of. Braun Audio is returning with a reinvention of the aforementioned LE speakers from 1959. A perfect reintroduction to the heritage of Braun Audio, the new LE Series focuses on the purity of design, purity of performance and the purity of sound Braun was known for in the past.

These beautifully minimalist speakers have been re-imagined by Precipice Design. The London-based design company developed all consumer and trade touchpoints including brand and product narratives, packaging, photography, iconography, digital assets (website, and mobile app), video content, and point of sale concepts, print catalogs, and advertising, helping to re-establish Braun in the premium audio sector.

When you look at the complete set of design materials that Precipice created for Braun you are immediately aware of the heritage of vintage Braun while positioning them squarely in the modern market place. The imagery that is used across all touchpoints echoes the minimalist aesthetic that Braun became known for, not simply in the products they produced but in the owner’s manuals, advertising, and packaging that was produced during their heyday.

As I looked at the new website that Precipice produced I was struck by how it so closely mirrored many of the Braun printed items I’ve seen from the 1960s an70s. The minimal color pallet, sparse layout, concise messaging. The same look and feel are carried over to the mobile app, and on to the packaging. With the packaging focusing on the purity of sound while focusing on the brand’s heritage. Only key information about the product shown on the packaging. The uncomplicated packaging is typical of Braun and reflects the aesthetics of the classic speaker through dark tones and a graphic of the speaker itself.

The speakers themselves are an homage to the original LE1 updated to reflect today’s taste and improved technologies. Where the original 1959 speaker would probably prove to be too large in today’s home environment, Precipice’s vision shows how the LE1 can be reimagined to fit more discreetly into one’s home.

The new speaker brings the same vision Ram’s had in 1959. A minimalist slab in white with a black grill floating above a chrome stand. The speaker is angled slightly backward, and the controls are almost invisible. Precipice also introduces a solid black version of the speaker and two additional sizes, all of which use the same visual language. 

Floor stands have been designed as well, but I have to say I don’t think they work as well. They seem rather chunky except where they have been extended and used with the smallest of the speakers.

There is no word on availability yet. I’m betting these will be available this fall for the Christmas shopping season. The product was introduced around the first of September this year so you would think they would be ready for sale by mid-November at the latest. Pricing will range from $1200.00 for the largest of the 3 down to $380.00 for the smallest.

I don’t need these, but I wouldn’t mind having them. Full information and specs are available on the Braun Audio website.