Detroit

The Detroit Bus Company.

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. That is what the video below about the Detroit Bus Company is all about. I could go on about the production value of the film and how good it is, but that isn’t the point of this post. This is all about how one individual can make a huge impact on the lives of others, their community, and their city at large. Oh, and if you have time, check out the really nice Dark Rye website.

“Young entrepreneur Andy Didorosi believes that the way to Detroit’s new era depends on better leadership and a solid connection between the city and the suburbs. So when the city in 2012 axed its plans to build the M-1 light rail, the transit solution that would’ve bridged that vital connection, Didorosi was mad as hell. So what’s an angry young man in this situation supposed to do? Well, Didorosi bought a bus, had a local artist trick it out with a wicked mural, and he started the Detroit Bus Company. Dedicated to a more connected city, Andy Didorosi is bringing Detroit home one ride at a time.”

Art of the Car Concours. It All About the Details.

This afternoon my friend Tim and I spent a few hours at the Art of the Car Concours on the grounds of the Kansas City Art Institute. The annual event is a scholarship fund raiser for the school, and over the last seven years has grown into a world class automotive event. The two of us spent a hot humid summer afternoon, walking through 100 or so vehicles taking photos, admiring the design styling, engineering, and distinction of the cars shown. At one point both of us commented on how each car, each brand, had unique looks that set it apart from it’s contemporaries.

Both of us remarked that in todays world, most people can’t tell a Nissan from a Honda, from a Volkswagen, from a Chevy, from a Hyundai, from a Kia, from a Ford (although Ford is arguably ahead of the curve in distinctive styling). Aside from a few marquee brands, or higher end autos, most look the same, and no one making a car for the masses puts the attention to detail in things like badging any more. Looking at a 49 Ford coupe, and 66 Covair it made me long for the days when each car brand looked distinct, and the exterior styling was as important as the creature comforts like iPhone connectivity that we lust after today.

Below is a sampling of some of the photos that I took today. Realistically some of these shots are for cars that would cost a small fortune in todays dollars. None the less, the attention to detail, the quality of materials, the small things, are what made these cars part of the golden age of automobile design. Personally I wish the big three, Ford, Chrysler, and Chevy would step up to the plate and bring this kind of styling back. Raise the bar, set a new standard based on vintage design styling that was in many ways simply better. No I don’t want the old school technology. What I want is a car that looks as cool as these, with all the comforts my 2013 model offers me today.

20130623-163838.jpg

20130623-163859.jpg

20130623-163849.jpg

20130623-163910.jpg

20130623-163922.jpg

20130623-163949.jpg

20130623-163935.jpg

20130623-164209.jpg

20130623-164241.jpg

20130623-164406.jpg

20130623-164650.jpg

Shinola, Designed and Made in America.

With the Fourth of July just a little over two weeks away, I’ve been looking into products that are designed and built here in America. One item that has been on my radar for a while now is Shinola watches. I first discovered them about 9 months ago, but haven’t written anything up. Today I am, with Shinola being the first Designed in America – Made in America post. The two videos included in this post show the pride, craftsmanship, quality, and design thinking that went into Shinola watches.

Shinola is more than a watch maker. This Detroit based company also produces bikes, leather goods, and journals. All of these items are designed and manufactured here in the United States. Shinola believes that American design and manufacturing is world class, and capable of leading the world in craftsmanship, innovation, and quality. Shinola has partnered with a group of extraordinary American manufacturers whose obsession with craftsmanship and quality matches their own, and it shows in the products they produce.

landing.page8_

When I first read about Shinola watches I was intrigued. There hasn’t been a watch maker in the United States for almost 40 years. Shinola is starting a new chapter in American watch making with production of timepieces crafted from “Steel, Leather and Labor”. As a testament to the quality of the watches they make, everyone is sold out on their website.

Shinola 1

The watches themselves are hand made with an obsessive focus on crafting a watch of the highest possible quality. Yes they use Swiss parts, but the design and manufacture takes place in Detroit Michigan. The timepieces are limited edition, numbered units that feature serious attention to detail. All watches feature sapphire crystals. The watch faces are over printed up to 14 times using sophisticated luminous paint. The leather straps are produced by Horween of Chicago. The cases, screws, dials, bolts, buckles, and assemblies have all been well thought out and designed to produce a watch that is a hybrid between a fashion watch and a high quality daily driver. The result, a beautiful timepiece designed and hand built with high quality materials in the American Midwest.

landing.page7_

FutureLAB Interactive Car Windows for GM.

Just in case you missed it, earlier this week all the major news networks announced how GM is back on top as the number 1 automobile manufacturer in the world. Ford is making huge gains, and both companies are being heralded for design innovation and product quality. Hopefully Detroit will do something about the plethora of over sized trucks and SUV’s that clog American roads, by making smaller more stylish cars that appeal to the masses the way the previously mentioned did over the last 20 years. I mean seriously, do you really need a Ford F-250 with a Triton V-10 engine if you don’t work on a farm or haul something daily? Anyway, I digress…

Recently GM, in challenged the FutureLAB at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel to make back seat windows interactive for kids. “Windows of Opportunity” project is designed to take advantage emerging technologies, and convert the rear windows of a car into an interactive playground for kids. The students from  FutureLAB worked directly with General Motors Human-Machine Interface Group to explore the possibilities of the future. The result of their research and work is an entertainment center built around applications designed to deliver gaming, social networking, information, and creativity for kids.

It is this kind of exploration, and design development that will help propel GM, and other US car makers forward over the next few years. GM, and Ford having conquered the challenges of fit, finish, and style need something to set themselves apart from European, Japanese, and Korean brands in the future. This kind of technology might just do the trick.