Like a well-orchestrated production, the pages that have come and gone for various Kickstarter campaigns regularly tell us a story of organization and order without delivering even a glimpse of the chaos that’s happening backstage. With the announcement that he burned all copies of his Kickstarted book due to poor fulfilment planning, Sad Pictures for Children creator John Campbell essentially committed what is now being coined a Kickstarter Fail (you can read more on that here). Not to undermine his talents, but this is a book we are talking about that involved a single print house ‘manufacturer’ and essentially one ‘part’. But what about the dozens of Kickstarted products that have required multiple manufacturers, dozens if not hundreds of parts, and countless other tasks before even getting to a fulfillment stage? In his mini-essay on planning the product design process, Chris Elsworthy—the designer behind the successfully Kickstarted Robox 3D Printer—gives us one of the most transparent and honest insights into the challenges of not only developing a product for a Kickstarter campaign…but developing a product at all.
From DIY PVC Marshmallow Shooters to LEGO Mindstorm Kits, young makers who have a passion for making things have quite the gamut of options these days. Despite the lack of wood shop and other ‘hands-on’ classes in school that their parents and grandparents might have taken back in the day, the amount of options for creating products—either as simple as a wooden car or as complex as an Arduino robot—is growing every year. This past week we stopped by the International Toy Fair in NYC (the largest toy fair ever on record as a matter of fact) to see what is trending and/or coming out on the market later this year for the next generation of industrial designers, mechanical engineers, and Makers of all kinds.
Consider it a lesson in what could happen if you design faulty devices and the disastrous outcomes that they could bring. Inspired by the humorous Ian Frazier-written Coyote v. Acme lawsuit that was featured in the New Yorker back in 1990, Daniel Weil of design studio Pentagram has reimagined the designs for five gadgets that inevitably failed Wile E. Coyote and produced cartoon-style bodily harm in his never-ending attempt to capture that pesky Roadrunner. In these detailed technical diagrams, Weil playfully explores an unfortunate situation that no company or product designer wants to find themselves in.
It does not take a market analyst to realize that the explosion in mobile device sales within the past decade has made it relatively uncommon to leave home without at least one device featuring a touchscreen. While the innovation itself allows our gadgets to be great, the anti-ergonomic technology behind it is pretty far from perfect, and we all know it. From the calloused-handed carpenter and the sodden-fingered dishwasher, to persons struggling with arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, we have all witnessed the struggles associated with touching small screens, and most of us have had our fair share of infuriating moments in dealing with them ourselves. But there is good news for those of you manicured go-getters…touch-friendly Elektra Nails are here!
It could be argued that there are two different kinds of people in this world: those who can draw accurately on an Etch A Sketch and those who end up with what looks like a ball of hair coughed up by their neighbor’s cat. Okay, perhaps not…but regardless, the Etch A Sketch is as iconic as they come in the world of toy design along with Pez dispensers, Barbie, and Hot Wheels. Today, some hardcore ‘Etch Enthusiasts’ are even programming their Etch-a-Sketch ‘platforms’ with Arduinos and step motors to run computer-aided designs. But where did the concept for the Etch A Sketch come from in the first place anyways? In this animated short released Saturday by the New York Times, Etch a Sketch inventor André Cassagnes gets the proper biographical treatment on the iconic toy that he developed decades ago.
As the market for artisanal goods keeps expanding in a world of disposable IKEA and H&M ‘goods’, so too does the desire for people to hear the stories behind these expertly-crafted artifacts. Murray Carter is another one of those makers who has spent his life perfecting the craft of bladesmithing…a unique craft that demands both patience in the design process as well as a keen eye towards details. In this short from Portland, Oregon-based video production house Cineastas, we get a behind the scenes look at how a six-year apprenticeship with a 16th generation Japanese bladesmith helped influence a Western knife maker.
Laugh all you want, but sharpening pencils is a serious business…just ask Artisanal Pencil Sharpener David Rees. As the number one #2 pencil sharpener in the world, David makes thousands of dollars a year through his pencil sharpening business and even has a book on the topic—appropriately titled ‘How to Sharpen Pencils‘. In this humorous film festival-favorite short from Price Films, David takes us behind the scenes to gain a better perspective of his process that will put your desktop electric pencil sharpener to shame.
Yesterday, SolidSmack posted on the Electric Loog Guitar—a sort of build-a-guitar kit that encourages customization. While build-a-kits have been in existence for decades, there seems to be a resurgence in interest for both adults and kids alike. After raising over $160,000 on Kickstarter with 29 days left to go in their 30-day campaign, the Kano Build-a-Computer Kit just might have found the sweet spot that people are looking for in STEM-based ‘kits’.
Can you even imagine what you get when you have three young girls and Brett Doar (of OK Go fame) spending two weeks with a crew creating a Rube Goldberg machine made completely out of toys, putting it to music with a rewrite of the Beastie Boys’ Girls? Only the most awesome video in the history of girls and engineering. GoldieBlox, makers of engineering toys for girls, has the coolest toys bar none to help girls explore the art of making, inventing, tinkering and engineering. The toys and stories are top notch, but a video they just launched puts the icing on the frilly pink cake… then kicks it over, triggers a rocket and launches GoldieBlox into the hearts of girls around the world.
Master woodworker and community leader Eric Hollenbeck presents a rare breed in today’s technology-obsessed world. While 3D printers, laser cutters, and CAD software have re-defined what it means to ‘make something’, Hollenbeck’s most-modern tool in his impressive arsenal was built in 1948. In this mesmerizing Maker profile from director Ben Proudfoot of Breakwater Studios, we get to see firsthand how Hollenbeck and his Blue Ox studio in Northern California are not only preserving skills that took 25,000 years to master, but also how those same skills are helping at-risk youth and veterans re-discover themselves through the simple powers of ‘making something’. Ultimately, does Hollenbeck’s Blue Ox School present an ideal STEM curriculum that other schools should be paying attention to?