While modern CAD tools have made the product design workflow easier than ever (depending on who you ask), the need for more simple tools including sketchbooks, a favorite pen and even a ball of clay and calipers are still essential tools on a product design or engineer’s desktop.

But what if ‘going digital’ didn’t necessarily mean having to give up your beloved analog tools? What if the two could work together?

Unfold, a design studio based in Belgium, has created a range of wireless digital measuring instruments that do just that with their ‘Of Instruments and Archetypes‘ project.

The small explorative collection of lo/hi-fi tools consists of a caliper, a measuring tape and a protractor. When used to measure real-world objects, the measurements are then transferred in real-time to a live on-screen 3D model. The data can then be manipulated to customize an object or used as a base model to create accessories and modifications.

“Through this project, measuring becomes something without numbers, but with accurate precision; measuring becomes making.”

Unfold has emphasized that since the late 1960s, researchers have been experimenting with graphical user interfaces that make digital interfaces more accessible and understandable to those who don’t work with them day-in and day-out professionally:

“The prevailing ‘desktop’ metaphor has now become one of the most recognizable interface analogies, treating the computer monitor like the user’s physical desktop…’Of Instruments and Archetypes‘ explores the possibilities of taking back these non physical instruments, and returning them to the real world without losing their digital functions.

The Unfold team is presenting the project at this week’s Dutch Design Week 2014. You can also check out more on Unfold and their other impressive work (including the book ‘Printing Things‘) here.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.