Sunlight Reflectors for No-Power Lighting

The sun is a pretty formidable source of light - but we silly humans keep building buildings and using electricity to light the insides.  "Daylight", an anonymous entry in the James Dyson Award competition, proposes a better way to get sunlight indoors, when simply enlarging windows or adding skylights won't do the trick.  Reflectors shift their angles as the sun moves, directing the light indoors where it reflects off a white ceiling or wall - or even additional reflectors which take the place of light fixtures.  The efficiency of using a little bit of electronic smarts plus low-power physical actuators to leverage a hugely powerful natural light source definitely appeals to the engineer (and greenie) in me - and hopefully will appeal to architects, too!
[via Core77]

Building a Better Clamshell

I've ranted about difficult and wasteful packaging on this blog before - and the usual villian in the story is the clamshell package, designed to attractively show a product in a retail venue while making it (1) larger and (2) unopenable, both to prevent theft.  Amazon came up with an excellent alternative in their frustration-free packaging - but this really only worked because they're free from the retail-venue constraints of attractiveness and theft-resistance.  So, Proctor & Gamble took a shot at improving the clamshell - keeping the same advantages, but ditching the downsides.  The result is an attractive package, made from renewable pulp materials and easier and safer to open.  It won a DuPont Award for Packaging Innovation, in the Sustainability and Waste Reduction category - and it's something I hope we'll see more of on retail shelves!
[via Core77]

Coffee Table Rethink

Coffee tables have a tough job to do, because they really have so many jobs:  work desk, storage area, dining table, ottoman, objet d'art.  And yet, we keep thinking it just needs to be a flat surface with four legs.  James Cornetet thought a little beyond the usual, and came up with this award-winning design for what he calls the Get Your Feet Off My Coffee Table!  It makes the table decidedly unfriendly to feet, while adding a few other features:  remotes rest on a lower plane than the top surface, which holds flat objects like laptops and books; meanwhile, glasses and mugs are prevented from tipping when resting between the ridges.  It's elegant that such simple geometry accomplishes so many things - but sorry, James, I'll keep my own coffee table.  I love putting my feet up!
[Thanks to Bill Lewis for sending this along!]

Overlapping Contact Info

So many technologies, so many ways to reach people - but as this business card points out, they have a curious way of overlapping each other. Creative technologist Boris Smus shows how all his contact methods are contained within his email address - a clever trick, assuming you've claimed the real estate of an identical website domain name and Twitter handle. Hey, to up the ante, try to snag matching Skype and IM names!
[via Gizmodo]

"Pioneers of Industrial Design" Postage Stamps

One of the problems with good product design is that it frequently goes unnoticed - people love "the product", or the fact that it "just works", but that extra step to appreciate the thought, process, and logic behind the design often pushes the limit. Industrial design is a different matter, since it plays directly to your emotions - but these days, I'll take any appreciation of design as a good step forward. With that in mind, I'm a fan of the US Postal Service's series of stamps honoring the Pioneers of American Industrial Design. They're good-lookin' stamps with good-lookin' products - and maybe, just maybe, people will look beyond the form to discover equally beautiful function. Hey, it's a start!

[Thanks, Sohini!]

Elevator Buttons: Fubar!

Reader Nick Puglisi sent in this photo of the mind-boggling buttons in the elevator at his office.  This particular elevator is already a little challenging, since it has both front and back doors - but whoever designed the button layout just used that as a starting point for an opus of confusion.  I'll let Nick take it from here:

Two things involved in this picture.

1) The close (and open) symbols for front and rear are differentiated by a line in the middle of the close symbol, but it's not clear why that line means front.  

2) The braille is exactly the same for both buttons, so I looked up the braille alphabet and the translation is "Close". But it again, doesn't indicate which door will be closed.   

 It's the same with the "Open" buttons. So, what happens when someone says "hold that door" (meaning the rear door) and a blind person in the elevator finds the button that says "open," only it's for the front. They would look like a jerk when the rear door closes on the person trying to catch the elevator.   

 I'm sure it's a pretty infrequent occurrence, and I would wager that blind people have to deal with that type of problem a lot. But still.

I think he's made as much sense of this "design" as is possible - and for everyone else in that building, you're on your own from here on out!
[Thanks, Nick!]