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Published: 12 Oct 2018

Resilient Coating Lowers Temperatures in Extreme Climates

In 2018, global temperatures look set to reach record highs for the fourth consecutive year (Carbon Brief, 2018). As reports emerge of buildings and infrastructural elements melting in the heat, designers need to specify more resilient materials that prolong product lifespans and protect people. We look at one potential solution.

Researchers at New York’s Columbia University have developed a coating that reflects over 96% of heat without using pigment or power. The innovation has far-reaching applications as it can be fabricated, dyed and applied like a paint to anything, including rooftops, buildings, vehicles and spacecrafts. 

Once applied, the coating is not reliant on power, making it a passive daytime radiative cooling (PDRC) method. This could prove valuable for developing countries, where electricity sources can be unreliable and the effects of climate change are extreme. Alternative methods of keeping temperatures cool, such as air conditioning units and electrical fans, are extremely energy-intensive.

White paint is often applied to aeroplane fuselages and buildings in hot climates as it typically contains titanium dioxide, which gives surfaces the reflective properties needed to keep them cool. However, white paints usually have pigments that absorb UV light, limiting their performance.

In the same way that soap bubbles or snow reflect light, the new pigment-free coating has a bubbly structured surface with air voids to increase reflectivity and create an insulating layer.

In our S/S 20 Colour Spectrum direction Augmented Space, we mention Vantablack – a pigment so dark that it alters our perception of form and dimension.

Look out for upcoming reports on how to future-proof design for challenging environmental conditions.

Published: 8 Oct 2018

BBC Two Gets a Playful Visual Makeover

BBC Two has reinvented its brand identity for the first time in 20 years. The TV channel’s fresh look includes 16 idents created by British and international artists, featuring captivating colourful animations and unique soundscapes to create a more engaging viewing experience for modern audiences.

The rebrand is an exciting move for BBC Two – the third largest channel in the UK, after BBC One and ITV. Working with leading creatives and sound designers to revive television content is a progressive direction for the BBC. Recognising this, BBC Two plans to add to these animations over time.

BBC Creative, the broadcaster’s in-house agency, oversaw the brand refresh along with British creative agency Superunion. They collaborated with various creatives and pioneers in digital animation and motion graphic design, such as UK-based Mainframe, New York-based David McLeod and Berlin-based Helmut Breineder.

British composer Alex Baranowski scored the sound, adding a rich sensorial quality to the enticing visuals. His aim was “to build unique soundscapes for each film that blurred the line between what could be ‘music’ or ‘sound’”. He did this by performing musical instruments in unusual ways and enhancing sounds using a combination of analogue and digital techniques.  

Each piece of content features a curved ‘2’ outline in the centre. The different designs reflect specific moods and are intended to convey the channel’s varied content and commitment to creativity.  

Our Spotlight Trend The Sensory Opportunity highlights innovative engagement strategies that seek to capture consumers’ attention via entertainment and media channels. Check out Sensory Product for inspiring visual digital seduction techniques. 

See also The Future of Television.

BBC Two idents 2018
BBC Two idents 2018
BBC Two idents 2018
BBC Two idents 2018
Published: 2 Oct 2018

Vegetable Waste is Being Used to Boost Materials


Sustainable thinking for the future is driving developments in enhanced and optimised materials and products. Vegetable waste is one stream being explored to provide stronger, more efficient and eco-friendlier alternatives. We profile two examples.

  • Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK have developed a method to significantly improve the strength of concrete using extracts from waste root vegetables from the food industry.

    To create the enhanced material, extracted vegetable nanoplatelets are combined with ordinary cement – the key binding ingredient in concrete. This increases the amount of calcium silicate hydrate in the composite, which is the main substance that gives concrete its strength. The team have found that the vegetable-enhanced composite outperforms all commercially available cement additives, including graphene and carbon nanotubes.

    The production of cement currently accounts for up to 8% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions (Earth System Science Data, 2018). The team hopes that the new concrete could help reduce this figure – by boosting the material’s performance, smaller quantities would be needed in construction.
  • UK start-up Chip[s]Board produces an eco-friendly wood substitute made from industrial potato waste. Discarded pulp and peel is collected from potato-chip manufacturers and then treated and compacted into a sheet material.

    The namesake material has similar properties to chipboard and MDF, but is biodegradable post-use and doesn’t contain any toxic resins, chemicals or formaldehyde. It’s suitable for flatpack furniture and other interior applications.

    The start-up is currently exploring other applications, as well as developing a plastic-like material called Parblex, also made from potato waste. 

For other innovative projects using food industry byproducts, see Waste Pioneers and Revalued Resources in Visual Directions: The Future of Flavour.  Reusing organic waste was a key theme at London Design Festival, see our Colour & Materials report. 

Published: 28 Sep 2018

Creative Manufacturing from Israel’s Emerging Design Talent

Maayan Agustina Gianella

Graduates from Israel’s Holon Institute of Technology (HIT) are using fabrication processes from different eras and industries to reinvigorate product design. Here, we spotlight four designers applying candy manufacturing, electrical systems and low-value packaging materials in unexpected ways.

  • Inspired by the sweet-making process, designer Mayaan Agustina Gianella adds non-uniform colour to her collection of clocks by pressing recycled thermoplastic powder into irregular layers.

  • Sigma is a handmade jewellery collection by Shany Herzberg which draws on the industrial beauty of electrical circuits. Conductive brass, insulating black rubber and cable components are paired in the 23-piece collection, which features electromagnetic coils and varistors dipped in thick, liquid rubber.

  • Lost Wax Shell by Dan Meushar is a series of lighting fixtures made with ceramic moulds produced using the lost-wax process (an ancient method of metal casting). Mottled textures and characterful forms deliver a resolutely modern interpretation of this ancient craft.

  • Packed by Rimon Simhony incorporates the expanded polystyrene used to protect products during transportation into the product itself. Mirrors and glass bulbs are combined with chunky styrofoam, stimulating a dialogue around high and low-value materials.

See our Middle East & North Africa Top 10: Colour & Materials report for more.

Dan Muesha
Maayan Agustina Gianella
Rimon Simhony
Shany Herzberg
Published: 24 Sep 2018

Could 3D-Printed Liquid Enable Shapeshifting Electronics?

Researchers in the US have discovered a way to print 3D structures made entirely of liquid. The all-liquid material could be used to construct electronics that power flexible, stretchable devices – potentially unlocking fresh opportunities for industries including wearable design and healthcare.

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California are using a modified 3D printer to ‘print’ lines of water into a vat of hydrophobic liquid silicone oil. To stop the water from splitting into droplets, a tubular vessel of “nanoparticle supersoap” surrounds the water to stabilise it and keep it contained. The threads of water are finer than a human hair and several metres long, and can be manipulated into elliptical or round cross-sections that remain stable for months. 

Although the research is a long way from incorporation into commercial products, it has the potential to redefine how designers use liquid materials. The team, led by Tom Russell, suggests that this innovation could also be used to aid chemical synthesis, and serve as a transport and delivery system for nanoscale particles to build components.

According to the research published in Advanced Materials: “Fully exploiting all‐liquid systems that are structured by their interfaces would create a new class of biomimetic, reconfigurable, and responsive materials.” 

On a larger scale, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a breakthrough 3D printing technology which can rapidly produce objects using a robot and a tank of gel. The process improves on the speed, scale and quality of existing 3D printing methods. See examples of liquid printed products in Democratised Design.

Published: 19 Sep 2018

FIT Pushes for Pink’s Gender-Neutral Future


Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Colour at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), traces the history of this divisive colour, and argues for a nuanced view. Rather than symbolising girliness, FIT prompts visitors to regard pink as being as versatile as black.

Given evolving notions of gender and masculinity (see Redressing Femininity and Fashioning a New Masculinity), FIT has chosen an apt time to stage this exhibit. It traces how pink came to symbolise femininity in Western cultures, and analyses how non-Western communities and global style subcultures offer an alternative perspective on this representation.

The show is filled with garments that illuminate the mutability of gender stereotypes. Pieces such as an Indian man’s dusty-rose sherwani, a punk-inspired suit from Japan, and a magenta hooded Mexican poncho demonstrate how cultural context can render pink a masculine colour. While adopting it as a unisex hue might seem unconventional for contemporary Western attitudes, FIT lobbies for pink as a gender-neutral colour when considered in a wider cultural context.

The range of featured hues bolsters the idea that pink’s meaning is not fixed. A purple-tinged punk ensemble from British designer Zandra Rhodes triggers a completely different response to a peachy Dior dress from the 60s. This multifaceted approach to pink reflects contemporary preferences, with hues such as Pink Dahlia and Retro Pink highlighted in our  S/S 20 Colour Spectrum.

Although the fashion industry is starting to embrace gender fluidity, the exhibit’s sometimes surprising garments underline a continued need for brands to employ pink in less stereotypical ways. Millennial pink may have gone mainstream, but there’s still commercial opportunity for more hues to become standard.

Published: 18 Sep 2018

The Macro Problem of Microfibres: Planet Care's Solution

Planet Care

A typical 6kg washing machine cycle of synthetics releases hundreds of thousands of microfibres into the water stream, according to Slovenian start-up Planet Care. To tackle the problem, the company has developed a filtration solution that aims to provide cleaner water.

Microfibre fleece, polyester blends and acrylic yarn shed fibres into the water stream when washed, which can end up in our drinking water, oceans, lakes and rivers, impacting the health of our ecosystem. When ingested, microfibres can cause problems including infertility, poisoning and genetic disruption, the start-up explains.

Planet Care’s filter works by attracting stray fibres ranging from 0.2-1,000 microns in length into a cartridge, using the electrostatic charge that naturally builds up in synthetics. Once full, the cartridges can be sent back to the manufacturer for recycling.

The company is working with appliance manufacturers to build the solution into washing machines, while add-on filters allow keen consumers to retrofit the solution into their existing appliances. An industrial version is also in development, which can be incorporated into the plumbing of commercial cleaners, hotels, hospitals and other high-volume washing facilities.

A number of home electronics launches at IFA Berlin 2018 focused on washing machine health and sustainable living solutions – for more, see our IFA 2018: Home Electronics report.

And to read about products made from harvested plastic waste, see Evolving Plastics.

Published: 11 Sep 2018

Sponge Material Clears Colour from Dye-Contaminated Water

The new material was developed by researchers at the University of Washington

Water pollution affects rivers, lakes and oceans all over the world, posing a threat to human health as well as the environment. Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a sponge-like material that could help address the harmful effects of industrial dye pollution, by quickly removing colour from contaminated water.

The new porous and reusable material, which is made from cellulose and palladium metal, works with reducing agents to help remove colour almost instantly. The large pores allow water to flow through easily, while the metal particles act as a catalyst. Existing reducing agents for chemical dyes can turn coloured dyes clear, but are slow-working and often inefficient.

Dyes are widely used in industries such as textiles, cosmetics, paper and plastics. After manufacturing, a large amount of effluent can bypass wastewater treatments, contaminating water for aquatic plants and animals. Even a small amount of colour dye can block out sunlight, preventing photosynthesis and damaging the aquatic ecosystem.

The team’s method of turning a coloured dye clear would allow plants to grow normally again. "This method could work well when you have low concentrations of dye in water that you need to take care of really quickly,” said one of the team members. For another dye-degrading technique, see Scientific Dye Developments in Considered Colour.

Last year, a lab in the US developed a material called Oleo Sponge that soaks up oil from water. The team have since conducted a successful experiment in real-world conditions that mimicked an oil spill. Read more about the material in our blog

For more on water sustainability, see Water Futures: Designing Sustainable Systems and Water: Sustaining Supplies.

Published: 7 Sep 2018

Designers Push Cork with Furniture Collection

Sobreiro Collection by Humberto & Fernando Campana

As we begin to acknowledge how our material choices impact the environment, the quest for more ecological options continues. A Brazilian design duo are exploring cork as one of these alternatives, using the renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material for their latest furniture collection.

The Sobreiro Collection by Humberto & Fernando Campana is made almost entirely from cork, in a bid to promote its versatility to other designers. The range consists of an armchair and three cabinets, with each piece demonstrating a different tactile and visual quality.

The light-coloured chair is made using cork alone and has a curvilinear form, while the darker brown cabinets, which have a wooden structure, feature smooth, granulated or undulating surface textures.

Expanded agglomerated cork – created by steam-heating and compressing resinous cork granules – is used for two of the cabinets, while the third explores the material’s hybridity, combining cork agglomerate with natural clay. See Cork & Concrete Composite for a similar example.

“We’ve always been fascinated by cork, not only because it is an ecological material, but because of its lightness,” say the designers. “Cork’s texture, variety of applications and insulation properties enrich the possibilities of using this material in order to express new concepts and gestures.”

Cork is one of the most sustainable natural materials we can harvest. Coming from the outer bark of the cork oak tree, it’s obtained through a process in which the trees are not cut down. Instead, the bark is harvested by hand every nine years and after harvesting, the tree continues to grow new layers. Besides being light and sustainable, it’s also waterproof, fire resistant, flexible and durable, making it suitable for numerous products and applications. 

See more diverse uses of the material in Cork: New Possibilities, CMF Industry View: Home Accessories, CMF Industry View: Home Appliances and Milan 2018: Kitchen & Bathroom.

Published: 21 Aug 2018

Sensory Signals in Packaging Help Prevent Waste

Mimica Touch

Consumers’ uncertainty around food and product spoilage is a huge contributing factor to the omnipresent waste problem, with the average UK household throwing away £470 ($597) worth of food annually, according to sustainability experts Wrap. Sensory signals are being incorporated into packaging solutions to aid consumers’ decision-making and reduce product waste. We highlight two innovative new developments.

  • Harnessing Olfactory Experiences: US packaging manufacturer Tekni-Plex has developed a scent-permeating closure liner that allows consumers to smell a product’s contents before purchase – without affecting the seal or compromising the contents. Called Sniff Seal, the patented technology could help prevent product wastage due to tampered seals. It’s suitable for use with food, beverages, personal care and cosmetic products.

    The liner also offers the opportunity for brands to enhance product differentiation and customer purchasing experiences through scent. For more on sensorial experiences with scent, see Exploring Scent Communication and Mood-Enhancing Shaving Creams.

  • Textured Safety Signals: Danish dairy company Arla is introducing a gelatine-based gel label that becomes bumpy when products inside have gone off. The labels are designed to deteriorate at the same rate as the product, reacting to changes in the packaged food and surrounding temperature.

    The innovation, by London-based food tech start-up Mimica Touch, could reduce unnecessary waste by discouraging consumers from throwing away food prematurely.

    For more on tactile, sensory-focused packaging solutions, see Luxe Pack New York 2018 – Sensory Packaging.

See our Packaging Futures: Sustainability report for more sustainable and waste-reducing packaging options. We also explore multisensory design for branding in our upcoming Spotlight Trend report The Sensory Opportunity, publishing 27 August.

Published: 14 Aug 2018

3 Innovations in 3D Printing for Architecture

ETH Zurich aluminium facade

The symbiosis of technology and craft is triggering a surge in progressive uses for additive manufacturing. Here we round up three concepts in which the capabilities of 3D printing are being pioneered to realise new possibilities in architecture.

  • Sand Moulds: Researchers at ETH Zurich University have developed a quick and affordable method to produce highly complex and bespoke architectural parts, using 3D-printed sand moulds.

    The team has produced an intricate, 6m-high custom facade from cast molten aluminium, and has fabricated the formwork for an innovative, concrete ceiling. The technology allows lightweight structures to be produced as a solid block without any extraneous material.

  • 3D Printing for Facades: New York-based studio EDG has devised a cost-effective process for restoring and recreating ornamental features for historic buildings. The solution uses rendering software and 3D printing to produce plastic moulds for casting elements in concrete. It also opens up the possibility of creating affordable modern facades, which today are often considered an expensive luxury.

    3D printing is an important focus for the government in Dubai; its Dubai 3D Printing Strategy aims for at least 25% of every new building to be constructed using 3D printing by 2025. Dubai-based manufacturer Immensa Technology Labs has developed a patent-pending technique to align with the strategy. Its reusable and environmentally friendly moulds allow for concrete, cement and gypsum materials to be cast in patterned forms for building facades. 
  • Stable Structures: US start-up Branch Technology has produced a large, 3D-printed pavilion without the need for steel reinforcement. The geometric design is self-supporting thanks to its cellular 3D structure and the carbon-fibre-reinforced ABS plastic used.

Designers are also exploring digital fabrication techniques when working with wood – see Material Direction: Reframing Wood. For more material innovations for architecture, read CMF Industry View: Architecture & Spaces.

ETH Zurich concrete ceiling
ETH Zurich concrete ceiling
Branch Technology pavilion
Published: 10 Aug 2018

Biodegradable Coffee Cups Grown from Fruit

HyO Cups by Crème Studio

As big brands and retailers pledge against plastic, designers and researchers are persisting with sustainable and plant-based alternatives for single-use items. Brooklyn design studio Crème has turned to gourds (fleshy fruits with hard skin) to create an environmentally friendly solution to disposable coffee cups.

While existing paper versions are typically lined with polyethylene and cannot be recycled or composted, meaning excessive numbers end up in landfill, the HyO-Cups are 100% organic and biodegradable.

The studio looked to gourd containers for inspiration, which can be found all over the world. Traditionally used in many cultures as containers for liquids or medicines, they are often grown in earthen moulds to create different shapes and sizes. Once dried out, the fruit’s strong outer skin and fibrous inner flesh become watertight. 

To make a standardised vessel in the same vein, Crème developed custom 3D-printed moulds. The fruit is then grown inside, taking on the shape of a stackable, faceted cup or flask.

The production process currently takes around six months – from planting the fruit to drying out the shells; but the team claims the cups can be manufactured on a mass scale. It hopes that scaling up production and growing the gourds in a controlled, indoor environment will produce a more efficient and plentiful crop.

Laboratory-grown materials and solutions to our depleting sources is an important theme in our S/S 20 Materials Focus story Augmented Space. See Edible Kombucha Packaging and Crab Shells & Cellulose Offer Promising Plastic Alternative for further sustainable alternatives.

Published: 3 Aug 2018

Experimental Furniture Collection Celebrates Beauty of Rust

Yuma Kano, Rust Harvest

While rust is often deemed problematic – causing costly structural damage to metal substrates and products – Japanese designer Yuma Kano has developed a process that elevates its status, using it as a decorative surface finish for his latest collection of experimental furniture.

The project, called Rust Harvest, involves cultivating rust on metal plates. These are subjected to sunlight and rain, submerged in salt water and buried in earth to create a mix of complex colours and natural textured patterns. Acrylic resin is then applied to the rusted surface. When peeled away, the rust transfers to the acrylic – capturing the pattern in a transparent panel.

Once the process is complete, the metal plates are reused to create another crop of rust for harvesting, making the production process similar to an agricultural cycle.

Kano combines the rust-resin panels with sheets of metal to create a varied and harmonious collection of tables, bookcases and stools. The metals chosen for the furniture reflect where the rust has come from (steel for red rust, copper for blue) and are left untreated so that they also change and corrode over time.

A number of designers and architects are embracing naturally occurring processes and materials that evolve over time in projects that celebrate raw beauty. See our A/W 19/20 Materials Direction Sacred Earth for inspiration, as well as Rust: Metal Composite Ceramics for another designer who works with oxidised metal.

Published: 31 Jul 2018

Crab Shells & Cellulose Offer Promising Plastic Alternative

Georgia Institute of Technology

Brands seeking a sustainable alternative to plastic packaging should take note of a nascent new material made from the two most abundant biopolymers on Earth.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have used cellulose nanocrystals (from trees) and chitin (from the shells of arthropods like crabs and the cell walls of fungi) to make a flexible, transparent film. When compared with some forms of PET (the plastic widely used for soft drink bottles and packaging), the material reduces oxygen permeability by up to 67% – which means it could improve the shelf-life of foods. 

In nature, cellulose and chitin are never found side by side. But when sprayable versions of these materials are laminated together, they work symbiotically to form a dense, thin membrane which is completely compostable. Chitin is a byproduct of shellfish processing, while cellulose can be sourced sustainably from the pulp and paper manufacturing industry.

Each year, up to a third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted before it reaches the dinner table (FAO, 2015). As the population increases, brands will need to find ways to tackle this without contributing to the global problem of plastic pollution. McDonald’s, Starbucks and Pret A Manger are among the big brands pledging to reduce or eliminate single-use plastics from their businesses – see our blog post for more. 

Meanwhile, researchers at Singapore University of Technology and Design are developing a cellulose/chitin-based 3D-printed material as an alternative to plastic filament. Read more about this and other cellulose-based plastic alternatives in our report Reframing Wood. For more bioplastic innovations, see Evolving Plastic.

Published: 27 Jul 2018

Crafting Textiles to Create Meaningful Consumer Product

Maharam x Scholten & Baijings

Textile designers are crafting fabrics that depict heritage motifs to transform materials into artefacts imbued with cultural and personal value. Beyond decoration, textiles can be used as tools to communicate geographic and cultural histories, as seen in Colourful Exhibition Celebrates Folk Textiles. US textile manufacturer Maharam achieves this in its latest collection, illustrating how updated legacy patterns can give contemporary product a crafted quality.

The Darning Sampler collection is a collaboration between Maharam and Dutch design studio Scholten & Baijings and revives historical darning samples in a pattern of threaded geometric shapes. Against a flat background of hand-painted canvas, coloured rectangles of yarn are sewn on top of one another in layers, creating angular intersecting forms. 

As referenced in the name, the design is inspired by antique squares of material historically used by young girls to practise repairing clothing. Darning was common throughout the western world in the 17th and 18th centuries and was particularly popular in the Netherlands, explaining why this design resonated with the Dutch studio. 

Traditionally, darning was not only used as a functional form of mending, but also as a way for girls to present highly technical stitch patterns and prove themselves as a suitable wife. The samplers sourced as inspiration for the project featured stitching layered in different coloured thread to show off the quality of the darner’s work.

The patterns’ graphic forms are in keeping with modern tastes, allowing the collection to have fresh appeal while communicating a hand-made character that references heritage crafts.

In addition to expressing older narratives, textiles can also encourage a more friendly and intimate interaction with contemporary technology, as seen in Dutch designer Kiki van Eijk’s collaboration with Google at this year’s Milan Design Week. Now is the time for brands to recognise textiles’ huge potential, and their ability to create more exciting and meaningful consumer product.