from USA

Shox Jocks

More innovation from the Nike camp: The new Nike brand, "Shox," is here. 16 years in
the making, the latest swoosh shoes have shock absorbers in the heel.

The shock absorbers, four in each shoe, are exposed and constructed of some new type
of foam (similar to a skateboard truck bushing, for those of you who know what a
backside grind is). I saw an original prototype that used metal springs, but in
addition to being too heavy, it had a kind of Wile E. Coyote aesthetic.

I tried the new Shox on at a press conference, and after jumping around, I couldn't really
tell the difference. Then again, I'm 5'4 and I've got a jump shot like Stephen Hawking.
Try 'em out yourself.

"This Trophy Sucks. How 'Bout a Dodge Viper?"

Car companies are occupied these days--Ford is dealing with those flipping Explorers,
and Mitsubishi employees are busy sexually harassing each other. Thank God Chrysler has
the time to give their annual Design Awards, for which this year's winners have just been

* - Ideo-founder David M. Kelley;
* - Environmental architect Will Bruder;
* - Jewelry designer Ted Muehling;
* - Graphic designer/artist Gary Panter;
* - U-Penn professor of landscape design James Corner;
* - Pentagram partner Paula Scher.
The winners each get a trophy, $10,000, and an invitation to a swank awards ceremony in
New York City. This I will continue trying to crash, if I can only find a way around those bouncers.

The Chrysler Design Awards are dedicated to recognizing innovation in ID, graphics,
architecture, and media. Previous winners have included Frank Gehry, Apple, and some
guy named Karim Rashid.


Dell Computers has always given design short shrift; a stalwart of rock-bottom PCs, they were
able to gain market share through the cheap prices that came from their hyper-efficient
distribution model.

But now Apple's got the iMac, Compaq's got the iPaq, even Hewlett-Packard has the
snazzy eVectra--and Dell's share has begun to erode. So they've jumped on the design
bandwagon, with their recently launched redesigned models. And they are lame.

"Dell is following the design trend that a lot of companies are looking for," says Brooks Gray,
analyst for Technology Business Research. Following is the operative word here. The
new Dell laptop features corny snap-on color accents, that come in (gasp) five colors.
The latest Dell PCs open like suitcases, just like the G4, for servicing.

They've switched from beige to grey--that must have been an agonizing decision--and they've,
oh my god, rounded the corners. The cables inside are color-coded, just like those bombs
they defuse in the movies (which should result in a lot of dramatic "bomb squad" fantasy
role-plays for those action-starved geeks in IT). Other than that, you'll see more innovation
in an Amish barn.

"One of their early forays into more design-conscious PCs wasn't successful," explains
International Data Corp. analyst Roger Kay, referring to their disastrous, and cancelled, WebPC.
"The stakes are pretty high for Dell--if [the new line] doesn't do real well, they get branded as
not being capable of making this particular turn in the industry." See you guys in hell.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Ceiling

Cool exhibit design tricks.

For the new Skyscraper Museum, due to open in Battery Park City late next year, architect
Roger F. Duffy from Skidmore, Owings and Merrill has come up with some interesting gimmicks.

To pay homage to the towering verticality of skyscrapers, Duffy cleverly proposed the museum
have stainless-steel, high-polish floors and ceilings, creating a "vertical hall of mirrors" effect.
Since the display cases will be floor-to-ceiling, they will appear to stretch
infinitely upwards/downwards.

To maintain the illusion, the ceiling will be completely flat and featureless, devoid of lighting
and ventilation ducts, which will be placed in the display cases instead.

What about the floor? Believe it or not, to eliminate scuff-marks from people tramping through
the museum, the innovative architect has proposed that patrons be given special booties to
wear over their shoes, so they actually polish the mirror surface as they walk on it.
(Note to women and Scots: avoid wearing skirts.)

Fabrics, Often-er

With the exception of luggage design and a few other disciplines, ID'ers have traditionally
stayed away from fabric; pliable materials don't really lend themselves to being drawn up in CAD.

Maybe now it's time to get with the times. The latest material to hit the market is waterproof
shimmery, and durable high-tech fabrics, including woven plastic and variants on polyester
and vinyl, occasionally with computer-generated patterns. Fashion designers picking up on
the stuff include Jhane Barnes, Jil Sander and Helmut Lang.

Could there be a design revolution in here somewhere? Will industrial designers take the
new materials to heart and design innovative, groundbreaking products using techno fabrics?
Only one thing is certain: Soon you'll be able to wear a white sweater to dinner and when
your girlfriend tells you she's pregnant and you chokingly spit a mouthful of Merlot all
over yourself, it'll come right out with soap and hot water. The club soda industry is
reportedly fuming.

Check some of it out at  

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