2006 Annual Design Review Consumer Products Design Distinction

Pebl Phone
Though the jurors were faced with more than a dozen new cell phones, they gravitated only to Motorola’s quiet-looking Pebl and even considered promoting it to Best of Category. Everyone wanted to hold it. The phone’s die-cast aluminum shell has nearly seamless edges, like the smooth river rocks that purportedly served as inspiration for both form and name. The cover slides outward before folding open—to keep the hinge flush with the phone’s curves—and reveals a vacuum-metallized interior. Two embedded magnets ensure a firm closure. Plus, the phone promises to shoot video. “They’re very cognizant of what they’re trying to achieve with a natural aesthetic,” Robischon said of Motorola’s designers. “The problem with a phone is that it’s a mature category,” Chan noted, “but this is a beautiful piece of electronic art.”

DESIGN Motorola Consumer Experience Design Team (Seoul): Yoon Ho Choi and Kio Lee, lead designers
CLIENT Motorola (Chicago)
MATERIALS Injection-molded plastic, injection-molded stainless steel, chrome plating, die-cut sheet plastic with vacuum-metallized finish
SOFTWARE Autodesk Maya and Alias|Wavefront, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and Pro/Engineer

PalmPeeler
With this ring, I thee flay. By rethinking the typical fruit and vegetable peeler as a prosthetic “palm interface” that slips onto your finger, Chef’n delivers a tool that works with passive pressure to peel foods rather than with an active (and tiring) grasp of a handle. The peeler’s soft, contoured Santoprene grip can fit over fingers of almost any size, and the action is closer to stroking than flaying. “It’s a category breaker,” Jay said. “You have to break through the preconceived notion of what a peeler is.” Chan thought the ergonomic form would save energy—”it’s simple, safe, natural, and intuitive”—but when supplied with an apple ready to be skinned, he expressed discomfort in not quite being able to see the fruit while peeling it. Robischon noted that the PalmPeeler “stands out from every other product we’ve seen for the kitchen,” and he liked it even better upon discovering its subtly integrated gouging tool.

DESIGN/CLIENT Chef’n Corporation in-house design team (Seattle): Joshua Stewart and Jason O. Germany, senior industrial designers; Adam Jossem, industrial designer
MATERIALS Polypropylene, Santoprene TPE, 18/10 stainless steel
SOFTWARE SolidWorks, Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia FreeHand

Xbox 360
In Xbox’s newest incarnation, the sculptural machine and the screen interface mimic each other for a saturating media experience. The Microsoft product has been souped up with new wireless and high-definition viewing capability and can host music, photo, and video applications—about the only thing it won’t do is pick winning Powerball numbers. The designers studied global markets to ensure that the box, controllers, and accessories had universal appeal, and the color palette—cool green and a matte-finished green-gray—was selected to survive inevitable changes in fashion. Robischon, the resident gamer, was particularly enthusiastic about the 360’s advances. Microsoft “went through a big design process for this, to narrow it down to the most appealing box,” he said, pointing out the custom faceplates users can buy to make the Xbox seem all the more personal. Chan found it worlds more attractive than its competition. “It could be a dumb box,” he said. “But the simple curves make it an icon for the industry.”

DESIGN Microsoft Xbox Team (Redmond, WA): Don Conyer, director; Jonathan Hayes, senior design manager; John Ikeda, industrial designer. ASTRO Studios (San Francisco): Brett Lovelady, president; Adam Barry, Norio Fujiwaka, lead designers; Matt Day, Mike Simonian, designers. Hers experimental design (Osaka, Japan): Chiaki Murata, president; 02studio (Simi Valley, CA): Sue Magnusson, principal
CLIENT Microsoft
MATERIALS Plastic, metal
SOFTWARE Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Autodesk AliasStudio, Pro/Engineer

FLP 700 Tribord Flippers
If fish throng around divers wearing these flippers, the attraction could be familial. The flippers’ blades, which combine soft and rigid plastics, take direct inspiration from a sea creature’s light, strong skeleton. The foot slips into a position that is meant to maximize the transfer of force and minimize drag with each kick. The jurors admired the product’s assembly, especially at the modest price of $29 a pair. “I’m drawn to the architecture, with their fishlike scales,” said Jay. Robischon regretted only that there was no way to test the flippers, “short of a dip in the Hudson. It seems the overall construction would add power to a diver’s kick,” he noted.

DESIGN/CLIENT Decathlon (Villeneuve d’Ascq, France): Jean-Marc Seynhaeve, designer
MATERIALS Polypropylene, SEBS, enriched SEBS
SOFTWARE Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Autodesk Alias|Wavefront

Veneerware Disposable Plates
Conceived as an alternative to paper or Styrofoam, these lightweight 11-inch plates are made of bamboo taken right from the cane. They’re meant to be tossed away, but at $11 for a set of eight, “that’s some costly disposability,” Jay noted. “The way they are pressed is so simple and elegant,” Chan said. But the plates raised a larger discussion about garbage. “They are biodegradable, but that doesn’t mean they’ll find their way to a place where they can actually biodegrade,” Jay observed.

DESIGN/CLIENT Bambu (Lawrence, NY): Rachel Speth, managing director
MATERIAL Bamboo

Nouvel Tea and Coffee Service
“You want to touch them,” Robischon said of the carafes and cups in Jean Nouvel’s service for Alessi. And you can, even when they contain a burning-hot beverage (double walls allow you to hold the vessels without wincing). Inspired by 1960s cafe chic and aiming to facilitate mass production, Nouvel designed the service in stainless steel rather than metal-coated ceramic. Together, the six pieces look like a small, glamorous city standing on their reflective tray. “It’s extremely handsome,” Jay said of the set. “It’s got a Scandinavian line to it.” Chan was taken by the pieces’ easy handling and also by their heft. “Metalware is usually very conductive,” he said. “They solved the insulation problem.” The only likely drawback, Robischon added, is fingerprints.

DESIGN Atelier Jean Nouvel (Paris)
CLIENT Alessi USA (New York)
MATERIALS 18/10 stainless steel, PMMA, titanium tray

Laundry Care Concept
ASKO is not the first manufacturer to engage in status symbolism for the laundry, but it is the sleekest. Its modular washer, dryer, drying cabinet, and pullout shelf, designed with Propeller by Semcon, make a clean, unified ensemble for a trophy kitchen. The washer and dryer can stack to hold the shelf between them. The drying cabinet runs at 1,500 watts for quick, energy-efficient loads. The designers stuck with old-fashioned knobs for controls. By offering more convenience and less noise and visual clutter, “it connects with everyday living,” Chan remarked. Jay differed slightly. “You’ve got to redesign your kitchen for this,” she said. “But you’re obviously a certain kind of person if you’re buying it—it’s a high-flyer’s set of products.”

DESIGN/CLIENT ASKO Cylinda AB (Vara, Sweden): Pernilla Dose, design manager; with Propeller by Semcon (Stockholm)
MATERIALS Stamped steel, molded polymers, hard plastic, lacquered silicone
SOFTWARE Macromedia Director, Autodesk Alias|Wavefront, Solid Edge CAD

Z-Series Ironing Board
Forget tubular steel. Polder’s new ironing board has thin, flat legs, made of two sheet-metal panels sandwiching a polypropylene core, which end in protective nonskid bumpers. The core contains a wire channel leading from an extension cord mount on the front leg to a plug atop the table—no more playing jump rope with the iron’s cord, Jay pointed out. The ironing surface offers a large silicone pad on which to rest the iron, and a place for hanging pressed shirts, which can dangle without fear of wrinkles in the generous empty space at the back. But as much as the jurors liked the product, they raised an eyebrow at the price. At $130, “it feels a little untenable,” Robischon said.

DESIGN Scott Henderson (Brooklyn, NY)
client Polder Inc. (Port Chester, NY)
MATERIALS Stamped stainless steel, injection-molded polypropylene, injection-molded silicone, hardware fasteners
SOFTWARE Ashlar Vellum, Rhinoceros 3D, Pro/Engineer

WACS700 Wireless Music Center and Station
Now anyone can be a satellite radio DJ at home. The Philips WACS700 stores up to 40 gigabytes of digital music and can wirelessly stream tunes at a rate of 54 mbps to tabletop speakers in five separate rooms at once. The base unit recognizes MP3 and WMA file formats and can also stream music from a personal computer. Speakers built into the base unit adopt what Philips calls “super sound panel speaker technology,” which replaces traditional woofers and tweeters with a flat, 1-millimeter-thin polycarbonate cone membrane. Chan admired the interactive display on the base unit. “The execution is clean,” he said. Robischon agreed: “It’s very sleek-looking,” he added. “The more I look at it, the more it seems like it belongs in a doctor’s office. It should be for a sonogram, perhaps.”

DESIGN/CLIENT Philips Design (Eindhoven, The Netherlands)
MATERIALS Laser-cut and polished polymethyl methacrylate panel, molded ABS cabinet
SOFTWARE Rhino 3D, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Pro/Engineer, Mentor Graphics

Dyson DC15 Ball Vacuum
A favorite in the high-end vacuum derby, James Dyson’s DC15 Ball sucks up dirt as efficiently as his earlier Cyclone models but improves maneuverability. Dyson replaced the two rigid base wheels with one large, bright ball that acts as a pivot, allowing the machine to dance around furniture with minimal force from the user. “With the ball, the machine articulates better,” said Jay, sweeping I.D.’s carpets. “It doesn’t help you reach where you otherwise couldn’t,” noted Robischon, “but it helps you turn.” Chan remarked that the machine has massive drive power. “It feels heavy to begin with, but then it kind of pulls you.”

DESIGN/CLIENT Dyson Incorporated (Chicago): James Dyson, designer
MATERIALS ABS, polycarbonate, nylon, copolymers, rubber, aluminum, steel
SOFTWARE Unigraphics

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