2002 Annual Design Review Consumer Products Best of Category
Athletes, fashion police and indulgent gourmands alike will find it hard to resist the Brani Belt, an utterly overdue concept in unisex “waistwear” that blends new-age materials with urban couture. Eschewing traditional pin-and-hole belt configurations, this smart accessory, designed by Clemtone Design Studio of Ronse, Belgium, features a sleek, ratcheted closure system (a la ski boots) that’s adjustable in micro increments of 2 millimeters. Its tail disappears neatly and discretely behind its head, creating symmetrical closure. And Brani is durable to boot: It sports a thermoplastic-resin handle, a pliable, waterproof body and an optional add-on utility clip.
Available in a range of snarky colors, from “yellow snow” to “black lab,” the serpentine product and its womb-shaped packaging are unapologetically sexual in form, paying due credence to the human anatomy found just below the belt. Jurors lauded Brani for its succinct blend of style, functionality and wit, not to mention its cogent application of industrial-strength materials to the fashion world. “It’s a perfect example of stepping outside of existing design boundaries to redefine a category,” Lovelady said. Russak added, “When you put it through the paces, every detail works. The design is well-resolved: It looks great, works great and feels great.”
HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT DUPONT HYTREL AS YOUR MANUFACTURING MATERIAL OF CHOICE? I applied this material years ago in handles for luggage (Spark collection Samsonite ’98). It’s flexible but strong and, therefore, resistant to wear and tear. Also, it can be injected in products with variable thickness, and it ages nicely. Until now, its applications have been mostly relegated to the auto-motive field for protective devices such as airbags.
HOW DOES THE PACKAGING COMPLEMENT THE PRODUCT? The inspiration for the packaging came from the notion of a snake charmer luring a cobra from its fakir basket. We wanted product visibility, so we made the packaging translucent. And, for continuity, the shape of the belt’s quick-release button is reiterated in the shape of the case.
DESCRIBE THE RESEARCH THAT INFLUENCED YOUR APPROACH. Interestingly, we found no recent background material of relevance. It was as if the belt’s buckle and strap components had never been reconsidered since its basic execution in ancient times. Historically, the belt has been an emotionally loaded accessory.
In the medieval era, wearing a leather belt stood for virginity. Today, a belt expresses both power and elegance. Sometimes it has an erotic connotation. So we needed a strong expression in styling, and its semantics had to be clear. The snake shape was a logical result of “form follows function”—which, in this case, was appropriate since we were starting with new functions.
The trick was figuring out how to incorporate a “hard” mechanical system (the ratcheted closure device) in a long, narrow, flexible product using injection molding
CLIENT The OrangTiga Company, Antwerp, Belgium: Alexander Koene and Jan De Lancker, principals DESIGN Clemtone Design Studio, Ronse, Belgium: Clemens van Himbeeck, founder/creative director; Robin Delaere, industrial designer; Geraldien Haelvoet, co-founder/graphic designer; Isabelle Desmet, assistant MATERIALS|FABRICATION injection-molded Dupont Hytrel (belt) and Dupont Rynite (closing mechanism) HARDWARE|SOFTWARE Ashlar-Vellum Pro, ProEngineer, Adobe Illustrator
APPLE TITANIUM POWERBOOK G4
Apple is back and sexier than ever. Last year, it was the devastatingly simple G4 Cube that garnered jurors’ accolades for its pared-down aesthetic and intimate scale. Now, with the Titanium PowerBook G4, the Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple design team parlays that same tight vernacular and exhaustive integrity in an area where spatial economy matters even more: the nomadic landscape of wireless computing.
Lithe as a wafer and lighter than your average stack of subway reading, the 1-inch-thick, 5.3-pound Titanium PowerBook G4 distills portable hardware to its bare essence. Judges lauded the elegant, fat-free design for its “control and restraint,” crowning it as the “next step overall in laptops.”
With its svelte titanium “skin” stretched over a carbon-fiber frame, the Titanium PowerBook G4 combines the satiny finish of a fine accessory with the durability of an airline engine. Inside, it’s all muscle. Offering supercomputer performance, the sub-notebook boasts a 15.2-inch-wide screen display, a slot-loading dvd drive, full multimedia capabilities, untethered Internet access and a five-hour lithium-ion battery.
“It’s a pure vision well-executed,” Lovelady said. “It’s one of the few products that over-delivers on its promise. It surpasses what I thought it could do. There’s great emotional fulfillment.” Russak added, “It’s a seamless blend of high technology, art and grace. The closer you get, the more you love it.”
DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGN PARAMETERS. Our overall objective was to design the lightest and thinnest full-featured portable computer. We also wanted to develop a design whose identity was founded on a thorough understanding of the materials and processes of its construction.
WHY TITANIUM? Titanium tends to be used in extreme applications where material performance is of greater concern than material cost. No other material yielded the strength, stiffness and thickness requirements of our design objectives.
WHAT OTHER MATERIALS AND PROCESSES DID YOU CONSIDER USING? We looked at a number of engineering polymers, cast metals and a range of sheet metals. In the end, compositing the titanium sheet with a carbon-filled frame provided a more compelling solution than anything we could have achieved with a single material. In order to achieve this combination in a manufacturing environment, however, new manufacturing and assembly lines had to be developed.
Members of the Apple industrial design team include (l to r): Eugene Wang, Matthew Rohrbach, Christopher Stringer, Duncan Kerr, Danny Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Jonathan Ive, Doug Satzger, Richard Howarth and Bart Andre. Not pictured: Cal Seid.