Inside Cooper-Hewitt’s Permanet Collection, IDEO Selects

IDEO Selects

I haven’t had the chance to walk on over to the Cooper-Hewitt to check out their latest exhibitions, one being IDEO Selects. But I have had a chance to click through the site that references the curation. You can travel there yourself at

And if that’s not enough Cooper-Hewitt Permanet Collection news, friend Marian Bantjes has had four pieces accepted into the collection. Those pieces are The Design Matters Live poster, The Fox River Paper booklet, The Seduction poster, and a self promotion poster.

An interview with Ilkka Terho, CEO of Valvomo

Ilkka Terho

Last week Ilkka Terho, CEO of Valvomo located in Helsinki Finland took some time out of his trip to NYC to have lunch and talk design with me. If you don’t know much about Valvomo, you can see their work at MoMA or places like MOSS in NYC. I found Valvomo almost by accident. I was walking through the meatpacking district on a Saturday afternoon during design week. Noticing a building with a sign that mentioned Finnish design I stopped right away and walked on in. Taking a number of pictures that would eventually find themselves on flickr, Illka mentioned something on one of my photos. A conversation through email ensued and as luck would have it, Ilkka was going to be in NYC. So on a Thursday afternoon in June he came to visit Renegade where I work and then found our selves at the high line for lunch. Below is the conversation that followed.

You can also download a pdf of the interview for your off-line viewing pleasure at (1.0 MB)

Ilkka, can you talk to me about Valvomo. We’re 7 designers, been together for almost 15 years. We meet while in school studying architecture in 1989 have been together ever since. We’re a large group of equal partners. It’s almost by coincidence that we’ve been together for so long. We rented a small space to enter some competitions which then led to the creation of the company – we ended up liking to work together. At the time it was the deepest recession in europe during 93/94 – there basically was no work, so we had to find something – that lead to designing products and interiors.

Did you have a business plan when you started? We were just trying to do anything, not really a plan, just a bunch of guys in their twenty’s trying everything. It was through the little breakthroughs, especially the media around the world who have published some of our more exciting work – a lot of the attention comes through the exhibitions that we attend in different countries. Since the last show in may in NYC over 25,000 people have hit our website b/c of the attention of blogs, web publications and other outlets – over 3,000 a day. And through that attention lots of people are contacting us – between manufactures interest, media, people looking for work – and most rewarding are the common people just wanting to let us know that they like what we do. How has technology influenced how you market the company. In the last couple of years we’ve been very aware of technology in the plan. We’re primarily looking for assignments to design products and interiors, especially in NYC.


How does the process start for a project? In the case of an advertising agency they’re either moving or expanding. The work needs to be done anyways, so they look to the best designers to do it – it becomes corporate identity if the architecture is done well. Since we’re one of the best in Finland we’re often asked to come along to see what it would cost – through discussion and quote we’ll start working. The project time often varies, though it can be up to a year. How many partners will work on a project? Usually there’s two to three partners on a project – they don’t have to say much to each other b/c we understand each other so well. If that’s the case are you still learning? Yes everyday we’ll learn something new.

There’s a lot of talk about green today in the media. Are clients in NYC/Europe asking for more sustainable green materials? Yes, we encountered those type of questions a lot in NYC and Chicago – the show that were at everyone was talking about it – but to be totally honest i think it’s totally hypocritical in some cases – the amount of things being thrown out w/ out being recycled , it’s nominal and looks horrible to the outside world. Do you think that waste material process to create new spaces – will that be taken into account – yes. For an interior space to be considered more sustainable – the design in general is timeless that you can use, let’s say a chair that you can use for a couple generations – that’s sustainable, it’s not so much the materials that you use. Even a plastic chair is sustainable if you can use it for a couple years if it’s nice enough. There’s so many variations, the environmental is a natural consideration – it’s hard to give a general answer. We do think of coatings, they need to be as environmental as possible. Many of our products are half accident, the materials are both recyclable and and we only realized it afterwards.

What is design in Finland like? In the 50’s just like Italy it was one of the leading countries in design – after the 2nd world war it was government policy to use design as a marketing policy to market Finland – and then it went away for a couple decades – and then within the last 15 years finnish design is out there a lot – magazines around the world – there’s a lot of Finnish issues. It differs a lot from Swedish design for example – there’s more of a pure and strict line. There’s some sort of angle to it, humour or stories – we like to make it more colourful, then again more pure in form and function. In terms of language – how is that expressed in terms of relating Finnish to english? – do you need to understand Finland to get the joke? Not really, we recognized that a long time ago – for example the chip lounger. A New Yorker sent me an email that I saved – he mentions that he bought it within a minute of contemplation at Moss – when he comes home he smiles about it – because it’s humorous. The chair itself is a colourful lounger that sits on the floor, so it’s like a rocking chair that you lie on. It’s got a very human quality to it.


Considering where the company is now, where do you see it going within the next couple of years? We’re thinking about that right now actually, the last couple years we’ve been in a recession though in the last year and a half we’ve been growing again. It was a difficult time, most companies were looking to each quarter as opposed to thinking of their future in terms of marketing dollars. That made us think how to grow internationally. An old friend has joined as a business consultant who’s going to help the company – currently we feel like seven creative directors and no workers, that’s a funny combination. How did you become CEO? It was just my personality, its about leadership – I’m more of a leader then a manager. My friends and colleagues feel comfortable with that and so do I. I like to be in charge, it’s natural to me.

How do you stay informed of everything that is going on these days? Internally and externally – it’s up to individual designers to decide how much they want to look at what other people are doing. Some are keen to go to all the design fairs and photographing everything and learning all the time, and I’m on the other opposite end. I don’t want to look up to what other people are doing. To not get confused. There’s so many influences for design in life in general, I don’t need to waste my time on what competitors are doing. I’d like to make up my own mind. City, nature, movies etc – it can be anything that is an influence.

How small is the design community in Helsinki – does everyone know each other? It is very close, in part due to the Design University. Though we’re bit of the outsiders because we went to the technical university to study architecture. and the design university is very much like a family. We’re a part of that, but mainly outsiders. What are some of the things Finland exports? Nokia though most people might not know that – they don’t advertise that they’re a Finnish company , IT and electronics in general, steel, machines, and forestry.

In terms of new materials, what’s green that you’re considering? A lot of them are still in the early stages and aren’t ready for production yet. Often they’re being created in someone’s garage in middle America and are still being tested. People are reading about the materials, but they don’t work yet. It’s confusing for us b/c they’re available.


What is a favourite product Valvomo has designed? One of the best is a wall panel system – acoustic aesthetic (SOUNDWAVE®), 100% recyclable – and made with 100% recyclable material – it’s from the technique that you use to make car and train door panels technique. It’s a porous soft fiber, soft cushion, heat pressed with a mold into a hotter felt. That’s how the panel is made. How did the design come together, was it a happy accident or was there a purpose that you were able to execute on? It was a typical thing, we were visiting a plastics factory in Finland. We saw them making these car/train panels and we loved the material. It felt like “felt”. A couple months later we were designing a restaurant in Helsinki and the were acoustic problems so we thought we needed something to help with the problem. One of my colleagues came up with the idea to make sculptural panelling out of the felt material for the panelling system and that’s the start of the success story. The Swedish company that manufactures it sells over 50,000 panels a year, it’s a great number for us. The panel is sold in 25 countries around the world.

Will a manufacturer come to you with a specific need, or is it that you have something and are looking for someone to specifically manufacture and distribute it? It’s really difficult, for years we tried to push ideas to manufacturers, but the only way to get them interested in what you do in general and wait for a brief. They have a need for something for “x” purpose “x” purposes and then we give them ideas, that’s how it goes. Because there’s a 100 times more designers then there are design brands, so everyone is sending their design portfolios. Do you ever want to just manufacture things yourself – in the 90’s we did that, we had our own brand but it became a confusing story so we decided to manufacture things elsewhere and concentrate on being designers.

One last question – what is your favorite design item that you personally own? A couple years back I went to Germany and bought this 71 Mercedes Benz convertible, the one that they drove in the television series Dallas. That’s a nice piece of machinery. Once I bought it I drove back to Finland, it took a couple days. Finland is a cold country, we have short summers – sometimes mostly not. But I try to make the most of it by taking these instant holidays every-time the sun is shining, I take the roof off and go for a spin. It’s nice.

High’n Low Silicone Shim

High’n Low Silicone Shim

Design wise, it’s always cool to see what people you know are up to after a couple of years of working. This is especially true of some of the industrial designers that have come out of the University of Alberta where I went to school many years ago. One of these id guys who made the move from Edmonton to Toronto and interned at Karim Rashid Inc. in NYC is Joel Yatscoff.

Unfortunately I missed meeting up w/ him here recently in NYC for the ICFF, but he passed me on a press release for a pretty cool product that a lot of people could use. The High’n Low Silicone Shim designed by Joel and his NYTO Studios partner Bradley Price is something I would hope a lot of cafe’s and restaurants would want to pick up.

The press release in their own words: Few things are as frustrating as a wobbly table or chair. While you are trying to enjoy a pleasant meal, the slightest movement sloshes your drinks around usually resulting in your beverage ending up on your lap. Many people remedy this situation by cramming the nearest objects they can find under the short leg. In most cases, the solution is the ubiquitous pink packets of Sweet n’ Low sugar substitute.

NYTO asked, why not create a product meant specifically to address this behaviour and solve the problem of the rocking table? Small enough to fit in your pocket or wallet, the High’n Low shim is a silicone wafer perfectly sized to wedge under that annoying table leg, so that you can enjoy your meal and your drinks free from mess.

The High’n Low Silicone Shim Substitute is searching for interested manufacturers…

For further information:
NYTO Studios
Joel Yatscoff and Bradley Price

Joey Roth and his website

Joey Roth

Even while Noah is keeping busy, he still has time to connect people that he thinks should meet. That’s what he did recently when he did a virtual introduction with Joey Roth and myself. Joey’s got quite the portfolio site that shows both his conceptual and executional design skills. One of the more notable items is his Sorapot. He’s also got blog worth reading, and like any smart designer he’s got links to Coroflot, Design: Related, Squidoo, claimID, and LinkedIn. Take a look for yourself at

It’s always a good idea to combine photographs of jets with cool watches

bell & ross catalogue

Every once in a while I’ll come across a Bell & Ross watch ad and just be taken back by the design of the watch. Ok, I don’t like all of their watches, but more to the point I think the BR 01 series is something that I’d like to see on my wrist. On their website you can request a catalogue and since I do like holding things in my hands once in a while I ordered one. About a week later I got a nice thick bubble wrapped envelope with a couple catalogues. Overall the design wasn’t that special, but the action photography was. From the credit in the back of one of the books, the photographer was Philippe Lacombe. Above is one of the spreads from the BR 01-Instrument books.

I Love My Chair, the book and pdf…

I love my chair

About a year ago I came across a site that asked a very simple question. Why do you love your chair? Along with submitting a photo the site asked a couple other questions related to the chair. Now they’ve put it into a book and a pdf download. There’s a fascinating range of chairs from all over the world. Even my chair made the cut. Of course a lot changes in a year, I don’t live in Canada and I now have an Eames – would I use the same chair as an example if the same question was asked today? As much as I would like to say yes, I probably would change the chair because I graduated from that ikea chair to where I am now. But I digress…

If you’re curious to see all the other chairs and book, you can download the pdf (4.3 mb) at or visit the site at

Measuring Time


I can’t help but rave about my new watch, the NOOKA ZEN-H. The idea of measuring time in a different way is very cool. It’s almost like a new philosophy. Analog watches are good for slight glances to see how much time is left in an hour, but most digital time pieces have forgotten this feature and just spit out numbers. That’s why something like the ZEN-H is so special. The bars create a relation from hours, minutes and seconds in units that have more to do with space and how much has been used and is left. Designed by Matthew Waldman, I’m surprised that there aren’t more watches out there that show time in a new construct.

Distance Measurement for Dogs?

SNiF® Tag

When I first saw the SNiF® Tag via La Famille I thought it was like the new Nike/iPod integration thing but for dogs. Just by looking at the device I thought I could track my dogs walk and measure the distance on a computer – sorta like with GPS. Sadly that’s not the case, GPS is too expensive, and the SNiF® Tag is more “keeps track of your dog, her pals, and all of her activities.” Honestly I’m not sure if Maddie would want to do that though. You can decide on the privacy of who sees what, but still I’m not sure if there’s really a benefit to the idea. If a shoe can talk to an iPod, I’m sure one day a dog collar can communicate and measure distance with an iPod too.

One Laptop Per Child Interface

One Laptop Per Child Interface

Sure, everyone is talking about the $100 laptop. But what exactly does it look like on the inside and what is it exactly going to do? Well there’s some hints from the Pentagram blog where you can read all about the spatial navigation metaphor. Lisa Strausfeld, Christian Marc Schmidt and Takaaki Okada are given credit on the design. You can read their explanation of the interface at New Work: One Laptop Per Child.

As for the actual idea of a laptop that is accessible to any child to own, I go back and fourth. First I thought it was a great idea, then I questioned why people would put faith in a laptop to bring everyone to an acceptable entry point for education, and now I wonder how I take for granted that I have internet access (and a laptop) and wonder where I would be if I didn’t have it. So maybe it is a good idea, though then the second level of questions is to see if the navigation of the laptop makes sense, and does it have enough flexibility that people can make their own interface if wanted….

UPDATE: kottke mentions a wiki that has more info at OLPC Human Interface Guidelines

Nooka Website

Nooka Website

The Nooka Website is as amazing as their watches. I really like the different levels of hierarchy of elements going on with the site. Some elements are more frivolous then other parts, but it really adds something cool to the experience. However the IA could use a bit of work, especially in the where to buy section. It’s incredibly uncool how long it takes to scroll all the way down to to see where in NY that I can buy the watches at.

And since Christmas is so close, I thought I would give Tamara a hint for what I want (Zen H [NHB]). Of course the only failure of the site being all in flash aside from blind people not being able to use it – is that I can’t actually link to the page with the cool watch I want…

National Design Awards Winners Panel Notes

National Design Awards Winners Panel

Taking advantage of the fact that I finally live in NYC, I went to the National Design Awards Winners Panel. I really enjoyed the talk, though at times I wondered if the entire audience did. They filmed the whole event and the online video should show up soon. But until it goes live, here’s some of my notes.

· Design for somebody you already know

· Design is a political act

· Nature to culture

· What is the difference between style and vision

· I don’t get called up by accident

· A project is what you make of it

· Art is not above life – it was a fuck you piece (art)

· Approachability

· Form follows finance

· The problem needs to be addressed

· Democracy: lowest common dominator or the best…

Looking Down: how the volume/channel rockers moved up

Oldtivouse Newtivouse

After years about hearing about TiVo in Canada where the cable monopoly kept the recording device out, it’s nice to finally have the capability to start recording shows now that I’m living in NYC. I don’t have a TiVo but a HD package from Time Warner. I could go on and on about the poor user interface that has (and probably will at a future date), but today the review is all about remotes and how TiVo recently updated theirs. Over at the PVR Blog, there’s a review of what an adjustment to the location of volume/channel rockers. This person knows TiVo’s, they’ve even interviewed the head of user experience at TiVo. The biggest issue it seems with the new design is that the hand is having a hard time finding the buttons without looking down. You can read the full reviews and comments that both praise and negate the new design at

IKEA product naming system


Have you ever wondered how and why IKEA products are named the way they are? According to Wikipedia, names are used as opposed to code numbers because it’s easier to remember. The names themselves come from a number of countries and ideas. From Wikipedia:

  • Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, rattan furniture, bookshelves, media storage, doorknobs: Swedish placenames (for example: Klippan)
  • Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian placenames
  • Dining tables and chairs: Finnish placenames
  • Bookcase ranges: Occupations
  • Bathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays
  • Kitchens: grammatical terms, sometimes also other names
  • Chairs, desks: men’s names
  • Materials, curtains: women’s names
  • Garden furniture: Swedish islands
  • Carpets: Danish placenames
  • Lighting: terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, nautical terms
  • Bedlinen, bedcovers, pillows/cushions: flowers, plants, precious stones
  • Children’s items: mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Curtain accessories: mathematical and geometrical terms
  • Kitchen utensils: foreign words, spices, herbs, fish, mushrooms, fruits or berries, functional descriptions
  • Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks: colloquial expressions, also Swedish placenames

More Video Clips

By now you’ve probably read and watched the vido clips from TED. But did you know that GEL (Good Experience Live) has posted clips of a lot of their presenters at If you don’t have the DVD, this is a good substitute to check out before signing up for the conference next year. Some of my fav. clips are from Theo Jansen, Laurie Rosenwald, Ross Kauffman and Charlie Todd. I was also introduced to the book The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto through this conference – really good book. If you’re interested in the history of NYC, this is a must.

Crumpler mini matches

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crumpler mini matches, originally uploaded by Michael Surtees.

Walking around for a couple days in NYC with my new black MacBook, I started to feel that the bag I was carrying wasn’t up to the challenge. Lucky for me I found the Crumpler store. Just a couple doors down from Rice to Riches, I checked the bag store out. Of course I found the bag of my dreams, but more noteworthy was one of their giveaways that I’m now talking about. They had these really nifty mini matches. They’ve got this really cool scale to them and how can you not smile when you look at them – just like they’re bags.

Montreal, a “City of Design”

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization awarded Montreal a “UNESCO City of Design”. The only other cities to have been given the award are Buenos Aires and Berlin in 2005. Quoted here “Montreal is a city where design and designers, be they involved in the fields of interior, industrial, graphic, fashion or architectural design, represent a dynamic force of cultural and economic life. According to recent statistics, design is responsible for 20,356 jobs in Montreal’s metropolitan area and economic spin-offs of more than $750 million. Also, 65.3% of Quebec workers involved in the field of design live in the metropolitan area. Montreal is the only North American city to have established, as early as 1991, a bureau dedicated exclusively to the development and promotion of design. Important achievements are owed to this bureau, including the Commerce Design Montreal competition, which has contributed to the rise of Montreal as a city of design.”

You can read the entire press release at

Via Peggy Cady

Virtual Key System

I seem to be on a digital kick these days. Between the wifi shoes and umbrellas to this RFID idea – I’m finding the interaction between objects and visible action to be worth exploring. The above images are for a Key Transponder: Transport and Responder for Opening the Door. Here’s how they explain the virtual key and RFID tag: “RFID Tag is built inside the key-shaped product, and the reader has the same key-shaped hollow. When you let your key-tag touch this hollow, the visit will be told to the real key holder.“

On the iconic side of things, here’s a good example of an object that has been transformed by technology, yet the shape of the object is defined by it’s past. You can read more info about the key transponder HERE.


Some of the finest designed objects can be fount at

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