Next Big Design

Monday, October 5, 2015

Airbnb and Industrial Design Firm Lapka Partner to Create Stylish New Products

Today’s new and innovative products are increasingly moving towards helping to improve convenience for consumers. Whether it be an app that tells you the quickest route to a new shirt you may like or even a heart monitor that uses your hearts unique rhythm, efficiency and convenience is key.
Technology today does not seem to be primarily focused purely on the actual tech. But, there is often a story behind it, a meaning, a real look at how it will impact everyday life. Style as well as purpose is something that the tiny five person Russian industrial design firm Lapka have focused on in their products, according to Fast Company.

Lapka have recently been acquired by worldwide accommodation leader Airbnb and the news has left many rather lost as to what its purpose was. The question on everyone’s lips is – why has Airbnb, an accommodation platform for people to make travel easier, acquired a company that is renowned for beautiful yet useful products. Such products included a modular environmental sensor that picked up on air and food quality through a plug in that was attached to a person’s iPhone. Or a subtle yet stylish hand held breathalyser that is available for everyday consumers.

However, what use is that for someone who wants to go on holiday in New York for a long weekend and needs a quick easy place to stay? My only theory and one being shared by a few others is that Airbnb and Lapka will work together in order to create a new form smart lock. Whilst there are smart locks already on the market, the partnership could mean stylish and efficient new locks for Airbnb users that aids in efficiency, i.e. no need to wait and give someone the keys.

Whilst this is only a theory, the merging of two highly successful start-up companies should hopefully mean further innovative products and ideas that us mere mortals won’t think of. Though it is still early days and the owners are being very coy about giving any news, the consensus is still of a slight confusion, mixed with a sense of excitement as to what may be coming.

About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at

Friday, October 2, 2015

This Week In Design & Brand Strategy: 9/28/15 - 10/2/15

Who likes tote bags??*Awkwardly raises hand while typing* Yes, yes I love tote bags, but who doesn’t? I mean these nifty, transportable, storage units can hold so much in such a small space. I use tote bags on a consistent basis throughout my week and rely on them to carry most, if not all, of my work documents. But what if you could have a tote bag that also can double as a light reflective backpack? According to a Fast Company article this week, that is exactly what a company called “Notabag” created. This neat design features new fabric that glows and reflects when light shines on it. “…while the hands-free carrying was first intended for bikers, it'll work great for skaters and pedestrians, too.” Check out these cool new bags, only going for $25, at the Notabag website here

Who likes to fly and deal with the hassle of checked bags and fees? Not I said the…well me. This week, Fast Company released an article discussing a new idea on air travel coming form an air travel design studio called Teague. The idea is simple: to make the customers experience smoother and more enjoyable. So how do they plan on going about this? Teague discusses a ban on carry-on luggage (I know...I was outraged at first too) that would not only create more space above the passenger, but also significantly decrease boarding and deplaning times. The alternative would be to continue the charges for checked baggage, but this time include the unique feature of having your baggage delivered to you. The company also plans on upping airline revenue by “…sell[ing] customers special airline-branded bags. These bags would be specifically designed to click in underneath a seat for people who still wanted to bring larger bags on board.” I have to admit I wasn’t completely sold on the idea at first, but after reading the entire article, the three design moves this company raises would definitely make for a better plane experience overall.

Imagine owning a home that creates as much energy as it uses. You’re probably imagining what is now called a “net-zero house” and what is usually extremely expensive. However, that dollar sign does not always have to be so high according to a recent Fast Company article. The article, titled “This Zero-Energy Home Is Run By Machines And Costs A Lot Less Than A Regular House”, explains how a new startup company called Acre Designs has dreams to design a house with no energy bills and have it sell for as much as buying a standard power-sucking home. “The Axiom House is ultra-efficient, runs on renewable power, and smart: Robots handle everything from lighting and security to mowing the lawn.” Cofounder of Acre Designs, Andrew Dickson, explains how they felt the typical home today is actually very out of date. “’We view this as an opportunity to redefine what the American home is, and tailor for a lifestyle that is more focused on doing great things than having things.’” According to the article, the 1,800-sqaure-foot Axiom House costs $220,000 (not including land), which is much less than most other architect-designed homes. The full article is a fascinating read and speaks strongly to the eco-friendly AND affordable trend we’re seeing within the housing market.

This week Fast Company released an article that highlights new animated heat maps that correspond with the noise levels in each neighborhood. The real estate site Trulia designed a new heat map of noise in neighborhoods by simply using the crime data on noise complaints. “Trulia pulled five years’ worth of noise complaints and mapped out the noisiest areas of Seattle, New York and San Francisco. It then used the software CartoDB to create GIF heat maps that show the changes by year.” The article also mentions how noisy areas can also pose a health risk and lead to cardiovascular diseases and stress. Obviously this method of tracking noise levels in neighborhoods a not a perfect method, however, it is an interesting approach and gives us insight on the varying neighborhoods of large cities and possibly how that impacts the specific population. To view all of the maps in full you can visit Trulia’s blog here.

Nichole Dicharry, is a Digital Marketing Assistant at IIR USA, Marketing and Finance Divisions, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. She can be reached at 

Friday, September 25, 2015

This Week In Design & Brand Strategy: 9/21/15 - 9/25/15

If you are a futbol fan like myself, you might be ecstatic to learn that Under Armour is breaching into the world of soccer and, much like its new tagline, “facing some giants.” With brands such as Nike and Adidas having a major monopoly on the sport, it is extremely refreshing to see Under Armour come into the picture. In an article released this week, Fast Company describes Under Armour’s new campaign and how this will impact the brand as a whole. “The Slay Your Next Giant campaign, by agency Droga5, features 21-year-old Holland and Manchester United star Memphis Depay, Tottenham Hotspur's 17-year-old American academy star Cameron Carter-Vickers…as they get ready to test their mettle against tough competition.” As the article even states, this ad campaign carries a very familiar “underdog mentality” that might as well echo from the brand itself. The brand of Under Armour does indeed have an uphill battle to fight as it faces off against bigger brands that are more engrained within the sport. It will be very interesting to see where this brand takes its efforts throughout the “beautiful game.”

According to an article released this week on Fast Company, Sunday Football of this last week featured a brilliant new ad by Honda that details the company’s history over 70 years. From motorcycles to futuristic robots, the ad details Honda’s transformation in a very unique way: through the use of paper graphics. “Although the ‘Paper’ ad feels like CGI trickery, the digital posing as the analog, it actually is what it appears to be: an elaborate ad brought to life through stop-motion animation, which took four months to pull off.” The ad itself features thousands of illustrations that were hand-drawn from various artists and display some of the earliest designs of Honda vehicles. The ad itself is called “Paper” and was directed by Adam Pesapan or “PES”, an Academy Award-winning animator who is now beginning to find a lot of success within the commercial field. The article then describes how the creative concept for the ad was based on the idea that so many of Honda's innovations and ideas had started as little more than a sketch. The ad is very well put together and very eye-catching on the screen. If you have time, I highly recommend viewing the ad and admiring its knack for creative design. 

We’ve all used app robots like Siri or Cortana, but what if there was a robot that could do more than just find unique spots for dinner and crack the occasional joke? What if there was a robot that could essentially schedule your most important meetings and manage your schedule? This week Fast Company wrote a piece introducing a new robot by the name of “Clara” that will do just that. The way this robot responds however, is if you “cc” her on an email thread. By cc-ing her, the robot essentially takes over the conversation and more or less acts like a personal assistant. According to the creator of Clara, Maran Nelson of Clara Labs, “’We don’t like to look at Clara as much as an assistant as more of an employee or partner of yours…Clara should act as an extension of your own will with a strong understanding of the thing you trying to accomplish and the ability to act on your behalf." Another unique feature for Clara is that, due to the fact that she’ll be built into your email, there won’t be any learning curve. All you have to do if you want a meeting scheduled is cc her on the email thread. Just when I think the design for an app can’t get any cooler, some new and easy app is always around the corner.

Usually when you think of new solar-energy houses you envision a house in a rural area with lots of grass and trees. However, according to an article on Fast Company that’s not what these student-engineers had in mind… In an entry to the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon, student’s from the New York City College of Technology built their model in an urban setting that’s meant for cols city streets. “Team leader Amanda Waal says NY City Tech wanted its house to reflect the background the students, the college's own location in Brooklyn, and that the majority of people are going to live in cities in the future.” The students, almost all of whom are undergraduates, designed the house they call D.U.R.A (diverse, urban, resilient, and adaptable), which carries a relatively small footprint and is also designed to be stackable. According to the article the team is unsure what will happen with the model after the competition is over, but the New York Fire Department has shown interest so anything is possible!

Nichole Dicharry, is a Digital Marketing Assistant at IIR USA, Marketing and Finance Divisions, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. She can be reached at 

Friday, September 18, 2015

This Week In Design & Brand Strategy: 9/14/15 - 9/18/15

This week Fast Company released an article discussing 20 lessons we have learned from design thus far. We have been a part of an important shift in recent years where design has gained more traction and recognition. “At best, design was an afterthought, like slapping a coat of paint on an already-built house or adding a cool tail fin to a finished product. No more. CEOs and strategists alike now appreciate the fundamental advantages that sophisticated design can provide.” Amongst the 20 different lessons the author includes, 1. Design is innovation; innovation is design, 2. Good design overcomes discomfort, and 3. Design isn’t going away. The first of these points really rings true in today’s climate. While we have so many new products and innovation sprouting up, design is melding within the innovation field. Without a good design, innovation does not reach that human component and authentic attraction. Examples like Apple, Uber, or even Google are there to show you that in order to have a successful innovative product, the design has to be there.

We see design everyday of our lives, and some of us even experience design on a regular basis. But what are the best 2015 examples of experience design? Fast Company, this week, wrote a piece that discusses the top design experiences of 2015. The winner, according to this article, is the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum. “As part of a three-year-long renovation and redesign spearheaded by Local Projects' Jake Barton, the Smithsonian Design Museum took a step into the future with an array of interactive works meant to entertain, but also educate visitors on the history of design.” You can view the full design here. Apart from the winner, one of the finalists included the JetBlue Mint partnership. According to the article, JetBlue and Mint wanted to improve the business class experience while also keeping the prices relatively low. “…once onboard, flyers are given free wi-fi, a completely revamped entertainment console, better food options, seats which lie flat, and the option to turn that seat into a private pod.” Interested in the other finalists? Check it out on Fast Company’s site.

When you think about design you may not think of ground up old tires, but that is exactly what’s going on in Yellowstone National park as a design project to protect the park. On top of the amount of pollution from thousands of tourists that plague the park, car tires wearing down the roads as well as disposing of old vehicle tires belonging to the park is becoming an issue. According to an article on Fast Company this week, Michelin and the Yellowstone park service are teaming up to repave the roads with ground-up old tires as a way to restructure roads while also dispose of old tires in an ecofriendly way. This new process of using old ground-up tires as new asphalt is called “Flexi-Pave.” A nice benefit from this method, on top of everything else, is that it appears to be more heat-tolerant and durable than the more traditional methods. The only drawback to this newer design is that, like most everything green, it costs more than traditional asphalt. However, if the method appears to last longer while also solving the problem of where to dispose of old tires, perhaps the cost is worth the good service this project will be doing to the park.

An article released by Fast Company this week discusses Samsung’s new TV model and how it revisits the concept of designing for d├ęcor and aesthetic appeal. The article argues that in recent years, TV’s have been built and designed with more of a gadget feel rather than design. “… in more recent times, the attention has shifted to the more gadgety aspects of a TV… As a consequence, television design has suffered.” However, Samsung is now teaming up with French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec to bring an exciting design back to the world of televisions. This new product in discussion is called the Serif TV from Samsung. The design of this TV is very elegant, embracing a beautifully I-shaped silhouette. “Coming in three colors—white, dark blue, and red—and ranging in size from 21- to 40-inches, the Serif looks as good off as it does on, embracing an almost sculptural quality.” This new piece of furniture will go on sale in the U.K., France, Sweden, and Denmark beginning November.

Nichole Dicharry, is a Digital Marketing Assistant at IIR USA, Marketing and Finance Divisions, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. She can be reached at