Loopwheels by Sam Pearce

Pearce is an inventor and design consultant. He’s worked on non-invasive surgery equipment, early handheld PCs of the Palm Pilot era, 3-D folding mechanisms, and motorbikes. It’s always something new, and in 2007, it was baby strollers. Around that time Pearce was sitting in an airport in the Netherlands, waiting for his flight. He noticed a woman pushing a stroller. “As the woman got to a curb, she didn’t lift the front wheels and the baby was shot forward,” he says. “If the wheel hits the curb at the wrong angle it’s useless. So I just wondered, why can’t you put the suspension into the wheel?”

Baby strollers make for a great case study in how wheels interact with impact, which is to say, not very well at all. A stroller has shock absorbers underneath the seat, which helps reduce bounciness, but it doesn’t keep the wheels from bouncing backwards when they hit a curb head on. In a matter of about five seconds, Pearce had a new idea. He began envisioning a system that incorporated shock absorption directly into the wheels, making them capable of flexibly rolling over bumps instead of just rebounding. He drew a sketch, and then put it aside for two years. At the time, “it wasn’t relevant,” he says. “I couldn’t really see how I could make one, but I have lots of ideas, and this one kept coming back to me.”

After some 70 iterations, Pearce and the team of bow-makers hit on the right recipe. It’s proprietary, but Pearce describes it as a “carbon composite construction.” Loopwheels first debuted on bikes—mountain bikes are next—before a wheelchair manufacturer caught wind of the new wheels and started sourcing them from Pearce. “We say it’s triple-smooth,” Pearce says. The suspension in the wheels smooths out any traveling over bumps, and “gets rid of all the road buzz.” That’s crucial to wheelchair users, whose bodies are in full contact with the vehicle, meaning they often absorb road shock right along with the chair. Equally important to users? Cost. Pearce says he more or less arrived at an ideal design two years ago, but has since worked on refining manufacturing techniques, in part by adopting processes from the auto industry, to get the price down from $2,000 a wheel, to a few hundred dollars (depending on the model). “There’s only so much people will pay for new technology,” Pearce says. That’s true for wheelchairs, and it’s true for mountain bikes, which Pearce says is next in line for Loopwheels.

Their Kickstarter just recently succeeded to fund with over £20,000



Why Being an Industrial Designer is Awesome

The National Endowment for the Arts released a report taking an in-depth look into the health of the United States’ industrial design sectors.

Taking an expanded view of industrial design and including designers who aren’t just working on commercial products, but using design thinking to design user experiences, systems and processes, the 55-page report is a treasure trove of fantastic facts about the role that industrial design is playing in shaping the modern United States.

Here are some of the most interesting takeaways:

  • Right now, there are more than 40,000 industrial designers working in the United States.
  • Most salaried industrial designers work in either manufacturing (11,730 workers) or in professional, scientific or technical services (7,570 workers).
  • Industrial designers have higher salaries than graphic designers or interior designers. The annual median wage of an industrial designer in 2012 was $59,610.
  • There are 1,579 industrial design establishments in the United States, paying out approximately $1.4 billion in annual payroll.
  • Michigan, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Indiana and Pennsylvania have the highest concentration of industrial designers in the workforce.
  • Two states employ more than 3,000 industrial designers apiece: California and Michigan.
  • Industrial design is at an all-time high, and U.S. design patents have reached a 25-year peak.
  • 54% of design patents awarded since 1998 were awarded in the following product categories: furnishings, recording and communication, tools and hardware, packaging, food service equipment, transportation, environmental heating and cooling, and games, toys and sports.
  • Industrial designers are often inventors, but inventors aren’t often industrial designers. Between 1975 and 2010, 40 percent of people named on design patents were also named on utility patents; comparatively, only two percent of people names on utility patents were also included on the design patent.
  • Over the next few years, the NEA expects employment for industrial designers in the professional services sector (e.g. engineering firms and specialized design firms) to jump 29%.
  • Overall employment for industrial designers is expected to grow 10.5% from 2010 to 2012, slightly lower than for all occupations as a whole, where a 14.3% growth rate is anticipated.
  • The four largest industrial design firms earn 11 percent of the industry’s total revenue. The fifty largest earn almost half at 45%. Compare this to the top 50 firms in the professional services sector as a whole, which generates only 18% of the sector’s total revenue.
  • In 2012, 7 industrial design patents were awarded for every 100,000 people in the United States.
  • 45% of all design patents are awarded to U.S. companies, and 32% to foreign firms. The rest are awarded mostly to individuals.
  • The top ten U.S. companies ranked by number of industrial design patents are: Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Goodyear, Black & Decker, Wolverine World Wide, Kohler Company, Apple, 3M, and Ford.
  • Internationally, the top ten foreign companies ranked by number of industrial design patents are: Samsung, Sony, Foxconn, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Honda, Nokia, Toyota, Toshiba and Canon.
  • The top 10 states ranked by industrial design patents awarded by capita are: Washington, Wisconsin, Oregon, Rhode Island, California, Minnesota/Ohio (tie), Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Michigan.

In short? America is putting its money where it’s mouth is when it comes to the importance of design, and the ripples of that are being felt in every economic stratum and across every economic sector. It has just never been a better time to be an American industrial designer.


Dieter Rams: Ten Principles For Good Design

I was looking over all of my past posts and was surprised that I hadn’t post these yet even though I personally love Dieter Rams as a designer. I love his simplistic and minimal approach to design and how all of his designs are intuitive of human behavior. I know he was very famous for his designs for Braun but he also designed for a company called Vitsoe where they have a nice page for Rams’ principles.

1. Good Design is Innovative: The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

2. Good Design Makes a Product Useful: A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

3. Good Design is Aesthetic: The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

4. Good Design Makes a Product Understandable: It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.

5. Good Design is Unobtrusive: Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

6. Good Design is Honest: It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

7. Good Design is Long Lasting: It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

8. Good Design is Thorough Down to the Last Detail: Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user.

9. Good Design is Environmentally Friendly: Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

10. Good Design is as Little Design as Possible: Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.

Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Cool Hunting Video: Dieter Rams’ Principles of Good Design from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

You Know You Are an Industrial Designer if…

1) You buy something just to take it apart.

2) You spend hours aimlessly wondering around hardware stores just looking at fasteners.

3) The first thing you do when you pick up something you like is say a way it could be better.

4) You compulsively draw things from you imagination to the point where others think it might be a problem.

5) You just know how to fix stuff, hack stuff, and jerry rig things.

6) You can quote just about any line from Star Wars Episodes IV – VI.

7) You know what “Ironman CAD” is.

8) You know at least 3 of the following people or companies: Jonathan Ive, James Dyson, Muji, Raymond Loewy, DWR, Herman Miller, Eames, MacGyver.

9) You own old things that don’t work just because you like them.

10) A conversation with your friends sounds like a Top Gear episode.

This list from the core 77 forums made me smile, it is nice to know that I’m definitely going into the right career for me 🙂