Reading Week 24 June 2016

24 June 2016 | by Tom Phillips

Car design needs to have a context. Whether that's market trends in the here-and-now, or projections and predictions as to how people are going to travel around in the future, designers cannot – and must not – work in a vacuum.

But we also realise there is so much information flying around it's difficult to keep track and pick out the relevant things from the noise. With this in mind, we've rounded up some thought-provoking, inspiring and otherwise interesting stories we've read this week:

Boston Dynamics unveils its latest creation

Robotics specialist Boston Dynamics, currently owned by Google, has unveiled its latest robot. Called SpotMini, the robot is all-electric, rather than using hydraulics to actuate its ‘limbs’. As a result, it weighs 30kg, including its extendable arm, lasts for 90 minutes on a full charge and is the quietest robot the firm has yet built.

Why is it significant? Google has seemingly lost interest in Boston Dynamics, and Toyota has emerged as its most-likely buyer. The potential for in-car and automobile infrastructure robots seems huge to us, so we’re keen to see the firm’s direction, should Toyota pay up.

China swapping luxury for leisure

China’s appetite for branded luxury goods is well documented, but new research highlights the fact that tastes are changing as consumers there become more confident in their own sense of style.

The sportswear market is predicted to outstrip the luxury goods market by 2020, as Chinese consumers switch from formal, big-brand fashion to a more laid-back look. This trend is explored neatly in this op-ed article from a Shanghai-based contributor to Business of Fashion.

Mill Blackbird is all the car advertisers ever need

The Mill BLACKBIRD from The Mill on Vimeo.

We already live in a world of cars built on modular architectures, but what if just one platform could replace the underpinnings of almost any car, old or new? That’s the thinking behind visual effects company The Mill’s Blackbird project, which has just been unveiled.

The Blackbird is an electric-powered fully adjustable car rig, customisable for track, height and wheelbase lengths that can be programmed to mimic the kinematics of just about any car. The agency can then add the appropriate body to it in post-production, and even show a demo live on location thanks to a purpose-made augmented reality app.

The Blackbird took two years to build, in the same hangar where the SR-71 jet was made – hence the name, and allows advertisers to create spectacular car ads without the need for a car to be physically present.

Why is sketching still important?

It’s often taken for granted that sketching is an integral part of the design process, particularly in the early, iterative stages of an idea. However, with increasing software sophistication and automation of processes, it’s easy to overlook why the sketch still plays its part.

That’s exactly the question set in this article co-authored by James Self of the design school at UNIST, South Korea and Eujin Pei, of the department of design, Brunel, UK. Published on Core77, they look at how the sketch is an essential part of how the designer expresses an idea and how it promotes reasoning between problems and solutions. 

Blog of the Week: Product Design Database 

One of the building blocks of Japanese success on a global scale was its huge range of ground-breaking consumer products that arrived in stores from the 1970s to the 1990s. Although the internet was still in its very early stages at the time, an archive of many of these products, from phones to radios, TVs to cameras, and of course vehicles from all of Japan’s domestic makers, exists today and is available here to eat up plenty of your time, albeit with a remarkably basic interface.