32 Products from 2012 That Someone Else Thinks Are Great – Part 2

Let’s continue with our review of Co.DESIGN’s 32 (!) favorite products of 2012. This is the second installment of our review, since we’ve broken down their 32 picks into four posts, each containing eight products. Part 1 lists products 1-8.

9. Nendo Bluetooth Headset – We say: Kinda Flawesome

Nendo Reinvents The Headset As A Pen – This year, we saw a lot of great design from Nendo, the Japanese product design company founded by Oki Sato. They may be known for their poetic treatment of furniture and homewares, but their design for a bluetooth headset is also lovely. The design is inspired by a simple ballpoint pen, and eschews flashy design details for an ultra-simple and durable exterior.

Carl: Do people still use bluetooth headsets? Well, besides assholes, I mean. This looks nice. It’s made of aluminum, and clips to a lapel pocket like a pen. But if you ever see assholes who use bluetooth headsets, you’ll know that those assholes never take off their bluetooth headsets. So, no one would ever say to them, “Hey, that’s a pretty cool pen in your pocket…oh, it’s not a pen? It’s a bluetooth headset?” Instead, all we’d hear is the guy talking on the headset. “YEAH, I DON’T KNOW, THIS GUY IS LOOKING AT ME. I’M AT TARGET. MAN, I’M HUNGRY. WHY IS THIS GUY STARING AT MY HEADSET? DID YOU SEE  THAT LAST EPISODE OF NASHVILLE? DON’T SPOIL IT!”

Zheng: I don’t really understand why we need bluetooth headsets. I can’t think of a whole lot of times I need both hands free and the ability to talk to someone to distract me at the same time. Usually if you need both hands free, you need your brain free to do what you’re doing with those hands. What’s that you say? Zheng that’s just a critique of headsets you say? Exactly. I don’t care if your bluetooth headset looks like the fucking Mona Lisa. YOU, the bearer of the item, will always look like a dick.


10. Ototo’s Spaghetti Tower – We say: Flawesome

A Spaghetti Container With Built-In Portion Controls – Spaghetti, for whatever reason, is very easy to overindulge in. Maybe it’s the starch, maybe it’s your mom standing over us insisting we have seconds … But most of us are dangerously unstoppable when it comes to spaghetti. Enter the Tel Aviv design studio Ototo’s Spaghetti Tower, a $23 storage container that tells you how much pasta you should really be making.

Carl: Yes, overindulging when it comes to spaghetti is a really serious problem. If I’m only cooking for myself, how will I know how much spaghetti to make?? What if I make too much? WHAT WILL I DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS??? Oh, I guess I can just put it in the fridge, to eat the next day. I will say that red rooster adds a nice touch. Of course roosters really have nothing to do with spaghetti, but you know. It’s red.

Zheng: I like those noodles you get at Asian grocery stores that comes in a pre-wrapped per-person amount so you know just how much to eat. Beyond that, maybe you can just figure out a good amount to make, and stick to that amount. Have a friend over? Make twice that much. It can’t be that hard; people have been making noodles quite well for quite some time; I doubt over-eating home-made noodles is large a problem as fast-food and soda. Oh, here’s another free solution if you’ve made too much spaghetti: Don’t eat it.


11. Vestre Stoop multi-level seat – We say:

A Bench That Reinvents The Brownstone Stoop – Julien de Smedt–one half of the former wunderkind architecture firm Plot–took on the project of designing a multi-functional piece of seating for Vestre. Inspired by a classic Art Kane photo of Harlem jazz musicians sitting on a stoop, the team came up with the idea of a multi-level seat that can function alone, or as part of an ad-hoc meeting space.

Carl: I can see this in public spaces, like at an outdoor mall. Of course, what if someone is sitting at the first step, and you wanted to get to the upper steps? And what if that person was a dick, and wouldn’t move? Would you be able to get to the upper steps without getting into a fight with the first-step person? These are the things I think about. Little kids would like playing around on this thing.

Zheng: Sometimes when I hear multi-functional seating piece, I think, “Shit son, put a bunch of flat surfaces on there! People will use it however they want!”. Incidentally, the same could be said of boulders, except they’re not as cool. What I’m trying to say is, this is the equivalent of having people design better boulders, but it’s probably cheaper just to get a bunch of rocks.


12. Nike Fuelband – We say: Sorta Awesome

Nike Overhauls Nike+ And Launches Fuelband – The Fuelband solved many of the problems associated with other fitness-tracking products this year, giving users a real-time ambient way to track their activity during the day. Embedded with a simple accelerometer and linked to an app, a curved lithium-ion battery, and a sleek UI, the band offers a glimpse at where the gamification of fitness is heading.

Carl: I know you won’t believe this, but Zheng and I had the idea for this very product. It was a hardware and software-via-smartphone solution to aid in tracking activity of the user. What was different in our product was the way we encouraged people to be active; basically, our device was much more fun and playful. Anyway, the very morning we were discussing our product, trying to figure stuff out, Nike released the Fuelband. And it did exactly what we wanted our product to do. Okay, it still didn’t do it in the fun/playful way that we wanted, so maybe we still have a chance…

Zheng: Our product also measured other stuff! We never figured out how though. Because SCIENCE. Hey, at least we thought about it! Which is more than can be said for a lot of products we saw last year. I guess we need to step it up a notch and just implant people with fuel… chips. Wait. No I still support it. People love to gamify their lives, so this is a pretty good idea (the Fuel Band i mean, not our idea. Well our idea is still good.)


13. Izhar Gafni’s Cardboard Bike – We say: Flawesome

A $9 Cardboard Bike That Can Support Up To 485 Lbs. – A simple insight into the structural properties of paper (it gets stronger when it’s folded, as with Origami) led to the development of Izhar Gafni’s 20-pound wonder bike, which can be manufactured for as little as $9 and can hold 24 times its weight.

Carl: The main focus of this bike in the various sites that wrote about it was the price: $9. Apparently, the bike costs $9 in materials. But if you watch the video, the manufacturing of this bike is incredibly labor intensive. After performing all this labor on cardboard, you realize that he probably could have used any material, and created a decent bike, given unlimited time and labor. Many sites were also raving about how the bike can support 25 times the weight of the bike, or 425 lbs. That makes the bike about 20 lbs. The heaviest steel bikes are around 20 lbs and can probably hold a rider with a maximum weight of 250 lbs or more. I don’t know the maximum amount of weight a steel-tubed bicycle can hold, because that seems kind of meaningless; large/heavy cyclists usually need special custom bicycles built to accommodate their size and weight. Anyway, steel bicycle tubing is also relatively cheap, probably not as cheap as $9 of cardboard, but that price may be offset by the reduced labor in making steel-tubed bicycles. Another draw to this bicycle was it’s low purchase price, which would be on the order of $20. But according to this article, that price isn’t really due to the low material costs.

Mr. Elmish, who represents the Israeli high-tech incubation company ERB, says he is hoping to use various kinds of funding, including government grants and rebates for using green materials, to ultimately reduce much of the production cost and allow the bikes to be sold at retail for no more than $20.

It’s a nice looking, one-off, eye-catching bicycle. Nothing more.

Zheng: If you think the bulk of the cost of what you buy day in and day out is from the materials its made, you’re grossly misinformed. Do you know how much raw tomatoes went for on the farming circuit in 2011? $67.00 a ton. Yes, a TON. That’s around 3 and a half cents a pound. When you went to your grocery last time were they selling Tomatoes for 3 and a half cents a pound? No? That’s because of all the other things that goes into getting the tomato into you and your belly. The bike has the same problem; if the bulk materials cost $9, the production cost and more would likely shoot this project through the roof. Is $9 impressive? I dunno, I think steel tubing can go for around $0.24 a pound so you decide. This is a case of false comparisons. “That book cost $30? Pfft, I bet I could write a book for $15”. You sure could sir, you sure good.


14. F.A.T. Lab 3-D Printable Toy Compatibility Kit – We say: Definitely Awesome

F.A.T. Lab’s 3-D Printable Kit That Makes All Toys Compatible – The awesome people at F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab designed a collection of 80 toy connectors that make all brick toys–LEGO, Duplo, Fischertechnik, and so on–compatible. The collection can be downloaded for free and 3-D printed at home. Or if you’re in Holland, maybe you could send it over to Staples.

Carl: Imagine, when you were a kid, if your K’NEX, LEGO, Tinker Toys, Bristle Blocks (remember those?), and Lincoln Log parts could all work together. Imagine the things you could have built! No longer were you confined to proprietary systems!

Zheng: I can finally make a sail ship bigger than Lego allows due to their skinny hull piece. I hope you’re all ready for a 200 cannon French Man-O-War.


15. Hikaru Imamura’s Novel Hospital Toys – We say: Kinda Awesome

Elegant Toys That Explain Scary Medical Procedures To Kids – Eindhoven Academy grad Hikaru Imamura addressed an incredibly difficult scenario–explaining a scary medical procedure to a child–with a good dose of heart in these wooden toys. Ranging from a light-up ECG machine to a CT scanner, Imamura offers play as a way to communicate potentially terrifying experiences to kids who might not be able to understand adult terminology.

Carl: This is awesome. Toys that can explain complicated medical procedures. And look at that cute little bear! Everything about these toys makes learning about these procedures less scary for children, and probably leads to a better experience in the hospital, if the children are having a procedure.

Zheng: I dunno, kids can rebound from lots of things. What is that CT Scanner? Oh it’s a machine that sucks out your bones. What’s that beeping? It’s a bomb. When the beeping stops, it explodes. Hilarious right? Okay maybe not, but I suppose this could lessen the terror of the medical world (it’s still terrifying to adults. Are they going to make a grown up version?)


16. Ploom Pax E-Cigarette – We say: Flawesome

Ploom Pax, An E-Cigarette That’s Covetable By Design – The silly facsimiles offered by the e-cigarette industry spurred the Pax, a sleek little vaporizer that looks nothing like the object it’s meant to replace. Described as a “lustable gadget,” the Pax applied design and marketing ideas more closely associated with the tech world than the tobacco industry.

Carl: A while back, I worked with a guy who used an E-Cigarette. He was trying to stop smoking, and was weening himself off real cigarettes by using some weird electronic cigarette. I think that guy just went back to using regular cigarettes. Would he have continued using the E-Cigarette if it looked like this? Probably not, because you still look stupid smoking something other than an actual cigarette. Don’t lots of people get into smoking because it looks cool? Putting a oblong metal tube in your  mouth will never look cool.

Zheng: On the outside, this thing looks cool, because it looks like an iPod nano. Yes, close your eyes. Imagine you’re holding it in your hand; the nice cool anodized aluminum against your skin. The rich sparkling color tones. That nice light but still noticeable weight of it. Now put it against your mouth and suck on it. Not so cool now is it? Yeah exactly. Is cigarette smoking ‘cool’? Yeah maybe. It can look pretty badass. Sucking on a piece of aluminum? Not so much.

Coming up in Part 3: a sponge strapped to a stool, ‘normal’ looking cycling clothing for women, a sensor that you can put on anything, and a stupid looking helmet that does nothing but make you look stupid.