First things first - as some of you may have already heard our team is joining Formlabs! You can read more about it here.

FYI: this weekly newsletter will continue :) 


  • Furniture is among the most utilitarian of product categories, which makes the desire-provoking element of design that much more essential to gain distinction among the crowd, but those design elements are difficult to protect in terms of intellectual property, making knock-offs a persistent threat. While there's much to be said in favor of some IP protections to incentivize investment in R & D, tooling, and labor that go into bringing new things into the world, some of the furniture that's being defended here is in excess of 50 years old, well outside the bounds of design patents. For design to do the most good in the world it will mean serving the most people (Eames famously said "We want to make the best for the most for the least"). The sooner we dispense with the hagiography of design heroes and lamenting knock-offs as profane violations of Design with a capital d, the sooner we can get to a better future for as many people as possible. 
  • On LOT-2046, placeless fashion and the brandless uniforms of cyberpunk
  • BuzzFeed's food content group, Tasty, is putting out a hardware product: a "smart" hot plate. Previously, the company had developed a sort of hot-glue gun for dispensing cheese, but that seemed to be more marketing gimmick than a bonafide consumer device. The hot plate is the latest from their Product Lab, which is run by Ben Kaufman, founder of the now defunct Quirky. Given Quirky's past struggles with shipping product with greater complexity that worked consistently, we're curious to see if BuzzFeed's team has a deep enough engineering bench (or external contractors) to have better outcomes for users. From a user-centered design standpoint, it seems likely to be a compromised product: the induction heater is really a trojan horse to get people to engage more with an app, and the app is a trojan horse for selling more adspace on a platform where BuzzFeed won't have to share revenue. Just a guess, but I don't think more targeted ads is the problem that home cooks are looking to solve when they buy an extra burner. The more interesting part of this article is the success of Tasty's made to order cookbook - where you can customize the content. We'd argue that greater customization is a more durable trend in product development than oddball brands rolling their own slicked up commodity products with a hidden value proposition.


(Dis)trusting Technology: 

  • Bloomberg examines the risks of Dark Web markets, cryptocurrency exchanges, and details present and past day exit scams, where a unscrupulous party creates a storehouse of goods or currencies, only to suddenly run off with the assets once the scam has grown to a suitably tempting scale. As with so many problems of technology, the problems are neither new or uniquely technological - rather they are reflections of humanity's collective vices and virtues. Unregulated and illegal markets have even more difficulty with these issues, simply because the party that violates trust can generally count on the inability of victims to bring their grievances to traditional enforcement and compliance organizations like police or the SEC. 


Material Culture: 


More next week.