RODD/ Observe.Innovate.Design

An industrial design and innovation agency working with international clients to deliver strategic product design solutions.





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Letting the air out – User centred design and the development of better tyres

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After suffering a couple of punctures on my bike in as many weeks, I began thinking that there must be a better way. Of course, I’m not the only one thinking this every time I am stuck on the side of the road struggling with tyre levers at the point of breaking down – luckily there are some people developing ways to get you moving easier and more quickly.

One such product I came across was the patchnride – a small handheld device aimed at making the whole process simpler for any type of tyre. The main benefit of this is that it removes the main problem when 

fixing a flat – removing the tyre. This uses a system whereby a glue is injected into the tyre acting like a patch over the source of the leak. This shows the benefit of a user centred approach, tackling the main problems and designing them out completely.

Another approach is to take a further step back and remove the source of the problem – air. The non-pneumatic tyre design race is gathering speed and could trickle down to the mainstream in a few years. Britek is the first to use this approach in a bike tyre, creating a wheel from

rubber held by composite rods, simulating the ‘cushioning’ found in standard tyres . A similar system is already being used on off road vehicles, originally designed for the military but finally hitting the consumer market. Hopefully these developments trickle down into the mainstream soon and the days of struggling with tyres and innertubes by the roadside will be a thing of the past.

100% Design

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It has been a few years since I last went to 100% Design and I have to say that it wasn’t as I remembered the show in previous years, with an overarching sense of trade fair rather than anything more ‘designerly’ or seductive.

That said here are my highlights;

Heading straight for the ‘emerging brands’ section I met with Nicholas Rose whose simple but very beautiful lycra stretched lampshade caught my eye. While the forms and premise (frame, stretchy fabric shade and a light bulb) are quite classic, what caught may eye, as it did others, was the soft, ‘floaty’ hues of blues and pinks, an effect achieved by shining the fitting through an edge-lit acrylic skeleton which, in turn, transforms the white lyrca.

As if to confirm that the pastels, burnt pink and warm grey trend is still alive, were the adjoining stand neighbours, Danish brand – Korridor. 

It was great to see the wonderfully minimal; Shaker influenced ‘Runcible’ (a family of American Maple kitchen tools by Mathias Hahn) – which we saw earlier this year at the Clerkenwell Festival. These, along with four other pieces, were commissioned to showcase the creative potential of other lesser-known timbers from the USA.

Staying with the minimal, I was taken by the bold simplicity of this exterior bench and table from UK abstract painter-cum-furniture-designer Jennifer Newman, which used a simple palette of black dyed, sustainable timber and brightly painted fabricated aluminum. The combined effect was bold but simple – something that UK outdoor furniture retailers seem to forget when sourcing their ranges.

Staying with the UK, my two highlights were both joyfully minimal and in stark contrast to the plethora of bling Italian brands that

surrounded them both. The first ‘Lowinfo’ from Nottingham, who make some of the most amazing poured concrete sinks and washbasins I have ever seen. The depth of richness and texture in these monolithic, geometric sinks was impressive, especially when paired with zingy Vola fittings in orange and yellow!

The second gem emerged from a florid, swarm of over-done Italian marble like a CNC’d modern day Michelangelo’s David. The objects in question are also washbasins and while they are machined from Italian Carrara marble (as is the aforementioned David) they are some of the most lovely, modernist pieces of UK industrial design I have seen for a long while – and what’s more they are machined in the heart of Manchester to only compound the perversity of it all even further!


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One of the nice things about London Design Festival is the opportunity to visit some of the many design studios that open their doors to showcase work. We picked out Industrial Facility and stopped by their Retail Facility Pop-Up Shop to take a peek at a display of recent projects and a new book published by Herman Miller. Visiting studios also provides a good occasion to chat a little and find out more about the various projects.

V&A had the LDF installations scattered randomly around the whole museum, making them rather difficult to find. It almost seemed as if the pieces occupied spots left over by the permanent collection and some of them were easy to miss. We did enjoy the giant choreographed structures by Barber and Osgerby in collaboration with BMW, which created distorted views of the Raphael Gallery.

REACT Objects Sandbox was a small, thought-provoking showcase of products (there were six on show) exploring human experiences in the Internet of Things. There were two projects that caught my eye: one dealing with attention-spans and the burden of constant connectivity; and the other taking the user back to basics through new technological means. Breathing Stone is a device that helps reduce stress by helping to focus on breathing and heart rate. InTouch explores haptic interactions in connected objects and is made up of a pair of palm-sized pebble like devices for long distance communication.

The interesting connection between these two is perhaps the lack of displays on the objects and the focus on tactility. It’s a strange indicator of our times when we actually need a device to help us disconnect and relax. And also a good reminder of

how sometimes something as small as vibration resembling the squeeze of a hand will do.

LDF is such a large scale event that unfortunately there’s only so much out of town visitors can pack into a day and even then it requires A LOT of planning to get the most out of the various events across London. For these short visits, it’s probably better to concentrate on one area or bigger event.

Also, there’s definitely room for improvement on the organisational side for marking out participating locations –with just a little flag by the door, they may remain invisible to people not very familiar with London or even just certain areas. Unfortunately an address and GPS is sometimes not enough.