All posts filed under “Design

comment 0

Knyttan: the newest, coolest, “printing” company

One of the companies in the current Techstars London batch just launched their website yesterday, Knyttan.  They’ve got some of the most interesting/unique technology I’ve seen in a while: they turn current industrial knitwear looms as 3-D printers for knitwear.  The founding team includes three graduates from the Royal College of Art, and they’re full of passion and knowledge of knitwear.  When it comes to disrupting an industry… they’re about to do it.

Current state of affairs

Knyttan is currently focused on classic knitwear: sweaters/jumpers and scarves.  Today’s technology is literally archaic; the current code/protocol is 30-40 years old, and can be directly traced to punchcards!  To create a sweater, a designer has to communicate the design/dimensions as best they can to a factory that has the loom manufacturer’s software to create the punchcard-code necessary to knit the sweater.  These are then sent back to the designer in a series of back-and-forths until the designer gives their okay for manufacture.  And when you’re a designer in the US/Europe dealing with a factory in China/Southeast Asia, this is a long, painful process.

For manufacturers, they also have significant constraints in what they can do.  To knit a particular design of jumper, the different colours of yarn have to be on very different specific spools on the machine.  And once a machine is set up to knit, it is time-consuming and costly to set it up to do something else.

Knyttan’s technology

What Knyttan can do with these existing industrial looms is incredible.  They have essentially re-created the entire stack of code necessary for these looms to run.  Instead of having to use complex software provided by the loom manufacturers, Knyttan has created a web interface that anyone can use.  For people with knitwear factories, they can use Knyttan to turn their looms into general-purpose knitwear printers.  It doesn’t matter what spool each colour of yarn is on, Knyttan can adjust.  A loom can knit a sweater, and then a scarf, and then something else entirely without any costly change-over time.

For the first time, a designer can have complete control of the design/manufacture process.  And for the first time, a manufacturer can radically improve productivity of their existing machines.

The two BIG effects

1- Democratization of design.  Right now knitwear design is a pain in the ass, because designers don’t have the full set of tools necessary to go from what’s in their head to the actual creation of the item… manufacturers have to be part of the process.  Knyttan allows any designer to create something they’d like to have/wear, and print/knit it out right away.  This is transformational in the industry, particularly for designers that want to do more with knitwear, but don’t because of the pain involved.

2- Radical change in supply chain.  The design cycle to design/develop knitwear is extremely long, potentially weeks/months as samples are sent between western designers and overseas manufacturers.  Knyttan upends this process… designers can get back a prototype of their design in a matter of minutes to hours.  But perhaps more importantly Knyttan disrupts the supply chain by making it far easier to create knitwear in smaller batches that can be manufactured on demand.  Instead of being forced to make an order months ahead of time, either getting stuck with excess inventory (or having demand for product that can’t be filled), designers can order stock when they get low.

How you can check Knyttan out

If you’re in London, go check out their shop!  You can buy some of their existing stock designs, or even design and print yourself an item in-store!  (Literally, they have a loom in the store where they can create items immediately.)  It’s in Somerset House, and you can find information here: https://knyttan.com/find-us/

If you’re not in London, you can design and create a sweater/jumper or scarf today, and have Knyttan deliver it straight to you.  They just launched their site yesterday, so check it out here: https://knyttan.com

comments 7

The super-magic productivity button in the new Google Inbox

One of the most consistent email productivity tips is that you should ignore e-mail, turn it off, and only check it at specific times during the day.  (Otherwise you just become a trained monkey, chained to your inbox.)  But how do you do that?

For someone that does a lot of actual work via e-mail, turning it off completely or not looking at it isn’t an option.  And while there are extensions that can “pause” new e-mails coming into your inbox (or at least you seeing them), I haven’t seen any that worked well or that I trusted.

But there is a simple, super-magic productivity button in the new Google Inbox that does exactly that, the “pinned” toggle.  So when you switch this:

Unpinned

to this:

Pinned

Suddenly the only e-mails you see are the ones that you have selected as action items.  Any new e-mail to your inbox is hidden, because you haven’t “pinned” it yet.  Each of your pinned e-mails can also have a short description of what the task is, in case the sender wasn’t as explicit as they should have been.  Slide that toggle, and you have your e-mail todo list laid out before you.  You can also add todo list items (reminders) directly that aren’t attached to any e-mail, but show up in the normal & pinned lists.

When I was at Google, I was a very early tester of a previous version of this new Inbox, absolutely loved it, and am so happy it finally got rolled out.  At least for me, e-mail is a todo list, and the new Google Inbox has these simple tools to both treat e-mail as a todo list and become MUCH in dealing with that list.  I just keep my e-mail in the “pinned” state for the vast majority of the day, making my way through the todos, and un-pinning/triaging only occasionally.

Sidebar

All of that said, I can’t wait for Spatch to launch.  Spatch is a Techstars London ’14 Spring company that’s re-thinking e-mail, and making structural changes to e-mail that can turn e-mail into a real productive tool.  (All while keeping it backward-compatible for e-mail users that don’t use Spatch.)  If you care about e-mail and productivity you owe it to yourself to also sign up for Spatch.

PS – If you’d like a Google Inbox invite, drop me your details in the comments below.  [UPDATE]: It only works for @gmail.com addresses right now, so please share that e-mail address.

comments 2

A new responsive design!

I’m happy to announce that this small, little blog of mine now has a responsive design!

Okay… now what the hell does that mean?  It means that no matter what device you use to come to my blog, it’s always going to be readable and look nice.  If you see this on a desktop browser, it will have multiple columns and full-size images.  If you read it on a mobile browser (aka iPhone/Android), it will just be one column, and the images will have scaled down to fit the screen.  Want a better example?  If you’re reading this on your desktop, slowly change the size of the window (drag the bottom right corner of your screen) until it’s as small as you can make it.  As you do it, you’ll see how the blog’s design changes to fit the way you’re reading it.

I wish I could say I did this myself, but in fact I used the Scherzo theme from Leon Paternoster.  If you’re a design novice like myself and use WordPress, it’s very easy to implement.

It’s hard to state how much of a sea change this is in web design, and it was all started by Ethan Marcotte.  (I’m lucky enough to count him as a brother-in-law.)  If you are a web designer, make sure you buy his book on responsive design.  Read it, and use it!

comment 0

Ferran Adria – speaking at Google and his new book

In late September I was lucky enough to be able to hear Ferran Adria speak at Google, and also get a copy of his new cookbook.  Ferran is one of the most famous chefs in the world; though lesser known in the US/UK since he doesn’t speak English and doesn’t have TV shows.  His restaurant (elBulli) was named the best restaurant in the world for four years straight.

What Ferran is really known for is his creativity.  He pioneered “molecular gastronomy”, where chefs do absolutely crazy stuff to create new flavors and textures.  But unlike other chefs, he did this not just with the food but with the entire restaurant!  In order to have the time available to be creative, he shut the restaurant down for half the year.  In order to have time to be creative even when they were open, they shut for lunch.

His talk was all about creativity, and was recorded below.  It’s pretty slow to watch, since he’s speaking Spanish and everything is translated live.  But if you’re interested at all in food, cooking and creativity, he has a thought-provoking perspective on creativity.

I sat next to a woman who practices “visual notetaking” and grabbed her notes from the talk from Flickr.  (Click image to get to the original)  Ferran’s talk is the bottom part of the page, under the dotted line.:

Ferran Adria talking about Creativity @ Authors at Google

The points from her notes are clear.  His definition of creativity is simple: not copying.  Some forms of creativity are more simple, such as new ingredients in an omelette.  Others are more complex, like re-defining what an omelette can be.

Another key perspective is that creativity depends on production.  If you can’t breathe life into your idea (or at least give it a go!), then it’s debatable if you were ever creative at all.

Finally, we all got/bought copies of his newest book, “The Family Meal.”  I heartily recommend it.  The recipes are what the staff at elBulli restaurant would eat before restaurant service.

There are a few awesome things about this book:

  • The recipes are laid out as 31 complete 3-course meals (starter, main, dessert).  One month of meals, with a lot of variety amongst them.
  • Each meal gives you ingredient portions for 2 people (yay! for couple portions), 6 people, 20 people, or 75 people.
  • It’s a picture book; each recipe is on two pages; ~15 photos for each recipe showing what it should look like at each step of preparation
  • Each three-course meal has an outline of when you need to start each major step of preparation (2 hours before, 30 minutes before, night before, etc.
  • Each three-course meal also has a condensed list of ingredients, and what should be bought fresh, what you should fine in the cupboard, and what you should find in the refrigerator.
  • There’s some great advice on different preparation techniques that’s invaluable for home chefs (like me) that don’t have a formal cooking education

Again, I highly recommend his book and the video above; Ferran thinks about creativity on a different level from nearly anyone else.