The Eye
Slate’s design blog.

Aug. 20 2015 9:04 AM

Is Letting Your Lawn Turn Brown a Crime Against the American Dream?

Roman Mars’ podcast 99% Invisible covers design questions large and small, from his fascination with rebar to the history of slot machines to the great Los Angeles Red Car conspiracy. Here at The Eye, we cross-post new episodes and host excerpts from the 99% Invisible blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode.

This week's edition—about lawns—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

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Aug. 19 2015 10:57 AM

Every Office Needs This Giant, Interactive Lite-Brite for Grown-Ups

Anyone who has a sensory childhood memory of making endless light-peg designs with a Lite-Brite will find himself instantly transfixed with Everbright, an interactive LED-lit board inspired by the original toy.

“Everbright is a giant toy for people who never want to stop creating,” the folks at San Francisco–based Hero Design write on their website. Unlike Lite-Brite’s pegs, the Everbright has 464 color dials that can be turned to any color of the rainbow.

Although much of the language on the Everbright website seems catered to pitching businesses on the merits of the oversized toy as a team-building exercise and corporate creativity booster, head designer Alan Rorie writes in a blog post that the design was the idea of Jen Quan, a client who founded a children’s playspace and wanted to include a large-scale Lite-Brite.


Courtesy of Hero Design

A quick Google search showed Rorie that he wouldn’t be the first to build a larger-than-life homage to the Lite-Brite. He analyzed what was great about the original, which was created in 1967, and what could be improved using newer technology like LEDs. He replaced the traditional pegs with constantly rotating color dials, and he added a reset button that would take the wrist-work out of erasing designs. Everbrights can also run animations, and they can talk to other boards in different locations around the world by sending messages and color designs.


Courtesy of Hero Design


Courtesy of Hero Design

Now for the depressing part: Like most grown-up toys, the Everbright isn’t cheap.

Everbright was designed for a high-tech world whose people still have analog desires,” the designers write on their website, where they compare the Everbright’s price to that of a giant interactive HD whiteboard that’s “useful” but not “cool.” “We have forgotten how to live without a device sending us push notifications about the iPad workout we just missed because our nano wasn’t synced to the iPhone that was supposed to record the steps we took to work. Give the special team in your life the gift of real, human connections and engagement and creativity. You can’t put a price on that kind of motivation.”

Yet they have: $14,000 to $50,000 depending on size, number of dials, and custom details.


Courtesy of Hero Design

Why is it so expensive? It seems wrong that something that could bring so much joy to the masses has a price point accessible only to the happy few.  

Rorie told me in an email that regular people find it expensive, but people like event producers and lighting professionals say that the price “sounds about right.”

“I can see why it seems high relative to consumables like personal computers, iPhones, and cars, which are typically mass-produced and enjoy industrial economies of scale,” he said, pointing out that each Everbright is made to order, uses “designer” materials, and requires careful assembly by skilled professionals. “When you account for the scale of production and the custom electronics involved, Everbright is reasonably priced,” he said. “Think of it as 464 lamps that turn in any direction, change to any color, and never burn out. About $50 per lamp isn't unreasonable for a lighting element. We just have a lot of them. I'd love for these to find homes in public spaces like libraries and museums, so anyone could play with one.”

Aug. 18 2015 12:39 PM

The Attached Ski Slope Isn’t Even the Coolest Part of Denmark’s Newest Power Plant

Challenging the conventional notion of what a power plant should look like, innovative Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG are designing “the cleanest waste to energy plant in the world” in Copenhagen complete with a built-in ski slope and a special effect.

In a nod to the industrial-era smoke ring, the firm is working with rocket scientists and combustion engineers to develop a generator that will use up excess steam in the power plant to blow a giant ring of steam into the sky for every ton of CO2 burned, creating a visible, consciousness-raising symbol of the plant’s environmental footprint.

Aug. 17 2015 12:00 PM

Gorgeous New Digital Images From the World’s Oldest Multicolored Printed Book

The Manual of Calligraphy and Painting (Shi Zhu Zhai Shu Hua Pu) from 1633 is the earliest Chinese book printed using the technique known as polychrome xylography (douban) in which multiple printing blocks coated with colored inks are applied to paper to produce a watercolor painting effect. But the book’s stunning images of birds, plants, flowers, fruit stones, and accompanying poems have long been clamped shut, too fragile to be opened.

Aug. 14 2015 9:13 AM

This Captivating Animated Miniature Landscape Is Made Entirely of Paper

Charles Young spent a year creating Paperholm, a whimsical and meticulously built miniature landscape that includes paper models of buildings, cars, carousels, tree houses, and more.

Young, who is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, told me in an email that he began the project last summer after finishing his master of architecture degree at Edinburgh College of Art. “I was looking for a project that would keep me making something every day,” he said. He decided that making paper models was an achievable daily task and started every morning of the past 12 months by completing one piece, which he said served as a “kind of a warm-up” for his work day.

Aug. 13 2015 9:27 AM

Why Brutalist Architecture Is So Hard to Love

Roman Mars’ podcast 99% Invisible covers design questions large and small, from his fascination with rebar to the history of slot machines to the great Los Angeles Red Car conspiracy. Here at The Eye, we cross-post new episodes and host excerpts from the 99% Invisible blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode.

This week's edition—about Brutalism—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

Aug. 12 2015 9:20 AM

Creating These Stunning, Larger-Than-Life Animal Sculptures Took More Than 1.6 Million Legos

Brooklyn-based artist Sean Kenney is a celebrated Lego master who builds dazzling, larger-than-life sculptures made of the popular bricks, often imbued with a surprising realism and the polish and refinement that belie their source material.

Kenney, who started out as a graphic designer, has been making grandiose Lego sculptures, portraits, and other creations and written several children’s books for the past dozen years. His traveling exhibit “Nature Connects”—in which his man-made creations are embedded at arboretums and botanical gardens—is on the road through 2019, currently at Powell Gardens in Kansas City, Missouri, through Sept. 7.

Aug. 11 2015 9:08 AM

This Beautifully Illustrated Tarot Deck Features Malcolm X, Tina Turner, and Other Black Icons

When graphic artist Michael Eaton got in touch with King Khan to ask if the Canadian musician needed any T-shirts or album covers designed, he said he had something else in mind. Khan is a fan of giving tarot readings while on tour. For years, he told Eaton, he’d been wanting to produce a deck of Black Power tarot cards featuring black historical and cultural figures.

Aug. 10 2015 9:33 AM

A Modern Tribute to Thoreau’s Cabin, Floating in the Middle of a French Lake

Henry David Thoreau’s cabin has captured the popular imagination since he first published Walden in 1854, and traces of its DNA are often perceptible in the diminutive shelters we build ourselves today. French designers Elise Morin andFlorent Albinet have constructed a 21st-century ode to the legendary structure that they’re calling Walden Raft—currently floating until Sept. 27 on Lac de Gayme in Picherande in the Auvergne region of France.

Aug. 7 2015 9:10 AM

Buildings That Celebrate the Beauty of the World’s Most Used Man-Made Material

Concrete is a blanket term for a varying mix of sand, cement, and water. While concrete has fallen in and out of fashion since the Romans used it to lay the foundation for the Colosseum, today it’s the world’s most widely utilized—and roundly unloved—man-made material, used for creations ranging from infrastructure to architecture to home accessories.