The Eye
Slate’s design blog.

Aug. 28 2015 12:10 PM

Incredible Inflatable Trampoline Bridges, Mobile Scientific Laboratories, and Furniture Powered by Air

Air is invisible, impossible to draw, and easy to take for granted, but forward-thinking architects and designers have long experimented with this most ephemeral of building materials as a magical ingredient for creating lightweight, portable, flexible, pneumatic structures that include inflatable buildings, bridges, sculptures, furniture, and more.

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Aug. 27 2015 9:16 AM

Charting an Architect’s Obsession With White—and Other Fun, Irreverent Infographics

Archi-Graphic: An Infographic Look at Architecture by Frank Jacobus is an irreverent, stealthily informative look at architecture through a series of visualizations that include a chart of the type of architecture that dictators prefer, subway-style maps of the romantic affairs of famous architects, color wheels devoted to palettes of 20th-century architects, a map of every project that Le Corbusier ever built by order and location; and infographics mapping the most popular structures for death by suicide or building collapse.

Aug. 26 2015 1:07 PM

This Bright Yellow Scottish Castle Perfectly Illustrates the Complexity of Historical Restoration

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 Scotland’s Stirling Castle—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

Aug. 25 2015 12:53 PM

Why Do So Many of This Year’s Book Covers Have the Same Design Style?

Among the many challenges book cover designers face is trying to represent a book’s premise or main character without getting so specific that readers are left with little to imagine. A few years ago, the headless woman was one of the most commonplace sights on bookstore shelves (if the lack of something can be considered a “sight”). By not showing the female character’s face, a publisher assumes that readers will be able to use their imaginations to fill in what she looks like.

Aug. 24 2015 9:06 AM

The Insides of Mumbai’s Taxis Are As Colorful As the Views From Their Windows

Design is everywhere, but it’s often invisible, like the nondescript fabric on a taxi seat. Now a group of designers in Mumbai, India, have turned the interiors of city taxis into a vehicle for promoting the country’s emerging design talent with a project they’re calling Taxi Fabric.

“Taxis in India, particularly in Mumbai, are not only the most convenient form of transport but have also become an iconic piece of culture,” the designers write in a press release about the project. Although drivers routinely tailor their taxi interiors to make them stand out from competitors, the designers say, the upholstery on seats is often an afterthought, something drivers pick up at the local market, usually “dull and forgettable.”

Aug. 21 2015 8:30 AM

This Glass-Encased “Sky Pool” Will Have You Swimming Over the Streets of London

Have you ever gone swimming and thought to yourself, Gee, this is fun, but it would be a whole lot better if I were doing this about 10 stories in the air and it felt like I were flying? Well, you’re in luck: London’s glass-encased, 82-foot “sky pool” is perfect for you.

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.

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.