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SIX DESIGNERS TAKE ON SOME OF THE WORLDS TOUGHEST REDESIGN CHALLENGES


PAOLA ANTONELLI

NOV. 10, 2016

n the Architecture School at Milan Polytechnic in the late 1980s, to


lecture halls packed to the gills like a Milan A.C. championship
nal, the great Achille Castiglioni would extol redesign as an
indispensable duty of any professional designer. In his view,

anything designed by anybody, in any part of the world, at any time, no


matter how brilliant its initial conception was fair game in a process of
progressive update and renement carried out for the benet of the entire
society. Castiglionis own work teemed with examples: the makeover of the
traditional three-legged iron French cafe table, into a foldable enameledsteel number that could be hung on a wall to save space; the upgrade of his
own Mezzadro stool, to accommodate the release of new tractor seats; the
complete reinvention of the light switch for the Italian market.

READ AN EDITOR'S
LETTER BY JAKE
SILVERSTEIN ABOUT
THE DESIGN ISSUE.

There was and is always room for


improvement. The litmus test is urgency: Is a
redesign really necessary? Is there such a

thing as a perfect thing? The original Gem


paper clip, for example, a paragon of design
virtue, is still safely beyond reach. We can count copies and variations in
the hundreds from the spiral to the owls head and the inverted triangle
but no matter how compelling these formal riffs are, they cannot be
called redesigns. Ill bet you the paper clip will not last forever, however. In
the design cycle of creative destruction, it, too, will one day meet a new
maker.
Design experts or not, we can all think of a long list of objects that are
calling out for review. Chances are that at least one of the six objects
reimagined in the pages that follow the cell tower, the hospital gown, the
toilet, the airport baggage-delivery system, the bike lock and the
prescription-medicine label have led you to howl in despair more than
once.
The six designers and teams we approached all rose to the occasion, each
displaying different design muscles from the mastery of complex
systems (Raffaello DAndrea) and self-assembly (Skylar Tibbits) to a
passion for clothing differently-abled bodies (Lucy Jones); from a knack for
making information clear and engaging (Periscopic) to a metaphysical
appreciation of bodily functions (Mathieu Lehanneur) and the ability to

infuse objects with elegance and intelligence (Rinat Aruh).


Redesign is a positive and constructive act, one of adaptation (to new
technologies, to changing mores, to new legislation, and so on). It can
bestow blessings not only of form but also of function and even meaning.
The best sort of redesign is a substantial and welcome addition to the world.

Paola Antonelli is a senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art.

BICYCLE LOCK
REDESIGN BY: RINAT ARUH
TEXT BY: DANIEL DUANE

FEATURES

1.
Sheathed in PVD titanium-ion-plated
steel, which is more durable than
the metals used in conventional
locks.

2.
At an overall length of 11 inches,
the lock is big enough to secure a
front wheel and a bike frame to a
parking-meter post.

3.
The inside surface of the lock is
coated with a silicone-rubber
gasket to prevent scratching the
bike frame.

4.
Proximity-based operation means
that the lock senses your location,
locks when you walk away and
unlocks when you return.

5.
Dual locking mechanisms, one on
each side, require a thief to cut
through both sides in order to free
the bike.

6.
At 1.2 inches thick, and filled
with a titanium core, it is nearly
twice as thick as most U-locks on
the market.

Credit Rendering by Aruliden Agency

RIDING A BEAUTIFUL bike is an act of idealism, a vote for simplicity and

fun over the speed and stress of a car. Bike locks, on the other hand, are all
about realism in the face of lifes ugliness. Conventional lock designs reect
the emotion that drives sales: fear, with notes of resentment. Too ugly to
mount on a pretty bike frame, too heavy to carry comfortably in a shoulder
bag, the standard U-lock is a dumb metal arc that aspires only to resist
dumb metal tools like the cordless angle grinders that now allow thieves to
cut hardened steel in minutes.

FIND MY BIKE
The rack positions the lock as an additional carrying surface for excess
cargo. A GPS chip inside allows for tracking in case of theft.
Credit

HIGH-TECH DETERRENCE
The mobile alarm lets you bolt outside before a thief can cut through the
lock and given how well thieves tend to know their locks makes your
bike even less attractive.
Credit Rendering by Aruliden Agency

You cant solve for everything, says the designer Rinat Aruh, a cofounder of the rm Aruliden. If a thief wants to steal a bike, theyre going

to nd a way. So we decided to make it


annoying. Aruh did more than that. She
borrowed the elongated-oval shape of a
classic link of chain to create a timeless
form that feels inevitable, as if bike locks
were always meant to look this way. The
rack, xed to the seat post, oats her lock
over the rear wheel, making it look less
like an anti-theft device than a natural
design extension of a well-made frame.
Anyone who has ever locked a bike
outside a restaurant or a bar and then
jockeyed for a window seat to keep a
watchful eye will appreciate the additional
deterrents hidden inside: tamper-sensitive
accelerometers that trigger a sonic alarm
and a smartphone alert at the instant a thief

SMART INSIDES
An internal cavity lined
with titanium holds the
locks circuit board,
battery, accelerometers,
siren and electric motor
for the locking mechanism.
Credit Illustration by

gets to work. And even if a thief manages


to get away with your bike, a GPS chip
embedded in that locks rack means the
cops will know where to nd him.
The idea is that if Ive got ve bikes in
front of me, Ill steal this one last, says

Chris Philpot

Aruh, who may be underestimating the


good taste of the average bike thief.
Aruliden is a New York-based brand

strategy and design agency.


Daniel Duane is a regular contributor to The New York Times.

CELL TOWER
REDESIGN BY: SKYLAR TIBBITS
TEXT BY: JON GERTNER

FEATURES
1.
Flexible materials not only make the tower more
attractive they make it more functional.

2.
Cables attached to the tower can pull at it to
transform its shape.

Credit Rendering by Justin Metz

AT THE MOMENT , the cellular networks in the United States rely on roughly

300,000 transmission sites. And judging by Americans increasing thirst for


mobile data, were assuredly going to need even more in the years to come.
Cell towers arent handsome things, and so their builders have made an
earnest effort in recent years to camouage them. Alongside highways, big
towers are sometimes disguised as freakish-looking conifer trees; in the
Southwest, they pose as saguaros; others are tucked inside church steeples
or massive agpoles, or secreted behind the cornices of tall buildings.
But rather than continue the strategy of concealment and disguise, Skylar
Tibbits, at M.I.T.s Self-Assembly Lab, wants to rethink the towers

essential infrastructure. Tibbitss work focuses on programming building


materials wood, textiles, synthetic bers to respond automatically to
external stimuli like heat, cold, light, wind or water. Tibbits asks of the
next-gen cell tower: How can we make it change shape, bend, twist, twirl,
expand, so the cell tower can adjust to the weather, time of use, time of day
or if theres a big event nearby?

FLEXIBLE DESIGN
The tower is constructed from biaxially braided composite tubes. The
biaxial braid, much like a Chinese finger trap, allows the tower to
expand, contract, twist and bend like a very large textile structure, yet
be self-supporting and stable.

Credit Illustration by Chris Philpot

The answer, he argues, could involve a composite material, like carbon ber
or berglass, which in combination with the structures shape and weave
would enable a new range of motion. Small forces at the base of the
structure heat, wind, even an electronic signal could effect large
transformations up above, he says, making the tower move like a large
puppet. And to what end? By reconguring itself, he says, a next-gen cell
tower might gain in exibility, strength and perhaps even functionality. In
addition, the tower can dance; the tower can perform. No longer an eyesore,
Tibbits says, it has personality and an aesthetic of movement.

TOWER POWER
From a taller tower to a squat canopy, the tower can transform in various
ways, physically stretching toward zones of higher usage or shying away
from inclement weather.
Credit Illustrations by Self-Assembly Lab, M.I.T.

Skylar Tibbits is an assistant professor of design research at M.I.T.


Jon Gertner is a Cullman fellow at the New York Public Library.

RX HANDOUT
REDESIGN BY: PERISCOPIC
TEXT BY: THOMAS GOETZ

FEATURES
A.
Clear and simple icons may help lessen anxiety about
taking a drug and make the task a little more human.

B.
Many side effects diminish over time, and by making
this clear, patients are more likely to continue using
the drug.

C.
Knowing what to do and what NOT to do is some of
the easiest stuff to forget about a drug. Simplifying
the literature makes it easier to remember.

D.
Every drug has trade-offs and comes with real risks.
Letting patients know exactly when to call their
doctors can be tremendously reassuring.

Credit Rendering by Justin Metz

THE RULE SOUNDS reasonable enough: All prescription drugs approved by

the Food and Drug Administration are required to be dispensed with a


label that includes directions for use and spells out possible side effects or
risks to patients. But in practice, once all the required content and cautions

are put into print, these documents can run to thousands of words. For a
popular drug like Metformin (used to treat diabetes), the roughly 10,000word label is twice as long as a typical Times Magazine article (and not
nearly as entertaining). It takes the form of that tightly folded, tiny-print
insert that is bundled with the drug and its almost guaranteed to go
unread. An unfortunate result is that many people dont take their drug
properly or quit taking it altogether.
So what do patients starting a new medication need to know? Just a few
things, really. What they are taking. How to take it. What to expect. And
what to do if something seems wrong. This information can be summarized
in just a few words and images. The best interface for this information, it
turns out, isnt the pill bottle itself but the bag that the bottle goes in. Here, I
worked with the team at Periscopic to turn the bag into something useful.
(All the information is drawn from the data available at Iodine.com, the
health-information website I co-founded in 2013.)
The most useful information here is probably the What you can expect
timeline, which shows how typical side effects usually go away over time,
as the body gets used to a drug. This is common knowledge to pharmacists,
but its rarely communicated to patients. In the future, because the
pharmacy most likely knows the age and sex of the patient, it could be
possible to tailor the information to display the actual experience of people
like them, as well as to identify any possible interactions between drugs that
might arise based on their other prescriptions. The beauty of this label is

that it doesnt pretend to be an exhaustive list. Its suited to a quick glance,


which is all that most people would afford it anyway. With all respect to the
F.D.A., sometime a lot less is a lot more.
Periscopic is a data-visualization rm based in Portland, Ore.
Thomas Goetz is a founder of Iodine, a digital medical resource.

BAGGAGE CLAIM
REDESIGN BY: RAFFAELLO DANDREA
TEXT BY: KYLE CHAYKA

FEATURES
1.
Rather than checking your own bags,
a swarm of autonomous robots takes
care of them for you.

2.
At check-in, each piece of luggage
is loaded onto its own robot.

4.
Using the swarm means less crowding
on the airport floor.

5.
Pickup stations store the luggage
and dispense bags one at a time
no need for a carousel.

3.
The robots, guided by a complex
algorithm, pilot the luggage to
your airplane.
Credit Rendering by Justin Metz

ITS HARD TO

think of a place with more design aws than an airport. Its an experience
made up of nonexperience, a gantlet of waiting: rst to check your bag, then
in the security line, then in the jetway, then to get off the plane and nally
for your luggage to emerge on a carousel at the other end. This last step has
its own set of problems. Theres hardly any security, someone can take
your luggage, sometimes luggage gets lost, says the designer and engineer
Raffaello DAndrea. We want to remove all of that.
DAndrea is the founder of Verity Studios, but before that he had another
robotics company, Kiva Systems. That company was acquired by Amazon

in 2012 to supply its warehouses with turntable-like mobile robots that can
carry more than 750 pounds. DAndreas solution for baggage claim is not
just to x the carousel, he says, but also to redesign the experience of
having luggage at the airport. While his vision is not quite possible with
current technology, he proposes replacing the whole system with a swarm
of autonomous robots within the next ve years.

UBER, BUT FOR BAGS

Similar to DAndreas Amazon warehouse robots, the luggage bots are


simple in the extreme, with a flat platform to scoop up the bag at checkin and keep it stable.
Credit Rendering by Justin Metz

It works like this: When you arrive, you head straight to an array of checkin stations, where a horseshoe-crab-like robot arrives for each bag. The
robots carry them to an inspection area, where they are scanned, and if
necessary, examined by T.S.A. agents. This would substantially simplify
airport entry halls. Complexity is thus shifted from physical infrastructure
to algorithms, DAndrea says. The swarm then brings the checked luggage
to the tarmac, to be loaded into the plane by humans.
Once you arrive at your destination, your smartphone tells you which
pickup station your bag is being delivered to, as well as when it will show
up. A vertical locker system, taking advantage of often-unused space in
cavernous airports, dispenses luggage one at a time while the robots circle
back for more. That means no waiting at the carousel, but youll still have
time to kill. Theres always Cinnabon.

STACK EM HIGH
The redesign stacks bags vertically, like at a city car park, while they
wait to be picked up. Your phone or luggage tag will tell you when your
bag is coming out of the tower. Use it to verify your identity, and
youre off.
Credit Illustration by Chris Philpot

Raffaello DAndrea is a professor at E.T.H. Zurich.


Kyle Chayka is a writer living in Brooklyn.

TOILET
REDESIGN BY: MATHIEU LEHANNEUR
TEXT BY: JAMIE LAUREN KEILES

Credit Rendering by Mathieu Lehanneur

THE CALL OF nature, with all its splendid routine, offers the contemporary

human not just the excretion of waste but a guaranteed respite from the
chaos of the world. Provided you have a commitment to green vegetables
and water, the rhythms of digestion enforce a routine meditation practice.
And in recent years, this moment for reection or for quiet reading has seen
an upgrade with the advent of smartphones.
It seems odd, with this in mind, that the standard Western toilet has evolved
so little beyond just water down a hole. The designer Mathieu Lehanneur
says, Its treated as a functional room, not a place for pleasure or thinking.
Lehanneur endeavored, in his toilet redesign, to connect the xture to its
metaphysical function. His free-standing commode less outhouse, more
chapel forges quiet space for us to come and meet ourselves. Its a
philosophical room, he says, a factory for ideas.
Beneath an LED skylight and fan, Lehanneur calls us to claim our place in

the scheme of things. A wall-mounted glass tank, reminiscent of a cloud,


suggests the integration of body and environment, as rain in the ecosystem
turns into water, then turns into urine, then turns back to rain. We are still
highly primitive, he explains. Even in this highly connected world.
If technology distracts in the space outside the bathroom, then Lehanneurs
new toilet would channel it toward focus by cutting the glare with natural
materials. A green onyx monolith with a digital display tells the results of
on-the-spot urinalysis less for the purpose of data-harvesting or
diagnosis and more as a reminder that we, too, contain ecosystems. When
the moment of reection (and defecation) has passed, the user need not
reach for an aerosol air freshener. A ceramic rock, offsetting the toilet,
serves as a natural diffuser of scents.
If it all seems extravagant, then its only because Lehanneurs new toilet is
suggesting a church where weve long since made peace with praying in
squalor. Even in the most beautiful residences, all over the world, he says,
you will never be able to get a photo of the toilet.
Mathieu Lehanneur is a designer whose work aims to promote human wellbeing.
Jamie Lauren Keiles is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.

HOSPITAL GOWN
REDESIGN BY: LUCY JONES
TEXT BY: JAIME LOWE

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FEATURES
1.
The entire front panel can be unsnapped from neck to
armpit, as can the back panel.

2.
The side openings provide access, but the patient can
still feel covered.

3.
The fabric was chosen to look gender-neutral and
loungey. Joness design is meant to feel like an
oversize T-shirt.

4.
Tencel is made partly from recycled wood, and its
more absorbent than cotton.
Credit Rendering by Justin Metz

A REVEALING HOSPITAL gown may seem like an insignicant problem

compared to the actual reasons someone might end up wearing one, but its
impact on patients is greater than you might suspect. Thanks to the
garments the breezy open-backed, apron-style gowns that leave a great
deal of derrire in the air patients routinely complain of lack of privacy,

physical discomfort and a feeling of vulnerability. A paper published two


years ago in JAMA even found that the garments could contribute to posthospital syndrome, a condition caused by environmental stressors that can
make a patient more susceptible to illness. To reduce the trauma of
hospitalization, the papers authors suggest, patients should be encouraged
to wear their own clothing. This would help patients maintain their selfesteem and orientation and would also remind their care professionals to
recognize them as people.
Here, Lucy Jones, who was named Parsons Womenswear Designer of the
Year in 2015, reimagined the hospital gown with a comfort-based approach
and an emphasis on modesty. It is all about patient dignity, Jones says.
Youre already having your environmental space interrupted, your body
prodded. The hospital gown is a contributor to that treatment. You should
feel warm and safe, she says, not exposed. Jones replaced the traditional
open-backed, tie-fastened garment with snap-closure aps at the chest, sides
and back to provide access to areas examined most frequently by nurses and
doctors. The aps also prevent accidental exposure, which is an especially
humiliating situation so much so that many patients wear two gowns,
one in the front and one to cover the back.

ACCESS POINTS
Based on patient surveys and hospital needs, Jones reimagined the gowns
back opening. She specifically targeted the areas of the body most
frequently examined by doctors and nurses.
Credit Illustration by Chris Philpot

Part of Joness redesign is an attempt to make the gown feel more like a Tshirt. Her gown would incorporate Tencel, a sustainable, stretchy jersey
material, made partly from recycled wood pulp. Because of its superior
moisture management, the fabric has a built-in antibacterial element. There

were certain expectations for how the


patients should be dressed, Jones says.
Hospitals dont feel like they should be
spending more on gowns, but people dont
understand the importance of dress on the
personal psyche.
Using durable, plasticinjected snaps on
hypoallergenic tape, she
created a closure that did
not leave a mark on the
skin and was more
dignified than a back
opening. Credit
Illustration by Chris
Philpot

Lucy Jones is a New York-based fashion


designer from Wales.
Jaime Lowe is a freelance writer living in
Brooklyn. She last wrote for the magazine
about how to busk.

UNCOMM
GROUND

OUR NEW URBAN OASES


BY NIKIL SAVAL

HOT SEATS
HOW FURNITURE MAKERS ARE CATERING TO MILLENNIALS
BY MALCOLM HARRIS

LAUNCH PAD
HOW AN INDIAN INNOVATOR REVERSE-ENGINEERED THE MAKING OF SANITARY PADS

BY YUDHIJIT BHATTACHARJEE

OPEN CALL
SHOULD DESIGNERS TRUST THE WISDOM OF THE CROWD?
BY ROB WALKER

MAKEOVER
MANIA
INSIDE THE 21ST-CENTURY CRAZE FOR REDESIGNING EVERYTHING

BY ROB WALKER

CODE
CRACKING
WHY IS IT SO HARD TO MAKE A WEBSITE FOR THE GOVERNMENT?
BY YIREN LU

Produced by Rodrigo De Benito Sanz and Linsey Fields

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