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Flexible Shelves and Forward Thinking

by Dan Gregory last modified Jan 04, 2012 04:20 AM
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by Dan Gregory last modified Nov 17, 2010

New storage and display shelves from Eric Pfeiffer and The Utility Collaborative, along with a whale-shaped desk accessory. The new book The Power of Pro Bono about the importance of design for the public good. Continue reading →



Boxing Days

It is a truism that limitation breeds invention, especially in the field of design. Take the ordinary bookshelf, for example. Industrial designer Eric Pfeiffer of PfeifferLab has re-thought it as a set of six different-sized, sturdy, well-constructed wood frames that you can rearrange to create a sideboard, bookcase, bedside tables, or media storage wall.

“The set encourages interaction and lets you bring your own personality to the product,” according to Eric.  It shows just how flexible and adaptable the simple box can be: the humble orange crate transformed. Two of the boxes have two compartments; the rest are single boxes.

They’re all  just very large toy building blocks after all — no wonder I like them! They are  the first product from a new company founded by Eric, and Steve Piccus, called The Utility Collective. The idea is to bring intelligent, well-made products to market and share how they are designed and made. Here’s a sequence from TUC’s website showing the construction process for each box, from cut wood panels to joinery, clamping, and sanding.

All TUC products are made in the US with sustainable materials. I like their passion for the utility, function, and craftsmanship of everyday objects and for sharing the stories about their design and construction. TUC’s next introduction, to be ready by Thanksgiving, is something eye-catching and useful for your home office: a whale of a desk accessory.

It gives new meaning to “catch of the day.” Now I would like to know what the inspiration for this object was — a recent rereading of Moby Dick? The ocean of learning that lies between the pencil holder and the post-it note?

Doing Good Works

Speaking of thinking inside and outside the box, I recommend a new book about donated imagination and expertise: The Power of Pro Bono: 40 Stories about Design for the Public Good by Architects and Their Clients (published by Metropolis Books, 2010, which is part of Metropolis Magazine).

It’s edited by John Cary and Public Architecture, which is an organization that puts the resources of architecture in the service of the public interest.  The projects range from a sculptural tool shed/shelter

by Cast Architecture for the Interbay P-Patch Community Garden in Seattle, Washington to a sleek minimalist and lens-like arts studio addition by Gray Organschi Architecture

for the Calvin Hill Day Care Center in New Haven, Connecticut. The book itself was a pro bono project designed by the well-known graphics and branding firm Pentagram. These projects — and the descriptions by the architects and their non-profit clients — vividly show how high quality design improves lives. In a sense I guess Pro Bono really means building outside the box.



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