MUJI Lulls You to Sleep With Its Minimalistic New App

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MUJI, Japan’s super successful minimalistic “brandless-brand” has recently released a new app, MUJI to Sleep. It boasts a series of natural sounds to help induce a sound slumber, anytime, anywhere. The app is aesthetically awesome, free, boasts a tight design, and last but certainly not least, aids in perpetuating MUJI’s brand values. Other brands take note: this is how you do digital.

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The beginnings of MUJI date back to the early 1980’s, when it served as a generic supermarket brand. Since then the company has grown into a well-respected global name, encompassing a huge variety of goods, everything from housewares to fashion. “Muji” is short for “Mujirushi Ryohin” or “brandless quality goods.”

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If you’re familiar with MUJI then you can see the irony in this; MUJI’s “brandless” has become quite the well-known brand. In recent years they’ve expanded out of Asia and into European and North American markets, having seduced design-centric crowds, their wares even sold in MoMA. MUJI to Sleep seeks to continue the brand’s successful trend of function meets natural simplicity.

 

In an ever-increasing digital world, it’s hard to keep electronics out of the bed, even when we know we’re not supposed to. But MUJI’s sleep app defies this logic, using the sounds of nature on your smartphone or tablet to make drifting off easier. It’s a very niche app, thus the interface and design is refreshingly simple and straightforward. You swipe through six calming sounds of nature: seaside waves, tweeting birds, kindling fire, a stream, forest, and waterfall.

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Every sound was recorded on-location, in Japan, using head-shaped binaural microphones to closely duplicate the experience of actually being within the setting. This technique creates an audio frequency gap between the left and right ear that syncs with the user’s brainwave cycle to encourage sleep. Each sound can be set to a timer of 30, 60, or 90 minutes.

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This app couldn’t fit any better within the MUJI family. The brand has risen to popularity precisely because of its refined products and tidy stores, which ultimately offer a bastion of calm. MUJI to Sleep reinforces this association with its minimalistic design and simple, yet functional use. The app is clearly a brand-builder, but doubles as a product-seller too.

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Accompanying MUJI to Sleep is a fantastic microsite that demonstrates the app’s use when paired with one of the company’s most popular products, the Well-Fitted Neck Cushion. The app appears to have been created to supplement the cushion’s effectiveness (and that of other other MUJI products too). The two compliment each other so well that you feel like you can’t own one without the other, effectively creating need and consequently moving product off the shelves.

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This isn’t MUJI’s first foray into the digital; the company has successfully released other apps that work congruent to their physical offerings. It’s an effective means of digital advertising and marketing—I don’t feel like I’m being worked over by the brand as they’re offering me functional experiences to enhance my living.

“MUJI to Sleep” is available now for both iOS and Android devices. Sweet dreams and happy snoozing.

Nick Partyka

August 25, 2014 / By

Feeling Disorganized? Try Mise-en-place, It Works For Chefs

Organize Like A Chef with mise-en-placeOrganize Like A Chef with mise-en-place

Mise-en-place is a French phrase which means “putting in place”, as in set up. For many chefs this phrase is not only a helpful saying, it’s a motto to live ones life by. Dan Charnas recently did a great piece on mise-en-place where he spoke to chefs about the practice and how it affects their time in the kitchen as well as their personal lives.

“It starts with your list,” says Wylie Dufresne, the James Beard award-winning chef and owner of New York restaurants wd~50 and Alder.

“What I used to do is, let’s say I had 23 items of mise-en-place I had to do every day. So I’d take a pad and I’d write them all down on the way home. And then I would crumple the list up and throw it out,” he says. “On my way to work I’d write the list again. And you become one with your list. You and the list are the same, because the list is scorched into your head.”

After I heard this story I couldn’t help but equate the practice to design. I’ve started to write more lists, I’ve created an editorial calendar to keep track of posts, I try to keep my desktop and worktop clean and organized. There’s something enjoyable to me about the regiment of mise-en-place, the commitment to your craft.

Bobby Solomon

August 25, 2014 / By

Snøhetta Creates The Upscale Condo of Beehives

Snøhetta - Vulkan Beehive

Snøhetta - Vulkan Beehive

Bees are an important of our ecosystem, so why wouldn’t we create special places for them to live in our cities? That’s the course architecture and design firm Snøhetta has taken, creating a honeycomb inspired dwelling that sits atop the Vulkan Bigård project at Mathallen.

Having two intersecting hexagonal volumes to create the form, which were then adjusted in height and width to fit with the needs of the beekeeper. Using a light colored wood with a finish that is honey in tone was also a relationship that we wanted to create and present.

Unfortunately there are no photos of the inside quite yet, I’m guessing because the bees need some time to do their work. Still, it’s nice to see the idea of the beehive transformed into something more eye-catching, and hopefully, getting people to think more about bees and their relationship with us and nature.

Snøhetta - Vulkan Beehive

Snøhetta - Vulkan Beehive

Bobby Solomon

August 25, 2014 / By

Artist Olafur Eliasson Turns a Gallery Into A Riverbed

Olafur Eliasson

Just a little north from Copenhagen you will find the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Currently it’s home to a solo exhibition by the Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Best known for his sculptures and large-scale installation art, Eliasson often works with elemental materials such as water, light, air and soil. For this, his first solo show at Louisiana, the artist has decided to turn the entire south-wing of the museum into a riverbed; transforming the galleries into a giant unfolding landscape of rocks, stones and water.

Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson

Described as a “stress-test of Louisiana’s physical capacity”, the installation is a surreal and beautiful sight. Visitors are encouraged to walk on the rocky surfaces and spaces are entered through semi-submerged gallery doorways. I think it looks terrific and I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to hear the trickle of water running through the small galleries of the Museum.

Olafur Eliasson

The exhibition is due to open to the public on 20 August, more details can be found on the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art website.

Philip Kennedy

August 25, 2014 / By

Start Out The Week With An Ambient Mix by Deru

Deru

“Put it on as the sun goes down.” That’s the way Deru describes his newest mix which contains a number of unique tracks. Overall the mix is really laid back and mysterious feeling. There’s a lot of ambience to it and you’re never sure where it’s headed. My favorite part is The Acid transitioning into Philip Glass’ “Mishima” score. A mellow way to get the week started out.

00:00 – Random record samples #1
00:48 – Holger Czukay – Floatspace
03:46 – The Haxan Cloak – Excavation, Pt. 2
07:15 – Jacaszek – Dare-gale
12:25 – Kyson – You May Have Limited Time
17:18 – Random record samples #2
18:08 – The Acid – Veda
23:00 – Glass & Nyman: Works for Saxophone Quartet – String Quartet No. 3, “Mishima”
24:13 – Drew Gragg – Refraction
26:36 – Julien Neto – Sketch
29:59 – Random record samples #3
31:15 – Alessandro Cortini – Rovine
38:15 – Deru – The Future Never Comes
42:12 – Downliners Sekt – Soul Débris
50:18 – Random record samples #4
53:15 – Alex Banks – All You Could Do (Alternate Version)
57:00 – Mirroring – Fell Sound
1:02:11 – William Basinski – Dlp 1.1

Bobby Solomon

August 25, 2014 / By

Neverclear: Re-Imagining The Worst Alcohol on Earth

Neverclear by Toni Hall

Everclear, an alcohol bottled the American spirits company Luxco, is renowned for it’s deadly alcohol content, 95%, which is basically ethanol, which is commonly mixed with gasoline. University of Wisconsin-Stout student Toni Hall thought that a sexier, less deadly version, might be good for the market, so she created this lovely bottle for her fictional brand, Neverclear.

Neverclear by Toni Hall

A part of her design of the bottle was to simulate the feeling of being intoxicated. To this end she chose a bottle with a diamond shape and printed moire patterns on the back label. The combination then creates a warping effect that’s something akin to knocking a few too many back. A really clever way of utilizing graphics to illustrate a concept.

My only issue is with the logo on the bottle which doesn’t read clearly as Neverclear. It might have been more successful if the A in Clear didn’t have it’s cross bar, this allowing Never to read more clearly. Otherwise I know this bottle would absolutely jump out to me on the shelf, even though I hate vodka.

Neverclear by Toni Hall

Bobby Solomon

August 22, 2014 / By

Wearables Are Out, Earables Are In

Wearables Are Out, Earables Are In

The nonstop talk about wearables, specifically devices that will be worn on the wrist, is reaching a fever peak. The expectations for Apple to release some sort of iWatch is only fueling the fire, though a recent article in Technology Review highlights that the wrist isn’t the best place for measuring your vitals. It’s your ears.

Valencell, a company based in Raleigh, North Carolina, thinks they have it figured out.

To make this kind of thing work, PerformTek fits an optical emitter, photodetector, and accelerometer into an earbud. The emitter shines an infrared light on a part of the ear between the concha and antitragus—essentially, the lower part of the bowl of your ear, just above your earlobe—and the photodetector picks up the light that scatters off nearby blood vessels. The accelerometer, meanwhile, measures your movement. A digital signal processor (which can be housed inside or outside the earbud) analyzes the data, removing “noise” like skin movement or sunlight and extracting information like heart and respiration rates. With accelerometer and blood-flow data, LeBoeuf says, Valencell’s algorithms can also estimate things like the number of calories you’ve burned. The data is then sent on to your smartphone.

Maybe Spike Jonze wasn’t too far off with Her?

Bobby Solomon

August 22, 2014 / By

Interview with Daryl Villanueva, Founder of Bandit9 Motorcycle Design

Interview with Daryl Villanueva, Founder of Bandit9 Motorcycle Design

I first came across Bandit9 Motorcycles and the work of Daryl Villanueva back in 2012. I don’t know much about motorcycles or the culture but I know good industrial design when I see it. The work that Daryl is doing is pretty phenomenal so I spoke with him about his start in the business, his newest concept Bishop, and if he’s found his true calling.

Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into making custom motorcycles. How did Bandit9 get started?
I’m Daryl Villanueva. I was born in the Philippines, raised in Hong Kong, Australia and Malaysia, studied graphic design in the States, worked as an Art Director/Creative Director in Los Angeles, Dubai, Vietnam and Beijing. Now I am the creator and chief designer of Bandit9 Motorcycle Design. I’m back in Saigon to start our new Southeast Asian operation.

Bandit9 Motorcycle Design

I started messing with bikes in Saigon in 2009, hence the 9 in Bandit9. My very first motorcycle was a 50cc Honda Cub. My first ride on the Cub was like achieving nirvana. I used to go out for these midnight rides with my girlfriend – the streets were empty, nothing but stars above you, a quiet lake on one side and a jungle on the other. It was completely quiet except for the buzzing of the 50cc engine. There was something really poetic about the experience. Something clicked inside; I fell in love with motorcycles.

A few years later, I was in Beijing and I was starting to get sick of my advertising gig so I planned my escape. I didn’t have that “fearless” entrepreneur spirit so I had to juggle both jobs for a while. I wanted to test whether or not people would be interested in my designs. It started real slow but after 3 years of building a brand and learning about the motorcycle industry, I finally freed myself from my advertising chains.

Bandit9 Bishop

You’re working on a new bike called Bishop (seen above), which to me feels quite different from other bikes I see. What’s the story behind it?

Bandit9 Saigon is focused on designing high-end motorcycles at affordable prices.

What we try to do with every release, Bishop included, is to create some sort of controversy. The response we got to Bishop was quite polarizing. People either really loved it or really hated it. And that tells me a few things:
• it’s a sign that Bishop is something unfamiliar
• it conjures up an emotion, which is what I want whenever we design bikes
• love it or hate it, people give a damn about it.

Besides the design challenge, ensuring that the bike is affordable is quite difficult. It easy to dream big but dreaming big on a budget is hard. It takes a lot of research and negotiation with suppliers. And if it goes over what I think is affordable, I’d have to go back to the drawing board. $6400 is not a small amount of money but if you look around, it’s hard to get something with the same craftsmanship and design aesthetic as Bishop for less than $15,000.

You’ve made a lot of beautiful custom bikes in the past, what do you think sets the Bishop apart?
I think Bishop is the only bike that allows the purity of its materials to do the work. It has no paint, it has no finish, it has no tricks, no bells, no whistles. It’s simply a mixture of elements – wood and high-grade metal. That’s definitely my favorite thing about the bike. It’s quite an honest design.

Bandit9 Motorcycle Design

What do you think of the motorcycle market in general? Is there a growing desire for more handmade bikes?

To be honest, why people still go for stock bikes completely baffles me. Buying a motorcycle, at least for me, is more of an emotional response to a piece of art-machinery. I must be missing something but I don’t see the artistry in today’s stock bikes with all the decals, bumpy lines, and odd proportions.
Yes, the market for handmade bikes is growing but I’d love to see it grow at a faster rate.

Other than yourself, who do you feel is making truly beautiful bikes?
I’m a huge fan of Shinya Kimura. I think his designs are a testament of what a bike can be. Shinya’s designs aren’t just incrementally better than the other builders, he leapfrogs them. The most incredible thing about Shinya is not his motorcycles but Shinya himself. This sounds like a man crush but I love what the man’s about – his philosophy, his character, his wisdom, everything! The man is a living legend in my opinion.

Bandit9 Motorcycle Design

Do you feel like building motorcycles is your one true calling? At this point can you see yourself doing anything else?
Ha! Today it is. Can I see myself doing anything else? God, I hope so. I don’t think I can stick to one thing. I’m interested in so many things. I want to design video games, I want to be a street photographer, I want to create furniture, I want to do more work with charity, I want to travel more, I want to go back to school. The list is absolutely endless and I do hope I get to all of it before I’m in the ground. One thing’s for sure, I can’t imagine doing only one thing for the rest of my life.

Bobby Solomon

August 22, 2014 / By

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