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This Week in Design: Pared-Down Flashlights and Zany Umbrella Dryers


The Web is teeming with the unrealized ideas of both students and established designers who set out to produce astonishing renderings and prototypes for unusual products. Unfortunately, due to the lack of time, money, or technology, many of those products never progress from the planning stages to the mass market. But that doesn't mean we can't salivate over them, nevertheless.

We've decided to change direction in our design concepts posts. While we will still look for trends, we want to let you know what's happening right now in the intersection between technology and design. This week, some great concepts and prototypes hit the Web, such as one simple hack of a 9-volt battery resulting in high design. There were, too, though, lazier ideas that could have used some more thought, like a device that dries your umbrella for you. So, without further ado, here are our picks for the best (and worst) designs of the week.

Standard Flashlight by Oscar Diaz

Standard Flashlight by Oscar Diaz
Oscar Diaz gets the title of Best Design of the Week for his Standard Flashlight. This simple device came from his self-imposed challenge to repurpose objects found at a discount store. The lamp clips onto a 9-volt battery, which serves both as the flashlight's power source (obviously) and handle. Minimal because it strips away the unnecessary, Diaz's Standard is elegant, simple, functional and economical.

Light Pool by Hironao Tsuboi

Light Pool by Hironao Tsuboi
Hironao Tsuboi's Light Pool phone finally addresses the form-factor of mobiles as a site for expression. The triangular lattice casing is made up of LED-embedded cells that emit light and sound in sequences that were designed by musician and artist Takagi Masakatsu, and can be assigned to specific callers in your address book. The flip-phone sports only a 3.2-inch screen (along with an 8-megapixel camera and 16 gigabytes of memory), but the slim silhouette and delicious design more than make up for the small display. Users can also apply two different films to the casing: one that is made from Japanese paper and emits a soft light, and a black one that stays dark under the sun but produces a delicate luminance at night.

Adaptive Fa[ca]de by Marilena Skavara

Adaptive Fa[ca]de by Marilena Skavara
Conceived as an installation piece, Marilena Skavara's Adaptive Fa[ca]de draws from the idea of cellular automata and Conway's Game of Life. Her adaptive skin senses and responds to shifts in light, providing the optimal light intensity in a given space. With an artificial neural network attached, Adaptive Fa[ca]de learns from its previous movements, and adapts itself accordingly. We love her project because it's not only beautiful as a piece of high-tech, high-concept sculpture, but also because it could be applied to buildings and agricultural plots, and reflect the shifting course of sunlight throughout the day. Check out a video of the project here.

Nokia Kinetic by Jeremy Innes-Hopkins Design

Nokia Kinetic by Jeremy Innes-Hopkins
Jeremy Innes-Hopkins has designed a clever method of silent cell phone notification; his Nokia Kinetic concept simply raises from a supine position to let you know when you've gotten a call. While tasteful and forward-thinking, the pear-like form-factor goes against the trend of current slim phones, and the ballast end might be uncomfortable in pockets. Plus, we could imagine that dudes who keep this phone in their pockets and get a call, say, on a first date might it find it, um, embarrassing.

Dismount Washer by Lichen Guo

Dismount Washer by Lichen Guo
Lichen Guo's Dismount Washer sports some key features of a great design: a contemporary aesthetic, portability and a small environmental footprint when compared to its larger counterparts. (And you needn't worry about spilling water all over yourself, since the machine runs on steam.) The appliance's scale is at once its greatest strength and its greatest liability. As most of us do not live minimalist lifestyles with only a handful of garments, washing each outfit in turn would not only be incredibly time-consuming, but less energy-efficient than washing a full load. Also, as DVICE points out, where do you hook it up?

Swan Umbrella Dryer by Noh Seon Mi

Like the great Alton Brown, we loathe unitaskers. We're also unimpressed by designs that try to meet a need we never knew existed, such as the alleged problem of wet umbrellas. Yes, a dripping umbrella could make for a slippery floor, and cause someone to hurt themselves. But umbrellas are very forgiving objects, allowing you to shake them out, or to open and close them to scatter those obnoxious droplets. For public spaces, Noh Seon Mi proposes the Swan Umbrella Dryer, a device which not only eats energy (as it runs on electricity to dry your parapluie) but also takes up a great deal of space. Note to designers: not everything needs to be automated. And, as the less-great Rihanna once said, "These fancy things will never come in between."

Tags: AdaptiveFacade, CellPhone, concepts, design, designconcepts, DismountWasher, features, HironaoTsuboi, JeremyInnes-hopkinsDesign, LichenGuo, LightPool, MarilenaSkavara, NohSeonMi, nokia, NokiaKinetic, OscarDiaz, StandardFlashlight, SwanUmbrellaDryer, TakagiMasakatsu, top, WashingMachine