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The Week in Design: Paper-Shredding Coffee Tables and Bacteria-Spreading Soap


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.

The simplest designs are frequently the best designs; it takes far more skill and ingenuity to update the function of a time-tested object than to simply give it a face-lift. This week's list features some of the least thought-out designs we've ever come across, from a pretty toaster that couldn't possibly ever work, to a soap-recycling device with good intentions but terrible execution. We also found designs concerned with waste, energy and economy, though, such as beautiful little cups made from delicately flavored algae. You can give your eco-conscience a breather, and just toss them into the garden after a healthy quaff. Check out our picks for the best and worst designs of the week after the break.

The Papervore by Pigeontail Design

The Papervore by Pigeontail Design
We love whimsical designs like Pigeontail's Papervore coffee table. It's not just an elegant and modern surface; Papervore devours your junk mail, and makes it part of the design, too. In the age of personal privacy threats, shredding sensitive documents is practically de rigueur. Papervore reflects this need, but creates a sort of beauty from your refuse. A cartoonish hand-crank powers this lo-fi shredder, which swallows your documents through a thin mouth at its center. When Papervore is full, simply empty it out to make room for a different shade of filling, and stick the rest in the recycling bin. Check out a video of Papervore in action here.


Aerogenerator X by Grimshaw and Arup

Aerogenerator X by Grimshaw and Arup
Despite what's happened in the Gulf, we're not opposed to off-shore energy operations -- that is, as long as they resemble Grimshaw and Arup's Aerogenerator X. Attached to the shallower end of the sea floor, the Aerogenerator X is a reinterpreted wind turbine that takes advantage of volatile sea winds. As an update to British company Wind Power Limited's original Aerogenerator design, X spans 880 feet and can generate twice the power (10 megawatts) of the original. The first Aerogenerator, like many wind turbines, suffers as the result of weight-induced fatigue on the blades. The new design is only half the height of the original, though, with its weight centered in its base, reducing the stress on the blades while generating more electricity.

Jelloware by The Way We See The World

Jelloware by The Way We See The World
Jelloware may be a bit of a misnomer for these edible and biodegradable cups, but we can imagine that the designers at The Way We See The World didn't think Agarware was a very pretty name. Unlike Jell-O, which is made from animal gelatin, Jelloware cups are constructed completely from agar agar, a polysaccharide derived from red algae. As a vegetarian gelatin substitute, agar agar is used in the stabilizing surface in Petri dishes, the Japanese dessert yōkan, medications, and commercially produced food. It is also enjoying a renaissance by molecular gastronmists. The Jelloware comes in various flavors, including lemon/basil, ginger/mint and rosemary/beet (an addition that we could personally do without). But the best part about Jelloware is that, when you're through, you can feel great about littering; the disintegrating cups will only nurture your growing plants.

Moshi by Rolando Hernández Garcilazo

Moshi by Rolando Hernández Garcilazo
Rolando Hernández Garcilazo's Moshi kitchenette is ambitious, to say the least; a solution for cramped living spaces, the compact Moshi unit boasts a sink, refrigerator, dish dryer, induction cook-top and washer/dryer, along with a separate touch-screen control panel and sensor-enabled shelf. This beautiful little design does sport a number of problems, though, the most glaring of which is the fact that an all-in-one modular kitchenette would probably sport an asking price too expensive for tiny apartment dwellers -- and what kind of studio comes without a fridge, cook-top, or sink?

moolEdge by Atıl Kızılbayır

moolEdge by Atıl Kızılbayır
Continuing with the kitchen theme, it's always amusing to see designers try to reinterpret a simple, time-tested object while completely destroying its usefulness. For his moolEdge toaster, Atıl Kızılbayır put together a very sexy video that explains absolutely nothing about the toaster's function, and sadly attempts to emulate a Ligne Roset ad. Yes, moolEdge is pretty, but it pretty well fails otherwise. The sliding dock for your toast is neat in theory, but how might it hold a bagel or a thin slice? Secondly, the video shows a single heating element in the middle of either side, which would -- we'd think -- result in toast that is burnt in the center and untouched on the top and bottom. We would be shocked if Kızılbayır had read Donald Norman's classic 'The Design of Everyday Things,' which discusses ass-backwards designs such as this, and from which the Kızılbayır himself might stand to benefit if he would ever like to see this thing go into production.

Re-Bubble Soap Dispenser by Woo Jae Lee, Min Su Kim and Woong Ki Kim

Re-Bubble Soap Dispenser by Woo Jae Lee, Min Su Kim and Woong Ki Kim
We were positively stunned by the stupidity of this concept, and even further stumped by the fact that it took three designers (Woo Jae Lee, Min Su Kim and Woong Ki Kim) to come up with one of the worst ideas we've ever seen. The Re-Bubble Soap Dispenser begins with the premise that old soap bar stubs take up space and are wasteful. So, the designers asked themselves, why not make a soap dispenser that can grind old soaps into a bubbly liquid for use in public restrooms? Well, we'll give you three great reasons why not: 1) since this brilliant plan comes with no UV-sanitizer to zap the nasties from your hairy old bar of soap, all of your fecal coliforms and H1N1 particles will just contaminate the whole batch of processed suds; 2) liquid soap is not just melted bar soap -- fats and other stabilizers keep bars solid to prevent them from turning into liquid; and 3) the hodgepodge of various fats, alkalis, fragrances and fomenting bacterial soup is sure to not only irritate your hands, but make them dirtier in the process. Terrible, terrible idea.

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