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The Week in Design: A Gorgeous ATM and a Ridiculous Fridge, Contrasted

this week's concepts
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.

This week saw one of the best redesigns we've come across lately, and the responsible party is no less an organization than IDEO, the creative think-tank responsible for Apple's iconic first mouse and a host of other human-centered designs. Some of the week's other concepts seemed to forget the human element, such as how a person might effectively use a small refrigerator that's bolted to the outside of their dwelling. Check out our top design picks, and the horrid duds, after the break.

ATM Redesign for BBVA by IDEO

ideo atm redesign
IDEO, masterminds of redesign, recognized that one of the ATM's biggest design flaws is that it gives users no sense of the 180-degree perspective behind them, and thus opens them up to muggers and PIN-spies. For a new version of the staple cash 'bot, IDEO turned the entire unit 90-degrees, so that all of those foot-tapping patrons and psych ward escapees have to line up within your field of vision. And the interface is just as novel. Conceptualized for Spanish bank BBVA, this ATM looks more like an iPad than a clunky cash machine, foregoing the standard UI for a personalized, dynamic one. The touch-screen system remembers your most frequent actions (like depositing checks, or, in your writer's case, just withdrawing), and gives you the same options you'd get online. Plus it offers something stupidly obvious that we've never seen in any ATM: a pop-up keyboard. Watch a video of the ATM in action here.

Perpetual Storytelling Apparatus by Julius von Bismarck and Benjamin Maus

perpetual storytelling apparatus
Less a functional object than a design-art experiment, the Perpetual Storytelling Apparatus is a sort of paean to the history of other people's designs. Julius von Bismarck and Benjamin Maus made this digital-analog hybrid printer, which finds correlations between the words in a book and the keywords in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's database of 22 million patents. (Stay with us here.) The machine first downloads a book, and discards simple pronouns and articles like "the" before arranging the remainder of words in chronological order; it then searches for patents related to each of those keywords, looking for similarities. (Each patent references older patents, called "prior arts.") Finally, the machine uses a computer-controlled pencil to map out the design "story" that it finds embedded in the original book, semantically arranging the patents on a long spool of paper. You're left with an alternative, design-oriented history to, say, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' that looks at the timeline of innovation related to elements from the novel. Still confused? Watch a video of the machine at work here.

Ferrowatch by Karim Zaoui

ferrowatch by karim zaoui
We must admit that we've kind of lost our love for the endless stream of watches flowing from what seems like every damn design studio. (Guys, get over it. People have these things called cellphones now!) Still, we have to admit that Karim Zaoui's Ferrowatch gave us pause. Less interesting is the fact that it's a timepiece; what gets us is the display's technology, which utilizes ferrofluid (a highly metallic colloidal fluid) that is shaped by a precise magnetic field. Ferrowatch displays time by moving the ferrofluid around the watch face, but we can only imagine that this kind of display could be utilized in far more dynamic and exciting applications. Three-dimensional cell phone interface, anyone? See the watch "hands" magnetically move in a video here.

Electrolux External Refrigerator by Nicolas Hubert

electrolux external refrigerator
As kitchen gadget fiends, we're always excited to see some new culinary tech concept hit the Net. But the Electrolux concepts fill us with dread as they appear on our RSS feeds, continuing to disappoint by ignoring how people actually work in a kitchen. Nicolas Hubert's External Refrigerator is exactly what it sounds like: a fridge that hangs outside your home, ostensibly near a window. The concept is supposedly based on old-timey Chinese kitchens, where food was simply left out on the window sill to cool in the natural climate -- a perfectly acceptable practice on its own. But Hubert's interpretation is outrageously small and contains no freezer. While it boasts some energy-saving properties, like photovoltaic panels that absorb solar watts and an air-reflow feature to help cool your food with the existing atmosphere, the design itself is so positively dumb that it negates its eco-friendly aspirations. (You have to slide out the entire unit to grab an item inside, thus exposing the whole interior and its cool air to the elements.) The side of the unit features a digital temperature display and energy-saving pie chart, which you'd need to stick your head out the window to even see. The side that faces out plays some kind of "lightning animation" that will "communicate a living ambiance" at night. In other words, it'll be a great target for rock-throwing kids and sleeping neighbors.

P&P Office Waste Paper Processor by Chengzhu Ruan, Yuanyuan Liu, Xinwei Yuan & Chao Chen

p&p paper processor
Oh, these wacky recycling devices! We can't get enough of them. We're always torn, liking them for their green thinking while hating them for their poor execution. The P&P Office Waste Paper Processor is no different -- a sleek little gadget that looks like a portable printer, but actually turns your document refuse into pencils. From what we can tell from the designers' concept, the P&P simply rolls a single sheet of paper really tight around a piece of "lead" (we sure hope they meant "graphite"), while gluing the paper in place. After a few moments, you've got a pencil! Now, we wonder if these designers have ever stepped foot inside a large office. We'd gather that anywhere between 100 and 500 sheets of paper hit the recycling bin in our little corner of the building alone -- meaning that, had we a P&P, we'd soon be overrun with pencils like so many Tribbles. Considering that few offices run through pencils that quickly, you'd end up with a dead product. Rather than recycling the paper into, you know, more paper, you end up with a machine whose graphite and glue supplies need frequent refilling, and a product that won't be used nearly as often as it's produced.

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