Whether you view China's shanzai workshops as clever innovators or outright bandits, there's no denying that they're good at what they do. Shanzhai cellphones accounted for about 20% of the global 2G mobile market in 2010, and shanzhai companies like Baidu and Tencent are now emerging as world-class players in age of internet commerce. The name "shanzhai" is a reference to historical warlord hideouts, nestled high in the mountains beyond the reach of government control, and today describes counterfeiters and gadget-makers with a similarly healthy disrespect for the law. To their detractors, the shanzhai are shameless imitators, selling cut-rate knockoffs under names like SQNY electronics, Bucksstar coffee, Blockberry, and Hiphone. To others, they are creatively borrowing and building on available ideas, improving products and adapting them to local markets. The "Nckia" brand name might be a blatant rip off, but the built-in flashlight could be useful in areas without reliable electricity, and who wouldn't want a combination cigarette box and cell phone?Read More
With a soaring twenty-foot throwing arm, a hulking wooden frame, and three hundred pounds of sand hanging pendulously in its belly, our catapult made for an impressive school project. Mike and I had been working for weeks, but despite the machine’s fearsome appearance there was still plenty of work to be done. The latch that released the projectile was in particular giving us no end of trouble, alternately flinging its payload into the ground at our feet or sending us scampering for cover as potatoes and cantaloupes rained down from above. We put in countless afterschool afternoons and no small amount of engineering effort, but in the end were defeated. Where had we gone wrong?
Let start by stepping back. Designers often talk about “Ah Ha” moments, where the problems that had been bedeviling them are suddenly resolved and a brilliant design makes itself known. Mine came a bit late, about twelve years late, after dozens of engineering courses, an undergraduate degree and a masters, and half of a PhD. It actually hit me last week, when I came across this picture in MAKE Magazine:Read More
As QR codes have become more common, they've begun to fade in the eyes of consumers. Getting people to pull out their phones and scan over to the advertiser's website is taking a bit more work, but with a 30% tolerance in readability some designers have taken license to play. I recently came across this fun compilation on Mashable of some of the most creative designs out there, with more at BitRebels.