I admire US design powerhouse like IDEO. So I was excited to see Spark Innovations (founded by Robert Dickie in 1988) doing something cool and taking a different approach at King City (north of Toronto), Canada.
The following G&M article is where I first read of Robert’s Spark Innovations.
Also check out some patents by Robert from a Google search.
United States patent number 5,231,973, the single-hand-operated, camshaft-enabled disposable plastic speculum with built-in fluid reservoir, developed in the waning days of the 1980s, will never be remembered as one of the more vital innovations of the dawning digital age. Nor will the same inventor’s bottle for white glue with housing to attach glue stick, developed in 1993 (patent number 5,316,398). Likewise with 2001’s “rotatably disposed” drive mechanism for an oscillating head (6,536,066) or even last year’s behaviour-monitoring toothbrush (application 20090307859; patent pending) that proposes—in a belated nod, perhaps, to the advent of the iPad era—to dole out video game minutes to children who properly brush their teeth.
And yet as unsexy as the business may be, inventor Robert Dickie and his firm, Spark Innovations, are doing just fine. That speculum design sold for cash and royalties to a U.S. medical products company a few years ago. The glue-bottle-and-stick combination, designed for the owner of LePage’s Inc. to introduce high-margin glue sticks to reluctant North American consumers, became a retail hit and helped transform the school and children’s adhesives market. And while the video game toothbrush has yet to find a market, that rotatably disposed oscillating head helped make one of Spark’s spinoff ventures, called BrushPoint Innovations, the top supplier of house brand electric toothbrushes to Walgreens, Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws and Zellers. “From a cold start in 1995, we’re the fourth-biggest power toothbrush company in North America,” Dickie says. “And nobody knows our name.”
Objectified is in Calgary – a film with Jonathan Ive, Apple MacBook Pro, IDEO, Tim Brown, Smart Design, Karim Rashid, Dunne & Raby, and moreTuesday, 26 January, 2010
I’ve been waiting for Objectified, Gary Hustwit’s latest documentary about design and our relationship with manufactured objects, for some time now. And now a few copies of the film DVD is finally available to borrow for free from the Calgary Public Library. Of course, you can also buy a copy of the film, rent it form iTune or buy some stuff from Gary’s website if you want to.
Here is a synopsis of Objectified from Amazon,
“Nearly everyone spends their life surrounded by the work of industrial designers, but very few people understand the process by which your furniture, cell phone, or alarm clock came to look and feel the way they do, and how the elements of design interact with our own ideas and assumptions about value and functionality. [...] Filmmaker Gary Hustwit takes viewers on a journey through the elusive world of industrial design and the interaction of people with the objects they’ve brought into their lives in the documentary Objectified, which features interviews with a number of major designers who discuss how products move from the drawing board to the marketplace, and the philosophy behind the look, feel, and function of the things in your home.”
Before I go on to talk more about the documentary, here is a clip of the film to give you a taste of what you will see,
- As a lover of many Apple designed products, Jonathan Ive’s discussion is just great to watch over and over again.
- This reporter was amazed to see the number of apple peelers the designers looked at before they come up with a better one.
- A hackable iRobot vacuum cleaner that showed a hamster driving the iRobot, yes, the hamster’s movement drives the vacuum cleaner. Very cute and funny.
- The toothbrush re-design discussion at IDEO, a world leading global design consultancy firm, is amazingly insightful and not to be missed.
And even the extra bonus interviews on the DVD were very insightful and interesting. One of the interviewee talked about “Design and China”. At the moment, China is the manufacturing plant of the world. But the Chinese government has put in lots of resources to train their graduates. Now, imagine, one day in the not too distant future, China starts designing interesting products with Chinese visual sensibility and understanding of the world. It will be interesting to see what comes out of China.
Finally, in the “extras”, the Dunne & Raby discussion of their “Evidence Dolls” project was fascinating. The idea of the “Evidence Dolls” was to use objects as a tool to ask question. (Warning: Potentially mature content. I will be watching this series of Evidence Dolls Interviews by a number of women. Very touching and deeply soulful.)
And here is a most insightful post screening Q&A at the Walker Art Center where the host is one of the subject interviewed by Gary in the film. Great stuff.