I worked one summer many years ago as a janitor on the campus of Syracuse University. I worked in the men’s gymnasium that was attached to old Archbold Stadium, on the site where the Carrier Dome was erected a few years later. Cleaning the gyms was part of my duties there and it was interesting to watch some great athletes work out. But for me the more interesting aspect cam in the the lower level of the building where the Industrial Design department was located.
This was where the future was being designed by young, inquisitive minds who were always looking for new ways to streamline product designs for efficiency. I worked in the lab where they created prototypes and, as they had adjourned for the summer, was able to spend a lot of time wandering around among the clay rooms and drawing boards, gawking at the drawings and plans that had been left behind. They were a messy bunch but it was fascinating to see how their minds perceived the function and design of everyday items
It gave me a greater appreciation for the way products evolve. We have a use for an item and generally start a first impression of how it should function, creating a product to fit that function. But as time passes the function changes as does the technology and materials we employ in making these items and the design evolves. I think this folding bicycle designed a few years ago by Czech designer Josef Cadek is a great example. Called the Locust, it is a lightweight bike that folds into an efficiently transportable unit. The chain (actually a heavy belt) is fully encased so there is no oil to rub on your pant legs and it features a circular frame into which the whole bike folds.
I don’t know about how well this bike rides but the Dr. Seuss factor of its design sets it apart for me. I could see the Whos in Whoville spinning around town on these contraptions. Maybe a Dr. Seuss-like future is in store for us, after all. There are worse things…