Apple is always the company that springs to mind when people think of outstanding consumer-product design. And while you may be tired of everyone throwing themselves at the altar of Steve Jobs, Apple consistently churns out innovative products that are defined by their beauty, intuitiveness, and usefulness--qualities that have forever influenced the way we think about and assess consumer goods. Editor’s Note This piece is part of a series explaining each category in Fast Company’s Innovation By Design Awards . So whether you’re buying a coffeemaker, laptop bag, or thermostat, you probably look first and foremost for a design that...Read more

Philosopher Thomas Nagel once famously asked, "What is it like to be a bat?" His point was to illustrate the ineffable, inaccessible alienness of other beings’ experience. I couldn’t help but think of it while watching filmmaker/designer/researcher Timo Arnall 's intriguing video sketch "Robot Readable World." What is it like to be a box of processors attached to a camera? Something like this, maybe: Arnall is a creative director at Berg , so it’s not surprising that he’s interested in exploring semi-philosophical questions about human-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence, and networked perception. Nor is it surprising that he chose to do...Read more

Furniture designers don’t often get the chance to correct their mistakes: Their products are on the market for a couple of years and, with few awesomely popular exceptions, eventually get dropped from their manufacturers’ catalogs to make room for new stock. But Ikea, the go-to big box for affordable Scandinavian design, has given its designers the opportunity to revise their work (as well as that of their predecessors), adding increased functionality and sustainability. “[We] challenged our designers to bring their designs forward with innovative products that belong in the future,” Janice Simonsen, Ikea’s design spokesperson, says.

For most of the history of design, the designer has enjoyed the role of creator and a quality of authorship. A designer makes a thing, and that thing is produced in large quantities, distributing the designer’s vision, ideals, and values—cultural influence—into the world. In fact these days, a design and its creator’s values can be introduced into the digital world in a day or an hour. Given the power of designer as author, critique is usually aimed at a designed thing’s characteristics: how it looks, how it provides value, how easy it is to use. Outside of small circles of...Read more

Most of the furnishings we feature here display an exacting attention to form, with every detail predetermined and nothing left to chance. That’s not true of Guy Mishaly ’s Blast stools, whose final shapes are determined by the force of TNT explosions. “The starting point to this project was how to navigate energy, creating by manipulating energy that is naturally used to harm and destroy,” the Israeli designer, a recent Bezalel grad, explains. “Another goal was to invent a system that in the same way of use will always provide different results.” Mishaly starts by building basic boxes and cylinders...Read more

How many links, videos, statuses, GIFs, tweets, posts, and pins have passed through your optic nerves today? Out of those, how many have you "liked" enough to repost, reshare, reblog, retweet, or otherwise share? And out of those , how many do you actually recall anything of substance about? Robin Sloan is troubled by this phenomenon, and says so in his new "tap essay" for iPhone, "Fish ". It’s a written argument, but it’s not really an e-book; it’s an interactive product, but it’s not really an app, either. Think of it as an idea-with-an-interface. Not a big idea--"Fish" only...Read more

Nendo , the tirelessly prolific Japanese design studio, is launching a new brand called K% , in collaboration with Singapore’s K Projects. The venture’s inaugural offering will be on display as part of an exhibition titled Black & Black--so named because all of the pieces are black--at Tortona Design Week , held in conjuction with Salone Internazionale Del Mobile.

We eat like kings. Whether you’re shopping at Whole Foods or Walmart, the global scope of produce is remarkable: pineapples from Hawaii, avocados from Mexico, and even simple water bottled and shipped from a small island across the globe.

I remember a simpler time. A time when a trip to Costco was a frolic, the only challenge was filling the minivan with microwavable hors d’oeuvres without removing the baby seat. After the outbreak, everything changed. I saw a man murdered for the last box of mini quiches, a soggy thing soaked in its own condensation. While I’d like to consider myself a better man, I hid underneath a set of 50%-off patio furniture during the whole scene, clutching an oversized three-pack of Heinz close to my chest. Was the red on my flannel his blood, my blood, or a...Read more

Men spend an average of $5,000 on engagement rings, then drop another however many hundreds or thousands of dollars on wedding bands. Call me unromantic, but that is a huge waste of money (I’d rather spend 10 days in Antigua)--especially when you can buy what’s effectively two rings in one.

Starbucks sold $180 million in instant coffee last year--and it was in 5th place. Instant coffee, for as tongue-insultingly sickening it is in the face of real coffee (which can be made pretty darn easily and quickly!), has proven to be a tremendous, globally swaying product for decades. But how do you innovate in such a field? Starbucks broke in with their Via line through brute force of brand. In an area dominated by giants, where every product is going to be inherently lousy , how can your smaller, inherently lousy product be designed to stand out? A company named ...Read more

Heineken has unveiled a splashy new concept nightclub at Milan Design Week that takes the old marketing notion of identifying with your customer to a whole new level: The place gets its aesthetic cues from club kids themselves. It’s crowdsourced design.