Monthly Archives: October 2013

Motorola Mobility’s Design Challenge Finalist: Zac Lindemann

Whoever has seen Jaco Van Dormael’s film, Mr. Nobody, will come closer to understanding and appreciating the complexity, tragedy, randomness, and beauty in every decision we make. Equally important but on a much smaller scale, how are the ideas within our mind created and connected? Are our ideas shaped from the neurons in our brain pulling information from our subconscious and ultimately creating an opinion from those seemingly unimportant moments in life we tend to brush off? To answer this question with words, philosophy, or science is too concrete and artificial. Zac Lindemann has created a piece where the viewer can ponder this question in their own consciousness, which is, in the end, a more valuable experience to us all.

I won’t even try to explain Lindemann’s piece in my own words from here on out because it would be embarrassing… In the creator’s own words, the Synapse Desk “is a physical manifestation of the mystery and beauty inherent to human cognition. It is a representation of the inexplicable way in which the human mind connects random events and experiences, giving rise to new ideas and unforeseen possibilities… Thought and experience without context are meaningless. It is not until they are compounded within us that unified, innovative ideas begin to take root. Echoing this concept, the desk’s ‘synaptic’ latticework structure is intentionally unsystematic, and arbitrary when viewed without context. It is only when you begin to consider the entire matrix structure as a complete, connected entity that a beautiful, cohesive form emerges. This symbolizes the organic fusion of data points within the mind, resulting in a complete idea. The structure also visually emulates the neuron pathways in the brain, the physiological foundation of this process.”

Lindemann is currently living in Chicago, IL and majored in Manufacturing and Design Engineering, which is essentially a hybrid of Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Industrial Design. He grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, spending a lot of his time in the wilderness where he first started to realize the functional and raw beauty of nature – this is when and where his passion for design arose.

The desk is made out of… 1’’ birch dowel rods (145 total) (satin finish), 4’x8’1’’ sheet of birch-veneered MDF (satin finish), glass-fill nylon printed fittings (raw white), and a laser-cut aluminum logo with backlighting (satin, brushed, or polished). 

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Motorola Mobility’s Design Challenge Finalist: Javier Velez

The motivation for a product can come from an infinite amount of sources – a personal experience, a manufacturing process, a movie, a bird’s nest, etc. For Javier Velez, inspiration comes from the method and exploration of using one design discipline to inspire a project in another design field. He mentions, “I became focused on… using photography skills on architectural renderings and using architecture elements in furniture design.” Velez first found his passion for design while in high school, leading him to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture. He is now a student in California, pursuing his Master’s Degree.

Velez’s submission piece, Louvre, is a wonderful example of how a product’s inception can originate from the most unlikely of places. As stated before, Velez indulges in exploring different design principles and jumbling them up, looking for a way to create something beautiful from something so different. For the Louvre, he states that his inspiration was, as you may have already guessed, building louvers: “Louvers are designed to, most obviously, give shade and protect the interior of a building. A reception desk has the similar intent. It serves to be the ‘face’ of a building…” His design consists of multiple layers of plywood that are held static by the insertion of four steel rods all having 1in. diameters. Unlike any of the other designs, Velez also includes a unique seating structure as a part of the overall piece. Essentially, the seat is attached to the most bottom layer of plywood so that it can only move horizontally on one axis.





Tell Javier what you love about his design!

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Motorola Mobility’s Design Challenge Finalist: Adam Owens

The material of a product, whether it is wood, aluminum, or regular ABS plastic, is often the characteristic that gives it its ‘spirit’ or essence. Deceiving materials can ruin the experience and perception of a product almost instantaneously and ruin the brand forever for an individual. Adam Owens, one of the four finalists in Motorola Mobility’s Design Competition, understands this concept of material integrity beyond many individuals in the industry. Born and raised in Austin, TX, Owens was constantly in the shadow of construction sites with his dad, being exposed to industrial manufacturing processes (the most prominent being concrete processing). As a result of his upbringing, although Owens graduated with a B.S. in Mathematics, he ultimately became a freelance artist/designer after spending two semesters in architecture school.

To him, the material and even the building processes to create the final product is a direct reflection of the final outcome, which is no surprise after knowing his childhood was deeply connected to the manufacturing world. When talking about the materials he chose, Owens says, “the idea is to showcase the qualities of wood and concrete and the dialogue between the two.” He then goes on to explain how when forming concrete, wood is used as the frame to pour the concrete into and then the wood is simply forgotten. Yet, Owens’ design is more economical and efficient. Instead of discarding the wooden frame, he instead uses it as the main surface of the desk.

All in all, Owens’ design reflects a minimalist and wabi-sabi feel. And although the structure is completely asymmetric, it’s still so fully balanced and welcoming. It would be a perfect fit for Google’s new Motorola office in Fort Worth, TX.

Owens’ desk is made from concrete and Mesquite wood.

“Mesquite is a native tree to Texas and can be locally sourced from the Texas Hill Country. The species has adapted to harsher climates and is robust to environmental changes. This can be seen in the non-linear grain patterns and contributes to its strength as well as its tendency to remain flat and not warp. The reddish brown color provides a beautiful contrast to the concrete blocks.”  – Owens

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What do you think of Adam Owens’ design? Tell us what you think!

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Motorola Mobility’s Design Challenge Finalist: Christina Fehan

It is every designer’s dream for one of their pieces to set a trend in the industry or even simply to stand out and be recognized among the countless new products created every year. Motorola offered individuals in the product design industry a chance to achieve this goal or at least to tread one step closer. Christina Fehan is a 27 year old practicing industrial designer, residing in Chicago, IL. Currently working at Slate Design – a design firm specializing in modern home furniture and appliances – she has only been in the home goods industry for three months. Yet, her submission piece for the new front desk at Google’s Motorola office in Fort Worth, TX serves as a testament of her upcoming success and talent.

Fehan’s Airflow Desk, screams simplicity and elegance at their finest. As for the form of her piece, she states, “I pulled inspiration from the shape created by airflow around a plane wing, in similarity to the flow of visitors.” She also wanted to capture the essence of the Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge in Sao Paulo, Brazil through her use of metal rods as an illusion to support the entire structure. In this case, there is no call to the design proverb ‘form vs. function,’ but, rather, to its more esoteric twin – ‘form is function.’ Though the play on material is limited almost entirely to stainless steel with a hint of dark cherry wood giving off vibes of an industrial modern feel, Fehan’s Airflow Desk still remains sophisticated, organic, and suave.

The frame is structured out of 1in. thick stainless steel and the four rows of steel rods have 1/4 in. diameters. The actual desk for the receptionist is dark cherry wood. The overall dimensions are 72in. x 40in. x 32in.

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What do you think of Christina’s submission? Let us know in the comments!

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Announcing the finalists of the Reception Desk Design Challenge!

2 weeks ago we announced an awesome opportunity for our designers to create a unique reception desk to go into the newest facility of a major, unnamed tech giant. That unnamed tech giant chose to remain anonymous because they wanted to find a design with a unique story that came from a designer just as unique. This proved to be a big challenge because our designers knew nothing about the client’s aesthetic, brand, or culture. To make things more difficult, we gave designers no hints regarding how the space was designed. This was not your normal design brief challenge!

We can now proudly announce that the client is Motorola Mobility, a Google Company. The winner’s reception desk will be at the entrance of the only facility of any company in the entire United States that assembles smartphones; where they assemble the new Moto X.

29 unique designs were submitted by designers from 12 countries and they were reviewed by a small group of Motorola Mobility and Unbranded Designs team members who carefully evaluated the design and, more importantly, the story. The judges named these 4 designers Finalists:

  1. Christina Fehan 
  2. Zac Lindemann 
  3. Adam Owens 
  4. Javier Velez 

Each designer is currently refining their design using feedback from the judging team. They have just a few short days to submit their refined designs and stories before the winner is selected. We’ll share all of the Finalists’ submissions with you before the winner is announced at the end of next week!

The winner will receive a $1,000, a featured post on this blog, and personal branding in the facility that will house their fabricated design. Each finalist will also receive a $100 cash prize as well their own personal blog posts.

Thank you to all who participated in this challenge or helped spread the word. Keep a lookout as we’ll aim to bring more unique opportunities like this to the community in the future!

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A brand new way to Influence design

If you’ve visited our site in the last few days you may have noticed a few small changes. Who are we kidding? There are some major changes. We already discussed how the Submission process got an upgrade in this post a few weeks back. Now we want to discuss the next biggest improvement to the site: the Selection process.

Your voice is louder

This upgrade brings with it a whole new approach to identifying the most unique, most interesting, and most promising designs. It is now entirely driven by you, the community. We receive a lot of great submissions of all types and styles and as always, we’ve wanted to rely on our community to identify the most interesting. Now we’ve created the tools to help you do that.

We’ve revamped existing features to encourage you to provide feedback of all types to designers, positive or constructive. The voting structure has been changed from a simple vote-or-not system to one that relies on scores. This allows you to give varying levels of support to designs rather than simply placing a stamp of approval. The designer will never be alerted of specific votes but the data will be shared with them in aggregate. Additionally, you can now give feedback in a quicker fashion by QuickScoring designs on the “Browse & Score Designs” page or easily navigate between detail pages using the PREV and NEXT buttons on the sides of the screen.


Look, better navigation and scoring on the details page!

The second form of feedback that contributes to Selection is the updated comment system. In reality, comments work as they did before, except for the ability to quickly comment after scoring a design while on the details page. The real improvement, though, is that now each community member will have an opportunity to answer questions posed by the designer. In the Submission post we mentioned that we decided to require feedback questions so that designers could help kick off the conversation and ask for specific input. Now you can address those questions and provide the requisite positive and/or constructive feedback to improve and drive designs.

The third main driver of design Selection is the viral component. When community members share a design on their own social networks, they are showing support in a major way. They are endorsing that design and helping to build recognition for that designer.

Track the Selection progress

Unlike before, everyone will be able to see how the scores, comments, and shares have helped a design with the new Progress Bar. The Progress Bar is straight forward and simply indicates how much positive feedback the design has received and more importantly, how close it is to advancing from Selection to Refinement. Each feedback component has a different impact on the Progress Bar, but the more support, the better!


This design has some ways to go

The Progress Bar will update regularly so you can watch as a design moves closer and closer to 100% of the required feedback. Check your favorite designs regularly and help bring more and more support if you would like to see it refined, produced, and sold.

Build your Influence

Your feedback doesn’t just add value to the designer. You now have the ability to build your own Influence within the community by designing, commenting, scoring, and being an active community member. What does that get you? Lots! Exclusive offers and opportunities will be made available to the top community Influencers so get involved and start building your Influence.

If you have any questions or comments about the new Selection process, the Progress Bar, Influence or anything, send us an email at Don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know what you think!

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Submission process is getting an upgrade!

In a few weeks we’ll be releasing an update to our website with a few major changes. As always we’re focused on getting our designers opportunities to showcase their work, interact with other designers, and have their designs produced and sold.

One major change to our website will be the submission process for a new design. Right now, you can share 4 components of your design: design name, design description, design tags, and images. Our goal has been to make it as easy for you to submit as possible and that has resulted in some great submissions!

Moving forward we’ll be asking for a few additional components:

  • Dimensions
  • Estimated Price
  • Questions for feedback
  • Material, Finish, and Process tags
  • Up to 8 images that show all external and internal views of the design

Why so many additions?

There are several reasons we are moving to this new submission process.

First, it will help us to create a standard look and feel. The designs will continue to span countless styles, materials, and applications, but will be presented in a similar format,  ensuring that designs are consistent and the best are able to stand out on their own merits.

Second, people in the community want to see more details!  Designers, retailers, and customers in our community not only ask for more details, but they tend to gravitate and support the designs with thorough information.  Most people want to know the same few things: why was this design created and what is this designer’s story? The more you can provide, the better the chance our community has to connect with the design.

Finally, the new process will allow you to get targeted feedback on your designs through our new questions section.  Upon submission, you should pose a few specific questions to the community about your design.  The questions are then made public, and any other designer will be able to offer their thoughts and feedback. The questions should be honest and thorough as they’ll be a great opportunity to begin the conversation around your piece. The questions will also allow you to understand what people love about your design, and give you concrete feedback to help you refine your design.

After you submit

Once you have submitted a design, it will go through a quick review process before going live on the site.  The main reason is to ensure that submissions are complete and thorough, for all the reasons listed above. Within 24-48 hours, the Unbranded Designs team will confirm that you’ve submitted all of the necessary components, and push your design to the website. If for some reason your submission does not get approved, you’ll receive an email with the items that need to be updated. At that point you can revisit your submission, make the corrections, and resubmit.

Getting ready for production

The last change to the submission process deals with manufacturing requirements. If your design is getting close to making it through our selection process, we will require you to submit shop drawings of your design. We’ll be looking for clear details that we can share with our experts and manufacturers so that we can begin evaluating the structure and cost of the design.

These components will not be made public to the community and will only be reviewed by the Unbranded Designs team and contracted experts and manufacturers. As with your initial submission, we will approve the shop drawings and you’ll have opportunities to resubmit if additional details or changes are required.

All of these changes are the first step in creating a world-class community for our designers. We’re excited for all of the new changes and we hope you are too! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at!

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