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Googling on "radical materials" yeiled many results,
mainly those relating to materials science,
including the wikipedia page for "Materials Science",
which uses the phrase "radical materials" on that page.


Homeworks from the fall 2005 instance of this course were also found.


An online Business Week article (from July 17th, 2006) was found that
focuses on a conversation with the Head of Design at Nokia, Alastair
Curtis. He uses the term radical materials in the pejorative:

    "Sometimes designers want to go too far, sometimes they don't want to go
     far enough. You have to drive them in the right direction so it's the right
     step for Nokia.

     What do you mean by going too far? 
It's about too radical colors, too
radical materials, too radical application of key shapes. Sometimes it's
about the complexity as far as manufacturability. You've got to balance."

All in all, a very good article focusing on many aspects of design.



I did an "Advanced Search" on google, specifying that results must contain
the word "radical", should contain either the words "design" or
"materials", and should be restricted to ".edu" domains.


The first two sites returned were from this years course here at UML.

The next site returned was from Cornell. It was a copy of an article from a
magazine (Musician's Friend: Spring 1998 Issue, p.22) about a guitar made
from aluminium.


The next site was an article from Stanford about a twenty foot scale model
of the SST (Super-Sonic Transport) that actually flies.

"Using a 20-foot flying model, Stanford researchers have shown that a
radical design for a supersonic transport can be controlled in flight."


The next site was for a design conference (held most recently in mart of
this past year), called "Radical Craft" sponsered by the Art Center.


A graduate student workshop was found out of Santa Clara University,
focussing on ethics, by Anke van Gorp.

"In the radical design processes ethical questions were especially related
to operationalisations of ethically relevant criteria such as safety and
sustainability and trade-offs between design criteria."


A syllabus from an Architecture workshop at MIT from 2002 was found. One
of the five goals of this workshop was to "systematically relate design
evaluation to the urgent need - and unrealized potential for radical design


A review of a book was found. The book was "Dan Friedman: Radical
Modernism", a book focusing on the work of Dan Friedman in the areas of
graphic design, furniture and art.

"... his furniture quickly took its place in the tradition of Italian
radical design created by such groups as Archizoom and Studio Alchymia."


Doing a google on "courses in radical design", I found another conference
site. The title is "Radical Design - Intelligent Application Symposium and Exhibition"

"In the uk, a new wave of design innovation is fuelling a creative
renaissance, with large and small companies recognising the strategic and
economic importance of creative thinking applied to business problems."



Aside from our course, i was only able to find two courses mentioning
radical design.

The slides from Lecture 2 from a course in Requirments Engineering (course
2106S) at the computer science department at the University of Toronto was

The course defines "Normal design" as being characterized by:

- Old problems, whose solutions are well known
-- Engineering codifies standard solutions
-- Engineer selects appropriate methods and technologies

- Design focuses on well understood devices
-- Devices can be studied independent of context
-- Differences between the mathematical model and the reality are minimal

In contrast, the course defines "Radical design" as being characterized by:

- Never been done, or past solutions have failed
-- Often involves a very complex problem

- Bring together complex assemblies of devices into new systems
-- Such systems are not amenable to reductionist theories
-- Such systems are often soft: no objective criteria for describing the system

Two contrast radical against normal design, the course gives the example of:

- Most of Computer Engineering involves normal design
- All of Systems Engineering involves radical design (by definition!)
- Much of Software Engineering involves radical design (soft systems!)

It seems to me that this course has a very different sense of what radical
design means, tho there are some similarities with our definition.


The course is IEOR 170: Experience and Interface Design for Engineers, out
of UC Berkeley. The slides from a lecture mention "Radical Design", but
that is it, no ellaboration is presented in those slides.



Most often, the phrase of choice seems to be "radical new design". It is
used to describe the design of some new product that impacts the market
dramatically. Usually, the design of this new product is a leap forward
compared to traditional design of the standard version of that product.
Often, the design is uncoventional compared to the traditional design of
the product.

The term seems over-used, and somewhat cliche, akin to the overused
advertising lingo "new and improved".

"Nokia has introduced a radical new phone dubbed the Nokia 7600.
It sports a very unconventional design..."


"Funds Need A Radical New Design
It's time for Congress and the SEC to scrap their antiquated structure"


"The result was a radical new design that could make engines for anything
from gas-powered lawn mowers to diesel locomotives lighter, far more
efficient, and a whole lot easier on the environment."



I had a hard time settling on a product to research.

I considered several products, including chopsticks and shaving razors. The
problem with picking chopsticks is that they were invented several thousand
years ago, and their design hasn't changed much since. Chopsticks have such
a simple design, that coming up with a "radical new design" for chopsticks
seems almost impossible. Chopsticks are usually made from bamboo or wood,
tho I have seen them made from plastic, or such exotic materials as jade or

Given the apparent difficulty of improving on the design of chopsticks, I
settled on shaving razors as my product to research.

A razor is essentially a blade attached to a handle. One typically thinks of
the first razor as being what is called a "straight razor".

However, razors originate from the Bronze Age in Brittain:

"In its simplest form, a razor is a blade attached to a handle. Razors have
been identified from Bronze Age Britain. These were made of bronze,
generally oval in shape with a small tang protruding from one of the short
ends. Straight razors (also called cut-throat razors, because of their potential
lethality) with open steel blades were the most common before the 20th
century—and, in many countries, until the 1950s. They are now used chiefly
by barbers."


I found a very interesting page on wikipedia, called "Timeline of
Invention", that lists many different types of products in chronological
order of their having been invented.


According to this timeline, the "safety razor" was invented in the 1880's
by the Kampfe Brothers. A safety razor is the sort of razor that is
handheld and takes replaceable blades. It is the progenetor of todays
multi-blade hand-held razors.


These first safety razors took a razor blade similar to that which is used
today with a utility knife (these blades were later replaced with what we
have today, usually a multi-blade disposable that comes in a casing that
attaches to the handle of the razor).

Gillette advertized these sorts of blades in the 1930's

Modern (non-electric) razors tend to be handheld multi-blade razors, all
having a very similar design.

The recent trend with these razors over time seems to be adding more and
more blades. As a parody of this trend, I found a fake product called the
"Schick Inifini-T" razor. The caption for this paradody product says:

"Analyzing trends using the method applied to global warming and population
growth, safety razors should have infinite blades by 2015."

Gillette came up with the first commercially viable safety razor with
disposable blades around 1901. This razor had its blade covered by the
razor, preventing against deep cuts. Amazingly enough, this allowed people
to shave themselves for the first time (previously, shaving was done by a
professional barber, or a trusted friend).


Electric razors were first patented in 1928 by Jacob Schick. Remington came
out with their first electric razor in 1937. The first revolving electric
razor was invented in the Netherlands at Phillips Labortories (date unknown).

Electric razors are complex pieces of machinery, having a large number of

Electric razors were even advertized to to professional barbers, who
traditionally used straight razors.


Radical re-uses of the razor blade include the potato peeler, the utility
knife, and razor wire.

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Page last modified on September 12, 2006, at 05:47 PM