The Bodysuit Car Designers Wear to Feel Old

 Friedrich Stark, Alamy
Friedrich Stark, Alamy

More than 46 million Americans are over the age of 65. (By 2060, that number is expected to double.) Meanwhile, in Europe, more than a quarter of the continent’s population has already reached what some British folks like to call “the third age.”

In the 1990s, Ford Motor Company saw this coming: As demographics changed, so too would the wants and desires of most car-buyers. In other words, Ford would have to start making vehicles that were more suitable for older drivers.

There was just one problem. “The majority of engineers and designers were—and still are—young people who find it difficult to imagine living with some of the limitations older drivers face,” Mike Bradley, a former ergonomics researcher at Ford, told the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

The car manufacturer’s solution? A bodysuit that puts young designers inside the skin of older drivers.

Developed by the Transport Technology and Ergonomics Centre (Ergonomics and Safety Research Unit) at England's Loughborough University, the Third Age Simulation Suit is said to add 30 years to anybody who wears it. A heavy vest simulates a weakened back. A neck brace hinders head movement. Joints are stiffened, inflexible gloves mimic arthritis, and a small electrical device causes uncontrollable trembles. It also comes with noise-dampening earphones and glasses that distort eyesight, mimicking the symptoms of glaucoma and cataracts.

“It’s really about inclusive design,” Katie Allanson, an ergonomist at Ford, recently told Chris Zelkovich of The Globe and Mail. “If you’re an able-bodied person, you don’t think about these issues—simple things like getting in and out of the vehicle and being able to grab the door handle.” The gloves, for example, can make it more difficult to adjust the radio. The noise-reducing headphones can muffle the chimes of the vehicle’s alert system. The goggles can reveal just how bad a windshield's glare may be.

Indeed, for many designers, donning the suit can be illuminating—and it has led to changes, big and small: improved seat belts that are easier to find and fasten; new alert systems that allow drivers to know when they’re drifting out of the lane; wider and taller front doors; easier-to-open trunks; and even the near-ubiquitous rear view camera. The first vehicle to benefit from designers wearing the garment? The Ford Focus.

You can view a Third Age Simulation Suit in the design section of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.

Architect Creates Renderings of Frank Lloyd Wright Designs That Were Never Built

Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than a thousand works in his lifetime, but hundreds of his ideas were never built. One of those was the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective, a tourist attraction commissioned in 1924. Now, thanks to new renderings by Spanish architect David Romero, you can get a better idea of what the proposed project might have looked like had it been completed, as Curbed reports.

Romero is the creator of Hooked on the Past, a project in which he translates plans for Frank Lloyd Wright's unbuilt designs into photorealistic scale renderings. He imports data and plans Wright drew up for the projects into modern modeling software in order to create the most accurate renderings possible of what these structures would have looked like. For the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective images, he collaborated with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which recently ran the images in its magazine, Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly.

A spiraling building on top of a mountain
David Romero

Intended to stand atop Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the plan for the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective called for a planetarium and restaurant to accompany a scenic overlook. Its developer, wealthy Chicago businessman Gordon Strong, envisioned it as a destination where families would drive for the day from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The design shifted substantially from draft to draft. In some, it called for a dance hall instead of a planetarium; in another, a theater. He also designed in waterfalls, pedestrian paths, bridges, an aquarium, and a car showroom.

A rendering of a pedestrian bridge
The unbuilt Butterfly Wing Bridge
David Romero

Above all, it was to be a destination for drivers, as the name suggests, and visitors would have driven up to park along its spiral structure—similar to the one that would later come to life in the design of the Guggenheim museum, which Romero looked to as inspiration while translating Wright's failed plans into 3D renderings.

A rendering of a spiral-shaped building at night
David Romero

Romero also painstakingly researched the context and location of the building, including adding era-appropriate cars, traces of rain and dirt on the building, and other details in order to bring the project to life. As a result, at times it can be hard to tell these are illustrations rather than stylized photographs.

Romero has also created similarly detailed renderings of other unbuilt or demolished Frank Lloyd Wright projects, including ones that have long since been destroyed, like the demolished Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo, New York and the burned-down Rose Pauson House in Arizona. You can see more here.

[h/t Curbed]

Dutton's New Young Adult Books Are the Size of a Smartphone—and They're Horizontal

Sometimes, the desire to read takes a backseat to how cumbersome it can be to carry a hardback book around all day, but a new line of pocket-sized volumes will ensure that’s never a problem. Dutton Books for Young Readers, a Penguin Random House imprint, has released a new line of books that are only a fraction of the size of the traditional hardback, as The New York Times reports.

The new design takes inspiration from the popular Dutch books known as dwarsliggers. In contrast to nearly every other book on the market, the text of these minute volumes is oriented horizontally, creating a flipbook effect. (The term comes from the Dutch words dwars—meaning crossways—and liggen—to lie.) The Dutton books are about the size of a smartphone, with extra-thin pages that make each volume only as thick as your finger. In other words, you'll only need one hand to read them.

A copy of the Penguin Mini version of 'Paper Towns' resting on two open copies of the book
Penguin Random House

The Penguin Minis are made by a Dutch printer, Royal Jongbloed, which is currently the only company in the world that makes books in this specific format. It uses ultra-thin paper sourced from just one Finnish mill.

The first books released in the new format are young adult novels by none other than Mental Floss friend John Green, host of our YouTube series Scatterbrained. You can buy the tiny versions of The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, and Looking for Alaska at major retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and Walmart, as well as at independent bookstores for $12 each. (There's also a boxed set of all four books on Amazon for $27.)

A boxed set of John Green novels released as Penguin Minis
Penguin Random House

Dutton is printing 500,000 copies for the first run, and if the compact novels prove popular over the holidays, there will be more volumes on their way in the future.

[h/t The New York Times]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER