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The designer’s thirst-quencher served weekly

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Book Brew

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Favelization

Is the exotic Brazil that we see referenced and traded upon in contemporary film, fashion, and design real or imaginary? Or perhaps a little of both? These are among the questions addressed by author Adriana Kertzer in Favelization, a new ebook that is part of the DesignFile series launched last year by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Kertzer, a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Arts & Design, sets out to understand the ways in which specific producers of contemporary Brazilian culture capitalized on misappropriations of the favela (informal squatter settlements that grow along the hillsides and lowlands of many Brazilian cities) in order to brand luxury items as “Brazilian.”

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Hot Shots

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Extreme by Design

Design for extreme affordability. That’s the challenge presented by one course at Stanford University’s Institute of Design (better known as the d.school); how students address it—drawing on methods from engineering and industrial design in combination with ideas from the arts, tools from the social sciences, and insights from the business world—is the subject of a new documentary. In Extreme by Design, available on iTunes, Ralph King Jr. and Michael Schwarz follow d.schoolers as they develop potentially life-saving products for those in the developing countries they visit.

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House Blend

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Drumstick Pencils

Percussion meets pencils in the latest addition to our ever-expanding collection of novel writing utensils. Designed by London-based Moko Sellars, the Drumstick Pencil goes from work (the pencil end) to play (the drumstick end) and back again. Suck UK produces them with classic HB graphite using wood from well-managed forests, so you'll never write--or play--a bad note.

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Magic Potion

Cool ideas & design solutions
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Mission: Impossible

Imagine if there was a way that you could communicate what you need and, lo and behold, somebody might turn up and actually do that. That's the concept that inspired model, actress, and social entrepreneur Lily Cole to create Impossible.com, a riff on "I'm possible." The new website and app, backed by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, encourages people to do things for others for free. People can post wishes of things that they want or need help with; offer what they can give, whether things or skills; and then create posts of thanks once their wish is granted.

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Book Brew

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Dinner for Architects

The opening of a new exhibition space at the Munich Technical University's Architecture Museum was the occasion for an imaginary dinner party. Leading architects were invited to "attend" by sending a sketch on a dinner napkin, and the likes of Tadao Ando, Steven Holl, Robert Venturi, and Denise Scott Brown did just that. Their sketches are collected in Dinner for Architects (Norton). "The responses are a kind of Rorschach test," writes Philip K. Howard in the book's foreword. "The idea that emerges on the napkin as the victor from an inner struggle of self-identification, while hardly a definitive portrait, reveals something about the values and goals of the creator."

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Magic Potion

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Plotly

Loyal to line graphs? Have a penchant for pie charts? Whether you stick to scatter plots or have been passing the winter by living vicariously heatmaps, you'll adore Plotly. Conceived as a way to share the fun of graphical data analysis, the still-in-beta platform is the place to import and wrangle data in any form, and then analyze, simulate, and graph your heart out.

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House Blend

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Boskke Cube

If you've ever returned from a trip to discover your favorite plant reduced to a parched pile of leaves, you'll want to treat your photosynthetic friends to the Boskke Cube. Designer Patrick Morris deconstructed the traditional plant pot and added an ingenious irrigation system to create this self-watering planter, which acts as a reservoir for a month’s supply of water. “The clear plastic body reveals the water, soil, and roots of the plant, allowing you to witness firsthand the mechanics of plant growth,” says Morris of the Cube, which comes in assorted sizes. “And great for all those travelers…you only need to water it once a month.”

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Designer Box

Thinking outside of the box is so twentieth century. Designer Box, a new take on the subscription service craze, taps international design stars such as Arik Levy and Aldo Bakker to create a unique and original object that is delivered to your door inside a numbered wooden box each month. A vase, a mirror, a candle holder...the ninth and latest box contains the Black Out Light, a nifty flashlight designed by 5.5 designstudio.

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Book Brew

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On the Road

New York's Hudson Valley is studded with artists and craftspeople, and Nick Hand met a bunch of them--by hopping on a bicycle. Conversations on the Hudson (Princeton Architectural Press) chronicles the British graphic designer's 500-mile, two-wheeled journey between Brooklyn and the Adirondacks. The new book is a charming mix of photographs and interviews with the likes of glassware designer Deborah Ehrlich, ceramicist Michele O'Hana, and stone carver Ted Ludwiczak. "On a bicycle you take everything in," writes Hand in the book's introduction. "You can stop anywhere, you don't miss a thing, and it's easy to strike up a conversation."

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House Blend

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Kung Fu Writing

Blazing gold Dixon Ticonderogas are no good for stealthy sketching or plotting sabotage in your most shadowy of Moleskines. For those covert tasks, you'll want to stock up on Ninja Pencils, available in highly trained packs of twelve from Perpetual Kid. The sleek utensils are all black, except for their Ninja faces and "Hi-Ya!" Use them wisely.

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