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.

Want to Repurpose Old or Damaged Books? Turn Them Into DIY Wall Art

Svitlana Unuchko/iStock via Getty Images
Svitlana Unuchko/iStock via Getty Images

Many bibliophiles see their books as more than just reading material. Whether they're color-coded, stored backwards, or stacked around the house in teetering piles, books can double as decorations that add coziness and character to a space. This interior design trend spotted by Today pushes this concept to new heights by transforming old books into pieces of sprawling wall art.

Erin Kern, the Oklahoma designer behind the blog Cotton Stem, first had the idea to make books into DIY art in 2015. Her concept works with any books you have at home that you can bear to part with. Just grab a staple gun, secure the book covers to the wall you wish to embellish, and then use staples, glue, or tape to arrange the pages of the book however you like them. You can keep the book open to your favorite page or use some clever craft work to make the pages look like they're frozen mid-flip. As you expand the piece, you can add single pages or pages without their covers to vary the design.

Kern and other designers who've created their own versions of the project often combine old books with other types of wall decor. You can nestle framed prints of literary quotes or tuck air plants among the pages. Ana Ochoa of the blog Fiddle Leaf Interiors used hanging books as a makeshift canvas for a larger-than-life painting.

If seeing books stapled to a wall makes you cringe, rest assured that no one is suggesting you buy brand-new books to use as your crafting materials. This project is a great way to repurpose old books you never plan to read again—especially books with tears and missing pages that are too damaged to donate.

Looking for more literary design inspiration? Check out these pieces of furniture made out of books.


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[h/t Today]

Who Invented the Cardboard Box?

Feverpitched/iStock via Getty Images
Feverpitched/iStock via Getty Images

Few inventions have blended as seamlessly into our daily living routines as the humble cardboard box. We get excited to see piles of them near our front door. We stuff them with papers. Our cats love to claim them as their private living rooms. Yet we rarely stop to consider how much more convenient they are than a burlap sack. Who do we credit for this marvel of simple but indispensable ingenuity?

In the 1st and 2nd century BCE, the Han Dynasty of China was busy pioneering the use of paper. During the same era, sheets of bark from the Mulberry tree were used to wrap and protect food, one of the earliest examples of a sturdy, wood-based product being repurposed for packaging. But what we’d come to recognize as the earliest form of the cardboard box as we know it today didn’t appear until the early 19th century, with the 1817 German board game The Game of Besieging being the oldest example. Throughout the 19th century, companies began using the boxes as a means of storage and transport for cereals and even for moth eggs used by silk manufacturers.

But an additional twist—or pleat—was needed in order to turn these carriers into the cubical wonders we know today. In 1856, top hat peddlers Edward Allen and Edward Healey used a stiffer paper made with a fluted sheet in the middle of two layers to provide stability and warmth to the lining: It was a precursor to corrugated cardboard.

The real breakthrough, however, came in 1879. It was then that Robert Gair, owner of a Brooklyn paper factory, figured out that he could both score a single sheet of cardboard and then have his printing press cut it at the same time, eliminating laborious hand-cutting. When the flat pieces were folded together, the cardboard box as we know it was born.

Gair sold consumer product companies on this handy new form of storage, eventually scoring a 2-million-piece order from the cracker czars at Nabisco. Snack foods could now travel without the danger of being crushed, and, pretty soon, the cardboard box was migrating from kitchen cupboards to anywhere a cheap, effective form of packaging was needed. In the 1930s, the Finnish government even adopted the boxes as part of a take-home maternity package for new mothers who may not have been able to afford cribs. Babies took their first naps in the confines of the mattress-lined box—a practice that continues today.

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