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2017 Year in Review

2017- Cobalt’s Year in Review

2017 has been a big year, full of laughter, tears, and a brand new version of Photoshop which our design team is all over right now. Here at Cobalt, it’s been a big year for us too- we’ve grown, taken on more projects than ever and finalized projects that have been years in the making. Like the end of every design project, it’s always good to take a look back on the year that happened and evaluate your progress.

This year alone we’ve taken on 62 new projects, ranging from long-term partnerships to shorter workshops and even a pro-bono project for the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre. Alongside this, we’ve wrapped up 38 projects; finalising designs and shipping off prototypes ready for mass production. It’s safe to say that everyone from our design, engineering and admin teams has been busier than ever, and we have them to thank for this year’s grand success.

We’ve had the opportunity to work with so many amazing clients in the past year. We’ve reconvened with returning clients like HeartSine Technologies and V-Core, working on improving existing projects or starting new ventures together. Alongside these returning faces, we’ve made so many more connections with brand new clients like MOG laboratories, the Gentle Roller Company and Drue Vickery, paving the way for new projects and inspiring brand new creations.

In 2017 the Cobalt family has grown, welcoming Kate Bednarz as Project Leader, who joins to the Design team having worked in a manufacturing company for the last 8 years. Ethan Catt also joins us as a Media and Communications intern, ready to manage Cobalt’s social media, website and socially responsible design blog ‘Less by Design.’ This article you’re reading right now? I- uh, I mean “He,” wrote it. You’re welcome.

So thank you to all our wonderful clients, suppliers, contractors and staff for working with us this year. And here’s to an even brighter 2018 for all.

This year, we at Cobalt are feeling humble and reflective. We’d like to take a moment to thank all of our wonderful clients for giving us one of our most successful years, and we’d like to thank all of our wonderful designers, engineers and admin team for making all this success possible.

Happy holidays!

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Hanging Around- 15 Years of the Tarzan Grip

Still Hanging Around- 15 Years of the Tarzan Grip

Melbourne’s tram network is one of the world’s biggest. From the severly-70’s Z-Class , the vintage W-Class, and the modern E-Class, trams play a lead role in Melbourne being named the world’s most liveable city for a record 7 consecutive years. What’s more, the iconic ‘Tarzan Grip,’ designed by Cobalt, has cemented itself as an iconic part of the network that keeps Melbourne moving.

Most people will never have thought about the green ‘anchors’ dangling from the roof of most Melbourne’s trams. We don’t blame them; thinking about handles and the passenger experience is a particular job and one that we at Cobalt relish. In the case of these distinctive handles, they started from a thought had hatched almost 20 years ago…

In 1999, Yarra Trams engaged Cobalt to redesign the interiors of the then newly privatised tram network. At this time, passengers had sturdy brown Bakelite handles, or actual leather straps to hang onto during peak hours. Not content with just a different look or colour, we knew we could design something that improved passenger convenience and safety.

As usual we started by observing real users to discover unmet needs. At peak hours or after popular events like MCG football finals or concerts, there were simply not enough places for all of the standing passengers to safely hold onto, causing an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.  This was our inspiration – a handle that can be held by two passengers at once, doubling passenger safety and convenience in one iconic stroke.

Before being introduced into refurbished trams in 2002, the ‘Tarzan Grip’ went through rigorous design and engineering to make the concept a real and reliable product. We reviewed and refined everything from the grip’s size, shape and strength – we even built a load test rig, applying weights to replicate the most reckless schoolboys acting out their very own ‘Tarzan’ scenes, and twisting it over 10,000 times to mechanically simulate the most extreme conditions.

It’s often difficult to see, but even something as simple as a tram handle has hours of thought, design and engineering knowhow behind it to make it the best it can be. And in the end, it’s worth it- the Tarzan Handle has become one of the most recognisable features of the Yarra Trams fleet; its success keeping it in continuous service for over 15 years.

Transcending its utility the Tarzan tram handle has become part of Melburnian’s everyday icons, being featured in major exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and Museum Victoria.

Something to think about next time you’re hanging around on a Melbourne tram.

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Peter MacCallum Christmas Ornament 2017

The Peter MacCallum Christmas Ornament: a project in the spirit of the season

This year, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre partnered with Cobalt to create a decorative ornament to be hung on the Government House Christmas Tree. When Peter Mac approached Cobalt for the partnership, we were thrilled to provide our experience and expertise completely pro-bono, in the spirit of the giving season.

Two Peter Mac patients; Anastasia and Chianna worked directly alongside Cobalt to bring their ideas to life. They put their passions for design and creativity to work, brainstorming ideas and concepts that truly represented Peter Mac’s services and facilities, and we at Cobalt in turn provided our resources and experience with product development and manufacturing to help make the ornament a reality.

The key concept behind the ornament was “Soft on the inside; hard on the outside,” representing how patients at Peter Mac can feel both fragile and supported at the same time. The glass bauble is filled with swirling feathers and reflective curves, symbolising the fog of treatment and the introspection patients can encounter during their difficult times. The ornament is topped by a large, angular cap, representing and inspired by Peter Mac and their purple branding.

“Our first reaction was to think like professional designers,” says Cobalt principal Steve Martinuzzo, who lead the project, “but after our first working meeting we realised our role was to facilitate what Chiana and Anastasia wanted to do.”

“They had some insightful themes they wanted to convey. One was how they experienced both fragility and strength. They also wanted to explore the notion of reflection; how we all see things differently through the prism of cancer.”

To support Anastasia and Chiana’s ideas, Cobalt used their experience and resources to help bring their concepts to life. The bauble is topped with a 3D printed cap, specifically designed to represent Peter Mac and their resources. The internal mirror symbolising the idea of ‘reflection’ has been crafted into a spiral shape, twisting the clouded feathers inside the clear glass sphere.

We at Cobalt are very proud to have been given the opportunity to work on such a meaningful project, and we’re overjoyed to have shared this experience with Anastasia and Chianna. The ornament was presented to the governor on Friday the 15th, and will be hung for all to see on the Government House Christmas Tree.