25 years anniversary

25 Year Anniversary

Cobalt’s first 25 years

This year marks 25 years since Cobalt was founded in 1996. So apart from already hoping this year will be better than 2020 (!) we are planning a number of initiatives for 2021 to mark our very own silver jubilee.

Over the last 25 years much has changed, in technology, society and of course, in design. Cobalt itself has steadily grown and renewed since ex-university friends Steve Martinuzzo and Jack Magree joined forces to create a new creative group. Now our team is much deeper and more diverse than ever, and our capacity to take on new and innovative projects at the forefront of product design has developed greatly.

Throughout the last decade we have strengthened our position within the top tier of Australian product design firms & consultancies, and increasingly we are working with global clients to undertake larger-scale projects from multinational organisations such as Heartsine, Bio-Rad, magAssist and Agilent.

By nature and profession, we are always looking ahead. But anniversaries are important occasions to stop and reflect before moving forward again.

So to preview our 25th Anniversary year, this video below features some of the amazing spectrum of projects we’ve been privileged to work on so far.

If you have any connection to these amazing projects or clients, please feel free to share this video with your colleagues or friends. And watch out for more Cobalt 25 Anniversary events during the year.

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Sir William Hudson Awards

The HP-OCT takes out Engineering Australia’s highest honour

A world-first ocular instrument, the Cylite HP-OCT has won the 2020 Sir William Hudson Award; the highest accolade an engineering project can receive from Engineers Australia.  The award was announced at the recent national Pinnacles Award Ceremony, where finalist projects, including major infrastructure, mining and transport projects from across Australia were judged.

Designed, engineered, and manufactured in Australia, the HP-OCT is a cutting-edge ophthalmological instrument that overcomes issues of motion artefacts or data error resulting from patient eye movement during OCT imaging. Cobalt’s development team worked closely with Cylite to characterise the typical product usage and to develop a deep understanding of both the user’s (patient) and operator’s (clinician) needs. According to Cobalt’s project leader for this project, Kynan Taylor “ from our initial user and industrial design direction, Cobalt then engineered the device exterior through prototyping and tooling support stages, to ensure all the instrument’s touch points delivered a consistent, user-focused experience”.

Cylite’s CEO Dr Steve Frisken was excited Cylite had been awarded the national prize against a field of strong engineering projects. “I would like to personally thank each of our extraordinary team for their creativity and dedication in delivering excellence in engineering across so many fields. We are also grateful to Cobalt Design for their industrial design support and the wonderful look and feel of this innovative clinical diagnostic instrument,” he said. “These innovations will, I believe, truly have a lasting impact on global eye health, which is a legacy that will provide ongoing pride to all those involved.”

The Engineering Australia judges also praised the HP-OCT as a “remarkable piece of equipment [that] demonstrates the profound impact biomedical engineering can have on society. The equipment streamlines the screening process that currently requires several individual diagnostic devices to build a clinical picture of the patient. This enables more health professionals to routinely screen more patients across the five areas of eye conditions effecting Australians which allows for earlier diagnosis.”

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GDA Gold 2020

Cobalt wins two Gold

Cobalt is thrilled to announce that two of our recently completed projects –Bio-Rad GelDoc Go and Adaptfit Cable Trainer – have both received prestigious accolades in this year’s Australian Good Design Awards:

  • Gold Good Design Award (Medical and Scientific Category) > Bio-Rad GelDoc Go
  • Gold Good Design Award (Sport & Lifestyle Category) > AdaptFit Cable Trainer
  • Engineering Award > Bio-Rad GelDoc Go

As one of the world’s first and most respected product design awards programmes, the Australian Good Design Awards attract an international field of design firms and brands to showcase their most innovative product designs. We congratulate all of this year’s winners and entrants, who produced an outstanding calibre of design outcomes and pushed the bounds of innovation and good design.

Our clients are the real winners

While we celebrate the well deserved recognition won by these two projects, Cobalt helps all our clients achieve product success through design. The reality is some projects tend to do well in awards programmes, while others – no less commercially or strategically successful for our clients including KeepCup and Yarra Trams – for sometimes inexplicable reasons, do not. So we take this opportunity to thank all our clients regardless of whether they win a Gold Award or not, for choosing to engage Cobalt, for its only with your vision and technology that we are able to create great product designs.

Bio-Rad GelDoc Go

The GelDoc Go is the latest Bio-Rad product Cobalt has partnered with Bio-Rad. It is a new digital imaging instrument used for nucleic acid and protein analysis; designed for ease of use, safety and efficiency from the outset. Its bench top size and rapid processing speed combined with unique imaging technology allows researchers to see separated proteins in one minute, compared with 4-16 hour staining steps of competitor products. The crucial design challenge for Cobalt was to convey the product as easy to use yet, also convey that its performance was anything but insignificant – despite its compact dimensions.

Adaptfit Cable Trainer

The Adaptfit Cable Trainer compact design makes resistance and strength training readily available outside the commercial fitness environment. Its multi-use functionality provides the benefits of full body training and rehabilitation, while the innovative wall-mount design adds stability, frees up floor space and positions the trainer so that it is instantly ready for use. The sleek form was engineered by Cobalt to be unobtrusive, seamlessly integrating into any home or work space. The final design exercises a restrained approach in the form of the Adapt Cable Trainer to create simplicity that invites confidence in use.

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objects

100 Objects Exhibition

Cobalt & KeepCup in ‘100 Objects – Australian Design in the Home’

As one of the most influential Australian architects in history, Robin Boyd was an acknowledged leader in design and education. To celebrate the centenary of his birth, the Robin Boyd Foundation has created a year-long program to showcase his design influence. The events are aimed to highlight how his design-thinking continues to inspire contemporary discussions about Australian architecture and design across the globe.

During October, curator and lecturer at Monash University Ian Wong pays homage to Boyd’s legacy by bringing together 100 iconic Australian designs in an exhibition (100 Objects – Australian Design in the Home) at Boyd’s exemplar mid-century South Yarra home. More than a fitting backdrop, the house elevates and celebrates the work of some of Australia’s most important design practitioners, by creating a ‘design within a design’ installation. The objects are meticulously and thoughtfully placed throughout the house to reflect their function and effects.

While some objects will feel like they have always been there, others appear to traverse time, the exhibition bringing together designs from the 1930s to the present day.Visitors are free to roam through the extraordinary rooms and spaces of Walsh Street, where they will discover significant pieces of Australian design history.

Cobalt are incredibly proud that KeepCup is one of the product designs featured in the exhibition. Other Cobalt projects that are sprinkled throughout the Walsh St house are the Concave Halo football boot and Nylex Esky Jugs. Other influential designs in the exhibition that have inspired Cobalt’s team over the decades are the baby seat by Phil Slattery, the Wiltshire Staysharp knife and the Décor BYO wine cooler.

Additionally, Cobalt principals Steve Martinuzzo, Jack Magree and Warwick Brown are presented as key design contributors, along with past Cobalt alumni Bernie Walsh, Giles Matthews, and Lorrin Windahl.

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GDA Gold 2019

eShepherd takes home Gold at the 2019 Sydney GDA’s

We were thrilled that eShepherd was nominated for a Good Design Award. However we could not contain our excitement when eShepherd took home Gold at the GDA’s on the 11th of July at The Star Sydney. The GDA’s are the design world’s night of nights, bringing together top Australian and international design talent to celebrate world leading designs. The event showcases successful projects across fields such as architecture, communication, digital, engineering and many more. The Gold accolade is awarded to products, services or projects that have not only met the criteria for a Good Design “tick”, but exceed them.

The eShepherd virtual animal herding solution, designed by Cobalt for Agersens is an IoT driven platform encompassing a GPS enabled neckband and cloud-based application controlled by farmers which is used to fence, move and monitor livestock. The intelligent neckband system trains livestock to recognise and stay within virtual boundaries, via the use of sensors that detect and respond to animal behaviour. Audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli guide the animals to remain within the virtual boundaries. Farmers use a cloud-based web application to create virtual paddock boundaries and check on livestock activity, all of which are updated dynamically to ensure accurate data. This design solution is reliable and functional in the harshest conditions, combining a durable form with long lasting battery life that has a positive impact on animal welfare.

The award for the eShepherd neckband is an exciting recognition, due to the superior level of critical design thinking, product engineering and testing the Cobalt team put into the project. Cobalt was approached for the project with an already detailed concept to work with. However there were fundamental aspects of the design (including the position of the solar panel) that needed to be re-designed. In conjunction with this, a strict set of user needs had to be abided by, to ensure the utmost safety for both livestock and farmers.

The unique nature of this project brought with it equally as unique challenges. According to project leader Libby Christmas, the biggest challenge revolved around the lack of pre-existing biometrics on bovine necks/heads. “One of our quirkiest tasks was creating ‘Angus,’ our very own anatomically-correct bovine mannequin to test early concepts.” Using CAD design and our own bovine neck-circumference research data (thanks to Cobalt product design engineer Davis Tolley), we were successfully able to test prototype concepts, particularly to do with how the counterweight functioned and how to maximise the solar harvesting aspect.

This project also brought the Cobalt team some of its best moments, pushing us to use lean production techniques and knowledge-based decision making. It was a different strategy that Cobalt had not used previously, but the act of consciously filling knowledge gaps heightened risk mitigation and team collaboration.

With this project demanding distinctive requirements, Cobalt’s plethora of expertise areas were drawn upon. This included our in depth understanding of user needs, and most importantly our experience with engineering, prototyping and design for adaptability.

Since the completion of the project, the eShepherd device has undergone prototype runs and field trials, with the Agersens team growing substantially. The design has been gradually modified for scalability and cost reduction, and has received wide-spread public attention in the market.

Cobalt associate principal Libby Christmas and product design engineer Thao Nguyen represented our team. It was a wonderful night full of celebration, networking and admiration of our fellow designers.

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cow

GDA Nomination 19

eShepherd nominated for a Good Design Award 2019

We are overjoyed to announce that the eShepherd virtual animal herding solution, designed by Cobalt for Agersens has been nominated for a Good Design Award this year. The Good Design Awards are a prestigious accolade for Australian designers, recognised by the World Design Organization as Australia’s peak international design program. GDA awards are a unique point of difference for design agencies in a crowded market, thanks to the rigorous judging process of actual products rather than images or concepts.

In recent years, Cobalt has received a Good Design Award for our designs on the Victoria Police ADT vehicle, the Dermapen 4, the Maton Guitar Case, the Concave Boot and various Agilent scientific instruments.

The design challenge for this project revolved around creating a viable, modern replacement system for traditional fencing (where traditional fencing is impractical for inhospitable terrain). The solution was eShepherd – an IoT driven platform encompassing a GPS enabled neckband and cloud-based application controlled by farmers which is used to fence, move and monitor livestock. The intelligent neckband system trains livestock to recognise and stay within virtual boundaries, via the use of sensors that detect and respond to animal behaviour. Audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli guide the animals to remain within the virtual boundaries. Farmers use a cloud-based web application to create virtual paddock boundaries and check on livestock activity, all of which are updated dynamically to ensure accurate data. This design solution is reliable and functional in the harshest conditions, combining a durable form with long lasting battery life that has a positive impact on animal welfare.

This nomination for the eShepherd neckband is an exciting recognition, due to the superior level of critical design thinking, product engineering and testing the Cobalt team put into the project. When designing the neckband, Cobalt collaborated with Agersens and electronics development firm LX Group, to design the robust “wearable” device to suit all breeds of livestock.

It was crucial for the design to boast a truly ergonomic form, intelligent technology and a high quality finish to ensure the utmost safety and functionality for both the livestock and the farmers.

Key design elements include:

  • Wireless, IoT and GPS integration
  • Use of sensors, audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli
  • Farmer controlled through a cloud-based web application for accurate data
  • Instant virtual boundary updating from any location
  • Ergonomic and light weight for “end user” comfort
  • Morphometric fitment for self-correcting positioning
  • Solar powered with optimally positioned panels
  • RSPCA, CSIRO and animal ethic committee approved
  • Real-time animal monitoring
  • Fully waterproof unit able to withstand impacts, interactions with other animals and infrastructure, and harsh environmental conditions
  • Tough UV stabilised plastics and fabrics to ensure suitable longevity

Cobalt was involved from discovery and early concept development, through to detail design of the assembly and mouldings. After several engineering prototypes and refinements, Cobalt also undertook pilot assembly of 50-off Alpha prototypes. These involved tooling and several in-house processes to waterproof the enclosure around the PV array.

The prestigious awards ceremony will be held on the 11th of July at the iconic Sydney Opera House, where the winners will be announced. We look forward to seeing how the eShepherd entry performs.

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health symposium

Symposium

Monash University Health Collab Design+ Health and Medical Innovation Symposium

Presented by Monash University Health Collab, the 2019 Design+ Health and Medical Innovation Symposium brought together researchers from different disciplines to spark design collaboration and envision a new future for healthcare. Held on March 12 at the Monash Art Design and Architecture (MADA) Centre in Kunshan China, Cobalt’s designs for the Dermapen 4 and Cylite OCT instrument were featured.

The Monash University Health Collab is an interdisciplinary team of researchers, designers and clinicians who employ a people-centred design approach to understand and provide significant high-impact healthcare. MADA Practice Professors Daphne Flynn and Mark Armstrong, along with Centre Director Ian Wong and Centre Creative Director Bernie Walsh run the symposium as a catalyst for innovation and to celebrate design achievements in the health space.

The 2019 March symposium drew academics and business people from both within and outside the health space, facilitating fresh collaboration and inspiring deeper conversations about the future of health care. In a video presented by Health Collab directors Professor Daphne Flynn and Professor Mark Armstrong, they spoke about the importance of utilising design as vehicle to increase traction for health outcomes, and understanding that design is the common thread connecting us all.

The result of the symposium was a success, enabling academics from all over the world to engage with high tech medical companies in Kunshan and to celebrate outcomes already achieved, including Cobalt’s designs.

Wining a Good Design award in 2018, the Dermapen 4­ sets a new benchmark for improving the effectiveness of treatments and resolving traditional limitations, such as power-cord handling issues, calibration difficulties and potential cross-contamination prevention. The DP4 is also the first micro-needling tool capable of performing scar-treatments. The patent-pending 16 needle cartridge has unparalleled needling depth, allowing practitioners to access the Scar Treatment market, expanding the horizons of their practice’s offering.

Similarly, aimed for use in a variety of clinical settings (including both research laboratories and patient-serving clinics) the Cylite HP-OCT ophthalmic device was designed to integrate a high technology core within an ergonomic, user friendly exterior. The revolutionary ocular imaging and measurement technique overcomes issues of motion artefacts or data error from patient eye movement during OCT imaging, and offers a unique proposition to clinicians with its ability to replace four different instruments. The fully automated volumetric acquisition reduces patient chair time and improves the reliability of the results, eliminating guesswork during analysis and diagnosis.

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BODW 2018

Melbourne takes centre stage at BODW

Earlier this month Cobalt participated in the biggest EVER overseas delegation of Australian designers when we attended Business of Design Week (BoDW) in which Melbourne was the partner city.

Held annually in Hong Kong, BoDW is one of the world’s major design forums drawing together design practitioners and business leaders that give this conference a sharp focus. Given its location, BoDW is seen as the most influential design link into China and Asia.

Each year BoDW features a global design city or country, and this year it was Melbourne’s turn to step into the spot light; joining an exclusive shortlist of previous partners, including Italy, Sweden, Chicago and Barcelona. This involved a high number of Australian design and business speakers, as well as occupying the central space within the exhibition hall.  According to Principal Jack Magree “Becoming BoDW’s partner city has taken the combined effort of designers,  professional bodies and government agencies. Cobalt are proud to have worked towards this for the last 4 years and how when viewed as a collective, Australia’s design capabilities are equal to any in the world”.

Cobalt exhibited within the Melbourne Pavilion featuring our 10 years of design development with KeepCup, whilst Abigail Forsyth, KeepCup’s founder was named as a Summit speaker for Brand Design.

The initiative for Melbourne to be featured at BoDW was solidly supported by Creative Victoria, the state government’s agency that manages design policy. Victoria’s renowned design industry employs more than 136,000 people within the state and generates more than $5 billion for the economy.

Cobalt was represented at BODW 2018 by Principal and co-Founder Steve Martinuzzo, who was also assigned as a ‘Victorian Design Ambassador’ during the event.

Steve’s highlights of this year’s BoDW included:

  • Speaking to dozens of people each day about our design process, the KeepCup journey and building connections from Hong Kong and into China and beyond.
  • Visiting clients and suppliers on a side trip to mainland China.
  • Hearing Tony Chambers former editor Wallpaper* magazine; and his outlook of ‘Positive Discomfort’ a fresh take on going outside your comfort zone to keep complacency at bay.
  • Listening to Melbourne’s own Leah Heiss’s presentation. Leah is the designer behind BlameySaunders’ Facet hearing aid and other projects which replace disability for desirability. Her approach shows how collaboration and thinking differently can lead to stunning results.
  • Aurel Aebi, co-founder of ‘atelier oï’ who converted a rundown motel in rural Switzerland into a funky and spacious design studio, and uses a beautiful boat on a nearby lake for distraction-free client presentations.  Very Swiss, but I’m now on the hunt for something similar around Bonnie Doon.
  • Attending the official opening of the Melbourne Design Pavilion by Victoria’s Governor, Her Excellency Linda Dessau and Design Minister Martin Foley.
  • Seeing the excited (and sometimes terrified!) faces of visitors and their children when confronted by a 3m long baby T.Rex dinosaur as he regularly stalked around the Melbourne Pavilion.

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Cobalt's awards anthology news thumbnail

Cobalt's Award Anthology

Cobalt’s Awards Anthology

Recently two of our projects – the Victoria Police ADT and the Dermapen 4 – were selected as finalists for this year’s Victorian Premier’s Design Awards. This is exciting in itself, but it also gave us a chance to look back on our accomplishments.

Over the years, Cobalt’s work has been recognised through numerous design and industry awards. These include:

On top of these we’ve received dozens more finalist nominations and special mentions local and international panels, as well as other channels like academic books and television news.

Icing on the cake

As much as independent awards are appreciated and validate our team’s professionalism, the ultimate measure of success is the commercial performance of the products we develop for our clients.

And keeping awards in perspective is important for other reasons.  Over the years we’ve learnt that certain projects appeal to design award judges, and others don’t. This doesn’t mean the others are any less worthy – instead, it demonstrates that judging design can be very subjective; so even if a product is successful, judges may overlook it if they don’t recognise or understand its context.

For instance, in 2017 we commenced over 60 projects; the vast majority of which would go to become fully finished products which would be commercially successful for our clients. However, for a myriad of reasons only 2-3 projects are likely to be submitted for an award. Hence we see awards as the icing on the cake, and the product’s commercial success as the real prize.

The Victorian Premier’s Design Awards will be presented at an official ceremony in September. We hope we can take home another trophy for our cabinet, but in the meantime we’re proud to be nominated, and even more excited to be helping the rest of our clients achieve their own product design winner.

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Hong Kong Business of Design Week

The 2018 Good Design Awards

A night to remember

The Good Design Awards is the design world’s night of nights, bringing together top Australian and international design talent to celebrate world leading designs. The event showcases successful projects across fields such as architecture, communication, digital, engineering and many more. It’s like The Oscars, except the prize is given to the people who made a really cool product and not multi-millionaire Hollywood superstars.

Cobalt was thrilled to be judged Best in Class in the Product: Automotive & Transport category for our work on Victoria Police’s third-generation Alcohol and Drug Testing (ADT) vehicle. Previous winners have included the Tesla Model X and the Mazda MX-5, but it was the ADT’s exceptional safety features, workflow considerations & improvements on previous iterations that secured Cobalt’s accolade.

The jury for the awards noted the design gives “the public confidence in the police presence at any major incident, or testing site,” and that, “the Alcohol and Drug Testing vehicle meets, and in places exceeds, the original project brief in terms of local design and material content, cost and delivery timing,”

Alongside the Best in Class achievement, Cobalt also received a Good Design Award® for the Dermapen 4, which was recently revealed to the world at the AWMC Anti-Aging Conference.

This isn’t Cobalt’s first outing to the Good Design Awards – last year we brought home a Good Design Award for the Maton Guitar Case, and before that the Concave Boot kicked the exact same goal. Other Good Design Award winning products include the Agilent 4300 Handheld FTIR Spectrometer and the 5100 ICP-OES Spectrometer in years prior.

Bringing together the best of the best

The Good Design Awards is a prestigious event for Australian designers. The GDA is recognised by the World Design Organization as Australia’s peak international design program. GDA accolades are a unique point of difference for design agencies in a crowded market, thanks to the rigorous judging process of actual products rather than images or concepts.

The event was held on the 17th of May at the iconic Sydney Opera House, where Cobalt principal Jack Magree proudly accepted the award, representing our group along with Mark Matthews-Frederick, Libby Christmas, Graeme Marshall and Marcus Krigsman. It was a wonderful night full of celebration, networking and admiration of our fellow designers- and of course, there was the afterparty, too.

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