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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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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Melbourne Knowledge Week 2016 banner

Melbourne Knowledge Week

Melbourne Knowledge Week

Cobalt recently presented at the official launch of Melbourne Knowledge Week. In his opening address, the Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle singled out the Cobalt designed Concave boots and Keepcup as examples of innovative ideas succeeding in world markets.

Melbourne Knowledge Week runs annually with more than 60 horizon-expanding events showcasing the innovation, creativity and technology shaping the city’s future.

As one of the city’s leading design groups, Cobalt is featured within BlackBOX, a collection of Melbourne design innovations that have endured over the last 150 years.  As well as the Lord Mayor, other attendees at the launch included BlackBOX’s curator Ian Wong, City of Melbourne Councillor Jackie Watts, and former RMIT Industrial Design graduate and now senior designer at Apple Corp in California Peter Russell-Clarke.

Designing locally; thinking globally

As one of Australia’s largest product development groups, Cobalt is a prime example of Melbourne’s creative industries revival and growing global impact.

Since forming in 1996, Cobalt have been developing creative, commercially-driven product designs for manufacturers long before ‘innovation’ became a buzzword, or governments began spruiking the benefits of an ‘ideas boom’. The team of industrial designers and design engineers are headed by Jack Magree, Steve Martinuzzo, and Warwick Brown who all completed their degrees together at RMIT University in the 1980s.

The group has developed many iconic everyday items like the KeepCup, Concave Boot or Maplock GPS Security Lock, and even more specialist products such as atomic absorption spectrometers or heart defibrillators. While we may not have either hidden at home under our coffee tables, they still perform at the highest level of their respective fields.

Cobalt is quick to point out the fundamental difference between design and other creative pursuits.  “Design for us is not about our own agenda. It is a 100% commercial activity where we help our clients profit by having great products to sell” notes Cobalt Principal Jack Magree, who goes onto say “we believe this is best done by developing products from the user’s perspective. The product must work exceptionally well in terms of function, quality etc.- but also delight and emotionally connect with people’s subconscious needs.”

According to Martinuzzo, Australian businesses and entrepreneurs can benefit by embracing the structural redefinition of manufacturing which has occurred over the last decade. “Technologies like CAD (computer aided design) and digital manufacturing (including 3D printing) as well as crowdfunding have

democratised product development. Any organisation, large or small, can now change the game as long as they have an idea that better meets people’s needs and the vision to do it better than anyone else”.

This trend has nullified Australia’s historical hurdle of being a long way away from global markets. Even giant multinationals have found, even though they have closed the door on traditional local manufacture, companies like Agilent, Ford and Holden have expanded their Melbourne design and engineering facilities integrating them within their global product development streams.  In fact, says Martinuzzo “Melbourne is already taking its place as a world-class design city. The combination of our multicultural society, excellent tertiary sector and efficient manufacturing base mean we can- and are producing smart products that resonate and succeed globally.  Being in Melbourne is now an asset, not a limitation”.

Keepcup is one such example. Whilst now ubiquitous, the range of reusable coffee cups was conceived to provide an answer to an unmet need; how to enjoy take away espresso coffee without consuming disposable cups.  The challenge was brought to Cobalt 8 years ago, who then designed a tangible product that addressed functional elements like sealing and tooling, as well as cultural drivers that would help people feel good (or ‘emotionally connect’) with the product. Within a year it was being locally manufactured and selling beyond expectations. And now, Keepcup have a complete range of products being exported to dozens of countries and the company’s success has spurned a whole category of competitors, all following Keepcup and Cobalt’s design lead.

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2016 DIA Awards

2016 DIA Award

Cobalt wins 2016 DIA Award

Cobalt was proudly awarded the prestigious industry prize, the DIA Award, during last week’s Good Design Australia Gala Ceremony. Held in Sydney on 27 May 2016, the Awards night was attended by the leaders of design and innovative industries, and celebrates the best in Australian and international design.

Cobalt was represented at the ceremony by Principal Warwick Brown, and Libby Christmas- one of Cobalt’s Senior Project Leaders.

The Design Institute of Australia (DIA) noted Cobalt as “an exemplary design practice that epitomises the objectives of the DIA Award, namely a company with a substantial record of good design over a number of years, that employs and promotes Australian designers, which aligns with the DIA’s principles.”

As DIA members for over 30 years, Cobalt’s Principals greatly value the honour of receiving this prestigious peer Award, which recognises our teams’ professionalism and outcomes over 20 years of operations.


Good Design Awards 2015 trophies

Good Design Awards 2015

2015 Good Design Awards Gala

Two different pieces of ground-breaking scientific equipment developed by Cobalt in collaboration with Agilent have won Good Design Awards in 2015. All three of our entries this year were nominated for an award and Brett & Steve from Cobalt attended the gala night in Sydney’s Darling Harbour on behalf of all those involved.

Good Design Australia hold awards every year to celebrate the best of Australia’s designers and the brightest of their products. Four Cobalt designed products were nominated last year, and we’ve been honoured in the years before that for a wide variety of our work.

Our biggest winner for the night was the Agilent 4300 Handheld FTIR Spectrometer (which you can read about here). Not only did it win a Good Design Award in the Medical & Scientific category, its revolutionary potential in the preservation of notable historical sites and artworks won it a Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) Selection Award, an honour given to only 14 entries. A highly sought after sample unit of the 4300 will be on display in the MASS exhibition for the next year.

The Agilent 5100 ICP-OES was another winner for Cobalt, also scoring a Good Design Award for the incredibly complex system cleverly cased in a compact bench top chassis.

Our third entry, the Food Justice Truck developed with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), was nominated under the new “social innovation” category but sadly missed out on the top spot. Nevertheless we are extremely proud of the work we did on the project and how the ASRC use the final product to help vulnerable people in the community who need it most. You can find out more about the Food Justice Truck on twitter.

The event was attended by over 700 people involved in Australia’s design scene and it was great to see friends and clients receive awards for their outstanding work in the field. Most notably, KeepCup won a Best in Category award for their new website, which allows users to track their contribution to saving the environment with their Cobalt designed reusable coffee cups.

Thank you to Australia’s close knit and world class design scene for a great night, as well as the Good Design Awards for recognizing the quality of Cobalt’s work.