is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
When I wrote about the staid state of window air conditioner units a few years ago, I was surprised to find that it resonated with many readers everywhere. In spite of the superiority of central air, tons of people still have to manage with self-installable window units which, as I wrote, had not changed in decades.
To me, this is one of the enduring mysteries of contemporary industrial design, which has over the past twenty years sought to reinvent, redesign or elevate out of commodity status almost every object in the home, from vacuum cleaners to thermostats to toaster ovens. The closest thing to innovation that the AC market seems to have produced is so-called ductless air conditioning, but those units don’t address the problem that most Westerners want to solve with window units: cool a room with a machine that costs less than US$1,000.
This widespread general interest bears out in the Kickstarter campaign for Noria, a new project that aims to “redefine” window air conditioners. With just over a week left to go, the project has already raised nearly three times its funding goal. That’s a clear sign that it addresses a real need in the market.
Noria claims to be less than six inches tall and forty percent smaller than standard units. This allows it to be stored and installed easily (the video demonstrates the process, and it looks like a revelation in terms of ease of use). Critically, this also means that when it sits in the window it does not block the view, a huge humanistic benefit that should not be underestimated. It seems like a huge improvement over standard units, of course, but it appears to be miles ahead of other recent, similar attempts like Quirky’s Aros air conditioner too. I hope that when it ships it lives up to all this amazing promise.
Find out more at kickstarter.com.+