The Top Longform Design Stories Of 2014

Looking for something to read over the holidays? Here are the best pieces that went long on Co.Design this year.


One of the most important life-saving designs of the past 100 years is the humble triage tag, which has gone largely unchanged since it was first introduced during the height of Cold War nuclear paranoia. But the triage tag is out of date. Can it be updated for the war on terror?

The Tallest Tower In The U.S. Is Being Built By A Woman
by Karrie Jacobs

SOM’s Nicole Dosso is the most famous architect you’ve never heard of. As technical director of New York’s cloud-scraping 1 World Trade Center, she is responsible for the day-to-day execution of the building’s design.

The Onion

The Look Of Funny: How The Onion’s Art Department Works by Dan Nosowitz

At The Onion, a fake news website and one of the great satirical outposts of the past 50 years, nearly every image is original: either a graphic created in-house, a photograph taken in-house, or an image so manipulated by Photoshop as to not represent any real event that has ever happened. The tiny graphics team at The Onion pumps out about 50 original pieces of art per week at a time when your average Internet publication arts stories as quickly as possible. Nobody sits down and creates original art for a two-sentence post. Yet The Onion does, over and over again. Here’s how they do it, and why.


Can Starbucks Make 23,000 Coffee Shops Feel Unique by Mark Wilson


Years ago, Starbucks strove to make every one of their 23,000 different stores feel exactly the same. Now, they’re doing the opposite, trying to make each store feel completely different to fight the resurgence of the local small-chain barista. Here’s how.

Celine Grouard for Fast Company

Why Technology Isn’t Truly Wearable by Sarah Kessler

For a week, Co. Design tasked a reporter to wear all the pieces of fashion-minded wearable technology she could find. At the end of it all, though, she found fashion and technology to be further apart than ever.


Why Protective Gear Isn’t Stopping Ebola by Mark Wilson

At the height of this year’s Ebola crisis, multiple health workers were infected with the deadly disease despite wearing protective gear. According to experts, that’s because an Ebola-proof protective suit suit simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, you’d have a heck of a lot of trouble producing it, distributing it, and wearing it.

Santiago Calatrava: The World’s Most Hated Architect? by Karrie Jacobs


Critics deride Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava for over-the-top designs that go wildly overbudget, like his $4 billion World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Is he unfairly vilified? “On paper, his projects seem like worst-case scenarios, architecture as extravagance, the Versailles School of infrastructure,” Jacobs writes. “But then, every so often, you set foot in one of Calatrava’s works.”

Can Newtown Design A Safer Sandy Hook School That Doesn’t Feel Like A Fortress? by Shaunacy Ferro

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the architects of the new Sandy Hook school talked to Co. Design about how to create iron-clad security features without making the school feel like a fortress.

Jon Snyder for Fast Company

Michael Maltzan’s Quest To Remake Housing For The Homeless by Shaunacy Ferro

Co. Design profiled the work of Michael Maltzan, an L.A. architect who is attempting to reinvent housing for the homeless.

Can Silicon Valley Be Saved? by Shaunacy Ferro


Buses shuttling workers back and forth between San Francisco and Silicon Valley have become a visible symbol of tension between tech transplants and longtime residents, who are increasingly clashing over the rise of income inequality in the area. Is making Silicon Valley’s suburbs denser the answer?

Bonnie Schupp/Getty Images

Why Drive-Thru Dining Is Getting Slower by Mark Wilson

In the drive-thru lane, McDonald’s is facing its slowest service times in 15 years, making the average wait for your Big Mac over three minutes. Despite the fact that drive-thru business represents roughly 50% to 70% of all sales in the $191 billion fast food industry, McDonald’s is no outlier. Over the last decade, the fast food industry as a whole has been trending to serve us slower. But those turn around times can be a good thing. Here’s how they are improving the drive-thru experience.

Chad Baker/Ryan McVay/Getty Images

The Rise And Fall Of The American Food Tower by John Brownlee

In the late ’80s and 1990s, tall food was practically synonymous with upscale American cuisine. Today, a gleaming skyscraper of sculpted crudité seems as dated as Doc Martens and nü-metal. Why has a plating technique that was once employed by everyone from Alfred Portale to Wolfgang Puck virtually disappeared since the early 2000s?

How Nike Turned An Italian Suit Label Into The Air Jordan XX9s by John Brownlee


Following a series of incidents in which Nike shoes fell apart on the basketball court, Nike went back to the drawing board with the Air Jordan XX9s, using a 250-year-old weaving technology to make them the toughest and lightest basketball shoes yet.

Mattel’s 3-Year Quest To Make A Better Toy Gun by Mark Wilson

Behind the scenes of Mattel’s quest to go head-to-head with Nerf with BoomCo, a line of blasters with a singular innovation: they stick to pretty much anything.


6 Branding Lessons from the Pioneers of Weed Design by Carey Dunne

For designers and branding professionals, landing a marijuana account may become as coveted as landing a liquor or car account. To find out exactly what designers need to know about the emerging marijuana marketplace, Co.Design spoke to a cadre of pot-friendly designers, entrepreneurs, and experts.

Tyler Boss & Lee Loughridge

How A Comic Book Writer Helped Ghostface Killah Create His New Album by Sophie Weiner


Last year, comic artist Matthew Rosenberg, a lifelong Wu-Tang Clan fan, sent off pitches to several rappers with ideas for album stories. When he got the call that rapper Ghostface Killah was in the studio, he wasn’t aware that the new record would be based on one of the stories he’d pitched. But it was. Here’s how that project came about.

This Comic Book Makes Important, Boring Data Fun To Read by Sophie Weiner

How do you use the design language of the comic book to make dry yet important data compelling? Co. Design asked journalist and programmer Michael Keller, whose comic book Terms of Service ingeniously harnessed the power of comics to keep readers engaged.


Can Marimekko Go From Cult Design Brand To Fashion Empire? by Lauren Sherman

The Finnish brand has cult status among design snobs. Now Marimekko wants to expand by playing up the very thing it got famous for decades ago: fashion. Sherman explores the brand’s strategy.