TIME Audi

Audi’s Latest Product Is Unlike Any Other

INDIA-GERMANY-AUTO-AUDI
SAJJAD HUSSAIN—AFP/Getty Images The Audi logo is seen at the launch of the new Audi TT car in the Indian capital New Delhi on April 23, 2015.

Looks pretty fast though

German car manufacturer Audi and California-based shoe-maker Toms have together created limited edition alpargatas-style shoe. The slip-on is asphalt grey with stoplight red stitching, a meld of Audi’s brand colors. Like the interior patterning, a tag on the outside displays the car’s logo, its signature conjoined rings.

Otherwise, it’s hard to tell them apart from a regular pair of Toms shoes.

The unusual promotion is part of Audi’s “summer of Audi sales event,” which takes place from June 3 to Aug. 4 in the U.S. To own a pair, you’ll just need to purchase or lease an Audi [fortune-stock symbol=”AUDVF”] vehicle first.

As part of the deal, Toms has agreed to donate 55,000 pairs of shoes to children in need through its “giving partners” program in the U.S. Since 2009, the company has donated more than a million pairs of shoes through the program.

Audi Toms Shoes 2015
Audi USA

“We are excited to be partnering with Audi, a company that shares our passion for progressive ideas and positive impact, to create a unique giving experience for Audi customers,” said Toms founder Blake Mycoskie in a statement.

Here’s the pair of company’s joint commercial, which features an Audi RS7 “sportback” car alongside the special edition espadrilles:

TIME Asus

This Company Just Copied the Apple Watch’s Best Feature

Asus

Except the ZenWatch 2's version isn't as compelling

In unveiling Apple’s highly anticipated smartwatch in September, CEO Tim Cook bragged about the device’s “digital crown”—the dial on the gadget’s side—as, well, its crowning achievement.

“As it turns out with every revolutionary product that Apple has created,” he said about the Watch and its crown, “a breakthrough in user interface was required.”

The Taiwanese electronics company Asus seems to have taken note. Today the company introduced a second version of its Android Wear smartwatch, the ZenWatch 2, at tech expo Computex in Taiwan that seems to have drawn some aesthetic inspiration from the Apple Watch.

See that knob on the side? That wasn’t there before.

In its original report about the development, Vlad Savov, a reviewer for tech media site The Verge, speculated that the new feature might let people wearing the watch navigate its screen. Afterward, the site confirmed with the company that the knob is, in reality, just a nub.

Like the Apple Watch, the ZenWatch 2 has a metal crown, which gives you “a new way to interact” with the Android Wear interface. It initially seemed as though this would work like the digital crown on Apple’s watch, however it turns out to simply be a power button with a fancy title.

A reviewer at the technology site Engadget isn’t sold on the addition. “While the overall designs are similar to that of the original model, ASUS has now added a button on the side,” writes Richard Lai, “though we prefer the cleaner look without it.”

Apple watchers, too, have lately questioned the value of digital crown, and Apple itself seems to have backed off from its initially effusive praise of the wondrous wheel (or glorified button, depending on who you ask). At Apple’s March event for the Apple Watch, Cook said nothing about the dial.

Digital crown aside, there’s another similarity between Asus’ new offering and the Apple Watch. The ZenWatch 2 will be now available in more than one screen size: 49 millimeter and 45 millimeter. (Apple’s come in 42 millimeter and 38 millimeter.)

For more of Fortune’s smartwatch coverage, read here.

TIME Companies

See Uber’s Stunning New Sci-Fi Headquarters

Ride-hailing company Uber, among the most valuable private companies in the world, is planning a futuristic two-building headquarters in San Francisco, Calif.

TIME Companies

Apple’s Design Guru Just Got a Big Promotion

Jonathan Ive gets a new title

Jonathan Ive is taking on an even more important role at Apple. The design mastermind behind the look of the iPhone and the iPad will be promoted from senior vice president of design to the newly created position of chief design officer, CEO Tim Cook said in a memo to staff.

“Jony is one of the most talented and accomplished designers of his generation, with an astonishing 5000 design and utility patents to his name,” Cook said in the memo, obtained by 9to5Mac. “His new role is a reflection of the scope of work he has been doing at Apple for some time.”

Ive is already responsible for overseeing the physical look of Apple products as well as the design of the company’s software. In his expanded role, he’ll have more time to focus his design expertise on other parts of Apple’s empire, such as its Apple Stores, the physical packaging of its products and even the design of its massive new spaceship-shaped headquarters, which is set to open by 2017.

In an interview in the Telegraph, which first reported the promotion, Ive revealed that one of the touches he’s added to the new campus is custom-designed desks that can be raised or lowered with the press of a button.

Freeing up Ive to do more big-picture thinking will be two men taking on some his previous day-to-day managerial duties. Richard Howarth is being promoted to vice president of industrial design and Alan Dye will become the vice president of user interface design. The changes take place on July 1.

TIME BMW: A Company on the Edge

See Inside BMW’s Secret Design Lab

A rare look at what happens in one of the world's most important research and development centers

For decades, BMW has advertised its vehicles as “the ultimate driving machine.” The meaning of that phrase has started to slip. In an age of connected technology, ultimate driving machines automatically brake for their passengers in emergencies or beam content from mobile phones and tablets as much as they may accelerate quickly or handle nimbly.

That puts BMW, the world’s top-selling premium automaker by sales volume, in a difficult position. It must maintain its reputation for driving dynamics while also catering to changing consumer tastes—like better fuel efficiency and more advanced technology. And it is trying to do so with competitors like Audi and Mercedes-Benz nipping at its heals. Brands ranging from Toyota to Hyundai are also trying to sell more premium vehicles.

Last year, worldwide BMW sales rose 9.5% to 1.81 million cars, while Mercedes-Benz deliveries jumped 13% to 1.65 million vehicles. Volkswagen-owned Audi posted an 11% increase to 1.74 million cars. Global demand for premium cars has rebounded as the U.S. economy recovered from the recession and consumers in developing economies, such as China, continued to buy high-end products.

Harald Krueger, who took over as CEO after the group’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 13, is trying to continue expanding BMW’s lineup while maintaining its profitability. As part of a strategy, partly overseen by the 49-year-old executive since late-2007, BMW has been aiming to make 30% more vehicles with the same number of workers while trying to reduce production costs per vehicle by raising economies of scale in components, drive systems and modules. Now, Krueger must do the same as cars grow more complex and fuel-efficient.

One of BMW’s little-known assets lies about an hour north of Los Angeles, in Newbury Park, Calif. Designworks, a consultancy owned by the German giant, is charged with designing future vehicles, exploring emerging technologies and experimenting with new materials, such as carbon fiber a major—and costly—part of BMW’s strategy to make its cars more fuel efficient in the future. In this video series, TIME looks at how BMW is trying to deal with the difficulties of a ever-more crowded, ever-changing market.

TIME Television

The Mad Men Title Sequence Is Eerily Similar to This LIFE Magazine Cover

LIFE Magazine April 21 1967 Cover
LIFE Magazine

The falling men on a 1967 LIFE cover seem to presage the falling man in the AMC show's opening credits

Analyzing the title sequence to Mad Men has become something of a sport for the show’s fans. Does the suited man hurtling toward earth foreshadow protagonist/anti-hero Don Draper’s literal death or his figurative demise? Does it echo the chilling photograph of a man who jumped from a burning World Trade Center tower? (Showrunner Matthew Weiner has said emphatically that it does not.) Whatever it represents, where did Imaginary Forces, the agency that produced the sequence, get the idea?

Here’s another idea: it’s now been pointed out that the design has many similarities to a 1967 LIFE Magazine cover, the first in a four-part series on “The Struggle To Be an Individual.” The cover, like Mad Men’s credits, features silhouetted men against the backdrop of a 1960s-era skyscraper. Both suggest a sense of helplessness, of ceding control to powerful forces beyond one’s self.

The Imaginary Forces team that produced the credits has spoken about some of the inspiration behind the design. Weiner initially approached them with the skeleton of an idea — a man walks into an office building, takes the elevator to the top and jumps — and they began developing storyboards. Those boards included a Volkswagen ad, movie stills and, as designer Steve Fuller told Print, “the design stew that’s been swirling around in our head over the last 15 years since we left college.”

Although a representative from AMC confirmed in an email to TIME that similarities between the LIFE cover and the title sequence are purely coincidental, the photo essay the cover advertises in many ways articulates the existential crises Draper faces in Mad Men. As an ad man, Draper sells access to an American dream he himself hasn’t entirely bought into. Even as he accumulates successes in the boardroom and the bedroom, the satisfaction never lasts longer than a few drags of a cigarette that might kill him anyway.

The ethos of the 1960s is, of course, omnipresent in Mad Men — and not just in its fastidious commitment to the furniture and fashions of the time. In post-WWII America, many Americans had settled into the comfort of corporate jobs that afforded them the same white picket fence and station wagon their neighbors boasted. Responding to that phenomenon, books like William H. Whyte’s The Organization Man, published in the mid-1950s, lamented how modern workers’ collectivist group-think ran in opposition to creativity and innovation. The sociological treatise The Lonely Crowd, which sits on the radiator in Don’s office, similarly observed that people’s yearning to understand their position as it compared to everyone else’s limited their potential for self-actualization.

The photos in “The Struggle To Be an Individual” suggest anonymity amidst this 1960s uniformity: an aerial view of an endless expressway, looping seemingly to nowhere; a housing development in which every unit looks identical; a geometry of office workers sitting row by row at the same typewriters, with the same hairstyles and the same stacks of paper.

“You can sign up for just about anything you want and it will be delivered with speed and polish,” one caption reads. “Everything you can get your hands on is worth having. The trick is in deciding what you want.” Draper, of course, can’t decide what he wants: the suburban life or the mistress in the city, the towering Manhattan skyline or the hazy skies and swimming pools of Los Angeles.

One caption, perhaps more than any other, seems to describe the journey Draper has undertaken as the series winds to a close. It accompanies the photograph of those looping Long Island expressways and dictates, almost like a meditation tape, how the driver might place himself in space and time:

Imagine yourself an astral body, streaking along, stable in the galaxy … before you know it, the unseen land will disappear behind you. Your turn will come to peel off, and home you’ll go, untouched by any weather.

TIME Innovation

Why the Next Leader of the U.N. Should Be a Woman

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. After 70 years of men in charge, the next leader of the U.N. should be a woman.

By Gillian Sorensen and Jean Krasno in the Washington Post

2. Here’s how to design a better Monday.

By Studio 360 and IDEO

3. What brought some cities back from the economic brink? Making peace with their suburbs.

By Nancy Cook in the National Journal

4. There’s an app to document and salvage Nepal’s cultural heritage.

By Annette Ekin at Al Jazeera

5. Elon Musk just made growing weed easier.

By Wes Siler in Gizmodo

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Design

Designer Who Created the Iconic ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ Sign Has Died

Tourists take pictures on Feb 12, 2009 in front of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" neon sign in Las Vegas. Betty Willis, the woman who designed the iconic neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to Las Vegas since 1959 has died.
Jae C. Hong—AP Tourists take pictures on Feb 12, 2009 in front of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" neon sign in Las Vegas. Betty Willis, the woman who designed the iconic neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to Las Vegas since 1959 has died.

Betty Willis was 91

Nevada graphic designer Betty Willis, who created the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that became a globally recognized icon of hedonism, died Monday at age 91, according to the Neon Museum.

Her design, gifted to Las Vegas in 1959, is emblematic of Googie architecture, with its characteristic futuristic motifs. Although the sign is formally owned by the Young Electric Sign Co., its image remains perennially in the public domain, with reprints adorning all manner of Vegas memorabilia from coffee mugs to T-shirts.

“Visitors see the sign with the twinkle in it and know they’ve got a license to enjoy themselves,” former Las Vegas mayor Oscar B. Goodman told the New York Times in 2005.

Willis was brought up outside Las Vegas and worked at Western Neon in 1952, after attending school in Los Angeles in 1952. “We thought the town was fabulous, so we added the word,” she once said.

TIME Design

The Minions Get Their Very Own Color From Pantone

Pantone Minion Yellow
Pantone Pantone Minion Yellow

This is color that will make a lot of people 'Happy'

For the first time in three years, the Pantone Color Institute has revealed a new color — and it has some despicable origins.

“Minion yellow,” inspired by the tiny creatures from the Despicable Me franchise and the upcoming prequel Minions, is the latest addition to the company’s color matching system, which is used by designers and artists. The company says the color came about after Pharrell Williams, who sings the song “Happy” from the Despicable Me 2 film, first came up with the idea and the Pantone team worked with animators at Illumination Entertainment to nail down the specific shade of Minion yellow.

“Color is contextual and right now there is a desire for colors that are more vibrant and uplifting,” Pantone Color Institute vice president Laurie Pressman said in a statement about the new color. “This is especially the case with the yellows, so given the worldwide popularity of the Minions, it seemed only natural to name a color after a character for the first time in our history.”

Minions hits theaters on July 10.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The truth is, California doesn’t have a water problem. We all do.

By Steven Johnson in Matter

2. Uber isn’t selling rides. It’s selling data.

By Ron Hirson in Forbes

3. A blind scientist wants to reinvent how the vision-impaired ‘watch’ movies.

By Chris Colin in California Sunday

4. Cute little details may make an app “delightful,” but they’re crowding out thoughtful design.

By John Pavlus in Co.Design

5. These giant robot traffic signals/red-light cameras are actually making the streets of Kinshasa safer.

By Mark Hay in Good

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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