Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Interior Design: The Urinal Comes Home

I know that this makes sense from a man's perspective, if for no other reason than to reduce the splash effect.

But, it would take me some adjusting to the idea of bringing the urinal, so strongly associated with public restrooms, into my home.

The High End Bathroom

Waterless Urinal

How Will Technology Reach The Developing World?

There is a growing public debate, if not race, to reach the billions of people living in developing nations that have yet to be touched by information technology. The most notably attempt to directly impact the disconnected is led by Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. media lab.

His proposal is to produce a low cost, below $100, computer in which countries would purchase and distribute to their children. Can corporations resist the tempation that these markets represent and not let the $$ undermine the intent? What is a sustainable solution to this complex mix of issues?

Where does design practipate in solving this problem? Is it limited to the hardware and software concerns only, and not involved in reflecting cultural values or the enhancing the quality of life for billions of people. Designer can contribute at any level of the inquiry.

Who Will Wire the World

An Updated Interface

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Product: Watch as Metaphor

This is a clear twist on a metaphor for time. The form references the shape of the age old time keeping device of an hour glass and repackages it as a personal time keeping device.

The Concept

The Designer

Fashion Design: Levi A Lost Gaint?

How does a market leader lose it way?

Levi the organization that introduced the world to blue jeans, in 1893, has not been able to fend off new upstarts selling $100+ jeans. Many new jean manufacturers have been capturing the imagination of a growing number of consumers, thus nibbling away at Levis' leadership position.

The erosion of market dominance by American companies like Levi, General Motors and others that once controlled more than 50 % of their markets, is a study whose lessons should be considered by designers.

Levi Challenge

Levi, The Company

Youth and Levi

Design Schools: Where are they?/ What are they Teaching?

Design education is adapting to the expanding opportunities including the desires of business leaders to find people who can assist in connecting with fragmenting consumers niches.

Growing Number of Schools in China

List of Design Schools

Business Schools Find Design

Leader of the Institute of Design

Friday, January 26, 2007

When A Design Works: The Vietnam War Memorial

It is amazing to me how powerful the Vietnam War Memorial is at conveying the impact of war on multiple levels.

My visit to the memorial was simply as an observer with no personal connection to the war and little historical perspective on its beginning, length, ending, causalities etc.

But this genteelly sloping granite memorial moved me (to my surprise) as few objects had before, awaking emotions while creating awareness and context for the lives lost in this conflict. Mia Lin's masterful execution of this memorial's concept allows it to connect on a emotional level and communicate the personal cost of the war through a method of organizing the names of those sacrificed is powerfully good design.

"The names of all of the US military personnel who died in the Vietnam war are inscribed on the surfaces of two long, black granite walls. The walls start out short (around twelve inches) and grow to more than nine feet in the center where the two meet. They are constructed this way for a special reason. All of the names are arranged by time (date of death), from the first who died during the "police action," to the mounting death toll at the height of the war, trickling off as the US pulled out of the area. The names thus chart the pattern of US involvement in Vietnam and the personal stories of the real people involved and most affected. Imagine how different the monument would be without this organization. Suppose the names were organized by alphabet (which was actually proposed once the design was accepted). While it might be easier to find a particular person, the search and the names themselves would be reduced to a mechanical list, a granite White Pages. Lost would be the individuality of each name and life. In a list of seventeen John Smiths, which one is yours?

An alphabetical organization would have completely depersonalized the monument and devastated its emotional power, so would most other organizations. Imagine if the names were organized by category (e.g., pilots listed here, infantry listed there) or on a continuum based on rank or, for that matter, height (e.g., the tallest men at one end, the shortest at another). What is key to this emotional experience is that those who died are found among those whom they died with. Without this organization, in fact, there is no longer meaning to the wall growing and tapering down in height. Any other organization would have created a different memorial entirely and, most likely, one without the power and emotion created in the existing one. All of this is somewhat subliminal. When you visit the monument, its information structure isn't the first thing you perceive, but it works nonetheless. This is true of any project, whether it is a sensitive and emotional monument, a powerful and inspiring museum, a useful and concise catalog, or a thrilling and interesting performance."

Nathan Shedroff

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Information Design: Making the Complex Understandable

The map of the London subway system is held up as a masterpiece and effective example of the power of designing information.

Harry Beck in 1931 took the complexity of a vast transportation system and organized it into a simple presentation that enabled understanding of the relationships between discrete parts of the system (locations) to the whole.

Information-Interaction-Sensorial Design Theory

Designer as Advocate

Designers are user advocates.They are skilled at synthesizing many streams of knowledge into appropriate solution ideas/directions for product development.

One of the core skills of a designer is to give form to culture. This requires an understanding of the meaning of things, aesthetics and behavior in the context of what is possible.

Design planners/strategist are designers who are skilled in framing design insights into clear and compelling business cases. Strategist if they are to be influential must be able to frame user-centered insights in economic terms, as is required of other professionals operating at the top levels of an organizations.

The universal art of persuasion is an essential skill for design planners to nuture and exercise. In professional life the ability to champaign an idea is fundamental to being heard while in the mist of competing disciplines who are looking to influence the direction of the organization.

Likewise, it is important to understand how the skills of a designer are uniquely different from what other business professionals bring to the organization. A fundamental quality that a designer has rest in possessing an empathetic understanding of the user along with the means to communicate (visually) the insights that come from understanding humanity. So as the tools of communication are exercised with signficant skill it brings with it the power to persuade. Designer's on this level produce briefs that tell a story of business opportunity.

Organizational decision makers (CEO's,CFO's, Directors...) are thirsty for clear meaningful information, so as designer's are able to provide relevant insights their status among the leadership team will increase.

Designers as Leaders

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Quintessential Designers' Life of Charles and Ray Eames

Arguably the most accomplished designers (husband and wife) of the 20th century.

Together, they tackled a wide breathe of creative explorations from film, toys and architecture to furniture, textiles and exhibitions. Their work produced not only a large body of varied work (1940 to 1984) but also new methods, manufacturing processes, shapes, images... hence making a significant contribution to America's post-modern aesthetic.

Their Work

Eames Collector

Eames Office

Video of Eames Office

Recent Article on the Eames Lounge Chair

Sustainability and Design: What does it Mean?

Sustainability is a concept that is talked about more with each passing year, but is just as often misunderstood by many that hear the word. I gained a working definition of the concept of sustainable design at a seminar put on by Focus On Design at Neocon East, a commercial furniture trade show, with the same title as this posting.

It is after considering the whole picture, then identifying a design solution that best addresses the problem/opportunity in light of the triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental impacts) a business proposition can be considered sustainable so long as the solution promotes the long term health of the business without comprise to the larger society.

The video below presents the issue of sustainability in the context of a South Bronx, NY neighborhood.

Sustainability Comes to The Corporate Agenda

Monday, January 22, 2007

Multi-Point Touch Screen Interfaces

One of the unique features of the Apple Iphone is that it dispenses with the physical keyboard and relies on a touch screen for input.

The touch screen interface, that was depicted in the Tom Cruise film, Minority Report, is just over the horizon. This would mean that the digital desktop has literally arrived, with fewer devices (less pointing and clicking with a mouse and pecking on keyboards) to direct computing actions, and more reflective of the metaphor of the physical desk top. Below is a video of a multi-point touch screen interface.

Jeff Han 2007 Video

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lighting Technology: LED

Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are finding their way into many applications and changing products as varied as graffiti art, cell phones, televisions and automobiles.

The advantages include:
* More light per Watt than do incandescent bulbs.
* Light of an intended color without the use of color filters.
* The solid package of an LED can be designed to focus its light.
* Built inside solid cases that makes them extremely durable.
* An extremely long life span: upwards of 100,000 hours.
* Fail by dimming over time, rather than the abrupt burn-out.
* Light up very quickly. LED will achieve full brightness in microseconds.
* Can be very small and are easily populated onto printed circuit boards.

LED Throwies Video

How Diodes Work

The World Bank's Plans to Light Africa

Product: Toilet (Neorest 600)

This is not a product or experience that I have paid much attention to, but since it has come to my attention I have to ask what should I expect from a new entry in this category? Improved comfort, cleanliness and water conservation are my top-of-mind expectations for new toilets.

Also, I am curious as to why there has been so little innovation around this fixture of the modern home?

The worlds largest manufacturer of toilets is a Japanese company named Toto. They have recently introduced a pricey and innovative toilet, Neorest 600, that should shake up the competition with its high tech features.

When/Who Invented the Toilet?

Modern Movements

Wired Article

Friday, January 19, 2007

Typography: Univers Font

In the 1950's, Typography finally broke from its conservative influences, dating back centuries, to develop type shapes applicable for use in modern communication mediums.

In 1950, Adrian Frutiger, 1928- , planned and realized a font family as a connected conceptual system, the 21 Univers alphabets. The look of this new font was fresh and contemporary, a result of the calculations of the stoke width and the relationship between the stroke and the surrounding white space.

Typography Resource

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Remote Control of the Future: The Loop

Televisions have change significantly over the last few years, now a new remote is being offered to enhance navigating in a 500+ channel environment.

This remote interface uses a form factor that allows a more natural arm position. It makes use of some of the same motion sensing technology that can also be found in the Nintendo Wii.

Hillcrest Labs

CNET Article

Class Project: Analyzing Form

A project that would help new students of design to develop their ability to identify and talk about form would be to assign them to study auto designs and document their understanding of the langauge use by a particular auto company or trends across the industry.

Whether BMW's sculptural body side panels, the sloping nose of the Lexus brand or other distinctive markers of automotive form language would provide tangible examples for a class to study.

Using the tools of their choice students would identify, analyze and present their conclusions. The learning for the student would be in making a personal connection with form, using visual language to describe and defend their view (critical analysis)of a product that that has impacted us all.

Design Principles and Terminology

This book, Universal Principles of Design is a good resource for the study of design terms and concepts.

An informed team of authors have pulled together solid descriptions and examples that would help any designer build their design lexicon.

Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Design Icons: Lineage of Task Lighting

In 1933 the introduction of the AnglePoise Lamp was the first to allow lighting to be redirected through using springs to hold the lamp in various positions. This proved ingenious and useful and continues to be produced today.

George Carwardine, 1887-1948, an engineer found that his explorations with springs could be fittingly applied to lighting to provide flexible positioning that stays in place once adjusted.

History of the AnglePoise Lamp

In 1972, Richard Sapper introduced the Trizio Lamp. Its mordern aesthetic proved appealing for home and office to a generation of successful business types that appreciated its clean lines and minimalist leanings. Sapper brought a few new twists to the desk lamp: a halogen light element, armiture used to conduct electricity and counter weights to fix the lamp in position.

Richard Sapper Interviewed

This leads to the question of what is the next step in task lighting and what will reflect the sensibilities of the 21st century?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The State of Auto Design?

Since the kick off of the 2007 North American Auto Show last week, I have been thinking about the state of the American car makers and auto design. (photo:Lexus)

Having grown up in Detroit a visit to the Auto show was a rite of passage, but things have changed and the industry is shifting away from American domination. It seems that the spirit/passion of developing products has been slowly slipping for decades and with each passing year the search for purpose and reason (along with market share) is being captured more by foreign manufacturers. Toyota leads with an effective business strategy and BMW with inspired designs.

On the basic level of form, when I think of Ford generic is a word that comes to mind. The same can be said for GM, whereas Chrysler does have some distinctive forms that come to mind. Specifically, the 300 full size sedan, the line of Dodge products that have a unifying language and Jeep goes without saying.

On the cosmetic level interior lighting seems to be one of the trends coming out of the show this year.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Systems Thinking: Smart Elevators

The ability to rethink a problem starts with restating the problem clearly, then working through a process that identifies all of the sub-components and seeks out a best solution without being limited by established conventions.

Architects are rethinking ways in which to efficiently get people to the upper floors of large buildings by focusing on queuing techniques and applying smart technologies.

As a result the user's experience is enhanced, lobbies are cleared of waiting passengers, elevator wait times are reduced and riders stop on fewer unwanted floors.

Audio Explanation

Design Pioneer: Raymond loewy

I was introduced to the profession of industrial design when I saw a 60 Minutes interview with Mr. Loewy in 1981.

Raymond Loewy, 1893-1986, was a great self- promoter and pioneer of industrial design consulting.Working with leading manufactures of his day, he was known for bringing a streamlined aesthetic to products as diverse as refrigerators, trains, buses, pencil sharpeners, vacuums...

He was considered a styling genius, who glamorized the practice of design and thus having raised the status of the profession. He was the first designer to appear on the cover of Time magazine (1949).

Loewy Website 1
Loewy Website 2

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Communication Theory: Code of the Jazz Musician

One of the most rewarding projects in graduate school was for the course: Theory of Information and Communication. We were asked to study several communication theories and select one and demonstrate its application.
I selected the W. Barnett Pearce theory on Representation and Interaction: Designing the Position of the Viewer in which to study. This social model of communication suggested that the point of view of the creator of a graphic piece can be determine by analyzing the product along key criteria. The idea was that there were three kinds of relationships embedded in images: 1) the relations between represented participants 2) relations between producer and the represented participants and 3) relations (interaction) between the producer and the viewer of an image.

I chose the Blue Note Album Art as the subject of my analysis. The graphic art of this history making jazz record label was fitting for this inquiry because its imagery was both radical and rare for the time. The use of black male imagery to sell a commerial product was precedent setting.

My research would reveal a deep appreciation and admiration for the creators of jazz music by the photographer Francis Wolff and graphic artist Ried Miles. They captured intimate protraits of artist engaged in their craft then translated those images into heroric reflections of black males for public consumption.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Medical Products: An Opportunity for Designers

An area ripe for designers to make significant contributions is in health care.
Organizations that provide support to the health care industry whether directly or through any aspect that touchs the patient's experience offers tremendous opportunity.

It is easy to find products in this space that have not been touched by a designer, the baby thermometer (above) by Vicks, is an example of one that has. This design allows the care giver to safely and accurately take an infants temper.

FDA Works to Reduce Medical Device Injuries

Trends in Medical Technology

Article GE Medical

Material: Silicone

Materials are often a source of new product ideas. Silicone is slowly finding its way into the modern kitchen.

Silicones are water repellent, heat stable, and very resistant to chemical attack. They find many uses in oils, greases, and rubberlike materials. Silicone oils are very desirable since they do not decompose at high temperature and do not become viscous. Other silicones are used in hydraulic fluids, electrical insulators and moisture proofing agent in fabrics.

Silicones have a number of medical applications because they are chemically inert. A good deal of controversy has involved the the use of silicone in polyurethane bags as breast implants.

NY Times Article

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Practice: Rapid Prototyping

The process of creating a model is getting easier by the day.

Computing technologies are allowing the creation of presentation models/prototypes to be produce with the touch a button. This process can be thought of as 3D printing.

Rapid Prototyping (RP) greatest benefit is the reduction in development time. There are a few different systems that can be used to produce these 3D models including: Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS®), Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM™), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Solid Ground Curing (SGC), and Ink Jet printing techniques.

Unfortuntely, this same technology allows for knock-offs products to be produced in short order.


A Definition
NYTimes 5-2007

Apple: Introduces A New Product

I continue to encourage friends and family who haven't been persuade to purchase an Apple computer to do so. And, that their loyality to the PC is over rated, especially when the device or the software undermines their stated goal. (Ok, I know that price is often the deciding factor for most purchase decisions, but let me get back on my soapbox.)

So as Apple introduces its iphone, I expect to hear the chorus of family and friends singing that a phone is a phone what's so different about this one.

The expectation when Apple introduces a product is that it will include something unique and valuable that users will appreciate and which will separate it from all other offerings. This does not mean that any of the technology is new, but it is the arrangement of elements that makes their products special. (Mp3's where around before the ipod, but the introduction of an elegant device and service (itunes) that made assessing and playing digital files helped changed the face of music.)

I do not know if Apples newest product will revolutionize phones, but I do hope it is a step closer to a better one.

NY Times Article

NY Times Article

NPR Article

Apple's Influence

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Product: Cordless Bagless Hand Vac

In October 2006, I thought Dyson's, Root 6, entry into the hand vac category was a viable contender for the best solution. But, Black and Decker (BD) has bested them with it newest model, an integrated solution that fits easily into a home environment.

It is both powerful and easy to use with its handle placed behind and above the motor. The materials and color are superior to those used on the Root 6.

But, the most thoughtful feature, is that the unit is self contained. The pivoting nozzle allows additional flexibility without much effort and the hinged door allows the collected content to be removed with a shake. Finally, the recharging stand provides a nice resting place for the unit when not in use. My conclusion, the BD's Pivot Vac is a much better product and priced at least half of what you would pay for the Root 6.

Exhibtion: Designs for Life - Chicago

Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry annual black history month exhibition, Black Creativity, this year the focus is on Industrial Designers who merge science and style to address consumer needs.

Black Creativity 2007

Tribune Article

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Selling Innovation: A Better Light Bulb

The success of new products are impacted by how they fit within a business case. So beyond whether a product is technically feasible, or even offering direct benefits to the consumers, it must also prove viable to the organization's goals so that it will receive the necessary organizational backing to be successful .

Hence, designers should consider and speak to how a new product fits and supports the goals of an organization.

Article: Wall Mart

Video: Selling The Light Bulb