Friday, April 25, 2008

Milan's Furniture Fair

I didn't get to attend the world largest furniture design show, but a friend (Keith Parker) did so I am still waiting for his first-person account of the show.

Video Review

And so until then, the reviews provided by the press will have to do.
"The dominant theme at the fair might best be described as survivalist: in piece after piece, designers explored how they can help us (and themselves) navigate the perils of contemporary life — in particular, the big problems of recession, environmental crisis and design’s neurosis about its role in a saturated consumer culture."
NYTimes Review

"...every so often a new chair comes along that confounds the cynics by proving its worth. The latest contender is the MYTO, a plastic chair, which is strong, comfortable, light, stackable, compact and comes in a coolly angular shape that is made from a single piece of plastic using (eco-responsibly, of course) the minimum material possible. In short, it's just about everything a new chair should be."

MYTO Chair

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Design Director for Khoi Vinh

I've noticed some graphic elements like the colorful illustrations (see below) that run along side some of the feature articles that appear to be the handy work of a design professional. I wonder is it Mr. Vinh's?

"As design director, Mr. Vinh leads a group of 11 visual designers, information architects and design technologists in continually improving and extending the user experience at Mr. Vinh also writes and lectures extensively about design and technology, and serves on the national board of directors for AIGA, the professional association for design."

NYTimes Profile

Khoi Vinh Website

Student Design Competition: AIGA -DC

The local (DC) chapter of the professional graphic design organization AIGA is sponsoring its first design competition for student in the metro area.

Competition Details

AIGA-DC Website

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Design Problem: How to Accomodate the New Oddly Shaped Toothbrush?

Well this very question followed me through graduate school.

My first design assignment during my foundation year (2001) brought the issue of storing toothbrushes to light. My early solution focused on protecting toothbrushes from contamination.

But, it was two years later that I returned to the opportunity to refine my solution to also address the changing needs of consumers by focusing on the varying shapes of brushes as well as the increasing variety of interior configurations.
(see prototypes below)

NYTimes Article

Fashion in Context

I came across this photo on a fashion blog site (see below) and thought that it reflected how fashion can work in concert with the environment within which exists. In this case the connections are obvious.

Here the graftti scribed walls of NYC are juxtaposed to the cool posture and stare a young man dressed in a hoodie and baggy faded jeans capturing the young urban aesthetic oh so well.

Fashion Blog

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Architect: David Adjaye

It is rare that an architect becomes known beyond their profession and national boundaries, but David Adjaye is on his way to achieving international recognition for his designs.

This African born European trained designer has secured major comissions on this side to the pound, like the Denver Musuem of Contemporary Art (lower right corner).

Interveiw with David Adjaye

Dwell Interview

Adaye Associates

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rebuilding the Lives of the Frustrated and Bitter in PA

Here is a great story of the power of a vision and the creative arts to transform the lives of displaced people.

Video: Bill Stickland

Design's New Influence?

Style Conscious or Style Conscience? that is the question.

Product design has traditionally been very focused on function, in that aesthetics (in the sense of style for style sake) had a limited influence. But since the turn of the century the art world has placed an increasing value on the work of product designers. In particular product designer Mark Newson whose Lockheed Lounge chair recently became the highest priced item made by a living designer sold at auction.

Article: Style Conscious or Style Conscience?

Contest Winner: Reactiv - Cycling Jacket

James Dyson, the British Industrial Designer and creator of the Dyson vacuum continues to influence international design community.

His annual design competition recently awarded it top prize to the Reactiv cycling jacket that uses LCD lights to indicate the actions of a cyclist: braking, turning etc. Wow! what a great idea.

James Dyson Award

James Dyson Foundation

Dyson's School of Design Innovation

Friday, April 11, 2008

User Centered Design: The Role of the Researcher

The profession of Design continues to expand as a response to the complexity that often comes bundled with new technologies, as well as the insatiable desire of companies to penetrate ever more diverse markets.

As such new professional opportunities appear in the design process, hybrids if you will, such as the design (user) anthropologist. The article below describes the role of the researcher in providing insight into the lives of users that can then be included in the development of products.

NYTimes Article

Why Ethnography?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Case Study: When Technology Fails to Count

It is interesting to see the project that help persuade me that working within the public sector offered opportunity for design professionals fails so miserably.

What I have found is that there is plenty of opportunity, but that the organization itself must be taught how to leverage the value of design professionals to assist in the achieving its goals. This is no small task in any large institution, but federal agencies present a unique challenge.

So as the finger pointing intensifies I will not attempt to speak as I know all of the reasons why the program (to collect data from people living in this country with a small hand held computer will not be implemented) but I can speak to the possibility still being entirely achievable. Though it will not happen in 2010 as hoped the agency is further along than five year ago.

From my point of view, I would simply say that the strategy that focused on retro-fitting a commercial product to fit within the very specific needs and requirements of a census environment created was a faulty one.

In other words, the program would have had a much greater chance of succeeding if the strategy had focused on developing a product specific to the needs of the organization. The lesson for designers, get to know and understand your users; and for organizations technology is not the complete answer but how and what technology should be used. It is this latter lesson where designers talents are best suited to synthesize then shape products that people/organizations can use.

Wired Magazine Article

Popular Science Article

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Logo Design

The center piece for Al Gore's newest campaign against global warming is a logo developed for the Alliance for Climate Protection, a advocacy group found with proceeds from his Nobel prize money.

Based on the context of how it will be used (as described in the NYT link below) the 'we' seems like an appropriate solution.

NYTimes Analysis

The Martin Agency

Designer : Frank Tyneski

I met Frank Tyneski at a design conference last year, a very talented designer and now the executive director of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).

Here he talks about the changing landscape of mobile phones.

Logo Design: Washington Capitals

Washington D.C.'s hockey team the Washington Capitals new logo caught my eye as being an effective redesign of the teams logo.

The logo leverages national symbols: the eagle being the most dominate along with the colors red, white and blue supporting the reference to the position of the city as being the nation's capital. The color blue is given the shape of a "W" for a specific reference to Washington DC and whose center axis forms a negative space shaped to reflect the capital dome.

Washington Capitals Site

Automobile Design: The Smart Car

The hike in fuel prices has been met with increasing interest in smaller vehicles.

The smallest car now on American roads is the European "been there done that ten years ago " Fortwo Coupe (aka Smart Car) brought to the states by the Damlier Benz company.

Car and Driver Magazine

Safety Performance

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Information Design: Visualizing Data

The image to the left is a product of Chris Harrison which maps 63,000 Bible cross references. His aim was simply to visualize the relationship of the text, forgoing functional possibilities for the simple aesthetics of what the cross reference create.

"The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect". Chris Harrison Website

I referenced the very same subject matter for content for a course in information design. My goal was to find a way to visualize various relationships presented in scripture so that meaning would be revealed to the viewer. Unlike Mr. Harrison my aim was to produce a functional tool for understanding.

The Death of Design by Phillippe Starck

It may sound a little mellow dramatic for a well known French product designer to utter the words "design is dead", but it is not the first time I have heard the sentiment.

Larry Kelley, professor at the Institute of Design uttered the same phase in 2001 during my design planning class. Yes it puzzled me, especially because this was news to me having had returned to school at great expense to study the very profession that I was being told was in its last throws.

What I have come to understand about these pronouncements is that they are true to an extent. The profession of design is shifting as is most things due to the far reach influences of technology and the rapid pace of globalization, just to name two factors. So Starck being the old school form focused product design, now looks at his creations as stuff that is ripe for landfills, is underestimating the value creating potential that design still offer the world.

Design's contribution in the 21st century is less about the shape of a physical product but how it contributes to shaping the life experiences of users. Lifestyle products like the proposed iFitness system (digital product)Apple is said to be developing is the new front of design. So in that regard Starck is missing the forest because he is focused on the trees.

Article on Starck

NYTimes Editoral

starck's Website