I Want You To Want Me Video by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar

Design and the Elastic Mind

While I have seen I Want You To Want Me project at MoMA I haven’t actually interacted with it. However after watching the above video and seeing a similar presentation about the installation via AIGA NY Designers Remixed series a couple thoughts come to mind. I would luv to know how long the project took and how they sustained their energy though out. The amount of work that it would have taken to pull it off was quite amazing.

youtube video via information aesthetics

Blog and Podcast Search Engine from the CBC

Search Engine podcast and blog

I came across another great podcast from the CBC. This one is called Search Engine and you should check out the blog at www.cbc.ca/searchengine. Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s not about straight up technology but more about contemporary culture and news that is being influenced by the internet. I started with the latest episode and worked my way back, at twenty eight minutes a broadcast you’ll be caught up in no time. Their description is that Search Engine is a collaborative public radio show, which means among other things that every story that they bring to you is first posted to the blog at www.cbc.ca/searchengine, we invite you to come have a read and maybe share your thoughts. By getting a vigorous conversation started before we go to broadcast we’re able to learn more about our stories upfront and that helps us make better radio, of course we welcome your comments after we’ve gone on air and from time to time read feedback on the show. I really like this strategy of throwing something up information wise, get some angles you might not otherwise have had from others, help that shape the show, and then close the loop with more conversation afterwards. It really makes the story last a lot longer then it otherwise would have had.

Questions answered by design

virgin atlantic pattern by Jamie Wieck

I don’t usually mention too many design portfolio sites here, but after seeing the Virgin Atlantic Pattern (above) via Core77 Design Blog I couldn’t help it. The series of cityscapes comes from Jamie Wieck. There’s a lot of great work over on the site – each work is introduced by a question that the work seems to answered pretty successfully. And, his site is a bit of a blog too. See more at http://jamiewieck.com/index.htm

Two new’ish websites for designers


It’s starting to get difficult to keep track of all the websites that I should be going to on a regular basis. Keeping that in mind, between updating sites that I want to like my blog, flickr, delicious and sometimes facebook, it seems like a new site that comes into play is going to take some constant little nudges to get me interested in. There’s two new targeted web sites to designers called design:related and Design Float that I’ve been looking at for a month or two. I’m not at the point where I would visit them everyday yet, but I’m starting to lean that way…

Like a lot of social networking sites, they live off of members inviting other members. That’s not always the case but when I look at how I joined facebook or design:related it was both from invites from other friends. It’s a bit of a trust thing, but also if someone else is experimenting with it maybe I should too. I think design:related has a lot of potential. The interface is extremely well though out and I can find out information quite quickly. There’s one biggie that I’m still on the fence about, and that is their stat measurement. It shows the number of views publicly of different sections that members have visited. I’m not sure if that’s entirely a good thing or not. For sites like Digg it’s a good idea to show the number of votes (and like Design Float too, but I’ll get into that in a moment). The site is still in Beta format and I expect that as more members join, a pretty tight community will build around the inspirations section. The job board looks promising too. Like I mentioned above, I think the interface is pretty clear which will be important as it becomes larger with members.

Design Float

Design Float is kind of like Digg, but for designers. I’ve never been a huge fan of Digg for a number of reasons. The popular stuff tends to always feel the same and if it’s so popular why would I bother talking about it – there’s already enough people looking at the said item. At this point I’m not feeling the same way with Design Float. I really like how they’ve broken the categories up, no easy feat when describing design things.

Putting stuff out there

Web Design, Computer Repair

“Nearly all the best things that have come to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.”
+Carl Sandburg

I found this quote via the post Good Unexpected Things by Roger von Oech. The timing of reading it was fitting for me on a number of levels. Yesterday I was talking to a talented designer that creates fascinating patterns for both fabrics and digital media, something that I really haven’t been exposed to before. We got to talking about blogs and how they happen and the stuff that happens once you put something out there. Even if your blog only reaches ten people, that’s ten people you would have never been in touch with before. It’s almost been a year here in NYC for me – I’m now heading back to Canada. Hopefully for just a couple days though as I renew my visa. Be warned that the next couple of days posts may go nostalgic. While I almost completely agree with the Sandburg quote, I do think you have to have a plan to get what you want, the method and execution is probably going to be unexpected. You have to be able to see what’s in front of you and make the most of it.

When I was still in Edmonton I made a simple post mentioning on my blog that I was visiting NYC. I was looking for advice on what to do, though part of my intention to visiting NYC was to show my portfolio though if nothing came of that avenue I was still going to have a good time. Someone at the time that I didn’t know, Noah Brier mentioned a book and the rest is history. Through email he found out that I was indeed looking to move and work in NYC – he introduced me to Fanny and a lot of others at Renegade. A couple weeks later I was driving a U-Haul across North America. I knew I wanted to work in NYC, though I had no idea how to reach the right person or where that might lead. So there was a plan though the route was not clear. So make the most of what you want and keep your eyes open.

Speaking through the shapes of typography

Oded Ezer's work from his website

I don’t usually highlight individual portfolios that much, but I thought Oded Ezer’s work was an exception. I only discovered his work this morning after he made me a contact through flickr. After going through his typography work, experiments and art I couldn’t not mention his name here on DesignNotes. His combination of english and hebrew characters are fascinating. Aside from the characters used in english or french I don’t know any other language, yet the shapes of his hebrew characters seem familiar. His characters are kerned and spaced eligantly and the shapes speak, even if you have no idea what they’re saying. You can visit his work at his portfolio site and look at his photos on flickr.

There’s also a pretty good interview with Oded at PingMag titled Oded Ezer – experimental Hebrew typography

Marian Bantjes has a heart for designers

Marian Bantjes Hand Drawn Sheet

Marian Bantjes Rational

Not only did Marian Bantjes draw out 150 different hearts, she had to do at least five different Michael’s which is quite a feat in itself. Take a look at all her Valentines HERE. I’m just happy to see that she hasn’t totally forgotten moi since I moved to New York from Canada…

Image One: the actual heart

Image Two: the rational page that came with the heart

A blog using flash?

magnum blog

I finally found a blog that really, really uses flash in a respectable way. It just works. It’s the Magnum Blog. Designed both from the inside and outside by Orange Logic Europe, it does something we should all study when it comes to a successful design. If only those photographers that are writing for the blog could put their cameras down so they could talk more about what they’re doing…

The Person behind Nooka: an interview with Matthew Waldman


The story behind this interview with Matthew Waldman, the person behind the timepiece company Nooka is interesting as he was quick to get back to me with my questions. Just before Christmas I talked about Nooka’s watches on a blog post. Tina, though some of you may know her as Swissmiss mentioned that she knew him, and that he was quite a help when she started to design in New York. She also mentioned that she would be happy to introduce me to him.

There was only one thing that I wanted for Christmas and my wife Tamara was cool enough to get me a ZenH. It’s one of those watches that makes you just rethink a lot of things. Stuff just looks different when you change your mindset. Then I noticed Matthew’s name while I was checking out the roster for Pecha Kucha New York last week. I figured that was the perfect time to do an interview with him, so I asked Tina for the virtual handshake. Very quickly I put down the questions that had me interested in the watch as I was wearing it. Matthew responded incredibly quickly and I’m very grateful for that. Enjoy

Michael Surtees: What made you want to design watches?

Matthew Waldman: I actually never set out to design watches. Nooka is just one result of an internal and ongoing dialog I have about the nature of intuitive design combined with my questioning of accepted norms. Here is a rough outline on how it happened in my brain:

Inline skates become popular in the early 1990s causing me to have a “why can’t I rethink a product like that?” moment…

I fell into web design as a profession after creating web pages on my own as a hobby. I founded an interactive design studio in 1997 where I was part of the birth of information architecture as a discipline. This got me obsessing over intuitive design [over aesthetics]. (There was a similar movement in product design 15 years earlier when people were obsessing over ergonomic design)…

Unrelated, my intellectual brain was re-ignited after reading a chapter on Riemannian Geometry in Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace in the mid 90’s. Kaku used geometry as an example on how people do not question enough especially in his field of physics. His argument was something like this: Everyone thinks of Euclidian geometry as the geometry of the real world, but Euclidian geometry does not work on curved surfaces. There are curved surfaces everywhere in our world. Riemann, a 19th century German mathematician solved this problem but no one is taught Riemannian geometry in High School…

Waiting for a client in a London Hotel [The Landmark in Marylebone] staring at a wall clock gave me a flashback to learning how to tell time in first grade. I remembered learning it as part of math class and we had little exercises to do to learn time telling. This led to another flash back to fifth grade when digital watches and clocks became popular and we were taught how to read a digital display. Adults don’t think about it much, but time is calculated in base 12 [or base 24] when almost everything else we calculate is base 10.

These concepts are difficult for some children and must be taught. If something must be taught, then it is not intuitive…which brought all the background processes above together and I questioned why there were only 2 ways to represent time.

I sketched some ideas on a napkin, went back to New York and showed them to my IP Lawyer who thought they could get design patent protection. There were some other steps, and then a watch!

MS: How long does it usually take to design a watch – how do you know when it’s complete?

MW: The design takes little time to conceptualize. I then work out the proportions and function sets on the computer. We then do the 3-D models and spec which is sent to the factory for prototyping. If the movement is standard or something we’ve already produced, the whole process will take between 3-6 months. If a new circuit/movement is necessary, it can take 6 months to a year from concept to product.

MS: Once you have the idea, what steps does it take in production to get made?

MW: see question 2.

MS: I have the Nooka ZenH. I knew I wanted a Nooka but it took me a while to decide on the one. Ultimately it came down to the fact that it didn’t have any numbers on it and it read from left to right. Could you talk about how this watch came to be? If you could design that one again, is there anything that you would change?

MW: The Zen-H is my personal favorite and was designed expressly with the goal of producing a timepiece that would be easy to understand without numbers. I am actually redesigning the Zen line for a 2008 release when you will see the answer to the 2nd part of your question.

MS: What watch are you wearing right now?

MW: A blue Zub Zen-V.

MS: Where would you like Nooka as a company go? Why did you start it and what are your goals for it?

MW: I started Nooka to capitalize on the good press I was receiving when Seiko had licensed my designs but then dropped all of their sub-brands. I was encouraged by retailers who had carried the Seiko versions and wanted to work with me.

As a new brand and company, I want Nooka to expand into more markets so we can achieve the momentum and resources necessary to develop more products and sponsor cultural/educational activities that reflect my philosophy. I would like to see Nooka become a fashion brand and product think-tank with an inventory of concepts to license to other companies and collaborators.

MS: Are there any other products that you would like to design?

MW: Yes! Watercoolers and shoes.

MS: What keeps you inspired?

MW: Biology. Evolutionary biology is one of my other obsessions, and unlike the cliché of “i find natural forms to be very inspiring”, I am inspired by the processes and events that shape organisms and biological relationships.

MS: Do you read any blogs, and if so which are some of your favs?

MW: I read yours. I also read a lot of music blogs. I had a blog for my art project, the fairy labor union, but can’t remember where I had it hosted. If anyone can find it, please let me know.

MS: In your bio it mentions that you teach. Why do you teach and was there one teacher that influenced you more than any other?

MW: Teaching is great for so many things. First, it keeps me articulate about my process and what I do as a profession. Second, it gets me out of my apartment and office. Third, I get a jump-start on finding talented interns and potential designers for my studio. And of course, the students benefit from being taught by a working professional with a focus on creative process.

I was very lucky to have very colorful New York City public School teachers throughout grade school and High School. One teacher that inspired me a lot was Mr. Gupter, my High School architecture professor. I was a typical depressed art/angst teenager [they call them Goths now right?], and spend one whole senior semester writing poetry in his studio where I should’ve been working on his projects. When it came for him to collect finals, he asked me to hand in the notebook I was writing in. At first I thought he was trying to embarrass me, but he said very directly “You’ve been writing in that book all semester and I have to grade you on what you did in my class” He gave me an “A” and told me that all good design is about inspiration and composition. He thought my poems were inspired and well composed. He thought that the ability to write poetry would serve me well as a designer.

This experience helped me see how interdisciplinary all the arts are – something that I hope is apparent in everything I do.

MS: As a native New Yorker, what’s the one thing that you can do over and over again and always enjoy yourself?

MW: Look at people on the subway, ride my bicycle up the Hudson River Park and in Central Park.

MS: Thank you so much, it was fascinating to hear how Nooka came to be and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what you come up next with Nooka.

Pecha Kucha New York

Pecha Kucha New York

Just heard about Pecha Kucha New York, which is like a speed design talk. They describe it like this: each presenter is allowed 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds each – giving 6 minutes 40 seconds of fame before the next presenter is up.

The line up for the next talk January 31st is as follows:

Amale Andraos and Dan Wood
WORK Architecture Company

Afaina de Jong

Hadi Ghaemi
Human Rights Watch

David Reinfurt
Dexter Sinister

Donna Wingate
Precipice Alliance

Peter Simensky
Neutral Capital

Raina Kumra
Raina Kumra

Joe MacDonald
Urban A&O

Mathew Waldman

Marc McQuade
Pidgin Magazine

Jon Santos
Common Space

Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano

I’m not familiar with all the designers, but the two that I’m really interested in hearing are David Reinfurt and Mathew Waldman. Dexter Sinister and Nooka rank pretty high in my biased opinion. For more info on the event and the speakers, check out Pecha Kucha New York.

Clip/Stamp/Fold in NYC Review

From the Clip/Stamp/Fold Exhibition held at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

As much as the word inspiration is a cliche – Clip/Stamp/Fold was was indeed inspirational if for no other reason than it gave the viewer a lot of reasons to want to enter the world of publishing with their own ideas as opposed to sitting back and accepting what is being composed in your time. The fact that we now have the tools to compile, publish and distribute ideas easier than ever before is worth the effort. But I digress slightly. For my first show at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, it didn’t disappoint. As I entered the space for the first time, opening the door not knowing what to expect I was surprised that I wasn’t overwhelmed by the visuals and sound. The space was composed with a number of visceral elements that fit together nicely. The large plastic timeline draws you in, displayed in a scale that takes you through the years 196X – 197X. The magazines displayed were predominantly written by architects, either as students or practitioners. Each magazine had a brief summary below the image that was essentially the ideas and intentions behind the writing. Going through each of the summaries drew up a lot of ideas that could easily drive a design blog or two. Looking back to these magazines on the timeline, it’s easy to get nostalgic for a better design writing period now for magazines or blogs. In my opinion it seems that the motivation is questionable today. There’s the vanity pieces, critiques that barely dig deeper than the surface and promotion of personalities as opposed to understanding the work and why it’s relevant. Then there’s the social and political questions that seem to be all but forgotten. The intentions of the publishers of the little magazines in the Clip/Stamp/Fold exhibition seem more about sharing issues, stats and hits were not the motivation as much as getting something out on paper.

From the Clip/Stamp/Fold Exhibition held at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

On a secondary level of the exhibition, there were plastic bubbles that contained some of the original magazines on the other side of the timeline. You couldn’t pick them up, but it made the timeline real. Not all the magazines were in pristine comic book condition, but that made it better. People read these things, they weren’t collected for archival purposes. Behind the bubbles on the other wall was an assortment of past covers from the timeline. You could get lost in the visuals – so much action represented behind each of the images. I really appreciated how all the elements came together. But there was more. On the third wall there was a number of magazines re-created digitally and printed for people to thumb through. They were all different designs, sizes, and content that was as original as each title. It wasn’t important that these things were printed from a digital printer, it had to do with the content and getting a feel for what it was and represented.

From the Clip/Stamp/Fold Exhibition held at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

But did you catch earlier when I mentioned sound? In a number of plastic clusters there were interviews being conducted and projected through some pretty interesting looking speakers. While I usually find this type of thing inconsequential in museum environments, it fit in there. I could focus on reading text on the wall, stop to look at the visuals and float into the sound of what was being talked about. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I did find the collection inspirational. It wasn’t because of the aesthetics as much as what the visuals contained. I think we tend to confuse personality with skill, and visual fireworks confused with importance in what it offers for others to build from. In this case it’s about what some designers decided to do because they thought it was important enough to say.

Clip/Stamp/Fold Timeline Graphic

Clip/Stamp/Fold is at the Storefront for Art and Architecture till January 31st, 2007 in New York. If you have a spare hour I would highly recommend stopping by. Be sure to grab one of the newsletters on the way out as it contains a number of excellent interview captions of people involved in the magazines. And besides that, it’s nicely designed.

I’ve also published a number of photos from the exhibition on my flickr site HERE.

From the Clip/Stamp/Fold Exhibition held at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

Wooster on Spring

Wooster on Spring

Text below from the Wooster Collective Website

Wooster On Spring – The Countdown Begins

As many of you now know, Wooster on Spring, the exhibition we have been working on with Elias Cummings, the new owners of 11 Spring Street, will open in Lower Manhattan in less then one week.

The exhibition, a three celebration of 30 years of ephemeral art, will take place for three days only, and then all of the artwork will be destroyed.

The artists who’s work will be showcased include Shepard Fairey, WK, Jace, Swoon, David Ellis, FAILE, Cycle, Speto, D*Face, Blek Le Rat, John Fekner, Bo and Microbo, Above, BAST, Momo, Howard Goldkrand, Borf, Gaetane Michaux, Skewville, Michael DeFeo, Will Barras, Kelly Burns, Abe Lincoln, Jr, Judith Supine, Rekal, Maya Hayuk, Anthony Lister, Stikman, You Are Beautiful, Gore-B, Elboe-Toe, MCA, Jasmine Zimmerman, Plasma Slugs, Rene Gagnon, and many other surprise guests.

So here are the days and times for the three day open house:

Friday, December 15th: From 11am to 5pm
Saturday, December 16th: From 11am to 5pm
Sunday, December 17th: From 11am to 5pm

On Sunday, December 17th at 3pm there will be a panel discussion with many of the artists attending.

The location (as if you didn’t know) is 11 Spring Street (Spring and Elizabeth). For the first time in perhaps more than 25 years, the doors of 11 Spring will be open to the public.

Our advice – Come early and come often.

clover at Café Grumpy


Today is day two of my coffee experience at Café Grumpy. My first cup on Thursday blew me away. Unfortunately for the last three days I wasn’t able to get back. When I got my cup today I had to ask – why is this coffee so good? The obvious points would be that they measure out each cup with beans that they then grind, but a big part of the taste is the machine they use. That machine is a clover. From their website this is how they describe it – “The machine employs what we call Vacuum-Press™ technology, which – for the first time – combines two methods considered best for brewing coffee: the “French press” and the vacuum brewer.” On the clover site it only shows two locations in NYC for the machine, and one of them is Café Grumpy. So if you’re in Chelsea (224 West 20th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues) and love coffee – give the clover a test drive.

Also, Café Grumpy has a blog that is worth a visit in itself if you can’t walk on over. And a flickr site too.


Whatever you think, think the opposite

I was happy to hear that Paul Arden had a second book out titled “Whatever you think, think the opposite”. I was truly inspired by his first book “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be”. What surprised me is that I somehow missed the new one at bookstores until now.

While the new title is good, I didn’t get that same rush of inspiration as the first book. Perhaps it had more to do with the fact that I was now familiar with Arden’s style of thinking. I got the feeling that this book was more of a refresher from the first. Some of the same goal themes and looking at things differently came up again.

What I would have enjoyed more is that if this book got more into from the gut stories about thinking the opposite and how to succeed from it. In the end, no amount of knowledge is going to help if you don’t decide on your own to change, but a little kick to the backside doesn’t hurt either sometimes. This book just seemed more like a self congratulator pat on the back.

Today’s Inspiration

Walking Around

As I watched the video clip from PSFK asking the question of “Where Do You Get Inspiration?” it got me to think about my first real full time week in NYC. As much of a cliché as it is, NYC would be where I’m getting my inspiration from. But maybe not for the same reasons as you think. For me, there are so many talented people here that you have to always be striving to get better. No matter how good yesterday was, today you have to be smarter, faster, more observant, and listen better than you ever have before. Then there are the people on the street. 99% of the people are wearing interesting clothes, they’re not always nice looking but in their choice of clothing it tells a story or pattern of action of where they’re at in life. There’s also the visual culture out there too that makes you rethink concept, typography and execution constantly, but I can talk about that design inspiration another day.

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