Helvetica in Vancouver and What is Design, really?

Helvetica Vancouver Poster

Over the weekend as I was hanging out in Bryant Park working away on my computer, I had pretty good conversation with Mark Busse over IM. He’s the Chapter president of the GDC BC Mainland Chapter and he was mentioning the success of the Helvetica film screening in Vancouver. Apparently they sold out two nights and caused a lot of chaos on the streets before it opened. They’ve placed some flickr pics HERE. Mark was also cool enough to send me a couple extremely large posters from the event.

And yesterday I received a really, really nice email from David Ngo who created the above YouTube video on the question of what is design? The video is long at eight minutes but well meaning for my short attention span. It looks like it’s the first in a series. I’ll be looking forward to the next installment when it comes out.

Diagram about DesignNotes

Notes about DesignNotes for my creative meeting this morning

For a while I’ve been thinking about how my blog integrates a couple other sites like flickr and delicious and in turn how that has feeds into each other for content. Where I work once a week there’s a creative meeting where one or two people present on something that interests them. It allows people to hear about interesting things that everyone else might not be aware of. Today was my opportunity so I decided to talk about my blog. I went through a bit of the random process about how a post comes together, but to also mention that I use my blog as a tool for rapid prototyping. What I mean by that is that DesignNotes allows me to experiment very quickly with a lot of tools of communication. That’s where my diagram above comes into play. I just started a couple connections of other sites that I use and how that becomes a crazy loop. There’s all the visual stuff that people see and read, but there’s also the backend that involves understanding stats on why people come to my blog, what my tags are suggesting about the patterns of things that interest me, and as an experiment to see public blog and a semi private facebook site I have. I could go on and on about it, which I will at a latter date – but I thought it would be helpful to give some context into what all those lines are connecting to.

Flood Photos


Via American Photo comes a collection of flood photos from National Geographic that documents some of the strange weather that has happened around the world in the last year. Is it global warming or a natural yo-yo of the climate? Speaking of doom and gloom global warming scenarios, BLDGBLOG posts Liberation Hydrology: Miami, 2107 A.D. suggests that if people are going to get serious about global warming, scaring people might not be the best way to effect change.

My ode to orange?

My ode to orange

I’ve noticed an alarming amount of orange on my desk today. So I thought it would be interesting to spend a couple minutes discovering the psychology of orange via links.

From about.com:
· Orange is a combination of yellow and red and is considered an energetic color.
· Orange calls to mind feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, and warmth.
·Orange is often used to draw attention, such as in traffic signs and advertising.

From Wikipedia:
· Calm, depth, natural organisms, nature, richness, rusticism, stability, tradition, anachronism, boorishness, dirt, dullness, filth, heaviness, poverty, roughness, earth (classical element)
· Web colour orange, defined as FFA500
· In English heraldry, orange is considered synonymous with the tincture tenne, and supposedly denotes strength, honor, generosity, and prosperity[citation needed]. However, its use as a heraldic tincture is relatively rare, as it is considered a “stain” (a deprecated tincture) by some. In continental heraldry, tenne is more often deemed to denote a burnt orange colour.

From Colour Therapy Healing:
On the psycho-spiritual level, this chakra relates to self respect. That is to say having the ability to give ourselves the freedom to be ourselves and to respect our own boundaries and requirements and, by the same token, having respect for the boundaries of others. Orange is the colour of creativity and we should give ourselves the space to have creative time just for us.

From Color Wheel Pro:
Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation.

To the human eye, orange is a very hot color, so it gives the sensation of heat. Nevertheless, orange is not as aggressive as red. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an invigorating effect, and stimulates mental activity. It is highly accepted among young people. As a citrus color, orange is associated with healthy food and stimulates appetite. Orange is the color of fall and harvest. In heraldry, orange is symbolic of strength and endurance.

Orange has very high visibility, so you can use it to catch attention and highlight the most important elements of your design. Orange is very effective for promoting food products and toys.

Dark orange can mean deceit and distrust.

Red-orange corresponds to desire, sexual passion, pleasure, domination, aggression, and thirst for action.

Gold evokes the feeling of prestige. The meaning of gold is illumination, wisdom, and wealth. Gold often symbolizes high quality.

Street Mining and Link Coincidences

Street Mining

Street Mining

Street Mining

Ever since mentioning Street Mining a couple weeks ago here on my blog, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the curated walk to hear and see things that I otherwise would never have known about in NYC. Last week I moved from Chelsea to what I would consider midtown so I now have to rely on the subway to go south as opposed to before when I would walk everywhere if I was headed in that direction. Giving myself thirty minutes to get to soho on a train I thought would be more than enough time. It was not due to a stalled train and eventually I did have get off the train to meet up with the group of Street Miners and Pam who was leading it. Once I got close I called/txt messaged Noah who instructed me on their known where abouts. It was funny and kind of interesting to follow location instructions as they moved around in real time.

Once I got into the walk, I found that everyone was genuinely open to talking as we walked past things. I’m always curious to know how people find out about events, which blogs they read and what they do. From what I gathered yesterday Swissmiss has an eclectic following of people. The weather was near perfect (just a little hot and all sun) and I found a couple amazing places to visit if I’m in a funk to get stimulated. If you’re at all interested I would visit the Street Mining site and sign up to be on the mailing list at http://streetmining.net. I’ve also posted all my images on flickr and facebook.

On an upcoming post I was going to throw out a couple links that caught my attention over the week, but I found some parallels between the walk and those links. The first came from New York Times: With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking. It talks about how people are using technology and browsers like Google Maps to create their own stories. I think the first photo above is the perfect example of this in real life. Of course a second example would be my google map of places that I’ve discovered in NYC. I suspect in a couple days the route that Street Mining took will be up, though of course questions of how public it should be have been asked. Should someone that never went on the tour get to see things that others experienced first hand? Personally I think the more information you put out there, the better. I’ve found out about a lot of places to eat just through flickr. I didn’t get to experience it first hand but appreciated the fact that someone took the time to let me know about it.

I was going to mention Creative Review: Global Cities at Tate Modern b/c of the visualization of dense urban areas. I couldn’t help but feel the squeeze of people as I walked to find the Street Mining group. I would be interested in a physical three dimensional map of all the locations people have come from as they walk from East/West in soho. Relying on the subway on Saturday was a mistake – Junk Charts: Noisy subways link talks is essentially a report card of the system – and how badly the diagram is designed. The last link that I was going to mention, PingMag: Cocoa Abstractions In Mind had nothing in common with anything that I did yesterday – but who doesn’t like chocolate?

UPDATE: the map of SoHo has been posted on Google Maps, and one of the first places that was visited while I was still on the train was a chocolate shop – so even my last link now seems appropriate…

UPDATE 2: Children of Darkness from the NYT.

Maps 2.0

NYC that I know, sort of...

Ever since google opened their map api, there’s been a great movement that would have been inconceivable only a couple years ago. Between customizing, collecting, tracking and sharing of information over what essentially could be considered an atlas, new forms of information has been created. Over at Mashable Networking News, they’ve assembled a lot of different types of mapping sites that they consider to be Online Maps: 50+ Tools and Resources. A further breakdown of categories is as follows: Customizable and Collaborative Maps, Transit Mapping, Subject Specific Mapping, and Popular Mapping Services.

Diving deep with images: FFFFOUND! and their image bookmarking site


I’ve been meaning to talk about FFFFOUND! for a couple days now but time has been going by to quickly. It’s a really great eclectic site of images. People post images that they’ve found on the web. What’s nice about the site is that you can typically go to the original site that hosted the image. Another feature is that the site can find other images based on what you like. I’ve been quite inspired each time I’ve visited the site, maybe you’ll be too at http://ffffound.com

Nice interactive map: Web Trend Map 2007 Version 2.0


Via Architectradure I came across a really cool interactive Web Trend Map 2007 Version 2.0 post. Here’s their description of the map: “The 200 most successful websites on the web, ordered by category, proximity, success, popularity and perspective.”. Along with the great post explaining the map and context they’ve given a number of options to download the map and created a clickable online version.

Two magazines to look for

Nude & Roger

I think I’ve found a design magazine that I can really spend some quality time with. It’s called Roger and I found it at Universal News, though not in the design section. It was hiding out in the front near the fashion mags. Don’t ask me why I was in that area, it must have been an anomaly or something. I may not have picked it up if I hadn’t come across ROGER LiVE’s website a day before via Kate Andrews blog Anamorphosis* who seems to be always writing or doing something about design. While I haven’t read the magazine from cover to cover you should take a look at it if you A. see design as a verb, B. as a philosophy, and C. looking for something with depth.

Another magazine I picked up was Nude http://nudemagazine.co.uk/. They describe it as the following “Nude Magazine issue 10: Featuring 100 pages of countercultural goodness in full colour and on high quality art paper”. For the price it was definitely worth picking up.

Status Update: Michael is addicted to watching the tour de france in the evenings. Just don’t ask him who’s winning.

Culinary Tour de France

Above in my title bar is my latest Facebook status and it’s true. This week’s evening ritual has been coming home, opening a beer, turning on the tv to VS and watching cycling – le Tour de France and then opening a mag and going through some websites. For the most part I don’t have a clue as to who’s winning but listening to the strategy and stories has kept me interested. Ok the scenery of France (and a bit of England) is not a hard sell as to watching either. If you’re at all into this month long event and luv food and live in NYC, you should check out Culinary Tour de France. It’s a website that has put together a couple restaurants that are celebrating the race with food. Merveilleux!

Guidelines for moi

Over at Uniquely the Epitome, Marc Rapp asked a bunch of creative types (including me) to write down some laws that they follow. Here’s Marc’s original post: IT’S THE LAW ( AT LEAST FOR TODAY ). I don’t know if I could say the below nine points are necessarily laws so much as they’re guidelines that I try to follow for the most part. You may have even read one or two of my points somewhere else originally. There’s probably another ten or twenty that I could squeeze out, but then the list just becomes a list that is skimmed over. Thanks for the invite Marc…

1. Keep an open mind, don’t be that expert that isn’t open to new ways of doing things.

2. Mistakes – they’re going to happen. Don’t get caught up in being so tight to be perfect, it will strangle any good idea that may come out.

3. If in doubt, use helvetica.

4. Carry a digital camera at all times.

5. Say thank you.

6. Do something everyday that scares you.

7. Exercise.

8. Karma can bite you in the ass if you’re not careful, so try to treat people the way you’d want to be treated.

9. Blog, and blog often – you can never guess where or what something will lead to.

A couple more New York Stories

apartment hunting

No one needs to hear me go on and on about New York, but there’s a couple sites that I think are worthy of mentioning for the sake that I hope you find them as interesting as I did on NYC. The first read comes from BLDGBLOG titled New York City in Sound. It’s a reprinted essay by Walter Murch about “what it feels like to listen to Manhattan”. Ironically enough, I opened a window in my apartment which I rarely do before going through the essay and not knowing what I was about to read. Listening to the constant buzz while reading about what I’ve experienced was pretty memorable.

While sound is usually seen as a nuisance when it’s called noise, I challenge anyone to consider the street landscape of NYC to be anything less then fascinating. I was following a bunch of my network del.icio.us links when one link in particular caught my attention. Titled street mining and described as “street mining is pretty simple: once a month a bunch of people get together and go walk the streets. each month is guided by a different person showing off their favorite gems. anyone’s invited, so why not come exploring?”. Without blinking I signed up. I had no idea who was behind it nor did I have any expectations aside from wanting to see what someone else thought was worth walking and talking about in NYC. It wasn’t until after checking out who was behind the site that I had to laugh – I knew half of the dual behind the site. It was non other then friend Noah Brier who I’ve mentioned just a couple times before on this blog. Here’s his take on the idea of street mining. The first walk is scheduled for July 28th 2007.

PSFK Conference London Videos

The first five videos from PSFK Conference London are now available to watch. I’ve embedded them below. I’m not entirely sure why the image boxes to click are a couple different sizes, but once I figure that out I’ll have that cleaned up.

Video One: Steven Overman (Lowe Worldwide) chairs a panel with Beeker Northam (Bloom), Simon Sinek (Sinek Partners)and Faris Yakob (Naked). So, once you have Got trends and ideas? Now what do you do with them?

Video Two: This 20 minute video from the PSFK Conference London 2007 presents journalist Mike Butcher as he talks about how media owners are on a race for survival against technology companies that put the power to publish in the hands of the ‘audience.’

Video Three: This 35 minute video taken at the PSFK Conference London 2007 presents Niku Banaie from Naked Comminications as he talks about how an understanding of the basic human needs can keep your employees, customers and friends happier, fresher and healthier.

Video Four: This 50 minute video from the PSFK Conference London 2007 presents Karen Fraser (Ethical Index) chairing a panel with Tamara Giltsoff (OZOlab), John Grant (BrandTarot) and Diana Verde Nieto (Clownfish). The panel set out to examine if marketing departments and their agencies get left behind by both the corporations they serve and the consumers they supply? Introduction by Josephine Fawkes.

Video Five: This 20 minute video from the PSFK Conference London 2007 shows the presentation given by Timo Veikkola, Future Strategist at Nokia, on a Vision of our Future. As design is the reflection of society, how can we envision the future through trends, observation and informed intuition. What values, attitudes and behaviours of today will shape our future?

More limbo – day 2 stuck at the airport in Toronto

Still at the Airport in Toronto

It’s ironic for me that when I have all the time in the world it’s tougher to want to blog about anything. Yesterday I spent most of the day flying, only to have my final flight from Toronto to NYC get cancelled. Thankfully I had a great friend in Toronto that was able to pick me up and show me a great time with what Toronto has to offer. Perhaps it’s not such a bad place to live. Today I’ve been at the airport since seven this morning. I went through three hellish lines and some immigration issues that I’d rather not talk about. The good thing is that I’m still able to work, the bad is that I’m giving my flight tonight of actually taking off at 50/50. So here I am stuck in an airport and I feel like I’m in limbo and I have all the time to write and I just sit here.

The only design link I have to offer today is from Metropolis magazine: Dreaming in Code via Kottke

Back in Saskatoon

Saskatoon, I can see where my parents live

This is where Saskatoon is

It’s been almost a year since I left Canada for NYC. I’m back in Saskatoon to see my parents and then I’ll head back to reapply for my TN Visa. It should be a relatively painless procedure, but until I’m back walking around Manhattan I’m not taking anything for granted. Vacationing in the US is easy for Canadians – working there is not as simple. Once I do get back I’ll outline some of the adventures a Canadian graphic designer has to go through to have the right papers.

Since I’m here and I have time to reflect, I thought it would be interesting to check out some of the contrasts between the US and Canada from my pov. Some differences are bigger then others of course and that just goes w/ the scale of things. If you’ve never been to Saskatoon or even heard about it, there’s been a couple notable exports. There’s Joni Mitchell who apparently must have known a ton of people b/c I remember most of my english and social studies teachers having stories about her. The second notable character was the Undertaker from professional wrestling fame.

Probably one of the first things that surprised me about NYC was in restaurants. In the restrooms there’s signs mentioning how employees must wash their hands. I thought that was a bit of a no brainer or would hope that would be the case. The second thing was straws. There’s paper on them to keep them sterile. Up until then I had not really seen that on any kind of day in/ day out type of thing. Now that I’m back here in Canada I kind of cringe when I don’t see that piece of paper on the top of the straw. I was surprised to learn that very few people in NYC know what tuque’s are. Mention the capital of Saskatchewan to a Canadian and most will say the city as a matter of fact. However the word Regina to most that have never heard the word will find it quite amusing.

The one thing that people from Canada reading this post should know is that most American’s are actually not that arrogant and are actually more friendly then the average Canadian. Politics aside, at least in NYC I’ve been able to meet, talk and drink w/ more open minded people then any where else I’ve lived. Yes, it is NYC – so there’s a different mindset, but still it’s something more Canadians should be aware of. I also think Canadians take it for granted that everyone wants to move there or that people should just know a lot about Canada. The thing is, there has to be a reason for people to want to know and I don’t think there’s been an effective message ever put out there by any Canadian government. Canada can’t afford to be known as just an exporter of natural resources. The economic climate right now is being taken for granted in Canada because of the oil reserves, but that will not last forever. I hope some strategic thinking about what to do after the boom comes quickly.

I think when you’re in a bubble like NYC, you take speed and convenience for granted too. I don’t think things are really slow here, but I’m slightly disorientated when ordering stuff. Whether it’s getting coffee or buying a sandwich – it’s taking me a lot of time to spit out what I want. I have no idea why that’s the case. Car culture is car culture, for some reason I find it extremely liberating to not be tied down to one. I walk a ton in Manhattan – in most cities that’s not the case. It’s taking some adjustment time to realize I can’t just go outside and get somewhere w/ out a car. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed that I’m happy about, it’s the fact that I can be online and connect to the same people – either in Canada or the US.

Looking back on my del.icio.us tags, what are they telling me?

.mac 10 10010 11springstreet 1970s 2006 2007 2ndlife 37signals 3D 770 ? abc accessibility actionscript activism adc adobe ads advertising agency aggregator aiga airfare airline Airlines airplane AJAX alberta AmberMac analysis anger animation answers anthropology aol apartment api apple apt arabic archinect Architect Architects architecture art article articles artist artists asia attention audio australia author award Awards awareness awesometown aynrand b&w baby bags balkin ball ballons bands banksy bar barcamp barcelona barcode barcodes bargain bargains barista basketball bats bbc bed beds beer belkin berkeley berlin best bestof bike billboard billing blackberry blackmail Blender bloat blog blogger blogging blogs bluetooth bmx book bookarts bookmarks books bookshelf bookstore Bookstores boston brain brainstorm brand Branding brands brawl briancollins britishcolumbia brooklyn Browser build burger burningman burningman2006 bush business businessweek button buy buzz c++ cafe cake calarts calgary camera campaign canada canadian candlebuilding capitalism car card cardboard cards cars cartoons cataloging catherine caveman cbc CDC celebrity cell cellphone ceo Ceramics cfc chacha charity charlierose chart charts chat checklist chelsea chemistry children china chocolate choice chronicle circut citynews cityofthefutre claimid classification Clothes clothing CMS code coding coffee cognitive colbert collaboration collaborative collage color colors colour comedy comic comics comment comments commercial commercials communication community companies competition complexity computer computers conceptual concerts conference conferences consumption content contest convergence conversation conversion convert Converter cooking cool coolhunting core77 corporate coudal counter coupons courses cover craft creative creativity critique crocs CSS culture custom customer cycling D&AD D&AD d70s dab daily dance dancingwiththestars dashboard data dc deaf deals death decor del.icio.us delicious delocator demographics design design, design-firm designer designNotes designweek desk development diagram diagrams dictionary Digg digital discount dise Diseño dissapointment dissonance distribution diy django dns dog dogs domain donate dove download drawing drink DS dumbo dutch dwr e-cards Earphones ebay ebook ebooks eboy economics Economist economists edges edmonton edmontonoilers education elections electronics elements Email emoticons employment emusic English entertainment entrepreneur envelope environment eps espn esports espresso etching evangelism event events exhibit exhibition experience ExperienceDesign experimental exposure eyebeam eyetracking facebook fashion favicon feed feeds feelings fellowship feminism festival file filename Film finland firefox firm Firms fitness flash flickr flight flights flighttracker flying folksonomy font fonts food foodblog foosball football footwear forms forum framework france fred free freeform freelance freeware french FTP Fun fundraiser fundraising funny furniture futurelifestyle gadget gadgets galleries gallery game Games Gaming gdc gdc-list geek Gehry geico gel generative generator geo geography german ghostbusters gifts gig girl global GMail goal goals gondry” GOOD goodmagazine Google googlemaps gossip Gothamist government gps gq gradschool graffiti graph graphic graphicdesign graphics graphisme graphs green GreyCard grid grids group GTD guardian guess gui hack hackability hacks handwriting happiness happy harddrive hardware hbr hci headphones health healthclub help hi-res hidden hifi highway history hnic hockey Holograms home horoscope hospital host hosting hotel hotels house HowTo html humor humour ia IAC ibc ibm ice iceland icity icon Iconography Icons id idea ideas identity ideo ideology idisk iht ikea illustration illustrator image Images immigration indie industrial industrialdesign infodesign infographics infoporn Information information_architecture informationarchitecture informationdesign infovis innovation inspiration installation instructional instructions interaction interaction_design InteractionDesign interactive InterActiveCorp interesting interface interior internet internetradio interview interviews invoices IP iPhone ipod IPTV iraq isync it italy itp itunes japan japanese jar java javascript jazz jetblue job jobs journalism Kawasaki keyboard kids Kitchen krylon kuler labels landscape language laptop Laser laundry law layout leadership lectures LED left lego letter lettering lexus liberal libertarian libra libraries library lifehacker lifehacks LIFT light lighting line link links list lists literature live local logo LOGOS london lunch mac macintosh macosx maddie magazine magazines magnum mail manage Management Manhattanhenge manifesto mantra manual manuals map mapping maps marketing mashup mashups material Materials mattress media mediacenter men mental menu messenger Microsoft mind mindmap missing MIT mobile mod modem moleskine moma moments monet money monocle montreal motion motiongraphics motivation motorway movie movies mp3 mp3blog mtv muji mural murdoch Museum music musicvideo muzak myspace NAFTA name names nasa nav navigation ncaa netart netflix netherlands network networking networks news newsletter newspaper newspapers newyork newyorker nfl night nike nikon Nintendo NintendoDS nokia nonprofit npr nurave ny nyc nyc, nyt NYTimes nyu ocad odeo office ofmontreal ohny oil oilers olpc olympics online ontology opensource Opera opinions organic origami OSX outside P2P PageRank painting paper paperairplanes papercraft paris park party password patterns pdf Penguin pentagram people performance Periodic person personal petitions Philosophy phone photo photoblog photographer photography photojournalism Photos photosharing photoshop php pictures pingpongballs pinhole pixel pixelart place planning playlist playlists plugin plugins podcast Podcasting podcasts policy political politics poll pool population portable portal portfolio portfolios postage postcards poster posters postmodernism Postopolis! pr pr2.0 prefab presentation Presentations press princeton principles print printer printing printondemand privacy problem-solving process Processing product productivity products programming projection projects promo prototyping psd psfk psychology public_relations publisher publishing puzzle python QR qr-code qrcode quicksilver quicktime Quintessence quote quotes race radio rank rating reading recipes recommendations recruiting redesign Reference release renegade rent Republic” research reservations resort Resources responsibility restaurants retro Reuters review reviews rfid rink road rock roi Royksopp rss Ruby running runningmap russellDavies s60 santa saskatchewan saskatoon satellite saw scarf school schools Science screen screenprinting screensaver screenshot screenshots sculpture sea search searchengine sears seating seattle secondlife secret secrets security semacode seo service servicedesign sf sftp sharing shirky shirt shoes shop shopping shortcuts should_do shutter sifr sign simplicity sitemap skate skateboarding Skype sleep Slitherlink sneaker sneakers snl soccer social social_commentary socialawareness sociale/cohesie socialmedia socialnetworking socialrank software solo solving sony sound soundDesigner space SpaceShuttle spain spam spanish spec speech speekers spore sports springstreet standards stanford staple starbucks statistics stats stencil steps stock Stockholm storage store story strategy streaming street streetart studio studios Studios.Netherlands stuff style stylist subway support sushi sustainability sustainable sustainable.design sva swap swatch swedan swede sweden swich SxSW Symbian syndication systems t-shirts Table tablet tada tag tagging tags talk tangible target tattoo taxonomy tech technique techniques technology ted teen teens television templates tennessee text Theme themes theonion theory thinking throwingmuses Thurber” tile time timepiece tips TN todo tokion tokyo tool tools toread touchscreen tourism toys tracker tracking trade transit translation translator transport travel trend trends treo tshirts tutorial tutorials tv twitter typography ubicomp UI uk UN unbeige university uofs urban url urls usability usb useful userexperience UX vancouver vans vendingmaching venice veniceproject vice video Videos vimeo viral virgin virtual Visa visual visualization vj vlog voip wallpaper war warning washington watch watches wayfinding Wearables web web2.0 webapp webcam webdav webdesign webdev webhost webhosting weblogs webradio website webstandards weimaraner weird weirdpaint whois wi-fi widget widgets wifi wii wiki wikipedia williamsburg wine wired Wireless wk woodPrinter wooster word wordpress words work workplace workspace world wp writing wsj wtf xmas yahoo youth youtube yugop zidane

I’ve probably spent more time thinking about whether I should or should not ever tag anything new that I find interesting with “web 2.0” then one person should. Actually I started to notice my own self trend a couple months ago on my blog when I started to shift from the tag “web 2.0” and tagged more so with the word “culture”. Part of the evolution is that a lot of the web 2.0 social like applications are not that new, though they’re expanding ideas of how people communicate and interact and in theory moves culture along. I’ve also started to clean up my bundles of tags inside del.icio.us – the simple way is to fit all tags into one, two or three of the category bundles is Business, Education and or Entertainment. They’re so general it would be hard for not one of my tags to fall into place. A second level of bundles that I’m considering is Culture, Social and or Technology. If I actually have the time to do those bundles of tags, the last three bundle levels would possibly include Geography, Personalities and or Vague Title of Design.

What’s inside BAMN!?


While visiting NYC recently, the Curious Shopper ended up at BAMN!, a vending machine room that sells almost anything imaginable w/ out people there to serve you. Read her review and questions about what should and shouldn’t be inside on of those machines at Snickers or an iPod? I’ve never been to BAMN! yet, though it’s now definitely on my list of things to do in NYC.

More ways to search Wikipedia


Dave Gray over at Communication Nation mentions the WikiMindMap and I thought I should too if for no other reason than to show one more use of Wikipedia. I typed in the word “design” and the results are in the image (click on it for a larger view). Keep in mind though that I opened up a lot of the nodes. I’ll admit that the lack of outside links for the term design is a little weird and if you really wanted to question the validity of wiki’s in general you could make a point, but the idea of the mind map being used for this type of search exploration is helpful. I’m a big fan of opening up information to show context which I think this does a good job of. My only misgivings of the tool is that it’s in flash.

Children for Children redesign website launch

Children for Children Website

Almost every day I talk about something related to design that’s caught my attention here on my blog DesignNotes. But rarely do I mention anything that I’m working on or have been a part of. There’s a lot of reasons why that is, though one of the practical reasons is that the projects I’m now designing are 1. complex, 2. have large teams and 3. take a long time to launch.

But with that said, one of the first projects that I worked on at Renegade launched last night. Children for Children’s http://childrenforchildren.org/ new website (redesign) is now working. There were a lot of Renegade people involved with this project: Alan, Michael (me), Frankie, Sonali, David C., Gordon, Rob, Bryan, Kumail, Jade, Adrian, Fanny and Drew. Aside from everyone at Renegade, there was the dedicated team at Children for Children. Without getting into defined roles of each person, I’m going to talk about a lot of the considerations of the site and how they were implemented.

“Children for Children® (CFC), a New York not-for-profit founded by parents to foster community involvement and social responsibility in young people, offers opportunities for young people from preschool through high school to “grow involved,” through hands-on service and philanthropy programs that teach the value of volunteering and giving.” With that said, the website talks to a couple different audiences, first and foremost to the kids that may want to get involved with the organization, and additionally to the parents of the kids. On a different level there’s the public, whether it’s potential donors or media groups. And a third important group, Children for Children – the organization itself. Each of those audiences have different needs, expectations and uses for the website and I think we’ve made the site understandable and useful for all of them.

At it’s most essential level Children for Children is run by children. Anyone that has designed for kids runs into the challenge aesthetically to balance fun an playful without going too far that the look and feel seems contrived, speaks down or becomes a rainbow of color. There’s so many reasons why they may come to the site: more info on events, wanting to volunteer, see the latest news, publish etc. A lot of those reasons are similar to what parents, donors, media and volunteers want too. So all the diverse groups in a lot of ways have similar goals when they come to the site.

After meeting with Children for Children and talking with kids that were actually going to use the site, visual explorations began. At the same time the site architecture was updated and content began to be re-purposed. That evolved and merged together to create the framework of the site. Because there was so much valuable content, we wanted to create quick entry points so the person using the site wouldn’t get overwhelmed. That’s why tabs on the home page underneath the flash banner were created. Each of the audience groups could get quick bits of info. Other essential elements was the calendar and how it displayed upcoming events. There’s a monthly visual and if you click on the date it takes you to a dedicated events page. That page also gives an upcoming three month overview of future events. If you wanted to donate or get involved there’s easy access buttons. There’s also typical questions that people might ask, so we tried to anticipate a lot of those and placed a drop down button at the top of the page.

There’s been a lot of talk of web 2.0 and we wanted to take those technical elements that would help foster the community and help Children for Children internally. The biggest thing that isn’t seen but runs the site is the content management system, aside from giving Children for Children the tools to update their own information, it had to be understandable enough to work with the calendar. The home page also works similar to a blog, each new entry or post will find itself on the homepage. As newer content flows, older information goes down and can be found in it’s proper section. Flickr is used to collect photos of events, multiple ways of saving information like Delicious, Digg, Google and Yahoo were also implemented. A rss feed was created to send info to users that know how to use an rss reader.

A website never really finishes. Once people use the new site both internally and externally now that it has launched, tweaks eventually will be made. However a new framework has been designed and I’m extremely happy and proud to see the site come to be as it is now.

Sexy and scandalous party pics, maybe?


Just when you thought you couldn’t become any cooler, you now have the chance to “become part of the hippest photo-blogging community in the known universe” or at least that’s the hope behind 476ad.com. They’re pushing the benefits of email and automatic email updates, the fact that you can use the photos on your blog (copyrights???), and the fact that you can leave comments. I’m not totally buying in to it yet, but as Jeff Squires mentions on PSFK, the site is “allowing anyone and everyone to share their sexy and scandalous party pics from cities around the world”. In that kind of context, how can 476ad.com not be a good thing?


“It could have been a lot worse” was something that I haven’t heard when describing what happened yesterday. Like everything going on in the world it’s extremely difficult for me to understand how people deal with tragic events. One of the Sunday morning shows that I try to follow is This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Near the end of the program they do a in memoriam which eventually leads to the list of military deaths for the previous week. There’s the names, cities and probably most personal their age. It’s never easy to watch and even harder to understand, both for the families and friends that knew those people. Every morning I get the paper version of the NYT. I can’t recall one morning where the cover photo was actually something positive. I think that kind of stuff neutralizes the emotions of the average person watching from the sidelines. Obvious questions about how the massacre at Virginia Tech could have been prevented will go on for a longtime. And tied into that will be the role of technology.

There’s been speculation about the email warning that was sent after the first shooting two hours afterwards. What if there had been communication sent out immediately, would it have made a difference? There’s even been questions about the what if scenario if there had been a school wide mass text message to students cell phones in the SF Gate. In instances like this, I think technology takes a back seat and more questions about the social and behavioural nature of reaction should be asked. I haven’t read anything yet, but I’m surprised to hear that there wasn’t more students from the first dorm area sending out text messages or phone calls to friends mentioning what they had heard or seen to other students. Maybe there was that communication, maybe not. If, and it’s a big if – if there had been that mention of someone getting shot, or that they had heard gun shots, it should have gone “viral” or in more concrete terms the social networks should have spread the message. But again the conversation goes circular – what would the message have been if it had been sent out, and what would people have done if they had adequate information? When there isn’t a lot of time, it’s extremely difficult to imagine the unimaginable.

Something for the laptop


When I’m working with my MacBook Pro at home, I’ve always had to be careful not to burn my legs if I was wearing shorts with the laptop resting on top. A couple weeks ago at work I requested something that I could raise my laptop with on my desk. I’d never seen the Belkin’s CushTop, but I was in love at first site. It’s a fairly simple device that works for both small and large laptops, on a desk or on the lap. After using it for one day I knew I needed to get one for home. I ended up checking Belkin’s website and eventually buying one from Amazon. If you’re looking for something to rest your laptop, you might want to consider this.

Shelter, and graphic design?

Photo taken by Shawn Micallef

Photo taken by David Owen

Of all the graphic design student projects that are created each year, I think there’s something to be said when a major newspaper covers a project. This happened recently to Mark Daye and his project being mentioned in the Toronto Star. And no good communication goes one way – here’s a link to some of the reaction to the signs.

via Social Design Notes

James Nachtwey’s speech to TED

“One of the things that I had to learn as a journalist was what to do with my anger” James Nachtwey mentions in his speech to TED. The compelling talk from a photographer is worth watching. Not only are the images thought provoking on aesthetic and social levels, but it also makes the viewer want to act in response.

via popphoto.com

Helvetica – the therapy session


My lowbrow impression of the documentary film Helvetica was that everything was great – yes it really was. Instead of me giving a play by play sequence of the film I’d rather talk about some of the things I learned. Up until now I’ve never been willing to choose helvetica as a typeface for a design. I have used helvetica, but only because it was part of a brand’s set of assets. My snobby favourite has always been Univers because of the numbering system it has for all the weights and the fact that I laid type on a press with it. The stable of sans serifs that I typically look towards include the Sans, Gill Sans, Fruitiger, Franklin Gothic, Trade Gothic, Locator, Myriad etc. Ok, there’s also one typeface no one can escape from if they design for the web – arial. But it’s the bastard font child that no one really speaks about. Each of the other sans serifs that I mentioned had enough character change to make it feel right for me during the project I would use it for. But until last night I didn’t realize that I was probably relying on the positive shapes of the characters as opposed to the negative space in between the characters that make up typography. I now realize that in essences I was using those faces as a crutch.


Before seeing the film Helvetica I wondered why? A film, for a font? Does it mean that there should or could be a film about any imaginable typeface out there? After watching the film I don’t think it will be easy to duplicate Helvetica. On a number of occasions people that were talking passionately in the film suggested helvetica was like air, it’s just there. It really seemed like a therapy session, both for those talking on screen and the audience itself. I’ve now been living in NY for almost nine months and helvetica is everywhere. I just ignore it. In less urban areas (or at least where I used to live in Canada), I’ll take the risk to generalize and suggest that the attitude is similar to my old impression that helvetica wasn’t the first choice for a design. It’s not as abundant in less urban areas. But with so many diverse examples of the same typeface used in almost every conceivable way, it was an overwhelming example of the power of the negative space. When I took out my dog this morning I was looking everywhere to see how the space was being used with helvetica. But to answer my original question of could there be another film about a typeface on the same level as Helvetica, I don’t think so. It’s a special film because it came out at the right time, there’s an abundance of examples helvetica in the world and graphic designers are looking for something to believe in that isn’t necessarily personality driven as much as an expression of a passion that they can relate to.


I’m guessing over the next year that there will be over a 100 screenings of Helvetica. Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto so far are the only Canadian cities mentioned on the Helvetica website for screenings. I just hope more Canadian cities take the effort to bring it out to show. But if that doesn’t happen soon enough, one of the questions asked and answered was if there was going to be a dvd available for purchase. And the answer was yes which is great for those that may not have the film come to their city and for those that were lucky enough to see it in a theatre who need more. The film was roughly structured with conversations by really passionate graphic designers and visual examples from different urban cities. For those that loved helvetica and those that didn’t in the documentary, what surprised me was it was based more on philosophical terms then on aesthetics. On the pro side there was the idea bringing order to chaos. One example on the negative side was that it was a reflection of the corporate interests in past (and present) wars. But each person that spoke in the documentary was brief. It was to the point but for obvious reasons the conversations were edited down to a manageable time. It was hinted that on the dvd that the full conversations would be accessible.


After the film ended there was a panel discussion w/ Massimo Vignelli, Tobias Frere-Jones, Jonathan Hoefler, Jakob Trollbäck and Gary Hustwit. The discussion turned quite fascinating when an audience member named “Ed” talked about how he’s made love to helvetica and told the tribunal on stage to let her rest. As he finished his statement the audience applauded. The only Ed that I know about in typography is Ed Benguiat, perhaps it was him though I can’t confirm it either way. As rudimentary as the last question from a different audience member was, I think the answer surprised most people that are familiar with Robert Bringhurst. The audience member asked is there really a difference between typeface and font? And the response from the panel – today, not that much.

I’ve also placed a set of images from the evening on flickr.

The neo-nomad

right about now

“The neo-nomad… would seem to apply just as well outside the hothouse atmosphere of San Francisco, and I think it should be extended to cover a broader range of workers than just the high-tech startups because it refers to an attitude and a way of organising daily life rather than to any specific technology.”
+ Bill Thompson

Once you have a laptop it’s easy to forget how hard it was to be portable before you could connect to the net outside or even write a simple editable note for future reference. I remember buying my first MacBook in the spring last year so I could stay connected while I was visiting New York. The photo above was from me enjoying free wifi at Bryant park. I eventually upgraded that laptop for a MacBook Pro, but I digress… I only bring this up to illustrate the article from the BBC called In search of the neo-nomad via Architectradure (who happens to have a couple other valuable links related to the concept). It’s a good reference piece to understand how work and home space is evolving.


image via nyt.com

“MySpace has a method of reaching people who are historically not interested in voting” and may not read newspapers or watch news on television…
+ Tom Anderson, 31, a MySpace founder
via NYT: The Future President, on Your Friends List

With the talk that Time magazine is getting with their redesign (both editorially and aesthetically) I asked myself one fundamental question – would I now be interested in picking up the magazine on a regular basis? No. It has nothing to do with the content, the stories that Time tells or even how it reads, for me it has to do w/ a finite amount of time. So why not just go to Time.com? Just looking at my past behaviour I don’t go there either that much – then I saw the quote above from NYT about myspce users about politics and how they may not read newspapers or watch news on tv. If there’s only so many hours in the day, are you going to spend it with a one way conversation, or hope that you get friends to comment on the stuff you like? I don’t think myspace is the ultimate answer, but it has changed the way the conversation is being told. That’s nothing new of course but the fact that nothing else has challenged myspace is surprising to me.

An interview with John Gargiulo, owner of Swich in NYC


For the last couple of months I’ve been making it a habit to visit Swich (104 8th Ave between 15th + 16th, NYC) for lunch. There’s a rotation of three swiches I really, really like. There’s the Karate Chicken, Steak Monster and Thanksgiving Every Day that come highly recommended. Aside from the flavour of the food there’s something else about the environment. Everything seemed considered and designed, more so than usual from what I’ve noticed when a business opens for the first time. One thing led to another and Noah Brier introduced me to John Gargiulo, the owner of Swich. Thinking that this would be the perfect opportunity to learn about Swich, John agreed to do an interview through email about all that is Swich.

Michael Surtees: How did Swich come to be, what was your involvement? What were you doing before?

John Gargiulo: In my life before Swich I was a creative at an ad agency called Cliff Freeman and Partners. It had always been my dream agency and it was a thrill to get to work there. My Art Director partner at Cliff, Matt Woodhams-Roberts and I created and shot Print and TV spots for clients like Snapple, Sports Authority, and Quiznos. Matt is a great designer and has helped me with some design for Swich.

I always said on my 30th birthday if I hadn’t yet taken a big risk in life and started a company or something big, I had to quit my job on that day and figure something out fast. I guess I got anxious because on my 26th birthday I walked into Cliff’s office and retired from advertising. I developed a business plan, found an investor, and a year and a half later in December of last year, we opened our doors.

MS: When I walked into switch for the first time, it seemed relaxed yet the environment and experience seemed extremely considered. What is the philosophy of Swich and how did it come to be? Has the idea changed once the doors opened?

JG: The credit for the design of Swich has to go to the firm that came up with it- a happy group of people called The Apartment. I knew I wanted Swich to be a forward-thinking, future-leaning kind of place, but I also wanted it to feel comfortable and accessible. Homey-chic was sort of what I was thinking. I feel like The Apartment delivered that feel perfectly. It’s a huge credit to them that your experience walking into Swich was precisely what all of us intended! A warm, happy, hip little place to get your sandwich fix.


MS: Everything about Swich is designed yet it doesn’t feel over the top. It doesn’t scream of anyone’s signature design style that I’m aware of. How did your concept for Swich turn into a reality. Were there designers involved? How did the collaboration work out?

JG: Looks like I should have been reading ahead on these questions! Yes as I’ve said the collaboration with the Apartment worked out great. When I was bidding the project I wanted to choose a design firm that I might have to pull back a little, rather than one I’d have to nudge along. What I love about Stefan and his team is that they have the guts to throw just about anything out there that they think could work. No matter how bizarre or impossible some of their ideas may seem at times, they are all original- which immediately puts them ahead of 95% of other creative firms, in my opinion. And many of their ideas are quite brilliant!

MS: What was the process like in choosing the company name? Was it fun, difficult? did you hire writers or let friends and family put in their ideas or did you know it was gonna be Swich from the get go?

JG: Oh my god there were so many names we went through. I asked all friends and family, as well as The Apartment to come up with a name, as well as working on it myself. There was “Stacked”, and “Flaterie”, and about 250 others. Oh! And for a while the name was “Made” which I sort of liked, but we found there was a chain of places in Iowa that the trademark lawyers said sounded too similar, so that got killed. I love the name Swich. It’s clean, simple, catchy, and represents the product.


MS: I think people really enjoy the conversational tone of the experience. All of the sandwiches have funny yet no so obvious names. Where did the sandwich names come from?

JG: I wanted the personality of Swich to come through in almost every aspect of the experience. It may have been more direct if I had called the Swiches Buffalo Chicken and Steak Sandwich, for example, but I think it’s easier to identify with a favorite sandwich if it’s got a name like Buffalo Hot Pants or Steak Monster. It gives each Swich its own little personality.


MS: Along with the sandwich names you’ve taken the opportunity to have a talk with the person eating the food. There’s writing on the stickers begging to be read, there’s more writing on the paper that covers the trays. How has the feedback been on this? It almost seems like it could evolve into a two way conversation, have you considered any options to hear what others think of Swich?

JG: Having a talk with them is exactly how we think of it too. It’s conversational. Every brand is like a person. Mercedes is the guy at the party in the Gucci suit striding up to every girl, Jamba Juice is the hyper-hypo California guy bouncing off the walls, and so on. We want Swich to be just a normal, stylish, totally down to earth guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously. That’s the tone that comes out in all our copy on those cups and trays and all of our branding communication. We absolutely love to get feedback and hear from our customers what they like about Swich and suggestions they have to make it better. On some of our cups we ask that people email us at whatithink@swichpressed.com to keep the conversation going. And I think at some point when we catch our breath, I will start a newsletter type of thing as well. I think listening to your customers is vitally important.


MS: There’s a couple great peripheral elements that help make Swich unique such as all the green and white color, the magnetic wall near the front door that has the welcoming type, the large menu display, there’s a plasma tv playing Swich tv, another plasma showing the music that is on, an interesting seating arrangement with a long table. How did all these things come to be?

JG: Well from the beginning I wanted to do SwichTV as well as the screen showing what song is playing. I think music is the most underrated part of the restaurant experience. It totally sets the mood for the place and taken a lot more seriously than just pumping in satellite radio or something. I choose all of the songs that play in Swich very carefully. For the menu display and the type on the walls the credit has to go to the Apartment, who also convinced me to paint the ceilings green by the way, which I’m glad we did.

MS: Why Swich tv? What have you learned by making videos? Any plans to extend what you’ve started?

JG: Making the bits for SwichTV was some of the most fun I had during the whole year and a half lead up to opening the first shop. I just wanted it to be weird, original stuff that you couldn’t stop looking at. I noticed at other fast-casual chains there was never anything to look at while you waited for your food. People would stare at their feet, look for their sandwich, or if you were lucky you would have your iPod and just zone out to that for a while. Part of the Swich experience is entertaining people, and SwichTV I think adds to that. We are definitely making more videos in a couple of months. I want to get our employees involved, as we all think it would be extra funny to look up and the guy who’s making your Swich is dancing on TV or doing some other strange stuff. We have a great, fun staff and they’re totally into it.

MS: The food is great, almost every time I’ve been there I see people swapping bites with their friends. How did the menu develop and what type of process do you have in place to make the food even better? How often will you update the menu?

JG: The Swiches I just worked on over and over again for the year and a half leading up to the opening. I tested every Swich at least 15 different ways before choosing the best tasting, most complete version. My wife Sidney and family and friends helped a lot in that process. We just completed two months of further “real world” testing of every item in our kitchen, and we made a couple of tweaks here and there, and added the Earthy McGee deconstructed. But after so much work on getting the variety right in the menu and making sure the taste profile of every Swich is as perfect as it can be, I would like to keep the menu as static as possible. It also simplifies operations and helps us make sure we can get people their Swiches faster and more efficiently.

MS: What was the biggest learning experience that you’ve had since starting Swich?

JG: I’ve learned time and again during this process that the best thing you can do when starting a business is surround yourself with great people. I have the absolute smartest, nicest, most hardworking team I could have ever asked for. From my restaurant consultant Lisa Chodosh, who teaches a great class at the New School, to my real estate broker to my GM Steve Hardy, I couldn’t be happier with my team. The goal was to build a core group of people who would be sort of the support team in growing Swich out as a national concept, and I definitely have those people behind me now and that makes all the difference in the world.

MS: When you’re not eating at Swich, what is your favourite restaurant in New York right now.

JG: It’s a tie between Pearl Oyster Bar and Blue Ribbon.


MS: How do you think design and marketing plays a role in Swich’s success?

JG: I think that they play a big role. I think first of all as a restaurant concept, your food has to be good. That’s a given. But I think design, maybe second to music (which permeates the entire room at all times) is the most underrated thing about a restaurant’s success. In fact I think right now, and this is beginning to change, but design is one of the most underrated determinants of any retail business’s success. Design for Swich helps us stand out, and it helps define who we are. The marketing, from the stickers on the cups to how our take-out bag looks sitting on someone’s desk in their office 10 blocks away, are also ways in which we present ourselves to the public and have an opportunity to stand out.

MS: In a couple years where do you want to Swich to be? Are there other types of experiences that you would like to take on?

JG: Going forward I am working on making the Swich on 8th Avenue and 15th the best prototype it can be. When the time is right, which I think will be a matter of months, I will get back out there and start looking at locations to roll the concept out further. I can’t tell you how many people from all over the city have written me asking for one in their neighborhood.. But right now I’m just trying to improve the model we have now little by little every day. We just started delivery a couple of weeks ago and it’s been going really well. Next up is catering, where we’re going to differentiate ourselves as best we know how from the competition.

I’m having so much fun doing this every day, and I think going forward Swich will only get bigger and better!

MS: Thanks for taking the time to do this John. You know I’ll be back. I’m looking forward to watching this grow into something better than it already is.

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