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It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that Michael Beirut’s talk at Creative Mornings was going to be so well received. While it’s hard to guess if each of Michael’s slides talking about clients was less than 140 characters on purpose or not, a quick scan through the interwebs shows what audience members on Twitter appreciated and a full break down from Soulellis Studio. Here’s a couple quick notes of my own that I took while he spoke.
A couple traits that great clients have are “Brains, Passion, Trust and Courage” and in return what designer’s owe good clients are “Loyalty, Honesty, Dedication and Tenacity”. There great things to file in the back a your mind as a mental checklist. If some of those things aren’t going to happen—just be prepared for the type of okay results that might happen. At this point most people probably know Michael’s work really well, but I thought how he tied it in the end through the context of his ten best clients was smart. The visuals really tied everything up about what he was talking about. I could be wrong but I also think a majority of the people he listed off were women. You could really tell through his body language that he was enjoying the early morning talk. After he finished and the applause started I saw him give a slight kick of the leg, sort of like when Emeril goes Bam! but in a more subtly sophisticated way.
Walking to have some coffee yesterday I ended up having a bit more time on my hands than I expected. Usually I like being on time for things but for some reason I was okay with having the chance to continue walking down the Bowery. While the street is a bit of a cliche I really enjoy seeing how everything evolves continuously. Buildings go down, they go up. There’s also visuals that seem alive. A poster on a wall one day will probably not look the same the next—by the time someone has put something up someone else will have tried ripping it down or built on top of it. So in a radius of only a couple feet I came across one construction wall that had to be noted. Who knows how things will change with it today?
This time last year I started the new year with a simple post. “Yesterday you said tomorrow, today’s the day where you get to make a wish that comes true. Use that responsibility wisely”. Keeping that in mind I decided to try something that I had read a couple years ago. A great way to start the new year is to go to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s a great way to clear the mind of the past year and look at what’s possible in the next 365 days. So earlier today I did just that. The last time I had been looking from that pov was when I was just a visitor for ten days. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to really learn in unexpected ways and build off those experiences living here for a couple years I’m pretty excited and scared of what is in front of me. This time last year there was a lot of questions if everything would just stop. In a lot of places and industries it unfortunately did. However for me I was very lucky to keep my head above water and things really started moving up in September. Since then things have really accelerated which has given me a lot of energy.
It’s hard to know exactly how the year will play I out. But with everything that has gone up and down all a person can do is plan for what they want and walk in that direction. For me there’s a couple sites I’m going to launch, live healthier and read 52 books. There’s other goals I’m going to work towards but as a starting point to compare to this time next year, I’m excited to share those goals. Last year was incredibly challenging but when I look back now I wouldn’t have changed a day. I met so many new people and was able to do things I would never had thought possible. If I build off of that this time next year I’ll def. be in the mood to party. For all of those who helped and supported me (you know who you are) all I can say is thanks, and hopefully I can return the favour. Merci!
I think it’s hard not to appreciate hand drawn type as a throwback before digital output wasn’t involved. Now that almost everything is put out by mechanization of some sort, hand type contrasts even more because of it’s unique imperfections. Between the materials—typically applied with paint on to metal or wood, the signs don’t feel as cold as a shopping sign which is no small feat when a lot of the signs I come across are for no parking. Of course all hand made signs aren’t old—the one that I found for Jim Joe was just a marker on a truck that I’m guessing was pretty recent. With pressure placed on certain parts of the letter the letters were extended in a sophisticate way that no computer program by itself could manage.
As more and more people create their own business’ and start making signs to communicate what they’re selling one would almost think people would turn back to homemade signs. The irony of course is that in the rush to be reputable, logos are being made in ppt or photoshop or bought for $99 bucks at a stock outlet site which reeks of someone that did it themselves. Contrast that to the character on my brick example. Who would you want to spend time with?
Snow is one of those things that people can take for granted very quickly when it’s abundant, especially if you live in Canada. When I moved to New York I just sort of assumed there would be snow. Where I’m from it’s not unusual to see the white stuff by Halloween only to melt in late April. While here it’s been a nice to have a much shorter season of winter in NYC, but it never seems to snow that much, and if it does it doesn’t stick for too long. That’s why I really try to take advantage of the city when it get’s blanketed with the white stuff. Last March I described how the city opens up when there’s snow everywhere.
This year the snow came early, and it was even better because it was before Christmas. I don’t think I’ve had a white Christmas here yet. Before the snow really came down on Saturday night I was wondering what all the hype about a Nor’easter was for. There was a bit of snow coming down but nothing excessive. This post from Gothamist got it right “And New Yorkers are impatient to see some snow insanity”. The snow around 8 pm really started to kick in so I headed out with my camera to see what was going on.
New York has so many faces to it, not just the people but the entire environment. A person can look at the same building everyday and it’s going to look slightly different because of the time, the surrounding weather and because of the mood of the people down below. Plus there’s proximity. Being up close is a lot different from seeing the building from an airplane or tv, walking south instead of north reveals different angles. Because of that I never get tired of looking at some of those more well known images of the city, especially when the weather goes crazy. While Snowpocalypse 2009 was going on, I settled for a route that I could maximize with my time walking. I started in the 30’s and moved north past the mid 40’s and came back down. One of my favourite routes to walk Madison is to take her on Park ave. and head north until I hit Grand Central Station. There’s a bridge that shoots out of the building that creates some really great space above and below ground. So I took that as my starting point with the snow storm and walked around that area. After that I was curious to see what was going on around Times Square because of all the lights. It’s not somewhere that I go that often but once in while on a night when there’s a storm it’s warranted to see. As my first image above shows it didn’t disappoint.
By the time I got back to my apartment things were in near white out conditions. If I had left any later when I first started I don’t think I would have been able to capture many of the images I did. It’s sort of amazing that there was a short period of time where things were perfect and I managed to jump through that window. There’s another thing about New York, you can never take things for granted that they’ll be around for a second time. Things move so quickly, not just the streets but the weather too.
Since starting #walkingtoworktoday I’ve seen some interesting stuff, most notably people that are actually walking to work and shooting what they see. Yesterday was different though. It’s another example of starting something and knowing exactly where things will end up.
I’ve been a fan of the mix album of JayZ and Radiohead called Jaydiohead for a while now. As I was walking through West Broadway in SoHo I came across a sticker and thought that would be the perfect image for my contribution to #walkingtoworktoday for that day. I shot the image and tweeted it above.
The next thing I know, someone that I follows me and vice versa tweeted to let me know that there was a second album—which until that moment I didn’t know.
And finally the person that put together both of those albums let me know through twitter that there’s a Beastie Boys version too.
This whole scene is what I consider creating conditions for unexpectedness to happen, and in turn create a narrative that would have been impossible to predict ahead of time. Just like how I’ve blabbed about agile design in the past, I sort of think sometimes it’s best to keep the design open enough for things to happen that are impossible to predict. Just as my story above shows, it only takes one image to be passed along certain communication channels before all sorts of interesting things happen. In this case it was finding music I otherwise would never had found. I think there’s more to explore with this…
Sure it’s a cliche to talk about walking through the maze of people that make the sidewalks of NYC a little crazy some days. But now that there are even more people walking around these days I thought I’d share some observations about something everyone goes through. It’s that moment when there’s two people heading in different directions and there’s only space for one person. There’s a number of different versions of people bumping into each other, some more malicious than others. Above I’ve illustrated four different hit zones that I’ve seen and what they could possibly mean.
BRUSH:Fabric comes into contact, normal
No harm meant, it’s just that both people are in a hurry and they’re trying to make the best of the situation.
NUDGE:Arm bone is felt, statement being made
It would have been just as easy to turn slightly in but the person chose not to. There’s not a lot difference with the brush but because there was intention to not move they we’re letting you know that they know you know they’re going to stand their ground.
CLIP:Shoulders are involved, possibly swearing
This is pretty aggressive, both parties were probably in a bad mood to begin with and this is only going to accelerate the ill will. If this contact is made there’s a 50/50 chance one of the two people doesn’t live in Manhattan.
KNOCKOUT:One of the people is not getting back up
This is pretty rare and there’s one of two reasons why it happens. The first is that a person has their head down texting someone and they don’t realize what’s in front of them. The second is a bit more malicious. Neither person wants to make the first move in this game of pedestrian chicken. They probably been through the stare down before and sort of expected the other person to back down—and apparently that’s what the other person thought too.
When I walk to work there’s the natural tendency to walk home from work too—a kind of obvious thing. But what’s not so obvious is that in NYC there are many different views from the same street, more so than the usual street. Depending whether it’s east/west, north/south or day/night the same street can look be quite different. Take Mercer St. for instance. My preference is to take it in the morning starting on Houston heading south to Grand St. near were I work. The short answer to why is that I like seeing who’s hanging outside the Mercer Hotel or who I might recognize walking their dog that later in the day might be on TMZ. On the way home I usually take Wooster as a nice mellow walk to clear the head. Once in a while Greene St. is thrown into the mix. Last night was a bit different. To shake things up I took my typical morning route in reverse. Right on the corner was a Fidel poster that had been updated with a different face mask. I’ve probably walked by the mailbox a handful of times but never noticed the poster until I went in reverse. It was too dark to take a pic so I decided that would be my next #walkingtoworktoday pic. I’ve found that things change instantly on the streets here, so it’s best not to put things off too long if there’s a poster/sticker/mark outside worth noting. Luck would have it that this morning nothing had changed and here is the pic. The take away I suppose it to do things in reverse once in a while to see what might be blindly obvious, and make sure not to put things off because who knows what it will look like tomorrow.
Before I pass on my review for the really engaging book Looking Both Ways by Debbie Millman, I feel as though I should let people know that I know Debbie quite well. Many years ago Debbie was a contributor to the site Speak Up. While I didn’t know her at the time I found the comments and reactions that she would get from people was interesting. I knew that she was quite successful as the President of Sterling Brands so I invited her to speak in Edmonton. This was still before she started her interview series Design Matters. It was during that time of organizing the event in Edmonton that I began to know Debbie. By the time she had spoke in Edmonton, Design Matters was getting well known as was herself. We kept in touch and when I was visiting NYC from Edmonton she always made time for me and we became friends. Once I moved to the best city in the world we’d bump into each other from time to time. The next stage of me knowing Debbie was from her teaching at SVA, and me meeting her students before they completed her class. After that there’s Debbie the President of the AIGA. Now it’s as authour—I can also make the claim to have listened to every single Design Matters interview at least once, many a couple times. So when I read Looking Both Ways it was really hard not to hear her voice. It was like I’ve heard every syllable pronounced at some point. Having that background only made the book more enjoyable to read.
Some of the stories seemed familiar while others were entirely new to me. Flipping through the pages every story is designed in a unique and compelling manner by Rodrigo Corral. The pace and tone set before and after each story should be commended. For example there’s a story near the beginning title Yellow that is displayed entirely from boards painted black with white type. The following story My First Love changes gears entirely with an italicized typeface sans images, yet fits perfectly after Yellow. Every story snaps into place like a puzzle piece.
I found myself wanting to read most of this book in the evening before I went to bed. I’m not much for reading in bed but I found that taking on a couple essays was an earned gift for the day I had just completed. I also noted that all those visuals affected my sleep state. I was dreaming a lot more. I’m sure this sounds a bit weird but I do think it’s important to note in this review. If you get the chance to read this book, try reading it before you fall asleep, it will change things entirely.
Before starting to read this book I wondered who exactly is this book written for? Debbie is an accomplished branding expert, and for her Design Matter’s intros she would start the program with a monologue of observations and stories. Translating that experience to paper and image, how would it work? And while I think New York Magazine got it right to place the book at the top of High Brow and Brilliant in it’s approval matrix, the description of it being about illustrated essays on design is a bit off. I’d say it’s more about a designer using their observations skills sharing personal reflections that are worth reading. Just like the We Feel Fine book that I reviewed last week, there’s a lot of people that I could easily give this book as a gift to, designer or not.
Thinking about a favourite story, there’s three that come to mind. Economy Foam because I remember hearing a version of this story while back in Edmonton. There’s something about hearing a description about NYC before ever setting foot here. On top of that, I haven’t read that many personal stories about a visual relationship with a brand like that from a design person. It certainly changed my perception of my visual landscape a bit. So reading about it again brought back all those memories. The second story was about Debbie’s experience in Japan getting lost. Fantastic story. And the third is about that momentous decision most designer’s have to make during their career titled Fail Safe. Once you read it you’ll know what I mean.
Last week I received a tour from Alissia Melka-Teichroew whom is a friend and one the curators of Bits ‘n Pieces which was on display at Material ConneXion. At first glance it was pretty easy getting sucked in with all the cool looking things. But stepping back for a moment helped me understand the concept of the exhibition which was looking at how technology both digital and analog are intermixing. There’s a bold statement suggesting that the digital revolution is behind us, and “whether an object is digital or analog is no longer of importance, since digital technologies are now embedded in the way we think, work and play”. I’m not entirely sure that’s the case just yet—this confused NYT review seemed to have missed the point. For the time being I still think if a designer can merge both digital and analog technologies seamlessly it should be studied because it’s not as common as we might think. So in that respect this exhibition is quite fascinating to examine.
At this point in time I think we take the visualization on screen for granted. It doesn’t have as much emotional impact as it once did. There’s a million ways to show information and very few that can make an impact. Contrast the screen to what Mellitus by Doug Bucci does is fascinating. He has taken the data from a Continous Glucose Monitoring system that was monitoring his red blood cells while having Type 1 diabetes. Over time the first rings show from a stressful event, the second is a normal state while the third full ring is while on holiday. Being able to see that rendered in real life brings the internal into something very actionable. While everyone can’t be on permanent holiday, understanding what stressful situations are doing to people internally helps. Maybe we all should chill a bit more.
Most exhibitions have some sort of display explaining what the piece are about. However it’s a missed opportunity to open more information to viewer if they’re interested. For this show they realized that by using QR code to the info that it opened up the use of their website. When I scanned the info of the code from my iPhone it gave me a direct url to the actual product in the exhibition web site. Super simple but extremely helpful. This type of info display should be the norm. The catch is that few people still have a QR reader on their mobile device, yet I hope that could change due to helpful cases like this.
Two multiple pieces that showed the morphing and evolution of chairs was interesting. Jan Habraken & Willem Derks explored what a common chair cross–bred with a more well known design. They call it Chairgenics. In a different process Joris Laarman displayed the results of to strip the chair to essential pieces. These type of models help display what only a handful of years ago would be difficult due to cost and speed.
This exhibition is on view from November 4th to December 4th, 2009 though I’ve heard rumours that it might be extended. Until I can confirm that it’s best to visit before than. It’s being housed at Material ConneXion60 Madison Avenue, 2nd floor in NYC during normal weekday business hours.
Sure, people sometimes call Twitter the lazy web, but I also call it the helpful web. Case in point, Nooka is a supporter of DesignNotes and has an ad on my left rail. I’m also a big fan of the brand and its design—it would be hard not to. But when I wanted to post about the new Nooka Zem Zenv Mr S I wasn’t sure how people would react reading this post and seeing the ad on the rail. So I asked… The general consensus of friends that I trust said it’s fine as long as I’m upfront about the support. So yes Nooka is advertising on DesignNotes, and no they did not ask or influence how I wrote this post. Hopefully that keeps things transparent.
If you’re familiar with DesignNotes I do post a lot about Nooka and shoot a lot of pics too. What I really like at the base level of Nooka’s time pieces is that they’ve chosen to visualize the measurement of time in an original way (that has many people emulating now), that is actually very intuitive. Typically units in the bars are represented geometrically with squares showing hours and minutes. At a glance it’s easy for me to know how much time is left in an hour much like a second hand of a normal watch works.
However that’s not really what I want to talk about today. A couple months ago when Matthew invited me to the Nooka studio showing some unreleased Nooka things, I was really interested in how his new line of gem like cuts transferred from his time pieces to his fragrance and belts. A simple branding trick to measure the success of a brand’s visual communication is to place a thumb over the logo. If a person can still identify the brand, the design is doing what it needs to too. In much the same way, if a person where to take off the Nooka logo and compare the products of in this post, they’re very much part of the same identifiable family. In terms of brands that I interact with on a daily basis, there aren’t that many examples that I can think of that do that well. I might be misquoting Matthew but I think he attributed the shapes to glam futurism. It certainly has that type of feel.
Of all the cases from Nooka, I’m starting to think that the Nooka Zem Zenv Mr S is my instant favourite. It’s bright, has an awesome heavy weight to it and the band is constructed nicely. There are very few days when I’m wearing any of my Nooka’s that someone doesn’t ask about it. “How does it tell time” is a common one, but people are also drawn to the uniqueness of it. With this latest one it really turns the volume up with the silver chrome. I’m not usually a fan of big shiny things, but this time I’m willing to make an exception. Things that are heavier feel more luxurious—nothing new with that. But the combo of weight and brightness really make the watch nice on the wrist. As the watches evolve, so do the bands. While I really liked the clasp of the Nooka Zon, it’s now been tweaked to perfection. Instead of disconnecting, the band opens like suicide car doors.
Nooka has been around for a while, but over the last three years that I’ve known Matthew I’ve been pleasantly excited each year to see how things have changed for the better. There seems like a definite trajectory of moving into a number of different design categories. The Nooka Zem Zenv Mr S feels much more classy than the pop colors that the rubber watches provide. But with that said each has a place at the table that is smart just like those that are a fan of the brand. Don’t believe me, just check Flickr and Twitter to see what fans are showing and talking about—again there aren’t a lot of core fans like Nooka’s. That’s a design case study in itself.
Typically for me if I see something twice in a somewhat unique manner it usually feels like a pattern to me. Chances are if there’s at least two of the “thing” out there, it’s only a matter of time before I see it elsewhere. The current “thing” that I’ve started to notice is a nice, simple and effective play on the idea of smiley face. While I haven’t seen the rapid gestures of the smile more in the usual areas, I’ve noticed it pop up on 32nd and 16th streets. There’s two things that I like about it. Very fast message to convey, the meaning is pretty obvious, and easily reproducible. It also reminds me of the Love Me stuff that tends to be finding it’s way more around the city. Again a similar approach of conveying a message very quickly and easily reproducible on different scales.
Tweets are the new press release it would seem. Above was the invite for the event to present the new logo for the New York Public Library. Unfortunately I was able attend the unveiling however I still was able to get a glance of the new logo as it was tweeted. I don’t have much information but it seemed like the reason for the adjusted logo was that it did not convert well at small sizes in digital format. I’ll leave it up to you to compare the old logo that’s in the tweet and the new version above it.
As a fan of typography it wasn’t hard to love what was on the walls of the newly opened Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography. Last night I checked out the packed opening of Lubalin Now at the Cooper Union. It was a type fan’s dream of inspired works of Herb Lubalin. There was a healthy combination of work that I was familiar with and a few surprises. The only unfortunate thing was that there was no display information on the wall so at times I could only guess who was responsible for the work. Above are a couple pieces that really got my attention. I was introduced to the top image via a great video and post from Volumeone some time ago. While I don’t recall seeing the video at the show, it’s really worth watching. Another person with a good showing of work was Marian Bantjes. What I really liked about her work for with Saks Fifth Avenue’ Shoe Bootie is that even at an extreme angle that I shot at, the perspective was still intact. I’d be really curious to experiment more with angles and see how the type holds up.
Over the weekend I took a second trip to the Cooper Union to take a closer look at what I missed during the packed opening. What I didn’t notice the first time around was how much each work flowed into the pieces side by side. As I mentioned above I recognized some name while others I wasn’t familiar. One person’s work that I had seen before but wasn’t able to put a name or face to was Jessica Hische(for those that already know her, don’t role your eyes at me). It wasn’t until recently when I saw her speak at a Young Guns event that I actually found out who she was. Considering the amount of work she already has under he belt I’m really curious to see how she evolves in the next couple of years…
Monday–Thursdays 12–7 pm, Saturday 12–5 pm
Closed Fridays and Sundays
Closed November 26, 2009–November 29, 2009
The CW Network in-house department
Ariel Di Lisio
Justin Thomas Kay
Like Minded Studio
Strange Attractors Design
and Herb Lubalin
Friend and supporter of DesignNotes, Nooka is showcasing 16 customized NookaNooka’s November 11th at the Red Bull Space from 12:00pm to 7 pm, 40 Thompson St, NYC. A couple months ago while hanging out in the Nooka space I saw a couple of the characters above. The yellow one from Shin Tanaka was probably my fav. Should be fun…
Bits ’N Pieces to debut at Material ConneXion®
November 4-December 4, 2009
Interactive exhibition to examine dialogue between the analog world and digital technologies transforming design in a post-digital era
Curated by Dutch and Belgian designers Claire Warnier and Dries Verbruggen of UNFOLD, Lucas Maassen, Jan Habraken and Alissia Melka-Teichroew (byAMT), the exhibition will feature work by an international group of designers, architects, computer scientists and material and technology researchers that anticipates the next phase of the digital revolution. Through objects such as furniture, architecture, jewelry, graphic design and products, by the creative minds of Steve Breman, Doug Bucci, Edhv, Willem Derks, Jan Habraken, Ilona Huvenaars, Joris Laarman, Thomas Lommée, Jennifer Leonard, MakerBot, Lucas Maassen, Alissia Melka-Teichroew (byAMT), Dries Verbruggen, THEVERYMANY, Alex Timmer, UNFOLD, Remon van den Eijnden, and Tyche van Eijndhoven, Bits ‘n Pieces will examine how design is both conceived and consumed in the post-digital age. Projects like Lucas Maassen and Dries Verbruggen’s Brain Wave Sofa, whose shape was entirely determined by recording Maassen’s neural activity while thinking of comfort, and MakerBot’s open source 3D printer, which enables individuals to turn out complicated 3D forms quickly and affordably, highlight not only what is possible in the realm of manufacturing and design, but also what is to come.
Last night’s National Design Awards Winners’ Panel last night felt slow and kind of long. I don’t think it had to do with any one of the people on stage (Walter Hood, Jeff Han, Amory B. Lovins, Andrew Blauvelt, Christopher Sharples, Laurene Boym, Calvin Tsao and Steve Duenes), but the conversation was kind of predictable though quotable. I also think it was a disservice not to actually show any of the design work of the people on stage. Because the backdrop was white there wasn’t a lot of context for what they were actually celebrating. Of everything I heard last night, the one comment that stood out was about nature not optimizing yet today everything is being reduced to boxes for optimization and the one we all know well—“frustration is part of the design process”.
Over the weekend I met up with friend Caren Litherland whom I haven’t seen in a crazy amount of time. We’re both fans of type so as we were walking she suggested we should check out Lever House. I’d never been there before but will be back. It’s essentially an area that allows for open artwork to be seen from the street. For someone that loves type, it was great to see the walls covered in it. Caren identified it as Knockout. I’m embarrassed to say I’m not sure who actually laid the type out though… Barbara Kruger was behind the placement… So if you’re a type fan and have some free time I’d take a stroll to 390 Park Avenue.
Expanding on my presentation recently at the AIGA Make Think Conference where I got to share my daily walking experience to work in NYC, and how that allows me to think—I thought I’d push the idea a bit further. I want to open the photo project up to others. It’s amazing what people can see when they have their eyes are open—why not share that while walking to work?
The rules are simple, 1. you must have a twitter account, and 2. you must be able to take a picture and send it to flickr via twitter (read how to do this), and most importantly 3. take a picture while walking to work once a day and add the hashtag #walkingtoworktoday At this point it’s a bit of an experiment if anyone else will want to join in… Last week I tested out the idea sans hastag, now I’m going to include #walkingtoworktoday to the photos from today on. If you’re interested, take a pick and send it to flickr via twitter. I’m kind of curious to see how this evolves.
I survived the opening of #makethinkAIGA Design Conference 2009 relatively well, met some smart people and had some good food. Not much more a designer could ask for when starting a conference. Rewinding for a minute—July 30th was when I got an email from friend and President Debbie Millman asking if I would like to represent the AIGA NY Chapter for 20/20. The basis is an open ended brief of presenting something on Make Think in any media of my choosing for one minute. I had seen the prior conferences version online for Gain and Next so I knew what I was going to be a part of. I immediately emailed Debbie back letting her know that I’d be happy to do it. I had a vague idea that I wanted to be minimal on the speech, let the visuals speak for them self, and it was going to be about NYC. In the end I chose to share what it’s like for me to walk to work everyday in the best city in the world.
Above are some of the photos I took on my daily walk. The entire set of photos can be found on flickr. The video that I pressed play to is on Vimeo and YouTube. I also have a pdf, though if you’d like a copy of that please email me.
The prepared text:
Hi, I’m Michael Surtees from AIGA NY and I’d like to share what it’s like to walk to work every morning in NYC. I start in the mid 30’s and walk about 40 minutes to SoHo. This is the every day graphic design in it’s purest form that lives and dies on the street depending on how strong the mark is. I love experiencing this stuff because I spend most of my time thinking on screen.
Of all the well known graphic designer’s of a certain hype, I find a lot of them are living off their reputation more so than the work that’s out there. One of the few that I respect and have been a fan for quite a while and doesn’t fit that categorization for me is Paula Scher. Her book Make it Bigger is in my top five books a designer should read and I’ve always learned something worth remembering from the videos and interviews with her. She’s also one of the few designer’s that if I met I might be a bit nervous about. So when Josh Berta who is part of the Piscatello Design Centre which organizes FIT’s Visiting Artist Program mentioned to me that Paula was speaking, I marked it in my calendar. Now that I’ve heard her in person I would have been pretty disappointed if I had missed it.
The line was long to get in, and once the doors opened it was mayhem. I’ve actually never seen a mad rush like that for a design talk before. But it was all good, everyone in the audience seemed to be fans whether they were students or people like me. She broke her talk up into two parts, work before Pentagram and work at Pentagram. She started with a story of getting lost as a child trying to find her house because they all looked the same—if all the houses looked the same, were all the people inside the same too? It seemed like a good foundation to react against Modernist design that she’s talked about disliking.
But like any Libra, they’re always trying to stay in balance. I know this as I’m a Libra myself, but we the audience also found out last night that her birthday is today because a cake was brought out before her talk. For all the free = exercise = play, there’s her corporate identity work that balances the play. Prefacing the Citi work, she described identity design as being more than just placing the logo on the corner of an envelope. But as this audio clip that I recorded last night shows (you might need to turn the sound really up), there’s a lot of selling to get it up the chain. On the flip side there’s her giant map paintings. When she exhibited a series at Maya Stendhal Gallery last year, I visited twice, something that I don’t recall ever doing before for an art exhibition. Again here’s a brief audio clip of her explaining why she does the maps.
Another beef that I have with a lot of know it all designer’s is their attitude towards other people’s work. It’s as though by criticizing the work they’re somehow above it. Paula who’s work is replicated a lot talked not so much about that but the pragmatic nature of corporate design life. If the right people aren’t aren’t allowed to make the right choices, the design isn’t going to work. If you contrast that understanding to others that speak as though they know everything, her attitude was refreshing. She also briefly talked how each recession was brought on with technological advancements, and that this current situation is no different. That was both settling and unsettling for me.
But of all the quotes she spoke, my favourite had to be her talking about some of her environmental typography. “I actually had an A fall off a building. The top of the A is sharp. This stuff is really dangerous…”
Last night I visited JWT to hear PSKF’s latest Good Ideas Salon with Nokia researcher Jan Chipchase. Recently I’ve slowed down on the advertising and marketing talks because the speakers tend to be a bit flaky and more about their own ego. I’m happy to report that Jan’s talk wasn’t like that at all, and if I was a Design Chair for a University trying to encourage design undergrads to continue with school—they should bring in Jan to talk about his experiences. The presentation itself was an overview of a number of his adventures out in the field away from Nokia. While the images and stories he shared were interesting, to keep the audience engaged he was quite active in asking people questions about what they thought he was documenting.
While I wasn’t skeptical of his talk before it started I did hold some biases about being forward thinking research as a general concept. I live in a very closed world of the iPhone. While I don’t know what the worldwide penetration of the iPhone vs. Nokia as a whole is, I did wonder how mobile phones didn’t really evolve much until the iPhone came to market. Again that’s my bias and I’m guessing that fans of Nokia would say that they were ahead of the curve on a lot of the features, but if that’s the case why did the iPhone get all the press and shake things up? I know it’s a pretty weak argument on my part but it was something I was thinking about.
But as the talk progressed, the ideas were less about technology and features, and much more about observing behaviour. Typically he and a team will be out in the field for two weeks. He described how they often collect over 10,000 images and have procedures in place to sort and organize them. He stayed away from talking about methods and geared the conversation to what I think the audience was more interested in. Stuff like symbols that have multiple meanings. In China a woman sitting on a curb with a baby might suggest that she’s selling porn. That kind of stuff for an evening talk is probably more appropriate than methodologies of field work. Or maybe not…
One example that really stood out for me was when he showed a hacked sim card that could switch from one network to a different one. Something that closed loop systems kind of frown upon for obvious reasons. The card represented a way to undermine a business model. That got me to think about business strategies. If someone has taken the time and resources to create a system that busts a business model, why not study it, replicate it and turn that thinking into an advantage. Perhaps that what Nokia is doing and we just haven’t experienced it yet.
Another topic that was briefly touched upon was the digital divide between people who have the ability to track their personal data over a lifetime and those that do not. While I don’t think he had a definitive answer, he seemed optimistic that it wasn’t a bad thing for people to collect their own data. (Once the video of the talk goes live I’ll re-watch what he said to make sure I’m quoting things correctly.) Other things that got my attention was the idea of wearing in, not out—making stuff from nothing new, making stuff that’s interesting and relevant, and even the business culture of needing to be in the office after short periods of time away. Apparently being away for more than two weeks can cause you to be out of the loop.
In support of Tim Brown’s new book Change By Design, Bruce Nussbaum interviewed him at the New School to a full audience. While the diy mentality wasn’t explicitly mentioned, it seemed like a lot of what was being talked about was a natural evolution of that ideal. The other big issue in the room that was mentioned was the economy. Along with those discussion points I felt I was hearing a lot about the advancement of process and tools that allowed more people to be involved, and in terms of measuring value through profit—talking about other value metrics which makes sense considering where the economy is at this point. Though with all that said there was mention of how small design changes can save enormous amounts of money—one example that was briefly talked about was how one hospital reduced shift changes with nurses from 45 minutes to twelve minutes and the cost implications of that. Bottom line is that design can make things more efficient, hence savings in profit.
With out trying to replicating a play by play of the discussion, here are some of the points that stood out for me. Business people are great for analyzing ideas that are in front of them, but not necessarily good for new choices and options about what to create. As people reflect on their jobs a common question is “what do I do, where do I go?”. It’s a participatory culture we’re in. When people are involved, things are more likely to happen. Agile was briefly mentioned but speaks more to the idea that the days of the “Grand Project” where all change happens at once isn’t the best practice. Constant design tweaks that happen over time are more appropriate. Another theme that I hadn’t come across much of, but makes sense is “tinkering”. Back in the day when cars weren’t mini computers people could keep adding to their car. Customizing, working on it—etc, the concept of making got lost when vehicles became closed systems. Because of that there’s a generational gap that is making a comeback due to tools that allow people to customize their personal sites and online applications. Because of the economy there’s more opportunity and experience (or lack of, no one has it) to take on big issues that most people haven’t considered before. Again this falls into diy that people don’t have the resources so they have to take it on themselves. Where design practitioners can lead is through leadership and direction to co-participate.
As things have changed from industrialization through consumption to info and value based knowledge through interaction changes, there’s other ways of measuring value. It’s hard to disagree with the assessment though if there was any weakness in the discussion it was that there wasn’t any follow up questions about this. How are these things actually measured aside from same yardsticks of efficiency?
In the last presidential election the theme was hope. For this talk it was about being positive. It’s not a new idea, being a designer is an optimistic pursuit. If you’re not positive about it, how can you help people? There was talk of personal experience where Tim was listening to scientists talk about how people had to give things up which leaned more on the negative side. Turn that around to be about choices and options and things suddenly become more positive.
There was a smart question in the Q & A afterwards about what skills a designer needs these days if everyone else is participating in design. Tim’s reply: 1. being able to observe and understand, 2. connect strategies, 3. be a visual thinker, and 4. have the ability to prototype and evaluate. Those seem to be skills most people are striving for these days.
Walking both to work and home on a daily basis offers some great type viewing. I came across the two above examples walking home. I love the extra emphasis with the underlining yet takes a pause not going through some of the words. The hiearchy is kind of interesting too. And as a bonous the tagging on the tv is really smooth. Almost wished it was on a shirt…
The above image captured some of the more memorable quotes that I heard last night at the successful AIGA NY MEMBERS SERIES: MY DOG AND PONY II. Each of the invited presenters ran through a project as though it’s been presented for the first time to a client. Just like the previous event held last April (review here), I think these types of events are incredibly valuable. They help grow the profession through best practices in a somewhat real environment. If there’s a catch, I don’t think a local design group should hold them more than two or three times a year. If they’re done too many times they loose a bit of steam.
“The tech world needs the anti Best Buy*” or so goes the thinking behind Gizmodo Gallery 2009 on their site to explaining why a collection of both familiar and unfamiliar gadgets where put together. At first glance it felt like an ITP show though a bit more slicker in that most of the products here have already been taken to market as opposed to projects from grad students. Just like an ITP show I was trying to take a photo of everything in site. I’m not sure why I was doing this though—my best explanation as I wanted my own resource of cool things afterwards.
Ironically one of the things that I found cool was an app for the iPhone. Ghostly’s Discovery has an amazing UI for exploration of music from their label. Based on mood color it creates mixes of songs. Before visiting the gallery I didn’t know about the app so being able to explore it in person was quite helpful. I wonder why more apps don’t figure out a way to test things out?
Pancakes are a universal food of goodwill it seems. People seemed overjoyed to eat them that a machine spit out. I can’t comment on the taste because I didn’t want to try them. I have a rule of not eating them after 11 in the morning—it just seems weird to me. Other things that impressed me was the rosetta disc, the 3D etch a sketch, lights and straws, a digital vinyl solution and the interactive coke machine. Though it should be noted that the UI doesn’t work for cokes that are empty. It basically says vending for 20 seconds and then returns to a default state.
Gallery Hours and Special Events Open to the Public:
Wednesday, September 23 through Friday, September 25
12noon – 8pm
– Main Gallery
– Opening Day features Laser Etching ($25 a laptop, $5 a gadget)
Friday, September 25
– Public Party, with prizes
Saturday, September 26
11am – 8pm
– Main Gallery
Saturday, September 26
9pm – Live DJ set by Music Director Jason Bentley, KCRW, 100% independently funded radio station
Sunday, September 27
11am – 6pm
– Main Gallery
267 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10012
(*There’s nothing wrong with Best Buy, inherently. We’re just doing something that is the opposite of it.)
Trends and ideas news site PSFK hosts a Good Ideas Salon on October 1st with special guest Jan Chipchase. Good Ideas Salons are designed to bring likeminds together to share ideas and positivity around inspirational subjects.
Jan Chipchase conducts design research for Nokia, bringing insights and experiences from the real world to inform & inspire the design process, and guide corporate strategy. His research has taken him across the globe, providing a unique perspective on how ideas and technologies travel. He currently works out of Los Angeles but spent the last eight years as Principal Scientist in Nokia’s Tokyo research laboratory.
According to the New York Times, “His mission, broadly defined, is to peer into the lives of other people, accumulating as much knowledge as possible about human behavior so that he can feed helpful bits of information back to the company..”
Chipchase will present his thoughts on ‘Pattern Recognition’ at the salon followed by a Q&A with the audience.
6.30pm – Doors open
7pm – Talk starts
8pm – Q&A
8.30pm – Mixer
9.30 – Close
Considering the economic climate is still not that great these days, there’s still some decent posters to be found in NYC. Sure they’re for the arts like album releases, gallery openings, tv shows and alcohol which are friendly to the visual culture, but it’s still nice to see. It should be noted that the Bored to Death poster was improved on Wooster st. with a bit of red…
While this week may have seemed kind of slow news wise, there were a number of themes that I picked up on that suggest that they could keep popping up till the end of the year. There’s info flow in all it’s multiple ways and the politics that play out when that information is distributed. It’s a no brainer that people like looking at images, but how people find them and push them out to a larger audience is something to keep an eye on. It was amazing how Twitter was a key pivot for a lot of the connections. Search is no where to be found. For those familiar with Link Drop, I try to publish it on Fridays though they tend to happen more and more on Saturdays. So keeping that in mind I figured why not just keep it on Saturdays and see what happens. Though next weekend I’m in Boston so it should be interesting to see how I publish it there.
This was a bit of wake up call after earlier this week when the WWF tried to take back their poster. A number of blogs and news sites linked back to me because I had one of the few screen shots of the One Show showing the poster as a merit award winner. While it wouldn’t take much for a company to delete the image from my flickr account for their own purposes after reading this post. I’m going to keep multiple digital copies on different servers in case anything happens to one of the files.
I don’t usually post tips kind of stuff but I thought this was worth mentioning because of the character count, and it’s a much more human post to the one I link below from AlertBox. While a person can use up to 140 characters, if they use them all up it’s much more difficult to have someone RT’it. If you don’t care about RT’s, than fill’er up.
I didn’t even know who this person was before his final tweet started making the rounds. I suspect that Madison and I even walked by his place on our dog walks. This post collects a couple more well known people passing on the word. While a certain skepticism is warranted with celebs in general, I’m assuming a publicist isn’t filtering stuff like this—so it’s interesting to read.
While I’m not a linguist I do keep an eye out for patterns in speech. I’m also not a golf expert—so reading that combination of text with something to look out for while wrapped in shop talk was worth the read.
I don’t usually follow this kind of corporate marketing talk. While it was good to break down the scene and look at what worked and didn’t, something seemed a bit off about the assessment of using humour to diffuse the situation. I think if it had been there had been a cold response it really wouldn’t of had any traction. It put a human face behind to the person responding.
While experimenting with the controls, I thought the UI was quite intuitive and easy to use once I took a photo. After I took the image I had a couple options to make tweaks to the image with different sliders. Another feature is that I can use images that I’ve already taken. What this means is that I can use other camera apps and import the image after wards to make changes with TiltShift.
This week’s collection of stuff that I’ve found interesting via Link Drop contains a lot of new themes. There’s stuff about smell, flowers and even Whole Foods. Apple makes it’s usual appearance, though in a more positive light. I also seem to be listening to a lot of personal stories via podcasts and interviews. Hopefully if it’s raining where you are like it is in NYC today, you have some time to check some links out that you may not have come across otherwise.
After reading this, I wasn’t exactly sure what people were going crazy about. I’ve used the service a couple times and was happy with the results. The kicker is that if people don’t like using it, they’re not forced to. And don’t get me started on the proposed redesigns—the idea reminds me of the stupidity that wired did when they asked people to redesign google. sigh… I did have to laugh when it was mentioned in the article about how people have tried to redesign it.
I didn’t know this designer but it still saddened me to read none the less. The Canadian design community has lost a passionate person that was doing what he loved. You can see more of his work via Mark Busse.
This was a last minute drop before I published this Link Drop. I’m really liking how magazines are taking a risk by showing people how they really are. Apparently the issue of the magazine is close to selling out already.
The interview with Liskula Cohen is worth a listen, the silence in between answers and follow up questions was a bit strange. But it wasn’t that strangeness that made me listen to it a couple more times, but more about the response to how things were settled. The rest of the podcast wasn’t too bad either.
After reading about how the iPhone to Become #1 Camera on Flickr, it reinforced a couple things for me. While an argument could be that people are just getting lazier and hence the rise in iPhone photos, for me it’s the opposite. Interactions are becoming smarter and easier for people to use. With a press of the button the ease of spreading an image via email, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook (sometime all at the same time) is actually a pretty technical thing that people take for granted.
But with the ease mobility it also got me to thinking about non technical things like food. Walking around New York it’s pretty easy to get all the food a person would need without ever stepping into a building. Of course the question of how healthy that is should be asked. I’m just not going to pose that question for this post. What I did want to mention was how great it was earlier this week to sit on the corner of Broome and Broadway to get a simple burrito. While waiting I could help but people watch, enjoy the sun, check up on stuff with my iPhone and realize that if I wanted dessert all I had to do was cross the street to get an ice cream cone. It was the ultimate it in mobile convenience. It was the starck contrast of having to visit the typical templated chain outlet. The agility of the food cart and truck can come to the people and make their lives a bit better wasn’t lost on me.
It’s an interesting business proposition these days considering how many business are held back due to expensive leases. Being held to one place, the store must rely on people coming back. With a food cart if no one is there, in theory they can move around to find people. While I don’t know how much it costs for a license (it can’t be cheap), having the ability to move to the best people spots has to be more valuable than a long term lock on one location. Can it be soon before non traditional outlets try the vendor approach?
and yes those photos above were taken with my iPhone—pretty good quality eh?
If you’ve got some spare time this Thursday, friend Daniel Schutzsmith is giving a webcast with Print Magazine titled Designer Be Good. On Print’s website they describe the talk as “leveraging the power of change-agent thinking—and tapping into the practical web design and intuitive web applications now employed by major philanthropic iniatives—can help you make waves for your clients, your company, and your career.”
This week’s version of Link Drop was a week late and while I hate excuses there’s a pretty good one. Last weekend I was redesigning the format of Link Drop when my computer stopped working. I wasn’t exactly happy about that so I decided I’d continue finding good stuff on the web to remember and keep working on the design when I got my computer back. It’s now Friday and I’m happy to report Tekserve did a great job of fixing everything. So with that said hopefully Link Drop next week will be a bit easier to read. As always, I’ve jotted down some of the themes that flowed with what I saw.
The Agency Problem
This kind of sums up things for me in terms of design today. While I’m not running a multi billion dollar design agency yet, I question why even online design is treated like traditional print projects. The online is handed over to the client with no proof if the thing will actually work. That’s why I wanted to talk about agile design and wondered out loud how more companies should be thinking that way…
Tuft vs. Turf
The flow and motion of the plastic was really changed up their outside view. From the street is must be quite the view.
Reading Ahead: Managing Recruiting
A fascinating comparison of finding people via all the social networks out there to older processes of using a recruiter to screen people.
The Most Interesting New Tech Startup of 2009
Working with a startup I was naturally interested in this post. As weird as it seems, perhaps government agencies are a good candidate to be thrown into start up mode considering the changes both in technology and social communication tool. Brochures are no longer how information is passed along (or at least I hope it’s in conjunction with online).