Designer Weims

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About six months ago I decided that I needed to get a bit of a life outside of design. Of course when a calling is your profession, it’s hard to ever really get away from it. But I did try, really. I had always wanted a dog, but never really took it any further than an idea. But since the time was right to start something new, Tamara and I did a lot of searching for the perfect breed. When we finally got to the “W’s” we knew we had found it. A weimaraner of course. Only after joining the Weimaraners (Pool) at flickr did I realize that you’re never that far away from designers. There are a lot of designers out there with weims as best friends. I never saw the connection before, but now it’s really obvious.

I’m not the only person that’s made this connection. Callie Neylan (a recent MFA graduate) makes a similar observation in her post Dogs and Modernism. She comments that weims are the only dogs that she sees in magazines like ID, Dwell, Design Within Reach etc. It’s hard to argue the point, they are the best breed out there. I’m being slightly biased of course, but when you have a dog like Maddie smiling back at you, it’s hard to argue.

More Video Clips

By now you’ve probably read and watched the vido clips from TED. But did you know that GEL (Good Experience Live) has posted clips of a lot of their presenters at If you don’t have the DVD, this is a good substitute to check out before signing up for the conference next year. Some of my fav. clips are from Theo Jansen, Laurie Rosenwald, Ross Kauffman and Charlie Todd. I was also introduced to the book The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto through this conference – really good book. If you’re interested in the history of NYC, this is a must.

Audio blog aggregator

There are two or maybe three really good radio stations out there that people consistently site as great resources for new and quality music. They’re KEXP, the Current and KCRW. But even those stations fall into predictable patterns of tunes, and eventually get a little old. If you’re fall into that eclectic category looking for more, check out the Hype Machine. At first glance it’s a little confusion, but once you’ve pressed a couple ”listen” buttons, it becomes very easy to understand. It’s essentially a site that grabs mp3 files that people have blogged about and allows you to listen to the music. They also link to the original blog post, so it theory you could save the mp3 file to your desktop from the blog site you’re reading from. After doing some searching I was pretty happy with the depth of music.

But what about the stuff I don’t know about yet, but still is great? The home page is updated on a pretty regular basis, come back in a hour and a lot will have changed. Start listen to the first tune you see and their player pops up. Don’t like the first song, press a button and a new selection pops up. Eventually you’ll hear something that you didn’t know existed.

Thanks for the fyi Christian

design*notes work in progress review

Jemma over at design-erly has been collecting some thoughts on my blog. What caught my attention was the reference quote that she used. “Although the element of review is not highly complex, this style of blog, a personal and reflective style actually provokes quite a high level of reflective judgement.
“They also readily admit their willingness to reevaluate the adequacy of their judgments as new data or new methodologies become available” (King & Kitchener, 2002 cited at”
A casual and personal tone allows for people to change their minds as well as to be less certain. Random thoughts allow us to write without censoring so much, the things we write don’t need the same level of certainty we feel when we write with a highly intellectual tone.”

Take a look at the rest of her post HERE.

Crumpler mini matches

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crumpler mini matches, originally uploaded by Michael Surtees.

Walking around for a couple days in NYC with my new black MacBook, I started to feel that the bag I was carrying wasn’t up to the challenge. Lucky for me I found the Crumpler store. Just a couple doors down from Rice to Riches, I checked the bag store out. Of course I found the bag of my dreams, but more noteworthy was one of their giveaways that I’m now talking about. They had these really nifty mini matches. They’ve got this really cool scale to them and how can you not smile when you look at them – just like they’re bags.

NYC Groove

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IMGP1315.JPG, originally uploaded by Michael Surtees.

After a long needed break I went back to NYC. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be talking about some of the discussions I had, some of the things I saw, and ultimately what inspired me as a designer.

But for now as I catch my breath, I need to thank a lot of people for their kindness and help. So Eric, Caren, Piers, Noah, Mark, Roger, Marion and lots of other people out there – thanks for making NYC just a little bit smaller and showing me what you luv about your city. It won’t be forgotten.

A question of innovation

It’s cool that the new apple store on 5th Ave is open 24/7 365. Wow, just like Walmart. Let’s say that the newest apple thing that I want isn’t available to buy in my own city, but I could catch a flight and pick it up near central park in NYC. That is genius. But let’s take it a step further. Anyone that has bought the latest and greatest video iPod will swear about the battery life. It doesn’t last nearly long enough as it should. I like the apple brand, though I question the quality outside of the industrial design. Some of the nav. is questionable with it’s products, but hey it’s apple so I’ll let it slide.

Now I fly into NYC and figure out that it might be easier to buy a laptop then to find an internet cafe to do a bit of research. If I’m a designer my options are a bit limited. Try to find a pc or go to the Mac store and drop a bit of cash on a laptop and head to a fourbucks for some java. But let’s just pretend that there’s another option. Let’s say I bought a cheap Nintendo DS and downloaded a browser. If that were true I could serf the internet and blog for less than the cost of an iPod. No need for any laptop.

Apperntly the Nintendo DS will be able to browse the internet w/ Opera in the not so distant future. More links about it at: and and

Visiting NYC

I’ll be in NYC mid next week. If you have any suggestions on things to see or do, please speak up. I guess the question becomes, do you visit the places you’ve already enjoyed, or do you throw caution to the wind and take a 50/50 chance that you’ll see something even better than the previous time?

Montreal, a “City of Design”

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization awarded Montreal a “UNESCO City of Design”. The only other cities to have been given the award are Buenos Aires and Berlin in 2005. Quoted here “Montreal is a city where design and designers, be they involved in the fields of interior, industrial, graphic, fashion or architectural design, represent a dynamic force of cultural and economic life. According to recent statistics, design is responsible for 20,356 jobs in Montreal’s metropolitan area and economic spin-offs of more than $750 million. Also, 65.3% of Quebec workers involved in the field of design live in the metropolitan area. Montreal is the only North American city to have established, as early as 1991, a bureau dedicated exclusively to the development and promotion of design. Important achievements are owed to this bureau, including the Commerce Design Montreal competition, which has contributed to the rise of Montreal as a city of design.”

You can read the entire press release at

Via Peggy Cady

What is garbage?


This was a response to a post from a couple days ago. J’s response deserves as much space as the original. Thanks J.

“You know, Karim Rashid is a total wanker. The words are his but the idea isn’t and I wonder if he really actually Gets It.

The Garbo trash can Rashid designed in 1995 was his first big contribution to making our lives better. If Rashid were a rock star, the Garbo would have gone platinum. Rashid says somewhere between four and six million trash cans were sold.

It boils my blood when someone like Rashid makes these grand sweeping statements (vaguely implying a sense of ethics or morality) about the industry they contribute to when they have such a wasteful claim to fame. And for a writer to say that the Garbo trash can is a contribution to “making our lives better” is a total farce.

Imagine shaping human behaviour so that rather than buying between four and six million trash cans, essentially for the purpose of filling with garbage, we were inspired to recycle four to six million garbo trash cans worth of plastic instead.”

Web Eyetracking

Ever wonder what the hot spots on a web page are? According to Web Marketing Today, big block images should be avoided for nav. purposes while small images of people tend to work for page anchors. The above image illustrates the typical eye search of a web browser. Eyetracking and Images of People can be read at

via Uniquely the epitome

The Robot Show in Calgary

It sure seems like if you’re a designer and like to be active, UPPERCASE would be the first place to visit if you head to Calgary. Aside from the cool poster, the Robot Show looks pretty neat. Below is more info that I received in an e-mail newsletter.

The Robot Show opens this Thursday, from 6 – 10 pm.
Co-curated by Janine Vangool & Mike Kerr
Featuring robots in art, illustration, kinetic sculpture, books, toys and film!

Toby Cougar, Calgary
AJ Dimarucot, Manila
Mark Dulmadge, Calgary
Doug Fraser, Victoria
Ryan Heshka, Vancouver
James Jensen, Calgary
Mike Kerr, Calgary
Aaron Leighton, Toronto
Renata Liwska, Calgary
Patricio Oliver, Buenos Aires
Don Post, Calgary
Rick Sealock, Toronto
Janine Vangool, Calgary

If you go to their site at you can get more info on each contributor.

Design has the power

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stealinthedeejay, originally uploaded by DanielleGrace.

“Design has the power and the influence to actually make very large social and behavioral shifts in the world. And design, I think, is a very nice tool, an instrument really to shape human behavior,”

Karim Rashid

via Everyday Art Designers Seek Function And Beauty When Making Consumer Products

Hello, are you there?

One of my email accounts went down over the weekend. How did I know? I stopped getting email. At first I hoped it would have gotten better on it’s own, but after two days of a very quiet email box I got worried. I contacted my isp, and yes there was a problem. Things are almost back to normal, but not quite. So if you had sent me an email over the weekend, or even yesterday and have not heard back, please send it again to me.

With this miscommunication of email it got me to think about all the ways one can get in touch with each other. There’s email, msn, icq, iChat, contact through sites like flickr that have their own email, cell phones, text messaging, blackberry, land line phone, listservs, face to face conversation, snail mail, sign language, smoke signals and probably a couple more ways that you can think of. With all of that, we still could get tripped up with a simple email not getting to the inbox. How does one solve that issue of getting the right communication in a timely fashion? And then how do you manage it?

How changing a name has made people buy more coffee

Large is the new extra large

Second Cup, (a coffee chain in Canada) has changed the names of their coffee sizes. If you were to buy a large today, a couple weeks ago it would have been the size of an extra large. So now the sizes go small, medium and large, previously it would have been medium, large and extra large. Why the name change? To sell more coffee obviously. Asking on of the people behind the counter about the name change, I was curious to know how the new large was selling. Apparently it’s their new most popular size. Who would have guessed?

social groups via photography

Here’s a really interesting project from Rotterdam-based photographer Ari Versluis and stylist Ellie Uyttenbroek called Exactitudes. Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in an identical framework, with similar poses and a strictly observed dress code, Versluis and Uyttenbroek provide an almost scientific, anthropological record of people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity. The apparent contradiction between individuality and uniformity is, however, taken to such extremes in their arresting objective-looking photographic viewpoint and stylistic analysis that the artistic aspect clearly dominates the purely documentary element.

Aside from just looking at the images, I found some of the categorizations to be insightful. The image above is part of the Young Activists group. Here’s a list of all the groups: 02. Casual Queers, 03. Gabberbitches, 04. Bimbos, 05. Combat Girls, 06. Teenagers, 07. Game Boys, 08. Young Activists, 09. Young Executives, 10. Skaters, 11. Bonita’s, 12. Allah’s Girls, 13. Supporters, 14. Moroccies, 15. Tatto Babes, 16. Manipulators, 17. Smas, 18. Mohawks, 19. Vagabonds, 20. Madam, 21. Leathermen, 22. Butchers, 23. Dreads, 24. Bouncers, 25. Grannies, 26. Preppies, 27. Fans, 28. Massalas, 29. Kils, 30. Roffas, 31. Chillers, 32. Showpieces, 33. Students, 34. Scream, 35. Rockers, 36. Mister Wang, 37. Chairman, 38. Brats, 39. Workers, 40. Chickies, 41. Surfistas, 42. Pitboys, 43. Bundaboys, 44. Gentlemen, 45. The Girls from Ipanema, 46. Musulman, 47. Mothercare, 48. Habibties, 49. Teknohippies, 50. Ecopunks, 51. Sleeves, 52. Skins, 53. Ghoullies, 54. Corpos, 55. Fly Girls , 56. Homeboys , 56. Homeboys , 58. Toppers

via GDC Listserv > Paul Tetrault

Design seizures

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Design seizures, originally uploaded by Michael Surtees.

When has it ever been a good idea to place a hologram on the cover of a printed piece? How about never? If this is what get’s advertisers excited about mags, we’re way past content issues.

Plastique Life

In July, there was the beginning of a frank, raw and enlightening discussion on the GDC listserv about depression, medication and feelings that everyday people go through in light of the actions of Rick Tharp. Through the listserv, Jennifer Romita shared insights and mentioned a gallery show titled Plastique that she held in Halifax. They’re well thought out images that continue the discussion about individuals, and how they deal with their cultural environment. After viewing the images on her web site, I asked her if she would be interested in sharing some of her thoughts about the show. She agreed, below is the e-mail discussion that followed.

Michael Surtees: When you had your show, what type of reaction did you receive from viewers? What were they saying to you afterwards?

Jennifer Romita: Some of the people who attended were impressed by the technical accuracy of the imagery and said that regardless of the surreal subject matter, the people looked convincing. Others were disturbed by the show and found it difficult to look at the work. A lot of the people who’ve see these images try to assign their own interpretation to it and I think that’s great because it says to me that it’s struck a chord with them. I’ve been contacted by everyone from anti-capitalist activists to mannequin fetishists, all with their own unique view of what the work represents to them. Fortunately, there are very few people who have been unmoved by it.

MS: How have things changed since you started this project? For instance, have you eliminated any conveniences?

JR: I wouldn’t say I’ve eliminated anything extra because my husband and I are what I would call functional minimalists. We try to leave a smaller than average Eco-footprint, we minimize the amount of “stuff” we buy and try to live clutter free but of course it’s sometimes difficult. I live by a few guidelines like if I bring something into my home, I part with something. I ask myself if I really need the purchase in the first place or if I can go without. Similarly if I haven’t used an object or even seen it in over 6 months, I give it to someone who can use it. Dave and I alternate between working in offices and working from home so we have an internet connection and our computers but neither of us has owned a television in over 5 years. We prefer to cook most of our food in an oven or on the stove rather than microwave it. No, we don’t have a microwave either.

MS: You mention “the potential of connection all around us” in your artist’s statement, could you elaborate? What type of connections are you suggesting? Are there patterns out there that people are missing?

JR: This is such a huge question and I’m not sure I can answer other than from my point of view. I believe there are patterns in the way people communicate with one another that allow us to easily create connections with one another. Empathy is one of the most important tools we have that can teach us to see these patterns, signs or signifiers when it comes to dealing with people but it has to happen both ways. Messages have to have senders as well as receivers or the message becomes lost. These connections become difficult to establish or maintain however when people live in their own bubble and aren’t open to possibilities. There is also something to be said for recognising good chemistry and having a healthy sense of when to move on.

Similar patterns (in my experience for what it’s worth) exist in every layer of our lives and function to give us a sense of place within what is real for us. I can’t describe what that means for each person nor would I try to.

MS: When does striving for perfection turn unhealthy?

JR: When a person starts purging the food they eat or starving themselves to achieve a body only airbrushing can offer. When a person over-eats or drinks and abuses their body as a substitute for affection or self respect that may be missing from their lives. When a person relentlessly shops for things they’ll never use while chasing after the temporary feeling of elation that consuming brings them. When our behaviour or beliefs alter our brain chemistry to the point where some of us get sick and others self-destruct. When a person decides to abuse another in an effort to hide their own flaws rather than facing and dealing with them. When a person marries, buys a house and has kids because someone else expected them to not because it was something they wanted. When a person racks up debt they can never hope to pay off to get another degree so they can amaze people they probably don’t even like. There are varying degrees of unhealthy happening here and this is a hand-full of the more common examples.

I think that most of us fail to realise that there is nothing wrong with having imperfections. With six billion people on our planet it’s impossible for all of us to adhere to someone else’s idea of what each of us should be without making some unhealthy compromises. I believe it’s important that we each have a reasonable idea of who and what we want to be.

MS: Can products have soul?

JR: No. This is one of the reasons we have branding. Some people believe they identify more with their favorite brands than with their own families or friends. I think people try to attribute soul-like qualities to products so they’ll stand out in a saturated marketplace but in the end they are just products regardless of how the branding makes one feel. All I want is a product that does what it’s supposed to when I need it.

I consider myself lucky to be trained in the area of visual communication because it’s instinctive for me to pick apart everything in front of me on a store shelf. Of course my design training is a double-edged sword because I am sometimes charged with an advertising campaign to promote such things but since I primarily freelance I have considerable influence in the ethical direction of my work. In the end, I don’t think branding is all bad but it is changing the landscape of our value systems and priorities in very big ways.

MS: What does being human and healthy mean to you?

JR: To me, being human means building communities of people who can celebrate and share the pleasure and pain of living. The saying goes, “No man is an island” and it’s true; humans are social creatures and we all need family, whether they’re blood relatives or people we choose. We need support systems to cope with the negative just as much as we need people close to us to nurture the positives. Isolation is unhealthy and is counted among the more serious of symptoms in sufferers of Clinical Depression. Sometimes isolation is the cause of Depression, other times it’s the result of it. Either way it’s important to be self-aware, aware of those around us, of how we interact with one another and who we bring into our personal sphere.

MS: Has religion played a role in your motivations for this project?

JR: Religion no, spirituality yes. When I think of religion, I think of the organized religions of the world and that’s not directly a part of my work. I think that a search for spirituality through human contact and connection is a more universal theme here. Throughout history organized religion has served as a unifying force to bring people together in the spirit of a common vision. With our cultures becoming less religious and more secular, people are searching for a different sense of community and grasping at those options more readily available in contemporary times.

MS: What are you working on next?

JR: I have a few projects in development. One of them is an exploration of the relationship and person, how both change through the passing of time and how they can be altered depending on their personal histories. I’ve also recently established a collaborative relationship with a photographer, Steve Richard, to strengthen the photographic element of my efforts. We both focus on people and social interaction so I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes us.

Beyond that I’m not sure. Each series or individual piece tends to feel from the one previous to it so time will answer that question.

MS: Thanks, I think we’ll have to continue this conversation at a later date.


Where to begin with Placement? It would be too easy to say it’s great, that you should check it out – to just take my word for it. Finally there’s something to read online that makes you forget that it’s on a monitor. To have the sensation of being able to just read and think is great indeed. Placement has only been going for a month week and a half but it seems extremely promising. Mr. E. Tage Larsen leads an ambitious group of contributors that will bring a refreshing dialogue to those that are curious at heart. It’s all about choice.


Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
Red Auerbach

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