Tag design

False Imitation

“[…] Governor Cuomo praised the design of the broad, bland new stations to the New York Times as a “public space where community can gather and where culture and shared civic values are celebrated,” and, at a news conference, predicted that “this is just the beginning of a new period of rebirth.”

What actually happened was that the design of the new subway stations was outsourced to assorted stars of the modern art world, most of whom not one New Yorker in ten thousand would likely recognize by name or achievement. One of them, Chuck Close, filled his station with mosaic portraits of “New York artists who have formed Mr.Close’s wide circle,” which includes Lou Reed and Kara Walker along with Cecily Brown, Philip Glass, Alex Katz, several younger artists he favored, and two self-portraits.

The artist Vik Muniz did Close one better, providing three dozen images of various friends, relatives, and cultural celebrities dressed up, reported the Times, like “normal people,” including “the restauranteur Daniel Boulud holding a bag with a fish tail sticking out; the designer, actor, and man-about-town Waris Ahluwalia”; and Mr.Muniz himself, “in a Rockwell-esque scene of him tripping, spilling papers from his briefcase,” as well as his son, dressed “in a tiger suit, like a Times Square mascot on lunch break.” Isn’t it marvelous? The artists are depicting themselves and their celebrity friends imitating us, waiting for a train and doing all the perfectly ordinary things that we ordinary people do?

The Death of a Once Great City, by Kevin Baker (Harper’s, July 2018)

A Mind Forever Voyaging II.

Several months after I stopped writing in August 2011, I noticed my creative and thinking abilities had lessened (I label this collective “design”).  While I was still thinking of new ideas and concepts, I found they lacked the time (and “environment”) to develop.

Now that I’ve restarted this process, I am slowly regaining a sense of “flow” that I have been able to periodically achieve over the past several years.  It’s this sense of flow that ultimately drives new ideas and initiatives, both of which help pave the way for new opportunities.

The basis for building a solid design foundation is to continuously create.  In my opinion, writing, drawing, programming, building and reading are activities that  positively contribute to this “foundation” and are a method of creation in their own right.

While creation is key, it’s important to heed frog founder Hartmut Esslingen’s warning:

The way of design is only achievable via creative model-making and prototyping by the designer. Tools, both real and virtual, connect our mind with the real world. However, tools also define how we shape things: tools’ limitations enhance our deep involvement with them and the materials, and honing our skills ultimately leads to mastership. The curse of “easy” digital tools is to become complacent after relative early “successes.” This can lead to mediocrity and a loss of creative excellence. Like the new “polystyrene slates” of many new electronic products, where excellence is defined by how well the corners are shaped (a re-run of 1950‘s boxy design), our modern-day digital design software is the cause for zillions of repetitive and bland products. Charlie Chaplin’s classic film of mechanized dehumanization, Modern Times, is a déjà vu of our current state.

While his opinion is perhaps based in the industrial design arena (frog helped develop Apple’s foundation design language), his comments clearly apply to design disciplines outside of ID.

This is one tension of many that I will need to factor into my development strategy, and will be further explored in future posts.

The End of Territories (I).

With September just around the corner, I’ve decided to end the first chapter of Territories and focus my energies on its successor – “Territories 2.”

As alluded to in my last post, this new site will focus on both technology and design, and perhaps less on interpersonal / emotional aspects of my life (at least in comparison to Incubator and Territories I).

I’m excited about this next online chapter and look forward to the challenges ahead.


Designing the Future

“I think the old definition of designer-as-problem-solver is a bit limited: here’s a problem over here; there’s the solution.  The problem isn’t static.  It’s moving.  It’s a living organism.  To think you can simply ‘solve’ it is ridiculous.  Rather, you need to negotiate it.”

Allan Chochinov, Designing the Future (Metropolis Magazine)

Concept: Territories HD

Nike Design: The KDIII and the Kobe VI

In a desire to break out of my typical exercise routine, I joined a basketball tournament at the gym where I am a member (Note: It’s always helpful if you know how to play before you join a tournament :-).

Ironically enough, my new sneakers led me to further explore Nike’s web site, where I was surprised to find videos of the industrial designers who work at Nike.  The videos are really interesting because they go into the background behind the shoe, calling attention to the unique design elements that make these shoes truly unique.

Nike Zoom KD III: Leo Chang Discusses the Nike Zoom KD III

Nike Zoom Kobe VI: Eric Avar Discusses the Nike Zoom Kobe VI (The Black Mamba)

7: Concept Vehicle – Initial Sketches

Right now I’m unsure how many sketches I’ll post on a daily basis, but here are a few from day 1.  Prismacolor pencil is, I think, the best way to get some initial ideas on paper; doing a similar exercise in digital just isn’t the same.

As you can see here, I’m leaning towards a vertically-oriented cockpit and am exploring the use of various power / transmission mechanisms.  (Click on the images below to enlarge)

(Click on the above image to enlarge)

Immersion: Operating Framework and “Post Digital” Concept

The concept of an operating framework is to organize your time and effort into specific areas of focus.  In theory, and with appropriate discipline, an operating framework can accelerate one’s development in one or multiple areas.  The very nature of writing down one’s goals (or visually representing them) can plant these ideas and objectives into one’s subconscious, and this becomes a very powerful motivator even if you aren’t explicitly thinking of the framework on a daily basis (you shouldn’t be).

For example, here is an example of a partial framework from 2007 (Plane 6 – “Foundation”):

(Click on the image to enlarge)

While I listed electronics and software development within this framework, I didn’t end up spending a lot of time in these specific areas.  And that’s where the evolution of an operating framework becomes relevant; where are you focusing your energy?  And if you aren’t spending your time in certain areas, is this necessarily a problem?

In the Immersion (Plane 10) framework shown below, there is now a clear separation of what I’ve focused on in the past and what I ultimately need to focus on in the future.  This is a radical shift given that I’ve typically had to justify and take on multiple, parallel tracks that had little relationship to one another – other than the fact that one path was for survival, and the other more aspirational.  By logically separating these skills from the “core”, they will eventually become dormant and by default, the skills that I want to develop will have developed due to this increased focus (i.e. a self-fulfilling prophecy).

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Layered above these “dormant” skills are multiple layers of activity – all leading to a radically advanced portfolio along with an increased level of interaction weighted more heavily in the real-world than in the digital realm. What’s truly important here is that this increased interaction ultimately stems from a broader range of experiences.  Not surprisingly, this has a dual purpose; the greater one’s experiences, the greater one’s ability to learn, identify challenges and design solutions to those challenges.  Experiences represent a designer’s playground.

Finally, one concept that perhaps serves as the basis for this framework is John Maeda’s concept of “post digital”:

[Post Digital] is a term that I created as a way to acknowledge a distinction between those that are passed their fascination with computers, and are now driven by the ideas instead of the technology.  […] the “post digital” generation refers to the growing few that have already been digital, and are now more interested in Being Human.

Ultimately, this is exactly what Immersion is all about – I’m less interested in the technology for technology’s sake.  Rather I am interested in using technology to increase idea generation to make people’s lives better.

Digital Sculpture: Mirror’s Edge

One of the core objectives of Immersion is to move away from pure two dimensional design and to expend greater energy and concentration in three dimensional space.  These renders below are part of a “digital sculpture” series that I am still toying around with.  For the remainder of this particular series, please visit my digital illustration site.

What makes you happy?

Can you become happier through analysis of what makes you happy?  Can you gain greater understanding of other people’s happiness through similar analysis?  I think the answer to both questions is “yes.”

I recently purchased the second season of George Lucas’ The Clone Wars.  Overall, I’m completely thrilled – so much so that I am starting to think the series is better than the original trilogies.  As I progressed through each episode, I found my level of happiness directly linked to a few select scenes.  While I was happy watching every episode, I couldn’t stop but wonder why certain scenes were more “joy-provoking” than others.

Let me share a few examples to further explore this concept.

In the episode entitled “Cargo of Doom”, there is one scene where a bounty hunter named Cad Bane has jumped into a parked spaceship to flee from Anakin Skywalker.  Once Bane jumps into the spaceship, there is some brief animation as he turns on the ship’s power.  This is visible through the illumination of lights within the ship’s cockpit.  What really excited me was the sequence of lights that illuminated within the 1-2 second interval.  Instead of just showing a single illumination (i.e. the ship is now “on”), the animators took the time to show a purposeful sequence of illumination (spatial relationship and number) giving the sense of multiple subsystems and overall complexity.

Once the ship has taken off, and Anakin is forced to jump off the wing to avoid injury, the camera follows the ship briefly as the wings are lowered and the ship accelerates.  While difficult to convey here, the chosen camera angle illustrates the significance of the situation, the complexity and acceleration of the ship, and the sheer size difference between the ship, the hangar and humans on the ground.

So, what are the themes that comprise this scene? (i.e. why do I like this scene in particular?)

Themes: technology, complexity, purpose, attention to detail, “part of something larger”, perspective, power, energy, spatial relationship, design

In another episode (“Landing at Point Rain”), there is another scene that I simply love.  The Republic is taking heavy losses against the Separatists.  After much delay, Y-wing fighters are deployed to the planet to provide critical assistance.  The scene begins with a surprised Obi-Wan Kenobi followed quickly by a ground-level camera angle that shows the rapidly approaching Y-wing (a “fly-by”).  While the scene lasts all of two seconds (~60 frames of animation), the sheer power and acceleration of the spaceship combined with an equally powerful sound effect makes for a very immersive scene.

Themes: “feeling of being there”, magnitude, realism, sound, surprise, immersion, perspective, uniqueness, influence, control, sense of scale, speed

While I could describe other scenes that produced similar euphoria, I’d recommend renting or purchasing the series to witness this creative masterpiece for yourself.  What’s important here, however, is the opinion that one’s ability to describe the themes associated with feelings of joy and happiness can ultimately open up new opportunities for oneself and one’s connection with others.

To expand upon this latter point, when interacting with others – either as friends or as colleagues – you can learn about people by truly understanding the facets of the things that provide them with joy.  For example, the statement “I enjoy watching The Clone Wars” is one level of understanding, but as you’ve just seen, it’s simply scratching the surface.  Uncover the themes behind one’s enjoyment and you can learn a great deal.

Think about movies you’ve watched, books you’ve read, or places you’ve visited.  If you find yourself in a state of euphoria, ask yourself why.  What are the descriptors behind the event?  What do those descriptors say about you, and can you increase those feelings through additional exploration?