Monday, December 29, 2008

British Design Classics Honored on Stamps

If you have a contact in Great Britain ask them to send you some of the new British stamps honoring British design classics.

What are some British design classics? The Mini Cooper auto (right) is well known in the States because it keeps showing up in movies and streets in America. It was designed by the late Sir Alec Issigonis.

Other British design icons include the supersonic Concorde jet (left) and the miniskirt. These three very different icons are to feature in a new set of stamps celebrating British design classics that will go on sale in 2009. As well as the Mini, the supersonic passenger airliner and the skirt that defined the 1960s, the set will also feature Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's K2 telephone box and Harry Beck's London Underground map.

The first 10 stamps will be on sale beginning in January and will be followed by a different set every month throughout the year. This is a great opportunity to call attention to the importance of design around the world.

The Power of Visual Images

It is not a new idea but, as we begin a new year, it is worth remembering the power of visual images by revisiting one of the most powerful visual images ever created. Pictures of the Earth taken by Apollo astronauts from the moon on Christmas Eve forty years ago have been credited with creating today's environmental movement. These pictures did more to shape our perception of our world than any words could ever do.

For the first time, through these photos, people could see that we really were all together floating in space on one little "spaceship Earth". These images of the Earth helped drive the momentum of a burgeoning green movement during the 70's, fuelling an awareness of vulnerability. It became obvious to all, that while the moon was a dead, inert mass the Earth was the only life supporting outpost in this part of the cosmos.

There are many design challenges left in the next billion years before the Earth will also no longer support life. Our middle aged sun, born less than 5 billion years ago, has only 5 billion years of fuel left but will destroy all life on Earth within the next billion years before completely dying itself in 5 billion years.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's Missing from Education?

Traditionally, schools have tried to address three aspects of student development - knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Today, we have to add a fourth - application. It is no longer enough to have knowledge, skills, and dispositions if you don't do anything with them.

Applying knowledge, skills, and dispositions is called design innovation. Designers are innovators, entrepreneurs, people who take action - who make things - who change the world.

Action/application has been missing from schools for so long that many think first about "service learning" because that has been one way to try to have students actually do something with what they are learning. Service learning is great but it is often an artificial activity separate from their day to day schooling.

In the agrarian past, students learned how to apply skills outside of school as a regular process of growing up on farms, helping out in family businesses, and working to help support themselves. Such opportunities are harder for students to find today so schools have tried to step in by providing internship programs, apprenticeships, service learning, competitions, and other ways to help students learn to apply what they are learning.

Design education is, by its very nature, directed at creating a better world for others. It goes beyond becoming aware of problems to actually trying to do something positive to solve them. Knowing what to do, having the skills, and being aware of the problems needs to be taken to the next level - application through design innovation.

Education today must address knowledge, skills, dispositions and application (design). Adding design education provides relevance, motivation and satisfaction to learning.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes, We Can!

Design Thinking has just become one of the most important basic skills for students in K-12 schools. The new basics are now "Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Design." Design is the ability to create change.

Everyone now has a renewed desire to make the changes in our society that have been neglected for so long. Many people, however, lack the knowledge and skills that would enable them to create the change we seek.

Along with words (reading and writing) and numbers (mathematics), American students need Design Thinking skills to create the images, objects, places and experiences (design) that will shape a future worth living into.

From President Abraham Lincoln to computer scientist Alan Kay, we have heard that "The best way to predict the future is to create it!" Design Thinking is the set of basic skills students will use to create the innovative communication, everyday objects, environments, and experiences that will shape our future in a global economy.

In Design Thinking, students learn how to identify important challenges, develop empathy, identify the opportunities, do the research, develop criteria, visualize solutions, brainstorm possibilities, create viable prototypes and models, and implement new forms of communication, products, environments and experiences. These skills not only enable students to be productive citizens but, quite literally, enable them to create a sustainable future for everyone on the planet!

A short list of the design problems being worked on right now:

1. The Universe - Create a picture or model of the nature of the universe. What do multiple dimensions, supersymmetry, dark matter, black holes, and the multiverse look like?
2. The Solar System - Design systems to support life when the solar system's dying energy source (the Sun) makes Earth uninhabitable in 1 billion years.
3. Life - Visualize the proteomic systems that enable and sustain life to enable advanced solutions to medical, genetic, and life-enhancing challenges.
4. Consciousness - Enhance visualization of systems within the brain to enable neuroscientists and others (artificial intelligence) to understand the complex relationships that enable human cognition and artificial intelligence.
5. Civilization - Design sustainable environments and products to provide a high quality of life (life, liberty, safety, food, shelter, and the pursuit of happiness) and a productive economy for everyone on the planet.
6. Technology - Continue the amazing advances in technology (transportation, communication, production, education, etc.) that enable people to access and productively use the information, objects, environments and experiences available across the globe.
7. Information - Design the next generation of information tools (computers, mobile devices, Internet, global positioning systems, information access, etc.) and create new systems to deal with abundance in all forms of life. What will education look like in a world of ubiquitous knowledge and connectivity?

Monday, November 3, 2008

David Rockwell to Design Oscar Set

Each fall, from around Thanksgiving through Christmas, many of the best movies of the year are in theatres because the industry believe this gives them a better chance of winning an Academy Award. When the nominations are out early next year we will be covering the Oscars for design categories like Costume, Art Direction, Animation, etc.

But the news right now is that David Rockwell has been chosen to design the fabulous set for the 81st Academy Awards that will be broadcast by ABC on Feb. 22.

Rockwell has never designed a set for the Oscars but is familiar with the Academy's venue, since his design firm, the Rockwell Group, designed the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center where the awards ceremony is held.

Rockwell Group's credits include set design for the upcoming Broadway productions "Catch Me If You Can" and "Houdini," as well as the sets for the stage productions of "Hairspray," "Legally Blonde," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "The Rocky Horror Show." The firm also did production design work for the 2004 film "Team America: World Police."

The Rockwell Group is the 2008 recipient of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Interior Design. Their other projects have included a freestanding building for Cirque du Soleil at Walt Disney World in Florida; the Elinor Bunin-Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center in New York, and the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, scheduled to open in 2009.

Click on the heading above or go to to see the Rockwell Group's website.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Design Education Topic of Davis Retreat for Art Supervisors

Art Supervisors from across the country were introduced to the concepts of Design Thinking at the Davis Retreat for Art Supervisors in October 2008 held in Palo Alto at Stanford University's (design school) and IDEO, one of the top design firms in the world (right).

Among the participants were Debora Reeves, Executive Director of the National Art Education Association (left) and John Wilson, Executive Director of the National Education Association (on right).

David Kelley, founder of IDEO and the welcomed participants and introduced them to the ideas upon which IDEO and the were founded. Over the next two days everyone participated in a "Deep Dive" to experience the design thinking process first-hand. They learned about the design thinking process including ideation, inquiry, empathy, visualization, and prototyping (far right)

This retreat coincided with the release of Davis' special issue of School Arts magazine on Design Matters. Click on the heading above or go to for more information about School Arts and Davis Publishing.

5D: The Future of Immersive Design Conference in Long Beach

Keynote speakers like Henry Jenkins (far left) from MIT and panelists like Gore Verbinski (center) (director of the Pirates of the Carribbean movies) and Rick Carter (production designer for Stephen Spielberg and Robert Zemekis) made the 5D conference on immersive design put together by Alex McDowell (on right) an excellent start to what will hopefully be a continuing series of conferences on Immersive Design.

This international conference explored the impact of rapidly changing technologies in design for narrative media - film and television, game design, animation, interactive media, architecture and environment - for artists, designers, scholars, educators, and students. The definition of narrative media is changing rapidly as traditional storytelling disciplines expand and converge. A new breed of designer is emerging who can flow freely between the real and the virtual; between media and across cultures.

Presented by the University Art Museum (UAM) at California State University, Long Beach and the Art Directors Guild (ADG), this international conference assembled the design world's leading pioneers and academics in an open exchange of ideas and insights about new design processes within the entertainment industry and the delivery of the immersive experience.

The event was attended by over 500 award-winning production designers and art directors, visual and digital artists, designers, architects, animators, as well as leading academics in these fields and their students: the future of the industry.

Click on the heading above to read more about the conference and the many panelists.

Entertainment Design at Art Center College of Design

Industrial Designer Scott Robertson (left) started a program in Entertainment Design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 2005. The program brings together skills in illustration (figurative work, picture composition, color theory, and narrative illustration) with skills in industrial design (technical perspective drawing, object styling, model building, and design methodologies).

Concept designers for the entertainment industry design characters, environments, vehicles, props and other things people have often never seen before. Robertson, who also has a publishing company (Design Studio Press) for concept design, put together a book called "In the Future... Entertainment Design at Art Center College of Design" (right) that shows examples of student work in character design, color theory, architecture, visual development and originality.

Concept designers are expected to have the ability to design, and illustrate unique and compelling characters, environments, vehicles, and props for stories taking place in the past, present and future. They draw upon knowledge and skills in industrial design, architecture, graphic design, illustration, and concept design.

Click on the heading above or go to for information about the Entertainment Design program at Art Center College of Design.

AIGA Conference on "Social Studies"

Ellen Lupton, center, helped design a recent AIGA conference looking at connectivity in the design world. The Balitmore Chapter of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) hosted the conference in October 2008 called "Social Studies: Educating Designers in a Connected World."

This AIGA design educators' conference addressed the social life of design. Graphic designers work with clients, institutions, users, and communities to make things happen in the world. Yet education often focuses on the individual voice. How are we preparing students for a lifetime of working with and for other people? How are our students connecting to the world?

AIGA provided a relaxed and stimulating weekend of lively discussions, hands-on workshops, and informal activities. One of the keynote speakers was Steven Heller (far left) the most prolific design historian/critic/author who has written over 100 books about design.

The Social Studies conference was a project of AIGA, sponsored by Adobe Systems and hosted by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) (right).

The Co-Chairs were Ellen Lupton, Director, Graphic Design MFA, MICA; author and editor of numerous books, including Thinking with Type and D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself, Jennifer Cole Phillips, Associate Director, Graphic Design MFA, MICA; co-author of Graphic Design: The New Basics; award-winning designer and Brockett Horne, Co-Chair, Graphic Design BFA, MICA; graphic designer and member of AIGA’s National Design Educator’s Committee.

Click on the heading above or go to for more information.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

100 Big Ideas from George Lois, AdMan

George Lois is advertising's most famous art director. Going back to the 60s, he founded a creative movement that spawned modern advertising, and created icons dramatizing the problems, solutions, foibles, and promises of American life. Media critics recognize Lois as a pioneering avant-garde mover of the culture. He has a new book (left) that surveys his long history as a leading advertising and magazine designer tracing more than one hundred of his Big Ideas back to their origins. Each double-page spread shows a concept and how he developed it.

Lois is an adman, an innovative thinker, and a creator of cultural advertising icons. He is the author of several books, including Iconic America and $ellebrity, and his Esquire covers (right) are in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. He has also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

One can't help but think that the TV series "Madmen" is modeled after Lois and his colleagues.

Click on the heading above to see his stylish website and what he looked like back in the 60s.

Growing Green Walls Inside and Out

Green Architecture means building with environmentally conscious techniques that conserve energy and provide healthy envrionments. Some designers are taking the "green" part of architecture literally and creating exterior (left) and interior (right) walls that are covered with growing plants. Sometimes referred to as vertical gardens, these walls caught on first overseas (Europe and Asia) and are just now starting to appear in the United States.

These go well beyond the ivy covered walls of academia which are often damaging the brickwork to carefully designed walls that provide environmental benefits and enhance the workability of the architectural forms. Rather than being decorative devices these walls provide environmental, economic, social and psychological benefits.

Click on the heading above to see an article about decisions in making a green wall.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Design Brief: A Crucial Part of the Design Process

What Is A Design Brief?
A design brief is vital to any design project as it will provide the designer(s) with the information needed to meet and exceed the expectations of the client or users.
A design brief should primarily focus on the results and outcomes of the design and the business objectives of the design project. It should not attempt to deal with the aesthetics of design - that's the responsibility of the designer.
The design brief also allows the client to focus on exactly what needs to be achieved before any work starts on the project.
A good design brief will ensure that you end up with a high quality design that meets the users needs.

How To Write An Effective Design Brief
Answering the questions below in detail should result in your design brief being 90% complete. The other 10% will come from further questions that come up during the process.

Understanding the Company or Business
What does the business do?
The designer will often not know anything about the company beforehand. Be clear and concise and avoid jargon when describing the business.

What is the company’s history?
What are their goals? Why?
What is the overall goal of the new design project?
What are they trying to communicate and why?
Are they trying to sell more products or get awareness of their product / service?
How do they differ from their competitors?
Do they want to completely reinvent themself or are they simply updating their promotional material, product or service?
Tip: Earlier examples will assist the designer.

Understand the target market or user
What are the target market or users demographics & phychographics? ie. the age, gender, income, tastes, views, attitudes, employment, geography, lifestyle of those you want to reach.
Tip: If you have multiple audiences, rank them in terms of importance.
What copy (text) and pictures are needed?
Tip: The copy and pictures used in a design are as crucial as the design itself and you should clearly state who is going to be providing the copy and pictures if needed. You may need to look into getting a professional copywriter / photographer - ask your designer for some recommendations.
What copy needs to be included in the design? Who is providing the copy?
What pictures / photographs / diagrams etc need to be used? Who is providing these?

What are the specifications?
What size is the design going to be?
Where is it going to be printed / used? The web, business cards, stationery, on your car?
What other information should the designer know in regards to specifications?
Have you got a benchmark in mind?
Collect some examples of what would be considered to be effective or relevant design even if it is from main competitors. This will set a benchmark for the designer.
Provide the designer with things not to do, and styles that you do not like or wish to see in your design. This will give the designer an idea of what to avoid and will avoid disappointment.

What Is the Budget?
Providing a budget prevents designers wasting valuable time and resources.
Providing the budget upfront also allows designers to know if the project is going to be worthwhile to complete. Make sure the project is worth your time.

What is the time scale / deadline?
The designer needs a detailed schedule of the project and a realistic deadline for the completion of the work. You should take into account the various stages of the design project such as consultation, concept development, production and delivery.
Tip: Rushing design jobs helps no one and mistakes can be made if a complex job is pushed through without time to review, however, there are times when a rush job is needed, and in these cases you should be honest and upfront about it.

Tips For The Designer
As a designer it is important to have a template such as this one to give to clients as clients will not always come to you with a design brief. Having a template ready shows professionalism and ultimately saves a lot of time and money.

Four Projects for Design Education

Along with a lot of knowledge and dispositions there are four basic skills we want students to have as a result of design education.

1. One is to lay out a clear, understandable, and interesting page layout (print or web) for others using text, images and graphics (far left).

2. Another is to design and produce a prototype for a new product design for others (near left).

3. The third is to design and make a model for an original building or space for others (near right).

4. And the fourth is to design and create an interactive experience for others (far right).

With these four end-points in mind, through reverse designing we can then figure out what knowledge and skills students will need to learn in increments in earlier years to build up to these challenging outcomes. These skills include the ability to come up with original ideas, do research, develop criteria, generate many possible solutions, create a prototype, and present and implement their designs.

Four Reasons to Take a Photo

There was a time when artists believed photography could never be an art form. Then museums and galleries started displaying photos by people like Ansel Adams and later Robert Mapplethorpe (far left). Until then, photos were mainly part of visual culture to capture family events (near left) or part of visual communication to document news or historic events (far right). Photography has also become a big part of the design world for magazines and commercial uses (near left).

So, depending on the intent and use, photography can be:

an art form for personal self-expression and media exploration,

a form of visual culture that captures our place in a culture and time,

a design form with some professional application or practical function,

or a form of visual communication to simply communicate information and ideas as in photojournalism or scientific imaging.

All of these are appropriate and necessary aspects of a comprehensive visual education program.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Toy Designer Caleb Chung Creates Pleo

A robotic toy dinosaur called Pleo is the brainchild of Caleb Chung, cocreator of the Furby, a furry toy robot that enjoyed enormous commercial success in the late 1990s. The Furby came out of the box speaking its own idiosyncratic gibberish but over time learned to use words of human languages that it was exposed to. Pleo, from Chung's new company, Ugobe, was intended to be the next step in the evolution of robotic toys that exhibit social behaviors and learn from experience.

Other robotic toys on the market have light and sound sensors like Pleo's, and some can also avoid obstacles, interact with their environments, and indicate emotional states. But with Pleo, Ugobe's vision was to create organic movement and dynamic behaviors unlike other robots in the market.

Pleo nuzzles its head against its owner's cheek in an apparent display of affection. It crouches and wags its tail like a dog that wants to play, or it cranes its neck to let out long, plaintive cries. Pleo's emotive states include joy, sorrow, and anger. It can also be drowsy or even sick--Pleos sneeze and can transmit colds to each other by way of infrared detection, which also allows them to recognize each other.

Pleo's hardware consists of 38 sensors, 14 motors, and more than 100 custom-designed gears. Light sensors and a camera in Pleo's nose help it detect objects, color, and edges. Sound sensors allow some degree of "hearing" when "[Pleo] is still, and it is quiet," Ugobe says. Eight capacitive touch sensors line Pleo's shoulders, back, legs, head, and chin.

Pleo's motors have force-feedback sensors that are sensitive to grabbing or pulling: Pleo may limp for a time if its leg is pulled. Tilt sensors detect changes in body position, and four foot switches allow Pleo to recognize that its feet are firmly planted on the ground.

Click on the heading above to see Pleo in action.

Clement Mok Receives 2008 AIGA Medal

Clement Mok, lead design consultant and former chief creative officer at Sapient, has been awarded the 2008 AIGA Gold Medal. Awarded annually by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the professional association for design, the award recognizes those who have made exceptional contributions to the field of design and visual communication. Award winners were celebrated at the Design Legends Gala in New York City on September 18.

Mok is recognized as a digital pioneer within the interactive marketing industry, having received hundreds of awards from numerous professional organizations and publications over his career. Mok has also founded several successful design-related businesses including interactive agency Studio Archetype, which was acquired by Sapient in 1998.

Following the acquisition, Mok served as Sapient's chief creative officer where he helped establish and evolve the company's interactive practice. Prior to joining Sapient, Mok spent five years as the creative director at Apple, where he worked on the launch of the Macintosh. Currently Mok consults for a variety of companies, including Sapient, assisting on design planning and user experience projects while providing leadership and direction to further shape and propel Sapient's interactive practice.

The AIGA Medal is the highest honor of the graphic design profession and has been given to its distinguished practitioners, educators and role models since 1920. Its value accrues from its association with the professionals who have inspired us all with creativity, intelligence, perception and skill. For a complete list of past recipients, visit

Sapient, a global services firm, operates two groups--Sapient Interactive and Sapient Consulting--that help clients compete, evolve and grow in an increasingly complex marketplace. Sapient Interactive provides brand and marketing strategy, award-winning creative work, web design and development and emerging media expertise. Sapient Consulting provides business and IT strategy, process and systems design, package implementation and custom development, as well as outsourcing services such as testing, maintenance and support.

Leading clients, including BP, Essent Energie, Hilton International, Janus, Sony Electronics and Verizon, rely on the company's unique approach to drive growth and market momentum. Headquartered in Boston, Sapient operates across North America, Europe and India. For more information, visit

The Designers Accord: Sustainable Design

The Designers Accord is a global coalition of designers, educators, researchers, engineers, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact. It is made up of over 100,000 members of the creative community, representing 100 countries, and each design discipline.

The vision of the Designers Accord is to integrate the principles of sustainable design into all practice and production. Their mission is to catalyze innovation throughout the creative community by collectively building our intelligence around sustainability.

Do no harm;
Communicate and collaborate;
Keep learning, keep teaching;
Instigate meaningful change;
Make theory action

Valerie Casey (right) founded the Designers Accord, a call to arms for the creative community to reduce the negative impact caused by design, and to work collaboratively to inspire change in the design industry and in consumer behavior. Valerie heads a global practice at IDEO, where she designs socially and environmentally sustainable products, services, and business models for companies around the world. Valerie has published and lectured on design throughout the international community, and is an adjunct professor at California College of the Arts. She holds a master's degree in cultural theory and design from Yale University, and a BA from Swarthmore College.

Click on the heading above to go to the website of Designers Accord.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Predicting" the Future

We don't know for sure what will replace them but it is pretty clear that two of the most ubiquitous objects in our lives today - the hand-held cell phone and the computer mouse - will be a thing of the past within 3 to 5 years. Several states have already passed legislation making the use of hand-held cell phones illegal while driving. Something is going to replace such hand-held devices. We have seen indications of possible replacements for the mouse in the interfaces used by the iPhone and touch screen computers - hand gestures may replace the mouse.

It is difficult to predict the future with much certainty but some future events don't require prediction. For example, it is a straightforward calculation to determine the location of the planets at any given point in the next 1,000, 100,000 or a million years. That's why it is a relatively easy calculation to land a space vehicle on the moon or a distant planet.

It is not a "prediction" that our solar system's sun will die and the earth will be a barren ball like Venus and Mars in about 5 billion years. The increase in solar temperatures is such that in about a billion years, the surface of the Earth will become too hot for liquid water to exist, ending all terrestrial life. That's no more of a prediction than saying your car will run out of gas when you drive it for a long time. You just have to do the math (or look at the gauge.) Weather forecasters don't say they "predict" the weather but "forecast" it. Their work is based on calculations and computer modelling not guesses. Their calculations are just more complex than those for space exploration so it is harder to get it right.

Many "futurists" simply look at what actually exists in research facilities now and "predict" what the future will look like. They are just more informed than the average person so they look like they are able to "predict" the future. Most people lead pretty conventional or contemporary lives so they have not heard about many of the new and emerging events that have already set the future in motion. Unless we read current literature and keep up with new developments in science we will not notice the future coming at us like a train coming down the tracks.

Click on the heading above to see an article about the possible future of the mouse.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Video Game, "Spore", from Will Wright's Maxis

People who complain about too much violence and other negative aspects of video-games often site "Sim City" and "The Sims" series of games designed by Will Wright (right) as a viable alternative. In fact, the Sims is one of the most popular games ever produced.

Will Wright has recently designed a new game called "Spore". Spore (left) is a multi-genre "massively single-player online game" developed by Maxis and designed by Will Wright. It allows a player to control the evolution of a species from its beginnings as a unicellular organism, through development as an intelligent and social creature, to interstellar exploration as a spacefaring culture. It has drawn wide attention for its massive scope, and its use of open-ended gameplay and procedural generation.

The full version of the game was released on September 4, 2008, in Australia and the Nordic region, but Australian stores prematurely broke the street date on September 2, 2008. The game was released September 5, 2008 in Europe, Japan, South America and New Zealand, and was released on September 7, 2008 in North America and Asia Pacific territories. Spore is also available for direct download from Electronic Arts (who bought Maxis). A special edition of the game, Spore: Galactic Edition, additionally includes a "Making of Spore" DVD video, "How to Build a Better Being" DVD video by National Geographic Channel, "The Art of Spore" hardback mini-book, a fold-out Spore poster and a 97-page Galactic Handbook published by Prima Games.

Click on the heading above to see the Spore trailer.

High Dynamic Range Photography

The latest thing in photo imaging is "high dynamic range" (HDR). This includes a variety of techniques to bring out the details in shadows and highlights throughout the whole photo. Nothing is washed out by too much light and nothing is lost in the shadows.

HDR images are a little disconcerting at first because we are used to seeing photos in a more limited range. HDR is a bit more like seeing with our own eyes because our eyes adjust to dark and light relatively quickly so that we see more details in shadows and highlights than conventional films can provide.

In the city scene to the left, for example, we would expect to be able to see either the colored lights with the rest of the image in darkness or the rest of the image visible with the colored lights pretty much washed out.

Similarly, in the sunset photo to the right, we would usually be able to only see the sun and sky with the rest of the landscape in silhouette. With a technology so new, we can expect to go through a period of time with people telling us why they don't like it and, in a few years, finding that we really appreciate being able to see everything in those holiday photos that, in the past, were either too bright or too dark in half the picture.

Digital photography has opened the door to HDR imaging (HDRI) and we can expect to see more and more of it in ads, magazines, movies and TV.

Click on the heading above to see a tutorial on creating HDR images with Photmatix.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Special Design Education Issue of School Arts Magazine

The special Design Education issue of School Arts magazine from Davis Publishing, co-edited my Paul Sproll (Rhode Island School of Design) and Martin Rayala (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania) with Senior Editor Nancy Walkup, came out in September 2008.

There are articles for all levels including early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school. The Looking/Learning section and Gallery Cards are provided by the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution with the help of Barbara Pierce Bush and Kim Robledo-Diga.

This special issue of School Arts is just part of the work Publisher Wyatt Wade and folks at Davis Publishing are doing to help art teachers include design education in their curricula.

Click on the heading above to go to the Davis website and see the table of contents and how to subscribe to the magazine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Design Hard

OK, so the whole thing is a promotional ploy by the liquor company Dewars and everyone is drinking at the events and there is a lot of sexual tension around but I think the people who put together the LVHRD (presumably standing for Live Hard) events get a lot right.

Among their regular events LVHRD includes an architecture competition and a fashion competition. These events draw huge crowds in a party atmosphere with loud music, colored lights, and DESIGN. I have to admit that after browsing the site for a while everything else (including my blog) seemed so lame and staid.

What if there were more design themed parties where the focus was on fashion, architecture, designing cool products, video games, etc.? Take out the booze, tone down the sex and we might actually have a way to present design to young people in a way that fits into their lifestyles.

Click on the heading above and explore the LVHRD architecture and fashion competition photos and videos and then think about the last open house or teachers convention you went to.

What can be done with projected images, photos, videos, design, fashion, costumes, music, movement, sound and light that will make our environments more captivating by DESIGN?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Charles and Ray Eames: The Power of Ten

Charles and Ray Eames (left) were an extraordinary husband and wife team known primarily as architects but they also produced one of the most enduring pieces of visual communication ever produced. A short movie they made for IBM captures in visual form the mathematical concept of powers of ten by showing an image that starts out with a couple on a blanket in a park and zooms out progressively every 10 seconds. On the return trip we continue further into the body of the man on the blanket into his atomic structure.

This visual exercise stretches the limits of our ability to comprehend the enormity of the universe and the complexity of subatomic physics.

Charles and Ray Eames should be included in any presentation of the history of design. They were incredibly inventive and lived to do projects that were challenging, meaningful and fun.

Their film, "The Power of Ten", should be shown to students as an example of how visual communication can be used to help us understand, or at least, be amazed by complex mathematical concepts. Visual communication is the use of images, objects, environments or experiences to communicate information and ideas.

Click on the heading above to see the short film.

Sketching Dynamic Movement

There is a certain kind of sketching that captures the dynamic movement of people and animals. The figures are not static but twist and turn in life-like action. Some of the masters of this type of sketching are earlier artists like Heinrich Kley (far left) and Frank Frazetta (near left), as well as contemporary artists like Peter de Seve (near right) and Claire Wendling (far right).

You can see they have a similar sketching style. It is a bit old-fashioned but is the kind of drawing used in animated films today. They draw from keen observation, quickly, and capturing dynamic motion bursting with energy. They capture the "gesture" of the figure as well as the anatomy and proportion.

This is the kind of rapid drawing that marks a skilled observer of life. They sketch constantly, at the zoo, in the park, in their sketchbooks and at their drawing boards, whenever and wherever they are. Some students want to be able to draw anything they see like these artists can. Frazetta, for example, used to vex his friends who were artists because he could sit down and, in a manner of minutes, sketch a person or animal in a way that perfectly captured the anatomy while presenting the character in an interesting dynamic pose.

Students who love to draw and want to gain mastery of drawing would be well served to study these artists (some of their images are not suitable for younger artists) and practice drawing from life for a couple of hours a day. Encourage them to go to the zoo and sketch, draw the neighborhood dogs and cats, draw their family members, even draw from action movies at home by hitting the pause button on a DVD. They can become Rock Stars with a pencil - the Michael Jordan of the sketchbook.

Click on the images to see larger versions.