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 www.aiga.org/medalists.

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 www.sapient.com.

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.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Four Ways to Draw

There are many ways to draw but most can be fit into four major categories:

1. Drawing as Art: Personal self-expression and exploration of media without necessarily an outside purpose. (far left) (Alan Saret, Gang Drawings)
2. Drawing as Visual Culture: Popular imagery from mass media, folk and cultural traditons, often for recreational or decorative purposes. (near left)
3. Drawing as Design: Creating new visual forms with functional applications - advertising, architecture, product design, etc. (near right)
4. Drawing as Communication: Visual communication to help others understand complex ideas and information. (far right) (Dugald Stermer)

If you look at the sketchbooks of Leonardo da Vinci you will see that at different times he drew for different purposes. He has sketches he did in preparation for major works of art, drawings of interesting looking people on the street he did to amuse himself, designs for inventions he created, and medical illustrations to document what he learned by dissecting bodies.

While many people love to draw, most people stop using drawing as a means of communication by the time they reach 6th grade unless required to do so in school. If students can be encouraged to continue drawing, like any second language, they will find it an essential tool for being more perceptive, improving thinking and communicating ideas more effectively to others.

Drawing can be done for self-exploration, recreation, application or communication. Each purpose has different conventions, expectations, and criteria and people often get confused when they apply the wrong criteria to a type of drawing.

Click on the images to see a larger version.

Saul Bass: Legendary Designer

As part of our efforts to include designers and design history along with art history in any visual education, one of the legends of design who should be included is Saul Bass.

Bass is noted for starting a tradition of designing credits for movies such as his design for "The Man With the Golden Arm" (left). Today that tradition is carried on by designers like Kyle Cooper and his company "Imaginary Forces."

Bass is also the designer of many famous logos (some of which are shown behind him in the picture on the right.) He is in the news today because of efforts to redesign his original logo for AT&T.

There is a wealth of information about Bass and his work provides a rich source of ideas for lessons. Any educated person should know about the influence of Saul Bass in visual culture and design.

Click on the heading above to see a somewhat dated but historically important film of Bass talking about his designs. (It's a little blurry with bad sound and is 35 minutes long but full of important insights.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rotoball Returns!

Rotoball (left) is an International Collaborative Animation Project run by Shanghai art teacher David Gran (right).

Last year was the debut of the international rotoball project: an international collaborative animation project. The final video was created by more than 80 students from 11 schools in 4 countries around the world. This year there are already 14 schools from five countries, including The United States, Great Britain, China, Cambodia, and The Dominican Republic .

For a comprehensive explanation of the project and more, visit the Rotoball website - http://www.carrotrevolution.com/rotoball/

Rotoball is a black ball that transforms into something different for each person who comes into contact with it. The goal of the project is to keep the ball going as long as possible. It is a collaborative rotoscoped animation project for high school students in which each student creates a 15 second segment of a much longer animation. Its a unique opportunity to connect with other students who are geographically distant.

Watch Rotoball 2008 (http://vimeo.com/935486?pg=embed&sec=935486)
from The Carrot Revolution (http://vimeo.com/user453980)
on Vimeo (http://vimeo.com/)

The Rules Each animation must be exactly 15 seconds long. The animation can be as creative as you’d like, but MUST contain the following:
1. You catching the ball from the left hand of the screen.
2. The ball transforming in some way.
3. You interact with the transformed object.
4. The ball returning to normal.
5. The ball leaving the right hand part of the screen.

Project Dates
Beginning ...now! Start rolling! Ending Friday, March 21st, 2009
All projects must be uploaded, or sent in to David Gran or Heather by this date.

Premiering Friday, April 17th 2009 @ the Shanghai Student Film Festival and on Vimeo!

Questions? Please visit the Rotoball website - http://www.carrotrevolution.com/rotoball/ or by clicking on the heading above.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Future That Works

By the end of this century there will not be a war anywhere on the planet, mass numbers of people will no longer go hungry or starve, violent crime will be virtually eliminated, racism and bigotry will be virtually eliminated, and every person on the planet will be living as if they are millionaires. Like smoking in public places, all of the current social injustices and breakdowns will become things of the past.

Sure, something could go wrong in the mean time. We could get hit by a bus tomorrow but we still make plans for the future and have a pretty good idea of the natural progression of life. That's the case for civilization on the planet. Something could go wrong but, barring an unfortunate accident, civilization is progressing at such a pace that, by the end of the century, we will have solved most of the problems of civilization that face us today.

At the current pace of development we will achieve the status of a Level I civilization by the end of this century. This will happen in two stages. By the middle of the century technology will have developed to the point that a single system of interconnected computers (acting as if they are one) will have the combined knowledge and processing power of every person on the planet. This will enable us to track and accomodate the intelligence and needs of every individual on the planet.

By the end of the century we, along with our technological allies, will be able to work out the complexities of rapid, equitable delivery of food, medical care, emergency relief, housing and economic needs for every person on the planet. We will be able to produce and distribute worldwide all the food needed and manage unpredictable events like earthquakes and tornadoes. Accidents will still happen, people will die, hearts will be broken, and individuals will still have physical and psychological breakdowns but none of this will be systemic or widespread. People will typically live healthily for well over a century in peace and prosperity.

This won't happen automatically, of course. We still need all the researchers working in areas like quantum physics, genetics, complexity science, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, robotics, etc. to continue working at the growing level of competence to maintain the exponential growth we have been experiencing over the past 50 years. At this current pace, in the next 50 years we will reach what Ray Kurzweil calls the Singularity when human and machine intelligence reach parity. The 50 years after that will be sufficient, at the current pace of development, for us to reach what Nikolai Kardashev refers to as a Type I civilization which will have all the features I describe above and more.

There should be no fear of complacency because there will be new challenges requiring continued hard work and ingenuity. We will, after all, have only reached the status of a Type I Civilization and have much greater challenges facing us to reach Types II and III.

Engineering and Design

In the initial stages, many products, images, buildings or anything else made by people are often more engineering than design. Then, as we come to understand it better we see how to integrate the engineering into more coherent and efficient forms. This is design.

Think of the early automobile, with parts tacked on (running boards, bumpers, door handles, mirrors), in comparison to new, sleek, contemporary cars with elements integrated into a coherent design. Perhaps the most graphic examples of this evolution are the robot characters WALL-E and EVE in the popular animated movie "WALL-E". We see, side by side, the early, un-designed form represented by WALL-E and the later, coherent, integrated design of EVE.

I think the national robotics competitions that have been gaining such popularity in schools across the country are in similar early stages of development. Currently, most of the attention is being paid to engineering and basic functionality. The designs, like early cars, flaunt each new feature by tacking them on in such a way that they can be seen and admired. We can see by the evolution of myriads of other designed objects that this early stage will give way to more sophisticated, integrated, coherent designs. Next to the next generation of robots, these early robots will look quaint and old-fashioned - like a Model-T next to a Ferrari.

It is up to design educators to start working with technology educators (graphic, industrial, electrical, mechanical, etc.) to start evolving engineering projects into more beautifully designed, coherent next-generation versions.

It doesn't take much to see from where the inspiration for the design of Eve came. Click on the heading above to read how Apple Computer's top designer, Jonathan Ive, helped create the look of EVE.

Design is not Decoration

Non-designers often think that design consists mainly of decorating something - adding color and flourishes to make it "pretty". Designers make a big distinction between decoration and design. Whether it be in graphic design, product design, or environment design would-be "designers" have to get past the early "decorating" tendency. The need to first create the underlying structure is why many architectural models are done in plain white. In architecture, interior design, product design and, or for that matter, graphic design, structure is key.

The National Council for Interior Design Accreditation (NCIDQ) describes Interior Design in this way:

“Interior design is a multifaceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive. Designs are created in response to and coordinated with the building shell, and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements, and encourage the principles of environment sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process, whereby the needs and resources of the client are satisfied to produce an interior space that fulfills the project goals.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A 100 Year Design Challenge

We are about 3/4th of the way to completing one of the biggest design challenges facing the planet - to become a Type I civilization. Carl Sagan estimated that we are at .7 on the scale toward reaching that goal. This sounds better, and may be more accurate, than just saying we are currently a Type 0 civilization.

What does this mean? The main concept is attributed to Nikolai Kardashev, (left) the Soviet astrophysicist, who in 1964 outlined three levels of civilization. The Kardashev scale is a general method of classifying how technologically advanced a civilization is. The scale has three categories called Type I, II, and III. These are based on the amount of usable energy a civilization has at its disposal, and the degree of space colonization. In general terms, a Type I civilization has achieved mastery of the resources of its home planet, Type II of its solar system, and Type III of its galaxy.

Human civilization is currently somewhere below Type I, as it is able to harness only a portion of the energy that is available on Earth. The current state of human civilization has thus been named Type 0. Although intermediate values were not discussed in Kardashev's original proposal, Carl Sagan argued that they could easily be defined by interpolating and extrapolating the values given above. In 1973, he calculated humanity's civilization type to be 0.7, in relationship to Kardashev's model for Types 0 and I.

It is estimated that within 100 years we should be able to achieve Type I status. A Type I civilization would be able to marshal energy resources for communications on a planet-wide scale, equivalent to the entire present power consumption of the human race, or about 1016 watts. A Type II civilization would surpass this by a factor of approximately ten billion, making available 1026 watts, by exploiting the total energy output of its central star. Freeman Dyson, for example, has shown in general terms how this might be done with a Dyson sphere. Finally, a Type III civilization would have evolved far enough to tap the energy resources of an entire galaxy. This would give a further increase by at least a factor of 10 billion to about 1036 watts.

By extension, Kardashev Type IV civilization would be one that consumes the power of an entire galactic supercluster. Kardashev Type V, of course, would be a civilization that occupies the entire universe.

Click on the heading above to see a video of physicist Michio Kaku talking about Type I, II. and III civilizations.