Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Macho Man's Last Stand

We know that we should be driving smaller, more fuel efficient cars but we also know that big, gas-guzzling vehicles are one of the few ways left for macho men to hold onto their self-identity. Advertisers are capitalizing on this deep-seated need.

American and German auto-makers are fighting for the more income-producing (for them) big vehicles. They produce ads that make fun of the lack of manly noise produced by today's hybrids. Men like loud noises.

They question the safety of small vehicles. What happens if a more manly man hits me with his bigger vehicle? You don't want to die like a woman or a child.

And what about losing the ability to do high speed races in urban settings? What if your vehicle isn't up to it?

For the rest of the world the future is closer than we think. The science fiction cars we saw in films like Minority Report are starting to show up in London and other places in the world.

Conflicted About Advertising

We are conflicted about advertising and its effect on impressionable minds. We like advertising enough that many people look forward to seeing the ads shown during the Super Bowl each year. Advertising keeps our economy moving. Advertising is a big part of the revenue source for many top agencies and designers. But advertising gets us to buy things we shouldn't.

TreeHugger.com is a great website for environmentalism and shows some of the top advertising campaigns for protecting the environment. Click on the heading above to see some of them.

They even have ad campaigns against ad campaigns.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Spaceport Breaks Ground in New Mexico

The world's first commercial spaceport broke ground in southern New Mexico in June 2009. Virgin Galactic, so far with only two spacecraft, will operate a new space launch system at Spaceport America when it opens.

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group launched Virgin Galactic in 2004 to develop commercial space vehicles that would solve the safety, cost and environmental impact problems associated with manned space travel. As the spaceport's anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic has been actively developing the technology to make low cost commercial space access a reality in conjunction with Burt Rutan and Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composites, the company developing WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo for commercial spaceflight.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson remarked on the importance of the groundbreaking for the spaceport. “After all of the hard work to get this project off the ground, it is gratifying to see Spaceport America finally become a reality,” New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said. “New Mexicans have stepped up to the plate by making this investment. This groundbreaking ceremony is an important step toward our goal of being at the forefront of a vibrant new, commercial space industry.”

The design for Spaceport America's terminal hangar facility was created by a team of American and British architects that were selected after competing in an international design competition. URS Corporation, one of the world's largest design and engineering firms, teamed with lead designer Foster + Partners of the United Kingdom to submit the winning design. Foster + Partners has extensive experience designing airport buildings and other highprofile projects worldwide.

Click on the heading above to go to Spaceport America's website.

Celebrate World Industrial Design Day

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) invites everyone to celebrate World Industrial Design Day on June 29, 2009.

World Industrial Design Day is a new global initiative to provide professional industrial designers and design enthusiasts with an opportunity to promote a global understanding of design and all that it encompasses.

First declared on June 29, 2007 on the occasion of ICSID's 50th anniversary, the international observance is an occasion to mark the development and evolution of industrial design throughout the course of its history, as well as accentuate industrial design's role in improving the economic, social, cultural and environmental quality of life around the world.

Through a series of international events World Industrial Design Day will present an engaging variety of initiatives highlighting the many contribution designers and academics have made to the discipline of industrial design relative to the study of design theory, research, and practice.

Click on the heading above to see the ICSID World Industrial Design Day site.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Imagine a Future That Works

Can you imagine a future that works - a utopian future if you will? It will be hard to create a future that works if we can't even imagine it.

Most movies, books, etc. about the future are pretty dystopian. They foresee some sort of armagedon or war between machines, humans and aliens. Many people fear the future.

Star Trek comes the closest to creating images of a future that works. The Enterprise is more of a flying military base than a normal environment, however, and we aren't provided many scenes of people living peacefully and happily in well-designed places that sustain the quality of life. What would that look like?

What would a movie look like in which we have solved many of the problems we face today? What will be the future solutions to traffic congestion, overcrowding, diminishing natural environments, wars, violence, pollution, etc.? Can we imagine a world that works or are we doomed to continue thinking the world is getting increasingly worse rather than better?

Monday, June 15, 2009

India Introduces Design in Curriculum

The Industrial Design Centre (IDC) of India, at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) held a national meeting on introducing ‘Design and Innovation’ in the school curriculum February 2009 in Bombay.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and formulate guidelines for introducing ‘Design and Innovation’ as a subject in school curriculum in India and to prepare the groundwork for a white paper on this subject. (click on the heading above to see the white paper.)

Participants were faculty members in charge of the academic programs from design related schools in India, decision makers in different school directorates and others working in the field of Children’s learning environment. They developed a set of recommendations to the Ministry of Human Resources and Development and to the various directorates of school education.

This meeting was preparation for a conference on ‘Designing for Children’ scheduled to be held at Mumbai, India in February 2010 and being hosted by the Industrial Design Centre (IDC), at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Mumbai.

Electronic Textbooks the Future for Schools

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that California would be using electronic versions of textbooks for high school mathematics and science starting this fall. Advantages cited include cost-saving, faster updates, easier to carry and built in interactivity.

This seems to answer the question about the future of electronic books. Since California and Texas are the biggest textbook adoption states most publishers create textbooks for those markets. Whatever California and Texas want from publishers is what everyone else in the country gets. Other states like Florida and Ohio have been doing smaller scale trials of electronic textbooks as well.

Some of the perceived downsides of the switch away from printed books will be taken care of in future developments or people will just have to get over it. Teachers will have to learn how to teach differently to take best advantage of the powerful new books.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let Frank Lloyd Wright Inspire Your Design

The Guggenheim Museum and Google announced the launch of Design It: Shelter Competition, an online competition that invites the public to use Google Earth and Google SketchUp to create and submit designs for virtual 3-D shelters for a location of their choice anywhere on Earth. The competition opened on June 8, 2009, Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday; closes to submissions on August 23; and ends on October 21, the 50th anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum’s opening, when two prizes, a Juried Prize and a People’s Prize, will be awarded.

Between June 8 and August 23, 2009, everyone from students to amateur designers to design and architecture professionals can visit the Design It: Shelter Competition Web site (click on heading above) for information on how to enter the competition and download Google Earth and Google SketchUp (a free download). After choosing a location on Google Earth, participants can use SketchUp 3-D modeling software to create original designs for 100-square-foot structures in which to live and work. Completed designs are then uploaded to the Google 3D Warehouse and submitted via the Design It: Shelter Competition Web site where site visitors will be able to browse through all of the entries.

The competition takes its inspiration from Learning By Doing, an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum’s Sackler Center for Arts Education curated by David van der Leer, the museum’s Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design, which features plans, photographs, and models of shelters built by students at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. For the past seven decades, students at the school have taken on the challenge of designing, building, and living in small shelters nestled in the landscape of the school’s Arizona Taliesin West campus (right) and recently on the Taliesin campus in Wisconsin as well. In addition to providing hands-on management and construction experience, the shelter program encourages students to consider human needs for safety and comfort as well as the relationship between architecture and place.

Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture students will select ten entries as finalists. The public will be invited to vote on the finalists online from September 7 through October 10 to determine the winner of the People’s Prize. At the same time, a jury of experts in the fields of architecture and design will review all shelter submissions to choose the winner of the Juried Prize. Jury members include Martin Cox, Principal, Bade Stageberg Cox; Neil M. Denari, Principal, Neil M. Denari Architects; Cathleen McGuigan, Architecture Critic, Newsweek; Victor Sidy, Dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; Lisa Strausfeld, Partner, Pentagram; Aidan Chopra, Product Evangelist, Google SketchUp; and David van der Leer, Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design at the Guggenheim. The two competition winners will be announced on October 21, 2009. Prizes will include airfare and two nights' accommodation for two in New York City, behind-the-scenes tours of the Guggenheim Museum and Google offices, and Google SketchUp Pro licenses. The Juried Prize will also include a $1,000 cash award.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Designers Win Tony Awards

Sets, costumes, and lighting are some of the key areas of live theatre for designers and each year some of the best are recognized with a Tony Award. The American Theatre Wing's 63rd Annual Antoinette Perry "Tony"® Awards were held at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 7, 2009 and broadcast on the CBS Television Network.

The Antoinette Perry "Tony" Awards are bestowed annually on theatre professionals for distinguished achievement. The Tony is one of the most coveted awards in the entertainment industry and the annual telecast is considered one of the most prestigious programs on television.

Winners in the design categories included:

Scenic Design by Derek McLane for 33 Variations (right).
Scenic Design for a Musical by Ian MacNeil for Billy Elliot, The Musical.
Costume design by Anthony Ward for Mary Stuart.
Costume design for a Musical by Tim Hatley for Shrek, The Musical.
Lighting Design by Brian MacDevitt for Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
Lighting Design for a Musical by Rick Fisher for Billy Elliot, The Musical.

Click on the heading above to go to tonyawards.com.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gestural and Voice Interfaces Appear to be the Future

Microsoft shook up the video game world with the announcement of its forthcoming 'Project Natal' technology, full-body motion-sensitive technology that should allow gamers to do what they want without holding on to any hardware. In this product image released by Microsoft (left), a Project Natal sensor for the XBOX 360 is shown. The sensor tracks a player's full body movement while responding to commands, directions and a shift of emotion in voice without the need for a controller.

Announced during Microsoft's annual E3 press conference, Project Natal appears to be the culmination of several years of work by an Israeli start-up called 3DV Systems, which Microsoft recently acquired. The technology allows users to control games, movies, and anything else on their Xbox system with their hands alone, and without touching any hardware.

Steven Spielberg (right) appeared in person at the launch of Project Natal and indicated that the technology has wide ranging implications for the entertainment industry.

Click on the heading above to learn more and see a video demo.

Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award Winners

Each year a jury awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. This year's Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award winner is a system including a stackable electronic car and a folding scooter to help cut down on congestion and pollution in cities. It is Sustainable Personal Mobility: The CityCar (right), the RoboScooter, and Mobility-on-Demand Systems.

Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems (SPM/MoD), submitted by an interdisciplinary student team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab (MIT) has been selected as the winner of the 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. The jury said the project best represents the comprehensive, anticipatory approach to design pioneered by R. Buckminster Fuller - it is a, bold, visionary idea and beautifully reflects the spirit of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. This project is a perfect example of the kind of radical, transformative change that is possible when we reconceive the old ways of doing things and take a systems-based approach to design.

SPM/MoD isn't just about the design of lightweight, efficient, electric vehicles, it is about inserting that technological innovation into the social and cultural environment and designing an intuitive system within which they function. The technological innovation embodied in these vehicles is just one piece of a larger system design which addresses issues from pollution, to congestion, to urban space, to economics, to energy use, to the very idea of personal transportation and what that means in a world with nearly seven billion inhabitants. In the Bucky Fuller tradition this is a transformative solution rather than an isolated piece of technology.

The core concept is the power of transformative visioning, of imagining the world we want to see and then putting the steps in place to get us there, a process which Bucky often called designing the 'preferred state.'

Click on the heading above to go to the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award site.