Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sketchbooks Identify Designers

Cartoonists, animators, and designers in general almost always have a sketchbook or two close at hand. If they are separated from their beloved sketchbooks they will grab a nearby napkin. Designers think and talk with pictures.

Those who design the world in which we live have different habits that those who simply live in the world they design. One of those habits is to carry a sketchbook to capture ideas and inspiration when and where they occur before they vanish in the ongoing press of information and ideas swarming in the minds of creative people.

Marc Dennis has a blog called "Creative Footprint" that explores and examines the ways in which we and other creatures leave marks on culture and community. He extols the virtues of sketchbooks and, in particular, a well-known version called "Moleskine". (right)

Marc Dennis says everyone loves to look at sketches and designers love to create them. Sketches are windows into the ways in which creative people think. Sketches are a way of planning for creative people - sometimes serving as previews of greater things to come. Sketches are ways for creative people to sort out their thoughts and ideas - like a peek inside their heads.

Moleskine is a brand of journals and sketchbooks that are ubiquitous among artists, architects, designers, art students, gallerists, poets and writers. They've been used by artists and writers who defined 20th century culture, including Hemingway, Van Gogh, Matisse and the leader of the surrealist movement André Breton. They are the quintessential sketchbook for the new millennium. To the initiated, there is simply no substitute.

Marc points out that the proper pronunciation is "mol-a-skeen'-a", a conglomeration of English, French and Italian influences. In case you're wondering, they're not made from the skin of a mole but the covers resemble it in texture and feel.

Click on the heading above to go to Dennis' blog "Creative Footprint" to see other wonderful sketches.

Nine Planning Principles for the 21st Century

City Building: Nine Planning Principles for the Twenty-First Century is a new book coming out in February, 2010. John Lund Kriken (left) and Philip Enquist, both longtime partners in the award-winning planning firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) have collaborated with writer Richard Rapaport to create City Building.

The book presents the idea that good city building is not created by complex statistics, functional problem solving, or any particular decision-making process. Successful cities instead come from people advocating easily understood human values and principles that take into account the sensory, tactile, and sustainable qualities of environment and design in relation to what is the best of human endeavor.

Without good planning cities can be places of pollution, overcrowdedness, and waste. A well-planned city can be a model of sustainable living. Good city building counters the sprawl of suburbia with concentrated land use, replaces globalized design with regionally appropriate building types, and allows for livable, desirable neighborhoods.

This guide to city building is proactive, green-focused, and user-friendly. It is organized into three parts:
Part one examines the past and defines the current practice of city building, addressing its shortcomings and proposing a comprehensive framework for rethinking the approach to cities in the future.
Part two translates this framework into nine best-practice principles that are common to successful, livable, urban environments: sustainability, accessibility, diversity, open space, compatibility, incentives, adaptability, density, and identity. These principles are illustrated in a global portfolio of city building projects, designed by SOM, that show how best practices have been applied successfully.
Part three makes the case that, far from being the problem, cities, properly organized, can be a mechanism for sensible, sustainable uses of increasingly scarce resources. The book concludes with a call for a national planning process and a comprehensive framework for settlement.

So here is something to think about. What if the 9 planning principles that work for something as complex as cities also worked for planning education? How do principles like sustainability, accessibility, diversity, open space, compatibility, incentives, adaptability, density, and identity translate into education? Do principles like "adaptability" or "accessibility" in city planning have counterparts in educational planning to create better curriculum and instruction? Check out City Building and see what you think.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Herman Miller Designs at The Henry Ford Museum

The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan has an exhibit called Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller from February 6-April 25, 2010. Herman Miller, Inc. is a world famous design distributor that revolutionized the way we work because they focused on designs for the workplace.

Based in tiny Zeeland, Michigan, the company gave the world some of the most iconic objects of the century including Charles and Ray Eames’s molded plywood Lounge Chair, George Nelson’s Marshmallow Sofa and Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick’s Aeron Chair (left). Those works – and dozens of others – are at the heart of the exhibit at The Henry Ford. For these legendary designers, it wasn’t enough for furniture to be beautiful. It had to be practical. It had to make the workplace a better place.

Work by Herman Miller designers such as Gilbert Rohde, George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames have long been integrated into the furniture exhibit at The Henry Ford. This exhibition focuses on a number of perspectives on the Herman Miller achievement — an achievement rooted in a combination of extraordinary vision and practical realization. The company’s commitment to addressing real design problems — always with an insistence on achievable, affordable and durable solutions — continues to this day.

The Henry Ford is the lead institution in The Herman Miller Consortium, a group of 13 art and historical institutions that share approximately 800 artifacts collected by Herman Miller Inc.

Click on the heading above to learn more about The Herman Miller Consortium.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Use Tree Houses to Help Students Get into Architecture

I don't know what it is about tree houses that captures the imagination but they seem to bring out the creativity in designers. Students might be inspired to be a bit freer with their designs if a project in architecture was to design and build a model of a tree house. The popularity of the movie Avatar is also a good motivation for thinking of designing in trees.

Getting some branches to stand in for trees provides a structure for the students to design around. Cut 10-12 inch sections of branches that look like small trees and attach them to a platform. Have the students design models out of wood and other materials appropriate for a tree house (probably no brick or steel designs although who knows).

As in any design project, the designs should obey laws of gravity, tensile strength, compression, etc. or else they remain in the realm of fantasy illustration. Good design is imagination tempered by an understanding of physics. The Floating Mountains of Pandora in Avatar are a good design project for movie designing and sci-fi illustration but a bit far-fetched for an architecture project.

A quick search online will turn up hundreds of inspirational designs under the key word "tree house."

Will Individual Flying Machines Ever Be Practical?

Are you one of those who feel the promises of technology have failed you because there is not yet a flying car like the Jetsons promised. Well, it is possible that private flying machines may become reality soon.

A proven producer of space-age technology, NASA, is developing a personal flying machine called Puffin that is just large enough for one person. The "plane" takes off vertically, powered by a pair of electric motors and then levels out to fly up to 300 miles per hour. You'll fly horizontally like Superman. The electric motors make the machine almost silent unlike the roaring engines we have seen in "jet-pack" versions of personal flight.

So, imagine they really produce such a device and call our bluff. Are we brave enough to actually fly around by ourselves? Most people are afraid to ride a motorcycle. This would be like a flying motorcycle that can go three times faster. A flock of birds might be hazardous to our health. Still, motorcycle riders tend to avoid hitting deer or other things that wander onto the road, enough to not discourage them from enjoying the wind in their hair. I guess flying machines are going to appeal to people who like hang-gliding, skateboarding, snowboarding and other common activities that require dexterity and skill.

This is clearly, like the automobile, a technology that will require the design of an entire system of protocols, rules, regulations and licensing. It would make commuting much more interesting. The real design challenge may be in designing the infrastructure rather than designing the machine itself.

Can your students draw an "interstate highway system" for individual flying machines? Will it look something like the chaos of flying cars and taxis in "The Fifth Element"? Click on the heading above to see what I mean. Still want to fly?

Everyone Has a Point of View

The latest issue of The Journal of Media Literacy (left) is out and the cover features documentary film maker Ken Burns. An article inside contrasts the PBS television documentary style of Ken Burns with the movie theater documentary style of Michael Moore (right).

Education walks a tight line between being safe and non-controversial and being interesting enough to actually get students to pay attention. We like the polite, quiet style of people like Ken Burns and fear the independent, aggressive style of people like Michael Moore. Educators like the non-profit world of Public Television and disdain the commercial world of network television and the movie industry. We like to focus on "serious" content and complain about the commercial ads (or other sources of revenue) required to bring the content to us. We favor small, niche points of view and denigrate anything that is valued by mass culture and popular media. Can we really teach media literacy if we don't like mass media? Can we offer anything to students if we don't like the media they consume or produce?

The people who edit and write The Journal of Media Literacy, a publication of The National Telemedia Council, for example, are volunteers who don't get reimbursed for their work. There is some sort of pride in the fact that there are no ads or endorsements by businesses or other commercial interests in the publication. They feel "pure". As a result, the journal has a limited audience and doesn't have the same public exposure as the typical news stand publications full of ads.

How can education, schools, and scholarly endeavors survive in a culture of commerce? Will it always be the case that education has to stand with empty hands held out for some kindly contribution from taxpayers or foundations, while the commercial enterprises, who work no harder, longer, or smarter, enjoy year-end bonuses many times larger than a teacher's entire salary?

Click on the heading above to connect to The Journal of Media Literacy at the National Telemedia Council website. They will accept contributions and subscribers (if they aren't tainted by commercialism).

Why Don't We Ride Our Bicycles More Often?

For most trips I take during the day that are too far to walk and too close to drive, a bicycle would be a good solution. I seem to always come up with an excuse for not using a bicycle however - the weather is too bad, my hair will get messed up, I'm worried about safety, I feel exposed, etc., etc.

Michael Scholey tried to take all of these excuses, and more, into account and designed a bicycle that just might get slackers like me to forego the car a bit more often. It has two front wheels that tilt to allow banking in corners but have self righting springs to allow feet-up stops. The two front wheels provide increased cornering and braking stability and allow a 6 ½ ft turning radius.

Scholey calls his creation the Emcycle and has tried to overcome the limitations of weather by including a roof and Velcro-detachable side panels. Basically you feel safer in this cocoon and can pedal or take electrical assiatnce to get you to your destination.

It is classified in Europe as a bicycle with electric front wheel drive, variable assist up to 1000 watts, up to 40mph and 40 mile assisted range, overnight plug in home recharge and regenerative braking. There are separate batteries for drive functions and additional equipment.

Features include:
A single person commuter vehicle for a driver and up to 75 lbs of luggage.
Fully enclosed body.
Two lockable doors. Front and lockable rear luggage compartments.
30mph crash tested; Roll over protection, Airbag, 3 point seat belt.
Head and brake lights, seat belt, airbag, radio / MP3 player plug in, storage space (approx 6 shopping bags in total using front and rear) comfortable seating.
Adjustable full seat.
Adjustable handlebar/instrument pod.
Ignition key to lock steering column and parking brake.
Lockable glove box.
Windscreen wiper and washer.
Front and rear LED lights. Separate LED headlight. Headlight flasher. LED direction indicators with self canceling. LED brake lights.
Full instrumentation – Speed, miles/kilometers, trip miles/kilometers.
Battery charge gauge, electricity usage gauge, warning lights for all functions, 4 way emergency flasher.
Flow through filtered ventilation and heater.
Suspension; Disc brakes; Reverse gear.
Two side rear view mirrors.
24” wide X 73” tall X 80” long. Pedals power the rear wheel through a driver operated infinitely variable constant velocity transmission. Height and bright colors make it conspicuous to other road users. 80lbs. ‘No air – no puncture’ foam filled tires.

It will be available at around $2500 – $4500 and the plan is to get the vehicle into production in England by 2011 in time for the London Olympics.

The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools

K-12 design educators might be interested in the completely revised 2nd Edition of The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools (left), by Prakash Nair (right), Randall Fielding and Dr. Jeffery Lackney. There are 100 more pages and dozens of new illustrations of innovative schools added to the 1st edition. With dozens of favorable reviews and thousands of copies sold, The Language of School Design is a useful resource for School Planners, Architects, Educators and Administrators.

The Language of School Design is a seminal work because it defines a new graphic vocabulary that synthesizes learning research with best practice in school planning and design. But it is more than a book about ideas. It is also a practical tool and resource for all school stakeholders involved in planning, designing and constructing new and renovated schools and evaluating the educational adequacy of existing school facilities.

K-12 design educators can use the book as a resource to help students do a school design project of their own. Who better than students to provide innovative ideas for what schools should be like in the 21st century?

Click on the heading above to go to the Fielding/Nair website.

Comic Books Require Extreme Drawing Skills

Comic book artists and animators are among the most skillful at figure drawing (foreshortening) and backgrounds (3 point perspective). These are skills little required in many areas of fine art today that favor abstraction but are essential to make it into drawing comics or animation. The type of figure drawing expected is basically Florentine Renaissance style drawing that is little taught today.

Students interested in working in comics or animation should be provided useful instruction in drawing solidly constructed people, objects and buildings in consistent proportion. I once heard a student proudly tell Jim Lee, the famous comic artist, that he draws for 2 hours every night. Lee told the student that wasn't enough. He said you couldn't break into the comics world unless you draw for as many as 6 hours a day.

The drawing instruction has to be of the right type. It needs to help students accurately and interestingly represent people in action, objects like cars and furniture, and environments like buildings and rooms in 3 point perspective. Dave Master, formerly with Warner Brothers, said it used to make him cry to see a talented student who wanted desperately to work in the animation field and had taken art classes for years but came to him with an art portfolio that didn't demonstrate the level of drawing skills needed to even get an entry level job in the animation world.

Students should see the quality of work done by serious comic artists by going to comic book conventions like Wizard World and Comic-Con held every year in cities like Chicago, New York, San Diego, Austin, Toronto, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and others where hundreds of hopeful comic artists display and demonstrate their skills at "Artist's Alley".

Animators and comic book artists take drawing seriously. Click on the image at left to see a larger version to examine the understanding of anatomy and the buildings in the background drawn in 3 pt. perspective.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

100 Best Type Faces of All Time

Now here's a daunting proposal - of the thousands of typefaces that have been created - decide which are the best 100 type faces of all time? That's just what one web site claims to do.

Click on the heading above to see the complete list.

The text isn't in English but each typeface, its creator and the date are provided along with images and information for every one of the 100 typefaces. Just click on each face to follow up on any that interest you.

You can agree or disagree with reasons for liking a particular typeface (right) but it's just fun to learn a bit about things we see around us every day and probably don't even notice. And, if your the type who even has a favorite typeface you will probably want to get a T-shirt (left) featuring some of the sans serif typefaces.

I find that I use a couple of typefaces until I'm sick of them (or the times change) and then move on to some new favorites.

Science Illustration is Part of Visual Literacy

The flip side of Art and Visual Culture is Visual Science and Communication. Scientific illustrators visually represent aspects of science, particularly observations of the natural world. The emphasis in scientific illustration is on accuracy and utility, rather than on aesthetics, although scientific illustrators are skilled artists and often known for aesthetic values as well as their interest in, and knowledge of, science.

Scientific illustration was an important part of scientific communication prior to photography. Since the development of photography, scientific illustration is particularly useful for selective renderings rather than lifelike accuracy. For instance, illustrations of stellar phenomena that are not visible to the human eye; or medical illustrations, which highlight particular parts of a system.

One of the most prestigious programs in scientific illustration in the nation, the Science Illustration Certificate at California State University, Monterey Bay, prepares students who are sought after by renowned institutions and publications around the world.

Graduates’ work can be found at museums and science centers such as the Smithsonian Institution, New York’s American Museum of Natural History, California Science Center and the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History; in top science magazines such as National Geographic, Scientific American, American Scientist, Nature, Natural History and Audubon; at zoos, aquaria, and botanical gardens such as the National Zoo, Washington, D.C., the Monterey Bay Aquarium; Kew Botanical Gardens, U.K.; as well as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and hundreds of equally respected organizations.

Click on the heading above to check out Scientific Illustration at California State University - Monterey Bay.

New York to Replace Construction Scaffolding with New Design

The "temporary" scaffolding put up over sidewalks during construction projects are call "sidewalk sheds". Sidewalk sheds are installed to protect pedestrians from construction or building maintenance work. They are usually ugly (left) and not so temporary. There are approximately 6,000 sidewalk sheds in New York City, representing more than 1 million linear feet.

New York City had a design contest to see if something could be done about the aesthetic and functional aspects of these sheds that seem to be everywhere and often stay up for a year or more. An international competition – the “urbanSHED International Design Competition” – was held to challenge the design community to create a new standard of sidewalk shed.

Mayor Bloomberg just announced the winning selection. The competition winner, “Urban Umbrella,” (right) was developed by Young-Hwan Choi, a 28-year-old student from the University of Pennsylvania. The winning design was selected from 164 designs submitted by architects, engineers, designers and students from 28 countries around the world.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert D. LiMandri and President of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Anthony Schirripa, AIA, unveiled a new design for sidewalk sheds – the wood and steel structures built to protect pedestrians walking alongside buildings under construction.

The design of the City’s sidewalk sheds has remained primarily unchanged since the 1950s and the new design will improve quality of life, reduce construction impacts on businesses, increase pedestrian safety and increase available space for pedestrians on sidewalks.

The “Urban Umbrella” design will:
􀂃 Improve neighborhood quality of life with improved aesthetics and more air and natural light reaching the sidewalk;
􀂃 Reduce construction impacts on businesses and building owners through a less obstructive design that allow more of the building to be seen;
􀂃 Increase safety through a modern design that eliminates cross-bracing and exposed bolts; and
􀂃 Reduce the amount of obstructions on sidewalks, increasing space on the sidewalk to allow for more pedestrian traffic.

Fashion Week Hits New York in February

Twice a year, designers produce fashion shows in New York to show off their latest collections. The most recent show was in September 2009 for Spring 2010 and the next show is in February. The Fashion Week fall shows are held the preceding winter (February). The spring shows are held the preceding late summer (September).

Currently, the shows are sponsored by Mercedes-Benz so they are referred to as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. in the past, they've been referred to by other sponsors such as Olympus Fashion Week. The attendees (right) are often as famous as the designers like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen, Diane von Furstenburg and Oscar de la Renta.

In New York City's Bryant Park (42nd and Sixth), the 8-acre park is converted to a temporary fashion arena with tents. The Fashion Week tents are huge, air-conditioned and contain several venues for the designers to show their collections. The individual venues -- ranging up to almost 12,000 square feet -- come complete with runway, seating for attendees, backstage areas, lighting and sound. Some fashion designers choose to have their collections shown in showrooms or other off-site venues during the week.

Fashion shows are attended by journalists, editors, buyers, celebrities and social types. The Fashion Week shows are invitation-only and each fashion designer is responsible for the guest list. Journalists must seek accreditation prior to the event.

Fashion Week is an opportunity for American (and a few international) designers, ranging from Oscar de la Renta to Zac Posen, to show off their upcoming collections. The fashion shows are often entertaining, accompanied by loud, mood-setting music and changing lighting. The press writes about and photographs the runway collections for newspapers, magazines, internet and television so the general public can see what is going on in fashion.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Entertainment Design Catching on in China as well as Hollywood

Last December (2009), for the first time in Singapore, four master designers from Hollywood showcased their portfolios from major blockbuster films & theme parks at the Entertainment Designers Showcase at the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. In addition, they did live demonstrations of the various tools and techniques they use.

Click on the heading above and scroll down to a nice video done before the event.

Hollywood, of course, is the World center for entertainment design and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena offers the first degree program in Entertainment Design.

In The Future... is a book that showcases the first student work created in the new Entertainment Design program at the prestigious Art Center College of Design. Entertainment design requires strong industrial design, architectural and illustration skills, as the designers create characters, environments, vehicles and props. Examples of class work from such courses as Originality in Design, Character Design, Architectural Design, Visual Development and Color Theory are presented. This collection of sketches, renderings, and models created by the inaugural class of entertainment design students is a "must-have" for any fan of entertainment design and for those who have enjoyed the first Art Center student book, The Skillful Huntsman.

In another book, the second volume of Concept Design, published by Scott Robertson's Design Studio Press, seventeen guest artists are featured along with the original seven Los Angeles Entertainment Designers from Concept Design 1 to show us worlds, vehicles, monsters and creations beyond the wildest imagination. Concept Design 2 takes us on a journey into the minds of the talented and successful concept design professionals who create for the sake of creation.

In the fall of 2001, seven concept designers began work on Concept Design 1, which became the first book published by Design Studio Press. Since that time, they have continued to explore their personal artwork, which fills this new book.

With credits on feature films such as Star Wars: Episodes I, II and III, War of the Worlds, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Spider-Man, X-Men United, Alien vs. Predator, Minority Report, and Terminator 2 & 3, prominent entertainment concept designers created Concept Design 2.

Game Developers Gather in San Francisco

Game Design is beginning to be taught in universities and even some high schools. Game Design is clearly one of the fastest growing fields in design and many students dream of graduating from playing games to creating their own.

The Game Developers Conference® (GDC) is the world’s largest professionals-only game industry event. Presented every spring in San Francisco, it is the essential forum for learning, inspiration, and networking for the creators of computer, console, handheld, mobile, and online games.

The GDC attracts over 17,000 attendees, and is the primary forum where programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, business decision-makers and others involved in the development of interactive games gather to exchange ideas and shape the future of the industry.

The conference features over 400 lectures, panels, tutorials and round-table discussions on a selection of game development topics taught by leading industry experts. In addition, the GDC expo showcases the most relevant game development tools, platforms and services helping to drive the industry forward. The conference also features the twelfth annual Independent Games Festival, where new, unpublished games compete for the attention of the publishing community, and the tenth annual Game Developers Choice Awards, the premier accolades for peer-recognition in the digital games industry.

While most students or teachers won't be able to make it to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference, there is much to be learned by checking out their website, seeing who the keynote speakers are, and looking at the topics being discussed. Click on the heading above to go to the GDC website.

Annie Awards Honor Best Animation

The 37th Annual Annie Awards, animation's highest honor, will be awarded in Los Angeles in February. This is an annual opportunity to highlight animation in your design class.

For the past 37 years, The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood has produced The Annie Awards. The Annies have grown from a small gathering of "old timers" at the bar of the Sportsman's Lodge to being animation's highest honor, a high profile event widely seen as a precursor to the Oscar picks. This year's Annie honorees include Tim Burton, Bruce Timm and Jeffrey Katzenberg; and the host for the evening is William Shatner. The ceremony takes place at Royce Hall, UCLA on Saturday February 6th.

Anyone who loves animation is welcome to attend the Annies, and tickets start at just $25. One of the fun things about the ceremony is that the awards are presented by the actors who provide the voices for animated characters. Image hearing people you haven't seen before who sound suspiciously like SpongeBob or Mickey Mouse.

Nominees for the Best Animated Feature are:
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs – Sony Pictures Animation
Coraline – Laika
Fantastic Mr. Fox– 20th Century Fox
The Princess and the Frog (left) – Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Secret of Kells – Cartoon Saloon
Up (right) – Pixar Animation Studios

Other award categories include:
Best Home Entertainment Production, Best Animated Short Subject, Best Animated Television Commercial, Best Animated Television Production, Best Animated Television Production for Children, Animated Effects, Character Animation, and others.

Click on the heading above to go to the Annie Awards website.

Young Architects Create Environment in Courtyard

Since 2000, New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center have been running a competition under their Young Architects Program, inviting each year a group of emerging architects to experiment with new shapes and materials, resulting in a summer installation at the P.S.1.

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center is an exhibition space (rather than a collecting museum) in Long Island City, Queens. In 2000, P.S.1 became an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art to extend the reach of both institutions, and combine P.S.1’s contemporary mission with MoMA’s strength as one of the greatest collecting museums of modern art.

Interesting projects have come out of this competition, such as the Public Farm (PF1) by Work AC in 2008, and Afterparty by MOS last year. The winning proposal for 2010 is: Pole Dance by Brooklyn based SO-IL (Solid Object Idenburg Liu) a practice run by Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu.

Conceived as a participatory environment that reframes the conceptual relationship between people and structures, Pole Dance is a system of interconnected poles and bungees whose equilibrium is open to human action and environmental factors. Throughout the courtyard, groups of 25-foot-tall poles on 12 x 12-foot grids connected by bungee cords whose elasticity will cause the poles to gently sway, creating a steady ripple throughout the courtyard space.

Click on the heading above to learn more about the Young Architects Program.

Uniting Designers in Disaster Help Haiti

Uniting Designers in Disaster is an open forum for designers of all disciplines to come together with ideas and initiatives to help address the current crisis in Haiti.

Designers play a big part in such disasters. First, there is some blame to accept because of poorly designed structures. There is much known today about how to build in earthquake zones. Designers will continue to study ways to design in earthquake areas to minimize damage, death and injury in the future.

But, more immediately, many designers are working on designs for temporary housing, methods to supply safe drinking water, medical support, energy resources, and all the other design problems that need to be solved when a disaster occurs.

Fundraising, humanitarian efforts, and other responses are immediately necessary but designers have an obligation to go beyond awareness and sympathy to actually solve some of the problems surrounding such disasters. What kinds of design activities can students engage in to address the disaster in Haiti?

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) is an international organization for professional industrial design. Founded in 1957, Icsid currently counts over 150 members in more than 50 countries, representing an estimated 150,000 designers worldwide. Icsid members are professional associations, promotional societies, educational institutions, government bodies, corporations and institutions — all of which contribute to the development of the profession of industrial design.

Click on the heading above to go to ICSID's Uniting Designers in Disaster page.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Top Design Books for the Year

Fast Company magazine has compiled a list of what they feel are the top books about architecture and design last year. Designers probably have many of them in their collection already but there might be a few you missed.

Included are "Look Both Ways" (left) by Debbie Millman and "Design Your Life" (right) by Ellen and Julia Lupton.

Other books include "Design Revolution" by Emily Pilloton,
"The Language of Things" by Deyan Sudjic,
and "The Design of Business" by Roger Martin in which he explains why design thinking is the next competitive advantage for businesses.

Readers, of course, are starting to chime in on what is missing from the list. Were there no good books about fashion design last year, for example?

Click on the heading above to go to the Fast Company site and see all the recommended design books.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Electric Vehicle Platform Will Revolutionize Auto Design

A company you never heard of is about to revolutionize the way vehicles are designed. TREXA has revealed a new modular electric vehicle platform upon which third-party developers can design their own vehicles.

You put whatever kind of body you need on the frame - a sedan, sports car, utility vehicle, truck, or whatever you want. The TREXA EV (Electric Vehicle) Platform contains a battery, motor and drivetrain that allows designers to create their own auto body for this fully functional electric vehicle.

Where's the engine? Each wheel has its own electric motor. Where's the steering wheel? Designers can create their own "drive-by-wire" steering mechanism and place it wherever they want because it is electrical like a game controller not mechanical like a standard fixed steering wheel. Where's the hump in the middle for the transmission? The power is electrical (wires) not mechanical (gears) so there is no need for a big transmission hump running the length of the car.

The concept behind TREXA’s EV Platform is not new but TREXA may be the first to bring it to market. GM had planned a functional core “skateboard” chassis for their HyWire hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, where customers could upgrade and swap auto bodies while using the same powerhouse chassis. The big companies like GM are unable or unwilling to make the changes necessary to create the new cars. Small companies like TREXA appear to be the future for auto design.

TREXA EV’s target customers aren’t end users, however, they’re targeting third party vehicle developers who would leave the electric vehicle technical know-how to TREXA, and focus instead on styling, comfort and aerodynamics.

The TREXA EV platform is modular and tweakable, as the various performance statistics of the TREXA can be modified to fit the need of the developer’s vehicle. The standard TREXA electric vehicle will be capable of 0 to 60mph in 8 seconds with a top speed of 100mph. The standard TREXA’s range is 105 miles with a 4-hour recharge time, but each of these details can be tweaked– a larger battery can provide a larger range, while switching to a slower acceleration will conserve battery use as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Emily Pilloton Survives Colbert Report

Emily Pilloton has a lot of courage - Stephen Colbert from the Colbert Report can be a little intimidating (left). He was pretty kind to her though because she's pretty charming, and he seemed genuinely fascinated by some Project H initiatives.

Project H Design founder and author of Design Revolution, Emily Pilloton (right) was a guest on the Colbert Report to talk about humanitarian design. Colbert walked across the stage in a pair of Spider Boots, used by land mine detection teams to minimize the transfer of shock waves through one's body from land mines. He also modeled a pair of Adaptive Eyecare glasses for developing countries that can be adjusted to fit any prescription.

Emily rolled out a Hippo Roller designed to transport water in developing countries like South Africa. The roller allows people to transport 22 gallons of water (almost 200 pounds) with an effective weight of only about 40 pounds.

When Colbert suggested she could make a load of money selling products like these to the billions of poor people who "don't have jack", Emily drew applause from the audience by saying "We like to measure the triple bottom line - planet, people, and profit.”

Click on the heading above to see the episode with Emily Pilloton on the Colbert Report.

Emma Watson (from Harry Potter) Designing "Ethical" Clothing

Emma Watson, Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter movies (center on right), has teamed up with People Tree to design a new line of clothes which will be coming out in February. People Tree is among the first big ethical fashion designers, making clothes from organic cotton, using artisanal skills in its production and establishing relationships with Fairtrade groups around the world.

Watson (center on left) is the Creative Advisor for the sporty basics that will be aimed at the casual wear market - striped tee-shirts, tracksuit pants, skirts, shorts and hoodies. She said that she "was excited about the idea of using fashion as a tool to alleviate poverty" and knew it was something she could help make a difference doing.

Between movies she is still attending university and says "I think young people like me are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian issues surrounding fast fashion and want to make good choices but there aren't many options out there."

Over 500 of World's Top Corporations Win Good Design Awards

Hundreds of the world's leading corporations and design offices from 40 nations—from Shanghai to Istanbul—vied in Chicago and New York for the world's oldest and most coveted GOOD DESIGN™ Award for 2009. Good Design Awards are conferred annually by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design together with The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

The latest advances for design and innovation, sustainability, creativity, branding, ecologically responsible design, human factors, materials, technology, graphic arts, packaging, and universal design were submitted in a staggering number this year by the best industrial design and graphic design firms on behalf of the leading FORTUNE 500 companies.

Founded in Chicago in 1950 by architects Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., GOOD DESIGN bestows international recognition upon the world's most prominent designers and manufacturers for advancing new, visionary, and innovative product concepts, invention and originality, and for stretching the envelope beyond what is considered ordinary product and consumer design.

For 2009 and despite the economic slowdown, a record number of submissions were received by The Chicago Athenaeum ranging from a Mars Landing Rover designed for a 2030 NASA Mars Space Mission to a simple water purification system for rural South African villages.

This year, The United States ranked as the leader in the number of awards with 378 awards in all categories and Germany as second with 250. Italy took the number three position with 116 awards followed by Denmark with 46 and Switzerland with 39. Canada won 22 awards. Brazil, Belgium, and Sweden won 19 awards, while Turkey and France received 18 awards. Austria won 16 awards followed by Spain with 15; Finland and The Netherlands 12; and Norway and Japan 9 awards. Mexico won 8 awards. New Zealand received 7, while the Czech Republic and Australia took 5 awards.
Lebanon, Ireland, and Portugal received 4 awards each. The People's Republic of China were recognized with 3 awards. The jury gave two awards to Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, India, South Africa, Israel, and Liechtenstein. Peru and the Isle of Man were bestowed one award each.

Click on the heading above to see the award winners at the Athenaeum website.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Design Bootcamp at Stanford's is the insiders way of saying "business school" and now, means "design school." Stanford and IDEO created and now a design Bootcamp to develop design innovators. For those who have been curious about what goes on at Design Thinking Bootcamp (left), the folks who put it together have provided a "bootleg" version of some of the teaching in a download called Bootcamp Bootleg (right).

The Bootcamp teaching team has curated a loose collection of the methods, modes and mindsets that Bootcamp students found most useful this quarter. The Bootcamp Bootleg is intended for people who've already had an introduction to design thinking, but who need some refreshers as they head out to tackle real-world challenges. The teaching team curated the collection by leveraging the work of many predecessors, drawing from material developed by teaching teams and folks throughout the design world over the last five years.

The Design Thinking Bootcamp folks say, "The key to the bootleg is to take it out and make it your own. If one method isn't working for you, toss it. If it works, pass it along to another design thinker. If you find a variation that works for you, tweak it and then tell us about it. We’re excited to hear from you."

Click on the heading to get a free download of the Bootcamp Bootleg.