Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Education is Biased Against Visualization

Take a look at the list of basic skills in your university, state education agency or school district standards and curriculum documents and they will include things like "reading, writing, and arithmetic". Some will use words like "Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Mathematics". Others will say "Written Communication, Oral Communication and Numerical Communication". Still others will use words like "Verbal Literacy and Numerical Literacy". Whatever language they use it is clear that they value competencies with words and numbers and exclude all visual skills.

Try to suggest, as I have, the addition of "Visualization", "Visual Literacy", "Visual Thinking" or "Visual Communication" as a basic skill, and you will soon discover the dirty little secret that scholars and educators do not accept Visualization as a basic skill for learning about the world, processing information, or communicating information and ideas to others. There is no university, state education agency, or school district in the country that includes any form of visual thinking in their list of basic skills for all students.

The omission of visual thinking in the list of basic skills is not accidental or due to an oversight. The exclusion of visualization as a basic skill expected of all students is systematic, intentional and universal in education circles.

Barbara Maria Stafford, a professor at the University of Chicago, has written several books exploring the reasons for systematic biases against visualization in the education world. She says, "Not enough attention has been paid, I believe, to the marginalization of imagery of all kinds in our society as an intellectual form of communication."

Visualization involves 4 domains:
2D images (pictures, photos, graphs, maps, etc.)
3D objects (models, prototypes, dioramas, manipulatives, etc.)
4D spaces (topographies, landscapes, structures, urban environments, museums, etc.)
5D experiences (video games, virtual reality, interactive infographics, immersive environments, etc.)

Together they make up half of the tools (intelligences) we use to learn about the world, process information, and communicate ideas to each other. (The other four are words, numbers, sounds, and movement.) Our brains have four lobes and one (the Occipital Lobe) is devoted to visual processing.

The first step in advocating for art, design or visual culture in schools is to convince people that visualization itself is a valuable way to understand the world around us.

Are Your Thoughts and Memories Narratives or Images?

Terrence Malick's new movie, "The Tree of Life", has little narrative or dialog but is highly visual. Those who seek stories with a clear beginning, middle, and end, combined with lots of action and dialogue, will find the film long, boring and pretentious.

Imagine this - there is a day in your life that has made such a disturbing and lasting impression on you that, every year on that day, you find yourself thinking back all those years and pondering what it all means. You think about everything that happened before that fateful day, wonder why it happened, question your life choices, and even vaguely begin to think about the meaning of life itself. These thoughts don't pour out in a nice complete narrative but come out piecemeal with snatches here and there and one thing making you think of another. That's what this movie tries to capture.

Sean Penn (Jack) appears in glimpses as the older version of a troubled boy (played by Hunter McCracken) whose younger brother died at the age of 19. They were part of a suburban Texas family with three young boys growing in the 1950s. The film shows Jack, as he apparently does every year on the anniversary of his brother's death, trying to make sense of it all (left). Thinking about their lives together as boys. Reflecting on his parents' grief at the loss. Wondering why his gifted and angelic brother (right with Brad Pitt as the father) died before him.

'The Tree of Life' is being compared to Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' because of its epic scope and evocative images. The film captures the pall of tragedy and its aftermath years later, combined with a coming-of-age story, questioning life choices, and exploring everything from the existence of God and why bad things happen to good people to the glory of nature and modern disillusionment.

Young Jack questions God along with the stern parenting style of his father (Brad Pitt), and eventually realizes that the contrasting ideologies of his father and mother will forever wrestle inside him. We are animals but also something more - the film presents two opposing ways through life: brute nature and spiritual grace.

Click on the heading above to watch the trailer.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Teachable Moments: Are All Oil Paintings Art?

Since the introduction of photography, painted portraits have taken on a different role than they did in the days of Rembrandt and this provides a teachable moment for students and the public about the different domains of visual literacy including Visual Communication, Design, Visual Culture and Fine Art.

A portrait of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, was recently unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The painting (left) was done by Jon Friedman and is on display in the museum's "Recent Acquisitions" exhibition. It was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and is part of the museum's permanent collection.

The portrait includes both Bill and Melinda and emphasizes the Gateses' humanitarian efforts, which are conducted through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The screen behind them in the painting reads "All Lives Have Equal Value.") The artwork makes no direct visual reference to Microsoft, the software company that Gates founded with Paul Allen in 1975.

The Gates painting joins other portraits of prominent businessmen who are featured in the museum's collections such as Ted Turner, Malcolm Forbes Jr., Rupert Murdoch and Hugh Hefner. A spokeswoman for the National Portrait Gallery said that the museum features portraits of "individuals of all backgrounds and careers -- it's a matter of how significant you are in American history." (An illustration usually tells us about the subject matter in the painting and a work of art tells us more about the artist.)

Writing for the Daily Beast, Blake Gopnik asks "Is this art?" Part of his answer is "... it isn’t functioning as art at all, any more than the picture on your driver’s license is. It was commissioned by a history museum in honor of its subject—“someone of national significance, someone our audience is interested in,” as curator Brandon Fortune explained—not by an art museum to honor its artist." (click on the heading above to read the article and see reader comments.)

This is an opportunity for teachers to help students and others develop more precision in the use of language regarding the visual world. Since 80% of the American population has less than a 6th grade education in visual literacy it is no surprise that they get easily confused. They can't distinguish between a painting for scientific purposes (Visual Communication), an illustration (Design), a work of popular culture (Visual Culture), or personal expression with no other intended function (Fine Art).

People make mental errors like "Famous artists made oil painting on canvas, therefor all oil paintings on canvas are art". The image on the right above is an illustration done in oil paints by Tom Fluharty that is not intended to be Art. Illustration is an area of Design done for very different purposes than Art. That doesn't make it of lesser quality or somehow "failed" art. It is simply in a completely different domain.

A painting can be Visual Communication (Audubon's bird paintings), Design (the cover illustration for a magazine), Visual Culture (Rosemaling on a wooden trunk), or Fine Art (Monet's Water Lilies). They can all be original, creative, skillfully done, aesthetically pleasing, and worth a lot of money. That doesn't make them all "Art".

Even a photograph can be Visual Communication (a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper photograph), Design (a Fashion shot on the cover of Vogue magazine), Visual Culture (your vacation pictures), or Fine Art (Ansel Adams, etc.).

Practice using more precise language when referring to the Visual World. Say "illustrator" or "painter" rather than "artist". Call something a painting, an illustration, or folk art, rather than calling them all "Art". That doesn't mean they are not pleasing, well-done, valuable, or important. It just means they are done for different reasons.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

National Design Week is October 15-23, 2011

National Design Week is the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s largest education initiative that aims to draw national attention to the ways in which design enriches everyday life. Launched in 2006, National Design Week is held each year in conjunction with the National Design Awards program. In addition to offering free admission for all Museum visitors, Cooper-Hewitt's award-winning Education Department hosts a series of free public programs based on the vision and work of the National Design Awards honorees. National Design Week culminates with the National Design Awards gala ceremony.

National Design Week also reaches schoolteachers and their students nationally, both in the classroom and online through the Educator Resource Center. In recognition of the importance of design education, organizations and institutions across the country sponsor design events throughout the month, which are promoted through the Design Across America year-round online resource.

As part of National Design Week, the People’s Design Award was launched to provide the general public with the opportunity to nominate and vote for its favorite design. The winning design is announced live at the National Design Awards gala ceremony.

Click on the heading above for more information.

12th Annual National Design Awards Announced

The Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has announced the winners of the 12th Annual National Design Awards. The award recipients will be honored at a gala dinner Thursday, Oct. 20, at Pier Sixty in New York during National Design Week.

Cooper-Hewitt’s sixth annual National Design Week will be held Oct. 15–23. Educational programming surrounding the 2011 National Design Awards includes the Educator Open House, the Teen Design Fair in New York and the Teen Design Fair in Washington, D.C., sponsored in part by Target.

The National Design Awards were launched at the White House in 2000 as a project of the White House Millennium Council to promote excellence and innovation in design. The awards are accompanied each year by a variety of public education programs, including special events, panel discussions and workshops. First Lady Michelle Obama serves as the Honorary Patron for this year’s National Design Awards.

The 2011 National Design Award recipients are:

Lifetime Achievement: Matthew Carter (right)
During the past 50 years, Carter has designed some of the most recognizable typefaces used today. He is a principal of Carter & Cone Type Inc., a foundry that designs and produces original typefaces for the retail font market and for clients, including The New York Times, Boston Globe, Yale University and Microsoft, for which Carter designed the screen fonts Verdana and Georgia. Named a MacArthur Fellow for 2010, he teaches type design at the Yale University School of Art.

Design Mind: Steven Heller (left)
The Design Mind Award recognizes visionary individuals or firms that have affected a shift in design thinking or practice through writing, research and scholarship. Steven Heller is the author and editor of more than 130 books on graphic design, satiric art and popular culture.

Corporate and Institutional Achievement: Knoll
Knoll was founded in 1938 by Hans Knoll on the conviction that good design enriches lives.

Architecture Design: Architecture Research Office
Architecture Research Office, a New York-based firm has work that spans from strategic planning to architecture and urban design.

Communication Design: Rick Valicenti
Rick Valicenti’s founded Thirst, a Chicago-based design collaborative devoted to art, function and real human presence.

Fashion Design: J. Mendel
J. Mendel is a fifth-generation luxury brand established on the principles of high quality, style and craftsmanship was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2003.

Interaction Design: Ben Fry
Ben Fry is principal of Fathom Information Design in Boston that develops software, printed works, installations and books that depict and explain topics from the human genome to baseball salaries to the evolution of text documents.

Interior Design: Shelton, Mindel & Associates
Shelton, Mindel & Associates is a leader in architectural, interior and product solutions for corporate, cultural, academic, retail, recreational, hospitality and residential clients which includes the design of the Polo/Ralph Lauren headquarters.

Landscape Architecture: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol
Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, a Seattle-based landscape-architecture practice, projects include the Lurie Garden in Chicago, the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian’s Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, which houses the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and the new Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Campus in Seattle.

Product Design: Continuum
Continuum is a global design and innovation consultancy that has created such innovative and successful products as the Pump line of athletic shoes for Reebok and the Swiffer line of floor-cleaning products for Procter & Gamble. Its medical innovations include the Insulet OmniPod insulin delivery system and the Nala Patient Recovery Chair and Compass Patient Room System for Herman Miller.

The 2011 National Design Awards Jury included:
•Andrew Blauvelt, Walker Art Center
•June Cohen, TED Media
•Jamie Drake, Drake Design Associates
•Terry Guen, Terry Guen Design Associates Inc.
•David Kusuma, Tupperware Brands Corporation
•Jennifer Morla, Morla Design
•Lela Rose, Lela Rose
•Billie Tsien, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
•Patrick Whitney, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology

Click on the heading above for more details.

Lighting and Projection Design are Key Elements in Broadway Musical "Spiderman"

Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark is not so much a Broadway play as it is a rock musical/aerial circus show. The music (by Bono and The Edge), sets, costumes, lighting, projections (by Kyle Cooper), and spectacular flying sequences are the focus of the show. It is an extraordinary technical achievement.

Lighting Designer Don Holder (left) and Projection Coordinator Howard Werner (right) talked about the trials and tribulations of designing the most technically challenging musical ever produced on Broadway at a Broadway Lighting Master Class in May, 2011 just weeks before the production was about to open.

The $75 million production requires 5 stage managers, over 50 ground plans, an $18,000 a week lighting budget, 1800 lighting set-ups, a one-of-a-kind 5-platform fly system using kevlar ropes, manually programmed moveable lights facile enough for every flying area in the whole theatre, and the only theater in New York City with balconies far enough away to provide sufficient space for the flying. Con-Edison had to run extra sends off the street to support the extra power needed. Adding to the expense was the need to develop all of this in the actual theatre rather than off-site which is the usual practice.

Despite all of the technical requirements Holder and Werner focussed on the basics: What is the defining idea of each scene? What is the big gesture of each segment? They focussed on the "world of the play", the "frame of the piece" which included lighting the flying sequences (requiring calculating the x, y, and z axis), creating lighting fixture positions clear of the flying ropes, lighting the entire theatre not just the stage, and still lighting the stage which included the proscenium, a goal-post back drop, side ladders, the skyscape backgrounds, and the pop-up cityscape sets which include moving 40 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide, 4 inch thick legs, as well as internally lit light boxes with translucent backs,

After four years of development and six months in previews the show is scheduled to open in June, 2011. Click on the heading above to get a taste.

Spiderman on Broadway Reworked After Hiatus

The sets, lighting and flying rigs designed for the Broadway production of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark make it the most challenging production ever produced on Broadway. There are many aspects in the production that have never been attempted before.

As part of the 17th annual Broadway Lighting Master Class (BLMC) May 24-26, 2011, 8-time Tony-Award winning Lighting Designer Jules Fisher (left) led a panel discussion (right) at Sardi's Restaurant, NYC that featured the lighting and projection design for the rock musical/aerial circus Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. The panel included (from left to right) Fisher, Vivian Leone (Lighting Manager), Howard Werner (Projection Coordinator), Don Holder (Lighting Designer), and Glen Berger (Writer).

Don Holder presented an in-depth critique of his lighting for Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, which all BLMC attendees saw on Wednesday, May 25, complete with post-show Q&A and stage tour. Holder was diplomatic about the controversial replacement of Julie Taymor as Director of the production because he considers Taymor to be a genius and a close personal friend. (Holder was the Lighting Designer for Taymor's Broadway smash hit "The Lion King".) The transition from what is referred to as the 1.0 to the 2.0 versions of the production was painful and demoralizing to many who had already put in an amazing amount of work. The production was basically re-staged, re-choreographed and re-written to clarify the story, make it funnier, warmer, less edgy, and more accessible.

Coke Designs a New Vending Experience

Coca-Cola has designed a new way to get their drinks in cups. The new Coca-Cola Freestyle is a touch screen soda fountain introduced in 2009 and slowly being rolled out across the country. The main attraction is many more choices than have ever been available before. The slightly retro oval dispenser opening provides a comforting nostalgia to a futuristic experience.

The Coke Freestyle machine provides over 100 different carbonated and non-carbonated Coca-Cola drink products and custom flavors with a simple interface involving a touch screen to select your drink, a lever for ice, and a button to dispense the drink. The machines include flavors not previously available to the American market including Orange Coke which was previously sold only in Russia and the Baltics,and flavored Dasani waters. (For some reason there is no ginger ale or lemon flavoring.) Residual flavor in the single spout slightly contaminates subsequent drinks but it is usually imperceptible.

The brightly lit starting touch-screen shows 22 brands owned by Coke including Barqs, Seagrams, Minute Maid, Pibb, Dasani, Hi-C, Powerade, Vault, Sprite and Fanta as well as their own Coke variations such as Coke Zero and Diet Coke. After selecting one of those brands the next screen shows six or seven varieties of that product. If a product supply is depleted the icon is dimmed.

Without any instructions or labels on the machine, first-time users take a few seconds and a couple of trial-and-error moves to figure out how it works. First, you still have to go to the register to pay for a cup and take it to the machine. Many over-fill their cup with ice by depressing the lever inside the opening expecting the beverage to come out at the same time. A button above the opening blinks brightly and users quickly see that the beverage is dispensed separately. (Coca-Cola enlarged the overspill chute so users can experiment with flavors and pour away test drinks and added a fan to melt discarded ice-cubes.) Users usually make one quick press in case the button is the type that dispenses a predetermined amount and quickly see that you need to hold the button down until the cup is filled. Trial-and-error or watching other users only takes a few seconds and then you're good to go. (Click on the heading above to see a short video of some users experiencing the machine for the first time.)

The Freestyle machine is made possible by microdispensing technology originally developed by Dean Kamen's DEKA research to deliver extremely precise doses of drugs. Microdosing blends one or more concentrated ingredients in 46-ounce packets with water and sweetener at the point where the beverage is dispensed, avoiding the traditional 5-gallon boxes of syrup. The machine uses RFID chips to detect its supplies and to radio resupplying needs to other units and transmits supply and demand data to both Coca-Cola and the owner including brands sold, times of the day of sales, troubleshooting information, and service data.

Customers choose a base product and then an additional flavoring. Coca-Cola, Diet Coca-Cola and Caffeine Free Diet Coca-Cola are all available with vanilla, lime, raspberry, cherry or orange flavoring. Coca-Cola Zero is available with cherry or vanilla flavoring. Sprite and Sprite Zero are available with cherry, strawberry, grape, peach and raspberry flavorings. Powerade ION4 and Powerade Zero sports drinks, Fanta and Fanta Zero, which already has an orange flavor, as well as Hi-C are available with fruit punch, lime, grape, strawberry, peach, raspberry, or cherry flavoring. Minute Maid Lemonade and Minute Maid Light Lemonade are available with cherry, orange, raspberry, or strawberry flavoring. Dasani still water and Dasani Sensations carbonated water is available with lime, peach, orange, grape, strawberry, raspberry, or cherry flavoring. Vault Red Blitz energy drink is available with orange, grape and peach flavoring. Additionally, Pibb Xtra, Pibb Zero are available. Barq's and Diet Barq's root beer are available from the machines with vanilla flavoring.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New York Public Library Celebrates 100th Anniversary

The New York Public Library (NYPL) celebrated its 100 year history by looking to the future and invited game designer Jane McGonigal to create a game called "Find the Future".

McGonigal spoke on a panel with Stuart Candy and Michael Specter where they talked about the future from two perspectives- How we will respond to new developments in the future and how we will change the way we live today based on our perceptions of the future. They urged participants to "Think about the future, plan for disruptions in the status quo, and be ready to go when the future arrives."

Jane McGonigal (left) has taught game design and game theory at the San Francisco Art Institute and the University of California, Berkeley and she currently serves as the Director of Game Research & Development at Institute for the Future. She recently wrote Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How they Can Change the World.

Stuart Candy (far left) is Senior Foresight and Innovation Specialist at Arup, Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts, and Research Fellow of The Long Now Foundation. He believes our education system is "broken in a big way."

Michael Specter (right) has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998 and is the author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.

Find the Future: The Game is a pioneering, interactive experience created especially for NYPL’s Centennial by famed game designer Jane McGonigal, with Natron Baxter and Playmatics. McGonigal says gaming is the most productive way to spend our time and urges everyone to play online games about an hour every day. Games build curiosity, optimism, pride, relationships, meaning, and purpose.

Find the Future: The Game kicked off on May 20, 2011 as part of NYPL’s Centennial Festival weekend, with a “Write All Night” event inside the landmark building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Starting in April, 500 people pre-qualified to participate.

Players (18 and older) explored the building’s 70 miles of stacks, and, using laptops and smartphones, followed clues to such treasures as the Library’s copy of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson’s hand. After finding each object, players wrote short, personal essays inspired by their quest — for example, how would they write the Declaration? A collaborative book based on these personal stories about the future is being compiled and will be added to the Library’s collections.

Starting Saturday, May 21, 2011, Find the Future: The Game opened up to gamers across the city and the world who are able to play using their personal smartphones or computers, or on free computers at any of NYPL’s 90 locations.

Click on the heading above to learn more about Find the Future: The Game.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Art Center College of Design Teams With Bernhardt Design

During the 2011 ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in New York, 25 young designers from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA were featured in a retrospective celebrating the completion of a series of five innovative interdisciplinary studios sponsored by Bernhardt Design. Bernhardt Design produces fine furniture designs (left). The May 2011 retrospective at the ICFF featured all the designs created over the past seven years in all five Bernhardt studios, including the debut of eight new products.

Bernhardt Design President Jerry Helling and Art Center's Environmental Design Chair David Mocarski (right), developed the course to educate students in the process of designing products ultimately viable for production. At the conclusion of each studio, Bernhardt Design selected products for introduction in the commercial market. Since its inception, the design-through-production studio concept has served as a model for other similar educational programs.

Bernhardt Design’s partnership with Art Center came about from the school's relationship with industry as well as its reputation as a leading art and design institution for more than 80 years. The studio course, hosted by the Environmental Design Department, has successfully trained students over the past seven years to design products that are visually appealing, appropriate for the commissioning manufacturer, fiscally feasible and suitable within the constraints of mass production. The products developed from the Bernhardt Design studios have not only been award winning, but commercially successful around the world.

Former Art Center students now have successful careers, from designing for Marcel Wanders in Amsterdam to starting their own creative studios to working with top-tier manufacturers worldwide. The work of 20 designers from the program are currently in production with Bernhardt Design including the Red Dot Award-winning Loft chair by Shelly Shelly, the Audio chair by Chris Adamick, and Linc tables by Chase Wills.

Core77 Celebrates "Sweet 16" Birthday

As part of Design Week in New York City (coinciding with ICFF - International Contemporary Furniture Fair) the industrial design website, Core77, celebrated its "Sweet 16" birthday. Two of the founders, Alan Chochinov, Editor-in-Chief (far left with designer Josh Owen), and Stuart Constantine (right) were on hand to celebrate with the packed house at the Phaidon Book Store in lower Manhattan.

Since 1995 Core77.com has served a huge global audience of industrial designers (millions of readers each month) ranging from students through seasoned professionals. Core77 publishes articles, discussion forums, an extensive event calendar, hosts portfolios, job listings, a database of design firms, schools, vendors and services. Core77 provides a gathering point for designers and enthusiasts by producing design competitions, lecture series, parties, and exhibits.

Click on the heading above to go to Core77.

Metropolis Magazine Held Annual Conference at ICFF

Metropolis magazine held its annual conference, "Local Talent, Global Markets", at ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in New York City on Monday, May 16, 2011.

Architects, designers, manufacturers, and marketers attended the one-day global summit to discuss how local talent and ideas can enrich world markets. The conference explored how the search for the authentic, the culturally distinct, and the sustainable are leading to a new generation of products, buildings, and neighborhoods, and ways in which design invention leads to creating jobs and livelihoods.

Susan S. Szenasy (right), Metropolis magazine editor in chief and conference facilitator, introduced presenters on a variety of global design topics from Spain, India, Italy, Senegal, Norway, Germany, England and the U.S.

Eleni Reed (on left in photo on left), the Chief Greening Officer of the U.S. General Services Administration, discussed the GSA’s push to make the agency’s buildings sustainable. On the right is the interdisciplinary team that won Metropolis’s 2011 Next Generation Design Competition. They presented their proposal to convert one of the GSA’s 1960s federal office buildings from energy hog to zero environmental impact.

Click on the heading above to read more about the Metropolis magazine conference.

Six Degrees of Separation

People go to Design Week and the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in New York City to network with others who love design, meet new people, catch up with old friends, and see what's new in the world of design.

I visited Lyn Godley (left) with her students in industrial design at Philadelphia University at their two booths at the ICFF during the day. That night, at the Core77 party held at Phaidon, I ran into Indrit Hajno (far right), a former student (6 years ago) at the Charter High School for Architecture and Design in Philadelphia, and Josh Owen (on left in picture on the right), well known designer and industrial design faculty member at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). Indrit, now graduating from college, had been an intern with Josh Owen and Lyn recently stepped into Josh's position at Philadelphia University when he moved to RIT.

Four people, four schools, and six degrees of separation over 6 years.

ICFF (Furniture Fair) Enlivens New York City

North America’s premier showcase for contemporary design, the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) is an encyclopedic exhibition of up-to-the-moment designs, as well as a series of programs, exhibits and features.

From May 19–21, 2011, 145,000 square feet of the Javits Center was filled with more than 24,000 interior designers, architects, retailers, designers, manufacturers, representatives, distributors, and developers. On Tuesday, May 22, the ICFF was open to the general public, as well.

More than 500 exhibitors from all points of the globe displayed contemporary furniture, seating, carpet and flooring, lighting, outdoor furniture, materials, wall coverings, accessories, textiles, and kitchen and bath for residential and commercial interiors. This is an unparalleled opportunity to view a broad selection of the world's finest, most innovative, and original avant-garde home and contract products side-by-side, under one roof.

The ICFF hosts representatives from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mali, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and U.S.

Above right, Lyn Godley (on left), who teaches industrial design at Philadelphia University, stands with four of her sophomore students (Christian Ost, Christian Loos, Michael Shannon and Brian Celenza) who were among the students invited to exhibit projects at the ICFF.

Click on the heading above to go to the ICFF site.

What is Design?

On Tuesday, May 17, 2011 the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City presented a discussion about "What is Design?"

A collection of 11 designers, museum curators and others in the design fields were invited to explore their conception of what design is in a "manifesto" format. The Manifesto series, curated jointly with the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011, aims to interrogate the current situation of design in relation to its past and present challenges, while attempting to provide a space of discourse for its future implications.

Seung H-Sang (left), Artistic Director of the Gwangju Biennale in Korea, was a featured guest and the discussion was moderated by Eva Franch (right), Director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, where the discussion took place.

There were many areas of agreement among the participants and some differences. The main difference seemed to revolve around how broadly to define "Design". Some uses of the term "design thinking" seem to mistake design for management and planning in general and favor business applications of planning processes under the name "design". Some cautioned against the co-optation of design by the business world in which the goal is to become a better manager by thinking like a designer.

Design can be a tangible object like a book, a chair, a building, or a video game, or it can refer to less tangible, immaterial processes like making a plan or having an impact on an environment, network, or system. Some argued that defining the term "design" too broadly neuters and debases design. Design is more than cool cars and new fonts but design isn't "everything". Was the well-planned and skillfully executed attack on the World Trade Center an example of "design"?

One thing the presenters seemed to agree upon is that design is not art. Art asks questions and design gives answers. Art pushes boundaries by disrupting the status quo while Design's goal is to push boundaries by creating solutions.

The discussants agreed that design is evolving. Design had become too Western-oriented, aesthetic-obsessed, commodity-driven, and wealth-dependent. Examples of "design by revolution" were cited and names like Tomás Maldonado and Victor Papanek were raised as examples in which design can promote radical inclusion and wild diversity to project possible futures.

Click on the heading above to check out the Storefront for Art and Architecture.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chris Wedge and Peter de Seve Talk About Making "Ice Age"

The Society of Illustrators in New York City hosted a conversation between Chris Wedge (right), director of films like "Ice Age" and "Robot", and Peter de Seve (left), frequent cover illustrator for the New Yorker and character designer for films such as "Ice Age" and "Finding Nemo".

Chris Wedge is co-founder and Vice President of Creative Development at Blue Sky Studios, one of the premier computer animation studios and was the voice for Scrat (left) created by Peter de Seve. Blue Sky is about 1/3 the size of competitors Pixar and Dreamworks and has to produce 90 minutes of high resolution animation (30-40 sequences) without much money that can compete with them. They are also one of the few animation studios on the East Coast (Greenwich, Connecticut).

Wedge and de Seve talked about the challenge of creating characters when no one had any idea what they might look like. The challenge for de Seve was to create characters that would look good from any direction. It is also unusual that all of the characters in an animated film are created by the same artist. Wedge pointed out that, unlike live action film, in animation "you get nothing for free". Every cloud, tree, bird, plant and object that appears in the film has to be put in. Every single element in every shot is debated. Animated films are made the reverse of live action films because in animation you edit first and shoot last.

Click on the heading above to check out Blue Sky Studios.

Design Trends Identified by Top Design Websites

On May 13th, 2011, PSFK hosted a discussion at Soho House New York about the Future of Design to kick off NY Design Week and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF). The editors of some of the top design industry websites talked about what they were looking forward to seeing at the shows, the new crop of designers to watch out for, the industry innovators to watch, and what design ingenuity it would most surprise them to see.

Panelists (from left to right in photo):
Jean Lin, Editor, Otto Design and Architecture
LinYee Yuan, Managing Editor, Core77
Josh Rubin, Founder and Editor in Chief, Cool Hunting
Dave Pinter, Senior Editor, PSFK
The Moderator was Piers Fawkes, President and Founder of PSFK.

Some design trends they identified included open source design, the kick-starter movement, experiential design, transparency in design, the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement, sustainability, and adaptive capacity.

For a complete rundown on NY Design Week click on the heading above to go to Core77's site.

PSFK is a Website for Creative People

Over 1,000,000 readers from the design, digital, marketing, media and technology industries go to PSFK.com each month to read and share the emerging ideas that the editorial team identifies and publishes. PSFK is a source for new ideas and inspiration for creative professionals that provides readers, event attendees and corporations with fresh trends and innovation stimulus. They also publish a series of ‘Future of’ reports which have been underwritten by organizations such as United Nations, UNICEF and Microsoft.

PSFK runs single topic PSFK SALONS around the world and also hosts broader discussions at PSFK Conferences in London and New York. Through these events and their publication, they formed a network of experts from around the world with skills across innovation categories. Companies, organizations and their agencies tap into this network of PSFK readers and contributors through a service called The PurpleList – www.purplelist.com.

PSFK began as a personal project of London-born New York-based Piers Fawkes (left) in 2004 where he collected emerging ideas from around the world on a blog. His first collaborator was Simon King and Piers used their initials to name the site. Over time the site became popular as more content was published on a wide array of subjects by contributors from around the world.

In March 2007 in New York, Piers Fawkes started the first of a series of conferences to bring to life the conversations that were taking place on the site. Since then, PSFK Conferences have taken place in London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Singapore. In late 2008, PSFK created the Good Ideas Salons as intimate forums around single topics. These salons are run by PSFK and others across the globe.

At the end of 2009, with growth in staff, PSFK moved to a new office in SoHo. A key development in their development was the release of the Future of Retail report in spring 2010 which was widely read. This was followed up by the Future of Health report which PSFK created for UNICEF and the Future of Real-Time report for the United Nations’ Global Pulse team.

Click on the heading above to go to the PSFK site.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Four Decades of Design Collecting on Exhibit at Philadelphia Museum of Art

An exhibit entitled Collab: Four Decades of Giving Modern and Contemporary Design is on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from May 21, 2011 through winter 2012. The exhibit is in the Collab Gallery in the Perelman Building (right) of the Philadelphia Art Museum complex. The exhibition was curated by Diane L. Minnite, Collections and Research Assistant, European Decorative Arts after 1700.

This exhibition highlights gifts arranged by a group called Collab from the last four decades, celebrating the organization’s contributions to the Museum as well as presenting a chronological overview of modern and contemporary design in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Since its founding in 1970, Collab has been a partner in supporting the acquisition and promotion of modern and contemporary design at the Museum. The generosity of its members and the proceeds from its fund-raising activities have resulted in the Museum’s acquisition of more than 250 objects— including inspired masterworks by designers such as Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Gehry, Ettore Sottsass (typewriter left), Jr., and Philippe Starck—with scores of others obtained from private individuals and corporations through Collab’s influence.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection of modern and contemporary design is one of the largest and most important in any American museum. It has evolved from its late-nineteenth-century roots as an industrial arts collection in service to the advancement of American industries into an assemblage that includes some of the finest examples of European, American, and Japanese design. Essential to the collection’s development and continued vitality is Collab, The Group for Modern and Contemporary Design at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Click on the heading above to learn more about Collab.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Joe Quesada and Walt Simonson Talk About "Thor"

Many of the comic book characters created for the two major comic book companies (Marvel and D.C.) have been turned into feature films. One of the most recent is "Thor" created by Stan Lee and originally drawn by Jack Kirby for Marvel.

Joe Quesada (left), a well-known comic artist in his own right, is currently Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment and recently appeared with fellow comic book artists Walt Simonson and Jim Steranko at the Society of Illustrators gallery and club house in New York City.

Walt Simonson (right) was one of the many artists to draw Thor (right) and was given a cameo in the film as a professional courtesy. During the time that Simonson drew Thor (25 years ago) the mythological hammer-wielding god sported a beard and Simonson quipped that he found a very inexpensive model as the source for the image (hint - look at the two images on the right).

The crowd at the Society of Illustrators was largely composed of hopeful comic book artists so Quesada, Simonson and Steranko provided advice to people hoping to break into the competitive field. One piece of advice was to study the greats but not try to copy their style - "You can't beat us at our own game. You can't out-Quesada Joe Quesada." Learn the basic rules of comics (similar to the basic rules of cinematography) such as composition, selection of shots (closeup, two shots, etc.), directing the viewer's eye, and most of all, draw a lot of bad pages until you can compose a panel, page, and whole 22 page comic story.

Click on the heading above to go to the Marvel Comics site.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TEDxEast Conference Held in NYC May 9, 2011

Julianne Wurm, founder/curator of TEDxEast (on right in photo on left) and Sofia Regan (left) were co-hosts for TEDxEast held at The Times Center in Manhattan on May 9, 2011. This is one of many independent regional conferences that are allowed to use the TED name. The theme of this year's conference was "Tinker, Noodle, Obsess".

TEDxEast was founded by a committee in 2009 that includes Marisa Farnia, Julianne Wurm and Connie Frances Avila. TEDxEast is a bi-annual event that brings together innovators and inspirational speakers to the New York metropolitan area and promotes TED's mission of "ideas worth spreading." Operated under license from TED, and true to the format of the TED experience, TEDxEast presenters give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less.

TEDxEast seeks to develop and leverage the TED experience at a regional level, bringing together innovative thinkers to connect and discuss great ideas. TEDxEast works to share the voices of thinkers, innovaters, and performers who delight and inspire. TEDxEast is a collaborative effort on the part of many individuals.

Presenters included:

Will Ryman is an artist who created the giant flowers displayed in New York City on the Park Avenue Mall between 57th and 67th Streets.
Gever Tulley (see story below)
Bjarke Ingels (see story below)
David Binder is a producer who did the first Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun starring Sean (Puff Daddy) Combs.
Nancy Callan is a prominent glass artist.
Matthew Crawford is the author of the New York Times bestseller Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.
Lauren Redniss writes and draws graphic books like Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout.
Tyler Cowen is the author of numerous books, most recently his e-Book *The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better*.
Caravan of Thieves (Gypsy Swinging Serenading Firebreathing Circus Freaks) provided music between segments (photo on right above).
Tommy McCall (see story below)
Charles Wurm (Julianne's uncle) has built several electric vehicles and continues to work on patent projects regarding drive systems and the efficient use of vehicle energy.
Jenni Wolfson is a human rights activist, writer and performer who asked participants to consider if your dream job could kill you.
Baba Brinkman is a Canadian rap artist and writer who presented his ideas in rap songs.
Christine McCaull is a 4 time venture backed CEO and tech founder who gave an inspirational presentation on how to make work work better.
Ari Meisel talked about curing the incurable through self-exploration in which he recounts his triumph over a fatal disease.
Alexander Petroff talked about his work in sub-Saharan Africa where he decided to begin building villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Anthony Rudolf talked about applying the virtues that we seek from the Hospitality Industry into our everyday lives and the impact that they can have on ourselves and those around us.
Adam Black founded KeyWifi.com, a web company that enables better use of internet bandwidth through collaborative consumption.
Sarah Kay did a spoken-word performance.
Julie Reumert sang a selection from an opera.

Click on the heading above to go to the TEDxEast site.

BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) Designs Project for New York City

BIG (Bjarke Ingles Group) is the extraordinary Danish architectural design firm that got its start creating several groundbreaking projects in and for Copenhagen (The Danish Pavilion for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China). Now they are designing a major project in New York City.

BIG has designed a massive 600 unit residential complex for Manhattan's west side. W57 (right), named for the street on the Hudson River where the 600-unit structure is planned, will be a unique addition to Manhattan’s skyline when it is completed in 2015. The project reflects Ingels' concept of hedonistic sustainability.

BIG has an office in New York City and, as a result of this project, Bjarke Ingels has been spending more time in the city. This photo (left) taken at the TEDx East conference in NYC on May 9, 2011, showing Bjarke Ingels with opera singer Julie Reumert (a student at Juilliard), may reveal another reason he has been spending more time in New York.

Click on the heading above to see Bjarke Ingels talk about some of the projects they were working on a couple of years ago.

Gever Tulley Says Students Are Over-Protected

Gever Tulley (left) started a summer program called the "Tinkering School" six years ago that will now become a full-time school in San Francisco called "Brightworks".

Speaking at the TEDx East conference in New York City on May 9, 2011, Tulley explained the learning arc (Exploration, Expression, and Exposition) (shown here (right) in his journal) used to structure the curriculum of the school.

To get a sense of Tulley's philosophy, click on the heading above to see an earlier TED talk in which he talked about 5 dangerous things you should let your children do. These are drawn from his book "50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)".

Brightworks is a school that reimagines the idea of school. It is scheduled to open in September 2011, and will offer a one-of-a-kind K-12 curriculum: students explore an idea from multiple perspectives with the help of real-world experts, tools, and experiences, collaborate on projects driven by their curiosity, and share their findings with the world. Brightworks does away with tests, grades and homework, instead supporting each student as they create a rich and detailed portfolio of their work. Brightworks offers a sliding-scale tuition option to all applicants.

Brightworks is built on the premise that a school should serve as a learning commons and a community workshop, an intellectual and creative heart of the neighborhood it resides in. Brightworks will also offer after-school, evening and weekend workshops for children and adults.

Interactive Infographics Are Game Changers in Data Visualization

The release of Al Gore's "Our Choice" as the first full-length interactive digital book for the iPad and iPhone ushers in a new era of interactive infographics. There will be an increased need for designers skilled in data visualization, interactive information graphics, 3D rendering and animation.

Tommy McCall (left) founded and operates a data visualization studio in New York City that specializes in presenting complex and rich data sets (right). His clients include CNN, TED conferences, MIT Technology Review, Harvard Business Review, the New York Times, Fortune, Gallup, GlaxoSmithKline, Nielsen, McKinsey and Company, and a variety of financial institutions including the New York Stock Exchange.

Speaking at the TEDx East conference in NYC on May 9, 2011, McCall argued for greater recognition and respect for "graphicacy" (visual communication) along with "oracy" (oral communication), "literacy" (written communication) and "numeracy" (numerical communication).

As an information graphics producer, designer and editor, McCall is able to bring together three realms of experience necessary to present, visualize and understand complex data. As producer, he oversees a team of programmers, designers, data analysts, animators, and illustrators to realize his vision. As a designer, he aims to find the natural shape of the data and make it engaging and beautiful. As an editor, he must understand the information, check its veracity, process it, and tell the stories and share the insights hidden within what is sometimes a vast sea of information.

McCall, the former information graphics editor and designer for Money Magazine, and a graphics consultant for the New York Times was named one of the Top-30 Financial Journalists under 30, and has won design awards from the Society of Publication Designers. His first interactive piece, produced for Inc. magazine won "Best Online Tool" in 2010 from Folio Magazine, and was nominated for "Best Online Tool" by the Association of magazine Editors.

Click on the heading above to see examples of McCall's infographics.