Saturday, July 30, 2011

Could Your Students Become Identity Designers?

Students (and too often their teachers as well) know very little about exciting opportunities for creative lives in the many fields of design. Identity Design might be just the right fit for some students if they only knew about the possibilities. Let's take a look at a designer who has made a living helping companies develop and improve their public image.

Su Mathews (right) is a senior partner in design at the brand strategy and design firm Lippincott. She has 20 years of experience in the creation and development of branding, identity systems, publications, interactive media, annual reports, way-finding and promotion projects for global organizations. At Lippincott, Mathews has led the creation of a select service brand called Hyatt Place. This branding initiative included positioning, naming, logo design and a sensory identity system with a signature scent and soundtrack.

She also helped lead the development and launch of Walmart’s brand revitalization, a massive repositioning that required making the brand more contemporary while retaining the values of its legacy and heritage. Elements of this program include a refreshed visual identity, an enhanced customer experience in-store and online, an award-winning employee brand book, and an overall alignment with the retailer’s new brand essence, “Save money. Live better.”

Her clients have included The Art Institute of Chicago, Chick-fil-A, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Disney, Financial Engines, Hershey, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotel Group, JPMorgan, Liz Claiborne, Loews Cineplex Theatres, New York Public Library, Peddie School, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, RadioShack, Random House, Tauck, the U.S. Department of State, United and Walmart.

Click on the heading above to learn more about what Lippincott does in the world of Brand Strategies and Design.

Identity Is Often Created Through Symbols

Angus Hyland (right) and Steven Bateman edited a book called "Symbol" that just came out this year (June 2011). Symbol is a catalog of symbols, a visual dictionary of more than 1,300 images, each of which conveys different meanings to different groups, cultures and nationalities.

Hyland and Bateman packed 300 pages with a classification of symbols, grouped together in categories and sub-categories identified on the basis of their visual characteristics. For every one of the categories they provide a detailed description and several examples of how the image is applied and used.

Books about logos, trademarks and symbols are popular and plentiful in book stores and online. Hyland and Bateman's book look at symbols only, so there are no typographic and image marks like UPS; Dole; MetLife; Exxon or Coca Cola.

The 1300 symbols in the book are divided into two sections: Abstract and Representational that are subdivided into categories like stripes (fifteen examples) arrows (twenty-five) radiating/circular (twenty-three) sun (fourteen) birds (thirty-two) or hearts (twenty-two).

In the photo on right, Hyland physically demonstrates how the iconic Woolmark logo is a Moebius strip. Considered one of the best logos in the world, the Woolmark accreditation mark was designed by Italian graphic artist Francesco Saroglia, and launched in 1964 in Britain, the US, Japan, Germany, Holland and Belgium. There was a need for a single universal image for wool quality and the Woolmark symbol can only be used on products made of 100 percent wool.

Identity Design in School Arts Magazine

The August/September issue of School Arts magazine (left) is just out and features an article about identity design. There is a field of design called Identity Design that often includes “branding” which means creating the identity of a specific, product, service, business, commodity or cause.

A brand might include an identifiable name (Band-Aid), logo (Coca-Cola), sign (the Nike swoosh), symbol (the Apple apple), color (UPS brown) or slogan (“Got Milk?”). Identities and brands represent the personality of a product, company or service. They try to create an ideal image in the mind of the public.

The School Arts article suggests helping students become aware of the ubiquity of identity designs all around us. Students can have fun trying to remember color schemes, lettering styles, symbols, slogans or songs associated with companies, products or services they know. They will be able to identify brands by simply seeing a portion of the accompanying logo. They will remember slogans, songs, and sounds identified with brands.

The article also suggests some design education lesson ideas around identity that go beyond "self-identity" which is often the focus of traditional art programs. There are many opportunities for students to develop brand identities for real organizations, services, causes or events in their communities. By trying to solve real needs, identity projects can become more than just a class assignment and give students real-life experiences in meeting the needs of others.

What worthy event, group, organization, or cause could be helped through better branding? How could students help them increase their recognition and identity in the community?

Click on the heading above to go to School Arts magazine online.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Letting Go of Reality

In the past, let's say until about 10,000 years ago, I guess life was still pretty "real" but, even then, there were already examples of simulated reality in the form of cave paintings dating back more than 30,000 years ago.

Today we are used to living in a variety of "realities":

(1) Reality is the real, physical world (RR) that includes nature and the built environment.

(2) Augmented Reality (AR) is the real world enhanced with traditional or digital information like trails and text panels in nature preserves or apps on your iPhone. The SixthSense augmented reality system lets you project a phone pad onto your hand (left).

(3) Simulated Reality (SR) like theme parks, museum exhibits and themed restaurants. The photo on the right is a yacht that has a simulated island on the top deck so you can take your paradise with you.

(4) Virtual reality (VR) in which a digital world is substituted for the real world such as in a flight simulator or video game.

Whatever combination of realities you prefer, designers have had some hand in creating them. Schools, and the whole learning experience, are being transformed by an increasing use of the full spectrum of realities. Some students still dissect real frogs in biology classes and others learn the parts of a frog through simulated or virtual dissections.

Imagine what the experience of schooling will be like when students have access to a full panoply of Reality, Augmented Reality, Simulated Reality and Virtual Reality through design and design education. Then school will no longer need to be one of the "unhappiest" places on Earth.

Click on the heading above to see more views of the floating island yacht on a site called TechBlog. What kind of simulated paradise can you and your students create in your school?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Corning Shows the Future Potential of Glass

Click on the heading above to see a visionary video showing some concepts for new types of glass being developed by the venerable Corning Glass Company. With a long and lustrous tradition of producing fine historic and traditional glassware, Corning shows it isn't afraid to adapt to the new and emerging potential of incorporating digital electronic displays into their glass products.

On the left is a bathroom mirror that helps you check your messages and get your morning started while brushing your teeth. On the right is an interactive bus kiosk that lets you check bus schedules and routes and them transfer the information to your personal device. These are just a couple of the dozens of ideas shown in the video.

Many of the computer applications shown in the video we have already seen imagined in movies like Minority Report and Total Recall and in real life with Microsoft's Surface computer tables and Apple's iPad, but seeing how these innovations would play out in our regular lives is pretty inspiring.

In this video some creative people have imagined how display technologies can be developed in the near future. What have they left out? What other applications can your students think of? Using drawings, collages, or Photoshop, students can present their own ideas about how these new and emerging technologies can become part of our everyday life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interactive Digital Children's Books Are Coming

Moonbot Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana has produced an interactive children's book for the iPad. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, is an interactive digital story based on an award-winning animated short film of the same name.

The iPad version sells for $5 from the App Store so it is marketed as an "app" rather than a book. The app begs the question of whether it is a book at all because it is based on an animated film not on a book and a traditional print version was developed afterward.

Each of the 27 pages (screens) offers the reader a chance to interact with the character Morris. From the opening tornado scene where you can change the speed and direction of Morris tumbling through the storm, to a screen where you help Morris repair some books, the progress of the story requires the reader to take action.

An options bar on the side of the screen allows you to listen to the story with or without text, read it without narration, or turn on the accompanying musical soundtrack.

Each reading of the story will be unique, since it is influenced by the reader's interaction with the touch screen. The creators call it the reinvention of digital storytelling.

Click on the heading above to get the back story on the creation of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Changing Our Minds About Cities

We live in a time when we can observe a paradigm shift taking place in the way people think about cities. Until now, cities were often thought of in terms of crowding, congestion, crime, garbage, noise, concrete, pollution, and honking cars. The ideal living situation was the suburbs with two-story houses, tree-lined streets, ample parking, private garages, green lawns, picket fences, hedges, and back yard barbecues.

That is changing. Since 2010, for the first time, more people now live in cities than in rural areas and are loving it. Edward Glaeser (right) has a new book called "Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier" (left). He presents data asserting that people in cities are smarter and make more money, live happier and longer lives, and leave less of a carbon footprint on the environment than people outside of cities. That is a completely different story than the one which with we grew up.

Because this is a time of transition in our thinking, these ideas are controversial. Glaeser advocates for vertical growth - we need to build taller buildings and stop putting height restrictions on buildings. We need to replace rather than preserve older buildings that inhibit access to housing in order to keep housing costs down as people flock to the cities. We need to stop subsidizing single family home ownership and highways to allow tall buildings and public transportation to fairly compete. You can see how his message might appeal to developers and enrage preservationists and environmentalists.

Glaeser points out that cities are actually more environmentally friendly than suburbs. People who live in cities use, on average, 40 percent less energy than those who live in the suburbs.

There are at least two major lessons to explore here. One, of course, is the changing role of cities in our future and the other is the opportunity to examine how we respond to disruptive change. There aren't many times when we are aware of a paradigm shift taking place while it is happening. This awareness often only happens afterward. But here we can see a clear paradigm shift from a previous negative view of cities to a new positive view of cities as vibrant and attractive places to live. Here is a clear opportunity to examine how we respond to a new and emerging paradigm while we still hold onto an historic and traditional set of beliefs.

Click on the heading above to see Glaeser talk about the book.

The Future is Shaped by Landscape Architects

Landscape architecture is not just about creating pretty gardens and back yards. Landscape architects are taking a leading role in shaping cities along with architects and urban planners.

Landscape architects are shaping the future by reclaiming abandoned urban spaces and transforming them into new public spaces. Rather than looking only at natural environments and deciding how to reshape them, landscape architects are also being asked to help reclaim abandoned waterfronts, collapsing factories, and neglected river systems.

The High Line in lower Manhattan is a good example of an urban renewal project done by landscape architects. It was an unused elevated train line once used to transport goods that has now been converted into an elevated city park. The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980.

The High Line is now an elevated linear park with plantings and viewpoints along the route. It is located on Manhattan's West Side and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. Section 1 opened to the public on June 9, 2009 from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street and Section 2 opened June 8, 2011 between West 20th and West 30th Streets.

Lesson Idea: Landscape Architecture is a 4D spatial design field. Even though students will do planning using 2D drawings and 3D models they must learn to think spatially like architects and landscape architects.

Ideation: Have students identify areas in their communities that involve landscape architecture. Also identify areas that could be improved by being redesigned by landscape architects. Study other landscape architecture projects like the High Line and many others in cities around the world. Learn about Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture. Have students select a problem area in their community that could be improved with better landscape design.

Visualization: Do lots of sketches to explore possible solutions to the landscape architecture challenge selected. Put the sketches up for everyone to see and build off of each other's ideas. What will need to be included in any successful solution? Safety? Cost? Maintenance? Aesthetics? Innovation?

Prototyping: Start building quick models of possible solutions. Which ones are starting to show some promise? Build a scale model of the site and possible design solutions. Show changes in elevation levels and include human figures to indicate scale and usage.

Presentation: Show the model to others and make a presentation explaining the features of the design solution - what problems it solves and why it is important. Who are the decision makers and stakeholders that should be included?

Click on the heading above to learn more about the High Line.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cy Twombly Made Drawing an Art Form

Cy Twombly, whose childlike scribbles made him one of the era’s most important artists, died July 2011 of cancer in Rome at the age of 83.

Twombly's work (left) wasn't quite Abstract Expressionism, toyed with Minimalism, and foresaw Conceptualism, He was a contemporary and friends with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. His work was controversial and subversive but elementally human. Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.” He said “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture.”

Twombly's work often had to be defended because it looked like "a child could do it". His drawings were more "marks on paper" than "drawings" as we typically think of them. Helping people understand the subversive and challenging conceptual motivations behind his work is an important path to helping them understand art today.

Twombly's work is important as art because it challenged and subverted commonly held ideas about what art is and helped up-end traditional conceptions of drawing as representation and skilled craftsmanship.

This approach to drawing as "Art" can be taught alongside drawing as visual communication, drawing as design, and drawing as visual culture. It is easy to see the contrast and difference in intent in a drawing by an illustrator like Peter de Seve (right) or a drawing done on a napkin just to capture a thought or idea.

It will be hard to argue that Twombly's drawing is better than the others - they are each done for different purposes and with different intents. Each has a place in our curriculum because our field is the study of visual literacy including visual communication, design, and visual culture as well as fine art.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lesson Idea: Design the Next Cell Phone

A company called NVIDIA that develops Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), along with the Computer Graphics Society, has been presenting design challenges for several years that provide great lesson ideas that can be adapted for K-12 schools. This year (the sixth), NVART 06: Moving Innovation, the challenge is to design the next generation of cell phones.

We know that the current phones which require you to hold the device up to your ear is not only cumbersome but dangerous (right). The technology is getting smaller, thinner, and lighter every year. Developments in technology allow for a variety of alternatives - on your wrist like a watch or a bracelet; in your ear like ear buds or behind your ear like a Bluetooth; in glasses (left); in a pendant or necklace; in a ring; etc.

This is presented as a design problem rather than an engineering problem and assumes the technology can be created to fit whatever visual solution is designed but it still needs to be user-friendly and practical - not science fiction. It's always a good idea to create drawings plus prototypes to try out features and see how useable they really are.

There are many examples of possible solutions already submitted that can be used as motivation to start a lesson or part way through the lesson to spark more innovative ideas.

The NVART 06 artwork (left) is by Franz Steiner. Click on the heading above to see other examples of designs already submitted. Look back at the previous years for ideas about additional design challenges.