Sunday, January 30, 2011

Livia Firth's Green Carpet Challenge

At the Academy Awards actor Colin Firth (on right) will be getting all the attention but, in the fashion world, his wife, Livia, (left) will be making a statement about green design.

Creative director of Eco Age and wife of actor Colin Firth, Livia has become famous for only wearing green fashion to awards shows over the past two seasons. She has created a blog based on her quest to only wear sustainable and ecologically friendly dresses on the red carpet as part of her Green Carpet Challenge. The idea behind the challenge is to look beautiful in eco-friendly couture — to get people thinking more about sustainability in fashion. Now calling on all fashion lovers, Livia has created a new competition where she will choose the best comment, or advice left on her blog each week and will reward the winner with an assortment of Divine chocolate.

The Green Carpet Challenge isn't only open to celebrities and fashion designers. Your students can send an eco-friendly fashion comment to Livia Firth and become part of the excitement as we enter the Oscar season.

Several high schools are now offering fashion design as part of their art offerings. Some, like the Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH) in Miami have a full-fledged fashion program taught by a fashion specialist but regular schools are also offering fashion design as a class or an assignment within a class.

Click on the heading above to check out Livia Firth's blog at Vogue magazine's site.

Car Design is an Opportunity Many Students Don't Know About

As a child Frank Saucedo (right) loved to draw cars. Now he is head of design for one of General Motor's concept car design centers. For the past 10 years he has been the director of General Motors Co.'s Advanced Design Studio in North Hollywood, one of 10 the automaker has worldwide. The studio is in charge of developing new technologies for GM, designing concept cars (left) and production vehicles. He has 52 designers, sculptors and engineers reporting to him at the studio. There are similar GM design centers in Detroit, Melbourne, Fujisawa, Japan, Ruesselsheim, Germany and Trollhattan, Sweden.

Saucito didn't realize auto design was a career option until he visited Art Center College of Design in Pasadena at the urging of his teacher at San Gabriel High School. He says he walked into the big presentation room in Art Center where students were doing full-size drawings of cars and said, 'I want to do that.' He graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and transportation design.

There are many design careers for people who like to draw that students don't even realize exist. Students need to be exposed to the many opportunities available for people who are visual thinkers. Imagine if a group of students did a life-size drawing of a concept car of their own design on large roll paper for other students, teachers and parents to see. Or perhaps they could do a quarter scale clay model of a concept car using plasticine clay. For some students, like Frank Saucedo, design isn't just a job - it is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jane McGonigal Says Reality is Broken

In her new book, "Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World", (left) Jane McGonigal (right) challenges the popular notion that people are wasting too much time playing online games and that games are having a negative effect on society.

McGonigal says the reason so many people are spending so much time playing games is that they are increasingly fulfilling genuine human needs that aren't being met in their real lives. She implies that our time might be better spent on applying some of the strategies used in games to improve the real world rather than complaining about the amount of time people are playing games.

Why can't we design a real world with stimulating challenges, meaningful tasks, enjoyable collaborations, exhilarating rewards and epic victories the way we have designed virtual worlds? Why don't we quit complaining about the imagined dangers of game playing and start making the real world in which we live, work and play more satisfying and rewarding?

One of the reasons is that we have never been taught that we can design the world in which we live nor have we been taught how to do it. Students should be taught how to identify and clarify a real-world problem (Ideation); how to generate lots of possible solutions (Visualization); how to test out our ideas to see which are most viable (Prototyping); and how to produce, present and implement tangible solutions to real-world problems (Implementation). These steps are part of the Design Thinking Process and Design Education should be part of every student's education.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Design Nominees for Academy Awards Announced

The nominations for this year's Academy Awards have just been released and, along with the popular awards for actors and directors, there are many awards for designers.

For Art Direction the nominees are:

“Alice in Wonderland” (Right) 
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” 
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
“Inception” (Left) 
Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
“The King's Speech” 
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
“True Grit” 
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Best Visual Effects nominees are:

“Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
“Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell
“Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
“Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Nominations for Best Animated Feature Film are:

“How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
“The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
“Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Nominees for Cinematography are:

“Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
“Inception” Wally Pfister
“The King's Speech” Danny Cohen
“The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
“True Grit” Roger Deakins

Best Costume Design nominees are:

“Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
“I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
“The King's Speech” Jenny Beavan
“The Tempest” Sandy Powell
“True Grit” Mary Zophres

Nominees for best Film Editing are:

“Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
“The Fighter” Pamela Martin
“The King's Speech” Tariq Anwar
“127 Hours” Jon Harris
“The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Nominees for best Makeup are:

“Barney's Version” Adrien Morot
“The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
“The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Short Film (Animated) nominees are:

“Day & Night” Teddy Newton
“The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
“Let's Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
“The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Who Will Teach Design Education?

As Design Education becomes part of regular K-12 education there are some logistical challenges that need to be addressed. What kind of preparation will teachers need? Who will provide teacher preparation courses? Who can teach design to K-12 teachers?

1. Who can teach design to K-12 teachers who are not majors in design areas - Graphic Design, Product Design, Spatial Design, and Experience Design? Existing courses are designed only for majors in those design fields. Universities and Design Schools need to have courses for K-12 teachers who need an introduction to each of the design fields. Some universities don't have one or more of the fields in their curricula - architecture? product design?

2. A Masters Degree in Design Education. Teachers interested in teaching design (art teachers, technology teachers, computer science teachers, etc.) who already are certified in their field should be able to get a Masters Degree in Design Education that includes:
Introduction to Design, 2D Graphic Design, 3D Product Design, 4D Spatial Design, and 5D Experience Design. They already have preparation and experience in teaching but will need preparation in Design Thinking processes such as Ideation, Visualization, Prototyping and Implementation.

3. Who will take these courses? There are many teachers who already teach graphic design (English teachers who do the Yearbook or student newspaper); technology teachers who teach product design, digital animation, architectural drafting, etc.; art teachers who teach graphic design, product design, architecture, etc.; computer science teachers who teach game design and digital imaging; social studies teachers who have students make documentary films, and a host of other teachers who already use media and design in their classes and would like to learn more. All of these teachers with different certifications could be together in a Masters program in K-12 Design Education.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fantasy Art is Part of Visual Culture

Many people use the word "art" to mean anything that is done well so if you say "That isn't art" they think you are saying that it isn't done well. In the visual world there are many images, objects, spaces and experiences that are of high quality but are not "Art".

If you are a student in most art schools, for example, and enjoy doing "fantasy art" they will give you a hard time because it isn't "Art". These students need to find a school of Design where illustration is taught. Fantasy Art is not accepted as "Art" in most galleries and museums of art so they have their own museums and publications. Fantasy Art is part of the Visual Culture world of popular images for mass audiences and is part of the Design world where illustrations are made for publications rather than hanging on the wall. Many examples of Fantasy Art are recognized as works of very high quality in Visual Culture and Design.

Spectrum (left) is an annual publication compiling examples of excellent Fantasy Art. They are currently collecting submissions for the 18th edition. According to their announcement Spectrum was created as a direct reaction to the lack of attention — the lack of respect — afforded to the creators of fantastic art. The goal of Spectrum is to provide a venue that acknowledges fantasy artists and calls attention to the importance (and popularity) of fantastic art to the culture as a whole. In addition to the print publication, they have exhibits at the Museum of American Illustration which draws large crowds.

A complete visual literacy program should include Visual Culture, Design and Visual Communication as well as Art and help students understand the differences among them in terms of goals, criteria, techniques, expectations, preparation and exemplars.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Little Mermaid at Disney Inspires 5D Design

Disney is adding a new ride based on the popular The Little Mermaid movie. The ride is called "The Little Mermaid: Airel's Undersea Adventure" and is an expansion of Disney California Adventure. The creation of a new immersive experience at Disneyland provides a nice opportunity to have students learn the process of creating a 5D immersive experience and try their hand at creating their own immersive environment.

4D spatial design and 5D experience design are not taught in most art schools where they usually stop with 2D images and 3D objects. 5D experience design means the viewer becomes part of the experience. The design is interactive and immersive. Students can learn to design spaces and experiences by applying the design process in their room, school or community.

The process begins with "Ideation" - coming up with the ideas for what kind of an immersive environment to create. Disney is doing a simulation of an underwater environment. What kind of environment would be best for your school or community? What story do you want to tell? Where would it be placed?

The next step is "Visualization" - doing lots of drawings of what the environment might look like. Disney calls this "blue skying" because at this point anything is possible and far-out ideas should be encouraged.

Then you need to get a bit more realistic and start making small models or prototypes based on the Visualization work. This step is called "Prototyping" and usually involves making small scale models using inexpensive materials.

Finally, you arrive at "Implementation" where you actually make the environment. This stage usually involves lots of people, community members, help from design experts, donations of materials, volunteer workers and everything else that goes into creating any 5D immersive experience. The success of this stage depends on how inspiring the results are from the first three stages. If the designs and prototypes are inspiring enough people will want to help make it a reality.

Click on the heading above to see a video showing all these steps in the creation of the new Little Mermaid ride at Disneyland due to open later this year.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Legendary Syd Mead Still Designing Films

Designer's hearts are soaring with the news that Syd Mead (left), the legendary concept designer of films like Blade Runner and Tron (the original 1982 version), will be designing sets for Neil Blomkamp's next film. Mead (78) has signed on to design Neil Blomkamp's film Elysium set 100 years in the future. The film stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Copley and will be shot in Vancouver and Mexico City this summer and fall. The film should be released around the end of 2012.

Neil Blomkamp's last film was the amazing District 9. Syd Mead was impressed enough with that film, which depicted aliens in South Africa, to sign on to design the sets of Blomkamp's Elysium. For Blomkamp, Mead is a huge catch.

Years ago, Syd Mead gave an amazing presentation at a conference on Technology, Media and Design I put together in Madison, Wisconsin. He and his partner Roger Servick are the most gracious people you can imagine and I enjoyed getting Christmas cards from them for years afterward. I was impressed that car designers traveled from Detroit to see Mead because of his early influence on concept car design. There are few films that hold a place in depicting the future like Blade Runner and Tron and now, working with Blomkamp, Mead has the opportunity to help create another legendary icon of futuristic films.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Living in an Era of Innovation

One of the hardest things about innovation is recognizing when it happens. When innovation happens we can say "Well it's not that significant", "It's only a fad", "It was actually done before", "It won't change much of anything", "It's not as good as what we had before", and any other thoughts which we, for some reason, feel the need to diminish or deny the significance of innovation.

Ideas have a life cycle in which they run from the emerging to the new to the contemporary to the traditional to the historic. With the introduction of the smart phone, the cell phone is slipping from the new to the contemporary and, soon, the traditional. In the 1950s one might have been accurate in depicting 3D films as a fad but to think that today, with the new incarnation of 3D movies and television, you would be wrong.

In our life times we are experiencing game-changing innovations comparable to talking movies and color television. The iPad and the development of electronic books and magazines have changed the printing industry forever. Three-D films and TV are here to stay. The long-awaited electric car is now a reality in our lives. Obtaining a personal copy of your DNA sequence and being able to book a flight to outer space are now within the reach of regular citizens.

What are some of the game-changing innovations happening today and which will happen in the near future? Will you and your students be able to recognize innovation when it happens?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Spaces in Which We Teach

James Rees (left) is an artist and a teacher who is collecting photos and information about what the places in which we teach say about what we think about education. He is asking people to send him pictures and information about their art rooms.

Rees says he is interested in the habitat of creativity or what the spaces in which artists teach say about their personal pedagogical perspectives. How do we define our pedagogy by they way we set up our classroom environments and what might these things suggest for us as teachers?

Rees is gathering information about art classrooms and teaching and will share this information and conclusions with the art education community. We can help by passing this information along to art educators and others who have access to art rooms.

You can see more information about this project, Pedagogy and Space: Teaching Environments and Teacher Philosophies, on his website,, or just click on the heading above.

How you can help?

1. download the easy form from his website: pedagogy_space.pdf
2. take a few photos of an art classroom

3. pass the word along to other art teachers 

4. email the information to him:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Preservation of the Future

Below are two stories evoking different views of the future of design. Ray Kurzweil's vision of a post-human future brings up images of futuristic design such as is already taking place in places like Dubai (left). Witold Rybczynski, on the other hand, points out that there is no need to re-design great cities like London and Paris (right) which haven't changed that much in hundreds of years.

The question is a matter of what to preserve of the past and when to allow new and forward-looking designs. The glass pyramid in front of the Lourvre Museum, the Pompidou Center, and the Eiffel Tower itself are examples of rather jarring modern additions to successful traditional architectural areas. Today, the Eiffel Tower is emblematic of Paris, but at the time it was an astonishingly misplaced piece of metal sculpture in a traditionally stone and concrete city. Such changes are today often referred to as the "Bilbao Effect" in reference to the stunning Frank Gehry designed museum in traditional Bilbao, Spain.

The next generation of designers will need a deep respect for the great designs of the past and a keen understanding of new materials and technological advances that can be exploited to improve designs in the future. The recent development of a new kind of glass that is bendable and as strong as steel will certainly influence the future of architecture and auto design in ways that simply weren't possible before. Will the future look pretty much the same as today or will there be major changes in the way we design?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Too Much, Too Fast: Our Fear of the Future

The long awaited film "Transcendent Man" (right) about Ray Kurzweil and the concepts outlined in his book "The Singularity is Near" (left) is finally available and touring the country. The Singularity to which Kurzweil refers is the point in history (he says 25 years from now) in which machines become as intelligent as humans.

Filmmakers Barry and Felicia Ptolemy documented Kurzweil’s life for two years following him to 25 cities in five countries. Kurzweil was exploring the social and philosophical implications of the coming profound changes he calls "The Singularity" and the potential threats they pose to human civilization. The film captures Kurzweil's presentations and dialogues with 22 noted luminaries such as Colin Powell, Peter Diamandis, Dean Kamen, William Shatner, Stevie Wonder, and Kevin Warwick.

The documentary takes great pains to highlight the number of people who think Kurzweil is a crackpot. The fun is that many of us will be around to find out if he is or not. We are in the amazing position of potentially being alive when one of the most important events in history is about to occur. We will also be able to see and document our own reactions to the event.

Right now, you are probably among the many who think Kurzweil is a crackpot. I hope you will go see the film to give yourself the chance to see if it changes your mind. Write down and keep your thoughts so that you can look back at them in 25 years to see how close you came to being right. Prepare to evolve.

Click on the heading above to hear and see Ray Kurzweil explain the concept of the Singularity and how he arrived at it.

Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities

Witold Rybczynski (left) is a respected scholar who writes about how cities came to be. His new book "Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities" (right) describes the evolution of ideas about city planning. It includes early planning ideas like "The City Beautiful", "The Garden City", "Broadacre City", and "The Radiant City" along with key players like Frederick Law Olmsted (Sr. and Jr.), Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, Le Corbusier, Charles Mulford Robinson, Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright and many others.

More than writing a simple history, Rybczynski explores past ideas about urban planning to see what cautionary tales they hold for how we plan for the future. The twenty or thirty years following World War II beginning in the 1950s were disastrous for the reputation of city planners and cities across America. We made just about every mistake one could imagine. Rybczynski explores the aftermath of that time and what we can do to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Decisions about how cities evolve are sometimes made consciously by planners and civic groups and sometimes allowed to naturally evolve based on the immediate market needs and desires of developers, landowners and politicians. We can learn a good deal about how to run a government or reform education by looking at what we have learned about how to plan cities. Rybczynski is skeptical of "visionaries" and sees a need for more organic development that doesn't have the "stamp" of a single design aesthetic.

The lessons we have learned will help to develop greener, mixed-use, heterogeneous down-town living with high densities but providing the liveliness and amenities we desire. They will make better use of water (rivers, shorelines), have active street life (not tunnels or skywalks), include parks, infill, and the integration of shopping, living, entertainment, and civic values.

Click on the heading above to learn more about Makeshift Metropolis and Witold Rybczynski.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Target Kaleidoscopic Fashion Spectacular

A group of young designers called LEGS Media (left) produced a twenty-minute one-time fashion show for Target that was a spectacular achievement in design. Using 155 rooms of the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking district of Manhattan, 61 dancers, and 44,640 LED bulbs, this vertical fashion show in five acts (right) was one of the most amazing feats of complex choreography and technical virtuosity one could imagine.

The Standard Hotel was open and in operation at the time with the remaining rooms occupied by regular guests. They only had access to the hotel for one day so rehearsals and other preparations had to be done off site. With a budget that only allowed for 61 performers, many had to run up and down stairs to appear in other rooms. The LEGS Media team (from left to right - Adam, Jeremy, Greg and Georgi) produces music videos, short films, installations, and events but this was one of the most complex and challenging projects they have ever done.

Click on the heading above to see the event.

Emma Watson on Cover of Marie Claire Magazine in Print and on iPad

The cover of Marie Claire magazine featuring Emma Watson from the Harry Potter movies provides a good example of the differences between the print version and the iPad version of magazines. The subtle difference in seeing a "living" version of Emma Watson on the iPad cover version is startling and somehow hypnotically engaging.

In the Harry Potter movies characters read newspapers that have moving pictures and now, fittingly enough, Emma Watson, one of the stars of the movies, demonstrates a modern day version of the technology in reality.

The iPad edition of Marie Claire magazine was designed by Adam Joseph and Greg Brunkalia of LEGS Media (see the story above). They say the iPad is a real game-changer that is taking media design to a whole new level.

Look at the print version of the cover to the right and then click on the heading above to see what it looks like on the iPad.

Project Magazine iPad Version

Richard Branson's Project magazine is among the many magazines that are developing iPad versions (left) available for the growing number of people who are using the new tablet sized device.

Click on the heading above to go to a video showing the experience of paging through Project magazine on an iPad. The video shows how to move from story to story by swiping horizontally and reading a story by swiping vertically. Near the end of the demonstration you see the cover story about Jeff Bridges and he appears on the page and walks off (right). There are several interview clips to listen to by clicking on pictures.

The video demonstrates the sound, animation, video, voice and music capabilities in this new magazine format. This video doesn't show that the cover itself is animated.

Since the iPad is only about a year old, these early attempts to explore its capabilities, while impressive, will likely soon seem quaint as designers really learn to design for this new format.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is Design Thinking a Myth?

Don Norman (left), one of the most prolific writers on design (right), has a piece saying Design Thinking is a myth at the popular web site Core 77. (Click on the heading above to read the entire piece and see public reaction.)

Some designers have become weary of the overuse of the term "Design Thinking" and fear that it encourages the idea that anyone can be a designer. They are all too familiar with businesses choosing to have their website or brochure designed by someone's cousin rather than hiring a professional designer.

Norman's article is a good starting point for a discussion about design, design education and design thinking. He questions the idea that "designers possess some mystical, creative thought process that places them above all others in their skills at creative, groundbreaking thought." Norman says that creative thinking and breakthrough ideas have occurred throughout history and have come from a wide variety of disciplines. He says, "Design thinking is a public relations term for good, old-fashioned creative thinking."

Then he goes on to say "Exploit the myth" just don't believe it. Using the term Design Thinking will help spread the word that designers can add value to almost any problem, from healthcare to pollution, business strategy and company organization. The emphasis on thinking helps make the point that design is more than making things look pretty but has structure and substance.

Norman says design thinking "means stepping back from the immediate issue and taking a broader look. It requires systems thinking: realizing that any problem is part of a larger whole, and that the solution is likely to require understanding the entire system."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

U.S. Industrial Design Pioneers on Postage Stamps

For teachers who would like to introduce students to product design (industrial design) the U.S. Postal Service will be releasing a set of stamps featuring 12 of the United States' most influential industrial designers from the 20th century. The stamps won't be issued until July 2011 but they provide a good motivation to take a look at some designers who shaped the century. Parents will be impressed when their child tells them about the designers on the stamps.

With just a bit of research, students can find out about the birth of industrial design in America and see the development of common products at their early stages. The telephone, for example, has experienced a tremendous evolution in the last 100 years. Do you know who designed that old black desk model with the dial? Don't spoil the fun - let the students do the research themselves. They will be much more motivated than if you do the research and just tell them about it.

Any educated person should know the names and influence of product designers like Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes, Donald Deskey, Frederic Hurton Read, Peter Muller-Munk, Walter Darwin Teague, Dave Chapman, Henry Dreyfuss, Eliot Noyes, Russel Wright, Greta von Nessen, and Gilbert Rhode.

What can students find out about their lives?
What else did they design?
What companies did they work for?
Who are some contemporary designers who have carried on their work?
Who else could have been included on the list? (Cars aren't included, for example.)
What would a list include today? (shoe design, toothbrushes, computers, etc.)