Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Designers are Included in NEA Arts Issue on Innovation

Several designers are included in the latest issue of NEA Arts (left), the quarterly magazine of the National Endowment of the Arts on the topic of Innovation.

Interviews include:
Julie Taymor (right), director, costume designer, and set designer for the Broadway production of "The Lion King" for Disney. She works in design fields such as movies (NEA uses the more elite term "cinema") and Broadway theater design.

Fred Dust is a partner at the world famous design firm IDEO with a background in architecture and industrial design.

Chris Miller is a story artist for Dreamworks Animation on such projects as "Shrek" and the animated film "Puss and Boots" currently in theaters.

Josh Neufeld designed the cover for the issue (left) and made his comments in the form of a graphic novel (or as regular people would call it - a "comic book".)

The Brooklyn-based cartoonist, Neufeld, very nicely delineates the difference between Art and Design. In his comic book page he has a character saying that the role of the Artist is to be an "irritant forcing society to take a look at itself critically." This is important work performed by artists. It is different from the role of Designers who look at problems in society and actively work to solve them. Designers employ innovation to make the world a tangibly better place for others.

Neufeld's cartoon cites the work of other cartoonists such as Scott McCloud, Chris Ware and Art Spiegelman.

Click on the heading above to go to the NEA Arts issue on Innovation.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Visual Communication and Design Complete a Visual Literacy Curriculum

All students, not just visual thinkers, need to learn to create and understand diagrams, pictures, photos, illustrations, maps and charts to learn any subject matter. Steve Moline, author of "I See What You Mean: Visual Literacy K-8" sees visual literacy as fundamental to learning and to what it means to be human. In Moline's view, we are all bilingual. Our second language, which we do not speak but which we read and write every day, is visual. From reading maps to decoding icons to using concept webs, visual literacy is critical to success in today's world.

The first edition of I See What You Mean, published in 1995, was one of the first books for teachers to outline practical strategies for improving students' visual literacy. In this new and substantially revised edition, Moline includes dozens of new examples of a wide range of visual texts--from time maps and exploded diagrams to digital tools like smartphone apps and "tactile texts." In addition to the new chapters and nearly 200 illustrations, he has reorganized the book in a useful teaching sequence, moving from simple to complex texts.

The kind of visual literacy Moline describes is Visual Communication is complemented by Design Education represented by resources such as the Design Dossier series by Pamela Pease for children 9 and up (grades 4 and up). Children experience design firsthand in this interactive series that engages a variety of learning styles and develops creative problem-solving skills. Books in the series focus on a wide array of design disciplines, ranging from architecture and interior design to film, animation, and environmental design.

In The World of Design (right), kids explore line, color, shape, texture, pattern and composition, and questions including What is design? and How does the creative process work? Insights from top contemporary designers and fold-out timelines help kids understand how design affects their everyday lives. A project at the end of the book challenges kids to put what they learn into action.

Click on the heading above to learn more about the Design Dossier series by Pease.

Hedonistic Sustainability Means Having Fun While Doing Good

The presentation by Bjarke Ingels (right) at last year's TEDx East conference in New York City is now available on-line. Show this video to your students so they can see how a young architect can teach us to be playful and have fun while doing serious work that helps people and the planet.

To better understand Ingels' ideas we have to know what a "program" is in architecture. Architectural programming is the research and decision-making process that identifies the scope of work to be designed. Architects and their clients identify the scope of a design problem prior to beginning the design, which is intended to solve the problem.

In the 1980s and 1990s, some architectural schools dropped architectural programming from their curricula. The emphasis of the Post-Modern and Deconstruction agendas was instead on form-making. Programming and its attention to the users of buildings was not a priority to them. As a result, several generations of architects have little familiarity with architectural programming.

Some of the advantages programming offers include:

1. Involvement of interested parties in the definition of the scope of work prior to the design effort
2. Emphasis on gathering and analyzing data early in the process so that the design is based on sound decisions
3. Efficiencies gained by avoiding redesign as requirements emerge during the architectural design process.

Part of the problem with school architecture is that the program identified by the architects and administrators is often more about economy and safety while the program sought by teachers and students is more about motivation and learning. Too often architects see the school administrators as their clients rather than the students and teachers. Places like Pixar, IDEO and Google know that spaces designed by and for the people who work there rather than for the owners and bosses, helps make them insanely successful in the real world.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Pixar Story Inspires Animators

The documentary film, The Pixar Story, came out in 2007 and tells about the creation of the animation production company Pixar from Luxo Jr. in 1987 to Cars in 2006. Pixar, of course, went on to continue producing hit animated films like Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), and Up (2009).

Pixar is a CGI-animation production company now based in Emeryville, California that has earned twenty-six Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and three Grammys. It was started by Ed Catmull (left), Steve Jobs (center), and John Lasseter (right).

The Pixar Story is a must see for any student or adult interested in CGI-animated films produced since the cel-animation techniques made famous in early Disney movies. The documentary tells the trials and tribulations of becoming the top animation company in the world and what it takes to stay on top.

Imagine being Pete Doctor, a first-time director, trying to match the incredible early success of Toy Story 1 and 2 and A Bug's Life. Docter directed Monsters, Inc. in 2001 which was also incredibly successful so the young Andrew Stanton was called up to keep the string of successes going. He directed Finding Nemo in 2003. Brad Bird was next and he directed The Incredibles in 2004. How long could Pixar keep this up?

This documentary (available online and through Netflix) tells this gripping story in the words of the people who were actually there creating it.

Watch the beginning of The Pixar Story.

Creating Spaces for Design in Schools

As more schools add "Design" to their art and technology programs, classrooms will need to be rethought to accommodate the needs of the design curriculum. Some new considerations include:

1. An Ideation Lab (right) - plenty of space for white boards, foam core, post-it notes, and markers for teams to collaboratively generate and clarify design problems.
2. A Visualization Lab - spaces to brainstorm, draw, post, share and discuss possible solutions to design problems. Drawing tables, computers, tracing paper, places to pin works up for group discussion and revision.
3. A Fab Lab - workshop spaces to make prototypes by cutting foam with hot-wire cutters, sawing wood, building structures, making architectural models, etc.
4. A Presentation Room - a boardroom-like space to present and critique ideas for discussion, evaluation and implementation with interactive white boards, projectors, presentation easels, etc.

Make Space : How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration (left) by Scott Doorley & Scott Witthoft, is a new book based on the work at the Stanford University d.school and its Environments Collaborative Initiative. The book explains how space can be intentionally manipulated to fuel the creative process and then offers over 120 specific strategies that can be employed in endless combination to foster collaboration, creativity and innovation.

Click below to see a video of the creation of the cover for the book.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Designers Nominated for Oscars

While the general public clamors for the Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director Oscar nominees, designers look at categories like Best Animated Film, Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Set Design, Costume, Makeup, Special Effects, Editing and the other categories for designers and visual thinkers.

The nominees for Best Art Direction this year include a sure winner - Laurence Bennett for "The Artist" (left) - and a strong contender in Rick Carter for "War Horse" (right) who was also nominated for "Avatar" and "Forrest Gump" in previous years.

Movies are a visual medium requiring strong visual communication skills and should be part of a comprehensive visual education program whether approached from production, history, criticism or aesthetics. The Academy Awards nominations in January and awards ceremony in February provide an excellent opportunity to highlight the design of films and the film designers who are among the best in the world.

Many people mistakenly think that watching movies is a passive activity compared to the active thinking associated with reading but recent brain research proves that old way of thinking is wrong. Visualization is an active function of the brain which calls upon long-term memory and predictive abilities activated in numerous locations in the brain.

Have your students look at the list of Oscar nominees and research nominees in each of the design categories. Who do you think will win? Who do you think should win? What can we find out about their past work and how they go about their work?

Click on the heading above to see the list of other Oscar nominees.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Understanding Design is as Important for the Customer as the Designer

Most students will not become professional designers but they need to know something about design simply to be wise consumers and informed citizens. Media Literacy is the name of the field of study that looks at how images and ideas are presented in the media and how we react to them. Design is the field of study in which people learn to use visual communication to create and communicate ideas.

People look at advertisements showing super-models who have been expertly made-up and then Photoshopped and feel inferior and inadequate. Our sense of self-esteem is undermined by our unfair comparisons to these "ideal" examples. People can exaggerate, boast, lie, and deceive with images just as they do with words and numbers.

Click on the heading above to read an article by a photographer who calls himself Darlo D. who compared the images of fast food in advertising with the actual food you get in real life (left and right). There are some regulations to protect consumers from false advertising but the best protection is to be educated about the role of images in our lives and their power over the way we think and behave.

We are quick to blame media designers for being unethical but we must look at our own attitudes that allow them to influence us. Many people deny that they are fooled by media portrayals but we are still accustomed to think that someone driving a big car is more powerful and successful than someone in a smaller car. A recent study showed that a person holding a large soft-drink was perceived as more powerful than someone holding a smaller soft drink. That's our problem not the media designer.

Media designers provide the stories we like to hear. If we want to see changes in the future we need to change the stories that we carry in our heads.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Visual Communication Helps Us See the Unseeable

Scientific animators combine their passions for science, art and computers into rewarding careers. Scientific animators work with computer software similar to that used to create special effects and animated films in Hollywood but, instead of creating creatures and explosions, they use research data to bring molecules and cells to life on screen. Drawing upon dozens of research papers, scientific databases, microscopy data and other resources can take months to show how a molecule or cell moves or interacts (right).

Visualization can be a research tool used to develop, test and refine biomedical hypotheses, not just a method of communication. Scientific animation is used by the drug industry, publishers, medical schools and teaching hospitals, and even for lawyers involved in malpractice lawsuits that require visuals as legal evidence. Medical-device, biotech and pharmaceutical companies use animations about their latest products in sales, marketing and educational materials. Visualizations also end up in museum exhibitions, classroom teaching tools, digital textbooks and documentaries, and on journal covers and websites.

Illustrators and animators working full-time earn about $52,000 at the start of their careers, $65,000 in mid-career and up to $150,000 as seasoned veterans. Many animators also work on a freelance basis with incomes between $79,000 a year up to $250,000.

Drew Barry (left) is a medical animator and winner of a MacArthur grant. Having a background in design and visual storytelling is essential for scientific animators. Some basic training in lighting, color and composition to enable visual expression through drawing or other media is key to success. Employers tell whether an animator has the necessary skills by looking at their portfolio, website, or demo reel, which often showcases only about a minute's worth of animations.

Watch the video below to see Drew Berry's presentation about scientific visualization at a TED conference. While you're at the TED site also look at related presentations such as that by scientific illustrator David Bolinsky.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ten Principles of Good Design from Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer who was chief of design for the influential electronic devices manufacturer Braun for almost 35 years. Rams and his team designed many iconic devices ranging from record players to furniture to storage systems.

Dieter Rams is associated with the memorable phrase “Less, but better”. He used graphic design, form, proportion, and materiality to create order within his designs. His work does not try to be the center of attention, rather he allows his work to become part of the environment through precision and order.

Here are his famous "Principles of Good Design":

1. Good design is innovative: Innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.
2. Good design makes a product useful: A product is bought to be used and has to satisfy certain functional, psychological and aesthetic criteria.
3 Good design is aesthetic: The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being.
4. Good design makes a product understandable: Design clarifies a product’s structure and at its best, is self-explanatory.
5. Good design is unobtrusive: Well-designed products are like neutral and restrained tools that are neither decorative objects nor works of art.
6. Good design is honest: Good design does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
7. Good design is long-lasting: Good design avoids being fashionable so it lasts many years and never appears antiquated.
8. Good design is thorough, down to the last detail: In good design nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance and it should show respect towards the consumer.
9. Good design is environmentally-friendly: Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment, conserving resources and minimizing physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
10. Good design is as little design as possible: Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.

Dieter Ram's work has been a big influence on others such as Jonnathon Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple. Phaidon publishing released a new book on Dieter Rams in June, 2011 called Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible – with a foreword writen by Jonathan Ive.

Click below to watch a clip about Rams from Gary Hustwitz's film "Objectified."

Car Design is a Star in Mission Impossible

Movies provide good opportunities to point out the role of design in our lives. BMW's state-of-the-art hybrid, and other models, are prominent in Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol starring Tom Cruise (left).

In the latest Mission: Impossible film, Tom Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, says to his team, “Wait until you see the car”. The reference is to the i8 concept, a next-generation supercar from BMW, which helps Cruise and co-star Paula Patton race through Mumbai traffic. The car’s appearance highlights the BMW brand’s return to Hollywood after a hiatus of more than a decade.

BMW’s role, its first in a big-budget film since a Z8 roadster was cut to pieces in the 1999 James Bond feature The World Is Not Enough, is a reminder that Hollywood is now a mandatory destination for marketers. With DVRs and on-demand programs allowing consumers to skip television ads, becoming part of the content is key for brands to get noticed.

The winged-door i8, a plug-in hybrid that accelerates to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in 4.6 seconds and can get 78 miles per gallon, will be introduced in 2014—but gets center-stage placement in the film. At the movie’s European premiere at the BMW Welt product showcase in Munich on Dec. 9, the i8 was prominently displayed at the end of the red carpet. The automaker is believed to have spent $10 million promoting the film.

Click on the video below for a heart pounding clip about the movie.

Auto Companies Have Eyes on Design

Auto Shows are coming to major cities to showcase the latest ideas in auto design. One of the most famous is the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) held each January in Detroit, Michigan. As part of the show, this year running from January 9-22, 2012, there are awards presented for auto design called the EyesOn Design Awards. The 2012 award winners will be announced on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 and can be watched live on the site by clicking on the heading above.

EyesOn Design Awards honor the most significant automotive designs on display at NAIAS 2012 as determined by the North American and global leaders of design from automotive manufacturers, along with academic chairs of transportation design programs and design leaders from other fields.

These awards recognize the skill and creativity of today's most gifted designers in the areas of Aesthetics and Innovation, Concept Implementation, Functionality and Spirit of Industrial Design. Awarded in production and concept categories, the EyesOn Design Awards are coveted by automotive designers as validation for exceptional design, as determined by the leaders of their field.

Presented by the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology (DIO), the EyesOn Design Awards serve as an extension of the DIO's annual EyesOn Design automotive exhibition held each June to honor and celebrate the past, present and future of automotive design. In addition to recognizing major design achievement in the automotive industry, funds raised by both EyesOn Design events support the DIO's mission to assist and educate the visually impaired, help preserve vision by public and professional education and support research related to the eye.

Click on the heading above for more information on EyesOn Design Awards at the North American International Auto Show.