Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pessimism and Fear Threaten Our Future

There is a tendency for pessimism and fear to be used as excuses for not designing and creating the future we would like to see. Designers are eternal optimists who know that the future is not set and will be whatever we create.

A new book by Peter Diamandis (on right) and Steven Kotler (on left) called "Abundance" (right) documents how much progress and hope there is in the world despite our tendency to focus on the negative. The subtitle of the book is "The Future is Better Than You Think." Infant mortality and maternal death rates have dropped dramatically, we are living much longer, violent crime rates are declining, etc., etc.. There is an increasingly significant rise in global standards of living despite the important advances that still need to be made.

If we know the world is getting steadily better it makes a big difference in the actions we take than if we think things are getting worse. Ongoing successful innovation is still necessary to address world problems and we can not sit back and wait for a better future. We must design and create the future we want.

Watch this video to hear Diamandis and Kotler talk about Abundance.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Animators Amplify TED-Ed Teachers' Lessons

What would education be like if designers worked with schools and teachers to amplify the curriculum through the design of images, objects, spaces and experiences? Animators, architects, exhibit designers, game designers, graphic designers, film makers, and others could all contribute to transforming education for the 21st century that has relied for too long on words and numbers as the primary communication tools.

The non-profit foundation behind the TED conferences has launched a YouTube education channel called TED-Ed. Consisting of animated videos less than 10 minutes long, the channel is an "invitation to teachers around the world to submit their best lessons."

After an entry has been accepted, staff will work with the teacher involved to compress and refine the information. Once the educator records the lesson in its final form and uploads it to TED's servers, it's assigned an animator who gets to work on making an engaging yet informative clip. Each lesson includes captions for the hard of hearing and an Interactive Transcript that lets you click on text to jump to the relevant point in the video.

"Right now there's a gifted educator somewhere out there delivering the life-changing lesson. The TED-Ed team hopes that anyone that's passionate about education will help us find that teacher, capture that moment, and amplify it the way it deserves to be amplified."

At launch, the channel consists of seven lessons on subjects ranging from Alien Life to Symbiosis, and that count will increase with time. You can get involved by suggesting a lesson, an educator, or an animator — and you're welcome to put yourself forward too. The idea that students everywhere will be able to benefit from the concise and engaging lessons is certainly encouraging, and we hope that the service will be as popular as the videos uploaded from TED's conferences.

Click on the heading above to go to the TED-Ed YouTube sight.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What If Schools Were More Like Interactive Museums?

Imagine a time in which design is part of K-12 education and schools begin looking and feeling more like interactive museums. Students would learn from, and help design, exhibits that help them learn about everything from the universe to the human brain.

The Mind Museum in Taguig City (the Philippines) (left) just opened on March 16, 2012 and promotes learning while having fun. The 12,500-square-meter space has over 250 interactive exhibits, an outdoor Science-in-the-Park, and a Botanical Garden.

Designed by Lor Calma & Partners architect Ed Calma, the massive building looks like a spaceship but was actually inspired by cellular growth and structures, which is one of the many topics featured inside the museum. The building itself is an exhibit, with a solar reflective exterior, natural wind ventilation and rainwater flow drainage.

When visitors walk through the Human Brain exhibit they see which areas light up when you sense, feel or think. The Light Bridge (right) connects the Atom Gallery to the Universe Gallery.

Many of the exhibits are original, and were designed by Filipino artists, scientists and engineers, including faculty and designers from the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines and the University of St. Tomas.

Click below to see a promotional video about the Mind Museum and imagine what it would be like if schools received the same kind of attention.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Concept Artist for Star Wars Dies

Ralph McQuarrie (right), the concept designer who helped director George Lucas visualize the "Star Wars" movies, died Saturday, March 3, 2012 at the age of 82. McQuarrie's conceptual designs were the basis for some of the iconic characters of the first three movies such as Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO.

George Lucas said, "When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, 'Do it like this.'"

McQuarrie also helped to create concept designs for the original Battlestar Galactica TV show, along with the movies "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." McQuarrie's conceptual work on the 1985 film, "Cocoon," won him the Academy Award for Visual Effects.

Even though, among designers, McQuarrie is an iconic hero, and millions of people love his creations, the public may not know his name and many probably have never seen his original paintings. McQuarrie was a concept designer who's work is produced for the Pre-Production stage of a movie (before the cameras roll) to help others see what the film could look like. While his name features prominently in the credits, most people don't stay in the theater long enough to see who actually made the film they've just seen.

Click on the video below to see concept paintings done by Ralph McQuarrie for Star Wars. Notice the vast number of paintings he produced for the films. One of the reason it is difficult for others to match his talent is that few people do as much work as he did.