Friday, September 19, 2008

I. Can't. WAIT!

I don't know why it's taken us so long to begin to talk about getting high speed rail into California, but it's well past time. It's a no-brainer, especially now with the post-9/11 airport security measures making door-to-door between Los Angeles and San Francisco a tossup between taking a plane and driving there.... The route between Sacramento and San Diego has been approved, the environmental studies have been given the go-ahead, and it's now up to to voters to vote on a bond measure on the November ballot. Let's hope that the voters have the sense to say yes. Check out the web site. There are some wonderful quicktime animations. If you download them, they come up as full-screen movies. The station view, above, is particularly nice at that size.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cranbrook / IIT Smackdown, II

A pair of slides from yesterday's presentation by Cranbrook's Scott Klinker and IIT's Jeremy Alexis. Above, IIT aims to root out inefficiencies in process, while Cranbrook asks, "But what will it look and feel like?

Above, radical craft: genetic code-generated silverware. At this point in the presentation, the discussion turned toward what we might call digital baroque.

I found the presentation compelling, with both sides—IIT's down-to-earth approach and Cranbrook's "things with attitude"—represented well. The result confirmed what I've believed all along: it's not either / or, and we can stop the name-calling. There is a valid place for both.

Cranbrook / IIT Smackdown

This morning, Cranbrook's Scott Klinker (above, wrapped in Eames' Design Q & A diagram) and IIT's Jeremy Alexis revisited a debate between the institutions' dueling ideologies that had occurred between Michael McCoy and Chuck Owen some years ago in ID Magazine. Very thought provoking. Fuel for many upcoming discussions, to be sure, with my students. A few aspects of the debate:

things with attitude : strategies that transform organizations
exploring personal voice : improving organizational performance
cultural innovation : business innovation
patrons : clients
social value : value to the organization

I know this is cryptic, but it's late. More later.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mobility Vision Integration Process Workshop

Today at Polar Opposites Geoff Wardle presented the Mobility Vision Integration Process, a method developed by Lloyd Walker, Geoff, Andy Ogden, Heidrun Mumper-Drum and David Muyers at Art Center. It's a way to run futures scenarios brainstorming workshops using a set of cards that they have developed. This video was shot at Art Center's Sustainability Summit this past Spring, where the mVIP cards were rolled out for the first time. In it, Lloyd Walker describes the mVIP process and you can see how we used the cards.

In today's workshop, a team looks over the "hand" of cards they've been dealt that describes the future world. The team gets an understanding of this world for a few minutes and considers the implications of the scenario. 

Left to right: Ron Pierce in the black shirt, Peter Treadway, standing, and Mark Dziersk, at far right. My apologies to the other two designers! I've forgotten who you are!

Next, four cards are dealt that describe the enterprise the team works for, the enterprise's axiom, the customer, and a constraint. The team considers all cards and brainstorms design solutions that address the circumstances set out in the cards.

Finally, one member of the team (in this case, Los Angeles designer Max Beach) presents the design solution to the rest of the teams.

We always have a good time running this workshop. It's a break from the tedium of PowerPoint, and provides a great networking opportunity. When we ran it this Spring, we broke the entire conference out into groups. It was great.

I talked to a number of educators who wanted to check out the cards as a brainstorming and team-building tool for their students.

Be sure to check out the Flash demo we have on line. You can deal yourself (or your students) a "hand," print it out on a letter-sized sheet (using the button at the top right), and have a hard-copy for reference during the exercise. You can deal yourself a random hand or you can select the cards.

Check it out—try it with your team, your firm, or your students, and let us know what you think!

Top o the Morning

Toasting the morning sun with the only liquid that makes sense in the desert—water—in my new Kor hydration vessel, courtesy of the folks at Eastman. They had presented the Kor story at Art Center a few months ago and told an abridged version here at Polar Opposites Thursday morning. We run materials-based explorations in our Color, Materials, and Trends Exploration Lab (CMTEL), and are scheming up a plan to do one with Eastman soon. More later... I've got to meet Geoff Wardle (whom you saw flying a screaming monkey in the previous post) to help him run a workshop later today with a tool we've developed in Grad ID that enables anyone to run a futures scenario workshop, the deck of mVIP cards. More about that later, too.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Screaming Flying Monkeys at Polar Opposites

You had to be there. I'll get serious later, but for now, enjoy the screaming flying monkeys, brought to you by the folks at P&G Design.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Something to Consider

Two slides from Erica Eden's slide show this morning give us something to consider. Erica is a senior designer at Smart Design and one of their FemmeDen, an in-house group of women designers dedicated, as they say "to drawing connections between social, cultural, and economic changes in design to satisfy the unmet needs of women consumers."

If women have 80% of the buying power in this country, yet 85% of industrial designers are men, well, that might explain a few things about the world we find ourselves in.

Eden shared a session this morning with Marti Barletta of TrendSight Group, who specializes in marketing to women. A dynamic, wickedly funny speaker. No surprises in much of her talk for the women designers in the audience, but were the men I saw "multitasking" with their phones at least to some extent tuned in? Hope so. 

Some take-aways:

Men (and she's working with averages here, recognizing that there is a continuum) organize by prioritizing, while women organize with an aim toward maximizing. Men focus on a few top-priority criteria in deciding, for example, what jeans to buy, while for women the buying decision is a process of discovery, finding multiple options that fit the initial criteria, adding new criteria, weighing options and working toward a perfect answer. Men buy the first pair of jeans that fit the top criteria; women will look at all factors, coming eventually to the deciding factor that clinches the deal.

Designing for women is like universal design—if you design for women, you amplify the benefits for male customers as well. Key factors to keep in mind:

The Basics
  • designs must be easy to handle
  • easy to use single-handedly (consider the McLaren stroller's single-handed 5-second fold and you'll know what we're talking about)
  • easy to store; efficient use of space
  • easy to clean (machine-washable stroller liners, for example)
  • easy to understand (not because they're dumb, but maybe because women don't have the time to mess around? I'm just sayin'... Barletta said that women aren't busy, they are time starved. Indeed.)
  • pay attention to aesthetics. They spend time and money designing their living room in Craftsman Style, or Country French, or whatever, and you tell them that they've got to put a big black box of electronics in the middle of it?
  • appeal to the senses. For four of the five senses, women have more acuity, and for the fifth, sight, it's not that men have better sight, they have better depth and distance vision, while women have better peripheral vision.
  • offer "two-fers" two-for-one. Sunscreen and foundation. That kind of thing.
  • make it green. All other factors being equal, 57% of women will choose the environmentally-responsible product.
  • connect with people. Products that help people connect (Wii, for example, which allows people to play together) are big successes with women consumers.
Well there you have it. Go out there and get busy, people!

IDSA Polar Opposites Conference, Phoenix

I will be posting from the IDSA National Conference, Polar Opposites, in Phoenix for the next few days. More to come. In the meantime, enjoy the view from my hotel balcony at the Arizona Biltmore, the location of the conference. Oh pool boy.... peel me a grape, would you?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Have Laser Cutter, Will Build House, Part 2

At Art Center, we've been discussing building student housing for years now. Here's an interesting proposition. It's a wild thought, and one which goes against my (and Art Center's) view that the acres of wild hills that we own around our Ellwood Building should remain untouched, but imagine these little houses perched on that landscape! 

That last link, by the way, is to a photograph on, a site by German petrochemical engineer Martin Schall, who, to date, has shot 2,360 photographs of Los Angeles over who knows how many vacation visits over the years. An amazing body of work showing a somewhat scary level of devotion to our fair city. There's a story there, I'm sure. Maybe one day I'll find it out.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Have Laser Cutter, Will Build House

Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Planning / Associate Professor Lawrence Sass and his students designed snap-together laser-cut parts to build a New Orleans shotgun house. Part of the Home Delivery show at the Museum of Modern Art: small houses created with computer-aided design and fabrication. Makes you wonder what they've been doing (how they're spending our money and their time) at FEMA.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Slow Thinking and the Pursuit of Empty-Headedness

In this GoogleTalk, UW Information School Professor David Levy speaks about how our culture is accelerating so fast that there is no time for creative, contemplative thought. Levy describes this as "slow thought"--the type of thinking that requires quieting down the mind to allow inspiration to arise out of the subconscious. I was reminded of my student days when my department chair, Noel Mayo, had an expert (one of the faculty, Winnie Winston*) teach us how to meditate. I wound up using it then (especially when working against a deadline) and I use it still, though not as consistently as I should, I have to confess.

Along with Vannevar Bush, whom he credits with the invention of the idea of hypertext and the web (in 1945, no less), Levy references Josef Pieper, author of Leisure: The Basis of Culture, who wrote about the need for contemplative thought in 1963. I think designers have no problem understanding the need for this sort of thinking, as we experience it (when we're lucky) in our creative process.

We might ask ourselves, however, if creative thought is as important as we say it is, are we allowing the place, space, quietude, and sanctuary to allow true creative reflection and engagement? Are we doing enough to move beyond having it happen "when we're lucky," to having it happen when we want it to?

As educators we might ask, Do we respect this, or just give lip service to the need for it, in the typical student project timeline?

* Winnie Winston deserves a post to himself. Stay tuned. An industrial designer (Royal Typewriters, Creative Playthings) and ID educator, but also an expert banjo and pedal steel guitar player featured on a number of top bluegrass albums (he was one of Bill Monroe's many "bluegrass boys" and is known by any pedal steel player who started playing from the mid-70s on as "the guy who wrote The Book"). He was also an internationally-known expert on homeopathy.