Design and Innovation Daily

The films of Charles and Ray Eames

Posted in art, culture, designers, philosophy by Dan on March 8, 2010

Michael Neault wrote a wonderful piece on the films of Charles and Ray Eames, a prolific pair of designers who made a profound impact on design during the 20th century. Noting that the Eames’ films receive less attention than their work in industrial design, architecture, photography, and other areas, Neault discusses the unique artistry of their films, the role of the films within the history of design, and the meaning of the films in terms of the Eames’ philosophy of design.

Carl DiSalvo recently commented on the Eames’ films, looking at the films as “meditations on objects.” Along with that, he posted the film “Lounge Chair Assembly” (1956).

Another film available online is this advertisement for the Polaroid SX-70, the landmark instant camera. The film is a beautiful example of the Eames’ style. Also worth noting is the way the film reflects a systems view of the camera, moving between user and manufacturer, presenting the camera as a technological object, as a useful object, and as a meaningful part of a user’s life.


More from Interaction10

Posted in culture, interaction design, philosophy, product design, theory, user experience by Dan on February 26, 2010

Picking up on yesterday’s topic, here are a few more highlights from Interaction10, the recent conference on interaction design. Talks at the conference presented an interesting mix of theoretical and practical insights into design (and not just interaction design).

Yesterday, I pointed to summaries of the talks from the first day of the conference. Johnny Holland Magazine also published summaries from the second and third days (their server was down last time I checked, so here are Google’s cached versions of the articles from day 2 and day 3).

On day 2, Ezio Manzini discussed the role of digital platforms in the economies and communities of the future. Christropher Fahey gave an even more fascinating (and perhaps bold) presentation about the humanization of technology, which implies that technology will become more human-like without replacing or replicating humans; in addition to the overview in the above article, take a look at his slides. From day 3, Dan Hill’s talk is interesting because he brings the subject of urban design into the context of interaction design—similar concepts applied to very different time frames.

Since I wrote yesterday’s post, I also found the slides from Nathan Shedroff’s talk about the forms and roles of meaning in experiences and designed experiences. The slides can be downloaded from Shedroff’s website.

I highly recommend Nicolas Nova’s reflections on the conference. He pieced together many of the theoretical elements of the talks and made an interesting comparison of the design models that appeared throughout the conference.

Sarah Mitchell traced a few of the core themes from the talks and posted photos of her notes.

Finally, Dave Malouf, interaction design professor at SCAD, wrote a compelling (if cryptic) piece about the importance of social responsibility and even activism in interaction design.

Lessons from the Interaction10 conference

Posted in interaction design, philosophy, product design, theory, user experience, web design by Dan on February 25, 2010

Around three weeks ago, the Interaction Design Association held its annual conference, Interaction10. I finally got around to reading some of the attendees’ recaps and notes from the conference. I’ll post a couple highlights today, and more tomorrow.

Johnny Holland Magazine published daily synopses of the conference sessions. Two notable talks were those given by Nicolas Nova and Jon Kolko, both towards the end of the article: “Live at Interaction’10: day 1.”

To go along with that, Nova’s slides can be viewed here; I think the compelling title speaks for itself: “Design and Designed Failures: From Observing Failures to Provoking Them.”

Jon Kolko followed up on the conference in Design Mind: “An Emerging Divide: Some Thoughts from the IxDA 2010 Conference.”

Theatre machine redux

Posted in architecture, philosophy by Dan on February 22, 2010

It’s time for architecture to do things again, not just represent things.

Back in November, I wrote about the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas, a 12-story, reconfigurable building, and I posted a TED talk with its architect, Joshua Prince-Ramus. Prince-Ramus recently gave another talk in which he discussed the same project in more detail. He makes it clear that the theatre, though fancy, was designed purely to meet the functional and artistic needs of the theatre company. The talk addresses the same issue that appears in graphic design and industrial design: the problematic view that the purpose of design is simply to make things pretty.

Joshua Prince-Ramus: Building a theater that remakes itself

Michael Bierut’s wisdom and advice about clients

Posted in philosophy by Dan on February 5, 2010

For your weekend viewing, Michael Bierut from Pentagram (the same Pentagram that did the What Type Are You? quiz and the same Bierut I linked to in the blog’s first week), recently gave a talk at CreativeMornings. Bierut talked about clients: how clients affect your work and your happiness, good clients and bad clients, and lots of advice about choosing and dealing with clients.

Michael Bierut at CreativeMornings

Editing as curation; what’s happening with DIDaily

Posted in information, philosophy by Dan on February 3, 2010

Liz Danzico wrote a cool article for Interactions looking at editing as a form of curation. As the amount of information that individuals regularly process has increased, the role of editing has spread increasingly toward individuals and consumers; we edit and curate for ourselves as we deal with large amounts of email and RSS feeds, and for others in the context of blogging and Twitter.

The Art of Editing: The New Old Skills for a Curated Life

Her article resonates with me as a blogger who (currently) focuses on filtering lots of content and sharing articles based on a certain editorial intent: to follow a theme and to provide value that goes both beyond and deeper than the daily buzz that you’d hear about even if you didn’t read my blog. That’s one reason why I intend not even to mention the iPad here. (Oops.) Of course, I’m not an editor in the strictest sense; I do inject my opinion into the blog once in a while.

I’ve discovered that curation is a difficult job: I’ve accumulated a massive collection of RSS subscriptions since I started reading this stuff eight months ago. I filter through one to two hundred posts per weekday—I certainly don’t read all of them—but in order to synthesize something each day, I have to read many of them closely, pick only the right items, and put them together with a fitting context and motive.

Unfortunately, I can’t do this every single day. Especially during school, when homework commands most of my waking hours throughout all seven days of the week, I have to forego this practice on many days (which explains the missed days over the past two weeks). As you know, I’m working on getting a system running at (I missed my deadline, but it’s coming soon.) I’ve decided that, although I plan to keep doing the same sort of thing indefinitely, I’m going to drop the “daily” part of this blog when I move over to the new site, at least for while I’m in school.

Meanwhile, some great stuff will be coming your way over the next couple weeks. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you have something interesting for me to post, send it over!

Ghost in the Pixel: Uday Gajendar’s blog

Posted in philosophy, theory by Dan on January 14, 2010

Only one link for today, because it’s such a good one.

Recently, I linked to a piece by Uday Gajendar about designing for panic. That post, although great on its own, wasn’t a good representation of his blog as a whole. Often, he writes incredibly deep, insightful analyses of design theory and philosophy. He discusses challenging issues (with challenging responses), such as the definition of interaction, how a product conveys meaning, and the role of integrity in design. In this post, he reflects on some of the lessons he learned while he was a grad student at Carnegie Mellon, which include a few approaches to understanding design that are completely unconventional and different from what we read in most other places. Follow the links within the post to read some of his other writing, which is equally challenging and insightful. It’s well worth spending two or three hours reading his old posts.

Ghost in the Pixel: CMU grad seminar diagrams & lessons.

The future of industrial design; Decisions by Design

Posted in philosophy, product design, theory by Dan on January 12, 2010

Brian Ling posted a cool presentation about the future of industrial design. He outlines the 11 design strategies which he believes will become the most prominent and important over the next decade. Also see a comment from yours truly on the same page. (And, you could actually win an HP laptop by posting a comment, so join the discussion!) I think this is a fascinating topic; the trends he discusses are not just about products themselves, but about the way social, cultural, technological, economic, and environmental forces change over time and influence design. “11 Design Strategies of the Next Decade.”

In another video from The 99 Percent, Ji Lee talks about a personal experiment from 2002 in which he printed stickers of speech bubbles and placed them onto public advertisements in New York. “The masses responded and the project went viral;” people wrote all kinds of jokes and satirical comments onto the speech bubbles, and others eventually imitated the project by creating their own speech bubbles. “Ji Lee: The Transformative Power of Personal Projects.”

Continuing on yesterday’s theme of design thinking, Colin Raney and Ryan Jacoby, business designers at IDEO, recently published an article in Rotman Magazine about using design thinking in the process of decision-making in business. As I see it, the concept of design thinking doesn’t involve anything new with regard to the design process itself, but it’s new in that it’s an abstraction of the problem-solving processed used by designers. Along the same lines of what Roger Martin, Tim Brown, and others have been writing recently, this article provides a good overview of design thinking and how it can be applied in new contexts. “Decisions by Design: Stop Deciding, Start Designing.”

Business strategy, design strategy, and competition robots

Posted in philosophy, product design by Dan on January 11, 2010

A couple cool products were posted on Core77 this week:

Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and one of the popular advocates of the “design thinking” movement, wrote a short piece at the Harvard Business Review explaining that, in a good business strategy, “where-to-play and how-to-win choices fit together and reinforce one another.” This is a basic but often-missed principle of business strategy, but its relevance is not limited to business. A solution that is both innovative and effective must implement a carefully chosen method (how to win), while the method must be developed in concert with equally careful choices in users, culture, and physical environment, as well as the problem itself (where to play). “Why Most CEOs Are Bad at Strategy.”

The where-to-play and how-to-play questions are especially important in the design of competition robots—and speaking of which, this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) season began on Saturday with the release of the rules for the game “Breakaway.” High school teams participating in the program each have six and a half intense weeks to analyze the game and then design, build, program, and test a 120-pound robot that will play this game. Among FRC’s many challenges in engineering, problem-solving, and teamwork, the robot design process is interesting because teams must develop the same two elements of their game strategy. At first glance, the game rules seem to tell you “where to play,” leaving teams to decide “how to win.” The best teams, however, will design a strategy that aims for mutual reinforcement between their robot’s functions and operation (how) and considerations of which field structures to interact with, which area of the field to play on, and how to interact with other robots (where).

Watch the three-minute animation describing the game itself and check out the FRC home page for more information.

An update on “Technology First;” new (free) book from Godin

Posted in philosophy, theory by Dan on December 15, 2009

When I posted last week about Don Norman’s article, “Technology First, Needs Last,” I didn’t mention that the article has produced a great deal of discussion around the blogosphere, both in agreement and in disagreement with Norman. I haven’t come to my own conclusion yet, but the topic is certainly more layered and less black-and-white than he makes it out to be. If you found the original article interesting, then Nicolas Nova’s discussion as well as Todd Zaki Warfel’s rebuttal will give you something to think about (also read the comments on the second one).

On an unrelated note, Seth Godin announced a new, free ebook yesterday. “What Matters Now” is a collection of ideas from over seventy “big thinkers,” including Chris Anderson, Dan Pink, Guy Kawasaki, Mitch Joel, Dan and Chip Heath, and Dan Ariely (those are some of the names I know, but I’m sure there are others in the book whom you’ve heard of but I haven’t). Download the book here, or read the announcement, or see more information about the book and its authors.

Systems design in Magic Highway USA

Posted in architecture, art, philosophy by Dan on December 2, 2009

This 1958 segment from the Disneyland TV show explores a vision of the future of transportation. It is not only imaginative but also a great example of systems design (systems design in general, not computer systems design) in that it considers everything from construction and architecture to human behavior and lifestyle.

Magic Highway USA

Inspiration from a stonemason

Posted in philosophy by Dan on November 30, 2009

To start off the week, I’ll send you to a recent Design Observer feature on Jon Piasecki, a stonemason and landscape architect. He provides a truly different perspective on the possible relationship between design/craft and nature that will give you the opportunity to stand back and appreciate both. Here’s an article, a slideshow, and a video.

The U.S. National Design Policy Initiative is trying to decide on its top priority for 2010, and they want your help. A number of proposals are listed on their website, and you can vote on one (voting ends midnight, tonight):