Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Materials and Form

I saw this project today, and I was fascinated by it. It's called Not Granola, by Aaron Rappaport.

It's a Panton Chair. But it's made out of grass and clay. Does that fundamentally change the nature of the chair? I know that there are physical differences between clay and plastic, and the way they feel and move and function, but how else does it change the chair as an object? The Panton Chair was designed in the 1960's, and it looks and feels like something from that era - something that abandoned traditional notions of how a chair should be, and it looks very fresh and exciting because of that.
With mud, straw, sand, and clay, that's all different. It no longer comes off as refreshingly modern, but it feels like this strange, natural approach to modern design.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Austin Kleon on Doing What You Love

[Ryan] Even if you’re doing what you love, it’s still work.
Absolutely. I have a couple problems with the “do what you love” ideology. The first issue I have is that it is impossible for everyone to do what they love. As a society, we cannot function without people doing the dirty work: someone has to take out the garbage; someone has to make sure the plumbing is running; someone has to make sure the electric is on for all the startups(laughing). The fact is that a lot of people aren’t going to be able to make money doing what they love, so it starts to make people feel bad. That pressure can make someone with a good, stable, bread-winning job feel like he or she has to toss it out because it’s not what they genuinely want to be doing.
The second issue I have with doing what you love—and I’m sure you two are finding this out—is the pressure to overwork. People are led to believe that if they’re doing what they love, then they should be working long hours, or even all day.
I'm a hundred percent on board with this. From The Great Discontent's interview with Austin Kleon.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cadillac vs. Ford: A battle of ideals

For me, cars were an entry point to design. Cars were around me, I could look at them whenever I wanted, and I made a weird habit of identifying all the cars around me, all the time, when I was fifteen or sixteen*. I grew up in Metro Detroit, too, so the presence of the auto companies probably helped me become a person who really liked cars. Not like I knew how to take them apart or anything, but I liked looking at them. Liked having opinions about what looked best, that kind of thing.
I was wandering around on AdWeek, and I love these ads.
Both of them, really. The Cadillac one seems like a joke, it really does come off as a parody. But, you know, a lot of the people who drive Cadillacs come off as parodies, so...
Here's a response from Ford, made by Team Detroit. I think it's great! I think it does a great job of rejecting the brand that Cadillac has projected and providing something different. To me, it says "Success doesn't have to look like a fancy house, a pool, and a Cadillac. Success looks like you, doing exactly what you want, and making the world around you a better place." That's really inspiring, and I think it targets a younger demographic, going with the idea that Millennials care more about finding meaning and purpose in their careers than being able to buy a fancy car.

 I hope you're having a good weekend! I might be off the internet for a while in the next month or so, I have finals, and they might be taking a lot out of me. I'm also looking for and applying to internships for the summer, so if you know of an opportunity, I'd love to hear about it.
*I was a popular, sociable teenager.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus

I recently saw an exhibit at the DePaul Art Museum called The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus. It was surprising and informative — prior to seeing the exhibit, I knew that there was conflict in the area around Sochi, and that it was fairly economically depressed, but I didn't know much more than that.
The aesthetic of the exhibit was this sort of post apocalyptic realist look. It featured a lot of pictures like the one above, of abandoned buildings, or pictures of people in beat-up rooms, staring down the camera. It felt, in many ways, like it was doing more to make a political point than be art.
I think that's fine. I think that's a good thing, and I think it's much more interesting as a political activist project than it would be as something that is simply a series of photographs. It's journalism, journalism with a long timeline and a fairly uncertain outcome. Since 2007, Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen have been working on this, documenting people and places around Sochi.
As a person who is interested in journalism, this kind of project amazes me. It would take so much dedication, and such a strong drive to tell these stories. It's admirable. It's amazing.
Most of the exhibit feels like it's based off of this book, or that the book is closely based off of the exhibit. I'm not sure which came first, or how it was all planned out, but I would be interested in finding that out. It feels like it's still in progress, like they're going to go back in a few months and take pictures of all the Olympic venues now that they're empty. I don't even know how a project like that wraps up. Do you just stop taking pictures? Do you stop caring? Do you move on to something else?
If you've ever done this kind of a project, I'd really love to hear about it in the comments - what was it like? What did you take away from it?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Clive Owens and Experiential Design

Left to right - John Berry, director of Design West Michigan, with Clive Owens.
On Wednesday, February 5th, Design West Michigan hosted a lecture featuring Clive Owens, founder of Society for Experiential Graphic Design. It introduced me to something that I hadn't known much about before - experiential design. Experiential design is the category of design that focuses on the design of environments, but comes from a very different perspective than that of interior design. Experiential design is about the graphic design of an environment - mostly signs, and other elements that aid in wayfinding.
If you've been in a mall and seen thirty advertisements without ever seeing a sign about where to find a bathroom or an exit, experiential design could have helped you. It's at the crossroads of a few different design disciplines, utilizing perspectives from graphic designers, interior designers, and interaction designers. More and more, it seems like this is the direction that design is going in - not being tied down to any one discipline, but crossing over and collaborating between many forms of design.
Owens discussed the future of experiential design, and the directions that it might go in. Technology is going to play a significant role in it, and the possibilities of interactive displays grow and grow. Of course, some of those interactive displays will be advertising, which always has the potential to be too much clutter, too much distraction.
Placemaking, at it's core, seems to be about creating uniquity and familiarity. Familiarity comes with knowing where you are, and uniquity comes with the feeling that you have arrived at a specific place, unlike any other. When a location achieves both of those, it's truly amazing.
When the topic of placemaking came up, the focus was on temporary setups, for things like fairs an exhibitions. Owens pointed to the 1984 Olympics as an example of temporary placemaking done right. I've heard people talk about the 1984 Olympics a few times in the past few weeks, probably because of the recent Winter Olympics. I think it's fascinating - the general wisdom seems to be that the 1984 Olympics were better for Los Angeles than the Olympics have been for other cities that have hosted them in recent history. This is largely attributed to the lack of competition in choosing the location, which often causes cities to make huge promises that they spend tons of money to fulfill. In Los Angeles, most of the venues used were preexisting, or built with future use in mind. Because of this, the placemaking all needed to be temporary — they didn't want to be hosting swim meets for the next fifteen years at a pool that looked strictly olympian. It's interesting, too, that they diverge from the blue-yellow-black-green-red color scheme that normally dominates the Olympics. The graphic design for the 1984 Olympics was done by Deborah Sussman. If you're interested in more about the 1984 Summer Olympics, I enjoyed this article.