Monday, August 27, 2012

Art Gallery of Ontario

I really like art museums, so when I heard about the Art Gallery of Ontario, I decided to go.  The outside of the building is dominated by this huge glass curved thing, which is interesting to see incorporated with the interior space.  The inside of that glass curve was made of fantastic wood supports, and the only way I can describe it is swoon-worthy.  Sigh.  The building is clearly new combined with old, and it's done really well.  Once I entered the building, I was drawn into a high ceilinged room with this huge, fantastic, Frank Gehry staircase.  It's super fantastic amazing, but I couldn't walk on it because it led to a special exhibit that I didn't pay for.
When I walked up the stairs at the other end of the room, I got to their collection of Canadian art, which was pretty extensive.  I don't know much of anything about Canadian art, so it was interesting to see for the first time.  It featured a lot of scenes from nature and rural life.  The galleries where they showed Canadian art all looked roughly like this.
Notice what's missing?  Information.  Most of the art museums that I've been to have something explaining the art, even if it just says the name of the piece, the name of the artist, and the media used.  These galleries didn't have any of that.  After looking around a little, I found these.
Those brochures had a small picture of each piece, along with basic information about each piece.  However, there were some brochures in French and some in English.  If the little box didn't have any more in your language, or didn't have any at all, you were out of luck.  This isn't the best way to manage things.
On the highest floor, the museum had their contemporary art, which was fascinating, and conveniently, the least crowded part of the museum.  The contemporary art exhibit felt a little bit like I remember Centre Pompidou feeling, but that might just be me.  I felt like the contemporary gallery was really well done.  There was also a spot near the top of the Gehry staircase from which you had a fantastic view of Toronto.  The second highest floor also was supposed to have contemporary art, but it was closed to set up another exhibit.
Overall, I liked the museum, but I found that I was more impressed by the building itself than the museum's collection.  It's worth a visit, for sure, but don't expect to spend all day there unless you're going to a special exhibit and more of the museum is open.
If you're interested in visiting, information about tickets and hours can be found here.

As always, if there's something cool that I should blog about, email me!  Especially with Artprize coming up, I'm always looking for things to write about.

Monday, August 20, 2012

When We Talk About Sustainability

It seems big and abstract.  I understand the idea of a carbon footprint, but I don't actually know how big mine is, and I certianly don't know how to feel about it.  There's a healthy dose of liberal guilt involved most of the time, because I should be caring more than I actually do.  It's just hard to connect the choices that I make with a larger impact.  It's hard to remember that I don't act in a vaccum.

And then this happened.
Near the camp I work at, there's this natural spring.  It's in this deep sort of gorge and it is probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.  The hike from my camp to the springs is about three miles, and the last time I hiked there, I saw this.  It's a staging area, cleared so that the logging company can bring trees here, to load them onto trucks.  This area will take longer to regrow than other logged areas, since the soil's been compressed.  When you walk out of the woods, into this clearing, it's instantly ten degrees hotter.
This is where my trees used to be.
When I first saw the logging, I got angry.  Angry and sad.  Then I realized that I want to design stuff, and when you design stuff that's going to be produced, that uses resources.  It's just that right now, it's all a lot closer.  That shouldn't make a difference though.  There's no reason that I should care about these trees any more than I care about someone else's trees.
That, for me, is why we must consider sustainability in design.  No matter how well we design things, we're going to be cutting down someone's trees.  We have to do this as little as possible, and when we do cut down someone's trees, we have to use them well, so that we can continue to cut as little as we can.
This is why we talk about sustainability.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Today's post is a little short, I'm writing it in between wilderness adventures.
I've been thinking more and more about the tour concept lately, so let's talk tour a little bit.
I think that it would be interesting to stop in Madison and visit the Museum of Contemporary Art there.  What else is cool in Madison?  I feel like this tour might turn into me visiting every art museum I can find.
Also, Chicago.  I'm going to be stopping in Chicago first, and I'd like to spend a couple days there, visiting places.  I know that I want to visit the Threadless store, and Strand Design sounds like a pretty cool place.  Maybe I could interview them for a post?  I feel like Chicago is fantastic enough that taking random pictures of buildings would qualify as a post too, but I'm not sure if I'm going to do it that way.
What else is there?  What cool stuff can I do in the upper midwest?  Share your knowledge with me, and then I'll blog about really cool stuff.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Packaging needs to be considered. Packaging needs to communicate clearly and elegantly. Packaging needs to stand out on a shelf. Packaging is important.

But what if it wasn't? What if we didn't have to put everything in a box? Can you imagine walking into the Apple store and seeing shelves of computers, and just computers? No box, no plastic wrap, no styrofoam. Just the product. It would be wonderfully overwhelming, the product would become a huge element in the design of the store. Unpackaged product can shape the way customers move through the store, and the way they interact with the product. Isn't that a goal of retail? To have customers interacting with the product, involved with it as much as possible, so that they just have to buy it?

How much space should a product take up? How much needs to be filled, and how much needs to be empty. How much negative space do you need to think clearly? Most of the bike stores that I've been to are like this. The main element in the store is the bikes, with very little packaging. However, most bike stores are designed by people who really care about bikes, not about retail design, so they tend to be boring. Bookstores are the same way, unpackaged books are a huge element, but they're put in shelves and become a block of books instead of an individual object. When it's individual, it can be arranged in dynamic ways, but as a solid block, the possibilities are gone.

So go, and arrange things in ways that aren't the default, that aren't obvious. Unpackage your products, and utilize them to the full extent of their aesthetic capabilities.