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  • A lack of design knowledge

    Arts & Culture, Industrial Design

    There is a lot of talk going around concerning a possible backlash against design and innovation.

    And that is very true. I see it all the time in Sweden as well, there is a huge lack of knowledge among Swedish companies (mostly small and mid-size). And it is not because of the lack of clever and talented designers in Sweden. It is the lack of knowledge how to run a design process and how to write a creative design brief. And if we top that with some lack of vision about how design can build strong brands we got the overall picture rather well.

    And when this lack of interest and knowledge is putting a lot of unattractive products on the market it is not strange why people wonder what design is really about. We actually live in a world full of bad products and bad design.

    I was holding a lecture the other day at the Malmö University with a course called Practical Creativity were I tried to work with the students according to my believes. The design process is in some sense a mechanical procedure. You have to make everything in the correct order according to a defined scheme. The true differentiator of the design process is the design brief. You have to solve problems, deliver to a demand or create new possibilities. You have to add magic and relevance. Your products have to have cultural relevance and they have to evoke meaning.

    Bruce Nussbaum from BusinessWeek puts it like this:

    "The truth is that the backlash is against the fad of innovation, not the fact of it. Th...

  • Design is often mistaken as decoration

    Arts & Culture, Industrial Design

    I was looking at a dumb TV commercial yesterday about a waffle iron that was described as “designed”. Isn’t all waffle irons designed? It is probably a quite complex process to develop and produce a waffle iron and without design it is complete impossible. In this commercial the epithet design was mistaken for some shallow decoration. The producer of the product was probably trying to describe it as “hip”, “exclusive” or “modern looking”.

    Design is probably one of the most misused words today. Unfortunately it happens all the time.

  • Breakthrough Designs

    Environment, Industrial Design

    Product designs and solutions must be inspired by nature (i.e., God) to improve our global society. The earth and all it contains are the works of the ultimate designer. Nuances, interconnectivity, energy, function, and shape perfectly coincide to sustain and enhance life for the ultimate creation: the human race.

    By observing, understanding, and leveraging natural design, the design engineer can bring solutions to the environment that solve multiple issues simultaneously. Sometimes referred to as “biomimicry”, design led by nature has created innovations such as self-cleaning paint, material-saving carpet tiles, pigment-free color fabrics, impellers and fans (which move twice the air with 20% less electricity), and a Building in Zimbabwe with no chilled air conditioning system. The electrically efficient design of the human body could even be applied to our massive and global transportation infrastructures and products.

    Nature’s ability to manage and sustain energy between organisms for common purposes is unmatched by current human invention. By leveraging nature’s design and applying first principles to mobile transport, energy exchanges are minimized, harmful by-products are eliminated, and ultimate efficiency is achieved.

  • Taxi Transformations

    Environment, Environmental Design

    Well, soon enough, not only will taxis be painted via the public project to make pretty...they will be cleaner too. I'm in disbelief! SEE BELOW.

    New York City will convert entire taxi fleet to hybrids

    The big yellow taxis of the Big Apple will all be hybrids by 2012 under a plan announced last week by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The city has been testing 375 hybrid cabs for 18 months, and will soon begin converting its 13,000-vehicle fleet. "It will be the largest, cleanest fleet of taxis anywhere on the planet," Bloomberg said, adding that the switch would be the equivalent of taking 30,000 individually owned, gasoline-powered vehicles off the streets. "These [cabs] just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes," he said. "This does a lot less. It's a lot better for all of us." Louise Vetter, president of the American Lung Association of the City of New York, agreed: "New Yorkers are exposed to some of the dirtiest air in the nation. Putting more clean cabs on New York City streets is an important step in our fight to improve air quality." The move, hailed by the New York Federation of Taxi Drivers too, is part of Bloomberg's plan to cut the city's carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030.

  • PlayPumps Water System

    Aid, Industrial Design

    After going to the Copper Hewitt’s “Design for the other 90%” exhibit, I was a little shocked they were missing the PlayPumps Water System PlayPumps International. It converts the energy of a simple children’s merry-go-round into clean water. As the children play and spin, water is being pumped from underground wells into storage tanks, saving the people time and energy not having to haul the water. This is type of design that not only making life easier for people, but provides children with something to play on. It is a known fact, that for children to grow and learn, playing is a key aspect.

    While walking through the exhibit, I think many designers forgot about the activity their designing and only the results (example: having someone stepping on bamboo for hours, to get the result of watering fields). The PlayPumps shows us that we can combine an enjoyable activity with a very important result. I think this should have been at the Copper Hewitt, because people would relate with action of play and maybe it would make people think that designing for the other 90% isn’t just about results but the activity as well.

  • Healthy education

    Education, Environmental Design


    There is a major epidemic with the quality of education in the US as well as with the educational facilities. This is more than a concern but a reality. The list of problems we are leaving for the next generation continues to grow. I see this as an opportunity and a challenge. As designers, I find the best solution is to incorporate the integrative design process. Educators, designers, engineers, environmentalists and others all need to be at the table to address these problems with education. Here a few quotes to put it in better perspective.

    " Forty years was the average age of educational buildings in 1999." -National Center of Educational Statistics

    "Forty-two years is the lifespan of an educational facility." -U.S. General Accounting Office

    Also the U.S. General Accounting Office state that air is unfit to breathe in nearly 15,000 public schools.

    For more info Minding Buildings

  • guerilla peacefare

    Peace, Audio/Visual Design


    London's resident delinquent may terrorize authorities with his graphic renderings of cops making out and Mona Lisa with an uzi, but Banksy's work often suggests a more constructive image than the persistently anti-establishment artist would like to admit. If all street art is symptomatic of the absence of a forum for public dissent, Banksy's series of paintings on the West Bank Barrier transports this sentiment to a place where this issue is most pronounced. Trompe l'oeil images of an idyllic Eden penetrate the controversial wall between Israel and Palestine, perhaps the only way to break down the barrier without physical demolition.

  • Jumping on the Bed


    I made a very exciting purchase today - an organic latex mattress. A local business, Monterey Mattress, is beta testing this new product after being inspired by a large order from Joseph Campbell's old hang out, Esalen. And there's a long line forming around the block as people give their tired wire springs and petroleum-based foam beds the boot. Does anyone know if these are recyclable?

  • Navajo Elder Hogan Homes

    Community, Environmental Design


    These housing prototypes and building components grew out of a participatory design process with Navajo communities in the American Southwest. Facilitated by Indigenous Community Enterprises (I.C.E., a Navajo non-profit) and design director Nathaniel Corum, this collaboration with Navajo elders and other tribal members produced a range of culturally-appropriate home designs. Each prototype home features an octagonal hogan - a traditional form adapted to contemporary circumstances according to the desires and traditions of Dine (Navajo) elders - and materials that are native to place. For example, small diameter timbers stem from tribal forestry restoration. Concrete products and other materials come from Navajo sources, and wheat straw bales are from Navajo Agricultural Products Industry fields.

    The barrier-free floor plan, comprised of a concentrated wet core within an insulating straw bale envelope, allows for an efficient layout within a small footprint. This system can scale up or down, orient to solar and wind patterns for passive heating and cooling, and be partitioned flexibly in order to adapt to changing inhabitant needs.

    Straw bale construction is amenable to community and volunteer participation. The material is a non-toxic and readily available agricultural by-product, and acts as a super-insulating envelope to give comfort, beauty and efficiency in colder climes. In this load-bearing example the straw bale walls serve as both structure and insulation.

    This ...

  • Nathanielcorum7_177_

    “The United States Government has condemned over 200 Indian homes on this reservation due to black mold infestation. Currently it is very common to find two or three families living in a two-bedroom housing unit … the people are ready for a change … The straw bale design is an opportunity to develop, efficient housing for the residents of the Turtle Mountain Reservation.”

    — Richard Monette, Tribal Chairman, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

    In the Turtle Mountain community of North Dakota more than 1,000 homes were already urgently needed when several hundred homes were recently condemned. In response to this shortage, the Environmental Research Center at Turtle Mountain Community College was designed as both a learning laboratory and a model for future home construction. The project features straw bale construction, which is an affordable and energy-efficient housing solution especially when built with a frost-protected shallow foundation. As an additional benefit, the building was constructed with community involvement, transferring straw bale construction skills to tribal members.

    Designed through a participatory charette process, the building demonstrates the use of low-impact (on both health and environment) products, passive and active solar power, radiant heating, evaporative cooling, post-agricultural building materials, rainwater collection, within a barrier-free, culturally appropriate design informed by tribal college and community members.

    The Envi...

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