Monday, November 29, 2010

Design is Utopian

A Utopia is described as an ideal place or state. It is perfection that can never actually be achieved but is constantly strived for. Design is Utopian. Design makes up the aesthetics of culture in society and therefore is able to change it. Design strives for perfection and despite the fact that perfection is arbitrary and may never be actually be achieved design is a process that is repeated time and time again to improve itself and become closer and closer to the utopia state.

The rug above by Dutch partners Tejo Remy and Rene VeenHuizen is a great example of design and that is striving to improve society through its concept and aesthetic. The rug uses old disposed of blankets and strategically modifies and combines them to create an innovative piece of art. The form and use of the blankets are altered to reinforce the concept that just because an item has run out of its original use does not mean it is useless. The rug itself is part of the event “Reclaiming Design” hosted at HauteGREEN in New York. Here, designers contributed designs made of recycled and revived materials to reinforce the importance of sustainability. Many of the designs contributed were home decor objects such as coffee tables, magazine holders and draws that seemingly could have been made at home by the average person given enough time and thought. The pieces created by the designers still maintain a sense of higher creativity or “fine art” while at the same time remind the owners that they too can create something new from scrap that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

It seems that conspicuous consumption and consumerism mentalities are an index of an industrialized, progressive country however, designers are setting out to change the definition of a sophisticated society. Do be developed, does not mean that the individuals of society need to constantly be consuming. And recycling means more than just putting paper into the recycling bin. It may serve more purpose as the back of a note card, wrapping paper and then a coaster before finding its way to the recycling factory thus reducing the need to buy more disposable products.

Design Danger

Design should come with a warning: may sway user interests, views, purchasing habits, lifestyle or perception of the world. Humans as a general rule are visually oriented creatures thus empowering the beauty of good design and its capacity to create change. As many designers in the film Objectified expressed; it is important to operate with a social and economic and environmental conscious when designing objects especially those made for mass consumption. Culture and the constituents of culture are ever changing. Designers have a heavy impact on which direction this shift takes both aesthetically and conceptually and thus have a responsibility to society. However, not all designers are aware or, are conscious of but are not concerned with cognizant design. Propaganda posters are a prime example of designers who are aware of the power of visual stimulation and exploit it on behalf of the government or other special interest groups. Despite the seemingly harmless aim to rally support for a cause, which appears just; stereotypes and prejudices, are formed due to the target enemy of the propaganda posters. In the World War One American Propaganda poster above we see a monstrous Ape against a dark sky, city ruins, his mouth open and drooling and holding a threatening club while maintaining characteristics that link him to foreign German enemies. He is holding an obviously distressed lady liberty and stomping on the word “America”. The poster has only eight printed words yet is able to relay powerful messages. This single poster is not only encouraging enlistment but is facilitating war efforts through dehumanization and generalization and categorization of an entire country. Nowhere are the words "German" or "Germany" printed on the page but through small indicators such as the ape's helmet one can infer who the beast represents. Perhaps the designers of this poster were under the impression that they were simply carrying out their patriotic duty by creating an enlistment poster or perhaps they knew exactly what they were indoctrinating their viewers with. Regardless, design is dangerously misused and through a single image creates feelings of animosity towards an entire country.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Color transforms Design

Buff Monster, a mysterious L.A. artists who goes so far as to make public appearances in a disguise, is known for displaying his work in an urban setting on objects such as cans, posters and building walls. Recently, he has graduated from the streets and is now exploring large-scale inflatables, indoor wall spaces, toys, organized art shows and some corporate promotions.

Buff monster's work mainly consists of child like caricatures ranging from bowling balls, dripping ice cream cones and flowers to unicorns and whales. His lines are, for the most part, curvilinear and the faces angelic. However, it is not his bubbly cartoons that create his signature style but his color choice or lack there of. Buff monster's signature palate consists of pink, black, white and a limited gray scale. Buff Monster states “Pink is power” and it the pink that certainly empowers his work. He originally began with only one tone of pink, which he thought to be the ‘perfect pink’ but his work has evolved to incorporate four to five shades of pink and has slowly incorporated more values of the gray scale. Due to his limited Platte Buff Monster must strategically place his colors to make sure no tones are too similar so that his simple shapes get lost amongst one another. Each form is extremely important and thus must stand out amongst it’s surroundings. I find it intriguing that despite the relentless constraints of a single hue, minimal values and simple childlike figures made of basic geometric shapes Buff Monsters work has an opposing effect on the viewer. The work appears saturated, complex and the variation between the works is astounding. He abides by the constraints he sets for himself and creates a body of work that is divers and explores the crevasses of color and form that would otherwise be overlooked if allowed too much freedom.

As Josef Albers demonstrates in Interaction of Color when certain colors are juxtaposed they take on different characteristics. For example, when the same tone of pink is next to a white object it seems to ‘pop’ and be more lively and saturated while the same tone of pink in relationship with a black surrounding appears more subdue. Just as colors on the color wheel create an emotional movement within viewers, such as melancholic for blues, greens and purple in the right corner of the equilateral color triangle, pink is typically associated with girlie, cute and happy. Buff Monster juxtaposes this pink color connotation with somewhat grotesque mosnters and oozing mounds of sludge.The color choice evokes questions such as “Why pink?”, “What is he trying to say?”, “Why did he chose to say it in this way?” “What feelings does it evoke; disgust or admiration?”, “Can this be considered fine art?”, “Can it be considered design?”

images derived from

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kinetic Typography by Eric Hutchinson

image source: google images

Eric Hutchinson slowly approaches a piano sitting in the middle of a white limbo. A sense of floor is create with black and white block letters that read Eric Hutchinson 'Ok, It’s Alright With Me' ”. In Hutchinson’s simple and unconventional music video he utilizes kinetic typography in order to bring a new sense of life to his music. The lyrics take on auditory and visual forms thus allowing the viewers to create a deeper connection with the art piece in which they are observing. Unlike many rappers and bubble-gum pop artists today Hutchinson does not rely on over saturating his video with sideshows that include half nude women and sparkly dresses that have no connection to the music concept behind the lyric. Instead, he exemplifies the progression of music videos through basic design elements.

The entire video is in black and white and the majority of the subject matter that fills the screen is restricted to Hutchinson, his piano and the block letter lyrics that dance across the picture plane. The type itself takes on many characteristics such as instability, consist movement and extension while popping in and out of existence. Although uniform in basic color scheme and overall style the individual words and letters are slightly different and incorporate several angles, speeds, sizes, bolds and shades to subtly keep the viewer interested. Many designers(such as those interviewed in the film 'Objectified') argue that it is more difficult to create a good design that is simple than a design that is overly embellished and complex. Eric Hutchinson’s video utilizes the basic elements of design in order to create a simply charming and successful music video that engages the viewer on a deeper level through kinetic typography.


"Ergonomics" are human centered designs. The Greek etymology of the word can be broken down into ‘ergon’, meaning work and ‘nomos’ meaning laws. Typically, this word is associated with workplace items such as chairs, desks and lamps, which are all designed to fulfill health and productivity goals. However, ergonomic design can be observed in other activities and aspects of life such as leisure and regular everyday activities. The infant changing table and certain dusting tools are products of ergonomics due to the fact that they are design to fit the human body, either the whole body or specifically the hand, and conduct their desired function in a safe and efficient manor.

The ARCO arena in Sacramento is an example of ergonomics from both an individual and public perspective. The area can accommodate 17,317 people for any one event given that every seat in the house is occupied. When analyzing the complex as a functioning public venue designed for the masses it is quite successful. The parking is available and distributed around the main building to avoid a traffic build up in any one area. There are several entrances with wide ramps to accommodate handicapped and allow for a steady even flow of patrons. There are outer hallways that lead to the inside of the concert/sports hall which then break up the seating into smaller, controlled sections that allow for people to travel from one end of the venue to the other without having to climb over seats and others attempting to enjoy the entertainment. The seating itself is divided into two levels, one jetting over the other, which utilizes vertical and horizontal space and limits the observers view from being obstructed. The ceilings in the majority of the building are fairly high so as not to create a claustrophobic environment and the sound system radiates to all areas of the venue. The visual and auditory attributes and general layout of the arena are successful and are designed to provide a space for large amounts of bodies that go to enjoy various forms of entertainment. However, the achievement of mass accommodation infringes on the ability of the product to serve the individual. The relationship between quality and quantity, individual and public and money and service to customers is an equilibrium that designers must constantly balance.

On a personal level the ergonomics of the ARCO arena fail to deliver. The seats themselves are un-cushion, hard plastic with no armrests or real dividers between each seat. They are uncomfortable and do not form to the various body types, weights and sizes that might be occupying them. The space between the rows was almost non-existent and the patron that occupied the seat in front of them could feel the breath of the person sitting in the row behind. The floors are slippery, steep and the rails provided to aid in the dangerous declination are sticky and unstable from over use. In addition, the grounds and smattering of foliage is well kept but are aesthetically unimpressive as is the majesty of the building.

It would seem that a complex that is constructed to hold cultural gatherings, facilitate the exchange of information and represent the host city in which it resides in should be a reflection of the people and institutions that constructed it. The HP Pavilion in San Jose does not have much landscaping but the structure can be seen for miles. The face of the building glows as the interior lights blast through the glass front. The ARCO, however, is unidentifiable until one is standing in the parking lot. The face is mainly comprised of concrete and the signage takes no creative liberties.

The ARCO arena’s productivity and ease of use for large amounts of people is triumphant. The outer layout is obviously contrived to ensure mobility of large amounts of people and a steady procession of patrons that is convenient, organized and free of chaos that can so easily be slipped into when hosting such large amounts of people. But the comfort and safety for the individual especially when analyzing the interior of the ARCO is a failed design.

It appears that uniformity and profit won out to quality and loyalty to the individual. The ARCO is a testament that when designers are creating for the public they need to keep in mind that ‘the public’ or ‘masses’ are made up of individuals whose needs should be the priority. As Eames points out, designers must work within the constraints of the design, the patrons of the design and the hiring institution. And good design can work within the constraints of all three while still serving its purpose in an innovative manor, however when one component over rides another and compromises it as in the case of the ARCO the design is in danger of failure. I do not think that the ARCO is a completely unsuccessful design. However, I do believe that the creative processes could have be extended further and adjustments can be made in order to accommodate more of the individual needs.

Safety: X

Comfort: X

East of use: X

Performance (productivity): Check

Aesthetics: X

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Word and Image: Brand Baby

Rolling Stone, MTV, Coca Cola, Mercedes, Levi’s, McDonalds, Hershey’s, Nike, Barbie and the list goes on. Our culture is so overly saturated with brands some are more recognizable to children than political and religious figures. Children are a primary target for advertisers, through vibrant colors, the use of older role models, product placement and constant saturation of commercials though television kids are unable to distinguish between what is an advertisement and what is not. As shown above we are feeding our children culture made up of consumerism from the time they are born. The image above is making a strong statement using word and image about how our capitalistic society operates and the ethical issues that are arising as our society becomes more brand oriented.

Through the use of logos and symbols that are associated with commonly known companies the designer of this image is able to convey their disapproval of the direction of modern culture. To deconstruct the image using the philosophy of Rene Magritte this image is made up of pixels on my computer screen that create a photo of a mother and child covered in a compilation of pictures and words that symbolize companies that make up American culture. This image has reached me through a modern form of technology which speaks about the concept of the image. As media and culture develop so do the means by which people use them. Advertizing has become even more prominent through the advancement of technology. Resources such as the internet, cell phones, television and e-mail are all all outlets which have taken shape over the past hundred years and allow brands to more aggressively market themselves.

"Baby Brands" addresses the interaction between image and text through the lack of caption and the logos themselves . The image is so powerful it does not rely on any more clarification. In Understanding Comics Scott McCloud describes the relationship between language and image. He claims that the more realistic an image is the further it moves away from language and abstraction. On the other hand, the textual words that occupy the baby's body have become images. No longer do people need to read the words in which the logos consist of, the viewer does not need to speak the same language to understand what a the word is representing. Logos capitalize on creating a uniform color scheme and typography in order to hopefully create an icon that is recognizable to a large variety of possible customers.

Designers have an ethical duty to society to ensure that what they are designing contributes to the bettering of their community, after all , design is Utopian and strives for perfection. However, when designing logos or advertisements designers can too easily pass the buck and relinquish accountability for what they are creating due to their employment by larger companies. But individuals must be held accountable for their actions. They are apart of the social system and contribute to the formulation of it. Designers yield a molding power over culture and society and therefore must be continue to create with a higher consciousness of the repercussions of their designs.

image source:

Word and Image: Google

"Google". The Etymology of this funky word is derived from "googol", a term for the number one fallowed by 100 zeros and was selected by the founders of "Google", Larry Page and Sergey Brin, to be the name of their Palo Alto based company. 'Google', over the past 14 years, has grown into a household name functioning as both noun and a verb in describing one of this century's most successful companies in the silicon valley. The word google is now a search engine and the act of looking up a topic or stalking a person through the use of any one of the Google websites. The 'Google' home page has developed not only in function and form but the company itself has done an outstanding job of branding itself especially when creating their iconic logo. The font and color scheme of 'Google', which has been amended and improved over the lifetime of the company, is so recognizable it referred to in apparel, other forms of media and can be altered without loosing the essence of the design.

‘Google’ has made it a habit to accept ‘Doodle’ submissions, which it posts on its homepage to commemorated historic events, holidays, anniversaries, important figures in society and notable achievements. Kids, through world wide and local competitions create some of the ‘Doodles’ while others are derived from commissioned designers that allude to specific events that ‘Google’ finds significant. The ‘Doodle’ is ever changing and successfully conveys to the user both that they have reached the ‘Google’ homepage and the significance of that particular day. The content of the text remains consistent but the concept alters as the form of the picture evolves from day to day. The text itself is the ‘blank canvas’ in which the designer is able illustrated the idea, person, holiday event, etc. in which they are attempting to commemorate or allude to. Text is a great example of how we have been exploring the relationship between form and content to create concept. The form of the text the color, shape, size, style etc. and the actual letters that are strung together which create the concept. The successful interaction between these two elements creates a more successful conversation between the image concept and the viewer.

Shown on April 24, 2010, this 'doodle' commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Hubble telescope.

Shown on May 16th, to mark the anniversary of the first laser.
Google embraces inner childhood comic reader with the decorations of classic comic book characters in attribution to comic-con.
I have linked the first result that comes up on in the google search engine when the 'Doodle' topic is searched. Typically when the "Doodle" is clicked on it will lead you to a website where you can find more information on the event, person or achievement pictorially described. You can also click here for a website that shows more of the historical and scientific based "Doodles" posted in the past.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Glamorizing Bad Parenting

I thought the 'Joe Camel' ads were banded because of the appeal of a mature product to underage children? Why is this advertisement any different? Despite the white text in which “No Smoking” is advocated there is an obvious disconnect between the textual message and the pictorial one. The text is attempting to be a public service announcement while the image is counteracting it and portrays a beautiful, young and chic girl with a cigarette in her mouth. “Actions speak louder than words”, “A picture is worth a thousand words” need I go on? These two pictures are glamorizing bad parenting, smoking and skimpy, unrealistic wardrobe choices for pregnant young women. Pregnant women shop at maternity store for a reason and should not be pressured to remain as skinny as the model here. The girl featured in this image is extremely young to have a baby and maintains her slender figure and chic style while pregnant (when a woman SHOULD be putting on weight!) and neglecting her child. The attempted intention of the images was originally to promote healthy living and responsible parenting and life decisions. Instead of a proactive approach where the behavior sought is shown, the magazine this spread was featured in decided to show what they were fighting against. Unfortunately, there was obviously a miscommunication between designers and the creative process took a turn for the worst. In an attempt to create an aesthetically pleasing image the original concept behind the project became lost and unidentifiable thus enforcing behavior they set out to prevent.

images source :

VW: Vivacious and Withstanding

Since 1937 Volkswagon has been serving the common, working class citizen, a German based car company the name literally means "people's car". When first established, German cars were primarily luxury cars and the average person could not afford much for than a motorcycle. Today, the company has gone global and now provides cars including the Jetta, Passat and the Beetle.

The Beetle has a special place in American car lovers’ hearts. It is affordable, efficient and is still able to make a personality statement about the driver. It has inspired childhood games such as “slug bug” and is now decorated as cows, flowery meadows and literal translations of the name-bugs! Cars are a status symbol but in the case of the VW Bug they go beyond status exhibiting the individuality, economic and environmental state of the owner. Similarly to overly priced cars, a beetle easily attracts the attention of passers by. It is not because of it’s $200,000 price tag that makes the beetle so lovable but the nostalgia or sense of entertainment that it invokes through its historic face that seems to be smiling at you. The original model of the VW bug is now an icon used to create laid back hippie stickers, 60s references, kids movies, classic and reliable images. It has withstood the test of time in outlasting other car models and companies during economic down swings and times of intense competition in the car market. Volkswagon designers went beyond designing a car that is merely within the price range of the working class. They provide a vehicle that withstands the test of time while becoming a classic symbol in american society and creating an outlet for automobile expression.

image source: google image

Saturday, October 30, 2010


The film Objectified explores the different design processes and the meaning behind the material objects that we surround ourselves with everyday. According to Henry Ford “Every object tells a story if you know how to read it”. Objectified brings the viewers attention to the magnitude of Ford’s statement. Everything that is man-made must be design by someone! From the time I get up and brush my teeth with a Collegiate tooth brush to the moment I wrap myself up in my West Elm bedding, I am surrounding myself with design. There are thousands of designers who under went a rigorous creative process in order to create the objects that serve everyday way in everyday. Starting with an idea or concept and then radiating from there; what to include, what to eliminate (many designers in the movie operated under the minimalist philosophy), what materials to create from and overall functionality.

One designer that was featured in the movie, whom which I have grown to admire, is the man behind the apple, Senior Vice President of Industrial design, Jonathan Ives. He has revolutionized the mp3 player, reinvented the aesthetic of the computer and aided in propelling apple to the superpower of the technology world that it is today. Ives states that he is constantly asking the question “Why?”. “Why do we need it?” “Why is it one way as opposed to another?” “Why can’t I change it?”… “Why?”! He explains that good design feels inherent which, to me, explains his ability to fit together the user tendencies, wants and needs with simple alterations to his product such as the iphone’s ability to fit perfectly and desirably in the operator’s hand. Johnny Ives is seems to be the epitome of what designers aspire to be; able to tap into the user’s mind in order to create successful, beautiful products.

image source:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Comparison & Contrast: Gaga & The Material Girl

She rules pop culture and has taken advantage of the concept of fame in order to increase her own. Constantly the highlight of tabloid and media news, her name has become part of the international, household vocabulary. She is one of the most innovative and outrageous artists, unbound by gender, cultural or social constraints. She is forward thinking in music, fashion, performance, sex and just about any other form of expression she has come in contact with.

This description could easily describe the infamous Lady Gaga as well as her predecessor, the original ‘Pop Princess,’ Madonna.

Gaga is a tribute to the fact that history repeats itself. Both women are a new age‘blonde bombshells’ according to their time period of fame climax. (I would say Gaga has reached hers today, but I feel that would be too presumptuous and imply that Iunderestimate her ability to continue exploring the avant-garde.) Both climbed the musical ladder through night -clubs, dance music and the support of minority and under-dog groups such as the African American community and the gay population. The ability to combine many forms of art into one cohesive image with the help of many designers, photographers and out-of-the-box thinkers has been the character trait that skyrocketed both of these women to fame. They embrace creativity and allow their bodies and music to be vessels for extravagant and futuristic expression. The two pop icons have in fact acknowledged their similarities performing in collaborative efforts and in comical projects such as an SNL catfight.

Although these woman are reincarnations of each other, Madonna, the original pop culture magistrate, first broke social, racial, cultural and sexual norms thus setting the stage for Lady Gaga to be as shocking as she is today. Not as outrageous by today’s standards, Madonna was just as ground breaking in her own right and, perhaps, without her, Gaga would not be as accepted (term used loosely) in the modern popular culture world. I wait in anticipation to see if Gaga can stand the test of time and baggage that accompanies instant stardom. Will she manage to transcend to the level of Madonna as a superstar in pop culture and a timeless icon?

image source: google image

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Design as a conversation

Design is mark-making, skillful planning, a product of the creative mind and most of all a conversation. It is a conversation between the designer and various other parties including other artists and the public that views or interacts with the design. Designers as a general rule need to be able to work together in groups, bouncing ideas off of each other and utilized the skill set that each member provides. There must be verbal communication as well as a figurative conversation during which designers put forth a concept or idea and others respond. The response of other designers then contributes to the fabrication of the final product.

Another relationship that occurs is between the designer and the public. In the case of Yoko Ono, she creates a wordless conversation in her performance “Cut Piece” where members of the audience approach her with a pair of scissors and cut pieces of clothing from her body. They continue to deconstruct and strip away her clothing and are then invited to do the same to each other. In this particular scenario of feminist performance art Yoko has a multi-directional conversation with the participants, feminist community and the general public who later view the performance through video footage.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Creation from Without

Many painters, photographers, directors and musicians are inspired by emotion and personal philosophy that has developed due to their personal experiences. Drawing creativity based off knowledge, passion and past experiences seems logical and fairly typical but what about being inspired by factors that are not directly correlated to the designer or artists?

On August 22nd 33 miners became prisoners within a collapsed gold and copper mine. Rescuers were only able to drill holes big enough to provide food and water for the miners' survival until the proper technology could be obtained in order to ensure a safe ascension to the surface.

Hopefully, late Tuesday night, deemed “D-day”, with the aid of oxygen masks and several secure harnesses miners will be able to climb into the ‘Phoenix’ capsule and ride it up more than 2,000 feet to freedom. NASA engineers have been aiding in the reinforcement of the capsule so that it is well equip for the job that lies ahead.

The engineers at NASA are active designers who are thrown in a situation (similarly to our in class activity ‘Stone Soup’) given set of resources and small time frame to accomplish an out of the ordinary task. Their inspiration, one would hope, is not the paycheck but the end result if their design is successful. Their creativity and planning become the means of saving 33 lives. Their inspiration has nothing to do with their emotion, likes, dislikes, or past. Their motivations are the lives waiting 2,000 feet below the surface of the earth waiting to return to their families.

image provided by

Lampo Leong

Lampo Leong, an established internationally known artist, scholar and calligrapher, made the trek out from Missouri to give a lecture on his investigation of the “Omega Curve” and his extensive work in Calligraphy. Although Leong’s lecture focused on the curve as a symbol of the pervasive and enduring expression of grandeur and loftiness of nature and art, it was his explanation and demonstration of Calligraphy that captivated my attention. Leong eloquently creates beautiful pieces of Chinese calligraphy where the process is almost as beautiful as the final product.

Unfortunately, before I attended this lecture I expressed no interest in Asian art partially due to my incompetents in name pronunciation and partially due to my lack of background knowledge. However, Lamp Leong combines his highly sophisticated training in traditional painting with his heritage and love of Chinese calligraphy thus creating novel pieces of a hybrid artwork that have sparked my interest and awe. When posed with the questions “What does it say?” He shakes his head in disappointment. Leong claims focuses on the form, scale, shape, composition, unique style and spirit that the Calligraphy portrays rather than the literal translation of the text. Leong explains that Chinese calligraphy transcends the typical form of writing with a greater appreciation for the complexity of line more than any other region of the world. Leong criticized Pablo Picasso’s Woman with Yellow Hair for the line quality, lacking in strength, energy and spiritual quality. He acknowledges that Picasso is not known for his calligraphy but this simple comment emphasizes the years of practice and elite skill that are required to produce an element as simple as a line. This one component must create a three-dimensional space with thickness, layering, subtle curve and conveying the proper flow of the Qi or Chi; the closest translation in English being energy or spirit. Chinese calligraphy is a process that involves the mind, heart and hand in a matter of seconds. With no time to think, the true nature of the spirit and talent within the artists is revealed onto the paper in the raw. The artists must be caught up in the rapture in order to transfer the chi onto the paper with a stroke of rhythm and resilience in a movement. This elaborate process reallocates the practice of calligraphy into a category of its own; a combination of literary, visual and performance art.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Stone Soup

In Design 001 we were told to bring art making materials and to be prepared for team work and creativity in an outdoor setting. I filled my backpack with colored paper, pipe cleaner, scrape paper, paints, glue, string and anything else I could think of. I was a little concerned that I had completely misunderstood the assignment and was preparing too much for an elementary school arts and crafts project. To my relief, the rest of my group brought very similar materials. We began to make our own version of "Stone Soup" by putting all of our ingredients into the middle of our circle, or if you will, our "cauldron" . We then began brain storming "recipes"; toying with ideas of motion, different levels, what materials to utilize and concepts that help inspire us.

We decided to incorporate elements from our surrounding and placed our sculpture, a robot man, on the bench waiting for a blind date. This was the beginning of our first real group project which will set the tone for future projects to come. We bounced ideas off one another in a constant conversation as to how we would construct our robot. If one form of execution seemed to fail someone else would propose an alternative plan in a diplomatic and constructive manor. As our robot came into being we added creative touches such as a top hat, embellished pockets, and a pocket cloth thus giving him a classy, sophisticated final look.

The “Stone Soup” assignment not only emphasized the importance of group work but also allowed us to experience the creative process in an unorthodox situation. Everyone contributed something, even if it was an unsuccessful idea, it gave the rest of the group something to build on and was therefore was still useful. Had any one of our group members been absent our project would have turned out differently and possibly not as successful. This exercise made us create while lacking prior planning, traditional materials or any sort of topic thus making our task intimidating and reinforcing the need to rely upon each other for support and motivation.

Image courtesy of Curtis through the means of my point and shoot camera.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Over the summer I traveled to Menorca, Spain to participate in an archeological dig and on my way home took an extended layover in Barcelona. I found that once I was able to stray away from the commercial stores and over zealous tourist spots such as La Rambla (don't get me wrong I love the strip but I was craving something a little more authenticity than Starbucks and McDonalds) I found, to my delight, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Barcelona along with other several funky boutique shops. While exploring I noticed that
the sides of building walls on street level, tops of buildings and store windows were covered in a hidden culture of cartoon characters. In the United States most cartoon characters that are not on the television, newspapers or comic books are classified as Graffiti and dismissed as vandalism rather than any sort of art form. Barcelona’s caricatures seem to be more accepted by mainstream culture and are purposefully placed on sides of business buildings in largely public areas across from esteemed art galleries(such as the one seen above which was across from the ICAB) and reputable businesses. I noticed a reoccurring theme of soft lines that are fluid and maintain a child like quality but still appeal to a young adult or mature audience.

Even the posters and stickers, which might fall closer to the ‘vandalism’ category, exhibit qualities of design such as repetition and rhythm. I have to respect Barcelona for being so open and accepting of many subcultures and behaviors that would otherwise be deemed indecent. Walking around naked, carrying only enough drugs for personal use and being drunk in public are just a few of the loosely configured laws of Barcelona. Although I would not recommend extensively taking part in these types of activities I feel that the laws are a good representation for the culture of the city and their accepting attitudes. Not only towards expressing yourself through nudity and narcotics; art, music and theatre are highly valued by all demographics. Pablo Picasso, a revolutionary for his time and still highly esteemed, studied in Barcelona during his early and medial life. It is the constant liberated energy that pulses through the city that creates a culture that allows for such unique genius to shine through. The simple tolerance and patronage of cartoons and artistic graffiti, I feel is the manifestation of the innovative and forward thinking that takes place in Barcelona.

self provided image

First memories of design

Baby products are a huge industry. Our modern day society has classes, books, boutiques, how-to movies and parties solely dedicated to the coming, nurturing and caring for babies. The most some of the most iconic products relating to babies seem to be rattles, diapers, bottles and blankets. My token item was a baby blanket and although I do not remember my first interaction with it, this particular blanket served to be my primary experience of a successfully designed product. This particular blanket is a muted baby pink; a classic color for baby girls, and on one side has a print of the silhouette of white ducks. Although I have not come in contact with my childhood friend in many years I remember it as soft, warm and comforting. These all being characteristics one looks for when selecting a blanket to swaddle a helpless smidge of a human. The blanket is not ostentatious, no frills, ruffles, sequins or anything else to distract from its sole purpose. Although it jumps on the gender bandwagon it is hardly on the same level as saturating a baby’s room with ridiculously feminine pink or masculine blue d├ęcor. This blanket is simple, functional and innocent. The blanket is no revolutionary item, it does not have a hidden baby monitor woven into the fabric, nor does it have an infant attitude catch phrase such as “Daddy’$ Girl” or “Sleeping Beauty”. However, it is the lack of these floozy design tactics that allow it to capture the essence of the innocence that it is meant to serve.

Especially in the realm of babies and young children, where parental neuroticism can be exploited, designers need to remember that less can be more.

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The Birds Minus Hitchcock

This past weekend began in Sacramento, had two hours layover in Dallas, stopped for a night in Tulsa, Oklahoma to celebrate an 80th birthday and then returned home to Davis, California. Each airport I venture through displays art containing certain characteristics that pertains to the specific city it resides in while still maintaining a worldly, general appeal to all types of travelers. One piece that I was particularly struck by was an instillation sculpture by Dennis Oppenheim.

Here is a little background information about Sacramento International Airport’s relationship with nature. According to news "More bird strikes are reported at Sacramento International Airport than any other airport in California." As you might expect birds and airplanes do not mix well as demonstrated when headlines read 'Miracle on the Hudson'. Because of such incidents Sacramento International Airport officials are attempting to pass a Bill that enables the killing and removing of the birds in the name of public safety. Oppenheim utilized the infamy of the Sacramento birds and creates a public installation that contributes to the characterization of the airport while using flight and the resemblance to a commercial aircraft, a universal symbol of travel. The birds are large metal sculptures that act as a cohesive fleet swooping out of the parking structure towards the terminal. Some contain markings on their sides to reference windows and most of the metal cuts and body pieces are very angular and ridge similarly to jet planes. The birds are positioned to be almost striking back at the institution that is threatening their existence. Some public opinion reflects sympathy for the birds and criticizes the airport’s poor design to build on what used to be a wetland and a habitat for so many native animals. This single instillation emphasizes bad design decisions, human versus nature themes and the welcoming of unfamiliar travelers to the city of Sacramento.

image provided by flickr

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Oppenheim is an internationally known artist who has made a name for himself doing large scale public installations. In the work below he was inspired by the shape of the pop culture candy, the Hershey’s kiss, as well as the Muslim tear drop dome architectural form.

Oppenheim also constructed “Crystal Mountain” in the Dallas Forth Worth Airport where I had my connecting flight this past weekend.

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