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.

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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.

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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

More D.O:

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.

images from