Monday, October 18, 2010

Furniture Design

Furniture comes in virtually every shape and size imaginable.  There are thousands of different types of material used to make furniture.  The construction of the furniture varies from region to region depending upon the materials available to the local people.

The Greek kline and klismos were to early versions of furniture.  The bed and chair were decorated and some were even created on a lathe.  

Compare & Contrast

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are the top two cola producers in the world.  The red Coke bottles are recognized worldwide.  Pepsi is also famous for their blue cans and logo.  The design of the can changes every few years, but the Pepsi logo and Coca-Cola name still persist.

Design As a Conversation

Design is a vast subject that cannot be summed up in one sentence, or maybe even a paragraph.  There is no one right answer to what design actually is.  It is certainly a conversation piece that brings a lot of different people together.

Good design should solve as many constraints as needed and still be pleasing to the eye.  This is where design as a conversation can become tricky.  People with different backgrounds, heritage, and education all can have differing opinions on what makes good design.  Design that is provocative to people can be polarizing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Creativity from Without

MUTO by Blu

It was a few years ago when I stumbled across this video on Youtube.  It is a stop-action animation from an artist that goes by the name of Blu.  The video is shot in the streets of Argentina and is very impressive.  The shear scale of the project is overwhelming.  Every piece of motion is the culmination of hundreds of individually painted scenes.  The artist is creating an animation in our world, on the streets of Argentina.

The artist's characters have personality and the story is carried throughout multiple buildings.  The whole sequence is very well thought out.  The walls used by the artist create a trail of white paint over the graffiti and cement on the buildings.  The music is also timed accordingly to what the characters are doing in the video.

The juxtaposition of fictional characters interacting with our environment is intriguing.   The sequence would have been less interesting if it had been completely animated.  The characters are confined by the size of the building on which they are painted. The artist used both inside and outside architecture to tell his story.The fact that the sequence used the outside world to tell a fictional story is proof enough that the artist is inspired from without.

License Plates

License plates are used to identify a vehicle's identity.  A combination of seven letters and numbers make up the information found on license plates.  The design has changed slowly through the years, but the overall shape and proportion has not changed.

In California, citizens have the choice to customize their license plates.  This not only allows for one to further customize their vehicle, but it also makes money for the state(which the state definitely needs).  The state also gives people the option to purchase special interest plates.  The special interest plate choices are Environmental, Memorial, Arts Council, Coastal Commission, Collegiate, Lake Tahoe Conservancy, Yosemite Foundation, Firefighters, Have a Heart, Olympic Training Center, and Veterans Organization.

It was a nice reminder that design is useful and that it can benefit others as well.


Stone Soup is an event centered around the community.  The final product does not have to be amazing or delicious, but it should be enjoyable and fulfilling.

The idea of stone soup came from author Marcia Brown. She wrote the book Stone Soup, a book about three soldiers separated from their army.   The soldiers enter a town and received a cold reception from the townsfolk.  The soldiers ask everyone in town for food and do not receive a morsel.  The soldiers come up with the idea to make a soup, but have no edible ingredients.  They toss a few stones into a pot of water and begin embellishing the magnificence of the soup.  The townsfolk want soup as well so the soldiers ask them to spare only single ingredients. At the end of the story everyone in the village had tossed ingredients into the soup and everyone enjoyed the soup together.

While deciding what to do for our design everyone contributed and respected what each other brought to the table.  Everyone brought ingredients/materials to work with.  The creative process was free flowing and we worked with the materials we had.  Everyone agreed that we should make a robot.  We included sticks found nearby and decided to use those for arms and legs. It was to have a paper plate for a face, boxes for chest and torso, and yarn for hair.  We accesorized our robot with clothing, shoes, and even glasses (because what kind of robot has perfect vision?).  His name was François.

Stone Soup is about bringing different things to the table.  It's about bringing different design backgrounds into one project that is quick, loose, and ephemeral.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What is Design?

What is design? 

The question seems simple enough, but the answer can be quiet complex.  Design can be both a verb and a noun.  It is a process of elimination as well as a process of creation.  What is being added is just as important as what’s omitted in a design.  If something shows up in ones design it should have a reason or purpose for being there. Design is a lot of things, but it isn’t random.  Randomness can influence ones design but it shouldn’t control the design. 

Design isn’t measured by a set of rules, but there are principles that have been agreed upon.  Certain proportions are favorable and color combinations draw in the eye.  The term success depends on your perspective.  Different societies view design differently, so a design that is successful in one culture may not also be successful elsewhere.  Design is defined by constraints.  The success of the design depends on how the designer dealt with these constraints.  Design is a broad subject that can be studied and critiqued for as long as our civilization exists.  Even after our civilization has ended design will still be a pertinent subject in the future.  Design is a survival tool that takes many forms.  It can have rhythm and harmony or it can be abstract and chaotic, it all depends on perspective.

Monday, October 4, 2010


The National Football League is a multi-faceted corporation.  It has design on nearly every level of the organization.  It is full of design when it comes to team colors, logos, mascots, and stadiums.  It is a huge money making conglomerate of athletes, agents, coaches, trainers, referees, and even lawyers.  

The symbols or logos for all 32 teams are recognizable by most Americans. The logos have changed and evolved throughout the years to reflect the city that the team is playing for.  Merchandising the team logos have been very profitable for the league and its player’s.  The thirty-two teams that make up the league are the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco Forty-Niners, and the Seattle Seahawks.  More than half of the team's logos are based on an animal.

Each team has a die-hard group of fans.  Every team has fans that have traditions when it comes to watching their team play. Fans can go as far as tattooing their team’s logo on their body.  It may be alarming how influential symbolism can be on a society, but it is a lot of fun to watch.

Lincoln Logs

The first designed object in my life that had a lasting impact on me would have to be a set of Lincoln logs that I played with in kindergarten.  At the start of every day we would play with the Lincoln logs as a class.  The small-notched blocks of wood were simplistic in design, but they seemed to have an infinite number of combinations.   The individual blocks were mundane by themselves, but when joined with roof trusses and doors designing buildings became possible.  

This is the first time I remember using trial and error.  I would try different combinations of blocks to create different structures and forms.  Not every combination was a success and I learned from my mistakes.  Soon whole villages were popping up out of Lincoln logs.    This sparked a lifelong interest in architecture that still holds true to this day.   Interior architecture and exterior architecture were both important interests of mine growing up.  

Lincoln logs also created a sense of community in the kindergarten class.  Our teacher split us into groups, each group being responsible for a different area of the village.  Even to this day, if I have free time and a set of Lincoln logs I am combining them until I run out of logs.  The sensory reactions I had to the Lincoln logs themselves weren’t impactful.  It’s a brown piece of wood with notches on both ends.  It was the opportunity to create new objects and buildings that had my mind running with creativity.