Monday, December 1, 2008

Small Changes

When I think of myself as a designer, I think of two things. I think of what I want to do with my life so I can enjoy every day to the fullest, and I think of what I want to change in the world. If I had to give one reason as to why I am in ID, it would have to be because I love working in the shops. I can talk about how I love working with my hands, and how I hope to own my own shop someday, but those goals won't change things. This is want I want to do at some point in my life to make me happy. It's what drew me to ID in the first place.

What keeps me in ID and what gives me purpose and drive is this so called "green design craze". If we narrow the question so that it becomes "why are you a designer?", my answer would have to be because I want to change things. I want to make things better, just like everyone one else.

The hard part about ID is getting to a place where you can make a difference. You can talk about it all you want, but if your designs don't show this intent, then there is no point to your talk. As I go forth into the design world, I hope that I can hold onto and accomplish my goals.

Because I have lived near Seattle for the majority of my life, being environmentally aware has been something that I've thought about since I was young. I used to think that changing the way people think and act was impossible. However, in just a few years I've seen a few dramatic changes around me. One of the things that stands out most in my mind is a garbage system that my city of Olympia implemented over the summer.

It's called the Organics program. For a small fee, Olympia residents can get an Organics bin that goes along with their trash bin and their garbage bin. In the organics bin one can place almost anything that will biodegrade. Any table scraps, bones, paper plates, coffee filters, yard waste, grass clippings, weeds, leaves, etc. can be placed in this bin. 22% of the trash that is thrown away is food trash, so this cuts down on trash significantly. Everything that is in the Organics bin is then taken to a local composter. All this "trash" is then composted to make new, rich soil that is perfect for growing food and other plants.

My family has been able to downsize their garbage bin due to how much less we are throwing away.

This program saves gas because the trash is not transported as far. It saves land space because after a few years, all the composted soil can be sold, leaving room for more trash. This program saves money that would have been spent disposing of all the trash. This is a simple, real world solution to a problem that does not force people to change their habits too much. They have to sort their trash rather than just throw it all away, but most people are already willing to do that with recycling.

The only downfall to this program is that you have to clean out your compost bin more often than a garbage can because you can't put a liner in the Organics can. However, that can be solved by putting down a thick layer of shredded paper or yard clippings before putting food waste into the bin.

This is an over arching example of how things can change. It's something small. Right now, it's not in very many towns. But I think that if the Organics program does well in Olympia, it would spread. If it ends up saving money, I think that other cities will copy Olympia’s program. When I think of good design, I think of small things that will do the world good.

When Poland Spring redesigned their water bottle, they used 30% less plastic. They end up saving a bunch of money on plastic, and the world is better off because our resources are being stretched further than they were before. I think that it's the small things that really count.

The Sir Jordan's were shown in class is another example of a small change. Nike didn't even advertise the fact that they had made this Air Jordan's different than the last. I think that this is admirable because it wasn't about the market. It was about changing things for the better, even if the change was made only for the good of the company.

Over all change hasn't happened yet, but it's starting. Little by little green design is working its way into the main stream market and it's going to happen even if the consumer isn't aware of it. Just when I was starting to get tired of hearing everyone one talk about green design, I started to see changes. It was then that I realized that change was creeping in all around me, I just hadn't noticed.

My job, as a designer, is to make sure that this isn't just a trend. I want to make sure that green design is something big and real and something that is going to sweep the world. I feel that even if I live a small scale life that I can change things. If I keep my mind open to new things and am aware of what is going on around me, I feel that I will always be able to incorporate green design into my life. Even if the change is something as small as taking out the trash.

Pomegranat Cell Phone

Someone sent me a link to this today as a joke. It's an advertisement for Nova Scotia. After all the concept videos that we watched in class, I have a hard time looking at this concept cell phone and seeing it as a silly joke. I see something that could be real one day, as silly as a coffee brewer and a cell phone combined may be. I think it's a really cute design, ignoring all the gimmicky feathers. I was wondering what other people thought about this phone.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Max Lamb

In this blog I’m going to talk about Max Lamb’s work. The work of his that was shown in class really grabbed my attention because of the way that he makes his pieces. It’s tough to give a name to his work because it falls between the long discussed gray area of art and design.

First I’ll start with what it is that interests me about Lamb’s work. I love working at the shops in ID. I tend to spend 4-7 hours a day, 4-6 days a week. That’s 16-35 hours a week of shop time. Because of this love for working in the shops, I always get really excited when I see other people working with the same type of machines and materials as I do.

Max Lamb used the wood lathe to turn his concrete stools, which is one of my favorite machines in the shops. The pewter chair that Max Lamb did is also interesting to me because I am currently in the Cast Iron class.

The wood lathe, unlike the metal lathe, is a free form machine. With the metal lathe, your cutting tool is attached to the machine itself, and the cutting tool is moved by turning a series of dials. With the wood lathe, the cutting tool is in your hands. You can quickly and dramatically change the shape of the object that you are turning. It’s a very natural process. You never know what shape you are going to pull out of the material until you are done.

Once you make a piece on the lathe, it is possible to set up a pattern so that making that exact same shape is easy. To me, the concrete chairs that Lamb makes seem like a good example of limited production industrial design. They are art because the processes that is used to make them is free form and intuitive, but they are Industrial Design because they can be reproduced easily and in the same manner that they were made.

I have a much harder time counting the cast pewter chair as ID. The process of putting a plastic chair in the sand and then pouring pewter around it is an example of a one-time use mold. Once the piece has been removed from the sand, there is no way to use to same mold again. The chair that was first used is gone, destroyed in the process of casting the pewter chair.

While I think that it is interesting what people are doing with different materials, I don’t think things like Lamb’s pewter chair fall under functional industrial design. To me, this approach is more like art design. I think when someone is making one off chairs and things along this line; it becomes art rather than industrial design. I think of industrial design as something that can be mass produced.

When you cast a chair in the sand using a lose pattern, it is hard to make another one. You would either have to cast it and make a mold out of it to be used in a factory, or you would make another one using the same processes of putting a chair in the sand and casting it out of pewter. This would not make a chair that was exactly the same, and it would therefore be a similar, but different, chair.

It is hard to look at all this art/design work that is being done and say exactly what is art and what is design. I think for me the difference between one off design and art is the ability for design to be mass produced. I think that playing around with materials is a good way to find new ways the manipulate and uses materials, but I have a hard time looking at what Max Lamb and others like him are doing and see how it relates to Industrial Design. It seems more like well thought out play than design.

This being said, what excites me about Lamb's work is that when I look at it, and see him enjoying his work, I see the same things that I enjoy about my work. I think that we should learn to incorporate that play into design and most importantly into the design process. I think that when we are having fun in our work we will come up with better designs.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Termite Mounds as Models for Building Ventulation

Nature has been designing things for a lot longer than humans have. Because of this, natural selection has already figured out effective ways of dealing with things. We can learn a lot by looking at the way natural things in our world work.

The water bear as an inspiration to store vaccines for long term resistance against hearse conditions is one example of this. What I’m going to look at today is termite mounds and how they inspired a building with a heating and cooling system that uses only 10% of the energy that a similarly sized building with a conventional system would.

Termites have a symbiotic relationship with a certain type of fungus that they grow in their mounds. In order for this fungus to grow, it needs a constant temperature of 87 degrees. Outside temperatures can fluctuate between 35 degrees during the night and 104 degrees during the day.

Despite this, termites are able to keep the temperature within their mound within a few degrees of 87 using vents. Cool air comes in through holes in the bottom of the mound, which forces hot, stale air out of vents in the top. Cool air also comes up from vents within the ground. By opening and closing the vents constantly, the termites are able to precisely control the temperature without fancy tricks or expensive systems, like humans need.

When the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe was designed, they based the ventilation system off of the design of termite mounds. The way the system works is at the beginning of the day the building is cool. As the day goes on and the building heats up from all the machines and people with in it, the fabric of the building absorbs most of the heat. The building itself heats up a bit as the day goes on, but not by much.

Later on, when the temperature outside starts to cool, warm air inside the building is vented out the top, drawing cool air into the bottom of the building. Fans are used to help move the air more efficiently. During the night, cool air flows through the building, and cavities in the floor slabs, cooling the fabric of the building. When morning comes, the building is completely cooled for the start of the next day.

This is a simplistic version of how the building works. There are many other factors that the building had to be designed around. To learn more, check out this more in-depth Wikipedia article.,_Harare

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One Laptop Per Child

I think that one of the best ways to help people is to provide them with the ability to help themselves. When people are motivated to do something to better their lives, and they have the ability to do so, they feel empowered and in control. In developing countries, one of the best things that you can do to build a good foundation for the future is education.

In this blog post I’m going to talk about change that’s not going to happen overnight. This change is going to take a while, but it is irreversible change in the right direction.

Education is expensive. It takes a lot of resources, such as different books for different subjects, materials to write and draw with, and buildings in which to house it all. These are just a few of the things that kids need in order to learn.

In order for these kids to learn as much as possible, they need access to a lot of information that traditionally wouldn’t be available to them. These kids don’t travel or watch TV. They don’t have access to all the fancy electronics that even the poor kids in first world countries have access to. How, then, are they going to learn about the rest of the world? I think that the XO laptop is one answer to this question.

One of the things that they didn’t mention in the video is that the holes in the laptop are meant to attach a strap to. This makes the laptop easy to carry around. It’s a light laptop too, weighing just 3.5 pounds. A laptop this light is not going to be a burden for the child to carry around with them.

This laptop has built-in wireless for easy internet access. It also has a painting program, and another art program that the child uses by programming commands into the computer. The computer takes these commands and creates complex and colorful art while the child watches. Each time the child changes a command, the artwork comes out differently.

The children can also chat with other laptop users in the area and play games with and against each other. There are educational programs and a program that tracks RSS feeds for the child. There are two music programs on the computer, one that allows the child to play music and the other for editing music.

When these kids grow up, hopefully they will know things that their parents didn’t have the chance to learn. They will have the ability to think in such a way that they are able to change the world around them for the better. It is my opinion that when it comes to education, the more someone knows, the more they can think for themselves. If you give someone the tools to learn, you also give them tools to start thinking about the world. They question things around them, and since they know what else is out there, they might be able to bring about change to their own world. Educating the children in third world countries helps them develop skills for the future.



This homework was done for How to produces get there meaning?, but related to the next weeks homework, Humanitarian Designs and Real Needs.

I would like to add to this that in Humanitarian Designs and Real Needs, Dr. Bruce Becker talked about a lot of these themas. He talked about the fact that people in third world contraries need to be empowered. Becker said that one of the best ways to help people is to give them the tools they need to help themselves. It was interesting to hear that a lot of my thoughts on this are correct. I will take away from this a lesson that if you really sit down and think about things, you can come up with solutions to problems that seem too big to be solved.

I have here a real world example of someone who thought that in order to help impoverished people, we have to help their children.

This is an episode of This American Life. The first part of this show is about a man who went about changing the way that impoverished children in Harlem are taught. It is already having amazing results and is a vary moving story if you have the time to listen to it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

When the Skirt Becomes Masculine

Skirts are an item of clothing that have been around for a very long time. They were around long before pants, as skirts are easier to make and wear. It is easier to fit a skirt to the body than pants since they only attach at the waist. A skirt can be as simple as wrapping a piece of cloth around the waist and securing it.

At one point in history, skirts were commonly worn by both men and women. Today, however, it is uncommon to find men wearing skirts. The skirt is viewed as something that is feminine. The stereotype is that no one other than women and men who are pretending to be women wear skirts.

The Utilikilt steps in to trample all over this stereotype.

The utilikilt is roughly modeled off of traditional Scottish kilts. The utility model, shown above, was designed for men doing jobs such as shop work and construction work. One thing that is not commonly thought about is that shorts and pants can restrict movement. The Utilikilt brings freedom of movement to men. I believe it also allows them to express themselves more than pants or shorts do. This is a very well designed piece of clothing that is very functional. Other than the company logo on the back pocket, there is nothing on this kilt that is strictly for aesthetic reasons.

One thing that I really like about the Utilikilt brand is that it means that skirts aren’t just for girls anymore. I think that in our culture it has become easy for girls to wear what they want to wear. While in our resent past, it was unacceptable for girls to wear pants, they were able to break out of that mold. It is now easy for a girl it walk around wearing pants and a tie if she so wants.

This is not however the case for men. Even when wearing something as functional as the Utilikilt, men can be harassed for wearing a skirt. I think that the way we as a culture think of clothing for men is very limited. I don’t think that this should be the case. I think that people should be allowed to wear whatever it is they want to wear, without any gender distinctions.

I think that the Utilikilt allows men to wear skirts. It is my belief that many of the men who wear Utilikilt would not otherwise wear skirts on a regular basis. There isn’t any other product on the market that is quite like this one.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Remembering the Dead

Remembering the Dead

When I was five, my family moved into a house that was less than a block away from a cemetery. My family is still living there, and this is the house that I go home to during school breaks. When I was five, I don’t think I really understood what a cemetery was. I knew that people were placed in the ground after they had died, but death was not a concept that I could really grasp at my young age.

Because the cemetery was the closest place to my house that had a big open space, my family, my dog, and I would go on walks there quite a bit. I remember running around and looking at all the grave stones. I remember my mom telling me not to step on the grave stones as it was disrespectful. I also remember asking her why all the grave stones were facing in the same direction. She told me about the religious belief behind the graves’ orientation.

As I grew older, I became fascinated with cemeteries. I loved reading all the head stones and seeing how long ago these people had lived. I have always thought it a little sad that there were graves over a hundred years old. Who would come visit them anymore? These headstones were very old. You could see how the weather had worn them down. Sometimes, I would find headstones that were so worn down that you could barely make out the name and dates on them. Moss covered some of the stones as well, also making them hard to read.

Now, when I go back home for school break, I still walk to the cemetery almost every day. My family has a different dog now, and we still take her on walks to the cemetery. There are a few grave stones that people visit quite a lot. You can tell because they leave a large number of gifts surrounding these grave stones. During Christmas time one year, there was a small Christmas tree that had been set up next to one of these graves. There were lights on the tree, and there was a mini train running around the tree on a track. This was the grave of a young child.

One of the things I’ve often wondered on my walks is, what do people do when they move away? How is it that they carry the memory of their loved one with them? A grave represents the final resting place of the body, but not of the person. To me, cemeteries almost seem like odd places to go to remember the dead. The person you are remembering never lived there while they were alive, and other than the grave stone, and the fact that you know their body is in the earth, there is no real connection between the cemetery and the person who was.

My grandfather died when I was fifteen. He is buried in a cemetery about an hour from my house, close to where my grandmother still lives. It’s a beautiful place. It’s up on a hill, and where the hill slopes away, you can look down and see the harbor. Off in the distance, you can see Mt. Rainier.

Other than the burial, I’ve only been to the cemetery one other time. And yet, I think about my grandfather all the time. To me, when the worst of the pain has gone, it’s important to have something to remember a loved one with.

There aren’t a lot of options out there for people who want something that will help them remember their loved one. It seems to me that the marketers want us to spend all of our money on the funeral, simply because we are in such grief we don’t realize how much money is being spent. I think this is extremely sad because no matter how money you spend on a funeral, the person whom you loved is still dead.

The funeral is a onetime thing. Once it is done, who will know how much money you spent on the casket? I think what is needed is for people to spend less money on expensive caskets and other things that the dead don’t need, and spend more money on something that the survivors can keep around. Something small, perhaps, with a little bit of the person inside.

One of the problems with this, however, is this leaves no options that I know of for people who choose to bury their dead rather than cremate. With cremation you can get small urns that can be worn as a charm on a necklace, or you can have some of the ashes made into a diamond that can then become a piece of fancy jewelry. If the choice is made to bury the person, rather than cremate, what then is left for the family? Can there be some way that they too can have something to remember their loved one by?

The trick would be getting around this problem without desecrating the body. How would you be able to carry around part of your loved one without removing part of the body? It seems to me that if you wanted to use a part of the person, hair would be the least offensive. Perhaps elaborate knots could be tied out of hair, and the hair could go in a locket along with a picture of the deceased.

Or perhaps you could make “memory box” filled with small items that were used by the deceased. This box could be a memorial to the deceased that you could take with you, if you were ever to move. It would also be something that could be handed down through the family, and that way the memory of the deceased would live longer. When a young child would see this box, they would ask about it, perhaps prompting their elders to talk about someone who had died long before the child was born. This child would then have objects to look at and hold while they were being told about the person who owned the items. This would leave the child with an impression of the person that a grave stone never could have given.

I think that how we remember our dead is something that we don’t think about enough. I don’t think it’s something that people think about until after a person is dead. I think how we remember our dead should be something that we think about before someone dies. It’s something that should be marketed and brought into the standard burial. I also think it’s something that should be designed so that even if the family chooses to bury their loved one, they still have something that they can hold onto and see every day. This could either be a small object that they could either carry around with them, like a pendent or ring; or something larger that would stay in the house but could still be moved if the family moves. I think this is a concept that needs a lot of thought, but I think that it would be time well spent. Perhaps, in the end, having something small that the survivors can hold on to would help ease the passing of their loved one.