Greatest Universe Ever Sold

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (presented by Pom Wonderful) is proof that we have beaten bin Laden. Or at least, provides hope for the future of the American way. Morgan Spurlock (who you might remember from fast-food takedown Super Size Me) faces commercialization and product placement head on, and in exposing it, finds positives. He finds sponsors that understand where he’s going with the film and are fully behind the idea. They’re in on the joke, and that‘s a great selling point. It’s also good for the consumer.

Greatest Movie examines the effects of self-awareness on advertising, and finds the two are not mutually exclusive. This is a good thing. Advertising is not going to disappear any time soon; it has become part of our global culture. And even if it could, would we really want it to? Marketing and advertising are effective methods of disseminating information. What we don’t need is false advertising. The more enlightened companies are – in terms of what goes into making their products and what their customers are looking for – the more progress we can make as a society.

One of the major goals of humanity – of existence, in general – should be to become more self-aware. To explore the boundaries of awareness, as beings in this universe (as part of this universe). How much can we realize about the “now,” the present? How far does our perception extend, and what factors are influencing it, in real time? Continue reading Greatest Universe Ever Sold

It’s a Longshot

A group of media folk will coalesce over New York City this weekend, landing in borrowed Manhattan offices for an intense, caffeine-fueled 48-hour session. For a full day, they’ll reach into the bottomless magician’s top hat that is the internet and tease forth original articles, stories, photographs, visualizations and videos from creative people around the world. After a frenzied period of sorting, editing, designing and coding, they will birth a magazine. And you can take part.

It’s the third go-round for Longshot Magazine (née 48 Hour Magazine), which launched in 2010 as the brainchild of Sarah RichMat Honan and Alexis Madrigal. If you follow these folks at all, or read their writing, you’ll recognize them as some of the brightest minds – and coolest personas – of the online community. It’s no wonder they garner over a thousand submissions for each call, even though contributors only have 24 hours to produce once the issue’s theme is announced.

It’s not an easy gig to score, with many nationally known contributors vying for a page, and when you look at the ratio of published vs. total submissions (last time it was near 50/1000), it’s hard not to appreciate the magazine’s new title. Formulating a good piece takes time, and the effort can feel futile and frustrating if it doesn’t emerge triumphant through the narrow selection process. But, that’s not at all the case if – as David Lang poignantly points out – the process is the best part. Groups of like-minded, smart people, working as teams, in conjunction with worldwide social networks, in real time, around a common theme? Sounds like an exercise society should be praticing as early and often as possible.

Added incentive to contend for placement: this time, Longshot set up a (very successful) Kickstarter campaign, and will actually be paying contributors. They’ve also just put out the carrot of a $2,000 windfall (“That’s rent money!”) for the author of a longform cover story – enough to get anyone’s mental motor revving.

We want to meet the other people here who are inspired by this project, so we’re setting up a Longshot satellite office  this weekend at Independents Hall, thanks to the generosity of the patron saint of coworking, Alex Hillman. While we won’t be riding on a sleep-deprived high like the good peeps in New York (though Gawker’s offices are probably riddled with champagne-spewing Jacuzzis, who are we kidding), we will be holding down a corner of IndyHall at the time of the theme announcement on 3 PM (EDT) Friday (and will be there until around 6 or 7 PM), and will be around again all day on Saturday, from 9 AM to 6 PM or later. We may or may not get our works published, but we will have fun doing it.

If you’re reading this, and you want to submit or get involved, you’re already ahead. Hit me up on G+ or email me to get in the loop (I see G+ as key; we can take advantage of the real-time communication tools to make this into a whole new kind of collab).

And, some last minute pre-gaming:

1/ Forbes scored some good tips from Sarah on what is likely to get play [last paragraph]:

“We’ve found a lot of good submissions are either direct reporting that’s been conducted during the 24-hour submission period (someone goes out into their city and explores and the reports on something), or some kind of investigation that draws on history or pop culture or news. We’ve had great photo essay submissions, excellent historical narratives. The things that tend to be weakest are the deeply personal, diary-style essays that lack a contextual framework for general interest.”

2/ The Moodbook has clues about what this year’s theme will be, give it a spin.

Extra Dimensionz

Watch the (very short) video above, and know this: realistic 3D holographic prints are now within reach.

The only thing needed to view the full-color, 360-degree images is a halogen or LED light source, no special glasses or projectors required

Building on hologram technology first developed in the 1960s, Zebra Imaging has applied advances in lasers and optics to take 3D data (from Google SketchUp, AutoCAD or Maya, for example), record them as highly-detailed hogels (the pixel building blocks of a hologram), and print them onto a malleable film substrate.

A good analogy for understanding how a holographic print works – on a simple level – is to think of an audio recording taken of an orchestra, then played back through a surround-sound speaker system. The original source points (of sound) have been captured in relation to a specific center, and can then be reconstituted to give the impression of a 3D soundscape. With light, the process is a bit more complex, especially when creating images like these that stay three-dimensionally realistic through a very wide field of view.

Thousands of Zscapes have been provided to the US Military over the years, for use in strategic planning, but prices for a color 12″ x 18″ version are now as low as $1,500, well within range for a non-Defense Department business. An Engadget commenter suggested Disney could use these to cover the walls of a roller-coaster ride tunnel. ArchDaily recently called them the “future of architectural visualization.” And artist Mark Henninger  (my husband) is considering commissioning Zscape art prints of his psychedelic extrusion images.

The exo-dimensional print also gave rise to a new thought: If we can see this thing in three dimensions, when it very obviously only exists in two, can the ruse be replayed on a higher level? What if the fourth dimension we experience as time is also an illusion of sorts, a trick played by our perception of matter and energy? Will we eventually be able – perhaps like a Star Trek holodeck character – to print out a life?

Play With Yourself

Chess requires intensive forethought. Players must anticipate several steps ahead, and weigh multiple complex scenarios before completing each move.

The algorithms involved are so complex that they have been a measuring stone for artificial intelligence over the years.

Additionally, the game is a (not so veiled) metaphor for battle. King versus King. Black versus white. Good versus evil. At the base level, me versus you.

There are near endless designs for the veritable gameboard, from elegant to amusing to cultural to flamboyant to stark.

Yoko Ono’s 1966 “Play it by Trust” set turns traditional chess on its end, in ways both computational and philosophical, with a simple twist.

In it, both sides play white. Are white. Are indistinguishable from one another. As are the squares on the checkerboard.

With this set, the mental calculation necessary to play a good game includes the additional layer of remembering which pieces are yours, and which belong to your opponent.

Says the artist:

Play it for as long as you can remember
who is your opponent and
who is your own self.

How sustainable is battle against an enemy that looks just like you?

How relatively easy is war against a culture that does not look like you?

With not more than a humble color change, this design becomes provocative art.

Arts and Punishment

Smooth slabs of flecked marble. Slate gray walls. Arched ceilings. Ax murderers?

The recently opened Dostoevsky Station in the Moscow subway has all of that, and more.

One of a series of metro stations named after Russian literary heroes, Dostoevskaya features murals that depict scenes from his famous novels such as Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot and Crime and Punishment, as well as a stern portrait of Fyodor himself.

The wall art is austere, featuring black and white silhouettes of the books’ characters in action: a man is raising a gun to his head. Another holds an ax above his, waiting to bring it down on a women nearby. Continue reading Arts and Punishment

Getting There

On first glance, it’s not easy to tell that these are all photos of the same building.

This private art gallery in the Philadelphia suburbs was designed to look different from each and every angle. And to have a certain ambiance when morning sun strikes it, one that is distinct from when the sun is beaming down overhead, and different still from that on a gray day.

Each glass panel of the wall is a different shape. Each of the wood-like slats that cover one side tapers outward, changing in width.

Even the greenery of the surrounding lawn has been designed in irregular patches of flower and grasses, blooming and sprouting in different shapes as the seasons progress.

Yet the gallery also performs at its intended function, showcasing artworks without exposing them to direct sunlight. An asymmetric wire mesh drapes in artful curves over a wireframe beneath the high ceiling; the structure will allow for artworks to hang in almost any configuration.

Spend a few minutes talking to John Shields, and you get the impression he’s a dreamer. But his firm, point b, has had great success in putting inventive design ideas into practice. Continue reading Getting There

Sincerest Form of Flattery

Swiss Re HQ in London
Swiss Re HQ in London

Everything around us comes from nature. Computers, toasters, steel mills, polyester, even superconducting super colliders, all “natural” in origin.

Technology is nothing more than a human byproduct.

However, most of our creations are mal-adapted. Unlike the byproducts of all other living beings, most things we’ve designed are not degradable, not reusable, not able to change with the environment or be reabsorbed by it.

If we can change this, we can better secure the future of our society, our species and our planet.

Can borrow from the way life has been designing for thousands and thousands of years and tangibly apply these lessons to our modern age?

This is a growing movement — highlighted by a recent talk given by Dayna Baumeister of the Biomimicry Guild at BuildGreen09 — and there are real-world examples already in production and use. A few of my favorites:

1. Eastgate Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe — Passive cooling

This office and retail complex was designed to be ventilated and cooled by entirely natural means, and was one of the first to do so. By using passive cooling, the building consumes around 10% of the energy needed by a similar conventional structure. For inspiration, architect Mick Pearce and his engineers looked to the locally common termite mounds, which are built to catch any breeze and pull cool air in from the earth while sun-warmed air vents out through flues on the top and sides.

Another structure borrowing this technique is the visually notable Swiss Re headquarters in London.

2. MothEye and MARAG™ films — Anti-reflective and anti-glare coatings

Top: close-up of moth's eye
Top: close-up of moth's eye Bottom: close-up of MARAG film

Moths rely on light sources to communicate and find food and mates. Their eyes, unlike most other animal species, do not glint in the night, which would distract from important light sources (such as your porch lamp…). Moth eyes are anti-reflective. This is achieved with a surface covered with many micro-cone-shaped protuberances, which break up the light and stop it from bouncing back uniformly. MacDermid Autotype has reproduced this type of patterned surface and developed non-toxic, non-reflective  films that can be used industrially.

When used to coat solar panels, for example, the non-reflective films will absorb much more energy from each ray of sun that hits. The easily-degradable anti-glare films are also used on computer and cell phone screens.

3. Insect Tape – Extra strength reusable adhesive

Almost half of the materials in our landfills end up there because of glue. For example, a simple chair of wood, metal and fabric is glued together so strongly that the parts simply cannot be separated in a reusable way. Most industrial adhesive is also toxic.

However, geckos and many insects walk on walls, and they don’t use suction to defy gravity. Instead, their feet are covered with rows of tiny hairs, that utilize molecular attraction to adhere to any surface. Scientists have begun producing tape and adhesives using this technique, resulting in glue-free products that can stick to dusty surfaces better, can be washed with soap and water, and can be reused multiple times.

4. Sto Lotusan — Self-cleaning exterior paint

Lotus Flower
Lotus Flower

Lotus flowers grow up through the muck of ponds and swamps and bloom into gorgeous, smooth, colorful flowers. The molecular structure of their petals makes it so that water not only rolls off, but carries with it any surface dirt. Companies like Sto Worldwide have mimicked these hydrophobic qualities, and produce exterior paint that is not only water-tight, but essentially self-cleaning, minimizing the need for detergents or for repainting at all.

These are all examples of the kind of design Dayna calls “fitting IN, instead of fitting ON.”

We need to keep stimulating this kind of innovation!

I’ll end with the same mantra she did, good advice for anyone, no matter what discipline or field.

~    GO OUTSIDE      ~      BREATHE      ~      LISTEN      ~      CREATE    ~

Dream Ball

dreamball1Industrial design with a political conscience.

Unplug Design’s mantra is:

Pull out the plug from the system and plug in the community.

(ASIDE: While I am a fan of electronics, hopefully soon we will realize Tesla’s wireless energy transfer on a large scale, and not rely on plugs to be “connected” any longer.)

The Dream Ball is packaging.

Specifically, a packaging design idea for famine relief supplies.

After the supplies are unpacked, the pre-perforated cardboard containers can be easily weaved into soccer balls!

Does not seem that tough to implement. And if a small percentage actually use the balls for recreation, it’s worth it, versus simply creating more packaging waste.

The Dream Ball will be showcased at the London Design Festival, occurring next week, as part of Designersblock.

Unplug Design (whose website is currently down for me) is based in Seoul, which becomes apparent when reading the English step-by-step instructions for Dream Ball construction.


I think the main point gets across, anyway.


[via Core77 and GreenMuze]


ugliest and silliestCourtesy of Andrej Statskij design studio in Latvia come the Oops Awards for bad product design.

In the search for new and original design ideas and executions, there have to be many misses.

Though many are relegated to design-showroom-only status, and never make it past prototyping, it’s fun to take a look at what we hope doesn’t appear in stores or homes.

The anonymous Oops Design Award Foundation began giving awards in 2008 for Ugliest, Silliest and Most Useless Product Design.

They have selected nominees for 2009.

One of the interesting concepts this award highlights is that bad and good design can be very subjective.

For example, as Core 77 notes, one of the chairs nominated for the 2009 Ugliest category has already won the Cicely & Colin Rigg Contemporary Design Award, which is totally serious and comes with a $30,000 prize.

Somewhat related, and definitely in my Oops category, is this house which is currently on the market for $4 million (recently slashed from $5.5 mil).

Comments on the hideous “live-in” scuplture ranged from “That just made my eyes throw up” to “Dr. Seuss on acid.”

But someone is bound to buy it, because it’s different.

Much like the apparel that shows up on the catwalk during fashion weeks around the world, these designs are pushing the edge of what we recognize as attractive, in the name of innovation.

I suppose looking at what’s bad helps us define what’s good.

Without rainy days, who would as much appreciate the sunny ones?

Social Interaction

phila sketch clubI previously mentioned the Philadelphia Sketch Club, founded in 1860 by some famous Philadelphia artists on Camac Avenue (that of the wooden cobblestones).

Don’t think I ever read the historical sign that is currently posted in the Avenue, though. These signs, erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission since 1946, are studies in idea condensation.

Way before Twitter, the designers for these signs did a pretty great job compressing history, philosophy, biography and more into signs that measure approximately 1ft x 2ft and hold less than 250 characters.

This one holds a gem of a sentence. One that deserves more publicity than it’s small alleyway allows.

Artists found that social interaction enhanced the creation and appreciation of art.

Still does. Still does. Still going strong.