Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday fun...

We were at the USNWC biking and hitting the water.  They had a charity event Sunday- a duck race for Kindermourn. 15,000 ducks were bought by individuals for race day. I just uploaded the pictures, too cool not to share the fun.

The only thing that relates this to design, is the duck itself. A perfect design of a creature to float on the water. This though takes the rubby ducky thing to the extreme. I actually missed the opportunity to buy a duck, had to be satisfied buying a set of duck lips that quacked. All for the cause.

Take your mark

And they're loose
take that
A new found friend

The last boat full 

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

When disruptions bring order...

Or- I knew that part 2 (for part one click here)

(Warning graphic photos-For those of you who wanted to know 
how the injury was coming along, almost perfect)

As you witness here from the effects of the "I knew better than to take the radiator cap off while hot moment" : Mistakes are disruptions, but there are other types of disruptions as well in the scheme of life. Weather, winning the lottery, bringing home a new baby; much of which are good disruptions on the face of things. I really think though that disruptions are what you make of them. It is a choice to make them a have a positive effect. Much like Jonathan Singer from my previous post. A diagnosis of Parkinson's brought disruption, yet it gave order to his life in a new vein. Photography.

In nature, destruction like wildfires and volcanoes, though immediately disruptive are followed with a new flush of life. Stronger and more vibrant than before because the destruction left behind nutrients that were exhausted in its old life. 

With the devastation of Katrina, brought the opportunity to rebuild a city far better than before. Provide jobs and new opportunities for families. I wouldn't wish Katrina on anyone, but if it had to happen those affected need look forward at possibilities. So in effect Katrina brought order to government, to the economy, to the people of the affected region. Much still to be done. I applaud those affected and those 
who are rebuilding. Major kudos to
 Brad Pitt with his organization "Make it Right Foundation" for putting his time, energy and monies where his mouth is. There are others, but full feature on blog will come later.

What does this have to do with design. I read a book recently by Jean-Marie Dru of TBWA/CHIAT.  The agency behind the Mac Ads. Actually he wrote several books all on the idea that to hit your mark you have to use disruption to create order.

I knew that...
Sometimes the disruption is unplanned, sometimes you have to create it.
Like I mentioned in the previous post, I get a lot of work from others mistakes (disruptions) they just don't know how to bring order and that's where I fit in.

Then there are times I create the disruption to bring order. Easiest and simplist way is just to ask, why? When you are in a room full of people whether architects, clients or professionals and they are going over their proposal-when they give you details ask why.

If you get a stare-it usually means no one has every asked them that before. It disrupts their thought pattern. If they answer quickly in defense, assure them you meant no harm, just interest. This is vital information in the design process. Some have taken this approach thinking I didn't know my job. Just the opposite. Sometimes I already know the answer, I just want to hear their views and to see if they have thought the issue through. You will be surprised at how many times I get, "well, that is the way it has always been done".  Not a good answer in design.

To the other extreme there are those who over analyze. I still ask why, then they give me a dissertation on their research. Uhh, TMI as my kids say. Design is a process of elimination. You start with a cacophony of input, get to the point.  As you see here, I can ramble with the best of them.

The point is this for good design:

1. Start with fresh facts, everything that you can come up with. Basically brainstorming without constraints on the project at hand.
2. Determine the "question". What is the main thing you are trying to achieve?
3. Sift data of 1 with questions of 2.
4. Outline the plan. (Mind  you,  outline, not detail)
5. Go out and have fun-no alcohol or illegal activity-. Prefer physical activity, but will accept mental exercises with exceptions. Much like a museum show, or artistic endeavor not related to the project. Still physical activity is the best followed by a period of relaxation. 
(Here's part of our crew out with me biking on the beach-they are easily distrupted)

6. Review the plan, tweak and detail.

Number 5 disrupts the process, but will bring order in the end. It keeps you from getting in the proverbial rut.  This is just a snapshot of what I do and try to teach people. Most of the time clients don't realize what I am doing, even if they are professionals. Number 5 can also be adapted in many other ways, the main thing is to disrupt the normal process to enable fresh thinking. It makes a difference in a static, cold design or one that just draws you in. 

Disruption is good if you choose to see it that way, but really you knew that right.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Design Magnifica...

Despite having the proper ingredients there is an intangible that some possess in their field, that cannot be defined. Jonathan Singer has it. Since one of my inspirations this month is Vermeer, it is very fitting to bring up Singer's work. Both have a perfect understanding of lighting.

In the Smithsonian's collection of rare books there is only one(series) of modern author/artist. That is Jonathan Singer. The Smithsonian usually only has books in their collections that are published before 1840. Jonathan's "Magnifica Botanica" is included because of its shear rarity-only 10, and the awesome beauty and perfection. His work has now moved from the Smithsonian to New York at the Throckmorton Gallery and I encourage you all to make the effort and see in person. Otherwise you can view some of his work online. Only the uber wealthy need to think about purchasing one of the original remaining handmade eight books. Singer spent over 800k producing the first volume.

There is more to Singer though, I am an ardent fan of backstories, he is a foot surgeon. That is until he found out he had Parkinson's disease and he declined to risk his patients' health. Then he turned to his love of photography. Catch the video to learn more. (scroll down to bottom of blog to turn off music first).

There is much to learn here.  
  1. Follow  your passion.  
  2. Nature is the ultimate inspiration and master for all design.  
  3. Follow your passion.


Watch CBS Videos Online

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cool 3-D Film...

Machu Picchu

Turn off blog music player below to view video. No dialogue just sounds.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

I knew that....(warning graphic photos)

What on earth am I doing inside on this beautiful Saturday. Working for a couple of hours. Then heading out to the Whitewater Park to get some biking in. Last week, I tried, but my dear son decided to take the radiator cap off his car while hot. Well, you know.  Doing well now, fortunately missed his face by a hair. He hurt his pride more.  I started to give him the lecture on car safety. He just shook his and said what we all do in similar circumstances and said... I knew that.

(Safety warning: don't do this-ouch and have to admit I did photoshop the color to make it look less painful online. Didn't want to really gross anyone out)

We all make mistakes that we knew better. Like the time I dyed my hands purple while screen printing because after I was done I realized I forgot to put on liquid glove. Stayed that way for three days. 

A good portion of my work is fixing these type of errors for clients. Moments when they knew better, but okayed something stupid on their house. One client was having his dream home built on the lake. First major error; the whole reason it was their dream house was they finally would get that pool they wanted. Yet, their builder forgot to tell them that since they backed up to the lake, they had a bigger setback.  Now, they couldn't have their dream pool, until they called me. I was able to design the project with the pool on the side of the house, giving it an ornamental fountain look. We were granted the variance-first ever of that type for a very high end community. Yea, right.

Until, while siting the pool and the client mentioned that he fired the builder, took over himself. I said uh-ooh. He said he was real happy with the pace things were going now, they just finished the upper terrace. So proud he was, until I mentioned that the spiral staircase was missing, now there was no way to exit the rear of the house to reach the pool. This on a 2m dollar home.  So, I designed a minimally invasive  yet attractive correction which wrapped to the side.

Mistakes keep me working. I would rather not come in after, but it is what it is sometimes people just have to learn their lesson.  The smartest fellow I met was a successful physician, a specialist. He hired me to be his ghost designer of sorts. The request he made preserved his ego, while letting me have the freedom to keep his project sharp.  Basically, he said: " Alice, I am a really good doctor, don't have time for learning this house stuff can you  give me weekly lessons on what's being done so I can take credit for it with my friends".  Now that's honesty. We came to a mutual agreement and everyone was happy.

In fact you might have seen some of my work, just not realized who made it happen. I am called in by other firms to fix glitches or when they have design blocks.  Yes, even the best have an off day, I fill in holes for the pros as well the general public on an as needed basis.  Sometimes a client is very creative, but doesn't know how to make their dream happen. We are the first stop. Before architect, before builder. Sometimes the client thinks something is wrong and just wants a second opinion. We work in total confidentiality.

I have no ego at this stage in my career, I do have confidence in abilities. It serves no one not to find a way to make it happen.  I am very tired of seeing people spend money for bad design. The new era of design, will be more, should be more collaborative and integrative. I love putting the right team together, seeing the talent. That to me is when magic happens. This is the era of creativity, where the right brainers take over-stay tuned and I'll betcha you'll say "I knew that"...

Part 2-when disruptions bring order

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Recycle, Reblog, Retweet....

I've had this version of my blog up since February, I wasn't sure when I started what to write. I figured I would just jot down random thoughts and hopefully it would find it's voice. I've gotten some good feedback, but after reading others blogs I'm wondering if I should just reblog, like recycle. Because it saves time, which is money, which is really saving energy. 

Several blogs I've run across recently are just snippets taken from other blogs. One I had to go back three levels to find the original information, which by the third blog entry had lost the original posters name as well as giving incorrect information on the pictures and the parameters of the project.

Reblogging has gotten so bad, recently I had a question from someone saying I needed to post the sources on my blog. Uhhh, unless noted, I am the source I wrote back. That just doesn't seem good enough now. I, also it seems, I should have a good track record on commenting. Don't even get me started on Twittering. I love Twitter, but ReTweeting by some is an epidemic. Here's a hint, rule of thumb ratio for original tweet to retweet. Good is 10:1, acceptable is 7:1, tolerable is 5:1,  crazy is 3:1, booted from following is O:1. 

So as for my Monday morning rant, I wrote it and I stand by it. Feel free to retweet and reblog, within the appropriate ratio, that is. You can quote me.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Legos, the new duct tape...

Credit: Venti Eventi - Bocchignano/Rom 2007

Thanks to Platform 21 who inspired this unique repair.

 I often think architecture goes to to extreme, dull to overly designed, often without a sense of humor. Today,  I was surprised when someone sent me this. After investigation this was part of a project for people to get creative with repairs. There were specific guidelines put on " platform 21' repair manifesto from the Netherlands. One of which was for product designers, to design the products to be repaired.  Such wisdom, this frustrates me to no end. I will never advise a client to use a product that cannot be repaired unless they  get a "deal" where it is less expensive to replace it than fix it. Never in a position where it is a safety issue, or foundational to the construction of the project. "Deals" should only be used in the superficial areas of construction.

This project was called dispatchwork. What I like about this it changes the way people think, it broadens the mind and opens it to new possibilities in design. It is the "far" right brained side of design.  The area which is true creativity, where inventions happen, where people solve the great ills that affect us. Sometimes it is just for the sake of saving money and not wasting something that has just had a off day.

A recent client was disgusted with her fountain. Leaked, lopsided, off color. So instead of buying a new one, I encouraged her to let me restain it with acid, as well as building an overflow pool for a basin. The fountain turned out wonderfully. See...

Can you believe this thing, with the wire hanging out was for a 3m house. Inexcusable. But, with a few hundred dollars we transformed it to a fountain worthy of the property.

So happy endings, I encourage you all to take another look yourself no matter what the broken item is, to see if a repair would take it to a new level. Expand your parameters and exercise both sides of the brain.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Where you go, I will follow...

I am a big singer/songwriter fan as most of you know. Carole King, she's the epitomy of the genre. Tapestry was my first album and still my most played. I normally don't advocate people following a crowd, really I'm not doing that now. I just want you to follow the passion. None listed here are without a passion for their work, for their art. Each walks their own path. So in that way, please follow their lead by finding your own path and inspiring us all. Some have made it, some are on their way up, one is already a legend historically.  When I first started in design I was admonished that I was only as good as those who would produce my work. I never forgot that. To this day, I still visit each and every provider personally. 

It is such a compulsion, even my mail/package guy Ash is the best mail guy around. In his shop he is so detailed oriented he often repackages my things and changes the shipper to be sure nothing breaks and I get the best price. I once had to get a package to my son during his travels for the Army. He had a one day stop in a city. Ash walked the package through, confirmed pickup. Then called me the next day to tell me that they delivered it three hours early. The package was picked up by a neighbor and gave me the neighbor's name. He then called back to ensure when my son got in the neighbor handed it over. That's passion.

So here goes Aprils list of inspiration.

Focus: Wood

Inspiration postings are running late this month. Here's some to look forward to. Finally caught up with Steve Ballenger from Zepsa after meeting him in New York. 
I was impressed with the woodwork then. Now, after being in their shop, nothing will every fully meet my expectations. I actually saw the makings of a yacht. The bar was the size of my whole kitchen. Perfection each step of the construction process, so perfect I'm sorry I can't show you all their trade secrets.  Just a tease, just a sample. But enough to enjoy. Never a nail head, never a hint of putty, chip or splinter. No visible means of attachment to any surface. Stairs that float, defying gravity. Designed to impress, designed for posterity.

Focus: Iron
Then there is Stewart Hallman. Stewart's business: Hallman Fabrications is not just an ordinary metalsmith studio. From large steel supports for buildings to intricate railings for churches and restaurants. He is one of the magicians I call on  make my work happen. Here with his assistant Ryan Ingram.
 Always on the cutting edge, but low key by far. Stewart has never shirked at my drawings, always adds his creative touch  just grins and tells me he'll figure a way. Check out the loop on my website to see a scribble of a bench I did onsite and the bench being delivered (sans wood seat). What you see them sitting on is a new machine made just for cutting out details like the lions head  you saw or anything you can think of actually. If you want to make him smile, ask him about riding his "bikes".

Focus: Letter Arts***New FLASH***read on to see...
Ahh, can't miss Jen Grove. Jen is an illustrator and calligrapher; her work will be on display for the events running up to the Kentucky Derby. 
She illustrated a horse and I have shots of the works in progress.  Her work will speak for itself. She actually was a bit shy of letting me use her non pro pictures-her words. She said the lettering isn't that good, that's why she took the pictures at a distance. Really, she is so funny. I dare any of you to letter a carousel horse by hand and see what you come up with. This is just eye candy.

***This just in, Jen was one of the merit finalists in Gallopalooza. Big Congrats, check all the artists' works out at the Kentucky Derby.***

Focus: History
Going old school, Jan Vermeer's was a master painter, but also a master designer. Known for his use of light, his paintings just draw you in by the precise placement of every stroke. He always had a focal point. In some paintings you can even see the pin mark of the vanishing point directly on the canvas.  If you are a student and want to learn the art of lighting and placement this is the master. If you are a pro, then just take it all in and be rejuvenated. If you want a bit of escapism and a fictionalized film of a moment of his life check out " A girl with a pearl earring".

Focus: Trendsetters
Ian Schrager's Hotels. I love The Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. Mainly because the hotel not only fits the ambiance of New York, but also adds its own personality to the city's vibe. That is saying a lot for city like New York. The inspiration for the recent wave of upgrades to traditional hotels, he recently joined with Marriott for his own signature line of hotels called 

When it comes to the culture vibe of a city, I want to see character.  With Shrager going with Marriott, we won't be getting a Gramercy Park type hotel in our city, but we can have a taste without going the route of generica.

Simply said, we are overwhelmed with generica in design. Though there is some comfort in knowing no matter where I travel, I can find a McDonald's. Best fries in the world. 

Ian Schrager leads the way and I for one don't mind following. 

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Natural Design of Palm Sunday....

There are seasons in life, that just take my breadth away. This week is one of them. Today is Palm Sunday. This post has everything to do with my personal design. Very personal. So fair warning if you don't want to get involved quit reading now.

Years ago, though brought up in a church I understood only the concept of God, not the God who is personal. It was design that made it all make sense. God makes sense out of chaos, like a designer does. 

Today, stands in the moment of history where Yahweh, Yeshua, Jesus... obeyed and decided to enter the city where he knew he would find his horrible death while knowing  his Father would turn his back. Why, because he loved me and knew I couldn't take the pain. Why, because he knew he would overcome death by being resurrected and forever give us hope and stand with us if only we believe in him. Why because that is what he was born to do. His natural design.

A week and half ago, my husband injured his back, but found out he had cancer. We don't have all the answers, but we do have God. He is in control, and he has a plan, and he wants us to serve him by helping others.  We just have to trust him. Just like at the first Easter. On Palm Sunday He rode into the city triumphantly knowing that the battle would be won. 

Reality is that by design, as soon as we are born our bodies start to die. We are to live each day as if it is our last and not take anything for granted.  Our lives are not our own to do what we please if we are believers, our whole purpose by His design is "so that" others can know the love of God. Otherwise as my mentor and pastor David Chadwick has said life is just a big "so what".

Me, I cannot fathom living life with "so what" mantra,  choosing "so that" is the only way to go.