Thots and observations about design  2006-2011


This is a cool design for New Years. Its a mirror ambigram - the 2 flops down to become the 5. It was designed by Frank Nichols, a New York designer, as his New Year's card for 2005.  December


This is so cool - an umbrella that lets in some light and forms a dappled shadow - like the canopy of light that filters down to the forest floor. It even comes with the bird on top. It is from a design collaborative in Holland called Droog (rhymes with rogue). There is an exhibit at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York city of many of their products. Fantastic stuff - functional and imaginative. Link to their website.   December


At Nathan's Original hot dog stand at Coney Island, I saw these two different ways to get ketchup and mustard. The one with the color-coded support arms communicates more clearly. Neat idea. And the hot dog was excellent.   August

In New York this summer, I went to a great design exhibit called Sauma [Design as cultural interface]. It is a showcase of innovative design from Finland. From the wall text: The task of the designers is to create the best possible solutions by merging the wisdom of tradition and the excitement of innovation. The designers are deeply rooted in the traditions of craftsmanship and cultural environment. They shape our daily experiences by creating tangible objects that give us a way to relate to the world. As keen observers, the designers translate the newest technical innovations into practical tools. Thus design can be understood as a cultural interface that facilitates navigation in the world of ever changing cultural, social, and technical demands.  Their website.   July


When you pay the suggested admission of $8 at the Brooklyn Museum, you get this tag on a string to wear to show the guards that you paid. This is common practice in museums - to provide something to wear on your person. Most museums use metal buttons with fold-over tabs or an adhesive-backed sticker to put on your clothes. This was the first time I got one with a tie string, presumably to wrap around a button. I and my friend were each wearing tee-shirts. Where do you put it on a tee-shirt? I asked the ticket seller behind the counter. She said some kids wear it around their wrist. Not going to work for me - the loop was not big enough. She also mentioned she had heard others question this, also. This is just bad design - to produce a wearable tag that has to be tied or wrapped around something. Is this museum not aware of how many people wear tee-shirts. now, especially in the summer?
Note on museum admissions - I have long felt that teachers should get into any museum for free. Reasons: 1. Teachers don't get paid enough and this is one way for corporations to supplement pay and benefits. 2. Teachers are great salespeople for museums. They schedule field trips, encourage students to visit museums, share info from the exhibits in class. Some museum visits are necessary study and research for many teachers.

Above right: here's how I wore the tag from the Brooklyn Museum - I slid my glasses frame through the string loop. The ticket seller laughed and the guards got a kick out of it. A few minutes later in a crowded elevator, a whole bunch of school-age kids were giggling and laughing at the silly old man with the tag on his face. I continued with a serious conversation, swinging the tag all over my mouth and face. That just made them laugh harder. Stupid, unresponsive design that turned into something fun (and silly). After I got tired of the annoying string in front of my face, I removed the tag and put it in my pocket. If I had been stopped by a guard I would have shown him/her the tag and commented that I couldn't find a place to tie it to my tee-shirt. Of course, the guard wouldn't really care, but maybe someday, someone will address this design problem and make it better - for the museumgoer and the museum.  July



I thought St. Patrick's Cathedral might be all decked out for Easter, so after my morning coffee at Starbucks in Union Square, I subbed up to Fifth Avenue and the Cathedral. As I approached from a block away I noticed the side street was barricaded. Sup with that? When I got to Fifth, the street was packed with people. An Easter parade (I thought that was just a movie)? protests? street fair? alien probing seminar? Nope, just a bunch of people doing New York. Then after I noticed the second and third outlandish hat extravaganzas, I realized people had spent time and money making spectacular Easter Bonnets and they were just parading and showing them off. Others were snapping pictures and touring the various millinery creations. It was a beautiful day. I never did get inside the Cathedral cuz the line was too long for the next service but I was spiritually inspired by the funky hats.  New York City, April

I was sitting at the Border's Books on 59th and Lexington (I had just come from seeing the Frank Gehry collection of jewelry at Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue). I was watching people meander around the store when one person approached this narrow passage, stood on the floor, and the floor moved. First it moved her forward about two feet (her feet didn't move) and then - and I'm not making this up - the floor she was standing on began to move up at an angle, like a staircase but she didn't have to climb the steps. By golly, she just stood there. What a great invention that is. You stand on the floor, don't move, and the floor takes you up to the next level. You just stand there. Holy cow. What's next - a small room that goes straight up and down?  New York City, April

The other day, I got inside a machine that I store at my house in a special room. I sat in a comfortable adjustable chair and by moving my feet and arms this machine smoothly transported me to wherever I guided it to go. I sat in a lounge chair, in a climate-controlled environment, and listened to music on a custom sound system of songs that I had programmed earlier. I was quite comfortable and without having to exert much energy, I was transported to stores and restaurants, all in a matter of minutes. I call this amazing machine my PTU, Personal Transit Unit. What a great age we live in. We no longer have to walk or ride a horse to get around.  April

Showing the credits for a movie after the movie has begun is like putting a picture behind text in a print ad. Its annoying - if the director wants me to get into the picture, don't interrupt with stuff to read - stuff that I don't need or even want to read. And if the director wants me to read these credits, don't interrupt them with dialogue, visuals, or plot. I came to see a movie. Boosting the egos of the production crew and stars is useless. Let me just watch the movie. If I really care or want to know who the cinematographer, costume designer, or grip was, I'll sit through the credits at the end.  March


You know how, when you get a margarita, sometimes there is too much salt to sip? Sean has a great solution - he just slides the lime around a bit and it cleans the glass. When you're out drinking margaritas (or in drinking margaritas) you don't want any more hassles than necessary; you want life to be easy, hence, the lime glass cleaner. March


This doorhanger is a great application of an ambigram - a word or phrase that can be read right-side-up or upside-down. Even the package design is an ambigram. No matter how the store stocks the products on the shelf rack, it will be oriented correctly. A brilliant way to communicate how it works. More on ambigrams by John Langdon. Website to order the door hanger This Grandfather Clock is one of many great products from Thwart Design. Click on Progress on the home page and click on the product headings. Each category is worth a look: Break the Blob, The Living Room, Design w/o Reach, Apparel, Three-D, and Two-D. If you like Thwart's stuff, you might also check out Droog. March


The shelf display looks like a big bowl of ice cream with photo-realistic images of scoops of ice cream on the top of the bowl package. There are slots for the scoops to sit in that support them for display - beneath the photo is a layer of styrofoam. The shopper gets to view the product and see it in 'use'. It is also more eco-friendly since each scoop doesn't need its own box or label. I saw this in an outstanding natural/organic food store in Lawrence, Kansas, the home of the University of Kansas and the new home of good friends, Lon (former UCO Professor) and his wife Janet.
Spent an afternoon visiting and touring the Hallmark Cards design offices with Casey, a UCO grad and former adjunct teacher. We then drove around KC and shot fotos of the two houses that Walt Disney lived in after his family moved from the small town of Marceline, Missouri to Kansas City. Other KC sights: the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (see below) and Country Club Plaza, one of the first shopping centers built in the USA. Later in the weekend, I had coffee with Brandon, another UCO grad, who works at an ad agency in Lawrence. Lawrence is a great town and KC is a great city. Fun weekend - and the New York Giants won the Super Bowl. Febuary

The new Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City

Looking from the office suite towards the main entry and the Cafe beyond. The ramp on the right leads down to the galleries. From left to right: the information desk, ramp to the new galleries, doors to the Sculpture Park, and facade of the original building.

A fountain sculpture in the new Noguchi Court. The Sculpture Park and the original building can be seen outside. Rush Hour, a sculpture by George Segal greets visitors. New building on the left, original building on the right.
The fotos above are of the great new addition to the classic Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Designing an addition to a building can be a tough task - how to respect the existing and yet provide new spaces. Options:
     1. Mimic the original structure
     2. Encase or disguise the original
     3. Visually overwhelm the original with a more powerful new structure
     4. Convey a few original elements in a subtle new building
     5. Ignore the original completely
     6. Build a new structure that has minimal visual ties to the original but respects its style and mass
The addition to the Nelson-Atkins by Steven Holl Architects works well - the structures are such a departure in their asymmetry, clean lines, and masses of walls and glass that they do not even try to fit in with the classic building. The new entry joins the sections quite well and allows each to hold its own importance for the visitor. Febuary

The Liberty Science Museum

Entry to the exhibits, store to the right Hordes of kids
The Museum across the Hudson River in New Jersey recently reopened with an impressive new addition and new exhibits. The day I went, however, was also the day that 2,000-3,000 kids from the Police Athletic League went. Despite that noise and crowd, I observed some neat stuff:
• In the IMax theater (where I saw a big movie about Hurricane Katrina and the loss of wetlands in Louisiana) a chaperone was telling his charges, "Move down" (he meant move down the row). The kids looked confused. That had just climbed up the steep aisle stairs looking for seats. The chaperone could have meant "Move down" (to another row). 'Move down the row' and 'move down a row' are very similar commands. Often, the context helps us determine which is meant, but, in this case, the context didn't help much - "Move down" could have easily meant either option. He had to keep repeating himself and gesturing before the kids understood exactly what he meant.

View across Hudson Bay to Manhattan - I can see this museum from my apartment window
•  Exhibits that were 'hands-on' were much more popular than those with just text, images, or stuff to look at. Kids even punched 'buttons' that were actually just bolts or circles. This generation has gotten used to a push-button world that was the stuff of science fiction not too long ago.
• In the Communications exhibit, a father was getting impatient with his girls who were at a busted exhibit. "Come on girls, that's not working." "Come on." he repeated. He probably couldn't understand why anyone would stay so long at an out-of-order exhibit. Finally, one of the girls turned to him, "We're pretending". How cool - the girls found a way to make the exhibit work - just use your imagination. Old guy couldn't see it cuz he probably lost his inner child a while back. The girls played a bit longer, then joined dad and the rest of their party who had moved on.
• Some of the exhibits had a phone number listed next to them so you could call on your cell phone to hear an audio tour explanation about that exhibit. August


Spec (short for speculative) work is submitting design solutions to contests or requests for artwork that might result in a paying job. Submitting this spec work cheapens the profession and encourages the public to perceive that design is just art - pretty pictures.
The NO!SPEC campaign unites those who support the notion that spec work devalues the potential of design, cheapens the profession, ultimately does a disservice to the client, and encourages the public to perceive that design is just art - pretty pictures. Peruse their website for more information and ways you can help: No!Spec campaign. July


This foto shows a good example of why one shouldn't put text on the front of a booth or counter. It may look good on the drawing pad and during set-up, but, once the doors open, people will stand there and obscure the text.


Edgar Tafel was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentices at Wright's Taliesin school in Wisconsin. When Wright was commissioned to build Fallingwater in the forested countryside outside of Pittsburgh, he assigned 3 apprentices to oversee the design and construction of the house. Edgar was 24 years old at that time (he was born in 1912.) Well, I went to his 95th birthday celebration at the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Gallery near SoHo/Village. But not too impressive since I had no idea who Edgar Tafel was until I held the door open for him and his caretaker. I was going to the AIA to see 2 films about Fallingwater, one of which starred Edgar. The birthday party was just a nice surprise - it turned out to be pretty neat. One of the films was a reunion of the three apprentices talking about the building of Fallingwater; the other was about the process of rebuilding the cantilevered terrace that juts out over Bear Run Creek. A fun, educational, and inspiring evening out in the city. March


This is a cool product - a watch showing all 24 hours in a day. The idea of breaking a complete day into two parts is sort of silly - am and pm. Imagine how much simpler our lives would be if we never again had to write or print the time followed with an am or pm. I have long thought it would be a good move to switch to 24-hour time. The military has been using it for quite a while. When the computer industry (which uses 24 hour time) became predominant, I was hoping that our culture would embrace it and adopt if for everyday use. But, alas, we were resistant to change. Example: the USA has resisted switching to the metric system even though most of the rest of the world has and most of our products lists weights and measurements in both systems. Weblink.


• McCain: solid, straight lined, no-nonsense, military, star, waving flag in the background, dark background, symmetrical centered layout. Conveys strength, military, static staus quo.
• Obama: exploited O (for unique name and to counter 'W' of 2004), rolling plains of middle America, sunrise, soft blue, flag of red/white/blue, and white background. Conveys hope, motion forward, and optimism.


Note how the newer buildings on the left respect the older buildings with the alignment of the ornamentation bands.
Across 5th avenue from the Met. Downtown in the Financial District.


The photo on the left is of a signboard in the WinterGarden atrium in the World Financial Center. It publicizes upcoming events on the monitor at the top of the unit. Okay, so far. But look at the sign added to the base - 'Please do not step or sit on base'. Bad design. Instead of a sign telling people what they cannot do, design the unit so there is no tempting seating area. Then, there is no need for a sign. The solution here is not about designing a better sign, its about designing better units - to be more respectful of their environment and more user-friendly.

Every now and then, I'll hear a design student or novice designer express disdain or opposition to a typeface (like Comic Sans, Papyrus, Fajita, etc.) I've even known teachers to hate a certain color. A shame. A designer should not hate any color (or typeface, or shape). There are appropriate uses for any element. There is a design problem that needs the typeface Comic Sans because it works well in that situation. Designers decide when any specific element is appropriate - that's their job. Hatred and extreme bias cloud one's objectivity to make valid, appropriate, and rational design decisions.


I found a new way to waste less. For years, I was getting a cup every time I ordered coffee at Starbucks. I requested 'no lid' since I didn't need one and it was just a waste. Then I bought a reusable plastic Starbucks cup that I took in with me and reused. In April, 2008, I was given a great gift of a ceramic cup that is all white and looks like a paper coffee cup. So, I started using that one at Starbucks. Then I realized, why not take it into every restaurant? Why get a new cup or glass every time I eat out (which is a lot). I keep the cup in my car and rinse it out at the restaurant before putting it back into the car. This eco-friendly ceramic 'I am not a paper cup' was designed by James Burgess and is a double-walled thermal porcelain cup with a silicone top. I used to get 12-15 cups per week. Now with this reusable ceramic cup, I am saving the materials, manufacturing, shipping, storage, disposal, and landfill of about 700 cups per year. Order info. April 22 (Earth Day - a nice coincidence)


Now this is a fabulous idea. Above on the left are the former coins used in England. On the right are the new coins. They look fresh and new - the heraldic icons have been cropped and zoomed in on. A young designer won a public competition and devised a stunningly original series that stands as an imaginative and clever solution. But the brilliance doesn't fully present itself until one arranges all the coins in the shape below and an overall crest becomes more obvious. Now the coins are gestalt - they make up parts of a bigger whole, they are connected visually, and they relate to each other in a way that the previous (and most other countries' coins) did not do. Beautiful. This designer was really thinking about a fresh way to mint coins.

An open competition conducted in August 2005 attracted 4,000 entries. The winning designer was Matthew Dent. After exploring a number of different options, Dent's concept used the greatest heraldic device ever used on coinage - the Royal Arms, featured on the coinage of almost every monarch since Edward III, 1327-77. The Shield has been cleverly split among all six denominations from the 1p to the 50p, with the £1 coin displaying the heraldic element in its entirety. This is the first time that a single design has been used across a range of United Kingdom coins.
26-year-old Matthew Dent, a graphic designer in London, had seen the competition advertised in one of the national newspapers. In seeking to spread a single design across six denominations, he conceived an idea that has never been realized before on the British coinage. ‘I felt that the solution to the Royal Mint's brief lay in a united design - united in terms of theme, execution and coverage over the surface of the coins. I wondered about a theme of birds or plants, but also considered buildings and coastal scenery. The issue with this for me lay in their distribution; how to represent the whole of the United Kingdom over six coins. The idea of a landscape appealed to me; perhaps using well-known landscapes from different areas around the United Kingdom which could stretch off the edge of one coin onto another. I thought the six coins could make up a shield by arranging the coins both horizontally, as with the landscape idea, as well as vertically, in a sort of jigsaw style. I liked the idea and symbolism of using the Royal Arms, where individually the coins could focus on specific elements and when placed together they reveal the complete Royal Arms. I found the idea that members of the public could interact with the coins the most exciting aspect of this concept. It's easy to imagine the coins pushed around a school classroom table or fumbled around with on a bar - being pieced together as a jigsaw and just having fun with them.’ The Royal Mint website.


Here is a page from Gallup.com. Please read the list of Office locations by country.
I suspect you read Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, etc. - down the first column. At some point you may have realized that the list is organized in rows, not columns - we are supposed to read across first, then down. Australia, Belgium, Brasil, then Canada, China, etc - in alphabetical order. Oops, bad design. We read down for two reasons:
1. We are conditioned to, its more familiar. When we recognize a list (with bullets and aligned in a column) we read down the list, no matter how many columns there are.
2. The designer of this page gave us visual cues to read down. The countries are aligned in vertical columns with a column of bullets next to the country names. The spacing conveys to read Australia first (again, conditioning to start at the top left) and then read the next closest country. That would be Canada, not Belgium.


Stationary (with an a) means to stand still, not move. Stationery (with an e) means supplies used for correspondence - letterhead, envelope, etc. This sign is even worse because the images of supplies behind the type were moving - they were animated, not stationary.

Poor implementation of handicap parking spaces


Providing easy access for people with hardships and disabilities is a good idea, but this execution at Walmart in Edmond is just too excessive. The loss of parking spaces for the rest of us cannot be justified here.


Really? No Parking? Not even in that safely enclosed space?

i assume that the railed ramp was added after the asphalt was signed with No Parking, but there could be better ways: a planter in the enclosed space or no ramp at all - it doesn't seem to be a big improvement over the covered sidewalk. Shot at an Edmond Shopping Center.


What do we do with old iPods and how can we sneak alcohol into stadiums and arenas that don't sell beer or allow it to be brought in? Put the two together - the iFlask. I removed all the inner hardware from an old iPod, sealed the holes (except for the earbud input which I use as the opening to the flask) and ended up with a hard-to-detect flask that holds about a jigger (oops, sorry, I mean the j-word).



Some of my renderings inspired by the genius of MC Escher.





While purging files and fotos, I found this note from my high school art teacher, Ms. Hudson. She heavily influenced my teaching philosophy, as evidenced by her suggestions - Think and contemplate. Have a reason for everything. Be critical.

A blocked sidewalk

So, I'm walking along the mall in Washington DC and I see this construction fence and the temporary sign. Coincidentally, right when I noticed how the temporary sign blocked the sidewalk, a family approached with a child in a wheelchair. The chair couldn't get between the fence and the base of the sign. I dragged the sign over to the right, where it should have been. Now there are visual cues apparent in the sidewalk that guide the pedestrian.

Assessment of the names of network morning shows
The Early Show
Early is not typically associated with something positive: early to a party, early to work, early in the morning. "Dang, Its awfully early." "Why are you up so early? And why are you dressed like that?"
The Today Show
A bit better, at least its neutral. One can't deny the fact that it is today.
Good Morning America
This is the strongest - positive, cordial, and patriotic.
Appropriately, Good Morning America is now in first place in the ratings and the The Early Show is in third place.


Took a walk in the naberhood and came across this sign.

A great idea

This just makes so much sense - a sink built on top of a urinal. You use the urinal, then wash your hands and the washwater rinses the urinal, saving water. It makes even more sense in multiple units in men's rooms, saving both space and water. From the designer's website: To save water, Eco Urinal uses the water that was used for washing hands to flush the urine. We don't have to use water twice after using the urinal. Moreover, it reduces the establishment's expenses by optimizing the materials and floor space. The sink base is made of glass - to provide a clear view for users. It also promotes hand washing since people need to wash their hands to flush the urinal.
Any 'yucky' factor is tempered with the current system of yucky germs in the sink. (Better: the back of the urinal should not be flat as that causes direct back-splash on to the user's pants.)
The combo Eco Urinal makes more sense than a waterless urinal and probably saves as much water. Gray water use never looked so good.
Why do we use clean water to flush wastes? Here's a similar idea:


Thoughtless unnecessary sign

The scene: a hallway just off the main entrance to the Museum of Art on the Princeton University campus. On the right side of the hall is a mounted mosaic artwork with a wooden cabinet underneath. Concern: apparently people had been leaving items on top of the cabinet and the staff was worried that the mosaic above might be damaged. Assumptions:
1. People had a need for a horizontal surface on which to set things.
2. The mosaic is fragile (even though there is a water fountain and bench under the mosaic).
Staff solution: ignore the need of the users and post a sign demanding that nothing be left on top of the cabinet.
Better solution: Move the cabinet. See the wall opposite - move the far bench to under the mosaic (that must be okay since there's already one bench on the mosaic wall) and put the cabinet where the bench was. That groups all storage units - coat rack, shelves, and cabinet - together and groups two benches underneath the mosaic.
Another example of thoughtless design: stuff on cabinet, must be outlawed, post a sign. But that solution is shallow, doesn't take into account the needs of the building user, and places restrictions on behavior. All unnecessary.

Wisdom worth repeating
Great design should be about content and substance - not gimmicks or pretty pictures. Great work should be honest, true, and full of integrity.

Vandalism on an airplane

I'm sitting on the plane with Sean and his wife when I look up and notice that the panel overhead has vent holes in it - but, the vent holes are not arranged symmetrically. See how the number of holes in each row changes by two. Except for the top two rows. Weird. To fix this, I took out a pen and filled in the two depressions that should be holes (foto on the right). There. Better.

Some examples of better thinking

LEFT: Here's a great idea: mount the sanitizer dispenser outside the bathroom door. This way, people don't sanitize their hands and then have to touch the door handle to get out of the bathroom. This one makes so much sense that i hope it becomes quite common.
RIGHT: 1. Crystal Light marketed a packet that is the right size and shape to easily add the powder to a bottle of water. They recognized the fad of bottled water and the potential for sales to people who didn't want to give up flavor for water. A perfect match to what the consumer wants. It is a great idea.
2. Staples, the office supply store, positioned the boxes of Crystal Light on top of the cooler of bottled waters. Smart.


Locking and unlocking the front door when it is well-lit is as simple as stick and twist, but trying to find that little key hole in the dark can be a real pain. This is one of those so-simple-and-obvious designs that you almost have to wonder why no one has thought of it before: not only does it provide a simple channel for sliding your key down into the lock each and every time, but its distinct shape makes the entire lock housing easier to find in the first place while groping around in poor lighting. Inventor: Junjie Zhang.

Idea: Custom pills
Years ago, while having breakfast with my parents in their home, I noticed that each had a pile of pills that they had to take. Different sizes, different colors. And now I'm doing the same. I take about 6 pills each morning. Once a week, I fill a weekly pill box with each of the pills. So, I wonder, why can't a pharmaceutical company create a custom pill with all the elements I need.
How it could work: For OTC (over-the-counter) drugs like vitamins, minerals, and supplements; the customer could check items and mg quantities online. The company would then assemble the pill and ship them each month. For prescription drugs, the doctor could submit the prescriptions online. The prescription and OTC components could be mixed together or there could be two separate pills. The pills could be color coded: yellow = morning, blue = evening. The customer would have to renew each month - allowing/requiring the customer and the doctor to keep ingredients current (it could simply be an email reply ‘No change’).

Another idea: combined ID and debit/credit cards
Why not just one card? Many of us carry a photo ID (driver's license), credit card, debit card, student ID, medical insurance card, and others. There could be one picture official ID with photo, signature, and an embedded chip or a magnetic stripe containing information and credit card info. They all have sensitive information, but that information could be contained in a single database and accessed by a scanner. To purchase something with the credit card, the scanner would access the card and determine which info was appropriate for the purchase and display or use only that info. The digital info can be adapted and loaded with whatever the user requests.

A thoughtful idea

From Reuters: Ever wanted to meet and greet your loved ones at the airport to be sure they don't miss you in the crowds? Then try Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, which now has the world's first vending machine capable of printing out personalized giant canvas banners in just a few minutes. You can pick your message, whether that is "Missed you Mummy," "I love you," "Will you marry me?," or anything else that makes you stand out from the crowd, choose the font and background design, pay between$6 and $20 depending on the length of the banner, and hit the button.
"We came up with the idea because when we were at the airport we'd see all these people welcoming their friends and family with their own banners made of bed sheets and we thought what a hassle using sheets, wouldn't it just be easier to make the banner at the airport," said BannerXpress's co-founder Thibaud Bruna. If the waterproof banners prove popular, he hopes to install the vending machines in other locations. "We hope have them in other airports, but also in stadiums for sporting and music events," Bruna said.
Lesson: Be observant of everyday situations around you. There is almost always room for improvement.

A better way to display museum hours


Full story with more images and explanations.

This week's pet peeve: cars that honk when the doors are being locked

Please program your car key fob so that the horn doesn't honk when you lock your car. Most cars have this option - check the Owners Manual for the instructions. Its quite simple to reprogram the key fob.
Think how much nicer it will be without those needless honks. The sound of the locks clicking still provides an aural confirmation that your car is locked. The extra horn sound is unnecessary, rude, selfish, and obnoxious. Okay, it may not be quite that bad, but it will still be nicer without the honks.
Many car key fobs allow you to double click the button to sound the horn in case you need to find your car in the lot.
Better solution: car manufacturers should program the no-honk as the default on the fob. People who feel they need the honk can program the fob to do so. But, for all the people who don't think about it or don't care, the horn option would be turned off.

I'm not so sure.

Do you want to trust your car to be repaired by this company?



Thoughtless design

A USB plug that doesn't give the user a clear clue which side is up is inexcusable in this era of 'smart design'. if a product needs a catchy line like, "Doesn't fit, flip it" then there is something wrong with the product design. Well-designed products don't need ad slogans to help them do their job.
I suppose that the USB logo on one side is an attempt to differentiate the two otherwise-identical sides. But, its not enough - many times, its just embossed in the plastic and difficult to see.
One tacky solution
I have marked the plugs. I once used a multiple plug but it impacted the strength of the signals to the devices so, for now, I'm using this system with duct taped plugs.


The new Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City is spectacular.

It is very well-designed - an appropriate mix of natural and man-made components, fountains, walkways, terraces, ponds, rocks, and seating. There are areas for socializing, picnicking, a great children's playground, a dog park, amphitheater, restaurant, theater, and more; creating a delightful escape from the urban environment.

Tips on growing as a designer
How can designers stay motivated, creative, and satisfied in their careers and in their lives? Author Catharine Fishel explored this question through interviews with more than 40 leading designers; below are a few excerpts (more tips here.)
• Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
• Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to just good you'll never have real growth.
• Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
• Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
• Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: Begin anywhere.
• Don't strive to be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
• Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
• Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

This week's lesson
In this absolute order, design and critique works of design for:
1. target audience
2. client
3. yourself
Good clients will agree that your solutions are for their customers, not for themselves. Bad clients will often interject their own biases, ignoring the characteristics of their users. Unfortunately, there are many (probly too many) of these clients. Bad design often happens when designers don't adhere to the correct order. It is imperative to fully understand the audience: its wants, needs, and attitudes. Think of IKEA and Apple - innovators there designed for the user first. Once, I was a Guest Juror and charged with critiquing senior portfolios of design majors. I would ask a student who the target market was. I too often got the answer, "I don't know." or "Students." or something similar. They hadn't put much thought into who the end user/reader/viewer of the piece would be or their target was just too broad. I would stop the critique and move on - telling them, How can we discuss the effectiveness of a piece if you, the designer, do not even know who the user is?
Lesson: The better you understand the audience, the easier the process of creating an effective solution will be.

Thoughtless July 4th sparkler


You may have seen this thoughtless icon if you watched the Macy's Fireworks show on NBC last Monday nite. The Live icon in the corner had an animated sparkler displayed during the entire broadcast of the fireworks. Sparklers draw our attention - we can't help be intrigued by the flames and watching the wick burn down to an explosion. You just can't ignore a sparkler in the upper right corner.
This was a poor decision. As is often the case, the designer and director were not seeing their work through the eyes of the viewer. The viewer wants to watch the spectacle, not a 'clever' gimmick graphic. I'm not sure the viewer even cares to be reminded constantly that the broadcast is live. We just want to watch fireworks.
Lesson: Finalize design decisions from the user's POV, not your own.


Shot these fotos at an Ihop in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Sidebar: I am so Apple-conditioned that I want to type iHop as if its another member of the iPad/iPhone/iMac family.

Images from the International Contemporary Furniture Fair

From the Germany booth - a prototype for a new Volkswagen. Notice the on-dash tablet holder.

The new ideas and furniture were very inspirational, but I was most amazed at how many companies and booths used iPads to show images, videos, and title blocks.


The great creamer battle between the Women with Flowing Hair.

Which is the better cream container?
On the left is an intuitive stopper on the cream canister - the handle jutting out says 'press me'. On the right, the screw cap might say 'turn me' but how far? Is it already open? If I turn it will the cap come off and spill the contents? Which way do I turn it?
Okay, that is just too many questions. And I probly shouldn't ask them out loud while standing at the fixins stand.
One can operate the one on the left with one hand while the one on the right requires two - one to hold the canister and the other to turn the cap.
Also notice the labels on the canisters. One is designed to enhance the graphics and decor of the restaurant, the other looks like tape from a labelmaker. Photos were shot at Starbucks and Panera Bread.  March 17 2011

Update: Some Barnes & Noble Starbucks in New York City are using these creamers with the handle and lever - much better. Now, Starbucks needs to invest in some custom-made vinyl stickers that convey the contents and fit the new design motif of their stores.  May 15 2011

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