Thots and observations about design

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.


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.


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.


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.



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.

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?

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 a Walmart is just too excessive. The loss of parking spaces for the rest of us cannot be justified here.


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.

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.


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.

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.  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.

Whole Foods is typically lauded for thoughtful attention to detail. But what is this about? Do you close the open slot to open it? Open the close?
Tip: A customer should be able to glance at a creamer and easily understand how to open and pour the contents.

Another example of why most graphic design produced today is mediocre


Someone designed this promo piece (in the middle) to hang on a shelf next to the bottle of wine. In the Facebook post on the left, he/she commented that it 'feels good' to see one's work in the store. But, look at the piece he/she feels good about - can you even read the headings at the beginnings of each paragraph? It shouldn't feel good to ignore the design principles of contrast and readability. Also, the text copy is set justified resulting in awkward word spacing and set over some obscure image in the background, decreasing readability even more.
But that's not the example of mediocre design. Notice in the Facebook comments on the right, they are all supportive and complementary. Not one person commented on the poor design decisions or asked why the designer feels good about mediocre work. Could the piece be any more dull? Hopefully, there were many more people who saw the post and wanted to be honest, but were too polite to post any response. When mediocrity is rewarded with "Nice Job!" and "congratulations", it reinforces the notion that there is no need to strive for excellence. Why bother? This level of work is "Very cool :)"
Another question that is symptomatic of design today: Why was this even posted on Facebook? Probly fishing for complements. But when design is ego-driven, it rarely is well-done.

Remember to consider every detail from the viewpoint of the end user. Each element - image and words - should enhance the clarity of the message. Clutter has little positive value in today's barrage of info.
Jim Watson, in a text message to a young design student.

Thoughtful magazine address label

Another renewal notice just came in the mail. Some magazines send these out every few months. It's not that the subscription is about to expire, its just a thinly veiled attempt to get me to send money. Sometimes its frustrating to figure out just when the subscription expires. Some labels give the expiration date, many do not. The one below is from Adbusters magazine, a very progressive periodical (Adbusters is responsible for initiating and encouraging the Occupy movements). Note that the label is very clear: it states the number of issues remaining and info on how to renew or subscribe.


More good Adbusters design
At the newsstand or at Barnes & Noble, it can be a struggle to find the cover price of the magazine. Not so with Adbusters. Large and positioned above the UPC code:


Some non-thinker put the sign in the wrong place.

The OCCC Arts Festival is held each Labor Day. I had read about it each year but had yet to make it. Finally, decided to do so in 2012. It was very good - some great photography and sculpture. One of the entertainment acts was a Mexican Folkloric Dance group. In high school, I was a dancer in such a group that my mother had created to perform around the Dallas area.

So, I thought it would be fun to see those dances again. And it was. But, it was very hot and the view from the shady seating areas were blocked by this banner listing the festival's sponsors. Someone decided to mount the sign there without much thought as to the sightlines from the audience.

To make it slightly more frustrating was the observation that the blank area between the columns for the two stages would have been a perfect spot to mount the sign (as rendered above). Then, the sponsor names would be at eye level and right in front of the audience. And, most importantly, it wouldn't be blocking the view for most of the festival-goers.

Please try another username.
I went online to the Post Office website to order some stamps. I found these:

The Pioneers of American Industrial Design stamp sheet honors 12 of the nation's most influential industrial designers, who helped shape the look of everyday life in the 20th century. Each stamp features the name of a designer, a photograph of an object created by the designer, and a description of the object.

Cool, exactly what I was hoping to find - some stamps that had a connection to design so I could educate others in the medium of a postage stamp. To buy them, I had to set up an account. Some sites allow the user to complete a sale as a guest with no need to create an account. Not so here with the USPS. I was required to open an account. I first tried to log in thinking I might have set up an account earlier. I input my usual username but was told that it was unacceptable. I then selected, "Create account". Eventually, I got to this screen:

This time, when I typed my previous username, I was told that it was already taken (most certainly by me). I couldn't use it. By this time, I was so frustrated with the poor experience on the USPS website that I typed in a new username: fuckthepostoffice. Their website checked that name and said I should try another one, suggesting that fuckthepostoffice was already taken:

I'm guessing others had gotten frustrated at the site or with the Post Office and taken the username. I selected one of their suggestions and went on with placing my order.

Smart package design
One of the benchmarks of aging is switching from sweetened cereals to Grape-Nuts and then to oatmeal. Yep, oatmeal! I found this brand at Target and noticed the convenient 'Measuring Cup Pouch' - the amount of water and/or milk to add was marked right on the envelope package. A great idea.

A while later, I noticed new designs for the box and for the envelope packets (on the right). These were even better. Some changes:
• The packet info was minimized since much of it was already covered on the outer box and there was no need to repeat it on the packet. The consumer had already made the purchase decision.
• The Measuring Cup Pouch is more obvious: moved to the front, larger point size of type, and a more dramatic mass of color. The pouch is unique to this brand and they are wisely exploiting that on the package.
• The graphics for the measuring pouch line make it easier to see the water approaching the line when holding the pouch under the faucet.
• Fonts switched to sans serif for easier readability.
• Negative: the round Microwave Directions symbols, now in 2 colors (above, on the right), are harder to decipher than in the earlier 1-color version. Reasons: the symbols are smaller, the 2 colors allow misaligned printing registration, and there are more details for the consumer to process in the newer version.
Overall, the Better Oats package is a good example of CPOV, designing from the consumer's point of view - give the user just what is needed in a clear, easily understood execution. The Better Oats website.

The Plain Writing Act of 2010
The Act requires the federal government to write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organized" manner.
I don't know if this is good news - that the government has passed legislation for agencies to use clear language or bad news - that the government had to pass such legislation.
By now, all agencies are supposed to have a senior officer responsible for plain language, a section of their websites devoted to the subject, and a process to ensure they communicate more clearly with citizens and businesses.
"We still have a long way to go to make government forms and documents simpler and easier for taxpayers to understand," said the sponsor of the legislation.
According to the Center for Plain Language (website link), federal agencies are still churning out plenty of incomprehensible English. The center's chairwoman agreed. "You do see more documents coming out that are in relatively good, plain language. But "it's very spotty." The Plain Language.gov website. A sample from their website:

Planning a Plain-Language Website
Users require three things when using a website:
1. a logical structure so they know where to look for information,
2. an easy-to-use interface to get them to that information,
3. and easily-understandable information.
A website needs all these elements (information architecture, usability, and plain language) to be successful.

From the Center for Plain Language:
What is Plain Language?
Plain language is information that is focused on readers. When you write in plain language, you create information that works well for the people who use it, whether online or in print. Our measure of plain language is behavioral: Can the people who are the audience for the material quickly and easily
• find what they need
• understand what they find
• act appropriately on that understanding


Examples
1. The Defense Department has a 26-page cookie recipe that covers "flow rates of thermoplastics by extrusion plastometer" and a command that ingredients "shall be examined organoleptically," meaning looked at, smelled, touched or tasted.
2. I applied for Social Security recently. I was not looking forward to the process, because of experience with government agencies - having to get lots of paperwork together, make an appt., wait in an institutional waiting room (have you waited hours to renew your driver's license?), meet with someone who would probly not care about me, and wait for confirmation to be sent.
Whoa. I was very wrong. I completed the entire process in about 10 minutes, online! No prep, no appointments, no meetings, no runaround - just the most efficient and clearly designed website I have experienced. It was a pleasure to deal with this government agency. Even though I am disappointed that the government had to pass such legislation, I am glad that it seems to be working. It emphasizes the importance of writing in clear plain language. The SSA website.

Does it really read '66'?
Walked by this window display at the mall. I couldn't decipher the mark. I stopped and pondered. People stared at me - What's that guy doing? I should have asked some of them if they could read the letters, but I was too enrapt by the enigma to be aware of what was going on around me.

So, what does this mark read?

The L and X are pretty clear. Then what? an A? an N? T? The last letter is a clear I. If I had to vote, I would go with L X A T I

Answer: I had to googalit to discover that the mark is the Roman numerals for 66. I haven't yet discovered the relevance of 66 to this store or to Van's.
That awkward serif off the top of the V might be an attempt to tie into the Vans logo, but it doesn't quite work since the V in vans is symmetrical and the V in LXVI has a vertical stroke on the right.
Lesson: Requiring the reader to decipher a mark can be good - it requires memorable participation - but be careful: if the correct solution is too obscure, many people will give up and move on or turn the page.
Tip: Seek clever interplay of letters but view the piece as the reader would, to maintain readability.

"The eye fools the mind by picking out the silhouette of one number then instantly recognizing another, sometimes in quick succession"


In 1967, Jasper Johns produced this lithograph entitled 0 Through 9, which was originally an oil painting created in 1961. It consists of the 10 numbers meticulously overlaid one upon the other within a rectangular area, creating a kaleidoscope of figures that battle each other for the viewer's attention. All color in the original painting was removed except for the blacks and whites, rendering the details of the superimposed numbers much more visible and intense. Johns re-created this lithograph numerous times in response to the ever changing digital age. The symbolism, however, never changed. The artist meant for this iconic picture to represent his personal view of a world whose system has been built on the interpretation of different signs. There are versions of John's piece at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, Tate Gallery in London, and at ULAE on Long Island, NY


Fun video of people viewing art.

In June, I spent an afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art. After some lunch and coffee in the Cafe, I wandered through the design galleries. Later, spotting an open spot on a bench in the main atrium, I plopped my fat ass down and sat a spell. I was facing a large wall sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly. I was intrigued by how people view art, especially large-scale art in an atrium trafficway. I shot a few photos and then switched my pocket computer camera to 'video' and set the device on the floor. Here is the fascinating video.

If you're going to hire a sign company, please also hire a decent designer.

The graphic icons in the logo appear to be a red diamond and an empty dolly. Well, two dollies - I guess they are really important. And 5 or 6 red diamonds.
Lesson: Icons provide a barb for the viewer's mind to grab onto. An identity can be more effective if those icons relate positively to the audience's needs and desires. Seldom does a potential customer for a moving company think first of a dolly. Or a diamond.
Tip: Avoid obscure icons, even if they are easy to download as Google Clip Art.
The word 'Moving?' is tough to read when placed on top of the diamond.
Lesson: Contrast can improve ease of reading and clarity of message.
Tip: Avoid black on red.


The shredding process
By Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Imagine.
One of the best things about a moment of insight is that no one needs to tell you you're having one. A decision just feels right. Sometimes these moments hit during a relaxing shower after a long period of agonizing, though, more often, insight takes hard work, collaboration, and lots of triple espresso shots.

Brainstorming, a nice idea that doesn't actually work, has become the most widely implemented creativity technique of all time. The first rule of brainstorming is 'Thou shall not criticize.' It feels good - we can all come into a room together and free-associate, fill up the white board. But people are much more productive when they work in groups following a very different set of instructions.
Research has shown that only truly constructive criticism of ideas and a culture that encourages dissent will result in great ideas that move a company forward. Companies that exemplified this culture of encouraged dissent: some Pixar, Toyota, and Apple practices are good models, but it's best to look to art schools, since disciplines like art, music, and dance are techniques that are honed through constant critique and refinement: a process that leads to greater 'creativity.'

Steve Jobs, head of Pixar during their formative years, advocated the practice of brutal honesty. At Pixar the engineers and animators begin every day by watching the most recent footage of the previous day's animation. Then they engage in what they call the 'shredding process.' People rip apart the work to find the flaws - whether or not they had been involved in the creation. Feelings get hurt. It's harsh. And it is incredibly useful. Over the course of years of shredding, you end up with a really good animated movie. Criticism is built into their process at every step. You don't advance by avoiding failure and blindsiding yourself to your sore spots. There is something about criticism that makes us rise to the occasion. You suddenly feel something bigger is at stake, and you rebuild relative to that. Fail fast, then fix.

Cool signshadows




Boy, I am seeing this type of banner a lot around town. Some sign shop must be running a special on crap photo art backgrounds. Sign shops rarely employ talented graphic designers. They are technicians who might understand the company software and can flip through a catalog with the client and select pretty pictures. Unfortunately, this may be a trend - placing text (outline fonts, even) over a pretty clip art photo image - and, a pretty image that has nothing to do with the message being communicated. The example at the top at least shows some decent contrast to improve readability.

Lesson: Graphic design is about solving communication problems, not selecting pretty pictures.
Tip: Avoid making type hard to read by putting a non-related image behind it.

A new texting lane in the former wheelchair ramp

I was in the mall (see above where I lambasted a kiosk operator for fucking up the Thunder logo) and texting as I walked. I had tried that app that takes a picture of what is beyond the phone and shows it in the background of the text window, but found that it was too distracting. As I approached the area shown above, I almost ran into that column. Please note that I no longer text while driving. When driving, columns are often heavy machines that are coming at me at a fast rate of speed. Anyway, I noticed the ramp and realized that it provided a safer and more convenient texting option than the stairs - I could continue texting and walk up the ramp without stopping; the stairs require me to slow down and navigate the steps, thereby interrupting the texting task. Then it hit me - not the column - the notion that this was no longer a handicap ramp, it was a texting ramp. The mall had reconfigured these for the benefit of those of us who walk 'n text. Good for them.

Googalit
Does this work as a neword? Many of us say it regularly. It has become part of our cultural vernacular. I just don't know if its necessary or any more efficient.

Simple great idea

I suspect, if you've flown much at all, you have searched an airport waiting lounge looking for an outlet to plug in your charger. Some new airports and remodeled lounges are installing more outlets, but these pictures were shot at Newark airport. There are a few charging stations, but each one only had 4 outlets and each was occupied. Then I noticed the ring of pay phones - there were 4 or 5 of these in this lounge. I walked around several times to check - never was a single phone ever in use. Not one. Of course not. People were standing nearby using their cellphones.

So, it seems quite easy to replace the phone banks with a similar circular structure that contains banks of outlets above a worksurface. The electrical power is already there which, I assume is one of the main deterrents to adding more outlets in an airport lounge. No waiting area or floor space would be lost as the new structure would not be any larger than the existing one. Sketches:


At a loss for words

Well, not a complete loss - I have questions:
• How will I notice it?
• What if my butt is not sensitive enough - do I have to feel it with my fingers?
• How does my butt cheek know what is clean?
• Will my butt really appreciate the DiamondWeave Texture? Does it prefer that over a grid texture?
So many questions.

Plagiarism or Influence?

This is the logo for the First Council Casino in Oklahoma. When I first glanced at it on a billboard in Kansas, I was immediately reminded of the logo for the magazine Fast Company. The C surrounding the O is quite memorable and effective (the smaller A in FAST is just too contrived and clumsy) Here are two more marks with encompassing Cs:

There are hundreds of examples of logos that have similarities. But, is it necessarily wrong? It could be a coincidence or it could be a copy or it could be somewhat innocent influence in someone's mind. If it is an attempt to draw from the success of an established mark and 'piggyback' recognition - then, that would be wrong: exploiting someone else's work for personal gain. But, if it is a graphic element that is appropriate and beneficial to a mark, then we may be more likely to forgive the similarity.

This is the normal state of these sinks

These horizontal surfaces are at the sinks in the bathrooms at the Museum of Modern Art - an otherwise well thought-out facility with a strong eye toward design and detail.
Lesson: Horizontal surfaces collect junk and get messy.
Solution: Pedestal sinks with shelves and hooks within reach and sight for personal belongings. A larger sink basin would also better contain spray and splash.



Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period. An article every designer should read.


The opening line of the news story is, "Lady Gaga is collaborating with a few new artists - and it's not whom you might think." Usually, it is risky to tell the reader what he/she might think. In this case, however, we already think that the new artists are the Muppets. Why would we think that?
    1. Because the headline says so.
    2. Because the photo shows Gaga with a Muppet.
    3. Because the photo caption says so.
The opening sentence is now just embarrassing. The writer of the piece, the headline writer, and the photo caption writer did not collaborate. If they had, someone could have seen the error and edited the copy to match. In this era of immediate information, these types of opening sentences - teasers - seem out of place. Jump right in to the news of Gaga and Muppets. We don't need to wade through any 'clever' sophomore J-school assignment paragraph leads.

Many people do not like to touch the door handle when exiting a restroom. They feel that that is just where people have put their germy hands. Some people use a paper towel to grab the handle so they won't have to touch it. Those people often throw that towel on the floor by the door. Or, as in the photo below, in a trash can if that can has been placed outside the restroom.
Fun info: a recent study determined that the door handle was one of the most germ-free places in a public restroom - precisely because so many people were wiping it clean with a paper towel. Nonetheless, the perception is still there - do not touch that door handle.

Above right: Some businesses mount a sanitizer dispenser outside the restroom so people can clean their hands after exiting. The options below allow the user to open the door with their arm, not their hands.


Some design objectives
• Easy to clean (holes in some will collect gunk).
• Able to use either top or bottom of shoe/foot.
• Easy to install on existing doors of varied materials.
• Durable for many uses and long-lasting.

Driving from Colorado to Oklahoma, my niece and I stopped at a MacDonald's in Salina, Kansas. I spotted this on the door - and knew immediately what it was for. I tried it - it worked well - simple and effective. Below: Decals showing how to operate it are mounted near the trash can - so the user knows they do not need to keep the paper towel to grasp the door handle - they can just throw it away.

All of these options are good design - each solves a problem with clarity and efficiency.


This needs no explanation - the concept is immediately apparent. KFC is acknowledging and responding to our habits of eating while in the car. The GoCup sits stable in your car (no more balancing on your lap or teetering on the console) and has a wide mouth top for easy access to the food. According to info from KFC:

KFC Go Cups come with potato wedges and one of five chicken options, with a divider to separate the chicken from the wedges. For this post, we'll ignore the issues of nutrition in fast food, overeating, excessive packaging, and distractions while driving. Despite all that, this is a great idea that, as fat and lazy as we are, fits the modern American lifestyle well.


A graphic bar in the wrong place

Left: A page from an online catalog. The graphic elements that serve to organize the products and clarify the information are the black bars and the grey rectangles behind the text copy.
We are conditioned to believe that black bars, being more dominant, separate the items, like in the first example below. But, the middle example is the correct one - the black bar is at the top of the grey rectangle. But, the black bar becomes a divider - a barrier between the image and it's accompanying copy.

The example on the right is the way it ought to be - much clearer. Now, the dominant black bars really do separate the items, just as we expected them to, and the image and copy are grouped together - visually connected. The revised catalog page is at the top right.

Communicating escalator etiquette
As cities have gotten more crowded and more rushed, it has become more necessary to be more civil and considerate of others. A custom on escalators and moving sidewalks is for people who want to just stand to keep to the right - those who want to keep climbing or walking use the open left side. Our culture is still in the Education Mode - training users on the stand/walk etiquette. There are numerous sign and placement options - which are most effective?

Above: These are - they are harder to ignore. The first objective is that the signs and symbols must get our attention - they must be noticed. These are in our sightline, not off to the side or over our heads, but right where we have to look. Even if one forgets, the odds are good that person will look down and notice the symbols. The designers of the above symbols and placement considered the needs and habits of the target audience. The client probly just wanted some signs to tell people what to do.
Lesson: Great design goes beyond what clients think they want and solves problems that make the solution more effective, useful, and beautiful.
The examples below are not as obvious, primarily because of their placement.




Note: brilliance is often simple.


You have likely stood in line behind someone who was checking out and they stood there until all the groceries were rung up and bagged and the cashier gave the total due. That customer then began rummaging through her purse for her checkbook, cash, or credit card. Hopefully, you have also stood behind someone who, while the cashier was scanning the items, got his credit card out and swiped it. When the total showed up, he just signed the pad and got his receipt.
Walmart, which often puts much thought into improving the shopping experience, has these stickers posted on the machines to educate the customer. Nice job.


For an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this gallery/room had one entrance (on the left in the fotos) and videos playing on the other three walls. There were also some mounted displays on the wall to the left. So, the guy in the red shirt grabs a chair and moves it to where he and his wife (just guessing here, it could be his mistress) can sit together with plenty of room. But this selfish bastard doesn't consider how inconvenient his chair location makes it for other museumgoers to see the mounted work.
Lesson: Please resolve to be more aware of your environment and more considerate than this guy. We all thank you.

This next series of fotos was shot in the New Museum in the Lower East Side of New York City. I had just finished a tour of the Tenement Museum and walked a few blocks to this museum for coffee and snax (and to sit down and rest). I noticed these three people standing and talking. But they were right where the passage of traffic narrowed between the glass railing of a staircase, a sign stanchion, and a set of ropes. The ropes signified the secure entry to the museum elevators and staircase. In the lower left, you can just barely see the stairs that lead down to the restrooms and more galleries. The museum shop and bookstore is in the left background. I shot the fotos from the museum cafe. So, this passageway sees quite a bit of traffic connecting those elements of the museum. The three people may have even been employees of the museum, although they were apparently oblivious to their surroundings. The other visitors (below) have to squeeze by them. I've also seen people stop and talk or wait at the top of stairs and escalators, or at the entrance to a subway station. Sometimes, I want to tell them "There just has to be a better place to stand." But I don't - I guess I get too disgusted at the inconsiderate, self-centered members of our species.

Granted, a major contributor to the problem in this case is the poor architectural and interior design of the traffic flow within this public space. This is a major artery in the New Museum and, clearly, not enough room was allocated for the simultaneous passage of several people.

Lessons
1. Design spaces to handle traffic flow more smoothly and conveniently.
2. Please think about your surroundings when you make decisions on where to stand and chat. We are often so focused on our own needs that we forget that we are just one part of an environment of objects and other people.

Multi-tasking sink stations

Here is a new way to address bathroom sanitation and waste. This sink includes phases of washing, rinsing, and drying (from right to left). A public restroom would likely require more sinks since the time spent at the basin would increase. But, one could take care of all functions at one location, rather than standing at the sink and then moving to the towel dispenser and the trash can. The freestanding sink is better than sinks mounted in a countertop. Those counters are almost always wet and messy.

Lesson: Horizontal surfaces collect crap.
Tip: Avoid horizontal surfaces in public spaces, except where absolutely necessary.

Another option with a shelf on which to set belongings. Under the shelf is an air dryer:



Brilliant idea

The ". . . for Dummies" series has become a brand that represents a non-threatening way to become more knowledgeable. Now, it is being used on products, rather than just books. The icon figure is holding a flag that represent the wine's country of origin, there is a pronunciation guide under the name of the wine, and the wine varieties are color-coded. In a society that seems to become increasingly more stupid with each FoxNews broadcast or Honey BooBoo telecast, I welcome any attempt to educate the masses in a convenient way.

An easy way to enlarge the walkway along the Hudson River Esplanade

Move the benches closer to the water. That's it. Easy, cheap, and effective.
Some joggers and walkers currently use the path between the benches and the seawall. But, it's awkward - people have to pull their legs in. If that path wasn't so wide, those people wouldn't be tempted to use that route. Moving the benches combines the pathway between the benches and the seawall with the path between the benches and the upper walkway. The benches could be arranged in pairs so there is aisle access to each bench -thus, less need for a wide walkway in front of the benches.

Existing and proposed




Sitting inside a billboard while dining. Full essay and photos


This is absolutely brilliant. The new packet, the first major ketchup packet design change in 42 years, has a top that can be peeled back for easy dipping or a tip torn off to squeeze onto foods and was developed after more than two years of research. Heinz spokesman: "The biggest complaint is there is no way to dip and eat it on-the-go. From dipping nuggets and fries to squeezing ketchup on hamburgers, the new design gives customers more flexibility, so they can enjoy eating ketchup on whatever or wherever they want.”
Designers found that what worked at a table didn't work where many people use ketchup packets - their car. So, two years ago, the company bought a used minivan for the design team members so they could give their ideas a real road test. Studying what each required, researchers discovered that drivers wanted something that could sit on the armrest while passengers wanted the choice of squeezing or dunking. Mothers wanted a packet that held enough ketchup for the meal but didn't squirt onto clothes so easily. The learning curve on this new packet should be very short - within one usage, the user should be able to figure out which end is best for dipping and squeezing.

However, the graphic design of the packet can be clearer. See that white line above the word DIP in DIP & SQUEEZE? I guess its a highlight to convey dimensionality of the ketchup bottle, but, because its tapered and in stand-out white, it looks like an arrow pointing from Dip to the top. But the top is for squeezing - dipping is at the bottom.
There is no need for the white highlight or the implied arrow. The package even looks better without that white line.
Update: they fixed the graphics

Saw the packet again several months later and immediately noticed there was no white arrow. I'm sure enough people commented on the misleading arrow to motivate Heinz to improve the package. Good for them.


Notice, on the Sprint sign (on the far right) how well the yellow reads - the contrast is much better. Yellow & white are just too close in value to be easily read. Yellow or white on black is easy to read.

A ceiling fan often has a light in the center and there are two chain pulls hanging down from the fixture. The chains are identical, so how do you tell which goes to which? You take look at the fan housing to see which comes out at a higher spot - that's probly for the fan. Or, you attach these pulls to the ends of the chains.


That is a brilliant product - such a simple and clever solution. It is a great example of a message that is so clear that it requires almost no deciphering - their function is obvious and immediate. Lowe's carries them:



The Devon Tower seems to claim artificial superiority and thumb it's nose at it's neighbors. It does not respect it's neighbors. There are some nice views from the top of the tower and nice views of the tower from the recently remodeled Myriad Gardens (which is superbly designed and executed). But superficial pride and nice views are not quite enough to justify the ego-driven massiveness of the new tower.
Lesson: Part of successful and thoughtful design includes respecting the environment - whether it is an ad, a poster, or a building. No design solution lives on it's own - each is a part of a larger community.








Many people, seeing the bizarre awkward tall tower hoped that new tall towers would help the new tower stand out less. But, new buildings announced and predicted for downtown OKC will all be low- to mid-rise buildings. As those fill in some of the gaps in the skyline, that will only make the Devon Tower stand out even more and look more out of place. Below is a more recent shot with the new Tower to the left of the Devon:



A better option

Below: a rendering of a lower tower, if the building had respected its environment. Below that: a rendering of two towers on the site - to provide similar (or more) square footage as the built tower, but in a way that is more appropriate and respectful of downtown OKC.


How some images have addressed the awkwardness:

Left: The Memorial Marathon placed a seal to balance the tower. Right: This Oklahoman ad used splashes of color.

Left: The existing CBD logo. Right: Tweaked to show a more accurate scale of the buildings.


Why don't all tables have just 3 legs? Four legs allows the table to wobble when on an uneven floor.

During lunch in FiDi in Lower Manhattan recently, I noticed that the tables had 3 legs. Brilliant - no wobble. What a simple solution. The tripod concept means the table will always be stable on any surface. No sticking matchbooks or folded up napkins under the short legs..

The advantage of 4 legs may be greater stability. But, by extending the span of the 3 legs stability is improved.



During 30 years of teaching, the most common excuse for not meeting a project deadline was, "I didn't have time.”
I would ask, "Did you sleep last night?" Of course, they did. I then pointed out that they obviously had time. After some disgust on their part, they would admit, they actually did have time. What they really meant was that the project was not a high enough priority among all the options: eating, sleeping, socializing, games, work, laundry, and homework.
We constantly, throughout the day, make decisions and choices on how we spend our time - we prioritize that time since there is rarely enough of it to do everything we want to do. I have time to iron my shirts, I just don’t want to. “I’m not going to edit your résumé, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice and we can waste it or we can prioritize and use it efficiently.
Changing one's attitude from the lie "I didn't have time” to the more accurate and honest "I chose to do other things that were of a higher priority" is quite liberating. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.

Thoughtful address description
So often, a business just lists the street address in an ad: 14515 North Santa Fe. But, just where is it along Santa Fe? That street is about 8 miles long.
The ad above adds a line that pinpoints the site, making it easier for the potential customer to find the place.

We often think in directions by visual landmarks. From the very early days of driving when signage was not clear or consistent, motorists would stop and ask for directions, "Go straight down there til you come to the old Wilson house - the one with the big white turret and the mean old cur out front - then turn left at the apple orchard by the pond with the fishing pier."
Adding an address descriptor, like the one above, costs not a penny more and takes up very little space; but it shows that the business is considerate and cares about helping the customer navigate the city more easily. (In the above example, please overlook the spelling of the word 'between'.)


This is a clever image concept from an ad in Texas Monthly magazine. A common device used in ad illustrations is to juxtapose the comfortable, familiar, and safe with the new, innovative, and risky. This one, quite simple, yet appropriate, works well at getting the reader's attention (Texans love to see their flag) and conveying the message of a large wine selection. Juxtapose the familiar with the innovative.

Dang that iPad habit

On the flight to Oklahoma from NYC, I was looking out the window. I wondered what town we were looking at - so, I tapped the glass to bring up the map settings window so I could turn on 'Labels' which would add the layer of text over the map. Oops, it's a fucking window, not an iPad. Why are these planes not equipped with iPad windows? There could be a camera lens behind each iPad to capture the image beyond and display it on the screen. Then I could access it and have all the functions to manipulate and access info.
Or, I could do a better job of separating reality from my digital universe.

But, wait, maybe it could work. The screen could be much larger than an iPad. Instead of windows cut into the fuselage exterior, there would just be a row of camera lens along each side of the plane. The safety video could be shown on the pads before takeoff. In case of an accident, evacuation instructions could be displayed. Here's an example applied to a truck on the highway.

There is a camera on the front of the truck and the rear door panels are large screens, projecting the image the truck sees in front.


A more logical way to denote a complete date



The full story.

Please don't cram things in the corner

Recently, I was in a yogurt place to satisfy my weekly fix. Before filling my cup with salted caramel frozen yogurt, granola, and dark cocoa-coated almonds, I went to use the restroom. Inside, I noticed this stand with a vase of flowers shoved into the corner. I call this type of furniture arrangement the Centrifugal Force Method: Put everything in a room and spin (figuratively) the room so fast that all the stuff is flung against the perimeter walls. There, all arranged.
So, I pulled the stand away from the walls. Notice how much better it looks. The arrangement is freer - with room to 'grow', it fills the space of the room a bit better, and the lighting highlights it more dramatically and minimizes the shadows in the corner.
If you're wondering about the flowers and the color of the walls in the men's room - I can explain: I was in the Ladies Room. Purely by accident. On my next visit, I checked the men's room (above right) to see if it had a similar corner arrangement.
Lesson: Avoid the Centrifugal Force Method of arranging furniture. Float some pieces away from the wall.

Barf bags

In the pocket behind each seat on an airline is a library of literature. One of the items is a bag "to collect and contain vomit in the event of motion sickness." If you have flown more than twice, this has probly happened to you: you pull out the inflight magazine or the SkyMall catalog. When you shove it back into the seatback pocket, it snags on something, it doesn't just smoothly go back to it's home. Often, hopefully, that something is a barf bag - a typical paper bag with a flat bottom and lined with a thin veneer of plastic to retain liquids. That flap at the bottom of the barf bag is what catches other items slid into the pocket.

There has to be a better way. And there is. The airline could simply specify a flapless bag with a bottom like those below. These bags are plastic (waterproof), have a secure seal, and have a flat bottom when opened. But, the bottom creases fold inside the bag, with no extending flaps that can cause snags.


An overly adorned counter at Warby Parker
I went by the Warby Parker headquarters and showroom in SoHo to check out some new frames. I noticed this counter in the Customer Experience area. I was told that it was custom made for the space.

The stack of old luggage is cool and well done. But the blue strap distracts from the concept. It is totally unnecessary. The focus here should be on the clever idea for a countertop support and the items on top that are being supported. The luggage pieces serve as the legs of the counter. The blue strap does nothing, but demand attention - away from where it should be. Without the strap, the piece is a more pure and honest design - a good concept (stacked luggage serving as legs for a counter) that is well executed.
Lesson: Figure out what's working in a piece; exploit that and minimize the rest.

Yay! Another victory - Whole Foods has improved their sign
This was a post I wrote a few months ago - about the obscure wording used on a sign at Whole Foods:

I read a word I had never seen before - tare. I stopped several people - customers and employees - and asked them what the word 'tare' meant. Not one of them knew the answer. We deduced that it referred to the container that you put your items in at the salad bar. I then questioned the person who was restocking the items. She confirmed that it meant container. I asked why it didn't just say container - why use a word that no one surveyed understood. Why make the customer have to decode and decipher the unfamiliar word. She had no response and suggested I fill out a comment card. Using obscure words may be Whole Foods' attempt at conveying intellectual elitism.
Tip: Elitism can often get in the way of clear communication.
Lesson: Successful design (clear communication) respects the reader.


When I returned to Whole Foods in early November 2012, those signs had been replaced with these:

Compare the two sentences:

    Don't worry about the tare weight.

    Don't worry about the weight of the bowl.

Of course, the second one is clearer. Whole Foods did the right thing by wording the sign to be more easily comprehended by more people.
Other changes:
1. Some of the text that was set in all caps was changed to U&lc. This does appear more friendly and less demanding.
2. The rest of the text remained in UC, but in a larger point size and with increased emphasis on the word OFF. I'm not sure why they need to yell that word at us so loudly. I also don't know if its important that they educate the reader about what tare weight is. Is (tare weight) even necessary? The main point of the message was adequately conveyed in the preceding words.
But, at least, Whole Foods responded and clarified the wording of the sign.

In case you didn't know what tare meant, here are the definitions:
    1. any of various vetches, especially Vicia sativa.
    2. the seed of a vetch.
    3. a noxious weed, probably the darnel.
    4. the weight of the wrapping, receptacle, or conveyance containing goods.
    5. the weight of a vehicle without cargo, passengers, etc.
    6. a counterweight used in chemical analysis to balance the weight of a container.
Origin: 1480-90; Middle French (equivalent to Medieval Latin) Arabic, derivative of tarhah - to throw away



Here are 3 versions of a single-panel cartoon of Dennis the Menace.
Middle: Added elements: floor tiles, bottle on the counter, and Dennis' dad's head and foot peeking in.
Right: Added: a patterned tablecloth.

Notice: The busy tablecloth, floor tiles, and Dennis' dad distract from the piece of broccoli on the floor and the action of Dennis pointing to it.
Compare the panels on the left and right - one more clearly communicates the gag.
Unfortunately, the panel on the far right is the way the cartoon was originally drawn and published in the paper.

Lesson: All elements in a piece (any piece, not just cartoons) should emphasize, or, at least, not distract from, the element that provides the primary focus.
Another example:

Caption: "Better duck!"

Issues:
1. Do the sign support truss and the overhead lights get in the way of the message that the bridge is low and may hurt Marmaduke's head?
2. Is this cartoon funny?

Calvin & Hobbes is almost always funny:




Truck dashboards are better configured than car dashboards. The wraparound configuration places more controls within easier reach if the driver and they don't take up any more space - that volume is just wasted. I am waiting for automotive designers to embrace concepts for better efficiency and convenience in car dash controls. Some cars still have their ignition in the steering column - out of sight - the driver has to do some contortions to peer around to see if the key is going in. Years ago, the key unlocked the steering mechanism but there is absolutely no reason today to put that ignition there. Its just the way its always been done.


I realized a while back that I was a 'noticer'. I notice things. Example: At O'Hare airport in Chicago, I couldn't help but spot how the base of the sign outside the Brookstone kiosk did not respect the patterns in the terrazzo floor. So, of course, I moved the sign. Didn't bother to check with anybody, even though there were several people nearby watching. In its new position, it creates an arrangement that is more orderly, more connected to its environment, and more respectful of the viewer and our innate desire for order.
Lessons
1. An orderly environment is often preferable to one of chaos.
2. Seemingly disparate elements can respect each other, often in subtle ways.
3. If you act like you know what you're doing, you can get by with almost anything.
4. It's often easier to ask forgiveness than to seek permission.

Although I didn't need to do either in this case. The Brookstone employee did not care about me or what unusual stuff I was doing to their sign.

An easier to read Recycle chart

Left: This letter-size flier denotes recycling pick-up days. Trash is picked up every week, but recycling is picked up every 2 weeks - it's harder to remember which week is a recycle day. Notice all the white space (blank space) in the original flier. Right: A better use of available space to allow the info to be easier to read and comprehend.

Remember those Big Chief tablets?

The cover would make a great case flap for an iPad or other etablet.

The cover flap of the case. The Big Chief notepaper app.

A misleading chart

Nulo is a premium dog food that prides itself on healthful, honest ingredients. But, their promo piece is a bit misleading. Note the strong visuals below comparing carbohydrate content - it makes Nulo appear impressive (almost no carbohydrates).

The left one uses a scale of 30% to 50%, selected out of context to show the red bar more favorably. The company relies on the fact that visuals are more memorable and persuasive than text words. On the right is a fair comparison - using the scale from 0% to 100% - the complete gamut. Now, the red band is not quite as impressive. The red band and the one above it differ by only 5%, almost negligible. But, the visual on the left makes it appear that there is a huge difference between the two.
Makes me wonder - what are they hiding? Why don't they show the complete chart? I am often skeptical of companies who try to trick the consumer.

Ambigram project examples
An ambigram is a word image that can be read the same right side up as upside down or as a left and right mirror image. Samples of student-created ambigrams.



How something appears is always a matter of perspective.


What a weird B

Took a walk to Starbucks for their new drink - Flat White. Saw this painted sign on the parking lot concrete. Why the unusual B? Did the sign painter use a stencil - the A and R suggest so, but the B doesn't look like a stencil. A few feet away, I happened upon this shadow of the gas meter pipes. Aha. That's it.


There is always a better way
Organizing text copy for better comprehension


Improvements
• Put all time info on one line: 9:00a to 10:30a.
• Abbreviated 'AM' as 'a' (and PM as p, if included).
• Deleted the unnecessary CDT.
• Placed 'Downtown Oklahoma City' on one line.
• Tightened up the initials EK.
• Decreased leading between the two blocks of text copy.
• Increased leading between the map and the copy.
• Increased the blue space in the left margin.

A new look for QSR buildings
Quick Service Restraunts are currently blending into a more homogenous style of building design, characterized by:
• Horizontal rows of slats, often wood.
• Intersecting slabs of masses.
• Eave overhangs.
• Flat roofs, no mansards, gables, or domes.
• Strong horizontals and verticals, fewer curves.









A better game show tv screen layout

We have become so accustomed to seeing web sites and app pages with multiple blocks of info that the linear images on game shows seem primitive. TV screens are wider now (more real estate to use for images) and our home screens are larger and in higher definition. Often, when watching, I wonder what the score is or the amounts of money a contestant has. My desire may not match what the director has chosen to put on the screen. Solution: arrange the Jeopardy (or Family Feud, Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune) blocks of info like a web site to allow the viewer to access info as needed or desired.


Readability of microwave instructions on frozen meals


The two above have their instructions buried in blocks of copy. The Atkins brand at the top is on a side panel, in a small point size, and reversed out of the red background. Maybe that's the Atkins Plan - the dieter can't read how to heat it so they get frustrated and go for ice cream or chocolate. Or chocolate ice cream. That keeps them fat and they keep buying Atkins meals to feel better.
Now look at the brand below. The designer of these packages was considerate of the reader. The heading, Cooking Instructions, is large and easy to find. The most important info (the time) is large, set in a box, and put on a higher contrast background. Users can scan the back of the box easily and quickly find the info they are looking for. Microwave ovens are fast, their instructions should be, also.


The box above has two important steps - Prep and Cook. Both are very clear at a glance. The photo makes sense.

Such a fun idea

At the entrance to the parking lot at the Estonian State Opera. Can you imagine the music in the driver's head as the gates open and close? An innovative mind saw a possibility to transform a standard gate into something festive, appropriate, and animated. Very cool.

A better location for the new West Thames pedestrian bridge

The new bridge connecting Battery Park City and the Financial District in downtown Manhattan is expected to cost $27 million (not including any overcharges). Work is due to begin in the fall of 2014; the bridge would open in late 2016.

Above left: proposed location of the new bridge. Right: a better location. Below: walking patterns:

Full story.

Not sure the sign is any better than the visuals of the implements.

Our minds are conditioned to seek out visuals before words. Here, the visuals are so clear and adequate. Do we really need to label a stack of spoons as 'Spoons'.

Red button for Emergency Information

Walking through the subway station, I noticed this call box mounted on a column. The lettering was easy enough to read, but the buttons weren't quite right. It seemed there might be two options, but it wasn't very clear. Was it one button for Emergency Information or two buttons - one for Emergency and another for Information. As I studied it more closely, I saw the second button below the word Information. Two distinct options. There are 2 problems:
• The Info button does not stand out and can be easily overlooked, especially from a distance or if in panic mode.
• The text word labels are not in proximity to their buttons.
On the right, above, is a revised version with a brighter info button and the word labels moved closer to their respective buttons. Below: side by side comparisons:

Lesson: Proximity is an important design guideline - position related elements in close proximity to each other.

'Designy' - small and subtle graphics, that blow

You've probly seen these in the bathrooms - the airblade, an air dryer by Dyson (of vacuum cleaner fame). The instructions are in a diagram on the top of the machine. Many people have learned how to use these and no longer need instructions. But, if a company is going to include instructions, then make them understandable.
All one really sees is the black hands and arrows. The thin white outline of the units doesn't show up well on the light grey background. To shoot the photo on the right, I had to reflect the image in the light at just the right angle. Even then, the units are barely legible.

An all black diagram might have worked; or a dark grey to be a bit more subtle or the solid white unit, below:


Nice detail of merging old and new

Location: An addition to the back of a shop in SoHo, NYC.

Built in 1818, the 3-story Federal-style building at the corner of Spring and Wooster streets, is likely the oldest building in Soho. Crocs (yes, those shoes) took over the building and put up a brick front facade and new siding on the Wooster side; and replaced a garage in the adjoining Wooster Street plot with a contemporary glass-faced structure.


"It's not going to look like a typical library."


Opened in May 2012, the Patience Latting Northwest Library in Oklahoma City features imagery of the Oklahoma prairie including study areas housed in glass that resemble oil-derricks. Wood-slat walls are reminiscent of the oil-field equipment crates that were historically used as temporary housing. Shelving end-panels feature scenes from the Oklahoma prairie such as wheat fields and windmills. Some facts:
• Architectural firm: Richard-Bauer, Phoenix
• Cost: $8.1 million
• Size: 35,000-square-foot building
• Service area: A three-mile radius of 47,000 residents in northwest Oklahoma City
• Collection: 156,000 books, CDs, DVDs and magazines
• Outdoor art sculptures: saurophaganax dinosaur, collared lizard, raccoon, and cowgirl Lucille Mulhall with shelter dog Wall-E
• Artist: Solomon Bassoff of Faducci Studio
• Sustainability: Northwest Library is the first public library in the state to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified
• LEED elements: drip irrigation system, low-flow faucets/toilets, geothermal heating and cooling system, recycling bins, recycled and regionally sourced materials, sustainably harvested wood, low-emitting finishes and day-lighting for interior spaces




Wisdom from Milton Glaser


A Deco treasure in downtown Tulsa

Tucked into a room off the lobby in the Deco Philcade Building is this extensive collection of Deco graphics, products, photographs, and household objects. Due primarily to oil discoveries in the 1920s and subsequent wealth in Tulsa, there was much new construction and a desire to be more like an Eastern big city. There is an active community of devotees who are keeping that chapter of Tulsa history alive for the rest of us to enjoy. Check the Tulsa Art Deco Museum website for the hours and address. The photo above left is by David Moos.

The shoestring-budget museum is staffed by volunteers, so that may help explain the weak logo. Issues:
• TAD Museum? Do they really want us to call it that? Hope not.
• Consistent-width letterforms are not very indicative of Art Deco.
• The angled stroke ends and notches in the initial letters just don't fit here.
• Vertical stacking of partial words is a bit too clumsy and awkward.

Mandela wisdom for designers
Quotes from Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner
"It always seems impossible until it's done."
"I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles."
"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
"A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."

A more convenient and user-friendly tea box

I toured the Celestial Seasonings factory in Boulder Colorado. After arriving home from a great trip through the mountains of Colorado, I placed all the tea boxes on the counter top. I wanted them to remain open so I could easily access the envelopes of tea bags.To label each box, I ripped off the top flaps and stuck the title flap down in the back of the box. I noticed that if the box had been designed differently, I could have just folded and tucked the top back into the box. Below is an example of retail display packaging with tuck-in top flaps. Something like that would have been pretty nice for the tea boxes on my counter top.

Left: The original box front/top. Right: the redesigned panel with the title name at the bottom so it would still show when folded and tucked in.
The panel with the name of the tea forms a base for the illustration - the image is no longer 'crushed' by the type overhead.
For better visibility, the line of text with the quantity info is moved to the top, and out from obscurity inside the illustration.

Full story

These products don't even have their full names on them



These graphics are so well known that, even when enlarged and cropped, they still communicate clearly.

An everyday problem finally solved

You have probly walked up to the flatware (plasticware) bins in a restraunt and had to look down into the bin or pull up a utensil in order to see if it was a fork or spoon. The ends are identical - no clue as to what is on the other end - the end that is buried down in the bin with the rest of the herd (I assume plasticware comes in herds).
Below: If the utensils were stored handle-down, recognition would be easy. But various health codes don't want customers touching the utile ends so they are pointed down and the handle pointed up.


A beautiful solution from Frank Nichols

Observation: Face up in the bins - we can tell each use immediately. But, when face down, we just see identical ends of the handles.
Concept: The handle end is designed to identify the utensils.


Solution: An identity system incorporating a variety of handle-end communication devices for no extra cost (one-time charge for new molds). The elements that communicate the utensil usage:
    •  Different length of utensil.
    •  Embossed icon at the end of the handle.
    •  Unique identifying shape of handle ends.


The PID system also allows sight-impaired customers the opportunity to recognize a utensil by feeling the shape at the end of the handle.
In 1915, another company wanted users to be able to identify their product by shape only. The design objective was to create a bottle so that it could be recognized in the dark. Inspired by the Hobble Skirt, popular at the time, and the shape of the coca bean pod, Swedish-born glass blower Alexander Samuelson presented the now classic bottle shape.


Two other innovative products (of many) from Frank Nichols, a graphic, package, and product designer.




It is about integrity and trust
This is a new subscription service for dog treats and toys. It seemed like a good idea, so I thought I'd sign up.
I selected $18/month. But, notice in the Summary: $18.25/month. They snuck in another quarter:

Here is the full story and what they did about it.

Well-written billboard message

Right: Be aware when laying out a page in a magazine that is perfect bound - the gutter won't open flat and some of the copy will be obscured in the unseen portion. The designer saw the above red page on his/her screen and it looked just fine - text all the way to the edge. But, they didn't consider how it would look once printed. I assume that editorial layout is for Michael Fassbender, the actor. But, it could be for Dick Assbender, the one-eyed drag queen.

See the dog or the letter N, but not both at once.

You can see a capital N with bumpy lines along two strokes or you can see a silhouette of a dog in a weird white shape - the letter N or the dog, but not both simultaneously. Of course, since your mind can switch back and forth quite fast; it may appear you are seeing both at once.

The clever Fiat campaign draws its concept philosophy from Rubin's vase (the figure-ground vase), famous two-dimensional forms developed around 1915 by Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin. The viewer sees two shapes, but only one can be understood at a given moment. The same phenomenon also occurs in the old woman-young woman image below. This one-at-a-time image perception is shared by the Fiat campaign - you can focus either on the conditions outside the car window or on the small screen in your hand; but not both at the same time.


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