Observations and ideas about design

How to make the Olympic Games better.

• Provide outlets for amateur athletes to achieve recognition and championships.
• Stage games that are more efficient, leaner, less expensive to produce, more exciting.
• Schedule fewer days, streamline Opening & Closing Ceremonies. to be shorter and less expensive.
• Build/use fewer venues; group sports to same venues or outdoor areas.
• Remove sports that have a system of championships or allow professionals.

Remove these sports:
• Baseball (World Series)
• Basketball (NBA Championship)
• Boxing (Championship bouts)
• Football/soccer (World Cup)
• Golf (Masters, USOpen, British Open)
• Tennis (US/French Opens, Wimbledon)
Add these:
• Darts
• Billiards: game
• Billiards: trick shots

The trend of white houses with black trim was never great, now its outdated

The trendy paint scheme removed most of the character, personality, and historical representation from this house/business.

So much crap on a small sticker
Deleted all the nonsense decorative adornment junk.
Deleted the circular white border line.
Tightened kerning in HOOK 'EM.
Enlarged TEXAS and set it justified under the tower, to form a base.
Decreased leading above and below the text.
Enlarged the tower and text unit.
Much stronger message of the Tower and the Slogan.

Above left: An avocado ripeness sticker. Above right: A crate sticker to verify excess tilting of the crate.
Below left: Hanging packs in 2 overlapping sizes - more product can fit on the hanging rod. Below right: Magnets on the side of the sodapop machine for munchies. The cans don't take any additional floor space or shelf space and it puts the temptation right by the drinks.

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.
Staples, the office supply store, positioned the boxes of Crystal Light on top of the cooler of bottled waters. Smart.

Signs reminding users to pick up their dog poop.

The upholstery pattern conveys these seats are reserved for Special Needs.

What is that circular depression for?

Okay, sure, to denote where to place your cup, bottle, or mug. But lets go deeper - why is it there? Is it necessary? Without it, will the drinker be so confused that it hinders the enjoyment of drinking and eating. Shouldn't designers, engineers, and manufacturers believe that their customers are smart enough to place their drink on the tray in a manner that is convenient, efficiently uses the space, and is somewhat safe and secure.
Notice that the depression can actually make the experience less convenient and secure. Without the dip, there is more usable space - sometimes, there may be so many items that need to fit on the tray that the cup should be placed in a corner, closer to the edge than the depression allows.

An intelligent respectful way to deal with sensitive statues and plaques

Instead of removing statues and plaques of Confederate soldiers or other somewhat-inaccurate dominant people, the city of Santa Fe has added this plaque to the obelisk in the center of the Plaza. It does a good job of educating the reader with some context of the period in question. The new plaque reads, "Monument texts reflect the character of the times in which they are written and the temper of those who wrote them. This monument was dedicated in 1868 near the close of a period of intense strife which pitted northerner against southerner, Indian against white, Indian against Indian. Thus, we see on this monument, as in other records, the use of such terms as 'savage' and 'rebel'. Attitudes change and prejudices hopefully dissolve."

I sprayed lightly over the SON in the last name to emphasize EDMOND
(the town where the sign was posted) to provide memorability and improve retention.

The original patent from 1891 shows the correct rolling direction, in case you ever doubted.

A new product for the New America

Nike has become the first major manufacturer to make a hijab for Muslim athletes. “It's a game changer - it can spread awareness, compassion, and more understanding of what the Muslim community is all about." The head cover, called the Nike Pro Hijab, has a single-layer pull-on design made from lightweight polyester. The fabric's tiny holes make it breathable while remaining opaque, a requirement for hijab-wearing women. Nike began developing the hijab after some Muslim athletes complained about wearing a traditional head scarf during competition.

Better Pixelogic solutions

After I solved the puzzle Old Fashioned TV, I thought it looked more like a microwave oven than a TV. I had to make it better. I did and sent it in - they published it a few weeks later. Right: Snowsim saw the moon in Good Night and had to redo that one, too, with a title that expresses his/her frustration.

Why make this more difficult than necessary?

This Zoe's Kitchen restraunt is open from 11a - 9p. On NYE, they will be closed from 8p - 10p (but they close at 9p anyway - will they reopen at 10p?). It would be clearer if it just said We will close at 8p on Saturday, December 31, New Year's Eve.
Better: make it less confusing and just open regular hours, instead of closing just 1 hour early.
Also, they will be open regular hours on Sunday, New Year's Day. That is a plus - that should be promoted on the sign.

A very simple way to make this procedure easier

This is the scale at the Heart Hospital check-in area. Notice that the digital readout is mounted directly above the scale. That means when the patient steps on the scale his/her body is right in front of the readout. Each time I am there, the nurse makes awkward contortions around me to read my weight. Some even set their clipboard on top of that machine on the right. Also, each time, I mention to the nurse how much easier it would be for everyone if the readout was moved over so that both the patient and nurse could easily see it (proposal above right). And, each time, I get lame excuses, "That's the way they built it." "That's not my job." (just nervous chuckles). Two problems here:
1. The mounting of the readout with no consideration for the users (lack of empathy).
2. The I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude of the nurses.

Oklahoma City looks like a single skyscraper town

October of 2012, Devon Energy opened their new headquarters building overlooking the superbly designed and executed Myriad Gardens. While the Devon Tower seems to claim artificial superiority - 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 Gardens, 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.
From Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City by Sam Anderson:
"You can navigate by the skyscraper - skyscraper, singular, because there is, by modern standards, only the one, and it is so completely out of scale to the rest of the city that you can see it from everywhere else. It is nearly twice as tall as any other structure for one hundred miles in every direction. It dominates downtown, glittering like an open blade. This is the Devon Tower, headquarters of one of OKC's biggest energy companies. The skyscraper was meant to make the city seem big, but mostly it makes everything around it look small: thick, stocky, ancient, heavy, extremely midwestern."
"Everywhere we drove, Orton and I could see the Devon Tower - the disproportionately huge skyscraper that dominated the horizon. “It's really awkward," he said. "It looks too tall, standing there by itself. They'd have to build at least one more that big before it would start to look normal."

Above: More recent shots with a new tower nearby. 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.

Better options. Below left: a rendering of a lower tower, as if the building had respected its environment. Below right: 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.

Below: How some have addressed the awkwardness. The Memorial Marathon placed a seal to balance the tower. This Oklahoman ad used splashes of color. The existing CBD logo simply shrunk the building. The logo tweaked to show a more accurate scale of the buildings.

More, maybe all, drinking fountains should have bottle fillers

Above is the bottle filler fountain at O'Hare Airport. More people are carrying empty bottles through TSA and then filling them before boarding. Nice thoughtful move by the airport for the traveler's convenience. With the proliferations of water bottles, disposable and refillable, at the gym, at work and school, in cars, and while hiking; there should be a better way to refill them rather than having to hold them under the low spigot used for sipping. Better: two separate spigots so that 2 people can use the fountain at the same time, one drinking and one filling.
Above right: an outdoor fountain seen in Colorado with 3 spigots - filling, sipping, and dog lapping:

Of course, restraunts should charge for water

We pay nothing for a cup of water but about 2 bucks for soda and the only difference is a small bit of flavoring.
Why should we expect others to subsidize our choice of drink? Of course, we should be charged for water. More info
(And that is how I spell restraunt.)

How to make a video look worse, and better
Often, I see videos that don't fill the allotted space so some poster adds some side bands, often just repeated, blurred, enlarged, or distorted versions of the central image. But, those options just make the total image more complex and cluttered and compete with the video content for attention. Maybe it would be better to add solid grey bands, or a color that respects the video background, to fill the space.

Valuable lesson from the late 1970s

For fun, when I was in my 20s, I enrolled in Intro to Interior Design at EastField College in Dallas. The matronly instructor who spoke with an air of authority and respect discussed priorities. A sofa or chair with a bright busy print might look great in the showroom, in a catalog, or even in the living room - but imagine what will happen when a guest with a busy print, striped, or colorful dress sits on that sofa. Not so great anymore.

Take a look at Andrew Lloyd Webber at some Red Carpet opening event. Poor choice for a backdrop (or a shirt):

Her lesson: the people in the room are the most important design elements in a space. Design around them, not despite of them.
That has stuck with me for decades - the users are the most important design element, not color, shape, placement, typography; but, the people that will benefit from the piece.

How to make the One World Observatory a bit better
There is a new tourist attraction in New York City - the observation deck at the top of One World Trade Center, the 2nd tallest building in America (Willis/Sears Tower in Chicago is #1, unless you count the antenna at WTC, then WTC is #1). Overall, the experience was quite well done, but here are some ways to make the One World Observatory even better:

Provide seating
Many people have been standing for at least an hour before they get up to the Observatory, then they find that there are no seats. Total time at OWO is well over 2 hours - standing the entire time. It seems somewhat inconsiderate and disrespectful (especially of senior citizens) to require them to stand for hours.
There are plenty of places to place some seats (like along the curve of the SkyPortal platform) that won't congest the viewing areas. As it is now, people sit on the steps to the SkyPortal (maybe a fire hazard?) or on the ventilation ducts along the windows which block prime viewing areas.

Create a bypass line at the Photo Booth
At the photo taking area, I and several others asked for no picture to be taken. The very nice young woman told us to just go straight through the crowd. I thought how awkward - I have to wait or walk in front of the photographer to get by. Once through, I noticed the aisle towards the windows that could easily have been the bypass route. I realize they want to sell photos and encourage guests to have their photo taken, but it would have been so easy for her to tell us to step to the left of the white column and move beyond the photo area. Less congestion, less confusion, less discomfort, and less awkward. Such a simple effective solution. Somebody just wasn't thinking.
Reorganize the dining area
So much amiss here: too few chairs, an awkward pay station (I saw two people just go to the seating area with their free coffees and cookies), no trash bin by the coffee fixings, and no trash can in the seating area - there were several dirty tables and some people wandered around with their trash looking for a place to put it. They gave up and set it on a table.
Minimize the line confusion on the street level plaza
My goodness, where do we go? We had tickets, but the line in front seemed like the right one. Nope, that's to buy tickets. So, we got out of that line and had to ask an attendant where to go. There should be better signage or announcements to guide the visitor to the correct line.
Remove the scene in the film where we fly into the tower
During the elevator trip back down, the animation takes us outside the building and then straight into it (just like you're on a plane flying into the building). In our elevator, there was an audible gasp. Others knew why but nobody said anything. Very uncomfortable.
Commission a new design for the branding

The awkward W that doesn't quite fit the supposed inspiration of the top of the building. And why emphasize the W? In the type treatment, the word One gets as much prominence as the World. And, absolutely no one will refer to the observatory as W or The W, or even the OW, or OWO. More likely, The Observatory, The Observatory at the WTC, the WTC Observatory, The WTC, or The World Trade Center.

I wrote the OWO with these suggestions and got back an automated reply that someone would contact me within 24 hours. That was on July 6, 2015 (and re-sent on July 14). I am still waiting for a reply - even just a courtesy reply ("Thanks for visiting and writing"). Still, nothing. That lack of response might help explain why the customer experience is not so great. The views, however, are outstanding.

Left: Clever 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.
Right: 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.

A bad location for a memorial sign On the left is a foto of the ventilation grates for the Battery Park tunnel that connects West Street to the FDR drive (the orange sign details some upcoming construction in the park). The sign on the fence, however, states 'Korean War Veterans Memorial'. If you look real closely in the right foto, off in the distance among the trees, you can just barely make out the Korean Memorial - a cut-out silhouette of a soldier. The sign clearly suggests that the Korean War memorial is a large ventilation grate in the grass. There has to be a more appropriate and respectful place for the sign that would still grab the attention of tourists walking by but more accurately direct people to the memorial.

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

A quarter per month? That's not much. What's the big deal?
Here's the explanation in our edited September 2014 email exchange:
Jim Watson wrote: "I like the BarkBox idea, but is it $18 or $18.25 a month?"
Samantha replied: "It's $18.25! We round each month on the site!"
Jim: "Friendly suggestion: don't round off figures when you advertise a price on a website. That's deceitful advertising - promoting a lower price to entice someone to join and then giving the higher price. And, it's not about the 25 cents, it is about integrity and trust and not respecting your customer enough to give the correct price. Now I wonder what else about BarkBox is inaccurate."
Samantha: "Please know it is not our intent to be deceitful. The 12 month dollar amount was rounded as a design choice."
Jim: "Design choice? They changed the price of your product for aesthetics? Imagine if a restaurant stated a different price in the menu because it fit the space better or was fewer numbers or just looked better. Or if Walmart advertised a lower price to get you in the store and then explained the higher price with, "It was a design choice."
Your designers should know that the first objective of good design is to be accurate and honest."

As of early November 2014, the come-on price now matches the actual price. No more 'Design choice' excuse.

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.

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 salt remover.

I am confused by the name, Little Bo Peep. Did Mr. & Mrs. Peep name their tiny daughter 'Bo' or did they name her 'Little Bo'? Is Bo even a good name for a girl? The Peeps? See, this kind of stuff baffles me. Here it is 2:30 in the morning and I'm awake and confused by this name (and why would anyone name someone Humpty Dumpty). I checked online to find out how to contact the Peeps (I thought I would just ask them why they chose that name) but could only find businesses named Peeps. One was an insurance agency and the other was a restaurant in Florida - Le Peep.

So I was walking somewhere in New York and saw a slogan or title that said - 'Power Up'. It occurred to me that Power Up backwards spells Pure Wop. Now, I'm not real sure what Pure Wop is (or even wop that isn't pure) but there must be some cosmic connection there. Power Up to Pure Wop. Maybe like 'give someone a wop upside the head'. And a powerful wop, at that. Just something to think about.
I also wonder if, somewhere in the universe, there is a woman named Pam Yawbus. Google found no such name. But Pam Yawbus is Subway Map backwards. That just can't be a coincidence. I suspect it is some sort of code used by transit workers (or the Yawbus family while in New York). There is likely some deeper meaning that is just not obvious to us mere mortals. More shit to think about.

When I drive to and from Edmond OK and Manhattan NY, I pass numerous Interstate highway interchanges that are full of services for motorists - fuel, food, stores, repairs, motels, amusements, etc. Some of these interchanges are small communities that rely on the traffic stopping for their survival. They are a unique part of the American landscape - created and maintained for the convenience and pleasure of mobile Americans - tourists, business people, and truckers. We need a name for these places. Travel Plaza, Services, Service Center. How about 'Stopping Center'. From Shopping Center but expressing the unique attribute - we stop at these places to interrupt our journey for a few minutes or overnight to take care of our needs and wants.

The 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:
Mimic the original structure
Encase or disguise the original
Visually overwhelm the original with a more powerful new structure
Convey a few original elements in a subtle new building
Ignore the original completely
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.

The Liberty Science 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 chaperon 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 chaperon 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.

According to research studies - wearing a seat belt allows drivers to feel more secure and confident and, therefore, take more risks and drive more dangerously. Wearing a bicycle helmet suggests to an automobile driver that the cyclist is more experienced and more in control of their bike and, therefore, can be approached with less caution, resulting in more danger for the cyclist.

Okay, I'm confused - how should we drive when we're not in the Traffic Safety Zone? With unsafe driving skills? Shouldn't we be encouraged to always drive with safe driving skills?

Good examples 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. NC State was smart enough (and there were a few others) to post their sign name above the table.

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.

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.

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?" Fortunately, The Early Show has been replaced with CBS This Morning. Better.
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.

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.

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? Amsterdam's Schiphol airport has the world's first vending machine capable of printing out personalized giant banners in just a few minutes. You can pick your message, 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. "We hope have them in other airports, but also in stadiums for sporting and music events," Bruna said.

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.

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, most 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.

Above right: 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.

The OCCC Arts Festival is held each Labor Day. 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 views for most of the festival-goers.

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 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, 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." A sample from the Plain Language.gov 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

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.

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.

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: LXVI.
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

I was in the mall 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. This was no longer a handicap ramp, it was a texting ramp.

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.
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.

I noticed this upper section of the staircase had been installed upside down. The top and bottom risers were the wrong dimensions - causing a tripping hazard. The fix was simple - drop that section, flip it over, raise it into place and reattach the 4 bolts. I wrote the Parks Department with pix and rationale. The staircase was corrected the next day.

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.

Let me see if I have this right
I can write a 3-page letter, and put it on my front door.
That same day, someone authorized by the government will stop at my house and pick up that letter.
The letter will then be transported anywhere in the country.
It will then be hand-delivered to the front door of the person I wrote the letter to.
This cross-country trip will take 2-3 days.
It will cost me about 50 cents - 2 quarters. 50 pennies!
And some people bitch about the price of stamps.

Many people do not like to touch the door handle when exiting a restroom - that is 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 or with their foot:

Some design objectives:
Easy to clean (holes or gaps will collect gunk).
Easy to install on existing doors of varied materials.
Durable for many uses.
All of these options are good design - each solves a problem with clarity and efficiency.
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.

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.

I had just finished a tour of the Tenement Museum and walked a few blocks to the New Museum in the Lower East Side 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 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.
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.

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 and get messy.
Tip: Avoid horizontal surfaces in public spaces, except where absolutely necessary.
Option: Pedestal sinks with shelves and hooks within reach and sight for personal belongings. A larger sink basin would also better contain spray and splash.

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. 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.

Please don't cram things into 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.

So much crap in seatback pockets: 6 pieces of literature. I had to rearrange and neaten them up. I put 3 of the technical pieces inside the 4th, a single fold piece that served as a folder; magazine and catalog in front.

In that 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 the 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. And the bottom crease folds inside the bag, with no extending flaps that can cause snags.

Error in exhibit installation

This is Leaf/Paddle/Petal, one of George Nelson's innovative 1950s-era clocks. He designed clocks so that the hour markings would be oriented in a familiar orientation: the 12 and 6 formed a vertical line and the 3 and 9 formed a horizontal line, as shown in the catalog entry above.
When I visited the Nelson exhibit at the OKC Museum of Art, I noticed immediately that some of the clocks were mounted incorrectly (photo below). Leaf/Paddle/Petal was the most obvious error.

To address the error, I asked a curator at the museum and was abruptly told that I had to contact the exhibit owner, the Vitra Design Museum in Germany; the OKC Museum of Art could do nothing about the mistake. So, I contacted Vitra in Germany and received a response (copied to the museum) that the clocks should have been mounted as shown in the catalog. Major league museums pay better attention to detail when mounting shows.
Lesson: The museum, as the repository and archive of art and design for central Oklahoma, has an obligation to accurately portray designers' intents. The general public, scholars, researchers, and art historians need to be able to trust that the institution will exhibit artifacts correctly.

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. 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.

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. I 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 later returned to Whole Foods, those signs had been replaced (middle sign above).
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:
Some of the text that was set in all caps was changed to U&lc. This does appear more friendly and less demanding.
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.

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, bottle, and Dennis' dad distract from the piece of broccoli on the floor and the action of Dennis pointing to it. Dennis is talking to the dog.
Compare the 3 panels - the far left one more clearly communicates the gag.
Unfortunately, the panel on the far right is the way the cartoon was originally drawn and published.
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.

Caption: "Better duck!"
Do the sign support truss and the overhead lights get in the way of the message that the bridge ahead is low and may hurt Marmaduke's head?
Is this cartoon 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.

How something is viewed is always a matter of perspective.

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.

Dining inside a billboard
Humans have always enjoyed looking outside while dining, probly stemming from our tribal ancestors who had to keep a sharp eye lookout for marauding tribes who wanted to steal their food. That threat is long gone, but the desire to have a view from the table remains.
So many restraunts post promotions in their windows that I feel like I'm eating inside of a billboard.
They see the blank glass space as a medium to advertise their restaurant and products. I see the glass as a portal to look out onto the passing world - traffic, sunlight, and trees. They, however, are winning. Dining areas are often compromised by the lack of open views.

At least these poster ads have a see-through quality (below). It does let in more light, though, the view is filtered through a burger or breakfast sandwich.

Some solutions
1. Remove all window billboard displays.
2. Limit window posters to just one or two window panes.
3. Mount the ads only at the very top of the windows. This would open up the vista for the diner and still allow the ads to be visible from the street and parking lot. Of course, no billboards at all would be better, but this could be a fair compromise.

This grocery store has an extensive deli and hot and cold cafeteria. The seating area is bound on two sides by large windows. But, the marketing manager posted children's artwork directly in the line of sight, preventing most people from looking outside while they dine. An Assistant Manager said the images used to be mounted in the top row of windows (much better) but that it was harder to maneuver the ladder so they moved them down. This is one great example of putting the needs of the employee ahead of the needs of the customer.

But, hallelujah, a few weeks later, however, the posters were in a different arrangement, allowing better views out the windows. Maybe he really was listening. Months later, I went back, and, wow - all the posters were up at the very top - where they should be - allowing full views out the windows.

The Freddy's restaurant has full walls of windows and no billboard ads on any of them - just unobstructed views outside. The one sign that was in a front window was printed on perforated stock so that it almost disappears when looking out into the brighter outdoors:

New look for QSR (fast food) restraunts

The new look for Quick Service Restraunts blends 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.
Spelling of the word restraunt.

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.

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.

Nice detail of merging the old with the new. 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) renovated the building and replaced a garage in the adjoining Wooster Street plot with a contemporary glass-faced structure.

Wisdom from Milton Glaser

An unnecessary sign (therefore, it's clutter.) 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'.

You have probly walked up to 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 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: An identity system incorporating a variety of ways to communicate the utensil usage:
Different length of utensil.
Embossed icon at the end of the handle.
Unique identifying shape of handle ends.

The 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, glass blower Alexander Samuelson presented the now classic bottle shape.

Another option: Chick-Fil-A has addressed the problem with these labels:

One night recently, Jim had a chip on his shoulder. I hate it when this happens. Just spite and anger. But I flicked it off, dipped it in salsa and ate it - then, everything was okay.

When i was Chair of the Department of Design, one of the tasks i enjoyed the least was having to write Strategic Plans (redundant words - a strategy and a plan are the same thing). We spent a disproportionate amount of time preparing reports for an administration that didn't know nor care what we really did. The university bureaucracy would often have us write reports and fill out forms that had little-to-no value. Once, i had to call a meeting with the Design faculty and the admin to present the SSCI report - a huge paper that discusses our procedures for planning. The VP asked me to detail the ways in which i involved the faculty in the preparation of the report. I told him that i didn't involve the faculty at all - i saw nothing in the SSCI that would help faculty do a better job in the classroom and i wouldn't be so inconsiderate as to ask them to help with a useless report (no one in Admin read the entire thing or used it to improve teaching at the university). The poster above is from the Baltimore Print Studios of a quote from Herb Kelleher, the guiding force behind Southwest Airlines, a lean company that makes profits while other airlines lose money. Herb is a doer.

Just too many receipts - even when arranged neatly in symmetrical rows. What a waste of paper. The store/restaurant needs a copy and the consumer needs a copy. Shouldn't that be enough? Doesn't the technology allow the number of receipts to be reduced? Some stores email a receipt or ask if you want a printed one from the store at time of purchase. That reduces the number to zero or one. Much better.

A night out with the girls. And by girls, I mean devices.

We often say, I have to go to work or I gotta go to work. This attitude of 'have to' can be a bit demoralizing. Like its an awful ordeal. One's entire outlook can change with a simple change of attitude about work. Given the option of not working, going to work is usually preferable. We like the benefits that work provides - a sense of satisfaction, service, and productivity and, often, a sense of self-worth. We also love the benefit of a paycheck. We love the money to pay bills and buy stuff that we want. So, maybe the a healthier attitude would be I want to go to work.
American English intrigues me - it is still evolving and adapting to cultural needs. I read the phrase I got to go to work on Facebook and wondered if it could still be read if it was translated into phonetic and slang: gada goda wirk. The unscientific survey confirmed that it could.

The formula for Hate. Fear is the catalyst and the flame stirs up the ignorance that is contained until it boils over.

Blogreader David emailed with a great idea: a hurricane name that provides more information. Naming devastating storms after people does provide a reference, but there are 2 problems:
1. The name does not provide any information about the storm - like when it is, what ocean, etc.
2. It associates a negative connotation to a name. I suspect that, a few years ago, not many baby girls were named Katrina.
We don't name terrorist attacks after people - we use 9/11 for September 11, 2001 and the English use 7/7 for the terrorist subway bombings. In Oklahoma, they still refer to the May 3 tornadoes by their date, not someone's name.
David's suggestion is to use a letter prefix to denote the number of the storm in a year, followed by the year. So the 3rd storm of 2009 would be named 3-09. I wonder if we can go a step further and add a code for the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Maybe just A, P, or I? And even add the month of 1st landfall to the year.

Example: 3P-8-11 would be the 3rd storm of the year, in the Pacific, with landfall occurring in August of 2011.

Downside: tough for the weather reader to say on air - maybe a storm has both - an on-air name (Irene) and a letter/number denoter (2A-7-16). In print, the storm could be denoted by both for clarification.
This doesn't address the issue of potentially tainting names with a negative association. They could assign obscure names such as these that have previously been assigned: Hazel, Beulah, Caesar, Hortense, and Ophelia.
But, improving the system for naming hurricanes is certainly an idea worth considering. Thanks, David.

Background, from the FEMA website
For hundreds of years, hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint's day on which the hurricane occurred. An Australian meteorologist began giving women's names to tropical storms before the end of the 19th century. In 1953, the US National Weather Service began using female names for storms. In 1979, both women and men's names were used. One name for each letter of the alphabet is selected, except for Q, U and Z. For Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, the names may be French, Spanish or English, since these are the major languages bordering the Atlantic Ocean where the storms occur. The World Meteorological Organization uses six lists in rotation. The same lists are reused every six years. The only time a new name is added is if a hurricane is very deadly or costly; then the name is retired and a new name is chosen.

Was wandering around the University of North Texas and came upon this sculptural column. I assumed that it was for skateboards - that made the most sense on a college campus next to a bike rack. Farther down the bike rack was this bike repair station. A cool idea - to provide tools and a support bar for making repairs.

If long hot summers become the norm, we will need to adapt and seek ways to make it more tolerable, safe, and comfortable.
Here are some thoughts of what we can do:
Clothes: wear sandals, no socks or short socks; wear shorts, but not thick, layered cargo shorts; wear StayCool fabrics and more breathable fabrics.
Cars: put valuables in the trunk, leave the windows down for air flow. Buy cars in light colors to reflect more heat.
Transportation: use more public transportation, and add shade shelters at bus stops.
Landscaping: plant grasses that better withstand heat and drought and require less watering and pesticides; embrace xeriscaping (dry) to use less water.
Roofs: use light colors to better reflect heat. Ventilate attics.
Structures: install awnings and shade structures on houses and buildings.
Haircut: shorter and cooler, wear ventilated and wide-brimmed hats.
Shade: install more canopies in parking lots, plant more shade trees along parking rows, use parasols/umbrellas to shade pedestrians.
Outdoor activities: schedule earlier in the day and later in the evening; slow down and take siestas in the heat of the afternoon; accept lawn care noise earlier in the morning and later in the evening.
Garage: install an exhaust fan in the groj ceiling. To enhance the view of an open garage from the street - make it look more like a carport.

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:

This is absolutely brilliant. The first major ketchup packet design change in 42 years was developed after more than two years of research. It has a top that can be peeled back for easy dipping or a tip torn off to squeeze. 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." 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 it is 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. Update: Heinz fixed the graphics and simplified the wording for each use option.

We love ketchup and, in Texas, we love salsa. Pow! Put the two together. Both are dipping condiments and both are tomato-based. Why hadn't someone thought of this years ago? I have always put pepper on my fries, so a ketchup with a bit of peppery hotness was an easy transition.

I was at the gym, Gold's on the north side. I was a new member and was doing some chest presses when I looked across the bicycles and rowers and saw the sign over a set of double doors: Cardio Enema. Huh? Did I read that right? It was a serious sign - individual thick letters mounted on the wall above the door. Was it a cruel joke or a mistake by the sign company that no one had yet noticed? I couldn't tell, but I figured that there may have been some exercises in that room I didn't want to do.

I finished the presses and then went to two other machines. I took another look. Nope, still there. Still says Cardio Enema. I got my stuff from the locker room, no shower, not after what happened last week, my first week at this gym. On my way out, I told the fit young woman at the front desk about the sign. She looked at me like I was a fool, turned to read the sign, read it again, gasped audibly, and ran to the manager's office. I waited, no one came out. I was satisfied: I had alerted them, not much else I could do. So, I went on out the front door just as two police cars pulled up, lights flashing. They ran right by me. As I turned back to look, they were pulling their guns out. I drove on home and made a protein shake. Chocolate - well, I had just worked out.

Carl's Jr. and Hardee's were serving up a delicious symbol of freedom with the arrival of the Most American Thickburger - it unites three popular American picnic foods together on one bun: a split hot dog, potato chips, and a hamburger patty, along with a slice of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and mustard, served on a bun. “A hot dog, potato chips, and a beef patty is, unquestionably, our most American creation yet."
"A burger this epic required an equally epic ad campaign that salutes all things American." American as the military, sex, red white blue, blond, liberty, boobs, cleavage. Statue of Liberty, aircraft carrier, skimpy bikini on a blog.

Great business for when some people regret what they have done.

To get an application for a job - instead of seeking a manager and interrupting the workflow - IHOP uses this device to dispense contact info for online or a phone call. The dispenser is like those that are used in bakeries and butcheries.
'Take a number, please' does have value as an alternative to standing in a sequential line. Wait until your number is called - wander the store, airport, or salon. Many of these places have an electronic board mounted up high that shows the number being served so those waiting can see when to approach the counter. In the instance above, the number is replaced with contact information.