Tardis Corset Technical Notes Part 2: The second version.

With a proof of concept, if not much more, in hand, I set about making a second version.  Nikki suggested printing the panels on paper and using the paper.  My printer was out of ink at the time (I have a fancy printer and the ink costs a mint.), so I borrowed a printer, and set about doing that.  What eventually appeared was a sandwich:

clear plastic

frosted plastic

paper

clear plastic

This took a fair bit of time in photoshop, since I had to make the panels look exactly correct. So an hour or so per panel to make sure it all looked the way it was supposed to.  But I was having printing problems- the panels weren’t printing at the right size and it wasn’t my printer.  Concerns about ink usage arose. After several attempts I finally managed to get all the printed panels in my hands and make the sandwiches.

While this looked okay- certainly better than the previous attempt, it had a flaw- it was very hard to make the sandwich stay together.  I spent a lot of time gluing and gluing.  The glue has to go SOMEWHERE and there was nowhere to put it on the panel that it was well hidden.  I had lots of problems with the panels coming apart. I kept gluing them back together.  But I was rapidly running out of TIME.  I shipped the panels overnight to Philadelphia.  They were supposed to be there by noon the next day.  Nikki would then have one full day to get it all together.  This was the second round of panels:

In the mad rush I cut the door opening to the sign on the stomacher backwards. Oops.

The USPS lost the package.

They misrouted it and it didn’t arrive until a day later.  Then Nikki had the same problems I did with panel separation.  She’d had a really, really awful week (for various reasons) and in the end just couldn’t build the corset in time for Defcon.  We then were focused on a new deadline- Wicked Faire on August 13.

So we were getting there, but we weren’t quite there yet.

Tardis Corset: Of Sonic Screwdrivers and Doors

Nikki forwarded a question on to me asking if it would be technically possible to build a sonic screwdriver capable of opening the door on the corset.

This led me to ask what a sonic screwdriver WAS.

Once I got that explanation out of the way (and Nikki stopped laughing), I told her I’d post the answer here:

 

Yes, but there’s no real good reason to want to.

From a *technical* standpoint what you’re really looking to do is basically apply the same principles as a garage door opener, or the push button electronic lock on your car door.  You basically turn the sonic screwdriver into the remote control for the door.  It’s a pain in the ass, but technically doable.

However in this particular case it’s an awful lot of work (and added expense) to the garment for no really good reason.  if you’re using it on yourself, it’s really just almost silly when you could just, you know, open the door. 

If you give the controller to someone else it makes all kinds of sense from a fetish corset standpoint.  But it would really require the doors be placed far more strategically- which they’re simply not on this garment.

It’s just not worth the hassle or expense to do it for this particular design, but yeah it’s *technically* possible.

 

 

Tardis Corset Technical Notes 1: How I got here.

Before I forget all this, I’m writing it down.

As I’ve said previously, Nikki is a friend of mine. We had been speaking on Skype one night as she told me about her idea to make a tardis corset.  She had a client (Nicole) who had a credit with her and  Nikki wanted to get her in a tardis corset in time for Defcon.  While she had already built the pieces for the corset itself (since you know, that’s her actual job and all), she was stuck on how to turn it into a tardis (jokes about it being bigger on the inside notwithstanding.) and time was rapidly running out.

There’s two things you need to know about me:

1. I don’t sew.  In fact the only reason I own a sewing machine (I do own one, I have no idea how it works- it may as well be a nuclear reactor) is so my tailor/costume designer/all around saver of the day Jay Reeder from Knightly Endeavors doesn’t have to drag one to my house to do alterations from three hours away. So sewing issues are completely baffling to me.

2. Sorry for the heresy, gang, but I’ve never watched Dr. Who. Not ever. Not once. I have nothing negative whatsoever to say about it- it’s just not the direction my geekery goes in.  So understand that all this knowledge that others have about the show, and the tardis and all manner of other Whovian mystery is… well a mystery to me. The closest I get to Dr. Who generally is playing Rotersand: Exterminate Annihilate Destroy during a DJ set.

But Nikki was really worried about figuring this problem out. She knew what she *wanted* to do, but didn’t know how to get from point A to point B on it.  Not her skillset, as it were.

Luckily, it’s my skillset, so I offered to help out. What the hell, I like puzzles.

Understand that design is a process. That’s hard for goal oriented people.

No one is more goal oriented than me.  I am very much on the J of that J/P divide.  But design– a process that largely takes place in your head, not in the outside world, is very much a thing of process and perception.  It’s a journey. The project completion is the goal.

It is frustrating for people on the outside who only care about the goal to see or care about the process. But the process exists whether you like it or not.  It has to- or you get really shitty design.  It is VERY rare for an idea to pounce out of someone’s head fully formed like Athena from Zeus, and when people cling to the first idea they have, they usually wind up with really lousy results overall.

So, I first told her I would help. I have experience with this sort of geekery- as previously mentioned I’m the lunatic who helped Jay Maynard build his Tron suit (and I promise I had NO IDEA it would become as famous as it did- I did it to help Jay, who is also an old friend, win a costume contest at Penguicon. I didn’t set out to help create an internet meme, and no one was more shocked than me when it happened.)

Nikki sent me a ton of photos and information about the this particular tardis(I didn’t realize there were different models.) and explained exactly what she was trying to do.  She also mailed me her original drafted pattern, that I copied onto bond paper on my lightbox. She explained to me that ultimately she also wanted the tardis to light up.  This meant the panels could not be fully opaque (otherwise, what’s the point?)  they had to be translucent in the places you wanted lighting- in this case, the windows. I saw clearly that two windows on each side were frosted, and the others were  not frosted but darker. The tardis itself being made of wood, ostensibly, is opaque and the police box sign needed to light up as well.  Nikki indicated that the front panel needed a little door where the “free for use of the public” sign was- that she wanted to paint some sort of swirly thing behind the door.  Later on I learned she also wanted the door to trigger a sound mechanism.  It was all a bit complex. Technically doable, but not all of it was going to get done in the time frame we had.

At first, my idea was to get custom plastic pieces cut at Canal Plastics. The night before I was going to do down there I realized I was an idiot- I didn’t need to go to Canal Plastics, all I really needed to do was go to Target.

Yes, Target.

Because what I really was after was vinyl, since it was flexible and very thin.  You know where you can get plain and frosted (for the frosted windows) vinyl sheets easily?  Target.

All I needed was a couple of shower curtain liners.

So I grabbed those, brought them home and set about cutting out colorforms, basically. Rerun was trying to be helpful.

 

Nikki’s original pattern was designed to draft the corset itself, and was rough on the details of the tardis parts(since that’s not what she was building).  So I made the window outlines clearer on my copies. You can see her original copy on the right.

 

Originally, I thought of painting behind the clear vinyl(so as to keep it safe if people touched it), and attaching the frosted bits to the back. So I used photoshop to create a painting guide.

This was a good idea in my head- it didn’t work out in practice.  Since the plastic isn’t porous, the paint wouldn’t dry, and it was really messy. There was no way to make the letters look good.  It was just a complete disaster.  But I did manage to get the basic idea going. Two windows were frosted, the others were not. I had glued the frosted vinyl to the back of the clear vinyl after it was painted.

Failures teach us things about how to proceed.

The first attempt:

So that was how I got to the very first prototype.  Understand that the panels that exist now were the third go round at solving the problem.

It’s about the process- how you get from an idea to a finished product.

 

 

 

So hey, about that Tardis Corset.

If you’re a Dr. Who fan, you’ve likely seen it by now- the Tardis Corset Nikki Cohen of Mayfaire Moon is in the middle of building. Nikki is a friend of mine.  She is a professional corset maker, and very good at what she does.  What she isn’t, is an engineer of wacky technical matters.  But she knows someone who does that sort of thing.

Me.

I seem to have a history of doing this(I’m also the same person who helped Jay Maynard build his Tron suit) but… I’m the one who made the panels. I’ve seen some comments not understanding a few things.  I’d like to clear those up, for the record.

1. The corset is nowhere near finished. The photo that’s now gone all around the internet was the shot of the practice placement of the stomach panels. It’s not nearly a finished product.  It’s barely even a partially finished product.  Please for the love of small fuzzy creatures stop judging it as if it were finished product. The photo in question is here:

Calm the hell down, people.

See the pins at the top of the panels? They were there to temporarily hold them in place.  It’s just a process shot, okay?

2. There are six panels in total, not just the two. Here, look, I’ll show you:

3. The reason they’re plastic and not an integral part of the corset body itself is they will be lit with EL wire. The corset body itself is silk and therefore, quite opaque and cannot be lit in the same way. Hence, the acetate.

4. The little door is clear because there will be something behind it. I had offered to paint it white as a temporary move, but Nikki declined.  It will be rigged with a little sound mechanism that will play whatever it is that’s supposed to play when you open the door. (I have personally never seen a single episode of Dr. Who.), and some kind of image on the inside of the door.

5.  These panels were the second round of prototype panels(you can see the first set at my flickr account).  Since my building them, I’ve figured out a way to solve the last remaining problem- the windowframes, which are too inexact for my taste.  However, the solution takes more time than we had to build *this particular* physical corset. It will be solved in the next one.  We know the windowframes are not perfect- really, I promise, no one knows better than we do.  However we were on a very tight time frame with this particular garment.  It will be fixed in version 3.0.  Look, it took 10 Tardises (Tardises? Tardii?) to get to this model. It’s only taking me three to perfect it. Give me a break, here. 🙂

I think it’s awesome that so many people like Nikki’s idea(and for the record it’s entirely her idea– Im just helping her engineer it.)  She’s a wonderful corset maker, and a lovely person.  I’m amazed(and so is she!) that this single image has traveled so far. But like a game of telephon(tardis phone box? I don’t know, run with it.), it’s sort of gotten distorted in the process. It’s a work in progress.  We will perfect it.

We promise.

Life, compartmentalized.

I’m actually pretty good at compartmentalizing my life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Everyone, by design or by happenstance, compartmentalizes their life to one extent or another. You don’t necessarily include your grandmother when you’re out with your friends on a Saturday night, and you don’t generally include your boss when you go on vacation. For some people it’s more than that- the walls are more deliberate; not part of the ordinary social dance people do unconsciously on a day to day basis.

I compartmentalize a lot. A whole lot. I’d say that if you were to look at a spectrum analysis I’d be way, way off to the side somewhere.

As I said I’m pretty good at it.

It’s when things overlap (cue the Venn diagrams… again.) that things get muddy. Like this post. Because I actually didn’t know what blog to put it in, since it overlaps a bunch of different areas of my life. But ultimately it wound up here because the reason I’m writing this post rather than working (which I’d rather be doing) or sleeping (which I’d also rather be doing) is because design skills aren’t transitive.

I should explain.

My friend Val is a graphic designer. In fact, she’s a really awesome graphic designer. She is so awesome she has won 11? (I think it’s 11) national graphic design awards. She knows what she’s doing. She is not someone flailing around in gimp. She’s the real deal.

For some reason, people keep coming to her asking her to help design their house. Or their furniture. Or the order in which pictures should be hung on a wall. The color of pillows.

This makes Val want to stab herself in the eyeball with a shrimp fork. Why? Because she’s not an architectural designer. She’s not an interior designer. And she’s damned sure not a decorator. She’s a graphic designer.

Hold that thought.

I am not a graphic designer. Honest. Really. I swear. I took one *required* course in graphics for interiors when I was in design school, taught by a guy who was in his last year before retiring, had no idea how to use a computer and tried to teach us the history of fonts for 15 weeks. This, my friends is the sum total of my graphic design experience.

On the other mitten, I can use Photoshop and InDesign just fine- they’re things I’ve needed for design work. Just not graphic design work.

If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me to do graphics work for them I’d be a millionaire. (I’m looking at you, Andreas.)

“But you’re a designer!”

*sigh*

What some people know: I am also a DJ.
What fewer people know: I used to be a musician.

Many (many, many) of my friends are musicians. Musicians, much like artists (ahem) are generally short on cash, but long on charm.

I like my friends. I will in fact, do graphics work for them (usually for the low, low price of free) if they ask me. Because they’re my friends, and being a musician is hard enough (I remember it all too well, thanks, that’s why I am not a musician anymore.)

But the reason your designer friends try to talk you out of asking them to do something out of their discipline is not because they don’t want to help you. It’s because they wind up writing blog posts at 8:20 in the morning because they’re waiting on information that if they were IN their own discipline, they probably wouldn’t need.

In my case, I’m doing the latest CD art for my good friend John Montagna and his wacky rockabilly Beatles cover band band Hay Jude. I’m happy to do it (John, if you’re reading this, seriously, I’m happy to do it. Stop being paranoid.) But I’m stuck, because I don’t know what fonts were used on the cover art I was handed. So I can’t do the *back* cover art with all the song titles, or the spine text, or the title headers for all the booklet pages.

I can’t help but think that if I were, you know, an actual graphic designer, I’d know what the hell fonts these were and wouldn’t be sitting here feeling like an idiot twiddling my thumbs waiting for the info.

Design skills aren’t transitive. Really. Just because someone is a web designer doesn’t mean they can design a coffee maker. Just because someone is a graphic designer doesn’t mean they can design a sofa.

And whoo boy, am I not a graphic designer.

…waiting on font names….
-AK

You have to give in order to get.

I spent my day yesterday torturing graduate students at Pratt – I was a critic for design juries.  I even introduced myself with “good morning victims.”  I apologized in advance for scarring them for life.  Little did I know it may have actually happened.

There were nine students.  7 of them had serious problems with their projects of varying degrees.  At least one of them was what I’d consider a disaster.  Of the two successful projects, only one of them was both successful and potentially realistic enough to work without significant alterations to the plan. Almost none of them got out of the 2d phase.  They just ran out of time to pull it up and work with it properly.  Im fairly sure they all hate me now, but I’m used to that.

The truth though is that none of this was their fault (and if you’re one of those students reading this right now? Yes, I told your professor that, and he told HIS chair that.  I’m about to stick up for you guys, because I don’t think what happened was your doing.)

I was told  “They’re grad students, they should be able to do this.   If they don’t have the information they should know to go look for it.”  No.  This statement presupposes that they were *taught* how to do this – and not in their current studio(because they weren’t, due to lack of time), but at some previous, unknown point that may or may not have ever happened in undergrad.  In order to look up the information, they need to know what the hell they’re looking FOR. Was *I* taught how to do the kind of project these students were handed? Yes.  I hated *EVERY MOMENT* of that semester, but I learned it.  But these students I saw yesterday are not me.  I don’t know where they went to undergrad.  Many of them did not get their undergraduate degrees in the US.  You cannot presuppose what they have learned, and to expect them to draw upon knowledge based on lessons that may never have been taught is fundamentally unfair.  The problem is the program.

Confused yet?  Let me show you:

A twice divorced investment banker in his early 70’s has bought the top floor and penthouse of a residential
building in Chelsea, in the hopes of enticing his daughter and son-in-law with their young children to move into
the space if he offers to renovate the two floors into two separate apartments. Although he is a young 72 year
old, he realizes that in another 10 to 15 years, he may want or need to have his family close. He plans to
create two living quarters, giving his children privacy, but is also interested in the possibility of some shared
space- even if only the lobby on the top floor. With the offer of free babysitting services, he has convinced his
daughter and son-in-law to move into the building.

He has slowed his business to pursue his passion of collecting indigenous ceramics from Northern Europe.
Through his extensive travels, he has acquired a taste for all things culinary. He likes to cook and have
intimate dinner parties.

His daughter is a sales manager with sportsillustrated.com as well as the mother of two children, a four year
old son and a six month old daughter. She has negotiated a schedule which allows her to work at home four
days a week. His son-in-law is a high school biology teacher who fancies himself a lepidopterist, and has a
significant butterfly collection.

You are to design two apartments situated on the fifth floor and the penthouse level at 33/35 West 26th Street in
Manhattan. Two floors of two buildings operating as one residential complex are the locus of your investigation into the
nature of public and private space for a multigenerational residence. Consider notions of community and domesticity
in an urban context while addressing the distribution of spaces between the two apartments and the two floors as ways
to connect, separate, and identify, activity and identity. Consider materiality driven concept development as well as the
nature of collections and the objects of daily life as they make and mark the interior. Focus also on an investigation of
the impact of color, texture, joinery, and application of materials in the definition of identity and space.

General Requirements
The site includes the area indicated on the attached plans. This penthouse level roof decks are also part of the site.

You must maintain the existing elevator core and fire stairs in both 33 and 35 West 26 street.

A portion of the bearing wall that separates #33 from #35 may be removed, but not the whole wall. The structural
framing between floors consists of 2” x 14” joists @ 16” on center spanning east and west from the center bearing wall.

No additional exterior enclosures on the roof deck are allowed, but the design of the exterior area is encouraged.

A 5th floor lobby will serve as the entrance to both apartments.

Consideration should be paid to the distribution of the space between the two apartments (one duplex, and one top
floor, one penthouse and one top floor, two duplexes, etc.) and the shared space(s) for the extended family.

The shared space should include the lobby on the top floor but could include more – a shared living area, roof deck(s)
on the penthouse level, etc.

Program Requirements
Shared Lobby Area
Storage for bikes (up to 5)
Recycling and trash storage area

Apartment #1
Entry
Coat closet, Powder room
Living
Seating for 8 (minimum), sound system
Dining
Table for 8 (expandable to 12), serving surface, storage for table linens, china, glassware and silver
Kitchen
Counter space for dining, range, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, appliances, sink, storage of food, cookware,
and silverware; trash and recycling bins
Laundry
Washer, dryer, iron, counter space for folding clothes
Master Bedroom
King size bed, side tables, dresser, closet/storage of clothing
Master Bath
2 sinks, WC and bidet, bathtub and shower, linen closet, storage
Office
Desk space for 2 plus necessary technology (computers, phones, printer, etc,), storage for books and files,
sound system and TV
Children’s Bedroom(s)
Bed(s), bedside table, storage for clothes, toys and books
Children’s Playroom
Seating, work/play surface, storage for toys, games and art supplies, sound system and TV
Children’s Bathroom
2 sinks, WC, bathtub and shower, storage

Apartment #2
Entry
Coat closet
Living/Dining/Kitchen
Seating and dining for 6 (minimum); serving surface, storage for table linens, and silver, counter space for
dining, range, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, appliances, sink, storage of food, cookware, silverware, and
china, glassware, trash and recycling bins, sound system

Master Bedroom
King size bed, side tables, dresser, closet/storage of clothing
Master Bath
Sink, WC, bathtub and shower, linen closet, storage
Work space
Desk space plus necessary technology, storage for books and files
Display and storage of art collection

Project Requirements
Process: Sketch models, drawings
Plans at both levels @ 1/4” = 1’-0”
Sections @1/4” = 1’-0”
Elevations @ 3/8” = 1’-0”
Final Model @ 1/4” = 1’-0”
Detail model at 1” = 1’-0”
Detail Elevation or Section/Elevation of wall(s) that demarcate or join the two apartments at 1” = 1’-0”

Requirements above are minimums. Students are, as always, required to determine beyond the required forms of
representation & process what might be required to adequately, poetically describe their projects.

Project Goals
1 To study and apply the principals of universal design to spaces of dwelling.
2 To engage the relationship between furnishings, selected or designed, and interior conditions and affects
3 To explore materiality and its impact upon spatial experience while also considering the affect of specific material(s)
on construction and detailing.
4 The acoustical properties necessary to support the activities of the various spaces

Project Objectives
1 To explore the spatial relationships between private and public space in residential design
2 To engage the potential emotional and psychological connection to the interior
3 To address the intersection of technology and contemporary lifestyles

Gather/ Evaluate/ Synthesize/ Apply: appropriate and necessary information, research and/or precedents.

 

So let’s talk about what is so fundamentally unfair about this.  :

1 To study and apply the principals of universal design to spaces of dwelling.

Let’s *start* here.  Universal Design is not something you throw someone into without making *damned sure* it was actually TAUGHT at some point.  Designing for aging/elderly/aging in place is not something you toss people at and say “wing it.”  This is a real and specific subset of design.  There’s an entire industry devoted to it. There’s architects and designers who do *nothing but this thing*. This is NOT something you presuppose when you have students coming from wildly diverse backgrounds and educational experiences. YOU HAVE TO TEACH IT.

The social dynamics in this project are *VERY* complicated.  The dynamics of multigenerational living in a modern western framework (where it is not an expected norm) are complicated all by themselves.  Further, you have two children of opposing gender here.  Sure, they’re little now- but last I heard kids grow up.  The concept of being able to design for children in an adaptable way is not something you pull out of your ass. You have to have been taught it.  One might HOPE that it happened in undergrad, but unless you know that (I don’t know, try asking?) there’s no way to determine whether or not this is true.

Oh wait, that wasn’t complicated enough:

With the offer of free babysitting services, he has convinced his daughter and son-in-law to move into the building.

This right here is a sentence fraught with tension.  Of course since the students were in way over their heads on this, all of them had a hard time even addressing this little gem, so they mostly ignored it, pretending that everyone was happy to be living together.  Though they struggled (and for some values of the word) succeeded in dealing with issues of privacy, this sentence tells you something that goes beyond a mere privacy issue. This is a *reluctant* situation.

Oh wait, still not done. Let’s talk about the class related social dynamics here.

Grandfather? Loaded.

Daughter? Also loaded.

Son in law? High school biology teacher, now living with father in law where FIL is the patriarch and owns the house.  Predictably, 8 of the 9 students seemed to have forgotten *he existed*, which you know probably would mimic his feelings day to day anyway.

None of these complex social relationships was explored.  They got handed this hot mess and told to make sense of it without finding out what sort of lessons had been taught previously.  When I questioned the fairness(and sanity) of this, I was told there was no time to impart the lessons.

Well then, don’t give the project.  Don’t set students up to fail.  It was clear that no matter how bright, talented or otherwise good these students were, the one who actually nailed the project had been *taught* these lessons as an undergrad (I should have asked her where she went.)  Further, she was from the US- she had no cultural barrier. She had no language barrier.

I don’t enjoy doing residential design. I am *good* at it and people like my work, but it’s not really my thing.  However- residential design is SOCIAL design.  It is *culturally complex*.  It has a framework in culture, in time, in location.  It must adapt, and be flexible.  If you aren’t going to teach that yourself, the least you could do is make sure your students have been taught it elsewhere.

Meantime if you overlook the entire aging in place aspect to this project, which really seems to be its ultimate focus, you may as well skip the whole thing- the students will be lost without those lessons.  This is NOT the project you hand people who have never designed for an older/aging person before.  It’s not. It’s got too many complex variables, and you’re not teaching them any of them nor giving them enough time to get it right.

You have to *give the lessons* in order to *get back successful projects*.

This is not their fault.  It’s their school’s fault.

 

 


 


Legos do not have a gender. And neither do the projects they create.

This is a Lego brick.

 

This is a Lego brick.

It’s in black and white because I overexposed the hell out of the original shot, but other than that, it’s an ordinary Lego brick.  It has four sides, six nubs on top, and a nub on the bottom.  You know what it doesn’t have?

A gender.

There are no boy Legos. There are no girl Legos.  A Lego is a Lego is a Lego.

You know what also doesn’t have a gender?  The things you make out of Legos.

Now that everyone is thinking “wtf is she on about now?”, a few hours ago someone retweeted something and it floated in front of me. I’ll be honest- I don’t remember which of my friends retweeted it, and I don’t know the original source – the person who said it is not someone I know, and I can’t even remember who it was. I do know what my reaction to it was, though.  Here I am, several hours later typing angrily into my keyboard, because I need to say this.

What it was about was a Lego build of Venice, Italy, seen somewhere.  The comment was “Finally, a Lego build for the ladies.”

Oh. Hell. No.

HELL no.

Not for nothing, but Zaha Hadid kicked in the door to the Pritzker Prize in 2004, and even that took too damned long.  But that one sentence explains so much of why women in architecture and design *STILL* have to fight tooth and nail.  STILL.  It’s ridiculous, and I’m not letting it go by without calling it out.

Venice is a beautiful city.  It’s lovely and romantic, which is (I am quite sure) what was meant by the comment.  But it is also a place of *fantastic* engineering.  It is a city based on the *technical marvel* of the built environment vs. nature. I am damned sure that was *not* what was meant by the retweeted comment.

On my desk I have two Lego builds. One of the Empire State Building. The other is of  the Guggenheim NYC.  Are those Lego models not for me?

*checks*

*checks again*.

Nope. No penis.  Still female.

The point of Lego- which is still the greatest toy ever for anyone who loves to build, adult or child, is that it allows you to create anything. Anything.  From a firehouse, to the Empire State Building, to Venice, to a bed for your cat. NONE of these things has a gender. There are no “builds for the ladies” without the inherent assumption that OTHER builds are for the men.

Bullshit.

This particularly kind of gender-biased and odious thinking in architecture is why in a magazine spread about architects, you have to BEG them to include a woman, even though there’s no shortage of talented women in architecture.  It’s about why women routinely decide not to deal with engineering- because they have to deal with stupid shit like this all the time.  It’s about why when you say youre a designer, as a woman, what people *hear* on the other end is “decorator*.

It’s RIDICULOUS. And here in MY space? I will not stand for it.

Besides, gang, it insults *MEN* just as much.  For everything assigned to women in some offhanded gesture of casual, institutionalized sexism, it excludes men from that same thing.  That’s nonsense too, and I’m not having it.

Legos? Neutral. Lego builds? Neutral. ARCHITECTURE? Neutral.  DESIGN? Neutral.

LEARN IT.

 

 

 

Where RL and virtual design collide into a cataclysm of failure.

I often talk about that place in the Venn diagram (what? I like Venn diagrams) where RL and VW (in my case, SL) design skills overlap. I think it’s interesting to note the ways that design is design is design, and that when humans are utilizing a product or space that their needs basically remain the same no matter where that design is ultimately located.

Of course this works both ways- when a design is good, it tends to be good pretty much everywhere. When a design fails spectacularly…yeah, it fails everywhere too.

So let’s talk about a couple of things.

1. You don’t fuck up a charity project.

Now, I have more experience with charity projects than the vast majority of people. Big ones. Small ones. International ones. I’m gonna repeat this:

You don’t fuck up a charity project. When you want people to donate to charity, your goal is to first and foremost make it *easy* for them to do so. Every obstacle you put in their way loses money for your chosen cause. Every time someone hits a barrier to giving you their hard earned cash, a certain percentage of them will decide that the hassle for them to give YOU money is too much, and walk away. The more barriers, the more money lost. It MUST be an easy experience.

2. When planning a large event like a convention, trade show or something similar, you need to keep several things in mind:

a) You must keep traffic flowing. Bottlenecks are bad, mkay?

b) You must create a traffic pattern in which people can walk in *one* path, *one* direction, and go from start to finish and see *everything* at the show. See point 1 above. People want to see everything at a show. If you get them lost, make it difficult for them to track their progress, or determine what they’ve seen and what they haven’t, *you will lose money and attendees*. They will not stick around long enough to buy anything, because they will be too busy being pissed off at your shitty layout. This is *not* the time to get crazy with the cheez whiz. Simplicity is key.

c) you must allow your vendors to sufficiently differentiate their spaces from one to another so that customers can easily create their own mental landmarks (i.e.: the giant booth with the castle on top, the booth with the lollipops in front, the booth with the dragons to either side- you get the idea). Forcing a great degree of continuity and sameness is contrary to your goal. People are visual- they will remember a visual cue much better and more quickly than a store name. They will also be more likely to tell their friends using that method as well, but if they forget a name? They will not bother to tell anyone.

Now, there’s a lot of other things involved in this kind of design, but those things up there? They’re not negotiable. They apply to every large scale event everywhere. It applies in the real world, and in any and all virtual worlds.

And then…

We have this year’s Hair Fair. Which is *precisely the opposite* of all the things I said just now. It is a colossal, epic cataclysm of design failure. The vendors have every right and reason to be *furious*, and I have no doubt at all that the unbelievable level of failure on the part of the physical layout is costing the vendors and the charity for whom they’re raising money, a LOT of cash.

Hair Fair raises money for charity. In this case it’s Wigs for Kids, which helps out kids who are dealing with cancer. However, see point one, above. There are problems that are unique to SL (lag, sculpties and rez time) that are problematic here also (the lag is unavoidable- the sheer volume of sculpties is plain old garden variety stupid), but the main issues are related to basic and fundamental design principles which exist *everywhere*.

Previous Hair Fairs were not like this. You *could* walk all the way around all of it (all four sims worth) in one path. This one is markedly different, and not for the better. The vendors are stuck into tents, creating a confusing warren of disconnected buildings and seemingly unpredictable entrances and exits. In reality, the layout is symmetrical, along a central axis. But since the tents are not open to the front, once inside, you lose your sense of direction easily, particularly when faced with the enormous amount of lag one expects at an event like this.

Hair Fair 2010

Hair Fair 2010

The tents themselves are ugly. They look like a cross between the set of M*A*S*H* and the backstage area of a cut rate fashion show. There’s no connection between them and the outside, which is a shame, since they would feel far less claustrophobic were they open to the front. There’s a strong sense of disorientation, and it’s nearly impossible to determine what you’ve seen and what you haven’t from a distance, because the visual cues of differentiation from booth to booth are almost nonexistent.

There's no room for differentiation

between one booth and another.

The only way to successfully navigate this mess is to teleport from location to location- except the notecard of the SLurls contains a listing of *unlinked* ones. (again, adding yet another step- see point one. Oh also, the Slurl for Analog Dog is incorrect- this is the correct one: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Hair%20Fair/228/86/25 )

However, not even THIS will help you, because on three of the four sims, point to point teleportation has been disabled- forcing you to a landing point or to follow a beacon, adding to the confusion. Only the most determined (and I really mean the MOST) determined hair shoppers will bother with this for four sims worth(roughly 200 vendors) worth of stuff. The percentage of people who will see everything or even bother to try is vanishingly small.

Four sims worth of this kind of insanity? Oh hell no.

Now, before everyone jumps my shit for “picking on a charity”, I want to say a couple of things- the reason why Im so annoyed by this is *because* it’s for charity.  The  CHARITY and the vendors deserve better than this.  Also, I am part of the vanishingly small percentage of people who saw *every single vendor*.  I spent over $30,000L.  So I paid my nickel for my stance on this.  I know that if I did not have a *vested* and deep interest in getting this stuff (I do, for modeling purposes) I would have gotten my ass out of there after the first half sim- not because of the lag (which is expected) because of the layout.

I am sure the people who run Hair Fair are lovely and good people. But I am begging them to find a professional designer to lay out their fair next year.  Hell, I’ll even do it for free. But this? This is a fiasco. No. Do not want.

Education is key. It will, however, only go so far.

The lovely and talented Su Butcher said things, here:

http://www.justpractising.com/its-about-money-stupid/architects-my-client-doesn%E2%80%99t-understand-me/

I’ll wait.

The video is short, and is not much different than the stuff I’ve seen on Clients from Hell, or heard, in fact from *every single* designer, artist or Architect I’ve ever known. The only difference is the designer says these things out loud, rather than just in their heads. Also, everything to me is funnier in a cartoon. Especially with robots. But I digress.

This video made me laugh. I know all too well how that blue robot feels. I know lots of other people who do too (Val and Dare, I’m looking at you two.. Ahem.) Interestingly, the bit that went around recently about the graphic designer who was asked by a co-worker to make a poster for a missing cat, seen here: http://www.27bslash6.com/missy.html had the opposite effect on me. Everyone seemed to think this was seriously hysterical and I thought it was not in the least bit funny.

Which brings me to why, on both counts. I told Su I’d post here because 140 characters wasn’t going to cut it. I always advocate for all design professionals to educate, educate, educate. It is KEY in what we do. Most people don’t have an understanding of what architects, designers and artists do, and really need to know more.

However, I want to make something really clear- there is a difference between people being educated about something, and people who don’t think that thing has any VALUE. In the former case, you may actually get real clients out of it. In the latter case, you *never will*. Im going to use the video as an example- the green robot time and again makes comparisons to people (his eight and a half year old nephew, for example) to the designer. This guy is not really ignorant. I mean, he might be, but no matter how many ways you explain to him how it works, and no matter how politely you do it, this guy *will never be a client*. Never. He has no respect for what you do *on top of* his ignorance. He’s not a potential client- he’s a bargain hunter. You can fix the ignorance. But the lack of respect will not change. People who just need educating have a different approach- “Hey, I need this thing done, but I have no idea how much it would cost or how much time it would take. I don’t have a lot of money, so could you please tell me what you think this would cost and how long it would be?” This person approaches a situation with respect, and admits up front they need help.

I see this same phenomenon *every day* in SL(because seeing it for years in RL wasn’t enough). People who will loudly and vocally swoon and sigh over clothing and announce how badly they want it- but ONLY if they can get it for free or at a steep discount. The moment they have to pay for it is the moment it becomes valueless to them. These people will never become shoppers. At best, all they will be is bargain hunters. “Is this real, or did you make it yourself?”

My philosophy is to simply cut them off at the pass and say you can’t help them. Ok, well I do that when it comes to design. I am FAR more creative when it comes to art. “I can make this myself!” Really? Can you get me a dozen of them by Friday? I’m low on stock.

Which brings me to the bit about the cat and the graphic designer. When there’s an actual emergency? A missing pet? A missing child? You either make the poster and STFU, or you tell them you can’t. You do NOT jerk them around. That’s not the same thing as the robot video. At all.

Reminder: It’s not about you.

I know, I’ve said this before. Apparently, we need a refresher course.

This morning, a question was asked about “aesthetic theory” or something like that. Basically it was asking designers and architects why they feel compelled to talk about some kind of overriding aesthetic concept/principles when clients rarely prioritize the theory behind such things. Lots of answers.

Question:

The number of clients who are interested in the aesthetic philosophy behind a project is minimal #justsaying so why do architects bang on?

The answers ranged, but several were super disappointing, dripping with arrogance and barely concealed disdain for clients as a whole.

My answer:
Holdover from arch/design school. all asked to justify our projects in this way, even tho clients dont care about that.

It’s true. We’re required to justify entire design philosophies, even beyond concept, lest we be accused of “putting something in because it looks nice.” Every decision we make MUST be justifiable in some larger sense.

What’s also true is that clients usually don’t care. They care about whether or not it looks good and how much it costs. They rarely go farther than that because hey, isn’t that what they hired you for?

However back to the arrogant responses(which I am not reprinting)- once again, let’s remind everyone that ultimately, it’s not about the designer. It’s about the client. And when the client *MAKES* it about the designer, I suggest you should be concerned, because that says to me that the client is less concerned with their own project and more concerned about whatever perceived “status” they’re getting out of it. Truly, if that concept rocks your socks, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know that about you.

Check your overinflated ego and remember that what you design is about your client. YOUR job is to coalesce their wants, needs and desires, create a package that meets them (and their overall aesthetic preferences), and prevent them from doing something illegal, unsafe or grotesquely stupid, while working within the budgetary constraints they have. Really, that about covers it.

Aesthetics aren’t about you. They are about *them*. You should be able to design things that they love, but you wouldn’t choose for yourself if it were the last available design on Earth. You should be able to design outside your own narrow personal aesthetic preferences (and if you can’t, please send your job to me, because I can, and your clients deserve better than you’re giving them.)

You *SHOULD* be able to justify any design choice you make. But not by some abstract aesthetic theory. This isn’t design/arch school. By showing how each and every choice relates to the needs *THEY* lined out in the programming (brief) phase. That’s how this game is played.

FFS, it isn’t about you. It’s about the people you’re there to help. LEARN IT.