When interests collide.

I had meant to post about this yesterday, but didn’t get to it before getting sucked back into the Miami Project. Those who read my personal journal already know this, but this week’s episode of South Park featured an appearance by Jay Maynard, The Tron Guy.


This capped off a day which was already surreal for other, unrelated reasons but this was certainly the cherry on the sundae. First of all, I don’t usually watch South Park. As much as it’s true that cartoons are essentially *all* I watch, I will only watch SP if it just happens to be there. In this case it was because Futurama had ended and I was busy winding a ball of yarn, so my hands were full. Imagine my surprise when all of a sudden Jay is on the show. I went running for my computer to IM him, screaming to turn on the television. As predicted, he had no idea this was coming (and Matt and Trey really screwed up his accent.) and both of us sat there watching while he was mauled by a panda of all things, which for other reasons completes some bizarre circle of life moment that would take too long to explain.

Now, Jay is a frequent commenter here and he’s a close friend(and was for years before all this Tronguy stuff.) But that’s not why I’m mentioning this here. It’s just that I helped Jay design the suit (yep. It’s true.) and out of all of the things I’ve ever helped design, this one has had a life *far* stranger than I could have ever possibly imagined. I know I never imagined this (and I am pretty sure Jay didn’t, either.)

There’s always a food analogy to be made.

I took the weekend off from writing, largely figuring with the holidays and all, no one was really online anyway except me. But I didn’t take the weekend off from working. In fact I got a lot done on the Miami house project, which is starting to congeal.

Yes, I said congeal. I find that design is a lot like making either chocolate pudding or hollandaise sauce. Take your pick. The point is that there’s a while at the beginning where you’re stirring and nothing seems like it’s really happening though you’re certainly stirring a whole lot. And then, all of a sudden the whole thing comes together and becomes food in one shot. Boom. Pudding(or sauce. Your call.) .

Aside from the fact that I now want chocolate pudding (or maybe hollandaise sauce.), that’s the best analogy of how work went this weekend. Miami has started to congeal. How’s that for a visual?

This is looking like a super busy week as well since I have a lot of projects on my plate, all of which are demanding attention.

But aside from doing a lot of work on my own stuff over the weekend, I did get a boost of inspiration from this, which I saw over at momeld(they got it from Nat. Geo.) I have been fighting the urge to pull out my flexible shaft tool (I actually own three of these, and they’re far less obscene than their name would imply) and my box of micro drill bits to try to do this myself(I’m also thrilled I actually have everything I need to do this already in my house.) I do think that at some point I’m going to have to try this, though. It’s just so COOL. This work was done by Franc Grom, an artist from Slovenia.





And now, back to stirring my congealing projects.

A new way of looking at it.

I wish I knew how to credit these images¬† Stacy tells me they have come from Shanghai, China (see comments for the whole song and dance), but they came to me in an email forward that had been forwarded a zillion times already. Though they basically speak for themselves, the concept I want to get across by presenting them is that if you look at an object and find another way of using it, even if that’s just conceptually creative, it allows you to break free from the way you typically think about everyday objects.

It’s a nice way to free your thought process from the well-worn paths it tends to create for itself.

All of these articles of clothing are made from balloons. While they aren’t necessarily the most practical garments, the creativity here is wonderful.




So the thought of the day is to look at everyday objects and try to see them in a new light. ūüôā Go.

Permission to sit.

So I’ve been working on this idea for some furniture lately. I know a lot of people get their ideas through sketching. Sometimes I do that, but a lot of the time I do it with photography, because I am more comfortable with my abilities with a camera than with a pen most of the time.

Last week I went to Harlem to shoot a series of photos of a friend of mine in order to get some ideas together for this project. I had seen an image of a chaise a few weeks ago that had me thinking about the positions people sit/lie down in, and how those could be abstracted in order to make furniture out of them.


We got to talking about how we’re gotten to a point where people almost fee like they need to give themselves permission to sit in a comfortable position, since we spend so much time sitting in ways that have been designated as “appropriate”. I’ve been thinking about that and wondering if it’s true. How many people are comfortable sitting the way you’re “supposed” to on seating furniture? Does the furniture influence how you sit, or do you sit that way while fighting your furniture?

I don’t know which it is. Maybe it’s both. I know that if I continue to abstract some of the positions, I get interesting furniture. So far, I have a loveseat, a corner piece, a chaise and a chair.

I think that’s a nice little collection. It may or may not go anywhere. I have a lot of things I’m working on right now, so I don’t feel a lot of pressure on this. But the exploration is important, and I feel good enough about the results to go on to the next step and start abstracting forms out of this by sketching over the images to get generalized shapes and concepts.

So the process moves along. Some ideas you keep, some you chuck. I’m going to keep with this one for now. But before I go back to it, I have some sketches for the Miami house to do, and to make a foam core model of the chair I’m planning to prototype. And there’s always more knitting to do.

Good things, small packages.

No, this is not self-referencing.

It’s not a secret that suburban living isn’t something in which I take an interest. I leave that to people eminently more qualified (and who like it a LOT more than me.)¬† People start talking about housing developments and McMansions and whatever and my eyes glaze over.¬† It’s like that bit in the Simpsons where you see into Homer’s head and there’s that little monkey toy playing the cymbals.

But me? I’m a city kid.¬† Born in Manhattan, and raised in the Bronx. Gimme concrete and glass and the smell of rain on asphalt.

One thing urban environments have in common (and by this I mean real ones- not places like Los Angeles which are a whole bunch of suburbs strung together.) are that they have a shortage of space.  People have to economize on room, because square footage is expensive. Fortunately for me, this restriction on room brings out one of my favorite qualities of design- economy, or tightness.   It brings out the pragmatist in designers and I am at the very head of the pragmatist line.

Yesterday, I got treated to three fantastic examples of this kind of thing in my rss reader.

From 2modern, there’s this:

trunk station

How. Cool. Is. This.¬† It’s a portable office. Hell, it’s a portable craft station.¬† Think about taking this with you to a show! You just open, set up a work environment, and you work from wherever you are.¬† As much as people might bitch about the $1900 price tag, this is actually pretty reasonable.¬† Think about students who are moving into an apartment with housemates.¬† Just close it up, lock it and walk away.¬† It’s portable, if you have to move. ¬† It’s FANTASTIC.


Look! It even has the little hole in the tabletop for cables already cut out.  AWESOMESAUCE.

But wait! There’s more!


I know, I know. So what. It’s a box.¬† But what’s IN the box, boys and girls?


It’s a whole room. There’s a video that goes along with this, that shows you can set the thing up in seven minutes if you know what you’re doing.¬† How’s THAT for tight? and when you need to move? Just back it all up back in the box.¬† I’m not saying this is perfect for everyone, but if you’re short on space, or are only going to be somewhere temporarily, so far it seems you’ve got both a completely portable bedroom and an office set up right here, for less than the cost (by a lot) of furnishing a whole apartment, for sure.

What’s that? But you still need to eat?¬† Oh okay.¬† For that we move to momeld, who brings us this, courtesy of designer Fevzi Karaman:




 Think about what you could do with all three. How much living you could do in such a small space (granted, the bed is probably not great for more than a temporary situation, or as a guest bed/couch)  but you have most of an entire studio apartment here. Tight, multifunctional, pragmatic, clean design.

See? Good things. Small packages. Wow, this is great stuff.



Cool stuff.

Though there’s plenty of things I see in the design world every day that I don’t like, there’s also things I really *do* like. Dezeen serves up the goods today by bringing this, by Serie Architects.

Blue Frog, by Serie Architects

Whooboy, that’s nice.

More photos are available at Dezeen and the Serie site itself. Though I’d have chosen a horseshoe configuration rather than the more rectilinear one Serie chose for the table arrangement (Scratch that. I’ve now seen the plans. It’s a circle, not a rectangle. The angle of the photo I saw of the long view is too low to show it, so it looks like a rectangle. +10 points for the original plans. Carry on.) The results are drop dead gorgeous. So much good work is coming out of Asia and the Middle East right now. It’s very inspiring. I also remind myself that it’s somewhat easier to go nuts in a location with more space and fewer regulations (and *everywhere* has fewer regulations than NYC) . Still, restaurant design remains my favorite kind, and stuff like this is part of the reason why.

In other “cool things I found today” news, is the portfolio of Martin ŇĹampach, a designer from the Czech Republic. There’s some wonderful stuff in there, and I’m happy to show him to people here(I don’t know this guy, btw. I just found him today whilst linkhopping.). Have a look. ūüôā It makes me wonder if I should put my portfolio in a format like that. Maybe, but the thought of that level of hassle is going to keep me from it for the moment. .pdf will have to suffice right now.

I got an idea for a group of furniture pieces today, which is good, since I’ve been entirely dead on the inspiration front since this time last week. It usually takes me at least several days to recover from a few really bad days, so I guess this is a good sign. I’m going to see if I can get a friend to help me with my idea, since it comes from a photographic angle, rather than from sketching. Also some ideas for the design solution to the Miami house are coming together. Unfortunately, I can’t commit them to CAD until midweek next week, when my much abused but beloved computer Chuck undergoes a major overhaul to become Chuck v.3.0. I’m trying to baby the system until then, lest it lock up and refuse to reboot (again.)

Still, even putting them in CAD next week puts me a week ahead of the game, timeline wise so that’s okay. Tiny steps. Tiny steps.

Selling the experience.

So I was saying, before I was interrupted by all the peeing yesterday, that there were two groups of people in design school who consistently made us all look like chumps. One group was the toy designers. The other group were the packaging designers. Because if good packaging design didn’t matter, and more importantly, if it didn’t work, modern advertising would a seriously different thing. And as much as I don’t know too many people who are really fans of advertising per se, I don’t really know anyone who isn’t intrigued by interesting packaging.

See, a good package can make or break a product. It can make you choose one product over another. It can make you recommend things, when other things would work just as well. Just an example- I can remember when the flat-topped shower gel packaging started to hit the market.

shower gel

This particular brand (cheap though it is) happens to be my personal favorite. I like things that smell like grapefruit. But the point is the way the top of the bottle is designed. You can turn it upside down in the shower and leave it like that. Gravity, once your enemy in old packaging designs, suddenly becomes your friend! Even more awesome, you don’t have to fight with the bottle when you’re in the shower and wet (and things tend to slip out of your hands). This package *changes your experience*.

And let me tell you something. I said it in my last post and I will say it a thousand more times. SO MUCH of what (almost) *any* commercial¬† (hospitality, retail, restaurant, nightclub, cultural, event…) design project is about is selling an EXPERIENCE. Not just a *thing*. But moments in time as well. And the more it’s a thing you don’t *NEED*? The more important it is to package it in an intriguing way. Why? Because the longer you’re looking at it, the more you’re amused/interested/intrigued by it the more likely it becomes you’re going to part with your hard earned cash and walk away with it. The more likely you are to remember it, and tell other people. And so it goes. People remember the details. They remember the cool design of the hotel bath stuff. They remember the really pretty box their chocolates came in. They remember that time, when they bought whatever it was on ebay? And the seller was nice enough to take the time to wrap it up so it looked good. And boy oh boy people remember when you wrap the hell out of their gifts.

Okay, let’s look at another example (that I have stolen shamelessly from The Architect):

shamelessly stolen from Rob Annable

I’ll be honest- even after looking at the photos he posted after this one, I still have no flipping idea what the hell this thing is(I’m sure he’ll be along to tell me eventually), but I sure am curious, and I promise you I wouldn’t have been had whatever this is been posted in a plain brown box.

Though I am (undeniably) a big-picture, long game kind of girl, the truth is that the punch is in the details. You can’t ignore them. It is the difference between good and great; the difference between maybe and yes, and it’s something that drives good, tight design.

And *that* is what I learn from the packaging designers. The details matter, even for the big picture people.

Back to basics.

I went to a multi-disciplinary design school, so I got to see a lot of different kinds of design at work. Some things I thought were interesting, some things I’ll just never care about, but there were two kinds of designers that consistently made everyone look like chumps. One group I’ll talk about at some point soon, but since Tori was asking me late last night about the lamp I came up with on Saturday night, it was a good time to mention them.

Toy Designers.

Yeah, I know. “What?”

Toy designers? These folks rock my world. They take everything I love about good design and then compress it like a neutron star. It’s just *tight*. So tight. Function/form/imagination. DONE. A good toy is a thing of beauty. Think about some *really* good toys and games. There’s a simplicity in them that’s so pure and perfect that they transcend time- and some of them really *are* ancient. The frisbee. Etch-a-Sketch. The cup and ball. Jacks. Pick-up sticks. Lite-Brite (even though everyone always stepped on the little pieces.) I was a big fan of Ker-plunk. I also had one of those magnetic yo-yos my father got me as a sickness present once.

A while ago, I got to talking about a toy that I had as a kid. I can’t remember where I got it. My guess is sadistic grandparents, but obviously whomever it was, was someone who didn’t consider the sanity of my father, at any rate. Like any number of other things, it “disappeared” one day and was never seen again not long after it appeared at my mother’s house. I wound up describing it to Mike and he made this image from my description:

Does anyone know the name of this toy? (EDIT:FOUND!)

Apparently, I had forgotten just how many marbles these things had, because it turns out that what they really *are* are (I swear I am not making this up) are Boob Tubes!

But seriously, look at these things for a second. Not as toys, just as forms. They’re architectural. They’re structural. They have form and function. Geometry. Abstraction. They come in fun colors. They’re *perfect*. And it’s why I find toys and the design of toys so inspiring in my own work.

Yeah I’ll get back to that lamp in a bit. We’re working on it.

Well, screw it.

This is way cooler than anything I was likely to talk about today.

Need more convincing?

One of the things I love most about designing restaurants and retail spaces is that they have a life span. They can be conceptual, because they’re impermanent. Five years from now(if not sooner), they’ll be redesigned into something new and creative, renewing themselves into something fresh and vibrant. The Ice Hotel is this same set of concepts, just tighter. More refined. Shorter lifespan. It combines all the things I love- conceptualism, engineering, craftsmanship, whimsy, playing with forms using limited materials and a huge, huge dose of “screw it- let’s just DO that. Who’s gonna say no?”

Awesome stuff.