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Book Reviews

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by Ray  |  22 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)

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As an industrial design publication, we publish both hypothetical and extant products; as such, we receive a fair share of inquiries, via e-mail or comments, from net noobs about the possibility of ordering these products. Where savvy Internet folk might content themselves with a Futurama macro of approval, we regularly receive reminders that there are plenty of people who think that the internet is not just a big store.

Of course, it takes a more nuanced approach to pull one on those of us who sift through Kickstarter pitches and dubious renderings for a living, and the TBD Catalog assumes a moderate degree of web-weary cynicism even as its pages present a close approximation of novelty, contra naïvity. The short version is that it's a neatly packaged, portable work of design fiction, a vicarious investigation of a near future that may not be the one we want but could well be the one we get. As Fosta (one of the 19 co-authors) put it in his expository piece:

We wanted to talk about a future of middling indifference, of partly broken things, of background characters. A future where self-driving cars weren't a fantasy, but another place to be bored. A future where drones didn't draw gasps of awe, but eye-rolls of indifference. A future where today's 'technology' had become tomorrow's ho-hum.

Reverting to printed matter is, of course, both a way to short-circuit the feedback loop of the Internet and an excuse to produce an artifact as a token of one's efforts (why yes, it is available to order). Although the TBD Catalog is a send-up of invariably utopian futurecasting, it's not so much an outright parody as an exercise in the uncanny: As a work of design fiction par excellence, it blurs the minor distinction between 'fictitious' and 'fictional.' [Ed. Note: I wish I were more intimately familiar with the work of the individual authors so I could speak to how each of them may have shaped the final product, but at this point it seems most fair to evaluate their collective effort.]

While its relatively high production value—semi-glossy though they may be, the pages are a cut above magazine stock—betrays its true nature, the message is not in the matter but the medium. Beyond the cover, it reads as a mail-order catalog at first glance, from the true-to-form layout to the intrinsic stiltedness of stock photography, both of which the authors exploit (and sometimes unravel) to nice effect. Some of the content immediately invites a double take but the authors largely err on the side of subtlety, and the TBD Catalog certainly rewards a closer reading of the images, copy and subtext.

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Posted by core jr  |   3 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)

DHN-ProjectProjects-AdamAnna.jpgAdam Michaels and Anna Rieger of Project Projects looking over Designing Here/Now

Core77 was delighted to work with New York-based studio Project Projects to design the Designing Here/Now, published by Thames and Hudson. Headed by Adam Michaels and Prem Krishnamurthy, Project Projects is a design studio focusing on print, identity, exhibition and interactive work with clients in art and architecture. In addition to client-based work, the studio initiates and produces independent curatorial and publishing projects.

We sat down with Michaels and designer Anna Rieger to talk about the inception of the project and how it took form.

Core77: We were excited to work with Project Projects on one of the most ambitious projects we've ever taken on. Tell us how you began the design process and what challenges you saw at its inception?

Adam Michaels: We, too, were thrilled to be asked by Core77 to collaborate on Designing Here/Now. It's always a pleasure to work on projects in which design itself is the overt subject matter, as we certainly remain obsessed with this stuff. As potential readers, we found the book's vast array of projects (spanning innumerable media and materials) to be an intriguing, valuable source of information.

Anna Rieger: Core77 had never published a book about their awards before, though they've had a well-visited website for years. In considering the book's design, we thought about the web's interactive features (for example, the live video announcements about the awards, and videos helping to show objects' materiality). For the book we tried to emphasize the strengths of the medium, creating a design that would reward sustained attention (still easier with a book than in the midst of the web's many distractions) and contemplation, while allowing for quick, occasional browsing (the book's navigation is always quite clear so the reader would never feel lost).

How did you approach this project given how many categories and discrete elements of content were involved in the final piece?

AM: As book designers, we're drawn to projects with a degree of complexity and scale, in which we determine through typographic, formal, and material means how best to bring clarity to substantial amounts of information. So we were enthusiastic to develop an overall design that balances a consistent, overarching structure (crucial when working at a scale such as that of this 448-page book) with a varied, playful flow through the book's contents from spread to spread.

This flow is first structured by the book's categorical breakdown (also articulated through elements such as running headers); then a relative weighting of projects kicks in (award winners are generally shown at a greater scale); subsequently, the spreads become the result of a process akin to that of assembling a kind of free-form, information-dense jigsaw puzzle. Variables include the details of text per entry; type of image; potential scale of image (resolution issues remain the scourge of this sort of project, involving hundreds of images from nearly as many sources). Each layout is then the result of an attempt to produce an appealing composition—also making sure a given set of projects works well together on the page—after taking this significant range of details into account.

DNH-ProjectProjects-Office.jpgThe Project Projects office in New York City

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Posted by Robert Blinn  |   2 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Here at Core77, we get our fair share of business books, in part because to design anything on an industrial level, you need to have business in mind. Perhaps you need to get financing to invest in your first injection molding press plates, to the tune of $250k, and it might be nice to have a little hand holding, someone to tell you the press is good for 500k cycles and at your margin, making $3.00/part on an 8% loan gets you a solid NPV if you can sell 50k widgets a year. And yet, if you stroll into the business aisle of a typical bookstore, you see the face of Jack Welsh telling you Elephants can Dance, and providing his experiences in making an agile multi-billion dollar company, so you might just be entitled to wondering how big the market is for billionaires looking for insight into how to improve their NASDAQ-listed stock, because it certainly doesn't help you. Likewise with the success of Malcolm Gladwell's particular brand of chapter by chapter insight using the case study method by way of aphoristic lessons about obscure ketchup companies.

Given the continual flow of newly minted industrial designers hoping to make a go at their own business with the tools to make products, rather than companies, we've certainly kept our eyes open for new books promising to teach designers how to become business people rather than craftsmen. The latest manifestation of such is The Monocle Guide to Good Business (Gestalten 2014), which is about as far afield as one can go from Malcolm Gladwell while retaining the structure of printed paper laced between two canvas covers. Rather than focus on tycoons and boardrooms, their case studies (beautifully laid out photo spreads with accompanying text) focus principally on small businesses ranging from goat farms to more predictably design-centric shops like type foundries and high street tailors. Each page of the guide has been carefully aligned with the grid and thoughtfully designed, but we confess that at the end of it, we found ourselves far more knowledgeable with how to make an already successful business prettier than understanding how to make successful company in the first place.

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Posted by core jr  |  30 Sep 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case, authorship. We at Core77 believe that everyone who loves design, regardless of experience or background, shares a bond of appreciation and curiosity that leads them to seek out what's new, different and surprising. Too often, however, we find "design books" that cater exclusively to one view of practice or theory, ignoring the global perspective, and, more unfortunately, the common spark of excitement that drives us all to bring creative projects to life. With this in mind, we created Designing Here/Now, a powerfully inspirational anthology of the most interesting projects happening today, rendered with insight and depth that makes it simultaneously a perfect snapshot of contemporary design trends and a permanent reference of their impact. It is a singular resource that honors the intention behind great design and presents it in a manner that everyone can appreciate.

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Like the Core77 Design Awards competition from which the book originated, Designing Here/Now documents the contemporary practice of design providing a reference point to both casual observer and seasoned pro. It documents an organic and shifting profession by showcasing a broad range of the application of design; by including projects by the next generation of designers, students; and by distributing the editorial process of inclusion across independently organized groups of professionals from around the globe.

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Posted by core jr  |  22 Jul 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Published at the beginning of the summer—just in time for freshly minted design grads to take note but relevant for just about any designer these days—Breaking In: Product Design (Tuk Tuk Press, 2014) by Amina Horozic offers dozens of insights into today's highly competitive job market. Featuring interviews with over 100 designers from across the industry and around the globe, the book is a valuable resource for anyone looking to get their foot in the door at design-led companies big and small (see the full list of interviewees and companies here). We turned the tables on Horozic, who revealed a bit of her own background and process in a Q&A

Core77: This the second book in the 'Breaking In' series; how did it come about? Were you familiar with the first book in the series Breaking In: Advertising by William Burks Spencer, or had you been working on this project independently?

No, I was not familiar with the first book at all. I had just wrapped up my MBA in Design Strategy at California College of the Arts, and was working as an industrial designer at frog when my colleague Catherine Sun sent me an e-mail, saying, "You'd be perfect for this." Essentially, she forwarded me the publisher's e-mail asking if anyone knew of any industrial designers interested in writing a similar book about how to break into the field. Recalling firsthand the amount of time it took me to craft a portfolio and cater it to appropriate employer and industry—I'm a classically trained car designer who "jumped ship" into consulting world—I jumped at the chance to discover what everyone is looking for.

The rest is history. I simply couldn't pass on the opportunity to try and talk to all of these industrial design gurus; a lot of them were my personal heroes.

How did you find the interviewees? What was the criteria for them? Did you know some of them before you took on the book? I imagine the project picked up its own momentum through word of mouth as well...

The only criteria from the publisher was that they had to be management level or up, essentially designers who are making hiring decisions—which eliminated about 90% of my personal network at the time as we were all in our mid-to-late 20s, and still in the trenches. For context, I started this book back in 2011, so my background as it stands today was not that wide or rich. And I had to interview a minimum of 100 designers.

Of course, I leveraged people I had known at Chrysler and at frog, alongside Career Services at my alma mater College for Creative Studies—but honestly, a lot of it was my own legwork. I wrote down all of the car companies, all of the consulting agencies, all of the revered products that came out—essentially, people and places one would want to work for or with—and then I searched for the contacts online and through my network. I was actually quite surprised by how many replied back with interest, they loved the idea of the book!

Basically, I was determined to cover all of the branches of our field: automotive design, product design, furniture design, soft goods, consultancies and solo practices. As Kickstarter was getting traction, I made sure to include at least one success story from there. I also wanted to include some young guns, who started their own firms straight out of college. I wanted to show aspiring designers that there are many ways to "break in." I was also adamant to have a global representation, to show that opportunities abound everywhere. The book literally has a designer from each continent, aside from Antarctica. I also included educators to get an academic perspective for comparison. Finally, as a woman, I was adamant to include women in industrial design leadership positions, as well—something that was sadly notoriously difficult to find.

Somehow the big question is always: so what "big names" are in the book? The thing is, for every Yves and Ralph and Jony, there are tons of design leaders (and designers) out there whose work has revolutionized our everyday lives, but who remain relatively anonymous. I truly hope that with this book—and the accompanying Breaking In blog where we feature their work and bios—the design community learns more about who is behind the products we use, and admire, every day.

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Posted by core jr  |  26 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

MaterialInnovation-ProductDesign-COMP.jpgClockwise from top left: Glider, Kammok; Curface composite panels, Adam Fairweather; Microbial Home Probe, Phillips Design; Bogobrush, photo by Mike Glinski

While the Internet is a seemingly limitless resource when it comes to research or reference, sometimes it's nice to peruse the information in print. Short of actually including samples of ABS, flyknit, etc., Material ConneXion's new book series serves as a handy guide to what's new and what's next in materials for architects and designers (the samples, of course, are available at their materials libraries). Written with an audience of design students and professionals in mind, the first two volumes, on Architecture and Product Design, were published by Thames & Hudson just last week. (The latter, pictured above, includes a preface by our own Allan Chochinov.)

From cutting-edge technological advances to novel applications of tried-and-true methodologies, co-authors Andrew Dent, Ph.D, and Leslie Sherr present a well-curated selection of materials in an impressive series of highly visual, broadly informative compendia. According to the press release, the books also "include a Materials Directory that provides insight on additional materials that are part of the Material ConneXion library and that can be used as substitutes for the projects featured." We had a chance to speak to Dent on the occasion of the launch.

Core77: How did you determine which projects to include in this book? Did you make a conscious effort to include a diverse range of projects in each of the six sections?

Andrew Dent: Diversity was essential to demonstrate our thesis, that the material trends we see are independent of product type. The decision about which projects to feature was determined by a group at Material ConneXion along with my co-author Leslie Sherr. Though we looked at predominantly very recent projects, where an slightly older project could exemplify an arc in a material type's trajectory, it was included. Clear presentation of material innovation was essential, though it should not detract from the overall value of design.

The inclusion of Iron Man 2 body armor, in particular, points to noncommercial (or at least non-traditional) applications of new technologies, yet it also suggests a potential use case for 3D printing, while student projects, concepts and prototypes depict possibilities that may be years away from becoming a reality. As a resource and reference, do you have the sense that the Material Innovation series may shape the future of design (i.e. by introducing designers to new or alternative materials) as much as it documents it in the present?

Our hope is that the series opens designers' eyes to the value of material innovation and the range of material possibilities that exist beyond what they currently know (the "unknown unknowns"). We also hope that it can show how materials can jump product type, from say consumer electronics to automotive, or from sports equipment to home appliances. This cross-pollination gives designers greater freedom to design, and offers the potential to stretch existing beliefs about how a product should be.

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Posted by Robert Blinn  |  17 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Look down from the basking light of your LCD screen, down there at the lower left of your menu bar to that icon, maybe a blue "e" for Iexplorer, or a fiery fox encircling a blue marble, perhaps a tiny compass to guide you on your safari, and realize that the scope of human knowledge flows so thick through the Internet that we now require a multitude of tools to view it. In the same way that the art of spelling was lost to autocorrect, and our digit span has been diminished by our cell phone's flash memory, the Internet stands to augment our brain's capacity with easy access to the noosphere. Every day the distance between questions and answers shortens by milliseconds, and, while no teacher stands ready to rap our collective knuckles with a ruler in the modern school system, the gulf between the unexamined life and TL;DR gets ever narrower.

So while Messrs. Brin and Page have made a business out of getting us those answers faster, their business plan couldn't be found through the simple call and response of the query field. Their questions had to dig deeper, owing more to the endless tedium of a child's "Why?" than to correlative databases. The central contention behind Warren Berger's A More Beautiful Question, that questions offer more opportunity than facts, should be familiar to any designer who has discovered that loose and sketchy prototypes drive more fruitful conversations than polished finished products. In part, in a world structured to provide the immediate gratification of "answers," the questions often become more meaningful.

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Posted by Ray  |  12 May 2014

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I'm not sure what the highest praise for a book might be, but I must say I hope that Alice Rawsthorn's Hello World (Overlook Press, 2014) becomes a canonical text that is revised and expanded every few years or so, true to its nature as a survey of design today. As the longtime design critic for the International New York Times (f.k.a. the International Herald Tribune), Rawsthorn is perhaps one of the few writers up to the task of authoring a definitive account of the 'state of design' in 2014. By presenting the subject as a kind of patchwork quilt composed of somewhat disparate elements, stitched together to make a cohesive whole, she largely succeeds in the endeavor, extracting specific threads of historical significance even as she weaves the bigger picture.

Rawsthorn wisely refrains from drawing grand conclusions; rather, she circumscribes the subject matter through presenting a series of edifying examples in chapters with titles such as "Why design is not—and should never be confused with—art" and "Why form no longer follows function." By citing examples from Google doodles to AK-47s (the former has 'integrity' while the latter do not), or from Aimee Mullins's prosthetic legs to One Laptop Per Child, she elegantly crafts a compelling argument for the value of design, both objective and subjective, without resorting to clichés. It's a straightforward way to preserve the distinctive look and feel of design in its various manifestations and mediums as opposed to attempting to reduce them to a lowest common denominator; at risk of mixing the metaphor, the breadth and depth of the text represent the warp and weft of the composition.

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The results may vary in density and texture, but this only enhances the readability and flow of Hello World. Where early chapters trace long arcs dating back to Qin Shihuangdi (the first emperor of China), Blackbeard and Josiah Wedgwood as designers avant la lettre, later ones focus on narrower, increasingly niche or otherwise more contemporary areas of design. It's not by any means an encyclopedia account, but by cherrypicking memorable examples—some widely known, others less so—Rawsthorn covers a lot of territory in an engaging and economical fashion.

Indeed, the text is interspersed with tidbits of cocktail trivia—from Verner Panton's color-coded interiors to the fact that Dieter Rams was originally hired as an architect—at least for those of us who have not read proper biographies of the myriad designers whose names turn up. Meanwhile, I happened to read Hello World in fits and starts over the course of several weeks, during which time I had firsthand experience of several of Rawsthorn's examples: A layover in Zurich was an opportunity to appreciate Ruedi Ruegg's crisp signage, and I found myself regarding Harry Beck's Underground map with newfound awe during a trip to London. Given the ecumenical scope of the book, every reader will discover examples that resonate with his or her personal experience within its 225 pages.

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Posted by erika rae  |   8 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Who better to create a book focused solely on the wonderful DIYs that can come from a father-daughter relationship than the MAKE magazine Editor in Chief / founder of Boing Boing? No one. Mark Frauenfelder was a man on a mission to find "geeky" DIY projects he could take on with his two daughters and, unfortunately, didn't find much of anything. So he started to compile his own, taking on the alter ego Maker Dad.

According to Boing Boing, the book is "focused on teaching girls lifelong skills—like computer programming, musicality and how to use basic hand tools—as well as how to be creative problem solvers." Watch (and follow along) as Fraudenfelder and his daughter Jane take on the "Friendstrument"—one of the book's 24 how-tos:

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Posted by Robert Blinn  |   5 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Any book that opens with photos of "Michael Bolton" leering over the corpse of an office printer, bat in hand, in a still from the 2005 movie Office Space is a winner in our eyes. While the "PC load letter" error that led to that act of printercide could be a study in failed user experience in itself, Nikil Saval focuses not on devices, but on their surroundings. While the incomprehensible UX of that printer may have been the proverbial straw, both the film and the book focus on the soul-crushing nature of the office itself, by way of its smallest unit of organization, the fabric-walled cube divider.

Of the major design manufacturers, both Steelcase and Knoll have a history that stems from office design, and while standalone chairs like the Aeron get their due, Cubed tracks the history of the office from turn of the century counting houses to the modern telecommuting non-office. Before opening the book, we'd expected more focus on the history of the cubical design, but Saval recognizes that the cube is emblematic of the larger organizational and political structure of the modern work environment, and it's quite a tour. Like any good (book) designer, Saval spends as much time contextualizing the problem as he does addressing it. We don't even meet the ostensible subject of the book, Robert Propst's Action Office, which birthed the "cube," until the halfway point of the book. While much has been written about the failure of Le Corbusier's Garden Cities of To-morrow as an organizational force for a community, the story of the similarly optimistic and equally ineffectual Action Office is more appropriate for industrial design readership, and equally informative.

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Posted by Ray  |  28 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

BMWArtCars-AndyWarhol.jpgAndy Warhol, BMW M1 Group 4, 1979

There is, for the most part, a fairly clear distinction between art and design. The former contains its meaning within itself, while the latter points towards external goals or values, for which it is merely an instrument or vehicle to achieve or access those ends. In both cases, function is an overarching constraint: Art, by definition, has no practical purpose; design is precisely the opposite.

Of course, artists and designers alike have challenged this boundary, typically with by questioning the very concept of one domain vis-à-vis the other, whether it's Duchamp's readymades or speculative design projects that point to alternate universes or futures. If the concept car (the subject of a forthcoming exhibition) is an earnest attempt at elevating design into art—at least to the extent that few of them are ever realized—BMW's ongoing Art Car project inverts the dynamic by forcing artists to conform to the immutable shape of a functional object. In short, the automobile is less a three-dimensional canvas than a sculpture in itself, a machine intended, designed and optimized for performance on the road or racetrack.

BMWArtCars-JennyHolzer.jpgJenny Holzer, BMW V12 LMR, 1999

Last week saw the publication of the first comprehensive catalogue of the Art Cars thus far, 17 in all, commissioned in irregular intervals over the past 39 years. From Alexander Calder's inaugural BMW 300 CSL in 1975 to Jeff Koons's BMW M3 GT2 in 2010, BMW Art Cars (Hatje Cantz 2014) includes in-depth stories behind each one, alongside archival images and a wealth of very attractive photography of the cars.

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BMWArtCars-JeffKoons.jpgJeff Koons also designed the slipcase

BMWArtCars-Lichenstein.jpgRoy Lichtenstein, BMW 320 Group 5, 1977

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Posted by erika rae  |  23 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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LEO the Maker Prince is a children's book by NYC native and designer Carla Diana that could well enlighten anyone, young or old, about the growing 3D printing community around us. Not only does it humanize the mechanical process of 3D printing but it breaks down the different subcategories of 3D technology and the types of materials that are out there. I bet some of you didn't even know there was more than one way to get the job done (no shame).

Although utterly fictional—as most children's books are—this story is oddly relatable, especially for New Yorkers. "I wanted to pay homage to the blossoming creative technology scene in New York City, Diana says. "In particular, I wanted to highlight Brooklyn as the birthplace of a lot of the first DIY 3D printing kits like the MakerBot." Set on the stormy night of October 29, 2012, the main character finds herself in trouble on the her way back to Manhattan, when she's looking to beat Hurricane Sandy home and her bicycle chain breaks. I won't spoil the plot, but a tiny, personable MakerBot named LEO shows up, asks Carla to draw a sheep while guiding her through the various methods of 3D printing. Trust me, it makes sense in the most adorable of ways.

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Posted by erika rae  |  16 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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In proper book review fashion, Designers & Books have given us enough 2013 design copy to last us years in their end of the year round-up. According to the site, their list consists of 47 architecture/urban design books, 23 graphic design books, titles in fashion, interior, product/industrial design, general design inspiration and a standout fiction novel featuring the past of future of automotive design as told by Paula Champa.

The list includes a total of 99 titles from last year, a couple of which we featured here on Core—Steve Portigal's Interviewing Users and the Kelley Bros' Creative Confidence—as well as dozens of others that caught our eye. Categorized by month, each group covers topics ranging from traditional (opera house design) to the downright niche (ancient hanging garden design).

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Posted by core jr  |  14 Nov 2013  |  Comments (6)

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In his new book Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products (Portfolio / Penguin 2013), longtime tech reporter and current editor/publisher of Cult of Mac Leander Kahney has penned the definitive biography of the company's Senior Vice President of Design, affirming his as-yet-unfolding legacy. Even as the late Steve Jobs took to the spotlight as the singularly charismatic force behind Apple, he acknowledged the brilliance of his colleague Sir Jony Ive, who is easily among the most famous industrial designers of the contemporary era.

This is an excerpt from the book, which hits shelves today, relating his activities immediately following his graduation from Newcastle Polytechnic—now Northumbria University—including a memorable first visit to America, just before he started his first job at Roberts Weaver Group in London.

Summer 1989 saw the departure of Jony Ive, together with David Tonge, for America. Freshly graduated from Newcastle Polytechnic, their RSA prize money in their pockets, the two were booked to spend eight weeks at Pitney Bowes in Connecticut.

If Jony expected to be impressed by what he saw at the company's headquarters in Stamford, about forty miles northeast of Manhattan, he was disappointed. "He did not find it very interesting," Grinyer remembered with a laugh. Jony was much more excited about traveling to San Francisco and touring some of the up-and-coming design studios in the Bay Area.

When their stint at Pitney Bowes was finished, Jony and Tonge split up. Tonge traveled to the offices of Herman Miller, Knoll and a few other firms in the office furniture business, and Jony hopped a flight to California to make the rounds in Silicon Valley. He hired a car in San Francisco and drove down the Peninsula to visit a couple of studios, at one point going to ID Two (now IDEO), where Grinyer had worked, and then Lunar Design in downtown San Jose, which was run by Robert Brunner, a fast-rising design star. He and Brunner established an almost immediate connection.

Brunner was born in 1958 and grew up in San Jose in Silicon Valley, the child of a mechanical engineer father and artist mother. His father, Russ, a longtime IBM-er, invented much of the guts of the first hard drive.1 Until he reached college, Brunner had no idea there was such a thing as product design. He was on his way to join the art department at San Jose State University when he fortuitously passed a display of models and renderings by the design department.

"I decided there and then that's what I wanted to do," he recalled happily.

While pursuing a degree in ID at San Jose State, he interned at what was then the biggest and fastest-growing design agency in Silicon Valley, GVO Inc. After graduating, in 1981, Brunner joined the firm but grew unhappy, feeling the company had little ambition or vision.

"There was no editorial style at GVO," he said. "They just wanted you to crank out the renderings and keep the clients happy."2

In 1984, he tried another tack, teaming up with a couple of other GVO employees, Jeff Smith and Gerard Furbershaw, and another designer, Peter Lowe. The four pooled their money—about $5,000—and leased space in a former helicopter factory. They rented a photocopier and shared a single Apple IIc computer. They named their new firm Lunar Design, a moniker Brunner had been using for his moonlighting work while at GVO.

The timing was perfect. In the mid-eighties, Silicon Valley was just starting to get into consumer products, resulting in a high demand for design agencies like Lunar. GVO also came to the game with a difference—most of the firms in the Valley were run by engineers who had little expertise in design.

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Posted by erika rae  |  29 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

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History books are not meant to be read for fun. They belong in stuffy classrooms with class pets and broken wooden desks that squeak too much. Until The Infographic History of the World and Alternate Histories of the World came along. For someone who struggled through overtexted course books all through school, I took on this review without hesitation and hopes for brushing up on the history I missed out (ok, skipped out) on years ago.

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The Infographic History of the World

Not only is this book a chock full of rich visuals, but the organization is an artform in itself. Small details—like a slowly evolving figure in the bottom lefthand corner guiding you through the decades—make this a delightful read from cover to cover. Complicated academic topics such as the United States' ever-changing GDP and planet sizes in ratio to the universe become elaborately simple figures for right-brained types. Designer Valentine D'efilippo and journalist James Ball form the perfect team for teaching the date-illiterate millions of years of history in one book.

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Besides being beautiful, it's also historian endorsed: Amazon reviewer Michael Kinnear weighs in, "Both my wife and I had read it cover to cover before we gave it to her—we are both professional historians—and rated it A+." The tone is perfectly snarky and quite liberal. I found myself particularly engrossed in the Keith Haring-like depiction of mental illnesses and the most prominent disorders. The thought-bubble rendition of the language tree came in as a close second. As you turn the pages, the font becomes more modern as you get closer to present-day.

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A quick glance at the visual index is more than enough to pull you into the book's four parts: In the Beginning, Getting Civilized, Nation Building and The Modern World. Every infographic is presented by a lead question on the page that will tell you about the data you're looking at.

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Posted by core jr  |  15 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

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If a recent segment on 60 Minutes is any indication, IDEO's David Kelley is among the design superstars who have crossed over into mainstream recognition. David and his brother Tom, also a partner at the leading innovation consultancy, are pleased to present a new book, Creative Confidence, to prove that deep down (or perhaps not so deep) inside, "each and every one of us is creative." We had a chance to catch up with the Kelley Bros. to chat about their latest page-turner and how each of us can tap into our own creative potential.

Earlier this year, Bruce Nussbaum published a book called Creative Intelligence. To what degree is this premise—that anyone can be creative—a new trend, and why do you think that is? Or alternately, if the idea has been in the ether for some time, why now?

While creativity is timeless, trends like Maker culture open up new opportunities to unleash creativity. Our great friend and IDEO cofounder Bill Moggridge strongly believed that most people were vastly more creative and capable than they knew. We agree, and we're glad more people around the world are starting to agree, too.

We define creative confidence as the natural human ability to come up with breakthrough ideas and the courage to act on them. Since everyone was creative at some point in their lives (consider kindergarten), the challenge for us is more about unlocking creative potential than generating it from scratch.

Both in David's work at the d.school and in IDEO's collaborative work with client teams, we've witnessed many personal transformations when people who do not self-identify as "creative" get exposed to design thinking methods—and then surprise themselves with just how creative they really are. We've seen over and over that when people experience a series of small successes, they gradually gain confidence in their own ability to generate creative ideas and act on them. Creative confidence, what eminent psychologist Albert Bandura would call "self-efficacy," comes down to a belief system about your own ability to have positive impact in the world.

Creative confidence is like a muscle—it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and practice. In our experience, the best way to do that is through action, one step at a time.

The anecdote about Akshay and Ankit [engineers who end up in a d.school class] definitely rings true: We often hear from engineers who realize they'd rather be designers but don't know where to start. Do you have any advice for them?

If you're an engineer, then you're a problem solver. The way to move in the design direction is to move from pure problem-solving to need-finding. That's the empathy part of it. So instead of just doing your normal job, look for ways to reframe the problem that you're working on, ways it might be solved in a different or a better way. Complete the task you were asked to do and then do it again in a more creative way using design thinking tools. Present both directions to the boss.

What you need is a bias toward action, to jump out into the world. Engineers tend to shy away from the messiness of the human part. So if you're working on a new cell phone, instead of just considering the circuits or the software, go out and watch people use cell phones. Watch people use cell phones in extreme situations. Watch unusual phone use, and watch regular phone use. Ask people questions about it. Ask people to draw their cell phones. Do whatever it takes to get deep into understanding what's meaningful to people about cell phones, rather than just working on the technology.

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Posted by Ray  |   8 Oct 2013  |  Comments (1)

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I'd regretted breezing through the NY Art Book Fair this year—I braved the crowds on Saturday afternoon, and the hour I'd allotted myself was not nearly enough time to filter the sheer visual (and yes, tactile) onslaught of printed matter. But a souvenir from Beijing Design Week more than made up for it, and for all the limited editions, handmade zines and other rarities available at MoMA PS1, nary a booth would have had a copy of A Little Bit of Beijing. In fact, I haven't been able to find any information about Li Han and Hu Yan's three-volume graphic novel anywhere online: The book is published by the Luminous City imprint of Tongji University Press—luminous-city.com was offline as of press time—while the website of Drawing Architecture Studio (Li and Hu's practice) is currently "Under Construction."

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So it was a happy coincidence to discover A Little Bit of Beijing at 751 D.Park, in an appropriately charming venue to boot: Luminous City had set up shop in a passenger train that had been converted into a gallery. (To further compound the confusion, the expository text also credits architects Li Xiangning and Atelier Bow-Wow's Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, who are behind Made in Shanghai and its progenitor Made in Tokyo respectively.) Along with framed prints along the walls, translucent reproductions of the artwork had been set in the windows of the train to striking effect; even magnified several times over, it's quite clear that the vibrant line drawings are painstakingly detailed.

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Chris Ware's signature style is the obvious reference point, and indeed the artists acknowledge a debt to Ware, as well as Jean-Jacques Sempé, as source of inspiration. I gleaned as much from the introductory text to A Little Bit of Beijing, but I'm not too proud to admit that my reading ability is far too limited to attempt proper perusal of the book. (Limited though my vocabulary may be, I do know that the third character of the title, 儿 [er], is an untranslatable reference to Beijing's local dialect.) Thankfully, the illustrations effectively speak for themselves, and their richness transcends language, even in the case of the conventional comic-book panels that depict short vignettes.

LiHanHuYan-ALittleBitofBeijing-3.jpgAs far as I can tell, the captions are descriptions of the scenes

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Posted by core jr  |  18 Jun 2013  |  Comments (0)

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When we last heard from Bruce Nussbaum, on the occasion of the HarvardxDesign Conference, he mentioned his forthcoming book, Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect and Inspire (HarperBusiness 2013). Available now, it makes for a surprisingly good beach or travel read (Kindle version recommended, as the print version comes in hardcover), at least for those of you who prefer nonfiction for leisure reading.

But the insights and learnings from Nussbaum—a former editor at BusinessWeek and current professor at Parsons The New School for Design—are applicable for a broad audience, from recent grads to practicing designers to C-suite execs. We had a chance to speak to Nussbaum about those very insights.

Core77: What is Creative Intelligence?

Bruce Nussbaum: Creative Intelligence is a way of amplifying our creative capacities. It's a series of five competencies that we can all learn to bolster our skill at generating originality that has value, often economic value. Individuals and business organizations can increase their Creative Intelligence by getting better at Knowledge Mining, Framing, Playing, Making and Pivoting or Scaling. The concept embraces the notion that creativity is crucial to capitalism and the source of most economic value.

You write about "creativity anxiety, noting that "creativity scares us." Why do you think that is?

We have false notions of creativity. We are taught that creativity is rare, random, and reduced to special brains. We feel we should be creative but can't perform creatively. Rubbish. We are all born creative and can easily learn to be more creative and innovative. Creativity is a social activity, an ensemble or team play, not an individual gift of genius.

Many of us picture so-called creative types sitting alone in a studio or office, either filled with inspiration or waiting for it to strike, yet you write of interactive creativity and collaboration. Is there a difference between the two?

The "Aha" moment of insight, when we connect the dots of different things to come up with something new, are often done alone, walking or running, taking a long shower or slowly drinking your morning coffee. These insights come after intense social interaction and observation. They come after the research, the learning, the gathering of information and the engagement with the world. You need both.

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Posted by Ray  |  17 Apr 2013  |  Comments (0)

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In celebration of the recent release of Lincoln Center Inside Out: An Architectural Account (Damiani 2013), the New York Public Library recently hosted Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro, principals of the eponymous architecture studio—stylized as Diller Scofidio + Renfro, or DS+R—in conversation with MoMA's Curator of Architecture Barry Bergdoll. Among other topics, the participants attempted to define the object itself, only to conclude that the beautifully-printed tome is beyond categorization: it is at once an art book, literally overflowing with beautiful full-bleed photography (more on that shortly), and a scholarly record of the decade-long redesign of one of New York City's iconic public spaces. Indeed, Diller offhandedly characterized Lincoln Center Inside Out as "an architectural porno book," though Bergdoll contended that it is as encyclopedic as it is eye-catching.

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So too can the book be perused in a number of ways: At over 300 pages, Lincoln Center Inside Out is constructed almost entirely of gatefolds—which, as the panelists noted, might very well be a first for a comprehensive visual and quasi-technical document of such size and scope. The first tenth of the book consists of introductory text and a series of nicely laid-out conversations between DS+R's Ilana Altman and various, followed by some 30 gatefolds, each of which spans eight normal pages. The exterior panels of the pages invariably feature photos—interiors, exteriors, details, wide angles and even a few process shots—by Iwan Baan and Matthew Monteith, concealing explanatory text and images within. Suffice it to say that Lincoln Center Inside Out (pun most certainly intended) is about as comprehensive as they come.

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Bergdoll lauded the book's built-in experience of discovery as Scofidio acknowledged that the design serves as "a metaphor for the travails [of the project]," which looks immaculate on the surface but actually goes several layers deep. In fact, he later disclosed that the "archaeology of the space" was a challenge unto itself: By some accounts, upwards of half of the total cost went into bringing the woefully neglected substructure up to code (fun facts: there is a full gas station in the parking garage and there is a river underneath Juilliard).

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The metaphor applies not just to space but to time as well: Diller commented that the highly tactile, physical construction of Lincoln Center Inside Out serves to slow readers down and take their time absorbing the dense vignettes, which cover everything from grass species for the 'hypar' (hyperbolic paraboloid) roof lawn to the form studies for the prow-like geometry of the new Juilliard building.

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Posted by Marina Garcia-Vasquez  |  18 Jan 2013  |  Comments (1)

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In the midst of the Mayan calendar predictions, prophecies came and went and on 12-12-12 in New York, the Mexican architect Fernando Romero released his book You Are The Context at the Guggenheim Museum. The launch was a celebration of what comes next, a young career full of potential and a designer with the means to create change in and out of Mexico.

Romero and his firm FR-EE published the book as a catalog of architecture projects erected and for consideration around the world. In an email he writes, "It is a manifesto of today's context for designers." The book reads like an architecture self-help guide: a serious investigation of trending topics in building and social design: museums, mixed-use, responsible vertical, cities, convention centers, bridges, etc.

The book starts "Since the mid-1960s, as a reaction against the formalism and functionalism of Modernism, the word context has seen a common and frequently used term in architectural discourse." Romero and FR-EE are pushing an agenda with regards to careful attention to the key elements of site, culture, time and society. These are considerations for a future architecture.

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You Are The Context is self-published and reads as part calling card/part industry resource. FR-EE hopes to ignite conversations around key issues, shed light on the positive developments in Mexico, and also to bid for some US territory or at least make it's voice more laudable.

Romero won international acclaim for designing Museo Soumaya in 2011, a sequined hourglass of a museum housing Carlos Slim Helú's prestigious art collection in Mexico City. Romero is prone to organic shapes and experimental forms. His mentors include Enric Miralles, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas.

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |   6 Nov 2012  |  Comments (1)

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Though over-packaging is often seen as the epitome of excess, it's really only the tip of the iceberg of a resource-hungry process. According to Laurel Miller and Stephen Aldridge, authors of Why Shrink-wrap A Cucumber? The Complete Guide to Environmental Packaging (Laurence King, 2012): "As is befitting in a convenience society, [packaging] is a convenient, high-visibility target that deflects attention from less palatable forms of environmental action, such as reducing our dependence on high-carbon fossil fuels and heavy industry." In their remarkably thorough new book, Miller and Aldridge debunk the common myths of sustainable production, introduce new materials, and help designers navigate the often treacherous waters that lie between manufacturers and the client, providing plenty of case studies for inspiration.

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Miller and Aldridge begin by discussing how poor packaging choices are linked with global climate change by breaking down every step of a product's life cycle, from its production to its recycling or disposal. There's even a refresher that's helpful for anyone interested in sustainable design, from the lords of the LCA (life cycle assessment) to the everyday concerned citizen. Miller and Aldridge have included Futerra's invaluable "10 Signs of Greenwash" and they take the time to define terms that are as common as they are misunderstood: green, sustainability, and environmentally friendly.

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And for designers struggling to "negotiate the environmental maze [while] balancing profitability and creativity with sensitivity to the environment," there are few first steps you can take to address your client's concerns about brand identity while delivering a design with low environmental impact. The case studies are grouped by packaging categories like shape and weight. The iconic Orangina bottle, for example, evolved from a nondescript glass jar to its current shape as a result of a design that took both branding and cost effective packaging into consideration. The Heinz ketchup bottle, too, has changed from a glass bottle to a plastic squeeze bottle for similar reasons. Weight has also played a huge role in packaging design, especially in metal drink cans, which have become 77% lighter since the 1960s, from 60g down to just 14g.

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |   1 Nov 2012  |  Comments (0)

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Perhaps it's my personal obsession with nautical shirts, but when I think of stripes I think of my dangerous addiction to Petite Bateau and handmade espadrilles. Design editor Linda O'Keeffe, however, takes stripes to another level in her new book Stripes: Design Between The Lines. In it, O'Keeffe traces the history of stripes from cave paintings through the Middle Ages, when they were used to identify different social classes, and past their appearance as "dazzle camouflage" during WWI, proving that stripes really are "the simplest and most ancient of decorative markings."

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By Daniel Buren, image copyright D.B - ADAGP Paris

Divided into eight chapters according to theme or mood—Jovial, Paradoxical, Tribal, Directional, Optical, Vertical, Horizontal, and Structural—O'Keeffe takes the reader from the Mojave Desert to the South Pole, visiting Elvis's "Jail House Rock," the paintings of Paul Klee and the evolution of circus culture along the way. Many of O'Keeffe's historical references are certainly interesting and will be new information to many readers, but her well intentioned text (cursory at best) simply can't compete with the page after page of stripy eye candy. Her books, however, like last year's Brilliant: White in Design, are easy flip-throughs, thematic romps, if you will, and aren't meant as anything more serious, so we certainly can't hold the fact that this is design light against her, especially when the pictures are so good.

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Image copyright Deidi von Schaewen

Hit the jump for more...

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Posted by Tobias Berblinger  |  29 Oct 2012  |  Comments (0)

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Hidden Forms explores Franco Clivio's obsession with objects, particularly those considered banal by most. He finds considered design and innovations in what he refers to as, 'unremarkable, everyday things.' These anonymous objects have had a remarkable impact on design, culture and technology.

Clivio assembles his beloved artifacts in collections, creating poetic juxtapositions that tell stories about their manufacturing processes, their functions, their scale and their interaction with each other. Each collection has been harmoniously arranged and photographed by Hans Hansen. Clivio prefaces each individual collection, explaining the significance to him and then comments on a few select items or processes that exemplify his reasons for collecting them. Pierre Mendell and Annette Kröger developed the layout and complimentary illustrations.

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Although Hidden Forms was released in 2009 in the United States, it's clear that it went well under the radar. At press time Hidden Forms' page on a major bookseller's website is neglected: it remains unreviewed, and the official description has fragments of visible html in it. We wanted to give it a second look as it's been a steadfast favorite here at Hand-Eye Supply.

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |  23 Oct 2012  |  Comments (0)

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Design of the 20th Century is one of those books that ought to be on the shelves of every designer, design student, teacher, historian, enthusiast or newbie. Hefty and sweeping yet affordable and compact, this veritable Bible that covers design from the past hundred years is, at the very least, 750 pages of pure eye candy. At its best it's an approachable wealth of information that "highlights the pluralistic nature of design and the idea that, historically, design can be viewed as a debate between conflicting opinions about such issues as the role of technology and the industrial process, the primacy of utility, simplicity and affordability over luxury and exclusivity, and the role of function, aesthetics, ornament and symbolism in practical objects for use."

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Written by Charlotte and Peter Fiell, who've penned several of Taschen's comprehensive design tomes (including 1000 Chairs, Industrial Design A-Z, Graphic Design for the 21st Century), define design "in its most global sense as the conception and planning of all man-made products." With that in mind the duo takes the reader through the entire 20th century from Aalto to Zsolnay, a journey that includes design movements like Art Deco, Arts & Craft and the International Style as well as profiles on the most significant designers in every field, from furniture and lighting to typography and graphic design. Design of the 20th Century is an accessible introduction to design for newcomers as well as an indispensable desk reference for design professionals. Even veterans in the field who think they've learned it all in school and seen it all over the course of their careers will enjoy rediscovering old favorites and perhaps even stumbling upon something new.

Design of the 20th Century is available from Taschen for $19.99.

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Vico Magistretti's Atoll lamp

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Marcel Breuer's cantilevered wicker and wood chair

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Wolfgang Tumpel's Teamaker

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Posted by Mark Vanderbeeken  |  17 Oct 2012  |  Comments (0)

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The people of the Pittsburgh-based LUMA Institute have published an excellent collection of methods for practicing Human-Centered Design—the discipline of developing solutions in the service of people.

The thirty-six methods in this Innovating for People handbook are organized by way of three key design skills: Looking, Understanding, and Making.

Each featured method includes a brief description; a pictorial example; a listing of benefits; a sampling of method combinations; and a quick guide with helpful hints for initial application. The full collection of methods is small enough to digest quickly, yet large enough to address myriad challenges.

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The book does not prescribe a formulaic innovation process. Rather, it introduces a versatile set of methods for practicing Human-Centered Design as a daily discipline in order to be more innovative and drive sustainable growth.

Posted by Perrin Drumm  |  10 Oct 2012  |  Comments (0)

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1.pngTverrfjellhytta - Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion, by Snohetta in Hjerkinn, Norway, 2011

Urbanism—the omnipresent buzz word that encompasses every aspect of our lives affected by the space crunch that grows along with the global population—is on the tip of everyone's tongues these days, from developers and city officials to architects and designers. And as we've heard a hundred times before, the need for undeveloped, natural outdoor space will only increase with the number of people streaming into cities. This has resulted in frustrations for cramped city dwellers, but it's also pushed cities to become more creative with their use of public space. In Going Public, Gestalten's latest publication, editors Robert Klante, Sven Ehmann, Sofia Borges, Mathias Huber, and Lukas Feireiss selected the most innovative and exciting uses of public space from around the world, from dense city centers to forgotten freeway underpasses to distant forests and fjords.

In the last five years, urban planners have moved well beyond traditional notions of public space. New outdoor environments are less focused on plopping a nice piece of sculpture in a plaza and more about creating "flexible frameworks for social, political, and cultural change...[with] a common thread in their affirmative endeavor to transform abstract spaces to concrete place." This involves "activating" spaces to "add value of experience and meaning." In his preface, Feireiss notes that this have become a much more collaborative effort than in the past, and signs off with a quotes from activist Jane Jacobs' seminal 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities that still resonates today. "Cities," she said, "have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when they are created by everybody."

The book is divided into six chapters, Gimme Shelter: Public Architecture As Place-Maker, Constant Gardener: Green Space In the City, Walk With Me: Modes of Spatial Mobilization, Benchmarks: Accommodating the Cityscape, Between A Rock and A Hard Place: Architectures of Intermediate Status, and Why Don't We Do It In The Road?: New Forms of Engagement In the City. Here's a look at some of the best projects from each chapter.

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This is the meatiest chapter and includes everything from Luminous Field's ten day-long digital light show projected on Anish Kapoor's famous Cloud Gate sculpture (aka the giant mirrored bean) in Millennium Park, Chicago, earlier this year. It's shown alongside several other installations with swooping, globular forms, but whether they're smooth and bean-like or rigid and made from wood, built in city plazas or in remote locations, these structures either provide visitors with shelter or a new vantage point from which to experience the landscape, or both.

2.pngEnvolver - Entree Alpine Panoramic Structure, by Alice (Atelier de la Conception De L'Espace) in Zermatt, Switzerland, 2009

3.pngWinnipeg Skating Shelters, by Patkau Architects in Winnipeg, Canada, 2010-2011

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