Posts Tagged ‘Design’

Labanotation: a Written Language for Dance

To oversimplify, written words, like these I’m writing, are humanity’s way of recording spoken words. Musical notation are how we record a song. But what if we want to record a dance or other movements? Enter Labanotation, a written language for recording human movements developed in the 1920’s.

In Labanotation, movements of different parts of the body are mapped to symbols:

The result is a language that, read from bottom to top, tracks a series of simultaneous motions into one synchronized flow of symbols:

Found via artist Eija Loponen-Stephenson.

Prescience of Environmental Posters

The New York Times has a review of an exhibition of vintage environmental posters. The article has a nice gallery of some wonderfully designed and often poignant examples of graphic design with a message.

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Via Rafa

Ghost Rivers of Baltimore

Photo by Frank Hamilton

It’s easy to miss the fact that our cities often cover up existing streams and rivers, often diverting them underground or into existing storm drain systems. Back in 2009, Spacing posted a wonderful map of Montréal’s hidden rivers.

Ghost rivers is a street-level art project tracking a submerged river in Baltimore:

Ghost Rivers is a new 1.5-mile-long public art installation and walking tour by artist Bruce Willen that visualizes a lost stream buried below the streets of Baltimore.

This project explores the hidden history and path of Sumwalt Run, which now flows through underground culverts beneath the Remington and Charles Village neighborhoods.

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The Whole Earth Catalog Goes Online

Stewart Brand’s classic Whole Earth Catalog, a sort of 70’s proto-blog in paper about building, the environment, crafts, and more, has made all their issues available online for free. This is something I’ve heard referenced in books and articles many, many times, but only now can I actually read them all.

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Lookout by Martin Puryear

Photo by Amir Hamja

This stunning new sculpture at Storm King uses traditional African brick-laying techniques:

It uses a technique known as Nubian vaulting, developed thousands of years ago in the Upper Nile delta. Mudbricks can be laid at an angle rather than in the typical flat orientation, and the technique requires a fast-setting mortar.

The beautiful structure reminds me of an igloo, which obliges me to link to Doug Wilkinson’s unbelievable 1949 NFB film How to Build an Igloo.

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Detroit Tiny Houses

Photos by Sarah Rice for NYT

The New York Times has an interesting piece about tiny houses being used to house people in need in Detroit. The houses are all different, and rented in a rent-to-own model that eventually end up being owned entirely by the occupants:

Gladys Ferguson, who is in her 60s and has severe arthritis, rents Cass’s yellow gabled house for $350 a month. (Seven years of her accumulated rent will eventually finance her outright purchase of the property.) “It’s just a gorgeous little thing,” she said. When she first entered the house for a preview, shortly before she moved in a few years ago, she sneaked away for a nap in the tucked-away bedroom. “That was the most serene thing you’ve ever seen,” she said.

While I don’t think this is the sort of solution that would be ideal in Montréal, which needs its own housing needs addressed through denser apartments, I appreciate that it’s a good solution for a sprawl-ier city like Detroit.

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Jockey Cap Map

While on a very short hike during my vacation last week, I ran across a very simple, and very clever sculpture (for lack of a better word) at the top of a small hill. At first, I thought it was just a plaque on an elaborate stand, until I got closer…

It was a map of sorts. A 3D bronze representation, erected in 1938, of all the surrounding hills and peaks (it was just foggy enough for Mount Washington to not register on camera). A very simple idea, and a good reward for a short 20-minute hike.

Book: Mismatch, How Inclusion Shapes Design

The central thesis of this book is that designers should look at disabilities not as health conditions, but instead as mismatches between the designer and those the designers are creating for. Mismatches come in a lot of forms, and can play out as physical, mental, or cultural.

A good example from early in the book deals with how men and women learn to use software in different ways. Researchers at The GenderMag identified a spectrum of ways that humans learn how to use software. One end was a guided approach, either from a human or the software itself. On the other end was to jump in and learn by trial and error. Users were interviewed and placed on this spectrum.

Writes Holmes:

The research showed that people who identified as women distributed relatively evenly across this spectrum. There was a wide range of learning styles that different women used when learning new software. People who identified as men, however, clustered heavily toward the end of the spectrum for tinkering and troubleshooting solutions.

This is an important distinction, and something that is easy to miss if there is a mismatch between software developers and the people who use our software.

One last great anecdote I wanted to share from this book that really stuck with me involves the United States Air Force research of pilot dimensions in order to better design airplane cockpits, which shows how sometimes designing for everyone can end up designing for nobody:

In the 1940s, the first fighter jets were designed to fit the average pilot. The USAF measured hundreds of bodily dimensions across thousands of pilots and used the averages of that data to design the instruments of the flight deck, or cockpit.

Every feature of that flight deck was fixed in place, without adjustability. The assumption was that any individual pilot could adjust himself to overcome the gap in reaching any element of the fight deck that wasn’t a perfect fit for him.

However, the Air Force was experiencing a high rate of crashes that couldn’t be attributed to mechanical failure or pilot error. A lieutenant and researcher, Gilbert Daniels, studied just ten of those human dimensions that were used in the design of the original fight deck. He measured four thousand pilots to confirm how many of them fit all ten dimensions.

The answer was zero.

The Problem with Plastic

Information is Beautiful highlights this informative little infographic showing just how little of humanity’s plastic waste is actually recycled. I always knew recycling rates were small, but this chart shows just how minuscule it really is.

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Daring Fireball on Microsoft's New Fonts

John Gruber of tech/Apple blog Daring Fireball has a nice rundown of Aptos, Microsoft’s upcoming default font for its Office apps.

What I find weird about the whole thing is that Microsoft still hasn’t really shown any of these new fonts. They’ve provided glimpses of them, but mostly at large display sizes, not text sizes, which is where they really matter in the context of Office documents. I’m not the only one to find this curious.

So I took matters into my own hands, and created rudimentary specimens for each of Microsoft’s five new typefaces

All are better than Arial. I don’t use office, but as Gruber says:

it’s impossible not to encounter documents created with Office, whether you personally use it or not. Thus, Microsoft’s typographic choices affect us all.

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