Archive for November, 2007|Monthly archive page

Techniques to Deceive

Disney Castle windows

Did you know that the higher windows on the Disney Castle was purposefully made smaller so that the tower could look taller? Well I didn’t know either.

Disney World in Florida had a height restriction for their Cinderella’s Castle. So they used forced perspective to make it look taller. As tourists we assume that the lower windows and the upper windows are the same size but the upper ones look smaller because they are high up on the castle. It is true the higher ones would look smaller, but upper windows were purposely made smaller than the lower windows forcing us to interpret the castle as being taller than it actually is.

That’s a really interesting detail. A lot more of these tactics of persuasion – to lead the viewers into believing in something more desired/positive – are right here on this page. We might be familiar with the concept behind many of them, such as product placement, perspective play and ‘selective honesty’ – but it’s still rather fascinating to see how it actually manifests in actual examples.

Singapore Design Festival – Launch

Singapore Design Festival

The Singapore Design Festival starts today! A few weeks of events are lined up – seminars, exhibitions, workshops, etc. I’d definitely be posting more of these in the next few weeks as I trod about the various exhibitions. If you have visited any memorable events do leave your comments to share here too!

Sticker under the Cup

Taz Ah

This sticker design gave me a chuckle – perfect for sneaking it up on your colleague’s mug! Designed for Thorsten van Elten.

Texture Mapping onto Real Life Videos

Computer Graphics researchers Volker Scholz and Marcus Magnor developed an amazing algorithm that allows one to substitute the texture and shape on a fabric in a real-life video accurately. I know that doesn’t describe much, but I’d venture it is probably more easily understood as compared to their abstract:

In this paper, we present a video processing algorithm for texture replacement of moving garments in monocular video recordings. We use a color-coded pattern which encodes texture coordinates within a local neighborhood in order to determine the geometric deformation of the texture. A time-coherent texture interpolation is obtained by the use of 3D radial basis functions. Shading maps are determined with a surface reconstruction technique and applied to new textures which replace the color pattern in the video sequence. Our method enables exchanging fabric pattern designs of garments worn by actors as a video post-processing step.

Well, a video speaks about a million words – so see for yourself:

7-9year-olds designs their Laptops

Kid’s laptop

How would laptops look like, if kids (from 7-9 year olds) were at the helm? Some kids in North Carolina shows their vision and design of laptops – and reveals traces of what goes on in their world. Here’s a great interview/article from The Morning News about ‘The Laptop Club’, which was started by a bunch of second and third-graders. They crafted out their visions of laptops, which often included dedicated buttons to what is important to them – often friends, imaginary pets, games and online clubs. You could see how the laptop is very much really a projection of the kid’s worlds. And the speed in which they absorb and learn about the world is truly astounding as well.

Here’s an excerpt of an interview with one of them:

Name: Mandy
Age: 8
How often do you use a computer? Five times a week.
What do you like to do when you’re using a computer? Play games and write stories and poems.
What will computers look like in the future? Well you see, if we had whole days to work on it, and bigger paper, I think we could make it way more detailed.
Who is better at using a computer, you or your parents? Games + me = good. Parents + trying = bad. I am better at using games and if you guys try them, you get crushed.
[ After being told this interview would be published on the internet ] “I’m going to be popular! I should make a blog button, right now.”

Wow to the ‘blog button’ comment – it really crystallizes how in-tuned they are with the online developments!

Blowable Laptop User Interface

Check this out! By simply using existing microphones found on practically all laptops, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a way to emulate screen pointers based on puffs of air instead of the mouse. While they could be used for ‘fancy’ applications like blowing out virtual birthday cakes (as the video suggests at the end), this could also very well be leveraged for people with disabilities such as paraplegics.

Great potential achieved with easily-available and cheap execution – I hope this can really be developed into a comprehensive, easy and accurate system of alternative input method. Just wondering – if we place a few microphones strategically around the screen, could it have a better calibration (think of GPS triangular positioning)? That could help make this much more precise and that much more effective.

Dandelion Online Exhibition

Dandelion - IDAsia

Some of you might remember the call-for-entry on Gems Sty for the Dandelion online exhibition some time back – I’m happy to announce that the Dandelion Exhibition is up and running! This is an online exhibition (showcasing designs – mostly from Asia – that are at least in the prototype stage) held in conjunction with the Singapore Design Festival, which is slated to run from 28 Nov to 8 Dec.
Over the next few weeks, you’d probably be seeing more posts about other activities held in relation to the design festival. Right now it’s still pretty low-key for the general public though, apart from a sprinkle of bus stop advertisements here and there. Hopefully it’d drum up to be a more happening affair as the dates draw near.

Incidentally too, as I’d be involved in the exhibition as well (in real life), posts might get a little slower the next week or so as I scramble to get stuff up and ready. Stay tuned!

(Chinese) Origins of HipHop

Here’s a humorous take by the Nokia N-series on the origins of Hip-Hop – could it have originated from the most unlikely of places? More points if you understand the Mandarin.

[edit: changed to the English-subtitled version, thanks to Simon]

Visual Branding – more than a mark

Cow Branding
The idea of branding – and indeed the term ‘branding’ itself – began thousands of years ago, when people started literally branding their livestocks with hot iron as a mark of ownership or quality. Gradually through the years, the notion of branding as a clear visual symbol has evolved and spread to practically all industries. Some of the principles of branding include clarity (legible, easy-to-read even within a short time), identity (the mark should communicate the idea/spirit of the brand) and consistency (consistent style of application to reinforce the mark’s strength and recognizability).

These principles have generally evolved into extremely comprehensive brand identity guidelines – the exact vector of the marks notwithstanding, there are also generally stringent rules about the colors, minimum perimeter space around the logos, where and how the logo may be used, etc. Like a jewel on a crown, they were the untouchables – the identities must be so – they stand proudly on or atop products, displays, posters, etc., almost like a king watching in solitude over the rest of the artwork doing the legwork in conveying the message. The brandmark was very much simply a stamp of approval.

Lately though, I’m beginning to see some forward-thinking brandmarks developed less as a stamp, but more as a flexible lasso to hold everything together. Wolff Olins is among the pioneers in this school of thought. As their CEO, Karl Heiselman remarks:

In the past, corporate identity was about control and consistency. With too much control, people tend to forget about content. In the era of blogging, social networking and user-generated content … a bit of flexibility is essential.

They are often just as strong and iconic (if not more), but they have an added dimensionality and freeplay that allows for creative interpretations of the symbol, rather than just a static stoic symbol. Sometimes they are used as a design tool – an example is the ‘NYC’ logo for New York City, which can be manifested beautifully such as in the second picture below:

NYC Logo
NYC Application1
NYC Application2

Some other memorable and successful designs from Wolff Olins include the Sony Ericsson symbol, which is being used in place of a verb in many billboards and poster advertisements, leaving the user to imagine and associate whatever the word is (and associate that to Sony Ericsson too):

Sony Ericsson1

Another one is the Product(RED) campaign – the bracket and the superscript RED forms an extremely strong visual identity, and yet allows a large amount of free play to how it is used, which is especially important given the varied styles and usage for its partners.

Product (RED)

They are also the ones behind the London 2012 Olympic logo, which I didn’t find too impressive (and blogged here). The logo was along the same thought – promising versatility and flexibility in usage – but I thought aesthetically they weren’t as well-done as some of these above.

It’s great though to see brands getting more alive and versatile. With the new mediums of expression (cellphones? Google Earth views?) and the Web2.0 culture of hacking and mashing, a versatile logo allows the audience not only to receive but also to actively reciprocate and reinterpret what these brands mean to them (such as the (LESS) campaign in response to the RED). Some marketers may freak out and take this as perversions of the company’s brand identity – but let’s face it – a brand is what the consumers think about you, and not what you want them to think about you. And with modern technologies like the net, there is no way you can stop them either. So might as well just leap in!

Sexy Designer Furniture (and models)

Egg Chair Jacobsen

Ant Chair Jacobsen

Many of us have probably seen these classics – the Egg Chair and the Series 7 Ant (thanks Mauro) Chair by Arne Jacobsen – quite a few times already. But does your designer chair look this sexy? I just love how the model’s thighs almost looks like it’s a natural extension of the Egg’s silhouette, and how the Ant Chair really seemed like a natural piece of clothing on the model. I guess the photographer Corey Weiner has really delivered to the brief given: “We want a model wearing nothing but the chair.”