Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Tag Galaxy (Flickr)

Tag Galaxy is a rather weird but interesting way of browsing through Flickr images – probably more for casual browsing than a specific search. You start off with a tag on a topic (which becomes your ‘central planet’) while other related tags appear in your galaxy. You can then click on those related tags and browse photos with both the original tag and the subsequent tag(s) (top picture).

And eventually, when you really do want to look at those photos, you can click on the planet and photos will ‘land’ on the planet (2nd picture).

I thought the visual/cognitive link between the two was a tad too literal and forced, but an interesting interface nonetheless for exploring images in a (pseudo)-3D space (yeah, space).

When is a design ‘finished’?

When is a design done? As design itself is usually a rather subjective judgment, designers are often lulled into a seemingly endless cycle of re-examination and ‘that-last-bit-of-tweaking’. abduzeedo asks 23 professional (graphic) designers on their take on when/how they consider their design work to be finished – here are some samples:

“I know a design is finished when every time I add something or adjust something it seems to get worse. I often create a set of history snapshots of the design trying different things – additions or small alterations – and then show them to my wife – who is also a designer. When we both agree that the original is already complete then I delete the snapshots and stop there. Of course sometimes adding one more element can lead you down a whole other path of design, and I have wound up totally reworking a look. But that’s the joy of design, there are always many solutions to a problem!” – Collis Ta’eed.

“I’m never sure if a design is done unless i take a break from it and don’t bother looking at it until the next morning. If what I see the next day puts a smile on my face, then it’s done.” – Kevin Brisseaux

“When the deadline is met.” – James Wignall

“I am finished with a piece when nothing else I add looks good. To me this means the piece isn’t finished, it’s simply reached my creative limitations.” – Joshua Smith

Your take?

MUJI Design Award 03

Time flies – the MUJI Design Award is round the corner again!

MUJI is pleased to announce the launch of its third MUJI AWARD International Design Competition. Its theme this time is “Found MUJI”. Since it was established in Japan 28 years ago, MUJI has maintained its approach of observing and thinking about everyday life. This involves taking a view of the world, learning from the wisdom of predecessors, discovering the benefits of something that has been used for a long period of time and translating these ideas into the design of products that are consistent with our current lifestyle.

Taking on this approach what can you create, when considering the life, culture and tradition of a particular region of the world, giving it a MUJI viewpoint, while at the same time respecting its origins? MUJI is hoping to receive timeless and convincing designs from around the world.

I particularly liked this year’s theme – it seems like it’d bring to surface a lot of interesting observations and subconscious rituals, and how that translates to products/designs. Deadline’s 31st July – start looking!

[Official MUJI Award website]

UFO – Right Place, Right Time

Even if the photo itself is probably carefully timed and staged, I couldn’t help but admire the vision of the original graffiti artist who plopped that UFO into that very spot – it certainly shows an eye for seeing and visualizing what isn’t immediately obvious – and with a great sense of humor too!

[Unknown origin, via Wooster]

NUS Industrial Design Graduation Show 2008

The 6th batch of Industrial Design graduates from the National University of Singapore will be hosting their graduation show at The Central (Singapore), from 30th May to 1st June. If you’re in town, do drop by and check it out. If not, you can always drop by their website, which also hosts some of their works:

Biggest Drawing in the World

Erik Nordenankar had an interesting idea – to draw the biggest drawing in the world using nothing but a suitcase of GPS tracking device and the ever reliable DHL:

[On] the 17th of March 2008, I sent away a briefcase containing a GPS device with the express transportation company DHL. I gave them exact travel instructions, where to go and in what order. 55 days later the briefcase returned to Stockholm. The GPS automatically recorded the briefcases’s journey around the world. The  information  was downloaded to my computer and gave me my drawing. Due to the GPS drawing technique and the magnitude of the drawing, the self portrait had to be made in only one stroke. That giant stroke passed through 6 continents and 62 countries, thus becoming 110664km long.

And here’s the device he sent on voyage:

Can’t make it more like a ticking briefcase bomb, can you?

Anyway, for more videos head on to his site here.

Yamaha Concept Pianos – ‘Keys’

Yamaha had exhibited a series of piano design concepts at the Milan Salone 2008. Titled ‘Keys’ in reference to the defining common element among all these concepts, they explored some alternative configurations or perspectives to the familiar piano – asking “what would a piano look like if it is used in another context?” At first I didn’t pay too much attention to it amidst the avalanche of visual candies pouring out at that time, thinking that they’re mainly just Yamaha tossing a few concepts to attract attention and all.

In fact they probably are just that. But if you look closer at each concept, there are quite interesting and thoughtful details with each of the 7 concepts that deserve more than a fleeting glance – these design details do demonstrate the thoughtfulness, the idea behind the design, and each new design is refreshingly suited for their new calling through various sensitive design touches:

Key Between People

‘Key between People’ is (in your current Internet lingo anyway) the grand piano brought to the social. In the traditional grand piano, the lid is lifted high up (like a bonnet) forming a formidable visual impact, accentuating the lone genius at the keys. In this concept, the piano is turned much more into a grand, flat table or bar-counter where people just hang-out, recalling the unifying, social dimension of music that perhaps get forgotten these days. The players and the listeners are placed on a level plane, giving a more direct and intimate connection between the two parties. The matte finish also makes the piano look more approachable and down-to-earth, in contrast to the traditional high-gloss piano black treatment.

Key as Gift

Key as Gift looks at the piano that gains connection and intimacy with the owner as it ages gracefully. The C-shaped band of bent wood juxtaposes well against the friendly and slightly-playful looking design – as seen through the flowery array of speaker openings and the softer, more rounded keys. As time passes by, the wood will age with a patina and impressions that you’ve left on it – the special little personal marks that eludes modern plastic gadgets – almost like something you brought out from your childhood.

Key for Living

Key for Living, with its rounded-rectangle silhouette – is more modern looking, having no problems fitting into a typical contemporary apartment or loft. It seemed to be designed with compactness and versatility in mind. For instance, it can be stood-up vertically at the corner of your room or something. Another interesting detail is the speakers which are placed in between the keys and the base – there are a total of 10 speakers and a subwoofer within for sound to emanate in every direction. I also quite like the row of round metallic button – I think it gives a visual highlight to the top surface.

Key for Journey

Key for Journey is perhaps the iPod of pianos. Housed like a sketchbook (with binded paper for the musical genius in you to perhaps jot down the more inspired tunes while on-the-go) within leather-bound covers, the authentic material finishing and the detailing are very exquisite and sensitive. Instead of the standard black-and-white, the finishing plays the role in differentiating the keys: high-chrome vs matte metallic. The juxtaposition gives a harmonious and yet refreshing feel to it. If you look closer, you’d also notice the diamond-knuckled metal dial at the side, and also the squarish metallic paper binding that comes in sets of 3s and 2s (reflecting the arrangement of the piano keys). I think these little design touches go a long way in lending character and demonstrating the designer’s sensitivity to the product.

Key in Cantilever

Key in Cantilever gives a much more simple and yet sculptural look. Composed basically of two rectangles – the piano surface cantilevered on the rectangular stand, it delivers a strong visual impact, accentuated by the quality of the extremely geometrical and straight-cut slabs of white marble. In its simplicity, it is very strong in the visual impact, distilling every element down to the purest of forms.

Key Like Jeans

Key like Jeans again plays with the idea of a well-aged, patina-inducing product. With a solid dark and smooth walnut body that is oiled to finish, you are reminded of a vintage guitar. Details like the screwed-in chrome metallic socket where you can plug your cables in, the keys that extend beyond the body’s footprint, and the heavy and solid feel of the walnut-wood encasement also help to give it the feeling of a classic electric guitar.

Key near Window

Key near Window has a bit of a retro-futuristic look, especially with the dark-tinted glass cover. Once you lift it up, you get a more soothing-tech feel as the embedded lighting and display shines through the white casing. The three distinct layers in construction – dark glass, white marble and dark wooden base – also help give the piano very different and distinct appearances.

All in all, as I looked through the design details in each of the concept, I must say I am quite impressed with how the designers modified the little design elements to suit each concept, and the result is a set of widely different designs that appeal in their own ways for their own contexts.

Head on to the official Yamaha Gallery to see these concepts. I do wish they designed their website as well as they did with the pianos though – the menus seem to be over-eager in popping up in some cases, and I’d say the short looping background music doesn’t show too well for Yamaha (who are supposed to be good in music?).

Paying Employees to Quit

Stumbled upon this discovery on Harvard Business Publishing mentioning how Zappos, an internet shoe retailer (on course to exceed $1billion in annual revenues), has a very unique method of retaining committed staff – they pay their newly-hired staff $1000 to quit:

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture—which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick—and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)

Wow. I’ve not dealt with Zappos personally – never bought or returned any shoes from them. But apparently the customer service are legendary. I guess this eccentric strategy (does eccentric have to be opposite of logical? Because if the numbers are balanced, this strategy seems really logical too) was one of the factors that helped them achieve this level of service.

I guess if it’s not already in every business case study textbook, it’d soon be!

Laziness -> Invention

The old adage goes – ‘laziness is the mother of all invention’. Typically when a new invention comes up, it meets resistance for people who are used to the status quo, and denounce the new effort or time-saving invention as a farce, a device for the lazy. For instance, the automatic gear was once condemned as a luxury device for the lazy – “if you can’t even be bothered to stick out a leg and change your gear, why drive a car?”.

Of course, history has proven otherwise – automatic gear sticks are now very much the default in new cars. People get used to it, prefer it for the time and effort saved, and after a (short) while, the chorus of condemnation are all but forgotten.

That said, what’s your take on this?

If you’ve never failed…

Something to get inspired for the weekend – carpe diem!