Monday, October 31, 2005

Alameda town plaza idea

Save the historic theater or bring back the movies? Are the options really that far apart? Do we lose the theater unless we build out an 8-screen multiplex? Alameda's general plan calls for some new gathering space within the heart of the city, so the anti-multiplex group asked me to illustrate a town plaza. Architectural work is not my area of training, but I am able to put down on paper what people describe.

I've lived in Alameda for just 7 years, so I'm a newcomer. I have been able to watch the city struggle to find itself after the Navy left. It's floundering. I'd like to see Alameda rise up to become jewel of community, local business and environmental awareness, with strong spiritual foundations. I'd like us to find ways to apply the best of what our society is discovering about how to be a society. I don't think a multiple screen cineplex is part of that.

Alamedans need to get out more. They need to go to Ashland, Eugene, West Yellowstone, and Olympia. They need to see how other large "small towns" manage growth, density, and diversity. As long as we don't go look for ourselves, then the big-box developers will always be able to push their Sprawl solutions onto us.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Digital "paper"

Remember the Pine Oats box from Minority Report? Siemens has developed the thin-film, disposable display to make it possible. Someone's going to have to update a lot of logos and artwork to take advantage of this new consumer product interface... I wonder if I have the time and effort in me to be an early adopter.

Short Flash animations could play on the things. Yeah, I think I'll keep my ear to the ground on this. I'm really an animator at heart. And while the fact these things are landfill-on-the-hoof bothers me some, I do see some benefit to being able to have moving displays on packages.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Law abiding, don't assume otherwise

Secret codes printed by our color printers?

While I'm all for preventing counterfeiting, I am really disturbed that every piece of paper coming out of my color printer has a printed message with the serial number and date. The people at Xerox, Adobe, and HP who write printer drivers have known about this, clearly were asked by the government to include this protocol, but where's the transparency of process?

I am so appalled I scarcely know where to begin. I think one aspect you can't ignore is that a mountain of people have known about this for at least 10 years, and it's just now coming out. I'm told that a conspiracy is difficult to keep quiet when there are many people involved... but here's an example of something invasive, kept quiet for a long time.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Rocket Racers are on the way. How much of this am I responsible for? At the risk of rekindling adolescent egosim, I do wish to point out that I've worked with both XCOR and Velocity aircraft. I made email and phone introductions between the principals of the two companies. I pointed out the the engineers at XCOR that the Velocity team would be a natural fit to provide the airframe for whatever their next vehicle would be, since Burt Rutan was too busy working on the Virgin Galactic project. I mentioned to the Swings that it would be cool to be part of whatever XCOR was up to.

Who knows? I might have been a mere quantum ripple, less than the flapping of a butterfly's wing. It's a fact that the two groups were already attending the same airshows, but it's also a fact that they weren't talking to each other. Rocket Racers might have become real entirely without me, or I might have been the last bit of oomph that pushed the idea across the threshold. The point, I suppose, is never fear to put out into the Universe what you would like to see become real.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Starting the design

First of all, I had to paste this image together because I couldn't get both of us into frame. So that's why it's artsy.

There are a few methods useful to initiating a design project. One that I use with people who are brand-new to the idea, or more specifically, don't have the vernacular of design, is to assign them the job of gathering up things that strike their fancy. Sometimes I'll use this with people who are too steeped in design, to help them break free of their preconceptions.

"I want you, in the next week, to just notice things as you go through your world. Notice anything that captures your attention: your favorite clothes, your favorite music, a car commercial, a magazine ad, your favorite present... bring these to me, and we'll unravel the story they tell." Sometimes clients don't quite understand and go through the phone book, clipping out all the ads from their competitors. To them I say, "Next week, don't bring me anything from your profession. Bring me your favorite sports team logo, beer bottle label, and hood ornament. But I don't need to see anything else from your industry."

My most successful designs ever, come out of this process.

It's also great fun. We open their bag of stuff, and I listen to the story of each artifact. I'm listening for how this person connects with the world. By creating a design that explicitly relates to their connection, we create a powerful communication tool, helpful for other people to connect to my client. The conduit goes both ways. What attracts my client, relates to their right livelihood. By drawing people into the relationship, the design pre-qualifies my client's potential clients.