Kategoriarkiv: Inspiration

Creating little worlds

Patrick Jacobs. (2011) Dandelion Cluster #2. At Otherwordly, MAD museum, NYC.

Children’s curiosity makes them do lots of random things. According to one of my SVA IxD teachers, Chris Fahey, a child aspiring to become an interaction designer might lean towards one of these approaches in play:

1. Taking things apart to see how they work
2. Fixing things that are broken
3. Creating little worlds

One would hope for the parents’ sake that fascination for approach #1 would go hand in hand with #2. Personally, I believe I gravitated mostly towards the least destructive and most practical of the three options. However, even though my tolerance for fantasy as a genre is fairly low, I definitely remember designing some awesome worlds as a child…

I built LEGO worlds (but then again, who didn’t?). I drew some crazy treasure hunt maps for non-existent treasures in my neighborhood using the coordinate system, X marking the spot and all. I created some fairly advanced pop-up-book art with lots of small paper bits and pieces showing up behind windows and doors. I also knitted a tiny teddy bear, to then move on to knit his clothes, a backpack, and even made a little ABC book, full of illustrations from A to Ã… (yup, all 29 letters in the Norwegian alphabet included) so my teddy bear wouldn’t walk around carrying only air.

I typically always spent more time creating the world then playing within it, which might be why my barbie dolls, my Baby Born doll (the doll that could eat, pee and poop), and the Polly Pockets never really got the attention they possibly deserved. But it’s been a while since I immersed myself into world creation now. Though this CabReel concept video from last semester might come close with all its’ paper wonderfulness.

No matter, the exhibition at Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) called Otherwordly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities blew my mind when it comes to small worlds. The level of details in the exhibition suggests artists who must be blessed with a patience …ehm… out of this world(!). The photos taken of these small scale models reveal so much details and look so real that it’s hard to believe that the photo really is of the tiny model at all. These bad iPhone photos do not do the amazingly detailed art any justice:

Amy Bennett (and SVA IxD student Guri Venstad)

Lori Nix

Gregory Euclide

Junebum Park

Alan Wolfsen

Patrick Jacobs

If you’re in New York you need to go to see this live. GO! Before September 18th which is this Thursday. Or see a few of the artists explaining their art and motivation: Alan Wolfsen & Lori Nix. Thanks to lovely Petra (@prntscreen) for the recommendation!

I am hereby extremely excited about the upcoming semester and all the projects that potentially could turn into some mini-worlds where I can play God for a day. Muahahahaha.

Getting to know the hoods

I have been playing around with this crazy idea for a few weeks now. About getting to know Manhattan a bit better. In a rigorous kind of way. My inspiration is partly this cool PacManhattan game, partly our class Design in Public Spaces taught by Jill Nussbaum (R/GA, working with sports data tracking, Nike+), and partly our class Information Visualization taught by Nicholas Felton (the guy known for tracking his whole life through beautiful annual reports).

So. You might see where this is going. But will I be able to walk in the footsteps of these guys, eating virtual breadcrumbs in all the streets of Manhattan? And do I even want to, or is that a project doomed to fail when the semester starts getting more and more demanding…? Am I that anal? Or are there other rule-based ways to get to know the neighborhoods without having the goal of walking more than 700 miles? Cause I can assure you – I will not run an inch, even though it seems that all New Yorkers have the running fever.

I walked 3 miles in an hour the other day. Which means I’m looking at the daunting task of 240 hours of walking. Minimum. Which will be about 4.5 hours a week if I were to spend a year on this project. But then we’re talking speed walking when it comes to walking in the city with traffic lights and dog poop and tourists in the way. And I sort of want to look around, document stuff, get the feeling of the hood, grab a coffee or snack, and also get my experiences neatly placed in this blog (or a separate blog) in the end.

What does that mean? Perhaps I should just visit each hood, walk around without making sure I have placed my foot in each street and avenue? Or I could visit each neighborhood with a special theme in mind? Pub crawl (haha), bookstores, all streets, but no avenues? Or is narrowing this down from EVERY street to every hood what we call cheating? And how can I best document this? GPS-tracking with what tool? Do I time it? What about my coffee breaks? Photos with geo-location at Flickr? How to visualize it best – each walk, the progress, what’s left? What would be my rules for each walk? One neighborhood at the time? How can I make sure I visit the right spots in each hood? Suggestions from you guys?

I want to make sure this does not end up being way too geeky so I spend so much time preparing and programming that I never get out in the city to actually do this. I also do not want to spend too much time «gadgeting» and documenting during the walks (although I’m sure my iPhone 3GS will join me), and I would definitely not want a 10 hour blog post writing session when I get home from walking.

Finally – any name suggestions for my little «Get to know Manhattan»-project?

So there. Now I’ve shared it with the world. Cannot. Go. Back. Yikes.

Illustration at the top is a tiny bit of Alexander Cheek‘s nice map of Manhattan neighborhoods.

Paint a song

I stumbled upon this beautiful interactive video where you can paint your way through a song by the Spanish band Labuat. The interaction is quite simple. As a user you’re basically just letting your mouse movements lead a paintbrush around on the screen. But no worries if you do not consider yourself an avid painter, because your artistic skills are magically influenced and enhanced by the music and the lyrics of the song. It’s captivating, and I have already painted the song Soy Tu Aire twice today. Now you try!

This site won the FWA people’s choice award way back in 2009. Even though it’s «old», it still is inspiring and makes me very excited about our upcoming Flash workshops at school. Thanks to Norwegian blogger Krabbelure for sharing, and to these guys in Barcelona for turning me into a music video paint artist.

The Girl Effect

In Jason Santa Maria‘s class, Craft and Communication, we were asked as an assignment to bring something highly legible. Considering that I tried to keep the weight low when flying across the Atlantic ocean a month ago, I could not bring any of the books I have acquired during the years. But then I remembered this nice video I saw some weeks ago at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum – and figured this could definitely pass as being legible:

The video ‘The Girl Effect’ was made in 2008, has been viewed several times, and there are even parody videos like ‘The Boy Effect’ and ‘The Idiot Effect’ created in the same way. For some reason I had not stumbled upon this before, though. I really like how you actually don’t always have the time to read the words in full, but that you still recognize each word from its familiar shape. As long as you pay attention the whole time, you won’t miss anything, even though the words are blinking on and off the screen at a heavy pace.

The message of the movie is definitely interesting too – but that’s a story that the Girl Effect web site probably communicates way better than I would! I can only guess that their story will start with something along the lines of…

Biking around NYC

So have bought a bike now. Not beautiful, but still. Old in a somewhat charming and somewhat annoying way. It looks like this, except it’s dirtier and rustier:

Anyway – it’s a much better way to get to know New York, than just going down through a hole in the ground, and then up from another. Would I get to see the riverside like the one below then? I don’t think so!

The photo is from my first bike ride here, on my way to class in the MFA program in Interaction Design. Oh, and while I still remember this: the chair of the program, Liz Danzico, took a photo of both 1st and 2nd year students a week ago – when we met for the very first time. So here you have most of my lovely classmates at the Graduate Student Reception.

Writing Without Words

Wow! Just stumbled upon the work of Stefanie Posavec. She has made literature into beautiful art by counting words, sentences, paragraphs and categorizing the content in different classic novels. She represents her findings visually in a a project called Writing Without Words, and has explored On the Road by Jack Kerouac in great detail. Below you see a portion of the novel visualized by the length of each sentence, and the color based on what the sentence is about.

Sentence drawing for On the Road by Kerouac.

The «doodle» above explained.

Various authors’ writing styles emerge from these weird abstract doodles when she visualize the first chapters of their books.

Another kind of visualization of On the Road using a tree structure. The tree divides Part One into chapters, then into paragraphs, then into sentences, and finally sentences are divided into words.

Some of the hard work Posavec did in On the Road by Kerouac to structure the content.

By Posavecs’ systematic approach, she has made a lot of different visualizations, and I admire both the idea and the excellent design work. Luckily, I can put a poster on my wall to remind me of what great ideas and hard work can lead to. Check out Stefanie Posavec’s Writing Without Words project:

Analog evenings

I find a lot of inspiration on the interwebs. But sometimes I can get inspiration just from taking out my sowing machine or my knitting needles and create something on my own. I love these analog evenings. A cup of tea, counting stitches, drawing patterns, swearing to the sowing machine when the garment gets stuck. I might keep the radio on in the background – and let it decide what I am supposed to listen to without interacting with it like I would with Spotify or Last.fm. Preferably I will learn something from a documentary program or debate on a subject I would never even think of searching for information about on my own.

The photo in this post is from my last sowing evening, which was more of a necessity than a creative session. My 159 centimeters make finding pants that fit impossible. I have come to terms with the fact that the sowing machine needs to be a part of the «buying-new-pants»-process. Or maybe not, considering that I think I have 3 skirts for every pair of pants in my closet. Anyway. This time I made two pants fit by cutting off a couple of inches. My bare naked legs in front of my Husqvarna are typical for these sessions. I try the clothes on all the time to check if I am on the right track – and I always end up half naked armed with scissors, pins and measuring tape.

I need more analog time. I will close my laptop. Right. Now.

The Language of Graphics

Infographics or graphic representations have always fascinated me. I started reading the thesis of Yuri Engelhardt today, The Language of Graphics. Basically, it is a framework for analyzing the syntax and meaning in different infographics like maps, charts and diagrams. And there are some really nice examples to illustrate the different principles of communicating information through graphics:

This timetable gives you time (horizontal), place (vertical), and even speed in one simple 2D model. The diagonal lines represent trains traveling between Paris and Lyon. You can deduce the speed based on the slope of the diagonal. Brilliant.
insp-traintableSOURCE: E.J. Marey 1885

More train stuff because we love trains. Here: the spreading of the railroad system.
insp-railroadmapSOURCE: ‘Modern man in making’, Otto Neurath, 1939 (reproduced in Houkes 1993, p. 49.)

Comparison of number of marriages by lineup:

Lineup showing the changing ratio of the number of produced motorcycles and the number of workers involved in their production:
insp-work-productionSOURCE BOTH LINEUPS: N. Holmes «Pictograms: A view from the drawing board or, what I have learned from Otto Neurath and Gerd Arntz (and jazz).» Information Design Journal 10. (2000/2001).

I really look forward to read Engelhardt’s thesis thoroughly!

Every day the same dream

Every day the same dream - molleindustria-3
Molleindustria has created another great game in the genre of games that is so hard to categorise. They describe it as an art game, but it is close to the newsgames and other political games they have made in the past – except this time, it doesn’t evolve around a scandal like Operation: Pedopriest, or about the wrong-doings of a corporation like The McDonald’s videogame. It is a game about our every day, gray life called Every day the same dream. This game might make you feel bad in one second, because isn’t this actually what your boring, miserable life is about? Then the next second it might feel like an inspiration because you know life is about so much more than what this game is portraying. This simple «game» makes you reflect. It’s clever.

Desperately trying to get out of the vicious gray circle of life, I let my character go in his boxer shorts to work one day. The lady in the elevator doesn’t even notice. The boss does, however, but what happens then? The character gets fired, and wake up to a new day where I can choose between putting on his clothes or not when he’s leaving home to work in a new office – which, of course, is an office in the exact same shade of gray as the previous one.

So. Is there a way out of the gray hell? Well, yes. Sort of. It is even marked with a green exit sign and is visible from the office cubicle. But the solution is not an uplifting one. And I am still wondering what my character’s dream is – and might his dream be in any way connected to my dream? What is my dream?

I am fascinated by the serious/radical/political/ideological/news game genre, and wrote a paper about these kind of games in 2008 called Games Combatting the Dictatorship of Entertainment. A Study of the Newsgaming Phenomenon. Read my short blog post about the paper when I had just finished it, read the whole paper thingy, or just play some good, radical games from Molleindustria!

Eye candy

I am no graphic designer. However, as I work with web and interaction design, I know graphic design makes a huge difference when creating user experiences. Functionality is often viewed as one thing that we can separate from the form. When the functionality is in place, then one might consider to add a layer of visual eye candy – if the time and budget allows it. But without the «pretty design» properly integrated with the functionality, how will we even know that there’s a button to push or a link to click?

Let us say that the button feels somewhat clickable even without the «pretty design» applied. Still, will the user even feel like pushing the button if the button is in an visual appalling environment? I know I rather click a button if the user interface as a whole gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.


How I «think» can not be separated from how I «feel». From «In Defense of Eye Candy»

Humans are not acting as rational as we might like to think. Stephen P. Anderson wrote a great article on this and the importance of «pretty design» called «In Defense of Eye Candy». The article is inspiring – and gives me several reasons why I should get to know the art of graphic design. Wireframes and flow-charts alone won’t give me the warm fuzzy feeling inside, I’m afraid.