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Maker Faire Africa 2009

30 Sep

I’ve been reading lately about all of the cool inventions coming out of Maker Faire Africa, a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention at the AITI Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

This spin-off of the 2006 California conference is centered around do-it-yourself innovation. What makes this year’s conference so interesting is that it focuses on the indigenous populations of Africa. Instead of the Rube Goldberg-esque mousetrap or the Diet Coke & Mentos Fountain of previous years, this year’s inventions include solar-powered lamps and contraptions to harness wind energy and make use of recycled and discarded materials.

This conference reminds me very much of an exhibit I saw a few years ago at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The exhibit, Design for the other 90% highlights advances in design and technology that help the world’s poor. The exhibit showcases some products and inventions that it proposes are the beginning of a design revolution:

“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”

The exhibit is centered around the topics of Health, Shelter, Water, Education, Energy and Transport. Many of the same problems that the participants of Maker Faire Africa has sought out to solve.

Both the exhibit and the conference are introducing new people (like me) to an area of design and technology that is often overlooked. I wonder how many of us designers are actually doing work that is as impactful as this. While we might describe some of our ideas and interfaces as innovative, if we are operating in the same arena as 90% of the world…how innovative is it really?

You can check out the Maker Faire Africa site and get more information here .

Edisto Beach, South Carolina

19 Aug

I spent the past week relaxing with my family in Edisto Beach, South Carolina. It was really enjoyable and could not have happened at a more appropriate time. I’ve always enjoyed the South Atlantic because of its unique terrain, people and cuisine.

We hung out on the beach & in the surrounding wildlife, ate plenty and did a walking tour of Charleston. Here are a few photos from the trip with more to be added to my Flickr page shortly.

Graffiti Taxonomy: Paris, 2009

15 Jul

The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain is pleased to present Born in the Streets—Graffiti, on view from July 7 to November 29, 2009. The exhibition brings to light the extraordinary development of an artistic movement that was born in the streets of New York in the early 1970s to rapidly become a worldwide phenomenon. It provides the public with the opportunity to rediscover an art both ubiquitous and continually evolving, and thus relate to the city in a new way.

As part of the exhibition they have released a book: Born in The Streets, a film: Pixo, and my favorite, an interactive display by Evan Roth: Graffiti Taxonomy: Paris, 2009

Graffiti Taxonomy: Paris, 2009 from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

Over 2,400 graffiti tags were photographed from April 24 to April 28, 2009, from each of Paris’s 20 districts. All photographs were archived, tagged and sorted by letter. The ten most commonly used letters by Paris graffiti writers were identified for further study (A,E,I,K,N,O,R,S,T and U). From each letter grouping, eighteen tags were isolated to represent the diversity and range of that specific character.

These sets are not intended to display the “best” graffiti tags in Paris, but rather aim to highlight the diversity of forms ranging from upper case to lowercase, simple to complex and legible to cryptic. You can read about the artist’s here. This amazing interactive piece was developed by Todd Vanderlin.

Photo by Todd Vanderlin

Photo by Todd Vanderlin

Tags are laid out in a grid using small multiples, and arranged by letter. Letters can then be isolated, browsed, and viewed in context (original photographs). I find it fascinating the unique approach each graffiti artist takes to the same letter. Large, small, drippy, illegible, whatever the case – each handstyle gives a glimpse into the persona of the artist.

This interactive piece is a continuation of the artist’s original work, which used tags from NYC

You can check out the online version here

Shop Online Using Augmented Reality And Motion Capture

23 Jun

While augmented reality has been around for awhile now, there have not yet been many real world applications of it. We’ve all seen 3D models floating around, video applications, and even some really nice micro-sites interactions. But there have not been very many practical, dollars & cents applications of this technology.

Zugara is attempting to shift this dynamic with an alpha release of their latest app, The Webcam Social Shopper. This application uses augmented reality to allow shoppers to try on virtual clothes, browse through different colors and styles, purchase items and even share their snapshots across social networks.

While this application is still pretty rough around the edges, the concept of “social shopping” is something that is quickly picking up steam. We saw it hinted at in the Project Natal demo and we are starting to see developments of it with this Zugara release. With this app Zugara hopes to bridge online brands with offline shopping habits:

It’s not a secret that friends/family recommendations influence a consumer’s purchase decision and beat any other “consumer touchpoint”. Now, we can help brands empower their consumers to integrate their friends and family into their online shopping process like never before. The thinking is that this application will help bridge the gap between how people like to shop offline and how they are forced to shop online, subsequently providing an enhanced interactive shopping experience for the consumer and increased sales for the brand.

Click here to read the full release

NYC Dive Bar bathroom photos

16 Jun

From the title you may think this post is complaining about something, but in fact, it’s just the opposite. Like most designers I tend to spend a lot of my time drinking and nowhere else in any of my travels have I come across bathrooms with as much character as those in the dive bars of New York City.

Obviously they are filthy, disgusting places – but so is the city itself. Somewhat ironically, it is these layers of grunge, graffiti, stickers, and gum that make this aesthetic so appealing and even sought after. One need only look to the replicated interiors of such boutique shops as Yellow Rat Bastard (designed by Marc Ecko), Transit, and John Varvatos (formerly CBGBs) to realize that it is indeed a unique, identifiable texture that conjures up specific moods and memories.

NYC John Varvatos Store

Yellow Rat Bastard, SoHo NYC

I’ve decided to start a flickr set of camera phone pics taken from the inside, ground floor. These have been amassed over a period of time and when judging the quality please remember that these were taken with only a camera phone…in a bar….probably at the end of the night.

For more images check out the whole set, but be sure to check back (if you can stomach it) as I’ll be continuously adding to the catalogue.

Public Art vs Advertising

9 Jun

Recently I came across this video from The Public Ad Campaign, which probably isn’t what you’d expect. It’s a collective that targets illegal advertising and converts that into (equally illegal) public art. The concept is that only the public should benefit from the use of public space, not corporations. A snippet from their mission statement reads:

Public Ad Campaign acts on the assumption that public space and the public’s interaction with that space is a vital component of our city’s health. By visually altering and physically interacting with the public environment, residents become psychologically invested in their community.

Outdoor advertising is the primary obstacle to open public communications. By commodifying public space, outdoor advertising has monopolized the surfaces that shape our shared space. Private property laws protect the communications made by outdoor advertising while systematically preventing public usage of that space.

While there are loads of street artists, especially in NYC, I like the Public Ad Campaign because these seem to embrace and utilize technology to their advantage. One example is this Google Map showing locations of all of the illegal advertising going on in NYC. This maps not only educates views to how many places that this goes on, but also allows viewers to see before & after photos and browse it using street view.

Aside from detailing their accomplishments, the website serves as grassroots organization. They offer video tutorials and showcase the public reclamations of other artists around the world.

Project Natal: Hands Free Gaming

5 Jun

Last week’s E3 Gaming conference had loads of highlights. Not the least talked about was Microsoft unveiling of Project Natal. Natal is Microsoft’s answer to the Nintendo Wii. A hands-free, full body motion capture and voice recognition system.

Microsoft's Project Natal Gaming System

Project Natal seems almost certainly to be the culmination of several years of work by an Israeli start-up called 3DV Systems, which Microsoft recently acquired and has the gaming community full of speculation and anticipation. Johnny Chung, the internet’s favorite wii-mote hacker confirmed that he was part of the Natal development team as well.

Aside solving the problem of having enough controllers for all your friends to play, the scanner also make customization of your characters hyper-realistic. In the proof-of-concept below, scanning in of object (really?!) and facial recognition plays a part in how players can customize their gaming experience. The community and real-time multiplayer aspects of the systm are also pretty mind blowing.

Questions about accuracy, affordability, and feasibility still abound. But it’s clear that Microsoft is attempting to take gigantic step forward in gaming technology and re-establish itself as the must have console.

San Francisco Trip

22 May

Last weekend I took a trip out to San Francisco to do some sightseeing and visit my old high-school buddy Mike. It was my first time there and it is such a beautiful, fun, laidback city. I was only there for a few days but got to experience an awesome mix of landmarks and local gems. I even attended a truly interesting event called Bay to Breakers and experienced the mayhem that followed.

Here are just a few of my photos:

In the near future I’d like to put together an online photo gallery with the rest of my photos from this and other trips. It’s been a long work-in-progress, but lately I’ve been experimenting with using a mix-match of Slideshow Pro, Flickr, and Yahoo Pipes with interesting results. Stay tuned for future photos.

Martha Cooper – Going Postal

20 May

Martha Cooper's postal sticker book Going Postal book cover
I just received my copy of Martha Cooper’s newest book Going Postal the other day and it’s pretty much what I expected. Street-Art books are getting pretty run of the mill these days, covering all of the same artists. While Cooper’s reputation allows her access to some of the more elusive artists, any work of this type worth covering is already on the street.

The strength of this book is in its showcase of work by unknown artists. Since stickers are one of the preferred media of traveling writers, the book credits the city in which the sticker was spotted versus crediting the writers themselves.

Martha Cooper's Going Postal graffiti stickers
Martha Cooper's Going Postal graffiti stickers
Martha Cooper's Going Postal graffiti stickers
Martha Cooper's Going Postal graffiti stickers

As a fan of sticker art I would have loved to see this book go a bit more in depth. At only 96 pages it seems a bit light, and tends to focus an inordinate amount on too few artists. Perhaps in that aspect my personal taste runs askew to the books. I would have liked to see it be a bit more tag and hand style heavy, and less stencil and street art heavy.

I’d love to see if I can dig up any of my old stickers. I used to have stacks and stacks of the USPS priority mail ones. I lost my old blackbook about a month or two ago and have been pretty depressed that I don’t have many of my old sketches/flicks. I was, however, able to dig up these photos from years ago I took one afternoon before I went out on the town.

My wack handstyles

Incremental Housing Strategy

6 May

Dezeen Magazine has a great article detailing a couple of architects, Filipe Balestra and Sara Göransson, who have developed a strategy to morph informal slums into permanent urban districts through a process of gradual improvement to existing dwellings instead of demolition and rebuilding.

The idea is to build modular houses that can grow organically. By using simple a framework that can easily be added on and is inexpensive to create, the community can still grow without having to move or carve out more space in their already cramped urban environment.

The article talks about the architects’ previous efforts in the favelas of Brazil and goes into detail about the process and experience working in India. It gives an interesting glimpse into the lives of the very poor and their living conditions.