Saturday, May 31, 2008

Being Colour Blind...

I happen to come across this clip while doing some research earlier. Perhaps in all our criticisms of our immediate northern neighbour here in Singapore, they still have a thing or two that we can learn from. In the midst of the brouhaha of their political scene, I am quite surprised that we don't have a similar video clip, not that we need it, but you know it is just one of those things that you just wonder, how come there isn't any? And NO, National Day patriotic music videos and the likes are not counted! Hmmmmm?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Digitizing Design: Collaborative Design through a Digital Media

One of my experiments this year is to look at enriching the various possibilities and increasing the arsenal of design tools that I can use to augment my teaching capacity. One of which is to look at what else the Alias SketchBook Pro can offer, besides the digital sketching function that it is designed for. The clip below do give me an idea, a possibility perhaps of what the software is capable of when more than one party is engaged in a design collaborative effort. But more importantly is that, what is the objective that I have in mind when I use the tool as part of my design awareness effort? I mean is there a significant amount of value-addedness IF I were to use the software tool when compared to the usual 'pen and paper', besides of course giving my young charges an awareness of digital tools that are available to them? Hmmmm...?

Redesigning Design Education: StoreBlox - The Modular Spice Dispenser

Continuing on with my experimentation from last year's design exposure programme to my young designers, today's post reminds me of the need to have a balance for both the technical as well as the user-defined expectations of a given set of problems. While the team have managed to be technically sound in their resolution of the defined problem, and have in fact come out with a good idea too, on the other hand, the practicality of the given solution do bring up a good number of feasibility issues. But hey, I do think that if my young designers can actually raise up these issues after just a mere 3 to 4 months of exposure to the basic rudiments of design, then i think I have definitely done my job to inspire them!

Additionally, this is the only group that have used the Google SketchUp software tool as part of their design process, as one can see from the pictures below. This is the only group too, I think, that have come out with an almost complete design and user-experiences of sort, in their final proposed model solution.

The videos below comes in 2 parts...yes, they have that much things to present. But more importantly, I do feel that this team have handled themselves well, in both their presentation, as well as their handling of the Q&A's. Well done to them!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Redesigning Design Education: The 'Nose' experiment

An introductory class on modeling and prototyping that I did last year. This is one of my major experiment last year, i.e. looking at an alternative media, i.e. the blue foam, as a means to teach my young charges the basic rudiments of design. The first group takes their cue from the shape of a nose to come out with a model of a multi-purpose storage unit. Here are the pictures of their model, and a video of their final model presentation:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The 'fetish' for things crooked

I just can't help but to take a dig at the whole Pedra Branca issue by showing this, courtesy of

Digitizing Design: the first of more to come...

After a very long hiatus, I'm back at trying my hands at using the SketchBook software tool as part of my myriad of tools for teaching design, and at designing itself. I guess it also helps that I have a better and newer set of toy to play around with in the first place. :) So here's my first sketch, hopefully the first of many more to come! Still getting used to using the tablet, but definitely something that I would do more often from now onwards.

Redesigning Education: The case of the Missing Subjects!

In my previous posts, I have mentioned about the worrying perception that what we are currently teaching our young charges right now, will not necessarily be relevant a few years down the road. In fact the scary part about things is that, if one were to put it in into perspective, none of our academic credentials, whether be it a degree, or even a Master's, would be lending a significantly greater amount of value to us, due to the short shelf-life that they have. Which makes me worry, not so much because of this short-expectancy, but more so on the veiled perceptions that having them would bring. It is thus no longer enough to just have these defining credentials as part of our names, but more importantly it IS the attitude and the follow-ups that we have after gaining them. I still remember being a little pissed at some of my own peers in the teaching profession a while back, who seems to have lost, or seems to have not even a little inkling of desire, to at least attempt to further their academic pursuits, not so much that I would want them to gain any other 'papers', but more so, to just empower in them a greater degree of rigours in their thinking, approaches and hopefully, in their capacity to think beyond the immediacy of just lesson planning and delivery. I mean how can we stand and symbolise ourselves as the beacon of education, being a teacher/educator, when we ourselves are not 'WALKING THE TALK'?

One concern that I do have beyond this credential anomaly is in the area of subject 'SILOFICATION', for lack of a better term. Breaking down subjects into their basic areas of English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, etc, have definitely been something that perhaps all of us have found to be an a socialy acceptable form of knowledge sub-classification, regardless of the levels that our charges are exposed to. But seriously shouldn't there be a rethink on these basic sub-classification, what with the notion of integrative disciplines that are becoming more pervasive in years to come. I mean it was not just long ago that the area of life sciences have shown a great degree of promise, in all its various good or bad ramifications, towards humanity. A large knowledge base in all the various disciplines, and not necessarily Biology for that matter, was then needed to sort of become the unifying form of what a basic grounding of life sciences would need. And who can forget the areas of BioEngineering, a marriage between Biology and Engineering. Or how about Biomimicry, a discipline that studies nature’s best ideas
and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. The examples are endless, but here we have, in the schools, which presumably are preparing our next generation of workers and leaders, practices that I do think are outdated in both its subclassification of knowledge and skills, and perhaps even in its approaches.

So how about it, if I can, be given this opportunity, to present my idea of the next generation of knowledge sub-classification. Here goes my list then:

1) Language and Communication skills
2) Applied Mathematics and Algorithms
3) Industrial Green Sciences
4) Integrative Humanities
5) Sustainable and Systemic Design
6) Values Development
7) Performing and Fine Arts
8) Thinking Skills

What do you think?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Shift Happens

I came across this slide show and was truly humbled by the idea that what we are preparing our charges right now for are for jobs that are not even in existence yet! Makes me wonder about the relevance of the subject 'silos' that we are currently adopting right now...I mean if the above is indeed true, shouldn't we then be relooking at the classification of all the subject matter that we are currently exposing our students to, and see to it that this obsolescence can at least be minimised, if not eliminated! Anyway, enjoy the clip.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Wisdom of the Crowds

I felt compelled to write this post due to some articles that I've read in the local dailies regarding the state of affairs of the Malay Village in Singapore. Originally planned to be a showcase of Malay culture and perhaps be the last bastion of a Malay Kampung, with all its traditional elements, it has now become a symbol of shame rather than pride. And sadly, this state of affairs did not just unfold or become so overnight, but rather it slowly unfurls itself into its current manifestation due to perhaps, the naive believe that the entity can make it eventually, although the general feeling right now is that this is more of a wishful thinking than anything else.

(Picture taken from:

But what really makes me ponder and even frustrating is the fact that isn't there even a tiny inkling of collective wisdom that the community possesses, that ANYONE within the community can provide, to change the situation around? I mean after almost 20 years of existence and having a few rounds of management changes, aren't there any lessons that were learnt from these earlier failed ventures, that the later management are able to glean from, in order to make this project a more economically viable and sustainable one? I mean, seriously, it doesn't take someone from Harvard to understand that a business model that is only dependent on seasonal monetary pickings, in the local context, with its rather limited scope and economic catchment net, would NEVER EVER be able to be sustained!

Lest I am told to not only just criticize, but to offer even more, let me just give my 2 cent's worth on this. Some suggestions are perhaps in order here:

1) Firstly, its all a matter of ECONOMICS! If there is a sustainable business model, then it has to be of the form that can be sustained over the entire year, and NOT only during the months of Ramadan and other major social or religious calendar events. Can we then perhaps, have a model whereby there is indeed a more sustained and perhaps even better and a wider-ranging base of smaller economic entities, who are also more focused in their ability to offer that differentiating X-factor that would draw in the crowds, even on a quiet Monday morning! This could be made to be perhaps, contributing to about 80% or even more, of the entire operating expenses of the village itself. To push this model even further, why not make it self-funding even!

2) Can we pounce on the community's penchant for entertainment then to also draw in the crowds, and eventually the dole, to make the village more viable too? Moving in with the times, perhaps a more creative way of ensuring the relevance of the kind of entertainment that one should be promoting in the context of the village, whilst at the same time, also being mindful of the 'traditional' setting of the place itself. There are a lot of ideas that the management can draw from from the community since we ARE known to be a community of very talented people. It is just a matter of time, once the initial floodgates are opened, I think, before we could be able to offer the village itself as more than just a place for one to be enjoying the mere visual delights of being in a traditional village.

3) Looking at the whole village from a systemic point of view, can one then look at the village as more than just an entity of traditional village houses? Can we look at it from the standpoint of the users' experience, of the kind of visitors that we would want to attract, the way of making it sustainable many times over, of ensuring that the essence of the experience of being a Malay, or staying in such a village, is truly captured, in all its glory, even on that small plot of land! I do remember visiting Sarawak a few years ago for an educational trip and truly loved the Traditional Village that they have over there! I mean having a rich and a variety of cultures do help in this instance, but then again, is our community that lacking, is there really such a dearth in our culture, that we ARE NOT able to put forth and execute a sustainable and economically viable model for even a village of sorts that is a reflection of ourselves. Are we not rich culturally? I beg to differ on that one!

But then again, I can't help but to feel really sad and dissappointed at times. Seriously, are we really lacking the 'wisdom of the crowds' to turn the tide around?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is technical knowledge a prerequisite for designing?

One of the foremost questions that I do try to answer myself, and at times still searching for answers to, is the question above, on whether having a technical knowledge of sorts is a necessary prerequisite to designing! Having had just a short design teaching experience of about 5 years, my short answer to it is that it depends! Yup, it is very much dependent on what you hope to achieve with your design, whether it is conceptual in nature, or something ground-breaking, or of something that is so technically efficient in its design, that it is almost flawless!

2 years back, I had this experience of being a technical consultant to a group of students who were supposed to be involved in some design competition to come out with a gadget that would help to solve a certain predefined problem situation. The students were naturally drawn from the better upper level classes, and of which design and technology is not one of their subjects. Their idea was what I call, a classic case of 'dysfunctionality in multifunctionality', a reference to a situation whereby students have this tendency to overdesign something with a lot of features, which can lead to inefficiency and redundancy. And to top it off, having 'nice-to-have' features that are simply impossible to be technically viable and produced. This is where I feel that at times, when the overall need is to come out with a feasible working idea of a particular product, one must at least have a basic technical grounding of things in order to at least make the concept design look realistically plausible! Lest it becomes an exercise in theoretical endeavours and becomes just a concept.

Alternatively, I also do subscribe to the belief that at times, one really need to challenge the technical norms in order to break away from the mould, or from the 'box' of possibilities, and try to push the limit to that boundary whereby the technical reality of things can be deemed to have gone into the 'grey' zone, a zone where technically, things might just be possible! This is where, in actuality, having that prerequisite knowledge of things might actually be a hindrance of sorts to breaking out from the mould, from coming out with that earth-shattering and ground-breaking design! I mean, who would have thought that flight was a possibility a 100 years ago, or that a laptop can be had for only US$100 per piece! I dare say that if humankind is made up of only engineers, perhaps, just perhaps, things wouldn't have moved at as fast a pace that we would love too, seriously. In fact, technical wizardry in this instance is actually a curse!

Which then brings me back to the point of my question. Is it a necessary prerequisite? I do feel its a NO, but it is still something that all designers must at least have an AWARENESS of, in order to bring forth their 'THINK to THING' (the last being the quote that I got about what design is all about in a recent design seminar that I attended)

Happy designing then.

Changing Role of Design

I love this set of slides on on the changing role of design. Enjoy!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Designing for the world

I happen to come across this rather interesting slide from It is about how design can be seen to have only achieved its highest form of success only through a rather oxymoronic yardstick of being ubiquitous yet banal (Bruce Mau). Interesting! Enjoy then.

It's all about the DESIGN and a better USER-CENTRIC EXPERIENCE

Recent concerns about belting up in mini-buses and rear-seat passengers of cars is something reminiscent of what happened to our dragon boaters the other time, where a decision to NOT wear their life-jackets were taken because it is more of a hindrance to their performance, overriding safety concerns. In the latest news to hit the dailies, concerns were brought up by the transport provider operators about the cost factors that is involved in fixing up seat belts for every one of their passengers. It was definitely more than safety concerns up their minds when they added that any rise in costs due to this requirements, if it were to be made mandatory, would be passed on to the consumers.

And the consumers or payers, being mostly the parents of these young children, who are the more susceptible victims in any crash accidents, were of course unhappy with this cost concerns, what with the already rising cost of living that seems to plague everyone here. Could there then be something that could be done to allay both parties?

Well I thought that perhaps, just like my post regarding the dragon boaters, something could be done, in the context of design, about this. Could a design be made that is both cost effective and reliable? Could we redesign the design of the current seat belts in buses, rear seat passengers, and other vehicles, to be of something that perhaps is something that the potential users themselves would find it easier to use, and without feeling or having an inkling of the usual hassle that comes along with the older, more 'restrictive' design. I do agree that one of the key hurdles is actually the mindset, and perhaps the user-experience, that is usually associated with using a seat belt! One of it being a hassle, restrictive and 'uncool' perhaps. But how come is it possible for passengers in planes to be told to put on their belts by the mere blinking of the 'please belt-up' signs in planes? I mean can we do something to sort of ensure that the mental model and perhaps the experiences of using the seat belt be more pleasant, and one of safety and reliability, of one that would assuage the fears of loved ones, so that if they happen to read any news on accidents, the reliability of the belts are not in question and they would be more relief-centric than otherwise.

Perhaps more campaign, i mean Singapore is well known with their campaigns too, something along the ones done by the Malaysians authorities to encourage their motorcyclists to put on a proper helmet whilst they are riding. Using real anecdotes from real life surviving accident victims or family members, together with real and perceived imagery of what the accident victims would go through, the messages, I guess, do create more impact, in more ways than one! Could we do a similar one, I mean, if we can come out with gory imagery on cigarette packs, can;t we just come out with something better, or perhaps be more creative, in promoting the use of seat belts?

I guess what we need here, besides a better seat-belt design, is an effective paradigm shift, that could perhaps be more user-experience-centric, whilst at the same time, be made to be less 'campaigny' in nature!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Let's have some 'Phun'

A good ex-colleague of mine just introduced me to this 'still-in-Beta-testing' freeware calllen 'Phun' and I have already seen some nice applications and lessons in the classroom that can be done using it. (Thanks William for the heads=up on this!) I've managed to download it at THIS site. The best part is that it is not only available in the typical Windows platform, but also in Linux and Mac OS versions. :) Now is this a good timing or what, for me to get a tablet to work with my black MacBook.

Which brings me back to my second point on why Macs are not available in a tablet form. Well I sure was wrong when I did a Google check on it a few days ago, as I discovered that a certain company in the US called Axiotron is already producing tablet versions of the Mac earlier this year! But it still looks pricey though, thought I do feel that it still looks cool. I might just put of my purchase of the iPhone for this though, if the timing and price is right, and ehem, my personal 'CFO' doesn't mind it! :) Anyway here's a pic that I've seen of it.

To all the Mac and Tablet fans out there, let's rejoice then...the MacTablet is here!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Educating Design: Design Re-Education - A matter of going back to basics

One of the key things that I have always been a proponent of is EXPERIMENTATION! Since I join the education service, this has been one of the cornerstone of my mission every year, and I have made it a point that I AM going to be doing something new, innovative and perhaps even experimental in nature for each of my year in service. Well I can't speak much yet of my 'experiments' this year, but what I can say for last year is that sometimes, things that can seems to be difficult to comprehend can sometimes be actually be made to be understood and appreciated using much simpler tools.

The experiment that I did last year was on evaluating the combined use of PlayDoh, compressed foam (also known as the blue foam in local design circles), presentation boards, and even Google SketchUp as a means to get the students be more excited and appreciative about the rudiments of design and design thinking! I can't say for sure that it was a success, but nonetheless my gut feeling has told me that I didn't do that bad either. People say 'Pictures tell a thousand words', so I hope these sample of pictures taken of my experimentation with PlayDoh and basic design modelling will help give you guys a better idea of what I have done. :)

Starting with the basics: Making primitives out of the dough

My charges busy at work sketching out the resultant primitives:
2-pronged skills acquisition approach of basic modelling skills and sketching

One of the STORAGE solutions being proposed...a
3-fingered form that holds your glasses in place

A skull-inspired CD-holder. The bare CD's would be placed into
the slots shown on the top of the skull

Another design of a storage solution, this time inspired
by simple unclosed squares and rectangles, used for storing books,
magazines and others. You might want to see where did
this product headed to eventually in the end!

A shape-shifting chair-inspired design that shows promising possibilities

A 'lazyman's' way of drawing an idea of inspiration.
Pushing the pencil sticks into the dough and getting the resultant shape

I will blog more about this experimentation of mine in my next posts.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Rosenthal Effect: The case for an intellectual stimuli

I met up with one of my ex-colleague a few days ago, and we had a rather engaging discussion on a few issues that pertains to our professional areas of expertise. We really had a good intellectual discourse throughout the entire hour, and it was perhaps one of the most refreshing and intellectually stimulating discussions that I had ever had, so far this year!

Which perhaps brings me forth to one of the ideas that I had kept in mind for a while now, but nevertheless was suddenly brought to my attention in the midst of that discussion. The study of the self-fulfilling prophecy, also better known as the Pygmalion or the Rosenthal effect, in a nutshell, is a famous study that was conducted to support the long-held belief and perception that one can indeed 'control' the perceived actions, behaviours and even results of a particular group under study through some initial preconceived, 'brainwashed' notions into that group that they are either good or bad, while at the same time, hiding the fact that there this notion is not true at all! What I like to bring up attention to is the fact that after all this while in the service, teaching design to my bunch of high school students, never had I had any opportunity to teach students of a calibre that perhaps I can even classify as above average in their academic and intellectual capacity and potential. Which leads me to a few questions:

1) Is the high school education in Singapore of such a nature and to such an extent that a subject that is deemed to require a greater degree of rigour and in fact, requires an even deeper and more intellectual capacity to handle, be only good enough to be made to be taken by an average or even below-average students
2) Is the focus of the schools that assigns design education to these 'lower rung' students so deeply ingrained in getting that 'value-addedness' awards and others as such, so much so that the basic core business of teaching, which is in fact educating the child to be ready for the 'test of life' forgotten?
3) And as such, are the teachers teaching these particular subject so deserving of only being able or capable of teaching these 'lot of students', and I don't mean this as an insult at all to any of those who are taking this subject currently in the first place.

I do wish to point out even though I do understand sometimes, the rationale for having students to be more focused on their 'core' subjects, but at times I do feel that if this case of 'coring' and 'UN-coring' the various subjects is not being addressed over time, we would have a Rosenthal effect taking place, and I am not talking about the students in this instance! What I can perhaps forsee is teachers of this particular subject area being demoralised and being made to believe, that their subject area, and perhaps, maybe just with some hint of subtlety, even their capacity and capability, that they are ONLY good enough for the particular students of THAT particular calibre and potential. Well alarm bells might go off now to say that yes, there are indeed reasons as to why these students are being given or allocated only this subject area, but as one examines this a little further, I am convinced that all those arguments being put forth doesn't really hold that much water now. Amongst them are:

1) Design education is a hands-on subject matter, and hence, students who are not academically inclined would then be better able to handle a more practical-oriented slant in their lessons!
And to this I say RUBBISH, because if their views of a design education in Singapore is only about picking up a hammer or a saw and being told to hammer or saw away, respectively, at a piece of wood, then I think, no let me rephrase, I am convinced of my dissappointment with that particular comment! Obviously the comment can only come from someone who still lives in the Middle Ages, and is perhaps using flint-stones to light up fires and chopping down wood to put into the hearth to warm the water for their daily morning baths

2) The students would be better able to handle this subject area as they are not as capable of handling the more academic and 'heavier' subject matter like Mathematics, Sciences, and Humanities.
Rubbish again! Excuse me, but since when is Design not a 'heavy' subject? In fact, this in the ONLY subject area that offers the opportunity to de-silo'ing the rather conservative view that subject matter comes in discretised forms, and hence having 'cross-flavours' are a no-no! In fact, design work is in itself the final manifestation of what somebody would need to do when they study mathematics, science and/or humanities as an integrative discipline!

3) Design education is not necessary at a high school level, and a grounding of all the 'core' subjects at the high school level would be a better outcome.
Hmmm, rubbish again! If we are going to be a value-added nation in any area that we are going to delve into, doesn't the processes involved in design thinking and problem solving, that is sooo pervasive in our design education, be good enough for it to stand side-by-side, in its importance, rigours, and even its social stature of sorts, to make it a subject that at least warrants a little bit more respect, or at least of a similar level with these other 'core' subjects?

And that my dear reader, is perhaps why I am still looking...!

Friday, May 9, 2008

The best is yet to be? Ever or Never?

I saw this article, taken from Businessweek a while back. You can read the whole article here at the site.

And guess what is the surprising thing is (or not surprising at all)? None of the local institutions, as of the writing of this report, have made it yet. But I guess it would just be a matter of time before one of the local institutions would, though I wouldn't want to guess which one and when. Which brings me back to my next point, of what design education is all about, in the local context, and where its exposure in a typical neighbourhood school is about? Perhaps I would touch upon this in my next few posts.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps! :)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: A video

I saw this a few days ago as I was channel surfing on my cable. I find it interesting, and the end result very impactful. Makes me think twice now about throwing all those tin cans away.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Towards a more 'Green-centric' business model

My last post, I ended it with a claim that I have come out with a more sustainable, yet still profitable, 'green-centric' business model, that perhaps is still a win-win outcome for both the consumers and producers of electrical products.

In Singapore where I am staying, the major electrical appliance stores are Courts and Harvey Norman. The typical product cycle, or 'usage-cycle' of this product goes on like this:
1) Product get purchased by consumer from the relevant household appliance shop
2) Product get used by the consumer until it gets spoiled, or until a newer better, and more cost-effective model comes out
3) And then the consumer will once again, buy another household appliance, of a better, newer model perhaps!

From the standpoint of the sellers, the scene goes like this:
1) Buyer comes to the shop to browse and buy the appliance
2) Buyer buys the product, and the seller is only accountable during the warranty period of the life-span, or the usage-span of the product
3) After a few years later, the consumer, needing to get a newer model, will once again browse and be looking again at the same or similar household appliance.

Now this is where an opportunity presents itself. If there can be a link to the consumers' decision to buy a new model, to the sellers' desire to wanting to capture and be the definite outcome of this latter's decision, would that be a good business model or what! But how can we do that? One way that I think might just work is for these sellers to work towards a more life-long approach towards equipping families or their customers, whether potential or current, with the products or appliances that they are selling. What these means is that the sellers can be providing some sort of a discounted price on the prices of the newer models, in exchange for the older models, if these 'old' customers were to come back to them again for their more current models. In terms of customer-centric approaches, this would definitely work out more positively for the consumers, benefiting from having some discounts off their more current purchases (who doesn't love a discount right?), and getting a newer model in return for a smaller sum of money. For the sellers, it is definitely one way of prolonging their customers' loyalty to their shop or branding, which of course would translate into higher profit margins.

But where does the green-centric approach fall into place? Well, think about it, back in my previous post, if producers are able to use the products that they 'got' back from these consumers and perhaps, recycle or cannibalise them for their newer models, wouldn't it make more economic sense too? Cost savings...check, recycling...check, green-centric...check, a more stable and prolong customer loyalty to their brand of products...check!

Hmmm, i just think that this might just work!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Moving from a 'User-centric' to 'Green-centric' designs

The mantra "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" seems to pervade more and more of the media right now, as the world population realizes the fragility of the state of health of this planet, and the subsequent major adverse effects that would happen if no remedial steps were to be taken. But can design do anything about this state of affairs, and perhaps, just perhaps, if even though it doesn't have a Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point effect, can something be done at the designer's point of view in order to make this world a better place to live in?

One idea that perhaps might just work, is to move away from the concept of user-centred design that seems to be the 'in' thing right now, and really, move into a more 'Green-centric' design. In fact, I would actually say that perhaps being green is in 'fashion' right now, so one might not really think this as something that is something that revolutionary! But before we draw the conclusion that this convergence is just an issue of renaming a particular design-centric approach to product design, I do believe that designers can do their part in more ways than one in order to make products really GREEN!

One idea that I would like to offer is to do away with customised parts for each model of a particular product line, so much so that a few product lines are actually using some common components within the overall make-up of the final products. If I'm not wrong, I have read somewhere that Xerox (I think!) actually did something like this for their product lines of copier machines. So their engineers, when coming out with designs of their copiers, has an explicit intent to enable some components of these copiers to be 'future-proofed' in any newer product models or lines! So old models that have either gone to the junkyard due to wear and tear, or simply being replaced by newer models, would be able to be cannibalised! Cost savings..check, being green...check, faster product 'design-to-market' time...check. Well, I suspect that companies are already doing this, but can we then have even more companies to do this, companies that perhaps this simple business/design model can actually apply, and of which the impact is more public? Like what you may ask? Perhaps we can start off with the pens that we are using! I mean do we really need the fanciful cylindrical plastic outer casings, when the main writing tool is actually the ink-filled cylindrical centre-core!

Or how about our water bottles, the bottles that come along with the purchases of our bottles of Coke, Green Tea, and other drinks! Would it be ok if we have, instead of drink stalls, 'refill' stations instead...stations where a drink consumer would be able to get his refill, without ever the need to buy another bottle. Well there's always a new bottle if he wants to get one, but he would need to exchange it with his old bottle! Is that being a little green, or what!

Another business model that perhaps might just work is something that I had in mind for a couple of months now. You know how when one purchases an electrical appliance from any major appliance store, just like (in Singapore that is) Courts, Best Denki, Harvey Norman, or even in other places, the after sales service is just dependent on the warranty that is provided and perhaps ends there totally! Right? Well how about a better business model, that is both a win-win situation for both seller and consumer, and at the same time, sustainable as a business profitable model and 'green-centric' too!

Hmmm, to know more, stay tuned then!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The 'Roti Prata' Theorem...Redux

I've blogged about this 'Roti Prata' theorem a long while back, back at my old blog...just being jolted to blog about this yesterday as I was enjoying a few of these crispy pancake-like pieces with my colleagues.

The basic premise of this theorem is that, given say an X number of slices of prata, regardless of 'with or without egg versions :) ', what is the minimum number of times that one has to turn over these slices in order to get each of these sides slathered with the gravy/curry. Some pre-conditions/assumptions that I have come out with are:

- Each 'turnover' need not necessarily be done using one slice; it can involve a few (integer) slices at one go too
- It is assumed that the gravy/curry is being introduced only from a singular source point
- The intent is on having both sides of the pieces being slathered with the gravy/curry, regardless of the 'absorbability' of the surfaces or the pieces

Now to make this a little more wicked, let us introduce some parameters into the 'theorem', if I can even call it so:
- Can there be N number of source points for the source of the curry/gravy, theoretically speaking of course?
- How about if we decide to break up the slices into smaller pieces, perhaps into halves or quarters, how then would the theorem consider these non-integer conditions, hmmm, maybe perhaps by reintroducing integers within this integer conditions (is there such a thing at all?)
- What happens if the initial assumption that one wants both sides of his slices doesn't hold true, meaning for example, what if I want only the first slice to be doubly-coated, but not the second one?
- What happens if I want more than 1 gravy/curry type then...and this must not be mixed on any particular sides of any of these pieces, where there is only 1, or two distinct and separate source points!

- And how about if the prata slices are NOT flat, but perhaps comes in various shapes, such as the 'Crispy' or 'Paper'-version on the right? Hmmmmm.

Well, it doesn't help that I love the series 'Numb3rs' :), perhaps there is more inspiration to be had when you watch 'Numb3rs' over a plate of prata for dinner!? ;)

Organically-designed designs: the next phase of design thinking?

Without a doubt, the design of any product is a key element in the sustainability of a product beyond its initial life-cycle. What more with form taking over function in more ways than one, where technical specifications are just mere secondary features that could easily be replicated anywhere and everywhere, what defines a product as THE product to have, and must have, is its design. Clean lines, minimalist approach, and simplicity rules the Apple product lines, superb GUI and its consistency across its models catapults Nokia to the leading handphone brand, well at least in this part of the world. How much better can then design be? Is there still room for innovation in design itself.

Well one possibility is in looking at design as something that is just beyond straight lines and forms. Making design more organic...much like what organic plants do! Clean, pure, without any rationalised forms and defined lines, not easy perhaps, but definitely revolutionary if I may say so.

Some examples perhaps! Look at the pebble-shaped MP3 player by Samsung, and I think you would get what I mean.

And how about Theo Jansen's BMW ad. The smooth motion of the wind-powered contraptions (hell yeah, IT IS WIND-powered!) is a real masterpiece of sorts, of what organic design can do to not only a form, but perhaps, a function!

Possibilities, possibilities, possibilities...

Friday, May 2, 2008

a noob in photography

I have just begun to indulge myself in photography early this year, and the results so far has been a mixed bag of surprises and disappointments. But that is to be expected, isn't it? Here's one of my favourites, something that took me 6 shots on a tripod, and stitched together using Photoshop. There is so much more to learn...and I do hope that I can spare the time to learn as much as I can, within whatever time that I can spare! I'm still a noob (newbie), and hope to take better and better pictures. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The case of the 'Social Plateau'

I read with interest the observations of one Straits Times reader in the Forum Page of the papers yesterday (Wednesday), regarding the less than sterling developments made by the Malay/Muslim middle and upper classes, vis-a-vis the widening income gap observed between the various races in Singapore over the years! Kudos to the astute observations made by the reader, a quiet thinker I must say, a point supported by my significant other, since she actually know him from a previous working place.

Anyway, in a nutshell, the observations pointed out by the reader is that whilst great efforts and resources have been put in place by the local Malay/Muslim bodies and organisations to address the widening income disparity between the Malay and other races in the lower income groups of the community, what seens to be more of an issue here is the 'social plateau' (a term that i coined myself, :) ) that are observed within the upper strata levels! Facts and figures don't usually lie, and have in fact been a validating indicator of this. While gaps have been addressed at the lower economic levels of the community, these have sadly been an creeping issue and have in fact been a plateau'ing phenomenon for the middle- and upper-classes of the community. But the reader is quick to point out that short of extending the latter a handout of sorts, or for that matter, ANY handout at all, the community should look at equipping them with the necessary tools to at least enable them to move up the economic ladder and value chain! A point of which I am totally in agreement upon.

Which does bring me back to the recent findings by the Malay Chamber of Commerce regarding the significantly large majority of Malay-Muslim-based local businesses who seems to be happy at making only between $100k to $500k a year, even after years of having established themselves. The fault? Well I am not a businessman myself, although I do have plans of my own, and neither am I fit enough to criticize, but for the sake of my 2 cents worth in the blogsphere, I do think that one should start to think of going just beyond the local Malay-Muslim market for a start, and offering services that also goes beyond the 'traditional' ones, like wedding, catering and stuffs like that! Perhaps a business model that transcends beyond just a 'traditional Malay-Muslim-based' feel and even practices, but then this is another entire matter that perhaps I can elaborate further once i am more, hmmm, established?

Back to my earlier point then, I do feel strongly for a dose of 'Revolusi Mental' (Mental Revolution) of sorts, a little something that the community really need to have a shot of, regardless of whether they have made it, or not, in the economic ladder! Satu 'anjakan paradigma' (paradigm shift), of helping others so that you can help yourselves, of the community looking at issues from a systemic rather than a systematic view, working across silos rather than in silos, of contributing to liberate the thinking that 'I have made it when my annual pay is beyond the average pay of my fellow community members'! It is not easy to tell people who seems, or have actually made it, that they still need to constantly improve themselves with skills and knowledgeware, but then, isn't the first revelation asking us to 'READ!'?


For the full article of the above, use the URL below: