Monday, September 29, 2008

The 'Greening' of Design: William McDonough: The wisdom of designing Cradle to Cradle

One of the more interesting presentations from What I like about William's presentation here is the idea on the 'totality' of design, where design is not just about the here and now, not just about the experiences during the 'life-span' of a product. More importantly is the cradle-to-cradle ideas that he propounded, that is, at the very least something that humanity ought to start adopting, lest we become extinct within this century.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

MEANINGFUL REALISATION: Level 2 of Design Quotient

I have posted earlier about 'KNOWING' as the initial level of one's Design Quotient (DQ). It is about knowing that there is indeed something more than just the mere manifestation or superficiality of a particular product or object that is used. Following that, what transpires next would be a more 'MEANINGFUL REALISATION' that there is indeed more about the product that meets the eye.

For example a case in point, the regular toothbrush that I have quoted earlier. After one's realisation that there is something more about the toothbrush than he or she realises, what do follow, in the DQ context of things, would be the action of wanting to know that there is indeed something more than just a 'stick with nylon bristles'. It can be perhaps be seen as the deeper realisation that the stick does more than just a mere tool for holding, and the bristles are designed in such a way that it is much more than just becoming a brushing tool of sorts. This meaningfulness can be seen even further when one, having been enlightened further, would then want to know why things are designed or placed in a certain way. This perhaps would then be a precursor to Level 3 of my DQ theory: DESIGNERLY INTERROGATION, which I would touch on next in my next post.

Designing like it really matters

One of the challenges that I really relish is to come out with something new in the areas of teaching design. The challenge that was thrown to me this time round was in how the various areas of the arts, design, media and technology, can be convergently packaged and taught together with other altruistic values. Though I think it is not easy, but I don't think it is impossible. Certain ideas have already come to mind, such as:

* the fact that Singapore is becoming a greying city opens up various areas and possibilities in the field of geriatrics - the branch of medicine that focuses on healthcare for the elderly. I've see the set up of a model home for the elderly at a certain health care centre in the Western part of Singapore in my Innovation Protocol training (which I have blogged in earlier), and I do think that this would be a good starting point

* looking at the burgeoning industry of alternative fuels and alternative energies is another area of interest that I should be looking into. And in fact, I was thinking of tying up with various commercial concerns should this idea be successful in taking off

* Making the values that one would want to be taught to be the title of the design project, for example, a design project with the title 'RESPECT'. That would bring up some crazy ideas, but this might prove a little difficult as the final intent of the product might just be a little off from the actual intent of the project itself

* Be involved in a multi-cultural/religious/language immersion programme, something like those charitable projects that you see being done by volunteers to areas that are struck with disasters. Students can use those experiences not only to launch a physical project, but also be involved in a deeper understanding of the values that the project hopes to imbibe them in

* Environment: Another slant to the idea earlier is to see how the Green Revolution can be tapped even further to excite students to look at various processes that they can look at that has the potential to green, or even greener. Perhaps this can be parked under the theme of 'Design Sustainability' too

Hmmm, these are the ideas that I have managed to brainstorm at the moment. Any ideas from my blog readers are really welcomed. Doesn't matter to me whether you are a designer, a teacher, or even someone who cares about things that relates to design, all ideas that area passed would be seriously considered.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When the designer is more important than the CEO?

I absolutely love this article..really. Shows how much design have impacted the bottomline of the most creative and design savvy firm in the world. Original article is linked here by Jason Schwarz:

"We've now had a chance to see the prototype G1 phone. Google (GOOG) is hoping to carve out its own niche in the cellphone market in much the same way Apple (AAPL) has recently done. Can we expect to see lines outside of T-Mobile stores when the phone goes on sale next month? Highly unlikely. Instead, Google's gPhone appears headed down the same path of irrelevancy as the Microsoft (MSFT) Zune. According to Walt Mossberg, "The G1 won't win any beauty contests with its Apple rival. It's stubby and chunky, nearly 30% thicker and almost 20% heavier that the iPhone."

I was prepared to delve into a detailed comparison between the gPhone and the iPhone but Mr. Mossberg's statement just put an end to any constructive debate that we might have had. When you try and tell me how cool the copy and paste feature is or how excited you are about the MMS photo function I'll just have to give you the look. The same look that I gave to Zune enthusiasts who told me how much better the large video screen was. I don't think so. It's on days like today, when someone comes out with a product like the gPhone that we remember just how dominant Apple has become. Aren't new product releases supposed to be better than the existing ones? Apple competitors are shamefully years behind and it's all because of one man, Jonathan Ive.

Senior VP of Industrial Design, Jonathan Ive, is the most important man in the tech world. He is more important to Apple than Steve Jobs. Have you seen what the Mac looked like before Ive came along? Do you remember where Steve Jobs was before Ive took over the design team? Jonathan Ive is the principal designer of the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone. Not Steve Jobs. While Wall Street's busy watching Steve's weight we should be more concerned with Ive's eyesight. Jonathan Ive is the real Moses here, Jobs is just Aaron. In January the guy was rated the most influential Brit in America, ahead of Beckham. Those in the know praise his work. Read the following reviews that Ive received for his iPhone design:

* "He has an uncanny skill for imparting a device with simplicity, distinction, and inevitability. He could probably design a better triangle, and when he was done you'd realize that three sides were one side too many." --James Lileks, Minneapolis Star Tribune
* "The iPhone is something out of Tom Cruise's science-fiction film Minority Report, which is set in 2054." --Paul Durman, The UK Times
* "The iPhone is a typical piece of Ive design: an austere, abstract, platonic-looking form that somehow also manages to feel warm and organic and ergonomic." -- Lev Grossman, Time

Jonathan Ive should be the next CEO of Apple. Apple's software is good, their end to end user experience is great, but the look and feel of their products is what set's them apart. In the last few months, the world has quietly been experiencing a sea change. The market share tidal wave of Apple is coming and it's not all riding on Steve Jobs's shoulders. "

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

KNOWING: the first level of Design Quotient

I realised that it has been a while since the last time I have blogged about 'Design'. In today's post, and subsequent entries, I hope that I am disciplined enough to be able to give my views on the various levels of the Design Quotient (DQ), a schema of sorts that I hope would be able to spark various discussions on raising the design consciousness in the design domain of our cognitive capacity.

Firstly, my question would be how do we start to 'look' at design as a means to just beyond something that is a given. How do we, say, be appreciative enough about the design of everyday items that surrounds us, without looking or delving deeper into its various other technicalities of how it is made, or how it has added a great deal of benefit to out lives! I mean when we brush our teeth in the morning, are we really aware the amount of effort that goes into the design of the toothbrush and the toothpaste container? It is this very state of 'KNOWING', of awareness, at a certain level of 'design consciousness' is where I would put my theoretical viewpoint on the first level of DQ. It is this level of consciousness, of suddenly being hit by that AHA moment, of suddenly realising, as you held the toothbrush in your hands, and then suddenly realising how ergonomically well-designed the toothbrush is, how everything about it is so...well nicely fitted into what it is intended to function as.

It is at this state of knowing, of realising, of suddenly being awakened by the superficiality, beyond its tendency to connote negativities, of design in itself as a state of being that would help, or trouble us in one way or another. On the other side of the scale, the realisation that something is badly designed could also spark this state of consciousness, although one would somewhat be more overwhelmed with vulgarities of the verbal kind, more than being hit by a 'design awareness' moment, when bad design come avisiting!

So let's just state that the first level of DQ is:

KNOWING: the semi- or full-conscious state of realising the superficiality of design

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Abaya: When the context is deeper than the obvious

I read with interest Karl Albrecht's book on "Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense". I'm starting to read it a second time now, sure is surprising the nuggets of knowledge that one can sieve when reading it the second time.

One interesting information that Karl highlighted, and I would like to quote from the book here is the seemingly 'restrictive' idea that the Islamic Abaya outfit worn by Arab females seems to perpetuate, to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

"(Taken from page 255) For example, many Westerners think of the veil, or the abaya...the head-to-toe garment that modest Islamic women merely symbols of represssion forced upon Islamic or Arab females. Yet when they are viewed in the complex context of family and clan relationships, as in Iraq, they are not isolated elements. The veil is an integral part of a larger gestalt of social rules and symbols, which many Westerners fail to grasp or appreciate. It cannot simply be abandoned or abolished without overturning other, centuries-old social dynamics connected to it.

In Iraq for example, and in many Arab countries, at least 50 percent of marriages are between first or second cousins. One effect of the veil, or any other form of modest attire, is to remove young women from the kind of social circulation that poses competition to their male cousins...the "marriage market". Not only does the veil have practical benefit for young men seeking wives, but many young Iraqi women are firmly comitted to marrying within the clan, and arranged marriages are still very common. Many of them see the modesty dynamics as perfectly natural and appropriate to the patterns of close kinship that shape their lives. The view of veiling as a form of a oppression is largely a projection of Western social values onto the members of a very different culture"

Now I am not an anthropologist nor am I an expert culturalist, but somehow or rather, the seemingly depth of explanation to the wearing of the Abaya as described above does have its validity. But at times, sadly or otherwise, even Muslim women that are not in an Arabic cultural context fail to see its contextual significance and have blindly followed its wearing. Not that I am against it, but I guess, I personally thing that there should be some deeper understanding of one's own assumptions about one's actions before doing something at all.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

When the creative wisdom of the crowds can fail

I read with interest the growing number of Malay-Muslim families and individuals seeking help from the Aidilfitri Charity Fund, a fund that was set up years ago to assist families who are in dire need of help, to get by with the festivities, and hopefully, beyond that.

What interest me is not so much the cause that they are set up for, in fact, it is something that I really believe in, i.e. where the members of the community who are abled and capable, chip in to help the less fortunate. But what is a concern to me is the rather ever increasing number of families who are seeking help. I mean shouldn't the overriding aim of setting up a charitable fund like this be the reduction or the socially (almost) impossible task of elimination of the poor and the destitute. Notwistanding the bout of inflationary pressures that are being experienced right now will surface families and individuals who are adversely affected by such an event, but shouldn't the fund in itself by somewhat of a 'root-cause' problem-solving tool, rather than something that would only be a symptomatic cure for what is being experienced by the community.

I still remember the voluntary work that I did over that last few years as part of the Yayasan Mendaki's Tiga M project (three 'M' here meaning 'Membaca' (Read), 'Mengira' (Count) and 'Menulis' (Write)) project. What really touched me is the fact that a greater majority of these participants are really willing to help themselves, though sometimes they are lacking very much in the 'Hows' and the 'Whens'...the 'Hows' because they are really at their wit's end as to how to go about to change the family around, and the 'When's' because they are really hindered by time as most of them would need to work instead of attending a training session, that might just be the tipping point to their family's living outcome. Nonetheless it was a humbling and enriching experience for me, and very much reminded me of where I came from.

But seriously, unless there is a deeper concerted effort to go about changing the situation and just applying the most of pills to just the symptomatic effects, the creative wisdom of the whole community, (of which we are quite well known for) will still falter in the areas of social re-engineering.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My top 10 Mac software must-haves

Having made the switch to the Mac OS platform just less than a year ago, I've done numerous experimentations with loads of software tools that can enhance my productivity on this platform. I'm happy to say that so far, the Mac OS has indeed exceed my expectations in terms of its usability, stability and trouble-free use! Here's a list of the top 10 Mac software must-haves, for me that is:

Not in any order of preference...

1) Adobe Lightroom: Good software tool, much like Aperture, for a photography amateur like me.

2) Copernicus: for screen capturing...a useful tool for me, especially when i need a tool to capture icons, without being weighted down by too many features!

3) Google Desktop: Useful tool for indexing your data on your hard disks

4) Google SketchUp Basic: I'm still using the free version at the moment, cos it is still sufficient in my current job capacity. Very useful for creating models for presentation or lessons

5) iTunes: What can I say, I'm a music buff too. Their newest version 8.0 has some pretty nifty interfaces too. I just realised only recently that some of the podcasts are freely available...coooool

6) Mercury Messenger: A nifty tool for those who wants to use the webcam on the MSN. Can be a little unstable at times, but generally its ok for far!

7) Syncmate: With an Windows Mobile handphone, you can never go wrong with having this tool for synching with your Mac lappy

8) Tooble: Cool software tool you to download your favourite YouTube videos and then directly into your iTunes

9) VM Fusion: I've tried Parallels, but prefer this one better. So far so good, but my advise to you is to use original versions of Windows for the other OS'es

10) Last but not least, Azureus...a bittorrent tool that helps me to...well should I say, provide the tools that can allow me the luxury of this experimentation.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

When there is no box to think out of?

I can't remember the number of times that the cliche 'thinking out of the box' is often repeated in seminars, talks and courses dealing in innovation, creativity, and the likes. But seriously, when I revisit some of these ideas again, I just can't help but to think aloud, 'Why have the box in the first place?'

I mean seriously, doesn't THE BOX in itself IS the very epitome of constraint, restraint, of non-barrier-free thinking!? Hence thinking out of it does somewhat also refers to the connotation that the possibilities should only be looked upon as those that lies outside of this box, beyond the comfort of whatever that is within the box, a little oxymoronic when one dwells into the question a little deeper, don't you think?

I would prefer very much the terminology, perhaps, something like, "Expanding the Universal set of thought", a reference to the basic terminology referred to in mathematical topic on Venn Diagrams. Or maybe as a means to paying homage to the ubiquity of the original phrase, let's try: "Unpacking the box of thoughts".

Would this phrase catch on? Hmmm, nobody knows!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The abusive minority

I am currently serving my 2 weeks worth of in-camp training right now, right in the midst of the Muslim's fasting month of Ramadan. It is nothing new for me to be doing this, as my unit have been called up for these duties in the past, right smack in the middle of this holy month.

What is interesting to note about serving the nation while serving God, is in the way things are rightfully (or wrongfully) perceived by surprisingly the very people who are practising the fast. I mean I would be most understanding if ignorance are demonstrated by the greater majority of those who are not of the faith and are not, then, fasting. But sadly, it is the very minority who are dutifully fasting, and at the same trying to show what fasting is all about to the others, who are failing at these very role. Sometimes it is perplexing at how people in general are somewhat able to justify their habits which are very much against the spirit of this holy month, but on the other hand, will play up this very 'minoritic trump card' (for lack of a better term) whenever the privileges given to him are seemingly being seen to be taken away! Sad, is it not, that the very act that will be rewarded by God himself, is taken lightly, and played around like as if it is just a normal act of just staying away from food and drinks ONLY, not including cigarettes! And about how fasting in itself seems to be an excuse for excusing onself from relevant physical activities. Sigh...if only they'll learn!