2-0-1-2 … LIFT-OFF!!!

January 11, 2012
Tired of not being able to fly into space for under a million bucks? Of course you are. Not to worry though. This year several companies are slated to start offering trips just beyond the space barrier for far cheaper than ever before… A form of “affordable” space tourism with tickets in the $100,00-200,000 range.

What will this new form of tourism do for fashion? Time (and space) will tell.

Trips won’t exactly get you to Mars — or Neptune, which would be so much cooler — but will include “up-and-down ‘suborbital’ jaunts more akin to a giant roller coaster ride, offering about five minutes of weightlessness”.

And this is only the beginning. Quoting the New York Times article, “By 2017, it’ll be just like scheduling a flight to L.A.,” one galactic travel agent predicted. “In California, it would be similar to buying a house.”  Unsettling California comparisons aside, this is a big deal, by any measure. Space vacations! A breakthrough that will stand apart from the more earthly trends in technology this year.

So a belated Happy New Year, friends. Barring the apocalypse, 2012 is bound to be a big one. Can’t you just feel it?

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King of the Signs

November 3, 2011
Tower of London

"Castle. That way."

Found … outside the Tower of London (England). Pointing to … the Tower of London (England).

It’s elegant. It’s helpful. It’s honest. It’s the greatest sign ever made.

Yup.


A Mildly Magnificent Modern Map

October 19, 2011

Not shown: Iceland. Chicago. Canada.

Since our humble days as hunter-gatherers, humans have created and shared maps to make sense of the world around us. To serve as models. To simplify. To point to food. And to navigate environments too big to otherwise comprehend.

Like many of us discovered in our youth*,  there’s something inherently fulfilling about maps. A good one will serve as a powerful link between our brains and the real world. By giving us a sense of context and scale while leaving out every detail, a great map will teach us as much as it will tempt us — tapping into our intrinsic nature to explore and chart new paths.

Here’s a nice map of our sprawling digital landscape and the growing influences of the ‘Internet Economy’. Far from the elaborate parchment creations of early cartographers, this map represents an emerging pattern of charting the intangible online spaces we increasingly inhabit. And different from other data-driven visualizations, it injects a subjective element while playing with relationships and space. It’s the little touches that make it work. The quirky plays on words (The Ocean of Spam, Blogger Isles. pfft.). The multiple layers. The ability to scroll side to side endlessly, like spinning a globe.

Kind of makes you want to go sailing, doesn’t it.

*My 4th-grade Orientation unit was glorious… a stretch of structured learning rivaled only by the Star Trek unit the following spring. What a year.


Where am I going?

September 6, 2011

At least there's an insightful news ticker down there.

A nice find on Failblog.org, reposted here in honor of that last great milestone of summer — Labor Day. How much do we love these airport Departure/Arrival screens? Designed to fulfill such a simple need, most of them suffer from such a simple yet stifling usability gaffe. They cycle through the flights, gates, and city info waaay too fast. They mean well. They do. But it doesn’t matter how big the screens or the font size is, most of us still need time to sort out our ABCs.  “N is after L in the alphabet, okay.  Okay..  ah-ha! New York.”  But no sooner you find your flight it’s gone isn’t it, refreshed in a column over, or two, or three TV panels away.

Slooow down, Airport Flight Departure Information screens. We’re in a hurry but we ain’t going that fast. We’re not machines like you. Not yet.

And get that anti-virus updated. It’s a sick world out there.


The Great Summer Shake Up

August 21, 2011

In fortunate parts of the world, summer often goes hand in hand with rest, travel, introspection, and micheladas. For some, summer brings a dizzying array of new experiences, connections, and insights. For others, it is a big reset. A step back towards our natural beginnings in those hot, muggy environments we all came from (whether that be the womb or the tropical climates where we evolved as a species). For many, summer is all about change.

Big change. Small change. Change.

However you slice it, the time has come for the Infinite User to change. Maybe it wasn’t the season alone. Maybe it that was that fateful weekend I watched all three installments of The Matrix (which are far better on DVR with the power of the rewind, by the way). Or that fine summer read, a good story can shake things up. Or shark week. Blame shark week.

Sign in London, England

Now *thats* a Construction sign -- banged up good.

A new era is upon us. And this weblog. One of opening in the gates and letting in the sun. Sharing faster. More insights, less delay. Posting, rampant posting. There is a time for the insightful thought piece. And these will come. But we have been catapulted into the era of the short attention span. It’s a glorious world out there, and it must be broken down. With more lessons and fewer words.

So with that, in the spirit of construction, change, progress, and summer — I’ll kick it off with a sign spotted in the bustling heart of London, England. A Construction sign. You’ll notice it actually has no words. But it does have a silhouette with a shovel. And wear and tear. A lot of it. It’s a gritty sign. A seasoned sign. One with character. One that tells a story and fulfills its purpose without using a single word. One that sends a message arguably better than its fresh-off-the-press counter-parts. There’s a lesson in there, go find it. And go to Europe too. Good food, cool buildings.

Stay tuned for more. (Much more.)


Quote Me: Insight from a Man with a Moustache

April 15, 2011

A piece of art.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”

Marcel Proust (French “essayist”, 1871-1922)

First things first. Happy Tax Day, America.

I had thrown this quote into a presentation a while back, and was reminded about it the other night when reading through Bill Buxton’s Sketching User Experiences. A fine read, about design and innovation, the technology development process, and the importance of sketching in any creative work. It’s loaded with wisdom, engaging anecdotes, and fine visuals. And a unique writing style, a rare combination of academic and grounded… cocktail party talk. Sort of like talking with a professor you think is cool but you aren’t completely sold yet… you think you like him, you’re mostly picking up what he’s putting down. And as far as non-fiction goes, it actually makes for decent beside reading.

Anyways, back to the quote. Good quote. Read it again.


Life’s Easy in the Sunshine State

March 23, 2011

A recent trip to sunny south Florida unveiled a surprising number of simple-yet-effective designs scattered throughout the region. Maybe it’s part of an effort to cater to the high proportion of Florida residents who are elderly (a huge theme of 21st century design). Maybe it’s because many of Florida’s neighborhoods are so new and shiny, not bogged down by the old conventions and standards that other dense urban areas suffer from. Maybe the state is quietly harboring a large number of crafty designers — drawn south to the tropical climate. Whatever the reason, good work Florida. You’ve reminded us that its not always the knock-out designs that improve our world, that sometimes getting the basics right is most important of all.

Let’s start with my absolute favorite: a standing shower where the knob is actually in a logical place. Where you can turn the water on and control flow and temperature without getting wet. No more turning on the water on one side of the curtain and getting in the other side. No more awkwardly craning your naked body to dodge the water that may be too cold or too hot (It’s okay, we’ve all done that). It’s a shower that’s designed for showering. Beautiful.

Staying with the bathroom theme, this Florida bathroom had two doors, one that opens to the house and one to the outside. I scratched my head on this one for a while. Then I realized it’s Florida. It’s always nice out. There are patios and pools for entertaining. Bathrooms that may need to be accessed by guests. People in beach towels. Guests who you might not want to trek through the rest of your house. Sensible.

These parking space numbers on a coastal stretch in Palm Beach were labeled next to the car as opposed to painted under the car on the space itself.  So you could read them once parked. Smart.

“Beaches… THAT way.” I’m told, when crusing down I-95 on a sunny Saturday. Some highway signs understand their audience (as seen on other coastal freeways). Always refreshing.

Then there’s the Sun-Pass: a digital highway pass that beeps back at you when it’s been read by the toll sensors, as opposed to doing nothing at all. That’s called feedback, that’s a good thing. It’s still an ugly gray box stuck on the inside windshield, but at least it communicates. No more speeding through the toll-booth wondering whether you’ll be receiving a ticket in the mail in five to eight weeks. Hear the beep, know you’ve paid your toll, rest easy.

And of course, rocking chairs strategically placed in a waiting areas are always a win. As I’ve called out before. Works just as well as on the front porch. The ones pictured here were found in a South Beach hotel lobby.

Rock on, South Florida.

Rock. On.