It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

“I want to be a designer because…” — 2007 edition

Last year, one of my professors asked us to complete this statement every year while limiting our answer to 15 words or less. So here I am a year later, doing it again.

I want to be a designer because…
… I want to make things that will improve people’s physical and emotional lives.

There’s another answer, but it’s more than 15 words:
… I am unable to stop asking the “why” and “how” questions about the world and I think studying design will help me find some answers.

Those are related statements, but one is a process that will never end, the other is an action I want to be able to perform.

When I started down this road a few years ago, I was convinced I wanted to study ID and move into the ID job world. The more I learn about capital-D design, the more I start looking for commonalities between design and other knowledge domains. When I started learning to draw objects I started seeing things differently and laying out diagrams on whiteboards differently. Learning about the American System of production in the 18th and 19th century has started me thinking about how desktop fabrication will change business models of global corporations. Looking at how color and typography are used, I am beginning to understand why I hate the default text coloring in most source code editors and starting to think about ways to improve the text display.

The more I learn about design the more questions I have and the less sure I am of my previous answers to questions.

But that’s a good thing, in my opinion.

(Oh, and here’s my answer from a year ago when I first answered this question.)

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posted by jet at 12:44  

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme

Another silly meme to play with….

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is …”.

Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

*You can leave them exactly as is.

*You can delete any one question.

*You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change “The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is…” to “The best time travel novel in Westerns is…”, or “The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is…:, or “The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is…”.

*You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…”.

You must have at least one question in your set, or you’ve gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you’re not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the “parent” blog you got them from, e.g. All Art Burns to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.

Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

My great-grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My grandparent is Sentient Developments.
My parent is Open the Future.

1. The best Post-Singularity Novel in SF/Fantasy is…
The Player of Games by Iain Banks

2. The best sexy song in rock is…
Car Song by Elastica

3. The best cult novel in serialized graphic storytelling (comic books) is…
White Out, by Greg Rucka, Steve Lieber, and Jamie Rich

4. The best first-series for Americans in Japanese anime is…
Cowboy Bebop, by Shinichiro Watanabe and Keiko Nobumoto.

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posted by jet at 20:23  

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review: Nomadic Furniture

[EDIT:  James Hennessey points out the book is in print again from Schiffer, ISBN 0764330241.]

An area I get distracted by often is tools for nomadic living. I grew up moving around a fair bit and I’ve spent much of my adult life dragging around a portable office of one sort or another. It used to be a leather Day Runner(tm), notebooks, a Sony Walkman(tm) and random art supplies; these days it’s a laptop, tri-band ham radio, sketchbook, iPod(tm), and random tools for safety and personal care.

What I haven’t thought enough about is the next step up from the overstuffed courier bag, actually taking my entire house and all my possessions from place to place on a regular basis. It’s one thing to move my office from home to cafe every day, but moving all my stuff from town to town on a regular basis? That’s something a bit more complicated, especially given how much crap I (as well as everyone else) tend to own.

Becoming a truly nomadic person seems to boil down to two simple steps:

Step 1: Get rid of all the crap you don’t need or put it in some permanent place. You’re going to need to do this before you get to the next step…

Step 2: Own only those things that are easily transported and that you absolutely need. One thing that most of us absolutely need is a bare minimum of furniture, and that’s where Nomadic Furniture comes into play.

Nomadic Furniture , by designers James Hennessey and Victor Papanek, is by not an exhaustive examination of all nomadic furniture but a basic overview of the fundamental types of furniture that people need and how those living the nomadic lifestyle can travel with the furniture they need.

It’s an interesting read now, as it was written in the 70s during the first big oil crunch. The attitude is dated but at the same time completely relevant in terms of the need to conserve energy, reduce consumption of resources, and follow the general model of reduce, reuse, recycle. (If you’ve read Cradle to Cradle, some of this will seem oddly familiar.)

Hennessey and Papanek don’t just show you pictures of furniture you can buy, rather they show you how you can make most furniture on your own. The diagrams are simple and straightforward and are such that they are easily modified and scaled to meet individual needs. Some of the plans are very much in the style of Danish Modern (or IKEA) while others seem a little quaint by contemporary standards. I doubt the dimensions for LPs and cassettes will be useful for many people making storage shelves in this century.

There are a couple of groups of people that I think would greatly benefit from reading this and photocopying some of the plans. The first group are college students who move on a regular basis and for whom saving every penny possible on furniture is worth a little labor. The second group are the true nomadic types, say hardcore burning man participants or people who travel and camp for weeks at a time. There are some creative sleeping and storage solutions in Nomadic Furniture that I will be trying out before our next trip to the playa.

There are only two problems with Nomadic Furniture that I feel the need to point out. The first is that it’s no longer in print, but used copies are easily found on and The second problem is the nearly unreadable typography. I’ve been a huge fan of hand-illustrated and lettered manuals since my first copy of Muir’s How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot, but the strange typeface used in Nomadic Furniture is too much for me. It’s alien enough that the book is an amazingly difficult read, a distraction from the quite clean and readable illustrations.

Find it used, photocopy what you need, then sell/trade/give it to someone else who would find the information useful.

Cite (if you’re interested in my generating BiBTeX refs in future reviews, please speak up):
Hennessey, James and Papanek, Victor. Nomadic Furniture, Pantheon Books, 1973, 0-394-70228-X

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posted by jet at 18:07  

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