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Design and Design Theory

Design and Design Theory

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When designer and computer scientist John Maeda was tapped to be president of the celebrated Rhode Island School of Design in 2008, he had to learn how to be a leader quickly. He had to transform himself from a tenured professor—with a love of argument for argument's sake and the freedom to experiment—into the head of a hierarchical organization. The professor is free to speak his mind against "the man." The college president is "the man." Maeda has had to teach himself, through trial and error, about leadership.

Fashioning Apollo

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface in July of 1969, they wore spacesuits made by Playtex: twenty-one layers of fabric, each with a distinct yet interrelated function, custom-sewn for them by seamstresses whose usual work was fashioning bras and girdles. This book is the story of those spacesuits. It is a story of the triumph over the military-industrial complex by the International Latex Corporation, best known by its consumer brand of "Playtex"—a victory of elegant softness over engineered hardness, of adaptation over cybernetics.

Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space
Edited by Mark Shepard

Our cities are "smart" and getting smarter as information processing capability is embedded throughout more and more of our urban infrastructure. Few of us object to traffic light control systems that respond to the ebbs and flows of city traffic; but we might be taken aback when discount coupons for our favorite espresso drink are beamed to our mobile phones as we walk past a Starbucks. Sentient City explores the experience of living in a city that can remember, correlate, and anticipate.

Le Corbusier and the Automobile

Le Corbusier, who famously called a house "a machine for living," was fascinated—even obsessed—by another kind of machine, the automobile. His writings were strewn with references to autos: "If houses were built industrially, mass-produced like chassis, an aesthetic would be formed with surprising precision," he wrote in Toward an Architecture (1923). In his "white phase" of the twenties and thirties, he insisted that his buildings be photographed with a modern automobile in the foreground.

The True (Maybe) Story

For years, the signs in the New York City subway system were a bewildering hodge-podge of lettering styles, sizes, shapes, materials, colors, and messages. The original mosaics (dating from as early as 1904), displaying a variety of serif and sans serif letters and decorative elements, were supplemented by signs in terracotta and cut stone. Over the years, enamel signs identifying stations and warning riders not to spit, smoke, or cross the tracks were added to the mix.

If only today’s technology were simpler! It’s the universal lament, but it’s wrong. We don't want simplicity. Simple tools are not up to the task. The world is complex; our tools need to match that complexity.

Mainstream media, often known simply as MSM, have not yet disappeared in a digital takeover of the media landscape. But the long-dominant MSM—television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books—have had to respond to emergent digital media. Newspapers have interactive Web sites; television broadcasts over the Internet; books are published in both electronic and print editions.

Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century

This book provides a long-overdue vision for a new automobile era. The cars we drive today follow the same underlying design principles as the Model Ts of a hundred years ago and the tail-finned sedans of fifty years ago. In the twenty-first century, cars are still made for twentieth-century purposes. They're well suited for conveying multiple passengers over long distances at high speeds, but inefficient for providing personal mobility within cities—where most of the world's people now live.

Eyeglasses have been transformed from medical necessity to fashion accessory. This revolution has come about through embracing the design culture of the fashion industry. Why shouldn't design sensibilities also be applied to hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, and communication aids? In return, disability can provoke radical new directions in mainstream design. Charles and Ray Eames's iconic furniture was inspired by a molded plywood leg splint that they designed for injured and disabled servicemen. Designers today could be similarly inspired by disability.

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