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Design and Design Theory

Design and Design Theory

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Design Things offers an innovative view of design thinking and design practice, envisioning ways to combine creative design with a participatory approach encompassing aesthetic and democratic practices and values. The authors of Design Things look at design practice as a mode of inquiry that involves people, space, artifacts, materials, and aesthetic experience, following the process of transformation from a design concept to a thing.
Design Things, which grew out of the Atelier (Architecture and Technology for Inspirational Living) research project, goes beyond the making of a single object to view design projects as sociomaterial assemblies of humans and artifacts--“design things.” The book offers both theoretical and practical perspectives, providing empirical support for the authors’ conceptual framework with field projects, case studies, and examples from professional practice. The authors examine the dynamics of the design process; the multiple transformations of the object of design; metamorphing, performing, and taking place as design strategies; the concept of the design space as “emerging landscapes”; the relation between design and use; and the design of controversial things.

"Living in a Modern Way"
Edited by Wendy Kaplan

In 1951, designer Greta Magnusson Grossman observed that California design was “not a superimposed style, but an answer to present conditions. . . . It has developed out of our own preferences for living in a modern way.” California design influenced the material culture of the entire country, in everything from architecture to fashion. This generously illustrated book, which accompanies a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is the first comprehensive examination of California’s mid-century modern design. It begins by tracing the origins of a distinctively California modernism in the 1930s by such European émigrés as Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and Kem Weber; it finds other specific design influences and innovations in solid-color commercial ceramics, inspirations from Mexico and Asia, new schools for design training, new concepts about leisure, and the conversion of wartime technologies to peacetime use (exemplified by Charles and Ray Eames’s plywood and fiberglass furniture).
The heart of California Design is the modern California home, famously characterized by open plans conducive to outdoor living. The layouts of modernist homes by Pierre Koenig, Craig Ellwood, and Raphael Soriano, for example, were intended to blur the distinction between indoors and out. Homes were furnished with products from Heath Ceramics, Van Keppel-Green, and Architectural Pottery as well as other, previously unheralded companies and designers. Many objects were designed to be multifunctional: pool and patio furniture that was equally suitable indoors, lighting that was both task and ambient, bookshelves that served as room dividers, and bathing suits that would turn into ensembles appropriate for indoor entertainment.
California Design includes 350 images, most in color, of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, architecture, graphic and industrial design, film, textiles, and fashion, and ten incisive essays that trace the rise of the California design aesthetic.

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. In Redesigning Leadership, he shares his learning process. Maeda, writing as an artist and designer, a technologist, and a professor, discusses intuition and risk-taking, “transparency,” and all the things that a conversation can do that an email can’t. In his transition from MIT to RISD he finds that the most effective way to pull people together is not social networking but free food. Leading a team? The best way for a leader to leverage the collective power of a team is to reveal his or her own humanity. Asked if he has stopped designing, Maeda replied (via Twitter) “I’m designing how to talk about/with/for our #RISD community.” Maeda’s creative nature makes him a different sort of leader--one who prizes experimentation, honest critique, and learning as you go. With Redesigning Leadership, he uses his experience to reveal a new model of leadership for the next generation of leaders.

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.

Playtex’s spacesuit went up against hard armor-like spacesuits designed by military contractors and favored by NASA’s engineers. It was only when those suits failed—when traditional engineering firms could not integrate the body into mission requirements—that Playtex, with its intimate expertise, got the job.

In Spacesuit, Nicholas de Monchaux tells the story of the twenty-one-layer spacesuit in twenty-one chapters addressing twenty-one topics relevant to the suit, the body, and the technology of the twentieth century. He touches, among other things, on eighteenth-century androids, Christian Dior’s New Look, Atlas missiles, cybernetics and cyborgs, latex, JFK's carefully cultivated image, the CBS lunar broadcast soundstage, NASA’s Mission Control, and the applications of Apollo-style engineering to city planning. The twenty-one-layer spacesuit, de Monchaux argues, offers an object lesson. It tells us about redundancy and interdependence and about the distinctions between natural and man-made complexity; it teaches us to know the virtues of adaptation and to see the future as a set of possibilities rather than a scripted scenario.

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. Five teams of architects, artists, and technologists imagine a variety of future interactions that take place as computing leaves the desktop and spills out onto the sidewalks, streets, and public spaces of the city.

"Too Smart City" employs city furniture as enforcers: a bench ejects a sitter who sits too long, a sign displays the latest legal codes and warns passersby against transgression, and a trashcan throws back the wrong kind of trash. "Amphibious Architecture" uses underwater sensors and lights to create a human-fish-environment feedback loop; "Natural Fuse" uses a network of "electronically assisted" plants to encourage energy conservation; "Trash Track" follows smart-tagged garbage on its journey through the city’s waste-management system; and "Breakout" uses wireless technology and portable infrastructure to make the entire city a collaborative workplace.

These projects are described, documented, and illustrated by 100 images, most in color. Essays by prominent thinkers put the idea of the sentient city in theoretical context.

Copublication with the Architectural League of New York

Sentient City will also feature a special "heat sensitive" cover which will change color when exposed to sunlight or touch!

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. Le Corbusier moved beyond the theoretical in 1936, entering (with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret) an automobile design competition, submitting plans for "a minimalist vehicle for maximum functionality," the Voiture Minimum. Despite Le Corbusier’s energetic promotion of his design to several important automakers, the Voiture Minimum was never mass-produced. This book is the first to tell the full and true story of Le Corbusier’s adventure in automobile design.

Architect Antonio Amado describes the project in detail, linking it to Le Corbusier’s architectural work, to Modernist utopian urban visions, and to the automobile design projects of other architects including Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright. He provides abundant images, including many pages of Le Corbusier’s sketches and plans for the Voiture Minimum, and reprints Le Corbusier’s letters seeking a manufacturer. Le Corbusier’s design is often said to have been the inspiration for Volkswagen’s enduringly popular Beetle; the architect himself implied as much, claiming that his design for the 1936 competition originated in 1928, before the Beetle. Amado, after extensive examination of archival and source materials, disproves this; the influence may have gone the other way.

Although many critics considered the Voiture Minimum a footnote in Le Corbusier’s career, Le Corbusier did not. This book, lavishly illustrated and exhaustively documented, restores Le Corbusier’s automobile to the main text.

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. Efforts to untangle this visual mess began in the mid-1960s, when the city transit authority hired the design firm Unimark International to create a clear and consistent sign system. We can see the results today in the white-on-black signs throughout the subway system, displaying station names, directions, and instructions in crisp Helvetica. This book tells the story of how typographic order triumphed over chaos.

The process didn’t go smoothly or quickly. At one point New York Times architecture writer Paul Goldberger declared that the signs were so confusing one almost wished that they weren’t there at all. Legend has it that Helvetica came in and vanquished the competition. Paul Shaw shows that it didn’t happen that way—that, in fact, for various reasons (expense, the limitations of the transit authority sign shop), the typeface overhaul of the 1960s began not with Helvetica but with its forebear, Standard (aka Akzidenz Grotesk). It wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s that Helvetica became ubiquitous. Shaw describes the slow typographic changeover (supplementing his text with more than 250 images—photographs, sketches, type samples, and documents). He places this signage evolution in the context of the history of the New York City subway system, of 1960s transportation signage, of Unimark International, and of Helvetica itself.

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. Simplicity turns out to be more complex than we thought. In this provocative and informative book, Don Norman writes that the complexity of our technology must mirror the complexity and richness of our lives. It’s not complexity that’s the problem, it’s bad design. Bad design complicates things unnecessarily and confuses us. Good design can tame complexity.Norman gives us a crash course in the virtues of complexity. But even such simple things as salt and pepper shakers, doors, and light switches become complicated when we have to deal with many of them, each somewhat different. Managing complexity, says Norman, is a partnership. Designers have to produce things that tame complexity. But we too have to do our part: we have to take the time to learn the structure and practice the skills. This is how we mastered reading and writing, driving a car, and playing sports, and this is how we can master our complex tools. Complexity is good. Simplicity is misleading. The good life is complex, rich, and rewarding—but only if it is understandable, sensible, and meaningful.

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. In Designing Media, design guru Bill Moggridge examines connections and conflicts between old and new media, describing how the MSM have changed and how new patterns of media consumption are emerging. The book features interviews with thirty-seven significant figures in both traditional and new forms of mass communication; interviewees range from the publisher of the New York Times to the founder of Twitter.

We learn about innovations in media that rely on contributions from a crowd (or a community), as told by Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and Craigslist’s Craig Newmark; how the band OK Go built a following using YouTube; how real-time connections between dispatchers and couriers inspired Twitter; how a BusinessWeek blog became a quarterly printed supplement to the magazine; and how e-readers have evolved from Rocket eBook to QUE. Ira Glass compares the intimacy of radio to that of the Internet; the producer of PBS’s Frontline supports the program’s investigative journalism by putting documentation of its findings online; and the developers of Google’s Trendalyzer software describe its beginnings as animations that accompanied lectures about social and economic development in rural Africa. At the end of each chapter, Moggridge comments on the implications for designing media. Designing Media is illustrated with hundreds of images, with color throughout. A DVD accompanying the book includes excerpts from all of the interviews, and the material can be browsed at www.designing-media.com.

Interviews with: Chris Anderson, Rich Archuleta, Blixa Bargeld, Colin Callender, Fred Deakin, Martin Eberhard, David Fanning, Jane Friedman, Mark Gerzon, Ira Glass, Nat Hunter, Chad Hurley, Joel Hyatt, Alex Juhasz, Jorge Just, Alex MacLean, Bob Mason, Roger McNamee, Jeremy Merle, Craig Newmark, Bruce Nussbaum, Alice Rawsthorn, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Paul Saffo, Jesse Scanlon, DJ Spooky, Neil Stevenson, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Shinichi Takemura, James Truman, Jimmy Wales, Tim Westergren, Ev Williams, Erin Zhu, Mark Zuckerberg

The “objective” world is one of facts, data, and actuality. The world of the “nonobject” is about perception, experience, and possibility. In this highly original and visually extravant book, Branko Lukic (an award-winning designer) and Barry Katz (an authority on the history and philosophy of design) imagine what would happen if design started not from the object but from the space between people and the objects they use. The “nonobject,” they explain, is the designer’s personal experiment to explore our relation to the observable world. So they show us an umbrella that puts us in a harmonious relationship with nature by sending falling rain rushing through the handle from an upturned top that resembles a flower; a spoon with a myriad of tiny bowls that allow us to savor our soup; a “superpractical” cell phone with keypad, speaker, and microphone on every surface. They imagine the ideal material, “Thinium,” incredibly thin and incredibly strong, environmentally and aesthetically beneficial. They show us clocks and watches that free us from time told by artificial demarcation and consider the possibility of a digital camera that captures the part of the scene we didn’t see. In NONOBJECT, product design meets philosophy, poetry, and the theater of the imagination. The nonobject fills us with surprise and delight.

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