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The Design Observer Group
Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: JANUARY 19, 2012


Package It Black

FEATURED THIS WEEK : ROB WALKER

Package It Black

A product called Marlboro Black might call to mind everything negative and dangerous about cigarettes. But that strategy might not be as suicidal as it sounds. Maybe wrapping smokes in the graphics of a warning is a form of design jujitsu: the allure of the unsafe.
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PLACES : ILA BERMAN & MONA EL KHAFIF

Design, Research, Impact: URBANlab at CCA

As part of our occasional series on university design centers, we are pleased to profile URBANlab at the California College of the Arts. Led by CCA faculty members Ila Berman and Mona El Khafif, URBANlab works to build frameworks for academic/municipal collaboration on the social and environmental challenges confronting cities in the Bay Area and beyond. The goal, says Berman, is "project-based design research that furthers academic knowledge and has a direct effect on the realities it investigates."
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OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR

Ernst Haas and the Color Underground

As a visual journalist working for national news magazines, Ernst Haas needed to show intelligible scenes, to tell stories. In his more personal color pictures, he moves in much closer to his subjects in search of a new visual world. Untethered from its setting, form starts to become abstract, focus blurs and colors flare. A recent book, Color Correction, seeks to restore Haas to “the vanguard of twentieth century photography.” 
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Two great MFA programs: The  Interaction Design program, which explores the role of design in shaping everyday life and the Graduate Program for the Designer as Entrepreneur. 
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OBSERVATORY : ADAM HARRISON LEVY

A History Of The World In 100 Objects

I've been told that our civilization will be known for our diaper landfills and our nuclear waste sites. Other fragments of our culture might survive as well: bits of Tupperware, mountains of lithium batteries or maybe the traces of our highway system. The foundation of a skyscraper might make for a breakthrough excavation but the islands of plastic bottles floating in the oceans may prove puzzling. Perhaps we will bury a cache of digital archives somewhere, to be deciphered one day like the hieroglyphics on an Egyptian sarcophagus.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

A Memorial to (Random Access) Memory

IBM Building 25's foremost contribution to computing history was the invention of the "flying head" disc drive, that allowed for online processing. This hard disc memory was deployed in the IBM 305 RAMAC computer, a room-size installation that looked not unlike the boxy buildings in which it was researched, developed and manufactured. Given the importance of memory in the history of Silicon Valley, it seems ironic that so many elements of Building 25's story have been forgotten.
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PLACES : WILL HOLMAN

Lessons from the Front Lines of Social Design

Will Holman has studied and worked at Arcosanti, Rural Studio and YouthBuild. He describes the experiences as hard to quantify. "I’ve dug septic lines, chain-sawed tornado debris, shoveled gravel... I’ve code-checked drawings, drafted into the night, surveyed sites. But the real results are intangible — relationships, experiences, memories, lessons learned." Yet Holman thinks the profession has paid little attention to how architects might "put together a career in social design."
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OBSERVATORY : MICHAEL ERARD

Imaging the Brain

Like the map of the American West, the parts of the human brain are named for its explorers, who had a penchant for honoring each other with slices of cerebral territory. Broca. Wernicke. Heschl. Brodmann. Rather unhelpfully to someone who doesn't live and breathe brain anatomy.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Remembering Eva Zeisel

Eva Zeisel, a pioneer of 20th-century industrial design, celebrated her 105th birthday with family and friends last November 13, 2011. After a long and extraordinary life, she passed away less than two months later on December 30. Like so many others who appreciated her influence in modernist design, I was sad to hear of her passing. Her life, at times, read like a Hollywood script.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER

Rethinking Roosevelt Island

Earlier this week I took a ride out to Roosevelt Island, inspired to look into the site that will soon be developed into a tech campus by Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. You have no doubt heard about this project, which will be a cornerstone of our very tech-savvy mayor's legacy. But what does it mean for Roosevelt Island?
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

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MSC Greenhouse Project

On learning about science, nutrition and politics at the Manhattan School for Children.
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PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2009

Infrastructural Optimism

Learning from New Orleans, or why we really need a new New Deal.
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