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Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: JULY 03, 2013


Niels Diffrient: The Human Factor

FEATURED THIS WEEK : PHIL PATTON

Niels Diffrient: The Human Factor

Niels Diffrient died June 8, age 84. The pioneer of human factors and ergonomics brought optimal dimensions not just to products he designed but to many others that relied on his templates of the body.
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OBSERVATORY : RICK POYNOR

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 2

In 1994, the Brisbane poster collective Inkahoots advertised for a new member. The job went to a young, radical designer named Jason Grant, who made an immediate impact. In partnership with Robyn McDonald, the collective's remaining founder, Grant went on to have a decisive influence on Inkahoots' development as a studio that deployed graphic design to serve social causes.
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OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE

An ABC of the ABCs

It is so refreshing to see a show on design for children with rich, imaginative scenery, interactive elements on screens and on shelves, and an educational agenda that can be accessed for 15 minutes or two hours. At the New York Public Library's "The ABC of It", the theatricality inherent in exhibitions has not been forgotten or suppressed in order to prove the seriousness of children's books as literature.
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NEWS FROM DESIGN OBSERVER GROUP SPONSORS

The MFA in Design for Social Innovation prepares students to apply the principles and ethics of social innovation as filters for understanding and as a discipline for engaging with and improving the world through design.
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PLACES : SHANNON MATTERN

Infrastructural Tourism

For decades intrepid tourists have been journeying to the monumental dams of the American West to marvel at the infrastructures of hydroelectric power. These days they're just as likely to be on a field trip to trace the pathways of the Internet, or the footprint of communication satellites, or the transport of nuclear waste. Shannon Mattern reviews diverse works by environmental artists and media scholars, all seeking "to understand the material and immaterial workings of interconnected infrastructural systems."
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CHANGE OBSERVER : WANDA ORLIKOWSKI

Jazz-Inspired Leadership

Faced with inevitable change, effective managers plan carefully as they lead their organizations through uncharted territory, like a conductor directing an orchestra in perfect harmony. But change does not always lend itself to the careful precision of well-rehearsed orchestration.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

An Archive of Czech Film Posters

Since 2005, in Prague, there has existed a storefront poster shop by the name of Terry Posters. The shop specializes in rare film and cinema posters from the vibrant period of 1950s and 60s Czech cinema, as well as important international posters from all periods of cinema history. Many are for sale, but the rarest and most historical are for viewing only. Fortunately, the posters in this shop are also available online. In the last two years alone, Terry Posters has created a publicly accessible database with over 6,000 original, vintage posters from all periods of cinema. This is one of the best collections of international film posters I have ever seen.
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OBSERVATORY : RICK POYNOR

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 1

"We work mainly in the community and cultural sector because we figure our environment is already cluttered with sophisticated corporate imagery that often doesn't represent the community's best interests. Alternative visual messages struggle to be heard above the rowdy din of dominant media." A detailed two-part case study of the Australian design team Inkahoots.
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PLACES : CARL SKELTON

Who's Your Data?

"A city is not a BMW," Carl Skelton writes. "You can't drive it without knowing how it works." He argues that the public needs new tools of citizenship to thrive in a "new soft world" increasingly shaped by smart meters, surveillance cameras, urban informatics and big data. "To be a citizen of a digital city requires understanding what the databases do and don’t contain, and what they could contain, and how the software used to process that data and drive design decisions does, doesn’t, and might yet perform."
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JOHN THACKARA

Green Tourism: Why It Failed And How It Can Succeed

Green tourism is alive and thriving, right? In Austria and Slovenia the answer seems to be yes — but elsewhere in the world the situation is gloomier. The trouble is that there’s no shared understanding of what sustainable tourism actually means. On the contrary: a bewildering variety of words and labels is a guarantee of confusion. Thousands of green-coloured websites talk about Sustainable Tourism, Responsible Tourism, Slow Travel, Nature Tourism, Green Tourism, EcoTourism.
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OBSERVATORY : MARK LAMSTER

Lost Landmarks in New York and Fort Worth

It's been a painful couple of weeks for modern preservationists. In Sunday's Times, Phil Patton reported on the sad disappearance of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hoffman Showroom, in New York. Sitting on a stretch of Park Avenue along with the Seagram Building, Lever House, and Pepsico, it was another modern landmark, with a sprialing turntable showing off dashing European luxury cars — Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar — themselves the height of aspirational modern design.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Birds of a Feather

The grouping of similar objects can be an exhilarating experience for visual people. In fact, a common denominator of any connoisseurship is the contrasting and comparison of similar objects. This week I share the taxonomies of many things, from groupings of actual objects to photographic comparisons, like Wisconsin deer stands.
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OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Every Little Thing

At the recent Michigan Modern symposium there were talks about roadside architecture, the origins of the shopping mall, and Herman Miller's ongoing design excellence. Though designers from Detroit and former furniture capital Grand Rapids often took their talents to LA, New York, Santa Fe, participants struggled to define what was learned from Michigan. I thought the answer was all around us. The symposium was held at Cranbrook, where Eliel Saarinen invited family and friends to teach, to sculpt, to weave, to carve. The result is a campus where every little thing has been thought through.
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Alice Twemlow

Alice Twemlow is a design critic, SVA educator and author of What Is Graphic Design For?
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

MSC Greenhouse Project

On learning about science, nutrition and politics at the Manhattan School for Children.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

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PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2007

The Lost Public Art of Gordon Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta-Clark infiltrated the worlds of art and architecture, revealing deep complacencies in each.
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