Thursday, June 30, 2005

Mexican Ingenuity

Not just kiwis have ingenuity. In fact, Pepito (the guy from many mexican jokes) may be one of the most innovative and creative guys there is (if he existed). Octavio Paz wrote about all kinds of mexican ingenuity, and we see it everyday, everywhere. It's just like the kiwi ingenuity, but taken to the extreme (like those japanese ping-pong players) he, he! We are always making repairs and finding easy and cheaper solutions.

Tianguis in Mexico are like "creativity" trade fairs, where cheaper, pirate, chinese and mexican versions of any product or object in this world can be found. If they don't have it, they will build it (copy it) for you for the next week at a lower price than the original. And not everything is counterfeit! There are also genuine mexican solutions to products that are complicated and expensive. Many toys and objects made out of wood and bottle caps (corcholatas), etc. Everything can be repaired with just a rubberband and chewing gum... and many other mexican inventions and solutions like those.

As a designer, I am not always happy with those solutions. In fact, I didn't accept some of my student's sketches with "mexican style creativity" solutions. I believe that at university level, ingenuity is fine, but that's not all. A designer has more potential as a creative mind than a "tianguero"... so, educated designers may develop clever solutions, not rubber band and chewing gum products!

When I was in Monterrey, my students did some projects for disabled people. We went to some private and public institutions to develop products according to their needs. Most of those institutions (including DIF) already had some mexican ingenuity products, not commercial versions, but hand made solutions with a rubber bands and a piece of cable. The goal for my students was to develop solutions for a reasonable price, but with the quality of a commercial product. The objective of that was to give some dignity to the users. You can see some of those projets at my web site.

Yesterday, I was looking for ergonomic information for disabled children, when I found PROJIMO and a book about their projects called "Nothing About Us Without Us". I must say that I was really impressed by the projects. I was fascinated by the stories about the people, and how they help each other, building a chain of support in the community. Suddenly, it's not "dissabled people"... it's Conchita, Mari, Raul, Marcelo, Rosa, Paco, etc, etc... those are real users, those are real people! They are not clients, customers or stakeholders... they are real people! We as designers often forget that, and just put them toghether on a melting pot and call them "market niche".

You can order a copy of the book at HealthWrights. I usually don't endorse commercial products, but I believe it's a great book on some useful ingenuity and you will also be helping projimo projects. I am getting a copy myself! There are many great ideas ... but it's not about copying those ideas, it's about realizing that it is possible to find extraordinary solutions if you think outside the box.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

日テレ チャンネル!

Now this is what I call an extreme sport, 日テレ チャンネル!
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Saturday, June 25, 2005

オリボト (Oribot)

From robots to origami robots, to just plain origami, that was my internet trip today, and ended inventing a suitable title for this post, just like Pasucon or Pokemon.

It all started when I was reading the news this morning, and I saw this article about a real Robocop. I wanted to learn more about it, and I googled an OZ's geek's site with sections on cars, bikes, and robots. It's a good place to find out about some innovations. Then, I found this amazing origami robot and some videos of the robot in action.

I never learned to do any origami piece... not even the boat or "sacapiojos". I mean, I've done some of those, but I always forget how to do them. My greatest acheivement was when Naoko helped Sandra to fold some Tsurus for Shigeru Ban's conference. She showed us how, and we all spent a whole evening folding origamis. Anyway, from Carnegie Mellon, I went to Joseph Wu's origami page. I fell back of my seat! Those dragons are just incredible. What is more incredible, is that the first rule of origami, is that you are not allowed to cut anything! Just look at the Wu's Gallery of origamis. Awesome!

I hope you also enjoy visiting those places.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Holly transportation!

Well, the title doesn't refer to the Pope-mobile. Last weekend we saw one of those movie teasers about the new Batman movie. One thing I was really impressed was the car. Although I liked Tim Burton's movies... the car was awful. This time is really in their own words: "an hybrid of a hummer and a lamborghini". I liked the concept from a design point of view, I mean... user centered design.

If batman needs to jump, fly, ride across unimaginable terrains... he needs something like a hummer. But he's a millionnaire with Aston Martins and Ferraris on his garage, so why would he have to ride on a horrible car? The batmobile should be stylish, so why not a Lamborghini? You just cross both, and ...voilá!

I'm on a big dilemma here... I don't know which one to buy next time: the new batmobile or the classic homermobile. Which one is your favourite?

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Boogie supreme

'round design wouldn't be a good name for this blog if there's nothing about jazz and design.

As always, one link took me to the next (I was thinking about posting something about cars)... but then I found this cool animation by Michal Levy with a very nice tune by John Coltrane. It's 4.5 MB but it's very nice. (Via Essays & Effluvia)

It reminded me of Boogie Woogie on Broadway and the opposite effect that it causes... I hear music when I look at Mondrian's painting, Michal sees colours in Coltrane's music. Anyway, if you want to virtually paint your own compositions... Jano van Hemert made this software to create images that resemble Mondrian's.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Im Zentrum des Designs

A couple of months back, there was a series of design conferences here in Auckland to finally get the message to the industry about the benefit of design. Some personalities were here, including Peter Zec, president elect of ICSID and director of the Design Zentrum NRW. I didn't attend the conferences (I found out 3 days later... really!) but I'm glad that his powerpoint presentation is now available on "Better by Design". It is really interesting to read his views on some facts about design. I also reccomend their list of books.

I met Peter Zec when I was a student at the University of Essen. The design centre and the university are very close (not geographicaly, but in terms of cooperation). We had to take some of our lectures at the Centre, because the teachers were there. So, he came to some of our meetings of the Produktplannung lecture. Back then, they had a small building (small compared to the Zeche), and the Zeche Zollverein was almost a dump. We organised the student's exhibition there and was still abandoned. Here are some pictures of the Zeche, and this are my pictures back then... and yes! that is me. It is really rare to see me on a photo.

Compare that to the pictures after the rennovations!

If you want to know more about design studies in Essen, visit the faculty of design. They have a very nice gallery of recent design projects. You can see some of my own projects during my Masters' at my home site.

Das bringt viele shöne Erinnerungen!
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Design on the beach

Wanna do something productive during summer holidays? Here's another design competition for students only. You can win 5,000 EUR and a trip to Finland to meet the designers at Nokia. They are looking for fresh ideas for mobile communication devices. So, if you dream about designing a mobile cel phone, here's your chance to make it real. (via design addict) and don't just lay there under the beach's sun! Grab your mobile, think what can you improve and be creative!

good luck
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Monday, June 13, 2005


Affraid of being locked on a room after getting wasted at some party? Then, try this interactive game : Crimson room

Not suitable for claustrophic people.
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Friday, June 10, 2005

Thrill is gone

This was a kinda of a shock for me! just look at this piece of kitsch:

Do you know who designed it? Click on the Gartenzwerge to find out.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Design in Aotearoa

Kia Ora,

You may have noticed that my latest post are quotes or just quick links... I've been bussy lately with all this business planning, etc. Anyway, I need to take a break from that, so it's time to answer to Karla's request. The international directory of design has a list on the major tertiary education providers with some kind of design studies. I'll review them one by one:

Otago is NZ's prestige University. Design Studies became a full department quite recently ( 2001 ) and is also gaining prestige. One of their students won the product category of designboom's kitchen competition. Pros: they are integrating students from cross disciplines, just like at ITESM Marketing, IMAs, IMEs and LDI are together on some classes. Cons: Dunedin is down south, that means it gets really cold... if you like to snowboard, then is OK.

Victoria is where I started my Ph.D. (but never finished). They look at design in a wider context, so that everything designers do has an impact on culture, environment, society, etc. Functions are not pieces of a design puzzle, function is when the user makes sense of the product. So every design decision has an impact on the final result on each aspect (impact from inside the product to the outside world) while we usually take considerations (design constraints) from the outside sources (production, materials, user, etc) and put them on our designs from outside-in. Their facilities are excellent and the work studios are a nice environment to work in. Pros: Wellington is a city full of design and creativity and despite the weather a nice place to live. Look at the student's gallery.

AUT is NZ's youngest university. They are slowly getting into a university approach, but they still got some of the "hands on" philosophy typical of a polythechnic. Cons: they only offer fashion, graphic and interior.

Auckland University does not have industrial or product design. However, their fine arts school (ELAM) and the architecture school are very prestigious.

Massey is a multicampus university and they offer industrial design at their 3 locations: Wellington (a.k.a. "the creative campus") Palmerston North and Auckland (Albany). Their design philosophy is quite similar to ITESM's : Industrial design is concerned with designing better products and interior spaces used in daily life. Industrial designers help to improve our standard of living and quality of life and contribute to our material culture and national identity. Good design is an essential element in the achievement of business success and wealth creation. The programme’s objective is to produce responsible innovators with the knowledge and skills to explore new design thinking, to use materials and processes creatively, to humanise new technologies in the changing market place, and to respond sensitively to socio-cultural and environmental needs internationally. They also have a Master's which is quite similar to the "innovation" master's at Tec.

There are also some polytechnics that offer design studies like Christchurch or Unitec but they have a more pragmatic approach to design, they focus on the technical work (that is good if you are only looking to be an employee) not on the entrepeneurial side wich looks into the process and management of design. Look at my previous post or read the interview with Han Hendriks from DDC to see the difference.

Here are some other NZ design web sites that you might want to look at.

Dividers are courtesy of

Update: I just found this site about NZ schools... offers information on new zealand education including new zealand universities, new Zealand schools, new Zealand education courses, so for any information on new zealand education, new Zealand universities, new Zealand schools follow this link

I also have several links to schools and organizations on my web site. Go visit! I hope this information is useful to you, if you have any questions or like to know more, just let me know.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

would you dare?

"Monica Bonvicini said visitors would have to "defy their own embarrassment" to use the minimalist cubicle, made from one-way mirrored glass.The work, called Don't Miss A Sec, uses a prison loo as a historical reference. The site - on the old parade ground at the former Royal Army Medical College (London) - once housed Millbank Penitentiary, where prisoners were held before being transported to Australia."

Read the whole article at BBC News.

cheers mates!
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Sunday, June 05, 2005

MC Escher

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) was a great graphic artist, not some gangsta rapper like MC Hawking. I found this Worth gallery (via Ektopia) of photoshop artwork inspired by his drawings.

It reminded me of the drawings of my former architecture students at ITESM Guadalajara 10 years ago. Here are 2 of their best drawings:

Carolina Valdes

Luis Enrique Reynosa

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

ICSID / Microsoft competition

You know that I finally escaped from the real evil empire (microsoft) a couple of years ago; but it was not easy. I have no regrets, and, in fact, I've never been happier to be free from windows or microsoft and the blue screen of death. Anyway, I found this PC design competition.

It's no joke. The competition is endorsed by ICSID . In their own words:

Start Something Inspired

As Microsoft Windows celebrates its 20th anniversary, Microsoft, IDSA, and ICSID want to envision the future with you in the form of a competition.The challenge is to envision the future of the next-generation of Windows-based PC and share that vision with the community in an open dialogue in The Next-Generation Windows OS PC Design Competition. Open to design teams, students and individuals, entrants will be eligible to win up to $125,000 worth of cash prizes with winners selected in three categories and the unveiling of a "Virtual Showroom" in November 2005. For more information, visit

The Challenge
Rethink the Windows-based PC experience today and the role it plays in people’s lives. Envision how the digital lifestyle—from personal productivity at work or home, to entertainment, mobility, lifestyle and form—all play a part in development. Think big, be bold, and inspiring, but pay attention to sustainable technologies, and ecological and environmental innovation.

good luck
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Friday, June 03, 2005

Frankie goes to Springfield

Enough with the Simpsons! I am sorry, but I had to comment on this week's episode. I was surprised to see Pritzker Prize winner Frank Gehry... and really laughed myself silly when I saw how he found "inspiration" for Springfield's concert hall when he throws away Marge's letter. (read the article from San Francisco Chronicle)

Well, I guess inspiration can be found in many ways... even by looking at garbage. I am not familiar with those alternative methods, but I can percieve that is not as simple as that. I see that as another way of "thinking ouside the box". The problem is, that many people get lost "outside the box" just like captive animals cannot be returned into the wildness without proper training. Designers have to be well prepared to explore the "outer space" wilderness or they may get lost with a solution that doesn't hit the target (wich is usually inside the box). Therefore, they have to know the rules of "thinking inside the box" first, so that they can be able to identify the target looking outside - in , and identify which are the outside elements that can help solve the problem creatively. Not just bring inside the first "outside the box idea" just because it "looks cool".

That is one of the main problems I see on design education. Many young designers are desperate to explore the wild side, they are eager to learn and be like Brad Pitt. Their designs are fresh, but they lack the experience to focus and target their ideas. The problem is that many educators overlook the lack of that targeted ingenuity. All over the world what is being praised as innovation, is being done everywhere! Just look at many school's on-line galleries... even the good ones, like Parsons or Eindhoven. (via Archinect) Young students explore the inmense space outside the box, but come back inside with the same common solutions, and it's not their fault; is the educator's job to guide them. We have to show them what to look for first, and how to find it. If this were a school science expedition, the teacher would show the students how a volcanic or sedimentary rock looks like first, or the students will only bring back dirt boulders. I don't want to sound rude, but usually, you wouldn't praise a student who collects a plain, normal, common rock : "well done, excellent job, you are going to be a great geologist!, etc" would you?

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Immaterial excerpts

I was browsing through some of my old bookmarks looking for Karla's requested on kiwi design schools (I'll post that later), when I found one of my old favourite sources on design articles : DDC = Dansk Design Centre. The following excerpts are from some of their articles. If you like to read the article click on the titles.

What is design?
Design means many things. To the general public, design may be about aesthetics, function and user-experience. To designers, it is a craft, a proces, creative expression - a vision. And to many companies today, design is a strategy capable of branding products and creating innovation to boost competitiveness.

Design Needs a New Agenda
Peter Butenschøn - 10 Aug 2004
More than ever we need a common understanding of what design is and whom it is to serve. For this reason, we need a fixed set of principles for our work, that we can agree on and that will give our work with design a clear mission.

Design is solving problems and making cool cars
Interview with Han Hendriks by Maria Lotz - 21 Oct 2004
The world of design is international. It is a handicap for designers from a certain country if potential employers cannot compare their qualifications with applicants from other countries. When it comes to the balance between learning about design theory and actually doing the design, my experience is that there are different schools. There are schools focusing very much on hands-on design, learning sketching techniques, technical knowledge, computer and all of that, doing hands-on projects, and there are schools that focus a lot on theory. I believe that learning about the design process, the different steps, how it fits in the development process, how it is integrated with the other functions in the development process like engineering is extremely important. You can’t focus only on the creative hands-on side and ignore the other things, because you won’t be effective as a designer.

Andrea Branzi: Out with blond and perfect design!
Interview by: Linda Rampell - 16 Aug 2004
“Generally, I find it difficult to differentiate between local and global culture. Although you may act within a local context, whatever you do will also have value in a global perspective too, and vice versa. Local and global are interdependent terms. But a distinctively national design is only interesting if it contributes to diversity and generates counter response and counter movements by other designers.”

The future may belong to designers
Lars Goldschmidt and Christian Fich - 24 Sep 2004
Many designers engage in business consultancy and organisational development and act as catalysts in enhancing corporate skills. Danish designers still experience a tough time making a living from consultancy within immaterial design, but that is about to change. Modern knowledge-based enterprises have become aware that design can be adapted to immaterial design as well as material products. The core skill of the design profession no longer hinges on pure aesthetic styling; it is also seen as representing a method and approach that can be applied in defining a given task and analysing the options available in reaching optimal solutions. In this respect, design has a key role to play in the emerging developments in society, in particular in relation to the experience economy and the advent of ‘creative man’. Futurologists have defined the emerging persona of the future – creative man. What characterises these creative people is that they are involved in designing their own lives – they are innovative and creative individuals who prefer to modify their surroundings rather than having to adapt to them.

Anne Skare Nielsen
The world is full of technological products searching for a purpose. Innovation is the recipe for growth: It took 40 years from the invention of canning to the patenting of the can-opener. The can is the technological product; the can-opener the meaningful solution. As soon as it is there it seems obvious, but one cannot ask people to say “can-opener” as long as the can-opener does not exist.

And the nominees are...
Pernille Formsgaard - 21 Mar 2005
The approximately 450 design solutions to compete for the world's largest design awards, the INDEX: Awards, have now been nominated. The Danish Design Centre and the jury of The Danish Design Prize have nominated their respective selections of design solutions. The INDEX: Award focuses only on designs that offer major life improvements for a large group of people. This places great demands on the design solutions seeking to qualify, as the concept of design that improves life is to be taken literally.

My comment: look at The vOICe project.

Emotional clothes
Designmatters, Press release: Thomas Dickson - 24 Sep 2004
One of the delegates believed that the design profession had had been far too focused on styling and beauty for far too long. He emphasised that the positive or negative experience users have with specific products, brands, services or environments always touch on aspects that reach far beyond aesthetics and include all aspects encountered by customers – from user-friendliness, durability and branding to product packaging, customer service and retail concept.

Here's an example:

Kiss and hug (*) via an interactive jacket
Designmatters: 24 Sep 2004 From: Designmatters, No. 7, 2004
The young Italian designer Francesca Rosella presented a very practical approach to emotional products at the 2004 Design and Emotions conference. Together with Ryan Getz she presented a prototype for interactive clothing where body contact can be exchanged over distance. This may sound far fetched, yet sending a long-distance hug or friendly pat on the back is ingeniously achieved via a number of sensors incorporated in a jacket able to communicate with other users via cell-phone Bluetooth and Java technology. To send a hug, the sender must first hug him or herself. The sensors then relate the signal activating the plastic padding in a jacket worn by the recipient to simulate the hug – provided the cell-phone is turned on, of course.

(*) My comment: i.e. long distance virtual make out.

What is immaterial design?
Designmatters No. 7: Lise Vejse Klint / Steinar Amland - 23 Sep 2004
Design is shifting its focus from material objects, communication and environments towards embracing immaterial values. Whether the final product is material or immaterial, design is a methodology based on thorough studies of user needs, available technology, value sets and other relevant factors. When applied correctly, the design process can lead to radical innovative change. Traditionally designers have primarily worked with tangible products, communication and environments, but in recent decades there has been a rising interest in how the design process can contribute to solving many of the complex problems we face globally which do not necessarily require material solutions. This is how the concept of immaterial design emerged.

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