Saturday, April 28, 2007


Now that I mentioned that I may need a clone to be able to do multiple tasks at once... the problem are those people against human cloning! However, Hiroshi Ishiguro, professor at Osaka University has come with an excellent idea: a "twin robot" or better said, a Doppelgänger robot called Geminoid. The idea is to explore "tele-presence" i.e. being in two places at once. The robot performs the same movements as the "original" but it also has some small movements of its' own. Check out the videos... You may say: That doesn't look "cool". it's ugly Helloou! it's a twinbot! Unless you look like Brangelina it's gonna look the same as you.

Now that I think about it, it doesn't solve my problem, but it could be useful in some awkward situations, if you could turn on and off some movements, like for example, when you have your mother-in-law come to dinner... you can use the geminoid to nod and smile during all that blah blah blah, turn off other body parts of the robot, and you can be playing video games or drinking beer in some other room. It would be great for jury service, and many other activities. Who needs a virtual second life or a virtual doppelgänger, when you can escape reality and let your twinbot do all the boring stuff?


PS: Congratulations to Alejandra and Raul for their new baby girl. Now you'll need a twin-bot to change dippers.
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Friday, April 20, 2007

Stop making crap

That's not a hip-hop cover of the talking heads! I've been saying that (sometimes with other words like "kitschingitis", sometimes in those same words) to my students (and here on this blog) for quite a while. From the time that I was a student, I realized that we manufacture too much useless junk. I always disliked the idea of "styling" simply because it is not a good reason to bring a new "stylized" product into life. Improvement is a good reason, and styling is not improvement. Why waste our energy and talent as designers to make a stylized ashtray or coffee mug? Aren't there enough lamps, trash bins, chairs, tooth-brushes, etc ? Sometimes there are innovative items in those categories, but most of the time we (around the globe) create literally thousands of new designs just to get one that stands out. I have no idea of economic theory, but it seems to me that it is a waste of resources, time, technology, and materials. Just look at some examples of useless inventions at patentlysilly or these pencil patents or these designer gadgets from designboom.

There are many other areas that are almost untouched by designers, like the one that I work in: design for people with disabilities. But there are many other areas that need some serious re-thinking and re-design... some require good innovation, and some others have to stop making crap! I just don't understand how young designers (from all times) are so fascinated with interior decoration and small appliances, when it is an area with so much competition, and so much junk already! The dream of many designers is to make a cell phone, or a car, or a chair that makes it to the MOMA permanent collection or at least appear on sites like gizmodo, boing boing and the like, when there are so many other needs like purifying water, packaging, shelter, etc. Take the Index award for example:

Allan Chochinov wrote in 1000 words: A Manifesto for Sustainability in Design. I guess it won't be the last manifesto on the subject, but his 100o words go exactly to the main issues and reasons why we designers should be Hippocratic Before Socratic and remember that industrial design equals mass production, and that every move, every decision, every curve we specify is multiplied—sometimes by the thousands and often by the millions. And that every one of those everys has a price. We think that we're in the artifact business, but we're not; we're in the consequence business. We also should Stop Making Crap and that means that we have to stop making crap. It's really as simple as that. You may ask: how? well, he also gives good tips on how to be (or become) a responsible designer: We need to think systems before artifacts, we have to start teaching sustainability early, we have to use more screws and less glue, we have to design for impermanence, and my favourites:
Balance Before Talents : The proportion of a solution needs to balance with its problem: we don't need a battery-powered pooper scooper to pick up dog poop, and we don't need a car that gets 17 MPG to, well, we don't need that car, period. We have to start balancing our ability to be clever with our ability to be smart. They're two different things.

Context Before Absolutely Everything : Understanding that all design happens within a context is the first (and arguably the only) stop to make on your way to becoming a good designer. You can be a bad designer after that, of course, but you don't stand a chance of being a good one if you don't first consider context. It's everything: In graphics, communication, interaction, architecture, product, service, you name it—if it doesn't take context into account, it's crap. And you already promised not to make any more of that.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

5 bad satisfaction design

Since I got married, I've never had electric power tools, like jigsaw, electric drill, etc... The reason is simple, we moved around the world every couple of years, and every country has not only different power plugs but also different electric voltage. So, it was pointless to buy electric tools, and then not be able to use them later.

Last month I started building the new stander prototype (sorry I can't show you until it's registered) and also started renovating our bathroom, so I needed some electric tools. I bought the cheapest generic (patito) brand tools for just $15 bucks each: jigsaw, sander and drill (The real ones are around a hundred dollars each). They did the job very well... but there was a small problem with the power drill:

You see, it is one of those reciprocating "hammer" drills, which means, not only it rotates, but it also has a hitting hammer like movement to make holes on concrete. I have no idea why a kiwi would need a reciprocating drill, when there are no masonry houses here! Anyway, there is a small lever or button to set the drill to normal (no hammering) or hammer mode. The problem is, that the button is larger than the form of the housing, and when you put the drill down (I mean when you stop and leave it on the working bench or floor) the button moves to hammering mode because it is too long and it moves to that position by the own weight of the drill. So every time I started making a new hole, I had to check the button, again and again, and again. Either it is not ergonomically well thought, or I should become left handed to use that drill, or maybe get me one of these power tools next time! If you think that's too chauvinistic, here's the video version for girls or the fans of Tokio Hotel.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

4 bad suicide design

I tell you... some companies spend literally millions on bad advertising. Take this example of Air New Zealand. This terrible campaign was made by Colenso BBDO :

1- A young girl (that looks kinda emo) is crying like waterfalls (they spend 15 seconds to make the point that something is wrong with that girl) ... suddenly, she decides to jump out of the window. Her soul flies over amazing New Zealand scenery until the camera stops at a farm, and the girl (or her ghost) approaches her grandpa, who comforts her.

An IT guy gets frustrated with his computer (as Avguro99 points out, his computer probably freezed and got a horrible BSOD) anyway, he is so frustrated with windows vista, that he thinks "hasta la vista" and ironically jumps out the window (XP)... again, his soul leaves his body, and flies to a retirement villa where his ghost haunts an old lady... probably to scare her that her time is up.

I mean... it can't be that the guy was actually expecting the old lady to be "on-line" for instant messaging chat or a video conference! where do they get the idea for that terrible plot? My point is... what the heck were those creatives thinking with the idea of someone jumping out of the window! Do they want to promote mass suicides? Those ads may have been perhaps appropriate for a Cell-phone company with just a small audio reference of a mobile phone ringing as the "ghost" approaches the people. In the case of an airline... it doesn't work! It's nonsense. They could have use a fast-motion sequence of the guy taking a taxi to the airport and that could have solved the suicide problem.

You see, that's the problem with encoding /decoding of messages, ideas or stories. For the creators, it was clear that is an air line advertising... for the viewer, is not clear until the end of the commercial... so, the story can be interpreted (decoded) in many ways, and it is usually the straight forward interpretation, which in this case is: those guys were so desperate, that they committed suicide by jumping out the window! In advertising, you can not risk that your idea could be interpreted in a wrong way, that means they are not delivering the message correctly.

By the way... the rugby commercial of last year (Super 14), the one with the gay players getting naked at the laundry. Well, they re-edited the commercial and cut off any "getting naked" or "playing with each other" scene. It still doesn't make any sense that they put their dirty clothes full of mud on the washing machine, sit there watching a rugby game, and then put on the clean jerseys again without taking a shower or at least putting some deodorant, but at least it looks more "kiwi bloke".

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

3 bad loo design

I already told you about our bathroom renovation and my crusade to find a flat (matt) finish enamel.... but there's more: I also had some trouble selecting the right colour, there are literally hundreds of shades of beige, but they are all too much saturated, I wanted something soft (pastel) So I asked the guy to mix just half the dose of the colour. The first time was perfect! But one 1lt can was not enough, so I bought another can. This time there was another guy at the store... and when I asked him to open the can to show me the mix, he just grumbled (refunfuñar) and I noticed that it was the same colour as the full dose sample paper, but then I thought that it would probably clear down when dry. But it didn't. So I just mixed it with a bit of white that I had, but even with that new can it was still not enough paint anyway.

So today we went shopping again to get the last can of paint. I hope to finish that bathroom during the holidays, because I still have a lot of work before my trip. Anyway, afterwards we went to Botany Downs to have tea at Nando's, but I needed to make a technical stop at the public loos. Of course that I washed my hands afterwards... but when I wanted to get out of there... I had to pull the door(s) not just one door, but 2 !

My point is, that it is a bad idea that people who enter can push the door (there are no handles from the outside, just some plastic pads to push) but when you want to leave (after washing your hands) you have to touch the handles to pull the door! That is so unhygienic! Many people do not wash their hands... it's just awful and grouse . Besides, many public buildings install their doors using the "american" standard: doors open to the outside, because in case of an emergency, people can get out of the building easier. I hate that standard, because for me it's a matter of symbolism: when you want to get in, the building "doesn't want you to get in" because the door is repelling you, instead of inviting you to come in. But in the case of public bathrooms, I think it's a matter of hygiene. In old times, when they used to have small paper towels, I used to take a couple of towels to grab the door handles. But now that most toilets only have those hot air thingies... you have no other option but to get dirty!

cybertoiletsLuckily, the door issue is not a problem at cybertoilets. This blog has always been fully equipped with comfortable cybertoilets for your convenience, they use the latest in online toilet technology including improved privacy, softer paper, and a better choice of reading material (graffiti or a choice of tabloids, newspapers and magazines) and of course, you can wash and dry your cursor (hands) afterwards... and you don't have to touch any dirty handles to exit.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

DIMe v1.0

I just love the name, which is a play of words: DI (Diseno Industrial) Me (Mexico) = Dime (tell me) very appropriate for a conference! The event will be in Puerto Vallarta, the 1st and 2nd of June... and the key speakers are great: Maurzio Corbi from Pininfarina/Ferrari, Gustavo Fontana from BOSE, Jan Stilleman from Nokia, and many others. It's going to be great... unfortunately, my summer course at ITESM starts that same week. More information about all conferences, events and promotions (attendees may buy a Rhinos license at half price for example) can be found at :

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007


It's like when you are taking a shower: suddenly, the phone rings (both your cell and your landline), the teapot starts to boil and whistle, 3 Jehovah's whitenesses knock on on your door, and you hear something crashing in your living room, probably the dog teared down something! Well, this week was something like that. First we had Antonio's visit, I was (or I am still) renovating our bathroom, then Roberto invited me to teach a summer course at ITESM, and my business partner Raul needed a file for a large print display to put at his office with our standers, and last but not least... I drove all around Auckland to find upholstery fabric for our new prototype (with no luck finding it). Let's see one at the time:

After his conference at UoA, Antonio went on a short trip to Rotorua and Taupo, unfortunately, those days rained like a deluge! In fact, many regions on the north island were flooded, and people on the motorways stayed on high grounds inside their cars like they were on small islands. Luckily, he came back OK and he stayed at our couch for a couple of hours before taking his next plane to Australia at 5 am!

The bathroom: Well, before we moved in, the landlady hired some cheap painters to do a quick make over and paint some bits. They used the cheapest and diluted water based paint. After just a few months we started to notice some stains below that paint. For a while we kept that mould under control, but that awful paint needed to be scratched down and repainted. So, I started about a month ago... not every day of course. First take down the old paint, then plaster, and new oil based paint. It was very hard to find oil based enamel with matt finish, I didn't want our bathroom to look like a shopping mall bathroom with glossy walls. Anyway, I am almost done with my little DIY project, and I must say that is looking good.

Here the good news: I talked with Roberto Iniguez (Head of Industrial Design Department) and it seems that we have green light with the summer course at ITESM Guadalajara. I'll be teaching a short design workshop during June. The project is quite interesting. A few weeks back, they (ITESM, DIF and the local council) opened a "sustainable" community centre in Guadalajara. This is the first of many centers that will be opened in 15 states in Mexico. The centers have small business incubators and will be also offering micro-credits, e-learning facilities for high school and some tertiary degrees, and health (therapy) clinics. The idea is to design and build a multisensory room (snoezelen) during that 5 weeks summer workshop. This is going to be interesting! I am really excited about this project. I am not familiar with psychological therapies, so it's going to be a learning experience for me too.

Then... the display at Plaza Galerias. Despite the time (or day) difference between Mexico and New Zealand, it's incredible to work "in sync" from the other side of the world: I was chatting with Raul, he needed some high resolution pics to print some banners because we was preparing the window display of our products. I already had the large prints for the trade show, so I told him we could use them to print a large fabric panel. He contacted the printers in Ciudad Guzman (it was 8pm in Mexico) while I was still on the other side on the chat (it was 2 pm in New Zealand)... so, we agreed that I was going to prepare the images, send them via ftp overnight, so they could print them early the next day and send them via courrier, so that Raul could have the display on saturday. It almost worked... the courrier had the package in Guadalajara on saturday, but they didn't deliver it until monday. Today, finally, Raul mounted the display at his office in Plaza Galerias. Galerias is a big mall, and he says that many people already started asking about the standers. I am so glad to finally see them displayed.

And last but not least: My quest in the "search of the unavailable fabric". I already have most of the pieces of the new prototype... except for the upholstery fabric. Of course that I want something with similar bright colours like the previous stander... but it's impossible to find a fabric like that here in NZ. It's a cultural issue, here upholstery fabrics have "serious" colours: grey, beige, brown, dark green, etc. Nobody would put a "sponge bob yellow" on their lounge couch! In Mexico, that wouldn't be strange at all. I mean, we just heard Antonio speak about Luis Barragan and his use of the typical mexican bright colours on some of his most notorious buildings. Anyway, I went to most of the retailers listed on the yellow pages, one by one... except for one in Mount Wellington that has recently moved out, I drove all the way there, and there's no sign that says if they closed permanenty, they are just renovating, or of they moved somewhere else. All I could find in bright colours was a woven "petate" made out of "mecate" (dried maguey rope). Problem is, that it is quite hairy... it leaves out a lot of hairs... it should be called "Donald Trump Fabric" or something like that. Anyway, it seems that I have no other option but to use that petate, just to finish the prototype. In just a couple of months we will be manufacturing the real deal in Mexico with the actual fabric anyway.

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