Sunday, December 30, 2007

13 bad cereal killer design formatting

Lucky number for the "bad design" series of posts... and probably the last one for this year. This one is about formats or standard formats. Raul sent me a quite interesting and disturbing article about TV screen aspect ratios... and yes, I am quite sensitive to that issue. I can't stand watching a stretched image... I don't like when I stand in front of exhibition TV's on a store, and they all have stretched images... my eyes hurt when I see something like that. It's not an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, although I may have some real obsession with objects being straight and aligned. When I sit on a table, I have to move salt & pepper and any other objects on it to have a balanced pattern of proportions and visual weight. I am telling this, because... yes! it becomes sometimes an anxiety for me when things are not proportional, squared, aligned, straight, etc. Some of my students might have experienced my anxiety when their work is not in perfect visual balance, because my sight is as accurate as a laser line level.

Anyway, I don't like those wide-screen TVs and I was glad when Peter and Anja gave us their old 32" TV a couple of months ago. We were thinking about getting a new TV and we got this one as an early Christmas gift. It's big enough to watch movies even when they have those black stripes, and of course it's the old square format which is perfect for watching normal TV programs. I am getting anxious with the thought of what am I going to do in the future when there are none of the normal 4:3 TVs available... scary!!!
"Have we lost all sense of proportion?

Aspect ratios have been established for over a century, but the arrival of widescreen and digital TV has done away with the default application of standards. Television images are crushed and stretched, faces flattened, cars stretched, every object subjected to a level of catastrophic visual distortion in order to maximise the picture to the available screen size. For most people this is not immediately noticeable (although some find it annoying) and so it is accepted. Slowly but surely, we are losing our ability to discern between 'good' and 'bad' proportions."
Another of my compulsive obsessions is storage. A couple of weeks ago Sandra bought this box of cereal. I was freaking out, because the box doesn't fit into our shelves. I can't understand why, if those breakfast cereals come more or less in standard net weights... why are the boxes completely different in sizes? As a good compulsive obsessive, I believe (not just cereal, but also any packed food) should come in standardized size containers. That would not only make it easier to design storage units, but also some appliances like refrigerators could be more "space efficient". Why 392 grams on a cereal box? when we could have a standard ISO proportional portions for food (and food containers), something like the ISO 216 paper size:
A series = normal diet
B series = overweight diet
C series for Paris Texan, supermodels & the like.
Where 0 (zero) represents the daily recommended personal intake, then subdivide by halving into the proportional parts until we have only 8 sizes of containers. Containers and boxes could have also a colour code according to their nutrition groups :
or probably, and better yet, subdivide the zero size by those groups according to the percentage of daily intake... that way, we could assemble a puzzle of containers and exchange the items daily to have a balanced diet, and exactly proportional sized containers. Now that is being compulsive obsessive to the extreme! I promise to work on that the next year.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

12 Bad Christmas advertising design

One day I will dedicate a whole post about kiwi advertising, but this one deserves a message before Christmas. A local hardware store came with this campaign for the season: A floor sales person says something like: "This season, we introduced the Christmas sniffing dogs to find the perfect gifts" Then he shows a picture to the hunting dog, and the dog runs to find a present. On one of the ads, they use the picture of a girlfriend or wife as example, and the dog finds those party snack plates. It may look funny, but every time I see that, I just imagine the dog drooling or dribbling all over the plates!!! Yuck!!! Extra salty dip for your party snacks.

I normally wouldn't buy Christmas presents from a hardware store... but I definitely won't buy anything there for a few months. With my bad luck, I would certainly pick the items that are still full of dog's saliva!

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Unheard sound of a falling tree

I've always asked myself: Who told this girl she could dance? Maybe the same one that told her, she had a nice french accent. Anyway, Season's greetings and my best wishes!

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Te acuerdas Lampinho?

Oscar Niemeyer turned 100 yo yesterday. If that's not enough... he keeps a busy practice as reported by many sources... is it the daily glass of red wine, the pack of cigarrettes, or maybe "A woman at your side, and let God have his way" what keeps him so full of vitality? The Pritzker prize laureate is an example that clever minds never retire. For me, Casa das Canoas may be not as spectacular, but it is as amazing and iconic as FLW's Fallingwater. Then of course the imposing communist's styled Brasilia. There's more to learn from that experiment than from Las Vegas! I certainly can't imagine a futuristic city actually being like that... or people like Troy McClure living in houses like the Niteroi Art Museum. That's what people in the 50's imagined as futuristic... but hey! I also wouldn't expect any of that curvy furniture from 2001 to be actually on any space station. (check out the virtual reality) Speaking of anniversaries... I would expect the movie to be played in cinemas for it's 40th anniversary next year.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007


The International Forum on Design and the Environment Sinclair C5presented by Electrolux Design Lab 2007 was quite interesting. It's worth watching the 1 hour video on Design Lab TV. Matali Crasset, presented some of her work, and it's quite interesting to hear about the ideas, concepts and semiotics behind her extraordinary projects. My favourite presentation was Jason Bradbury's, from "the gadget show" in the UK, it wouldn't hurt if he had Suzie as co-presenter, he, he. Anyway, his presentation was brilliant! Here some excerpts:
" the iPhone, You're looking (at) a celebrity. This is the most famous gadget on the planet. Apple says the interface on this phone is groundbreaking. OK. Beautiful, absolutely amazing! What's not amazing tho, What's not good about the iPhone... completely unsustainable production process. Terrible, terrible. The reason it is important is, is only significant if someone gets done for speeding, or a parking offense if they're a celebrity. That's when it becomes news. Well, here's news for you, the iPhone, the most famous piece of technology right now... completely unsustainable. Terrible, the batteries are lethal batteries... you can not access the batteries, you have to send it back to apple. Why is that a problem? because apple more than likely use a train or maybe even an airplane just to change the batteries. In fact, there is a big consumer movement against this phone based purely on it's un-green credentials. Which I think is fascinating. The iPhone has been heralded as the most amazing gadget on the planet, but actually is a bad thing."

Among other products Jason Bradbury talked about, was the amazing C5 by Sir Clive Sinclair. The C5 was ahead of it's time. Sir Clive Sinclair's C5 launchIt was developed in 1985 and was a complete commercial disaster. People didn't see the point of using a small and slow vehicle when they could jump on a full normal automobile. I had a similar experience when I was in Germany 10 years later... I designed a bicycle with full body and boot (aka: trunk) to store groceries (like the smart it is the size of 2 German beer boxes) and it went completely misunderstood. I don't know if 20 years later, we are already prepared for eco-friendly transport solutions. In the last years, despite petrol prices going up, vehicle sizes are getting bigger, and bigger. OK, modern motors are more efficient, but we are watching the return of V6 and V8 engines!!! It's just crazy. Many of today's cars are being developed to run on E85 bioethanol, however... it's again the same as the Hollywood celebrity being caught stealing! There's a raising concern about using food as a source of energy, when millions are hungry... not just vegetarians! Not to mention the destruction of hundreds of acres of rain forest to make room for biofuel crops.

Eco solutions are not easy to find. The risks of commercial failure for new product development are huge. Perception through advertisement might fool a lot of people, but I believe that a green product has to be also honest. During the 90's when I decided to specialize on ergonomics, many products were advertised as "ergonomic" (but they were not). Until IEA and other ergonomics societies, decided to ask for a fair use of the term in advertising. They couldn't ban or regulate that, but they asked companies to voluntarily use a certified ergonomist to validate that products are actually "ergonomic". With all this eco-friendly frenzy, I think that many products and designs are just the opposite of eco-friendly and should go a similar self-regulatory certification before advertising them as ecological.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Shame on Santa!

This could be a post for "kiwiaventuras" but I decided to put it here just to add something more to the sustainability discussion. (I'll comment on the Electrolux Design forum later, Meanwhile, watch the podcast !) Last week we went to the infamous "Farmer's Santa Parade". I have no idea if the figure of 250,000 spectators is accurate, but it was in deed full of souls there. The parade was enjoyable...(pictures here) after the parade we decided to walk down Queen street which was closed to traffic (as I am always saying it should be converted to a pedestrian only zone). Anyway, all the way I was disgusted with all the rubbish left behind. Usually kiwis are very tidy, they pride themselves on being "tidy kiwis"... but all that rubbish was saying otherwise.

I know that organizers use this kind of events for promotion i.e. advertising. But they don't have to print 250,000 paper flyers to give away, which most of them will end up as junk right away! People usually don't read or care for flyers... they just throw them away. I usually don't accept any flyers or printed advertisements on street corners, inside a mall, during a parade or in any other situation. I feel awful that usually I won't be interested on buying anything based on that, and that this piece of paper will end up in the next rubbish bin I'll find. So, I don't accept them in the first place. OK. Not everyone acts like that, in fact, companies rely on people at least giving a quick gaze at the paper... they don't care much if it ends in the trash, because each flyer costs just a couple of cents. It's a good price to pay for a quick look at your logo or advertisement! But the price for the environment is terrible!

I get angry when I get junk mail from Noel Leeming on my snail mail box... despite having a big sign on it: "NO junk mail, free newspapers or circulars please" or when I watch on the telly those sarcastic ads with Erin Brockovich endorsing them as a good "friendly and envorinmentally OK company" despite being a terrible burden for the environment with products like Flat screen TV's and gadgets like iPhones which may cause impotence due to it's toxins... among many other environmental concerns : "The fact that the iPhone battery is glued and soldered into the handset hinders recycling efforts." (watch this shocking video about the iPhone unsustainability) I guess it proves you can not trust any advertisement, no matter who endorses it!

Anyway, I've been saying for years, that there should be a very hefty tax on printed advertisement: flyers, brochures, junk mail, and all other stuff handed out in an undiscretional manner. I have no idea how much of a percent, but it should be really hefty to discourage companies from printing items that are not going to be read by anyone, and are going to end up in the trash. Every friday, when I take my walk down the street, I see mountains of papers (supposedly separated from the rest of the trash for recycling ) and I wonder, how many of those papers were actually read and caused the impulse of actually buying the items they advertise... ? Junk mail is very ineffective, unreliable, and causes a great environmental damage.

Back to the parade: shame on Farmers, shame on the Auckland city council, and shame on the companies that generated all that junk... we saw boxes and boxes containing several packages of 1000 or more un-wrapped flyers on every corner... all those unused flyers were collected by sanitation just some minutes later... not to mention those which were handed out to the spectators, and also ended up in the trash after just seconds on the hands of junk victims. (More pictures on my new picture-albums.)

And don't let me get started on Christmas trees... !

Shame on you Santa!
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