Almost everywhere I go (today it was while waiting to have my salad mixed at Chop't) I overhear someone talking to a friend about the travails they're facing as a new freelancer. That's why I was particularly excited to hear about the launch of Home/Office, a web series revealing the sometimes-exciting and often-terrifying details of what happens when a web designer takes the plunge and starts working for himself from the comfort of his own home. Co-created by Josh Shayne and James Darling—whose film production company is aptly called Good Worker—the series takes a comical lens to the culture of freelancing, which is as much a lifestyle choice as it is a career move.The inspiration for the project came from personal experience. "I have been a freelancer for over 10 years and my parents ran their own design firm through the '80s and '90s so I actually grew up in a home/office," explains Josh. "When you're working for yourself, life and work tend to blend together. I remember growing up and my family would talk/think about client work and relationships all the time: over meals, on weekends, after school—it was always intermixed seamlessly with the rest of life." The duo recently created a "How to Storyboard" video for Tina Eisenberg's Creative Mornings Skills Series. The advice on planning ahead and communicating effectively across a team of creatives is both specific enough to be helpful and general enough to apply to other types of design projects. Of course freelancing comes with its own set of problems. Josh told me about a time when he had to deal with scheduled construction on his building, mitigating client phone calls with jackhammer blasts. "Because they were pouring concrete, I couldn't leave the building for the day," he remembered. "Just to hear my clients talk, I ended up taking most of those calls at the back of my apartment, with my head and laptop draped beneath a thick blanket to dull the sound." Home/Office highlights some of these tricky situations, but the overall tone of the series is optimistic, suggesting that, at the end of the day, "the flexibility and independence that comes with freelancing foster creativity, happiness and life satisfaction—which is good for both workers and clients."In the first episode, as the show's protagonist sets up his new home office, he struggles between making due with the bare necessities and the impulse to outfit his space with top-of-the-line equipment. The quick episodes, clocking in around 4 minutes each, take the form of distinct, mini-lessons on what it takes to be a freelancer today: from landing your first client, to finding time for dating and staying physically fit and, of course, meeting your deadlines. Aside from whimsical sound effects, the narrative is driven forward by a calm narrator, "guiding the hero along, but also providing a little helpful criticism," as a play on the structure of 1940's-era instructional videos (not that we're encouraging you, but if you must procrastinate–as all good freelancers do—this archive of vintage educational films is a goldmine).You can check out the first episode, "Starting Your Own Business," below, and make sure to tune-in (possibly over your morning cup of coffee, like I did) to the upcoming episodes of the first season, which go live every Monday at 7 AM PT/10 AM ET here. Home/Office 01 – Starting Your Own Business from Good Worker on Vimeo.
Generally speaking, industrial design sketching is fast and loose. You start with a rough idea, put pen or pencil to paper with expressive, fluid marks and start to find the form on the page. Traditional instruction dictates that we draw the entire form, including what the viewer cannot see if it were a photograph; for instance, if sketching a 3/4 shot of a car, you still draw all four sides, even if the far parts will later be obscured by fresh linework. And you typically go from big to small; if sketching sneakers for example, you start with the general shape and sole, and the eyelets for the laces come last.Those of us trained in this ID style are bound to find Kim Jung Gi's drawing method bewildering. The South Korean artist "has the ability to visualize the drawing before making his marks," according to the bio on his website. What this means is that if drawing a car, for instance, he can start with the headlight, jump to the C-pillar, add the rearview mirror, etc. He does not find the form on the page, but appears to transcribe it from some spiritual source, and no marks are made unless they would be directly visible to the viewer. If you're not sure what I mean, check out this demonstration, and prepare to have your mind blown:Never mind that there's not a single perspective or contour line—did you see the way he bounces around the page, completely detailing one small item, then moving on to another small item on totally different part of the drawing? Who the hell draws like that? Who the hell can draw like that?This week Kim launches his first solo U.S. exhibition at the Art Whino Gallery in Washington, D.C. For those of you in the New York area, he'll be appearing next month at New York Comic Con in the North Pavilion L4's "Artist Alley."
The Samurai Carpenter Shows You How He Made His Functional, Ergonomic Leather Tool Vest—On the Cheap
I recently ripped the caulk out of six window frames, which required using a half-dozen hand tools in alternation. It was a real pain because I haven't found a good on-body tool storage method; I won't wear tool belts or pouches because I'm a klutz and I'll snag them on the ladder, and I don't like leaving tools on top of the ladder ever since the time I forgot a Crescent wrench was up there and landed on my head when I moved the ladder. So it was up-and-down, up-and-down.Jesse de Geest, a/k/a The Samurai Carpenter, doesn't like wearing tool belts either. But unlike me, he's a bit of a maker genius, so he handmade his own custom leather tool vest–on the cheap. It is absurdly functional and the ergonomics are all very well-considered. In the following video, he walks you through the features, explains how he fashioned various items, and will hopefully inspire you by just how do-able he makes it all look:The saw-storage feature sounded crazy to me at first, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.Via Tools of the Trade
Core-fave Extrapolation Factory has teamed up with The Situation Lab to produce their latest caper; 1-888-FUTURES is a new telephone-based delivery service which allows anyone in the US to request a gift from the future, created to order and shipped to their chosen recipient.The service is a playful research endeavor aimed at tapping collective creativity and experimenting with new techniques for crowdsourcing visions of future scenarios. It is part of the ‘Futurematic’ series run by The Extrapolation Factory and Situation Lab, two groups both focused on exploring design-driven strategies to bring alternative futures to life. 1-888-FUTURES will be hosted by the Visions and Voices initiative at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, culminating on September 20th.Once a request is registered at 1-888-FUTURES, workshop participants at USC will interpret the recordings and fabricate artifacts that respond to the visions. When the artifact is complete, it will be boxed up and sent to the addressee of the caller’s choice—not to be opened until the visioner’s chosen date.You can send a “future present” to someone by calling 1-888-FUTURES before September 20th. Just be sure you have a future dream in mind, together with a specific individual recipient and current delivery address. “If you need some time to prepare these, please hang up and call back later.” More information can be found at www.donotopenbefo.re(Photo: Bernard Pollack, CC2.0)
Decisions, decisions, decisions… How do you decide which design conferences to attend each year? If you seek useful, inspiring, more-bang-for-your-buck content wrapped in an interactive and, dare we say, FUN experience, the newly published schedule for the 2015 Core77 Conference, October 22 – 24, will make your decision to attend much easier. Head on over to the conference site and click Schedule to see more details about each of the four sessions we have planned for October 23rd. The first half of the day brings you touch-interactive fabric and DIY ocean exploration in Collaboration Now, followed by a hands on look at water sculptures, manufacturing methods and craft in Making Now. After lunch, you'll hear about the ins and outs of the challenges facing design entrepreneurs in Business Now, then gaze into the near and distant future of UX, software and product development in the final segment, The Future Now.Each of our presenters is bringing a refreshing perspective on their particular design practice and philosophy to the table, so choosing to attend the 2015 Core77 Conference might be the easiest decision you make all year. Get your tickets today!
You could be forgiven for thinking designer Steven Banken created the piece below by stocking up on a selection of MinWax stains:Instead the Eindhoven graduate, who shares a studio building with Piet Hein Eek, went Walter White and created the gradations via chemistry.Breaking Good As Banken explains,Oak contains high concentrations of tannic acid, which turns into dark blue when it's exposed to steel. The same happens with steel, as a result of a chemical reaction between red iron oxide and tannic acid. To accelerate this normally undesirable process the elements that cause this chemical reaction are applied in liquid form on the other material.Image via View On Retail Below is Banken's maddeningly short video showing snippets of the chemistry; there isn't much in the way of instruction, so those interested in pursuing the procedure will have to pull a Jesse Pinkman and start experimenting.
Each morning I pass Manhattan's Central Booking, a/k/a jail. Sometimes a squadcar pulls up and a pair of hotcops transfer an arrestee inside, marching the handcuffed perp through the gate. Two weeks ago, as this familiar sight was unfolding, a hipster walked past, spotted a perp march in progress, pulled his phone out to shoot it, then walked away.I don't get why people feel compelled to take photos of certain things. Is this guy going to go home and pore over these photos, or frame them for his wall, or post them to his Facebook wall? What is the point of capturing an image?Artist and interaction design student Philipp Schmitt has undoubtedly asked himself the same question. His latest project, Camera Restricta, is a concept whereby the camera decides whether or not you can shoot a particular thing–or more precisely, at a particular location. "It locates itself via GPS and searches online for photos that have been geotagged nearby," Schmitt writes. "If the camera decides that too many photos have been taken at your location, it retracts the shutter and blocks the viewfinder." He shows you how it would work in this (fictional) short:What I'd really like to see, at least on the crowded sidewalks of Manhattan: A camera that won't let you take selfies, so that smoothly-moving sidewalk traffic becomes more important than narcissism.
Sometimes the most powerful work is the result of simple yet strategic connections drawn between previously unconnected factors. In the case of RKS Design's latest project, LoanGifting, the initial idea seemed so straightforward that the whole team was left wondering: "How has nobody come up with this yet?" Stemming from a belief that education is the necessary future, the basic premise of the initiative is to allow family and friends a way of helping their loved ones going through school by creating a platform whereby they can submit payments directly toward their student loan—essentially creating a bridge between the student's debt and their support system. "Universally, families love nothing more than to see their children get educated," notes RKS founder Ravi Sawhney. "Now, we have this crisis where the government doesn't support higher education and people are forced into taking loans, but the underlying need and desire to support those who are seeking higher levels of education is still there…they are the ones who are going to make the world a better place for everyone, right?" To begin brainstorming ways of addressing this massive issue–currently affecting 40 million individuals—Sawhney brought on a diverse team of practitioners, including Cognitive Anthropologist Dr. Robert Deutsch, who used his analytical background to carry out a series of deep-dive interviews with people affected by the student loan crisis in various ways. "We talked to people about what it feels like to own debt, we talked to people who have advanced degrees and are managing their debt, we talked to people who had to drop out of college because they couldn't bear the financial burden, we talked to parents who support kids and help them pay down their debt and we also talked to philanthropists," explained Sawhney. This empathetic approach revealed vital insight in the form of the recurring image of a once hopeful person, bogged down and drained by the seemingly insurmountable fact of their debt. Herein lies the disconnect that fueled the project: "Debt is a very negative word but taking out a student loan comes from positivity—it means that you're bold, brave, optimistic and that you're investing in your future and in your ability." LoanGifting – How it Works from LoanGifting Inc on Vimeo.A focus on empathy and connection runs throughout the process. Students create personal profiles on the LoanGifting site, allowing them to highlight their individual goals and aspirations. Each profile can be set to either reach the person's close network of family or friends, or opened up to the entire LoanGifting community. While LoanGifting is ultimately a for-profit organization, from the beginning Sawhney has focused on giving back. 10% of profits will go toward building schools in underdeveloped countries and other long-term goals include contributing to scholarship funds at various colleges and universities—at least until they have the means to set up their own funds. "It's not only about helping people see the light at the end of the tunnel, but more so about allowing people to create the light at the end of the tunnel."
J Mays, one of the world's most influential automotive designers, will be contributing to the RCA's prestigious Vehicle Design programme as a visiting professor beginning September 2015. As Chief Creative Officer of Ford, he oversaw the design of many of the brand's best-selling cars including the Fusion/Mondeo, Focus, Fiesta, Taurus, Mustang and F-150 before departing in 2013.J's influence in the automotive design world is remarkable with a successful and sustained design career in many of the major OEMs: Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, as well as Ford. He has been instrumental in the design of some of the world's best-known and best-loved cars, including the new VW Beetle and Audi TT.I caught up with J in Chicago and asked him about his role in the RCA, the challenge of getting young buyers into cars, and the advice he'd give himself if he were a young designer today…Ed Stubbs: Hi J, congratulations on your new role with the RCA. What challenges are you looking forward to?J Mays: It's something that's worked out really well—my wife works in the UK, and I've got a deep affection for all things English, So I talked with Dale Harrow [RCA Course Director] and we worked out that I could help strategically with the program.I think I can bring a slightly different perspective, one that's current—having just left the auto industry. When you look at the work coming out of design schools there's no lack of creativity—it's just a case of channeling that talent. So, taking that talent and connecting it back to everyday life is one of the major challenges. I can add my experience and knowledge to help these students to not lose the magic of their design vision but connect it to something the customer can relate to because, ultimately, they're designing for a customer at the end of the day.Volkswagen Beetle Concept 1We know that young people are less interested in cars than they were. How do we get them to fall in love with cars again?I agree; there are any number of things vying for a young person's attention out there, beyond the automobile. Perhaps part of the problem is the auto-industry just isn't capturing the magic for these guys. Reality isn't an aphrodisiac! There are a lot of answers out there for moving people from A to B, but there are less that are so well done that they become an irresistible product. So, whether all of us end up in autonomous cars or in a car-share in 15 years, there's still got to be some way of bringing a level of appeal and emotion to those products. For example, if we're talking about driverless cars, I've seen a lot—but none that I'm itching to get into. At the moment, there doesn't seem to be much design language evident—I'm not saying they have to look like rocket ships but at the same time they're looking like pods and there has to be more to them than that. So, that's the opportunity there.So, whether all of us end up in autonomous cars or in a car-share in 15 years, there's still got to be some way of bringing a level of appeal and emotion to those products. We are trying to get the students to think differently about the design process. When you get into the industry you can become overwhelmed with the needs of the product-planners and the marketing people, and somewhere along the line your lovely design gets lost. So we are having a discussion about pausing the design process, backing-up and hitting the reset button to come at it from a different perspective, to use different inspiration. There's a difference between a flashy design (and there are plenty of those out there) and one that means something to someone. I'm a huge believer that every product has some kind of story and allowing customers to participate in that story is a major part of great design, so I'm also looking forward to getting the students to start to understand that.2015 Ford Mondeo WagonWhat's your view on disruptive vs harmonious design?I've got a very clear point of view on that. At the end of the day, you're working for a company, you're trying to attract customers to the brand and you're trying to make people's lives better. So, the idea that you might be trying to provoke customers rather than seduce them seems to be at odds with doing that. Any time we designed a car either at Audi, VW, or Ford we wanted to do something that was going to seduce the customer into the showroom.What was the project you were most proud of in Ford?The latest Mustang is a fabulous car—and finally available in RHD in the UK, so that's pretty exciting. It's a great piece of automotive kit for not much money. In the mainstream, the Mondeo looks fabulous out on the roads too. 2015 Mustang GT350 Currently, lots of students come from Asia to learn design here. Do you see that reversing with Western students studying overseas?In terms of the cultural exchange, a lot of Asian students make their way over to the UK and the US – and are soaking up a lot of the culture here as a result – but it doesn't often happen the other way.I think it's going to happen but not until we know what we're getting back—at the moment, the Chinese do not have a long automotive design history the way the Brits and the Americans do. We've had a number of design movements in car design over the years—edge, flame surfacing, retro to name a few—what do you think will be the next big thing?I'm hoping it's going to be 'meaning'! I'm not a very trendy person; I'm almost anti-trend. Nothing gets older faster than 'new,' following the latest trend and finding a name for your design language. That's passé now. If you look at the premium brands you won't find them talking about their design language. Chris Bangle may have talked about that with BMW but they haven't referenced that for a long time. None of the premium brands do it; they just have their own brand design.What you want is longevity—design that has staying power. So, I'm going to be encouraging the students to shy away from trends. Nothing is worse when you see a design and can say: "That was from 2001!" It just ages, really quickly. I'm much more interested in meaning rather than style.Nothing gets older faster than 'new,' following the latest trend and finding a name for your design language. That's passé now. Authentic design?Sure, yeah. Absolutely, something that's not passé.To aspiring car designers what's the one nugget of advice you wish you'd been given?Looking back, I wish I'd known a lot more about the realities of the auto industry. You have your education at the design school—and then a completely different education in the first few years of working in industry. So, trying to help brief the kids for a smoother transition to the industry life is bound to help not only the industry, but the students themselves.You don't want to kill their enthusiasm or their creativity but they need to understand what they're getting into. Having to interact with marketing, product development, finance—there are a lot of players in the game and all them have to work together smoothly. In the best companies they do, but there are lots of companies where it doesn't work very well. 2015 Ford FlexAgreed—you have to make your design story be understood by as many departments as possible, even if it involves fighting your corner. Exactly.What's your dream car and your perfect everyday driver?As far as my dream car goes, I've driven just about everything that I could imagine but still come back to the car I've got on order—a 2015 Mustang GT350. Awesome. I would also love to have a Ford Flex here in the UK for my everyday driver but unfortunately there is no right hand drive.J, a pleasure to talk with you and the best of luck with the RCA post, and your other projects.
The evolution of design education will take another step forward in the fall of 2016, when Harvard University will begin offering a Master in Design Engineering. The two-year program—which will be taught by faculty from both the Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)—has its origins in a lunchtime conversations series called "Now?" which, over the course of several years, brought together people from throughout the campus to discuss their work with a focus on problem-solving in the present, rather than the past or for the future. GSD's dean, Mohsen Mostafavi, spoke in a recent interview about how the new program fits into the current discourse around design thinking, while highlighting its emphasis on "preparing individuals to take a multidisciplinary mindset into a project environment and work across fields." [Editors Note: For more on interdisciplinary design programs, see Matthew Kressy's piece on MIT's Integrated Design and Management program's approach to engineering, business and design.]The goal is not to turn designers into engineers or engineers into designers, but rather to foster a "genuinely collaborative" environment where students develop a robust, multi-disciplinary toolkit. The curriculum will emphasize the studio model and include four classes per semester, culminating in a design project during the second year. The types of real-world questions that the students will tackle will ring similar to these:• What would it take to convert the U.S. transportation system from its almost total reliance on gasoline to more stable, economical, and environmentally friendly alternatives?• How could the health care delivery system be transformed to yield better outcomes at lower cost?• What steps can cities take to adapt to rising sea levels and other climate change-induced environmental impacts with minimal disruption to society?• How can homes be designed to consume zero net energy by minimizing year-round heat transfer and incorporating on-site generation of electricity?• In developing products that integrate into the Internet of Things, how should companies design devices and services that balance individual privacy and security with the benefits of networked intelligence?Initially, the program will look for candidates with backgrounds in design, architecture and engineering. But will ultimately extend their reach to people of different backgrounds including, "urban planning, the various fields of engineering, industrial design, manufacturing, even the arts." Mostafavi also underlined the entrepreneurial dimension of the program, noting that "the combination of design and engineering needs to be understood in the broader context of how future leaders will realize projects." Regarding potential career paths after the program, the Deans believe "there will be a lot of possibilities for people who don't want to work for anybody else, who want to start their own companies to develop their own ideas, people who really want to be innovative entrepreneurs."