winter sun

winter sun

Friday, April 9, 2010


I have a problem. Interestingly, I think Design Thinking can solve it! I came to discover both the problem and the solution while thinking about another problem (of course).

I read with interest the proposal for a a new program in the college [edited to protect those involved]. This is the parallel of my EXACT difficulty of getting my "interdisciplinary" dissertation focused enough while producing a thorough record of the literature:

"Currently, graduate students wishing to specialize in [the major] must do so by taking a concentration of courses or a minor in Human Factors, and majoring in some other related discipline such as Psychology, Cognitive Science, Industrial Engineering, Kinesiology, or Design. While this works for some students, many have expressed great dissatisfaction with this arrangement, finding that all of these programs require too much concentration in areas outside their interest with insufficient time to focus on their real interest of [_].

A number of graduate students have become discouraged for all the reasons above, and failed to complete their degrees, while other perspective graduate students with a primary interest in [_] have failed to come to the [school], even when full financial support was offered, because of the lack of a [_] degree program (see letter below). Others choose other Universities in the region that do have [_] programs..."

I keep thinking about the connection of "design" with "humans" as being the bigger picture of my (dissertation) investigation.

The foregoing quote exemplifies that there is indeed a greater need than my own. It seems that ALL design areas need a section of courses that might be defined as "Human Studies in Design (and Design Research?)". Design needs to clearly differentiate all of the human psychosocial components (ie development, cognitive psychology, social, emotional, experiential design, learning, aesthetics, motivation, trust, etc) [in addition to all the specialties of practice].

Design has yet to establish its own body of knowledge in regard to its related disciplines. What I mean is: How do all of these specialty areas, e.g. psychology, etc., apply in a "design" framework--how should designers consider these factors and what do they mean to designers? Were a selection of courses developed, these could be incorporated into existing programs or begin to be substituted as a minor emphasis college-wide. Or, these issues could formulate a fantastic opportunity for an applied research lab, where students could get credit for participating in conducting design research studies.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Here Comes Peter Cottontail!

Not much time left to order the best Easter eggs you have ever imagined, all gift boxed! My sister Jayne, the Master Chocolatier at J. Evelyn Confections makes them all by hand. You WILL NOT be disappointed--I promise! Order online at!

Drowning in the sea of nothing

There's a serious problem in the world today. We all know it and we shrug it off. It is so important to spend time thinking. It seems like you are doing nothing, but man is your brain firing when you are doing nothing. The big problems are resolved with elegant simple solutions.

Simplicity doesn't happen instantly, it evolves as a matter of design editing. Simple solutions are carefully distilled down to the bare essence--and they are powerful.

I spent some time in conversation with a dear friend this weekend. As I struggle with my dissertation, beginning again and again, he reminds me that I will laugh when I stumble upon the essence, the solution. And it will be ...simple. and I ...still... flail around in the sea and scream into the wind, "I need to know NOW!!!" But the seas and the winds howl and obscure my small protest.

I keep waiting for my life to come together, you know, for the problems to resolve and the sun to come out and for happiness to light on my shoulder like a little songbird. It seems that thinkers and dreamers are destined to flail against the world in trying to make it a better place. Note the difference between forcing and creating--one crushes everything good into a box, the other springs joyfully from the confines of the box and spreads to others.

If you have an idea about something that needs a solution, please leave a post here. thnx.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Political Aesthetics

How does design change the world? Well this may or may not be a good example but here goes... politics. Whenever designers create works for clients, one of their chief concerns is communicating the personality of the sender. Believing this to be true, then we would expect certain kinds of people to get behind a brand, right? In our recent presidential election there was a real difference in how design communications were a) employed and b) styled (I use the term broadly). Much has already been said about how the democratic campaign employed all media, including texting and blogging. My graphic design classes at the University of Minnesota Duluth analyzed the two parties' websites during the campaign. A clear difference was evident: the Bush campaign employed lots of what were termed as 'tabloid tactics': dueling flashing animations, bold colors, each message overpowering the first. The site loaded with a full-screen video of the vice-presidential candidate giving a speech; the Obama campaign used very organized grids, simplicity, consistent application of identity, using visual language that reinforced the candidate's personality and political approach. These observations are not intended in any way to reflect personal political agenda, but to present an unbiased commentary on the use of design in the campaigns. It is interesting to note however the response of the voters to the design positioning. Although we cannot draw conclusions from this informal analysis, we could speculate that the bar for aesthetic design has been raised. Certainly the methods that will be used in the future for political communication have turned the technological corner. --b

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There's nothing like a doctoral thesis to get your blood boiling and your brain questioning everything you've ever known. What I like about this is the deep thinking that challenges me to discover what it is that I'm really interested in. ...I'll let you know when I figure that one out (I mean besides being naturally curious about everything). ...for now I want to know what it is about design that affects people. Here's an example. See it? You'd see it all over the place if you were looking at the typography on this page. This ' is a mark representing the measure of feet. It is not an apostrophe. Why can't I have a simple apostrophe on the web? Why? bek