The elegant design of human towers

castells-human-towers-catalonia-spain

In Catalonia, Spain (where my wife’s family is from, coincidentally), they have a tradition of creating massive towers of human beings. They stand on each other’s shoulders and rise into the sky, like living sandcastles, only to collapse again from gravity and — I assume — exhaustion.

But photography has captured those elusive moments in some breathtaking images, showing off the careful symmetrical design and engineering of these temporary bio structures. Check it out.

 

Faces full of fur: designing beards

Blogging doesn’t really work well unless you keep it up. I haven’t been, it’s true. But this is pretty hilarious, and sort of cool. So I thought I’d post for your enjoyment.

You can see more of this madness here.

Legistics website wins Davey Award

davey_silver_thumbOur new website for Legistics, Inc. has been recognized with a Silver Award in a major international design competition. The 11th Annual Davey Awards are issued by The Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts. With nearly 4,000 entries from across the US and around the world, the Davey Awards honors the finest creative work from the best small agencies, firms, and companies worldwide (hence the name, based on David and Goliath).

The Davey Awards is judged and overseen by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA), a 700+ member organization of leading professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts dedicated to embracing progress and the evolving nature of traditional and interactive media. Current membership represents a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms including: Code and Theory, Condé Nast, Disney, GE, Keller Crescent, Microsoft, Monster.com, MTV, Push., Publicis, Sesame Workshops, The Marketing Store, Worktank, Yahoo!, and many others.

Many thanks to our visionary client, Legistics – and especially CEO Phil Frengs – who let us take a powerful idea and run with it. And congratulations to our talented team: designer Anat Rodan, writer Emily Hutta, videographers Joel Lipton and Carlos Gutierrez and developer Stephen Slater. Awesome job!

Presenting Shakespeare

I just got my copy of Mirko Ilic and Steven Heller’s new book, Presenting Shakespeare. It contains 1,100 posters from around the world — India, Poland, New Zealand, Turkey, Switzerland — over 50 in all. They start as early as 1779 and run through work from the present day.

Of the 1,100 selected, just 75 posters are for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with designs for London’s Savoy Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, among many other notable productions in dozens of countries. And of these, only 18 are from the United States. These include works by such graphic design luminaries as Milton Glaser and Art Chantry.

MidsummerPostcard-72dpiOh yeah.

And in this overwhelming overview, there’s a poster for a production at Santa Monica High School that happened to feature a young man named Gabriel Freeman as Demetrius. A poster designed by… me!

I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to be included in this collection. I’m honored, excited, nonplussed, and out of adjectives.

I have to say that the design reflects the vision of our talented director Darryl Hovis and wonderfully creative set/costume designer Shannon Kennedy, both of whom inspired the weirdness of using a Papua New Guinea mud man as the main eerie image. But the rouge on the cheeks was all mine.

The book is pretty wonderful if you love either design or Shakespeare. You can buy it on Amazon. I’m on page 163. (But you can see the poster right here.)

Inside SpaceX

Last week, a few of us from AIGA were lucky enough to be offered a private tour of SpaceX. It was like visiting the future, or being inside a special-effects blockbuster movie.

I’m sure my description reads like the fanboy I am. Bear with me.

We started by checking out a rocket engine. They’re big, but not as big as you’d think. Much smaller than a jet engine on a 747 for example, but far more powerful. And there are clusters of them inside the rockets. So the net result is huge thrust. They burn off all the fuel in that whole giant rocket fuselage in just a few minutes at launch.

8 engines ready to blast you into the future.

8 engines ready to blast you into the future.

There’s a stairwell behind the all-glass elevators that holds a Cylon and an Ironman suit. The brand new, quite large cafeteria area is full of cool Jetsons-ish chairs.

Attached to the opposite wall as you enter the factory is a massive, 25-foot carbon-fiber strut which Scott, our guide, helped design. This strut is one of four that form a sort of tripod (quadrapod?) — a relatively stable base on which the rocket can land and be re-used.  It’s attached, in position, to the base of a photomural Falcon stage (I think) so you can see how it’s deployed.

Hanging above your head is a used capsule with the tiles burned off from re-entry into the atmosphere.

Entrance to the factory floor featuring a used payload capsule and the giant landing leg strut thing — not yet mounted to the wall mural.

The scale of the factory and its contents is hard to imagine unless you’ve been someplace where they make jet airliners. The plant is huge; the rocket parts are the size of rooms. And there are a lot of them within this enormous building.

We watched workers hand-apply carbon-fiber material to an aluminum mold the size of a semi trailer. All the fuselage sections are on circular rollers so they can be rotated to any position, so that workers can reach the part they need to work on. There are “carts” (?) the size of multiple flatbed railroad cars on which they haul the rocket sections around.

They have multiple enclosed arc-welding stations behind tinted glass and a sign that cautions you not to stare at the arc or run the risk of blindness (!)

There were guys assembling engines while referring to large computer displays with 3-D renderings of the pieces they were working on.

Engines being assembled in an Octaweb harness

Engines being assembled in an Octaweb harness

There was a robot carefully inspecting one of the fuselage sections for flaws in the carbon-fiber skin.

There’s a clean room in which they assemble the smaller parts, especially the payload capsules.

Everything is branded — there’s clearly tremendous attention paid to creating a visual language and culture. Lots of attention to branding the”product lines” (Falcon and Dragon) with fully fabricated side-lit etched glass signage and other thought-out environmental design statements.

There’s a multistory office building with all-glass facades that rises out of the center of the space and gives people an overview of the factory floor for their offices. Apparently it’s very noisy when things are in full production.

I’ve included some (older?) pix from Google…we weren’t allowed to shoot any on the tour. But it’ll give you the idea, sort of. It’s actually visually cooler and more designed-looking that you can tell from these photos.

All in all, a wonderful experience. Thanks again to Scott and everyone at AIGA who helped make it happen.

SpaceX factory floor

SpaceX factory floor

Quadcopters + Cirque = Creativity

“No CGI used or needed” says the title at the end of this beautiful little video. It’s more Cirque du Soleil magic. There’s probably no company on earth that concentrates so much technical expertise, expression, agility, art and music into one physical space. The company embodies creativity. It’s embedded deeply into their DNA. So it’s always a pleasure when they break new ground and we get to see it happening.

Cirque du Soleil, ETH Zurich, and Verity Studios have partnered to develop a short film featuring 10 quadcopters in a flying dance performance. The collaboration resulted in a unique, interactive choreography where humans and drones move in sync. Precise computer control allows for a large performance and movement vocabulary of the quadcopters and opens the door to many more applications in the future.

Sources of creativity

My cousin Paul asked me to send him the names of some books I like that deal with Creativity. Titles that have been particularly helpful to my own creative process. I looked through my bookshelf, and found that, while I have bought a few of these kinds of books, I don’t have very many of them. And I haven’t been terribly inspired by most of those I’ve acquired.

So I started thinking about what books have truly inspired me. And, then, what other activities have stoked my own creativity over the years. This list is anything but definitive. But here’s what comes to mind.

Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Dr. Edward de Bono

I heard de Bono speak at a Westweek conference at the Pacific Design Center several decades ago. It was one of the most interesting, simple, inspiring experiences I’ve ever had. I loved his way of talking about the subject of creativity. Totally low-tech — just him doodling on an overhead projector. I bought a couple of his books, including this one, and ended up teaching from them at Art Center. We’d start every class with one of his exercises. It was a fascinating experiment. And I still use his techniques from time to time to jumpstart the creative process.

A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech

This book is somewhat related to Lateral Thinking. It explores all sorts of ways to think creatively in a little less theoretical and perhaps more practical way. To be honest, I’ve read chunks of it, but not the whole book. Good chunks. (But I devoured de Bono.)

Seth Godin: Pretty much anything he writes or talks about

I find Godin incredibly smart yet accessible. Fun to read. Fun to listen to. Full of ideas and new ways of looking at the world around him. He inspires me to see things differently and take nothing for granted.

And creative process development, other than books?

Improv classes

When you’re interacting with other people and making up dialog and situations in real time, you learn something critical: you learn to trust yourself. People are inherently creative. They just censor themselves too quickly. Staying open to the what’s going on in the moment is the trick. Being here. Now. If you’re open, you can see connections quickly. If you’re trusting, you’ll write them down or speak them out before they disappear. And a trusting and trusted partner only adds to the process…and to the fun.

Music

I play blues harmonica. Guitar, too, but the harp is the only thing I play well enough to get into a state of flow. If making music is creative, then improvising is even more so. You have no time to think; you just do it. You listen to the other musicians and to yourself, let the ideas come, and balance it all out so it sounds as good as you can get it right then. When you get too involved in “doing it right” you choke, or you sound rigid and over-controlled. Letting it flow is far more fun and usually sounds better. And if you hit a clinker, well, big deal. In the next moment, it’s gone and you’re making more music. Vocal harmonies are like that, too. You get that buzz, and you create something larger than the sum of its parts.

Museums

Art, natural history, science. All good. All expose different parts of your brain to different stimuli. All of which triggers new ways of looking and new ways of thinking. Travel works the same way.

Forget what you think you know

I think the creative process is this: fill your head with information, then forget it. Your unconscious mind will sift what you learned and help you stay pointed in the right direction. But when you’re creating you’ve got to let go of your knowledge and come at the problem like someone who knows nothing. Play more than you analyze. Trust. Step off the cliff. It’s only a metaphor. You can step right back on if it doesn’t work out.

Come on, just this once…

will-work-for-free

Months ago, I heard a Design Observer interview with Jonathan Ford of Pearlfisher . The whole show is worth listening to, but there was a particular quote at around the 28 minute mark that struck me as significant enough to write down. Host Debbie Millman asks Ford to explain his firm’s policy on why they won’t ever do a free pitch, or free work. Here’s what he said:

“What we do has a value. Designers are skilled people…we don’t produce a service. We are not vendors or suppliers. I hate that supplier mentality…I remind our clients that design isn’t like anything else. Design adds real value. It can build your brand. It can differentiate you from everyone else. And in a world where everything’s gone topsy turvy, where advertising has been fragmented and there are whole new channels, design is still tangible and will define the way to the future for your brand. That has a value that needs to be respected.

If you work for free, you’re giving away what you do, and that’s just bad business sense. If you work for low fees, under your normal rate, you will lose money because you will be diverting a lot of time away from other clients to try and win a piece of business for a low fee, and that doesn’t make sense either.

It’s far more sensible just to say ‘No’ and get on with the clients that you do have and do great work for them and build the value there — and the relationship…Designers just have to learn to say ‘What I do is important.’”

While occasionally we donate work to good causes, I don’t think we’ve ever pitched an account with free creative. Ford succinctly explains why. Our clients expect us to focus on their paid work and to give them our full attention. Rightly so. And with so many working relationships that span decades, we think that makes sense for our clients and ourselves. What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

World Cup-themed hot dogs

And while we’re dealing with sickening-looking but interesting food……

want to see more of these?

Tom Davie bottles food

tom davie exposes what we really eat with bottled food

I haven’t posted in SO long! I guess blogging (at least for me) seems to come in waves. Maybe this is the start of a swell.

In any case, here’s a great concept that shows how packaging controls your perception. (Bleagh!)

Thanks once again to the ever-enlightening Designboom.

tom davie exposes what we really eat with bottled food.