Off the Top: Television Entries
This past Summer (2010) the BBC (BBC 2) showed a five part documentary series on design, called The Genius of Design (TGoD). This series is similar to Gary Hustwit's Objectified, but TGoD goes much broader and deeper offering a better reflection of the reality of design only seen through that depth. Think of Objectified as a taste sampler of TGoD. There are some people in common between the two whom are interviewed and focussed upon, but life is breathed into architecture, process, visual, industrial, and many more slices of the design world that bring design to life in TGoD. It is a wonderful look at the real nature of design.
The Five Episodes of The Genius of Design
The five episodes are: 1) Ghosts in the Machine; 2) Designs for Living; 3) Blueprints for War; 4) Better Living Through Chemistry; 5) Objects of Desire. The core focus is on the deep consideration and understanding that goes into design. It is this rigor of understanding and working through to final product all based on a core objective. Throughout the five series the focus on a deep understanding the materials deeply, use, impact on the people interacting with what has been designed, and development processes (as well as optimizing them).
The obsession to understand the materials used and objects being design with depth and breadth is not the only standout theme. Many other themes and take away ideas stood out not only when watching, but also now many months later.
Focus on End Use and People Using Product of Design
One major reoccurring theme throughout is the focus on end use. The the products not only should be pleasing nearly (possibly to the point of being emotive), but they must also be usable, and do what it is intended to do very well. A continual focus on the person using what is designed is one of the central tenets of design and with out this it is something other than design.
Breadth of Design Disciplines and Roles
To the point of design having a focus on the person using what is designed, the breath of roles within design was brought up. Wonderfully, Peter Boersma's T-Model was directly mentioned in when discussing the breadth of expertise with required depth and roles in design that are required to all come together to optimally create a final product that is please and usable for the person who engages with the final product. While watching the whole series the focus on various disciplines and roles is very evident and when listening to the designers talk about their own focus and discipline (all largely falling under the moniker of design) as it relates to final crafting of the final object) it is they all have depth in their own discipline, but understand the materials deeply and the class and required needs for the final product very well.
Every Designer Has A Chair In Them
Another reoccurring thread, that gets depth of focus a few times, is the idea that every designer has a chair in them (this has become a meme in the broad design community from the near instant this was uttered mid-Summer). The chair is emblematic of the need for utility (purpose, comfort, durability, etc.) as well as providing style. A chair that collapses is not well designed. The chair also often has requirements beyond basic sitting, which can include long term comfort, ability to stack and store it, be environmentally friendly, and many more possible variations. This intersection of use, style, material, and production around the chair leads to a lot of the depth of understanding required to get to a final product prototyped, tested, and into production. This depth and breadth that designers put in is often not considered by people outside the design community, but also the depth and rigor involved in design is missed in some disciplines that are tangential to design, but do not consider themselves purely in the design profession.
Process Design and Optimization
Within the Blueprints for War episode the focus of designing the process was often repeated. The episode focussed on Britain in World War II and the need to have mass production of goods needed for the war that worked for their purposes, but there were limitations of materials and time needed to get mass amounts of goods in military personnelís hands. Streamlining production and simplifying the goods became essential, but as well thinking of solutions seemed like their was expansive production (dummy planes, etc.) and alternate facilities (fake factories) were included in the design mix.
Wishing for More
In all this was a fantastic series for those in and around the design profession, those who intersect with design, and just fans of design.
I flat out loved Studio 60, the new Aaron Sorkin show. It is the best thing on tv hands down. The premiere was fantastic with the opening framed around a dead-on rant of the current state of television in the style of the movie Network (the only downside for me was they had to state it was just like Network over and over - let people be smart and media literate). The tirade was dead on and the scenarios and construction of tension was well done.
I have missed good television (last season 24 caught my attention, but the show Lost has not fully grabbed me (the social interactions outside of the show and the web-based value and social interactions generated by the show have my interest, but personally the show does not grab me. The last shows I deeply enjoyed were both ones that Aaron Sorkin drove, West Wing (while Sorkin was involved) and Sports Night. The other bits that I have enjoyed in recent years have been HBO series and movies, particularly Band of Brothers.
Much else on American television has been rather boring, patterned, and predicable all while being written to a level of the lowest common denominator. There are other exceptions (The Simpsons) in comedy and satire, but they are rare. All I can say is thank you for Studio 60!
I am quite interested in the newly launched Yahoo! Go, which is self described as:
Yahoo! Go - a new suite of products and services for your PC, mobile phone and even your TV.
Yahoo! Go allows you to access the information and content that is important to you on whatever device you choose.
So wherever you go, your photos, your music, your email, " your lifequot; is right there with you. Ready to go.
The service provides your contacts (address book), photos, messanger, and mail. All great to have where ever you go. This is a very helpful service.
But wait! It is missing one thing. Yahoo! states, "allows you to access the information and content that is important to you". If that is true it is missing one giant piece. Where is the calendar? [Update] The calendar is actually there. Russ Beattie (of Yahoo! Mobile) provided the following response:
Y! Go also syncs the Calendar, it syncs with your Yahoo! Calendar and uses the Series 60 native calendar app on the phone for alerts. The SyncML service also syncs the calendar on phones like the SonyEricsson's and Nokias which support it.
What really impresses me is the SyncML work. That news is one of the most impressive things I have heard on calendaring in a while. I have been waiting for Apple to go this route for their iSync for the last couple revisions and I thought they would be the leaders on this syncing standards front. Yahoo! seems to understand the needs today and the future, which is one of the things that has impressed me about Yahoo! in the last year or two (they really get it, possibly better than any other large web company, yes I am considering Google too). If you want more info on Yahoo! and using SyncML Russ has the following post on Yahoo! Mobile Services: SyncML and More. I am still not sure why the marketing people left out calendaring. [/Update]
<ignore>Of all the things to leave out.</ignore> The calendar is one of two pieces of essential social data that people complain constantly that they do not have access to, or did not sync properly (the other is contact info). A large part of our social communication is about the "next". It could be the next call, the next meeting, the next lunch, the next... you fill-in the blank. Social is not completely about the now, it is about the future too. Not having a component to connect in the future and to ensure proper planning it is only a partial social tool.
One of my pet peeves the last four years, or so I have been working with the Model of Attraction and the Personal InfoCloud (your information you are interested, that you have attracted to your device, becomes attracted to you and moves across your devices so it is at your ready call when you want it and need it) is constant access to one's own information, which means whether you have connectivity or not and is available on the device you have with you (it must be device and platform agnostic). Yahoo! seems to get this all but for that one important bit.
In the past year Yahoo! purchased a company that provides event information (Upcoming), which could tie wonderfully into a calendar (either as events you are attending or potential events). Yahoo! also recently announced connecting Tivo and your Yahoo! calendar. We know they get the importance of the calendar. Where oh where is it? [Update] It is actually there just not advertised.[/Update]
Last night I watch the first of two parts of Empire Falls on HBO. The cast is wonderful, but the story and it depiction on the screen is even better. The tensions of the plot are set up very well. The screenplay keeps chapter breaks and author narration. The flashbacks in time are done wonderfully on the screen and the literary narrative seems like it is playing out well.
I watch very little television any more (too many other things have my attention for the same time). But, Empire Falls has made a wonderful change of pace. I put it up with Band of Brothers as one of my favorite cable movie series.
BBCi's Ashley Highfield speach TV's Tipping Point: Why The Digital Revolution Is Only Just Beginning highlights what is coming in the future, hopefully not too distant future.
The Beeb is open its program archives to the Web. This is a deep and broad repository and will be a great addition to the public around the globe.
Another wonderful Mister Rogers tribute story. The days since Mister Rogers passed away have brought to light the wonder and kindness one man gave. He was an incredible gift to all of us and as the stories of his life kept coming everybody stated how warm and caring he was all the time. He gave levity in every situation and show how one can live a great life. As the story suggests he may just be a true saint. I have talked with folks over the years that were frightened by him as they could not find a dark side. The friends I knew who met him and saw him in everyday situations said he was kinder and nicer than on television. I only wish I could start to live to be half of what Mister Rogers was. [hat tip Rebecca]
Mister Rogers has died at the age of 74. I learned a lot from his shows and as an adult would watch the shows when I was home sick. He taught kids (and adults) not only about the world around them, but how to care for others.
I have known folks who knew him personally and said he was just the same in real life as he is on the show. This is one of the best role models for kids that has ever been on television and it is wonderful to know he is just as nice and caring off the camera.
I am still with out most of my outbound e-mail capabilities for my usual accounts. I can see all the inbound e-mail, but I am mostly devoid of responding, which is driving me crazy. This will get resolved once DSL arrives, I am still waiting on Verizon to get their act together and tie the phone number to the address. The last residents of the house has DSL running at a really good clip, but nobody can see that until Verizon understands their role in the world.
We finally got satellite TV today, which is a huge improvement over cable. Why? Much better picture, much better sound, cheaper, and channels like Tech TV and BBC America. The downside is the current placement of the dish, on the right hand corner of the roof on the front of the house. It could be a good reason to remove the tree that is creating this issue or to get the dish moved when we paint the eaves.
I spent today trying to figure out why we had no phone signal, well it turns out the PC modem fries the phone lines. I was waiting for contractors to come and fix a furnace, closets, and the dish guys. All the contractors were stuck in the traffic related to trying to find the DC shooter and we calling the often to let me know of their delays. The shootings really have not un-nerved me as the odds are long that I or anybody I know would get shot. I am much more aware of my surroundings, much like living in the UK in the late 80s with the IRA bombings and such.
I was put off from doing some work for a while today as the CD I burned on a nearly up-to-date security patched Win 2k box would not be acknowledged in the Mac. This is odd as it is how I move files out of XP Home (miserable version of XP). I finally got the CD to run in the PC (I finally had a reason to assmble it after nearly 2 weeks in the house) and reburned them on a CD, which did run on OS X. This little task and figuring out that the PC modem has phone voodoo here caused the loss of a couple hours. I knew I should have pulled the box of blank CDs out of the packing box they are in.
I am trying to focus on getting a couple reviews done, user/usability test a new site, get back to writing some articles, and putting our office together.
It is settling in that we will be moved by this point next Saturday and I will most likely be without broadband access for a week or two at that point. I have Earthlink dial-up, which is barely passable and restricts access to most of my e-mail addresses. We are also leaning toward satellite TV over cable, mostly because our cable supplier can not process payments and their billing system has been one step away from being fully hosed for nearly six months. This may be the perfect opportunity to get Tivo into the house.
On the house front, the painters are done and the walls and ceillings are beautiful, and now that we can open our doors to the outside and open windows, we are very happy with the job done. Our floors started getting refinished yesterday and we have wonderful red oak flooring that is looking amazing after one coat of light stain. It is a huge improvement.