Delivery drones will mean the end of ownership | Verge 2021

Astro Teller's (the lead for Google X) take on an ownership vs. access society, drones, resilience, and not predicting the future. I think a more realistic, and hopeful, analysis of our ever changing culture and world. 

TV-Akjsonen 2016 & 25m2 of Syria | POL

Because we need more of this in our complex, beautiful, messy, and too often terrifying, world. To provoke action, thought, empathy, and an unshakeable, haunting awareness that, in our modern context, parents console wailing children as bombs rattle cinder block. Communities witness their hospitals and doctors intentionally destroyed. War and genocide propel children across desolate mountain plateaus. That those realities matter, deeply, and deserve our attention and action, regardless of race, creed, gender, or any other rationale by which we justify labeling another as "other", looking away, or becoming so busy with our day to day we forget to look in the first place. 

25m2 SYRIA from POL on Vimeo.

For two weeks the installation was an initiative to promote Norway’s annual fundraising event “TV-aksjonen”. This year all donations went to the Red Cross, and people living in war and conflict. IKEA partnered with the Red Cross to promote the cause.

25 m2 of Syria is an apartment at IKEA Slependen (flagship store in Norway). But it is not one of the "picture perfect" homes that are usually on display. The apartment is built as a replica of the real home of Rana and her family of 9 in Damascus, Syria.

The iconic IKEA-posters and price tags told the story of how people live. Lacking food, medicines and access to clean water. Caught in the crossfire of Syria’s civil war. But most importantly: On every little tag we let the public know just how they could help.

Burned: Poor planning and tactical errors fueled a wildfire catastrophe | The Oregonian

I have an admittedly odd fascination of forest fires. Each spring and summer includes consistent discussion of the increase of fires in the PNW a la a retired firefighter for a father, an Eastern Oregon location near to my heart, and an inescapable notion that we can design a better solution. The Canyon Creek disaster is just one example of why a new take on this issue cannot come soon enough.  

Honoring Designs That Make Life More Comfortable For Kids Living With Autism | Core77

Having supported pre-verbal littles navigating the Autism spectrum, I especially love the Compress Pack. More here

How 'Concept Creep' Made Americans So Sensitive to Harm | The Atlantic

Resilience is much like a muscle, needing exertion and some stress to stave off atrophy. Our present heightened awareness of all things triggering and potentially harmful is completely, utterly well intentioned. And could have some unintended consequences.

Off To The Races

A new fascination was off and running when I landed in Portland: horse races. As in Dan Patch, Secretariat, jockeys, sires and dams, and Man O War. Portland Meadows had been recently re-branded and people were excited. Vintage ads strategically placed throughout the metro area sparked curiosity in some and conjured a bygone era (or perhaps just non-PNW location) of sun hats, mint juleps, seersucker suits, and saddle shoes for others. (Beautifully done Official Mfg. Co.! For a great read, check out their write up of the strategy/design process.)

Monica and I decided to place a few bets one afternoon, if for no other reason then to say we had and people watch. Hipsters and socialites mingled with horse owners and trainers, track mud fresh in their treads, sporting ironically large cowboy hats and belt buckles.  Though not quite the quintessential scene of the Kentucky Derby, there was something about a top hat in tails playing taps and horse/jockey pairs in their bright silks being fitted into race chutes that evoked a bit of wonder and whimsy in the crowd.

For another perspective, you can read the Oregonian’s inaugural write up here.

Interiors Project: Jodi Thiel in Beirut, Lebanon

This week’s issue of the Interiors Project features the Beirut home of American Counselor Jodie Thiel whom I met at a conference in Lisbon in November. Jodie attended my presentation and, afterward…

What is home?

Monna McDiarmid’s musings on this question prompted the creation of the Interiors Project- a showcase of how a few of us who choose to work in international education create our home spaces regardless of the larger context we find ourselves in.  I was fortunate to be able to share my Beiruti home, with the post going up yesterday.  Take a look here… 

1 For 100 Photo Project, Thoughts on...

Disposable cameras, haphazard, curiosity driven shots, every now and then finding a gem amongst the ground shots, skewed framing, blurred and otherwise poorly taken photos post-development: these are my earliest memories of photography.  At about eight I began pestering my mom for something, anything, to take photos with; her pocket-size Olympus, cheap no-frills disposables- it didn’t matter.  I loved the idea of photography, even if my skill was non-existent.  The day a newly developed role of film (this was before digital was prevalent) was ready, I could only manage to hold in my anticipation for so long before I started devising excuses as to why retrieval couldn’t be put off until a later date- I wanted to see what I had created, and then go out and do it all again.  I think in many ways that is how craft, passions, develops - playing with the medium, experimenting, sorting out what it means to the individual, what it is that draws someone back again and again.

In the years that would follow, I would take many awful photos, ones I now look through and laugh over. But I would also be drawn to the challenge of trying to capture a moment in accuracy and detail, my eye especially seeking the unique, story-filled shots, and cursing every time I was without a camera when such glimmers occurred.

While states-based, photography beyond snapshots at events always seemed to fall to the back when design projects beckoned or my schedule felt too full.  But in the year plus of life international, it has risen to the surface, meeting a very real need for creativity and creation as the reality is that much of what I did in Oregon is impractical in the immediate context of Beirut, and the larger picture of a life lived impermanently.

The “1 For 100” project came from recognizing that I’m healthier when I’m creating, and because of the allure of the challenge (as well as inspiration from a few friends).  To consciously take photos each day is not as easy as it sounds in terms of practicality (having a camera handy) or seeing past the perceived mundane to find hidden intricacy, form, and beauty.  Truth be told, if someone isn’t careful, this kind of project can very easily digress into photographing random objects around the house (which, yes, I did do at some points).  I was surprised by how much I learned about my photographic and design preferences, and ruts, over the past three-plus months, and how easy it is to go through a given day without seeing details, the nuance that makes a photo come alive.  To complete this project meant being aware, meant seeing the daily and mundane with different eyes; the concrete of my neighborhood became a lesson in lines, texture, and layers and a glass of wine, a reminder of the interplay of color, light, and viscosity.

The following are some of my favorite shots from the project, and thoughts on why.  I wasn’t snobbish about what form of camera I used; some of my best shots have been taken with my iPhone.  Nor was I against using apps to experiment with color and filters.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City: bold lines and geometry, which came to life all the more through a black&white filter.

Manzanita Fireworks: thankfully there was just enough light left to provide a good silhouette of the mountains while the beach bonfire illuminated the smoke. The couple added another story-laden element.

Beech Creek Shadows: this is hands down one of my favorite shots in a long time.  The interplay of light and shadow was perfect.  Sometimes a good shot is more luck than anything else…

Science Experiment: the colors were dynamic, but more so this is a simple shot loaded with memory.  An afternoon of Grace’s insatiable curiosity and constant clamoring to do “science experiments”, in this case using food coloring to dye Queen Anne’s Lace.

Graffiti: I think perhaps one of the more unappreciated art forms but when well done it can be breathtaking.  I smile every time I pass this particular piece, and love the detail of the guy’s spray can color and the girl’s hair bow.

Barn Sunset: between the diffused light, content, and silhouettes, perfection.

Roots: This shot came alive with the black&white filter.

The cabin: the patina of the filter captured something of the spirit of this place which means so much to me, and is indescribably layered with memory.

Shifting Concepts

I’m rather embarrassed to say that this, the old Mercedes, was my concept of Beirut prior to my arrival last August.  If I feel like a mindless, relatively entertaining movie is in order “Spy Games” (Brad Pitt, Robert Redford) is a typical go to.  Part of the movie is set in Beirut, mid Civil War, the Syrians are described as “cowboys” (not in a good way), the wasta cares for pigeons on a rooftop, The Commodore is “where all the expats stay”, and Pitt’s character drives an older Mercedes haphazardly through bombed out streets. I knew, in a very pragmatic way, that this was no longer Beirut yet that old car was the symbol, the first image that came to mind.  Truth be told the streets are clogged with my symbol, which now provokes laughter, and thankfulness. Laughter at my self, thankfulness that I’m slowly but surely building a different concept.

In design speak the concept is what is initially pitched, the mock up and prep for the final product, the draft that can, and will, be picked apart, played with, until something more real, more permanent can be crafted.  The concepts are whimsical, all the ideas and wishes and flights of fancy tossed together, the fun part.  But if a designer only stays with the concepts, the necessary growth is stunted.  So one shifts concepts, breathing new life into the larger work, crafting growth. The old Mercedes stays as a light hearted reminder, but greater permanence is in the works…