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Week 23

Posted by Jonathan on August 12, 2011

I have to agree with what Keela said last week and exclaim “Can anyone believe its already mid august?!” Everyone has been working really hard, and I don’t think we saw summer flash past us.

I returned from Korea last week, which was probably the best trip I’ve ever been on, despite the incessant rain (it’s monsoon season). So I’ll treat the beginning of this post as a sort of show and tell. The design scene in Seoul is one of the best in the world. Literally at every corner is an art bookstore, incredible museum, experimental retail shop, or the best handmade food you’ve ever eaten (this is a traditional soup called dukgook, which includes stock broth, egg, seaweed, fresh sliced vegetables, meat, spice, and of course duk, which is compressed rice cut into slices):

It’s always a good bet that if you think something is cool, there’s something cooler there. What is most fascinating, not only from a design point of view, but also linguistically and historically, is Hangul, the native language. It was invented by King Sejong in 1443. Concerned that his people were unable to express themselves in everyday language with Chinese characters, he enlisted the services of scholars and together with them, devised the writing system that is used today. The amazing part is that all of the characters were designed after speech organs, and the basic vowels were representative of the confucian realms of heaven (ㅇ), earth (ㅡ) and man (ㅣ).

You can see how these symbols represent their inspiration. 대박! So research, synthesis, design. They were using the design process a long time ago. Not only that, Korea invented metal moveable type. Let’s just say for a graphic designer, there’s a lot of inspiration. What I thought was really cool was the typographic logo on this truck (can anyone guess what it means?):

(It’s the Korean word for Milk! Notice the milk droplets.)

Luckily, the Bay Area is famous for its Indian Summer, so we get a summer bonus in the fall. Thinking about it now, that’s really nice. Although the weather might be nice, it does feel a bit like “back to school.” We’ve been preparing all summer for some big things in the fall – some of our Exchange projects will be in their final stages and wrapping up, and new ones will be starting. We’ll be meeting a lot of new people. Damien’s SoCap appearance is just a month away now also. I’ve just recently read his piece in the August edition of PRINT magazine, which summarizes a lot of points that have themed these summer months at Central. Snag a copy if you see it!

We were lucky to have Linda join us full time this week. She has a pretty cool background (she worked at IDEO), which makes her ideal for her new role as Studio Manager. It’s really fantastic to have someone new join our team. We’re already good friends, and I’m a bit envious of her EU passport. We had actually run into each other before, at an IDSA awards event last year. SF is such a small place! I’m hoping next week she can do one of two things: 1) bring it some cool german music, 2) ask Pandora to add new songs to their playlist. We’re happy to have you here, Linda!

Kathleen and Keela have been working super hard this week as well. They’ve been working together on Kathleen’s research, and from what I gather, Kathleen is totally breezing through what would otherwise be a very steep learning curve.

This weekend, the Outside Lands concert is taking over Golden Gate Park in the city, although I waited too long to get tickets. I might have to just experience it vicariously through Keela’s Monday description.

Week 19

Posted by Jonathan on July 15, 2011

We’ve just installed new high speed internet next-door, as well as increased our bandwidth in the main studio. This also applies to our daily mental capacity. I’m thinking we need to do that with human resources as well, and it just so happens that Central will be growing soon! There is so much going on here, that I’m forgetting to eat.

The studio is in hyper-focus mode with the Exchange Project, which seems like 5 projects in one. We’ve been doing tons of research; scouring academic journals and historical texts, as well as dipping into the ethnographic side of the design process through some field-research trips. Of particular note, from the design side of things, is Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style. I read this front to back when I was in School at RISD, but felt compelled to read through it again. It’s proved most useful for weighing the past few years of professional design work, with more empirical and research based principles for design and typography. It feels great to look at type as a science and craft again.

In contrast, we’ve been doing a lot of research on product design, where designing emotion and experience have proved once again to be as important as designing the product itself. Don Norman speaks to this in his Ted Talk, 3 Ways Good Design Makes You Happy. What’s been especially exciting, is orchestrating all of these principles into design guidelines for our project. We’ve been taking on the monumental, yet very necessary task of pulling data from the best minds in typography, educational design, structured writing, cognitive theory, industrial design, and visual composition – and weighing it against (or using it in compliment to) user driven field studies and personal experience – to create the best designed result.

Almost a thousand sticky notes and an equal number of pages later, we are almost there. I think Keela either has secret powers for staying impeccably organized and on top of things, or isn’t sleeping.

Our research also led us to Alan Turing, who has been called the father of modern computer science. His story is an incredible one to say the least. Check out the trailer for a new film that will be launching later this fall here.

We’ve also been visited by an old friend, the Future Fish Project. And a new friend, John Bielenberg, who helped to start Common with Alex Bogusky, stopped by for a great discussion on bicycles and the SoCap conference, where Damien has accepted an invitation to be a panelist. We’re thrilled about this.

Damien also finished writing his article for Print Magazine, but is still writing … something, which just made me look at the mess of notes on my desk that I have to clean. He was extraordinarily generous and surprised me on Wednesday with a limited silkscreen print, Rise for Japan, hand signed by the designer, Milton Glaser. Thanks, D.

Speaking of Japan, I’ve taken on the responsibility of Creative Directing a class called Design for Social Innovation, at Musashino Art University, in Tokyo. The students are working to develop a collaborative idea generating web platform, to help with the ongoing recovery efforts in Japan. Something like Open Ideo. Although it has fallen out of the news here in the US, there is still so much work to be done. The class is hyper-smart and very talented. If you’re wondering how this actually works, we use facebook as a progress and communication tool, dropbox to exchange files, and skype video calls. Technology is amazing when used in this way.

What a week. I’m going to see Harry Potter. In IMAX.