Friday Oct 24, 2008

Inspiration for Today and Tomorrow

today and tomorrow is a cool blog that provides design, art and technology inspiration. Thanks Pieter, I love it.

Matthias Müller-Prove is a User Experience Architect for Desktop Virtualization at Sun. Sometimes he blogs here – sometimes at Acetylcholinesterase.

Monday Jun 02, 2008

Beautiful Design - Sculptural Objects and Functional Art (SOFA)

One of my biggest interests outside work (yes, I do have interests other than cars), is in three-dimensional art. This includes functional pieces like furniture, bowls for serving food, lighting, etc. and also pieces which are just beautiful to gaze at. In fact, the primary thing I do when on trips is to seek out galleries which have such artwork (usually called Crafts) to look at and possibly buy.

It is much harder to find such stores, though, than the multitude of galleries which have only paintings and photographs (two-dimensional art). I also look for museums that have such work, but they can be similarly hard to find. My favorite is the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in Manhattan, which has one floor of such work, usually even including at least one particularly inspired automobile.

One trip which my wife Laurie and I took specifically to see such art was the SOFA show in New York City a couple of years ago. SOFA stands for Sculptural Objects and Functional Art, which is just the sort of thing I enjoy. Most of the pieces shown were for sale, but at prices out of my reach. So I settled for taking photos (with permission) which I have now as screen savers and wallpaper on my PC, so I can still at least enjoy them that way. I hope you enjoy them as well.

<< Photos taken down -- see Chip Alexander to view them.  To protect the artists' work, I only wanted to have them up long enough for the blog viewers to see them.  >>

My wife and I enjoyed the show so much that we will be going to the Chicago version of it this November. Yes, November is not the nicest time of year to go to Chicago, but I am told this is an even bigger version of the show we saw in New York City, and is in fact the main show, so we have to go check it out. I'll try to take pictures at it and post them when I get back. If there is interest, I can also post photos of the 3D artwork which my wife and I own and love.

While it is hard to directly apply a lot of the beauty and design in these forms to software design, they are certainly highly inspirational, and at least the creativity and overall beauty can stimulate one to do better virtual-world design as well.

For those of you who find the photos in this blog intriguing, but don't want to travel to Chicago in the winter to see it, I would also strongly recommend the Palo Alto Clay and Glass show July 12 and 13 at the Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Rd. off Embarcadero.


Tuesday Oct 23, 2007

A designer's take on the myths of innovation

Maya Venkatraman is an Interaction Designer at Sun Microsystems. She started working in the area of Human Computer Interaction in graduate school, where she earned her Ph.D, and has been working in the industry for almost a decade, designing software that is easy to use. There seems to be a tight coupling between each phase of the internet era and a set of buzz words. The omnipresent and overused buzz word for the web 2.0 era is "Innovation".

My garden supply site , a respected business journal, and everyone in between wants to tell me about their innovations, how to innovate, who is innovating, why we are not innovating enough, and many, many more innovative things.

Given all of this attention to the topic of innovation, I found it hard to resist buying and reading Scott Berkun's latest book The Myths of Innovation. After reading his first book , The Art of Project Management, I expected this book to be pragmatic, realistic, entertaining and informative. I was not disappointed.

The earlier book, The Art of Project Management, is about the effective management of the environment in which designers work. But this book is about the everyday work of designers and the way their work is perceived. While I learned a lot of new facts reading "The Art...", I found a lot of supporting evidence for existing beliefs when I read "The Myths...".

The book is organized into ten chapters, each chapter focusing on debunking one myth. I have taken the liberty to translate the list into design parlance:

  • Myth 1: Good Design is the Result of a Single Moment of Inspiration or Epiphany
  • Myth 2: Winning Designs Are Immediately Obvious
  • Myth 3: There is One Single Method to Get to Good Design
  • Myth 4: People Love New Designs
  • Myth 5: The Designer Works Alone
  • Myth 6: Good Design Ideas Are Hard to Find
  • Myth 7: Your Boss Knows More About Design Than You Do.
    (probably not, but he can create an environment where it is safe for you to innovate)
  • Myth 8: Problem Statements Do Not Matter
    (they do, phrasing the problem correctly can give you half the solution)
  • Myth 9: The Best Design Always Wins
    (no, the design that is optimum for a given situation and time - wins)
  • Myth 10: New Designs are Always Good

I can see myself reaching for this book when I want to use a quote or anecdote to make a point, but I can also see myself using this book to analyze the "innovation trajectory" of projects that I'm involved with. My favorite quote from the book is, "An idea is not an innovation 'till it reaches people."

Entertaining and informative, I would highly recommend this book to anyone involved in, or nearby, a design project.


xDesign is a software user experience design group at Sun.
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