Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Digital Sketches: Product Experience in Stores Space!

Of late I've been thinking about the role of the sales pitch (ideally): to inform the potential customer of a new product, it's innovative motive, and it's position amongst competitors. Couple this with the retail environment which usually serves as a symbol to the lifestyle, status, and general interest of the customer. Makes sense, then. The immovable object of of the store is a catchall, while the agile sales pitch takes on the role of specifics. What lays to waste is the deep understanding of how X product came to be, especially the immense amounts of work from very smart people to get it there. Thus, I propose a role reversal: the experience of the retail environment adequately serves as immersive tour of the product manufacturing process, while sales pitch, well, I'm not sure what sales pitch does, and I'm not sure I care. If you're a person patronizing a particular establishment, then you already know you're in the right places searching for the gear you desire.

The scenario for me to explore was simple: I love Back to the Future, and Nike has recently developed the vacu-formed future shoe as seen in Back to the Future II, rolling the manufacturing methodology into a new line titled "Vac Tech," molding their classics such as the Air Force 1 out of a single, seamless piece of fabric. 

Blamo. Beautiful. Although I'll agree with the critics here: why showcase a shoe with no visible seams based on a design with many seams? A visual cue for comfortable familiarity, sure, but no product should falsify its manufacturing roots. (Ahem, stylized housing in this era of open-lifestyle and technological development, anybody?). I happen to know something about the vaccu-form, having made a few molded PETG shapes myself, seamless, smooth, full of compounded curves. In this way, I've simplified the process into three steps to illustrate them as spatial experience: Heat; Mold; Suck. Classy.

My illegible sketch reads something like this:

Heating is necessary for the temporary plasticity to reform the material; a re-ordering and separating of its inherent molecular structure. If you've ever had the pleasure of melting something, you'll usually see some bubbles in the process. Ergo my visual cue at the facade level looks like:

Literal? Nah, the stuff doesn't really bubble when you heat it, though it might appear to under the microscope. Immersion into the petri dish, complete. 

Two is the mold. When creating the mold for your final vaccu-formed product, you are shaping the to-be void space of the object; i.e. the air which the shell encapsulates. A firm, but inexpensive, disposable material this must be, it is oft something compressed, such as the MDF routed into shape as I've used in the past. This molding form is presented in both perspectives as the compression it must go under and the solid is appears as from the outside. They become the entrance of into the space, and the object which occupies the interior, respectively. 

The compression is a simple Frank Lloyd Wright-ian approach to difference between low ceiling and high ceiling, composed with current-technology-available curvature. The solid, and exterior of this entry procession, a near-opaque cladding via difference in lighting intensity. 

Finally is the suck. A space-planning approach tackles this realized-representation in conjunction with the Venturi-esque wind tunnel that is the Form from step 2. 

The thought of people flow derives from the little I know about fluid dynamics from exposure along side Professor Cotel (so interesting!) at University of Michigan. Those eddys are points of maximum immersion into the molecular re-makings going on in the hard manufacturing of your favorite shoe. The result is a dynamic, interesting, engaging space, easily lost to hours. A desire for any retailer! And hopefully a small gift back to the customer.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Inspired Reflections

It was my girlfriend's nutritionist that said to her: "it looks as though your career has taken many unexpected turns, I hope you're doing what makes you happy." Of course, her tone was enthused, a supportive person she is. During the newscasts of Steve Job's many inspiring moments, the one that most stood out to me was much in the same vein. It was the famed Stanford commencement speech of 2005 in which he reflects "I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" Amazingly, I have no idea how to answer that question. As a trained architect in a struggling real estate environment, I've been thrown many curve balls, not least of which is lack of a paycheck, despite my best efforts. I have passion for design of all fronts, as I imagine Steve did. I know right now I am at a stage of being able to both do anything I want, and unable to do anything. There's always that constant internal battle which nags, 'is this the right path for me? Will it be pleasurable? Will I be prosperous?' But, finally, we can only conclude, after a life which certainly has had it's trials, and the amazing accomplishments that have risen from it, Steve made his destiny without these hesitations, and the only statement we can make with pure confidence is: We Will Not Know Until We Try.

Rest peacefully, SJ
Hope I'm not just jumping the bandwagon~

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On going projects: from the drawing board to prototyping!

This marks the latest chapter of PostIt Lamp, conceived of so many months ago. Once delayed for more time sensitive projects through IDEA Space (see the NEWS @ for a brief overview), and this time delayed under the decision to take these rogue lighting design projects into full fledged product design venture under the title FOTON FLOW. So watch out for that, it's huge news for me and my partner, Tiffany Wang to be delving into something we truly enjoy producing. For continuing news on FOTON FLOW, please visit us @! It will be a lot of fun developing the brand along side the products.

In the meantime, in order to check the successes of my coding / grasshopper / virtual world translations into Real Life, I've done some prototyping. This example isn't quite PostItLamp, but instead a more common tessellation of ruled surfaces, in this case limiting the function of the product to being 'just a shade.' Good to know that what's been going on within the computer screen is perfectly translatable. Documentary picture below, 'spatial affect' above. And no, there is no plan for that many strings to be in the final. Being only half a m√∂bius strip, the lack of rigidity which should be present in the final needed to be augmented by, well, clutter. Enjoy! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Superheroes: poster-ized

Since the shirts didn't manifest, out of sheer intimidation of the impressive generosity from more equipt donors, I decided to polish up the stencil designs a bit with the focus moved toward a printed final product. Here is SUPERHERO, please comment :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Light Fixture #1 Update: 'cause I been slow

Probably because of all the horrifying weather news in the US lately, all these trials for a scripted aggregated light shade looks like a city of tornadoes. 

That said, a few things completed on this project:

. the individual unit design (how the blocks are built in order to be two things, instead of just one!)
. the guiding principal behind the formal aspect of the shade
. the light source itself, and mounting hardware (easiest, surprisingly)

Things I'm having trouble with: 

. keeping the aggregates from overlapping - I attribute this to coding rustyness
. ensuring a proper cavity size to allow the light source ample breathing room for illuminating the highest percentage of outside surface - still unsure what that logic might look like.

Deadmou5 keeps me motivated for now :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

While away: 2 ways I celebrate Japan, and 2 things on the way

Because they are superheroes. With all the turmoil going on in Japan with the multiple earthquakes, tsunamis, and meltdowns, I wanted to propose something I could do to benefit the relief cause monetarily, while celebrating some of the culture we're familiar with in the West, artistically. I picked some things that were a bit clich√© for creating easily recognizable images and poking a bit of fun at our (my) ignorant viewpoint on contemporary values in Japan :). More importantly, I wanted to highlight the efforts of the engineers / workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear power plant as no less than superhuman: the willingness to risk own life and limb for the benefit of many. My hat is off to them, and my hear goes out to their families.

I thought I'd go with the most silly of images - the Japanese school girl throwing up a peace in a photograph. A milder version of the classic red, complete with sun(s) from the current flag, as well as the rays from the rising sun sets off well from a slight off-white background. Original goal was to create T-shirts, with all proceeds to go to the Red Cross and / or Tzu Chi Foundation for Japan relief. When places such as LivingSocial began matching donations, I couldn't bring myself to ask for people to purchase T's with only half their money going to help. Still, if you're interested, we could make them together!

Other ideas were: Sumo wrestler, geisha face, and.... more Superheroes!
Things to look out for: a Flat Lamp redux which is customizable, and another light fixture which addresses the cradle-to-grave issue inherent in the desire to upgrade our surroundings every so often. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

GhostLab: Locavore Architecture, and the great return to Master Builder

Nova Scotia architect Brian MacKay-Lyons has been taking groups of students to his 60 acre farm for the experience of building from the ground, up, using site-typical materials, methods, and seaside vernacular. 
The subject matter is certainly something near to me: the de-separation of architect from building through a return to the master builder model, thereby realizing highly sensitive design sensibilities in instinctual moves. While my approach has been primarily rooted in technological development, beating the construction field to the proverbial punch, there are also aims of addressing other issues which Ghost, the fairly prototypical (albeit, minus some concessions to the category - such as traveling to the functioning farm!) student design/build classification, doesn't necessarily accomplish in practice (it should be noted that I can only comment on built models through to the 12th annual d/b summer camp as the event is considered a conference, and I have no clue what the discussions were!). 

The three main criticisms I see as a future-of-the-discipline model are scalability, availability, and just plain ol' ability. I feel the need to specify these criticisms as global to architecture, because, as a classroom, Ghost is already moving leaps and bounds in providing quality academia in a pragmatic setting. 

Scalability is an obvious one. Some of the most successful design/builders, Jersey Devil for example, have only accomplished so much quantitatively because a team of handy designers can do only as much as they can do. When I speak of technological developments for scalability, I do not mean to infer armies of robots, as some of my colleagues might propose, but mimicking insanely ubiquitous manufacturing practices used for every other product outside of architecture. An old idea, absolutely. The difference in this round of potential one-off prefabs is the portability of the assembly line, until now, unavailable. It starts small: Gramazio + Kohler transporting a single robo-arm to stack a brick wall.

Availability of materials and equipment are stems from sustainability concerns. While, undoubtedly, Ghost addresses greenness through Locavore practices, the same methodology is unavailable in urban settings. Systemic approaches to reviving found spatial elements and material substance must be addressed in a realistic long-term tactic to alternative material sciences in a growing population. Thinking along the lines of equipment is where we can learn much from social media in open and crowd sourcing practices to loan, borrow, rent equipment and services based on need. 

Craftsperson ability can, in part, explain the repetitious throwback to simple, expressional modernist structures. While this aesthetic choice is not an uncommon, or undesirable one in any way, the honest ascertation is that the same team of designers would struggle to gain traction in other stylistic genera. This may seem as a harsh and petty blow, and is admittedly given last priority for that reason, but is a realistic concern as the first two categories of material availability and scalability will be the primary deciding factors in diminishing our current practices of design and construction.

Always a mega-fan of design build practices for their elite understanding, and thus, freedom to design more assertively, I am humbled by not only the effort of Ghost, but for its success in garnering some of the most prestigious critics, speakers, writers and teachers to participate year after year. Richness in design for me is the integration of many things that are not the hard-edged walls we understand in floor plan architecture, and my personal approach is never technology as a save-all, but as enabler to a wider audience for engaging our craft in the same ways we've pigeonholed ourselves away from understanding and communication. Get some.

Find out more about this incredible program here:

*image from

Saturday, February 12, 2011

In case I was out on a limb with that thesis....

... which of course, you all did not think such a thing.

"12 Ways Bacteria Improve Our Lives, from Hard Drives to High Rises"

An interesting quick list on how bacteria, given that now we have the ability to manipulate things of microorganism scale, can, and is being used to improve everyday aspects of our world. Specifically: creating building materials, repairing concrete, detecting pollution, and growing packaging. The ever-growing field of grown objects with purpose vs. even grown materials is a huge jump in waste-elimination practices. Very exciting! Thanks, TreeHugger!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Taking back territory: UX/ID are spatial problems.

Not problem in the sense of how will we ever cope as designers, but problem in the sense of avenue for innovation.

User eXperience design and Interaction Design are ever-growing professional fields within Information Technology, and primarily deal with web-based, stuck-to-the-screen formats, such as your shopping experience. Rarely do these relate to a physical interaction with the virtual realm, or seek to develop a more immerssive, cybermimetic* environment.

James Turrell is the prominent cybermimetic spatial orchestrator, combining virtual boundary within physical enclosure to adapt spaces which rival the CG visualizations of the Tron worlds, placing you inside the light cycle arena.

What I'm set to propose, then, is not a full on war against the much higher rate-of-growth IT counterparts, but a collaboration in recognition that interaction with inaccessible screens is not the future, but environmental design with keen blurring tactics, is.

A simple diagram which intends to start the conversation on imagining the nature of user experience and interaction design as a spatial strategy is shown with a simple integration of human with screen, and computational response to said figure.

Like an easy recipe, the designer will flower with adjustments for sensory perception augmentation, tuning the experience as desired. A plan for a physical installation? I'll get started on the coding...

*Cybermimetic is a term coined by Dennis Dollens, in Digital Botanic Architecture which studies plant algorithms for growing architecture, including video game environments. Cybermimetic refers to anything which mimics cyber/virtual/computational space IRL.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Branding thyself: I swear I was just making things match like a good little designer.

And then there was the purchase of, leading to (from its original ranodc.blogspot generic), thus the need to fulfill multiple mediums as borne from a single hand. In all honesty, this kind of self-branding exercise is necessary to get yourself noticed, appear coherent, and ensure you are hitting the right people, no matter the way they receive new information.

The physical portfolio, the business card, the cover letter/CV package, the folio content (which means web folio), and website all appear as one. Admittedly, this blog doesn't match worth beans. Deal with it :)

The design industry has always experienced this in terms of individuals defining 'what kind of designer' they are in order to appeal to specific types of employers or clients or academic institutions, and in the time of web 2.0, everyone must compete on this level. As experienced curators, should designers bring it to the next level? With all individuals self-branded, is there room or reason to work institutionally? With everyone operating in micro-ecologies, is individual branding another form of mass-customization? There are many a business development meta-blogs that speak on the subject, so just look at some pics, and maybe take a pedagogical position on the architectural / design world.

As experienced curators, should designers bring it to the next level? With all individuals self-branded, is there room or reason to work institutionally? With everyone operating in micro-ecologies, is individual branding another form of mass-customization? There are many a business development meta-blogs that speak on the subject, so just look at some pics, and maybe take a pedagogical position on the architectural / design world.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On Mutability in Architecture:

Recently, while perusing through my thesis sketchbook of last Spring, I ran across what can now be considered, in significant hindsight, as a catalog of approaches to architectural mutability. All of these, I would consider are common / historical examples as I looked for my own medium, which ended up relying heavy on the sciences. Some follow sci-fi approaches, some just human ingenuity in time of crisis. Take a look?

This first page explores the principals of self-organization, and like any good student, is the replication of Boids Birds. The act of flocking in nature is observed to have no General, but only ad-hoc communication between organisms which follow simple rules to work together. As designers, the instinctual decisions are applied in defining those simple rules to manipulate responses, which are only marginally predictable. A useful tool in foregoing entirely assumption based design, and allowing reactionary architecture to surface. The main criticism? It's reactionary :)

 You can't go wrong with small robots which live in the walls, watch how you live, then collect and re-organize junk in order to formulate a hard-edged spatial depiction of an everyday routine. The implication of SPATIAL RECONFIGURATORS is a designer's reaction to green washing products stamped as sustainable, whereas in reality, to make aging spaces useful again it is necessary to invent new methodologies for the items around us which may be considered unusable. Re-use is extreme recycling, and robo-stalker-junk-accumulators are extreme re-use. I must be an environmentalist.

Man-made Mutability takes a strong influence from Leebus Wood's past-futuristic war scenarios where average man is often called upon to invent new spatial languages based on what's left post-bombing run. Having done some studying in the Favelas, I have an appreciation for this kind of improvised work commonly found in slums. The informality frees creativity, in both of the examples, borne out of necessity. Found materials, re-purposed, new connection types invented to combine these things. It's fascinating, and admirable work both in fantasy and reality.

The culmination of these initial efforts were two disappointingly predictable results in determinable form. Project:Flex to the left, is just that, a flexible  muscle which allows for a tight womb, or a soft-edge grand hall, with only medium in between. SpatialBreakout is a less exciting sketch of the same principals of those robots we looked at before. While I find these early proposals without much depth, I do think there is work being done on the larger body, where new forms of interaction with environs are currently in question. It's not so much whether or not we can find shelter as fortunate people of a rich nation, but how can we find new livable experiences within our dwellings at home, work, school, or dreaded doctor's office. UserExperience design is about virtual storefronts in today's market, but the spatial neglect will be short lived. Architects re-purposed as UX designers of the physical world?

Clearly, all of these subjects show their faces more or less in the thesis package at the point of presentation, which, if you haven't already, can read about in previous posts! Please discuss!