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Designing the Future? Check out these 5 Websites for Innovative and Inspiring Materials

Posted by Plish on March 20, 2013

soft, hard

glowing, shiny

smooth, rough

warm, cool

sharp, dull

touch, see, taste, hear(?!)

 

Reflect for a moment on where you are now:

Probably sitting somewhere….Wearing something (if not, I hope you are not in public)…Your feet are resting upon something…You’re looking at a screen, touching it perhaps..you are smelling and feeling the hot cup of coffee in your hand…the rings on your fingers…

Your experience of now is mediated through materials of all types, shapes and sizes.  The clothes, upholstery, floor, cup, tablet screen, coffee cup, the coffee, even the air, your skin…all materials…

Materials are so foundational to our experience of life that we often just take them for granted.

But, these are exciting times.

New materials are being created daily, materials that respond to temperature, to vibration, to light…materials that change shape in magnetic/electric fields, materials that don’t pollute the environment…

What we can make in the world is limited more so by materials than by our dreams…

Here are some really cool websites, some free, some not free, but all display a dizzying array of materials of all types.

OpenMaterials.org This site is all about ways to DIY amazing materials.  It’s about sharing material experiences.  Check this out.

Materials for Designers – Great site from the Materials Information Society.  Great database.

Transmaterial – Materials that redefine our physical environment.  Amazing stuff here.

Material ConneXion – This is a great site.  It is also a subscription based site. However, these folks offer more than just materials, they can be innovation partners. And, if you live in the areas where they have their display rooms you can actually see and touch the materials in their database. It’s worth a subscription to these folks.

Materia – Similar to Material ConneXion but this database is free.  There tagline is “Materialize the Future.”  Their website is a great place to start.

This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have any other sites, please share them.

Henry David Thoreau said, “The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”

Please don’t settle and let your dreams become woodsheds.  Learn about, and experience new materials.

~The more we know materials, the more we can make dreams reality~

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Architectural Design, culture of innovation, Design, Experience, Fashion, innovation, Nanotechnology, Open Source, Sustainability, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Look at Different Approaches to Innovation via NeoCon 2012

Posted by Plish on June 14, 2012

Yesterday, I was at the NeoCon 2012 Design Expo.  While many, if not most,  of the companies touted themselves as being innovative, there were a handful that caught my eye for different reasons.

People need people to heal, so anything that helps family and friends be with a sick person is most welcome in patient care settings.  The “sleepToo” is an amazing piece of furniture.  While the addition of features is often antithetical to innovation, this combo  gets kudos for eliminating multiple other pieces of furniture and ultimately saving space in all too often cramped, patient rooms.    Want to sit and look at your laptop? Go ahead.  Put your feet up? No prob.  And, if you get tired, a quick press of a button deploys a bed so you can “sleepToo.”

Then there’s the GymyGym.  This is another attempt at eliminating mulitple pieces of exercise equipment to save room.  It’s a great idea and everything you need to get a workout is right there on your chair and you don’t need benches and weights lying around your office (or house).  As the salesman told me, “You’ve got a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Experience, innovation, invention, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Fragile Muse and Respect for Creativity

Posted by Plish on February 18, 2012

Over at the Looper’s Delight group we were discussing what to do with ideas that don’t grow the way we expected, or wanted them to.  Richard Sales of Glasswing Studios and Good Nature Farms (A farm/Creative sanctuary) then said the following:

We have a policy at our house that, when someone is in the creative moment, we tiptoe, we close doors quietly, we are very respectful of the presence of the Muse – that lightning fast butterfly. When we accidentally barge in, we dont’ make conversation and apologize etc. Everyone is trained.

This is such a great practice to follow!

Everyone puts such a great emphasis on collaboration nowadays, we assume that the best results will only occur when everyone is open to everyone else.   Businesses try and force collaboration through architecture, work flows, etc.

Yet, how often do businesses respect the need for people to seriously engage their muses; to afford people the silence to hear the silent whispers of inspiration within?  How often to we tread lightly when approaching people who are immersed in their creative moments?

How can businesses and people structure the environment, or create rules, so that individual creative moments are free to blossom?

Beautiful, amazing, new, hybrid plants are possible through botanical cooperation – the collaboration of multiple flowers.

But before this can occur, each flower needs to bloom on its own…

Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Breaking Habits in the New Year? Innovate Instead

Posted by Plish on December 28, 2011

I entered the VA hospital, tired after a two and a half hour drive.  I turned the corner and went to press the “UP” button. I pressed and the button didn’t light up. I pressed again, but didn’t really look closely at what I was pressing.  It still didn’t light up. I went to press a third time but stopped short of pressing, and looked.  The button was different and had writing on it.

I couldn’t read the writing until I crouched down.  I read and sighed with relief that I hadn’t called an entire “Crash Team”. 

We all are creatures of habit.

Personally, I expect two buttons when I approach an elevator: One for ‘UP’, and one for ‘DOWN’.  When I’m on a lower floor, and tired, and anxious (all to be expected when people are visiting hospitals) I don’t want to have to read, or pay attention to colors.  I expect the lower button to take me ‘DOWN’, and the upper button to take me ‘UP’, not call an emergency medical team.

Habits are hard to break.

Innovation plays to habits – the best innovations are intuitive.  Ask yourself what people typically do (or better yet, watch them!)  and design with that in mind.

Swiping to turn an e-page is much more elegant than pushing a button, or pinching the screen.

An “Emergency Call’ button shouldn’t be placed where it can accidentally be pressed, or worse: not be pressed because someone isn’t expecting to find it in the place of an ‘UP’ button.

Innovations deal with people, and people are creatures of habit…

…and habits are hard to break.

Posted in Architectural Design, Design, innovation, Service Design, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Animals, Architecture and Design – Are We Losing the Connection?

Posted by Plish on September 22, 2011

There’s something about animals.  They can evoke fear, joy and myriads of other emotions.   Once upon a time, gargoyles and various other creatures were regularly incorporated into the design of buildings.  But now?

With the exception of clothes, how often do you see them in modern architecture and products?

Other than the Milwaukee Art Museum’s , Quadracci Pavilion,  which evokes a bird with its flapping wings and soaring demeanor, I can’t think of any other buildings.

Marketing campaigns have not been shy about using animals.  And for good reason.  It’s probably the same reason that older/ancient architecture utilized animals in both serious and whimsical fashions (and why people are attracted to furry, animal patterned garments).

Human brains are hardwired to respond to animals.

The above study shows that animals evoke pretty strong reactions in our amygdala’s – that older part of our brains that is largely responsible for emotional responses.

Which brings me back to my original question:

Why aren’t animals used more prominently in modern architecture and innovative products?  Sure, we use the mechanisms of animals to improve our products and ventilation systems, but we still insist on soaring glass and steel, monoliths with gold accents.  In a world that is trying to recapture a respect for nature, shouldn’t there be less techiness in our structures, and more ‘down-to-earthinesss’? Shouldn’t we celebrate our connection to animals in ways that doesn’t cheapen them or make them solely articles of (literal) consumption?

What do you think?

 

 

Posted in Architectural Design, Biology, Design, Evolution, innovation, nature, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

That’s YOUR Chunk of Open Office Space, This is MINE…

Posted by Plish on September 16, 2011

In the past I wrote about the health impact of open plan office spaces and their impact on creativity

Now it appears that open office spaces, intended to foster interaction, instead foster territorial behaviours that undermine collaboration.

 Professor of Strategic Management, Stephen Cummings, who led the study said,

“The intent of taking away dividing walls and doors is usually to improve creativity and performance by fostering spontaneous fun, interaction and sharing…However, we found evidence that it can lead to attempts by employees to re-create spatial and social structures and boundaries, actually undermining the behaviours an organisation is trying to encourage.

…most teams marked out their territory with posters, slogans and personal items, even moving furniture to create their own personalised space, which seemed to put other teams off moving into that space.  Employees also tended to use the activity rooms in their established team groups at separate times rather than mingling with other teams.”

He also mentioned that people felt that they lacked privacy and hence they had to be more rigid in their behaviours and hence less innovative.

So what to do?  Well the obvious step is to create a mix of open and private space, understand what your people are like, and build an environment that plays to individual strengths, needs and personalities.  “One size fits all,” isn’t the way to an innovative culture.

 

 

 

Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Health Concerns, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mushin – Innocence and Simplicity in Design and Innovation

Posted by Plish on May 6, 2011

Where does good design come from?  Is it a representation of who each of us is?  If so, then surely self-awareness comes in to play?

I came across this short reflection (Via Charlie Badenhop of Seishindo) by a Japanese architect who we know as Okamoto.

Please give it a read and I’ll join you on the other side…

From time to time I get to meet exceptional teachers in Japan. Often what happens is I go to visit a friend and it turns out that one of the other guests is a highly regarded sensei.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet a man that works as an architect. Here is what Okamoto sensei had to say about his work.

“Charlie-san, our host said you have an interest in architecture. She suggested I tell you about the concepts that influence my work, and thus I’ve taken some time to think about this topic. In Japanese culture, and particularly in Japanese architecture mushin is an important concept to understand. In relationship to my work, the two ideas I hold in regard to the meaning of mushin are “innocence” and “free from obstructive thinking”. I strive to make all my work as simple as possible, without any visual, emotional, or physical obstructions.

What I’ve found over the years is, the simpler you make something, the more obvious the obstructions in your thinking appear. Rather than being bothered or constrained by the relationship between simplicity and obstruction, I find it very energizing. In the early stages of each new design, I look forward to discovering the weakness in my thinking. This leads me to understand I sometimes try to hide my weaknesses by obscuring them with complexity. The more simple the design, the less there is to hide behind. I must say that each time I discover this I am humbled. It’s only by being willing to own up to my many personal flaws, that I can little by little do away with the flaws in my designs.

In both my personal and professional life, I attempt to discard all extraneous actions and thought. I strive to be economical, ecological, and graceful, and follow a path of least resistance and optimal effect. I’ve found that I am most likely to embody this way of being prior to reflecting on what I’m doing. At such times, which still only happen rarely for me, I’m in a state of open focus relaxation, and my thoughts and actions occur simultaneously. Nothing comes between my thoughts and my actions, and neither is anything left over, or left undone. When I’m able to embody such a state I feel better both physically and emotionally, and I consider my work to be a reflection of my soul.

Sensei paused to make certain he still had my attention. “If you don’t mind,” he said, “let me please say one more thing, at the risk of filling the space with too many words.

Tao de Ching, the classic Chinese text of wisdom says the following,

A door and windows are cut out from the walls, to form a room. It’s the emptiness that the walls, floor, and ceiling encompass, that allows for the space to live in. Thus what we gain is Something, yet it’s from the virtue of Nothing that this Something derives.?

If you’ve ever been in a traditional Japanese room or Zen temple you’ll see that these spaces are filled with the same emptiness as described in the quote I’ve just read. Space is filled with “nothing”, as a way to allow for the infinite potential a room encompasses. This is an important part of the Japanese design aesthetic. The experience of “emptiness” is an invitation to empty one’s thinking mind, so that a new, innocent reality might appear.”***

I think my favorite quote (there are many actually) is: “This leads me to understand I sometimes try to hide my weaknesses by obscuring them with complexity.”

Complexity as Weakness’ disguise…

How many corporate cultures have complex innovation processes? What weaknesses are these complexities hiding?  What weaknesses are complex User Interfaces hiding?  Are these all reflections of the designer(s)?

Powerful questions to ask and not for the faint of heart.

What are your thoughts?

***Unless otherwise attributed, all material for the newsletter “Pure Heart, Simple Mind”™ is written and edited by Charlie Badenhop. If you would like to receive complimentary copies of future newsletters, please click on this link, http://www.seishindo.org/newsletters/ ©All rights reserved.

Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, creativity, Design, Experience, innovation, meditation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Environments and Creativity – Why Not in Political Discourse?

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2011

A little over a year ago I blogged on optimizing your environment for creative output.  I also wrote about the pros and cons of open office plans.

I wanted to share this article from today’s Wall Street Journal that touches on both of the above topics.  One amazing tidbit:

…Researchers at Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health tracked 60 white-collar workers at a government facility in the central U.S. Some had been randomly assigned to an old office building, with low ceilings and loud air-conditioners. The rest got to work in a recently renovated space filled with skylights and open cubicles.

For the next 17 months, the scientists tracked various metrics of emotional well-being, such as heart-rate variability and levels of stress hormone. They discovered that people working in the older building were significantly more stressed, even when they weren’t at work. The scientists said the effect was big enough to be a potential risk factor for heart disease.

All this got me thinking about how early philosophers and politicians carried out their discussions in open air forums, surrounded by fresh air and blue sky.  They dreamed of ways of improving the world, becoming better people, and their imaginations would soar. 

We are indebted to their innovative thinking still, today.

I wonder how much more creative and effective our elected officials would be if their sessions were in an open air environment, without rows of desks and aisles, no left or right…

Their work might actually have the freedom to soar,

and we, likewise…

Posted in Architectural Design, Behavioral Science, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, Politics, The Senses, Wellness, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Eight Insights in Design from the World of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on August 24, 2010

This past weekend I was at the Midwest Bonsai Expo at Chicago’s Botanical Garden.  While there, I had the pleasure to watch and listen to a demonstration workshop by bonsai expert Michael Hagedorn.

While it was fascinating watching him transform a tree through his thoughtful touch, it was even more interesting to listen to his insights and reflections on bonsai, bonsai design, and hence design in general.

 Here are some thoughts of his from the workshop:

1. A good tree (design) should have three aspects: A – Elegance; B- Dignity; C – Presence.   However, it is not uncommon for these three to be doled out in different proportions.

I love this observation. It is no doubt influenced by his training in Japan.  How do designs (or even brands!) that you know of stack up?

2. “I should be invisible as an artist”  The tree is designed so that it stands on its own; that even though it’s been pruned and manipulated by the artist, it doesn’t look it.  It retains itself, or, “takes possession of itself,” once the designing part is over.  Think of it: after a product is released into the market place it stands on its own and grows into its own.

3. “Great people and great trees are the same.”  This is with regards to how the tree(design) ages, how it shows the scars of life and still comes through it all with Elegance, Dignity and Presence (see #1).

Some additional observations of mine:

4.  A good bonsai (design) is a result of the artist(designer) embracing the constraints.  A tree has branches, roots, soil, certain nutritional needs.  If any one constraint is ignored the result is a sickly tree (design) or worse.

5. It’s not about adding to the tree as much as it is taking away from the design and redirecting the tree to achieve Elegance, Dignity and Presence.  However…

6.  There are  wildcards like weather, those things outside of our control, that can scuttle all our bests efforts.  So all we can do is prepare the tree(design) for whatever the future may hold and hope for the best.

7. While bonsai are shown and meant to be seen from their ‘ front’,  really good bonsai (design) it seems, have something to look at from any direction.

8. Bonsai is a type for metadesign.  The self-building, synergistic, holistic, fractalesque nature of working with bonsai is beyond regular design.  Bonsai is an ongoing relationship and dialogue between the designer and the designed.

So what do you think?  Do these eight insights resonate with your own experience?  Can you think of examples that highlight or contradict them?

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, Design, imagination, Life Stages, Meta-Design, nature, Nature of Creativity, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Road to Ecologically Sustainable Design and the Sacred Space Paradox

Posted by Plish on July 8, 2010

We set things apart for special use all the time.  We keep a special set of plates and silverware for special occasions.  We give those utensils and plates extra special treatment, washing them in special ways, storing them in extra safe locations,  being extra careful not to break or chip them.

On the other hand, the every day stuff we’re more careless with.  We clean the stuff using everyday cleaning methods, and if we break something, it’s okay because we can always replace it. 

There are two different mindsets at work.  In the former case we’re  elevating objects to the level of being sacred.  We’re acknowledging that these objects are special, perhaps even holy.  In the latter, there is a sense of mundaneness – we could say that the objects are profane.  (Anthropologically speaking, sacred/profane is not equal to good/evil.  Sacred/profane can be good/bad, bad/good, etc.) 

Just like we reserve a set of dinnerware for special purposes, it’s been a common practice over the course of the last century or so, for governments to set aside chunks of land and designate them as preserves, as land set aside for a special purpose, as ‘sacred’ land.  While this is usually viewed in a positive light, and it has undoubtedly saved land from misuse and abuse, it has an interesting side effect.

Just as having the dichotomy between special and everyday dinnerware creates two sets of rules in how the dinnerware gets treated, so too, creating nature preserves as separate sacred entities fosters two sets of rules in dealing with the environment.

The two rules are, “Do what you want outside the preserves  as long as you try and minimize your impact on others and the world, but inside the preserves  nothing is allowed except appreciation and minimal interference.” 

The preserves are disconnected from the greater whole and are treated as closed, ‘sacred’ systems.  The rest of the world is viewed by default, not as “sacred” per se, but as profane.  Oh sure, people try to be eco-friendly, but we’re willing to stretch the rules a little bit because after all, we’re not in the middle of a preserve like the Grand Canyon.  Admit it, when you see a cup lying in the gutter of a city it usually doesn’t create the same visceral reaction as seeing the same cup floating down a river, does it?

And that’s the problem.

While the idea of setting aside preserves is indeed noble and well intentioned, is this really what we want?  Wouldn’t it be better if every part of the world was treated as sacred space?  How might a city be different if it treated its ecosystem as sacred as opposed to excusing it by saying, “It’s a city.  It’s okay if it alters the landscape and water absorption and wind patterns.”  Instead, if everything was seen as sacred,  manufacturing and  water purification processes would be designed with the goal of putting water back into the environment at equal or better quality than what they started with!  

This phenomenon isn’t only present on the macro level.  It’s present on the micro-level as well, as hospitals operate Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, nature, Politics, Religion, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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