Went to the Carnegie Museum of Art this weekend to see their exhibit on Accessibility. This sparked a lot of new ideas about how to focus on solving human problems through empathy. The variety of solutions was truly impressive (concerts for the deaf, eating utensils, mobility assistance and augmentation, navigation technology for the visually impaired, and so much more!)
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, knows his platform allows for bad craziness to spread like cancer, but fuck it! He’s still getting rich. Who cares if his platform amplified the worst voices in this country, and did so at the shared expense of everyone else? Right? Anyone who still works for Twitter should seriously reconsider what they are doing with their lives. Imagine getting paid to provide Nazis a global megaphone. How do you sleep at night, @Jack?
Thoughts on Ruined by Design, by Mike Monteiro:
I’ve finished reading Mike Monteiro’s book, Ruined By Design, and his message is clear: “as designers, we need to think of ourselves as gatekeepers.” This means we must refuse to put harmful designs (in any form) into the world. He uses the analogy of the Hippocratic Oath, and a doctor’s pledge to “first, do no harm,” and argues for designers to adopt a code of ethics.
I can hardly disagree with the notion that designers, like many other professions, ought to operate under a set of values. But is this enough? No. It is not enough to *not* do unethical design. It’s a good start, but it is not enough. For every harmful act, for every data breach, for every easily preventable hack, for every racist and hateful Tweet, for every man-made environmental catastrophe, and for every preventable tragedy brought upon us in the name of “innovative technology” and “disruption,” there is another mile we all travel on this dark highway. Refusing to do something harmful is a neutral act, and ought to be perceived as part of a neutral position. If you are someone who remains “neutral” on climate change, staggering wealth inequality, or the very real threats of fascism and white nationalism, then you’re not really part of the solution - you’re just a speed bump.
We need to reverse this, and Mike Monteiro is passionately calling for us to start by putting on the brakes. It’s not enough, but it is an essential first step. What we desperately need is positive change. We are going down this road at the speed of internal, infernal combustion. We are going faster than hot chrome and sweaty sex. Running in the red.
Almost everyone (aside from a handful of oligarchs and their Fox News sycophants) agrees that we should (at the very least) slow down. And if you suggest we stop, do you know how you will be labeled? You will be called a “far-left radical.” As if wanting every hard working family in this country to live with some basic level of dignity is a communist plot! As if wanting Twitter and the rest of Silicon Valley to actually be held responsible for what they put out into the world is “too liberal” or “too PC.” Well, call me liberal, but I cannot see the value in letting racist assholes have a platform to make terroristic threats against hospitals. Seriously: Fuck you, Jack Dorsey.
Why are these matters controversial at all? Maybe it is because the only thing more grotesque than this horrify status quo is: ourselves. We have been ignoring hard truths for such a long time that we often fail to see how far off we have wandered. It’s after midnight. The road is dark. The engine is running in the red. Why? From wealth inequality, to endless wars, to climate change, we live in a world where crisis is the status quo. Why?
What the author correctly identified is that this is because it is designed that way. We can’t fix this by simply refusing to go further down this road; we need to actively work against the designs that lead to ruin. We need to take the wheel. And if we crash, we need to pile up the debris and preserve only that which functions as a warning sign: to tell future generations not to go down that same path ever again. I’ll let Mike have the last word on this.
If we want positive search results, we should do positive things. If we want to reassure the users of our products that they can trust us, we should do positive things. There’s a reason I wrote these last three chapters in this order. Community breeds standards; standards breed accountability; accountability breeds trust; licensure validates that trust. It’s a journey. It may be a long journey, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking.
Do positive things.
Monteiro, Mike. Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It (p. 206). Mule Books.
Today’s quote: Лучших сосок не было и нет, готов сосать до старых лет. Продаются везде. Резинотрест.
I am still not certain what observations are valuable to record during this graduate program. What I am certain of, is that I will be learning a lot of new languages: the language of typography, CSS, HTML, Python, graphics, and the countless jargon of the Design community. I think I’ll call this strange new collection of languages “Designese.” It is the combined means by which designers communicate their ideas, and inject them into the world.
The morning class (Design Principles and Practices) was interesting. We began with an exercise where we abstracted our backgrounds by improvising with given materials and the classroom space itself.
It was a bit of a mess in the beginning, but eventually this random pile of madness transformed into a visual representation and collaborative sculpture of readymade objects. Bruce Hanington took two pages of observation notes during this exercise. This was quite an icebreaker, and I generally feel very good about collaborating in the future with this group.
Over lunch I discussed a few of my on-boarding concerns with Ema. I value Ema’s insights and experience as a grad student. It was Ema and Michelle who took me on a brief tour back in the spring (when I was waiting for the admissions decision). I wanted to know if I ought to be concerned by the lack of clear course outline. The syllabus makes the expectations clear, but are still relatively vague and lacking the kinds of specifics I am accustomed to. Generally speaking, I am used to more structure (my time in the military, working at Intel, and undergraduate studies were loaded with constraints and granular, rigid scheduling). This is new for me, but I also expect that this will lead to greater autonomy in a future career - we’re receiving lots of support, but are also expected to work independently, with very open-ended criteria and high standards for deliverables. It is a continual source of comfort to know that these are the people I will face these challenges with.
In the afternoon I had my first session with Andrew Twigg. He will be teaching two of our courses this semester. For introductions, we were spared having to repeat our backgrounds. Instead, Andrew only asked for our names, where we’re coming from, and our favorite food. I chose rice, because “Rice is great if you're really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something” (R.I.P. Mitch Hedberg). After reviewing the syllabus, we had our first lecture on the topic of typography. This included two slide presentations with a brief history on the development of written communication, from cave paintings to the fonts commissioned by billion dollar internationals in the 21st century. This included an almost anatomical dive into the creation of a modern font, what they are made of, and the names of their parts. We also explored the contextual relationship between size, shape, and arrangement of text. There was a lot terminology that is still foreign to me, but I believe I’ll be able to absorb these new concepts as we begin to play with (and act upon) these various components.
One of the slides was a soviet era advertisement for galoshes (at least, that’s what I could glean from a thread on mail.ru). The rough translation: “There were not, and are not better nipples, ready to suck through the old years. Sold everywhere: Reznotrest.” The word “сосать” (i.e.,“suck”) is a verb with similarly vulgar dual meaning to its English counterpart. I’m not sure if this was true when the image was originally constructed. It is probably not important or worthwhile to read into it that too much.
My first deliverable is due this Thursday: 32 layout thumbnails and eight prints (on tabloid, 17 x 11 inch sheets) with font constraints on preselected text. How we arrange it will be up to us to decide, but should demonstrate Design Thinking and execution of enhanced visual communication matching to the context.
Today’s quote: “Design is the process of turning existing situations into preferred ones.”
I’m still getting settled in Pittsburgh, and probably will be through most of the fall semester. Orientation was exciting but also a bit draining, The cohort is exceptionally social. I’ve never seen anything like it. These folks are bright, ambitious, quirky, and fun. We’ve gotten along well on a few outings, and I am seeing a lot of sincere effort to be open and engaging. I’m still feeling closed off at times, and pressured to say or do “the right thing.”
Not ethically, of course - that comes easily. Doing what is right is most easily expressed when helping others. EX: I helped a member of the cohort (they live in the same neighborhood) move a new couch to their apartment. We ran into some unfortunate constraints, and they had to borrow a hacksaw - seriously. How’s that for creativity? Christianne and Diana are genuine innovators!
When I say “the right thing,” I am referring to some Platonic Ideal for socializing in the presence of great minds. My peers are impressive in so many ways, and I want to add value to their experience here. I know that we will all struggle (in some way) to adapt, and will need to be present for one another to help bridge those gaps. I know how precious those kinds of resources can be, and how powerful the bond can be when people struggle together towards a goal. I also how important it is to foster a positive and enthusiastic environment.
I know these things because these were some of the lessons I learned when Jon Davis and I completed our Surface Warfare qualifications. After we got pinned, there was a solid two-week period where we constantly took turns pointing at the other’s chest and saying with a grin: “lookin’ good!” I feel a strong sense of responsibility to encourage that here. So far, I have every reason to believe that I am not alone in wanting to make this happen.
I cannot say enough good things about this cohort. These folks have an incredible range and scope - both in terms of knowledge and experience. There is a wide range of professional and academic experiences: geology, neuroscience, psycholinguistics, UX design, art, business and project management, cognitive science, Industrial Design, and much, much more. They are adventurous travelers and risk takers who find joy in hiking through the woods and sharing a favorite poem. They speak seriously about wanting to change the world. And I think they have a real shot at it.
I’m trying my best not to be cynical. Eustina somehow manages to be cynical while also being likable (and also very cool). Maybe she can teach me that trick. I am also (in the interest of transparency) a little bit worried about the age differences: I strongly suspect that I am the oldest one here, but the age gap is probably under ten years in most cases. I don’t really know why this bothers me. My age is coupled with a lot of experience, but makes me feel a bit insecure. Or maybe it is that the feeling of being insecure is being rationalized after the fact, and age is an easy scapegoat. Who knows?
The facilities here are incredible: there’s a fully functional robotic information desk with old school Dr. SBAITSO/Hawking synthetic speech generator and CGI rendered on-screen persona, a lab for 3D printing and laser cutting, a wood shop with all of the essentials, a computer lab with dozens of iMac Pros, and lots more. I even stumbled by their cleanroom (which gave me flashbacks).
Nothing is perfect however, and this school definitely has its quirks. The CUC locker rooms are on the opposite side of the building from the gym? What? Why? There’s what looks like (and almost certainly is) a Dale Chihuly in the lobby outside of the CUC gym, which is cool, but how do you justify such a strange layout? Is it convenient for the hallway to be a constant river of sweaty bodies in transit to their post-workout showers?
First day of class went well. I took my bike to campus early and lifted weights while watching the gym television broadcast of Trump’s G7 press conference - this administration has given us the strangest and most disturbing performance art ever, and this was no exception. Political dread remains ever present, I expect 2020 to be totally batshit. Lunch on campus is expensive. I’ll need to start packing a lunch, and make better use of the grad student kitchen - that’s right: we have a motherphuuukin kitchen!
Our afternoon class schedule was oddly double booked with a class for MDes students. We got the right room number about five minutes before class was scheduled to begin. Like I said before: nothing is perfect. Jonathan Chapman is teaching our Design Thinking Seminar class. I think this class will be extremely valuable. He expects us to produce an impressive, complete, beautiful book (our own Design manual for non-designers) over a fifteen week period. The examples are intimidating, but I am mostly excited to think about what I will do - the work will be hard, but ultimately rewarding.
After class, Alex asked me about Laserdiscs and I told him that if he wanted to know the history, it would be an hour long conversation. I kept it to under twenty minutes - at least, I think I did.
I’m spread pretty thin between projects, but wanted to post some new renderings. One of the benefits of Fusion 360 is the materials customization built into their rendering pipeline. And I think this project does a good job of highlighting this feature.
I have a render running in the cloud right now for a scene with roughly 250 of these gummies piled on top of one another. With so many surfaces and ray transformations and generations coming from such a complex model, I cannot render it to useable resolutions locally. You can see the rest of my renderings and download the models for yourself on GrabCad.
A selection of photos taken at William Temple House 2018 “Lifting Spirits” annual fundraiser gala.Read More
I’ve been playing around with some more complex geometry, materials, appearance settings, and texture mapping. The real payoff comes in when it is time to render. In an earlier post I talked about Fusion 360’s ray tracing render engine. Much to my surprise, in examining the system resources during in-canvas rendering, it looks like Fusion 360 accomplishes photographic quality ray tracing without heavy GPU dependency. Take a look:
My GTX 1080 Ti is practically idle why the CPU is 100% stressed. Even with a beastly Thermaltake Water 3.0 Pro, this rendering pushed CPU core temperatures to 70˚ C. Since nVidia launched their 20-series RTX GPUs, I’ve been curious about what it will mean for creativity software. It looks like Autodesk will be adopting this technology (Arnold GPU), but maybe not for Fusion 360.
I sold my car today. I am going carless. Why am I doing this?
I live in Portland, and this city has some of the best public transit that I have ever seen -- inside the United States.
Most of the places I visit, I reach on foot.
Driving downtown is stressful. I am constantly on the lookout for bicyclists, inexperienced drivers, aggressive (assertive?) taxicabs, distracted animals, headphone-wearing zombies, etc. Even when I do reach my destination, it can be very difficult to find parking.
Insurance premiums stay the same from one month to the next, even if your car stays parked most of the time. That money could be spent on a taxi, train, or bus. Back when I was doing shift-work (12hrs.) it made a little more sense to have a commuter vehicle, but it's been almost a year since that was the case.
It was also about a year ago when something occurred to me: even if you use a car, that still counts as public transportation. Why? Because those roads are paved, and centrally planned. Unless you live in a state with lots of toll roads (Florida, comes to mind, and I'm sure there are others), chances are very good that your tax dollars went to paving and maintaining the roads that you are driving on. Throw in a few bridges and tunnels, and you are looking at a pretty large public investment in transportation.
Cars might make you feel like you are a rugged individual, blazing your own trail on that big, open road, but the simple fact of the matter is, comrade, that the roads you are driving on are more than likely owned by the public. So why have a private vehicle? Americans (myself included) love their cars. We love that "new car smell", and we love our cars as extensions of ourselves. They can be symbols of power, wealth, sexual prowess, environmental consciousness, nostalgia, ambition, or even a lack of one or all of those things. Cars don't just help us get from A to B, they help us express ourselves.
My car was more trouble than it was worth, but a small part of me will miss that artificially inflated sense of individuality, freedom, and independence. It was, after all, MY car, and I was free to do whatever I wanted with it, so long as I paid the price.
The last expense I had to pay was a $90 parking ticket. But that story deserves it's own entire post.