Thursday, July 15, 2010

Design: Humanitarian Design

Last week, I wrote about menu design. How many of you laughed and thought to yourself "really? menus?" I almost did the same but after I read the published the post, I felt happy. The kind of happiness that makes you think you have given something back to the community. This week's design post is just about that -- design for humanity. Humanitarian Design might sound like a complex issue but it's pretty self-explanatory. It happens when good-willed designers/architects/engineers pair up in order to work with communities with the goal of designing products that meet the need(s) of the said community. Or in the words of, it "connects the power of design to the people that need it most, and the places where it can make a real lasting difference."A popular example is one of the hippo roller, a product created to improve water transportation. The hippo roller was made 15 years ago by two South Africans and redesigned by

Today's post is a little different, it's different in the sense that I'd like to add my two cents to the humanitarian design debate sparked by Bruce Nassbaum's article on whether humanitarian design is the new form of imperialism. I'm not going to write a dissertation so don't close your browser just yet. Bruce voices his concern about the"western" designers who might be missing the mark in their quest to do good for the underprivileged. He raises a point about collaborating with the right partners and learning from the best local people in order to appreciate the bigger picture and actually help the people in need (as opposed to imposing western beliefs and values). He provides the One Laptop Per Child initiative as a example of a failed test run, in his words, it "failed in its initial plan to drop millions of inexpensive computers into villages, to hook kids directly to the Web and, in effect, get them to educate themselves."

From what I gather, Nassabaum is clearly not against the concept of helping others by designing products that they can use to help themselves. No, his concern is whether the right issues are being attended to, the right problems being solved. My answer to that is Yes & No. Growing up in a country that sometimes requires people to fetch clean water. While I never fetched water myself, I have witnessed images like the one seen below and the hippo roller is definitely an upgrade.

On the other hand, people living in congested cities(the hippo roller was specifically designed for rural areas so we can conclude that some thought went into the process) might not benefit from a roller and that's where collaboration begins continues. However, they probably have other needs that will benefit from innovative product design. Just because an idea doesn't work does not mean that it should be classified as "imperialism." Yes, people/designers might be ignorant of certain issues but all they need is education. They have the energy and passion to help and that is mainly what matters.


I can also see how the One Laptop Per Child is an initiative that, given poor infrastructure, will not work. Issues such as lack of electricity remove the benefit of OLPC. However, the concept behind OLPC should not be discouraged. It is forward thinking that should not be shunned. The human race is an ever evolving one. The fact of the matter is that, one day, the hippo roller might become obsolete in very areas that it is being used. But it will have served a purpose. Just as the One Laptop Per Child will one day serve a purpose in villages with electricity. Baby steps people, baby steps.

You can check out more examples of humanitarian design on Project H or google "humanitarian design" to learn more about this awesome discipline of design. Likewise, you can participate in the ongoing debate by searching for "humanitarian design" on twitter.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Digital: Pixlr

Gone are the days of salivating to the latest release of Creative Suites by Adobe only to find out that, costs more than two months of your rent. Introducing Pixlr, a "browser based" image editor that can be used as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop. I came across Pixlr on stumbleupon and I like the idea behind it.

You don't have to be a graphic design major, or "know a guy who knows a guy who can get photoshop for dirt cheap". Pixlr is free and there is no catch. Given that this is a browser friendly editor, you can download a Firefox add-on designed for "grabbing" pictures off the net and editing the image on your browser in a matter of seconds. I edited my twitter profile avatar with the add-on:
Just in case you were wondering, the shades were grabbed off Yes, they are $325 Alexander Wang shades. I know, they look just like the real thing!

For tips on how to use the editor, check out the Pixl blog. My favorite tool has to be the brush tool. With a growing brush collection, you can transform your image with brushes ranging from doodles to vector stalks, true stroke of genius.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lateral: Life

I did a 5 minute video for this post only to find out that the sound was mute when I played it back.

But that's fine because the video below sums up what I said in my video:

Life is this journey that starts with the pieces you are given, your parents. In some cases people don't start with their biological parents, some babies are dumped in a garbage can, others are adopted. But someway or the other, there's at least one other human being who leads our way. As we grow older we begin to discover more pieces, pieces of wisdom passed on from our loved ones, pieces of our own, pieces of knowledge, pieces of love, pieces of sadness, pieces of regret, pieces of rebirth. What happens when you have a plan that doesn't work out? That piece was missing in your jigsaw puzzle of life. Lateral thinking is a concept that goes beyond the smartest campaign or most creative idea. Applying this concept to life is just as good, if not better. The questions to ask yourself is, did that piece really exist? Is there one in front of me? Can I create a new piece? I'm beginning to appreciate the bigger picture, the piece that has it all.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Inspiring: Gilbert Arenas

I like to root for the underdog. Maybe I see elements of myself in them. I'm not just talking about any kind of underdog (there are different types, you see). I'm talking about the underdog who lifts people up with their story. This week, I'm handing the YISI inspiration badge to Gilbert Arenas.

Arenas, also known as "Hibachi" or "Agent Zero" is a basketball player for the Washington Wizards. What's that? You never heard of the team? Me neither. Not until I came across Gilbert Arenas in 2007. I was having a tough semester at school but my spirits brighten up a little after I watched this video:

And this is not some dumb post about how Adidas lifted my spirits. In fact, the brand has nothing to do with this post. Arenas got me thinking when he said "it wasn't even about basketball anymore." How many of us set our hearts on something and forget to see the bigger picture? We listen to what people say about how impossible our goals are. Like Arenas, we're asked to sit on the bench. Arenas inspires me because he has proven to the world that he is not a zero (literally, he changed his number). And yes, he made some bad choices during the 2009-10 NBA season but he has also made some good ones too. His story inspires me to get back up and play with heart.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Design: The Menu

How many times have you ordered for something in a restaurant? How many times have you taken notice of the menu? A menu speaks volumes. Not only does it show what the restaurant/cafe offers, it also enhances the ambiance of the place. When I sit down and reach for the menu, I like to be wowed.  Sometimes the menu comes in simple A4 paper with regular typeface. Straightforward and...boring. And then there's  the "all over the place"menu (my favorite type, when done properly). You can find good examples from the following restaurants: Islands, TGIF, Denny's

don't forget drink menus:
Make no mistake, whether it is all over the place or subtle, menu design plays an important role in meal selection. Today, I'd like to pay homage to the menu. What would life be like without the picturesque menu? A printed piece of work that taps into our imagination and tantalizes our appetites. I'm currently working on a menu for a restaurant. They are in the process of updating an old menu and are asking for a new look to go with their new dishes. Watch this space for a sample of their new menu :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Innovative: WPP Annual Report

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you are told to read a detailed report? If you are like most people(including myself), you put it off or find other things to preoccupy yourself with. What if you found out that you didn't have to read the whole thing? That you could watch and listen as well:

The 2009 WPP Digital Annual report takes home today's innovative badge. Here's why: the thought behind the process of putting that report clearly appreciates the time and attention span of its readers. WPP is a leading communications service group that offers services in Advertising, Media, PR, Branding, Healthcare, and Digital (among others). What does that mean to investors? They want to know that this organization is good at what it does. My verdict is that it must be if it can come up with a creative way to sell itself. The report gets an innovative badge instead of a digital one because it combines interactivity, design and multimedia to create a report that is actually fun to read.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Digital: Artificial Intelligence

Imagine the horror when I woke up this morning and didn't have an idea for today's post. How is that possible? Everything about this blog has a digital element, offline ideas shared's a blog!
So I took a deep breath and did that thing my Doctor says to do anytime I run out of blog! I got out my surfboard but quickly realized what he actually meant. He meant the net.

Introducing Bina48, a robot with a lazy eye and digital mind. And I know you think I'm only just saying "digital mind" because I'm writing a "digital" post but if you liken this robot to the likes of  search engines e.g. Google, then it all makes sense. Google provides relevant answers to your questions. Bina does the same thing. Bingo! Go on with your bad self Mina, I ain't hating.

Check out her video here

 Bina joins Repliee Q 1 Expo and a few others:

In the future, instead of searching Google, we'll ask our robots instead...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lateral: Tate Tracks

Last year I attended a course designed for aspiring account planners. In simple terms, account planners are advertising agency people who work to understand the consumer's view in order to create communication that resonates with them(the consumer). The discipline of planning has different approaches and it boils down to the agency culture and the type of planner working on any particular campaign.

So back to my story. Each week, I hopped from one agency to the other (we had our seminars in  different agencies) gathering knowledge from a diverse range of planning directors. In each seminar, we were presented with at least one campaign from the hosting agency. What has any of this got to do with lateral thinking? (If by now you cannot tell that I like to provide background information, now you know :)

One campaign that stood out to me was a campaign for Tate Modern by Fallon. The video below sums up the idea behind campaign idea, Tate Tracks:

Just to give you some background information, Tate Modern had some success drawing in that audience but they struggled to keep them. The reason why this campaign gets a mention today(a highly honorable feat if I say so myself) is that the thinking behind it provided a long term benefit. We all know that music plays an integral role in the life of the audience they were looking at (Tate Modern used music in their previous attempt) but Tate Tracks went the extra mile by getting into the heads of the musicians. The question asked wasn't (only) "How do we get the consumers attention?" but "What do they consider as art?" "How do they contribute to art?"

"Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces" (SOURCE). The campaign changed traditional art by tapping into the inspiration it provided to musicians.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Inspiring: John C. Maxwell

When someone gives a detailed and honest breakdown of an area of interest that you have, you can't help but appreciate their input. Today's inspiration is of an author that I have come to respect and admire:

John C. Maxwell is known for his books and seminars on leadership. From reading and listening to him, I have learned that leadership is about empowering and inspiring people rather than merely dictating and managing them. I also like that he is upfront about his faith. Some people might tone down their faith in order to get mass appeal but that hasn't been the case for him. Mr Maxwell provides readers and viewers with insightful knowledge while also acknowledging the source of his wisdom. There's no doubt that Mr Maxwell is a respected leadership expert and a man of God to be reckoned with! Thank you Mr. Maxwell for giving me a better appreciation of life and leadership.

You can follow him on twitter @johncmaxwell for a healthy dose of advice on life, learning and leading.