Essential blogging

So I’m living in San Diego for just over a week now, and I think we could say I have any of the ‘must purchase immediately’ shopping done. I mean, I found a bike and a futon outside some dudes house who wanted to get rid of them, along with a busted up surf board that we now use as a table, but we had to BUY everything else.

So what do Irish students buy when they land in San Diego?

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If you manufacture anything you see on this blog, congratulations. You have an essential product for the Irish student market. Only about 20,000 of us here for the summer. You sir, are onto a winner.

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OK, so I’m watching Prometheus.

I’m watching Prometheus having a few casual perlenbachers (thanks lidl) and the geologist guy just heard there was a life ‘ping’ one click west of them.
Just so we are on the same page, the movie is set on a moon of a planet about two years travel distance away from earth in 2089.
The geologist reacted badly to hearing about this potential life source (I like rocks, that’s all I like) and said ‘let’s go east’, to avoid the unknown danger of the unknown.
Then you thought. East. East as in on a map, with north at the top you move towards the right of the page.
But how the hell did these people agree on what east was on this new moon planet?
On earth north is at the top of (most) maps, and we decided this based on the fact that the sun moves across the sky east to west, so we’d better keep one of the other two fairly constant. It doesn’t hurt that we developed the compass (thank you ferro-magnetic earth core) to help abstractly identify north.
But on this new planet moon, how do they assign west? What if they were upside down when arriving, and left is actually east? What if they have a rotation that isn’t effectively coplanar with the orbit of their sun? What if they can’t agree upon which way is left?

Which makes me think, how did we decide to draw maps ‘facing’ up? If I got my map of Ireland, or limerick ( both of which I took off my wall yesterday whilst moving out of my student accommodation) and turned it upsidedown would it not still show me how to get to the crescent shopping centre? The shape hasn’t changed, only my reference system to it.
Or how about the map of San Diego I am about to form in my mind this coming summer? What if I wanted to ‘learn’ it upsidedown, with a west rising sun, and a south facing map? I could do it, I just couldn’t refer to any other maps written in ‘north’.

A consultant, I ask ya!

Had my first (informal) consultation as a user experience designer today. By that I mean I had a chat with the MD of a new startup that provides parking payment by text message, who happens to be a customer in the pub I work in! We were chatting about my exams, and what it is exactly that I do… (Mobile phones, power tools, household appliances, you know, designing that kind of stuff) and he asked me about signage. (I thought he said silage) he clarified, and I went on to explain about how we did graphics last year, instructions for wiring a plug without using text. He proceeded to tell how his device worked: you’re at the carpark, no coins. You go over to the machine, you send a text with how long you want to pay for to the mobile number displayed, And presto! The ticket is printed. Its charged to your phone, and you won’t get clamped.
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This is a retrofit to existing machines, the blue ones you see in car parks with the green button you push for tickets. The challenge he told me isn’t the technology, its rolling them out to town councils (36 in Ireland)
Where it really comes in handy is for business reps, who may have 15 different places to visit, therefore 15 tickets, and the accountant has to trawl through the mountain of receipts of every rep every week.
He asked me if I’d have a look at the signage because the guy who was putting it together was a graphic designer, and he needed to be sure it works from a follow the instructions point of view.
And that’s how I landed my first consultation.

New fivers!

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Not a week had passed since my post on notes and coins and the ECB decided they’d release a new series of fivers. Little ironic that we’ve had them since 2002 and the second I go learning about them they change. Blast it anyway.

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These new fivers are part of the ‘Europa’ series of euro notes, and the main reason for introducing them is to increase security, make forgeries more difficult and to reflect the updated map of Europe. Not the updated map in 1945 after the second world war ended, the new eurozone, reflecting how it has gotten bigger since 2002, this map just reflects that Cyprus (off the map to the east on the first generation of fivers) and Malta have joined since then.

I have yet to touch and feel a new one, but I’m keeping track of when I do, on http://en.eurobilltracker.com/ which let’s you track where the bank notes in your wallet have been before they got to you!

Those notes and coins in your pocket

Imagine designing something that everybody desires. What is it? How does it look? What does it do? A shiny car? Not for those that can’t drive. A mobile phone? Not if you can’t use one. What is the most universally desired product in the world?
One argument would be money.
Money makes the world go round, and in today’s global environment money is just numbers being fired across boardrooms and international undersea cables to and from servers and financial institutions, but the down and dirty amount us still deal In cold hard cash. Cash is king, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. There’s nothing that wets a sellers chops more than the sight and smell of a big wad of twenties ready to blow on their next impulse.

But who designs the money? Money, like all the things its used to barter against, needs to be designed for the people who use it. But how do you distil 350,000,000 peoples needs into a coin or note? How do you set about making that what is desirable desirable?
When the new euro currency was being planned in 1996, the powers that be were faced with a problem: identity. How do you represent the identity of millions, many of whom have been at war as recently as the forties. How do we say ‘this represents me’ without alienating others? The answer was in plurality, having each country or sub group with their own national side, and a common side to represent the denominations.

Luc Luycx designed the common side. He’s a computer engineer from Belgium working with the Royal Belgian Mint. His signature is visible on the coins, beneath the O on the 2 euro coin as ‘LL’. Go ahead, check. I’ll wait.

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For those too impatient or too broke!

Why these coins? Surely there must have been a selection process, with competing designs? What did the other possibilities look like?

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And the notes are even better. Just look at some of the crazy designs for euro notes,

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This series by Roger Pfund (Switzerland) is based on symbols

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Winning design by Robert Kalina (Austria)

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How crazy would it be to have dance steps on the back of a fiver?
(Klaus Michel & Sanne Jünger, Germany)

Source:euro information website

Street art in Holland- part 2

This is a selection of street art stickers I found on my travels around Holland last week. The stickers are all around 60mm squared, some in colour, and most are die cut to around the design. I think this is a very nice way of applying street art, as the property is not   ruined requiring a fresh coat of paint. It also allows for mass production and proliferation of the chosen design or message, and instant application to the scene. All in all, it is a novel form of grafitti, and adds to the urban art scene in Holland. 

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Street art in Holland- part 1

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This sea lion made from old oil drums played on the disastrous and destructive effect of oil spills

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Jean Paul Gaultier's welcome message to the exhibition we visited

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This keen fellow left me a little uneasy, what's that in his hand, and why is he 20 feet tall?

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These lights were positioned like lifting cranes, and the design in the back ground was burned into the concrete by leaving a sign up in the sunshine

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This was just a wind breaker outside one of the pubs we were in, but a very effective use of laser cutting

A toast to Toast

Today I asked Aine, my girlfriend whether she thought the oven heated up any quicker when it was turned up full blast. We were cooking a pizza, and I had the oven set to 220° even though the package said 180. I’m impatient that way, wanting the food to be ready now, I hate waiting. She said probably not on an electric oven, but maybe on a gas oven. Then I got to thinking about other electric heating cookers, with timing on my mind. I had a couple of minutes to kill anyway. I asked her what she thought the dial on a toaster does, how is controls the ‘doneness’ of the toast, being that a toaster both sets the temperature and the time for your desired level of crispiness.

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Does the dial control the temperature of the element like on an oven, or does it limit the time, temperature kept constant? I was backing a variable resistor controlled variable temperature system, she favoured timed control.
Only one way to find out, I took the toaster out of the cupboard and set it to the lowest setting, and pushed it down (no bread, we have pizza cooking, remember?) Timed it at one minute thirty. Then I dialled it to to maximum and loe and behold, three mins forty seconds.
I learned something, and occupied myself while waiting for the pizza, but more importantly satisfied a question that would have bugged me for a while if not, and The pizza was done to perfection, and delicious too!

Sharp

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Saw this online today, really great use of material and the shape of the pencil. We’ve all had an unrewarding experience with a sharpener, whether its breaking the nib and having to sharpen again, or an oddly sized pencil not fitting in the barrel.

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I like when I see redesigns of everyday devices, its good to know people are looking around them and challenging the way things are for the sake of progress!

Window-watching, and why its important to carry a decent camera.

I was in work almost all weekend. I work in an Irish pub on the main street in a village in Ireland, and the conversation invariably has three facets: The weather, its bad. The money, its gone. The sports team, what they’re doing wrong. I’ve worked thee since i was tall enough to see over the counter, its family run (Which is a nice way of saying you don’t have a choice in the matter), so you can appreciate that my attention may wonder to the window.

This weekend what caught my eye were two cars that pulled up outside, one Friday evening when I was fresh into work, and the other Sunday evening when I was just about weathered out of it. Interestingly, they were both red and parked directly outside, as if planned a comparison were to be made.

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The first was a Citroen DS3, a car which i glancingly mistook for a pimped-out mini from the side view. I warranted me leaving my perch on the window for closer inspection. Specifically, what caught my attention was the middle column, the red swash behind the door. It gives the car a dynamic feel along an otherwise plain looking segment and really adds a twist to the traditionally boring centre pillar.

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Interestingly, Ford have scrapped the middle post in in their B-MAX range, we’ve all seen the ad where the diver leaps through the huge open doors.

The other car I noticed was a Nissan Juke. I was using the side door to collect glasses after Ireland’s crushing defeat by Scotland’s rugby team, and the local experts were outside digesting the match. The Juke pulled up, and the driver strolled across the street to the newsagents. One reveller made a comment about the middle aged, but still eye-catching driver, to which the Comedian of the group said he would prefer the car. This began a discussion about the car, more a ‘jeep-lite’ or ‘super car’ in my opinion.

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By the time I came full circle to collect more glassware, they had narrowed it down to the position of the back door handles. Offering my opinion, i suggested that not placing them as traditionally done on other cars but to place them in line with the window-line made the panel look less cluttered, and more dynamic. Hearing their barman make a cohesive point couldn’t be tolerated by the paying experts, so I was dismissed comprehensively and loudly while dodging losing dockets pelted in my direction, to which I retreated, saying “What would I know about it anyway, I’m only studying design in University!” Image