Part of our Contemporary Design Culture course is an essay, where we discuss an aspect of design. We were given a list of topics, and I chose to come up with my own title. I chatted with Adam de Eyto, our course director about some ideas I had about the casing music used to come in, and how we’re losing that art form because digital music doesn’t come with a package. We also chatted about the artefact value of music players, how having something physical increases the value and enjoyment and interaction with the music.

The essay is due tomorrow, and I’m almost done, but I have a little ways to go still by way of image procurement, and referencing.

I’ll leave you with this TV advert for Eircom, which nicely demonstrates the fun possibilities stemming solely from the packaging of the music.

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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

Best Korea ?

With all the talk about North Korea’s recent military belligerence, I have put together a few pieces on the Enigmatic Country in the hope of stirring a little debate. Is North Korea really BEST Korea, as the popular internet meme would have us believe? 

quick history lesson:

Korea was invaded in 1910 by Japan, and later separated into North and South in 1945, when the USSR and USA defeated the Japanese, ending world war two. Unable to agree upon whom to install as government, the state was split in two at the 38th parallel, the soviets taking control of the North, and US controlling the south. The North was established as a single-party Stalinistic Dictatorship state with a centrally planned economy, the South a multi-party with a capitalist, open market economy: cold war politics were essentially to blame for this radical contrast.

Between 1950 and 1953, a Proxy War between Soviet and Chinese backed North Korea and US backed South Korea left a million soldiers and civilians dead, and the threat of nuclear war high. An Armistice was signed and uneasy peace (or ‘non-aggression’) descended on the region.

North Korea remained closely aligned to China and the Soviet Union until the mid-1960s. Recovery from the war was quick – by 1957 industrial production reached 1949 levels. Until the 1960s, economic growth was higher than in South Korea, and North Korean GDP per capita was equal to that of its southern neighbour as late as 1976.

North Korea lost a powerful trading ally and strategic partner with the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, and a series of natural disasters lead to the north Korean famine 1994-1998, in which between one quarter of a million to a million people lost their lives.

History lesson over.

Today, the North has some intriguing reputations. It has the highest literacy rate in the world, at over 99%. Education both academic and political is compulsory and free up to secondary level, the government even supplied uniforms until 1992.

Life expectancy is just 68.8 years, making it one of the lowest in the developed world. (the south’s is 79.9)

North Korea scored against Brazil in the 201o world cup, despite being ranked bottom in tournament standings.

Leaving the Kim family out of this discussion entirely, we can also marvel at some very impressive monuments in North Korea.

directing ‘traffic’

the world’s fourth largest flagpole, flying a north korean flag near the demilitarised zone.

I guess what im trying to say is that the North Koreans have achieved some very impressive feats. Their commitment to a single idea, a single identity, a single project can really produce some remarkable results. There may be something to be said for the results-driven ideology of North Korea, but at what cost? Can the Koreans justify the million dead from starvation in the 90’s, just because it desires for Juche, or total self dependence?  Can it justify the glorious monuments when its people starve?

For sure, North Korea seems a strange place to me, but I wonder would my existence strike them as weird? Or do they even know people exist differently beyond the border?

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!

Old timey maps

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I like maps. I have two of them in my room, one of limerick city that I bought to help learn my way around when I first moved down for college, and one of Ireland that shows all the towns and villages and rivers and mountains etc. Important stuff. I like how all the information is presented so neatly, and knowing its all right there is comforting. I like the truth in maps, how this picture represents the real world, encompasses all of us on a page. But its sad in our digital world today that the fun, adventure-filled sketches produced by sailors discovering far off lands or explorers making footfall on previously virgin territory are disappearing to make way for the satellite images we spend so much time viewing today.
Look at a business on Yelp. There’s the map, telling you where it is. Look at Facebook. There’s the same goddam map telling you where your friend’s charity event is on. Look at hostel world to try book a bed in Holland for your class trip in three weeks, hello map. Don’t get me wrong, I like to know where I’m going, and can much better remember from seeing a picture than a long list of ‘turn right at the four cross roads and follow the road around and at the end of the bohereen if you see a man walking a chicken you’ve gone too far’ directions, but its awfully boring seeing the same Ariel photo of Dublin fifteen times a day.

That’s why I was so happy to see this map of under-sea internet cables, produced in old fashioned fuchsia, just like the Russians used to make when dividing territories recently assumed into the USSR machine.

Japanimation in Metal Gear Rising: Revengance

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When I had more time as a youngster I was quite keen on video games. There was a video rental shop in my hometown, and you could rent games for the Sony Playstation, which I did quite often. One game I had a particular fondness for was ‘Metal Gear Solid: Tactical Espionage Action’. We rented it so often that once when it was supposed to be returned it went missing and we had to buy the game from the shop. I found it in the car later that day, and immediately took up where I left off. 

What I liked about the game was its freedom, its novelty, its depth of gameplay. Before Solid Snake, my only heroes were Mario the plumber and the Dog in The Nintendo shooting game, duck hunt. 

This week, when I had handed in the massive 50 a2 pages of drawings (which I SHOULD have started much earlier, I must admit) for design studio, and didn’t feel exactly like studying for the next day’s maths midterm exam, I discovered my housemate Harry had recently purchased the newest instalment in the Metal Gear franchise. Having become a lapsed gamer right around the time I became a lapsed catholic, I felt a pang of fondness and no small measure of curiosity as to the new predicament facing my old friend, Raiden as I was quickly brought up to speed on what’s been happening in the series. I had played (on someone else’s system) all the instalments since my formal departure, leaving Metal Gear Ray in the hands of Revolver Ocelot, possessed by Snake’s brother and arch nemesis, Liquid Snake through an arm transplant. (You get the picture that this world is a little far-fetched at times, but its accepted with glee)

The new game is set in the future, where Raiden is employed as a security provider for an African president. The technology of the older games is more advanced, but the gameplay is similar to what I remembered from MGS2: sons of liberty. We even have that lovely sword that appeared right at the end of MGS2 right from the start. The familiar gadgets are in fact quite a welcome return, having briefly ventured into the 1960’s in Snake Eater, with a distinctive lack of tech to make the game easier. 

What really struck me, was the very aggressively manga tone the game has taken on. During fight sequences, different combinations of moves and strikes will land a combo, where the game enters slow-mo mode and Japanese text characters appear on screen. During boss battles the rock soundtrack builds up track by track in a guitar-hero style crescendo to a guitar solo and epic vocals. The cut scenes are, in my house-mates words ‘more enjoyable than the gameplay’ and he reckons its ‘more like watching a movie’. 

I’ve seen this trend creep into games since I was a boy. Final fantasy, all uncountable iterations of the game resemble more closely an episode of Pokemon than an old fashioned RPG. The new Grand Theift Auto title probably had more disk space allocated to cutscenes than to game files. I have to agree with Director Steven Spielberg, an avid video gamer, who has criticized the use of cutscenes in games, calling them intrusive, and feels making story flow naturally into the gameplay is a challenge for future game developers.