27 posts categorized "Design"

What to learn next?


Black-eyed Susan about to blossom / New Jersey / July 2, 2007

Design is a learning experience.
So my agenda is to figure out what I want to learn next.

~ Ayse Birsel (Industrial Designer and President of Olive1:1)



The modern and the ancient, both of fine design, side-by-side in Rijeka, Croatia / May 2005

My cousin Tonci took me for a ride on his Vespa on my last trip to Croatia. What fun to have a Vespa to tool around on -- it would be Vespadicious!

“Vespa has lived on from one generation to the next, subtly modifying its image each time. The first Vespa offered mobility to everyone. Then, it became the two-wheeler of the post war economic boom. During the sixties and seventies, the vehicle became a symbol for the revolutionary ideas of the time. Advertising campaigns like "He Who Vespas, eats the apple", and films such as Quadrophenia have symbolized eras in our history.”  (Vespa)


Depliant “Vespa”, by Martelli, (Switzerland), 1946 (via Vespa history)

Vespanomics: the ecological, economic, and personal satisfaction one achieves after buying a Vespa scooter. Usage (Eg.) Jelisava could be seen stylishly scooting around town once she discovered Vespanomics.

Creative Recycling


Recycling newspaper into something beautiful and useful / April 20, 2007 marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the New Jersey Statewide Mandatory Source Separation and Recycling Act; with the signing of this act, New Jersey set the standard as the first state in the nation to mandate statewide recycling

It has become second nature for people in New Jersey to recycle bottles, cans, plastic, and paper. Every two weeks we set our pile of recyclables out on the curb. When we travel we often run into problems because we can't bring ourselves to throw bottles, cans, etc. into regular trash cans, instead we walk around aimlessly searching for recycle bins. I'm always trying to think of a way I can creatively re-use something and hate to throw things away -- it feels so wasteful. Once, as Paulo was installing a new toilet seat because the old one had cracked, he somewhat facetiously said, "I suppose you'll be wanting to use this in the garden." (Now, I do recycle all kinds of things for the garden, but even I draw the line somewhere.) The item in the picture is made of pieces of newspaper folded into thin 1/4" strips that are then rolled in circles; 14 small circles are attached with string to a large center circle. It is bright and colorful and looks like the sun or a flower and can be used as a hot pad or displayed as a work of art. For creative recycling inspiration, visit Great Green Goods, a web site that highlights products made from recycled materials.

Saffron Marigold


Saffron Marigold Midnight Lotus Sheer Curtain Panels / April 2007

After seeing the movie The Namesake, I couldn't get the images of Indian textiles out of my head -- their colors, patterns, and vibrancy. I searched online, and discovered Saffron Marigold, a company that sells home furnishings that are block-printed by hand in India. Shesham wood is hand-carved to make the blocks and each design may use from 3 to 30 blocks. Pigment dyes are used with the blocks to produce the luminous colors (read the full description here). I purchased two sheer curtain panels and they arrived in a beautiful package from Mumbai in five days (and the company didn't charge my credit card until they'd heard that I'd received the curtains -- how often does that happen?!). The ethereal white lotus blossoms floating on deep cobalt blue waters make my kitchen glow.


"The lotus, in which the gods discovered their grace and majesty ..."




Ornamental Calligraphy Alphabet; 8th and 9th Centuries; Anglo-Saxon (Delamotte, F.: “Ornamental Alphabets, Ancient and Mediæval,” 1879) [image via fromoldbooks.org]

I am tired, Beloved,
of chafing my heart against
the want of you;
of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.
    ~ Amy Lowell, "The Letter"

To obtain a more pleasant effect


Width Proportions of Modern Roman Capitals [Fig. 3] (Source: Brown, Frank Chouteau: “Letters & Lettering: A Treatise With 200 Examples,” 1921)

Typography is the art and technique of type design. Each letter and character in a font is drawn in a very precise way and the designer thinks about how the letters will interact with each other. The outlines -- the shapes, curves, and dimensions -- of each character make them come to life. Look at the tail of the three "R" letters in the figure -- each gives a different feeling. No matter what the words say, the letters themselves are beautiful and convey something on their own.

“Width proportions, which may be found useful in laying out lettering for lines of a given length, are shown in [Fig. 3] in a more modern style of the Roman capital. In the classic Roman letter the cross-bar is usually in the exact center of the letter height, but in 3 the center line has been used as the bottom of the cross-bar in b, e, h, p, and r, and as the top of the cross-bar in a; and in letters like k, y and x the “waist lines,” as the meeting-points of the sloping lines are sometimes called, have been slightly raised to obtain a more pleasant effect.” (p. 6) -- Letters & Lettering, 1921

The imagination is agreeably stirred


Cork is an amazing substance. I love its color and texture. The feel of it -- hard and soft at the same time. It is environmentally friendly. It is both elastic and impermeable. Someday I hope to have a cork floor in my house (wonderful sound absorption qualities). Design Within Reach just finished their annual Champagne Chair Contest -- participants create a miniature chair using only the cork, wire, and foil from no more than two champagne bottles. With over 1,000 entries, the winner was a cantilever block chair (left); a runner-up (right) looks like a great beach chair:



A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeably stirred; the wits become more nimble. A bottle produces the contrary effect. Excess causes a comatose insensibility. So it is with war: and the quality of both is best discovered by sipping.

    ~ Winston Churchill