Sigh collector

The sigh collector is a  smart art project, by Michael Kontopoulos, who turns the intangible, invisible sighs of our daily stressed life into  physical. I must say that it’s a little bit depressing to see your sighs, and your worries of the day piling up and confronting you…However great execution!

if you want to make your own sigh collector, click here 😉

Design Probes

As a lot of friends have asked me about the probes I designed for my project, so I thought it would be a good idea to upload them. It’s only to give you an impression, and ispire you, but please don’t copy them as it’s a skill that I’m still mastering…Hence, I have still a lot to learn from my mistakes.What I find hard when I design the probes is to draw a line between information and inspiration. If you want information you have to interfere and ask questions to get the right answers, but if you want inspiration you have to let the user tell his/her story and express him/herself…Anyhow, I’ll learn 😉

Bringing the everyday life of people into design

On Tuesday I attended the PhD defense thesis of  Froukje Sleeswijk Visser on “Bringing the everyday life of people into design”. I succeed to follow the presentation with my poor dutch, and I really enjoyed the defense (this in english 😉 ).

Froukje’s thesis was the first phd on contextmapping , a very popular method in my school (credits to Froukje) for conducting contextual research and empathize with the user when you design a product/service. Contextmapping is a participatory technique that involves the stakeholders and the users during design and communicates the rich knowledge gained to the design team. However this communication is not just a signal from A->B…it involves a lot of noises, trivial things that users do daily, and that are passed on to the design team for inspiration and creativity.

Designers (and not only) like to hear stories, empathize with the people and then design for/with them…I apply this techique for my thesis as well, and I can say that it really works as you get to know the people and shape stories in your head. It’s a very nice technique, however you have to master it and aknowledge also the time it consumes for conducting it, for the bits of information/inspiration you get. Hence, I would definetely recommend it to get rich information, but maybe not for your graduation project if you haven’t mastered it 😛

p.s you can download or order a hard copy of  Froukje’s thesis at her website

Transition Town, Rotterdam

I’m planning to attend tonight the first meet-up of the transtition-town group in Rotterdam. The concept of transition-towns is attributed to Rob Hopkins, who wrote the Transition Towns Handboook. The transition-town groups share one concern: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities of peak oil and climate change? In other words, how can we make our cities more resilient to oil? What are the actions we have to take?

The reason I am joining this group is to see how this social learning happens. How people share ideas, get aware of the problems and look for solutions…Are these groups  sustainable themselves to hope that things can change from the bottom up?

I am quite curious…My idealistic side believes in communities of practice and social learning, but on the other hand my pragmatic side has seen poor examples (e.g ecoteams) that are only for the very pro-environmentalists and don’t leave any space for the “common” people.

We’ll see…Let’s hope!

p.s here are the dutch transition-towns

Design is the problem

I really like Nathan Shedroff’s presentation “Design is the problem”, and I think I’m going to buy his book as well.

It’s not that he proposes something new, but that he reviews and presents the issues about sustainability in the right perspective giving concrete implications for design. The double button flash is not the way to design (call me Ehrenfeld), neither Cradle2Cradle (“messiahs” William McDonough and Michael Braungart)…

Sustainable Design is nothing more than taking into consideration all the matters: social, environmental and economical. In the past, it was only the last that really mattered…hopefully things change.

Core77 has a very nice (but long) interview from Nathan Shedroff…Read it if you feel like 😉

The Universal Traveler


Getting stuck and frustrated sometimes on the design process, I have found my companion that always helps me in these moments… “The universal traveler: a soft systems guide to creativity, problem-solving and the process of reaching goals“, by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall. A classic book of 1973 that guides you to creative problem-solving in a very friendly way, by using the analogy of travel. Great insights, beautiful graphics… Definitely, a must have book for every designer, engineer and problem-solver out there!

In the flow…

The last 2 weeks I was  facing a quite unproductive, inefficient work from myself…questioning everything…my process, my ideas etc, which of course had slowed me down a lot, and had affected my morale. I guess something that a lot of graduate students face, while they work. Fortunately my analysis presentation, last Thursday, gave an end to all these doubts, receiving very positive comments.

So, the lesson that I learned is that you have to keep yourself in the flow. You have to keep moving, trusting  your skills and thoughts, setting deadlines and goals (even if there aren’t any) and trying to meet them. Otherwise the retrospective attitude (always very important) gets bigger and bigger, and you start to focus on very small details, and questions that only lead you backwards…

Sometimes you just have to be in the flow, or in other words just do it!

p.s for more, read also the “In the Flow” article from the frog design magazine…