Crutches adapted for use on unpaved roads
Scraps of rubber and old bicycle inner tubes used to create a broader footprint for crutches. The aluminum and rubber crutch is a timeless design, as iconic as a Q-Tip or a Band-Aid. But how well does it work? How well will it adapt as we get heavier as a country? How effective is it for countries with limited public or private transportation and dirt roads?
Ferry to Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua

Crutches adapted for use on unpaved roads

Scraps of rubber and old bicycle inner tubes used to create a broader footprint for crutches. The aluminum and rubber crutch is a timeless design, as iconic as a Q-Tip or a Band-Aid. But how well does it work? How well will it adapt as we get heavier as a country? How effective is it for countries with limited public or private transportation and dirt roads?

Ferry to Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua

Two visions of the cab— London and New York.
The London version is so iconic that it doesn’t need graphics. The New York version is blemished with unnecessary text and too much advertising. In that sense, it’s true New York.

Two visions of the cab— London and New York.

The London version is so iconic that it doesn’t need graphics. The New York version is blemished with unnecessary text and too much advertising. In that sense, it’s true New York.

What’s more personal than a cellphone? A glucose monitor. You literally put yourself in it.

I love looking through the Flickr Diabetes 365 Group—dedicated to using photos to show “some aspect of daily living with diabetes and help explain what it’s like to live with diabetes every day of the year.” There are only 265 members, but as hard as it is to manage a chronic condition that often requires blood testing four times a day, the users also document their daily experience. In the process, the feedback from others strengthens their routines and provides support for living with a condition they call “the D.”

A lot of the posters on tudiabetes.org, a diabetes forum and support group, use their real names and photos. While there’s still some perceived stigma around diabetes (because it’s a disease like lung cancer that people assume you brought on yourself through bad habits), this will likely go away in the next ten or twenty years as it becomes more prevalent.

Photos: personalized glucose monitors and an autographed insulin pump (Meredith Vieira), from the Flickr Diabetes 365 group.

Group site: http://www.flickr.com/groups/mydiabetesathome/pool/

Ads vs in-store reality—Method shares display space with Tide

Space is tight in New York. Sometimes enemies are neighbors. My grocery store stocked the Method display with Tide. Some of the cleaning products don’t even make it on to shelves and are “displayed” on the floor.

Location: Grocery store, Financial District, NYC

In case of emergency, use impractical safety precautions.
Safety precautions on the Staten Island ferry were more lax when the MV John F. Kennedy was built in 1965. While the boat has life preservers for all passengers, many of these are stored out of reach. As a work-around, the ferry is equipped with several metal “life preserver pull down hooks.” One can only imagine what it would be like to use a metal hook in the midst of a crowd of frightened passengers to try to quickly pull down a dozen—or a hundred—life preservers while a boat is taking on water.
As a side note, the “ferry facts” on www.siferry.com are primarily descriptions of accidents and collisions. Imagine if American Airlines took a similar approach to their website!
Location: Staten Island Ferry, NYC

In case of emergency, use impractical safety precautions.

Safety precautions on the Staten Island ferry were more lax when the MV John F. Kennedy was built in 1965. While the boat has life preservers for all passengers, many of these are stored out of reach. As a work-around, the ferry is equipped with several metal “life preserver pull down hooks.” One can only imagine what it would be like to use a metal hook in the midst of a crowd of frightened passengers to try to quickly pull down a dozen—or a hundred—life preservers while a boat is taking on water.

As a side note, the “ferry facts” on www.siferry.com are primarily descriptions of accidents and collisions. Imagine if American Airlines took a similar approach to their website!

Location: Staten Island Ferry, NYC

What makes a souvenir?
Visited Storm King Art Center last fall and saw this urban family at the sculpture park. While waiting for the bus back to the city, the boy and his father played swordfighting with sticks. When the bus arrived, the boy’s stick made the trip back to New York. Sitting on the subway, his mom had her souvenir—the map—and talked with her husband and the boy about their visit. The boy had his stick, a souvenir of Storm King, the woods, and swordfighting.
Location: Subway, NYC

What makes a souvenir?

Visited Storm King Art Center last fall and saw this urban family at the sculpture park. While waiting for the bus back to the city, the boy and his father played swordfighting with sticks. When the bus arrived, the boy’s stick made the trip back to New York. Sitting on the subway, his mom had her souvenir—the map—and talked with her husband and the boy about their visit. The boy had his stick, a souvenir of Storm King, the woods, and swordfighting.

Location: Subway, NYC

Broccoli is penance. People buy it because they assume that if it’s green and doesn’t taste good, it must be good for you.


At Ruby Tuesday, they put broccoli on the plate with chicken wings, steaks, and burgers for its “halo effect”—seeing it on the plate makes diners feel like they’re being healthy, even if they don’t touch it. It’s the same psychology that convinced fast food restaurants to put salads on their menu. Moms use salads as a rationale when their kids want fast food: “Timmy really wants a kid’s meal but I don’t want to go because I’ll feel bad about myself for eating a burger. Oh, wait, they have salads. We can go and both get something that we want.” And then the Mom goes to the restaurant, smells the french fries, and buys the burger value meal (with a Diet Coke).

At Whole Foods, broccoli is $2.99/pound. The two pound stalk (pictured above) with three small florets costs approximately $6 for two servings. Shoppers don’t buy broccoli because they’re craving it, they buy it because they’re feeling bad about themselves or want to “balance” the frozen pizzas in their shopping cart. And for many people, it probably sits in the fridge until it goes bad and then gets thrown out. Two weeks later, they purchase another head of it. Broccoli is a good intentions product, the lapsed gym membership of the grocery store.

Business opportunities (cynical): put broccoli in a grab-and-go case near the checkout lanes. People will see the broccoli, look at their carts and realize they bought a bunch of “junk,” and grab broccoli for balance.

Business opportunities (optimistic): label other vegetables with quick cooking instructions. “Swiss Chard: chop, saute garlic in hot olive oil, add chard and cook 3 minutes. Add 1/4 c water or stock, cover and cook for another 3 minutes. Serve.” “Kale: Heat oven to 375, remove stems, toss with olive oil and salt, roast for 5 minutes, flip, remove when crispy, around 7 more minutes. Serve.”

Location: broccoli photo from Whole Foods, Tribeca, NYC. Ruby Tuesday photo from the New York Times.

Hugh Dubberly’s exhaustive overview of the design process, as modeled in academia and industry.

Some of the models attempt to catalog every possible twist and turn of research, analysis, and synthesis. Other diagrams acknowledge that innovation can be a black art and that there are still unmapped steps, the “here be monsters” of the design process. How do you explain, or teach, the quick flash of insight that arrives while daydreaming in the shower or at 2 am in bed?

Download pdf.

I watched Food, Inc last night. This isn’t a scientific sample or even a causal relationship, but I couldn’t help but notice the difference in appearance between Joel Salatin, who raises his animals on a pasture, and Vince Edwards, who has nine windowless chicken houses that supply Tyson.

I watched Food, Inc last night. This isn’t a scientific sample or even a causal relationship, but I couldn’t help but notice the difference in appearance between Joel Salatin, who raises his animals on a pasture, and Vince Edwards, who has nine windowless chicken houses that supply Tyson.

Proof of meat.
Display practices in Chinatown—how else would you know that that those Godzilla arms you bought really are Godzilla?
The only alternative? Hire a smart high school kid to DNA test your food.
"When high-school students did an inventory of the DNA in their own homes, they were amazed to find lots of mislabeled food products… The real detective work came into play when [they] matched the DNA code against a couple of publicly available databases for animal species. They found out that an expensive brand of sheep’s-milk cheese was actually made from cow’s milk, that “sturgeon caviar” was actually Mississippi paddlefish, and that dog treats supposedly made from venison were actually made from beef."
Full story

Proof of meat.

Display practices in Chinatown—how else would you know that that those Godzilla arms you bought really are Godzilla?

The only alternative? Hire a smart high school kid to DNA test your food.

"When high-school students did an inventory of the DNA in their own homes, they were amazed to find lots of mislabeled food products… The real detective work came into play when [they] matched the DNA code against a couple of publicly available databases for animal species. They found out that an expensive brand of sheep’s-milk cheese was actually made from cow’s milk, that “sturgeon caviar” was actually Mississippi paddlefish, and that dog treats supposedly made from venison were actually made from beef."

Full story