March 2006

Little Brother is Watching. This billboard in Boston, is under attack for its political subject matter. challenges the Bush administration’s domestic wiretapping program. The Massachusetts state Outdoor Advertising Board officials sent the owner of the board, John Rosenthal, a letter stating, “You are directed to remove this billboard forthwith.” The Little Brother is Watching blog is open for comment. (via)
Little Brother is Watching  ¶
Make your own commercial for the Chevy Tahoe. Chevy lets Web users make their own ads online. A few environmentally aware users have already made good ones skewering the SUV. (via)  ¶
Bring Them Home Stamps. Valid, anti-war postage. For instance, for mailing your taxes.
Anti-war stamp  ¶

Guerilla Wayfinding, 2

Wow! Three weeks ago I posted a modest proposal for a guerilla wayfinding campaign, painting compass stencils at the exits of subway stations for disoriented commuters.

Today at the 8th Avenue L exit I found this:

Compass Rose on 14th Street

Here’s a hi-res photo someone posted to Flickr of the same compass at the Bleeker 6 exit. I found more at Astor Place and Union Square. Is someone reading this blog? And will they go all city?

>  28 March 2006, 10:08 AM | LINK | Filed in , , , , ,
Conveying Accountability through the Member’s Web Site. A short list of recommendations for members of Congress. The results of a survey (PDF) by the Congress Online Project, who also have advice on Transparency, Accountability and Grassroots Campaigns.  ¶

Flickr Riot

Paris is Burning

I’m late to the party on this, but as one of its co-founders notes in passing, the photo sharing site Flickr is fast becoming an easy way to find photos of major protest events in wired urban areas. See for instance, protests this week against the CPE in Paris or the election in Belarus. See also this December 2005 story on MoveOn’s use of Flickr or the 1,430 photos tagged “RNC.”

If Web 2.0 is made of people, an easy use is a kind of grassroots media. Though the corporate-owners of such Web frameworks are certainly willing to take down images that “may offend” or hand over the goods on users. (via)

>  26 March 2006, 7:00 PM | LINK | Filed in ,
HauteGREEN. HauteGREEN“HauteGREEN will showcase a collection of the best in sustainable contemporary design for the home. HauteGREEN will take place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn May 20-22, 2006, during the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.”

I was put off by the chicy angle (why does sustainability always seem to be a class privilege?) — but a member of o2, one of sponsoring organizations, explained that the initiative is intended to attract the interest of designers participating in and visiting the fair.  ¶
Coco Net. Coco fiberIn 1995, Philippine inventor Justino Arboleda devised a method to turn coconut husks into useful fiber. In the Bicol region of the Philippines where he lived and worked, most farmers live below the poverty line and discarded coconut husks are the largest waste product. Arboleda set up a factory to mill the fibers and employed local workers to weave the fiber into netting. The nets replace plastic and steel one on slopes and riverbanks to prevent erosion. Arboleda even found a way to use the dust created by the milling process to create a fertile, soil-like “coco-peat.”

Coconets is the winner of the 2005 BBC World Challenge, which lists other interesting environmentally friendly inventions and business initiatives. (Sponsored by Shell Oil!)

Update 3/26: Evan responds:
“I know in India they have been turning coconut husks in to rope and other fibers for a few thousand years... It takes a Development Bank to take traditional products, ignore the history, and create them again as an amazing new revolutionary product!”

Guernica Stencils

Inspired by the call of Visual Resistance and John Unger, here’s an attempt at a few Guernica stencils:

fleeing.png lamp.png crying.png

Click on an image above for a printer-friendly PDF.

They could probably be simplified further, but here’s a first go.

Free to download and distrbute!

>  23 March 2006, 1:12 PM | LINK | Filed in ,
Houtlust. A blog of images non-profit advertising and marketing. Lots of posters, advertisements, urban interventions, and an occasional video clip from around the world. Updated daily. Some of the images are quite strong — and it’s interesting to try to figure out why. The ones that hit me in the gut mostly involve the human body. Even, as in the example below, by implication.

Update: Houtlust is now Osocio.  ¶
Usability Exchange. Ask persons with disabilities to test and rate your Web site remotely. See this BBC piece. (via)  ¶
Call to prayer. Ahead of the March 28 general elections in Israel, a local cellphone operator announced that a small, right-wing, ultra-Orthodox party’s ringtone is the most requested download.  ¶
Libre Graphics Meeting. The first Libre Graphics Meeting will be held on 17, 18 and 19 March 2006 in Lyon, France in the Ecole d’Ingénieurs CPE on the university campus at La Doua, Villeurbanne. LGM will be a place for free software graphics developers and artists to meet each other, exchange ideas and tips, and plan the future of free graphics. Graphics professionals interested in learning about the state of the art in free software are also welcome. The conference is free to attend, and open to all.  ¶
Barriers for Disability at Work. “Most disabled people would tell you that the bigger concerns they have around the workplace are not around physical accessibility,” said Andrew Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities. “They’re more around attitudes. I think it’s easier to legislate and see change around bricks and mortar than it is around attitudes.” Half of the employers surveyed said workplace adjustments for accessibility came at no expense. 43 percent reported a one-time cost that averaged around $600.  ¶
The Bureau of Workplace Interruptions. Bureau of Workplace Interruptions“BWI is an ‘intimate bureaucracy’ created to challenge our relationship to time and efficiency. BWI uses interruptive technology such as email, snail mail, and the telephone, as well as in-person visits to create invisible theatre that steals time from the realm of work and capital.”  ¶

Call for Entries: Critical Cartography and Anarchist Geography

WorldFrom Perspectives on Anarchist Theory:

“Perspectives on Anarchist Theory is looking for submissions of maps, cartograms, diagrams, and writing, for a special issue, guest edited by Lex Bhagat and Lize Mogel, on ‘Critical Cartography and Anarchist Geography.’

The map is a device of power. What happens when this device is purposely redirected, hacked mischievously or stolen outright?

This issue of Perspectives aims to carry forward the tremendous momentum which links art, activism, geography and other practices into the expanded “field” of radical geography and cartography. We are inspired by recent mapping projects that redirect the culturally understood authority of maps. Such projects have produced a new type of networked discourse, richly communicating information through image/text. These maps picture concentrations of power and global economic flows; reveal the hidden workings of the prison-industrial complex; uncover contestations of public space; overwrite political boundaries with local ecologies; generate walking tours of feminist social history; direct action against military recruiters or global financial institutions; and provide a funhouse mirror to the absurdity of electoral politics.”

The deadline for proposals has been extended a week to March 22. This should be good.

>  15 March 2006, 3:57 PM | LINK | Filed in ,
Numbers of Fruit. Fruit Label“Here in the US, fruit often comes with stickers on it, sometimes telling you where it’s from and/or what it is. There’s also a number, but I never paid attention to that. But on p. 72 [of April’s Food & Wine] I spotted this interesting bit of information:
‘[T]he sticker labels on fruit: The numbers tell you how the fruit was grown. Conventionally grown fruit has four digits; organically grown fruit has five and starts with a nine; genetically engineered has five numbers and starts with an eight.’”
(via)  ¶

Is Design Political?

REDJennie Winhall, Senior Design Stategist at the UK Design Council’s RED research unit, has posted an excellent essay that summarizes a number of ways design is, in fact, political.

The essay addresses branding and propaganda, product labeling, advertising, design by grassroots campaigns, how ideology shapes the physical construction of our public institutions, and how the shape of our built environment in turn shapes our choices and behaviors.

It’s a great call to action.

One oddity, though, is that for its talk of politics, the RED project seems to steer clear of... actual legislation.

For instance, the RED Health project takes on the raging diabetes epidemic and concludes with the design of a grassroots fitness program and an improved interface with the National Health Service. This is totally great and much needed. But only addresses half of the equation.

What about the ready availability of cheap, high calorie junk food and soda? At what point does the Government step in and regulate toxic substances that are poisoning the public? RED sidesteps the issue. As a government funded organization, are they not allowed to propose regulation of industry? Or is it the Design Council’s close relationship with UK industries? A core mission of the Council is to improve UK products and industries through better design.

Beyond better product labeling, why not designers urging a ban on advertising junk food to children? Perhaps a public campaign (with nice graphic campaign materials) challenging the content of junk food itself? For instance, the legality of trans fat? Or agricultural subsidies of corn and sugar that make sweeteners ultra-cheap for food manufacturers?

RED does some amazing and important work. They are one of the few design think tanks researching and promoting design in the public interest in a very high profile way. But the discreet focus on projects and products seems to miss opportunities to leverage its special relationship with Parliament and to shape the policy and industries that shape our world.

>  14 March 2006, 10:49 AM | LINK | Filed in ,
How Islamic inventors changed the world. Brief summaries of 20 influential inventions. (via)  ¶

Branding for Nonprofits

Branding for Nonprofits Branding for Nonprofits: Developing Identity with Integrity is just out from Allworth Press.

From the press release:

“In her new book, Branding for Nonprofits: Developing Identity with Integrity, DK Holland demystifies the branding and design process for nonprofits large and small and shows how you can use both to enhance the effectiveness of your organization. She discusses how brands are developed, how to find and work with good designers and other professionals who can work within your budget, and where to find funding for all of this.

The book is filled with real case studies that reveal situations in which nonprofits have successfully created branding opportunities out of dilemmas and rebranded to create distinctive and clear identities for themselves. ‘Brands are not just about logos (a typical misconception),’ says Holland, ‘the brand goes beyond tangible design elements to the core of the organization — to something more abstract and far-reaching.’ Branding works as an expression of the authentic values of an organization, it creates expectations, and makes promises to its primary audiences or and to the people they wish to attract. Throughout, this guide offers practical, creative approaches to help improve your brand and, in the process, become a more focused an effective organization. Along with branding resources and numerous illustrations, a handy brand glossary defines terms that might be unfamiliar to those facing the challenge of rebranding.”

Continue reading "Branding for Nonprofits" »

>  12 March 2006, 9:56 PM | LINK | Filed in
Progressive poster designers in Australia, 1960’s-80’s. A capsule summary of the political screen printing movement down under. Lots of organizations and names I’ve got to look into.  ¶
Squatter Skate Park Becomes Official. Searching for fast disappearing skateboard space in Seattle, two activists took matters into their own hands and created a fully functioning park before the city caught on. (via)  ¶ Gov. Arnold says: public buildings must be 20 percent more energy efficient by 2015. It’s all in the State of California’s Green Building Action Plan (33KB PDF).  ¶
Affordable by Design. Some examples of sustainable and affordable single-family homes. (via)  ¶
Women’s views are marginalized in the word’s news media. “Women constitute 52% of the world’s population yet make up only 21% of people featured in the news.... First conducted in 1995 and then again in 2000 and 2005, the Global Media Monitoring Project maps the representation of women and men in news media worldwide.... On 16th February 2005 hundreds of women and men in 76 countries around the world participated in the third ever GMMP. They monitored almost 13,000 news items on television, radio and in newspapers.” More at  ¶

Guerilla Wayfinding

Last night, a friend from out of town commented on his disorientation when exiting subway stations in New York City. Which way is North? It always takes a minute or two (or more) to find a street sign, landmark, or other orienting information. In some cases it means walking a whole city block to find out you’re heading in the wrong direction. I’ve lived here for 15 years and I’m still disoriented at far-flung exits where the streets all have names and no numbers.

In midtown they have do little kiosks at street level with maps to nearby landmarks. But this seems like overkill for mostly mixed and residential neighborhoods. So how hard would it be for the MTA to paint a little direction indicator on the pavement near each subway exit?

Hell, how hard would it be to take matters into our own hands? To start a guerilla wayfinding campaign?

To that end, I’ve posted a few free stencils here. I’ve tried to keep it in the MTA style — with the exception of the compass rose. (But then who doesn’t love a compass rose?)

Click the thumbnails below to download a 20KB PDF.

north compass_rose

Update 3/7/06: I’ve deprecated the uptown and downtown stencils, since it occurs to me that this could cause some confusion with the subway lines themselves often referred to uptown or downtown lines.

Update 3/28/06: Using their own fancy, two-color stencil, someone’s taken it on!.

>  5 March 2006, 2:29 PM | LINK | Filed in , , , , , ,
Build a Green Bakery. “When is a bakery not a bakery? When it’s a political statement, an architectural pioneer, and a bit of performance art, all wrapped in one — as is the case at a mysterious new East Village purveyor of cookies and croissants.... The walls are made from wheat and sunflower seed; the floor from a cork by-product. The paint is milk-based, and its pigment derived from beets. Tufts of denim insulation make a base for the bamboo counter, and the staff is clad in racy hemp-and-linen jackets.” The cookies are good, too.  ¶
Compendium on E-government Innovative Practices. (300KB PDF) A mixed, global survey by UNPAN, December 2005.  ¶
A brief history of the “clenched fist” image. Fist“A persistent symbol of resistance and unity, the clenched fist (or raised fist) is part of the broader genre of ‘hand’ symbols that include the peace ‘V,’ the forward-thrust-fist, and the clasped hands. The clenched fist usually appears in full frontal display showing all fingers and is occasionally integrated with other images such as a peace symbol or tool.... Fists, in some form, were used in numerous political graphic genres, including the French and Soviet revolutions and the United States Communist Party. However, these all followed an iconographic convention. The fist was always part of something — holding a tool or other symbol, part of an arm or human figure, or shown in action (smashing, etc.). But graphic artists from the New Left changed that in 1968, with an entirely new treatment. This ‘new’ fist stood out with its stark simplicity, coupled with an popularly understood meaning of rebellion and militance.” (via)  ¶
Samedi Gras(s). Vivid poster from a worker movement in Italy promoting a carnaval event this Saturday in Milan. The event is in solidarity with the people of New Orleans and to protest the ‘eating’ of green areas by highway construction.
Samedi Gras(s)  ¶
What should my clothes be made of?. “Globally, cotton production accounts for the use of 22 per cent of all agricultural insecticides.... Nylon is reckoned to be responsible for 50 per cent of UK emissions of nitrous oxide (a poisonous greenhouse gas) and polyester is, of course, derived from petrochemicals.... Alternatives such as bamboo, organic linen, wool grown on ‘biodiverse’ ranches, hemp and innovative fibres such as Ingeo, derived from degradable corn starch, all look much more appealing.” (via) Cotton also requires a lot of water.  ¶
Cooperative Housing for and by the Aging. “Opting for old age on their own terms, they were starting a new chapter in their lives as residents of Glacier Circle, the country’s first self-planned housing development for the elderly — a community they had conceived and designed themselves, right down to its purple gutters. Over the past five years, the residents of Glacier Circle have found and bought land together, hired an architect together, ironed out insurance together, lobbied for a zoning change together and existentially probed togetherness together.” (via)  ¶
Counter-Recruitment Comics. “‘Mixed Signals’ is a counter-recruitment tool in comic book form — is now available for use in activism, outreach, counseling, education, starting conversations and saving lives.”
Counter-Recruitment Comics  ¶
A House for an Ecologist: A Design Ideas Competition. The AIA is sposoring a compeition to design a modest, sustainable house on the Potomac River. Entries will be judged on design excellence, celebration of place, respect for resources, and design process. (“How do innovative design methods promote great design? Collaborative and interdisciplinary teams are encouraged.”) Deadline for registration is March 17, 2006.  ¶
Sappi: Ideas That Matter. Papermaker Sappi again offers cash grants for designers working with non-profits. In their words: “Sappi invites graphic designers from Europe, North America and Southern Africa, to create printed communication campaigns for causes they want to support.” Apply here. See the 2004 winners. (via)  ¶
Brazil's sugar crop fuels nation's cars. “More than 80% of new cars now sold in Brazil are equipped to use ethanol as well as gasoline. Both fuels are available almost everywhere, and since ethanol can cost about a third less than petrol per litre at the moment (though the mileage is not quite as good), the home grown fuel is more popular than the foreign import.” It’s not just home grown, but distilled from a previously untapped waste product — what’s left after sugarcane is refined into sugar.  ¶

On to April.
Back to February.