Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

26 JUNE, 2009

More Than Form: Design for Disability

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What a microwavable monkey has to do with the MoMA and open social conversation.

THE BOEZELS

Mental disability — from neurodegenerative diseases to developmental disability — is a difficult subject, often shoved under the bed of social dialogue. But the reality is that it exists, and those affected by it have needs — physical, emotional, mental — dramatically different from the average.

Dutch designer Twan Verdonck address this head-on through The Boezels, a series of animal-like toys designed for mentally challenged people and elderly with Alzheimer’s as sensorial stimulation therapy (Snoezelen) tools to help the learning process and reduce anxiety.

My project is a metaphor and example for how we could deal with social care, industry, design and art

The Boezels come in several varieties, each with a distinct “personality” and function, stimulating one or more of the four senses — touch, smell, hearing, sight. From a microwavable monkey meant to warm up the user’s belly to a snake infused with a relaxing smell, the toys are designed with a meticulously balanced combination of material, weight and size in a way that induces a strong sense of physical contact, stimulating emotional response.

Even more fascinatingly, The Boezels are not only designed for, but also by the mentally challenged — they are produced in De Wisselstroom, a daycare center The Netherlands, where a small group of people with mental impairments are working in close collaboration with Verdonck.

In 2006, The Boezels were acquired by the MoMA’s permanent collection. They are currently being successfully used for therapy by a number of European health organizations.

PROAESTHETICS SUPPORTS

Physical disability can be an uncomfortable subject often veiled in a sense of taboo. Most people address it through a mix of denial, awkwardness and nervous self-derision. But it doesn’t have to be.

Italian designer Francesca Lanzavecchia‘s latest project, ProAesthetics Supports, explores the perception of disability through artifacts — crutches, corsets, braces and more.

Beyond the expected blend of form and function, her designs transform these vital body accessories into conversation pieces that make the discussion of disability easier, less judgmental and more open.

Marsupial: Functionally exhibitionistic. This neck brace stores life’s necessities beneath a stretchable semi-transparent rubber skin.

Neck Plinth: An exercise in lightness: the deletion of the image of a neck brace through reduction, while function is fully retained.

Back braces are the first representatives of bodily differences; molded and tailor-made around the body they are a cumbersome second skin. I reinterpreted them with the aim of transforming them objects of desire and representative skins.

Polly: A young girl’s brace where she stores her prized possessions. A colourful brace with sculpted-in pockets to store personal artifacts.

Brittle: This aid manifests the symptoms that afflict sufferers of brittle bone. A cane with a delicate-looking but at the same time strong enough to support body weight.

While we’re far from suggesting there’s such a thing as “celebrating” disability per se, we do believe there’s a way to honor our bodies and their idiosyncrasies without shame and stigma. Francesca Lanzavecchia takes something often perceived as — if we’re really honest with ourselves — ugly, and brings a bold sense of aestheticism and pride to it, a much-needed perspective in the cultural dialogue on disability.

SNIFF

Visual impairment is tough, but it’s particularly challenging in young kids — sight is just too integral to the process of exploring one’s surroundings, a strong developmental need for children.

Norwegian industrial designer Sarah Johansson aims to tackle this this through Sniff, an interactive, RFID-detecting soft toy for visually impaired children.

Every time an RFID-enabled object comes close to Sniff’s nose, the toy gives feedback through sound and vibration. Sniff can react to different stimuli with different behaviors, giving kids a richer, more tangible experience of their physical environment.

In 2008, Sniff won the prestigious Design for All prize from the Norwegian Design Council. Johansson is currently working on a more sophisticated and technologically advanced 2.0 version — you can follow the progress on Sniff’s prototypes here.

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25 JUNE, 2009

5:1 Student Design Show

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Untainted design thinking, or what 200 students have to do with the world of 100.

Here’s to spotting tomorrow’s great design thinkers today: The London College of Communication’s School of Graphic Design is holding its annual degree show this week, titled 5:1 — an exhibition showcasing work by the program’s 200 graduates.

Although the show is divided into five segments reflecting the program’s central pathways — Information Design, Advertising, Typo/graphic, Illustration and Interaction & Moving Image — it fosters interdisciplinary curiosity, featuring cross-pollinated, experimental work across all facets of design.

Creative, compelling, provocative — it’s all the things we want design to be, oozing the freshness of minds not yet tainted by industry expectation and artistic grandeur.

We couldn’t help noticing that some of the work in the Information Design focuses on the symbolic representation of the world as a 100 people — perhaps a course professor stumbled across Toby Ng’s brilliant World of 100 poster series we featured a while ago, and repurposed it as a brief to students? Regardless, some of the interpretations struck our fancy.

5:1 opens to the public tomorrow and closes July 3, so if you’re in the London area, stop by Elephant & Castle SE1 6SB for a burst of delightful design freshness.

24 JUNE, 2009

Street Art: From All Sides & Five Continents

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The urban anthropology of creativity, or why copyright law is a sad case study in swimming against the cultural current.

In 2008, Beautiful Losers — a documentary about contemporary street art culture from director Aaron Rose — made serious waves at SXSW. This year, the film is finally making its full-blown national screening tour — and we think it’s a must-see.

Based on the eponymous and equally excellent book, the film explores the creative process and cultural influences of iconic artists like Barry McGee, Jo Jackson, Mike Mills, Brain Pickings darling Shepard Fairey, and many more.

The greatest cultural accomplishments in history have never been the result of the brainstorms of marketing men, corporate focus groups, or any homogenized methods; they have always happened organically. More often than not, these manifestations have been the result of a few like-minded people coming together to create something new and original for no other purpose than a common love of doing it.

We think Beautiful Losers is important for two reasons: For one, it’s a genuine piece of cultural anthropology that captures some of the rawest, most powerful creative genius of our time.

But, more importantly, it’s a brilliant testament to the importance of the cross-pollination of ideas — you begin to see the influences of various subcultures, from skateboarding to street fashion to graffiti to indie music, on these artists’ original creative output. And this matters, because it’s real-life proof for the power of remix culture — something essential to the ability to harness our collective creativity, yet unfortunately hindered by current copyright law.

For an even deeper perspective on the global, cross-cultural influences in street art, check out Street World: Urban Culture and Art from Five Continents — another excellent book, exploring the emergence of a new global creative culture driven by the advent of the Internet as a cross-pollination platform for wildly diverse subcultures and modes of self expression.

Thanks, Amy!

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