Category Archives: If you’re asking my opinion…


Gif’s are somewhat of a novelty for me, maybe to everyone. I’m specifically thinking of tumblr accounts like #whatshouldwecallme. They’re typically funny and a bit like a commentary. Besides putting together a series of stills from a video, I’ve seen really cool animations and illustrations brought to life. But, this is a first for me:

I saw this image, and a selected few more on designboom. Here’s what they had to say:

new york-based photographers jamie beck and kevin burg have created GIFs as part of their self-termed art form coined ‘cinemagraphs’. the work, often surrounding the world of fashion, is characterized by cinematic images informed by animated GIFs with elegant, subtle movement. the work presented may be an earring swaying or a lock of hair in the breeze all depicting moments suspended in time, a fragment of a memory put on hold.

I don’t know if it’s a new “thing” or not, but I just love it. Maybe this sort of photography will take off, maybe not.  There is a good chance these images will receive a lot of criticism in the photography community. Isn’t the point of photography to create a sense of energy and movement in a still image? I don’t really know. Then again, it’s not really photography, it’s cinemagraph.

There is just something really elegant to their collection; I just love the simplicity and subtlety of the movement in the images. I don’t feel as if everyone one of the cinemagraphs is successful, but the ones that are have an understated quality and quietness about them. It feels like I’m witnessing a fleeting moment of beauty. There is a sense of “being in the moment” to them.

I wonder though, why did it take so long for someone to transform a novelty into an artistic medium. Or perhaps it had been one all along and became something of a novelty. Either way, I think this project is unique and might become the next big trend. Check out their portfolio site for more.


A thought about choice…

Via Flickr

As a design student, I was constantly being reminded that my intended future career is to be the engineer of desire.  The designs I will bring into the world will shape what consumers think they want.  Those who know me know my concern with the environment and interest in sustainability.  It’s daunting to the point of occasional panic attacks to know that I have a future in adding to the waste stream.

Though my program at UArts was focused a bit differently than other industrial design schools, the emphasis being on research based, appropriate, low impact and earth friendly design; we’re still designing items for mass distribution.  I’ve seen the portfolios of students from other programs and see 100 different sketches of pencil sharpeners.  I walked into Staples noticed an array of pencil sharpeners, from a single blade to a mechanized, whirring beast. Looking to the future, countless more students and working designers will also be tasked with continuing to design a new and better pencil sharpener.

Now, this isn’t just about pencil sharpeners, (though I honestly don’t know why we need so many different sharpening options) this is about all products.  I, like everyone else, benefit from having so much choice. Choice is freedom.  But, it makes my head spin to walk into a store or the market and be bombarded with too many options.

Last night while perusing through I came across two wonderfully interesting talks that I continue to watch from time to time from a 2005 conference on happiness. The first one is Malcolm Gladwell discussing the work of Howard Moskowitz during the 1970’s. 

Moskowitz is the person to thank and blame for having too many choices. He is the man who fundamentally changed how market researchers viewed consumers and make them happy.  Before Moskowitz, researchers relied on “universals,” there was just one perfect flavor of sauce, and one perfect way to enjoy coffee.  Researchers would just ask us what we want and make that; and as it turns out, we don’t know what we want.  If we’ve only known one way and no other, our expectations are low, leading to pleasant surprises.  Moskowitz discovered there is no such thing as a “perfect one” anything for everyone, there are only “perfect ones” because everyone has different tastes.  Once his message was out and other companies began to see the profit in his research, we started seeing a variety of prefect sauces, yogurts, computers, stereos, cellphones, and pencil sharpeners for everyone.  I actually idolize that man and his work.  He was revolutionary and still continuing to do amazing work.

The other video was Barry Schwartz talking about the consequences of too much choice:

Schwartz’s argument is basically that having too many choices is actually distracting, paralyzing, and endangering us.  He speaks of a “simpler time” when there was only one option for a phone service, phones were rented instead of bought and the phone never broke.  Now we have cellphones with too many unnecessary functions and a variety of different fits for denim jeans (ie. relaxed, bootcut, etc).  Schwartz says living in a simpler time led to lower expectations which led to happiness because expectations can be surpassed.  With the rise of choices comes an escalation of expectation, we expect there to be a “perfect one” (sauce, computer, pair of jeans, etc) for us and when there isn’t, we’re disappointed. As and aside, going forward I would love to see a return to a rented services industry. With the technology we have now, I don’t see why we can’t. There are technologies in place that make interchangeability so easy and are being under utilized.

Though I am glad for what Moskowitz did for us and I’m not suggesting we get rid of all choices, I have to stand with Schwartz on this.  I often feel overwhelmed by decisions to the point of becoming numb and just pointing and saying, “Whatever, that one. I guess, that’s fine.”  I’m too young to remember a time when I didn’t have a choice of 70 dressings and 120 sauces at the supermarket.  Like I said, I don’t want to lose all our choices, but I can’t help but hope for a simpler, slower future.  For now I guess all I can do in my design work is stay the course, opting to make quality, well-crafted and considerate products instead of making money on a one-of-a-million item I’m not proud of.

Hey, RED Design is on the phone

“A call to action.” RED is a UK firm practicing interdisciplinary, human centered design. Recently, for the UK design council, they’ve made a series of proposals including a new design practice, Transformation Design. I’m very excited about design “on the cusp of a new phase.”

Transformation Design has evolved at a time of shifts; cultural shifts, climate changes, “user revolution” (ordinary people have taken design into their own hands). It calls for a new design structure.

This summer I was working on an interdisciplinary team to build a curriculum for a five week interdisciplinary project between our ID class, the graduates and multimedia we’re currently working in. We meet with Neil Kleinman for conversations on design. I don’t know if he’d read RED’s call to action, or if it had been published yet, but he was talking about similar shifts in design. Both Kleinman and RED mentioned the old linear design process of breaking problems down into a “smaller and smaller chunks” to a silo structure. This new structure is hierarchical but non-linear. Complex problems can’t be solved one way, they need to be viewed/tackled from many angles/levels.

These new ideas were thoughts I’d had in passing but never dwelled on them. The conversations from this summer and in reading Transformation Design, have really resonated with me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all and trying to figure out how to apply it to my future work, in school and into professional practice.


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The Joy of the Season

My favorite part of the season is having class in the grass in a park when the weather is nice. This semester it only happened once. I really can’t believe how often it rains in Philly. It really drives me nuts. When it finally gets nice, it will be unbearably hot. But thats aside the point.

I love going to the park to conduct class. We all just lay out in the sun, we’re all relaxed. This is when education can really happen, at least for me. Having class outside, you can’t do the traditional lecture but you can lead a conversation about life and education (what ever you want) when everyone is receptive.

Maybe it doesn’t work for everyone, but I love it. I feel like I personally learned more in the three hours we sat in Valley Forge discussing someone’s what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life crisis than I did in all of my classes all semester. So what we didn’t talk about Franco or furniture or anything related to our class. We learned a little about life and what to look forward to. We learned about our selves through conversations with our classmates.


Valley Forge

I grabbed this photo from flickr here.

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Strip Tease Teddy Bear

strip tease teddy bearI found this image seconds ago google imaging bears (this is the site the image came from). If you know me, you know bears are my favorite animal, which is the perfect segue into what I really want to say.

I’ve been thinking about my name a lot recently. It’s actually Kristen. Kiki emerged as a nickname my junior year of high school from my friend Rob. He was the only one to call me Kiki, but I liked it. I was embarrassingly weird in high school but my name was all too common. My entire life I was mostly invisible. No one ever remembered who I was especially never my name. I was always so-and-so’s friend.

When I moved to Philly I started going by Kiki full time. No one remembers Kristen, everyone remembers Kiki. It’s been excellent to finally be seen and have my voice Kiki Brown Bearheard. Somewhere along the way I added the Bear to my last name. As a joke I had my photo ID on the sites I belonged to as a Brown Bear. Then a friend of mine on vacation sent me a postcard addressed to Kiki Brown Bear and suddenly a choir of angels descended and sang Hallelujah.

I’m just a junior in college and here I am considering my professional name. When I began going by Kiki I figured it was just for now, when I grow up I’d go by Kristen again. The longer I’m Kiki the more I realize there is no turning back. If I ever want to be taken seriously I need my crazy pseudonym. If I ever want to be google-able, to be found, to be seen I need to be Kiki BrownBear. Today I was in a meeting, we’re trying to start a roof top garden on the Gershman Y, and I introduced myself as Kiki. I guarantee they won’t forget who I am or my mission and were all the more interested in helping me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s crazy I need to market myself this early in my life. Maybe I’ll have a leg up on my competition post grad. Maybe I have the perfect logo for a company I’ve yet to start.

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Ring around the Rosie

Recently I read  Steven Heller’s “What’s In A Name?” on Design Observer. He suggests using a pseudonym when commenting on a blog is “cowardly”. The article appears to say that using a fake name or just a first name and no links to personal websites are the makings of living a lie. He is clearly very passionate about his feelings on this topic. I felt the article was more of a rant about a pet peeve speckled with hints of an argument rather than a persuasive piece meant to encourage ownership of thought. Had he explained what the difference is and the links between a professional pseudonym, a pen name and an internet pseudonym I think his argument would have been much stronger. There is most certainly a difference and he knows it, he just didn’t verbalize it.

Despite that, I agree that people leave more intelligible comments when they use their real personal information. However, the way he wrote the article is bound to bother a lot of people. The comment below is one left on this particular article. It shows why verbalizing the difference between pseudonym and pen names is important.

""After a friend of mine read the article she said something similar. She refuses to use her name because she believes it too hard for people to read, say and remember; instead choosing a more unique pseudonym for herself. My friend, like the commenter above were resentful of the article due to his unclear argument. Heller must not have a problem with pen names because he himself admitted to writing with his middle name as his professional name. My friend and the commenter both have pen names as well. The lines are blurry and blurrier yet seeing as Heller never gave the criteria to an acceptable internet personality or exceptions other than fear of persecution.

Also, I think adding Shakespeare to the mix and then renouncing him added to the confusion of it all. In regards to Shakespeare’s “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” logic Heller says, “the content of a blog post or comment is more significant than the signature of the poster (or postee).” I agree with this. Meaning I believe if the content of the post is useful, helpful, interesting, insightful etc. I could careless what name the poster/postee goes by. Although I’m not sure, I got the impression Heller reads the “by-any-other-name” logic to mean that all posts are insightful because they’re posted and disagrees with that, understandably.

Overall, I felt it was really inarticulate. Better luck next time Steven.

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Unnecessary Waste

"December 2005" A. Lawrence

I was reading this article about Texas based artist Annette Lawrence‘s recent show at Flatbed Press in Austin. Lawrence collected all her junk mail for a year and neatly displays it for all to see. It’s disturbing to say the least about the amount of paper wasted on just one person.

I keep thinking about how much more paper is wasted on each American household per year. I’m even more afraid how many more people don’t recycle. Tons and tons of unnecessary waste piling up in already overcrowded landfills. Landfills were meant to decompose waste put into them and instead end up preserving what is no longer desired.

Lawrence’s art brought to mind Ari Derfel, the man who collected, stored and organized his trash for a year. His blog, though not updated for a year, answers questions about his experiment and offers tips on using less. I like that both of them are attracting publicity to these problems of over consumption.

If you want off junk mailing lists you can sign a petition here.

Ari Derfel with his trash

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