The Loop: Recyclable Tennis Shoes


The most recent shoe release from adidas sports a brand new cyclical business model. Their 4 step process (shown above) takes old shoes that are sent back from consumers to 1) be cleaned, 2) ground up, 3) melted down, and then 4) reformed.

Plastic is extremely hard to recycle. For those that aren’t familiar with plastic processing, there are two distinct types: thermoset and thermoplastic. The basic information you need to know is that thermoplastics can be melted and reformed, whereas thermosets (hence the name) remain set in a physical state (aka no melting, they just burn). So although most companies have a great ambition to fully recycle, it’s extremely difficult to do so.

Even within the thermoplastics range, you have multiple forms. If you’ve never looked at the bottom of a plastic part, go to your kitchen cupboard and pick a piece of tupperware up. Within the recycle symbol stamped in the bottom, there is a number. Those numbers range from one to seven. Look at this website if you want to see the distinct breakdowns for those sections.

Because each plastic is typically pretty unique in composition, remelting and reprocessing is very tedious and costly. Adidas has figured out a pure plastic process that can be optimized to reduce waste and take full advantage of the benefits of a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). According to their webpage for the launch (check it out here), they state over 91% of plastic throughout the world is not recycled. I’m not surprised. As someone who has been around plastics more than the average person (hi dad), I’m well aware of how much effort and time it takes.

So, for adidas – especially as a company as large and global as it is – to promise recyclability within its own structure, I think it’s a great initiative. Here’s a wonderful video showcasing the process of it all. Quite honestly, this completely blows my mind. A wonderful design and a monumental shift in changing the way we consume.

NASA Reinvented the Wheel


It’s finals for me right now, so my posts will be shorter for the next week or two. But I’m going to be doing a short snippet of technology I find interesting each day.

For today’s technology, it is NASA’s mesh wheel. It is made of shape-memory alloy. Typically when something is deformed, it can’t go back to its original shape. But NASA invented this material that reverts back to the original form. Super interesting and cool.

If you want to know more, definitely check out this video below. Pretty detailed breakdown and explanation of the process.

Generative Design

3D printing took the world by storm a few years ago, and designers haven’t looked back. In fact, the possibilities have started unfolding in many new ways. Tamu, a design company overseas, created the world’s “most optimized folding chair, which takes up less space and the least amount of material possible to make.”

So how do they do it? A thing called Generative Design. Designers put parameters into the computer, which takes those simple points and fills in between the dots. You can see the rudimentary physical model the design team created below, alongside the corresponding digital model they input.

From that minimal, planar model, the designers then have the capability to interpret the space between each hard point. Those hard points won’t change, so the structure will be kept intact. But the space of each plane has a lot of wiggle room. For example:

Look at all of the unique data that the computer can come up with. Those webs still create a structurally sound piece of furniture, but by thinking outside of the box (pun intended) the program is able to warp the planes into more hollow spaces. Resulting in the masterpiece we see here:

I mean, look how compact and flat it is! And it’s visually stunning. Amazing how designers can use new technology to create something so unique. I wish I knew more about Generative Design so I could give you specific details, but it’s still over my head. Here’s a video I had seen a couple of years ago when it had first launched. Enjoy!

Finding Your Awe


What is something that inspires you? Something that just truly makes you, well, gasp. There are moments in life when you come across something so beautiful and pure, that your body is sent into this overdrive state. Your mind is blank, but at the same time, reeling with thoughts; your heart feels as if it stops, and then instinctively kicks back in to pump blood even faster. Everything is heightened.

Everyone experiences this at different times in their life. Sometimes it’s fleeting – oftentimes why people go looking for adventure – and other times, it’s more extended states of bliss. These full body experiences, where we feel unbelievably content with our lives, these are moments of awe.

I think artists and designers are special because we tend to seek moments of awe more often than others. This can be good, but also detrimental (more on that another time). I listened to a podcast recently in which – the name of the person escapes me at this moment – this individual was describing how instinctive and biological humans are. We have this innate drive to eat and sleep (amongst other animalistic behaviors) and those self-sufficiency, survivalism habits are what drive our every waking moment. Whether we realize this, or are actually aware of it, those habits are what consume us.

But, there are times in our lives – times of complete and utter awe – that interrupt our habits. Those awe-inspiring moments are what captivate us. Quite honestly, that’s what some people live for. I’ve met surfers who’ve shared their stories about traveling across the globe searching for the best waves. I have family members who have traveled across the globe for religious pilgrimages hoping to see miracles. I’ve witnessed friends receive job offers for life-altering careers that would take them across the globe. For humans, we are inclined – somehow, someway – to do everything we can to make those awe-filled moments as regular as possible.

I just experienced one of these moments. The photos I’m littering (a terribly ironic word choice here) throughout the text is what gave me goosebumps a few minutes ago. I have no idea how I came across these artists, but my goodness. Scrolling through their website, my mouth was hanging open. Photo after photo, video after video, my body went into that overdrive state.

Quintessenz is a dual-artist team that creates installation and mural work. I don’t know (yet) what it is about the art they create, but it’s something that hits me – and hard. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I was overwhelmed by awe looking at this. I’ve had moments in my life – most of these in nature – that consumed me. I can recognize these moments now (which I highly recommend you become aware of these), and this was definitely one of them.

I beg of you…please check out the website I linked above. Scroll through the endless amount of content and experience it for myself. I will tell you now, this is some of my all time favorite art to this day. If I ever find myself within hundreds miles of one of their pieces, I will make it my mission – completely ignoring my eating and sleeping habits – to see it in person.

AI Could Take over Creative Jobs too

NVIDIA’s New AI Tool Transforms Simple Scribbles Into Realistic Landscape Images

I’ve been off on blogging for the past few days. This week I had my birthday, and everything with school and life seemed to happen all at once. It’s funny how that always tends to happen. Regardless, during my time away yesterday, a new technology was dropped. And it’s changing everything.

I’m not even trying to be dramatic here. I’m actually emphasizing the importance of this new development to its fullest capacity. The tech company NVIDIA has launched an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that takes simple abstract art, and creates images from nothing. Now, obviously the images are composited from somewhere, but the craziest thing about it, is that the technology only references the internet image collections. The actual creation of the imagery is done through its own pixel distribution – AI is now creating the way an artist would.

Everyone has been concerned about robots and AI taking over the mundane jobs of the economy (truck-driving, food prep, delivery, healthcare, etc.), but what we all thought was untouchable are the creative fields. Art and Design has always been held at a prestigious level throughout history. Not everyone can be creative, so that innate talent is hard to come by. We’ve seen an increase in the amount of jobs that are being created in the art world, and the stress being placed on the creator’s importance in all aspects of business.

So, this new technology seems to be upsetting all of our preconceived notions regarding AI’s lack of sensitivity to art. Here’s a short video that briefly describes and demonstrates its abilities:

As a designer, this is unbelievably fascinating. I don’t know anything about coding, but I can only image the amount of time and craft that has been put into this programming. However, when the VP, Bryan Catanzaro speaks about “everyone becoming an artist,” I start to become wary. He states right after that, that he hopes this technology will actually aid artists and designers in their new creations. I don’t know how I feel about this just yet. Sure, it’s a program created by artists, for artists. But where does this technology stop? Will AI eventually make the artist obsolete? I don’t think so; but it’s difficult to understand just how soon this program could eat up photographers, digital painters, etc.

I was naive to think the creative fields would remain untouched by such a technology. The future is upon us, and it’s becoming even more difficult to predict.

Color has the Ability to Inspire


I am currently working with Ford in a studio of mine this semester. I had posted about the overview of the class in January, and in that post, I mentioned I would update with progress reports if something interesting occurred. Well, I’m here today, sharing a snippet of my process and some good news!

My goal for the semester is to create a color palette to inspire Ford for the renovations that will occur over the next few years at their new Corktown, Detroit campus. One of the ideas that has permeated the conversations over the last few months, has been Ford’s desire to fully integrate within the existing community. More often than not, when a large company is creating a new campus, the plans are structured around a self-sufficient and free-standing area that is almost completely separate from its surroundings – whether that be residential or industrial.

Ford’s extensive and progressive goals are to create a campus – one of those buildings being the famous Michigan Central Station – that fit homogeneously within the Corktown landscape. One of the most inspiring things I’ve personally observed throughout this landscape, is the unique color palette. It is so unique, lively, and the colors permeate almost every inch of the community. My personal project and goal is to create a comprehensive Color Catalog throughout Corktown by compiling photographs from the area. All photos will be taken by myself – within the train station, and the neighboring streets. I’ve inserted a few from today’s shoot above and below. As you can see, the rusty oranges and warm tans, complemented by the minty greens and hazy blues, are already starting to pattern themselves out.

A color palette proposal will be created by color sampling from this catalog I’m compiling. My goal is to help give inspiration to Ford for upcoming projects so that the renovations directly assimilate colors from the community into the campus. Here is a piece of inspiration I found from a fellow student of mine. He directly sought out green in the Detroit area and created swatches that could then be used for the project’s final:


My goal is slightly different – I want to see what comes out of the cataloged photos. Instead of directly seeking out a specific hue, my mission is to shoot as many photos of color in the area as possible, and see what trends form by themselves. Especially in the light of these new renovations, the last thing I want to do is force my own voice, perspective, or motive onto the catalog. The colors will speak for themselves.

As Ford tries to integrate their campus within Corktown, incorporating the existing neighborhood colors into new buildings will help establish a more seamless and culture-appropriate approach. I received great feedback for my proposal during our pitch meetings today, and I hope my project fulfills a gap I think is currently missing in this new age of the Corktown landscape. Color is such a driving force within cities and communities and I am extremely excited about the prospects. Will update as more surfaces!

Shoes are Changing the Long Term Fashion Game

Womens Footwear Preview: Summer 2019 4

I’ve had my favorite pair of Chucks for almost 9 years now. So you could say I’m pretty loyal. But, I’ve recently started buying other sneakers. And I won’t say it doesn’t pain me to cheat on my worn-in classics, but man, there’s some cool stuff out there in the sneaker world that’s hard to resist.

Adidas had announced a few months ago, their goal to reach 100% recycled material usage for all of their shoes and clothes by 2024. This was a huge undertaking not only for a company that large, but by a brand that is so iconic and well-loved. When someone says recycled or sustainable, there is a small part in each of us that doubts a product’s ability to perform the same as a non-green one.

The green initiatives by large companies might not have to be as ambitious as Adidas’ however. Take Nike’s upcoming summer launch: The Plant Color Collection.

Womens Footwear Preview: Summer 2019 6

All dyes for these shoes will be completely plant-based. Sounds stupidly simple – and it is. But sometimes the simplest ideas can be the most stunning. Not only do the preview photos show a particular craft-like feel to the designs, but I think it is starting to transform the way we even consume shoes.

There has always been an animus towards the fashion world for its fast-paced trends and this undying need to have the next best thing, right away. More often that not, these fads fade quickly, leaving consumers with piles of usually unused and out-of-fashion pieces. So how do these shoe launches change that?

To me, it signifies that the long-term vision we see fashion companies often disregard, is being reversed. I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about this, and quite honestly, I’m glad it isn’t blowing up. When something goes viral, the integrity and oftentimes the real soul of a product or movement disappears. It’s the cool thing to do, so everybody hop on the popular train.

Adidas and Nike show us that these sustainability goals are meant to provoke long-term conversations. Yes, some could argue that as money-making businesses, if they don’t keep churning out new designs and pushing their products on consumers, they’ll stop making money. But it gives me hope, knowing certain creative people are thinking of big ideas, and making something meaningful because of it.

Treasured Waste

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? I’ve previously posted about garbage becoming art, and how transformative the hands of an artist can be. Although there is a special and significant role of fine art in this world, some may argue that art – just for art’s sake – is a form of consumption that cannot necessarily be repurposed. Art pieces are meant to prosper, but what comes of it when the life cycle is over? Unfortunately it becomes trash, just like any other product.

Insert a design company called Gomi. They’re currently still on Kickstarter (check it out here), but they are selling portable speakers made out of 100% recycled plastic. Not only do they look mesmerizing, but they are all handcrafted – every single piece is completely unique. In this day and age, it’s inevitable that we all have clothing, accessories, tech gadgets, and more, that are all mass produced. As someone who despises matching other people, I avidly seek out thrift stores and original-esq pieces that are curated to my lifestyle. So, me, being someone who clearly has individuality issues, this company speaks to me in many ways.

Not only is their philosophy of sustainability fantastically refreshing, the process of their work really speaks to their passion and craft. Exhibit A: they hand collect all of the flexible plastic (plastic bags being one of the worst cases of non-recyclability today) around their city in Brighton, UK; once collected, they melt it down (about 100 bags per speaker) and press it in their molds; each piece is then signed by the artist that creates it, adding, yet again to the uniqueness factor.

I really hope this company succeeds in their fundraising goal. It’d be amazing to see this product shake up the art and design industry!

The Laws of Art

Well, it’s been a while! Spring break was…interesting. It’s one of those liminal moments in your life at college where everything – and yet nothing – seems to happen. Last year I had traveled to Haiti for a week, and this time, I decided to stay home. I visited my parents, avoided my homework for way too long, met up with friends, slept a lot, and didn’t blog.

I kind of missed it. Believe me, unless you’ve done it consistently before, the chore of it becomes annoying. And yet, when you stop, it’s like something is missing. I haven’t had the chance to think about whether I’ll continue this (even after the assignment is completed). I think only time will tell. Maybe I’ll drop down to posting only a few times a week.

Regardless, part of my spring break time was spent visiting a few art galleries. All of them were featuring student work – some of which go to my own school. Yet again, I was subject to being out of my comfort zone. And that’s always fun.

One thing that really annoys me is when someone will write off a piece of art immediately. And when asked why they didn’t like it, they’ll say “I don’t get it.” Nine times out of ten.

I’m sorry, but what a lame excuse. I’m an art student, have had quite a few classes studying art history and modern design, and yet I *understand* about 1% of the art I see. More often than not, especially when viewing mediums I’m not personally familiar with, I don’t necessarily enjoy the art. But, I’ll be with someone who absolutely adores it.

So where do we draw the line? What is art? I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t think anyone really truly does. One of the worst critiques someone can give or receive at our school is the mere “I like it.” Channel your inner Terrible Twos mantra here: Why?

Ask why over and over again to yourself. If you can’t explain why, keep your “I like/don’t like it” comment to yourself until you’ve figured it out. I’m being harsh here, but it’s an important thing to talk about. Everyone has their own preferences, aesthetics, pet peeves, etc. about art and design. There are observational laws about art (check out this website for a few interesting ones regarding UX design), but there are no rules that tell you what you can and can’t do. And therefore, what classifies it as such.

Dig up some self-awareness and question everything. Art is supposed to be an interaction of viewing and then the thinking of such interaction (and no, that wasn’t me making a law). Even if you hate everything about a piece, find something you think is interesting. Maybe it’s the color placement; the material used; the technique it showcases; the way it’s hung on the wall. I’ve argued with friends about the innate interest of everything. I believe everything is interesting – you just need to look for it. Art is not excluded from this. Look for it, and you’ll find it.

Social practice in the age of loneliness

Image result for communal gardening

I went to a lecture tonight after class, and heard Ezio Manzini speak. Now, I’m not gonna proclaim some hipster acuity here because 1) I had no idea who this man was before hearing his talk and 2) my friend was the one who told me I should go in the first place (hi Sam). But man, did he have some interesting things to say. I mean, he does have a few famous books out, so he is obviously an intelligent guy. And I’m clearly the one that lives under a rock (funny I say this, given the topic of discussion).

Anyways, his whole discussion was on the importance of social practice today (and in the future), and how we – especially art and design students – should be active participants in the thought development (and action) of this changing phenomena.

Manzini went into detail about how loneliness has become a disease within our society. Though hyperconnected to the world, our individuality is diminished by our inability to deal with this personal isolation. Technology, especially when it comes to world news and politics, has encouraged us to be knowledgeable about every aspect of the planet – yet rendering us almost defenseless when it comes to our own surroundings (and mind!). This manifests an unmotivated fear within us. And there is a direct link, he claims, between this loneliness and fear.

He says that the best way to counteract these emotions is through social, collaborative activities with others. Organizations that are inherently social have become extremely popular amongst young people recently. It’s interesting and extremely coincidental that he brought up this point, because in my class today we discussed the relationship between the decrease in church-going to the increase of communal groups/practices.

The trend forecaster Jose, that was a guest lecturer in my class, had discussed the increase in Crossfit attendance as a signifier for the rise in non-religious social groups. Manzini gave several examples for these communal groups: shared living spaces, collaborative work areas, training practices (fitness or work related), community agriculture and gardening, shared care/welfare, travel, etc.

All of the groups he was discussing, was placing the importance on the physical interaction of people. In the age of instant online association, we need to change the way we connect with people. Manzini stressed the importance of how social we are as human beings. He even likened our society to an ecosystem. Desertification – like the isolation of people I mentioned previously – leads to fragility of the system overall. The more disconnected people are, the more delicate our relationships. This isn’t rocket science, but what Manzini suggests – the regeneration of this societal ecosystem – is brilliant.

Each person has their own bubble. Whether that is externally forced or personally voluntary, we each have our view of the world. We each have a specific relationship with our immediate surroundings. I liken this to our own little bubbles (as much as “living in a bubble” has a negative connotation these days). But I prefer to visualize this specific adage more than anything.

Manzini said at one point during his lecture, that

Modernity is the melting of ideas.

Now, this seems to air on the side of reductional and destructive. But, to me, melting means melding. The slight difference in those words is key here. I visualize the forging of bubbles – a sort of venndiagram overlapping of spheres. And it seemed optimistic to me – this forging of people, within shared space.

He said several times he has a more pessimistic view of the world – and I can definitely relate to that. But his talk was full of inspiration and ideas for me. I am going to make a point to order his book, Politics of the Everyday (Designing in Dark Times), as soon as possible. And I’ll make sure I seek out these social practices he speaks so highly of. A night well spent, for sure.