Designing Around the Human That Can’t Put Their Phone Down

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This is probably one of the most fascinating and infuriating designs I’ve seen in a long time. People have become so ingrained in their phones – even whilst walking across a busy street – that a Dutch town has started putting in pedestrian stop lights. No, it is not the same as the universal red blinking hand and white person walking signaling we see everywhere (like the photo above). It is even more obnoxious than that.

Several cities across Europe have started to adopt in-the-ground lighting that coincide with the traffic lights above. Here are some visuals:

So, why are we starting to do this? Well, turns out, people – might I add those who are not the brightest light bulbs in the box – have started walking across intersections while looking down at their phones. Like I said…not the brightest.

Designers being the cool people that they are, have now solved for this problem by putting lights below. Now, lazy people who don’t want to look up from their devices, can walk safely across the road without even having to try. How amazing! Let’s stop teaching our kids we have to look both ways before crossing the street. Brilliant.

As you can tell, I’m not super happy about this. This is a great example of ingenious design, and yet, people are balking. Several boards for these cities have said this is merely “rewarding bad behavior.” And I’d have to agree. I listened to a podcast the other night that had discussed the benefits and possible downfalls of artificial intelligence in the future. One of the researchers had said people often fear the one on one experience individuals will have with robots. But what he is concerned about, is the interactions people will have with other people once they’ve interacted with AI.

For example, he mentioned children talking to Siri/Alexa/Google in an authoritative tone without using pleasantries. “Siri, play me this song.” “Alexa, remind me to do this tomorrow.” “Google, tell me what ____ is.” All without one please or thank you. Children are (hopefully) taught at a young age to use pleasantries because it’s the right way to treat people. It’s polite. What starts to happen when children get what they want from AI by being rude? Will they start to be rude to other kids on the playground, bossing them around and hoping for obedient results? “Suzy, give me the ball.” Kids are ruthless enough as it is.

To be fair, I had never thought about this so poignantly. We see robots revolt in action movies after mistreatment and humans kill off robots after they’ve gotten too powerful. All of that is fairly black and white, and physical too. Easy to digest and predict. But what I’ve failed to see fleshed out, is this nuanced ripping of our social fabric like this scientist theorizes.

Now, I’m not suggesting this pedestrian lighting initiative is tearing apart the way of life. But I am suggesting people should look up from their damn phones because that’s gonna rip apart social fabric real quick. It’s already begun.

The Newest Release in Video Editing is Mindblowing


As a design student, I’ve been using Adobe creative programs for years now. Photoshop and Illustrator are my main jams, but being in interdisciplinary classes this semester, I’ve learned a few new programs from other peers. It’s always interesting to see people use equipment that is foreign to you. I’ve had the privilege to be surrounded by amazingly talented friends who can teach me new things, and I’m so excited to tell them about this!

I’m going to use some jargon here, but if you’re not familiar with what I’m saying, definitely watch the video I’ll be placing down below.

So, for those of you that have used Photoshop before, hopefully you know about their Content-Aware tools. Whether that be the Patch, Healing Brushes, or Stamp options, there is capability to remove things from a photograph completely. Here’s an example (credit: Peter McKinnon). Notice the door to the left that disappears.

Pretty amazing, right? These tools can be used for a lot of really cool and useful things. But those tools have only been applicable to still images…until now! Adobe has released a teaser in the video below, showcasing brand new technology that can Content-Aware fill in a video! Seriously, watch it:

I don’t do any video work – or at least I haven’t in the past – but a lot of people in my studio right now are mocking up videos for our final project. Now, this technology won’t be out for a couple of weeks, but wow, this is incredible. For all of the artists and designers out there, welcome to the newest, coolest stuff on the market! Can’t wait to see what crazy things people will do with this. If you want more info, find it here.

The Silence of the Future

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We’ve all seen the AirPods. Everywhere. The little white sticks that awkwardly poke out of people’s ears. My roommate has a pair – and she owns an Android. They’ve taken over the market in one fell swoop, and as you can maybe tell by my tone of voice, I’m slightly displeased about it.

I’ve loved Apple for years, but what irks me most about this trend, is that the design hasn’t really changed – if at all (I’ll admit I haven’t done a lot of research on them) – from their original headphones. It seems as if they chopped off the chords, packaged them in a fancy Tic Tac box, added another zero to the price tag, and called it a day. And everyone went freaking nuts.

I’ve tried them in person (thanks roomie), and I don’t hate them. But quite honestly, I’ll stick to my normal buds, or my big noise-canceling headphones. Which takes me to my topic of the day: what should headphones do when they’re not playing music?

Insofar, headphones have been meant for mainly one thing: music. As somewhat of a purist, I’d argue that maybe that’s all we should be looking for in these products. But wait…there’s more! I’ve seen an increase in the amount of headphones that now have specific purposes. My sister received a set of ear pods as a gift last year. Which, by the way, has there been an official ruling of what to call wireless headphones yet? “AirPods” are strictly Apple, “ear buds” have been around for years so it still connotes wires/cords, and just “pods” sounds strangely biological and invasive.

I’ll be calling them “ear pods” for the remainder of this post, even though I don’t enjoy that either. Regardless, these things she had received, were only meant to play different white noise sounds. I forget the brand, but the premise behind their product was to create a wireless headphone that would put you to sleep – blocking out your immediate surroundings – and gently wake you up. The app that came with it gave you noise options to choose from: waterfalls, crickets, brown noise, white noise, rain, wind, etc. And then it gave you alarm options.

I tried these out – mid airplane flight was probably not the best scenario – and found myself indifferent. Now, if I lived in an extremely busy city with sirens and barking dogs and yelling neighbors, maybe I could see myself wanting to block all of that and fall asleep with these plastic blobs in my ears. I’m still not convinced there’s enough of a reason, or genuine personal curiosity, for me to go out and buy a pair right now.

But, I will say, there is definitely a market for companies to improve upon the horrendous (merely personal opinion) white ear sticks. Take Galaxy for example:

Hopefully you watched the video, because this post is already dragging on, and I won’t do it justice. It’s an interesting idea – having a music-playing product become something that only creates silence. The visuals are great, the technology is cool, and maybe down the line, I’ll understand what the hype is, and pick a pair of blobs up for myself. Until then, I’ll stick to my corded headphones like a 2000s peasant.

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.

A watch that doesn’t tell you the Time


Is anyone else sick of Apple watches? Quite honestly, I’ve never felt they were anything to write home about. I mean, technically I’m writing about them here, but I ain’t going home with one.

Watches have one purpose: to tell the time. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t need a gadget strapped to my wrist to tell me where I should eat for dinner, and what astrological sign my friend who just texted me is. I’m exaggerating for emphasis, don’t worry. But, I only need a watch to tell time. Plain and simple.

I may eat my words here a little bit, because there’s one watch-like product that intrigues me enough to actually try it. The company is called Doppel, and they produce “watches” that can help with mood. Now, before you call this some voodoo bullshit magic, check out the website that tells you all about the psychology and science behind the wizz-bang devices.

I’m serious, they actually whizz. Check it out below:

The mechanism inside the watch device is supposed to mimic heartbeats. Placed directly against the inside of the wrist, it sends almost unnoticed vibrations to your body. Considered one of the most instrumental rhythms to humans, the heartbeat can influence mood by simply slowing down or speeding up. When the (completely silent) mechanism slows its beat, the wearer is said to experience a more calming sensation. When sped up – again, completely silent – the beat is said to induce a music-like excitement within the body.

Doppel applies research in psychology and neuroscience which shows how humans respond intuitively and naturally to different rhythms. Research shows that slower tempos result in calm and positive emotional states while we associate fast rhythms with emotional states such as joy, excitement and surprise.

This is extremely fascinating to me. Amongst the largest opioid epidemic plaguing the United States, you see initiatives like this to create something completely natural, bio-memetic, and successful.

The company was showcased in the Nature Scientific Reports in 2017. In the article, they delved into a scientific report (duh, Sydney) that concluded participants (in a private study including over 50 adults) wearing the device were found to experience less stress and be more productive in nervousness-inducing situations than those who didn’t wear the watch. Pretty amazing, scientifically backed, stuff.

Now, I’m not saying this watch can replace opioids. But, I have heard horror stories from friends about their battles. A doctor shouldn’t be signing off on a prescription after one visit with someone who is struggling with mental health issues. A doctor shouldn’t be shelling out pills to hopefully patch up someone who quite honestly has no control over anything at that time. There should be efforts to create things, like Doppel has, to at least attempt to deter the use of medical drugs. I’m not an expert on these situations, products, medications, etc. but I can tell you, I’m really happy there are people out there trying to change the norm – one heartbeat at a time.

Out of thin Air


Following my current blogging, sustainability kick this week, I’m featuring a company called Graviky Labs. Based in Bangalore, India, this team of scientists and industrial designers are creating ink out of air pollution particles.

Yes, you read that correctly. Let me say it again: making ink…out of pollution.

How fascinating, right? I’m not a chemist by any means, so I’m not sure how they actually make it work. But let me break it down for the lay people out there. They produced a can that fits over a car exhaust, which then filters the smoke, creating particles of ash, which are then combined with different solvents to make liquid ink. This ink can then be used by anyone – artists have obviously taken an interest, since it’s such a uniquely creative idea.

Image result for graviky labs

Of all the sectors of pollution, the discussion around air pollution is often dismissed. As physically visible problems – trash in the ocean, dumping of chemicals in undesignated areas, burning of chemicals unlawfully, etc – often trump the unseen, the air we breathe is very nearly forgotten about. But air pollution has been a large contributor to detrimental health problems over the past decade, specifically in Asia.

What really fascinates me is the language they use to describe the pollution, and eventual ink. Their range of markers currently includes a 0.7 mm and 2 mm round tip, a 15 mm chisel tip, and a 50 mm wide tip. Under each marker description they have specifications on the average time it takes to make the ink. For example, a 2mm round tip marker would take approximately 50 minutes of diesel car pollution to create enough particles for the product. How freaking interesting.

Their website clearly states that the main byproduct of fossil fuel burning, is soot. This soot either ends up in water sources or our lungs. They are trying to directly combat the eventual destination by designing a product that takes those particles, and makes something useful and utterly mesmerizing of them. Sure, the ink looks just like any other ink. But when you see someone describe “oh, I illustrated this poster with 100 hours worth of pollution,” it makes the gears in your head turn about a million miles a minute.

Check out the comprehensive video of the patent pending technology below. Enjoy!

Social practice in the age of loneliness

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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.

Romance in the Age of Connection

I recently became single. I broke up with my boyfriend approximately 3 months ago. It’s taken me time to dissect a few things, and I wanted to journal about my thoughts on what happened.

He was a wonderful guy, and our time together taught me a great deal about expectations, my worth, and how I want to live the rest of my life. We ended on fairly good terms, and I was ready to be by myself. I won’t go into details for both of our privacies, but what I want to comment on how technology seems to be infiltrating the most intimate parts and relationships of our lives.


Social media, texting, and instant connection to every part of the world has inundated us with information. We feel as if we could really be everywhere at once. Yet it turns out, we’re never actually where we physically are. In my experiment with slowly axing off social media accounts, I’ve found that I actually a) haven’t died and b) live a perfectly content and connected life.

In this day and age, we joke about “If you didn’t Instagram/Snapchat/Tweet/Facebook post it, did it actually happen??!” And the truth is, yes. Things happen to and around us 24/7. If I don’t post a bagel picture during breakfast, that breakfast continues to happen, tastes just as it did before the picture, and will not be any more ~special~ since the few likes or views. In fact, it might even be a little colder and less appetizing since it took me a few shots (and several minutes) to get the perfect one.

Now, my gripe with technology isn’t necessarily about the technology itself. It ends up being the usage by people that really grinds my gears. Back to my most recent boyfriend (and the one before that too). They would sit across from me at a restaurant and be completely absorbed in their phone. It was as if I were eating alone, or sharing a meal with a brick wall. To me, technology has taken over our worth. If I’m not liking this, will my friend still talk to me? If I’m not posting, will people know how much I travel? If I’m not doing _______, will ______ happen? And I’m here to tell you…everything will be fine. In fact, I find myself having more meaningful and connected interactions now than ever before. I go out of my way to call someone to see how they’re doing; friends invite me to hang out in person instead of texting all night; I enjoy meals and events (little or big) without wishing I was somewhere else.

You don’t need to take pictures of everything. You don’t have to proclaim your love on Facebook every single day. You don’t need followers, likes, reactions, etc. to make your life meaningful. Relationships, romantic or not, should not be encapsulated in technology. They should be shared through conversation, hugs, kisses, and time well spent together. I am not trying to preach, but rather tell you…that pressure — I couldn’t quite figure out where it was coming from exactly, but it is definitely there — is all a facade. I hope other people out there realize there is much more to being someone’s significant other than a relationship status. I’m trying to find that eventually. And I hope you do too.

Block Out the Haters


As a young person in the design world, technology is always at our fingertips. We are required to take advantage of computers, 3D printers, various machines, countless Adobe programs, and the list goes on. I’m always hunched over my laptop — scrolling, typing, clicking, posting. More than just the physical side effects (I still have yet to figure out if the blue-light blocking glasses are actually working or if it’s a placebo effect) my mind is overwhelmed almost 24/7 when I’m not sleeping.

I have been trying to limit my screen time, both on my phone and computers when I can. Obviously work doesn’t count, but Facebook doesn’t need an hour of my time before I try to go to bed. After deleting my Instagram almost 6 months ago, I’ve gained so much time in my day. And a lot of mental sanity has been reinstated. You don’t realize how much energy social media and technology can suck out of you on a daily basis. More often that not, we try to keep our phones away from us while we do homework, shut down access to sites while we work. Essentially we’re forcing blinders onto ourselves. And for good reason.

The Kickstart company, IRL Glasses, has found a new innovative way to help us block everything out. Their technology embedded in the lens of their glasses, renders screens (phones, laptops, televisions, LED advertisements, etc) completely black. If you’re out and about, put these babies on and man you could rock your productivity like no tomorrow. Or read a book in peace now that the TV doesn’t flicker in your peripheral vision. The uses for the average person who doesn’t want to be overwhelmed with our now inescapable techy world, are endless. Enjoy the world and block out the haters people. Can’t wait until these things are available for purchase and I can experience the apocalyptic-esqe feeling of being untouchable in a world where everyone and everything is trying to get my attention.