Science

Ellen McGirt
It’s Time to Find Your People
Announcing Equity Observer, Design Observer’s new editorial vertical and newsletter focused on the people and ideas redesigning the world for good.



Susan Magsamen, Ivy Ross
Your Brain on Art: Creating Community
An excerpt from the book Your Brain on Art by Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Episode 107: Scientific Advances
Science poster redesign, Eli Baden-Lasar’s portraits of his sperm-donor siblings, Jony Ive parodies, a ridiculous commercial


Jordan MacInnis
Materials as Metaphor
...We have a disrespect for materials; we use them quickly and carelessly. That is exactly where we’re at as a planet and as a society. It’s our job as material designers to tackle that.


Alan Rapp
Personal Space
Robert Sommer’s Personal Space: The Behavioral Basis of Design was published in fifty years ago, and its compact title concept — an invisible but perceptible security zone surrounding an individual — caught on.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Episode 102: The Long View
Black hole image, Dyson Airblade, Titus Kaphar, Liz Jackson, Comic Sans takeover


Lily Hansen
Broadcaster Kat Arney Translates Science for Creative Learners
I see myself as a translator for people that are keen to learn more.


Steven Heller
Photographing Science
The role that image makers have in the fields of science and engineering is more vital, especially now.


Pamela Worth
Three Billboards Outside New Haven
Hope for the best. Vote for science.


Melissa Leone
Celestial Bodies
Man’s age-old fascination with the celestial has created countless beautiful—albeit not always accurate—diagrams of the universe.


Melissa Leone
Microbial Illustrations
Illustrated versions of the microscopic designs that make up our world.


Melissa Leone
British Mineralogy
Colored figures intended to elucidate the mineralogy of Great Britain


Steven Heller
The Ink Revolution of Jason S. Logan
Jason S. Logan is imagining a revolution for natural, place-based ink that is equivalent to what Alice Waters did for food.


Kathleen Meaney
Wing It: Testing Out Exhibit Design Using Virtual Reality
The field of environmental (or experiential) graphic design is young and on fire.


Michael Bierut
The Typeface of Truth
What are the implications when Errol Morris declares the typeface most likely to induce credulity is Baskerville?


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Mrs. E.N. Todter by Dion & Puett Studio
Art and the Ladies’ Field Club


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Chimpanzee by James Mollison
Looking into the face of an ape



Sara Jamshidi
The Tree
Three perspectives


Rick Poynor
The Body as Factory: Anatomy of an Image
Peeling back the skin of a New Scientist cover illustration by Nichola Bruce and Michael Coulson.



John Thackara
Food As A Commons
People go hungry not because of a shortage of production, but because the food available is too expensive, or they lack the land to grow it on. In California, the prototype of a combined social, political and technical solution has been launched which promises to unlock the food system crisis.



Observed
A Sculpture on the Moon
Slate has a fascinating article about artist Paul van Hoeydonck and his three-and-a-half inch scultpure, Fallen Astronaut that was (and still is) exhibited on the moon.


Alexandra Lange
Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Freelancer
One of the incidental pleasures of Judith Major’s new book on pioneering architecture critic Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer is the glimpse it gives into the life of a cultural journalist at the turn of the past century.


John Thackara
Flyways
A meditation on the migratory patterns of birds and sheep.


Alexandra Lange
Rural Vacation | Urban Questions
Driving Vermont's rural routes I began to wonder: Why does this town get a brand-new energy-efficient supermarket, and that one a minimart-slash-video store-slash-bank?



Observed
Google on the Mountain
On Monday, March 18, Google released Street View images from four of the seven tallest mountains on earth.


Chris Calori
Six Feet Under: Mapping Tangled Transit Networks
A review of Underground Maps Unraveled: Explorations in Information Design by Maxwell J. Roberts.


Alexandra Lange
Someone Else’s Shangri La
An exhibition of Doris Duke's Honolulu mansion, Shangri La, proves a “Spanish-Moorish-Persian-Indian complex” works as theater.


Alexandra Lange
Hiking the Museum
Ennead Architects’ new Natural History Museum of Utah works to make natural history seem like the ongoing process of discovery that it is, layering geology and topography, paleontology and interactivity.


Constantin Boym
Extra National Journey
What happens when a Russian-born American professor takes a group of his Arab students to a workshop in Amsterdam to work with a designer who has a Canadian passport but lives in Berlin?


Alexandra Lange
Science Gets Around to Architecture
Why are we still privileging scientific studies over visual thinking?


Rick Poynor
On My Screen: The Back of Beyond
John Heyer’s The Back of Beyond, made for Shell Australia in 1954, is one of the country’s finest films.



Rob Walker
On Radiolab: the Sound of Science
“Radiolab,” a public radio show that breaks from public radio sensibilities, not least in its striking sound.


John Thackara
Utopia is Here
Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner, made in 1982, portrays a dystopian Los Angeles as it might be in 2019. In just eight years we are due to find out whether or not the film was an accurate prediction.


Josh Wallaert
Google Maps, Give Us Our River Names
No map in history has made us feel more powerful or more present. But there's a little thing missing: the Mississippi River.



Steven Heller
Souvenirs as Nazi Propaganda
Part three in a three part series on the design practices of the Third Reich.



Rob Walker
Global Entertainment
Entertainment via web-based geography.



Adam Harrison Levy
Sustainable Christmas Trees
From artificial firs to rented spruces, a report on alternatives to the chopped-down Xmas tree.



Carl Schoonover
Portraits of the Mind
The book, Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century (Abrams) documents this overlooked dimension over two millennia of obsession with the brain.



William Underhill
Map Kibera
Report on the Map Kibera project to provide navigation and information on Nairobi's massive informal settlement.






Michael Bierut
Designing the Unthinkable
For more than fifty years, there have been arguments against nuclear proliferation. The Doomsday Clock translates all the arguments to a simple visual analogy.



William Drenttel, and Jon Piasecki
The Stonework of Jon Piasecki
"Stone construction is one of the most enduring traces of human activity. Any effort to quarry, cut and stack it is one that requires a powerful incentive, extensive planning and specialized skill." The Stone River project of Jon Piasecki.



The Editors
And Speaking of Sustainability...
Proceedings of a 2003 seminar about Timeship, a visionary project designed by Stephen Valentine for storing the frozen remains of people awaiting reanimation.



Mark Dery
Paradise Fouled
Review of Crude, Joe Berlinger's documentary film about a lawsuit filed against Chevron by denizens of the Ecuadorean Amazon.



Karrie Jacobs
A Thousand Points on Light: Part II
Continuation of debate between lighting designer Leni Schwendinger and Dark-Sky advocate Susan Harder about proper illumination of urban, suburban and rural environments.



Karrie Jacobs
A Thousand Points on Light: Part I
Debate between lighting designer Leni Schwendinger and Dark-Sky advocate Susan Harder about proper illumination of urban, suburban and rural environments.



Mark Lamster
Triumph of the Will (Or, Everything Old Is New Again)
In the New Yorker this week, Jonah Lehrer writes about a psychological study suggesting that self control, or the ability to delay gratification, more strongly correlates with long-term success than intelligence.


Lorraine Wild
Will Burtin: Design and Science
Will Burtin’s story is presented in Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin. Like all of the emigré “pioneers,” Burtin brought an amazing amount of talent and energy (along with plain old ambition) to his modernist approach.



Debbie Millman
Jonah Lehrer
Jonah Lehrer, editor-at-large for Seed Magazine, is also a contributor to NPR’s RadioLab. He is the author of Proust was a Neuroscientist.



Debbie Millman
Eric Kandel
Nobel prize winner Eric Kandel is a psychiatrist, neuroscientist and professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Columbia University.
 




Jessica Helfand
Science and Design: The Next Wave
Scientists probe and manipulate and channel and divide; they split and fuse and spike and engineer; but most of all, they look. As a designer, to spend any time with scientists is to become at once profoundly aware of our similarities and devastated by that which divides us.



Jessica Helfand
My Dirty Little Secret
Gardening is its own infuriating design challenge. You fret and you rethink and you second-guess yourself constantly, and then for one delirious, thrilling moment something blooms and you feel utterly triumphant. And then it dies and you are back where you started.



William Drenttel
International Polar Year
In what may turn out to be the biggest international scientific project to date, an army of thousands of scientists will spend the next two years studying the Arctic and Antarctic as part of the International Polar Year, which officially begins this week.


Jessica Helfand
Death 'N' Stuff
Smoking Kills: The label days it all. Or does it?



William Drenttel
Threat Advisory Pandemic Alert System (TAPAS)
How do we measure the danger level from the Avian Influenza A (H5N1) virus? What we lack is that one Tom Ridge-like bit of inspiration that would lend clarity to these confusing times. We took our cue from a certain John James Audubon. Herewith, one option for Homeland Security. Yes, we know: it's for the birds.



William Drenttel
Weather Report: 53 Degrees F. Heavy Snowfall Predicted
The weather is fucked up. "Science is a way of making sense of the world. Design is a way of making the world make sense."



Jessica Helfand
Face Value
Facial transplants mapping our future: how much is the world of design responsible?



William Drenttel
Maps of Cyberspace
It is the internet that has changed our perception of space, precisely because the sheer volume of interconnectivity is beyond our imagination, whether it be language-based, data-based, or community-based. Add black holes and photographs of asteroidal moons around Jupiter, and our world seems increasingly expansive. Yet, if we cannot map it, how can we understand it?



Jessica Helfand
Greer Allen: In Memoriam
Designer, critic, pundit and historian, Greer Allen was Senior Critic in Graphic Design at Yale School of Art. He designed publications for The Houghton Library at Harvard, the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and a number of other distinguished cultural institutions around the country. Greer Allen died last week after a short illness. He was 83.



Rick Poynor
Eduardo Paolozzi, 20th Century Image-Maker
If a visual artist created more concentrated, exhilarating images of science, technology and the media realm during the mid-20th century than British artist Eduardo Paolozzi, then I would like to see them. Paolozzi, who died on 22 April aged 81, was first of all a sculptor, but the screenprints he produced in the 1960s rank as masterpieces of the medium.



The Editors
Understanding and Action



Jessica Helfand
Under The Microscope
It turns out that microscopy, like most things, has basically gone digital: no surprise there. But what did surprise me was the realization that scientific observation obliges its participants to engage in a kind of resistance to imagination.



William Drenttel
Edward Tufte: The Dispassionate Statistician III




Jessica Helfand
Take Two Logos and Call Me in the Morning




Jessica Helfand
One Person, One Vote, One MRI?




Jessica Helfand
Annals of Typographic Oddity No. 2: Spaceship Gothic




William Drenttel
Call for Entries: Periodic Table of the Elements
Jessica Helfand and I are building a collection of Periodic Tables and hope to publish a book on their scientific, visual and cultural history.



William Drenttel
Uut, Uup and Away
What happens when we discover new elements, especially ones on the outer fringes of the periodic table? Where did Uut and Uup come from?



Observed


Everything you ever wanted to know about the origins of Dutch design (but were afraid to ask).

A meditation on the history of design—and the rise of strategy—from Jarrett Fuller.

A meditation on analog beauty—and vernacular signage—from Elizabeth Goodspeed.

Richard Stengel makes a compelling case that journalism should be free to save democracy. “According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, more than 75% of America’s leading newspapers, magazines, and journals are behind online paywalls. And how do American news consumers react to that?” (Subscription required.) 

Please, please, pleaseget some sleep.

The Supreme Court allows Idaho to ban transgender health care for minors. For now.

Historically, we’ve invested huge resources to keep cities and nature separate. But we now know that the health of the soil and the health of people are the same story. So, what does this have to do with design? Join the unstoppable John Thackara and Milan Politecnico professor Ezio Manzini today at 11 am ET as they discuss this critical—and surprisingly overlooked—environmental issue.

Conducted through audio interviews, Ana Miljački's I Would Prefer Not To is an oral history project on the topic of the most important kind of refusal in architects’ toolboxes: refusal of the architectural commission. (Miljački, an architectural historian and theorist, is also Director of the Critical Broadcasting Lab at MIT.) Produced in conjunction with the Architectural League of New York, this podcast features conversations with a number of fascinating practitioners including Diller + Scofidio's Elizabeth Diller, WXY partner Claire Weisz (who we interviewed in Season Three of The Design of Business | The Business of Design) and Nina Cooke John (a Season Nine guest).

This past winter, a diverse cohort of students from the MADE Program at Brown + RISD and Harvard immersed themselves in a wealth of data provided by the City of Boston with the mission of uncovering novel, meaningful, and joyful perspectives on navigating and understanding the urban environment. Their resulting projects—a series of interactive exhibits ranging from envisioning the evolving contours of the coastline to revealing the secret lives of the city’s trees—will be on view this week at the Boston Museum of Science.

Designers are leaving corporate life in droves, re-designed out of their own jobs. “The strategic design gold rush is over,” reports Robert Fabricant.  So, where are they going? “[A} new class of platforms and networks have emerged, including NeolDesign Executive CouncilChief Design Officer School, Design Leadership Job Board, and Design Leaders.” This isn’t a bad thing, he says. “These platforms specifically target ‘fractional’ design leaders who are looking to support one another, collaborate on projects, better communicate their value, and source new income-generating opportunities, both individually and collectively.” 

A new project designed to amplify Indigenous-owned businesses on Google Maps and Google Search gets high marks from Huitzilli Oronia, a Chicana designer from Denver, Colorado, and the creative production agency Hook.  Oronia contributed Google’s Indigenous-owned attribute icon and associated launch materials to the initiative. “This wasn’t just another campaign; it represented an opportunity to help Indigenous business owners share their heritage and foster deeper connections between the businesses and their consumers,” she says.

Yet another social app built around talk, not text! 

Faith Ringgold, the multimedia artist whose soaring work documented race, class, family, community, justice, and the African American experience in the U.S., has died. She was 93. Her work included painting, sculpture, mask- and doll-making, textiles, performance art, and children’s literature. “Few artists have kept as many balls in the air as long as Faith Ringgold,” the New York Times art critic Roberta Smith wrote in 2013. “She has spent more than five decades juggling message and form, high and low, art and craft, inspirational narrative and quiet or not so quiet fury about racial and sexual inequality.”

Nike is under fire for its “needlessly revealing and sexist” Team USA women’s track and field kit. “Wait, my hoo haa is gonna be out.”

AI is rewriting the internet. Here’s what to expect from Microsoft’s Copilot, Google’s Gemini, and OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4. “These AI tools are vast autocomplete systems, trained to predict which word follows the next in any given sentence. As such, they have no hard-coded database of ‘facts’ to draw on — just the ability to write plausible-sounding statements. This means they have a tendency to present false information as truth since whether a given sentence sounds plausible does not guarantee its factuality,” says reporter James Vincent. Yay! The future sounds…?

The National Governors Association has launched a new Health Equity Learning Network to support policy solutions and share strategies to reduce health inequities in the U.S.

Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist who became known for his groundbreaking work in bias, heuristics, and how people make decisions, has died at 90. Kahneman became widely known for his 2011 book Thinking, Fast and Slow, which aimed to “improve the ability to identify and understand errors of judgment and choice, in others and eventually ourselves, by providing a richer and more precise language to discuss them.”

Maqroo means readable: Leo Burnett Dubai agency has partnered with Omantel telecom network to create a new dyslexia-friendly Arabic font. “Arabic is one of the oldest and most beautiful languages in the world. With 12 million words it is also the most complex, making it even harder for those with dyslexia to learn it,” says Leo Burnett Dubai art director Abdo Mohamed. (It’s also beautiful.)

Wicked looks good.

The much anticipated Humane AI Pin has arrived, an expensive, subscription-based wearable chatbot — or “second brain” — that nobody seems to like very much. Yet, I guess.

Who will represent working-class life?documentary about the UK-based photographer Tish Murtha is asking important questions about which stories are told visually — and supported by the art establishment — and why. “She showed the reality of poverty and deprivation in communities where the misery of unemployment had been allowed to settle by the Westminster political classes who considered it a price worth other people paying for the boon of undermining trade union power,” writes Peter Bradshaw. “But in capturing the faces, particularly the faces of children, Murtha showed her subjects’ humour, optimism and refusal to be cowed.”

An employee who worked as an art installer secretly hung one of his own paintings in the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, and we’re not that mad about it. “He was carrying tools; that’s why he went totally unnoticed,” said Tine Nehler, a museum spokesperson. “As a technician, he was able to move around all areas of the building outside of opening hours.”

Marian Bantjes critiques the design and logic (and design logic) of the food pyramid (and pyramids in general).

Lesly Pierre Paul’s New Vision Art School turns to the arts as a way to continue local traditions and keep neighborhood children out of gangs. 

Tahnee Ahtone joins the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City as Curator, Native American Art. She was previously the Director and Curator at the Kiowa Tribal Museum in Carnegie, Oklahoma.

News we love: founded in 2002 by Nínive Calegari, a teacher, and McSweeney's founder (and author) Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia receives a $1 million donation from Yield Giving, a massive philanthropy effort by Amazon co-founder MacKenzie Scott.

Next week, Case Western will host design anthropologist Christina Wasson, who will deliver the 2024 Applying Anthropology to Real World Problems Lecture. Entitled The Participatory Design of Indigenous Heritage Archives, Wasson will describe how she has adapted participatory design methods to develop archives that preserve indigenous languages. (Thursday, April 18, at 4 p.m. in Mather Memorial Building, Room 201.)

Margerete Jahny belonged to a rare demographic of industrial designer: she was East German—and female—and according to design historian Günter Höhne, she was the first East German industrial designer, of any gender, with a university education.

New “networks” and “platforms” targeting “fractional” design leaders who are looking to support one another, collaborate on projects, better communicate their value, and source new income-generating opportunities, both individually and collectively. More on the reinvention design leaders are facing, by Robert Fabricant.

Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado are ending the practice of anonymous surveys to determine which bills should live or die. The change to make all parts of the survey public comes months after a judge ordered lawmakers to stop using their previous secret ballot system to prioritize legislation because it violated Colorado’s open meetings law, reports the Longmont Leader.



Jobs | April 22