Monday, February 27, 2006

Carol Doda

As a kid growing up in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but snicker every time we crossed the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Streets. There at the corner stood a giant illuminated sign advertising The Condor, the city’s infamous strip club. The sign promoted Carol Doda’s Topless Love Act and there was an illustration of her and her storied breasts. The part that really got us kids going, though, was the red light blinking right where her nipples would have been.

The sign was taken down when The Condor was converted to a Sports Bar sometime in the 90s, and Carol has moved on to selling lingerie. But that image of her blinking breasts remains seared in the memories of all San Franciscans.

When I showed my soft circuit test to my girlfriend, she immediately grabbed the piece, put it to her chest and said, “Hey, I’m Carol Doda!” Thus I set out to pay homage to Carol and to San Francisco’s freewheeling past.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

1491 - 1999

1491 – Talking Knots

This was such an interesting article: imagine the history of an entire civilization locked up in a secret code, awaiting the right person to crack it. It’s almost too good to be true, so “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Where’s Indiana Jones and his fedora?

What I found surprising is that for years, we have thought of the Incan civilization as one that did not possess a written language. Yet it seems improbable that they would have been able to develop a far-reaching empire with massive architecture without some form of written language. Is it just Western arrogance to think of written language as something having to be transcribed/drawn/scratched onto another surface or was it the absence of a “Rosetta Stone” providing the key?

The other thing that was so fascinating is that Khipu seems to be a binary language, or as Urton puts it a “seven bit binary array.” It almost sounds like ICM discussion. The lesson is that communication can come in many forms, not just words on a flat surface and we have to become more receptive.

The quest for power – Stefano Marzano

This article is one of the reasons that I’m at ITP. As an industrial design student back in the 90s, I was well aware of what was coming out of Europe, in particular Alessi, Philips Design and the big furniture makers like Vitra. The Vision of the Futures project was a huge influence on me, changing my aesthetic sensibility, and more importantly, challenging my notions of what a product is, and how it fits into our world.

In “The Quest for Power,” Marzano continues this challenge. In addressing the need to move into Wearables, Marzano identifies one of the hidden truths of product design: that as designers, we are unable to deliver true “usability”. Yes, we can call our friends from anywhere, but we still need to carry the phone with us. Miniaturization has gotten us a long way, but we’re not completely liberated yet.

Although written in1999, the article is still relevant for Marzano’s call for “integration” has yet to be answered fully. Except for a few examples such as the Burton Amp Jacket, the worlds of fashion and that electronics have yet to collide. This sounds very much like the trend Angel Chang identified. The good news for us as designers investigating the possibilities of Wearables, is that there is ample room for exploration.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Burton Jacket

cool article in the NYtimes on the USA Snowboard team jackets:


Monday, February 13, 2006

High Level Ideas for final project

3 total, hope one works:

Personal Space Suit

Personal space—the physical space surrounding an individual that is required by the individual in order to maintain a sense of control and security—is unique to each culture and to the individual. Personal space is also in a constant state of fluctuation, depending on the social context in which an individual finds him- or herself.

The physical space which separates two strangers engaged in an exchange is vastly greater than the distance which separates intimate friends sharing a secret. This point was famously illustrated in a Seinfeld episode in which a character was known as a “close talker.” This character’s obliviousness to other people’s personal spaces caused him to repeatedly trespass people’s comfort zones, causing them to recoil and in some cases, practically backbend to avoid his intrusion. Obviously, this was played for maximum comic effect, but it was a great example of how our society has very clearly defined personal spaces.

We all experience these sorts of invasions on a daily basis—when we squeeze onto a crowded subway, or when waiting in line for a coffee. If someone is a little too close, we begin to feel threatened and uneasy. Equally, if we’re simply having a discussion with a colleague or classmate and they begin to back away—in effect, widening the personal space—we feel undermined and self-conscious. Is it the ten cups of coffee on our breath? Are we boring? Are they shoulder surfing? Could it be we’re not as fascinating as we think we are? Or do they just not like us?

I became acutely aware of personal space when one day while waiting to use an ATM in Paris, a Parisian sauntered right up and stood almost on top of the person using the machine, completely unaware that I was next in line. I realized that my American notion of what constitutes the expected space (a good yard and a half) between someone using an ATM and someone waiting to use the ATM, was tremendously different from a French person’s. To the Parisian, my yard and a half may well have been a kilometer, as I was so far from the ATM that I couldn’t possibly be waiting to use it!

Since then I’ve become more sensitive to these cultural differences in personal space. When I’m with my French friends, we’ll greet each other with a kiss on each cheek; my American friends, on the other hand, stiffen up at the mere thought of a hug.

I am proposing a garment that plays with the differences and fluctuations in personal space. The garment could both attract and repel, depending on the wearer’s mood or whim, or the garment could react to its context, seeking to defend personal space when it is under attack, or to attract those deemed to be intimate.

Possible technologies to be used:
- proximity sensors
- video tracking
- RFid
- IR
- Pneumatics

Ways to attract and repel: a change in state
- color
- sound
o to attract: music, birds chirping, ocean waves…
o to repel: music, sirens, buzzers etc…
- size
o to attract: get smaller
o to repel: gets larger
- form
o to attract: soft
o to repel: hard
- texture
o to attract: fuzzy, downy, sticky…
o to repel: spikes, barnacles, warts…
- smell
o to attract: honey, flowers, musk…
o to repel: skunk, dirty feet, rotten eggs…



The taste and scent of Proust’s madeleine unlocked volumes of recollections in Remembrances of Things Past. Scent has always had a way of bringing forth powerful images, memories and associations. We are constantly updating our own narratives with careful applications of shampoos, deodorants, colognes and perfumes. In this way, we are not just attempting to mask our bodies’ natural odors, but are instead creating a kind of ephemeral ideal self: one that is hypnotizing (Hypnôse by Lancôme,) intoxicating (Beyond Paradise by Estée Lauder) or is living the dream (in notes of amber and rose, Euphoria by Calvin Klein.)

You are never more aware of someone’s scent than when you are close to them. A fragrance may be one of the most lasting memories of a brief encounter, remembered long after a flirtatious exchange. How often have we heard the cliched phrase, “Her scent lingered in the air”? With time, a scent can grow to have more meaning, becoming the embodiment of your significant other. When I travel, my girlfriend will sneak one of her scarves into my suitcase so that when I open it at my destination, I will have a reminder of her. It’s not the physical object that I respond to, it’s her scent. The fragrance is a much more intimate form of communication than a text message or a photo of herself could ever be.

I would like to design an accessory that captures the romance of intimacy non-verbally through communication with scent. There will be two parts: a sending component, and a receiving component (but ideally the device would act as both sender and receiver.) The sender will be able to electronically send a “love note” that the receiver would recognize as the sender’s scent.

Possible technologies to be used:
- BlueTooth
- Cellular phone
- Ultrasound
- Heat
- Mechanical atomizer
- Solenoid


Yo, Taxi!

New Yorkers hail a lot of cabs, and it can become quite competitive at rush hour, when it’s raining, or late at night when bars and nightclubs close. Unlike other cities I’ve lived in, New Yorkers risk their lives wading into oncoming traffic, trying to get a cabbie’s attention. In Paris, there are taxi stands and you wait in line; in San Francisco, good luck finding a cab unless you’re downtown or at the airport! Los Angeles is so big that you can’t wait on a corner, you have to call a cab company.

To give stylish New Yorkers the upper hand, I propose Yo, Taxi!, an accessory that is sure to stop a Yellow Cab in its tracks. A wrist-worn device, or perhaps one embedded in the cuff of a jacket or coat, Yo, Taxi! uses single row LEDs that illuminate once the wearer raises his or her wrist and begins waving it (as in hailing a cab.) The LEDs strobe in time with the wearer’s action, creating the illusion of the word “TAXI” floating in mid-air.

Possible technologies to be used:
- Microcontroller
- Tilt switch

off the cuff

Creating even the most basic flexible circuit proved to be a lot tougher than I had ever imagined. I had problems with both the fabrication of my cuff as well as with the electrical circuit.

Having no experience with conductive fabrics, my assumption was to think of them as thin flat wire. However , the flexibility of the fabric—a feature which makes it so useful—also proved to be problematic in the circuit construction. I had a hard time insulating the fabric, leading to shorts in the circuit. I had this issue with the LED as well as with the battery. I ended up solving it (at least for the LED) by layering the conductive material between cotton muslin. The battery connection proved to be a lot more challenging. I had planned to sandwich the battery between the two ends of the cuff, and use the force of the clasp to provide the needed tension to make a solid physical connection between the fabric leads and the poles of the battery. I found that the flexible nature of the fabric and the thinness of the coin cell didn’t work well together: the cell was enveloped in the conductive cloth creating a short.

As for the fabrication, I didn’t have much fun with the Juki. That thing is impossible to control. I was never able to get a handle on the speed, leading to embarrassingly sloppy seams and construction. On the plus side, the constantly breaking thread made me become quite proficient with threading the machine. This project taught me a lot about fabrics, and how hard it is to stitch them into submission.

Designers, carry on!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Urban Armor

Having seen Lucy Orta’s work in a gallery, I found it interesting that one of the first points Paul Virilio makes in his review is that her work is best viewed in a real world context. Because her pieces touch on homeslessness, isolation, physical as well as social threats, Virilio believes that the Urban Armor derive more meaning when seen through a wider lens.

I had a similar response when I saw her work last week. The pieces were thought-provoking when seen as sculptural object s on pedestals, but viewing them in action (on video) really brought Orta’s ideas home.

While I agree with some of Virilio’s points (his take on Orta’s Collective Wear and its correlation to societal links) I had trouble following others. I failed to see how Orta’s work comments on the breakdown of the nuclear family, and I had trouble seeing how today’s “streets are hell.” It seemed a little overly dramatic to me.


The mask that reveals me is modeled after a Moka Express stovetop espresso machine. I picked this object to represent me because it embodies a lot of values that I hold dear: classic design, balance between art and engineering, and great, dark coffee. I also love the machine's alchemical qualities, the way that it can transform a bitter bean into a magical elixir. Also, having lived in San Francisco and Paris, I am a firm believer in cafe culture, in the idea of the cafe as a place where ideas and people interact.

The mask that disguises me is a pixelated portrait of myself. It's common to see this treatment used in magazines and on television, to protect someone's identity or to satisfy censors. I thought it was interesting because it says a lot about how we are losing parts of ourselves in this digital age. Visit any of the Starbucks surrounding NYU to see how ubiquitous technology has replaced conversation in the cafe setting...