Susainability

If You Could Ride on a Plant

YeZ, this is just a concept car, but consider the possibilities. Developed by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) in partnership with General Motors and Volkswagen, YeZ, which means “leaf” in Mandarin, not only absorbs carbon dioxide and water molecules from the atmosphere, it exhales oxygen. Through solar panels on its roof and wind turbines in its wheels, YeZ generates energy that it stores in its lithium ion batteries. YeZ is like a mechanized photosynthesis process. It is still a concept and only seats two, and no one has said how fast it can go, but consider the possibilities.

Printing Techniques

Laser Print Your Latte

Laser printers can work on virtually any substrate these days, including stenciling a design onto the foam of your latte. Even though the technology has been around for a few years now, probably it hasn’t become widespread for two reasons. One, the process is relatively slow, which wouldn’t work in a high-volume coffee house. Two, professional baristas who take pride in drawing leaf patterns, swans, smiley faces and swirls on the foam would probably take offense if an automated machine one-upped them by drawing Mocha Lisas and Macchiato Mondrians. The relentless march of technology, however, says that barista artistry may someday be replaced by a robotic arm. The way it works is that precise dots of caramel food coloring are dropped onto the foam dot-by-dot to draw logos, brand taglines, web addresses, holiday greetings, and even very detailed pictures. This doesn’t require unique talent, just a latte art machine. The thought of seeing a marketing pitch imprinted on my latte isn’t very appealing. Still, when placing your latte order, prepare to someday specify caf, decaf; foam, low foam; printed or unprinted.

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Advertising

Point, Click, Shop

From Gizmodo comes this report of how the façade of an entire building in a Tokyo shopping district has been covered in a pattern of QR codes that can be read by smart phones. The N Building AR project by Teradadesign and Qosmo lets passersby view the QR code on their cell phone to enable the display of all kinds of information, including store offerings and interactive ads. It will even allow users to download coupons and make reservations. This is an intriguing concept, but it may meet consumer resistance. Without in-your-face advertising, it may be hard to draw the attention of people who don’t want to be bother holding their cell phones up at QR patterns on a building to see what they have to say. Still, like many other inventions that were initially discounted as futuristic fantasy, QR codes as a communication device should be ignored at your own peril. In recent years we have seen too many “safe” communication design/marketing professions disappear for lack of demand. If QR advertisements on buildings and billboards catch on, who will that affect, how will it change our jobs, and how do we get ahead of the trend rather than be trampled by it?

Product Design

Moleskine for e-Book Notetakers

Corporate anthropologists who observe consumer behavior watch out for “workarounds” — solutions that people rig up to overcome shortcomings in the design of a product. These are typically one-off designs that are sometimes ingeniously clever and sometimes humorously strange and barely workable.

In coming up with a Moleskine cover for an Amazon Kindle e-book, Moleskine admits it eavesdropped online when bloggers posted workaround suggestions or wrote wistfully of the satisfaction they got when jotting notes on paper.

“The very idea of this new cover came from ‘notebook hackers,’ who create their own custom-made accessories weaving together paper pages and digital tools,” Moleskine says on its website. “Throughout the web, hundreds of communities and discussions can be found where such Moleskine ‘hackers’ publish their own invention.”

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Public Service Campaign

Writing with Water

Sometimes the medium is very much a part of the message. This public service display to warn people about the dangers of unsafe drinking water was created for Worldwide Day of Water by BDDP Unlimited in partnership with NGO Solidarities International. Essentially, BDDP constructed a “liquid poster” in the heart of Paris, using AquaScript technology. Developed by German artist Julius Popp in 2008, AquaScript’s proprietary computer and software system can be programmed to synchronize hundreds of magnetic valves to expel drops of water on command, forming any number of words and images out of pure liquid. Words literally rain down from spouts. Lately AquaScript displays have been appearing all over the world at trade shows, new product unveilings, casinos and nightclubs, and even as the centerpiece of posh parties in Abu Dhabi. It is still a novelty that causes people to pause in wonder, but when the technology is used strategically, as in this clean water campaign, it can add strength to the message and be more than the latest fascinating gimmick.

Publishing

iPad Raises Questions, No Answers

Sports Illustrated and Wired are the latest magazines to demonstrate a prototype of how its online content could work on an iPad-like tablet. While dazzled by the possibilities, as someone in the communications design field, I started wondering about all kinds of practical production matters. This may seem silly but I wondered if reporters and designers would be “joined at the hip” creatively, assigned to sit side-by-side, desk-to-desk, in the editorial office and work in unison to produce “content”? It used to be that editorial and art departments were separate entities and sequential processes. And the interactive staff often was not even in the same part of the building. Now, more than ever, visual, interactive and editorial content have converged. How will that change the physical configuration of an editorial office?

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Technology

Telecom’s Interactive Light Show

New Zealand’s iconic Auckland Ferry Building, an Edwardian Baroque-style structure built in 1912, has become the site of spectacular 21st century light shows, using architectural mapping and interactive projection technology.

A creative collaboration of Inside Out Productions, YesYesNo, The Church and Electric Canvas, the Ferry Building light show turned the audience into the performers by taking their body movements and amplifying them five stories high. The installation used three different types of interactions – body interaction on the two stages, hand interaction above a light table, and phone interaction with the tracking of waving phones. Six scenes were cycled every hour for the public.

Produced with the support of Telecom and the Auckland City Council, the four-night event was a great way for Telecom to position itself at the cutting-edge of technology and a great way for the city to bolster tourism and civic spirit.

Technology

Lost Boys’ Christmas Mobile Mobile

When James Theophane Jr. was asked by his employer Lost Boys, an interactive marketing firm in the UK, to come up with a Christmas card, he thought of the 50 or so mobile phones discarded after the agency went through a company-wide upgrade.

That inspired the constructions of a gigantic mobile, with each phone programmed by computer to sound a single tone that together formed a choral arrangement. The interactive sculpture hoisted at the entrance of the Brick Lane studio can be enjoyed by anyone visiting the live stream and tapping out his/her own jingle on the onscreen keyboard.

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Technology

Augmented Reality Comes of Age

Augmented reality, or AR. If you don’t know of it, you should. If you haven’t used it yet, you will. What used to dwell in the realm of science fiction and extreme geekdom is finding practical application in all kinds of areas, including marketing, packaging, exhibits, sales demonstrations, technical training, maps, architecture and entertainment. The possibilities are just beginning to be recognized. Augmented reality lets the user see the world around him with superimposed computer graphics that appear in 3-D animation, visible from every angle and following the sight-path of the viewer. In its simplest version, the user can print out a high-contrast black-and-white pattern of squares and point it at a computer webcam. The webcam reads it like a laser bar code and sends a fully formed image back that appears to come alive right on the paper in the user’s hand.



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