The Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland and the East Bay, has always played second fiddle to the glamorous Golden Gate Bridge. Even though both spans are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, the drab gray Bay Bridge never stirred the heart the way its flashy orange sister span has. The Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th birthday was commemorated with fireworks, a fancy new visitors’ center, and souvenir trinkets of all kind. On the other side of town, it was business as usual on the Bay Bridge, with some 270,000 vehicles crossing its span daily.
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If this thermostat looks like something that Apple would have designed had it been interested in home heating, there’s a reason. Tony Fadell, who conceived of the iPod and then went on to work on the iPhone while at Apple (he left in 2008), came up with this household device through his own company, Nest Labs. The clean Apple aesthetic and intuitive ease-of-use are evident in the Nest Learning Thermostat. The temperature is displayed in bright, clear numerals, and the rim ring acts as the dial. The LCD-lit center turns red if you are raising the temperature and shows blue if you are lowering it. A green leaf appears under the number to indicate a setting for optimal energy savings. Not only that, the Nest programs itself, using software to analyze and track your usage patterns over time. Once it learns your preferences, it adjusts itself automatically, and even turns itself down to the “Away” mode, if it doesn’t sense any movement in the house. The Nest also comes with a mobile app that lets you change the temperature and schedule remotely by laptop, smartphone or pad.
Programmable thermostats, even ones that can be controlled remotely, are not new to the marketplace. What makes Nest exceptional is that it is designed for the user. You don’t have to squint to read the temperature gauge or gnash your teeth when trying to figure out the instructions to get it to do all the things that the ads promise it can do. It doesn’t try to impress consumers by displaying the complex engineering of the product. That’s more intimidating than impressive. What good design does best is create an interface with the user that makes the complex simple. Given the large number of consumers (including me) who don’t know how to program their existing thermostats, a device that is pleasing to view and as easy to use as an iPod is a welcome advance.
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For Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, the humble pencil holds special significance as an instrument of creativity. Traditionally, it has been the way that designers first give visual expression to raw ideas surfacing from their subconscious. The erasable-leaded pencil gives artists and inventors permission to test concepts, doodle and sketch without committing anything to the permanence of ink.
For decades, Art Center has used the pencil as a symbol for creativity and artistic endeavors. Each year it recognizes the outstanding achievement of alumni with Gold and Silver Pencil Awards. For its donor wall, it has made a display of oversized pencils etched with the names of donors to the College. This year when Art Center launched its fund-raising effort, it asked one of its most illustrious alumni, Michael Schwab (Advertising, class of 1975), to create a poster for the campaign. Although Schwab’s strong graphic illustrations have become the brand identity for countless companies and for the Golden Gate National Parks, he admits that being asked to create something for his alma mater was both a “proud moment…and daunting assignment.”
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