Archive for the ‘Everyday design’ Category

Visies op vormgeving: the voices of Dutch modernism 1874 – 1940

Saturday, August 24th, 2013
Book: 'Visies op vormgeving' - image of front cover

The book 'Visies op vormgeving', part 1 by Frederike Huygen

For those who read Dutch, Visies op vormgeving is a collection of letters, magazine articles, memoirs, reports that show how design came to occupy such a powerful position in Dutch society.

My current favorite is Margaretha Verwey’s account of her disastrous job interview at the Girls’ Industrial School she’s been asked to modernize. “Are those children to become no more than servants providing little furnishings in our houses? Or are we women, who will help these girls develop into people who understand their times and fit the century they live in?” They politely reject her, shocked by the modern ideas of this successful, self-made design entrepreneur.

The texts include debates and discussions of ornament, the idea of art as a community service, the role of the artist in advertising, the role of design in creating better dwellings and ways of living, style, and the relationship between client and designer.

Huygen’s selection, thematic organization and explanatory notes enable us to explore early modern Dutch design with its creators as our guides. And last but not least – it’s a beautifully designed book, which makes it even more of a pleasure to read.

Speaking of affordances…

Friday, February 4th, 2011
Odd-looking doorbell with square plastic panels - not clear which can be pushed to ring it.

The doorbell - which is the button to push to ring it?

A nice example of strange ‘affordances’ in a design. Does the metal triangle thingy look like a button you would push?

Beautiful book designs

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
Typographic ornament from book of Willem de Merode's poetry.

Found some beautifully designed old books at a sale. The typographic ornament above is from the title page of a 1936 edition of Willem de Merode’s poetry. It’s 4 centimeters in diameter.


The ugliest chair in the world

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

A trash and treasure shop in my neighborhood is a rich museum of strange and ugly designs from the 1970′s.

What is it?

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

A coat rack…but how does it work? Affordances again. Explore and figure it out. (more…)

Queen’s Day, story of an answering machine

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

answering_machine_sm.jpgOn Queen’s Day, when the whole city is a flea market, I suddenly saw the fossil of an answering machine I’d had in the mid-1990′s. Its simple and highly usable interface seemed foolproof at the time – but it was no match for my roommate, who managed to use it to stage one of my most embarrassing moments. (more…)

Observations in the train: bag hierarchies

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Nothing reveals the strong and weak points of a design like oft-repeated rituals of use. 3 times a week, I take the international train that passes the airport on its way to Rotterdam, where I teach. I’ve watched much ritual use of baggage, and occasionally interview the owners. Here’s a couple examples.


Two ways to invent a dog toilet

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

Whatever to do about the dog shit that litters city streets and greens? Design competitions, fines, specially designed scoops and bags, and any number of other solutions haven’t had much effect. Couldn’t help but notice two solutions which neatly embody ‘opposite’ approaches to technology. (more…)

Observations in the train: WC signage

Monday, November 13th, 2006

The train I take from Amsterdam to Rotterdam is a rolling lab for observing how people use technology.
Today, I watched passengers struggling to find a WC. Nothing is easier to find in the train than the WC, because as on trains anywhere (except certain sinister Soviet types which hopefully have gone out of use), it’s at the end of the car. If the location isn’t enough of a clue, you can’t miss the familiar British ‘WC’ in prominent letters on the door. (more…)