Space-age Oregon

This is the seventh essay in a collection of twelve written by Byron Ferris for the "Design Sense" feature of the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert of The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. – Ed.

Recently on a pleasant California weekend in Palo Alto, we visited Stanford and had a look at the electronics firms of the "Silicon Valley." This area where so much of the computer industry started is not really much of a geographic valley; rather, it's an area south of Stanford University where new electronics-age companies began developing near the school's science departments.

In Oregon, we're seeing a similar growth of new companies spreading out from Tektronix in an area around Beaverton and Hillsboro, an area that's becoming known as the "Silicon Forest." The area is not much of a true forest – it has trees, of course, and plenty of greenery, but the region, which is west of Portland where the air flowing from the Pacific Coast is fresh and clean, is mostly buildings, with homes and plants. It offers good living and a good environment for the manufacture of electronics, which requires clean conditions.

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Posted by Eric Hillerns in Community | 28 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post

Steven Heller interviews Sol Sender on the "O" in Obama.

The New York Times feature "Campaign Stops" has Steve Heller interviewing Sol Sender, the creator of Obama's "O" logo. We have our own experience with other "O" identities and thought we'd weigh in with a little support for Sender's work on this one. If you're interested in our general take on the identity program, follow the "Read more" link below.

Heller writes, "At the end of 2006, Mode, a motion design studio in Chicago, approached Sol Sender, a graphic designer, to create a logo for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The resulting “O” became one of the most recognizable political logos in recent history. I (Heller) spoke with Mr. Sender a few days after the election to discuss the evolution of his design." The full story is here: The "O" in Obama.

Posted by Eric Hillerns in Design | 22 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post

Twitter Roundup: Week of 17 November.

Posted by Eric Hillerns in Twitter | 21 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post

Contemporary artifacts and the universally absurd.

This is the sixth essay in a collection of twelve written by Byron Ferris for the "Design Sense" feature of the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert of The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. – Ed.

If the public art pieces on Portland's Downtown Mall are all waterproof, and if Los Angeles' art has to be smogproof, at least the art in London no longer must be fogproof.

A foggy day in London town is not so foggy anymore: Peat and coal fires have been banned from the central city. The rooftop chimney pots stand disused, the chimneys that, during Victorian times, poured into the sky tiny particles of smoke ash that formed the nuclei for water vapor and helped cause London's pea-soup fogs.

Sherlock Holmes, perhaps, would not recognize the new, cleaner London, and Queen Victoria would be surprised by what has happened to her beloved Victoria and Albert Museum. The V&A, just a few blocks down the road from Harrod's famous department store, is a gigantic museum that took its present shape in 1900, dedicated to showcasing the decorative industrial arts of Victorian England. Victoria and Albert, her prince consort, believed in manufacture and commerce, and the museum collections preserved the products of that period.

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Posted by Eric Hillerns in Design | 16 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post

Twitter Roundup: Week of 10 November.

Posted by Eric Hillerns in Twitter | 15 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post

More LinkedIn answers from Pinch. This time, it's about the pros and cons of Twitter.

Has your organization started to utilize Twitter as a social media tool. If so, how is it working out?
Posted by: Nepal Patel, Vice President, Sales at GasPedal

Editor's note: Answers on this one were all over the board; most seeming somewhat skeptical of Twitter's ability to turn a profit. Certainly understandable. But rather than attempting to debunk a movement, we just tried to share our experience with Twitter, thus far. Who knows? Tomorrow, our answer might be very different.

Yes. And it has been fulfilling, thus far. For personal use, Twitter has been all that has been billed in other answers that you've received: an excellent link to conversations, ideas, topics and events that were occurring right under my nose. Many, directly related to my business. At the same time, it has proven to be time-consuming and in truth, from time to time, a bit silly. Of course, so are relationships and that's what Twitter is really about.

For many, Twitter is beginning to assume the place of traditional e-mail. Others simplify it as "group IM." It is neither of those in my opinion. As with any new model, there is certainly a learning curve. I sat on my hands for a couple of months and just listened to the tweets. Who was saying what, how they were saying it, and why. And like any relationship, some simple listening paid with great dividends. By then, I felt that I knew who I wanted to hear from. And more importantly, I felt that I could speak with other "tweeps" in a manner that was both appropriate and meaningful. In each attempt, I aimed to contribute.

From the perspective of business, Twitter seems another thing altogether. In business, we work to surround ourselves with people we respect. Naturally, those people become closer to each other on a personal level and the network expands exponentially or contracts depending on the values of that network. As they become closer, conversation tends to become more casual. This is both good and bad (but that's an entirely separate post). That having been said, I don't believe that there is yet a tried-and-true model for Twitter success. But that's part of the beauty of the app; it is becoming exactly what users define.

What did we do? I am a principal in a small design firm. We blog a bit and we attempt to stay in front of the people with whom we wish to work. Within the last week, we "launched" a strategy that appears slightly different from the ways that we have seen Twitter utilized to date. With certain exceptions, it seems that firms using Twitter rarely stay on message. The closest parallel we could draw to our intended strategy was to providers who focus on a specific interest; the Arts section of the New York Times.

Why did we do it? We quickly realized that our general blog posts required significant time and effort. We have much to share and we wish to do it quickly. Yet beyond the creative outlet that blogging provides, one of the primary reasons we invest the time is to demonstrate our approach to our work and to communicate what design means for business. In order to be more efficient with what we share, we've established a simple Twitter strategy for (1) feeding traffic to our site, (2) for building our resource database and (3) for staying in front of interesting people on a daily basis. To do so, we must provide content of value. It is our view that the folks who are using Twitter are the folks most likely to spread the word about any subject, particularly when it is of value. And the approach certainly won't hurt our SEO.

We developed our Twitter strategy on a simple premise: Provide six tweets a day on issues related to brand, sustainability and design. Talk about the things we know and nothing more. No feedback, no lengthy strings supporting our posts. It needed to be manageable; a one-way information source that positions our firm as thought leaders and shares one studio project, announcement, or discussion per day. The remaining five are about our industry as a whole. We intend to keep it focused and consistent. While we have just begun, the feedback has been incredibly positive.

Posted by Eric Hillerns in Community | 13 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post (15 so far)

The high-tech road to nostalgia.

This is the fifth essay in a collection of twelve written by Byron Ferris for the "Design Sense" feature of the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert of The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. – Ed.

Quite a few years have passed since the last exhibition of design at the Portland Art Museum. As I recall, it was a traveling exhibit from the New York Museum of Modern Art called "Objects of the Twentieth Century."

Because the show was organized in the early 1960s, it could represent only the first half of the 20th century, but it did make its point about design.

The collection consisted of industrial technique-produced pieces of fine design: chromed steel tube chairs by Marcel Breuer; mass-produced porcelainware by Rosenthal; factory assembled office furniture designed by George Nelson and Charles Eames; glass-fiber fabric designs; and Jay Doblin's elegant pen and pencil set for Sheaffer.

The objects exhibition made the point that the art of design had established standards that, through industrial mass production, could surround everyone with examples of fine contemporary taste.

At the gallery's exit door, I overheard two nicely dressed women talking to Dr. Francis Newton, who was director of the museum at the time. "I like your exhibition of new things," one woman said, "and I'd like to have this modern furniture."

"Yes," said the other, "but we happen to have all these old things at home. Victorian, you know."

That was the dilemma, wasn't it? Good people stuck in a conformity of taste. I would suspect that if the dear ladies had bought a television set it would have been encased, most appropriately; in a Victorian highboy – and the set would have brought in only a picture of Queen Victoria playing the pianoforte.

Interestingly, the designed objects of the '60s museum show are still in production but have become extremely expensive. Elevated to "art" by the museum circuit, they now show up primarily as symbols of good taste in the most sophisticated corporate offices.

In the late '60s, some five years after the objects show, the "alternative lifestyle" protest groups began to make their voices heard socially, politically and economically. Partly in protest to corporate industrialism, and partly because the young don't have much money, they bought their clothes and furnishings at thrift stores and junk shops.

The junk-shop findings for the new lifestyle influenced mass taste. Soon used Levis were an international fashion commodity, and recycled "Tiffany" coloredglass lamps found their way into general interior design. The surge toward "Retro," "Replay" and "Nostalgia" had begun. (A side note: Though the late '60s' alternative lifestyle represented an important force for change, I must admit to some sadness today when I see middle-aged "hippies" stuck in their beads-and-Iong-hair conformity of taste.)

During the mid-'70s turn to nostalgia, another factor appeared to affect the American taste scene: the overwhelming of the consumer-goods industries by imports from Japan and Europe. This trend in the American marketplace came upon us gradually, but it represents a significant change. The consumer can buy only what is available.

Play a bit of a game: Count the high technology objects surrounding you at home – the radios, television sets, video recorders, cameras and typewriters that were designed and manufactured overseas.

No wonder we have turned back to American nostalgia, toward a time when America was more sure of itself and of its production leadership. I expect that a replay of the past is a good thing, that through re-examination we can find new ways, but the "retro" attitude can have some strange results.

Friends of mine have found great pleasure in collecting old neon signs, and they have decorated their dining room with glowing tubes. "Eats," "Cafe," "Coffee Shop" and other bright legends provide the only illumination for dinner. I must observe that a salad under red neon's light and a steak lit by blue krypton's glow do not present themselves too favorably.

I realize that I have my own conformity of taste about dinner.

Posted by Eric Hillerns in Design | 10 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post (13 so far)

Twitter Roundup: Week of 03 November.

Posted by Eric Hillerns in Twitter | 07 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post

Tuesday Flickr Set: 2008 election graphics.

Well, here it is. The biggest Tuesday of them all. The world over looks to the U.S. to see how we play this one, and with fingers crossed, hopes of change linger deep. This campaign has brought a bit of everything to the forefront; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the worldwide financial crisis, health care, race, gender, foreign policy, taxes, torture, trade, Tito, terror, snow machines, religion, fear, Fey, socialism, fraud, food prices, energy, independence, punditry, the poor, plumbers, politics as usual, friends, foes, family, and a whole lotta' talk about another old man's ability to "keep us safe" from (or for) all of the above. Campaigns are just that; a short-lived (or in this case-drawn out) stream of impossible promises. This one, it seems, has been as much about brand as it has been about breadth and we, as designers, have used our pens and pixels to further that cause. At this point, how it'll work out is anyone's guess.

So today, our work continues, with one eye on the closing polls and another on the client time clock. This Tuesday Flickr Set is a collection of many of the images designers have created over the course of this campaign. And yes, we do realize that there are many, many more. Providing for equal time, some of the presentations are nothing short of gorgeous and some of the sentiment is downright hideous. We believe this to be an appropriate illustration of the past 18 or so months. In any event, thankfully, tomorrow promises to be a different day.

Posted by Eric Hillerns in Politics | 04 November 2008 | Permalink | Comment on this post

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