Current 01/2010

The Artification of Design

MAXXI Museum, Photo Designboom.


Museums around the world have become important points of attraction in one of the major economic activities: tourism. When I was an art student, museums were quiet and empty places visited solely by insiders and school children. Now, the insiders have to become 'friends' of the museum to avoid waiting for hours in endless cues. Museums have become places of mass entertainment. And cities are looking desperately for visually stunning buildings to attract the audience and with it the tourists to their cities. The Sydney Opera House had the desired result a while ago for Sydney and the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry has put the Spanish city of Bilbao on the touristic map. Cities around the world started to imitate these success stories that resulted in a building frenzy by cultural institutions often bringing them to edge of bankruptcy. The housing became more important than the collection or the performance itself. In Amsterdam, two important museum renovations have gone totally out of hand, the National 'Rijks' Museum is likely to be closed for more than 10 years and the once famous 'Stedelijk Museum' of contemporary art is following a comparable disastrous course and discovered recently that the heating costs of its breathtaking new museum entrance hall would surpass the annual new art purchase budget. Not only bankers have gone slightly nuts during the past decade.Cultural institutions have not only become important clients for architects and designers, the well visited museum design collections and shops have gradually become benchmarks of design quality. Designers seek their work being part of the museum design collections. The influence on design by museum directors and notably by curators have increased considerably. In the process, curators have become stars on their own right in the world of art and design. Soon there will be more famous curators than famous artists. Museums are in global competition with each other, they have to release a number of highly attractive shows per year in order to meet their large budgets. As with all others working in the entertainment industry, the ticket box is the only thing that really counts. Curators have become like film directors, organisers of hopeful visitors magnets, leaving their original academic position behind.


Royal Ontario Museum, Daniel Libeskind. Photo Miller Hare.


Are there disadvantages of the 'artification of design'? I guess not too many, although art is an activity in its own right and design is a tool to serve other purposes as well. And the last aspect can easily become undervalued when judged by the art world. Like art, design may become appreciated mostly for design's sake. By contrast, some designers hold a professional view that design should idealistically be as little noticeable as possible for certain products like books, newspapers, forms, security instructions, signage and user's interfaces to give full priority and maximum support to the verbal content or the intended effect of these products. Design products falling into this category could easily be dismissed by curators as unimportant for lack of spectacularity. This is not to say that spectacularity is by definition an assault on the accessibility of the content or the final purpose of the design, but in practice it often is, and museum shops do provide a rather Lilliputian scope on the professional field of design. In fact, the public appreciation of design has already moved towards being a qualification for products that are extraordinary, somewhat outrageous and bizarrely expensive. It supports the view that designers can help to move products into the premium price range by providing some extra visual thrill and to articulate accurately the latest fads, but one should never ask designers to come close to the design of more serious products like the passengers safety signs and instructions in airplanes for instance. This view is a rather grotesque deformation and limitation of the designer's potential.The 'artification' of design is understandable because of the important recreational value both art and design have in a wealthy environment. Is there also a reverse influence: a 'designification' of art? I think there is. The art world has become a large industry. One can easily perceive art pieces as luxury products in the top price range, products that can reach into the millions per piece. These products are offered and sold these days not much differently than other industry products. Moreover, artists are inspired by the visual and instrumental vocabulary of designers. Using type and making artists books are popular. Andy Warhol was trained and has worked for a while very successfully as a graphic designer, his collection of art works counts over 10,000 pieces which still have the highest annual turnover in sales compared to any other artist. Obviously, he exploited during his career as an artist the typical tools of the designer. But also artists like Damien Hearst (who completely redesigned a bar he bought), Sigmund Polke or Gerhard Richter have designer's streaks in the way they work. Damien Hearst's studio is like a manufacturing plant for small series. Oversized exhibitions force artists to produce art on a big industrial scale. I remember the gigantic pieces by Anselm Kiefer in the Palais de Tokyo exhibition in Paris as looking much like industrially fabricated art. A category of artists and designers have emerged who serve the same clients and participate in the same field of activities and therefore have become quite similar professionals.What sets designers apart from artists is maybe the risk of becoming pompous. Design is likelier to become flashier than art because design cannot completely lift the anchor from its functional aspects. How do you use a dinner table designed by Zaha Hadid with a price tag of two hundred thousand dollars? I thought of that aspect also while visiting the extensions of two museums in Toronto, the extension designed by Daniel Libeskind of the Royal Ontario Museum and the extension by Frank Gehry of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Both extensions are impressive and spectacular pieces of architecture, well designed and fabricated. Yet, they left me with an uneasy feeling, I guess this feeling was reinforced by the closeness of the much more modest existing structures built in another era. Suddenly, both new extensions appeared to me so shamefully pretentious. As if the old buildings were revamped into drag queens. What were the museum directors and the architects trying to tell me with these structures? Quite obviously: 'Hold your breath, I'm going to blow you out of your socks!' But aren't these grandiose spacial gestures not slightly overblown in this down to earth Canadian city? Does a museum collection really need such an exuberant outfit; giving the impression of being a sort of art cathedral? Holy places where everything in them is culturally sacred solely by the fact of its presence there? Or was the reason that Toronto wanted to add a few big names to the collection of famous buildings already in the city, acting more like an architectural stamp collector?Maybe our appetite for this kind of architectural style on a big scale has somewhat diminished in our post-depression era.

Razor Fashion

A part of my personal razor collection from the past 15 years that illustrates design progress.

The traditional safety razor blade remained unchanged for decennia. It was an industry standard that could be used for holders of different brands. Practically everybody still recognises its traditional shape. The first contemporary razor blade didn't have a single blade but two very small ones on top of each other. This would improve the shaving result. The new model started off a race to put ever more blades on top of each other. If two were better than one, three must be better than two. We had left the 'less is more' era and had entered the 'more is better' era. Apparently, we're still not at the close of this era. My latest purchase had 5 blades on top of each other. I don't see any reason why Gillette would stop with this amount.Not only the amount of blades became more an emotional concept of improved functionality than a rational one, the design of the device had also changed over time. About fifteen years ago, a razor was a simple, functional device. During its development it became bigger and bigger –more of an American size so to speak – but also the shape became more colourful and exuberant. The shape started to look like American football gear, as if shaving was an activity that had to deal with huge forces. Every part was oversized (except for the individual blades). Not only razors suffered from this bizarre typically North American oversizing. Also cars for instance started to look like armoured tanks and all new kitchen equipment took much more space than before – not only literally, but even more so in visual sense. Only computers became much smaller.


From standardised utilitarian product to a fashionable facial hair assault weapon.


However, the visual American sports connotation is for me the most striking change. I guess this type of sports is seen as typically masculine. Shaving in the morning had to be perceived as a sort of exiting sports event, a winning the battle against the unwanted part of your facial hair. It looks as if the development still carries on. I guess the sportive battle with your hair will ultimately develop into something like an every morning crusade. To bring you in the right spirit at the start of a new working day.The sad part of this new model rage is that buying spare parts – like razor blades – is no longer from this age, so one is forced to buy the latest 'new' model and the packaging of new models has become the only sales pitch, thus the most elaborate (and expensive) part of simple products like razors. And this part is thrown away right after purchase.Saving our planet is still far off.

My predictions for 2015



I will give specific dates of change and in 2015 I will read this note again and have a good laugh. I agree that some of my suggestions are a bit fanciful, but I'm sure the future will be even more so, we'll see ...

Online newspapers

2010The economic model depending on online advertising will not work forever, newspapers have (or not) to find an economic model not based solely on advertising (traditional publishing cannot clue ads on a novel by Le Clezio for example ). Book publishing has found a delicately balanced economy without advertising, why did this not happen to newspapers?Moreover, it is not because of grants given under the assistance fund for 'services for online media' that newspapers will end their financial problems, not to mention the disastrous effect it will have on their independence. Therefore, subscription systems and micro-payments for individual articles must be developed. Journalists must stop doing 'copy and paste' between print and online versions, stop also copying articles from the international press agencies... and as a result the reader on the web will feel more taken into consideration and less attacked by the incessant commercials and may actually start reading the articles.We will also develop a new way of reading appropriately interactive media. For example, video and audio will be much better integrated with the text of articles. The amount of interactive illustrations (information design) will grow enormously and allow to understand more easily the large amount of increasingly important data.We will get the option to make our own graphs of data, our own designs ... using the data stream. We subscribe to feeds of data (AFP or other agencies collecting large masses of information) and our custom tools allow us to visualize in a comprehensible and didactic way very complex information.We could for instance obtain good records on such a sensitive issue as climate change with dynamic graphs related to the latest data available ... See the various conflicting opinions, different stakeholders, conflicts of interest, reviews, statistics, scientific ... have a short record, documentary and visual dynamic allowing readers to form an opinion. This type of file / document may also adjust the levels of readers with different levels of submersion. The journalist will have the role of conductor to guide us in this ever more important body of information.The AFP (Agence France Presse) will release a free version of its news (as RSS read on the web and any telephone) and force Liberation, Le Monde, Le Figaro ... to finally write authentic and relevant articles.Development of many specific applications for mobile devices to track very specific information (regardless of the channels, blog, twitter ...).The mainstream press will lose significant ground against the specialised press.2011Development by the newspapers of specific software to display interactive information to be consumed and understood in a different way. Radical change in the concept of journalism in relation to information. Like the concepts of copyright for music and art have changed in recent years, the journalist does not give us more 'facts' but rather will help us to navigate (prioritize, sort, compare ...) the information with the help of visualization tools. There will be a new specialty in the newsroom, the algorithmic informational or journalistic.The skimmers and other system hierarchies of content (after having removed the journalists we will have to find replacements) then replace the majority of journalists.Journalists will become algorithms.The columnists will become bloggers.The politically committed journalists algorithms will become political?'A journalist is not a profession for the future!' Said Eric Schmidt CEO of Google at a conference showing a new tool for data visualization. Our online newspapers are becoming real little smart personal object generating real time images and illustrations following the news, our interests, our history and those of our friends (social networking are also put to use for prioritization of relevant information ).2012Total disappearance (or almost) of all Web versions of online newspapers to focus only on paper and mobile versions. The release versions of newspapers can not be done now more than twice a week (consisting of overviews, lots of photos and illustrations + analysis of comments from readers of the online version).The mobile newspaper versions will focus instead only on very actual and hot news items.The paper versions are now in a smaller size and more convenient, some newspapers even go to A5 size, to fit with a TabletPC. 90% of the readers of these newspapers use their mobile (or mini-tablet) to read the news. The Web 'Classic' versions serve only as a teaser and reference system for Google.2013Liberation and Le Monde (French newspapers) will release a joint version of their newspapers on an electronic tissue. The tissue will be some sort of video display that can be placed on the front on one's shirt to follow the news online.Surprisingly, this little device 'quickly will become a fashionable luxury item. Colour and patterns (animated) on the outside of these devices can be customised. Indeed, some colours and some patterns will be unique and are therefore highly in demand (and therefore very expensive). A new 'luxury' is linked to a digital scarcity (orchestrated by luxury brands and companies specialized in digital security). It will be very chic to wear jewelry and clothes to match with these digital 'devices'.

the eReaders


iPhone and phones under Androids will replace eReaders with applications such as Stanza.2011The 'liseuses' (the French name of the Kindle or other eReaders ...) move en masse to the tablet PC using both electronic ink and an OLED screen superimposed, therefore having the option of both color video and the large energy saving black an white screen. This kind of tablet will generalize and replace computers in homes in the coming years (except for professionals).2012The conventional e(lectronic) paper (which I hope will become flexible) will find primarily use in the urban signage, building signage, the 'wallpaper' communication, advertising wall but also in highly complex instruction manuals that are updated Online. We may also make our own physical Widgets with this kind of e-paper that one can paste as the Post-it smart in all our rooms. These pieces of e-paper mail are connected via Bluetooth (or other technology) and updated regularly.

The end of web browsers

2010We will observe a very sharp rise in applications connected to the Web without using a browser (such as NetNewsWire, Spotify, Skimmer ... since 2008-2009). This type of application allows you to browse offline and can update itself automatically when connected. The data are sent in push transparently to the user (just like an iPhone application).Adobe Flash CS5 will allow to develop iPhone applications, these applications will also be rapidly declined in desktop version (you have 'only' to adjust the size of the screen and the keyboard + mouse interface).The major brands prefer to develop their own application to keep more formal control and ergonomics (excluding the iPhone application of the SNCF (National French Railways), which is very good and functions much better than the website of the same SNCF). Such applications can guarantee greater respect for the privacy of users (no ads, no spam, and especially no supervision by Google ...).The public in any case will no longer no longer see a difference between 'web applications' and 'Desktop applications'.2011FireFox will be completely abandoned by users due to incessant problem of display and performance. Chrome will also be seen as terrifying because of problems with some Google services, the same counts for Apple with Safari and Microsoft with Explorer. Users are therefore turning to specific applications or to 'small' independent browsers that are very open, light and very fast.

Distribution and broadcasting of films

2011The VOD (Video On Demand) and Spotify (peer to peer music streaming service) will become mainstream services for film and television, despite the resistance of the 'beneficial owner' of Hollywood (and France). It will be a matter of survival for large companies. The films are released simultaneously in theaters, and on VOD (the BluRay and DVD will be no longer negligible as sales opportunities). It is also the end of the program listings of television, like radio (France Culture in 2009 with its quality podcasts is sitting in a box, despite a very small audiences on the airwaves). Nobody watches the same movie at the same time any longer (except for the American series for download). The concept of 'journal de 20h' (eight o' clock news) will be from another era. TV and radio media become asynchronous. Only sport events will be shown in real time. We have also to increased television sports broadcast (you can choose its presenters, the design of branding, its information, doing paris, chat with friends ...).We will have now a 'consumer' socialized films, it no longer follows a grid imposed program or the opinion of journalists, but rather it is information by word of mouth (blog, friends, specialized networks ...). Top Christmas 2011 is to offer a movie on VOD.The series and films will be globally released exactly at the same time to prevent mass piracy.The many attempts by manufacturers to impose the 3D technique to the general public are a failure because no technology without wearing specific glasses was found convincing (and hop, the 3D will be back in twenty years as from the early fifties).2012By contrast, 3D begins to be used in the porn industry with success (I have my sources, thank you Nicolas wink . It is thus found to have many porn movies in 3D on our cell phones (the main tool for viewing pornographic movies since 2011).

The end of PC Web

2013We will see the disappearance of computers in our homes, we have our mobiles for the consultation of utility service (news, ticket purchases, reservations, social networks ...) and TV for entertainment (both game and film). 'Consumption' of great show on TV is going to socialize, so we can share with our friends at the same distance flows (audio, video, text) and comment, play ... in real time on a show (eg, watching a football game with friends chatting in front of the TV).So many VOD shared, the effect of niche will continue.It's the return of the object in our TV shows, but not TV channels. TF1 collapses (the reality show happens only on the Web) and is only one TV channel purchase.The public is therefore Connected by mobile phone and continuously geolocalized to read his mail, phone, play, read news, use social networks ... In his home he has a TV connected to see the blockbuster movie on VOD, gaming, chat ... by contrast, there will be most likely no longer a computer (in the modern sense) possessed. Some will also have a video tablet to navigate and view information lying on the sofa or in bed.Manufacturers like Apple will stop manufacturing business machines in favor of producing 'casual' devices like the iPhone or video tablets. These machines will be made primarily for broadcast media, but not all for the creation of content (try to type a long text on a video screen wink.It will build its own newspaper, its own TV, radio on his own time with a single software (a super Netvibes example) available on his phone, his or her shelf TV (everything is always synchronized since 2009) .No one will be anylonger concerned with how the information we arrive. The channels are completely transparent. Loss of the difference between SMS, RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook ... mixing flows asynchronous (mail, blog ...) and synchronous (chat, Twitter ...).The only problem is sorting the information by the user (see the role of journalists and algorithms at the beginning of this article).


2010The number of applications on iPhone will multiply each two months in the futures, thanks to porting programming language OpenFrame Works and Action Script 3 (Flash CS5) on the iPhone. Now need to talk about c + + or Objective C to create its iPhone application. Big success for students who will finally leave the original applications on this phone.For its part, Google and Android will start having problems. Indeed, Motorola, LG, Samsung and HTC have all adopted very quickly Androïd replacing Windows Mobile unsuitable for new uses and especially pay. Unfortunately, each manufacturer has started to change his version of Android, and make different interfaces for each new model. So we end up as quickly on Linux, with versions running the same kernel (distribution). Application developers will therefore be found to manage for the same application on different OS, different interfaces (mono or multitouch, trackball, hardware or virtual keyboard, or stylus wheel ...), different screen sizes, different speeds Processor ... Shortly afterwards we will return to the days of Nokia: - ((((((Developers will therefore continue to develop on the iPhone, even if the OS is fairly close, but rapid development and especially the consistency of Apple phones will make a difference.2011Nintendo finally released its own mobile phone with two screens (so it can make digital book once split in two, but also TV, camera, game console ...). This is a Nintendo DS HD (two screens 640/480 pixels in millions of colors and MultiTouch). To earn a great success at its launch, Nintendo offers its entire catalog of game (since the NES) on the phone as a free download for first time buyers (and therefore huge success wink. Indeed, success is immense, over the phone can very easily customize the number of gadgets available for this device is considerable (one could even find on some sites, Toys linked to this phone).2012the mobile phone becomes the main 'device' in the world to access the web.The mobile becomes even a global monetary system (exchange of phone credit and direct access to PayPal accounts), it is gradually replacing our credit cards, our train tickets, plane ...It is therefore more ATM banks in the cities, and mobile identification systems become the focus of many big names in computers and banks (and of course pirates). The identification and encryption services become the cornerstone of all our digital world merchant.2013Pal + Twitter throw together their own monetary system and identification system on mobile. FaceBook also tried to do the same thing, but because of a policy far too vague for security guarantees, the project will fail very quickly. Google does not launch into the adventure because after some initial tests, Google has finally realized the force of everything, it was getting very frightened people.2014The mobile market is now 40% Apple (Apple has managed to make Lowcost versions of its iPhone first generation), 40% for Nintendo and the rest for HTC ... Nokia has definitely stopped making phones (except in the very low end) and does laptops returning to vintage fashion (eg a design of Dell 1999).Also note the appearance of making phone itself, to have a phone not too expensive and mostly fully open (through HardWare OpenSource).Because of the excessive use of tools geolocation and tracking of users on mobile, the market for jammers and other Anomyser explodes. The various laws such Hadopi X (this is the tenth iteration of this law since 2009) also grow a majority of people use private networks (offered by private banks, see below).2015Manufacture and use of the first electromagnetic bomb by néoluddites English. These bombs can destroy all other RFID chips and cookies in one place. This kind of bomb is the number 1 fear of the secret services of Western countries. Electromagnetic bunkers will be built in all societies.


2010Google poses more problems related to privacy, since the statements of its CEO Eric Schmidt.Users are beginning to use new alternative search engine and look to alternative tools to Google Docs as Evernote ...2012The two founders of Google, Google suddenly resigned in 2012 without any reason.2013Google is bought by U.S. pension funds (which may explain the resignation of the two founders in the previous year) of wild rumors on the Net on the resale of databases in government North Korean and Chinese. It's chaos in the world, the U.S. government tries to retake control of that company, but too late.To replenish the coffers of Google, Google's new leaders decide to sell on ebay databases, statistics, history, documents, mail, address books, journeys GPS ... millions of Internet users. For a small fee you can now know the digital life of your neighbor or office colleague.Many developers at Google are leaving the company to create their own Start-Ups.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing, also poses many problems. The beautiful name of 'cloud' conceals the most incredible surveillance system of all times.2012The French Government (Orange) is embarking on an alternative to Google (it had already made an unsuccessful attempt with the BNF for Google book deal). The French government proposes to put all our information in a cloud of state, so we have to choose between placing our life in the digital arm of a private U.S. company or the servers of the French state; a cruel dilemma. The French government proposes to anyone using the 'cloud state' a 20% discount on his taxes (big hit).2014Other countries offer more or less the same options, but there are also similar offers from private organizations related to private banks. These banks have long offered packages of telephone and therefore now become the guarantors of our digital lives, nothing escapes them. We therefore arrive after the tax havens, havens digital guaranteeing total anonymity of our activities and our traces on digital networks.2015There is evidence that in addition to many banks, many religious sects also provide private digital networks to surf in peace networks.

Video Games

2010-2012The distribution of games is materialized in 99% of cases (Steam Onlive ...), except for collectors versions sold very expensive but with many "bonus", as preliminary research and technical graphics, playable versions of games Alphas to understand the evolution of the game during its creation, the ability to compare different versions with comments from creators, soft SDK to make custom changes ...There are nevertheless still very small specialty shops selling games in physical form, such a shop specializing in RETROGAMING, games and especially tangible selling hand become impossible (see forbidden) with the arrival of games dematerialized.Explosions social games, tangible, hybrids, LBS, transmedia, actually increased ...We also mixed gender, such as the emergence of the RPS (RPG + FPS with such as the excellent Borderlands in 2009), the Serious Shooter (FPS + serious games), games platform massively multiplayer (platform + MMO) ...The games are less and less tied to a console or a builder, you can start a game on your PS3, go to your phone in the subway, continue on a TabletPC, and then finish on your Nintendo ...Emergence of real political games (not only in the serious gaming) with issues of ethical, moral, sexual (great innovation in games), political ... posed to the player. The player is confronted with dilemmas rather surprising for the field of play (kill / not kill ...). Publishers have finally realized that the average age of a player in Europe (for example) is 30-35 years, the games are close to the themes found in contemporary cinema.The game mechanics involving themselves in all spheres, social networks, art, cinema, sports ... Applying the logic and mechanisms to play a variety of fields.2013The game officially became a media arts and politics, Michael Haneke launches in video games, just the thought makes me shudder.


2010The fashion labels are starting to create their catalogs (Look Book and other catalogs general public) in the form of application, allowing offline browsing in collections. These collections are updated automatically with each update.Brands are moving away from more traditional web for the benefit of these mobile applications.The pace of collections is diluted in time, we lose more and more the concept of collection automne-hiver/printemps-été. The new features are distributed throughout the year and immediately available for sale (sometimes in a very short time and limited).The limited edition number is replaced by a limited time.2013End of the gap between the parades and sales shop. Now you can buy directly online during the presentation of the parade. The world of fashion layer system on the presentations of Apple and its famous keynotes. People want everything now, buyers are very volatile and pass the competition very quickly if the promise is broken.This poses enormous problems for journalists (once again) that no longer have the premiere collections, the public sees at the same time the same parades. This leads to almost the end of fashion magazines in favor of blogs much more pointed and especially not having to endure the pressure from advertisers.Many fashion journalists set up their own personal blog, and arrive early enough to have as much hearing their original magazine. Many clothing textiles now use "intelligent" and much more environmentally friendly. We tissues responsive to pollution, electromagnetic waves, the Fi, Bluetooth, proximity of friends of your social networks, the number of emails received in your mailbox ...We have a lot of textile eg imitating the wings of butterflies and other insects, giving color without dye (very clean) and constantly changing color according to light.Clothes are gradually replacing our phones through video and tactile fabrics expending very little energy.2014stores become as showroom and buy later online (same for Darty and Fnac). There are still shops where you can buy locally, but they are very expensive and specialized (like grocery store 24/24).2015Big brands are starting to make downloadable clothing. It prints, it weaves it cut ... in his or her own clothes (see the precursor A-Poc brand Issey Miyake) with his personal printer (which can now print on paper, but also weaving, carving and cutting small sizes).2016Chanel makes its downloadable famous little black dress, but only for ten minutes on his site (great buzz). Each downloaded file is unique. On this dress is embroidered with the Chanel logo + your IP address making your purchase absolutely unique (dresses that sell for high prices on ebay).We find the notions of luxury digital (time + uniqueness digital).

But we could also talk about books, distribution, universities, objects ...

2011The return the printed book (but was it ever gone?) with PopUp, folds, reactive inks, printable batteries ... but this is another story which I will address soon.Tensions between the old economy based on the distribution of goods taking a huge margin on each product sold (Fnac and his buddies) and new economy based on downloading and streaming (Spotify, iTunes, Steam ...) will increasingly be felt (smear campaign against video games, the so-called piracy, the dangers of the Internet ...).In the same logic, there will also be more acute tensions among older policies (Frederic Lefebvre, Nadine Morano ... the list is long) and pathetically old communicators (Jacques Seguela) who lose all their bearings and will not be able to control the information stream as they wish and as they did a few years ago, only one solution for these people is to disappear naturally in the landscape.In 2015, we still do not have intelligent and network refrigerators;-)The professionals still keep their mouse and keyboard for writing, despite having more sophisticated interfaces available - recognition of gestures, mood, thought, speech ...- those interfaces will be mostly used for video games.The mouse/keyboard combination is still the fastest and the most powerful interface.


How to teach? How to give a lecture before an Twittering audience all the times connected to their phone or laptop? We can not prohibit wireless in the classrooms of universities today, we must find a way to channel the public. Doing conferences increased using twitter, blogs, links contextual analysis flows twitter during the conference ...How to teach a trade that will be gone (or greatly changed) at the end of the course?

HardWare Open Source

2011Learning the Arduino software language becomes compulsory in all schools of design and engineering, like reading the novels of Philip K. Dick and J. G. Ballard (instead of the Princess of Cleves wink.It will generate all kind of DO IT YOURSELF activities in all fields (on the model of the Fab Lab). Arduino will make possible the recycling of old machines, old telephones, old musical instruments ... to create new original objects. Hacking will be common in all areas such as automotive, cooking, design, politics ...Development of languages such as open or openFrameworks OpenCV (API C + + a little more accessible, thank you Anthony of accuracy), but also Processing, Field ...2012The Internet of objects (data constructs) will really start with the widespread adoption of a protocol and a common language for data exchange. This protocol comes once more from Tim Berners-Lee and his team, 23 years after the HTML language and HTTP protocol was developed. Previously, each type of object had its own language of communication related to its manufacturer, we were witnessing a scrupulous war among these different communication protocols. Each manufacturer hoping that his own standard would prevail over those of its competitors. The Sony language could only talk to Sony equipment, Apple only to Apple, Microsoft ...Now objects will all speak the same language to each other, SkyNetML. The machines have their own internal language and do not say that the good of mankind wink...

Original text

Mecha Car Logos

Megatron Transformer


Also the shelf life of logos have shortened dramatically over time. Now, all have to obey the latest fashion fads at the risk of being considered hopelessly out of date. Curiously, this trend doesn't fit well with the desire to have a distinctive visual identity. Following fashion means looking like everyone else in your segment. It's more a mark of a group distinction than an individual distinction which was initially the aim behind making a logo.The great contradiction of our times is that the addition of more design on every level of activity in society has made things more look alike, not more different. Take car design. I grew up with the VW beetle, the Citroen 2CV, the Austin Mini, the Rolls Royce and in the distance, the Chevrolet Corvette, the Pickup and the Ford Mustang. Each very different in flavour and looks. When being part of the massive streams of traffic today, it looks as if no car is identical but all look similar. Only the size differs. Probably, intensive market research in combination with media information at the speed of light is to blame for this. The massiveness of dissemination of information is breathtaking. A successful trend is picked up in no time and copied shortly thereafter. The mechanical life of cars have been growing steadily, but that doesn't have much effect on the period of ownership, by contrast, the release of new models initiated sales, just like it does for garment.

Car Logos.jpg

The new trend in car company logos demands that logos should look metallic, glitzy and robust a bit like the heavily armed robots that started their lives in 1975 as 'Mecha' 'Grendizer' in manga strips in Japan and are now often used under the name of 'Transformers' in car advertisement. The visual link to high tech armory is still quite popular when selling cars. Portraying driving as a sort of continuation of a video game into real life. So trends shift fast, but changes are often minimal. The Mechas are still popular after 35 years but their names may change into 'Terminator' or 'Transformer'.


Peugeot logo history.jpg


The logo development overview of the French Peugeot brand marks clearly the shifting style periods—and shows the French laggardness in corporate graphics. Logos were for the longest time effectively illustrations closely related to traditional heraldry, with Art Deco the illustration became more abstract and the Modernists tried to bring logos down to bare bone symbols. That was a real break with tradition and marked the heydays of graphic identity design. Since then the austere path has given way to a more expressionistic and illustrative one, mostly because the visual spectrum of simple graphic symbols was simply to narrow to create room for so many different graphic identities performing on an ever bigger stage. So today a logo can literally be anything that can claim a minimal visual niche among hundreds of million others. Yet, fashion still holds sway.

Sparse Coding

The spiritual and the physical world can be explained by the way the individual components communicate with each other or in other words how information is gathered, processed and exchanged. The human way of information processing seems to be mostly based on our own assumptions initiated by a few essential clues. The major part of our visual reality is a product of the phantasy of our brain, based on a few important visual data. We 'see' only 30% of a chair the rest is filled in by our imagination based on experience. Obviously, this is a very efficient way of data processing but not a very reliable one. We are 'primed' to visually scan our environment only for novelty, because that is all that counts. This is, possibly, the reason why we are crazy about ‘new things’. Maybe an unusual, or even a handicapped, processing of the essential associative visual imagination is what makes some people visual artists or designers.


sparse coding.jpg
A sample of a sparse coded image.


Computers have become indispensable to do any kind of work and soon we can't live without them either. Our electronic and physical self are merging into one identity. Notions and capabilities typical for the digital world have become part of our habits, and so does a new lingo that attempts to describe the digital reality. It's not easy to keep up with digi-speak when over a certain age. I realised that when I read an article on the BBC website about a method to spot art fakes using computer software. The article explained the computer program as follows: 'The approach, known as 'sparse coding', builds a virtual library of an artist's works and breaks them down into the simplest possible visual elements. Verifiable works by that artist can be rebuilt using varying proportions of those simple elements, while imitators' works cannot.The method works by dividing digital versions of all of an artist's confirmed works into 144 squares - 12 columns of 12 rows each. Then a set of 'basis functions' is constructed - initially a set of random shapes and forms in black and white. A computer then modifies them until, for any given cut-down piece of the artist's work, some subset of the basis functions can be combined in some proportion to recreate the piece. The basis functions are refined further, to ensure that the smallest possible number of them is required to generate any given piece – they are the 'sparsest' set of functions that reproduces the artist's work.'

I read it and thought: 'Huh? So I read the text four more times but my 'huh' didn't get resolved, and it still blocked any understanding. I felt suddenly very old imagining that the average young reader had no problem whatsoever with digesting this sort of text. I needed Google to shed some light on what seemed like ‘abacadabra’ to me. Well, there I plunged into the world of high level mathematical statistics related to visual data: PCA's (principle component analysis), IPC's (principle components of images), SPCs (energy spectra of images) and wavelets. All these things are mathematical formulas that can be applied to digital images as filters to create new images. Every computer users is accustomed to using filters for images, we do that all the time, or we intervene directly in the visual representation of specific statical data of the image, like we do with the sliders of gray value 'levels' for instance. Image manipulation can be used to 'deconstruct' an image but also to 'reconstruct' it again. Working with advanced statistical data of images has an immense wide field of applications, like fast image recognition (fingerprints, faces), image compression, advanced image retouching and it seems to help to explain how our own visual system works: using as sparse coding as possible to built up a complete image. Apparently, when you manipulate the digital image of original art you can eventually bring it down to a few essential (sparse) visual characteristics. With these characteristics only originals can be rebuilt and not the fake copies. Potentially, the computer could be a better analyst and judge than the expert human eye.Of course, I still don't really understand how this all works but my ignorance has been brought to a higher level so to speak. And that is the best one can hope for these days.

Complex Font Design

Since its beginning, Apple has been, even more than the two other companies, on the forefront of developing advanced font technology - its CEO claims that his interest in design started with a calligraphy course - but its market share has always been too small to have a significant influence. So Adobe decides on the font technology for print and Microsoft on the font technology for office software and screen representation. Today, most people read text from a screen while using an internet browser. This screen can be either very large or very small. The system software of the computer connected to the screen is instrumental to the fonts that will appear on the screen. The dominating computer system software around the globe is still developed and sold by Microsoft for the time being.


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A recent Adobe font release of a Japanese calligraphic font.

A recent Adobe font release of a Japanese calligraphic font.Download Adobe font brochure


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The Japanese web fonts are still of a poor quality.


The font experts deciding on the global font technology are a handful of people working at Adobe or Microsoft in the US. They do not work in a particularly competitive working environment. Most of these experts spend their lives in their professional positions. Most of them are either computer engineers or linguists, visual design considerations, or even practical user considerations seem to be of a minor concern. The font world at this top level is rather academic: ivory towerish and directed by a few techno-pashas.The priority of technological and linguistic concerns are understandable, Microsoft and Adobe wanted to sell their products worldwide, so all major world scripts had to be incorporated with as little change to its existing technology, like the keyboard or the existing font technology, obviously based on original American industry standards for the Latin script. The result so far has been a uniting OpenType font format that allowed Microsoft to sell their office software in all major scripts and allowed Adobe to keep their original font format in which most of the Western high quality fonts were produced. OpenType allows for the production of extremely complex fonts files that are better considered as software applications. There is nothing 'open' in the OpenType format since everything font developers may fabricate will only show up when Adobe or Microsoft (or Apple) 'supports' these fabrications. And technology is rather short lived these days and the global masters directing these changes are only a few.


The Toyota IQ font.

The IQ font production process The advent of the complex digital font format has resulted in interesting developments. For fonts produced in the Latin script we have gone recently through a period of a Golden Age in font design. There has never been so many high quality Latin fonts around as today mostly because font production in a digital environment required suddenly very little investment. This resulted in an explosion of font design here and there in a fast cascading level of quality. It sometimes looks as if the Latin font is a product that is at the end of its development. This could explain why technicians (and linguists) feel more challenged by developing calligraphic fonts than the more straightforward ones. Calligraphy has a practical undefinable array of small variations in individual character positioning and form variations of specific character combinations. That is in the nature of all handwritten text. With limitless patience and sufficient computing skills, an amazing amount of these variations can be put in OpenType font files. However, why do we want to make calligraphy with a keyboard? Isn't this nothing more than a rather expensive and eccentric hobby of techno pashas? Who really needs calligraphic fonts ? Moreover, calligraphic fonts need sophisticated publishing software to produce calligraphic text with them. This type of software offers a mind-boggling amount of typographic variations that may very well lead to producing horrible calligraphy (using the complex calligraphic fonts). These kinds of fonts make no sense at all as long as a skilled calligrapher is needed to use them sensibly.The abundance of high quality fonts in the Latin script is the exception. The situation for all the other scripts for which OpenType was effectively created is entirely different. The Golden Age in font design for these scripts is still in the distance. The text we daily read on our internet pages in the Latin script is shown in a very limited amount of font designs, but some of these fonts are excellent. For all other world scripts the situation is pretty painful to look at. The quality varies from bearable to horrendous. The reason for this is that type design is only widely practiced in the Western world, which is also blessed with one of the most simple and straightforward scripts. All other major scripts are (far) more complex and font development is mostly in the hands of technicians, often Western technicians related to the few software giants. Today, all of us can see most world scripts on our computer but the quality of these scripts need a serious (type) facelift.Two new font releases illustrate the current situation. Adobe has released a Japanese calligraphic font based on a sample from the 12th century. Belgian font designers got hot for a bizarrely complicated way to produce a display font for the Japanese Toyota company. Western type technicians and designers seem to be attracted above all by the technological exoticism.


Thomas Couderc work updates

Thomas Couderc has updated their work, see it here.

Clément Vauchez work updates

Clément Vauchez has updated their work, see it here.

Alexandre Dimos work updates

Alexandre Dimos has updated their work, see it here.

Yu Guang work updates

Yu Guang has updated their work, see it here.

Alan Chan work updates

Alan Chan has updated their work, see it here.

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