March 2008

An amazing design project

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One lap top per child.

The name says it all, it is a big dream coming true, making possible that every child on the planet has a laptop, and subsequent access to the ideas and the world around them. It is a project devised to assist children developing work discover education and get beyond the fifth grade. Devised long before Kevin Rudd‘s 2007 election promise in 2006 at the projected total cost US$100 per laptop (this is the intention) One Laptop Per Child is all about good design.

It‘s an education project, not a laptop project. Nicholas Negroponte

From the “One laptop per child“ website the goal is : To provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves.

Founded by Nicholas Negroponte with a core of Media Lab veterans in 2006, this project is an opportunity rewrite many aspects of modern life — education, the process of manufacturing of electronic goods, and modern philantrophy, whilst encorporating the best aspects of design.

The brand identity was developed by Pentagram, the laptop or green machine was designed by Fuseproject.

The computer is powered by range of sources including foot power generation or solar power. It is dust proof, it run run in range of temperatures, can be used in direct sun light, it can be a game interface a laptop or an ebook, and many repairs and part replacements can be carried out by the student themselves. It goes without saying that object is an innovative as the project itself.

Visit One Laptop per child for details

Visit Fuseproject here

Visit Pentagram here

Hear Professor Negroponte tell his story here

Visit Professor Negroponte‘s bio

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Be Kind Rewind, a film that celebrates ideas

Michel Gondry, fearless film maker, has strung together with card board, tinsel, string, kitchen foil, Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover with a generous dash of silly to complete his latest chapter of film making. Be Kind Rewind is a playful and whimsical film that explores the idea of renewing a neighbourhood‘s sense of community.

The film is centred around the friendship of Mike (Def) and Jerry (Black), along with troupe of local rouges, femmes and loons. Jerry in the opening scenes of the film decides to take on a local power plant, that looms over the community, and ends up magnetised. Jerry and his new found power drops in on Be Kind Rewind, the local video store, which turns out to be a lethal encounter for the struggling library. It doesn’t take long for Mike, the library‘s caretaker, to discover that Jerry‘s power has erased the store‘s tape collection and future. To save the day, Mike and Jerry team up to make some wrongs right with a plan that involves remaking, or Sweding, the library‘s collection of erased films. Armed with a video recorder and curious a verve for making films, their output is prolific and infectious. Swedes of Men and Black, Rush Hour 2, 2001 and the Lion King touch the community in the hope to hold off eviction and the impending wrecking ball.

Gondry again explores the idea of imagination and expression, which gives the audience many hand spun reasons to participate in the storytelling process without the latest specialist widgets, consultants, big budgets. Creativity is one of the most basic expressions available to each and every one of us, and again Gondry does his best to invite one and all to participate in the process of making ideas real, no matter the minds or the methods.

Margaret and David of the ABC‘s At the Movie Show panned Gondry‘s effort and suggested that he leave the script writing for the next film in more capable hands. They endorse the film with a low rating score.

Thank goodness one paid no attention to that review. Why is it that “good“ films, in favour with the Margaret and David‘s of the film world have be high dramas, or nail biting to be worth while?

See the — At the movies review

See the movie website

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R.I.P. handwriting, goodbye

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A recent radio programme titled — the Death of Handwriting — put into question the place for handwriting in the digital age of personal computers, Qwerty key boards, text messaging, web blogs, emails and various telephone services. The programme set out to explore the place for hand writing in 2008, which raised many lines of inquiry. It seems that many simple, yet complex aspects of Western life are in constant states of flux and taken for granted by its citizens.

Only 200 years ago a small percentage of industrialised society could read and write — very few individuals were capable of effectively absorbing, dreaming up and delivering ideas of one‘s fancy. In the middle ages literacy was measured by ones ability to read and write scriptures in Hebrew or Latin. In earlier times of human history, the ability to write one‘s name was a measure of literacy, there were also whole vocations or trades set up — professional scribes, to serve illiterate populations.

Today many westerners are adept in literacy and numeracy. With the fundamentals of communication in place, societies are exploring the finer points of such skills, such as one‘s need for quality hand writing in the digital age.

There are several camps of thought in regard to the future of handwriting and the debate continues into early learning — Is handwriting a relevant skill to be taught in modern schools post the age of personal computers and telephone?

The technology camp is mostly all for spending little energy of developing fine handwriting, as fine motor skills ( the human ability to execute complex hand eye coordination tasks) are also being developed by using keyboards, mice and joy sticks. The traditional camp is all for maintaining fine hand writing skills, for reasons of economy — it is a highly portable skill, it is key to self expression and esteem, it is an essential life skill. Then there are camps in between those extremes, as one would also expect.

In terms of design, the demise of handwriting skills appear to an opportunity for designers. There are many artists and designers including Studio Pip and Co., who use handwriting in their work to achieve results that assist their clients to bring a human quality — an uniqueness, a familiar sense, of imperfection, to projects. Hand developed type is an exotic and popular form of creative expression that has a prominent place in communication design. The interest and dedication to developing forms of writing has a natural progression to the dramatic growth of type design and the grooming of type designers.

Thousands of new typefaces have been designed and produced for usage in design today, it seems that this practice is ongoing. Whereas less than thirty years ago there was a static catalogue of fonts that the communication design of the time seldom looked beyond. The famous quote by Massimo Vignelli (born in milan in 1931, New York based graphic design legend) is a testament to the limited catalogue — That all we need as typographic designers are 6 typefaces, and no more. This quotation has a tendency to polarise designers and one wishes they had a quote like to their name.

Another interesting topic investigated by the radio programme explored that human connection and the ability to hand write. Many people with poorly developed hand writing feel ashamed by their ability and as a result have embraced new technology — this idea explores the concept of an individual‘s form and sense of self expression. When you think about it, whether you are creative or not creative, professional and manual skilled, the ability to produce quality hand writing is a satisfying personal achievement and an experience that one can enjoy throughout their life.

The demise of handwriting has also eroded the analytical side of handwriting — the ability of a handwriting style to reflect the scribe‘s personality, the scribes ability to process and convey information and even reflect the scribe‘s age or state of health. All these finer aspects of handwriting give a piece writing more context, human dimension and insight into the individual.

Andrew‘s grandparents all had basic schooling and one skill they all had with them throughout their lives was the ability to write, and ability to express and execute their ideas via finely developed handwriting skills. Andrew‘s mother from a young age had fine handwriting which won her school and district attention at locally held handwriting competitions — such things are unheard of in school practice in 2008. Andrew‘s maternal Grandfather was a farmer, a physical vocation that has little call for quality handwriting. Never-the-less when called upon he could pen a detailed and fine copperplate hand written script for personal cheques, addressing envelopes or property weather records.

This brings into question whether it is essential for designer to have good handwriting — being the champions of fashioning graphic communication. One would say not, as much of the work completed by modern designers are ideas and concepts assembled on computers. That said, from observation, many accomplished graphic designers, artists, architects and writers also have unique and well resolved hand writing styles. In 2008 it seems that new scribes need to have patience over ability, if one has decided to have a distinctive hand, or unique hand writing style, they are making a commitment to the heritage of communicating ideas.

The progression of handwriting to keying in ideas via a keyboard, or voice activated device is another example of people giving up basic life skills to be dependant upon a contemporary technology. One is not fixed upon the loss of another romantic expression — such as handwriting, one is more over alarmed how willing people are giving up another skill that is powerful, expressive, in expensive and highly portable. In changing and challenging times, one thinks that a modern person requires many; or the willingness to revisit basic life skills, so they can seemlessly adapt and evolve as the period dictates.

Many western people are so dependent upon technology to execute daily tasks and processes many are a faced with crisis if the terms of this technology change. People used to walk from location A to B, now they aspire to drive a car. People used to growth and tend their food, now they mindlessly buy their food at the supermarket. People used to gather around the family piano for entertainment, now they plug into the ipod while chatting online. People used to grow up with a healthy diet and regular exercise, now populations are faced with the growth of the personal training industry and problem obesity.

As we give up handwriting, or accept that our children won‘t learn to write thoroughly at school for the purposes of ease and convenience. We are excepting that another basic life skill is being compromised in incremental measures, which in turn compromises in incremental measures one‘s sense of independence and resourcefulness. At the introduction of this post one introduced an ancient people dependent upon a niche trade of scribes to support a illiterate population. It is ironic that several millenia later sophisicated western communities are increasingly relying upon a niche of designers and artists to bring a sense of humanity to the communication process.

Australia has several handwriting styles for review, also see the following links that were referenced in the post.

Listen to the radio programme here (up for four weeks)

See Massimo Vignelli‘s work here

Australian Home School Curriculum hand writing notes and links

Visit an online handwriting lessons resource

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Artful Gunn & Taylor business cards

The studio is in the process of developing a communications campaign for this revered Melbourne printer. Andrew started with photographing and developing a suite of images relating to the operation and then to shift the visual points of reference.

One can expect that a high quality printer will go nuts with various printing techniques, and that is because they can — papers have been laminated, spots colours, 4 colour process and spot clear foil. Thank you Gunn & Taylor for another wonderful process. Collect all 782 designs.

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Two Pools publication

Two Pools developed in August 2002, featured in Area_2, is a self initiated publishing project that came about from a last minute request. David Lancashire was putting Andrew forward for consideration for Alliance Graphique Internationale membership and wondered if one had some sort of print piece to give delegates at the AGI Congress in Helsinki. One could have developed some sort of portfolio print piece, or tell a story using design, photography and writing.

At the time he had just left Precinct Design and had started Studio Pip and Co. working out of his third bedroom in West St Kilda.

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One half of the project is a piece of writing investigating the place that disabled people have in our community, and the other is a photographic survey of public swimming pools in Sydney and Melbourne. We sold the first lot wrapped in string and housed in an window cut envelop. Completed in one take the hand lettering was again executed in watered down gouache with a fine sable brush.

A small run of this piece was printed by Gunn & Taylor in Melbourne. It is available for $10 plus postage, simply email the studio for your copy.

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