Posts tagged ‘documentation’

Goals and reflection.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, then you already know that I’m a major supporter of documentation. It’s good for your portfolio, it’s good for predicting or explaining value, and it’s also good for yourself. Just ask Nicholas Felton, the whose been creating annual reports (famously) since 2005.

photo via

Last month Mashable reported on the growing trend of people tracking their individual data, for example Dan Meyer, who says: “It just speaks to the natural tendency to introspect, look inward… I do it for the same reason people journal or blog about their lives.”

While by no means a full-fledged graphical report, here are a few interesting stats about the past two years on Daily Design Idea (all gathered through WordPress’ own “My Stats” tool):

51,824 All Time Views
50 All Time Average (Mean) Views Per Day
160 2012 Average (Mean) Views Per Day
916 Views on the Busiest Day (thanks in great part to a retweet by Design Milk about this post)

Top 3 Search Terms leading searchers to the blog:
architect (6,904 times)
street art (3,617 times)
Paula Scher (500 times)

Beyond the home page, Top 3 Pages visited:
the post What does an architect look like? (9,163 times)
the post Fantastic photographic reenactments (2 of 2). (1,341 times)
the post A challenge from Paula Scher. (1,275 times)

So what does this mean going forward? I definitely plan to use Twitter more consistently and finally do a long-awaited update to the Paula Scher-inspired tshirt designs. I’m also hoping to publish more interviews (get ready for some great insight from Nate Poel), bring in more guest writers, and live Tweet more events.

March 28’s daily design idea is document your progress (and plan for more of it in the future!) and you’ll be that much more likely to make – and achieve – great goals.


March 28, 2012 at 5:16 pm 2 comments

From the archives: Becoming the designer that you want to be.

As a blogger, you hear comments like “the ‘average blog’ has the lifespan of a fruitfly” all the time. And unfortunately, many people do abandon new blogs before they return significantly on their time investments. While I admit that I have not hit my “daily” writing goal by a long shot, I’m still very proud to say that I’ve kept up this blog for two years now. And it’s led to some exciting connections and discoveries that have definitely made the whole thing worth it.

adorable image by Flickr user nappent

Two year’s ago today I wrote the following post to kick off this blog. Even though I’m now off the design track in my career (and more onto a research-like track), the post is still very relevant:

I’ve been thinking design ideas for years now… and have been toying with archiving them for almost as long. When I read GOOD’s “Ten Steps to Becoming the Designer You Want to Be” by Laura Seargeant Richardson, I decided to (metaphorically) make the leap and (actually) start a blog.

March 12′s design idea is get your ideas out of your head – get them out onto paper, on a blog, in a sketch, through conversation. Start working through them (and then get someone else involved!). I believe that great design always involves inquiry, brainstorming, and collaboration. That’s what this blog is for, and hopefully it really will help me become the designer that I want to be.

March 12, 2012 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

People and planet (and profit, too).

Another recurrence at the Structures for Inclusion conference was a sense of uncertainty around economic value. In the sometimes bleeding heart field of public interest design, it’s regrettably common to find people that are so enthusiastic about making a difference that they’ve failed to consider how to financially support (or even gain from) their efforts in a sustainable manner. As you may know, I’m a big believer in making a living and a difference simultaneously, but I also readily admit that that’s not yet a straightforward process.

image by Christian Guthier

Andrew Freear is the director of Auburn’s Rural Studio program, and he touched on a few unique financial components of their ongoing $20K House project during his presentation at Structures. Part of the students’ research has been determining the cost of living in a $20K House; the current estimate is approximately $608/month, including the mortgage. (The studio has also reached out to local banks to see what can be done to further improve the mortgage rates.) Another interesting, and yet to be answered, challenge is what to do when a $20K House is so well designed and built that it’s appraised for more than $20K. When that happens, can you still justify selling it for $20K? And if you sell it for the higher rate, how could you most effectively use that profit?

Either way, part of Rural Studio’s work is not to give the product away for free. Quilian Riano, co-founder of the critical research and design collaborative DSGN AGNC and studio professor at Parsons, also noted that the most effective public interest designers are not merely providing charity. By selling products, services, systems, or anything else to a community (along with a loan structure that will also generate economic activity, for example) you can improve the impact of your work both on your beneficiaries and on yourself.

dusk photo of Windsor Super Market, a farmers’ market structure designed and built by students in the Studio H program

Emily Pilloton, founder of Project H Design, also applies the converse in their new design/build Studio H program in Bertie County, NC. While the program is primarily educational, offering high school and college course credit to juniors in high school, the students are also paid for work done during the summer (when they build their projects that have been designed and workshopped throughout the previous months). While the students are obviously beneficiaries of the program, the value of their design and construction work can also be grasped that much better with the additional perk of a paycheck.

March 29’s daily design idea is design for people, planet, and profit (and document your contributions to all three).

This is post 4 of 7 re-capping Structures for Inclusion 10+1, a conference promoting the design of socially, economically, and environmentally healthy architecture.

March 29, 2011 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

Replay: Sleep No More

Last night I saw “Sleep No More” by the amazing London-based group Punchdrunk. I don’t want to give too much away, because the show is so much about the mystery of the place (and because the version of the show that you will see is undeniably going to be different than the version that I saw)… but as someone who so strongly believes in documenting and measuring even the most subjective experiences, I felt the need to share a few facts with you:

The set took five months to build. It was a professional crew. They worked 6 day weeks, on average. They had to get a building permit from NYC’s Department of Buildings to do what they did.

Each night, it takes three hours to pre-set the show. Even with five stories of set to dress, that’s impressive.

The show starts at 7pm each night. The crew hits “play” on all the pre-programmed spectacular effects at 6:53pm. For any theater junkies that are reading this: they do have stage managers, but those people do not call traditional cues. The team’s first “stage manager” had an events production background and didn’t know the meaning of that title.

The maximum amount of time that a theater-goer can spend at this show is 3 hours, but there is about 15 hours worth of prepared content in that three hour time span.

big thanks to Meagan Miller-McKeever for introducing me to the creative geniuses behind Punchdrunk!

March 17’s daily design idea – while not a proven fact – is definitively my opinion, expectation, and hope: productions like this are the future of theater.

March 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

640 images, 80 seconds, 1 trip around the world.

This stop-motion short is too good not to share, plus I’m psyched that the website documents their process (at least to a certain extent).

Discovered via GOOD (April 30, 2010). Watch it at

March 13’s daily design idea is be more like Alex: be adventurous in your work & faites “un voyage pas commes les autre.”

March 13, 2011 at 10:26 am Leave a comment and piece of advice #6.

via Fast Company’s Co.Design (March 7, 2010):

Design and innovation consultancy IDEO “announced today that it would spin off a genuine 501c3 corporation to handle its social innovation practice.” The new “non-profit,, which will officially launch in the fall, will be in a better position to get grants from foundations whose rules make working with for-profit companies difficult.”

While IDEO has a history of doing projects with social impact priorities, “the new organization will aim to work in three different ways: partnering with non-profits to design solutions to problems in the areas of health, agriculture, water and sanitation, financial services, and gender equity; using open innovation platforms and social networking to share insights on best practices; and launching a year-long “future leaders” fellowship program that will pair fellows from the developing world with selected IDEO staffers.”

But will these new approaches be as successful as everyone hopes? IDEO plans to set the bar high for which projects even get picked up, and then be the first to find out if there is a real and positive impact made. “Projects themselves will have to meet a rigorous set of standards: they’ll have to be aimed at low income communities across the globe, be funded by a non-profit enterprise, and deliver tangible results — a real product, service, or system that will directly benefit the community it targets.” In addition, “there will be a huge emphasis on understanding impact,” says the head of IDEO’s Social Innovation domain, Jocelyn Wyatt. “We’ll conduct pre-project baseline surveys, do post-project evaluations, and bring in academics or other third parties for analysis of the results.”

March 10’s daily design idea is professional piece of advice #6: document and analyze your results.

March 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Beautiful ways of documenting NYC.

Funny how I seem to discover things in sets of two… This time, it’s two beautiful projects that are based on documenting a particular aspect of New York City’s man-made environment.

Up first is Project Neon by Kirsten Hively: “an effort to seek out, photograph and encourage appreciation of the glow of New York City.” via Urban Omnibus

Schiller’s Liquor Bar (Rivington Street @ Norfolk Street)

Second is All the Buildings in New York: “an attempt to draw all the buildings in New York by James Gulliver Hancock, an illustrator originally from Australia currently based in Brooklyn, New York.” via Urban Planning Blog

46th Street (aka Restaurant Row) in Manhattan

March 8’s daily design idea is what specific aspect of your city would you most want to document, if you had the time and resources? One of the many things I would seek out would be the temporary shelters built by homeless or otherwise nomadic individuals. Maybe one day you’ll see me on something like Kickstarter seeking out funding to do just that.

March 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

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