Category Archives: design

Thoughts on the architecture of the TTC

Is the TTC architecture bad? It’s something I have been thinking about after the critical comments from “A.R.” in which he pointed  out that: “Toronto has some interesting subway architecture, as well. you know. Maybe you should appreciate some of the creativity in the system” in response to my comment that “Toronto subway stations…look like washrooms without the necessary plumbing”.

I think alof of Toronto subway architecture is, if not bad, then boring. In this blog post I found, David Ahm from the TTC agreed, saying, “The Yonge-line stations are from the ’50s and ’60s and are functional but kind of boring.”

This blog post with Ahm’s comments were interesting, because you see the challenge of designing a subway station, budget being one serious consideration. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be interesting design work done on a subway, and in fact, lots of Toronto subway stations are well designed. And despite limited budgets, the TTC is looking to have better and better stations in the future, which is a good thing indeed.

Of my favourite stations, the ones I most like are Old Mill, Rosedale, Yorkdale and Dupont. I like the openness of Old Mill and Rosedale. They belong to the neighborhood, somehow. I feel like I am in a different city when I am waiting for a train (or a bus) at the Rosedale station. And I love the windows of Old Mill. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they are both above ground subway stations.

I also admire the design of Yorkdale and Dupont. Yorkdale makes the subway system itself seem dynamic, while Dupont is like an experiment in subway station design.

I like other stations too, like Queen’s Quay, Museum and St. Andrew and St Patrick. Of the latter two, I like the “tube” like design of the tunnels. It reminds me of a European subway station.

One thing I really like about the TTC is their choice of artwork. It is a collection of some of the best Canadian artists, from Charles Pachter to Joyce Wieland to Micah Lexier. And the scale of the work is striking, whether it is the 1.5 million one-inch tiles, used by Toronto artist Stacey Spiegel to create Immersion Land or 3000 handwritten samples that Lexier collected over 5 years to create “Ampersand”.  Anyone visiting Toronto should stop at various stations just to see it. (You can get a sample of it all by going to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_subway_and_RT)

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Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld talk shop

Time has a fascinating interview with Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld talking mostly about …Ford and his clothes. Lagerfeld is very generous with his praise of Ford. Ford also praises Lagerfeld, but really, he doesn’t need it: Karl is in a league of his own.

It’s interesting to hear them talk about the thinking that goes into their design. You might think mens wear is simply a matter of adjusting the number of buttons on a suit, but they are evolving the way men dress.

See Behind the Seams: Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld Talk Shop – America: Conquerer of the Global Menswear Market – TIME for the interview transcript. I would recommend you scroll down and watch the conversation between them: it’s good.

Occasional Oasis, Bill Israel and Tumblr

I am a big fan of tumblr and I have my own tumble log. But frankly, mine is not very well kept up and looks kinda shabby. For a better example of one, see Occasional Oasis with a template from the talented Bill Israel.

How to make a dark room seem light (and well lit)…

…by reading this article, Chasing the Darkness With Sleight of Hand in the New York Times, which presents a nice case study on how to make a dark room light up. It features a room by Jeffrey Bilhuber, a Manhattan interior designer, whose client had a bedroom in their apartment with very little light. The end result is light and very attractive. Lots of good ideas to borrow here.

Philipe Starck on the purpose of design

Designers should define their role broadly as agents of good in the world, and limit their work to ‘legitimate’ products: those that are needed, and those that can be made without damage to nature or — through the unethical actions of manufacturers and investors — damage to people.

– Industrial designer Phillipe Starck, on the purpose of design

(Thanks to treehugger.com for this)

Good design is for everything, including radiators

There’s alot of objects in home that no one seems to want to design well, and these often have to do with heating and cooling. But there is no reason these can’t be well designed. Over at the CONTEMPORIST blog is striking proof of this with examples of radiators from Carisa that are exceptional.

There is wealth of other great design examples at that blog, too. Well worth a visit.

The design retailer Moss shows you how not to treat your customers

There is a fine line for “attitude” retailers like Moss: you can’t be too open and friendly, or you may lose your cachet, your edge. But it can easily slip over into arrogance and hostility. I think to walk that line you have to have an air of friendliness but still maintain that distance, that aloofness.

I think Moss slips over the line, based on this reading. Or perhaps Franklin Getchell is frustrated. And I can appreciate his frustration. But it’s too bad for Moss: exercising frustration about your clients is the best way to lose business. See

“Whatever,” whenever in L.A. « – T Magazine – New York Times Blog

P.S. I love The Moment: it’s a breath of fresh air in the blogosphere. Add it to your feed reader and freshen it up!

Think your work environment is creative? Check out THESE work environments at coolhunter.com

Now THESE are some incredible work environments! (This is one of the less creative ones. :))

thecoolhunter.net – CREATIVE WORK ENVIRONMENTS – Do you work in one?

P.S. Has some incredible material on its site, including the most amazing bookstore I have ever seen.

What’s cool and green and covers great design idea? Inhabitat.com

What is Inhabitat? Well, it’s full of bright ideas, like this one.

But for a better definition, let me quote their about page:

a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future.

Inhabitat was started by NYC designer and graduate architecture student Jill Fehrenbacher as a forum in which to investigate emerging trends in product, interior and architectural design. Emily Pilloton is the Managing Editor; Sarah Rich and Evelyn Lee and Jorge Chapa are Senior Contributing Editors. Contributing writers include Jill Danyelle, Tylene Leveque, Abigail Doan, Kate Andrews and Ali Kriscenski. The site was designed by Jill Fehrenbacher and is programmed by Joey Brooks and Vestal Design, using WordPress.

Ouch! The New York Times RIPS “Elle” by YSL

T Magazine, a blog over at New York Times has a scathing review of the perfume | Elle by YSL. The whole review is good, but here a whiff, so to speak:

Yves Saint Laurent On the Richter scale of disasters, some are more inexplicable than others. ….Yves Saint Laurent is rolling out Elle.Where to start. Why? Or perhaps better: How? What was the perfume “brief” (the concept the house gives the perfumers) here? “Please create for us the smell of the cheap, cellophane-wrapped sugar candy stacked on the linoleum floor of a 2nd Avenue Gristedes”? (My bold)

I would like to see more such blogs!

OLPC ‘Give One Get One’ Program Extended until the end of 2007!

TheCompiler blog from Wired.com has the story. Key information:

The One Laptop Per Child project’s “Give One Get One” offer has been extended through the end of the year, which means there’s still time to pick up an XO laptop for yourself and someone in a developing country.The promotional offer kicked off two weeks ago and was originally scheduled to end yesterday, November 26, but due to the demand it has been extended through the end of the year.

Delud Luxury Blog: where the rich go for shopping ideas

If you are looking for the very best (or at least the most expensive), then you must visit Delud Luxury Blog. For example, the truffle you see in the photo is the Knipschildt’s “La Madeline au Truffe” with a price of $250 for a dark chocolate.

Me, I’ll be happy to eat the wonderful truffles at Simone Marie Belgian Chocolate here in Toronto. :)

MAKE magazine, IKEA hackers, or the rise of craft in North America


There seems to be a common idea going around, at least in North America. People who may have once been interested in hacking computers are looking past them to other areas. MAKE magazine is just one example of this need being addressed. Then there is this article in nytimes.com about people hacking IKEA. As the article puts it:

Ms. Lam, Mr. Csiky and Ms. Domanic have never met but they are nonetheless related, connected by a global (and totally unofficial) collective known as the Ikea Hackers. Do-it-yourselfers and technogeeks, tinkerers, artists, crafters and product and furniture designers, the hackers are united only by their perspective, which looks upon an Ikea Billy bookcase or Lack table and sees not a finished object but raw material: a clean palette yearning to be embellished or repurposed. They make a subset of an expanding global D.I.Y. movement, itself a huge tent of philosophies and manifestoes including but not confined to anticonsumerism, antiglobalism, environmentalism and all-purpose iconoclasm.

For the article, surf over to Romancing the Flat Pack: Ikea, Repurposed – New York Times

Make the perfect cup of coffee (or tea) with MyCuppa


This is such a simple and smart idea: if you want to fix someone’s coffee for them, let them pick out the right colour on the mug before hand (“I prefer mine milky” for example). See Color + Design Blog / Color Inspiraton from Coffee and Tea by COLOURlovers
for this and a spectrum (pun intended) of colour ideas. :)

CSS and HTML for those new-to-the-topic

This page CSS from the Ground Up | Web Page Design for Designers © is a great tutorial on CSS for people like me: new-to-the-topic (I hate the terms “dummies” or “noobies”…ugh.)

If you are going to make web pages and blogs and wikis, now you can make them attractive and easy to read. :)

The world’s ugliest cars


Some of them don’t seem so bad now, while others are STILL ugly. Actually, the comments make you realize that the cars weren’t just ugly, but dangerous and deficient. Perhaps the article should be titled: The World’s Worst Cars.

It’s a fun read, and if you had one of these cars, you might cringe a little. :)

See The World’s Ugliest Cars over at BusinessWeek.com

Before&After: How to design cool stuff…

…is the title of this web site, and it’s true. You can learn to design cool stuff at Before & After magazine. What’s more, if you read enough of their articles, you will learn how to communicate more effectively, and not just from a typographical point of view. B&A have a way of clearly describing how to make things better. If more sites were like this one, the web (and print) would be FAR better.

Branch – sustainable design

What is Branch?

Well, I could tell you, or I could brazenly reuse and recycle their own material.

Why we’re doing this (or, a manifesto of sorts) Like a lot of folks, we enjoy shopping. As a social activity, shopping gets us out into the various neighborhoods in our city, allowing us to connect with other people along the way. As a cultural excursion, it gives us a chance to discover what’s new and interesting in the world. And, of course, we derive some joy from finding just the right gift for someone, or for ourselves. At the same time, there’s an element to shopping that we find quite troubling. We buy things that appeal to us—we love a product’s styling, for example—though we may have little idea of where a product comes from. What materials went into its manufacture? Did the wood used to make that chair contribute to deforestation in Asia? Were toxic chemicals used to create the lustrous finish? The people who actually fabricated the product—were they paid a fair wage and provided a safe, comfortable environment in which to do so? How far did the product have to come in order to get to the store, and how much fuel was used in that process? And what of the lifespan of the products we buy? Eventually—sooner or later, but eventually—a product will outlive its useful life. What then? Does it get thrown away? Is it made such that it’ll sit in the landfill for hundreds (or even thousands) of years before it degrades? And in going through that process, will it release toxins into the environment? These are all some pretty heavy thoughts, and they can really sap the joy from a fun day of shopping. The fact is that many people are at least somewhat aware of the sobering factors of our consumptive lifestyle, but that doesn’t keep them (or us, for that matter) from going shopping. As a culture, we’re practically bred to be shoppers—it’s a habit that runs deep and strong. So in looking for a solution to the problems mentioned above, we’re taking a different approach. Instead of asking people to stop shopping (which is, of course, pretty darn impractical), what if we changed the paradigm of shopping itself? What if we could shop in a store that had already done the challenging thinking for us? A place where we could buy products that are wholly appealing—sexy, even—but that are also manufactured and brought to market in such a way that we didn’t have to feel guilty about buying—or, eventually, disposing of—them? This is the basis of the idea for Branch, a new online store based in San Francisco.

I came across it because there is a Daniel Michalik who does design for them.

It’s a great site.

Cool design — computer related and otherswise — at Yanko

Over at Yanko Design, they have a great assortment of well designed products. As an IT guy, I really liked this one. It’s a simple idea: backup your deleted files in case you really don’t want to delete them. This may seem silly to some, but I think I have a tendency to not delete files (and packrat everything) because of the need to insure things not getting lost. My hard disk might be alot cleaner with something like this.

See: Backing Up Your Trash » Yanko Design

the structure of parks

One of my favourite parks is the one in Toronto’s Yorkville district. It has a distinctly untraditional layout. I recall a lot of people didn’t like the layout. It didn’t conform to what they thought of as a park. That’s was one of the things I liked about it. It made me think about parks, and how even older parks are contrived. There is nothing natural about most parks: they are quite artificial. This makes them no less beautiful. But they are man made nontheless. And it is this quality, among others, that I like about the Yorkville park.

Philips > Apple

Apple does great design. So does Philips, even though, at least in North America, they don’t get the ovations that Apple gets. As well, Philips has MANY more products and product lines than Apple. It’s not a competition, but people should look at others besides Apple as designers of great products.

See some of it here: PHILIPS – The Simplicity Event

Design your house (or computer system) online

Cumulate Draw is great online tool for doing straightforward design. And you can save the file to your PC to include in other documents. See: Cumulate Draw 0.5.5 Release (Supporting IE 6+,Firefox 1.5+)

NOTCOT – a great Design blog

The NOTCOT has alot of great design featured on it’s site (it’s not all Homer Simpson). It’s well worth checking out.

I really liked this WWF billboard that uses shadows to illustrate…well, read the blog. :)


Surreal Wallpaper

Sure, damask is pretty bold. But for B-O-L-D, check out the warping wall paper at SURREALIEN

More bad web site design from people who should know better

You think that with all the money they have, the good folks at The Saatchi Gallery  might have a top notch web site. Instead, it looks like a MySpace reject. 

Perhaps the next time they’re contemplating buying a dead animal, they might use it to redo their web site instead. ;)

Philippe Starck and Web site usability

I have always been a fan of the design of  PHILIPPE STARCK. I’ve been to alot of his hotels and cafes (such as Cafe Costes above) and I have a number of his consumer designs (including a fly swatter!)  I think he is a good designer.

So why is his web site such a usability nightmare!? Just try finding anything there.

Maybe it is just the English version, but I doubt it.

Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor


The New York Times has an article on a show at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York which includes many items to show a grasp of the depths of world poverty and ingenious ways to attack it. such as the 20-gallon rolling drum for transporting water, above.

The OLPC is also there, as well as the design of other things.

I thing there are things people need that are essential — whether they be materially well off or not — and things they don’t need. I believe the exhibit focuses on the former. For example, as Nicholas Negroponte says, the point of OLPC is not the laptop, it is the focus on education that the OLPC enables. It is not that every child in the world should have a new thing.

That said, I think some of the design is….cool. Now if someone would design a half decent cart to help me get my groceries home without a car, I would be happy. But I digress.

A very nice blog on Design

Some day, my blog will look as nice as Design Observer: writings about design & culture

David Pogue, Good IT Design and TED

I like all three! Pogue is very entertaining, but he has alot of good points, too. And if you haven’t heard of TED before, you are in for a treat. See:

TED | Talks | David Pogue: When it comes to tech, simplicity sells (video)