Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Cognitive dissonance in bricks and mortar

August 4, 2023

From Steven Levine, continuing his observations in the Netherlands, on Facebook yesterday:

[SL:] A McDonald’s in Haarlem. I can’t decide if I think this is creative reuse or a violation of sensibility. Either way, what a building.

Ah, a continuation of my architecture theme, specifically in my posting “Durability, utility, beauty” from yesterday, where I looked at architectural design as simply the design of very large everyday objects, subject to the same judgments that we apply to kitchen tools, downspouts, typewriters, and the like.

In this case, there’s a certain cognitive dissonance (Steven’s “violation of sensibility”), between the elegant design of the building and the crass display of a fast-food restaurant.  (On the other hand, for a McDonald’s, this display is positively modest and unobtrusive.)


Durability, utility, beauty

August 3, 2023

I post fairly often on the design of everyday objects, looking especially for genuinely useful things that are also a pleasure to use, hold, or see. Now, I find myself getting thoughtful postings from someone at Tumblr — a side effect of my having to join Tumblr in order to get at some racy male photography that I have since posted  — the 8/1 posting Firmitas, utilitas, venustas being about guiding principles for the mind, eye, and hand of the architect: that is, about the design of very large everyday objects.

I have no link to this posting, only the mailing, so I’ll reproduce that in full for its interest in the principles of good design, and the pleasure of its writing, which is both personal and analytical. (I don’t know who the writer is. The posting is unsigned — the e-mail reply address is merely — and I see other identification of them, so Tumblr cognoscenti are presumed to know who the voice of the site is. Grr.)

The text under the line. Then some comments and illustrations.


More new things

May 20, 2023

My previous “New Things” posting (on 5/11) was about replacing household furnishings that were difficult, painful, or actively dangerous for me to use with more suitable items. As it happens, the replacements were well-designed aesthetically as well as functionally.

This morning, noting Target ads for melamine plates for picnic use — it’s the season — the colors of which offended her, my daughter Elizabeth was moved to suggest to me that I might think about replacing the thin apple-green plastic plates I’d been using, whose virtues were that they were super-lightweight (crucial for my seriously disabled hands), durable,  microwave safe, and really cheap (they’re still available: Preserve® Plateware, in #5 plastic, recyclable too). Alas, cheap in both senses: inexpensive and of inferior quality. And I hate the color.

In my kitchen cabinets I have a full set of handsome stoneware plates and dishes that Jacques and I bought for everyday use, plus a full set of elegant china for when we had guests, but now it’s all way too heavy for me to handle, and far too breakable. I can deal with a bowl, because I can hook a thumb and forefinger on the rim and then carry it safely, but plates are out of my range.

Now Elizabeth had planted in my mind the idea of replacing the cheap greenies with something better — not melamine, because it doesn’t microwave safely — but something more aesthetically pleasing, and maybe even on sale, since it’s the picnic season.


The Norman door

January 8, 2023

This is supremely a Mary, Queen of Scots, Not Dead Yet posting: a brief posting that I hope you’ll find both entertaining and informative, while showing that I’m Still Standing, despite a run of extremely unpleasant days, taken up almost entirely with writhing in pain and with sleep, the sleep of exhaustion and scary narcoleptic sleep. But here, a moment of sunshine.

Supplied by Mike Pope a few hours ago with this photo from real life:

(#1) MP writes: Documentation solves another design issue … An interesting variant on the Norman door

(MP is a regular source of material for this blog; WordPress tells me I have cited him in 30 postings so far. He is also — and this is  absolutely relevant to his comment — a technical editor at Google. Explanation and documentation are his business.)


Three cartoons for 4/12/22

April 12, 2022

(Warning: as is my way, a soupçon of smart-ass street talk.)

Two on gendered topics, plus another cartoon that’s incomprehensible unless you recognize one of its elements (and only incidentally has a gendered bit in that element).

Masculine identity for young teens in a One Big Happy (a re-play from 4/26/10 in my comics feed today); a display of femininity in today’s Rhymes With Orange; and then, in today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, on the equipment needed for a night lighthouse (with an incidental display of maleness).


The Grip family

June 13, 2021

Easy and the Dr., bringing help to the manually afflicted. As I become less and less able to hold onto objects, lift them, use tools and utensils, open jars and bottles, and so on — no longer able to coordinate small muscles or summon the strength for many everyday actions, and obliged to endure considerable pain to accomplish the things I can manage —  I have come to rely on Easy Grip utensils and tools from the OXO company and on the Dr. Grip pens from the Pilot company, with their thick bodies and slightly flared front ends.

The Dr. has been a friend of mine since I suffered significant ulnar nerve damage in my right arm in 2003 — damaging or disabling various muscles in my right hand, so that I had to switch as much as I could to my left hand (but handwriting was unswitchable, so that unless I wrote very slowly and carefully, even I often couldn’t decipher the result); and leaving me with constant low-grade pain in that arm and hand, with occasional sharp strikes of electric pain. There wasn’t much to do about that pain, but I could improve my handwriting with well-designed pens from the Dr.

Then, in a separate development, osteoarthritis advanced upon me, appearing in different joints on different days, sometimes with crippling pain. More recently, it has settled pretty much constantly in the joints of my hands, both hands, sometimes making them red and swollen and painful to the touch. Most recently, two fingers on my left hand have developed trigger finger, in which the finger gets locked in a bent position and will release, painfully, with a pop. Dr. Grip has become even more significant in my life, and I’m now appealing to Easy Grip more and more just to manage simple tasks.



March 29, 2021

Another chapter in the design of everyday objects — objects crafted to perform their functions well, and to provide pleasure to the user or the viewer. The occasion is the early summer sprucing up of my front patio, just outside the big windows by the table where I work, providing me, during my long months in pandemic isolation, with the visual satisfactions of a substantial container garden and temptations for birds and squirrels (and, alas, a small but tenacious colony of roof rats).

Now it is finally both warm and usually dry, and I’m mostly recovered from my reactions to the Pfizer vaccine: notably, an unfortunate interaction — twice — between the vaccine and my osteoarthritis that caused many of the finger joints on my right hand to swell painfully, making that hand virtually unusable.

But now I can begin coping with the mess that the patio has become, including trimming and pruning the plants, cutting out the old wood, and chopping up the plants that have died. So I discover that my secateurs, or pruning shears, had gotten exposed to our rainy season and needed replacing. With an object much like this excellent tool from the local Ace Hardware:

(#1) Ace anvil pruners

On anvil vs. bypass pruners, see below. But first, on the terms secateurs, pruning shears, and pruners.


Annals of everyday objects: Anchor ovenware

December 26, 2018

A continuing series on well-designed everyday objects: serving their function well, handsome to look at. In this case, a piece of cobalt blue Anchor ovenware, a square baking dish 8 x 8 x 2.25 in. (2 qt. capacity). Seen here posed on top of another well-designed object, a Blueair air purifier (the top, or exhaust, surface, with a rayed pattern of circular holes):



Smart Design

May 10, 2018

The title of Joost Swarte’s cover for the May 14th New Yorker:


Some instances of smart design, in two superimposed inverted worlds. Plus the light bulb of inspiration, and the initials AZ (to which my attentional mechanisms are exquisitely attuned, so that the AZ was the first thing I focused on when I looked at the cover).


The cheese grater

May 1, 2018

Deployed in my kitchen yesterday to grate cheese, the plastic Mouli Grater:


A wonderful piece of design: elegantly simple, useful, surprisingy sturdy (for a plastic tool), safe (no more skinned knuckles or fingertips), ambidextrous, adjustable (the high-end model comes with cylinders in three different grating sizes), and, in the plastic version, cheery.