Printing Topography

This week I was thinking about multi-part prints. I began with what a simple design for an island topography. An imaginary island, that is. And I was hoping that the printed layers would be able to bring the fictional landscape to life in some way.

Photo Sep 22, 10 23 07 PM

Meh. I think it does the job when photography tricks the eye with scale. Because of time constraints this was printed at less than a third of what I had originally wanted. Aside from the raft, which very nicely plays the part of the water surrounding the island, the whole print is only about an inch and a half at it’s longest point. The small scale also ruined the simple fit mechanism I had deigned so that the slices of topography would be slightly nested within each other and wouldn’t shift around. At this scale, however, the indentations were pretty much non-existent.

Photo Sep 22, 10 23 24 PM

Stick a Pin in It

I’m doubling dipping here. This 3D printed map pin is this week’s project for both Design for 3D and Culinary Physics.

It fits within a 3″ x 3″ x 3″ cube (for now). Design for 3D: check.

And it’s also my Homunculus re: my relationship with food. When I’m eating something delicious I’m totally absorbed in the experience. A good bite provides all the sensory input needed to stick a pin in place and time – imprinting an ever-lasting when and where and with what flavors.

Culinary Physics: check.  

In Rhino I created a few iterations of the design. Sort of my version of the ubiquitous “You Are Here” digital map pin.


Once the design was done I took it over to Makerbot, checked the settings, and exported a .makerbot file to a USB. (Nice custom file extension you guys! You deserve it.) A few button clicks on the Replicator 5 later I was off and printing.

Photo Sep 15, 8 40 31 PM

After a little clean up with an Xacto blade (large one is about 60mm)…


Being able to turn a physical object over in your hands is a powerful thing. I think I probably missed out by not, at least, messing around with the Makerbots last year. As soon as I had this little guy in my hand I had ten new ideas. Hopefully we’ll have enough filament.

Project Development Studio Concepts

Header image generously (and auto-magically) provided by Ross Godwin’s

I’m going to need a whole separate post to elucidate and probably work out the underlying thoughts behind these concepts. But for now, suffice it to say that I’d like to create several thematically-connected projects that explore the relationships between users and organization in digital “space.”

These are the first of hopefully many ideas that play with concepts of pattern, information, organization, data, structure, architecture, design, systems, notation, diagrams, semiotics, and ontology.


This “operating system” assigns natural-world/biological characteristics to different file formats on a computer (e.g. .txt = migratory birds, folders = predatory hunters, .exe = mating mammals, etc…). The computer environment reorganizes itself to become a digital facsimile of a biological environment.



This is a continuation of a program that I began developing last year in Patrick Hebron’s Design Tool Studio. It’s a grid-based digital workspace that replaces the traditional desktop environment with a more flexible and useful tool.



An exploration into more efficient digital note-taking. How can we bend a text editor’s rules to allow us to compose text more like we compose thoughts?



A program that numerically organizes all of the binary data in a file.


Topographical Interface

This concept explores how a computer’s file structure might be mapped like a physical topography.


Culinary Physics Readings: Week 2

“And rightly so,” Kenneth Chang writes in Food 2.0, a 2007 New York Times article on the (then) novel application of chemistry and science for restaurant culinary purposes, “Cooking is chemistry after all.”

Heat, time, reaction speed, surface area, solution, emulsion, volume, salinity, mixture. It’s amazing that for practically its entire history cooking has borrowed the vocabulary of chemistry, but left untouched the practical and more scientific components. Of course, I’m generally talking about the home cook and the world of restaurants. Large food corporations have been employing chemists since the the early days. Those “processed” foods we see all over the place have been altered from their natural state. And a lot of that alteration is chemical in nature.

But in the last decade and a half or so restaurants and bars have been experimenting with ways to create higher quality products from raw ingredients. Guys like Dave Arnold, who started the French Culinary Institute’s Culinary Technology department and opened the bar Booker and Dax, have always had as their primary objective higher quality.

It’s better eating through chemistry these days as restaurant kitchens regularly cook with technologies developed in labs and even have labs of their own. And it’s better design through cooking as classes like Culinary Physics appropriate these same technologies for more experimental and artistic purposes.

Speculation as Process: Part 2

Continued from an earlier post…this earlier post, in fact.

Quick recap: My initial mix of NYC situation and future scenario was “looking for a train you know isn’t coming” X “programmable bacteria.”  I extrapolated that into a scenario in which the MTA solves communication issues with riders by offering a course of programmed bacteria that creates a sub-dermal intraface (an internal device of interacting with data, devices, and information) or “feeler” which delivers information directly to them by way of haptic transmissions. I’m calling this program MTAsense.


Speculation as Process: Part 1

Speculation as Process (taught by Richard The & Chris Woebken) was a great introduction into the practice of speculative design. In this two day workshop we examined how to forecast future scenarios, developed concepts, and each created and presented a work of speculative design. 

The workshop started before the workshop even started with a little homework. Two great readings: chapters 1 & 2 of Speculative Everything, an excerpt from Super Sad True Love Storyand a small writing assignment to describe three typical New York City scenarios – situations we notice, stray observations, daily annoyances, or really anything characteristic of living in this city.

The first two chapters of Speculative Everything  are an intro to and historical look at the role of speculation in design as well as a more critical look into how we currently think of design. The authors challenge the contemporary wisdom that design can solve the world’s problems. Here’s the problem:

…[design] channels energy and resources into fiddling with the world out there rather than the ideas and attitudes inside our heads that shape the world out there.

And here’s why they believe speculative design can solve that problem:

Speculative design can act as a catalyst for collectively redefining our relationship to reality.

This just reinforces something I think gets obscured sometimes as we talk more and more about the digital tools we use to design: the imagination is an incredibly powerful tool in and of itself itself. The a design is filtered through our perspective of reality. And so we get an imagined sense of a design + its context, relative to our personal reality. Speculative design plays with those filters and contexts to give us novel perspectives.

In the case of this workshop the contexts that we began with were a litany of situations we observe living in New York City.


An incomplete list:

  • Putting your stuff in/getting your stuff from storage
  • The ubiquity of food trucks and carts
  • Catcalls
  • Having 3′ x 3′ of outdoor space
  • Encountering an empty subway car that is empty for a reason
  • Not being able to hear anyone in a bar or restaurant
  • Bodega visual culture
  • Everything smelling like piss all the time
  • Looking for a train you know isn’t coming
  • Queuing for everything from concerts and art shows to Trader Joe’s checkout

We cross-pollinated our situations with a printed database of future scenarios from Chris’ (and Elliot P. Montgomery‘s) studio The Extrapolation Factory.


In a short sprint we spent time developing a few concepts then shared the results and discussed the potential of each and well as any interesting questions or tangents. This delightful little coordinate system, ranging from utopia to dystopia on the y and inevitable to impossible on the x, provided a handy guide and good way to stir up discussion.


After all the ideas were posted on the wall and we stopped quivering in fear from the few concepts that fell into the “inevitable-dystopian” quadrant of the map, we each selected one to move forward with. As our concepts went through a truncated speculative design process (recognizable in this case by a whirlwind of iterations in only a few minutes and the clittity-clack and whispered “shiiiiiits” that are marks of quick/dirty photoshop/illustrator work) they were solidified into ideas complete with context and designed.

My initial mix of NYC situation and future scenario was “looking for a train you know isn’t coming” X “programmable bacteria.”  I extrapolated that into a scenario in which the MTA solves communication issues with riders by offering a course of programmed bacteria that creates a sub-dermal intraface (an internal device of interacting with data, devices, and information) or “feeler” which delivers information directly to them by way of haptic transmissions. I’m calling this program MTAsense.

Check out the next blog for the design and presentation.

Future Interfaces: Initial Concepts 1-3

Run Select

In conjunction with a treadmill this VR program would allow you to select various tracks for exercise, training, and conditioning. Statistics would appear unobtrusively and could be hidden to allow the user to focus on the run.


Memory Palace

Sherlock Holmes famously uses the concept of a “memory palace” to store memories, facts, observations, and details. The concept is a mental model of a physical location that the user knows extremely well. This allows the rememberer to travel throughout “space” to retrieve information. In this case the Memory Palace would be a training ground or digital prosthetic for the same purpose.


AR Desktop

This augmented reality desktop solves the problem of clutter and lack of space on any given surface. A phone/screen/eye implant acts as a portal into a digital space that overlays onto the physical one creating a more easily organized and more flexible desktop environment. The movement of the screen over the space is not 1:1 but rather provides a glimpse into the space just like a skylight into a room.