Just found this video of me speaking to a class of budding web design students at Spring Brook High School.
Just found this video of me speaking to a class of budding web design students at Spring Brook High School.
I want to thank everyone who came to see me speak at WebVisions 2011 last week. I had a great time teaching the intricacies of web typography to the 35 people at my Wednesday session and talking about the ins and out of selling progressive enhancement to the around 200 people at my Thursday session.
If you were there, please take a few moments to rate my performance.
There is a lot of lip-service given these days to the importance of innovation in our society. You often hear that we live in an “innovation economy,” or that we can innovate our way out of a crisisâ€” implying that innovation is something that spontaneously happens with little or no effort. True innovation rarely comes so simply. It is most often the result of the intersecting of two or more seemingly separate and often disparate ideas (you got your chocolate in my peanut butter). We may be banking our future on innovation, but our educational system is not set up around innovation. No, you can’t teach innovation, but you can foster an environment of innovation while learning. Instead, disciplines are taught in independent silos called “classes” with little or no overlap.
David Edwards wants to change that. In his recent book The Lab, David explores the frontiers of learning to promote the theory that innovation comes when we worry less about the scientific “disciplines” involved and more about the desired outcome. In other words, figure out what you need to do and then what scientific tools you need to bring to bear on the problem to solve it.
David has a history of combining art and science in new ways both as a teacher at Harvard University and as founder and director of Le Laboratoire in Paris, France. For example, one of the most striking examples he gives is how he and a class of his solved the problem of being able to quickly and cleanly transport water for people in areas without running water. To create the device â€” called “The Pumpkin” â€” David and his students at Harvard combined biology and engineering to create a device inspired by the way in which living cells transport water.
A few other of his innovations include:
I had a chance to talk with David through email and ask him about education, art, science, and raising kids.
GeekDad: Science and art â€” like science and religion â€” are popularly shown as being at odds and incompatibleâ€” truth can’t be beautiful â€” but in your book, The Lab, you argue that laboratories have to erase “conventional boundaries between art and science.” Why are those boundaries a problem?
David Edwards: Obviously we value a work of art, a MET performance of The Nose of Shostakovich, very differently than we value a work of science, like the discovery of the latest Mersenne Prime, as valuable works of the human mind art and science appeal for different reasons. What interests me in the context of laboratories, a general term I give to environments that “curate” the creative process, is less, however, the “works” of art and science than the creative processes by which we get them, the one being aesthetic, comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, guided by images, true in that it is inalienable in some way from the human condition â€” the other being scientific, analytical, guided by equations, able to simplify a complex world to problems that can be solved, true in that it is reproducible.
GD: What would a world be like where the boundaries did not exist?
DE: These two processes, “art” in the sense that we imagine how Beethoven “lived” and thought and “science” in the sense that we imagine how Einstein “lived” and thought, actually merge in the creative process, and that fascinates me. In the process of discovery, whether with purely artistic, scientific, or some other ends, discoverers â€” how I think of creators â€” dream, and analyze, induce and deduce, are comfortable with uncertainty and are capable of reducing a complex world to resolvable problems and meaningful solutions. Creative lives are like this.
GD: So, what’s happening to the creatives in our society?
DE: With the specialization of knowledge, we now teach, learn, and perform within environments that are specialized to promote dreaming, or to promote analysis, or to promote questioning, or to promote solutions, but these environments are murderous to creative thought, a good reason why the most creative minds often flee institutional environments.
GD: Is the Internet helping to dissolve these boundaries?
DE: Perhaps largely as a result of the Internet Revolution, the “information providing” value of institutions has suddenly been overrun by the “innovation providing” value of institutions. And our institutions remain too focused on the old value model. The boundaries between art and science, as processes of creative thought, become a major obstacle to institutions and society adapting to the conditions of the 21st century. Remove these barriers and the anxiety many now feel facing a future that is so full of uncertainty will be replaced by the freedom a creator feels in a world where dreams can matter.
GD: How long do you think it will take our current mindset about creativity to change?
DE: I think it is indeed a transition that is taking place with the generation that is growing up today. We look at the young today and are shocked by what often seems to be an attention deficit problem. One thing however that strikes me in teaching at Harvard University is how young people, who have grown up surfing the Internet, moving in a matter of seconds from “recombinant RNA” to “Jackson Pollack,” don’t feel the same knowledge restrictions previous generations grew up with, actually recognize, experimentally, the great value of leaping from one culture to the next, feeling your way forward in innocence, discovering.
GD: Many seem to despair a culture where the novice and uninformed have the same access to many-to-many communication as the professional and studied. Do you see this as a problem, and how do you think we are dealing with it?
DE: I actually think that in the world we live in today we find the sources of information, the communities, which suit us, and, yes, I do agree that disastrously uninformed souls can influence millions, billions probably, but I’m not sure that the elite, the most educated and informed, ever had much more influence on human affairs than they do today. What has really changed is that we all, as individuals, have tremendously more outreach than we did. What we say – and do – is amplified. But the elite have always dialogued with the elite. What to do? Making innocence an asset, as it is for an infant, who learns so quickly, may be a goal, and guiding the elite toward more creating, along with the observing, might be another. I keep coming back to the contemporary power of the creative mind.
GD: For some, inventing new ways to carry water may seem like re-inventing the wheel, but you led a class that did just that over nachos and salsa at the Border CafÃ© in Harvard Square (I have to admit, I always found their Margaritas to be an excellent creative lubricant when I visited Boston). How did you bring science and design together to build a better, safer way to move water around?
DE: Getting drinkable water from its source to those in need of it without wasting it is a growing problem, of course. In biology the canonical transporter of water is the biological cell. We thought a few years ago that we might be able to learn from the cell to carry water more efficiently. This led eventually to an object that we’re making right now called The Pumpkin, because it sort of resembles a pumpkin when it is all curled up. The Pumpkin is, in one form, an interesting hand bag that doubles as a thermos. You can pull your lunch out of it like you can drink from it. But it also can expand in size, and carry increasing volumes of water, so that you can carry 10 or more liters of water strapped around your shoulder, or around your neck and torso. In developing world environments or disaster relief situations where water transport is a major challenge and head transport often occurs, The Pumpkin is designed to get lots of water safely to where it needs to go without messing up the neck and spinal cord, without making you drag something over tough terrain. Anyway the biological cell is a little like this â€” a lunch box that expands to carry lots of water or a little, depending on what you need.
GD: How have you been able to apply your own view of creativity to raising your children? Do you ever experiment ideas on them?
DE: My children â€” and I talk about them in my book â€” teach me more about creativity than I do them, I’m sure. If anything I may feel more peace than some in watching my three little boys learn in the rough and tumble way they learn. Yes, they were the first kids in the world who “whiffed” chocolate, the first kids probably who “ate bottles.” Since they are growing up in a very formal French school, I suppose having the father who comes home with Le Whif has marked them especially, hopefully an immunization against the worst outcome of a very fine if rigid educational system.
If you’ve ever wanted an in-depth crash course in web typography, here’s your chance.Â I’ll be presenting a half day marathon workshop at WebVisions in Portland this May to help you understand the NEW Web Typography. My workshop covers recent advances in technology and focuses on case studies that that provide a framework and techniques for successfully implementing online typography. Designers will see how they can use the new Web typography to set their work apart from the rest of the herd.
What you’ll learn:
In addition to me, there’s other great stuff to do. WebVisions is a nationally recognized conference exploring the future of Web and mobile design, technology, user experience, and business strategy.
South By Southwest (SXSW) is a little less than a week away, so time to get packing. SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) is the â€œtechyâ€ portion of SXSWâ€”the others are Film and Musicâ€”and is one of the geekiest popular culture events this side of San Diego Comic-con. While there isnâ€™t any cosplay and no one is likely to spit in your face if you tell them that Janeway was the greatest Star Fleet Captain of all time, SXSWi does attract the likes of Felicia Day, Devo and Bruce Sterling as regulars. Itâ€™s a mixture of art nerds, drama nerds and computer nerds, who are almost all focused on technology and culture.
This will be my 3rd year attending SXSW but my first as a non-speaker. In previous years Iâ€™ve given sessions on web typography and online comic books. This year I will be attending as a representative of my company, Forum One, and I will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the sessions without the specter of an hour long speech hanging over my head.
While Iâ€™m by no means an old proâ€”this is the conferenceâ€™s 25th anniversaryâ€”I have picked up a few nuggets of wisdom over the years that I would like to share with you.
The next season of Doctor Who is still a few months away, but thereâ€™s no time like the present to catch up on the good Doctor and his time traveling adventures with this handy-dandy Doctor Who infographic by noted illustrator Bob Canada. He did the layout and the illustration for the TARDIS all using Adobe InDesign, but ran into the same issue generations of Doctor Who illustrators have discovered:
I think this is the first time in my life Iâ€™ve ever drawn the TARDIS. It was surprisingly hard! It seems like it would be simple; after all itâ€™s just a blue box with some windows. But there are tons of little details and recessed panels and whatnot, and it took forever to get it all straight.
The way you handle color in your web designs is about to change. Perhaps youâ€™ve been playing around with hexadecimal color values since you were a wee web-babe; if you were, get ready to to grow upÂ fast. CSS3 has arrived, and your palette is about to get a whole lot bigger.
Compared to whatâ€™s coming, itâ€™s sas though designers have been color-blind, working with only a small part of the chromatic spectrum. No, new hues will not be added to the rainbow.
What will happen is that color values will be defined in new ways, the entire spectrum of opacity levels will be added and gradients based on pure CSS rather than images will be thrown in, too.
Some forward-thinking websites, such as the impressiveÂ 24 Ways to Impress Your Friends, are already playing around with RGBa for text and background color effectsâ€”and the results are great.
Some one sent me this insanelyÂ funnyÂ info graphic on Web Designers VS Web Developers. It reminds me of the series of articles I did for Webdesigner Depot: 5 Pet Peeves Designers Have With Developers (and How to Avoid Them … and theÂ sequelÂ 5 Pet Peeves Developers Have With Designers (and How to Avoid Them …
Web Designers vs Web Developers is brought to you by Wix.com
Use creative design to make a Free Website
You are most welcome to share this infographic with your audience.
Itâ€™s a glorious time to be a web geek! Did you see the cool effect the folks at Google added to their logo the day before they made their big announcement about changes to the perennial search engine? Itâ€™s gone now, but for a brief period when you moused over the logo, it flew apart in colorful blobs avoiding your mouse.
To most peopleâ€™s surprise (OK, maybe only to most web geeksâ€™ surprise), this interactivity was not created with Adobe Flash, but instead using the most recent versions of common Web technologies. Itâ€™s likely that youâ€™ve already benefited from these new Web technologies: HTML5 and CSS3. They are already popping up all over the place, despite the fact that they are not supported in the most popular browser, Internet Explorer <insert dramatic pause here> at least not until today!
Thatâ€™s right, the next version of Internet Explorer version 9 will support HTML5 and CSS3 and that version will be released today 15 September as a public beta!!
And there was much rejoicing!!!
Our long nightmare is finally over. Now everyone will be using a modern browser and Web designers can finally do really cool things without Flash. Ok, maybe Iâ€™m being premature â€” itâ€™ll take a while before everyone is upgraded â€” but a guy can dream, canâ€™t he?
The great thing about any ground breaking technology is all of the cool experiments that get thrown together. The early adopters are less worried about finding practical applications and more interested in just playing around to create new toys.Â Letâ€™s play with a few today!
Below is a list of my favorite 10 new Web toys. Of course you will need a modern browser â€” Safari 5 or Chrome 6 are usually best, but Firefox 3.6 will work for a lot of them. If you are running Windows â€” and are very brave person â€” you should go download Internet Explorer 9 right now and test these toys out. Let me know in the comments if all of them are working for you in your browser of choice.
The Web typography road show is heading to the southern USofA for the Web Directions USA Conference. Oddly enough, the conference was originally to be called Web Directions North, as a follow up to Web Directions in South, which is held in Australia. Someone must have pointed out to the organizers that any event with the word “North” in the title was not likely to draw a huge audience in Georgia.
A lot has been happening this years, andâ€”now that I’ve finished my new book on CSS3â€”I’m turning my full attention back to Web typography. I’ve retooled and reworked my 2010: The Year of Web Typography presentation, expanding and enhancing information about Webfont service bureaus,and refining the slide layout and color scheme to make them a lot easier to read on those big brother style projectors we use to show our slides.
Web Directions USA isn’t free, but you can save a bunch of money using my discount code to get $100 off the ticket price. Just go to the Web Directions registration page and enter the discount code WDUSA-JCT.
But that’s not all! The day after the conference (Saturday) there will be a hack day event called Amped. I’ll be on hand to give 1:1 Web typography and CSS3 advice all day long:
Amped is the Hackday, reloaded, brought to you by Web Directions, happening in Atlanta this September 25. We’ve taken the traditional hack day, pulled it apart, thought long and hard about what’s great, what’s not so great, and how as many different kinds of web folks can come together for one intense 10 hour period of hacking, designing and making amazing things.