The Farmers Market and Open Source

Food from farmers markets has a lot in common with open source hardware and software. The groups of people that create and use these products want to know similar things: How is stuff made? Where does it come from? How do we fix it when it breaks? Independent makers, like small farmers and open source … Continue reading The Farmers Market and Open Source


Nile Rodgers and Figure-Ground

There's a formal principle in art called "The Figure-Ground Relationship." In a painting, for example, the figure is the subject of the painting and the ground is the background. But great artists don't think of the background as something that is secondary to the subject. Instead, they think that backgrounds are just as important. This is … Continue reading Nile Rodgers and Figure-Ground

The “Home Field Advantage” for Humans

I'm a big fan of media theorist Douglas Rushkoff. He predicts the future by looking at the past, pretty far back, to a time before centralized currency. Above is a great interview with lots of gems about a shift towards decentralized currency and manufacturing. This argument is relevant to making better stuff because the global … Continue reading The “Home Field Advantage” for Humans

The Designer Fallacy

Philosopher Don Ihde identifies a phenomenon he calls "The Designer Fallacy." It takes its cue from an idea in literary theory called "Intentional Fallacy," which refers to the mistake of thinking that the meaning of a text is restricted to what the author intended; it’s presumed that meanings emerge from texts in various ways. Unintended … Continue reading The Designer Fallacy

Scratch on MOOCs

Scratch is an  easy-to-use web platform for making games and animations. It's for kids and the cool thing about it is that it nudges kids toward designing games rather than just playing them. I've been dabbling with Scratch in a free online workshop from The ScratchEd Team at Harvard University. They do incredible things with it and you … Continue reading Scratch on MOOCs

Descriptive and Prescriptive

In the field of design, we make a big deal about using descriptive language over prescriptive language when leading teams. To be descriptive is to articulate a problem and to be prescriptive is to issue a solution. The problem with prescriptive language is that when we use it, we are assuming that there is only 1 right answer to … Continue reading Descriptive and Prescriptive

Make Better Toys

Last week I facilitated a discussion with two classes of fifth graders at Fall Creek Elementary in Ithaca about the social and environmental impacts of toys. We used a tool called "LCA" which stands for Life Cycle Assessment. It's a tool that designers can use to understand the social and environmental impacts of manufactured goods. … Continue reading Make Better Toys

Sustainable Toy Design for ages 5-6

For the past 10 weeks I've been collaborating with Xraise Lab for Science Outreach and the Ithaca Generator to offer toy-design workshops to kindergardeners and first graders in the GIAC after school program. Creating projects for kids that demonstrate concepts like "design-for-disassembly" has been fun. Kids this age understand and are frustrated with "closed" design because … Continue reading Sustainable Toy Design for ages 5-6

repost: Is Social Business the 2.0 of Humanitarian Design

Bruce Nussbaum has a provocative post over at FastCo Design Blog titled "Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism?" In it he relays two recent instances in which Western designers present their humanitarian projects to Eastern audiences, which engenders some tense exchanges between the two groups. This is a tension that you'll see a lot if … Continue reading repost: Is Social Business the 2.0 of Humanitarian Design