Category Archives: Design

Ketchup goes AI…? Heinz puts DALL•E to work

Interesting, and of course inevitable:

“This emerging tech isn’t perfect yet, so we got some weird results along with ones that looked like Heinz—but that was part of the fun. We then started plugging in ketchup combination phrases like ‘impressionist painting of a ketchup bottle’ or ‘ketchup tarot card’ and the results still largely resembled Heinz. We ultimately found that no matter how we were asking, we were still seeing results that looked like Heinz.”

Pass the Kemp!

[Via Aaron Hertzmann]

Making the “Gaslit” Main Titles

“Not a single keyframe of animation was set in the making of the title, created by tweaking and bending the alignment knobs of a vintage TV,” writes Anthony Vitagliano. “Instead, I shot it using a vintage Montgomery Ward ‘Airline’ Portable Television, an iPhone, and a patchwork of cables and converters in my basement.”

Check out the results:

See Anthony’s site for high-res captures of the frames.

A 3lb. wind turbine promises power on the go

Hmm—dunno whether I’d prefer carrying this little dude over just pocketing a battery pack or two—but I dig the idea & message:

Once set up on its tripod, the 3-pound, 40-watt device automatically rotates towards the wind and starts charging its 5V, 12,000 mAh battery. (Alternatively it can charge your device directly via USB.) The company says that in peak conditions, the Shine Turbine can generate enough juice to charge a smartphone in just 20 minutes.

Giant Lego “wooden” rollercoaster

Did you think there is a world in which I don’t post this, my friend?
Happily, there is no such world. 😝

Per Digital Trends,

The coaster was constructed from just under 90,000 individual Legos, and Chairudo estimates that it took him about 800 hours to build. The mammoth replica is more than 21 feet long, four feet wide, and almost five feet tall, with a total track length of 85 feet. It’s so big, Chairudo had to rent a separate room just to construct it.

Design: “The Fish & The Furious”

I know that we’re on a pretty dark timeline sometimes, but these little bits of silly (?) human ingenuity keep me going:

Stephen Colbert & crew had some good fun with the news:

Design: Google’s “Dragonscale” solar roofs

For the last few years I’ve been curiously watching what I affectionately call “nerd terrariums” being erected on Google’s main campus. Now the team behind their unique roof designs is providing some insight into how they work:

These panels coupled with the pavilion-like rooflines let us capture the power of the sun from multiple angles. Unlike a flat roof, which generates peak power at the same time of the day, our dragonscale solar skin will generate power during an extended amount of daylight hours… When up-and-running, Charleston East and Bay View will have about 7 megawatts of installed renewable power—generating roughly 40% of their energy needs.

Four construction team members install BIPV at Google’s Bay View office development.

Check out a quick overview—literally:

Plus Code addresses make the world more navigable

Finding my grandmother’s home in Ireland was one of the weirder adventures I’ve experienced. Directions were literally “Go to the post office and ask for directions.” This worked in 1984, but we visited again in 2007, the P.O. was defunct, so we literally had to ask some random neighbor on the road—who of course knew the way!

Much of the world similarly operates without the kind of street names & addresses most of us take for granted, and Google and others are working to enable Plus Code addresses to help people get around. Check out how it works:

Google writes,

Previously, creating addresses for an entire town or village could take years. Address Maker shortens this time to as little as a few weeks — helping under-addressed communities get on the map quickly, while also reducing costs. Address Maker allows organizations to easily assign addresses and add missing roads, all while making sure they work seamlessly in Google Maps and Maps APIs. Governments and NGOs in The Gambia, Kenya, India, South Africa and the U.S. are already using Address Maker, with more partners on the way. If you’re part of a local government or NGO and think Address Maker could help your community, reach out to us here g.co/maps/addressmaker.

Design details of the Blackbird

I know it’s a little OT for this blog, but as I’m always fascinated with clever little design solutions, I really enjoyed this detailed look at the iconic SR-71 Blackbird. I had no idea about things like it having a little periscope, or that its turn radius is so great that pivoting 180º at speed would necessitate covering the distance between Dayton, Ohio & and Chicago (!). Enjoy:

Come help me design The Future!

I’m incredibly excited to say that my team has just opened a really rare role to design AI-first experiences. From the job listing:

Together, we are working to inspire and empower the next generation of creatives. You will play an integral part, designing and prototyping exciting new product experiences that take full advantage of the latest AI technology from Adobe research. We’ll work iteratively to design, prototype, and test novel creative experiences, develop a deep understanding of user needs and craft new AI-first creative tools that empower users in entirely new and unimagined ways.

Your challenge is to help us pioneer AI-first creation experiences by creating novel experiences that are intuitive, empowering and first of kind.

By necessity that’s a little vague, but trust me, this stuff is wild (check out some of what I’ve been posting in the AI/ML category here), and I need a badass fellow explorer. I really want a partner who’s excited to have a full seat at the table alongside product & eng (i.e. you’re in the opposite of a service relationship where we just chuck things over the wall and say “make this pretty!”), and who’s excited to rapidly visualize a lot of ideas that we’ll test together.

We are at a fascinating inflection point, where computers learn to see more like people & can thus deliver new expressive superpowers. There will be many dead ends & many challenging ethical questions that need your careful consideration—but as Larry Page might say, it’s all “uncomfortably exciting.” 🔥

If you might be the partner we need, please get in touch via the form above, and feel free to share this opportunity with anyone who might be a great fit. Thanks!

Google taps (heh) Project Jacquard to improve accessibility

It’s always cool to see people using tech to help make the world more accessible to everyone:

This research inspired us to use Jacquard technology to create a soft, interactive patch or sleeve that allows people to access digital, health and security services with simple gestures. This woven technology can be worn or positioned on a variety of surfaces and locations, adjusting to the needs of each individual. 

We teamed up with Garrison Redd, a Para powerlifter and advocate in the disability community, to test this new idea. 

UI Faces enables easy avatar insertion

As I obviously have synthetic faces on my mind, here’s a rather cool tool for finding diverse images of people and adding them to design layouts:

UI Faces aggregates thousands of avatars which you can carefully filter to create your perfect personas or just generate random avatars.

Each avatar is tagged with age, gender, emotion and hair color using the Microsoft’s Face API, providing easier filtration and sorting.

Here’s how it integrates into Adobe XD:

Design: Why Monorails almost never work out

I was such a die-hard Apple dead-ender in the 90’s that I’d often fruitlessly pitch Macs anyone who’d listen (any many who wouldn’t). My roommate would listen to my rants about the vile inelegance of Windows, then gently shake his head and say, “Look, I get it. But the Mac is like a monorail: it’s sleek, it’s beautiful, and it’s just stuck on some little loop.” Then off he went to buy a new gaming PC.

This funny, informative video explains the actual mechanics & economics that explain why such “futuristic” designs have rarely made sense in the real world. Check it out.

Design: Dunking on Dubai

“A strange mixture between Futurama & Evil Los Angeles… The worst of urban planning and capitalism, plus some slavery for good measure. Welcome to Dubai, everyone.”

This darkly funny piece presents some eye-opening info on a petrodollar playground literally sinking into the sea. Along the way it draws comparisons to past misallocations of every sort of capital (e.g. as in Communist Romania, “Smooth-brained dictator + construction = dumb shit.”

I should hasten to say that I have never visited Dubai & don’t know of any connection with anyone connected with it.

“How many robots does it take to run a grocery store?”

A few years ago I found myself wasting my life in the bowels of Google’s enterprise apps group. (How & why that happened is a long, salty story—but like everything good & bad, the chapter passed.) In the course of that we found ourselves talking with IT folks at Ocado, a company that’s transformed from grocery shopping into the provider of really interesting robotics. Check out this rather eye-popping demonstration of how their bots fulfill orders at crazy speed:

[Via Dave Musgrave]

The Story Behind the Theme Song to ‘Seinfeld‘

It’s a little OT for this blog, but I really enjoyed this article as a discussion of design—of using art to solve problems.

I told Jerry, “It sounds more like a sound design issue than a music assignment. So, how about this? We treat the Seinfeld theme song as if your voice telling jokes is the melody, the jokes you tell are the lyrics and my job is to accompany you in a musical way that does not interfere with the audio of you telling jokes.

Also great:

Warren Littlefield had the unfortunate job of telling Larry, “I don’t like the music. It’s distracting, it’s weird, it’s annoying!” And as soon as he said the word annoying, Larry David just lit up. Like, “Really? Annoying? Cool!” Because if you know Larry, if you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, that’s what he loves most, to annoy you! That’s his brand of comedy. 

Now, enjoy (?) Seinfeld meeting Kendrick Lamar:

Animation: Gmunk & Light

I’ve admired the motion graphics of Bradley Munkowitz since my design days in the 90’s (!), and I enjoyed this insight into one of his most recent creations:

What I didn’t know until now is that he collaborated with the folks at Bot & Dolly—who created the brilliant work below before getting acquired by Google and, as best I can tell, having their talent completely wasted there 😭.

Brickit scans Legos & suggests creations 🤯

OMG—I’m away from our brick piles & thus can’t yet try this myself, but I can’t wait to take it for a spin. As PetaPixel explains:

If you have a giant pile of LEGO bricks and are in need of ideas on what to build, Brickit is an amazing app that was made just for you. It uses a powerful AI camera to rapidly scan your LEGO bricks and then suggest fun little projects you can build with what you have.

Here’s a short 30-second demo showing how the app works — prepare to have your mind blown:

Titles: “The Punisher”

Even if I weren’t, to my surprise, watching the Netflix series The Punisher and liking it way more than I expected, I’d be a sucker for this kind of beautiful title sequence:

I have the show to thank for introducing me to this brutal Tom Waits banger, which comes equipped with its own surrealist nightmare of a video: