Declassified Vintage National Security Agency Posters

Strange things were underfoot at the NSA’s design group (did they have a design group?) during the 60s/70s/80s. Made available by a recent Freedom of Information Act request (the designer needs them for his or her portfolio?), the work is pretty good for internal posters at a government agency, when this sort of thing had to be done by hand.

Considering the leaked PowerPoint slides for the PRISM program, budgets haven’t been kind to design work in the intel community over the past few decades.

Check Web Urbanist for more

Dogma is comforting, and in this business it goes by many names.

So says Erika Hall of Mule Design in her recent Medium piece: Design Sprints Are Snake Oil.

What promised to be a vicious takedown of the institution of agile methods like design thinking, was really a takedown of the idea of design sprints as the One True God.

Agile processes can be useful. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have taken hold in business to the extent that they have.

The problem is that not all problems can be solved by the same silver-bullet process:

… many methods start out as legitimate tools to promote better, clearer thinking faster and end up as activities substituted for thinking.

Yes, sprints can be useful. As can Design Thinking and agile processes and all of the rest.

We teach them at the Brandcenter because they are useful and students need to have an understanding of how it all works.

But they are only one arrow in the quiver.

Let’s use them that way.

IKEA Catalog Covers from 1951-2015

Home Designing posted every Ikea Catalog cover between 1951 and 2015.

Some favorites:

Interesting to watch the design trends as well as the editorial trends. Some have people. Some don’t. Some feel half a step away from a newspaper circular, while the more conceptual directions feature chairs flying through space. You can almost see the internal politics and motivations playing out over time.

Alibaba and Making Cities Revolve Around People

This article almost reads like a press release, but I like that Alibaba is always thinking big and thinking in terms of how to use technology to help connect people, stores, and in this case, cities, into smarter networks.

…the city of tomorrow should be able to adapt to its surroundings and inhabitants, almost like a living organism, so that municipal services like public transport, health care and education can be delivered in the right measure and time to minimise waste and optimise usage.

If you’ve ever been stopped at a red light, with no other cars in the same zipcode, it’s easy to see how this could make small incremental changes for the better. Alibaba already claims to have improved traffic speed by “up to 11%” in one city district by simply sending out instant traffic alerts and route suggestions to drivers.

But zooming out to a city-wide view, seeing the city not as chaos, but as an adaptable, interconnected system is something else entirely. Connecting people, automated vehicles, buildings, and other services together could bring about much larger changes that we might not yet even imagine.

Though it’s really easy to imagine the problems this might cause given bias built into systems by accident or by fiat.

Alibaba’s next moon shot is to make cities adapt to their human inhabitants, technology seer says

Houses of Pain

As I mentioned a few days back, we recently moved into a new house. We looked at a little over 20 houses before we bought this one. It’s amazing how many odd houses there are out there.

It’s easy to label suburban houses as sterile, but even the most McMansion of exteriors can contain malformed horrors within. Sometimes the cookie cutter only shapes the outer crust, leaving the interior undercooked. They look fantastic in the online photos, and everything might seem fine on the outside, but then when you open the door, it feels like pealing an orange only to find that it’s rotten on the inside.

The most heinous of houses were those with additions or altered interior spaces. People aren’t hiring architects anymore.

Proportions are off. Flow is wrong. Square footage is carved into small, dark rooms, in search of use beyond murder-most-foul.

Anyways, all of this is in service of pointing to a post explaining why McMansions are so abhorrent:

McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad Architecture?

Sometimes people ask, why is xyz house bad? Asking this question does not imply that the asker has bad taste or no taste whatsoever – it means that they are simply not educated in basic architectural concepts. In this post, I will introduce basic architectural concepts and explain why not all suburban/exurban/residential houses are McMansions, as well as what makes a McMansion especially hideous.