back to knowhere

Years and years and years ago, I started a research project that became more of an obsession. Knowhere: finding ways to teach wayfinding was my attempt to develop education materials that would teach complex ideas of navigation behavior through direct observation. Students would roam the world, guided only by environmental clues and human behavior, documenting specific items as prompted by given assignment statements and instructions.

The results were better than I'd expected. The kit and resulting exhibit won various design awards and were showcased in a couple of eye-candy publications. I was invited to present my work at national design conferences. And my Behance page about the project earned more than a handful of "likes."


But beyond this, the students seemed to get something from the lessons—their work showed a more structured understanding of how navigation and orientation could play into physical and virtual environments. Not to mention the fact that my findings regarding how students learn, regardless of what they're studying, provided new paths for my research to follow.

Lately, however, I find myself stuck. Once again, after years of teaching design in an online environment, as we start bringing much of our online content into the onsite classroom, I find myself asking the same questions. How can I teach design students complex ideas in ways that will engage them? How can I frame these ideas in lessons they will retain? How can I avoid the blank stares and clear boredom witnessed when I'm at the front of the classroom giving lectures?

When faced with questions like these, sometimes it helps to look back at previous successes for ways of moving forward. And it's to this end that I now relaunch Knowhere within the infinitely shareable environment of the worldwide web.

In this iteration, KnowhereFast offers the same drawing and observation prompts given to students during the international workshops, as well as a few lessons (still in the works!) on what wayfinding is and how it works beyond ideas of signage. But it also opens new channels for sharing information, including Instagram and Pinterest accounts where students in all learning stages can explore and share ideas wherever they may find themselves.

So come on over. Check it out. Leave some comments. And help me figure out some new ways to teach design students.

Rockin' the Zen

What It Is: Land Art Mandalas and Cairns
Who Designed It: James Brunt


Why It's Cool: Land art is not an easy art form. You have to find the right materials for the region, and sometimes they just don't work well together. But when they do, magic can happen. In this series, Brunt uses rocks, twigs, leaves, and more to create super-intricate patterns that flow beautifully together and remind us that there is a calm logic behind nature.

shockingly fun

What It Is: Papier MachineA craft book for making electronic toys and experiments
Who Designed It:  Pinaffo Pluvinage


Why It's Cool: It's easy to forget how simple electronics can be. It's also easy to forget that books can be more than pages to be read or looked at. This project combines beautiful colors, shapes, illustrations, and simple technologies in a way that engages the audience beyond "oh, that's pretty."

Beyond this, the use of materials—paper, ink, and a special spot-color silver that conducts electricity, making this a brilliant and beautiful product.



Points and Lines make for choreographed interaction

originally found at Colossal

Designing for interaction does not have to live on screen. In fact, the best instances of interaction happen when you go old-school and let people ... interact with their surroundings.

In a recent re-installation of his 1949 Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, artist William Forsythe hangs weighted bob points from thin string lines, and invites visitors to navigate through the resulting field without touching any of the bobs. The design is dynamically complex, made possible through a visually simplistic solution.


LSU. Line Sh!t Up.

Today's online lecture is about alignments, and how lining things up helps us figure out what portions of a design are (or at least should be) related to other elements on a layout. That means today's content search is all about finding things that line up.

Like this stuff by Ellen Pernille Posselt Lihn and Unnie Arendrup. The design is simple enough, making use of heavy rules to compartmentalize and display content.


What I love is that they carried this idea of compartmentalization out into how they display the work. It's fabulous. And it totally feeds my overwhelming need for perfect alignments. It makes me want to break out all of my tools and spend hours lining them up. I can almost feel the calm washing over me now.

MAD Searches

Every once in awhile... Wait. Once per day, or more realistically once per hour, I find cool stuff that inspires me and feeds my creative writings and designs. Yeah, I could pin these on Pinterst. But sometimes it's better to share in a setting that doesn't suggest other things, like wedding invitation designs, or layouts for toddler bedrooms. 

Today, I found...

In searching for more information (to share here, but also in my class), I found Kommaa publication designed and produced by the faculty and students of the University of Applied Sciences, Mannheim. It's a great, edgy editorial design that doesn't lose its sense of organization or orientation. The juxtaposition of the deep red against the traditional white pages keeps the pacing interesting without feeling forced. And the use of hand-generated typography provides a great contrast to the consistently applied, almost relentless grid.