current understanding

Here are my (John’s) understandings of our analytical prototype/prospectus ideas, as of 26 April 2017.

user experience or other gap
problem definition
exploration of features that might address that problem
selection of features

Coral Azevedo
currency / indigenous peoples

gap :
understanding of what it has taken, in terms of exploitation, colonialism, etc., to develop the economic system in which currency takes its meaning.
earlier forms of currency / promise of payment that were displaced, by that economic system.

currency, inspired by/depicting means of exchange for three indigenous groups in North America
Hawaiian islanders

risks :
ethnic etc stereotypes.
which groups included/excluded

need to present as suggestion only, or even work of political art, because of politics of whom to represent, and how

Kaleigh Brann
currency / women and labor

gap : poor awareness of women/money/labor issues?
what are those issues?
problem : need to define

women and work
value of dollar different, for different people (groups); dollar represents 20% more labor than it does to men

stay-at-home mother/parents (unpaid, unrecognized labor)
National Shirtwaist fire
Rosy the Riveter

are these too specific?

[continue to think something about relative value of $1 is important to show, visually]

Morgan O’Connor
student studio space

absence of place for students to work
(Morgan is one of those who use the tables recently provided in Hardie 2F central area)

student studio space
rationale : productivity
relationship to other spaces (living, library, studio/classroom)

moveable walls?
what kinds of spaces, for what kinds of activity?

presentation : conceptual (variations)

specific (e.g., design, at Montserrat, in Hardie Building)

Jeremy Rodas
neighborhood zoning app

for neighborhood activists, to equalize their knowledge vis-à-vis real estate developers, urban planners, etc.
Air BnB
liquor stores
ethnic, etc.
ease of use

Jade Ruscio
currency / trade (?) flows

gap :
problem definition :

flows (as in Edward Tufte)
of manufactured exports in a given year
better : flow, of trade or population, at three points in time

get data (where)

Courtney Ryan
“nomadic” space separator / identifier

gap :
imperfect dorm space, dysfunctional community (list factors)

experimental (experimental living, communes, etc)
not for everyone (elective)

for dorms, but elsewhere too

other factors :
complementarity with other categories of space (at school: studio space, library/living room, studio and liberal arts classrooms)

privacy vs community

encourage a different, more mobile/nomadic, orientation to living space.
space / delimitation of space alone, as solution?
hints encouraging different attitude(s) to space?

what does one need? how much? when (does it vary from hour to hour, day to day?)

assumptions :
separate storage space

physical features :
hanging (requires fixtures in ceiling)
teepee, tents
easily set up, removed

Issey Miyake pleats please
nomadic living (tents, seasonal movement)
Japan: tatami living, put things away when not in use

Harrison Turner
currency / cash crops

gap / objective
reminder of basics underlying economic activity

cash crops

aesthetics / treat purely as design (abstract ornament)
make these beautiful, a worthy competitor to credit cards, applepay, etc.
slow (rather than accelerate) spending
make transaction an interesting exchange

Frank Lloyd Wright his wheat (etc) wooden blocks; abstraction
Brosterman’s Inventing Kindergarten

commodity money

wallpaper, in progress

Courtney Ryan
abstraction (after visit to Arizona)

Starting this project I was interested by the idea of line instead of color. Why do our walls have to be one solid color, why not line and shape? Set on rejecting the dainty and graceful, I explored patterns and techniques that were unsettling to the perception of sight. Imagine walking into a room with walls of one giant optical illusion set on repeat, I can’t think of anything more maddening than that. Sorting through the options I came up with I went with one based on line and space in a vertical layout.

I thought I had my wallpaper done and finalized until I went on spring break, when I visited my sister out in Arizona I was so shocked to see the beauty in not just the landscape but the architecture that I had to revisit the wallpaper with something better. Arizona is tied to its roots, you can see it in the Indigenous influence on the building style, landscaping, food, and still better, the patterns. Back in Beverly and in front of the computer screen once again I added color. Then I transformed the vertical lines to form a shape, then that shape became smaller and repeated, made it horizontal then vertical again. With that in mind, I present to you my wallpaper, Mesa, Arizona. Influenced by the Indigenous Peoples designs and culture Mesa, Arizona is not meant for any social class in particular, rather, it is meant to be on the walls of high transition areas.

Parts of the building where things shift, settle, then shift again is where this wallpaper should be implemented. The hallways where we take off our shoes and set aside, the closet where we hang our coats to dry, even the mudroom our guests first transition through to enter the rest of the home. There is energy that flows through this wallpaper, coming to life when someone is there to witness it only to fall into a soft hum once they’ve left.

More, on Courtney’s wallpaper process.

Morgan O’Connor
That’s 70’s / Far Out (final variation, with random removed elements)

I went through a few concept at the beginning of this project. At first thought of filigree, but the concept quickly became boring to me and shifted to a concept a little closer to our modern age. The inspiration for the final pattern draws heavily from the 70’s aesthetic of windy tubes and bold colors. I dulled the colors of the design to give it a vintage feel but kept it just bold enough to have an affect when printed large. I went through about seven or eight color and shape variations before arriving at this point. From a distance the rows seem to vibrate, but this illusion is broken up by the random exclusion of a few of the blue elements. These gaps become prominent when the pattern is tiled.

I could picture this design on the lining of a vintage van/bus, which was what I had in mind when I created it. It might also be appropriate above a kitchen countertop or in a small bathroom. This is by no means a fancy or “exclusive” wallpaper, more like a common design you would find still stuck on the walls of the old apartment you’re renting.

Harrison Turner
pineapple pattern

The Pineapple, and Symbolism

The reason why I chose to create a pineapple wallpaper is not solely based on my obsession for the fruit, but it is also based on the traditional symbolic meaning of the pineapple. In 2013 my family and I had visited the city of Charleston in South Carolina; and one of the major recurring symbols / objects seen around the city was the pineapple. One major monument found in charleston was the pineapple fountain at the waterfront park. This monument was the image that has stayed with me for many years after viewing it on that trip! I asked my mother why there were pineapples everywhere, and she told me that it was the southern symbol for good hospitality. This became my inspiration for the wallpaper project, and once I began working on the this project, I have done my research on the pineapple and it’s symbol to find out more historical and symbolic information. From what I have gathered; pineapples are the American symbol for good hospitality, not just strictly pertaining to the southern states of America. Even from my everyday observation, I have noticed a great deal of pineapples being a decorative component to many other buildings in various states. As a decorative and other symbolic component to my wallpaper I added vines as well, because from my research I have found that there are other fruits, vegetation, plants, etc that all have symbolic meanings. Vines are a representation of life and growth based on the christian religion. I put these two as my main subjects for the wallpaper, because I felt that both of these symbols had positive meanings that paired well together. When creating my this piece, I started out by making various sketches of the pineapple with a very flat representational design, to a modern design, to a fancy decorative design; playing with various colors, and sizes. It took me about 6 to 7 redesigns before I found a style, and color palette that fit the overall aesthetic and purpose that I was trying to achieve. My final design ended up being 3D pineapples on a beige background, with the vines creating small frames for some of them in a repeating pattern in each row. This wallpaper could be found either in a bedroom, or a personal in home office, because of its decorative and fancy appearance.

Jade Ruscio

Growing up in my childhood home my parents had a garden in our backyard. It carried a lot of vegetables and some household herbs that were often used. Basil and parsley, being an Italian household, as well as tomatoes, peppers, and some other staple vegetables. All of the maternal relatives in my family have always been very good plant growers in my life and i have learned a lot from them and their niche. My inspiration for this project, and in my interest in botanics comes from this.

For my wallpaper i decided to look into different plants that i was interested in. I love herbs and the different holistic values that they are given as well. Lavender used for calming, as well as sage used to cleanse, two major ones that i included in this that have a lot of meaning to me and in my anxieties and how i cope with them. Spawning from that i decided to stick to an herb based pattern adding in some bay leaves and thyme which which were visually pleasing, often used, and coincided with this theme well. My pattern was very nice visually at first, and gained more strength once i made my botanical elements more symmetrical. Going from about 7 elements to narrowing it down helped, because it was too busy of a pattern once i looked at it repeated and laid out just as it would be in the big picture fitting a whole wall as wallpaper. I created elements in themselves out of my botanical aspects which allowed me to create more negative space in between one another and gave it a nice look as a pattern. Having that much negative space i changed my background, from what had been consistently white, to a light shade of purple, which looked the strongest visually, and also coincided well with the lavender and sage, which are two of the biggest elements in this design.

Coral Azevedo

Coral Azevedo

My initial goal for this wallpaper was to make something that looked expensive, but modern. I was inspired by intricate Rococo era wallpapers that were only attainable by the very rich. I enjoy the complicated floral patterns and the way some aspects of the design reacted to light differently. After this time in history beautiful wallpaper became affordable for anyone, decreasing its value and making price varied by the nature of the design irrelevant.

When I think of luxury and costly I think of gold and how some of the old wallpaper designs I took inspiration from had parts that reflect light so I used the image of gold in that way. I wanted to make a pattern that was I added gold accents and thought I could make that more modern by making some of the gold drip down off the floral filigree shapes. I started with the same twisted filigree shape, then continuously made more elements for the pattern and added more gold accents. Revisions were more like additions for this design; more elements appeared and evolved as I continued.

I ended up with two versions of the wallpaper. The mint blue was my initial design and I imagined it being in a dining room or sitting room or even a bedroom setting. I wanted a lighter more refreshing color to open up a Space. The red is the inverted colors of blue, came a bit later in the design process. It is much darker and more luxurious and I imagine it being in the same setting at the blue, but for a warmer more comforting mood.

Kaleigh Brann
Wilton wallpaper, featuring shoes

Kaleigh Brann
Wilton wallpaper, 1

The idea for this project was to create a wallpaper and study the great impact wallpaper
has had on interior design as well as the designers of the time. I studied Candace Wheeler, the “founder” of interior design and although never saw herself as a feminist, did make strides to show how intelligent women were and created jobs. She gave me some inspiration for my wallpaper by studying the patterns in her designs.

The Wilton Wallpaper inspiration came from the Bass Shoe Mansions in Wilton Maine. When I was thirteen I was able to tour one of these mansions and drew some of the designs on the wallpaper in my sketch book. The golden flower in my design was seen at this mansion. In the town of Wilton, ME the Bass Shoe Factory was a great industry providing many jobs and fortune to the families of the area during the twentieth century. Towards the end of this century though, the factory left the area leaving Wilton in a rather broke state. Many business now have difficulty staying in business and the mansions often have rooms closed off during the cold winters.

The Wilton Wallpaper was designed with golden flowers from the Bass Shoe Mansions and then little shoes dancing around. The shoes were designed by the Bass Shoe Company, the Rangeley Moccasin and the Bass Shoe Moccasin. These shoes were designed to reflect the same graphic marks of the flowers and are placed together to show how shoes created the wealth that led to the creation and home of this wallpaper flower.

The design process for this took many turns. In the beginning, the wallpaper had a very grid like structure and was on a deep red wallpaper. It took me a while to create a less grid like structure but by researching wallpaper styles I was able to get closer to my finished design. I created a design and then had it repeated to create diamond like shapes repeating. Upon the next class critique, there were some unused spaces that was suggested to me that I try to activate those with the shoes. I created both and I think both are successful. The one with shoes activating the diamonds I feel have a new, crisp feel and the unactivated diamonds has a simpler and more reflective tone.

The Wilton Wallpaper I believe would be placed well in a living room or dining room. The pattern itself contains the history of the town in the twentieth century but carries a more subtle and delicate quality. The wallpaper has a simple cream color and really has to be read into in order to read the story woven into the design. This wallpaper could be located only Wilton too though, wildly narrowing down a customer base, but this is the history of the area. Other people could do research though about Wilton and the wallpaper and who knows, it could be a networking or knowledgeable experience.

This wallpaper personally makes me very happy and brings up feelings of reminiscence. I’ve never really incorporated my hometown into my works. This is where I grew up, all my memories of childhood are located here, so when I view it, no matter where I am, I will be reminded of where I grew up. It’s like bringing a piece of home with me no matter where I am, and if it’s on the walls of my house I think the feeling of home will be even deeper.

Jeremy Rodas
original and Morse code, Barnes Ave.

The Bronx was my home for seven years. I lived in apartment building 2194, Barnes Avenue. The building inspired the design for my wallpaper. By taking a portion of the window reliefs that were scattered about. I started with sketchs of the window reliefs, which eventually went into recreating the sketch in illustrator. At that point I made the decision to focus on a smaller section of the on the reliefs. Which is what the main design of the wallpaper is based on. From the main designs element I created two more designs from it in the form of dots and dashes. The dots and dashes are also used in the second wallpaper design to be international morse code. Repeating Barnes Avenue multiple times giving the secondary elements more reason to exist than just sharing qualities of the main design element of the wallpaper.

The development of Jeremy’s wallpaper is further discussed here.

analytical prototype, 1

Develop a prospectus/analytical prototype of a design solution — or approaches — to a problem (or gap). The solution need not be a designed artifact, but may be a service, or set of procedures (that may involve some artifacts).

Some of us may choose to develop currency (paper money) ideas, as was done in Spring 2016. But the project is open to other realms as well; see the abstracts from Spring 2015.

Your guide is to be the procedures outlined in the chapters of Ulrich that we have read. The final deliverable is a prospectus document, printed or web/adaptive (if printed, multiple pages, may be 8.5 x 11 inches), in which you discuss a perceived gap, definition of the problem, exploration of alternatives, and selection/development of a plan.

Final oral/visual presentations on Monday 8 May.

background reading

For some background ideas, read “Generation Anthropocene : How humans have altered the planet for ever
by Robert Macfarlane. The Guardian. 1 April 2016
(note: available at link above, or read printout distributed last week)

Whatever path you choose (currency, or other), I hope that this essay can inform you selection of gap/problem, and your approach to it. It is a powerful essay, with a lot of critical (and critically important) concepts and terms.


A common defect in design is a failure to understand the gap the user is experiencing. By deliberately defining the design problem, this defect can be avoided. An additional defect is a failure to pose the define challenge broadly enough to allow the exploration and discovery of a wide range of potential solutions. Those two poles — defining the design problem, and posing it broadly enough to allow exploration and discovery — are useful for us.
Karl T. Ulrich, Design : Creation of Artifacts in Society (2005-11)

Identify a gap or hole or shortcoming. Start with a gap in your experience. Define a problem or set of problems.

What kind of problems are there? Ulrich lists them: design problems; selection problems (choose from available alternatives); system improvement problems (modifications); tuning problems (incremental adjustments to parameters of existing artifact); crises (immediate); wicked problems (hard ones, for which even a clear definition is difficult).

We will focus on a design problem.

Start with a problem, not the thing you think you want to make/design — even if known to you (i.e., “paper” currency). What you want to make may be only one of many possible solutions, and not necessarily the appropriate one in some circumstances. Or maybe there are multiple solutions, a set of solutions.

Not everyone starts with a gap, in design. Sometimes one starts with an artifact, or a chemical, etc., a new technology, and looks for gaps that it might fulfill. Perhaps we have a new skill we want to try out. This is called technology push. Our focus on the “gap” needn’t exclude the artifact/technology for which we want to find a use.

things, and more things

We tend to think of artifact, but perhaps the solution is not one more artifact. After all, the world is full of artifacts (that accumulate to become clutter, that get in our way, indeed are a visual reminder of our restlessness, that we seek to satisfy by acquisition, and that only increase that restlessness). Our solution may be intangible, a change in behavior. Yet there would need to be means by which behavior might be encouraged to change: another design challenge.

Problem hierarchies.

Levitt’s line that >people buy 1/4 drill bits but need 1/4 inch holes. What they really need is to fasten a book shelf to a wall.

Desirable qualities in the artifact. Needs (list, Ulrich writes it might contain 300 to 100 desired qualities)
Stakeholders (for whom? multiple? same or conflicting needs?)
There are actual needs, needs the user can articulate, needs the designer can understand, needs that the designed artifact actually fulfills. Then gap between actual and fulfilled needs, andback to the process of iterative refinement.


Remember Ulrich’s array of roof pitches, layouts, etc., in his “shed world” discussion?

the prospectus

Our prospectus is the manifestation of our analytical prototype.

It will be developed from documentation of our exploration of gaps, problem definition, exploration of alternatives, selection of plans, refinements.

Think of it as the presentation you make to clients, funders, other members of a team, investors. It needs to look good, suggest thoroughness and seriousness, openness to conversation/change. It needs to be clear.

design a reflective conversation with the situation
— Donald Schön

ornament and function / the wallpaper exercise

For Wednesday, 22 February, read —

Adolf Loos, his essays “Ornament and Crime” (1908/1929) and “The Poor Little Rich Man” (1900), and
Hal Foster his elaboration of Loos in his “Design and Crime” (2002), which originally appeared as “Hey, That’s Me” — a review of Bruce Mau’s Life Style (Phaidon, 2000), in the London Review of Books 23:7 (5 April 2001): 13-14).

And continue with Ulrich, Chapter 7 “Aesthetics and Design” in his Design : Creation of Artifacts in Society (2005-11).

Grotesk-Tapete aus dem 1. Obergeschoß des Hinterhauses, um 1870.

Grotesk-Tapete aus dem 1. Obergeschoß des Hinterhauses, um 1870.
ex Jürgen Beyer, Historische Papiertapeten in Weimar. Bad Homburg : Verlag Ausbildung + Wissen / Arbeitshefte des Thüringischen Landesamtes für Denkmalpflege 3 (1993).

the wallpaper exercise

As discussed last week, our first extended project involves the design of wallpaper / room treatment. The exercise includes the development of a prospectus outlining the situation to be addressed by the wallpaper; that document will naturally evolve over the course of the exercise.

Why wallpaper?

Wallpaper is an intersection point for several themes of concern to us —

Ornament — its relationship to beauty, appropriateness, and topical discussions of ornament in the nineteenth century, following the Great Exhibition of 1851, and leading to the major rejections of ornament by Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, and others, early in the 20th century;

Wallpaper is an industrial product (becoming available to a new and rapidly growing middle class in the mid 19th century, thanks to large rotary steam presses, roll-fed paper, and other factors. As a designed industrial product, it lends itself to the kinds of method we have been exposed to in Ulrich’s Design : Creation of Artifacts (2005-11).

Wallpaper design lends itself to new and traditional tools of design and production; some students have worked with dyes (indigo, for example); others have experimented with code (e.g., processing).

Specifications for this exercise have evolved over the years; we can proceed on the basis of instructions for 2015. We are as interested in purpose and problem definition, as we are in the aesthetic outcome.

Perusal of the archive of previous years’ course blogs will be instructive. Much student work from previous years can be viewed via these links —

2015 (pdf; 1.2 MB)

readings, extracts

David Brett, On Decoration (1992) –
The desire for decoration, however, appears to be a cultural constant and is, historically, one of the defining characteristics of specific cultures.

Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier (written between 1508 and 1528, when it was first published; Charles H. Singleton translation, 1959) –
…to practice in all things a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it. And I believe much grace comes of this…

Hal Foster, “Design and Crime” (2002)
originally appeared under title “Hey, that’s me,” a review of Bruce Mau’s Life Style (Phaidon, 2000), in the London Review of Books 23:7 (5 April 2001): 13-14

Isabelle Frank, introduction to her The Theory of Decorative Art : An Anthology of European & American Writings, 1750-1940 (Yale UP, 2000) : 5-10 –
The Crystal Palace exhibition helped transform decorative art from a domain of relatively limited interest into one of public consequence, exposing for all to see the relative merits and weaknesses of national products.

David Gelernter, Machine Beauty : Elegance and the heart of technology (1998) : 22 –
Beauty is the ultimate defense against complexity. Beauty is our most reliable guide…

Lesley Hoskins, The Papered Wall : History, Pattern, Technique (1994, 2005) –
Ever since wallpaper first became widely available its status has been questioned: is it background or foreground, art or decoration, vulgar or respectable, a substitute or the real thing?

Adolf Loos, “Ornament and Crime” (1908/1929), in Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime : Selected Essays (1998). –
The urge to decorate one’s face and anything else within reach is the origin of the fine arts. It is the childish babble of painting…. A person of our times who gives way to the urge to daub the walls with erotic symbols is a criminal or a degenerate…. the evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornamentation from objects of everyday use.

Alice Twemlow. “The Decriminalization of ornament. Spurned and marginalised for a century, decoration is enjoying a guilt-free renaissance.” Eye 58 (Winter 2005) : 18-29

“Ornament,” from Ralph Nicholson Wornum’s “The Exhibition as a Lesson in Taste,” published with other essays at the end of The Great Exhibition : The Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue : The Industry of All Nations (1851) : pp xxi-xxii, from Section ix.

update 6 February 2016

for today —

Read Ulrich Chapter 2, “Problem Solving and Design.”
and present emblem exercise.

last week —

Gui Bonsieppe. “Visual-Verbal Rhetoric” in his Interface : An Approach to Design (1999) : 69-82
Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric (J. H. Freese translation, 1967) : marked passages in pages 13-41
Plato, the passage entitled “Rhetoric, Actual and Ideal,” from The Phaedrus (266d-274)
the passage in Castiglione’s The Courtier (1528), on the art that hides its art, but the dangers thereof.
Robin Kinross, on the “modern”, in Fellow Readers (1994) — “…an immaculate surface that leaves no room for dialogue…”

Wednesday, we considered the Renaissance (and later) emblem form (Alciati to the present), and the idea of the ABC structure (motto, allegorical image, secondary/explanatory text). We also looked for triadic forms in magazine ads, and found them everywhere.

a quick exercise —

develop three emblems, one (textual) element of which should incorporate a phrase from our reading on and around rhetoric, and design. no size limit. ideally, the emblems will, in their unique configurations of elements, lead to or encourage new knowledge and/or ideas.


The constructed space is open in all directions.
Architecture begins before architecture.

Heinz Tesar (1939- , *), Notate

Our first day, the instructor will discuss the overall shape of the class, and introduce the first readings —

  • Vilém Flusser’s essay “On the word design,” in his The Shape of Things : A Philosophy of Design (1999)
  • the OED definitions of the word “design” (noun)
  • the first (introductory) chapter of Karl T. Ulrich’s Design : Creation of Artifacts in Society (2011).
  • Norman Potter, “Is the Designer an Artist?” (1969) in Alex Coles, ed., Design (Documents of Contemporary Art, 2007): 29-33

Our first exercise will be to select a designed object, research it — its intended purpose, its function (what it does), dimensions, material qualities, and perhaps precursors, patents, designer, uses, misuses, where found, its current condition (and what that might suggest about its use, value), etc., etc. — and then develop a way to present this information. In recent years, we have used The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design as our model; this time, the design will be up to you. We will look at some examples (Jenny Odell her Bureau of Suspended Objects, Phaidon Archive), but these are not intended to limit you.

Bring in the item, and what you’ve learned about it and its being situated in the world, on Monday 23 January.

Also, write — and bring in (or post to this blog) — a one-page response to at least one of the readings.

We may use the third floor walls for this first exercise (16 January through 7 February), or the second floor walls (for this or other work) during the period 8-21 February.