adaptive

Thoughts on universal design / 1 comment

I recently spoke to a student about the goals of the One Laptop per Child user interface, and was surprised at how difficult it was to answer the question as to how I felt about taking a ‘universal’ design approach. I was quick to defend my belief in universal design as a means by which to broaden access to, or appreciation of, any designed object, acknowledging that design is necessarily subjective. Yet on further reflection, is universality ever achievable? Is it presumptuous, as designers, to think that we could design an interface that would be universally understandable?

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On the integrity of an object

With any adaptation comes conflict and contradiction. A change to an existing object may threaten to change its perception as a particular kind of thing, fundamentally altering the perception of what it is.

As I continue to evolve my definition of adaptability, I keep returning to the object as a fundamental element. Our recognition of an object as a type is based on what I will call its class integrity—the degree to which its attributes overlap with those of its object class. As an object adapts in form and shape, its semantic qualities must predominantly match those of its object class, in order for it to be continuously recognized as a particular type. read the rest of this entry

Visualization as navigation / 1 comment

Stamen Design, Digg Labs Big Spy Visualization

Stamen Design, Digg Labs Big Spy Visualization

Following the train of thought from Browsing informal hierarchies, this post investigates visualization as navigation. When can navigation double as visualization and provide the user with visual cues reflecting the organization of content on a web site or another digital media device? Already in use on many web sites, informal hierarchies have the potential to replace the widely used static, tabular navigation and its often arbitrarily determined categories with a more flexible and adaptive device, one which not only is more effective in orienting users within a particular hierarchy, but is also an iconic representation of the web site itself, providing a distinct visual identity which people will recognize.

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The boundaries of a development / 3 comments

Atlantic Yards boundaries

Atlantic Yards boundaries

The approval of the controversial Atlantic Yards development has renewed my interest in political and economic boundaries. At a pivotal point in Brooklyn, this project will dramatically transform the character of the area by drawing new business and creating economic growth. The development promises to create a sense of place from an urban void—the yards, which are inaccessible to the public, and currently separate four communities.

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Urban constants and variables

The urban environment is a container of information. Anything can be treated as information, in as far as it is quantifiable.

As Aldo Rossi points out in The Architecture of the City, the city consists of Urban Artifacts, the constants in the changing urban fabric. As an adaptive construct, the city contains both constants and variables. The constants, however large or small, tangible or intangible, provide a parametric framework through which the city defines itself.
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