Big news from IDEO.org: the fledgling nonprofit has used a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop HCD Connect, a new platform for people who are taking a human-centered approach to poverty-related challenges around the world. Initially focused on agricultural development, the foundation’s support of HCD (human-centered design) Connect now includes a number of issues that affect low-income communities. The still-in-beta hub for discussion about problems being tackled is designed to connect people and projects, from reimagining a Philadelphia charter school to creating business models for selling water and hygiene products in Kenya. In a few months, community members will be able to apply for microgrants to initiate or implement projects. Intrigued? Arm yourself with IDEO’s handy-dandy HCD Toolkit, geared for organizations and individuals who want to use design methodology to innovate and solve problems in the social sector.
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Regular readers of UnBeige will recall our bordering-on-unhealthy love of documentaries and tote bags (not to mention Antiques Roadshow and dramatic reenactments of say, life on the road with the Donner Party), so it will come as no surprise that we are regular viewers of public television. We grew up with WTVS, spent our college years checking in with WGBH, and now tune into WNET, better known as Thirteen. So we’re excited to tell you about PBS Arts, a just-launched website that aims to explore the creative process through virtual exhibits, videos from PBS national and local programs, and interactive features. PBS tells us that the site will feature at least one new exhibition per month, with content spanning all genres of the visual and performing and arts, including painting, sculpture, film, photography, dance, and theater.
The initial offerings of PBS Arts include a virtual exhibition of the work of New Orleans-based artist Thomas Mann, an Art:21-curated look at how contemporary artists have reacted to the news of the day, and the documentary we told you about earlier this month—Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio—PBS has made the full film available to view online. “For 40 years, we’ve used television to give the public a front-row seat to the world’s greatest cultural experiences, and now PBS Arts will help us achieve this goal online,” said Paula A. Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, in a statement announcing the new site. “PBS Arts will also allow us to transport audiences from these front-row seats and give them opportunities to interact with artists and share their experiences of being engaged and enriched by the arts.”
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Sure, UnBeige is published online, but we actually compose all of our posts on a pair of candy apple red Olivetti typewriters before turning them over to Eero, our technology-savvy web monkey, who somehow beams them into cyberspace (he also handles all of our links). Now Eero tells us that UnBeige and the rest of the mediabistro.com blog family have joined the future with mobile-optimized sites that are easily browsable on your iPhone, Blackberry, or Palm. Should you routinely carry one of these devices on your person, you need only type unbeige.com into the browser to be automatically redirected to our mobile-friendly page. The mobile optimizations are in beta, notes Eero, so if you have any problems reading UnBeige on the go, please drop us an e-mail.
Back in January, we passed on news of the sparkling new pay-per-use public toilet, the first of its kind in New York City, in Pentagram‘s backyard—that is, Madison Square Park. The self-cleaning Jetsonian marvel, which features Paula Scher‘s endlessly versatile identity for the park and which we lovingly referred to as Pentagram’s “intern toilet,” is a hit!
According to The New York Times, the seven-month-old, newsstand-sized, “high-end outhouse…has proved to be a popular attraction, with about five people each hour popping in a quarter to use it during its hours of operation, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.” (But how does the City employee tasked with emptying the coffers resist the urge to “reinvest” those quarters at the nearby Shake Shack?)
Constructed by Spanish firm Cemusa, the toilet is the first of 20 slated for New York. And while the pioneering Madison Square Park version is a success with most people, one architect was befuddled by its workings. According to the Times, “Jayson Durango, 27, a regular user of Starbucks and Quiznos bathrooms when he is on the go, said he was confused by the array of buttons inside the toilet—one to flush, one for emergencies, another to open the door.”
Design is everywhere. Increasingly, it’s becoming accessible to everyone. UnBeige will examine the social and cultural impact of design, without getting too highbrow about it.
I am not a designer myself, but I’ve worked with designers for years and years, and know well how integral good design is to creating a good experience for an audience. That audience might be reading a web site, looking at a magazine, walking into a retail establishment, or buying a Metrocard in a subway station – wherever they are design is a critical component to their emotional reaction, to their ability to parse information and to how memorable their experience is overall.
The goal of UnBeige.com is to expose the process of design to a broader audience. We’ll have interviews with prominent designers, industry gossip & rumors, crits of newly unveiled projects, magazine roundups and, of course, links to interesting design information elsewhere on the web. As with any good blog, a lot of the stuff we post will come from our readers. Email your suggestions to jen AT unbeige DOT com.