The Human Footprint

Per Square Mile is a neat blog on population densities and it’s impact on society, life and our planet Earth. Earlier this year, it posted an infographic on how much space the world’s total population would occupy if everyone lived at the same population density as that of a select few cities. I would love to see a representation on Mumbai’s density. I haven’t done the math, but I would imagine we could all fit in Delaware!

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Daydreaming

If I was lucky enough to have a vacation home it would have to be a summer cottage by the water and I wouldn’t mind if it looked like this:



Two interior designers from Los Angeles fell in love with Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island and built this simple Scandinavian-style cottage on a hilltop. Charming, sweeping views and seclusion…definitely my top requirements for a dream home. See more pictures and read the article here in NYT’s Home & Garden section.

Combating Misconception

This compelling infographic, The True Size of Africa, from Information is Beautiful, has been online for a while, but I wanted to post it here. I think it’s a great example of how well-designed data visualization can educate people and erase their misconceptions. To be honest, I didn’t know that Africa was this big until I saw this infographic, despite having quite a few geography lessons and pop map quizzes in high school. And yes, I know Africa is a continent and it is being compared to countries here, but a chart like this should accompany world maps in classrooms, if this is what they look like:

Read about the Mercator projection (and its distortion issue) here if you’re interested.

Design Speak

Dilbert, as relevant today as in the 90s

Each industry overuses certain words and phrases. e.g., win-win, synergies, touching base, etc. Design has a large number of buzz words that I am getting really tired of. I inwardly cringe every time I hear or read words like:

Conversations
Authentic
Meaningful
Impactful
Inspired

…Enough already.

Just do an internet search with the following in the search box “design firm meaningful impactful” and you’ll see what I mean. Throw in “inspired” for even more fun.

To an outsider, it all sounds pretentious. To me, clichéd and boring. Sometimes, buzzwords are essential to getting your point across, but usually, plain English is the best. When communication is filled with buzzwords, it suggests an inability to think and communicate clearly…or conduct a meaningful conversation. Kidding.

Ergonomic is Beautiful

I’ve been looking for an ergonomic computer desk for a long time now. Until recently, I could only find flat-out ugly ones like this one:

Yikes!

But my long-suffering shoulders have kept me on the search and recently, I came across Heckler Design’s OneLessDesk. It instantly made its way to the top of my wish list. This intuitively designed desk is minimalist, made of stainless steel and comes in two parts – an upper deck for your screen and a lower deck for your keyboard. The lower deck slips easily under the upper desk, which is pretty awesome for city apartments like mine where space is limited. The back of the top desk has a hidden shelf to store wires and accessories tidily and out of sight. And most importantly for me, the lower desk is at a height where I don’t have to reach up with my arms to type and use a mouse.

The price is pretty steep (go figure), but I haven’t been able to find another ergonomic desk that comes close to Heckler’s. This really makes me wonder though…aren’t we at a point now when office furniture should be well-designed for humans? Badly designed desks and chairs can cause discomfort, pain and even serious injury. Given the amount of hours we now spend at out desks, there should be more options in the market.

Window shopping

Tiffany Morgan Clutch

Simple, elegant, classy…and way too expensive. But a girl can dream…

Since starting school, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is to look closely at what grabs my attention. Whatever this item is, it will probably reflect my personal design style (line, form, color palette, etc.), even if it hasn’t emerged in my actual work yet.

Financial Literacy

Jeff Parker, Florida Today

I missed this New York Times article by Paul Sullivan on money camps for kids, but my classmate Kelly was thoughtful enough to share it with me in class today. Thanks Kelly! I’ve been toying with a few ideas for my thesis. At the moment, my most well-thought out topic is documenting the South Asian diaspora, but I’m not fully committed to it yet. I realize I have commitment issues (hah), but articles like this make my mind spin in a different direction…

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, most teachers do not feel equipped to teach students about personal finance, even when states require it. A study published in 2009 by two researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, called “Teachers’ Background and Capacity to Teach Personal Finance,” found that 80 percent of states had some sort of requirement for personal financial education, but that most teachers did not feel qualified to teach a financial literacy course. [Paul Sullivan, NYT)

The 2008 credit crisis occurred for many reasons. Many mistakes were made, ones that shouldn’t be repeated. Scarily enough, I’ve come across many people, who to this day, can’t articulate what went wrong, just that it ended badly.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Enough said.

You could argue that my background makes it easier for me to understand, but the concepts involved aren’t exactly rocket science. The problem lies in our schools and universities – they don’t offer any sort of financial education other than to those majoring in finance. And even then, it’s a lot of market theory, not practical, real-life sense.

I’ve seen college students bounce checks and rack up huge credit card bills. I’ve worked with people who contribute to their 401(k)s without any understanding of what a stock is. Subsequently, they were the ones hurt the most when credit card rates went through the roof and retirement portfolios took a nosedive.

I believe that learning about the ancient Romans, making sentence diagrams and understanding molecular biology are an important of education. But so is financial literacy. Yet, it isn’t being taught. Thousands of Americans were taken in by dishonest brokers and banks in the lead up to the crisis. I strongly believe that not as many would have taken on risky mortgages if they had basic financial knowledge.

I think design can play a role in teaching people of all ages basic financial concepts. It’s something I’m interested in exploring more, even if it’s not for my thesis…