Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Technology's global spread"/ "Art in the garden"


Jul. 20, 2017 "Technology's global spread": Today I found this article by Matthew Hague in the Globe and Mail:





Computer-aided design, or CAD, programs are as new to the world as bell-bottom pants and disco. Architects and designers started trading in their mechanical pencils and drafting tables in the 1970s – around the same time computerized dating started to vie for the place traditionally held by boozy nightclubs and well-meaning matchmakers (hi, grandma).

These days, though, the technology has been updated so drastically that it would be hard to compare the current incarnations to its predecessors (it would be a bit like putting a Tesla next to a Pinto). More than merely assisting creative professionals draw out their ideas, software programs are now helping generate the very ideas and products themselves. Computers are coming up with building layouts, package designs and furniture that are as creative or better than what humans can envision on their own.

“It’s a radical departure from what we’ve been using for the last 40 years,” says Francesco Iorio, director of computational science research at Autodesk, which develops CAD software. Later this year, a program that Iorio has been working on called Generative Design will hit the market, and, according to him, will act more like “an actual partner” in the design process rather than a passive tool. In effect, designers will be able to ask the software questions and get optimal answers back.

The program has already produced a muscular, Gaudi-esque chair called the Elbo.
Rather than coming up with the shape of the seat themselves, a design team used the software to determine the best structure given certain parameters – height, material, loads.

The legs and arms mimic forms found in nature, such as bones, which have been optimized through evolution to withstand the forces of the world. In essence, the program came up with a design “that was most fit to survive,” says Iorio, by learning from the world around it.
“The results can be surprising,” says Iorio, “because the program isn’t constrained by biases.”

Such algorithm-based software is also a way of developing mass-customized goods – broadly available items that are uniquely different for each shopper.

For example, Nutella, in partnership with HP, recently used an algorithm to generate more than seven million unique package designs to be sold across Italy.

Each one is singular, though they share a similarly jubilant aesthetic – a bit like someone has taken close-up photos of confetti as it has fallen through the sky.

It would have taken a massive team of designers an impossible amount of time and mental energy to achieve the feat.

But “the program has no limit,” according to Lavinia Francia, client creative director at Nutella’s ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather, Italy, which oversaw the project.

“It starts choosing one out of four different textures and it zooms in on it or out and/or rotates. Then it crops the selection and creates a unique sleeve. So the number of unique labels is technically infinite.”

That said, there’s still a place for people in the process.

To ensure that no meme-worthy, phallic shapes unintentionally made it onto a child’s sandwich spread, “a Nutella employee checked on every jar,” Francia says.

And a “check was made on every pattern that was mixed by the algorithm to make sure the final result would be appropriate.” (The program was so popular that all seven million jars sold out within a month).

Architect Alexis Rivas also believes there is an important, enduring role for people to play in algorithm-generated designs. He’s the co-founder of Cover, a Los Angeles-based company that builds custom backyard studios, cottages and pool houses using algorithms and robots.

“Many people’s first instinct is the fear of computers taking over all of our jobs,” he says. “But the software we use helps our team put all our time and effort into well-considered details, and the touch and feel of our spaces.”

Rivas, along with his lead designer Thomas Heyer, have devised a way, using a proprietary software, to take the desires of their clients (captured in a questionnaire) and generate a fully articulated plan in as little as three days. “We have worked closely with the guys optimizing the software,” Heyer says, “to design a set of building blocks – fixed details, how corners come together and integrated storage. Those details are taken by the software as Lego blocks and assembled into a custom design."
One of the benefits of this kind of technology-enabled standardization is that it brings the price of the design down. Cover’s initial consultations cost less than the price of an iPhone and the structures start in the low six figures, despite the sharp, California aesthetic more commonly associated with million-dollar homes in the Hollywood Hills.


“That’s the beauty of the tech available to us today,” Heyer says. “It makes high-quality design accessible to a lot more people.”

Dutch designer Merel Bekking isn’t just interested in using technology to make high-quality design, but design that is “technically perfect.” And instead of algorithms, she uses machines that help her get directly into the minds of those she is designing for – literally.

She uses MRI scanners to access the desires that are trapped deep within our brains.
“The reason I use MRIs is because I wanted to know what people really think,” Bekking says. “I know that if you ask people questions they are always prone to give socially desirable answers or maybe they don’t really know what they like, and so on. But if you put people in MRI scanners, you look at how their brain reacts,” without a filter.










For a recent project, she used MRIs of one of the world’s top design editors – Marcus Fairs, who founded the popular website Dezeen – to create a chair that was perfect for him.
“Marcus was shown pictures of different materials, shapes, objects and colours,” Bekking says, “while his brain activation was measured using a 3 Tesla MRI-scanner.”

From the experiment, Bekking learned that Fairs’ brain “had a preference for orange, for closed, round shapes, for plastic and for chairs,” Bekking says. “But these ingredients were all loose ingredients. They still had to be put together.” So Bekking put together what looks like a giant, orange pill pierced on a stick, cracked open so Fairs could perch in the middle.

Curiously, though, Fairs did not like the chair, asking Bekking to take it away from his house shortly after she delivered it to his London home. “The research results were completely solid,” she said, but “as soon as he realized he had to defend to others that this is what his subconscious likes, he really started to hate it. I think this is really fascinating.”

For Bekking, using technology to create a scientifically perfect design process has also left her with a curious reaction: “Forget all the target groups, forget numbers, scientific research and big data,” she says. “I think you should trust your designer’s instinct and make beautiful things because you really feel your ideas, not because you think it will please most people.”


"Art in the garden: placing the right work in the right spot": Today I found this article by Katherine Kono in the Globe and Mail:

For many landscape designers and homeowners, a garden isn't complete without the right art. But how do you find the right spot for a piece of outdoor art and choose the plants to complement it?

The first step is finding a work that really speaks to you, and then "allow the art to help define the landscape," says landscape architect Edmund Hollander. He recommends working with an artist or gallery, when possible, to create a relationship between artwork and garden.

"It's really not so different from the relationship between a house and its surrounding landscape," he says.

Susan Lowry, coauthor with Nancy Berner of "Private Gardens of the Bay Area" (The Monacelli Press, October 2017), says art in a garden should enhance its surroundings.

"Scale, texture and light all play off the object, and there is also an emotional content that influences how we see the garden itself," she says.

Less is more, she cautions: "We have seen many a garden ruined by too many extraneous voices jumbled into the frame."

The most common mistake when placing art in gardens, Hollander warns, is "sticking a work where there's too much other stuff. It's as if a museum hung a painting on a wallpapered wall instead of on a white one."

So experts recommend that works be placed against quiet backdrops like evergreens, hedges or lawns.

Karen Daubmann, associate vice president for exhibitions and public engagement at the New York Botanical Garden, has helped design plantings around works by glass artist Dale Chihuly and others. The principles for selecting and showing art in a home garden are similar, she says.

"It's nice to go for something as a larger focal point — something you can see from your window and enjoy all year round, and then some smaller works that you only discover up close," she says.

"And when you're decided where to place something, don't forget to look up. It's a nice surprise to look up and see a pergola, chandelier or lantern."

Most important, Daubmann says, is to choose art you really love. "Chances are, if you're placing it in a garden you have designed and planted yourself, it will work, because it's the same aesthetic," she says.

Keep in mind when and from where the work will be viewed. From the kitchen window? The living room? If you'll be viewing it at night, consider lighter colors, she says.

"White glass or white flowers make for a great moonlight garden, while dark blues will tend to get lost in the evening," Daubmann says. "A mossy, shaded garden can be spiced up quite a lot with light colored art."

And the artwork doesn't have to be expensive. "I sometimes find wonderful pieces in antique shops or at barn sales that really spark my imagination," Daubmann says.

Hilary Lewis, chief curator and creative director at The Glass House, Philip Johnson's iconic house and surrounding landscape and structures in New Canaan, Connecticut, helps plan the installations there.She says works should be visible from various parts of the property, should feel like an extension of the landscape, and should draw people in.

For inspiration, experts suggest visiting sculpture gardens, museums or botanical gardens.
"There are lots of sculpture gardens of all kinds around these days, and the combination of landscape and art, when done right, can be very inspiring," Hollander says.


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