Design

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The Legend of the QWERTY Keyboard

In the 1860s, a politician, printer, newspaper man, and amateur inventor in Milwaukee by the name of Christopher Latham Sholes spent his free time developing various machines to make his businesses more efficient. One such invention was an early typewriter, which he developed with Samuel W. Soulé, James Densmore, and Carlos Glidden, and first patented in 1868. The earliest typewriter keyboard resembled a piano and was built with an alphabetical arrangement of 28 keys. The team surely assumed it would be the most efficient arrangement. After all, anyone who used the keyboard would know immediately where to find each letter; hunting would be reduced, pecking would be increased. Why change things? This is where the origin of QWERTY gets a little foggy.

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The second shuttle launch (STS-27) after the Challenger disaster almost ended in disaster.

One report describes the crew as “infuriated” that Mission Control seemed unconcerned. When Commander Gibson saw the damage he thought to himself, “We are going to die”, and did not believe that the shuttle would survive reentry; if instruments indicated that the shuttle was disintegrating, he planned to “tell mission control what I thought of their analysis” in the remaining seconds before his death.

The shuttle Atlantis actually sustained more damage than what would bring down Columbia in 2003. The Top Secret payload (a surveillance satellite for the US DOD) meant that communication with the ground was done using a slower method of encryption which could have resulted in lower quality images for analysis (eg. higher compression for faster transmission over a slow line).

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How Amsterdam’s Airport Is Fighting Noise Pollution With Land Art

For years, residents complained about the incessant rumbling din produced every time an aircraft took off. This type of noise, called ground-level noise, propagates across the flat and featureless Haarlemmermeer landscape that has nothing in between—no hills, no valleys— to disrupt the path of the sound waves. When the airport opened its longest runway in 2003, residents could hear the din more than 28 km away.

To tackle the noise problem, the airport brought in an unlikely candidate—an architecture firm called H+N+S Landscape Architects and artist Paul De Kort.

Screenshot 2018-09-09 11.08.41

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Neuroarchitecture

We now know, for example, that buildings and cities can affect our mood and well-being, and that specialised cells in the hippocampal region of our brains are attuned to the geometry and arrangement of the spaces we inhabit.
Yet urban architects have often paid scant attention to the potential cognitive effects of their creations on a city’s inhabitants. The imperative to design something unique and individual tends to override considerations of how it might shape the behaviours of those who will live with it. That could be about to change.

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The GIF is dead. Long live the GIF.

The GIF as an art form—a short and silent loop—has never been more popular than it is right now. Yet the GIF as a filetype, the way we store the library of ones and zeros that computers translate into animation, is quietly embattled. Behind the scenes, a war to exterminate it has been raging for years, and it never really ended. All these years after Burn All GIFs Day, the GIF remains both deeply flawed and yet strangely irreplaceable. Whether this latest frenzy of GIF popularity enshrines it forever or kills it for good, you can be damn sure we’ll never see anything quite like it again.

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The Unreal, Eerie Emptiness of China’s ‘Ghost Cities’

Well, almost nobody. Kangbashi is one of hundreds of sparkling new cities sitting relatively empty throughout China, built by a government eager to urbanize the country but shunned by people unable to afford it or hesitant to leave the rural communities they know. Chicago photographer Kai Caemmerer visited Kangbashi and two other cities for his ongoing series Unborn Cities. The photos capture the eerie sensation of standing on a silent street surrounded by empty skyscrapers and public spaces devoid of life. “These cities felt slightly surreal and almost uncanny,” Caemmerer says, “which I think is a product of both the newness of these places and the relative lack of people within them.”

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The Illusion of Time

Designing digital experiences comes with an ingrained obsession. The obsession of speed and performance. Amazon calculated that an increased loading time of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. Google loses about 8 million searches (and ad displays) when page speed decreases by just four tenths of a second — scary shit!