April 2014

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Recent Posts

  1. 3-Way Street Part of New Approach to Driver's Ed
    Saturday, November 19, 2011
  2. Ideopolis: Design Solutions From a Fresh Perspective
    Saturday, September 10, 2011
  3. Google+ To Fix Facebook's Failures?
    Saturday, August 13, 2011
  4. America Close To The Bone
    Sunday, July 31, 2011
  5. A Left-Brain, Right-Brain Disconnect
    Wednesday, June 15, 2011
  6. 3-Way Street follow up
    Friday, June 10, 2011
  7. NYC Goes Three Ways
    Thursday, June 02, 2011
  8. Designers as Entrepreneurs
    Wednesday, May 18, 2011
  9. Problems With "The Experiment"
    Sunday, May 01, 2011
  10. Reentry
    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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  7. Sara P on NYC Goes Three Ways
  8. Gail Anderson on 3-Way Street Part of New Approach to Driver's Ed
  9. Christopher Gray on 3-Way Street follow up
  10. Funny Facebook Status on Google+ To Fix Facebook's Failures?

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3-Way Street Part of New Approach to Driver's Ed

3-Way Street is working with the National Institute of Driver Behavior to be part of a paradigm shift nationwide to make users of streets more attentive to space management. With a continually increasing bicycle population, all street users — pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists — need to learn new rules.

The NIDB has developed the first 21st century curriculum for teaching drivers how to stay out of crashes, and will produce a series of more than 100 online training programs. A three-prong approach to education — for licensed drivers, for novice teens learning to drive, and for pre-teens — will for the first time in the U.S. give drivers more extensive training than merely passing a DMV exam. The program will first be offered to middle schools for teaching pre-teens how to be responsible pedestrians, bicyclists and car passengers.

The 3-Way Street campaign will be a part of the curriculum focusing on the points of conflict in intersections. The wording of posters has shifted from a New York City focus to a national focus, and the opening sequence of the 3-Way Street video has been edited to a general focus on the dangers of ALL intersections in what the NIDB refers to as the "Danger Square". 

In addition to working with DOTs nationwide, the NIDB works with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the possibility exists for the 3-Way Street campaign to be offered to the states. 

My goal for the 3-Way Street campaign was to partner with an organization with educational expertise. I am happy to work with the NIDB, and Professor Frederik R. Mottola, the executive director. 

Ideopolis: Design Solutions From a Fresh Perspective

Here's a link to Ideopolis, the website home of thesis projects from the 2011 School of Visual Arts MFA Design department. The program is where 3-Way Street incubated before unleashing in June, in the company of other designers looking for solutions to problems both profound and personal.

Google+ To Fix Facebook's Failures?

I am eagerly awaiting the launch of Google+.

Facebook changed the way people can communicate, but the user interface is terrible and deserves to go down. 

Some of the things I hate about Facebook:

•Organizing friends into groups who would receive a specific post tailored to them is difficult if not impossible. I sure-as-heck can't figure out how to do so.

•Getting Tagged in someone else's photo immediately posts that image to your home page without your permission and puts immediate pressure on you to drop everything and to remove the tag, especially if the photo is horrendous.

•Self promotion and corporate marketing have taken over and sucked the fun out of everything.

•A 'personal' post on someone's wall goes completely public. I've read countless posts that were clearly meant as private, and Facebook sees fit to launch all wall posts into the news feed. 

•If privacy is desired, the message feature can be used, but it is redundant. It sends the recipient an email saying that I've sent them a message. How stupid is that? It's all about Facebook elbowing into the email business.

•What constitutes "Top News" on Facebook, anyway?

From what I've seen from Google+ so far, the user interface is top priority. Most appealing to me is the circles feature for organizing friends, and easily pinpointing exactly who gets what post. It would be great to be able to launch a spontaneous post without worrying who's gonna get offended.

It's inexcusable that Facebook has never improved its UX. Maybe it'll go the way of the printed Yellow Pages and become a huge phone book in the cloud, with millions and millions of 'users', but irrelevant — because once you're in you can't get out. But the 'numbers' will continue to be there as far as media and advertising and corporate culture is concerned.

UPDATE: On Thursday Facebook instituted changes such as being able to specify who you can 'Hide' uploads from. Great news, but why has something so fundamental taken so long to institute? That said, the controls are buried under the padlock menu and clunky to navigate. You have to sift through your friends list and manually select who gets edited away—a very time-consuming process when trying to upload a status update on the fly. But questions remain: since every activity is reported on your wall, wouldn't someone you shielded from a certain upload be able to see it on your wall later, anyway?

The New York Times reported on Wednesday Facebook also changed the protocol when you are Tagged in a photo. You will now be able to approve a photo before appears on your personal wall. Imagine that. The Times reports, "Facebook dismissed the notion that the changes were fueled by competition."

Yeah, right.

America Close To The Bone

Okay, our national inability to solve difficult problems due to political dysfunction is now officially scary.

A refusal to raise the debt ceiling for 'ideological reasons' ignores America's connection to economies throughout the world, and assumes we somehow control unforeseen events. We don't. 

In the same way a streak of bad luck can ruin an individual — losing a job, then falling ill, then losing a home — the same thing can happen to a country. Even if creditors could somehow be paid without raising the debt ceiling, our country is now so financially strapped that all it would take is an unforeseen natural disaster to unleash a chaotic, downward spiral. According to Munich Re, a German reinsurance company, Hurricane Katrina cost $125 billion in economic damage, Japan's mega-disaster cost $210 billion by the end of June.

The damage from our economic crisis is too enormous to suddenly wish it away and self-righteously declare we can't have more debt. Blinders off: It's way too late for that. 

It's also time to realize the economic crisis is so enormous only fools could expect it to be neatly solved by the next president-elect after George W. Bush. This baby may end up burning through two or three Presidencies before it's tamed.

A Left-Brain, Right-Brain Disconnect

I've been surrounded by creative types for years, so I pretty much forgot how differently we process information from our 'left brain' counterparts. (Left brain traits: logic, fact & detail oriented, linear thinking. Right brain traits: feeling, 'big picture' oriented, conceptual thinking).

Some negative comments with similar themes exposed areas of disconnect with my 3-Way Street video. Here's a few examples:

From a factual perspective, the video must be presented as time lapse over a measured period to accurately count numbers of infractions and by whom. This would be the ideal, except it makes for boring video given a 3-minute opportunity to make a connection.

This is New York, and you are wimp, so go back to where you came from. Yes, crazy traffic can be expected in big cities, but I believe the NYC  'bikelash' is due to people clinging to old habits. To move forward we have to make adjustments to what worked until now.

The facts show that fatality rates are low in NYC. Only 4 people are killed or injured a day in a city of 8.5 million, so what's the problem? I don't think the facts tell the whole story and they mask a quality of life problem. I also don't believe collateral damage is okay, here or abroad.

We are not automatons. I agree and don't want a police state, either. The solution is a mind-set change. People need to believe it is not socially acceptable to impede others, just so they can go first. This applies to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Right now a large segment of the population thinks it's cool to just plow ahead, regardless of impact on the street grid. 

The comments made me think about politics and political parties and the different ways we perceive the same situations. It's no wonder the country is polarized: our brains are actually wired to process information, and propose solutions, differently. It's time we realized this, and let others express opinions without attacking them. I was insulted for being a 'visual artist' (quotes added by the hater), as if a 'visual artist' is someone unworthy of respect, a right-brainer not worthy of an opinion in a left-brain-dominated world.

We have a national inability to communicate without screaming. Where did this come from? I don't think from our parents. I suspect it comes from our politicians who gain power by beating down competitors to feed a base increasingly trained to think only in black and white. 

But our problems are shades of gray, and our brains work differently. That's okay. Problem solving involves collaboration, different viewpoints, and conversations that do not devolve into venom.

Update: See 3-Way Street Part of New Approach to Driver's Ed 11/19/2011

3-Way Street follow up

People have a high interest in street issues in their communities. But on the list of national priorities, and even within the design community, it's an unglamorous duckling that doesn't get much attention. Perhaps my 3-Way Street video struck a nerve because of pent-up demand. People seem hungry to find a way to evolve street culture nationwide, and get pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists to view streets as multi-use areas.

That said, the video was designed to work within the context of a campaign that begins on the street level with a poster series, and leads to a website containing the video and education tied to the behaviors seen in the video.

Here are a few points to be stressed:

The video is not an attempt to say NYC streets are the most dangerous in the world. They are not. It is an attempt to clearly illustrate very specific behaviors — that if adjusted — would make a huge difference in our streets and our quality of life.

The video is not trying to be statistically relevant in terms of numbers of infractions per day or percentages. Existing statistic-based studies are great for research, but very boring to the general public who are the most important end-users of this information, and already largely ignore existing studies and corporate-feeling ad agency campaigns. The video is a carefully edited collection of clips shot during Summer/Fall 2010, intentionally chosen to graphically illustrate points of tension within NYC intersections, where 74% of all accidents in NYC occur. Does this make the piece subjective? Yes. Garbage? No. It is an artistic approach to a subject (street awareness and education) that up to this point has been treated very formulaically and without impressive results. 

The video is not about NYC bike lanes. The mention of bike lanes is relevant only to give a context to the large increase in cycling in NYC. The video focus is on a single intersection because that is where most confrontation happens between pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists — not mid-block on a bike lane.

The video does try to offer a solution (not only point out problems) by working in tandem with a street-level campaign with a clear focus on interconnection (NYC Goes Three Ways). The video is intended to live on a website that clearly discusses the bad habits that were highlighted in the video. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists each have a section that points out long-standing bad habits, and how to help break them. The bad habits addressed on the website are marked with text on the left hand side of the video.

To those who think the accident stats in NYC are not bad, and the street system 'regulates' itself, I disagree. The problem with a barely-functioning system is that it becomes very difficult or impossible to introduce change. And the same people who are obsessed with statistics and percentages are also obsessed with accident stats. But this is the wrong approach. Quality of life is the ideal and is not necessarily reflected in 'low' fatality stats. The conflicts highlighted in the video may be nothing more than invasions of personal space (or not) — but repeated block by block, day by day — they amount to an important quality of life issue, whether or not someone ends up dead or 'only' with a broken hip.

We are fortunate to live in a city trying to modernize and evolve. It is not good enough to be satisfied with old (selfish) thinking, behaviors, and street systems.

Update: See A Left-Brain, Right-Brain Disconnect 6/15/11

Update: See 3-Way Street Part of New Approach to Driver's Ed 11/19/2011

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

NYC Goes Three Ways

By summer 2010, the expansion of bike lanes exposed a clash of long-standing bad habits — such as pedestrians jaywalking, cyclists running red lights, and motorists plowing through crosswalks. The old habits exacerbate attempts to expand ways to use our streets; existing disfunction makes change more difficult.

My master's thesis project at SVA focused on one intersection as a case study. The video aims to show our interconnected role in improving the safety and usability of our streets. The campaign is named '3-Way Street' and is made up of a poster series, a video and website. 

The website is still under construction while a possible partner is found.

Music: "Peter Gunn" by Art of Noise featuring Duane Eddy, won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental of 1986. Available on iTunes.

Update: See 3-Way Street Follow-Up 6/10/11

Update: See A Left-Brain, Right-Brain Disconnect 6/15/11

Update: See 3-Way Street Part of New Approach to Driver's Ed 11/19/2011

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

Designers as Entrepreneurs

The link below takes you to interviews and promo videos for "Ideopolis", an exhibition of the Thesis projects of the SVA MFA Design class of 2011.

Problems With "The Experiment"

Growing up it was common to hear U.S. democracy referred to as "The American Experiment."

I never hear it anymore. 

During the growth phase of a nation, the experiment works fine because money pours in with the building of cities, businesses, infrastructure. Look at China.

But what happens after 200+ years and maturity sets in? 

The easy money is gone, and democracy — based on majority rule — becomes disfunctional. Majority doesn't necessarily mean smart, informed, correct or fair. It just means more.

Perhaps in the end the experiment doesn't work because spin and control become more important than solving difficult problems. 

It is not easy to fix a culture of quantity over quality. Pursuit of short-term gains worked for a few decades, but now we face the long-term ramifications: a broken economy, fast food as national cuisine, poor educational rankings and intense global competition we never saw coming.

Can a majority be relied upon to solve large, uncomfortable problems? 

I guess we'll find out between commercials, the latest playoff games and American Idol.


Finally emerging from the deluge of grad school thesis research, design and presentation. Now, taking a baby step forward with a job interview tomorrow.

I'll be showing my portfolio for the first time in years. But how to do so when a print book no longer tells the story? Do interviewers still slog through tear sheets or work printed on photo paper?

I decided to create an iPad app of my work. It seems the best way to present recent work (including video), and to organize past work. It feels more of-the-moment than the moleskin print book I used prior to grad school. It's portable and satisfying, and shows a bit of tech savvy to pull it together.

Still, I'll have my old book hidden in my bag as a back up plan. If the iPad presentation goes over well, next time I'll try without the security blanket.