Tag Archives | Design

The Hidden Geography Of Optical Calibration Targets

The Center for Land Use Interpretation on symbols strewn across the American landscape which make sense only to airborne machines:

There are dozens of aerial photo calibration targets across the USA, curious land-based two-dimensional optical artifacts made mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, and many are still in use, though their history is obscure.

Most of them follow the same form established by the Air Force and NASA. The pattern painted on the targets is sets of parallel and perpendicular bars that function like an eye chart at the optometrist. For aerial photography and satellites, it provides a platform to test, calibrate, and focus aerial cameras traveling at different speeds and altitudes.

Many of these resolution test targets are found in the Mojave desert of California, one of the principal development and test areas for surveillance aircraft. The largest concentration in one place is on the grounds of Edwards Air Force Base, where calibration targets run for 20 miles.

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Do-It-Yourself Animation With Terry Gilliam

Wondering how to make your life a bit more weird? Gilliam explains how to produce strange and wondrous things from household materials on the 1970s how-to series the Do-It-Yourself Animation Show. The rare television show which flips the tables by encouraging engagement, not passive consumption, of media, it was created and curated by British cartooning legend Bob Godfrey, who died this past week. Cartoon Brew explains:

The Do-It-Yourself Animation Show, which made animation accessible to the masses by taking the mystery out of the production process, was vastly influential and inspired an entire generation of kids in England, including Nick Park, who created Wallace & Gromit, and Richard Bazley, an animator on Pocahontas, Hercules, and The Iron Giant.

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Designing A City Impenetrable To Drones

Chapati Mystery lays out plans for the hypothetical Shura City, a place of beauty and atmosphere and freedom of movement, but no fear of U.S. drone strikes:

Drones work by detecting patterns, identifying individuals, and extracting data. I dreamed up Shura City to fight against drones with humanity and community. The city is a “black box” impenetrable to data miners and military-trained individuals but it is not a prison.

It is at best expensive and at worst impossible to build armor that can deflect any American bomb. Shura City instead uses inscrutability as its armor. Its windows are protected by computerized mashrabiyas that blink and recombine into various QR codes to jam leering cameras. Its expansive courtyard is protected by latticework with backlit (by color-changing LED) windows that allow for sunshine for children and stars for young lovers, but also make face detection tricky with color blocks and changing shadows.

Badgirs and minarets do their part to provide wild fluctuations of temperature (so that individual bodies are difficult to identify with infrared) and to provide high-wattage radio towers to interfere with wireless communication.

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Stealth Wear: Drone Proof Counter-Surveillance Fashions

Stock up for the future? Artist Adam Harvey, previously noted for his CV Dazzle project revealing how to style hair and makeup to avoid detection by facial recognition software, has developed a Stealth Wear clothing line, including a hoodie to evade drones’ infrared heat sensors:

Stealth Wear continues to explore the aesthetics of privacy and the potential for fashion to challenge authoritarian surveillance. Made in collaboration with NYC fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield, a suite of new designs tackle some of the most pressing and sophisticated forms of surveillance today. Including:

The anti-drone hoodie and anti-drone scarf. Garments designed to thwart thermal imaging, a technology used widely by UAVs.

The XX-shirt. A x-ray shielding print in the shape of a heart, that protects your heart from x-ray radiation

And the Off Pocket. An anti-phone accessory that allows you to instantly zero out your phone’s signal.

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A DIY Hat To Prevent Your Visibility On Cameras And Video

Via Quora, how, with a couple dollars and a few spare minutes, to make yourself invisible to Big Brother:

Most cameras (especially black and white security cameras) will see low levels of infrared light. This helps them video at dusk/dawn and in lower levels of light. To test this theory turn on your video camera and point your TV remote control at it. Change a few channels and you will see a pulse of light flash that the naked eye obviously can’t see.

With that said you can easily make an infrared hat with cheap $1 infrared LEDs stitched into the front of the hat, the more the better… Attach a 9 volt battery to the LEDS and bam you are now a giant LED flash light. People will see nothing out of the ordinary, but CCTV cameras will only see a large flash of infrared light coming from your head, hiding your face.

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Guerrilla Urban Planners Redo Mexico City By Painting Bike Lanes, Sidewalks, And Crosswalks

This Big City talks to Camina, Haz Ciudad, a group which extralegally redesigns public space to benefit ordinary residents:

Camina, Haz Ciudad started as a project to recover space for pedestrians. It was inspired by a modern development that happened here in Mexico City in an area called El Puente de los Poetas. Amazingly, there was no pedestrian infrastructure at all, the whole place seemed to be designed for cars. A group of citizens decided that couldn’t be, so they painted a sidewalk in an area where lots of people walked but had no safety. But the sidewalk was erased, and the people who painted it were really mad.

With our first painted bike lane [which is 5km and ends at Congress in Mexico City] we were trying to make a political point. We didn’t have any expectation of how long it would last. But the bike lane is still in place.

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3D Object-Printing Kiosks On Future Street Corners

The Belgium-based design studio Unfold has created a prototype of what will soon be ubiquitous in urban environs, an object piracy cart:

Kiosk is a project that explores a near future scenario in which digital fabricators are so ubiquitous, that we see them appear on street corners, just like fast food today is sold in NY style mobile food stalls. A place where you can quickly get a custom made fix for your broken shoe, materialise an illegal download of Starck’s Juicy Salif orange squeezer that you modified for better performance or quickly print out a present for your sister’s birthday.

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On The Evils Of Chairs

Jacobin Magazine on a needless technology, introduced more recently than you might think, which drains our physical and psychic well-being:

As chairs became prevalent in schoolrooms, they became a tool for teachers to control the movement of children, whose healthy tendency toward activity made them difficult to teach. Today, children in the developed world learn early that sitting still in a chair is part of what it means to be an adult. The result is that by the time they actually reach adulthood, most have lost the musculature to sit comfortably for prolonged periods without back support.

No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible. Not only are chairs a health hazard, they also have a problematic history that has inextricably tied them to our culture of status-obsessed individualism.  The general trend at most points in Western history has been that upper-class people sit in a certain type of chair – typically the crappiest, most damaging design available at the time – and everyone else tries to imitate them. Worse still, we’ve become dependent on chairs and it’s not clear that we’ll ever be free.

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Experimental Architect Lebbeus Woods Dies

He exemplified the idea of the architect as someone whose role is to challenge the status quo, confront serious issues of human vulnerability, and expand the public imagination. Only one of Woods’s projects, the Light Pavilion in Chengdu, China, was actually ever built, yet his designs and ideas were highly influential, the New York Times writes:

In an era when many architecture stars [...designed] high-rise condominiums or corporate headquarters, Mr. Woods conceived of a radically different environment, one intended for a world in conflict.

He conceived a post-earthquake San Francisco that emphasized its seismic vulnerability. He flew to Sarajevo in the 1990s and proposed a postwar city in which destruction and resurgence coexisted. He imagined a future for Lower Manhattan in which dams would hold back the Hudson and East Rivers to create a vast gorge around the island, exposing its rock foundation.

Mr. Woods’s work was often described as fantasy and compared to science-fiction imagery.

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The Architecture Of Power And Authority

In this clip from his 1980 television series “The Shock of the New,” now being re-shown by the BBC, Robert Hughes peels apart how design is wielded as a tool by those in power to tell a story without words. The iconic buildings of post-World War II America (e.g. New York City’s Lincoln Center and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center) mirror the aesthetic of Mussolini’s Italy, a style combining “the myth of ancient Rome and vision of a technocratic future”:

All the ingredients of an architecture of state power as imagined by the totalitarians of the twentieth century are also present in what used to in the fifties be called the architecture of democracy…[expressing] the centralization of power. What comes out is not the difference between America and Russia, but the similarities between the corporate and the bureaucratic states of mind.

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