A place where Minnesota's design community can blow its collective mind about creative expression in every medium from websites to landscapes, chocolate to bicycles.

We’ve Moved

Posted: April 11th, 2012 | Author: Todd | Filed under: advertising, architecture, artifacts, bikes, chocolate, competitions, design, downloads, events, food, illustration, input, Interactive, interiors, landscape architecture, local twin cities, opinion, output, packaging, photography, posters, resources, transportation, type, urban planning, video | Comments Off

We’ve incorporated our blog into our new website. Same unique combination of posts about chocolate and bicycles, design and architecture but in a shiny new wrapper: brainstormoverload.com/blog We hope you’ll drop by and linger as long as you like.

We've moved our blog


IE 6 Death Watch

Posted: March 7th, 2011 | Author: Todd | Filed under: Interactive, opinion | Tags: | Comments Off

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 has been the bane of interactive designers and developers for a decade. A quarter of my life marred by the phrase “We can’t do that (insert cool idea) it isn’t supported on IE6.” At last the United States can apparently boast a level of user sophistication sufficient to drive IE6 penetration below 3% and a death watch has been established by… wait for it… Mircosoft. Huh? Well, to be fair The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown doubles as an effort to move remedial intergooglers to version 9 which would be an improvement – though I’d encourage you to switch to Firefox, Safari or Chrome instead. That said the countdown is a nicely designed info graphic and Microsoft is to be congratulated for taking the extra step to clean up their mess. Perhaps more to the point this site constitutes a data source for a pretty legitimate counter-argument and solution to lowest common denominator design and development decisions championed by clients fearful of alienating users stuck in the way back machine.

P.S. China, what’s up with 34 percent? You’re vigilant about pirating the latest versions of Microsoft Word… IE9 is free and they want you to have it. Push the update button.


If St Nick Can Switch To Santa So Can We

Posted: February 8th, 2011 | Author: Todd | Filed under: local twin cities, opinion | Tags: | Comments Off

I am now taking resumes for a replacement patron saint for our city. West Coast experience a plus. Dabblers in single digits need not apply.


People For Bikes

Posted: October 5th, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: bikes, Interactive, opinion | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Bikes Belong is a national bicycle advocacy group with an initiative called People For Bikes (developed locally by Colle+McVoy).

They’re not asking for your time or money and you are welcome regardless of the type and amount of riding you do. In fact all you need to do is hit this url http://www.peopleforbikes.org/page/s/pledge and pledge that you are for bikes. Whether you race regularly or only use your bike for fair weather grocery runs we will all benefit by uniting in a shared voice.

Minnesota is currently ranked 8th in pledges. It’s not a competition of course but this is an easy opportunity to demonstrate why MN is home to Bicycling Magazine’s top Bike-Friendly City. After you’ve pledged take a minute to share your story and spread the word using the links to Twitter and Facebook… or go nuts and post a blog entry. Then skip out of work early for a ride in the gorgeous fall color.



We can do better, Saint Paul

Posted: October 4th, 2010 | Author: Cindy | Filed under: bikes, landscape architecture, local twin cities, opinion, urban planning | Comments Off

Bike infrastructure is becoming more and more important in cities given the resurgence of cycling as a recreational opportunity and as a viable mode of transportation to work and other destinations. That said, investments that are sub-standard and piecemeal only hurt the effort to increase a city’s bike facilities. Bike infrastructure just for the sake of having bike infrastructure is can be a costly mistake. It negatively impacts peoples perception cycling, cyclists, and of future investments. More importantly, poorly designed projects are just plain unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

In May of this year we reported a step forward in Saint Paul bicycle infrastructure; the very first bike boulevard in Saint Paul slated to happen on Jefferson Avenue. We were darn excited, and watched for signs of implementation all summer long. We want to stay behind the Jefferson Bike Boulevard. Really, we do. It has the potential to become a solid connection in our vastly deficient and under-connected system. But, in its watered down version and substandard design, we’re afraid we’re going to end up with a serious backlash from some residents and major safety concerns. Case in point #1: the traffic diverter and refuge at the intersection of Jefferson and Cleveland.

While we fully support a true diverter and refuge (this is a test), it will not be safe without additional elements like signage, continental striping, or a change in pavement color through the entire intersection. Ideally, we’d like to see the diverter AND Jefferson Avenue raised and seal-coated with a different color. That would result in a tabletop along Cleveland. Bicyclists and pedestrians would have priority and people would have to slow down. Here’s a good example of what could be done as well as the refuge:

Case in point #2: Sharrows today, noarrows tomorrow. Sharrows (share the road arrows) were part of the original bike boulevard design, but in the section from Snelling to the Mississippi Road, the sharrows were too much for the opposition and the City conceded. But, come implementation time, sharrows appeared on the road between Snelling and the Mississippi River Road (42, to be exact). We were excited for about two days, and then we saw the asphalt version of whiteout because SOMEONE suggested the City couldn’t maintain them (read: people complained).

We wish we had a happy chapter two of the Jefferson Bike Boulevard, but damn if we’re not frustrated by this underwhelming turn of events. We’ve emailed public works and Councilmember Harris (that someone), and we suggest you do, too. Feel free to use this letter about the test diverter and submit it to Public Works (pw-testmedian@ci.stpaul.mn.us) and that someone (ward3@ci.stpaul.mn.us).

Dear Public Works,

I am one hundred percent behind your efforts to consider various modes of transportation in your projects, and I applaud the designation of Jefferson Avenue as a bike boulevard.  While I support the idea of traffic calming on Jefferson and I support the idea of making it easier and safer to cross Cleveland, I’m not sure that the median is the entire answer. Please implement the diverter, but do so with other design elements such as good road striping, a change in seal-coating color, and very visible signage. I suggest you consider some of the other of the various pedestrian crossing road safety devices and configurations well-documented as successful, safe investments. Here is a link with great ideas: thecityfix.com/zebras-puffins-pelicans-or-hawks-for-pedestrians/. A very, VERY visible intersection crossing is the only way to actually make people on foot, on bike, and in cars safer through this area.

Thank you for all your efforts for Saint Paul, I hope to see the Twin Cities region become the most bikable metro area in the U.S. We need you to do better to make this happen.

Sincerely,

Your name
Your address

Author’s Note: You do not have to be from Saint Paul to voice your opinion – this is a regional issue!


21st Century Enlightenment

Posted: September 22nd, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: opinion, video | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Having spent the morning engaged with a juggernaut in the world of self-defeating negativity powered by pretzel logic it was extraordinarily refreshing to receive this link from my erudite brother. To wrap your brain around the 11 minute video linked below you will probably need to watch it twice. The first time through you will find yourself delighted by the whimsical whiteboard illustrations and the narrator’s charming British accent (two things known to disarm Americans).

On the second pass you’ll enjoy how the author Matthew Taylor makes a fascinating and cogent argument for how our self-aware individualism balanced with empathy can evolve/is evolving to help us all meet the challenges we face living in the 21st century enlightenment.


Poster Offensive Prints

Posted: August 11th, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: artifacts, local twin cities, opinion, posters | Tags: | Comments Off

I’ve finally finished printing, trimming, signing and numbering my entry into Poster Offensive 5. A limited edition run of 40 in metallic blue on 100 lb. cover (Grout Gray) by French Paper. I’ve got lots to learn before I achieve the technical skills of poster artists I admire but I’m pleased with my first screen printing project since my professor Doug Minkler introduced me to the medium 20 years ago.
The Poster Offensive is a collection of posters each of which express a strong opinion on a social or political theme of the artist’s choice. Wars often spark a headlong rush to develop technological advancements. Yet at the same time our use of those advanced technologies for wanton killing and destruction diminishes our connection to our humanity. What will we be when we have “advanced” to a state where we premptively kill our enemies via satellite – never looking our advisary in the eye? When it becomes easier to eliminate a problem than to address it? When the weapon in our hand looks the same as the joy stick connected to a child’s video game? Will something fundamental to our humanity have retreated as far as our technology has advanced? That’s the question I hope will be asked when looking at my spin on the classic “Evolution of Man” illustration.
It should be a thought provoking show. The Frank Stone Gallery in Minneapolis will host the show from October 28 through November 7, 2010 with an opening reception on Friday, October 29th.


Read: Rework

Posted: August 10th, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: input, opinion, resources | Tags: , , | Comments Off

I just finished reading Rework by the founders of 37 signals Jason Fried and David Hansson. The authors’ brilliance is in making all the advice sound intuitively spot on, straightforward and achievable. It’s a reassuring book to read if you are starting out on your own. It was written to give you the confidence to work in ways that make sense to you rather than trying to recreate in miniature the bureaucratic, wasteful and often self-destructive habits many large companies develop over time. Jason and David lambaste growth, workaholism, meetings, delegation and many other tenets cherished by large companies.
If you’ve spent time in a traditional advertising agency were the lion’s share of a project’s time-line is lavished on the search for “the big idea” the authors fire a shot across that bow as well saying: “Ideas are cheap and plentiful. The real question is how well you execute.” If you are considering or have already started out on your own even this particular heresy will ring true. You are full of ideas. What you need are freedom and clients to partner with so your ideas can take flight.
Thanks to the recession the 1099 workforce is full of top level talent that may never return to the big agency world. Smaller scale projects seem plentiful and now is an amazing time to take your ideas and your inspiration for a ride. But as the authors say “…it won’t wait for you. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.”


High Line Raises the Bar

Posted: June 18th, 2010 | Author: Cindy | Filed under: architecture, competitions, design, landscape architecture, opinion, urban planning | 3 Comments »

landscape-highline-01

The Minneapolis Park Foundation, College of Design, and Walker Art Center have teamed up to bring us a phenomenal lecture series, “The Next Generation of Parks”. Wednesday night’s conversation on New York’s High Line was the second of three summer events. If you didn’t get in the doors, or couldn’t make it, you missed something great, but you can find the full lecture here. Todd and I have been to many a lecture on the subject of design, landscape architecture, architecture, and planning. A few on bicycling, too. This, though, was far more than just your average power point presentation or ubiquitous “here is what I’ve done in the field” lecture. From the introduction by Cecily Hines and Andrew Blauvelt to the last word by Lisa Tziona Switkin and Robert Hammond, it was damn inspirational. Why? We’ll give you our top three reasons.

1. Not just envisioning potential, CREATING potential.

Robert Hammond appreciated the abandoned elevated industrial era ruin of a railroad in his West Village neighborhood enough to take action when it was slated for demolition in 1999. How many of us wonder about the things we see on a daily basis, but when they come crumbling down for surface parking we tell ourselves ‘there’s not much you could have done about it anyway, so don’t fret you didn’t speak up’? Like those cool abandoned grain mills in our Minneapolis skyline. Sure we envisioned a cool future for them, but when they were felled, ground up, and a slab of asphalt was put in their place. Not again.

Linear park in an abandoned elevated rail corridor? Of course. It is a no-brainer now. But, such was not the case before Hammond and his Friends of the High Line co-founder Joshua David, did something about it. Hammond and David used their entrepreneurial spirit to create a movement that resulted in an overwhelmingly successful public space, likely by every index imaginable.

2.  Project process and tactical brilliance.

A lot of the process was no different than what developers, planners, or landscape architects do for every project (develop concepts, present to the public, attend seven bazzillion meetings, gain support, refine concepts…implement). But, a lot of the process WAS different. Hammond et al. recognized the power in branding and visualization early on in the project, and as they enter phase two and three, we would predict their savvy in the realm of communication and its power is going to prove to be a game changer.

Before beginning the project, they had a year-long photography project commissioned in effort to show people the life of the rail corridor thus making the space visually (and we would argue emotionally) accessible to those who usually just experience the steel undercarriage of this elevated line. For more project awareness, Paula Scher at Pentagram created a so-simple-its-brilliant logo. And, they held a design competition with phenomenal renderings by the winning landscape architectural and architectural team James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. (Full design team listed here.)

The game changer? Well, the area where High Line Section Three would be is also currently slated to potentially house twelve million square feet of development. Of course, the current plan does not include what could be the coolest end of the High Line.

landscape-highline-02

Friends of the Highline are pushing for a temporary (and relatively inexpensive) walkway installation in this section. The renderings illustrating this temporary installation are gorgeous and compelling (and not available yet). If they are successful in receiving the okay on a temporary walkway they will create insurmountable public support. The public will LOVE IT and when Mr (Mrs?) Developer comes in to place what amounts to TWO DOWNTOWN SEATTLES (Hammond’s smart analogy), the outcry of “not to my Highline!” will be loud. Very loud.

Brilliant.

3.  1+2 = 3 for us. Listening to Robert and Lisa describe what we imagine is the abridged version of the project process and game changing tactics resulted in a new vision of possibility for us.

We could list the numerous calls to action we felt last night as a creative duo, but let’s just leave it with the most inspiring. Believe in your vision, hone your technical AND tactical skills, and surround yourself with crazy brilliant talent who will make you better at your own work. Push the envelope in design AND process. The High Line raised the expectations of our own work and the possibilities for public space in the Twin Cities. We hope it does the same for you.

landscape-highline-03
Above images by James Corner Field Operations, but retrieved from the High Line website.

landscape-highline-041 & 3 by flickr user don juan tenorio. 2 by flickr user lucas_roberts426, but retrieved from the High Line website.


Get Your Social On

Posted: June 10th, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: input, landscape architecture, opinion | Tags: , , | Comments Off

interactive-designintelligence2

Following up on the theme of my resent marketing presentation for the Minnesota chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects I was just made aware (thanks to chapter president Richard Murphy) of a terrific article emphasizing the need for firms to engage in social networking. The article “If You’re Not Online, You’re Behind” was written by architect Evelyn Lee and published on the Design Intelligence website. It’s a great introduction to Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. Refreshingly the story does not obscure its purposeful and simple moral -why you should get involved – in the cloud of jargon and statistics common in discussions on this subject.

Design Intelligence (a publication of the Design Futures Council) is targeted squarely at the architecture profession. This is an important point. I’ve spoken to many a Landscape Architect who has a small but legitimate chip on his/her shoulder acquired through years of experience providing a design service that seems all too often to come as an afterthought to a site’s architecture. Personally I think it is important to see more synergy between structure and landscape. For this to happen landscape architecture firms need to gain a stronger presence in the minds of architects and in the public consciousness. Social networking can help achieve this because it is functioning (for better or worse) as the new town square where hundreds of millions of people are asking questions. If you don’t want architects to be providing all the answers about landscape architecture you need to jump into the fray.