The Blog

Adobe Lightroom – what a great tool for photography!

I recently got a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom – have to say that this program ROCKS! I’ve just finished up optimizing a group of photos I shot this past August while on Maui. In the past, I’d have to spend quite a bit of time in Photoshop to clean things up (things like cropping crap out that is distracting, or straighting the image against the horizon). Then, I’d upload the images into something like Flickr or Picasa – then, go through each of them to add descriptions and search keywords. One by one. For each photo site. Which sucked.

With Lightroom, not only is cleaning things up quite easy (kind of like using iPhoto, but more powerful), but I could add descriptions & keywords within the program – that allows uploads to things like Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, or Photobucket – without having to retype manually all the descriptions & photo info.

So – the most recent batch of Maui photos are up – and they’d be up sooner if I’d not had a hard drive die on my two weeks ago. Enjoy!

The Design Foundry – Maui 2007 Photos

Why do American car manufactures design such ugly cars?

It seems that time and time again, American car manufacturers force on the buying public, some of the ugliest cars known to mankind. Don’t believe me? Two words for you – Pontiac Aztec. This abortion-on-wheels had to have been one of the worst excuses for “design” that the motoring public has ever known.

Pontiac Aztec

I remember that one of the major car magazines (I’m thinking it was Automobile Magazine) – did a pre-production road test of this car – and totally ripped it. They went so far as to tell GM that this would be a huge mistake to put on the road. GM had tried to make a minivan into a minivan/SUV crossover…like we really need that. It also had the look of “designed by committee” – where a designer was assigned to design, say..a fender. Another – the front grill. And, in a horrific example of silo-management, combined with political protectionism – no communication seemed to take place between designers, creating a hodge-podge, disjointed combination of angular panels that screamed “drop something heavy on me – just so I don’t look this bad!”.

Yet, when these same manufacturers put their mind to it, they can also design some of the most beautiful cars we’ve ever know. Cars like the current Ford Mustang, Chevy Corvette, and many of the new Saturn line. But what bugs me is cars like the new Pontiac G8. Which is really a Holden (a GM subsidiary – in Australia). The new Saturn Aura – which is really a Opel (a GM subsidiary – in Europe).

It’s not that we don’t have good designers in this country – we do. One example that comes to mind is a gentleman that designed a car that almost 30 years later – still looks modern. When this car came out, it was the mid-late 70’s, when we were getting American cars like the Pinto and the Vega – yet, Tony Lapine (and American designer) – came up with the design for the Porsche 928.

I think the big problem – is most of the American car manufacturers are run by accountants – people who love numbers, not design. It’s hard to cost-justify prior to product launch, why an attractive design will sell more – and be more profitable – than a basic design. And, with the focus the past 30 years (emphasis on each of these varying, but still important nonetheless) – on fuel economy, reliability, and safety – all of these things add costs to the price of the car – so the places we see cut back on are areas like the quailty of interior materials & related design, for example.

Yet, we’ve also seen what happens when bean-counters run these companies. Mercedes-Benz – once the epitome of quality – decided it would be more profitable to cut cost out of production – and reliability suffered, killing sales. So, there is a valid argument that cutting design won’t hurt sales like cutting production & manufacturing costs. Additional proof of this is most of the cars coming out of Japan (and now South Korea as well) – these cars aren’t known for being…well…beautiful – but knowing your Honda or Toyota will rarely break down – is important.

Yet, the problem remains. Cars – especially American cars…are usually pretty bland, if not downright ugly – unless you spend over $50K. Why is this? Does it really cost that much more to make a car that’s beautiful? Especially if you’re trying to compete against other foreign brands that are attractive, reliable, or both?

I think part of the problem is – many of these companies are entrenched in their own design philosophies. And only rarely venture outside of them. Example of stepping out? Cadillac. Now, I’m not a Cadillac fan. Many of the parts are really from a Saab – and I’d rather have one of them. But, they took a step into a new design philosophy about 8 years ago – and look at what it’s done for their sales! And…an example of not stepping out? Buick. They have this stupid philosophy that says that the front fenders of their cars must have 3 portholes. Because they did 50-60 years ago. OK…if you’re target market is people in their 70’s – great. Once they are gone…so is your brand. Simple truth – innovate or die!

Of course…that brings me to my last point – maybe they design ugly cars…because people buy them anyway? How else can you explain why people would order a Buick or Cadillac…with a fake vinyl top that looks like it would be a convertible..but isn’t?

Wacom intous3 4×6 Pen Tablet

I’ve thought about getting one of these things for awhile – a pen tablet. Plugs into a USB port on my Mac. I’ve avoided it for quite awhile – since I’ve always told myself that my mouse works just fine, and I can’t see why I should spend hundreds of dollars to do the same thing my mouse does.

Well, prices have come down. I’ve thought about getting the Wacom Bamboo…but the Bamboo Fun Medium is only $30 less than the intous3 – and the intous3 has twice the resolution. And, I also figured I’d use a little bit of the “stimulis” check (which is a whole other joke) – and get myself another business write-off this month as well – so tonight, I bought a pen tablet – the aforementioned Wacom intous3 4×6.

This thing is uber-cool. I’ve been using it for 2 hours – and I’ll be damned – it works SO much better than a mouse! It’s so damn intuitive – and my wrist doesn’t ache from using it like it does after using a mouse for hours!

Now, I know – this is for graphics professionals (like myself) – who spend buttloads of time in Photoshop or Illustrator. I have only started playing with it in Photoshop. More importantly – this thing just completely ROCKS if you have any kind of work that would normally require a mouse. Multiple windows open? Just point & drag – but unlike a mouse, you’re not moving your whole hand – it feels more like your just pointing with your finger! And, whether it’s photo re-touching, illustration, or painting in Photoshop – having the ability to use brushes to not only clean things up, but it’s also pressure sensitive – so it’s much more like using a real paintbrush or airbrush!

i haven’t tried the handwriting recognition yet either – and probably won’t, as I used a Palm IIIxe for years, and never really felt that handwriting recognition works that well – there’s always that part of my crappy handwriting that it just never translates correctly, and I spend more time retyping than it would have taken to type to begin with.

But for moving around your computer’s desktop – I think this is freakin’ nirvana!

“Harbor Morning” is finished!

After a number of months working on “Harbor Morning” – it’s finally finished!

Oil – 2008 | 24″ x 36″

View from Lahaina Harbor, looking across the boats toward the island of Lana’i.

Click on image for larger view

The Coolest Desk!

I attended the 3rd Annual Phoenix Contemporary Design Fair the other week. (And, yes – this blog posting is not of the most timely nature – I’m sure I’ve been ‘scooped’!). Anyway, this year, the furniture design competition included what might be the coolest desk I’ve seen yet!

Seems that every desk I see seems to be the expression of “bigger is better”. Yet, the bigger the desk I have, the more crap gets spread out over it! Plus, what’s the point these days of a desk? Where in the past, you needed buttloads of room for your typewriter, your big-ole stack of paper-based projects, and a photo of your significant other – now, it’s a place for your keyboard, monitor, and mouse. Oh…and you still need to keep your significant other happy by having room for their photo as well.

Well, of everything I saw at the design fair, the coolest idea was the the example of minimialism. Or, in other words, what would Steve Jobs make if he made a desk? The answer is the OneLessDesk. A local firm by the name of Heckler Design (www.hecklerdesign.com) has build a stainless steel desk – basically a hoop for your monitor to rest on, an out of sight rear-facing shelf that lets you hide our wires, power strip, and external hard drives, as well as USB hubs and small speaker. The shelf is ventilated to keep everything cool. A smaller “hoop” slides out, giving you a place for your keyboard and mouse.

What I like most – is when you slide the keyboard “lower desk” is slid under the “upper desk” – it only sticks out from the wall 12″. That’s right – one foot! Why the hell didn’t this exist when I was in college – this would have been a hell of a lot better than a couple of cinder blocks and a slab of plywood!

And, it’s not wimpy, either. It’s made of stainless steel – and with it’s industrial-clean look, it’s not something you need to hide in your home office!

Here’s a photo of what it looks like:

So, if you are looking for something that is clean, simple, functional – someplace where you could park your iMac and feel proud to have it sitting there – I’d say this is the best there is!