A 140 sq foot house

People measure homes by square foot, but size says nothing about how well designed that space is. I’m sure you’ve seen small homes that are arranged in smart ways that make much better use of space, and are therefore more comfortable, than much larger, more expensive homes.

Here’s an example at the micro level – a 140sq foot house:

140 sq2 140 sq

From Science Friday.

Hands free bathroom doors, take two

The StepNPull design for bathroom doors has a competitor.

At Portage Bay in the university district of Seattle, Instead of using your foot to open the bathroom door to keep your hands clean, this design lets you use your elbow to open the door.


Over-designed shower UI

When you travel often you notice how many different and bad ways there are to design controls for a shower. Sometimes you find designs like this one, in a rented house I stayed at in Ft. Lauderdale, where, like bad software, the number of features added inspires complicated design in the misguided attempt to provide value for all of those fancy features.shower1

The result in this case is a panel that looks like the front end of a bank safe. It took me a few minutes to figure out that the large knob the right only controlled one thing: the main shower head hovering above, which you can see in the second photo. What a sneaky shower!

shower 2

I did wonder what the design thinking was: did these people work at a nuclear power plant, or a slaughterhouse, and need daily 360 washdowns? Did they have little faith in any one shower head design to provide enough cleaning power?

I never found out. In my showers I did experiment with the other knobs. By default all streams are on, and the vertical line of three aim directly at your belly, or your face, depending on how tall you are. My own experimentation revealed these things were pointless, except for ensuring the spot in the middle of my back got as much attention as all the places my arms can naturally reach. When turning them off I was delighted to discover it improved the water pressure to the two overhead fixtures. 

This is Not a Door



Language is a curious thing. I believe this object is a door, but it is not being used as one by the current occupants. It’d be more accurate to say “do not use this door”, but it’s certainly bolder to claim the door is not a door at all, simply because you don’t want anyone to use it. not a door

Photo by Nicolas Nova Related: This is not a pipe

What to do with payphones? Design competition

When I was a kid payphones in NYC were a big part of life. It was how you’d change plans with a friend, make reservations for dinner, or dozens of other small social connections that have collapsed down into our mobile phones.

But the cases and frames for all of these phones still exist, even if the phones themselves do not.


A design competition in NYC has five different designs for the ‘payphone’ of the future. You can vote on your favorite.



nyc-phone2 nyc-phone1

You can vote here.

Choose your own soup: design and food

As anyone who tries to read a bad restaurant website menu knows, menu design in print or on the web is a craft unto itself. The challenges rise if the menu has to be interactive too.

At King Noodle in Seattle the premise is you can be the King (or Queen) of your own soup. When you sit down you’re handed a nicely designed sheet of paper with their array of ingredients listed for you. IMG_5985

While there are complete soups you can order, the spirt of the place is to build a soup yourself. You pick from 5 broths, several different kinds of noodles, and a wide range of other ingredients.


I went for the spicy broth with noodles, wontons, bbq pork, beansprouts and cabbage. I was worried about how well my choices would blend together but those worries were unfounded. The broth was good, balancing all of my choices together, and all of the ingredients tasted fresh (or fresh enough to pass the ‘be in soup’ bar). It was an excellent meal for a cold winter day. IMG_5991

While I talked with friends Chad and Kav as we waited for our food, I mentioned how the menu could encourage customers to experiment. Why not offer recipies to try in the future that were known to be interesting? Something like what Jelly Belly does on the back of their jelly bean packages.



Never Get Lost Hotel Cards

Long ago I learned the travel tip of grabbing a card from the hotel front desk. if you get lost you always have the hotel phone number and address handy. This is extra valuable in foriegn counties. To get hom when lost or drunk, just show a cab driver the card. Without knowing a word of their language, you’ll get safely home.

On a recent trip to China, I discovered a well designed card for all these situations and more at the Bayshore Hotel in Dalian.

One side has basic instructions in Chinese and English.IMG_5971

The other side lists several popular locations in the city. IMG_5970