Tag Archives: crowdsourcing

Pumpkin Parade

Today I wanted to share a fun and unique event in our neighbourhood.  No doubt there are equally charming things that go on in neighbourhoods all over the place, but I love how this happened entirely organically, that it’s a community-led initiative, non-commercial and really fun.  Referred to as the Pumpkin Parade, on November 1 every year friends and neighbours walk their Jack-o-lanterns to the local park, line them up and take in the magic of them all alight.

Image 2 and 3 via BlogTO

Thousands of pumpkins line and circle back on this modest park in Toronto’s west end.  Legend has it – or the version I’ve heard is- that the Pumpkin Parade started a few years back, six or so, with one woman getting her neighbours on her block in on the action. She thought it was a shame these pumpkins are only really enjoyed for a night, thought they deserved a last hurrah.  From there it’s grown into a real event where neighbours catch up while kids dance around in their Halloween costumes.  And it’s certainly elevated the artistry and creativity folks bring to their carvings.  Neighbourly one-up-manship will do that.  Here are a few cool ones we saw last night.

And don’t fret: with the Pumpkin Parade this big, the city sends the compost trucks out to pick up all the pumpkins so that they’re all properly disposed of.  I think every neighbourhood should host one of these.  How awesome would that be?


image via wearelistening

Kickstarter is one of those sites that can get you excited about the internet again. It’s a funding platform that allows artists, inventors, designers and creative types of all sorts to propose projects that are looking for financial backing. Some of the ideas are downright wacky and some are brilliant, but that’s the beauty of Kickstarter, anyone can participate. You vote for an idea with your donations. If you think an idea warrants your investment you can pledge as little as a dollar to help fund the project. Every project has a pledge goal, and if the project doesn’t reach it’s goal then your donation is refunded and they get zilch. Many of the projects offer rewards or incentives for your donations, like personal thank-you notes, merchandise and other perks. It’s a simple idea that has garnered some impressive results. Here are a few design-related projects that are on our radar.

Design Thinking Documentary

This inspiring documentary project explores what “design thinking” means and how it is implemented by designers from all fields. This doc hopes to show how this concept is used in every facet of design. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see this film when it’s finished.

New York Floating Pool

The Floating Pool

There are a number of projects on Kickstarter that focus on community development and this floating pool in New York City is one of those. The plan is to put a floating pool in the rivers of New York City where anyone can swim in clean filtered river water. In order to move forward with this plan the project partners Family and Playlab need to test their filtration systems. They already have over 1,200 backers and have achieved the first of three funding goals.

FE Wearables

Modular Jewellery

Fashion and jewellery designers are also turning to Kickstarter to find help with producing new lines. One of the more interesting jewellery projects I found is called FE Wearables, which are modular jewellery pieces. There are two customizable prototypes, which you can see in action in this video.

The Uni Portable Reading Room

The Uni

The Uni is another community project that I would love to see put into production everywhere. The uni is an open air portable reading room designed for urban spaces. The Uni brings books to virtually any space and functions as a pop-up library, where you can read a book, screen a film or have a meeting.

Does Kickstarter work? Judging by the number of projects that have been successfully funded on Kickstarter so far I would say definitely. If you want to find out more about projects on Kickstarter, or you have an idea of your own you’d like to reveal to the masses you can find more info here.

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged

Architecture for Humanity – Design Like you Give a Damn

Winning Design for Killari Chocolate Factory by Heather Worrell, ChunSheh Teo and Igor Taskov

I’m always inspired by what happens when people pool their expertise and think creatively.  And Architecture for Humanity is doing no less than finding solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.   They are an international nonprofit design services organization that believes innovative and sustainable design can change the world.  They respond to natural disasters as well as systemic issues around the world by asking architects, designers and engineers to develop real world design solutions through an open source network.  They also fund the building of these much-needed structures, while always involving – and where appropriate skills-building with – the communities they work in.  To this end they are working to provide safe emergency and transitory shelters to displaced populations, while also addressing world poverty, and accessibility to water, sanitation and medical care through architecture.  They also do this sustainably, not because they’re treehuggers, as co-founder Cameron Sinclair says, but because it’s a matter of survival when you’re living on a meagre income.

How they Work:

  • They are a global network of 40,000 professionals sharing their design, construction and development services with those who critically need it
  • Architecture for Humanity also works to cut through red tape to ensure (re)building can take place in the communities without delay
  • They fund, fundraise, and match funding partners with projects
  • Empower communities to be part of the building process through skills development
  • Keep an open source catalogue of designs that anyone in the developing world can access.  Once a building has been established, plans are available for free to be reproduced anywhere.

Some Highlights of their Work

Global Village Shelters: A weather resistant recycled cardboard house for four was designed by father-daughter team Daniel and Mia Ferrera in 2005 in response to hurricane ravaged Grenada that decimated 85% of housing stock.  These structures cost about $500 and can be assembled in less than 1 hour by a team of two.   These transitional housing structures last about a year, giving residents time to move into permanent housing.

In 2007, Architecture for Humanity launched a design competition for a  mobile HIV/AIDS clinic for use in Sub-Saharan Africa.  This winning entry by KHRAS Denmark is constructed from a shipping container – a solution that’s durable and mobile. These will soon be operating on the ground.

Designing Freedom: The Syracuse University School of Architecture’s Freedom by Design Group worked to design and build a wheelchair ramp that doubles as a unique deck for outdoor entertaining for a resident in declining health who was homebound due to mobility issues.

Architecture for Humanity to Help with Rebuilding Efforts in Japan and Your Kids Can Get In on the Action!

Architecture for Humanity has several chapters in Japan.  They are currently raising funds that will go towards rebuilding in the devastated Sendai region.  To help with this initiative Students Rebuild have teamed with DoSomething.org to give students and youth a way to help by collecting 100,000 origami paper cranes.  For each origami paper crane collected from youth around the world, $2 will be donated to Architecture for Humanity by the Bezos Family Foundation.  Once all 100,000 origami cranes are collected they will be woven into an art installation – a symbolic gift to the youth of Japan from their global counterparts.  For more information, origami instructions, and where to send cranes, visit Paper Cranes for Japan.

And If you’ve got 20 Minutes, Cameron Sinclair’s TED Talk

Sustainism is the new modernism

We need a new word for our new world and Sustainism is it, according to authors Michiel Schwarz and Joost Eiffers.  Sustainism is the New Modernism is part cultural manifesto, part design book.  Schwarz, a cultural theorist and innovator, and Eiffers a “symbol maker” and designer (the two are also childhood friends) have created a captivating book – in its written content but also in form and design – that’s hard not to get excited about.

Sustainism is relevant not just to the design community, but as a new cultural perspective

Positing that modernism (and postmodernism) ended with the 20th century, we are in the midst of a cultural paradigm shift that will allow us to effectively think about, engage with and act on the world’s big pursuits. Sustainism is this new ‘ism’ and Schwarz and Eiffers’ book offers the vocabulary and graphic symbolism to recognize, frame, and embrace what’s here and happening.  With quotes from world leaders, journalists, and authors who describe what Schwarz and Eiffers have named, they say “manifestations of Sustainism are emerging in all of culture:  from architecture and design to how we deal with food and our land, from media expressions and community to innovation and urban life.”

So What is Sustainism?

The Trefoil knot is the symbol of Sustainism, encompassing a world that is networked, digital and localist

Schwarz and Eiffers assert that Sustainism is a way of thinking about the world that is responsible – ethically, socially and environmentally so; that it shifts the global vs local discussion to understand it as “all locals are globally connected” – we should no longer talk of ‘the global village’ but of a ‘globe of villages’.  Sustainism also favours open source information and a networked, collaborative approach to innovation, technological and otherwise.

Sustainist symbols. Credit: Michiel Schwarz, Joost Eiffers, Sustainism is the New Modernism, 2010

Sustainism is the New Modernism is hard to put down between its noble ideas, snappy graphics, bold typefaces, and historical quotes.  Put it on your coffee table or give it as a gift to be sure to start an interesting dialogue.

Order the book via amazon.com or Indiebound independent booksellers.

Michiel Schwarz and Joost Eiffers
Sustainism is the New Modernism
A Cultural Manifesto for the Sustainist Era
D.A.P/ Distributed Art Publishers Inc.
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY, 10013
December 2010
ISBN 978-1-935202-22-6

Why You Should Care About The Toronto International Design Festival

For the second year the Interior Design Show has produced the Toronto International Design Festival.  This year the quality and abundance of local talent, ideas, art and intention on display is staggering. If you’re in Toronto this week, it’s worth braving the cold.  A few of The Design Tree’s picks on what to see and do are below.

Conversations in Design: Crowdsourcing creativity and community
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St, W
When: January 27, 2011, 9-5pm
Admission: Full day $250 + HST; $150 + HST for students.

Ten great minds come together for IDS’ second annual full-day design symposium to discuss the effects “crowdsourcing” has on creativity in the design community and as a tool for social change. Understood as tapping talent from the crowd, the impressive panel is moderated by Helen Walters, and includes writer and artist Douglas Coupland (have you read his NYT op-ed dictionary of a near future?), David Benjamin – the force behind The Living (see Amphibious Architecture!), Bruce Mau Design’s Hunter Tura among others.  For more information, hop on over to www.conversationsindesign.com.

While Conversations in Design is an IDS event, across the city there are a great number of independent exhibits and shows that feature a tonne of home-grown talent.  Connecting with Parimal Gosai, a founding member of Pubic Displays of Affection,  a group that uses design as a tool to shape, build and improve society, he is excited about the emergence of Toronto as a hub – and community- of  design. Not only is the Toronto scene developing a unique identity and boasting a healthy diversity, Parimal sees a community truly in blossom: “There is a very supportive comradery between the designers and the different exhibitions happening this week. It will make Toronto design week feel like a week of sharing wonderful thoughts and ideas with friends.”  But perhaps most exciting is his view that the Toronto scene is thinking big, evolving beyond design as a “unilateral, money-making practise available only to the elite. We, as PDA are welcoming change, diversity, truth and love in design as way to move forward and exist in the current socio-economical, political and environmental climate while remaining true to who we are.”

When: January 26 – February 6, 2011
Where: The fabulous Bookue Boutique, 798 Dundas St W
Admission: Free

Curators Katherine Morley and Erin McCutcheon ask 10 Canadian women designers to examine the word ‘capacity’ in their work.  Bringing together top industrial, graphic, textile, and product designers this exhibit features a range of media -from sculpture to furniture- tied together by this common thread.  The show promises to be fascinating in its own right, but bravo to Morley and McCutcheon for featuring the oft neglected POV of women designers. www.capacitytoronto.com

Come Up To My Room
When: January 28-30, 2011
Where: Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St W.
Admission: $10

In its 8th year, the Gladstone Hotel’s annual alternative design event invites more than 30 local artists and designers to show us what goes on inside their heads.  Always one of Toronto’s most exciting shows – conceptual, dynamic and inspiring in its marriage of art and design- this year’s show is curated by Jeremy Vandermeij and Deborah Wang and features works in 11 rooms and 14 installations in the hotel’s public spaces.  www.comeuptomyroom.com

Imaginando Lotta

Where: School of Design at George Brown College, 230 Richmond St E
When: January 28 2011, 4-8pm
Admission: Free

This year students of the Institute without Boundaries focuses on the future for Lota, a small mining community in Chile devastated by the recent earthquake in February 2010. Working together with local industry professionals and remotely with members of the community, this small interdisciplinary group of students is developing a revitalization plan and a vision for the future of Lota. The solutions they propose will address the physical damage as well as the economic, social and emotional impact of recent events. This exhibition highlights  this project that brings together an unusual academic design program with a vibrant community in Chile that was once a centre for culture and the arts.


Neighbourhood Maverick
Where: Harbourfront York Quay Centre, 235 Queens Quay West
When: January 29 – June 12, 2011
Admission: Free Public Opening Reception January 28th, 6-10pm

In Toronto – as elsewhere – neighbourhoods are defined by the houses within their boundaries. Cork Town is known for its turn of century workers’ townhouses; Leaside, its post war bungalows. But neighbourhoods evolve along with its city.  This exhibition explores the juxtaposition of modern homes within these neighbourhods, asking how and to what extent the  existing streetscape be maintained?

Lots to see and do this week.  We’re all very excited.  Just don’t forget your hat and mitts.