Sometimes continental land masses need to get cozy, and the importance of organized nonsense…
heartbeats for giant rocks.
This morning I happened across news that a magnitude 7.8 earthquake (2009’s biggest thus far) experienced at the Southern reaches of New Zealand caused the land mass to lurch Westward towards Australia by a whopping 30 cm (12 in./1 ft. for the metric-impaired). (read: original article). The good news is, having been centered out in the middle of the ocean, the enormous quake (New Zealand’s largest in 80 years) caused no harm nor any major damage. The better (or rather, cooler) news is that in conjunction with its immense power and New Zealand’s position atop a tectonic plate boundary, the action “twisted” the country’s South Island tip (and thus the country) closer to its neighbor, Australia by a distance normally covered in hundreds of years.
Now I understand that Australia and New Zealand have long been affiliated—have been close. Historically, culturally, geographically, in funny accent quotient and overall weirdness factor, it’s an obvious fit. In fact, I have met about as many people who don’t know the difference between the two, Commonwealth nations than those who do. Sad, but true. Chalk it up to being on the other side of the equator, often out of season, often in the dark and generally too far away from the ignorant masses that carry the Western culture monopoly in the Northern hemisphere. But, if anything a past decade’s worth of meeting and getting to know many a good Kiwi and a fine Aussie has hammered home to me, it is that there is a friendly, but fiercely guarded difference. In fact, much like I or most any of my national brethren would bristle (politely) at being unwittingly (or even wittingly) misrepresented as American, Australian and New Zealand nationals are likewise in disfavor of being mistaken for one another.
So you will excuse me a snicker if I get a kick out of recent proof that your two countries are getting antsy and overly anxious to be geologically close. It’s cute. If you think of the lifetime of these glacially-paced, tectonic movements as that of a long and thorough romantic coupling, what Australia and New Zealand have just witnessed is the moment at the junior high dance where both parties finally clue-into each other’s mutual urges, gaze into each others’ eyes, and completely unsure, frightened and misinformed, the overzealous boy-suitor’s hand spasmodically, involuntarily leaps onto the unsuspecting, ribbon-haired, freckled girl’s adolescent breast. It is innocent, endearing, but at this stage of nascent romance, a huge step. Which begs the question, what’s your move now Australia? The prissy, reflexive slap to defend and define your honor? The polite but awkward and potentially crushing soft letdown? Or are you the type of girl that doesn’t mind skipping to second base?
the male of the species undertakes its ornate mating ritual for the benefit of the female.
And yes, I’ve cast you as the girl in this metaphor dear Australia—and don’t think that isn’t intentional, just proper thanks for your lovely ladies and your practice of drowning the rest of us in your easily-branded, über-macho human exports. However, both New Zealand and Australia ought to seriously consider the implications of the Pangea-ic road they appear to be going down. Heed the example of the aforementioned Canada, lest either of you wake-up spooning for eternity with the United States and knocked-up with Alaska.
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Recently, I was having a protracted chat with a dear friend about icon design. This topical matter had flowed quite naturally from an earlier conversation about industrial design. And I surmise, that with this particular friend, future discussions (along with past ones) will traipse the territory of software design, architectural design, fashion design, design, design, design. That’s just how life and verbiage work around J. Schmidt.
Of course, such impractical, heady, world-fix-it talk tends to stick with me. I haven’t much else to do these days. Luckily it wasn’t long before I stumbled across mention of the whimsical, but conceptually ambitious, Dollar ReDe$ign project in the NY Times online. I’d often been victim of the staid, monotone, heg(d)emonic uselessness of American paper currency, long wondering when it would be updated and rendered more sensible with good design. For all its residual pomp and sentimental ties to an uppity formal classicism in illustration, at least contemporary Canadian money has the sense to color-code. An overhaul of the American brand is definitely overdue, and what better time to pursue good design than the present? Kudos to Richard Smith for laying out a forum that seizes the current zeitgeist of change stateside and creating an open competition. Flickr-up the results here.
The sober re-analysis of how we better convey iconographic information with better design led me to think about information graphics or infographics. Now, this is a fairly common segment/design-thought crevice for me to fall into. I have stumbled here in the dark many times before. The day job tends to keep me around signage and way-finding and other graphic extensions of someone, some company’s, some place’s ultimate brand (their architecture). And naturally, should I find architecture (in its most idyllic light) to be this unrelenting process of refining an idea until not one designed, physical-world misstep occurs, it follows that the exacting practice of taking essential information and enhancing it to complete understanding with the simplest, most powerful graphic possible would be of fascination. Of course, by the time my famously curt attention span has swam around this world of icons and infographics for several days, I am a bit spent. While there are many a fine outpost churning-out relevant, design-enhanced data (for instance, the wonderfully named always with honor, or this cat who graphically mapped his understanding of the complexities in Spike Jonze’s film, Adaptation), I found myself most intrigued by this set of Nonsense Info Graphics by Chad Hagen.
It is one thing to bring good design to the essentials—no shortage of skill or artistry is required for doing a good job of it. But to make nonsense sing with the authority of meaning, that probably demands an ounce of magic.
Nonsense Chart No. 1
Nonsense Chart No. 3