Author Archive

The Sense of Space and Touch

September 21, 2009

When I started school at the University of Texas at Austin in Interior Design, I was very interested in multifunctional or multi-purposed spaces. This focus led me to become interested in multifunctional furniture. In Design III, one of our projects was to make over a gazebo on Town Lake. I decided to make it a coffee bar/ café. In an attempt to create juxtaposition to the surrounding nature I used two types of chairs with modern twists on classic designs. However I ran into a problem. Some of the chairs I liked did not come chair height, and others did not come bar or counter height. Naturally, I designed them to the appropriate height for the space. By the end of the project I decided that the contrasting chairs were interchangeable in their locations within the space however I would need both types to come in both seat heights. Thus, I designed interchangeable legs with different heights. And what is unique about them is that the body of the chair is not normally seen at bar height. (See images)DHB blog 5 Product Design

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In the aspect of sensory information I believe the freedom to change the height of your body in a specific seat may have a positive effect. It is very similar to an office chair. No one can deny when they were little, they liked to rise up an office chair, pull the lever, and let is sink down. Other than an office chair there are various experiences we have with changing heights in an interior. What about a salon chair? Getting on a bus? The bus lowers itself to the curb to facilitate better access. Freedom to use these items in different situations helps create a flexible space. The more thought I put into the design right now, I wish I had designed a way for the larger legs to store under the seat or inside the shorter legs.

Continuing in my quest for multifunctional furniture I moved on from changing height on a chair to a chair that could become a table. In Design VI, our project site was the Schneider Building on Guadalupe and 2nd street. We were to turn it into a two-purposed space with one part being a house for the mayor of Austin. In my design, I proposed a museum of the Schneider building as well as the City of Austin. On the first floor, I designed projected photos with accompanying music appropriate of the time of the photograph. To be able to enjoy the sensory experience I created a chair that sat back to back. However, when time came around for a banquet, conference meeting, private party, or even a campaign party, the chairs flip over and turn into a table. For this specific project I designed there to be LED lights in the chair with a resin base as the structure. This picks up on the sense of sight stimulating the mind to rethink what source light comes from.

The experience of the chair itself can be a sensory experience. If the chair-table is used as a dining table a unique experience occurs. The padding and fabric, once turned into a table, acts as a tactile surface in an uncommon place: the top of the thighs and the shins. In a space that is usually cold, it may act as a blanket or exactly what it is: a tactile experience. I can only imagine the realm of textures that would work in certain situations. However the padding and fabric could not weigh on the lap or constrict the guest or it would be a negative sensory experience.

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For my current project, we are renovating the 1940s Buttrey Building on 6th and Colorado St. Exploring the time period, my group found interest in the swanky style of the flappers and mobsters. I can just see a faux fur (real fur is bad J! Go Peta) club chair with a flat dark wood back turning into a large table, reminiscent of the fox, chinchilla, rabbits, and mink wraps.

Spatial Cognition

September 15, 2009

Spatial cognition is, “thinking of a space and how the various elements of that space relate to one another.” In a study of my living room I used spatial cognition to sketch a perspective view of the space. My spatial cognition came into play when I began to measure and draw up a plan for the placement of the objects within the space. Non-spatial cognition is, “the remembrance of places and how we feel about them.” When analyzing my emotional and cognitive responses to sensory information such as color, form and line, visual quality, and light, I used non-spatial cognition as a guide. It is this sensory information that helped me better understand the factors that affect my responses to my living room.

Initially, when we received this assignment I knew my forensic explorations would be very similar if not exact to my imagined space due to my over observant mind. My perspective sketch included my TV cable box, my crookedly placed speakers, and even my cat sleeping in her favorite spot on the love seat. In addition to that I even included the crack in the window near the love seat where the blistering heat seeps in raising my AC bill.  My observing skills go beyond the interior. They apply to street, which comes in handy with directions. Even when I loose things I have a photographic memory of my drawers and shelves. Now only if I had a photographic memory when it came to studying.

I would like to think it was my design skills that help me remember such vivid details. However, I believe it is quite the opposite. I believe it is because of my gift to imagine a space exactly as it is, whether it is real or part of a project, is a large reason why I am so interested in interior design.  The only discrepancy I found was when I was sketching the floor plan to scale. Inserting the furniture to size, I realized where I thought the placement was, was not correct. For example I thought that my media cabinet was in the middle of the windows on the west wall, but the windows are more south of the middle of the wall, and the cabinet is centered in the entire wall. Overall my factual documentation supports my memory of the space.

Lastly, I used Augustin’s descriptions of sensory information in a space to determine my emotional and cognitive responses.  The main colors in my space are beige walls, honey wood floors, and chocolate brown slipcovers. Accent colors are found in a distressed, turquoise hallway table, various blue hue photographs, and a fabric covered plywood cut with organic circles of teals, turquoise, pea green and army green. Last, the white rug has an accent lime green organic stripe running through it like a river. According to Augustin, my colors are relaxing and comfortable. They have similar saturation. The patterns in my living room are a mixture of hard lines and curved lines, what I believe to be the perfect balance of masculine and feminine. For example the art above my couch is a square piece of plywood wrapped in textured fabric with organic circles similar to those that occur in nature. One could say it can spur creativity or high-mental activity.

Reading Augustin’s information on color and perception I found that my chocolate covered sofas make my room look smaller because they look bigger put against my light colored beige walls. The application of this statement rang true in my forensic study. On paper my living room looks much bigger than it feels in real life. The walls in my living room are wood panels painted light matte beige. This fact incorporates texture and line in one. The repetition of the vertical lines gives a sense of order and stability. The panels may also be considered a pattern, which creates a rhythm. Over all the space has an asymmetrical balance due to the circulation from front door to dining room. Finally, I studied the light in my living room. The main light source is an overhead fan with three incandescent bulbs. One of the bulbs is blown out, thus it is a bit lower than normal, but it measured at 1076 lux, which Augustin deems to be on the brighter side. However, the one light source does not reach the walls very well so I have a table lamp on my hallway table and a floor lamp in the opposing corner. The table lamp measures 3200 lux (it is the only light source with a fluorescent bulb). The floor lamp measures 2000 lux. All together with every light source turned on they measure about 1900 lux. But on a more personal note, I loathe artificial light because it always seems yellow. I love natural light to the point where I won’t turn on the lights until I am unable to see it’s so dark outside!

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Saving

September 8, 2009

Reiss defines motives as, “reasons people hold for initiating and performing voluntary behavior. They indicate the meaning of human behavior, and they may reveal a person’s values.” When applying Reiss’ definition of motives to his Theory of 16 Basic Desires, particularly “Saving”, a person’s values deem most pertinent.

Reiss identifies saving as the 16th motive and a basic motive of human behavior: the desire to collect.  Outside of the context of Reiss’ study, saving applies to other things such as health of the body and soul. In conclusion, Reiss’ , “basic or fundamental motives have three features: (a) end purposes, (b) universal motivators, and (c) psychological importance.” In the following analysis I will take a look at intrinsic and extrinsic pleasures as well as end goals when considering the “saving” motive.

Intrinsic motivation or pleasure can be described as one’s motivation to participate in things that are internally self-satisfying or build one’s self-concept. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts self-actualization at the top of the pyramid.  In terms of Reiss’ motives and Maslow’s theory, saving means that accomplishing a certain wealth in terms of money, health, and mental well-being is a top priority after basic physical motives such as hunger. Intrinsic motivation can be looked at as actions people partake in for no other reason than the interest and enjoyment that goes with it.  Curiosity and challenge are driving factors behind intrinsic motivations. For example, a person reading a book for pleasure feeds a curiosity factor and the simple reason of finishing a book and enjoying the read. However, Reiss mentions that, “pleasure can be a consequence of behavior rather than a motivating cause.”

Extrinsic motives differ because the pleasures are external to the behavior or activity.  Thus, a behavior is rewarded with external factors such as money, trophies, or grades. For example, a child studies more to make better grades. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can be closely related to end goals. Reiss explores the end goals looking at the nature of the motive behind them.

When talking about the saving motive, extrinsic and intrinsic motivations may be applied. A person may satisfy an intrinsic drive by making money as the completion of a self set challenge, competition, or curiosity of an idea. On the other hand, a person may satisfy the intrinsic drive as well as the extrinsic. When such a person makes money, they are also able to provide for themselves and/or their family, buy material things that represent them, invest in real estate, and maintain and certain lifestyle that the money allows them. The saving motivation’s end purpose is first and foremost survival, then providing for others, then the finer things. Saving’s universal motivators may be mirroring other’s behavior. Like “Most everyone has a job so you should too” or trying to climb the social ladder. Saving’s psychological importance is a peace of mind or a sense of control that a person is able to support themselves giving their lives a sense of balance.

Reiss’ 16 motives guide the design of a space. Spaces do not necessarily consume all the motives at once, but are typically a product of at least one. We will take a closer look at what spaces are driven by the motive of saving. In the application of Reiss’ saving motive to spaces, Augustin mentions homes and other real estate investments as a means to stock away money for the future. Customizing such an investment reveals personal values, a statement of ownership, and the material things one values as well.

Taking into account Augustin’s interpretation of Reiss’ saving motive, I chose two houses featured in Interior Design Magazine. Both, homes or galleries, for that matter, are an end result of saving money as well as collecting belongings. First, Kitty Hawks and her spouses’ large New York apartment ranges in all styles putting importance on the experience of collecting versus the pieces themselves. The space seems to succinctly house their many furnishings collected over the decades. It represents their love for a smart, but eclectic style, as well as a homey feeling full of memories and travels. In contrast, I chose an apartment designed by Hariri and Hariri, where they combined two New York co-ops for art collectors. The space is truly designed around the art. The pieces speak for themselves, and the furnishings are mere decorations. At one end of the spectrum the Hawks’ residence shows their personal values of family, memories and experiences. At the other end, the art co-op displays a love of art as well as a respect for each work with rooms designed around specific pieces. However, both examples display ownership and accomplishment of saving. [On a side note]In contrast, I wanted to show an example of saving, or the desire to collect things, in excess. A form of OCD known as hoarding, which I respectfully understand is a serious condition, is where people are afraid to let go of things that they believe have intense meaning in their lives and a fear of letting those things go.

Before reading The Theory of 16 Basic Desires, my initial reaction to the motive of saving was money, physical health, and soul. Using the three fundamental features of a motive outline by Reiss, I wanted to look a bit further into other spaces that use saving as a motivation in a different sense. Other than a monetary context, saving is defined as tending or serving to save; rescuing; preserving. Therefore, I chose a hospital and a church (or any religious establishment) in addition to the home and their collected belongings within.

A hospital refers to saving one’s physical health. Good physical health is an end goal or purpose of satisfaction of the basic human drives such as hunger: what we need to be able to live. A universal motivator of health is pure survival. One may even go far enough that good health is a universal drive or motivator that is satisfied to the point of reproduction where one is passing on their genes, surviving their family tree.  The psychological importance of saving one’s physical health could refer to the healthy body healthy mind theory. One must be physical apt to be able to obtain monetary wealth to satisfy the saving motivation. This in turn allows them to satisfy the saving motivation in terms of homes and real estate investments.

Last, the church may be seen as a saving motivated space. Religion may save the soul. Reiss explores religiosity as a factor associated with honor and vengeance. I believe it can also be applied to saving. This space focuses primarily on the desire for psychological support putting importance on psychological health. “Saving” ones soul may give them a sense of purpose (or “end purpose”). Also, religion may be seen as a universal motivator. Reiss’ results, “implied that people embrace images of supportive and attentive deities not because they fear death, but primarily because images of these gods moderate feelings of autonomy (existence as an independent being), which many people experience as aversive when feelings are too strong.” The church displays a saving motivation in the aspect of valuing the life one is given and honoring whom they believe gave it to them.

In summation, my exploration of Reiss’ motivation for saving is not solely limited to material belongings, money, and real estate investments. Although, they may represent us and show ownership and accomplishment, I believe Reiss’ motivations cross over many spaces and each motivation is also applicable to many genres of spaces. Our homes can individually represent our saving motivation, and places such as churches and hospitals can communally represent what we value. Whatever the motivation behind the action, these spaces speak volumes about what drives our society intrinsically and extrinsically as well as human behaviors in general.26030282673252740824_3e081efac8PerfectHospitalRoomgrace_church_sanctuary_1_1-2

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

September 1, 2009
Example of the "miniature killer's" crime scene model

Example of the "miniature killer's" crime scene model

When considering the set of any production, the background design has the capability to take on its own life form much like that of a character. This possibility is true of movies, television series, and even musicals and plays. There are numerous movies that come to mind when talking about the background as a character, such as Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Harry Potter, Labyrinth, and Nightmare Before Christmas. However consider television. The most prominent difference between movies and television series are their length. Both genres greatly impact our society and sometimes even our personal lives, but television series give viewers an opportunity to become even more connected with the plot, characters, and setting. Similar to movies, T.V. series, too, can accumulate a “cult” following, for example CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a long running television series on CBS, under the production of the incredibly successful Jerry Bruckheimer. CSI is a show about a team of crime scene investigators and the cases they encounter. It stems from a docu-drama show on the Discovery Channel, which followed real life forensic detectives.

The setting of CSI takes place is Las Vegas, Nevada. When the cast is not filming on location, there are two main sets. One set is the laboratory, where forensic tests take place and the second set is the connected police station where suspects and witnesses are interviewed. In addition to the main sets, there are the crime scenes, where the cast goes to collect evidence and provide their expertise in solving their cases.

Stylistically, the CSI labs have clean, crisp window walls. Some are frosted and backlit with blues and greens. The design rings true to what one might associate with a forensics lab and T.V.: clean, sterile, but yet sexy and mysterious. This style continues into “the field” where the team goes on site to collect evidence. The evidence then comes back to the lab, where the tech gadgets and equipment take on a life of their own. The setting is accompanied by the characters lengthy explanations and technical discussions of bullet trajectory, DNA, and fingerprints. The “nitty gritty” of the evidence relates to the sterile set, while the drama of the teams relationships and crimes relate to the sexy mystique created by the lighting and sound design. The style of the set is very consistent, to the point where the viewer is able to identify where characters are at all times, whether they be in an interrogation room, the morgue, or Gill Grissom’s, lead CSI, office.

In season seven, the CSI team encounters a serial murderer, known as the  “Miniature Killer”. The killer sends CSI miniature scale models of the crime scenes to the CSI office, challenging the team to find the location of the victim. The models contain the victim’s real blood and a trace of bleach, the killer’s phobia, in which she is, later, incarcerated and forced to work with everyday. Besides that, the scale models are exact replicas from the amount of glass pieces from a shattered window, the pool of blood from a gunshot wound, to the amount of electricity found in the room of an electrocuted victim.

The viewer experiences the actual crime scene, a perfectly replicated model of the crime scene, and the CSI labs, which makes this season particularly significant. The crime scene is a character within itself. It has a history, or a story made up by several components and events. The history is created by the “miniature killer” since those are her doings. However, the miniature scale models may also be considered a character within themselves because they represent the real crime scene created by the serial killer, thus revealing more her character.

The crime scene scale model is a backdrop for the serial killer, the character the viewer does not “meet” until very late in the season. As the season progresses the audience is introduced to more information about the serial killers past, and how she became a killer. But remember, this is only discovered through the crime scene models, which are made and anonymously mailed, by the “miniature killer”, to the CSI team, who then must find where the real crime took place.

This season has the most impact on the audience as well as the CSI characters. CSI is unable to solve the case in one episode; thus, the viewer continues to see it unfold in the crime scenes and scale models of the crime scene sets done by the serial killer. Viewers tune back each week to see what new mail the CSI office received. Was it a new scale model of the serial killer’s doings? This plot line has the most mystery and technical, forensic aspects the show has ever seen. On top of that are the relationships of the team members, which are pushed to the limits due to the stress of this unsolved case. The clean, crisp set of the lab partnered with the sexy lighting and music are a backdrop to the character of the scale models of the crime scenes. And it is these scale models and forensic settings that lead the viewers and CSI team to the actual crime scene, which is a character of its own.