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Hack The Box: Re-Programming the Museum Experience

18 Mar

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I’ve had the opportunity to do some really interesting and fun things in my capacity as an instructor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design (CCAD). Last week was no exception. Between March 13-15, Corcoran College of Art and Design and Bethesda-based Brivo Labs engaged in a cutting-edge, meticulously planned, creatively consuming, brain-numbing-in-a-good-way design charrette to re-think the way that we experience the museum, as experienced through today’s (and the future’s) vast, and growing, technological capabilities.  (Whew. Did I say that right?)

The entire group consisted of about 15 rockstar graduate students from CCAD’s interior design and exhibition design departments, about 5 faculty mentors and 3 administrators from CCAD, many employees from Brivo, a few people from Top Coder (a company that I could write another whole post on). For the final presentation we were all joined by a handful of esteemed curators, webmasters, CEO’s, and other key members from important institutions in the worlds of art, architecture, and technology.

I was a faculty mentor for Team Retail (which I’ll explain below). I think we were also called Team Shop. Or Team Store. But we referred to ourselves as Team Retail from the first day.

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In an attempt to summarize this endeavor briefly, the schedule was as follows:

On Thursday we met at Brivo headquarters in Bethesda for an introduction to what they do and a discussion of how we could best create a conceptual synergy. We got to play with some neat gadgets and learn about things like beacons, which look like this  (note: this faceted silicone thing is the housing/casing, and not the actual “brain” itself, which is buried inside):

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In short, Brivo Systems provides cloud-based security solutions and Brivo Labs does all kinds of neat stuff with technology that I am just beginning to wrap my head around, so I will keep my explanation of what they do to that. Their website can pick up where I leave off.

We were split into three teams, each one working within the confines of the Corcoran’s historic 17th Street Beaux-Arts building as a test-case:

Team Entry had the task of addressing how we discover and first approach and engage with the museum.

Team Exhibition had the task of addressing how we understand, interact with, and experience the actual art.

Team Retail had the task of addressing how we engage with, locate, and participate in the retail experience of a museum. I was a faculty mentor for this team, which was comprised of five interior design grad students, two exhibition design grad students, members of both Brivo and TopCoder, and another faculty member.

On Friday, we met at the Corcoran Gallery of Art to explore the space as a whole as well as take measurements, document, and collect data about our respective spaces.

If you wanted to, you could even sneak away to see some of the current exhibitions and happenings. I walked into “Loop,” which is a personal favorite.

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I was also mesmerized by students and volunteers working on a huge Sol LeWitt line drawing in the atrium. Where else could you see something like this happening?

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Our team chose to spend the bulk of that time discussing ways that we could incorporate technology into the retail experience, and we worked closely with our Brivo and Top Coder tech-brains to distill those ideas into a what was ultimately a solicitation for solutions on Top Coder’s website.  What basically happened, was we came up with a concept for an App that would tie the museum experience to the retail experience, driving traffic back and forth between the two both while in the museum and after leaving the space. This would create a chicken-and-egg/cyclical effect of looping the two experiences together, which would result in repeat visitors to the museum and increased sales in the shop. The App would play heavily on the concept of gamification, creating incentives for ultimate cash-in in the retail store, and would work for those who choose to have active engagement through a device like an iPhone or tablet (either their own or one provided by the museum) as well as those who choose to have passive engagement through wearing a day-pass around their neck or carrying a member ID card (which would be equipped with a unique identifier such as a RFID chip). I’m going to stop going into detail here, because 1.) I could go on forever and 2.) I don’t want to give anything away that people might be hacking away at in the coming months.

I am really geeking out here, you guys. I can’t tell you how FUN this was.

On Saturday, we all reconvened at Brivo to have the official charrette day, where we put our brains to work. Starting at 8am. For 13 hours. Without leaving the building at all on a REALLY nice day. In a room full of dry erase fumes. But we made it through to the other side, and we’re fine. Better for the experience, actually.

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Saturday was a complete fog of diagrams, whiteboards, tracing paper, Google Drive and Dropbox exchanges, coffee (OH! the coffee we consumed), jelly beans, and power cords. Somehow, in the midst of all of this, we even managed to try out some toys that Brivo had for us to play with. Among them:

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GOOGLE GLASS! I don’t even CARE that I appear to have premature wrinkles on my forehead. I don’t even care. My husband was so jealous.

The day looked a lot like this for all three teams:

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Then 6pm rolled around, we breathed for a few minutes, and we set up to present our conclusions and proof of concepts to the critics. That looked a lot like this:

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Team Retail was even able to show a peek at the wireframe model of the App we conceived of. Can you believe that?  After formulating a concept, submitting a request to the TopCoder community of hundreds of thousands of programmers and coders, and letting things happen overnight, a “winner” from halfway across the world came up with a viable working model for the actual App. This is an example of the incredible synergy that this three-way partnership was intended to create: my mind is blown.

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The end of the evening was full of high-fives, thank-yous, and mutual admiration for what ended up being an awesome and exhausting collaboration. I didn’t play sports in high school, but it felt like we won a division championship or something. (Showing my nerd card. Again.)

One of the things that I have yet to mention is that this event was planned right before the recent announcements concerning the fate of the Corcoran Gallery/College, so many of the groups had approaches that necessarily addressed questions like “What happens to the collection?” and “Will the museum be free?” Those questions in and of themselves are big things to tackle, so doing that in conjunction with the larger purpose of the charrette was an enormous feat on top of another enormous feat, and these groups handled themselves like pros. I’m proud.

This three-day exercise, in conjunction with the conceptual nature of CCAD’s curriculum and the unique resources we have as an institution, are hallmarks of the Corcoran Experience for its students. The Corcoran College of Art and Design, and the Gallery, have a culture that is unique to the art community, unique to the museum world, and unique to the Washington DC area. At this time, the logistics of what happens to the space, its people, and its inner-workings are up in the air as to the what, when, who, and how. There are six thousand ways that things could shake down in the coming months, and I’m sure three thousand of them are incredibly beneficial to everyone involved. But as an alum of the Corcoran, a current faculty member, and someone invested in seeing its vibrant and unique culture survive and THRIVE, I think it’s important that we highlight experiences like this one as an example of what we need to preserve and perpetuate in order to keep the mission and voice of the Corcoran alive and well.

In any case, WHAT A GREAT experience for everyone involved! I hope it’s just the first of many more like it! I’ll echo the many “thank yous” exchanged around the room on Saturday, and say that each person involved the charrette – Brivo, Top Coder, the Corcoran folks, and the critics – was not only a valuable resource but a complete joy to spend in intense weekend with.

You can read the full press-release of the event here.

Many of the images in this blog post were taken by me. Many came from other participants, and can be sourced here via re-posted Instagram or Twitter pics.

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

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Tiny Gallery For A Tiny Person

17 Mar

Today’s SNOW DAY Morning Mission: creating a gallery wall in my son’s bedroom!

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As almost all parents-of-preschoolers do, we usually have about 600 pieces of kid art laying around the house. It just so happens that this weekend we went through and culled that down to about 100 pieces, which we put in a desk organizer on a bookshelf with the intent to work through it monthly and keep, scan, purge, or mail to grandparents. So naturally, this morning after a marathon game of Chutes and Ladders (did you KNOW how long that game can go on???) I grabbed the art organizer, called over my artist and assistant curator, and we got to work.

First we picked out about 20 things my son wanted to see up on the wall. We also found and printed some photographs. I let him choose about six rolls of washi tape for the “frames” (I love this Etsy shop for fantastic, fairly inexpensive tape). We also used a few existing frames and mats; by the way, I love these 2-pack NYTTJA frames from IKEA for kids’ rooms.

After about half an hour of “curating” we started the assembly. I’d love to say this was carefully thought out (as a client’s wall would be)  but we just started tacking things up and filling in the holes. I was careful to hang the actual frames a little higher than I thought he’d reach or hit while playing.

This is what we got:

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A few of the highlights are the origami dinosaur and crane, which are essentially “seat-belted” the the wall…

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Some of his early writings…2014-03-17 02.27.06 pm

 

And this ice cream cutout, which is paired with a “menu” he recently gave me as breakfast suggestions (nice try). 2014-03-17 02.27.24 pm

If the tape doesn’t stick very well or comes unglued, you can hit it with a hot hairdryer to gum it onto the wall a little bit more. But don’t worry, it won’t damage your wall (that’s the beauty of washi-tape). It will also keep your paper free of rips if you remove it (just pull slowly and carefully).

Now if tomorrow’s another snow day, I have NO IDEA what we’re going to do!

 

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

5 Things I Love RIGHT Now.

21 Feb

1.  Marbleized Anything

marble paper(source)

I love the idea of framing a piece of marbleized paper.

marble paper

I acquired a DIY marbling kit for Christmas so I might be trying this soon. Hopefully I’ll spring for a marbling tray so I don’t stain my bathtub, but I’ve been known to be a less than careful crafter when I’m struck with an urge to make something.

 

2. Making Candy

gummy candy

I experimented with chocolate and toffee and truffles during the holidays, but I’d never made gummi candy before. Until a few weeks ago. And the thing is, it’s SO easy! You just mix a large box of Jell-O with 3 packets of plain gelatin and 2/3 cup of water, let it sit for 5 minutes, then boil it until the crystals dissolve. Then you pour it into little silicone molds (it makes about two molds since there is so little liquid involved), let it sit for half an hour, and they pop RIGHT out. Easiest thing ever. Totally gross and artificial, but who am I to criticize that. I love candy.

 

3. Nurturing A Creative Soul

My son is really coming into his own as a tiny artist. He is not one to receive instruction or take direction often or with ease, but he has been asking for drawing lessons lately, and I oblige. He even added some…umm…”flair” to a rough sketch of mine. I’m not sure that it needed purses or Christmas trees, but he thought it did.

Collaborative Sketch

 

4. Rocks

A few weeks ago I rediscovered my childhood “100 Rocks of North America” chart, and it brought back awesome memories.

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It’s hard to tell from my picture, but they really are super colorful and cover a wide spectrum of neutrals. They remind me of these agate platters from LEIF ($50 – currently sold out, but they should be back in stock soon).

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5. Free Stuff!

I’ll be doing a GIVEAWAY on the blog next week! Look out for it – it’s a good one!

 

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Original Fabric Designs from Spoonflower

19 Dec

I just wrapped up another semester with my graduate students, and as usual, much of their work was very impressive and my creativity is recharged from being in the classroom.

One of the projects that my students engaged in this fall was the creation of a series of original textile repeats with digital design software. After they made tweak after tweak, we had them produced in the flesh by Spoonflower. Spoonflower is a textile company based on North Carolina, and they allow users to upload original designs and have them printed onto one of the many fabrics they work with for a pretty reasonable cost: it is a fantastic tool for me to use in the classroom, because it makes the designs that my students work so hard on come to life in a way that is motivating and full-circle.

We ordered a sampler, which is 30, 8” x 8” inch samples of fabric printed on one yard (for under $40 – can you believe it!?). Each of their original repeats appears 4 times, as they were uploaded at a 4” x 4” size. This was the sampler before we cut it, all laid out in its colorful splendor on my living room floor:

Spoonflower Sampler

Spoonflower Samples

Here are some of the details of the samples, after I cut them up and pinned them up to create on-the-spot coordinated collections in class. For those of you who have used Adobe Illustrator, you will appreciate that it is no small feat that many of these students had no prior experience with the software, and in about 15 weeks, they became masters of the Pen Tool. I am very, very proud of them.

Spoonflower Samples

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Spoonflower Samples

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When I was in graduate school, one of the most magical things was seeing your work come to life, which isn’t always possible when you’re working with buildings and rooms and furniture and fabric. So obviously,  I’m really elated that the students I work with in digital design can see their own textile designs take shape so easily. Now they can design fabrics and order them by the yard if they wish to!

If you’re interested in any of their creations, send me an email so that I can put you in touch with the designer: Spoonflower sells any public users’ fabrics by the yard, however, to protect their privacy, I did not upload any of the designs used in class as “public” designs.

 

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

You Do What You Can With What You Have: Holiday Decorating Edition.

20 Nov

Many of my friends and most of my neighbors are aware of the ever-present, pretty annoying, long-lasting construction project going on in my condo right now. To make a long story short, the building has some issues with waterproofing that are a result of not very detail oriented initial construction, and we’re in the midst of what we’re hoping is the final fix. Also, Pro-Tip: When installing window flashing, you want to position it so that it directs water outward, toward the facade, and not inward, toward YOUR HOUSE.

So now that we’ve covered that, let me explain…

About a month ago we were graced with this lovely tent.

Do What You Can WIth What you Have: The Holiday Decorating Edition!

Not only did it compromise the lovely light that we get through this hugely awesome window, but it upset my son because it exists in his “play station.” He came home from school and charged it like a linebacker. Not good. Though I can attest that it’s a pretty sturdy bubble. 

After about a month, they realized the existing windows will no longer work, so the search is on for new, custom, apparently very hard to find windows. I am no stranger to custom items, long lead times, and construction hassle. But ugh. And it was getting cold in here. So in this windowless hole, they put up a temporary insulated wall, which will grace our condo with its presence until the new year, when the new windows are finally here. It’s heinous.

Do What You Can WIth What you Have: The Holiday Decorating Edition!

My first thought was: MY HOUSE IS GOING TO BE SO UGLY FOR THE HOLIDAYS.  My second though a few seconds later was “Can I paint this?” So I asked a guy standing around and he said I could. Before he had time to go ask someone who could say “no” I painted it. With chalkboard paint. Bear with me here on this big black box…

Do What You Can WIth What you Have: The Holiday Decorating Edition!

I had about 1/3 of a quart left, and I used every single bit of it. The best thing about chalkboard paint is that one coat is enough, and if you do a spotty job, you’ll never know because the first time you use it you create an imperfect, cloudy/chalky finish.

I strung up some lights, and then my son went to town with the chalk.  The first thing he did was get a chair, climb up on it, and draw a sun and clouds. “Because they’re up high.”

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I’m really liking this “new” look. We’ll “Christmas-ize” it in a few weeks, and I think it will be a lot of fun. I might even miss it when it goes. Maybe. I might. We’ll see. I have to admit my craftsmanship is at 75%, but hey, it’s fun.

Just wanted to share this fun project, which turned a disaster into a fun, temporary installation!

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Happy Monday: The Inherited Wall Mural Edition

4 Nov

I work with a lot of new homeowners who hire me to select paint colors and wall treatments. Usually, we are just switching up colors to suit the new owners’ tastes. Sometimes we’re trying to get rid of dated wallpaper, faux finishes, or wood paneling. And sometimes, if we are lucky, we uncover awesome surprises in the form of murals. One of those times was this morning at an early color consultation meeting.

Here are two murals that I can’t resist sharing. I’ll withhold telling you whether or not we covered them up…to each her own.

The first comes from a bedroom in a house that is, inexplicably, not near the White Flint metro station. If the scale is not clear, let me clarify: it was pretty large. 10 points for a realistic ceiling depiction.

Happy Monday: Inherited Mural Edition

The second is a stunningly accurate depiction of the Beatles in their Yellow Submarine period. It is AMAZING.

Happy Monday: Inherited Mural Edition

The details!

Happy Monday: Inherited Mural Edition

I have to say that the people who commissioned these must have been fun loving and artistic people. They certainly make my job more interesting.

Happy Monday!

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Great Gallery Walls!

28 Oct

I’ve had a lot of questions about gallery walls lately: how to start them, what goes in (or is it on?) them, and are there any “rules” when creating them. Well, if you’ve worked with me or been in one of my classes before, you probably know my stance on “rules”: I don’t really do rules. Which isn’t to say everything goes – it doesn’t – but rather, I mean that there are so many conceivable ways to create a lovely gallery wall that I can’t even possible begin to list the process or tell you what elements you absolutely need. I can, however, give you a few suggestions and point out what makes a nice grouping. Below are some examples of great gallery walls, and some notes about how to emulate these looks. Enjoy!

 

Contrast is Key. I like the punch of a gallery wall that is white on black, or black on white, or white on white with bursts of color within the frames. Here are some examples of gallery walls that emphasize contrast effectively.

Great Gallery WallsWhite on Black. (via Eclair)

 

Great Gallery Walls!Color on White. (via Pinterest, source unknown)

Variation AND Repetition Go Hand in Hand. Got an interesting gold frame to incorporate? Great! Include a few additional gold touches. Have a bunch of thin frames in a single color? Great! Add more thin frames in additional colors. Get it?

Gallery WallMostly black and white with small, subtle bursts of color. (via Pinterest, source unknown)

Great Gallery WallsJust the right amount of gold. (via just bella blog)

Size Doesn’t Matter. Really. You have big and small pictures? Ok. Want to mix them? Fine. Want to keep them consistent? Not a problem. Let it be what you want it to be: no rules.

Gallery WallBig frames, small frames, tiny clipboards – all fine. (via Design Traveler)

Gallery WallThis one has both varying object sizes AND is small in scope. (via Pinterest, source unknown)

Start With Something Specific or Functional and Let it Grow. I often start gallery walls with a single piece of art or photography or utility that is important to the end-user. You don’t have to complete it in a day or even a week. Just hang that mirror or tv or piece of art (at eye level, preferably, as it’s the most important piece) and let other pieces spawn off of it. 

Gallery WallBegin with a mirror and let the other elements fall where they may… (via The Fashion Medley)

gallery-wall4…or begin with a television – BRILLIANT! I’ve used this a few times myself. (also via The Fashion Medley)

What Do You Do With A Stair Wall? GALLERY WALL! Enough said.

Gallery WallSimple, cool. (via Pinterest, source unknown)

Gallery WallLove this. (via Elle Decor via Pinterest)

Oh, you’re  wondering about spacing? Well, I do have a simple rule for that. If you use all the same frames, you can space them equally but the look will be less “Anthropologie” and more traditional . If you use different, differently sized frames, space them HOWEVER YOU WANT, whether it’s super organized or more crafty and uneven.

Gallery WallDifferent frames = varied spacing. (via Pinterest, source unknown)

Gallery WallsDifferent frames = varied spacing. I love the leaning art on the ground here. (via Euro Style Lighting)

Gallery WallDifferent frames = same-ish spacing. (via Arkpad)

That’s a lot of gallery walls! Which is your favorite? I’m not sure I can choose!

 

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.