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Hack The Box: Re-Programming the Museum Experience

18 Mar


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.


Lately on Pinterest…

5 Apr

I thought I’d write a quick post to share some of the things that I’ve been pinning to Pinterest, which I joined very recently. I have seven boards – Interiors, Exteriors, Art, Eats, Crafts, Kids, and Things That Are Fabulous – so I’ll share one image from each of those.  Here are a few peeks at my Pinterest page:

An Interior I adore.


An Exterior that is lovely.


Art to swoon over.


A delicious Eat.


A pretty smart Craft.


Kid coveted design.


How could you not think this is Fabulous?


Many people say it’s addictive to pin, but honestly, I’ve been finding that I have to make myself do it more often than not because I tend to hoard images on my desktop and tuck them into folders for clients and blogging. In any case it’s fun – and quite useful – to pin things.  As I’m sure you know, each image links back to (or should link back to) the site from which it originated or one that credits the creator; as such, it’s a great visual bookmarking tool. As the wife of an attorney, believe me, I’ve heard the lectures about proper crediting and legal issues that the site raises…it didn’t exactly make me want to sign up immediately, but alas, I caved, and I try to do it the right way.

Do you belong to Pinterest yet? If you don’t and would like an invitation, just shoot me an email!


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

A Sad Day For Apples: Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011

6 Oct

“Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

In 2000, Jobs said this in a Fortune Magazine interview.  Now, eleven years later, as technology becomes more pervasive and design becomes more accessible, it has never been more true. I expect that his legacy will live on in various states of form and function, and we are much better off for it. 

Clockwise from pillow at top: Apple Pillow by Ferm Living, $100 (image via Ferm Living); Apple Juice Glass from Crate and Barrel, $1.95 (image via Crate and Barrel); Journal iPad Cover by Kate Spade, $85 (image via Kate Spade); iPhone 4, starting at $99 (image via Apple); Apple A Day Scarf by Orla Kiely (image via Orla Kiely); Jonathan Adler Pink Apple Pillow, $110 (image via Jonathan Adler); MacBook Air, starting at $999 (image via Apple).


R.I.P Steve Jobs, 1955-2011.


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

I’m now on Twitter!!

13 Jun

JGBInteriors just joined Twitter! It’s so confusing!  Still, I’d love if you’d follow me!



PANTONE’s 2011 Color of the Year is Honeysuckle!

9 Dec

Here it is: 2011's Color of the Year! (image via Pantone)

Every year, sometime in early-mid December, I get really excited to hear what color Pantone will announce as their forthcoming Color of the Year.  Also each year, I promise myself I’ll set calendar reminders for the days before the announcement to make my prediction, which I’ll inevitably get right, and this will cement my status as a super chic color trendspotter.

Umm, I didn’t quite get a chance to make my prediction this year, but I do admit that I’d thought about this earlier in the fall and was leaning towards picking a color in the steely blue-gray family.  Not. Even. Close.

Don't you just want one in every color? Pantone mugs, $128/set of 10. (image via A+R Global Design)

You might be asking, “why is this important for interiors, that a company rooted mainly in graphics and print media is predicting a color trend?” and I would say this: Pantone has become so much more than the supplier of big, thick, expensive books that are referenced for graphic specs.   They inform and influence the textile industry (which heavily dictates trends in fashion and home) and are really tied strongly to all-things-creative, especially given the abundance of technology and the interrelatedness between the web and design industries.

But blahblahblah, it’s a pretty color.  Much like we saw lots of bright gold accessorizing and warm orange-colored frocks in 2009 when Mimosa was declared Color of the Year, and also like we saw an abundance of turquoise this past year when it was the reigning hue, I look forward to seeing tons of warm, peachy pinks in the coming 12 months.  Pantone always gets it right, and really, honeysuckle is much more uplifting than dove gray!

You can read all of the details, and hear Pantone singing the praises of this color that’s not quite salmon and not quite bubble gum, here.

Also, you can buy the cute-as-a-button Pantone mugs that are pictured above here.  I’m working on a collection as we speak…

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

DIY Toy MacBook Pro Tutorial

13 Oct

Last weekend I made my son his very own MacBook Pro!  Though it’s far from being a stunning home decor item, it is a pretty cute kid toy and I’m proud to call it one of my most worthwhile crafts.  See below how it was accomplished, step by step.


The little man getting to work!


Time: 1-4 hours, depending on your craftiness and level of detail

Supplies Needed:

Shoe Box (mens or running shoes)

Duct Tape

Aluminum Foil

Sticky Label ( the hello-my-name-is size)

Ribbon (I used textured silver cord ribbon)

Roll of Velcro, fairly thin in width with self adhesive backing(!) *

Roughly Textured Felt, one piece

Keyboard Decals (or DIY, but the adhesive backing makes this so much easier and more consistent)

Rhinestone or Button

2 Plastic Gerber Baby Food Lids

Small Pictures (printed or cut out or stickers, in about 1-2 inch square-ish shapes)

Scissors, Fabric Glue, Super Glue, Clear Packing Tape, X-Acto Knife, Pen, Needle and Thread

*Velcro has two parts – “soft” and “spikey” — know what I mean? For 99% of this you’ll use spikey, so unless I otherwise say “soft” use the “spikey side.” A  little velcro goes to waste, but hey, it happens.


See -- it's a real Apple product.



1.) Fit the lid of the shoe box over the bottom of the box.  Trace the edge around where the lid touches the big box. Cut along the lines to form two lid shapes; a blade works well for scoring and the first few cuts, then you can trim the corners with scissors. One will nest inside the other. The larger one is your “screen,” and the smaller one is your “keyboard.”

2.)  Cover every surface of both boxes in silver duct tape.  Thankfully, duct tape can be lifted and re-applied a few times, and it can be pretty cleanly patched with small pieces if you miss a spot.

Decorating the “keyboard”…

3.) Apply the keyboard decals to the outside surface of the smaller box (this part was the bottom of the shoe box). You may recognize the ones I use as the decals I admired in an earlier post here.  Don’t be fooled, they came rife with misspellings (“Commond”) but have been a great added touch to this project.

4.) To make the touchpad, cut a small piece of aluminum foil slightly larger than a sticky label.  Fold it around the front of the label, just barely adhering the foil to the underside (sticky part) by a few millimeters.  Then, press the sticky label right onto the box under the “keys.”  Self adhesion, sticks great, and you can just stack more and more touchpads on top of each other when your kid mangles the existing one. **Note — we didn’t have room for speakers, but if you do I’d suggest using this method to create them on either side of the keyboard. Just crinkle the aluminum before applying to make it look perforated.**

5.) In the upper right hand corner of the keyboard, super glue a small rhinestone or button.  This is the power button.  It was important for me to make this part flashy, because it’s the part of my MacBook that my son is most attracted to and I want him to press HIS and not mine. Also, I know super glue seems like a little much but the power button is a huge choking hazard, so it needs to be secured safely.


The Power Button.


Moving onto the “power cord”…

6.) Cut a piece of ribbon about 18 inches long and securely duct tape the end to the inside of one baby food lid. Set the other lid on top to form a tiny box enclosure, and seal it up so that the entire thing is covered in duct tape.

7.) On the other end of the ribbon (the part not enclosed in the baby food lids), take a little piece of the spikey sticky velcro and roll it around the ribbon.  The sticky backing will help it attach, but a needle and thread through the cord ribbon and velcro a few times will seal the deal.  As with the power button, securing this little piece of velcro is important because small pieces are choking hazards.

8.) Attach a small piece of the soft sticky velcro to the outermost part of one of the short outside edges of your “screen” box.  Stick the “cord” to the “screen” and you’ve completed your breakaway power charger!

Now the screen…

9.) Using a strong glue or fabric glue (I used Sobo), cut a piece of felt the exact size of the interior of the larger box and glue it down. Use a lot of glue, press it down lightly, and don’t touch it for about 24 hours. Make sure that you expose the side of the felt that works best with velcro, because sometimes felt can be slightly different on both sides.

While you wait….

10.) Cut out your velcro “stickers.” We used Elmo, Cookie Monster, a cat, a strawberry, a tiny engagement picture of ours, a suitcase, a cupcake, and a little arrow symbol.  Cover the front and back in clear packing tape a few times (laminating at home!) and cut them out cleanly.  Attach a tiny piece of spikey velcro to the back, and you’ve got a sticker ready to go on the screen. Repeat as many times as you want icons, and get ready to make these over and over as your kid attaches them to the dog, loses them in his cereal, and crinkles them into tiny bits.

11.) Nest the keyboard into the screen at a 90 degree angle (as shown) and there you have it – a tiny MacBook Pro!


Opening up the iCat application...


I’d definitely recommend that once your felted screen is dry and ready for play you militantly supervise the first few uses to watch for slight imperfections and loose tape. Other than that, this has been pretty durable for us so far.  I hope your kid enjoys it, and that you enjoy making it as much as I did!

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

iPhone4 Is Here!! And So Is My Geekiest Post Yet.

24 Jun

Today marks the day of the fourth coming of Apple’s Lord and Savior, which will be referred therefore unto as The iPhone 4.

Behold the sleek lines and the crispness of the images.

I too am a member of The Cult of Apple, but having just shelled out upwards of $300 for a warranty on my MacBook Pro, I am going to be waiting a few more months before I upgrade my iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4.  Sorry husband, that means that you will also have to wait for yours. But just think about how much sweeter those five megapixel photos will look after you’ve been without them for a few weeks!

In any case, if anyone is looking to get a little more iPhone in your life — specifically in the way of home decor — then look no further.  Here are four products that will either make you cringe or squeal with iJoy.

First up is the iPhone sleeping bag. Actually, it’s an iPod sleeping bag, but it’s pretty cute.

It's not too late to get this for when you camp out for the iPhone 5!

Next is a doormat that features the “slide to unlock” button.  I like this for its subtlety; probably the only item of those featured that I would actually consider owning.

$50, Meninos Design.

These are coasters: cute idea, maybe good for a party or an office.

$60, Meninos Design.

And finally, some pillows that represent iPhone icons. I’ve seen these around for a while now, and this particular Etsy seller seems to have the best looking ones available.

$17.99, seller "iconpillows," Etsy.

So there you have it: a bunch of nerdy stuff to complement your iPhones. I’ll probably be sticking to black lacquer and chrome when I want to create a design that’s evocative of an iPhone (and that has yet to happen), but to each her own…

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Rainbow Keyboard from Etsy

18 May

I’ve never actually purchased anything from Etsy, but I do visit the site about once a week and am always putting things in my cart. I just never follow through with the purchase.  Today, that is going to change.

The "rainbow macbook keyboard decal" stickers from openandclose on Etsy. GORGEOUS!

Etsy seller openandclose has about a dozen different macbook keyboard decals from swirls to rainbows to brick motifs; there’s even an adorable set of Photoshop shortcut decals.  The simple rainbow decal has my name on it, and the best part is it’s only $15 plus shipping.  I’m willing to work with the language barrier between myself and the seller and go for it.  She asks in the item description “Do you want to let your keyboard special?” — yes…I think I do.

Update: Two weeks later I got my keyboard decals.  They are cute…and “command’ is spelled “commond.”  Twice.  So that’s a bust.  I’m going to save them for when my computer is too old to care about the spelling error.  On the bright side, I used the little Apple logo decal to make a stencil on a cake for my husband.

This is not my best cake. But it's the thought that counts, right?

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.