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Day 02/11/2012

Rethinked*Annex ~ Design Thinking the Ordinary & Daily Life Prototypes

CORRECTION: (11.8.2012) I mistakenly wrote that the prototyping/implementation phase of rethinked*annex’s Design Thinking cycle had ended. This was a misreading of my calendar, the Implementation/Prototyping phase actually goes through to November 13th and the last two weeks of November are for reflection. WOOHOO for more ‘official’ prototyping time.


This may seem obvious but I feel it bears repeating: the rethinked*annex cycles are just a framework to get the ball rolling. The idea behind rethinked*annex is to seamlessly and holistically integrate tools and resources from three disciplines (Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking, Positive Psychology) into my every day life to enhance and optimize my daily existence. So while technically yesterday marked the end of the Implementation/Prototyping phase and the beginning of the two week ‘Reflection’ period for the Design Thinking cycle of rethinked*annex, it is in fact just the beginning. Having a timeframe has helped me move past my fear of execution and was established as a way to ensure that I would start Doing rather than stay perpetually in the thinking stage. It certainly does not mean that this Doing is going to end now that the Implementation phase is over. I hope to carry out some of the things I have learned these past three months for the rest of my life. As I reflect on my experiences these past three months and move on to the next cycle of rethinked*annex, I will continue to evolve these ideas and prototypes.



  • Learn how to cook good food (tasty & nutritious)
  • Make dinnertime a date each night
  • Nurture and engage in meaningful conversations
  • Eat 5 home cooked dinners each week and have snacks in the apartment.


  • Catering to two different diets (carnivore & vegetarian)
  • Finding motivation/pleasure in grocery shopping/preparing a meal/doing dishes
  • Coming up with ideas for what to cook every day of the week
  • Limited resources: financial, space, time, skills


  • Eat good food (tasty & nutritious)
  • Bond
  • Relax
  • Be more environmentally friendly
  • Have a healthy balanced diet
  • Save money



While I have not yet been able to prototype my little herbs garden as I had hoped, I did engage in some ‘crafty’ kitchen time by making my own pumpkin seeds (after hacking a pumpkin with a kitchen knife…steep learning curve, folks). I have also been making a green juice each morning, which has helped me feel much more proactive about my health. Finally, I have started a flavor association notebook, which I keep in my kitchen and in which I note different food pairings that I enjoy while trying out various recipes. The aim of the journal is to help me become more observant of individual flavors in the hopes of one day being able to create my very own recipes ‘from scratch’. Other ideas I will be prototyping these next few weeks ~ Making my own: nut milk & pates, jams and sauerkraut


Interestingly enough, in the two weeks or so of home cooking that I have done, I have finally discovered (yes, discovered) rhythm. I would without hesitation name balance as the overall core challenge of my life. I am terrible at balancing whether it be mentally, physically or emotionally. I am an over thinker with a chronic handicap in the execution/doing department. I have this highly unhelpful belief that things are not worth doing unless they are perfect. I have been trying to reframe this belief for years but find I have made little progress. I still spend far too much time thinking and much too little time doing. (Something which I think has been apparent during these past three months engaging with Design Thinking, but more on that in a later post.) Anyway, it turns out cooking is very therapeutic and for one of a handful of times in my life I have been able to feel, concretely and tangibly, the delights of rhythm and balance. I shared in previous posts my creative and emotional tensions surrounding cooking, notable among which my intense desire for ownership of the meals I cook and desire for creative expression through the act of cooking. I shared my feeling that since I was unable to cook an entire meal from scratch, I have often dismissed the act of cooking as a whole. Yet in the past couple of weeks, I have been made aware of the immense grey area that lies within the practice of cooking. Some meals are quick and easy to make while others require much more time and craft. I found that once I redefined a successful meal as something pleasing to my taste buds and health and which did not come in a container brought to my door by a delivery man, I could be much more relaxed about defining ‘creativity’ in the kitchen. There are days when I’m tired and want to focus more on the comfort of eating than the creation of a meal, on those days I pick simple and quick recipes and even if I do not create the recipe or the meal from scratch, I still feel creatively fulfilled by the actual act of creation–of combining (even if the formula is not my own) various elements that come together to create a whole greater than its parts. On days where I’m feeling more relaxed and have more time, I experience a different though equally satisfying sense of creative expression, by making an entire meal from scratch. Other ideas that I plan to prototype in the coming weeks include:

  • Paint & Idea Frame ~ I originally thought it would be terrific to cover our kitchen in Idea paint and use the space as a giant whiteboard to write down ideas etc. but my boyfriend is not as writing-on-the-walls friendly as I am so we’ve come up with the following compromise. We’ll paint the walls with regular paint (I’m not a fan of the white in the kitchen and would like something a bit more stimulating and warm) and then we’ll go buy an old wooden picture or mirror frame, paint it and put it up on the wall. The area enclosed by the frame is free game for writing and drawings. This way I still get to write on the walls but it’s contained to a small (and manageable for Matt) space.



So fantastically pleased to announce that in my past two and half weeks of home cooking I have not had to throw ANY food away (not even the usual wilted Swiss Chard usually found whimpering in some dark recess of my fridge). That’s right, by planning out meals for the next few days and buying only those ingredients necessary I have managed to eat everything in my fridge before it went bad. This has made me feel infinitely better and more motivated to continue cooking my own food. The prototypes that went into this were as follow:

  • Fresh Direct ~ Done dreading the grocery store (and consequently never going). Once a week, Matt and I sit down in front of the computer and browse the recipes I am continually accumulating on Rethinked’s Food Pinterest board. We choose recipes for the next four to six days and buy all the groceries online through Fresh Direct. I was a little worried at first about the quality of the food that would be delivered but so far we have used Fresh Direct three times and I’ve been extremely satisfied with the service each time. I also had some concerns about how ‘eco’ friendly getting my groceries delivered by truck was, but they have this great feature for when you schedule your delivery where certain time slots have little green leaves to show that Fresh Direct is already delivering to your neighborhood on those time slots. I also figured that  whatever carbon footprint I was leaving from having the groceries delivered was probably still a lot smaller than the total once you add up the plastic containers, utensils, brown and plastic bags involved in each meal being delivered.
  • Virtual Cookbook via Pinterest ~ LOVE THIS. This has been a real testament to the power of small ideas. There is really nothing revolutionary behind using Pinterest as a cookbook, but I can’t emphasize enough the difference it has made. I find browsing recipe by image alone works really well for me.
  • Green Juice: I’ve mentioned this one already, but it fits my need in a range of themes. I have started a daily morning green juice tradition where I juice an assortment of vegetables, I usually include kale, celery, cucumbers, carrots, ginger and lemon but I can easily throw in any other vegetables I have not had time to cook or consume yet and which might be going bad. What now, Kale!   

Pumpkin Thyme Rigatoni  


If you’ve been keeping up with my rethinked*annex progress, you’re most likely aware of my dinners from around the world idea. I did a very quick and basic iteration of this idea a couple weeks back by ordering sushi, which we ate while watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I would very much like to make this a weekly tradition (along with a Sunday morning feast). Because things have been so crazy these past few weeks I have been unable to keep this up but will be continuing to refine this prototype in the coming weeks.

Baked Tomatoes, Squash, and Potatoes


I have not yet had a chance to work on the ‘sensory’ palettes I wanted to create, I did however ‘step up my game’ so that cooking does not just mean preparing food but also setting a nice table and attending to the ambiance. These few small changes (adding candles, napkins instead of paper towels and making sure that the silverware and plates all match) have already worked wonders to make our eating experience feel more holistically pleasing. I am still very much interested in trying out my ‘sensory palettes and will be focusing on that in the coming weeks.


So far I have identified various ambitions, challenges and motivations behind the design thinking challenge:


  • Reframe our perception of winter
  • Engage in winter activities


  • Avoid feeling down emotionally
  • Enjoy winter’s unique attributes
  • Not dread winter’s coming


  • Dealing with the cold
  • Lack of sunlight/colors
  • Walkability goes way down with snow, rain and slush
  • Shorter days and longer nights
  • Holiday tourists
  • Feeling trapped ~ Indoor spaces seems to all be packed. Winter feels very claustrophobic.

I have yet to come up with themes like I did for the Rethinking…* the eating experience. Matt and I did however come up with some ideas we’d like to prototype just from looking at what we have gathered thus far as being part of the winter challenge topography (users, activities, environments, objects, interactions & activities) ~

  • Memory frames ~ we thought it would be fun to write down some of our favorite memories of winter moments spent together, frame them and put them up on the wall during the winter months. A visual reminder of all the fun time had in winter.
  • Seasonal eating ~ this is a hybrid prototype that works for both rethinking the eating experience and winter. Eating seasonally and locally.
  • Weekly Game night ~ I love board games and it seems winter might be the best time for me to finally convince my friends to play Monopoly or Apples to Apples. I think it would be great to make this into a winter tradition and have friends over every week for some food, winter cocktails (hello Grogs!) and games.
  • Dinner parties ~ I realize that most of my prototype ideas for rethinking the winter experience revolve heavily around food, but it seems like from November to about March food (and sleep) are front and center in my brain. The dinner party idea is an offshoot of the weekly game night idea mentioned above. It’s a way to emphasize the aspects of winter that I actually do enjoy (food, coziness, and human warmth).
  • Volunteering at a Homeless Shelter/ Soup Kitchen ~ Like most people, Matt and I find it particularly difficult to pass by a homeless person in the dead of winter and not feel deep despair for this other human being less fortunate than we. We are unable to give money to each homeless person we pass and the amount we are able to spare is much too small to improve that person’s life past getting a warm drink. By volunteering regularly, we would be able to enact more proactive and helpful change on a sustainable level.

On Delight: The Comfort of Small, Wondrous Objects

I have spent the past three days in a haze of wheezing, mouth breathing and achy bones so for today’s Rethinked…* Daily, I thought I would highlight the object that has given me the most comfort through my cold: my white Umbra House Tissue Box designed by Mauricio Affonso.

Of his process Affonso writes,

“Traditional tissue boxes are not exactly fun. Since my design mantra is to eliminate ugly, I wanted to transform this everyday household item into an object of play–bright colors, a cute silhouette and paper that pulls through the chimney so that with each fresh tissue you can spontaneously transform its shape.”

Mission accomplished–with flying colors might I add. The simple and minimalist design of this oversized Monopoly-like house, with its billowing clouds of tissue paper, provokes childhood-like feelings of wonder, delight and playfulness. After three days of burning achy skin under my nose and feeling as though I might cough up a lung at any moment, my crankiness factor has gone way up while my inclination for seeking delight in the ordinary has all but vanished. Yet this small object, so simple, beautiful and full of wonder, has rekindled my spirits and continues to make me feel physically much better. (How’s that for psychosomatic?!)

The design of the Umbra House Tissue Box reminds me of the five qualities that John Berger observes in the traditional wooden birds crafted in France’s Haute Savoie region; qualities which, “when undifferentiated and perceived as a whole, provoke at least a momentary sense of being before a mystery.”

First there is a figurative representation–one is looking at a bird, more precisely a dove, apparently hanging in mid-air. Thus, there is a reference to the surrounding world of nature.

Secondly, the choice of subject (a flying bird) and the context in which it is placed (indoors where live birds are unlikely) render the object symbolic. This primary symbolism then joins a more general, cultural one. Birds, and doves in particular, have been credited with symbolic meanings in a very wide variety of cultures.

Thirdly, there is a respect for the material used. The wood has been fashioned according to its own qualities of lightness, pliability and texture. Looking at it, one is surprised by how well wood becomes bird.

Fourthly, there is a formal unity and economy. Despite the object’s apparent complexity, the grammar of its making is simple, even austere. Its richness is the result of repetitions which are also variations.

Fifthly, this man-made object provokes a kind of astonishment: how on earth was it made? I have given rough indications above, but anyone unfamiliar with the technique wants to take the dove in his hands and examine it closely to discover the secret which lies behind its making.

The Umbra House Tissue Box may seem frivolous to some, but by so thoroughly and seamlessly blending attention to function as well as (and in equal parts to) human affect, this object fits Daniel Pink’s description of design’s central role in the creation of objects that satisfy and stimulate both of our brains’ hemispheres; an object fit for our contemporary Conceptual Age.

Your kitchen offers further evidence of the new premium on design. We see it, of course, in those high-end kitchens with gleaming Sub-Zero refrigerators and gargantuan Viking ranges. But the phenomenon is most evident in the smaller, less expensive goods that populate the cabinets and countertops of the United States and Europe. Take the popularity of “cutensils”—kitchen utensils that have been given personality implants. Open the drawer in an American or European home and you’ll likely find a bottle opener that looks like a smiling cat, a spaghetti spoon that grins at you and the pasta, or a vegetable brush with googly eyes and spindly legs. Or just go shopping for a toaster. You’ll have a hard time finding a plain old model, because most of the choices these days are stylized, funky, fanciful, sleek, or some other adjective not commonly associated with small appliances.

Some pundits might write off these developments as mass manipulation by wily marketers or further proof that well-off Westerners are mesmerized by style over substance. But that view misreads economic reality and human aspiration. Ponder that humble toaster. The typical person uses a toaster at most 15 minutes per day. The remaining 1, 425 minutes of the day the toaster is on display. In other words, 1 percent of the toaster’s time is devoted to utility, while 99 percent is devoted to significance. Why shouldn’t it be beautiful, especially when you can buy a good looking one for less than forty bucks? Ralph Waldo Emerson said that if you built a better mousetrap, the world would beat a path to your door. But in an age of abundance, nobody will come knocking unless your better mousetrap also appeals to the right side of the brain.” –Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future

Friday Link Fest {October 26-November 2, 2012}


Eleven Principles For Turning Public Spaces Into Civic Places ~ Several key principles are essential to creating any successful public space. These principles begin with numerous underlying ideas, the first of which is that the community is the expert — the most knowledgeable and best resource for the professionals that are responsible for designing or managing the space. The second is that when one creates a “place,” the entire project needs to be viewed differently. Partnerships are the third basic tenet because anyone who manages a space knows that it cannot be done alone. Finally, when embarking on a process for creating a successful space, one must accept that there always will be people who will say that it can’t be done — yet one can learn to work around the obstacles. via Projects for Public Spaces.

Redesigning Leadership: Design, Technology, Business + Life~ John Maeda and Becky Bermont on redesigning leadership. via The European Business Review.

The Future of Higher Education: Massive Online Open Disruption ~  Is college an expensive waste of time? Peter Thiel and Vivek Wadhwa have debated this question repeatedly — on 60 Minutes, at an Intelligence Squared debate in Chicago, and most recently at The Nantucket Project, a festival of ideas that was held on Nantucket, Massachusetts earlier this month. via Big Think, published October 27, 2012.

Land Art That Doubles As Energy Generator Could Power Up To 1,200 Homes ~The Land Art Generator Initiative is one of the most exciting annual design competitions because it brings contemporary art to the masses while revitalizing a public space. This year’s winning design is called “Scene Sensor” by artist duo James Murray and Shota Vashakmadze. The giant structure, which looks like a huge glowing billboard in the middle of Staten Island’s Freshkills Park, is a hand-crafted wind tunnel that generates energy through piezoelectric wires and kinetic vibrations from foot traffic. The design is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it could generate enough energy to power nearby homes. via Architizer, published October 26, 2012.

The Big Rethink: Rethinking Architectural Education ~ Detached from the ferment of epochal change, the groves of academe are failing to engage with current critical realities. Education for architects must be radically reconsidered, through a new, more fully human paradigm that engages with society and culture. via The Architectural Review, published September 28, 2012.

What Does Teaching Creativity Look Like? ~ Our current standardized approach to teaching and learning tends to slot students into silos—art-school types on one side and analytical thinkers on the fast track to law school on the other—so our society has a pretty limited understanding of what being creative actually means and what it looks like across disciplines. Creativity expert Michael Michalko, author of Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work has developed a list of 12 things most people aren’t taught in school—but should be—about creativity. via GOOD, published February 13, 2012.

Character is Destiny in How Children Succeed ~ A review of Paul Tough‘s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. Tough makes the case that non-cognitive qualities, rather than what we have in the way of gray matter, is what determines success. I.Q. is not destiny — character is. via HuffPost Education, published October 26, 2012.

Beyond Parklets: A DIY For the Digital Age ~ Imagine a city whose sidewalks and stairs can be quickly turned into temporary play spaces, whose public urinals keep urban plants green, and whose lampposts detect and report on the pollution around them. Those are just a few of the ideas generated as part of the Urban Prototyping Festival held recently in San Francisco. via TreeHugger, published October 27, 2012.




Watch the Quintessential Vampire Film Nosferatu Free Online ~ via OpenCulture, published October 26th, 2012.

Watch This: NASA Simulates 13.5 Billion Years of  a Galaxy’s Evolution in Two-Minute Video ~ via The Verge, published October 22, 2012.

How Art, Technology and Design Inform Creative Leaders ~ John MaedaPresident of the Rhode Island School of Design, delivers a funny and charming talk that spans a lifetime of work in art, design and technology, concluding with a picture of creative leadership in the future. Watch for demos of Maeda’s earliest work — and even a computer made of people. via SwissMiss, published October 22, 2012.

The Effect of Color | Off Book | PBS ~ Color is one of the fundamental elements of our existence, and defines our world in such deep ways that its effects are nearly imperceptible. Whether in the micro-sense with the choice of an article of clothing, or the macro-sense where cultures on the whole embrace color trends at the scale of decades, color is a signifier of our motives and deepest feelings. via Daily Art Fix, published October 27, 2012.

Vo Trong Nghia on Stacking Green at the World Architecture Festival ~ Architect Vo Trong Nghia explains how the house he designed with a vertical garden on its facade incorporates natural daylighting and ventilation systems that are invaluable in Vietnam, which experiences heavy rain and high temperatures, but often suffers day-long power shortages. via Dezeen, published October 29, 2012.

Inspired School Redesign: The Floating Schools of Bangladesh ~ In Easy Like Water, filmmaker Glenn Baker shares the inspirational story of how a community came together to build solar-powered floating schools. Not only can students attend school year-round, they can take part in digital learning. via Education Week, published October 30, 2012.

Lawrence Krauss Presents “Secular Sermon” On Theoretical Physics and The Meaning of Life ~ Using examples from his field of physics, Krauss demonstrates how science, by zooming in as close as possible or zooming out as far as possible, puts our everyday concerns and quibbles in proper context. What’s more, he notes, physics has it that we’re all made up of the same bits and pieces as everything, and thus everyone, else. Have you ever heard a more elegant argument for the notion of universal connectedness? But this isn’t to say that Krauss marshals the fruits of such rigorous study in the name of warm-and-fuzzy pronouncements. When you hear him declare how physics will make you understand that “you’re even more insignificant than you thought,” you’ll know just how far his sensibility lays from either warmth or fuzziness. via Open Culture, published October 29, 2012.




The Invisible Beauty of the Microscopic World ~ Nikon manufactures scientific microscopes and runs an annual competition for photography at a microscopic scale. This year’s results are in, and the company has published a selection of the winners on its site — and they’re as spectacular as ever. The photos are all kinds of amazing, encompassing everything from algae and fossils to a fly’s eye and the curiously perverse beauty of a cancer cell. via The Atlantic, published October 26, 2012.

Rashad Alakbarov Paints with Shadows and Light ~ Artist Rashad Alakbarov from Azerbaijan uses suspended translucent objects and other found materials to create light and shadow paintings on walls. via Colossal, published January 20, 2012.

Alter Ego by Mieke Dingen ~ On delightful objects: Play with your furniture! These separate furniture pieces by Dutch design studio Mieke Miejer can be put together like a puzzle to become one large piece with some kind of identity crisis. The result: a cabinet with the engraved image of a chair. via Design Milk, published October 10, 2010.

Infographic: Are You Looking At Too Many Infographics? ~ Marco Bagni’s work is part of an evolving category of data abstractions–untruths told in bars, charts, and grids that, rather than subvert our faith in information schematics, question whether all of our fancy infographics can ever answer the most important questions in the universe. They ask things like: “what makes life unique?” and “why does PSY put me in tune with the universe?” via FastCo.Design, published October 26th, 2012.

Eerie Photographs Explore What Remains After Domestic Homicides ~ Evidence is a group of photographs taken by Angela Strassheim at homes where familial homicides have occurred. Long after the struggles have ended in these spaces, despite the cleaning, repainting and subsequent re-habitation of these homes, the “Blue Star” solution activates the physical memory of blood through its contact with the remaining DNA proteins on the walls. The black and white images are long exposures – from ten minutes to one hour – with minimal ambient night light pouring in from the crevices of windows and doors, capturing the physical presence of blood as a lurid glow. via Feature Shoot, published October 25, 2012

1946 ~ Riding the New York City Subway by Stanley Kubrick ~ via The Retronaut, published

The Beautiful Blackboard At Quantum Physics Labs ~ Over the last three years, Spanish artist Alejandro Guijarro has visited some of the world’s most prestigious blackboards: the ones housed at the quantum mechanics labs of places like the University of Oxford, UC Berkeley, Stanford, CERN, Cambridge, and the Instituto de Física Corpuscular. At each place, he used a large-format camera to capture the markings left on the boards, just as he found them. “The images in this series do not purport to be documents holding an objective truth,” Guijarro says of his work; “they function purely as suggestions. They are fragmented pieces of ideas, thoughts or explanations from which arises a level of randomness. They are an attempt to portray the space of a flat surface and of a given frame. They are arbitrary moments in the restless life of an object in constant motion.” via The Atlantic, published October 26, 2012.




Free Online Certificate Courses From Great Universities: A Complete List ~ via OpenCulture.

101 Tips on How to Become More Creative ~  Delightful tips on exercising your creative muscles, such as: Ask a child, learn to tolerate ambiguity, hang out with people from diverse backgrounds. Via The Creativity Post, published October 27, 2012.

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