Portland’s Enchanted Gardens

There’s an article in the New York Times today on my favorite place to visit in Portland (which is one of my favorite places to visit). The Chinese gardens in the Rose District is absolutely enchanting, very meditative, and a lovely place to have a cup of tea and a red bean cake. As it says on the Portland Chinese Garden website (quoting Wen Zhengming), “Most cherished in this mundane world is a place without traffic; truly in the midst of a city there can be mountain and forest.”

Denver Art Museum Lecture Series

Neo is coming to town!

Next year will be exciting for those interested in art in Denver. Besides the opening of the David Adjaye building for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (sometime next year, rumor has it), there is also going to be a terrific lecture series at the DAM. Here’s the list:

Jan. 18, Ed Ruscha
Feb. 15, Eric Fischl
March 15, Betty Woodman
April 19, Fang Lijun
May 17, Enrique Martínez Celaya
July 19, Jennifer Steinkamp
Sept. 20, Neo Rauch
Oct. 19, George Condo
Nov. 15, Matthew Ritchie
Dec. 13, Gottfried Helnwein

More info is available in Kyle MacMillan’s column in the Post.

Ravi Zupa

parts and labor
Last night Jill and I went to the new Watercourse location on 17th (comfort food for vegetarians, yum) and saw the artwork of this guy, Ravi Zupa, on the walls.

As yet another example of the interconnectedness of all things (serendipity), it turns out that Jill had been looking at his work earlier in the day. Of course, Jill is awfully hooked in to what’s happening in art and music, but still. This guy is seriously talented; he does paintings and videos (which are hilarious) – I took this image from a music video for Rubber Traits, which is the best video with dogs in it I’ve seen in a long time. Check it out at his site:

The Semantic Web

I think there might be something to this blog thing.

Last night, I put up a blog for our local buddhist group at zendenver.org – I am pretty happy with the way it turned out. Ms. Jill Hadley Hooper did the intro animation and the backgrounds, and we worked together on the layout and design.

I am pretty impressed with WordPress, the blogging, or “semantic personal publishing platform” as they call it, I am using for the Zen Denver site (and this one); there is a remarkable amount of flexibility and scalability; from a design perspective, it is a pretty powerful tool.

It doesn’t get rid of the need to understand html, css, stylesheets, and the like, but it does abstract the content layer from the presentation layer. And it does it for free.

It is certainly a welcome addition to the toolchest for someone interested in contextual (device independent) display of content.

Denver (Green) Development

Green Print Denver
Local designer and friend Jenny Thomas has a post on worldchanging.com today about greenprint denver, which is mayor hickenlooper’s approach to sustainable development in the city. Jenny seems pretty positive about the project, saying that Denver may be “poised to become a leader in energy efficiency.” Here’s hoping.

Also, the Denver infill blog has information on the latest developments in Highland and over in River North. According to the site, the Denargo market project will have over 2,000 residential units.

Living Cultural Storybases

I saw this on the worldchanging blog today:

According to their website at storybases.org, the purpose of the organization is as follows:

To nurture the oral heritage of minority cultures in a digital world by combining:

• A trustworthy participatory process that engages and empowers the youth, dispersed communities and displaced members of minority cultures to embrace and grow their traditional narratives.


• A generalizable technology which provides appropriate, two-way access for all the population and a dynamic audio database architecture that reflects the culture, inviting further contributions and stimulating internal social debate.

Pretty good idea, I say.

Highland Bridge opens December 16th

Big happenings in the neighborhood; after waiting numerous years, folks on our side of the freeway will be able to walk downtown without being brushed back by buses. This morning I saw a nice note on the subject on denverinfill.com. The description below comes from the HUNI (Highland United Neighborhoods, Inc.) newsletter.

From 10 a.m. to noon on December 16, 2006, Denver residents and business owners will celebrate the completion of the Highland Pedestrian Bridge with a bridge lighting ceremony and other festivities. The celebration will honor years of tireless effort by local residents, business owners, and City Council members who have worked long and hard to make this day a reality. Expected to attend the commemoration is Mayor Hickenlooper, along with many past and present Denver City Council representatives who have contributed to the project’s completion.

The Highland Pedestrian Bridge is the last in a series of three bridges that connects Highland, via 16th Street, to Civic Center Park. Business owners on both sides of the bridge are eager to participate in the festivities and have agreed to light their storefronts and decorate buildings in the area. Everyone is hoping for a large turnout from the community, so come on down on December 16 and walk across the
bridge with your neighbors.

The bridge lighting is the first of two events to celebrate the spirit of unity the bridge has come to represent.The second is in its planning phase and is likely to occur in early to mid spring.The concept is a “spring stroll,” where residents from Denver and surrounding areas are encouraged to take full advantage of the completed pedestrian bridge network. For more information or to get involved, please contact Kathryn Orion at 303.458.8960 or e-mail her at Kathryn.orion@ci.denver.co.us.

Eyes Wide Open

Two years ago I worked with the American Friends Service Committee to create a three minute movie honoring the dead in Iraq, both American and Iraqi. It’s part of their “Eyes Wide Open” project, where they display a pair of boots for each American serviceperson killed in the war.

I’m very proud of the movie; it’s incredibly moving and was frankly very emotional to work on, probably the most gutwrenching project I’ve ever done. We sorted through hundreds if not thousands of photos, and culled them down to just those that best expresses the pain and suffering of all those who are part of this misguided conflict.

Now, two years later, we are approaching another milestone; very soon, we will pass 3,000 American dead in the conflict. Of course, this doesn’t begin to count the many tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Iraqi’s killed, nor those injured or whose lives have been ruined. I went back and looked at the code of the movie I built (we count the Americans killed), and two years ago the number was 1,400.

I think the most disturbing part of this experience is how little change we were able to effect. I admire the folks at the AFSC for their dedication, and I suppose there is some late (very late) admission that the invasion was a mistake. But the suffering goes on, and gets worse. Our country’s image has been wrecked abroad, and we are still divided at home. The human cost and the financial cost are frankly beyond imagining.

Anyhow, here’s the link if you want to see the movie:

Organic Strategies

Ways in which Content Creation is like Gardening

A few years ago I read a book by Paul Hawken entitled “Growing A Business”, in which he presented his opinions on how best to define a business strategy; as one of the founders of Smith and Hawken, he has a unique perspective based in personal passion and understanding. As I remember, one of his key points is the importance of going with what you know; by choosing an approach that resonates with yourself, you are more likely to connect with others as well.

As a proponent of user-centered design strategies, I find myself asking my clients to walk in their customer’s shoes; often this involves looking outside your organizational structure and taking a look at the experience through fresh eyes. Experience research and prototype testing can help in getting to an optimal approach, but inevitably the content question comes up: where should we put our energies in creating a communications plan to best address the needs of our target audience while working within our limitations as an organization?

As an gardener, I have found myself considering the relationship between the desire to create something wonderful and the need to build a sustainable solution; how do you create a garden (or a website, for that matter) that looks great now, but will also have interest in all seasons and through the years?

And so, I offer the following suggestions for gardeners and businesses:

Work with the Existing Landscape
As you think about what you want to do, spend time considering the existing landscape. What elements do you like? What would you like to highlight? What do you want to change? In business as in nature, there are certain parts of the landscape that provide the basis for everything that follows. Spend some time considering how best to integrate these elements into your plan for change. Don’t be too quick to decide what the best approach is, or you may find yourself boxed into a corner.

Plan for Use
Perhaps the most important decision you will make is how the various areas of your landscape will be used; who will be visiting, and what will they be doing there? If you are expecting a crowd, don’t create a narrow path. Be sure that the thoroughfares are well-defined and any plantings there can withstand the traffic.

Remember your Particular Environment
There are numerous environmental factors that impact the success or failure of your plan; focusing on appropriate solutions will greatly enhance your potential. In the case of a garden, this might involve looking at the weather, the soil, or the amount of sun, in business you need to understand your business environment, your customers, and your message. A gaudy pink flower might be appropriate in one situation, and not in another.

Think Long Term…
A communications strategy, like a garden, is a project that is never finished – it takes a level of faith and trust to begin a project that may take years to reach fruition. Starting a project with a single season in mind is a waste of time, effort, and money.

…but set Achievable Goals
But you can’t do it all at once, so you have to break your project up into manageable chunks. What is the best project to take on this year, and how will it fit in to what I’m going to do next year? Look at the amount of resource you have to apply to the project, consider the benefits, and then make your decision on what you can realistically accomplish.

Choose Maintainable Approaches
In building for the future, you have to consider how maintenance and updates will fit into your plans; you don’t want to put your efforts into solutions that will only work for a short period of time. In the case of a garden, there are structural enhancements that will make your life easier in the long run, though they will increase the cost up front. The same applies to content development.

Prepare the Soil
Any gardener will tell you that it’s easy to put plants in the ground; what takes time is everything surrounding the planting; you have to turn the soil, amend and fertilize, build the beds… Though this takes time, it separates those who take their project seriously from those who just want to put some flowers in the ground.

Learn to Love Chores
And even after the plants get in the ground (or your new website hits the Internet) there is always more to be done. Weeding, cleaning up after storms, preparing for winter, preparing for spring, if you aren’t willing to do the necessary chores you are going to end up with more of a mess than you hoped for.

Plant for the Whole Year-Round
What happens when the bloom is off the rose? When the snow hits the ground? Many flowers bloom for only a short time, and if you take a limited approach you’ll come to a time when the landscape seems unnecessarily barren. Consider options that add year-round appeal, and focus more on the leaf than the bloom. You may not have the big splash in the spring, but you’ll be happier when the autumn comes.

Serious Play

“A desire to frame dialogue in concrete terms is what led me to use various forms of modeling and prototyping.

In his book “Serious Play,” Michael Shrage calls this ‘Externalized Thought,’ and goes on to say:

“Mental models become tangible and actionable only in the prototypes that management champions… Models are not just tools for individual thought. They are inherently social media and mechanisms.”

Story and Experience Design