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Regarding Crowdsourcing

May 1, 2009


Crowdsourcing is a relatively new business tactic which seems to be causing quite a stir in the design community.  It was first brought to my attention in the graduate mechanical engineering design class I took last fall at Georiga Tech.  What is crowdsourcing?  Crowdsourcing is one way that businesses can “buy creativity.”  Instead of employing “designers” (who are essentially selling creativity), the business gathers a large group of people together (or just relies on the internet and self-motivation for the people to come to them–not a bad way to recruit in the first place) and presents the group with the same problem which would have been presented to the designer.  Not surprisingly, a group of people with diverse backgrounds can deliver a large number of ideas from which a business can sometimes cull a game-changing solution to a problem which needs solving.

It seems that crowdsourcing would not be able to fill the role of technical jobs which require highly specialized knowledge (the crowd, large as it may be, would likely not have the specific knowledge of a highly trained technician or professional.  unless the crowd is so large that it contains the person with the technical talent–behold the internet and job search engines.).  However, crowdsourcing does seem to be generating a lot of value for businesses, wherever fresh insights and innovation are required (a large group of people, with a diversity of backgrounds and ideas, could potentially produce a better solution to a problem than a small group of so-called “design experts.”).

In other words: this business tactic has big implications for the future of design firms.

In poking around the internet to find information on and to discover reactions to this new business tactic, the reaction from the design community seems to be mixed (i.e., from my short survey of articles, blogs, and comments from individual designers on this topic–check out some of the comments on that Wired article!).  Some people are ambivalent.  Some people are vehemently opposed to it.  I say: embrace it!



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‘The Henry Ford’ (museum)

May 1, 2009

While in Michigan this past weekend visiting family, my sister and mom and I made a trip to The Henry Ford in Dearborn, MI.  This is (mostly) a technological historical museum which will entertain anybody who is fascinated by technology, history, or any combination of the two.  It does contain an exhibit on social movements through American history (titled “With Liberty and Justice for All”); but the majority of the museum floorspace is devoted to early and post-industrial era technological artifacts.  Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to wander the museum, and I’m pretty sorry we didn’t have more time to read all of the plaques and learn all the facts available to us, which I could have included here.  But I still was able to get some great photos and learn some impressive statistics on the Iron Beasts in this Mechanical Manger. Read more…

Guernsey Farms Dairy

April 26, 2009

I’m at home visiting my family in Livonia, Michigan this weekend.  My visit happened to coincide with the annual public tour of the Guernsey Farms Dairy.  I went to it with my sister and mom.  Their facility was a neat operation to witness; lots of stainless steel food-grade piping running between huge storage and processing vats, and several neat packaging and bottling machines.  I didn’t get to document much of the ice cream and milk production process; we were being shuffled through at a rapid rate to get all the tour groups through (the place was packed–we waited an hour and a half to get in.  free samples of great ice cream will draw crowds!).  Here is a short vid of an Elopak half-gallon carton packing machine which they use at the Guernsey Dairy:

Automated Assembly Awesomeness. 

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Ode to McMaster-Carr

April 23, 2009


Can I get some love for McMaster-Carr here?  For any project that requires material goods in order to be completed, they are your biggest and best source.  Their customer service is impeccable.  I ordered something at 1:30 PM one day and it was on my doorstep when I got home that evening.  A friend ordered something at 11 AM and they had a courier on campus to drop it off at 2:30.  They have an awesome return policy, the variety and number of items they have is astounding (480,000 items), and prices are great.  And don’t even get me started on how easy-to-use and logically constructed their website is.  I went to their distribution center here in Atlanta to pick up an item for my banner image project, and I saw that place running like a well-oiled machine of package shipping efficiency.  Huge warehouse; amazing automated packaging setup with minimal human involvement.  It was ridiculously inspiring to see them running their show in the flesh.

I used to be a Grainger guy, but I’m getting that tattoo removed and inking the McMaster-Carr logo over it.

Summary: McMaster-Carr is the Google of hardware and they are every designer’s, engineer’s, and weekend tinkerer’s best friend.

Update 05-07-09

Ha!  Awesome.

Update 03-09-10

Look what just came in the mail from ebay:

What good is having an awesome search engine if you aren’t aware of what you can find and purchase?  Thumbing through this thing and seeing what you can buy ready-made is worthwhile, and it’s why I bought the book.  480,000 products, 3,824 pages.  Impressive.  What’s more impressive is the time you can save by not having to design things which you can buy pre-fabricated.  Good design process requires drawing a boundary between what needs to be created by the design team from scratch, and what should be purchased ready-made.  Generally, I’ve found it’s best to farm out as much as possible.  After you reconcile billable hours with sticker shock of what appears to be ‘super expensive parts,’ you generally see that the cost of developing something from scratch far outweighs the purchase price of  ‘ridiculously expensive’ parts.

DeWalt DW-16 Rapidfire Nail Gun (Heh…)

April 21, 2009

Got an email from a friend with this in it:

“NEW from De Walt


A new Nail Gun, made by De Walt, has just been introduced.”


Unfortunately, the buzz on the ‘net says it’s fake (just an M-16 with yellow bodywork, some DeWalt stickers, and a battery pack epoxied to the magazine), and apparently the image has been floating around the intertubes for a while.  Still: a very clever and well executed piece of work.  There’s a guy who claims to be the man behind the stunt here.

I Love Machinery

April 19, 2009

I think this is awesome, in so many ways.

Also, when Skynet is activated and the machines become self-aware, this could be the only thing which will save us from the cold, ruthless efficiency of the cyborg genocide.

Quaker’s Awesome Advertising Campaign

April 9, 2009

I may not be as into graphic design as I am into engineering and product design, but Quaker’s new Go Humans Go advertising has been keeping a smile on my face wherever I drive in Atlanta (pic taken from here):


Seen here in Atlanta, and also visible (for now) at the Quaker Oats website:


In poking around the internet for information on the ad campaign, I saw that some commentators have been confused or (sarcastically) freaked out by the half-visage of the iconic Quaker man staring at them from a bus terminal sign or billboard, advising them to go.

But I have been nothing but inspired by the jolly Quaker whose summary wisdom seems to be: “Life is waiting; go get it.”  That is just the kind of thing I would want to convey if I was doing advertising.  All of life–and design is a prime example of this–is about the pursuit and achievement of values.  So, go!

Update 04-12-09

Continuum, the design consultancy, has a blog post on a Harley-Davidson advertisement.  Conveys the same great sense of life of this Quaker Oats add.


Update 05-04-09:

Ring any bells? Cover for The New Yorker, May 11th, 2009:



Best Show Ever is on Sale!

April 7, 2009

I mentioned in a previous post that I have been waiting quite a while for my favorite show, How It’s Made, to come to DVD.  I checked Discovery’s website again a couple days ago to see whether it was being sold yet.  It still wasn’t available, except where I had already found it being marketed to educators at exorbitant prices.  So I emailed Discovery and asked them if they had plans to start marketing it to the public at prices which the public would actually pay.

Discovery responded to me and told me that all the episodes are available through iTunes!!  I had only recently caved in and created an iTunes account for myself after getting an iPhone; I hadn’t even thought to see if How It’s Made was available there.  Well it sure is, and it’s not even expensive.  Prior seasons are grouped into Two Season sets called “Volumes” which are only $25.00 for 26 episodes.

iTunes is about to get a significant stimulus from my wallet.  And my brain is about to get a significantly educational stimulus in the methods of product production.  This is fantastic.

OMAX 2626 Waterjet Cutter (and a Banner Image for this Blog)

April 3, 2009


The learning perks of being a student at Georgia Tech aren’t stopping–I recently described the opportunity I had to learn how carbon fiber parts are made, and now I’m getting to learn how to use a waterjet cutter!!  The design program in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering just opened a new design studio and it has a brand new OMAX brand 2626 JetMachining Center


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Design of Competition Decorations for my Teaching Assistantship

March 28, 2009

My teaching assistantship for the sophomore mechanical engineering design class at Georgia Tech is wrapping up; the final design competition was this past Friday and all that the students now have left to do are their final presentations and hand in their final reports.  The final competition was fun, and one of my section’s teams made it to the final round!!  I was pretty pround of all of them, as there were seven total sections and our section was one win shy of being the section with the most wins, across the whole competition bracket.

Several months ago, the professor had all the T.A.’s and the section professors meet up to brainstorm ideas for the theme of the competition.  He told us that past themes have usually related to a current event of some sort.  I immediately blurted out, “BAILOUT U.S.A.!,” and thus, the theme for the competition was born.

The “arena” in which four teams would simultaneously compete to win the round is shown here: 


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