Happy Birthday Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Seeing Google’s doodle today, honoring Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s birthday, reminded me that several years ago I was playing around with a desktop package called Visual Reality. I’ve always admired the clean lines and simplicity of his work, so I used the application to loosely recreate the basics of the Seagram Building found in New York City.

Seagram Building Overview
Seagram Building Overview
Seagram Building Facade
Seagram Building Facade
Seagram Building Lobby
Seagram Building Lobby

Mindscape in LEGO

While shopping the LEGO website the other day, I ran across a free application they provide called LEGO Digital Designer. With it, you can assemble bricks from the included palette, then package and upload your creation back to the site. This looked pretty fun so I gave the software a whirl.

Now, I am not a professional 3D modeler, but I do have experience in a few tools, such as Blender, and expect a few necessities in a 3D modeling application. LEGO Digital Designer does not have them. But that’s OK, I thought. I’ll just play around with it.

For an experiment, I decided to model the building I work in, 25 Ottawa SW, Grand Rapids, MI, the home of Mindscape at Hanon McKendry. My goal was to capture the feel of the building (being that it is LEGO and not a precise, 3D replica) without getting into too much detail. Well, that’s hard for me to do, and before too long, I found myself agonizing over placing bricks exactly where they should be to accurately reflect the building’s layout. Then I would take a step back, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I’m just capturing the building’s essence. Then it would get fun again.

However, the application does have a lot of shortcomings, and as soon as the brick count started rising, I found it more and more difficult to place bricks, even in seemingly simple scenarios. Time to put this together started skyrocketing and I decided to call it quits for now before this turns into a lifelong project. I may have to look into other tools such as LDraw and see what they have to offer.

That being said, this is where the model stands right now, at 4,368 bricks. This view is from the Southeast (you can click the pictures to see the full-size view).

25 Ottawa SW, Grand Rapids, MI
25 Ottawa SW, Grand Rapids, MI

Here is a view from the Northeast.

25 Ottawa from the Northeast
25 Ottawa from the Northeast

As you can see, it captures the building’s essence on a basic level. Here are a few more detailed views.

In this view, we’ve zoomed in to look through the first floor to see the Mindscapers hard at work in “the pit”. If you look through the small window on the right, you can even see the bearded Matt, hard at work on a website.

"The Pit" at Mindscape
"The Pit" at Mindscape

Here we are taking a bird’s eye view through the roof. You can see the entire “pit” on the first floor, and several other items under construction. The stairwell and elevator shafts are positioned, and the Skywalk has been run through the building and ready to be connected to the adjacent buildings.

Bird's Eye View
Bird's Eye View

It would be nice to finish this, especially to add in the rest of Mindscape and Hanon McKendry on the sixth floor, and to build out 25 Kitchen on the first floor. But I think I’m going to need a new tool. Of course it would be nice to build it out of real LEGO, but I would probably have to win the lottery to buy 5,000+ bricks. Has anyone out there had experience with any other digital LEGO tools?

Virtual Coca-Cola for Your Virtual Thirst

Back in 2007, Coca-Cola held a contest to see who could design the best virtual Coca-Cola machine for their corporate presence in the world of Second Life. I had only dabbled in that world, but I’m a Coca-Cola addict and I thought it was a fun idea.

Coke wanted entries to capture the essence of the brand: refreshment, joy, unity and experience. So I set to brainstorming for a machine that would encompass those ideals. Using RayDream3D (I hadn’t used Blender much yet) and Paint Shop Pro, I created a storyboard to convey my vision.

Coke scene 01
Approaching the Coke machine
Coke scene 02
Make a gesture to activate
Coke scene 03
The Coca-Cola sign illuminates
Coke scene 04
Bottle dispenses a wide spray dome
Coke scene 05
Projectors extend around bottle
Coke scene 06
World map is projected onto spray dome
Coke scene 07
Bubble dispensers extend and activate
Coke scene 08
Player points finger through a country on the dome
Coke scene 09
Projectors overlay flag of activated country on dome
Coke scene 10
Individual bubbles show scenes from selected country
Coke scene 11
Player selects another country
Coke scene 12
Flag of newly selected country is projected onto dome
Coke scene 13
Bubbles now show scenes from both countries

Sketching User Interfaces

I’ve always favored the trusty pencil and paper when first sketching out all kinds of ideas, and user interfaces are no exception. Visio-type tools come in handy for diagramming architecture and logic, but when visual creativity is needed, the pencil allows you to be much more loose and free-form. I was inspired recently by a video of Adaptive Path as they brainstormed user interfaces for an iPhone application. The designer used colored pencils and the sketches are gorgeous.

I am currently working on a web application for a volunteer organization, so I decided to break out my colored pencils and start sketching. I loved how it felt. The argument from many people will be, “adding color can lead you into too much focus on details when they’re not yet needed.” While that may be true, I wasn’t really thinking about bringing these colors into my final palette. I was just using them to add fun to the process of brainstorming.

UI sketch
UI sketch