The Takeaway

Forget Organ Donation, Scientists Are Now Printing Body Parts

Monday, February 25, 2013

3D printing is a dynamic new technology that promises to revolutionize how we manufacture and create things. Still in its early stages of development, it’s already being used to make chocolate, guns, and even body parts. How does it work and where does it go from here? Lawrence Bonasser is a professor of biomedical engineering at Cornell. Max Lobovsky is the founder of FormLabs, a start-up company that is creating a more affordable professional 3D printer.

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99% Invisible

99% Invisible-73- The Zanzibar and Other Building Poems

Monday, February 18, 2013

There comes a time in the life of a modern city where it begins to grow up--literally. Santiago, the capital of Chile, has been going through a tremendous growth spurt since its economic boom of the mid 1990s. It happened fast. In just a few years,


Studio 360

In China, a Skyscraper-Sized Knock-Off

Friday, February 15, 2013

A huge office complex called Wangjing Soho is under construction in Beijing, consisting of three futuristic glass mountains designed by the superstar British architect Zaha Hadid. A thousand miles south, towers with an uncanny resemblance are rising in the city of Chongqing. Those ...

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99% Invisible

99% Invisible-72- New Old Town

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Like many cities in Central Europe, Warsaw is made up largely of grey, ugly, communist block-style architecture. Except for one part: The Old Town. Walking through this historic district, it’s just like any other quaint European city.


99% Invisible

99% Invisible-71- In and Out of LOVE

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Though its officially name is JFK Plaza, the open space near Philadelphia’s City Hall is more commonly known as LOVE Park. With its sleek granite benches, geometric raised planter beds, and long expanses of pavement,


Transportation Nation

NYC to Add Citywide 'Wayfinding' Maps to Encourage Walking, Business

Monday, January 14, 2013

(Image courtesy of NYC DOT)

Even with smartphone maps, a waffle iron street grid and numbered streets in most of Manhattan, too many pedestrians are getting lost in New York City according to the NYC Department of Transportation. The solution, or part of it, will begin rolling out in March: maps. Lots of them. Designed just for pedestrians to be placed on sidewalks and eventually on bike share stations all around the five boroughs.

"We have a great system of signage for cars, but we don't have a good system of signage for people," said Jeanette Sadik-Khan, NYC's Transportation Commissioner. (Earlier this week she unveiled newly designed, and less cluttered, parking signs). Starting in March, New York City will install 150 'wayfinding' signs on sidewalks in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens as part of a citywide system that will roll out in phases at a cost of $6 million, most of it borne by the federal government, the rest by local business improvement districts.*

A sample of what NYC's new wayfinding maps will look like. Courtesy NYC DOT.

The sidewalk signage will show pedestrians where they are and which way they are facing -- a study last year found that many New Yorkers couldn't point to north when asked. Transit, local attractions, and businesses are placed on a large map of the local street grid with  circles indicating where you can reach with a five minute walk, and how long it will take to get to other attractions. Like countdown clocks in subways, knowing the time and effort involved in a trip can make it more appealing. The signs, the DOT hopes, will encourage more walking.

"We're very excited about it and think it will be a big boon, not only for visitors ... but also for business." A slowly ambling customer visiting a new neighborhood, or a new route, is much more likely to check out a new shop than a driver is to stop, park, and peek in.

"New York is a perfect place to have a wayfinding system because nearly one third of all trips are made by foot," Sadik-Khan said. A little encouragement to walk could be a tipping point to leave the car at home, she says, pointing out that a quarter of all car trips in NYC are less than a mile, a distance people could walk.

The signs will roll out in Chinatown, Midtown Manhattan, Long Island City, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. "These are heavily foot trafficked areas," she says. "The lessons that we learn there... will help us as we build a bigger system citywide."

When bike share stations are installed in May, they will include these maps. That would add several hundred more pedestrian maps in many new neighborhoods.

Here's a full length sample:

Sample design of NYC's wayfinding maps. Courtesy NYC DOT.


*An earlier version of this post stated that the majority of the cost of the project would be borne by business improvement districts.

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99% Invisible

99% Invisible-70- The Great Red Car Conspiracy

Friday, January 11, 2013

When Eric Molinsky lived in Los Angeles, he kept hearing this story about a bygone transportation system called the Red Car. The Red Car, he was told, had been this amazing network of streetcars that connected the city--until a car company bought it,


Transportation Nation

NYC Unclutters Parking Signs

Monday, January 07, 2013

NYC unclutters Midtown parking signs. (Graphic via NYC DOT)

New York city is de-cluttering the design of parking signs starting today in Midtown Manhattan, where a slew of parking rules that change depending on the hour and day are laid out in signs that vary in font, color, format and height. Misreading signs can lead to fines well above $100.

The new signs are (almost) fit for twitter. With streamlined phrasing, they reduce the number of characters needed to explain the commercial metered parking zone rules from 250 characters to "about 140," the NYC Department of Transportation said in a statement. By fitting the same information in less space, the DOT says it will save money because the new smaller signage will be cheaper to produce.

“New York City’s parking signs can sometimes be a five-foot-high totem pole of confusing information,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a statement.

The updated signs are simpler and easier to read with a consistent two-color layout and a uniform font.

"The basic way these had been done is like a playbill for a music hall in 1845," said Michael Beirut partner at Pentagram, the design firm that created the new look. The old way was, "Pick the most important thing and put that first, center everything," and make it fit by changing font width and placement. "We just tried to make it feel a little bit more sober and subdued and in control," he said.

That was achieved, in part, by shifting the focus from prohibitive phrasing to permissive phrasing, he said. "The old signs read like, 'no one can park here except...' So the new signs flip that to lead with the positive, what you are allowed to do," he said.

The new look makes a few updates that seem obvious in hindsight like placing the day of the regulation before the hours of the regulation and eliminating abbreviations. The hierarchy of information is changed as well. The message of the threatening red "No Standing" sign is now blended with other parking regulations in these commercial parking zones. The big red sign is gone, it's message captured with one line, "others no standing"  added to other signs.

According to the DOT renderings, the messy blue "Pay at Muni-Meter" signs will also go. Once they were a necessary bit of visual clutter for the city's transition away from old fashioned parking meters. The last individual parking meter in Manhattan was jack hammered out of commission with camera's watching in 2011. So long ago that the DOT assumes drivers will know to look down the block for the new meters with a sign.

“You shouldn't need a Ph.D in parking signage to understand where you are allowed to leave your car in New York," said City Council Member Daniel Garodnick in a emailed statement that referred to him as "a longtime supporter of syntactic clarity."

"I was pleased to work directly with DOT, removing unnecessary words in these signs," Garodnick said.

Proving that any effort to make parking easier in Manhattan is worthy of political fanfare, the unveiling of the new design this morning drew not just Sadik-Khan, head of the NYC DOT and darling of the black glasses set, but also the speaker of the City Council and leading mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, along with Garodnick who first proposed simplifying the signs in 2011.

David Gibson of the  design firm Two Twelve, and author of "The Wayfinding Handbook, Information Design for Public Places," sees the changes as a chance for a more radical redesign of street signage. Overall, he said of the new look, "It's a bit of an improvement. It seems like they could have pushed the envelope a little further. It's very much in the vernacular of what parking signs are like now. Maybe this was an opportunity to go a little further, I mean, this is New York city where we break new ground and push the envelope."

The signs will be installed in Manhattan's commercial metered parking zones, throughout Midtown, as well as  some areas in the Financial District, the Upper East Side and Lower East Side. Other parts of the city will get the re-designed signage in the future.

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99% Invisible

99% Invisible-69- The Brief and Tumultuous Life of the New UC Logo

Monday, December 31, 2012

If you’re not from California, or missed this bit of news, the University of California has a new logo. Or rather had a new logo. To be more precise they had a new “visual identity system,” which is the kind of entirely accurate but completely wonky de...


Studio 360

Best of 2012: 360 Behind the Scenes

Thursday, December 27, 2012

This year, Studio 360 redesigned teachers, profiled up-and-coming stars of the music world, and featured hundreds of works of art made by you. Our cup runneth over with great tape. The staff assembled this list of our favorite moments from 2012 — the segments we liked working on and listening ...

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Studio 360

Mind Games: Designing with EEG

Friday, December 21, 2012

EEG — electroencephalography — is almost a century old, and it’s creeping out of the research lab and the neurologist’s office. Headsets embedded with electrodes to read electrical activity in the brain are commercially available, and designers are using that information for all sorts of purposes ...

Slideshow: The Ascent

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99% Invisible

99% Invisible-68- Built for Speed

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I want you to conjure an image in your mind of the white stripes that divide the lanes of traffic going the same direction on a major highway. How long are the stripes and the spaces between them? - You can spread your arms out to estimate if you want...


Transportation Nation

D.C. Unveils Four New Taxicab Colors (Updated)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

No, it's not an ode to the Brazilian flag: it's one of four possible color schemes for D.C.'s taxi cabs (photo by Martin Di Caro)

D.C. could eventually have one cab color to rule them all. Or stripes.

Mayor Vincent Gray unveiled four new color schemes on Monday, one of which will be chosen next year as the new paint job for the district’s 6,500 taxicabs, a process that will take years to fully implement. The multicolored striped patterns are one piece of a larger modernization effort that is coming together slowly -- too slowly for D.C.’s top taxi regulator.

One D.C. city council member said he was "appalled" by the color choices.

“I’m a very impatient person and I would like to speed it up,” said Ron Linton, the head of the Taxicab Commission.

Although district lawmakers passed a taxicab modernization bill this year, the most important changes have yet to come to fruition: GPS smart meters, credit card payment machines and touch screen monitors for customers in the back seat.

The new paint jobs will be introduced when taxi drivers replace their aging vehicles; by 2018 no cab on Washington’s streets will be older than 7 years, as per a new regulation, Linton said.

“The people who ride in the cabs were pushing and pushing for a modernization program,” said Linton, referring to a survey undertaken by the office of D.C. Council member Mary Cheh that found widespread dissatisfaction with the current conditions of taxicabs. That survey also found the public’s preferred color to be yellow (38%).  Red was second (15%).

Linton’s office will choose the winning color scheme next year, taking into consideration public opinion.  The public may vote for their favorite inside Verizon Center through January 7 where two sample future taxicabs are on display, or choose designs online.

(UPDATE, 12/11/12 1:30pm: Two D.C. city council members -- one of whom said he was "appalled" by the color choices - say they will consider legislation to end the public vote so a new color scheme can be chosen.)

Last month a panel of administrative law judges killed the district’s plan to install credit card machines in cabs because of problems with the contract awarded to VeriFone, which beat out seven other tech firms. Linton says the matter is still being resolved by the District Office of Contracting and Procurement.

“We selected Verifone on the basis of what was, in my judgment, an honest evaluation and a cost analysis,” he said.

At a news conference to unveil the proposed color schemes and encourage the public to vote on their favorite, Mayor Gray said changes to the district’s taxis are necessary not only to improve the hospitality industry but for the cabbies, too.

“The changes have to come,” Gray said. “This industry has got to change to be competitive. I actually think the cab drivers will make more money as a result of this.”

Gray said touch screen monitors that offer riders the option of tipping 15, 20, or 25 percent will induce larger tips.

“As opposed to what you have now where people in a cash business sometimes give nothing or give a meager sum, I think the cab drivers will ultimately do better as a result of the changes we’re proposing.”

When those changes ultimately arrive is unclear, although Gray and Linton said it will take years to fully implement the new color scheme.  Roughly one-third of taxicabs have installed credit card machines on their own, Linton said.

As for D.C.’s cabbies, some have been reluctant to accept changes that are commonplace in other cities.  A common complaint is credit card processing fees will bite into a day’s pay. Others say GPS smart meters are an invasion of privacy. As for the proposed color patterns, one cabbie waiting for customers outside Union Station on Monday was not impressed.

“It looks ugly. It’s no good for the city color,” said B.K. Anthony, who drives a light blue SUV. “It looks junky.”

For the record, Mayor Gray called the colors “funky.”



: The multi-colored patterns of yellow and green OR red and white are – in the words of some D.C. councilmembers – appalling!  And now two lawmakers say they will consider legislation to end the public vote so a new color scheme can be chosen.  Councilmembers prefer a solid color like yellow or red to the striped patterns unveiled by the D.C. Taxicab Commission yesterday, which would have the final say on a color regardless of what the public picks. A survey conducted by Councilmember Mary Cheh on the state of the district’s cab industry found that 38 percent of respondents want all-yellow cabs, 15 percent want red.

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99% Invisible

99% Invisible-67- Broken Window

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When Melissa Lee was growing up in Hastings-on-Hudson, a small town in upstate New York, there were only so many fun things to do. One was buying geodes and smashing them apart with a hammer. (You know geodes, right?


99% Invisible

99% Invisible-66- Kowloon Walled City

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kowloon Walled City was the densest place in the world, ever. - By its peak in the 1990s, the 6.5 acre Kowloon Walled City was home to at least 33,000 people (with estimates of up to 50,000). That's a population density of at least 3.


Studio 360

Redesigning the Waterfront Post-Sandy

Friday, November 16, 2012

“Superstorm” Sandy has made it clear that flooding is not only a New Orleans problem: some of the country’s densest population centers are also extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges.  For cities like New York, the waterfront is a design problem ...

Slideshow: Redesigning Lower Manhattan

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99% Invisible

99% Invisible-65- Razzle Dazzle

Monday, November 05, 2012

When most people think of camouflage they think of blending in with the environment, but camouflage can also take the opposite approach. - It has long been hypothesized that stripes on zebras make it difficult for a predator to distinguish one zebra f...


Studio 360

Nobody Walks in LA

Friday, October 26, 2012

In 1982, the Missing Persons song “Walking in LA”quickly made Los Angeles the poster child for a national bad habit. The refrain — “Nobody walks in LA” — became an unofficial motto for the city. For Alissa Walker, the song’s claims are just wrong. She gave up her car ...

Slideshow: Walking in LA

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99% Invisible

99% Invisible-64- Derelict Dome

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In the Cape Cod town of Woods Hole, buildings are not usually dome-shaped. Producer Katie Klocksin was pretty surprised when she came across one. - Katie started asking around about the dome.  She found it was built by the late Buckminster Fuller,


Studio 360

Hipster Halloween 2012: Canine Edition

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's that time of year again: when American spend more that $300 million on Halloween costumes for their pets. Last weekend, Studio 360's Josh Rogosin headed over to New York City's oldest dog run for the 22nd annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade. ...

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