The Lybbaverse / design  

Dylan & Deitch: contemporary art and the health of our culture

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Art enriches our lives by helping us connect with each other and the world around us. Often, art evokes empathy and a sense of community. Art therapy can reduce stress, help resolve conflict and improve interpersonal communication. Not only does art enhance our experience of the world, it is an essential element of our wellbeing.

In 2011, Lybba and Wondros founder Jesse Dylan attended “Art in the Streets,” an exhibit about street art at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Fascinated by the exhibit and the new audience of museum-goers it drew, Dylan sought out the exhibit’s curator, Jeffrey Deitch, then Director of MOCA. The film above is Deitch’s reflection on art as a fundamental part of our society and museums as a forum for social experiences.

Says Dylan, “'Art in the Streets was inclusive, challenging, different and fun. It compelled intense feelings from ardent fans, vocal critics in the press and non-expert attendees, like me. My fascination with the exhibition led me to its curator—Jeffrey Deitch—whose work on this particular installation sparked a public debate about the merits of street art and the philosophical direction of our art institutions. Attendees were left to wonder: what do art and art museums mean in the 21st century?

"I believe we will look back at Jeffrey Deitch's tenure at MOCA as a high point for culture in Los Angeles. At his core was the wish to make known what is unknown: to reveal. That is his legacy in Los Angeles and the reason I felt compelled to interview him in the film."

How does art impact your life?

What’s in a hexabox?

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The California Endowment, the California Biotechnology Foundation, Lybba, and Wondros presented Biohackathon L.A. 2013, an immersive workshop to inspire students about the health and career benefits of STEM education and the life sciences. On behalf of the biohackathon hosts, the principals of design firm CITY/hall fabricated take-home kits for the students—“hexaboxes” that were informed by the experiment contained within them. Lybba is immensely pleased to present this interview with CITY/hall co-founders Jessica D’Elena and Lauren Rosenbloom, to learn more about them and the making of the hexaboxes.

How did the CITY/hall come about?

We've been collaborating since 2007 while Jessica was part of designer Lorraine Wild's Green Dragon Office and Lauren was working with Thom Mayne's Morphosis Architects. Jessica was Green Dragon's lead designer on the fifth installment of the Morphosis monographs and Lauren was her counterpart at Morphosis office. It was this project collaboration that shed light on our mutual interests. Jessica's focus is on graphic and environmental design, while Lauren's is on architecture, art direction, and set design for film. Synergized, they form our multi-disciplinary adventures within the design community. 

What inspired the creation of the hexaboxes for Biohackathon L.A. 2013?

A “recurring curiosity” within CITY/hall efforts is situated in the meaning and metaphor of the building blocks of design—more specifically, between the shared constructs of disciplines (such as biology and graphic design). Fascinated by the canons of design history and flirting with perspectives around the mapping of a human biotechnological future, we see our investigations as forming microcosmic elements to shape a macrocosmic picture. The spirit and intent of Biohackathon L.A. 2013 presented us with the perfect platform to continue this investigation.

The graphic language that emerged from the event's premise implied a visual conversation that human bodies (and others) are "designed" frameworks and conversely, "design frameworks" are living entities with a biological code—both derived from a set of basic forms whose exponential combinations produce an infinite number of unique identities. The letterform and the building have an embedded DNA, as the human DNA sequence are the blueprints for a biological construct. 

Bauhaus thought-leaders deconstructed all design frameworks into the elementary forms: circles, squares, and triangles—the celebrated starting points of art, design and architecture. So too, "bodies" have a building code in the two basic sugars and four enzymes of DNA.

To subtly acknowledge this relationship we determined the container for the biohackathon take-home kit would be six-sided, alluding to the basic building blocks of life itself. From here, the necessary components of the kit seemed to place themselves. An extruded hexagonal shape allowed us to place the pipettor down the center of the box, physically acting as the spine of the structure. The length of the pipettor dictated the height of the box, which allowed us to include five interior hexagonal shaped shelves for the remaining kit materials. 

How were they made, and were there any constraints or special considerations in their creation?

Shelves one and two included six hexagon-shaped coasters (which we've dubbed hexacoasters), which featured illustrated instructions for the students to continue their experiments independently after the workshop concluded. Each coaster also featured various iterations of the graphical language system we had composed for all of the printed matter.

Including a die-cut slit in each of the hexacoasters allowed students to create unique molecular sculptures by inserting the coasters into one another. This, along with the event poster, became a kind of semi-permanent artifact from the event that would remain with the students after the event concluded. 

The third shelf held the six 3cm petri dishes also provided for students to continue their experimentation post-event. Shelf four contained agar powder, and shelf five contained an array of graphical stickers the kids could use to decorate any surface or specifically to place on the lids of their petri dishes.

The graphical branding system developed for the event came literally out of a process of orchestrating, combining, and arranging the basic shapes of design—circles, squares, triangles—and "sequencing" them together in patterns to create an array of biological snowflakes, each entirely unique in its complexity and systematic design, yet all comprised from a basic set of common elements. When placed on the transparent lids of the petri dishes, a wonderful visual conversation about “what’s growing inside” begins to emerge. 

Was the poster similarly inspired?

While the kit, its contents, and all printed matter work as a cohesive system, the poster takes these ideas a step further to include the specificity of the city (in this instance, Los Angeles) as a systematic body made up of a basic set of building blocks and design elements.

We positioned the skyline of the city on the poster to geo-locate the event but oriented the photo on its side. This not only allows viewers, for a moment, to see the city as one would see a representation of a DNA sequence (via the building surface forms, contrasts in shadow, varying building heights, etc.), but it also visually echoes the columns of text on the opposite side of the poster, also intended as a lead-in to the graphical look at a DNA sequence. 

We used a CMYK color palette for obvious reasons: the four primary "enzymes" from which all possible printed colors are derived. In both the title text and DNA graphical snowflakes, the overlay effect of these primary colors reiterates the monochrome from which all plurality and complexity arise. 

Lybba HealthCentral: active patients = better outcomes = healthier lives

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Lybba 

Everyone needs to access, organize, understand, and share their health information in ways that help them become more active participants in their own care. In order to address these issues, the Office of the National Coordinator and the Veterans Administration devised a contest on challenge.gov, and invited people to rethink how the medical record is presented.

Lybba's response to the challenge is HealthCentral, a new design for an IT-enabled care-management system that connects patients with their doctors. Once digital health data is downloaded, patients can access, maintain, and make meaningful use of that information to keep themselves healthy.

We have sometimes been accused of being over-achievers. Maybe the charge sticks. In this case, the contest only called for better data visualization. We thought we'd do that *and* go one step further. HealthCentral is not simply improved data visualization. It’s not just a repository of health information. It’s an engaging, interactive, behavior-oriented website that makes patients’ information legible as well as actionable—providing patients and their families with opportunities and encouragement to achieve health goals.

We intend to finish this design, build it, and make a positive difference in peoples' lives. Special shout out to the lead Lybba designers on the project, Leslie Marticke and Kelli Auerbach. Good luck! We're crossing our fingers!

Designing geopolitics

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Participants of the second annual "Designing Geopolitics" symposium at UCSD tour the Calit2 facilities. 

Excerpted from The Huffington Post

This year's "Designing Geopolitics" event, held at UCSD's Calit2 in early June, focused on design and policy approaches, and followed the interdisciplinary thinking of last year's conference. In the words of the Center for Design and Geopolitics (D:GP) director and Lybba fellow Benjamin H. Bratton, this interdisciplinarity was linked to an emerging relationship between governance and technology. 

Bratton said, "Our interest is not so much design at a geopolitical scale, rather to take the geopolitical architecture we have inherited from the Treaty of Westphalia, from Empires past, etc. and to literally take the world map as an open design question once again . . . We're looking at planetary scale computation as a force that represents a long-term challenge to the world map."

Each of the panels explored the perceived and actual sovereignty of bodies and identities across shifting practices and jurisdictions.

Split between a "Policies" morning session and a "Projects" afternoon session, the event reflected the known dichotomy of "obstacle courses" and "opportunities" in policy and the design of pervasive networks of resources and ideas, to engage, from the perspective of ubiquitous computing and networking across fields of practice, other forms of critically assessing and cooperating, within technological apparatuses, connectivity, accessibility, and ultimately, creative potential in content formulation.

In the panel "Cloud-Polis", Larry Smarr described his life as a devout member of the Quantified Self Movement and speculated on its global impacts for health care.

In "Clouded Futures and Sovereign Sunshine", Peter Cowhey presented challenges for globalized economies, including lessons from alternative banking systems models.

In the second panel ("Data Sovereignty"), Usman Haque's one image of the Pachube Network grounded questions on representation, awareness, and engagement. John Wilbanks' "Science Commons, Creative Commons" reflected on a "politics of the commons", by looking at models of tracking and verifying data objects across history.

Sovereignty is paradigmatically linked to concepts of freedom and/or ownership (in the case of land). However, in any "cloud" construct or system, the free flow of data and therefore its public character is key to helping produce new forms of validated and shareable knowledge and "objects/things" (cf. the term "Internet of things").

A poignant question here is how to go beyond the dialectic of the last two decades that splits the camps into absolute "transparency" vs. "secrecy" of live data, and instead rethink versions of state and social constructs that address identities' shifting/fluid borders. What clearly seems to be a political problem can greatly be helped by a design (inclusive synthesis) approach.

So, what are agencies of design within political agencies?

In the "Postscripting Alterglobalization" panel, we saw design productively confound the problems it is "commissioned" to "solve": Jeffrey Inaba's "Extra-Spatial" talk described several projects that productively entangle city planning with critical spatial, industrial, and graphic design, and METAHAVEN showed evocative work creating identity and branding strategies for new virtual platforms with possible (future?) state sovereignty, including Wikileaks and Facebook.

The "Biopolitical Architectures" panel concluded with politics in design and artistic practices, with the work of architect Alisa Andrasek/Biothing and synthetic biology artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg giving two different takes on the complexity and promise of "biodesign" as focus of generative architecture methods, and design/artist roles in creative/scientific multi-disciplinary teams.

A recurrent theme in the conference (and in discussions of "cloud" structures) was the difficulty in maintaining regulatory and organizational concepts of identity or categorization. The desire for increasing 'resolution' (imaging and processing power) in representational and generational processes is only matched by the incapacity to pin totalizing models to observed realities.

Perhaps new constructs of "resolution" that present simultaneous, contradicting yet overlapping, representations that include scale-based identity "flickers" across entities (us and our microbiomes) and speed. This may better represent the near-future evolution of our present, and better inspire novel forms of management, categorization, and ethics.