The Hippocratic Oath remains at the center for health information technology, especially for the bioinformatics company IMO.Read More
NOTE: This post is an abbreviated version of the full article about a collaboration with international photographer Asa Mathat, originally published on Medium.com read full article
At the 2016 EG Conference in Carmel, California, I was a member of a volunteer creative team tasked with documenting the conference presenters; people described as “among the most industrious and iconoclastic talents of our time.”
This goal required a fast-paced artistic collaboration between photographers, artists, and students.
Together, we created portraits of this gifted mix of people, ranging from rising tech innovators to living national treasures, from the godfather of design thinking to wildlife photographers and winner of the international beatbox championship.
We were confronted with a unique challenge, the brainchild of photographer Asa Mathat, and none of us had done anything quite like it before.
Each portrait session required a four step process…
STEP 1: Interview
Briefly interview the subject of the portrait and try to pull out a visual theme, key word, symbol, or scene that sums up who they are and what is important to them and their work.
STEP 2: Ideate
As a team, quickly brainstorm, plan out, design, and paint a unique, multi-layered photo booth set to illustrate the person’s story. Super tricky because we needed to work with the photographer on what was possible.
STEP 3: Photoshoot
Photograph the person, often with some other challenge such as jumping off chairs, flinging water or paint, rolling plexiglass stands, hanging black drapery, swinging lights, or some other perilous piece of gear ready to reek havoc!
STEP 4: Reset
And then? Wash. Rinse. Wipe. And repeat. This had to happen 30+ times in three days.
The resulting portraits have an emotional range as diverse as the people at the center of the photograph. Topics ranged from deadly serious (police brutality, surviving war and disability) to the magnificent (eagles in flight, blue whales) to pure joy (performers, families, survivors).
Some of the 30+ Portraits
David Kelly | design thinking guru
Giles Duley | photojournalist & humanitarian
Butterscotch | singer, musician & beatbox champion
Mark Pollock | adventurer, athlete & activist
The Halabiskys | a loving life of sailing & dreaming
John Quinn | conductor & composer
Want to bring this experience to your event?
Renee Busse is the community manager for Sketchbook, a digital drawing and painting app used by millions of artists around the globe.Read More
In October 2015, Peter Durand took journey to Gallup, New Mexico to work with native artists and innovators as part of ChangeLabs.Read More
In front of 100+ members of Nashville's creative community gathered at The Skillery, Parker presented on design thinking—that amorphous, misunderstood, and mystical process of exploring and understanding people and problems in order to create effective solutions.
Creative Mornings Nashville
Parker Gates is a co-founder of stoke.d, a human-centered design practice.
Stoke.d focuses on education, and regularly partners with global organizations in ongoing projects. He also teaches Design Thinking at the d.school at Stanford University.
Parker lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he helps run an experiment in collaborative space, called stoke.d studio.
Earlier this year, we were commissioned by an aerospace company named Analytic Graphics, Inc. (AGI) to create an animation. They were launching new software and service that aids the operation of commercial and military space missions. This is the story of that project.
THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM
The minute I heard we were doing a project about space, my mind started turning on final frontiers and galaxies far, far away. But this project hits a little closer to home: to the space immediately surrounding Earth.
Turns out that the space just around our Little Blue Marble is getting rather crowded– with satellites large and small, working and dead, and with chunks of satellites that met with an unfortunate end.
AGI has developed a system of software and hardware called The ComSpOC – The Commercial Space Operations Center – to track these expensive pieces of metal more accurately than has ever been possible. Accurate tracking means that satellite operators can navigate their space objects around dangerous fields of space junk and are more likely to avoid crashing into another satellite and exploding.
That’s kind of a big deal, don’t you think?
We began to see how immense this topic really is, and how vitally important the work of AGI has become. You can thank satellites for weather predictions, the map on your phone, and your ability to binge watch Netflix. And we’re launching more and more satellites into space all the time.
What if we lost these Eyes in the Sky?
A few definite outcomes: You wouldn’t be able to Skype with your mom, you’d lose the GPS in your car, and also we couldn’t accurately predict when and where a hurricane will make landfall.
Seems simple: develop a firm grasp of space situational awareness, describe the overwhelming need for more immediate and comprehensive space conservancy, and explain in relative detail the technical aspects of the Operations Center and tracking platform AGI has been developing for years... In less than 500 words.... Riiiiiiiight.
TELLING THE STORY
Thankfully, The ComSpOC team were extremely gracious with their time and energy during this project.
The ComSpOC Director of Marketing (and erstwhile Engineer), Joshua Poley, worked with me on the script to ensure that it covered all of the technical ground it should, and helped me find ways to explain the concepts in the right amount of detail. We then sent the script to the Engineers to re-check that all of the technical aspects were accurate.
With the content finalized, we moved into conceptualizing the piece.
Rather than just put out a series of images portraying the features of a product, it's more effective to show the audience what our sky would look like if we could see all of the objects in orbit around Earth. It was important to tell the story of space as it is, and then show what it will be like in the future– both with and without the services that The ComSpOC provides.
The subject matter called for especially clean, crisp illustrations in the animated whiteboard style. Here you see some of the concept images we generated to show the AGI team the final artwork style.
After the concept was laid out, we went into storyboarding the piece. This is where we go sequence by sequence and roughly draw out what images will be drawn and when.
Our process for storyboarding involves a lot of huddling around a whiteboard sketching out ideas, interrupting each other (and then apologizing), drinking coffee to a medically unsafe extent, and hula-hooping to clear our heads.
Our first task: find a way to display the immensity of space in a 1920 x 1080px frame. Not an easy task on a whiteboard, especially if you want to avoid nauseating camera movements.
I’d love to say that we figured out the layout of images in one go because we’re all geniuses, but basically we had to adjust the positions of images over and over until we got it just right.
After a round of edits to make sure we had the technical aspects correct (Again, thank you, AGI team!), we went into Full Production Mode.
DOWN TO THE DETAILS
For such a complex and detailed piece, every illustration and animation had to be precise, smooth, and meticulous. We packed in a lot of detail on the satellites (which, by the way, the AGI team could name on sight), and added in some easter eggs for fun and texture.
(Did you notice the glove and the toothbrush in the “Hazardous Debris” cloud? Yeah, those are actual catalogued space objects.)
Our animator pulled out some specialities from his bag of tricks, like employing a physics engine on the satellite collision.
The AGI team sent us visualizations of their software in action so that we could make the animations accurate, albeit somewhat scaled-down, and still keep the style of a hand-drawn cartoon.
THE “WHY” OF IT ALL
Even though we spent plenty of time and effort making sure the satellites looked slick and the visualizations were accurate, the real stars of the show are the people.
In all of our pieces, we focus on the human element. Because really, the whole point of AGI working tirelessly to conserve and protect space is so that these satellites can make life better for human beings. The real power behind The ComSpOC is the AGI team — the people who wrote these programs, who developed the SpaceBook platform, who run the Operations Center day in, day out, and sometimes all night long.
THE BIG SHOW
We finished the animation while the folks at AGI were at the annual Space Symposium. I know to some, a Space Symposium sounds like that awful extra credit thing you had to attend in college. But trust me, it’s basically the Space Geek Worlds Fair slash Techapalooza.
We delivered the final video to the AGI team, not thinking anyone would have time to watch it until the Symposium was over.
We were wrong. Almost immediately, I got a call from Josh Poley exclaiming, “It's f***ing awesome!”
Within a few hours, the video was playing on the 20 foot jumbo screen in the main hall of the Symposium. Josh reported that “it is getting a great reception from everyone who sees it. Our CFO says he is going to use it for all of his meetings with Congress and all kinds of high-ranking military [personnel].”
We are absolutely over the moon (*wink*) that this video got out there and began doing its job right away!
In the summer of 2010, I went kayaking on the Huntington Harbor with a colorful group of scientists. We were on the coast of New York State for the week as part of the PopTech Institute's Science Fellows Program taking place at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a stately 125-year-old research and education institution at the forefront of molecular biology and genetics.
While gliding around ridiculously oversized yachts and dodging speed boats, I pitched an idea to one of my co-kayakers, Beth Shapiro, a research scientist then at the University of Pennsylvania:
“You should totally take me with you the next time you go to Siberia and look for frozen mammoths.”
Beth Shapiro has the coolest job ever. A self-proclaimed molecular paleontologist — or paleogeneticist — Beth looks more like a stunt double for the Icelandic pop singer Björk than a woman who does what she does for a living.
Paleogeneticists find and grind
the bones of giants.
As part of the 2010 PopTech Science Fellows program, Beth Shapiro describes her cutting-edge DNA research, I illustrated some of the fun details. Her research is helping us make informed decisions about how to preserve the species that are currently under threat.
Shapiro and her team collect both partial and fully-preserved giant mammals from the Pleistocene epoch — giant sloths, giant wolves, giant bears, giant beavers (that one always gets a chuckle), and of course giant wooly mammoths. So, naturally, I wanted her to take me with her on the hunt!
ABOVE: "Beringia land bridge-noaagov" by NOAA
Well, that is what Shapiro has done in her new book, How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction; she takes the reader on the hunt in Beringia — also called “Bering Land Bridge” — where these giants roamed the dry, grassy plain that once connected Asia with North America during periodic ice ages.
In her hands-on research, Shapiro digs in dirt and hauls bones around, rides in a rustbucket Russian helicopter, camps among a gabillion mosquitos, and labors in the lab to piece together chopped up strands of DNA.
In the fall of 2014, I ran into Beth and her mammoth bones again. This time, she was one of the presenters for the National Academy of Sciences and The Kavli Foundation Frontiers of Science program in Irvine, California.
This symposium brings together some of the very best young scientists to discuss exciting advances and opportunities in their fields. I was fortunate enough to scribe for both her National Academies of Science public presentation, part of the Distinctive Voices lecture series.
After her presentation, we looked at the resulting image, and I did not even have to pitch her... we both had the same idea:
“We totally have to animate this!”
So in November of 2014, we started the process. Along with the team at Princeton University Press, Beth began working on the script and the Alphachimp team began coaching her on how to record a voiceover. No easy task!
Shapiro is now associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She also runs a busy research lab, carries a full teaching load, parents two small children, and is in full-scale promotion mode for the book's publication.
At one point, Beth lost her voice giving talks, teaching, and catching cold from her kids.
In parallel with crafting the script and voiceover, the Alphachimp team worked through sketching out the ideas and illustrations.
Originally, we considered the whiteboard time-lapse style, but that did not capture the richness of Beth's adventures and the main goal of her work and the book:
Bring these creatures to life!
In the end, we created a watercolor painting (with some animation sprinkled in) that allows Beth's voice to express the wonder of the science and to inspire audiences to read the rest of this amazing story.
For more information visit:
This was Nashville's sixth TEDx event, our locally organized, independent instance of the decades-old TED events.
“TEDxNashville crackles with bright ideas and emotion” as speakers and performers played a sold out crowd of about 1,800 inside the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.
Alphachimp's Peter Durand was on stage for the sixth year to capture these ideas worth sharing. Speakers included political activist John Jay Hooker, entrepreneur Turner Nashe, NASA manager Chris Crumbly, End Slavery Tennessee's Derri Smith, Tulane University's Joel Dinerstein and other impressive speakers.
For more detail, read this article by Tony Gonzalez writing for The Tennessean with some behind the scenes photos of artist and curator Sally Taylor, Tulane "professor of cool" Joel Dinerstein, and emcee Eddie George.
More information at: www.tedxnashville.com