Muddy Waters

My friend Jake is opening a new coffee house in Rochester.  It’s bound to be a hit, and will be a very cool joint.  Muddy Waters Coffee House, in the South Wedge area of Rochester and is located behind the Cinema Theatre, where S. Clinton and Goodman meet, and it’s slated to open for business mid-January 2008. My friend Tony, owner of Rochester graphic design firm Type High did the design of the logo too.   Muddy Waters is currently looking for artists who would be interested in some free gallery space. They’re looking for all kinds of work – paintings, hanging sculptures, fiber art, etc. – to place on walls. They will tag the work with the artist’s name and price of the piece, and hopefully be able to help support local artists in the community, while bringing some delicious coffee to the area. The Muddy Waters folks would also like to speak with any potters who may be interested in supplying us with pieces – coffee mugs, cappuccino cups, etc. – for use in the shop, and for sale to the public. Please reply to George at the Craigslist email address:

Thruway Woes.

I drive the New York State Thruway a lot. It’s expensive (the toll works out to about 4 cents a mile), it’s a speed trap (and undoubtedly a revenue generator for the State), and poorly maintained.

Here’s a sample of what I see each week: Cops. Cars. Crap.

First, cops. There are Troopers EVERYWHERE on the Thruway. Typically, I pass about 3-4 in my 70 mile commute. The cops are always pulling folks over for speeding. Over the past 300 days of my commute, here are some statistics:

Number of hours I have spent commuting between LeRoy and Williamsville: about 160. Number of cars pulled over in those 160 hours: 123.
Number with out of town plates (New Jersey, Mass, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan are the most common, likely because they’re the folks least willing to be able to contest the ticket): 111.
Number of “assistance calls” observed (Troopers helping folks with disabled vehicles, etc.): 3.
Number of instances that I have clocked a Trooper or other marked Police car speeding, without lights on (in excess of 82mph): 271.
With lights on: 14.

Cars are everywhere on the Thruway. Disabled vehicles number high, primarily because the Thruway holds on monopoly of sorts on rescue and assistance vehicles.
Average number of disabled vehicles per commute: 1.72
Average number of times person is sitting in vehicle: .807
Average number of times person is standing outside vehicle: .221
Average number of times Trooper or Police are either present or assisting: .00071

Crap also abounds on the Thruway. The problems run deep and wide, especially in comparison to other State Turnpike systems:
Per commute, average number of dead animals (“roadkill”) that I see: 4.985
Average length of construction sites: 14.2 miles
Average number of construction workers per site: 17
Average number of Trooper vehicles present at each construction site of: 1.67
Average number of plows observed on days with >3″ of snow: .241
Typical number of days with unsafe road conditions due to snow: 7

In contrast to neighboring States, the NYS Thruway, does a HORRIBLE — JUST TERRIBLE — job of reporting traffic conditions and road conditions. VDOT (the Vermont Department of Transportation) has a cell-phone based service that works kind of like OnStar. (I might add that Vermont has no Interstate toll roads). MASS Pike has a series of low power radio stations that broadcast a clear and informative message. Pennsylvania Turnpike has similarly well-maintained and informative means of communicating to drivers. The NYS Thruway has a series of crappy, low-power radio stations that are NEVER updated and impossible to decipher. In addition, the toll collectors are not only miserable but clearly unconcerned with driver safety or road conditions.

I fully support the article published in today’s Buffalo News. The NYS Thurway authority stopped providing customer service years ago, and it exists solely to collect tolls to bolster its own continued existence. My suggestion: Dump the Authority and put the Thruway under state control, directly — making it accountable to work with municipalities across the state to make the Thruway the model mode of transportation it was envisioned to be — because clearly, after more than 50 years, the Thruway authority has proved, they just can’t hack it.

San Antonio Ranger

From my presentation in San Antonio a the end of last month, the following appeared in the San Antonio Ranger

Comfort in brands

By: Adriana F. De Leon

Posted: 11/9/07

Brands affect trillions of choices made by billions of consumers each day worldwide based on how a company presents a brand to the public.

Professor Alex Bitterman of the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology lectured about the roles of artists and designers in a branded world to a crowded room of students Oct. 25 in the visual arts center.

“When we think of branding, or brand, we think of consumer products. We see brands that are definitely on our clothing.

‘We see brands on the food we eat. We see brands on the products we choose to buy,” he said.

Brands are in plain view everywhere and have become a part of our lives.

“Over the last 30 years, we developed an emotional attachment with brands much in the same way that we are attached to our friends and to our family,” he said.

For example, Nike is hip, cool and our athletic friend, he said.

Another popular brand is Starbucks; people can locate them easily because the

company has multiple locations.

People can have a popular brand, but people also can dislike brands.

“We’re jealous of them (brands). We’re angry at them because we can’t afford them,” he said.

“So, what makes a brand?” he said.

As an artist, the thinking process is visual, but it is now becoming perceptual because brands can express different meanings to different people. Brands speak to the public without saying a word.

“You can look up at me and know ‘wow, he’s a Mac user, so he thinks more like me than if you were a PC or a Dell user.’ You can read societal cues from me, read social cues from me, without ever having to speak with me,” he said.

It is important for designers and artists to understand how their work fits in with a group of marketers, advertisers and other professionals who produce brands.

The artist has a responsibility to communicate with people and provide accurate information, he said.

“There is also a market emotional connection to the brand.”

When dealing with a healthcare company, an artist must envision how to advertise a specific medication that will provide the medical needs for the patient.

The traditional concept of brands such as bright colors on logos becomes secondary and information design becomes primary because a human being’s health is on the line. “It is our key responsibility to communicate clearly and effectively,” he said.

If Crest brand were to discontinue their product, the world would not end; however, if someone consumes the wrong medicine this could result in a significant problem, he said.

The artist needs to stop and think about the design process when working with a company producing life and death products.

“As you’re working to design brands, think about what they mean, but also what they will provide to the people that are using them,” he said.

Part of the job includes talking to the public and researching information related to the project, he said.

“Find out: Are there logos that look like this logo? Are there identities that look like this brand?” he said.

The best way for a designer to learn is to write the idea on paper and display it for others to see and ask for feedback by the public.

“Ask a thousand people that you know. Find out without saying anything, what does this say to you? What does this communicate to you?”

The feedback will cause the designer to return to the drawing board more than once to produce a more valuable design.

Graphic design sophomore James Jenkings said this opened his eyes because he never thought about how a brand could affect a person.

Professor Marleen Hoover said the presentation was “excellent.”

Bitterman presented challenging thoughts and focused on the responsibilities of a designer, she said.

As brands are changing, the roles of artists and designers must change, but the most important thing to remember is to be ethical, responsible and listen to the public.

Design Survey Textbook

Design Survey a workbook introduction to the design professions by Alex Bitterman

I am pleased to announce the publication of a new design textbook that I have authored. Design Survey: a Workbook Introduction to the Design Professions will be published in late November by the Pearson division of Prentice Hall, ISBN-10: 0536517363, $26.00.

Design Survey: A Workbook Introduction to the Design Professions aims to ameliorate the challenge faced by many design educators by setting forth a clear and functionally precise course of study for the beginning design student and future design professional.Each chapter of the text is intended as an introductory overview of each design profession, and is suitable for pre-major students in first-year foundation programs, or for third- and fourth-year students as a capstone survey of the interdisciplinary nature of the design professions. This book is not intended to be a comprehensive principles of design text or studio manual, but as an introductory text to the interrelated nature of the design professions.

The book would be best serve instructors teaching large lecture courses, introductory and foundations courses, and design electives that cross disciplinary lines. The text is a workbook that encourages students to interact with the designed environment with the aim of building professional awareness and critical analysis skills.Please contact your local Pearson or Prentice Hall representative. Find yours at:

In Canada, please contact your local Pearson Education Canada rep. Find yours at:

If you would like further details, or have questions about the text please feel free to contact me.

Please feel free to forward or share this announcement with your colleagues.

Feel This!

DX Gala

This past weekend, I had the good fortune to attend Feel This! The 2007 Annual Gala at the Design Exchange in Toronto. The Design Exchange is magnificent for a variety of reasons, but the impressive facility was especially impressive last Saturday night.

For those of you not familiar, the Design Exchange is a not-for-profit organization similar to the Design Council in the UK. The Design Exchange is housed in the Mies-ian masterpiece, the Toronto Dominion Tower. The tower complex is an architectural marvel. Mies incorporated the entire former art deco Toronto Stock Exchange building into his design… and that’s the home of the DX — on the former Toronto Stock Exchange trading floor.

The Gala turned the trading floor in to a discotheque (with DJ Karim Rashid… who, I might add was excellent) slash lounge that later became the venue for a live reggae band. The downstairs lobby of the DX was transformed as well, part auction, part gambling casino, and part chill lounge (which I have to admit, in the midst of the perfect curtain wall architecture of the site was a lovely modernist delight).

All in all, a wonderful time, pulsing with energy, and importantly, with design.

Universal Design Presentation at the Design Exchange, Toronto

Bitterman Universal DesignThis past Thursday, I had the splendid opportunity to deliver a master class workshop on the universal design of wayfinding systems to a wonderful group of designers, policy makers, and thinkers at the Design Exchange in Toronto.

For those enrolled in the group, you will find a printed version of the Keynote slide presentation here. Bitterman Universal Design

The master class workshop is the first in a series that will be held (roughly one a month) at the Design Exchange. The entire series listing can be found here.

The Design Exchange is a true resource to designers, design academics, and those interested in design throughout North America. I’m continually impressed by their hard work and dedication to further the conversation about design, and their collective commitment to making relevant and high-quality programming and exhibitions that highlight design available to the public never ceases to amaze me. They are, truly, a hard working, can-do group. You can check out the Design Exchange online at: