graffiti and public space.

free speech

This is a follow up to a conversation that started over at think:lab.

I make the argument graffitti is free speech. Take a look at the tagged images of linked to in this post… thanks to everyone who has contributed at flickr. If you have images you would like to add go to flickr and add the tags: graffitti, publicspace, and freespeech to your images and upload them.

Spraypaint and free speech.

borough high street
Originally uploaded by embleton.

I was over at Christian’s blog thinklab and read his post about a group of designers and other interested parties arguing that graffiti is free speech. Most of this is from a comment I made at his blog but… I’ve added a bit and will be adding a photolink soon. The law in New York bans anyone under the age of 21 from buying spray paint or wide tipped markers.

I have to weigh in on this having been a design student in NYC. The legal age to use spraypaint or markers is — 21? So, how old are first years when they head off to art school, architecture school, design school, college? 19? So that means you can’t go to the art supply store buy some oaktag and sharpies and do posters? Can’t spray paint that chair you picked up on Canal Street when you were walking home?

I remember them locking everything up at Pearl Paint it was stupid then and now.

I hate graffiti that isn’t more than someone marking their territory like a dog. But I think that graffiti is free speech, its art, and art continues to frighten some people. Usually because it speaks a truth that is unconvenient or uncomfortable.
We need a more creative solution.

Just think about 7eleven locking up cigarettes like NYC locks up spray paint. That would be something.

Now it’s got me on a rampage. For the next week I’m going to photograph graffiti… maybe I’ll ask some of my compadres at Flickr to help me out. Keep a lookout for my post of a gallery. Then you can think about it too.


Rome Dinnerware

Joel Katz my friend, neighbor, and colleague has designed a set of dinnerware based on his Urban Icons project. These are a series of iconic maps of cities contained within circles. I love these artful reductions of an urban landscape. I’m trying to decide how many place settings we’ll need to order. I guess it depends when the Paris set will be ready. Don’t you think we need a Philadelphia set? I imagine having each person dine on a set from a different city.

Joel is an exceptional designer, information architect, cartographer, photographer and teacher. His office designed the largest wayfinding system in North America, Walk!Philadelphia. His photography has been exhibited and published in both the U.S. and abroad, and his work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York, and the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Kyoto.
Joel introduced us to the building that is now the home of both of our studios. We share the joys of our work on a daily basis its only a walk across the hall.

A six-piece set of dinnerware based on a diagrammatic map of Rome. The Quirinale is in the center, surrounded by Trinità dei Monti, Sta Maria Maggiore, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon. Also on the full map (on the dinner plate) are the Tiber, St Peter’s, the Borghese Gardens, the Baths of Caracalla, and the Aurelian Wall with its gates. The salad/dessert plate with type is a diagram of Etruscan heaven.

Dinnerware is available through Joel Katz Design Associates
215 985 4747 TEL

Take a look at his photography at :

Changing a place : re-expressing learning.

building stellarvisions
Last week Alina was heading to a talk about The Village of Arts and Humanities; this is the Village’s 20th Anniversary. In her always generous way she introduced me [ and Margaret ] to Christian Long who was at a brand identity talk she gave in Texas and had made a stop in Philadelphia. Christian is President and CEO of Design Share an international forum for innovative schools.

What a great joy when he walked into our studio and exclaimed: “What a great space!” Nothing makes me happier than someone enjoying the space we have created that drives our day to day work experience. We had a great chance to give him the speed tour of Stellarvisions. Later that night we had a twenty minute chat at a cafe across the street from the studio. We talked about what we each do at a speedy pace. It was, describe what you do concentrate. After we explained what we do he said; “Oh, IDEO on a human scale.” Wow, was that was spot on.
Christian has boundless energy, tremendous focus, and a relentless commitment to reinvent the way we think about education and educating. His work to create better learning environments is aligned with our work around culture-driven tools™. The place where learning takes place is as important as what you teach. Design of an environment expresses and supports its culture and values.

Christian has a blog think:lab, I visit twice a week now. Imagine my surprise when there was a post from him about my blog and Stellarvisions. You can check it out here.
This is the beginning of a conversation I first became involved in with our fund raising work at CHAD: Charter High School for Architecture and Design.

Learning never stops. The photo up top is a from the construction of the Stellarvisions studio. Our space was created to support our core values, foster collaboration, share knowledge, and inspire new ideas.

More about The Village of Arts and Humanities
“Beginning in 1986, with a single goal of transforming a vacant lot into a park for children in the neighborhood the Village of Arts and Humanities was created.”

The Village is an inspiring experience for anyone who walks through it. It is spirit visualized. There are a number of events taking place. If you can attend one do it. It will awake your heart and soul.

The Village of Arts and Humanities
2544 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19133

Check out the website for more.

ipod as diagnostic tool?

ipod heart sounds
I’m not sure how I ended up at this article but it happened through the amazing tangential internet landscape. [,8599,1150017,00.html ]

Wow, what a smart idea. Let’s have doctors brush up their skills by listening to actual heartbeats over and over to hone their skills. Do it on an ipod isn’t that using technology in a super duper new way?

Been there. Done that.

Hearts sounds spread 2Hearts sounds spread 1Heart and Breath Sounds product
Here are the covers of a project that we did at Stellarvisions back in 1988. You can click on the thumbnails to see them at full size. This included a paperback book 130 pages and a cassette tape. One product was for heart sounds the other breath sounds. The products were created for nurses. A first for the publisher, the books were produced using totally electronic files. Illustrations indicating where to place the stethoscope and ECG’s were created in Adobe Illustrator 88. The book files were created in Aldus Pagemaker and output imposed directly to film. We created the digital files on an Apple Macintosh SE30.

Maybe we should suggest the client bring back the product and sell it with an ipod shuffle.

Just so we cover all the bases.

Publisher: Springhouse Corporation

Art Director: John Hubbard

Cover design: Donna Giannola

Designer: Stellarvisions

Stephanie Peters, associate art director

William Sloane Coffin Dies at 81

We lost a great voice for humanity this past week. An inspiration for most of my life Rev William Sloan Coffin had a steady moral compass. He will be remembered and greatly missed.
From the New York Times:

Dr. Coffin, a believer in the power of civil disobedience to bring social and political change, was arrested as a Freedom Rider early in the 1960’s and was an early admirer of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

eightytwo degrees?


I looked at my weather widget this morning and found that it would be a sunny 82 degrees. Isn’t that just a bit too warm too early? I was hoping to be wearing my sweaters for at least another week.

It made me think about An Inconvenient Truth the story of Al Gore fighting to save our planet by raising awareness about global warming. The film was shown at Sundance and will be released in theaters on May 24th. The compelling truth is a rallying cry.

It is time to design better.


This is me editing my blog with a terrific little… well not so little 38 meg application Flock.

It has its own blog editor which I am using right now. I can style my content and make it bold, italic, and my favorite crossed out. It will let me create numbered lists so that I can number things I need to do:

  1. make a capture of the editor.
  2. put a link to the website
  3. select the right categories.
  4. look for upload tool for my captures.

I think it has a spell checker…

Yes it does and the window is very sweet. Easy to understand.
I like this tool better than the interface that WordPress offers you even using the OSX interface. This interface understands how I want to do things.


  • it has an editor view and a source view [so if you want to link to files you have already uploaded or do html if you want to
  • the interface is very clean.
  • you have a pop up selector for accounts.
  • you can select a post to edit or create a new post

It has a window to drag content into. I’m going to try dragging the capture of this window in here. Nope. Ok I didn’t understand. I needed to set up access to my flickr account. Then I can upload to flickr by dragging files int a bar. I can also access all my images. Please understand that I am flying by the seat off my pants here. I didn’t read anything. I always try to see how mucch I can do with any application without directions. Directions are for old people.


Ok. I’m selecting the categories for the post. 

And I’m going to publish.