Throughout SXSW interactive there seems to be a pervading theme that good design is better than throwing in all the bells and whistles just because they exist. The first two things I went to were This Will Blow Your Mind: The Prius Inspired Bike and Size Matters : Why Little Houses Are So Awesome. After thinking about these two panels for a bit I feel like they are sort of at polar opposites.
The Prius bike seemed like an exercise in excess. Sure shifting with your brain seems like it could have some potential especially for disabled people (another common theme through sxsw…web accessibility) but the bike itself was designed terribly. I have seem some Parlee bikes and I know he can design good bikes, but this thing missed the mark. When I think of the Prius I think of a car for the masses that is reliable and uses technology in a good way. This bike was basically not rideable for anyone but a pro cyclist and even then it looked like a joke bike. The riding position was laughable…the drops of the bars unreachable without needing a team of chiropractors on call. (A little secret, pro cyclists will be fast on a 30 pound 3 speed…cause being fast ain’t about the bike) A novice/intermediate cyclist couldn’t ride it more than 5 miles. Are aero lightweight carbon tubes and hidden brakes really more efficient if a normal person can’t ride it? The EEG shifting (with your brain) seemed like it would be less efficient than normal shifting, which still uses your brain by sending signals to your fingers to shift. I would have been more impressed if they had perfected the EEG shifting on a bike that was actually designed well for a normal cyclist instead of bringing an expensive toy that was obviously not for the masses.
The second panel insisted good design should be at the core of house designs. Jay Shafer the speaker lived in a 100 square foot space for numerous years and still does. Sure, he seemed a bit eccentric but he had good design down. There is no way anyone can live in a tiny space without having to think out how things should work together. He also seemed more in line with what green should be…a subtractive process. Create less waste not more. He went in to how codes and zoning for cities are set up against people actually being able to live in small spaces…permits are actually unattainable in some cities for houses under 150 square feet. So he built his house on wheels and moved it around or parked it in backyards and called it camping. He figured out unique ways to get around the system and problem solve with graceful results.
These two panels were both extreme but with differing results. Probably everyone would be better off just taking a little bit of this green medicine in smaller doses.