Loved this. Great video editing and explanation of neural nets 🙂
We look at things constantly, but we take so much longer to really see them. It’s been over 20 years of living near this mosque in my hometown Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and I really never fully appreciated its architecture until my most recent trip a few weeks ago.
Designed in 1986 by Zuhair Fayez and Associates for Saudi Aramco’s headquarter town Adh-Dhahran, this mosque sits in the heart of the core work area. Coincidentally it made its appearance in the town the same year I did. My earliest memories with my dad include him taking me to Friday prayer with him and my brothers. The next time after that I remember going was during Ramadan taraweeh in highschool—and after that, a few weeks ago in May 2015.
What always stood out about this mosque was its blue stained glass border across the side walls. I thought this was something my friend would appreciate so I started taking pictures to share. In that it occurred to me bit by bit and then as a whole, how beautiful the entire mosque is.
The prayer area and the minaret are separate from each other so that the minaret stands alone some feet away from the entrances. Both structures have sharp angles and defined edges, however the base to each has been curved so that it almost looks like the mosque has smoothly emerged right out of the desert sand. The colors of the structures are muted greys and tans, much like the surrounding buildings. There is no heavy ornamentation on the outside, except geometric patterns and very subtle Arabic calligraphy that would only be noticeable from close up front. The mosque stands as a natural part of the work area. This consideration made by embodies the place prayer has in the religion. Islam is intended to be a way of life and prayer is a daily, very frequent part of the Muslim routine.
It is so appropriate that the place of worship has been designed not in a way that makes it stand out or attract excessive attention, but rather in a way that reinforces prayer as a simple, pleasing part of the everyday.
The stained glass windows enhance this mosque and use lighting as an element itself. The inside of the mosque has two parts: the main hall and the upper section for women. The women’s section is small but serene. It is lined with a neutral green carpet and a skylight in the roof sits right above the front-center row.
The rest of the mosque is lined with stained glass windows. There is plenty of sunlight that comes in but the blues in the windows help reduce the impact of the bright sun outside, and a cool, tranquil light fills the mosque instead.
Monolithic pillars uphold the building in the main hall downstairs. These pillars also bear no ornamentation. The only ornament that really exists is the windows that are purposed to cooling the incoming sunlight.
And just a fun fact I learned through research: while this mosque is named Abu Bakr As Siddiq Mosque, there is another mosque in close proximity a few hundred yards away commonly referred to as the al-Muneirah masjid, but whose actual name is Omar ibn Khattab mosque.
I was in the ladies room this afternoon making wudu when my boss walked in. She stood in the threshold of a stall and watched as I spun my scarf round my head in front of the mirror.
“Must be an ordeal,” she observed pleasantly, “or is it just second nature to you?”
I replied, “it kind of is. But part of it is probably that I do it in a way that requires the least effort.”
I told her about the Malaysian Facebook page I had seen, which had tutorials of very elaborate head scarf styles—wrapping here, pinned up there, pulled back from there. “They’re very pretty but—who has time?” I said.
“Or maybe it’s second nature to them.” I added, realizing they’re likely more advanced at arranging scarves than I am.
But until I evolve to that level—in my personal daily routine anyway—I find the scarf styling method analogous to something my friend Paul taught me. As Deborah has known him for years, I told her the story:
When I was fresh out of college, I met up with Paul to go over my resumé. In our last semester in college we had had a class that included a resumé-building project. We were to distinguish our resumé, be special, make it something an employer would stop and actually look at amongst the many applicants. We conceptualized our resumés with differentiating aspects, incorporated an ‘experience map’ (a self-portrait infographic from a previous project) into our design, and carefully put together mock-ups. The idea was that this would stand out when applying to a design studio for example.
Paul is one of the best designers I’ve known, with some of the best work I’ve seen. He looked over my resumé which was some trifold concept at the time and pointed out that it would become very tedious to create and send over and over again to firms. At the time, I’m not sure if I considered the advice immediately. I was probably too married to the design. But when I came back reenergized from New York a few months later and applied to about 40 jobs, I sure took in the advice then.
It made complete sense. It wouldn’t be practical to spend time crafting a ‘designy’ piece always. It’s like the scarf issue—who has time? I make wudu upto three times while at work during the day. It would be so impractical, at my speed of elaborate-scarf-styling, to redo it that frequently.
When I was in school, I used to think of one-word summations for what I’ve learned in design from each professor.
Mary Jo Nasko taught me all about color.
Philip was without a doubt, typography.
Sequence, I learned from Linda.
Hal taught us the element of surprise, eliminating monotony by creating interest and movement through a piece.
Randy wasn’t my instructor, but a mentor at the first place I worked at. He taught me precision, paying attention to the finest details.
And Paul. I’d have to say Paul taught me the importance of efficiency, which on the whole, is the key to good design.
When I was finished telling Deborah about Paul and the resumé, she recounted a project he’d assisted her with this week that was giving her a whole lot of trouble. “Paul saved me this week. He’s my hero, hero, hero.” And I thought: no doubt about that. I think Paul saves me periodically.
Once in a while you see work that’s really worth screenshot-ing (multiple times in this case).
I found myself on Oxfam Unwrapped, a new extension of Oxfam America, an organization that helps those with different needs around the world. Targeted at the holiday season, the Oxfam Unwrapped campaign has been launched on an extremely user friendly platform with a simple feel. The color palette is bright and active, paired with clever photographic images and clean typography.
Basically, you choose a gift, you choose a card option (snail-mail / e-mail / print yourself), and you send it to someone you’ve bought the gift for. So your friend will receive a card from Oxfam Unwrapped saying something like “I bought a goat for you” with a wide-eyed goat on the front and an explanation inside of how in their honor you’ve bought this animal that will help and continue to help someone in need.
In the best of branded campaigns, it is still the base cause—whether it’s supporting disease research or helping the poor—that makes the campaign successful and worthwhile. Successful branding then, is that which is able to illuminate the respective cause and communicate it to the audience.
Oxfam Unwrapped highlights the ease and simplicity of helping others. A pile of manure is featured for $12. No lengthy explanations—just an image and its price. Should you wish to click further, an equally neat and clean explanation appears of how the gift will be put to use. From providing soap for a child, to training a midwife, to irrigating a farmer’s land, to planting a forest, this campaign conveys the needs of fellow human beings, yet does not throw the user into guilt and dismay at conditions around the world. Instead it invites the user to be an active part of this very active cause.
Oxfam Unwrapped communicates how even a little help can solve problems, and very importantly, it communicates to the user what those solutions are.
What makes a good doctor? A good scientist? A good cook? Well, perhaps goodness itself.
In university years, while pursuing design and also interning part-time, I came to the conclusion that the mark of a good designer—beyond the skill set—is the way he or she critiques another’s work.
As students we would sometimes show some very terrible work during critiques. And it bewildered me that professors or managers at work could view anything in front of them and talk about it analytically. They could be looking at something that defied every rule of every thing they’d repeatedly taught us, but they would never say “what’s wrong with you?” or “this is terrible.” Instead they would go through the composition, talking about hierarchy, engaging the edges, color, type, white space, etc.
This reminds me of Nouman Ali Khan’s example where he mentions how in teaching, after going through an entire lesson, a student may raise his hand and say “I didn’t get it, can you repeat it?” The teacher will ask which part, and the student says “all of it.” The teacher repeats it, the student still doesn’t get it. So the teacher stays after class, invites the student home, comes up with alternate ways to teach. The teacher does not blame the student for not learning the material properly, but instead sees himself responsible for not communicating it properly.
It also reminds me of a story Aamir Khan related in an interview. He stated that his mother would congratulate him on winning a match and then say “what about the other boy’s mom—she must be very upset.” He said it taught him to view his opponent as a human being and he’d later celebrate with the other player(s), sometimes with a vada pao.
And so it seems that each profession has its little secret to becoming truly successful. The great designer will critique and not criticize, the great opponent will celebrate the game and not the victory, the great cook will share with you something of theirs you’ve asked to learn. I suppose it comes down to this: arrogance is that one characteristic that has no beneficial manifestation. In its presence, skill and talent, status and grandeur, all fall meaningless. But in its absence, one shines like the afternoon sun.