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Designing Digital Communities


I will be teaching a class on Designing Digital Communities this summer at SVA.

This class is an introduction to crafting the platforms and experiences that enable communities to collaborate, create, and innovate. We will explore social networks, memes, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, online petitions, and other models of digital community participation. Students will design concepts and prototypes for their own digital communities. No coding experience required.

Learn more and register>>

#DesignThyself Design for Social Innovation SVA SVA Design for Social Innovation SVADSI

#DesignThyself – Week 5

I got myself a Korean tutor. We are meeting next Monday! I’ll keep everyone posted, but I think I should have enlisted help much sooner.

I’ve made it halfway through Level 2 of Talk to Me in Korean. I’m continuing my Gangnam Style infinite repeat loops on my commutes to and from Staten Island. I think it’s starting to gel and enter my brain through my subconsciousness.

Two more awesome renditions of Gangnam Style:

Dinner with Ideas Food NYC Recipe SVA Design for Social Innovation SVADSI

Miso Masala Stew


I improvised a big pot of this hearty vegan stew for Dinner with Ideas, which I hosted at my place last weekend. The photo above doesn’t really do the dish justice, but it was the only shot I remembered to take.

In any case, like most of my recipes, no precise measurements here, but basically it’s a pretty standard Indian-style dal base crossed with a blast of Japanese umami. Here’s how to recreate it at home (this recipe feeds 10-12 people):

0. Before you start, cook about 1 rice-cooker cup each of steel cut oatmeal and brown rice in a rice cooker with plenty of water. You can do this the day before.

1. Sauté 3 chopped onions in plenty of oil (I used a mix of coconut and extra virgin olive oil). Take your time with this, it can take 30-40 minutes on a medium heat. The onions should be golden brown before you proceed.

2. Toast and grind up about 2 tablespoons of dhaba masala and mash up in a mortar and pestle with a good handful each of fresh ginger and garlic. Toss this mixture in with the onions and fry until the garlic takes on a roasted (and not raw) flavor.

3. Add in a big can of chopped tomatoes, some chili peppers and paprika to taste. Also add about a handful of chopped, reconstituted dried shiitake and a piece of kombu. Stir for a bit to combine and let brown/reduce.

4. Add 2.5 cups of dried red lentils and the pre-cooked brown rice and oatmeal. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 45-minutes to an hour or more.

5. When the lentils are nice and soft, add 2 bunches of kale sliced into ribbons as well as 3 heaping teaspoons of good quality miso (the miso is salty, so don’t over salt beforehand. Stir and cook until wilted.

6. Before serving, add a bit of something acid to bring all the flavors to life even more. You can use one or more of the following: fresh squeezed lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and/or some Sonomic vinegar. Adjust spices to taste. Top with some minced scallions and/or cilantro.

Dinner with Ideas

Above: Dinner with Ideas participants around the table. Below: Robb models some miso masala leftovers in a reused coconut manna jar.

robb models miso masala


Design Design for Social Innovation New York PURPOSE SVA SVA Design for Social Innovation SVADSI Writing

The Power of a Brand to Transform A City

Meu Rio Members

From my latest article in GOOD:

How can we use the power of branding to strengthen a shared identity and spark positive change in the neighborhoods and cities where we live? An effective visual identity references the culture and history of a place’s people and reflects their hopes and aspirations. Logos, fonts, or color schemes, the most tangible parts of a brand identity, are not magical cure-alls for the financial, social, and cultural ills of a city, but they can be powerful symbols and rallying cries that galvanize people to action. Here are some stories and insights on how you can create a brand identity for change in your community:


#DesignThyself Design Design for Social Innovation New York SVA SVA Design for Social Innovation SVADSI


This semester, I am co-teaching a class called Designing Change with Lina Srivastava at Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts. Students will be working in groups to collaborate with local non-profits, start-ups and community groups to design communications, conversations, and interactions that change people’s attitudes, habits, and/or behaviors. More on those projects later, but in this post, I want to talk about the personal assignments that everyone in the class will be doing individually along with their group projects.

In the spirit of heeding Gandhi’s challenge to “be the change you wish to see in the world,” #DesignThyself is a project where we will each design and document intentional and proactive personal change in our lives. Think of it as part new year’s resolution as art school project and part reality show. The personal change could be learning a new skill, picking up a new habit (or quitting an old one), or acquiring a new behavior response to certain triggers or stress. Possible themes include health, sport, language, cooking, reading, emotional life, meditation, or creative practice. We will document the before, during, and after of our personal transformations online and mark our posts with the hash tag #DesignThyself. (Another pedagogical aim of this assignment is to get the students familiar with blogging and social media.) The projects should be related to personal growth and self-mastery, but also light-hearted and fun.

My #DesignThyself challenge for spring 2013?

Gangnam Style!

From now until the end of April 2013:

  • I promise to study Korean at least 5 minutes a day, every day.
  • I will post about my process and progress at least once a week.
  • Before the end of the semester, I will go to Koreatown, where I will be able to practice my new Korean skills by ordering dinner in Korean, and…
  • Perform Gangnam Style at karaoke (or noraebang if you want to be culturally/linguistically accurate).

References and Readings
I have suggested that my students check out lifehacking blogs to get some ideas and inspiration for their projects. Here are some links that I shared in last night’s class:␣awt_m=3dp9HK1tvnMY4bn␣awt_m=3gwuR_jW0TMY4bn

We will also be reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit over the course of the semester. Progress report and more insights next week!