Monday, December 5, 2011

Okay - we all know that simple product solutions help to make our world less stressful by providing clear resolution to overly complex problems. So why the hell are they so difficult to realize? Simple should not be mistaken as minimal; simple addresses the core issue at hand, identified through a depth of understanding and eliminating the extraneous distractions.

A few years ago, Help emerged as a drug company with a razor sharp focus on providing a simple, intuitive user experience when it came to our basic needs.

"Each help® product is named after the specific symptom it can help. This seemed like a logical way to name things. But it is not the way ordinary drugs are named. An ordinary drug company likes to make up fantastical words."

Help believes only by developing a deep understanding of the user experience could intuitive solutions be realized. The end product appears simple, but their understanding and commitment to mapping complex data allowed designers to create compelling solutions that break through all the noise.

The infographic illustrations data about our choices at a drug store to address a headache:

Helps's solution:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Local three 10 months later

A group from our studio gathered at Local three early in the morning with coffees in hand. 
Now that the restaurant has been open for ten months and preparing for their first anniversary, we thought is was time to measure our success with Chefs Chris Hall and Todd Mussman .

We believe in the ai3 process and our ability to create a strategy that produces results. 
Strategy + Results
We can always make ourselves and our designs betters, so we took 2 hours to learn from our client.
        Would you change anything about our process?
        How was the design execution?
        What solutions are working and which ones have you had to tweak?

A great opening comment from Chef Chris,  "We have exceeded our revenue goals in our first year."
ai3 Process:
1. Vision Session
"The Vision Session is the most important thing we did with ai3.  It is probably, emotionally as a tool, the most important thing ai3 does."  -  Chris Hall
      #1 EMOTIONAL- With the Vision Book, they finally had a tangible thing to show what they've spent
           so much time thinking about.
      #2 TOOL to RAISE MONEY- Since the ai3 Vision Book includes floor plans & important concept
           elements, they felt comfortable handing it to someone and simply stating, "This is what we're all
2. Construction Administration
Chris needed to know that ai3 was protecting the design we agreed upon and to use ai3 to help him with things he didn't understand.  The space was a living, breathing, changing thing and he needed ai3 to be nimble.  He felt money invested in Visioning and CA was money well spent.

1. Local 3 is hard to find and they like it that way.  Guests are transported to another place once they are past the door.
2. The Front Hallway "speaks to us." It is unapologetic about who they are, and they love it.
3. The Art Wall was a great decision.  Everyone loves to hear the story about Chris, Todd, and Ryan.
4. The Dining Room carries a GREAT energy; Just loud enough, busy & vibrant.
5. The Semi-Private Dining Room is their most successful space because it is so connected to the Dining Room.  It is their biggest money-maker and provides enough privacy for a business meeting or personal celebration.  Doors allow guests to be private or to crack and be a part of the dining room.
6. Flexibility has been key.  The banquette that can acoomodate 2-tops or up to a party of 10.
7. Extended bartop in the bar area with seating on both sides is a huge success.

1.  They cut the communal table in half for more flexibility.
2.  Additional acoustical panels were added to the ceiling (originally cut from the design).
3.  They replaced all of the backless counter stools for a more comfortable dining experience.
4. Always, always put more shelving than you think you'll need.
5. Add chair rails anywhere you think you'll often rearrange tables pushed against walls.
6. Where do you put banquette pillows when not in use?
7.  2-top tables could be larger to accommodate the many plates/glasses.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

7 Billion of Us Living Together

As we make decisions and develop designs for a city's growth, infrastructure, transportation, education etc. we will continue to be challenged by how our needs and desires affect density. A positive view about the urban condition can expand our resources and enrich our live.

Friday, October 28, 2011

3 Days of Shadowing Local three

- Blog Post by Mark Peterson, "Newest ai3 Member"

I recently started at ai3 where we have a reputation for quality restaurant design, and even though I have practiced architecture for over seven years , I have never designed a restaurant.  I hoped to spend time observing restaurant operations and how the staff interacts with the clients and the architecture.  Chris Hall, one of the owners of Local three, was kind enough to allow me to shadow his staff for 3 days. Below is my first experience:

After spending several nights observing the team at Local three, I can't help but be reminded of my time in the service as an aircraft mechanic. All the key ingredients are the same: quality, physical and mental agility, and the ability to work under pressure.  Whether you are keying a jet up for a mission or putting together meals for a table of six, you have to have a team of professionals that move on instinct.  There simply isn't enough time to explain to everyone how to do the job. 

As I heard over and over from Chris,
"Local three is not a place where you just earn a check, it is a place where the staff is perfecting their craft."

My first lesson I will share with you is that the Host is the key to a restaurant's success.  He or she is your first impression of the restaurant.  If you receive a rude greeting or are told that your reservation wasn't entered into the system, your first visit might well be your last. 

I also did not realize that the hostess is in constant motion, moving seamlessly between the kitchen and their station.  A good host will always have an eye on the kitchen, because unless they know the load the kitchen is under, they cannot gauge the flow for seating the guests. If the host seats a table before the kitchen and the servers can handle them, then it might lead to that feeling we have all had where we wonder if the server forgot about us.  Worst still is when the kitchen is behind, and it results in more tables having to wait longer for their food.  If you have ever wondered why you can't be seated right away when you show up to a restaurant, the flow is the reason.

As Chris Hall said, "It's all about flow, it will make or break a restaurant."

As a guest, you become a participant in the flow and your experience is contextual, setting the tone for the rest of the night.  So if you start off with a bad experience with the Host, than you can bet that your poor experience will make its way through the room. On the other hand, if the Host is on top of their game, you and the restaurant are going to have a successful night.

How will our designs impact first impressions?
How do we make the Host's job easier?
How can our designs create successful flow?
How do we make sure we have open sight lines?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

ai3 Bowling for Boobs

ai3 will have 2 bowling teams tonight at Midtown Bowl.  The 4th Annual "Bowling for Boobs" will raise money to benefit Susan G. Komen For the Cure. Of course there are prizes for best and worst score, but the coveted awards are for "Breast Dressed." 
Our final two team names:

Of course there were other names generated over a Friday afternoon Vision Session.
These are the ones that didn't make the cut:

The Boobie Traps, Stop the War in my Rack, Man's Breast Friend, Left Breast Pocket, Wonder Twins, DBL Trouble, Honkers, Bowling Bags, "Tune in Tokyo" with headlights, Knockers, Twins, The Breast of Us, Breast of Luck, Rack Pack, Juggernauts, Juggulars, Breast of Show, Breast Laid Plans, Fun Bags, Ballers, Pin-Ups, Twin Peaks

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ai3 tours Das Haus: Sustainable & Energy design concepts

The Das Haus is a traveling pavilion, now located at Pemberton Place by The World of Coca Cola.The goal of the exhibit is to create an ongoing international dialogue about advanced technologies for home construction and solar energy use. Concepts are meant to demonstrate the future of sustainable building and the resources and integration needed to reach that future.  Several of us ventured to the exhibit over lunch and jotted down the following notes:

EXTERIOR: The exterior cladding consisted of corrugated steel covered with photo-voltaics that were hooked up to a master computer.  The rectangular form of the pavilion was inspired by a shipping container, and was in fact shipped to Atlanta in one. The pavilion only takes 3 days to assemble and 4 days to disassemble. All of the parts of Das Haus are German fabricated components except for the white oak flooring in the central portion of the structure.

SYSTEMS: A small water tank is located inside for the sink and coffee machine.  The construction focused on cutting down heat gain by using concepts such as triple-paned windows that include argon 90 gas and walls insulated with vacumn sealed insulation. Das Haus uses a heat recovery system that cuts down on the amount of energy used by capturing the energy from interior air as it is exhausted.  The pavillin PV array's power is stored in a series of (12) closed-valve lead acid batteries. These batteries feature a gell electrolyte which cuts out the refilling process. There is no maintenance required, very little ventilation, and the batteries can be installed horizontally and vertically.

INTERIORS: Doors, floors, and walls provide 10 times more insulation than those constructed in the U.S. and featured streamlined hardware. Interior materials feature plastic "3-Form" type cabinetry doors, wood flooring, and vinyl wall panels.  The majority of the lighting is LED.

Friday, October 7, 2011

It takes 197 cheese balls to win....

Erin Maas won an enormous container of cheese balls by incorrectly guessing the number of balls in the jar. (It was an "opposite party," to her dismay... she hates cheese balls).

What to do with a HUGE amount of cheese balls?
For Dave Heimbuch, logically, you challenge the studio to a Cheese-Ball-Eating Contest. Never the one to turn down a challenge, Kerry was the first to sign up and Ethan the second.
Ethan ate the fabulous orange dust for only 5 minutes.  He claimed he was full, but Heather said he went back to his desk and ate a bagel.

With Kerry and Dave left to the challenge, the puff-popping continued for about a half hour. 
For personal motivation, "Eye of the Tiger" kept Kerry in the challenge for the last few minutes.
But in the end, the challenger was indeed the winner.  

CONGRATULATIONS to Dave for eating 197 cheese puffs.
Since I wasn't there, I asked what the prize was? 
.... Anything's worth a good laugh around here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scott Wilson of MINIMAL- Lessons Learned

When I was president of our ASID chapter, around 5 years ago, I guess you could say my legacy was establishing the Vanguard lecture series.  I felt extremely passionate about exposing designers to different approaches and perspectives, feeling sure that our designs would benefit from new design thinking.

This year's Vanguard event featured Scott Wilson of MINIMAL, a design studio based in Chicago.  He recently designed a conference chair for Coalesse, but this was his first furniture product design launched into a major market.  He is responsible for creative concepts at XBox, Google, Dell, Nike, Motorola, and Apple as well as 5 start-up concepts of his own.

Having been part of product design and development for the past 10 years, it was both frustrating and rewarding to hear such an accomplished designer suffer from some of the same challenges we at ai3 face. The concept I rushed home to tell Patrick about was the Microsoft "Courier." Ahead of the iPad, MNML designed the ideal creative tool.  Every lecture where Scott presents, he says, " I ask the room who owns an iPad, and a few hands go up.  I ask who WANTS to own an iPad, and more hands go up.  And then I ask who could like to own the Courier, and every hand in the room raises into the air." Check out the video:

I learned that sometimes you need to take things into your own hands.  If you believe in a relevant, intuitive concept, then you should pursue it.  Don't be afraid of failure, but find a way to do the things you believe in.
If you stay focused, and if the manufacturer can stay focused, it should take months, not years to develop the idea.

After developing a watchband support for Apple's Nano, Scott couldn't nail down a company to produce it, so he went to kickstarter to find people willing to invest in his idea. What he hoped would raise $40-$60K easily turned into a million dollars. See how he did it:

Friday, September 9, 2011

We remember where we were... on this day 10 years ago- 9/11

For whatever reason, I have always believed that things happen as they should. It breaks our heart, makes us stronger, or provides us with the greatest joy. There are few things I can compare to the deep sorrow I felt during the events of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center 10 years ago.
ai3 didn't exist in 2001, so while many of us knew each other, we weren't together on this memorable day. I thought I'd reach out to everyone to document their memories of this day 10 years ago:

I was on the 25th floor of the TVS building... saw the first news reports while riding the elevator up to work.  Needless to say, we did NOT stay in that high rise all day.  I headed home and Rob O'Keefe and I sat in his apartment watching the news ALL day long. - Kerry

I remember I was a senior in high school in the middle of giving a presenation to my psychology class when the adminstration came over the intercom and announced to the school to turn our TV's on because a threatening event was currently taking place on our country. I remember hearing about the Pentagon and immediately becoming worried because I knew my sister was working as an attorney in DC at the time only blocks from the plane crash. She was fine, and her building was evacuated quickly. Being that my entire family is from NY (I am first generation Georgian), that event was very emotional for us all. - Jillian

I heard the news real-time as I was driving out to the Audi dealership with Patrick, picking up his TT. We watched the towers tumble on TV in the Audi customer's lounge with a bunch of strangers. - Dave

My wife and I spent 9/8 to 9/10 just ahead of 9/11 in New York visting a close friend and looking at a potential move to Brooklyn. Having left New York on a plane 9 hours before 9/11, it always stirs my soul as to how close we were to witnessing that moment first hand.
As 9/11 was unfolding I was in a car with my friend Dave who was giving me a ride to the dealership to pick up my car. We were listening to the radio and the reports were coming in that a small plane had just hit the WTC. Then came the second report and the second plane. My heart sunk and my mind took over trying to rationalize the event and what it meant now, in the next moment, and days to come. I was not capable of this task. As we reached the dealership I immediately asked them to turn the television on and stood watching in horror as the flames engulfed the buildings. I kept thinking back to everything I learned about the structure of buildings in school and in practice and my mind kept telling met that the steel in those buildings would not withstand that immense heat for too long. I have never wanted to be so wrong about anything in my life.- Patrick

First period, 11th grade American Lit with Mr. Corbett. The whole high school gathered after the first planes as every single student watched in horror as the second plane hit. In October I went to DC for the "National Youth Leadership Forum" - they drove us by the Pentagon where an entire 1 of 5 sides were completely missing.  Burned into my memory. - Ethan

My story isn't exciting but unforgettable none the less. It was my senior year and my roommate woke me up to tell me a pilot had flown into the World Trade Center. We watched the towers fall on TV in front of our eyes. It was my friend's birthday, her birthday dinner was morose that evening.... - Amy

That weekend I had driven home to Columbus for a college friend's wedding.  I got back to Atlanta late on Sunday and Monday morning got up and went in to work at TVS.  I'm not sure why, but Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001 I was really tired and I hit snooze several times sleeping in an extra hour or so.  I listened to the news on the radio all the way into the office and just before I got to the parking deck, the second plane hit the WTC. The rest of the morning was like everyone else's I guess.  We all watched what happened on TV in our studio. The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent trying to get in touch with my best friend from collecge who worked in DC and was at the Pentagon two or three times a week. It took all day, but I finally talked to his wife and he was fine and in his office across the river from the Pentagon.  That is the last time that I have decided to sleep in an extra hour just because I was a little tired to this day. - Chris

When 9/11 occurred, I was in 8th grade.  I don't remember what I was doing the moments leading up to me finding out what was going on, but I do remember the very moment when I first became aware. A girlfriend and I were talking through the main corridor of the middle school building where we saw a TV.  This was unusual, the school rarely had TVs in the classrooms, let alone the hallway. My friend and I walked over to check it out, unaware that what we would find would be so terrifying. On the TV was the aftermath of the first plane crashing into the first building.  At the time, we didn't understand what was happening and we wondered why none of the teachers told us about this, and if they even knew it themselves.  That morning, my mom picked me up early because of rumors that the CDC or CNN were next. We spent the rest of the day at a neighbor's house, all of us centered around the television, where we witnessed the second plane crash, and later, the moment the buildings collapsing. That moment was the moment I think I really began to understand how horrific of an event this was. What I didn't understand was why something like this happened and I wondered how can anyone be this horrible of a person. I asked my mom these questions. Her only answer was, "I don't know," as tears rolled down her face. - Heather

On September 10th I was walking the streets of Brooklyn, seriously considering a move to a brownstone and establishing a new career and life in NYC.  We grabbed an early flight out of NYC later that day, the last, it turns out, that made it out of town that night due to thunderstorms. The next morning I was touring the facilities of GA Tech for the Technology Square project when we saw the TV footage in one of the labs. I called my family on the drive back to TVS to let them know I was home safe.  I watched the collapse on a television in the TVS library.  All employees in high rise buildings of Midtown Atlanta were told to go home due to threats. I drove home, strangely noticing the beautiful blue skies with no airplanes (flights had been grounded) and I watched the rest on TV at home... I still cry every time I watch the footage. And I know ai3 wouldn't exist if 9/11 hadn't happened. - Lucy

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Brands as Hotels

If any of these brands were a hotel chain, which one would you choose to stay with and why?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Atlanta magazine- Where to Eat Now, City's 50 Best Restaurants

I read this a few weeks ago, but our copy of Atlanta magazine finally arrived at the studio. We had so many clients recognized, I have to congratulate them!

Top Ten Restaurants:
#2 Restaurant Eugene- Nevermind our friends at Seiber Design created the restaurant; we are proud nonetheless, of Chef Hopkins and Gina Hopkins "No other local restaurant has evolved with as much mind and soul."
#4 Holeman & Finch Public House- With only 60-seats, Greg, Andy, Regan, Gina & Linton have "inspired a generation of food-savvy pubs and broadened the public palate. It's one of the city's most heartening success stories."
#8 Miller Union- Embracing the traditional Southern cuisine, Native Georgian Chef Steven Satterfield and GM Neal McCarthy "The space unites the owner's personalities- It's a little bit posh, a little bit country....(the pantry) is one of my favorite sanctuaries in town"

Rest of the Best:
4th & Swift- Embodying Atlanta's ambition with his food and dual menus, Chef-owner Jay Swift "If visitors want to experience a restaurant that epitomizes the Atlanta aesthetic, take them to 4th & Swift."
Bocado- "Executive Chef Todd Ginsberg's (food)... deserves blind devotion" Brian Lewis and Chef Todd continue to impress with more than just that amazing burger.
The Fifth Group- Our studio is busy working with Peace Design on their 2 new concepts;  We've been fans of Ecco and La Tavola Trattoria for a long time.
Woodfire Grill- Also working on new concept for Nick, Bernard, & Kevin; Chef Kevin Gillespie combines "flavors immediately conjuring up the south... not simply the taste.. but the feeling of eating breakfast in a meat-and-three." We hope he keeps mining the Southern recipe lexicon for offbeat inspiration... "

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Food Trucks & Modern Design


Most of the studio took a break last week to enjoy The High's temporary summer exhibit, "Modern by Design." On loan from NYC's MOMA, it features 150 works focusing on three design periods: 1934 “Machine Art,” the "Good Design” series between 1950 and 1955, and 1972 “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape.” I found beauty in the simplest objects, thankful I was being forced to recognize a rake, typewriter or vegetable peeler for its good design. It was difficult not to judge each object on whether I considered it timeless?

As luck would have it, we chose a day when the Food Trucks were hanging at the Woodruff Arts Center drop-off.  A trip we've all been wanting to make, we tried everything from arepas, BBQ, tacos, veggie wraps, tamales, and then hit the ice cream truck for dessert.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Killer Tomato Festival & Spazmatics


July 17- It turned out to be one of the coolest weather weekends we've had in a LONG while and a perfect setting for the 3rd annual Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival at Westside Market. A great benefit for Georgia Organics, Chef Ford Fry and JCT Kitchen & Bar played host to almost 1400 food lovers like us. The best Atlanta Chefs set up on both levels of the courtyard and across the bridge, with table-filled tomato-based dishes prepared with local farmers' ingredients.  Not just snacks, there were mixologists mixing up tomato cocktails as well. 


We were introduced to the awesome and diverse talents of the Spazmatics... daydreaming of how we could bring them to a future ai3 party. We will be returning next year with more of ai3 in tow!

Monday, June 27, 2011

ai3 is 7 years old

June 24, 2004
The official day Patrick, Joe, Dan and I toasted to ai3 over drinks at The Four Seasons Hotel.  Ready or not, we headed to our old house in Grant Park (Atlanta) and set up shop in our "painting studio." Four desks, four laptops, a library in the front bedroom, a plotter in the hall, a dining room table for meetings, and of course our dear cat Moses that kept our in-boxes warm.  To celebrate the 7 years, I put together a few of our favorite photographs to share with the 6 newbies we've hired since last September, over a pizza lunch, and a beer/wine toast.

What started as a leap of faith between the Maas, Remling, and Johnson families, now resembles the true collaborative we hoped to build. This is an exciting year!