Life is ephemeral, don't waste it looking up big words
The Museum for Contraception and Abortion has been involved in providing information on sexuality for over 15 years. Topics that are often not discussed at school. The history of contraception and control over one’s own fertility is a long one, and school education often does not go beyond the development of an egg and the use of a condom.
In order to visualize the significance of the decision on contraceptive methods we built an interactive installation to allow visitors of the museum to playfully deal with the topic “Which contraception method is safe?”. Usually this information would be hidden somewhere in a chart or inside an infographic. We wanted to personalize this information a bit, and make it more true to the users themselves.
Touch. Feel. Experience.
This had to be a real thing. The idea: Instead of informing about individual contraceptive methods, we take the life of the observing person as an example. One can place different contraceptive methods on a 60 year timeline and thus change the calculation. You can do so by choosing from 13 different 3D-printed objects – each one representing a contraceptive method or a desired child – and move them back & forth on a physical timeline.
A quick summary of the technical stuff
45 NFC readers are grouped in 7 custom-built boards with 5 readers each. The boards are connected via custom-built circuit boards to an Arduino, which reads the codes from NFC tags integrated in the 3D printed objects. The list of detected objects is then passed to a Rasperry Pi which is connected to a database and displays the results on a big ass screen.
A look at the data
The problem with data is usually the representation in readable form. There are also different approaches to calculating the true costs of contraception and its safety. The standard model for the safety of a contraceptive method is the Pearl Index. Since the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy depend strongly on the social structure, our statistics are based on the results of several studies from all over the world.
Fed with data from several studies the result offers a realistic prognosis & statistics of costs & safety.
TEDx Sign Tutorial
TEDxVienna is one of the top TEDx events in the world, with over 20,000,000 views on youtube. I’m proud to have been a team leader for 4 of the 10 years it’s been operating. In 2016, as head of the TEDxVienna creative team, I was tasked with producing a new sign. This is what I learned.
The previous sign was painted styrofoam, and was beginning to show signs of wear. We decided to go all in and get a lighted sign. Expensive, but worth it to ensure that the TEDxVienna’s brand was properly represented. It had to look great on stage and up close regardless if the lights are on or off, had to be gigantic so it would look good on the large stages we perform on, and it had to look great on film, since it’s a huge part of every one of the videos we make and share with the world for free.
So here we go. Hopefully this will help you on your journey to grow your TEDx event!
Make it Official
First, we made sure we had the right font and colors. Since I am a graphics professional for over 20 years this was no problem for me, but for people without that knowledge it can be hard to spot mistakes! During my research I’ve seen TEDx signs produced and used on stage with the wrong fonts, wrong sizes, wrong word positioning, wrong colors, and please, let’s talk about that “x” sitting on the floor. I was always unhappy to see that on our stage. Branding fails like these make events look unprofessional, and worst of all, it’s recorded and shared with the world forever!
Bottom line: the video is your legacy, don’t mess it up with a bad sign! Get it right the first time, check these things twice:
Fonts: Helvetica (Black for the TEDx, Regular for your name), and the font size of your event name should always be the same size as the TEDx font.
Colors: Red and White letters work best on stage, black letters are harder to see on most backgrounds. Don’t forget to use the Official TED RED!
Get that x off the floor, it looks so much better floating!
Bottom line, make it look as much like your official logo as possible.
Next we had to make our sign a size that wouldn’t look too small on the stages we normally used, but would also be relatively easy to transport and install. It had to be freestanding so it could be set up anywhere. We decided on at 8 meter letter span, which made each letter almost 1 meter tall. Your sign’s size should fit your needs and of course a lot depends on if you’re TEDxSF or TEDxQuinnitukqut.
How big is the average stage you use? I think it looks best if the sign takes up 1/2 to 2/3 of the stage width, and if the sign is no higher than mid-torso on an average height person.
Think about how you film the event. Will the sign be readable in the majority of camera angles?
Think about your live audience. A giant, brightly lit sign may distract from the presentation or the speaker.
Let there be light?
We decided on a lighted sign, and it was the biggest cost-differentiator in sign production. An LED sign can easily cost 4x as much as a good quality sign without lights.
Take a look at this video from our 2015 event with Kyle MacDonald compared to the 2019 video below with Wesley Larson. I think it’s clear to see the value of a lighted sign.
Whatever you decide, make sure you consider these things first:
Visibile and Professional. That sign POPS! On the youtube videos you can easily see the difference. Ours looks as good as the best TED signs I’ve seen.
Colors. On a stage with colored lights, a non-lit sign takes on the colors around it. The TED RED is the first thing to look bad under a blue or green light. If the sign has it’s own light source, it will always appear red and white, as intended.
Can be used with the lights on or off.
Cables. Connecting them, finding a power source, taping down the loose cables so it’s not messy or dangerous, it’s just more setup work.
Maintenance. Even LEDs burn out eventually.
Cost-effective. Less expensive to produce, and more options for materials.
Easier setup, nothing to plug in.
Usually made with lighter-weight materials.
Doesn’t look nearly as nice as a lit sign. Less WOW factor for your audience.
Overall visibility is reduced.
Usually has to be lit with a separate stage light. Shadows can be an issue.
Stability and Sustainability
What to make your sign out of, and how to make it so it doesn’t fall over!
Most professional sign-makers will suggest a metal frame with colored plexiglass for a lit sign. An un-lit sign can be made of anything from plastic-coated cardboard core to various plexiglass, plastics and metal options. Important is that each letter or section of your sign should have a solid base that makes it hard to knock over. Removable, to make the letters easier to store.
We can talk all day about the harm plastics do to our planet, but we must also remember that the sign you’re making should be long-lasting and durable, and that other materials like metal require a lot of resources to refine and produce as well. Balance your decision with how long you intend it to last. A great solution is a laminated plastic face with a cardboard core, making the sign light, durable and color accurate. I’ve also seen signs mounted to a metal rack like the older advertising signs on rooftops, but that’s not the easiest to transport and set up. Wood is great, but tends to be expensive and heavier.
Some sign-making shops have access to industrial laser or water-jet cutters, others need to make forms to bend the sign materials into the needed shapes of your letters. Anyway you look at it, a substantial portion of your costs will be a “tooling” fee, which is the setup they need to do to accurately produce the sign. It never hurts to ask them to hold your tools, so if you need a second sign made, you do not need to pay that cost a second time.
There are a lot of options as far as who to use, and of course they differ by region.
Maker shops, a place in your town that offers 3D printing, laser cutting services and DIY services may be able to offer you a low cost and creative solution. A good option for smaller events that are not sure they want to invest in a sign that will last a decade. Try this google search: maker spaces near me
Small sign shops are the best option in my opinion. The “mom’n’pop” shops tend to be more flexible and willing to talk with you about your needs. Try this google search: sign company near me
A sign can easily cost from $1500-5000, depending on how it’s made and how long you want it to last. Pick a price you’re willing to spend and speak with several providers to get the best price. You can usually negotiate the price somewhat.
Need a vector TEDx logo produced? I can help, just get in touch: email ben
In almost ALL cases, you’ll want the “TEDx” and the event name to be separate pieces. Great for flexibility and more ways to use the sign. Sometimes you may wish to display only the “TEDx” in a very small area.
Choosing the right sign: lights or not, size of stage, ease of transport, setup and storage of finished sign. Always make it freestanding, so it can be installed anywhere!
Modular construction depends on your specific logo. Make it so each piece can be carried by one person safely, but not so many pieces that it is hard to put together properly.
Whatever solution you choose, make sure it will not require a lot of setup and teardown time. Focus on lightweight, durable, tool-free setup, and plug-and-play lighting if you choose lights (no exposed wire ends to connect, use standard plugs everywhere).
Exposed plexiglass corners break easily. Styrofoam is easily damaged in general. Lightweight metals need internal structural support or they can warp and buckle. Make sure your sign can stand up to wear and tear.
Ask about repairs in advance. What are the cost and speed of repairs in case of damage? Does the producer offer any guarantee?
If your sign is painted, ask for cans of touch-up paint so you can fix any minor damage yourself.
If you opt for a lit sign, make sure your sign provider offers maintenance for burnt out lights or wiring issues.
If it can be touched by the public, it will be touched by the public. Make it tough!
LUX medialab & design is happy to support ideas worth sharing.
8Bit goes Disco
In 2021 we got tasked with providing a new interior design for the BettelAlm, a Viennese clubbing institution.
Our work included creating new wall-art for the main club and helping to create a dedicated side club – the ElektroSau – that is geared towards a more technophile audience.
To create a coherent concept we devised an eye-catching color scheme and a led matrix that was going to be the center piece of the clubs light installation.
The led matrix was custom designed, planed and build entirely by our team in house. Throughout the process we regularly consulted with our customer to cater to all needs and make the control of the lights through the DJ as user friendly as possible, while providing stunning visual effects.
Process of building the light installation
We were able to draw from our experience in working with controllable leds in the past and set out constructing a prototype of a pixelated display.
After having presented the prototype to our client and getting their approval to move forward we had to get started with the actual planing of the big display. To ease construction we designed custom PCBs to mount the led strips to, a framing system, grid dividers and custom build control unit that can handle standardised inputs through the ArtNet protocol.
Given that some corners and angles were quite tricky the frame was build and test fitted on site. The leds and the grid were later added and tested in our office.
Due to the extensive planing beforehand the installation was only a matter of a day. With the result looking like this:
Throughout the process of planing and constructing the display we payed attention to making it as easy as possible to service and repair while ensuring a robust construction able to withstand the rough environment of a night club.
If this project caught your eye or sparked your interest in highly customisable lighting (art-)installations contact us now for a quote.
Yad Vashem – Insights on The Source
I was honoured last week to be invited, with our client Roderick Miller of Tracing the Past to Jerusalem where Yad Vashem hosted in cooperation with EVZThe Source. Holocaust Sources: Truth, Interpretation and(Mis)Use in the Digital Era. I sat in a room for three days with some of the world’s top archivists and historians to discuss “going digital” and what it means for their profession; protecting the purity of the source in a world where data is fluid and deception is often invisible. To say the least, it was an eye-opening experience. Giving my brain over to those three days of intense discussion on an entirely new set of challenges made something funny happen: I left with a single word in my head that was never said during the entire workshop.
Yes, telephone. The game we played as children, passing a phrase from one ear to the next, laughing when it comes back distorted or completely changed.
That’s what historians do with the past. They find objects, documents, mysteries that can’t speak for themselves, and try to discover the root truth, the source as it was intended. By touching the mystery, they add their interpretation of facts, and pass the information, distorted or purified, to the next ear.
There’s no way to understand history implicitly. As soon as the present passes, it’s locked in memory and documentation. Every telling will be an interpretation, no matter how close to the source it is. The duty of the historian is to present their evidence as accurately and objectively as possible. It’s the news, from a distance in time. The importance of a factual description is multiplied by the minute, as the truth slips deeper into the infinite abyss of the past.
The holocaust is one of many shameful moments in the course of human history. It’s telling will never be finished. It’s stories will be told and retold, remembered and forgotten, twisted and used to further agendas, to pass on a false narrative or to honour the innocents lost.
Everything is a retelling. Keeping the signal of past events clear is a responsibility we all have, in an era where all information is accessible, lies as easily as the truth. We owe it to future generations to pass on the truth as it is. Brutal, beautiful and more important now than ever before.
I hope my knowledge helped clarify the role of digitisation and the importance of dissemination of archival data. Our greatest strength as humans is our ability to share and learn. I believe that open information is the future, despite the potential for misuse that comes with going digital. Truth always surfaces.