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Does your city / state / country have an ICON, or just a flag? Vex vexillologists with this proposal to create ICONIC EMBLEMS to represent your favorite regional administrative division! This is the U.S. State Flag edition.

Background:

Every US state has a flag. But only a few states have an icon—something immediately recognizable (and ideally, easily drawn and memorable).

For an example of icons, we can look at Japan’s provinces (or “prefectures”), nearly all of which are represented by a distinctive single-color icon (Figure 1).

flags-japan.png

Fig. 1: Japanese provinces have iconic minimalist symbols associated with them. Compare these to the selection of American state flags in Figure 2.

2-flags-us-detailed.png

Fig. 2: Most state flags were not selected with visual clarity in mind. Additionally, many state flags look identical on a flagpole when there is no wind.

3-flags-us-iconic.png

Fig. 3: Some flags are visually distinctive, but these are the exception. (In reading order: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Alabama, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.)

Proposal:

The proposal is as follows:

  • Every state will get a supplementary icon, that can be easily rendered in a quick pen sketch (Figure 4).
  • When possible, the flag and emblem should be similar, to make them easier to remember.
  • A flag and an icon have different requirements. Some guidelines:
    • A flag should be visually distinctive even when on a draped piece of cloth. For example, the American flag (🇺🇸) is easily identified even when there is no wind.
    • A flag can make use of multiple colors (although there is such a thing as “too many” colors).
    • An icon should minimize or eliminate reliance on specific colors.
    • An icon should have relatively few fine details. It should be distinctive even at a very small size.
4-flags-graffiti-sketches-1.png

Fig. 4: Some sketches of icons that could represent specific states. Three of these are based on elements from real state flags: Tennessee (top left), New Mexico (left middle), and South Carolina (palm tree + crescent moon, top right). The top right one would probably need to be modified in some way to distinguish it from the flags of Turkey (🇹🇷), Tunisia (🇹🇳), Pakistan (🇵🇰), and others.

There is also no icon that represents the United States (although USA works as an easily-written shorthand). Figures 6 and 7 investigate some elements that could be incorporated into a flag-inspired icon.

 

5-air-force.jpg

Fig. 5: Although it is not a national icon, this existing U.S. Air Force insignia manages to elegantly incorporate the elements of the national flag.

 

Fig. 6: If someone only had 5 seconds to draw an American flag, they’d probably some up with something similar to these graffiti-like icons on the left. Isolating the iconic elements of the American flag leaves us with a number of possible emblems in varying levels of detail (right). The bottom-right one also indicates how the Chinese / Japanese character for “above” coincidentally appears in the negative space: this might be useful in a U.S.A.-and-China-centered science fiction future like the one in Firefly.

Examples:

Below (Figure 7) is a column of state flags (left) and some potential icons (right). The color is arbitrary—it can be omitted or changed to any other color (as in the Japanese example in Figure 1).

 

 

7-flags-us-plus-icons.png

Fig. 7: Left column: state flags. Right column: corresponding easy-to-draw icons for each state. Some of these have a very shaky rationale, and are not based on the existing flags. For example:  Illinois: rivers converging, also it’s the “Y” from the font “Malayayam Bold.” Florida: the shape of Florida, if it were exactly three pixels. Michigan: the bordering lakes. Louisiana: the Mississippi river delta. Vermont / New Hampshire: the icons fit together, like the states. See below for Washington State.

Conclusion:

You should come up with some icon suggestions of your own, and propose them to your state government. They love sponsoring things like state birds, state flowers, and state songs, so why not a state emblem? California even has a state lichen and state dinosaur!

PROS: Would provide the option for people to promote their state with an easily-recognized emblem.

CONS: Could increase intra-state rivalry if people become attached to their own state’s amazing icon.

 

washington-crossing-the-delaware.jpg

P.S. The hypothetical icon for Washington State is an abstract representation of Washington crossing the Delaware. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but that never stopped icon designers before!

 

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P.P.S. Run out of icon ideas? Just draw a bunch of weird stuff on a sheet of paper and see if anything sticks. Try to avoid accidentally repurposing fascist iconography!

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A new sales opportunity for the wedding ring industry! Diamond sellers hate it!

New site feature:

 

Background:

Historically, wedding rings in many Western countries have been a moderately reliable indicator of someone’s marriage status (Figure 1).

rings-classic-entwined

Fig. 1: Classic late-20th-century wedding rings. Elegant! But they could always be more informative.

The issue:

However, as it has become more common for people to postpone marriage or not get married at all, the ring has become a less statistically reliable indicator of someone’s single-or-not status.

Proposal:

In addition to the classic wedding rings, other relationship statuses could be indicated by alternative ring designs.

green-silver

Fig. 2: The green pentagon ring might mean “separated, but still technically married.”

red-purple

Fig. 3: Red triangle: “married to video games and/or professional sports.” Purple square: “married to my job, so don’t even bother trying to date me.”

orange-blue

Fig. 4: Various other relationship statuses could have their own ring specifications. With nearly infinite possible combinations of ring shape, color, inset stone(s), and overall design, there’s no chance of running out of options.

PROS: Would allow wedding rings to convey more information, yet still remain fashionable.

CONS: Addressing all possible types of relationship status could result in an incredibly large and difficult-to-memorize number of ring designs.

Become fit & fashionable WHILE YOU COOK using this new fashion accessory and/or kitchen appliance!

Background:

A lot of kitchen tools have a non-electric version that is hand-cranked: for example, a coffee grinder, ice-cream maker, mixer, or salad-spinner. Additional common hand-powered items include the can opener and pepper mill.

The issue:

Unfortunately, many of these tools are slow and inefficient to operate by hand. However, if there were some way to operate the grinder by a larger muscle group (i.e. not the hands), it would be much easier to operate a coffee grinder or mixer without electricity.

Proposal:

In order to make it easy to operate one of these kitchen tools manually, the following is proposed:

  • The user can wear a belt with gear teeth on it (Figure 1). These teeth mesh with a corresponding gear on the kitchen appliance in question.
  • The user can then (slowly) spin around, and their large-diameter gear belt will cause an extremely fast rotation in the corresponding kitchen appliance gear (which is much smaller).

Fig. 1: The “gear belt” isn’t just a terrible steampunk fashion accessory, but is also a practical addition to your kitchen.

Although each appliance could have its own gearing system, it might be easier if the gears were built into the kitchen counter as shown in Figure 2. Otherwise, an activity like grinding coffee beans would require two people: one to spin around, and one to hold the coffee grinder.

 

 

shelf-with-gear-interface

Fig. 2: If the gearing system were built into a kitchen counter, the operator would be able to easily power any appliance that was fastened to the counter at location #3 (green, above).

 

sketch-gear-belt

Fig. 3: Example of how the coffee grinder would work, as drawn for a patent application.

Conclusion:

Next time you remodel your kitchen, make sure to include a gearing system in one of your kitchen counters.

PROS: Ecologically-friendly method of powering kitchen appliances. Also provides a great core workout.

CONS: May increase the value of your house too much, rendering you unable to sell it.

Bring civility back to the universe with this one incredible object that fits in your wallet!

The issue:

It’s hard to believe, but sometimes people are jerks.

Most people are also bad at apologies. But, what if, after committing some transgression, you could apologize and easily demonstrate your sincerity?

Proposal:

The “jerk card” provides this opportunity: if you feel like you were a jerk, but aren’t sure how to apologize, you can just present this card and have the aggrieved individual punch out one of the appropriate sections of the card (as shown in Figure 1).

1b Prototype on green

Fig. 1: In this card, two out of the maximum eight infractions have been used up (punched out).  The number of punches could be variable, as in a “driver’s license points”-style system .

Two more-detailed mockups can be seen in Figure 2.

2 card types

Fig. 2: Two possible card mockups. Since there are various ways to be a jerk, the infractions are divided into categories (categories “A” and “B” in the top card, and A through D in the bottom card). Categories could indicate either the nature of the offense or its severity (like red / yellow cards in soccer).

To be determined:

  • Would there be a governing body that would issue these cards?
  • In case of dispute, who decides if an infraction is actually valid?
  • What is the penalty for filling up a card?

PROS: Might encourage people to change their behavior by quantifying their offenses (similar in concept to a “swear jar“).

CONS: Since the jerk-card points would be self-assigned, it’s unclear if the most frequently-offending jerks would actually recognize their status.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your slide presentation / PowerPoint presentation can be improved ENORMOUSLY with this one incredible presentation tip. Get the promotion that you deserve!

Background:

Slide presentations are now a main ingredient in almost all lectures and presentations (Figure 1).

 

table

Fig. 1: A simple presentation setup: laptop plus projector/screen.

The issue:

Computers have made slide presentations extremely easy to make (example in Figure 2), but haven’t helped with one issue: presentations often go on FAR TOO LONG.

For example, none of these ideas for promoting short presentations are available in standard presentation software (e.g. PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides).

  • Not a feature: A timer showing the elapsed time on a specific slide. This timer would change color once the user spent over-the-allocated amount of time on the slide.
  • Not a feature: A “progress bar” showing the position of the current slide in the entire slide deck.
  • Not a feature: A per-slide time estimation: if a 15-slide presentation has a 30-minute scheduled time, it should be trivial to display “You have an average of 2 minutes per slide.” This could be updated as the presentation went on; if the user takes 20 minutes to go through the first 5 slides, the remaining slides could display “10 minute remaining for 10 slides; you only have one minute for each of these slides!”
  • Not a feature: Allowing the software itself to automatically advance the slide when the user has dwelled on a slide for too long.

 

presentation-top-half.png

Fig. 2: A standard presentation: slides are shown along the top. The timer bar along the bottom (showing the total time consumed vs. the specific slides remaining) is a hypothetical feature that does not currently exist.

Proposal:

This proposal is for a flexible method of encouraging presenters to remain on schedule: the slide advance fire.

In this method, the slide deck is metaphorically on fire: all the slides in the slide deck are slowly consumed by a fire effect that moves through the entire slide deck (see Figure 3 for illustration), rendering the slides un-usable after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

The presenter can stay on a blackened-and-charred slide as long as they want (so they can continue to discuss a slide, or field questions from the audience, even after it has burned away), but the contents of the slide will no longer be visible.

This will also discourage presenters from cramming a slide full of text and then slowly reading the slide to their (presumably literate) audience.

presentation-burned

Fig. 3: Top: the second slide from the left is in the process of being consumed by the “slide advance fire.” The timer indicates that two minutes (2:00) have elapsed in the entire presentation.  Bottom: the second slide has been entirely consumed by fire, and only a glowing ember remains on the right edge. Hopefully the presenter has moved on to the next slide. Active slides also contain a timer in the bottom right (the small circle / stopwatch / pie chart), showing the remaining time until that slide burns up completely.

Implementation details:

  • The slide deck begins as normal.
  • Once a slide has appeared for more than five seconds, a timer starts and the slide “ignites”: the slide is now “on fire” and has a fixed amount of time before it burns away. (The reason for the five second delay is to prevent the slide from starting to burn due to an accidental “next slide” mis-click that is immediately corrected.)
  • After the allocated time has elapsed, a fire effect appears on the screen, and the slide begins to quickly burn away. Over the next ten seconds, the fire completely consumes the slide, leaving behind only a charcoal-black rectangle.
  • The user can still switch between slides normally, but burnt-out slides remain charred.
  • In order to prevent the user from just restarting the slide deck to circumvent this restriction, a minimum of four hours must elapse before the slide deck can be viewed again.

Optional idea #1:

  • Each slide could have a timer on it that is visible to the audience (as described in Figure 3—the circular timers in the bottom-right of the active slide), which would give the audience more of an appreciation for the punctuality of the presenter (assuming they managed to advance the slide before the slide burned away completely).

Optional idea #2:

  • One common presentation mistake is to just read a slide verbatim to the audience. The presentation computer could have speech recognition software on it, and if it detected that the presenter was reading a substantial fraction of a slide aloud, it could sound a warning siren and automatically advance to the next slide.

Conclusion:

This new presentation feature should immediately be implemented in Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Apple Keynote, in addition to any other presentation programs that may exist in the future.

PROS: Prevents lectures, presentations, and meetings from going over time. Allows a lazy presenter to set the burn delay very low, allowing them to make confusing and terrible slides and rely on the “slide advance fire” to save them from any hard questions.

CONS: Would make it difficult to take questions from the audience (“Could you describe the X-axis on…. oh, it burned away.”). Would make it difficult to do a practice talk and immediately revise a slide deck while audience feedback was still fresh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a fancy individual who hates being delayed in elevators by lowly commoners, yet can’t justify putting in your own personal elevator? This new “executive fingerprint override” elevator button guarantees faster elevator transit.

The issue:

Imagine this situation:

You are a high-ranking member of the royal family. One day, you drive your expensive sports car to your downtown office, park it in the garage, and head to the elevator. You get in, and press the “6” button, to take the elevator to your sixth-floor office.

But as soon as the elevator doors close, you notice that 5 other people in the elevator have already made floor selections before yours—the buttons for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are already lit up (Figure 1).

Now, even though the other people are only peasants, you still have to stop on all five floors before you can go to floor six!

Surely this situation has happened to all of us. Read on for a solution!

Fig. 1: Left: A standard elevator panel (it might be European, since it has both a “G” and a “1,” or perhaps the illustrator made a mistake). Right: if the buttons for floors 1 through 5 are lit up, a person who wants to go to floor 6 would have to stop at all five intermediate floors. . . until now, that is.

Proposal:

In order to solve this problem, we introduce new “override” fingerprint sensors: one for each each elevator button (Figure 2).

Someone with authorization can put their finger on the on the override sensor for their desired floor, and the elevator will travel to that floor first (additionally, the elevator will not stop to pick up any passengers on the way).

 

elev-print

Fig. 2: Each floor button has a fingerprint sensor next to it: if a high-ranking individual presses the fingerprint button, then all other elevator actions are cancelled, and the elevator goes directly to the desired floor. Fingerprint sensors are shown as separate buttons for clarity, but the sensors could also be directly integrated into each button.

As an example, if (A) the elevator is on floor 1, (B) buttons for 4, 6, and 8 are pressed, and (C) the high-ranking individual wants to go to floor 7, then the elevator will do the following:

  • Go directly (up) to floor 7. This is where the high-ranking individual wanted to go, so the elevator skipped floors 4 and 6.
  • Then, resume its normal behavior, as if the buttons for 4, 6, and 8 had just been pressed.
  • Since the elevator was traveling upwards, it will go to floor 8 next.
  • Since 8 is the top of the elevator’s current route, it will now become a “down” elevator.
  • Now that the elevator is traveling downwards, it will go to floor 6 and then floor 4.

Conclusion:

This system could also be used to give priority to various individuals; for example, what if both a duke and an earl use their fingerprint overrides—clearly the duke would have priority. Some cases may be less clear; does a baron outrank an archbishop? Undoubtedly, a complex set of rules would have to be included in the unlikely event that multiple high-ranking individuals entered an elevator at the same time.

PROS: Allows the rich and powerful to project their power in a new and unusual manner.

CONS: May cause a proletarian revolution to break out, which would have negative ramifications for the individuals who would make use of this elevator system.

Your true spirit animal is THE WHALE, mankind’s stalwart ally in the mammal-vs-fish battle of the seas. With this new incredible fishing attachment, you too can harness the POWER OF THE BALEEN WHALE.

Background:

Most methods of catching fish—with the notable exception of bare-hand catfish noodling (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noodling)—do not involve direct contact with the to-be-fished aquatic life.

diver

Fig. 1: This diver’s only wish is to catch a fissssssshhhhh, so juicy sweet.

Proposal:

In order to both:

  • make humans more attuned to nature
  • and to promote a fishing method that discourages overfishing…

…the following “baleen fishing attachment mesh” is proposed.

This “baleen mesh” is a grid that the diver attaches in front of themselves. The diver then swims through the ocean, causing tiny fish and crustaceans to become stuck in the grid. This process is illustrated in Figure 2.

Once the mesh is full, the diver can surface and scrape the accumulated krill / fish off the grid.

Essentially, a diver with this attachment becomes a baleen whale of sorts.

baleen-arrow

Fig. 2: The baleen fishing attachment (gray) is a new eco-friendly fishing method that should satisfy anyone who likes fishing or diving. Or who just really hates krill and wants to show them who’s boss.

Conclusion:

If you’ve ever wanted to be a baleen whale, this is probably the closest you will get. Unless they make a really immersive VR Whale Simulator, which is always possible.

PROS: An eco-friendly and in-tune-with-nature fishing method.

CONS: You might eat all the krill, causing real baleen whales to starve.