Fred Malven
personal design safety design safety

One Collection (Home Page)

Collections. We're all collections of experiences-- with people, information, our surroundings, things. We come into the world with unbounded promise-- nothing, but potentially anything. Thereafter, our experiences forge us into the unique individuals we become. Some formative experiences are covert; their significance may never be fully appreciated. Fortunately (I hope), others occur on the "front stage" of life and their importance to us, our beliefs, behaviors and sense of self, is inescapable. So, despite an element of personal mystery, we can enjoy reflecting on our recollections. We probably gain valuable new insight every time we do so.

I've kept sketchbooks for years, but have never kept a journal, per se. In fact, the idea of chronicling life's routine events seemed kind of depressing-- did I really want to see how little I'd done with life?. But, the dynamic qualities of the digital medium provide an appealing canvas for pouring out, re-exploring and reflecting on life's experiences. It displays a collection that almost takes care of itself.

Pigeon-Holing Life's Experiences. This has already been fun (for me, I don't expect it to capture enough other attention to matter). But, I'm also realizing it will be a little disappointing, too. Ones whole life distilled down into a few compact vignettes, no matter how rich and colorful, is bound to leave a certain sense of emptiness. Its doubtful the document will ever portray the kind of breathless life adventure I've imagined having had,... before,... when I didn't have to prove it to myself. Still, the process definitely appeals to my inclination to "compartmentalize." That's the way I work. I dissect everything into parts. Every event, every commitment has to (at least eventually) fit into an acceptable category of things I do. So, that's what this is-- a personal process (in a semi-public arena) of looking at life experiences and "pigeon-holing" them into a few dynamic (i.e., somewhat changeable) categories. It shouldn't be much worse than a "bad night" of TV programming.

Organizational Concept of the Web Site. The technical and conceptual framework for this site was developed by Chris Malven. The final content, along with technical, aesthetic and other flaws are of my own doing. Priority goals were: 1) that it be periodically upgradeable by its user (me-- no mean feat given how easily modern computers derail my meager abilities) and 2) that it evolve around a simple organizational structure of 3-5 primary categories of information and 3-5 shared subcategories of each. In its final form, content is divided into four primary categories of experiences: "personal," "design," "safety," and "design safety." Each primary category is then divided into the same three secondary categories: "experience (formal experience)," "projects" related to that category and (since I come from a long line of would-be teachers) related "instruction" I have conducted.

Symbolic Color. I don't particularly like taking or viewing color photography. But, otherwise, for reasons I can't explain-- and maybe don't even want to KNOW-- I've always been fascinated by every aspect of color. That includes a particular interest in color symbolism and meaning. When I was active with the Ashford Volunteer Fire Department, its patch was black with orange text and emblems. I developed a bizarre fascination with marking every loose piece of equipment they had with black and orange bands for identification; given amount of equipment that has to be sorted after an emergency call, this color coding is, by the way, a necessary preoccupation of MANY fire and EMS troops.

The Fire Department of New York's (FDNY's) color coding has influenced much of the fire service. The colors they use on fire helmet front pieces convey job and rank information: WHITE denotes a Chief officer (junior officers have smaller white inserts indentifying them as such), BLACK means "engine company," RED means "truck (ladder) company," BLUE means "rescue company," YELLOW means "squad (multi-function) company, GREEN means "hazardous materials company," etc. I was Ashford's "Rescue" Lieutenant. So, as I began to acquire personal equipment, I started differentiating my things from AVFD's by substituting a blue band (FDNY's "Rescue") from AVFD's black. As I've moved to other fire departments, blue and orange have gone with me. When the Environmental Safety Group was founded, its stationary was the brownish-orange that is the background of this page and the deep blue used in the block at the top left corner. When Chris started on this web site, the prominence of blue (symbolizing rescue and EMS) and orange (symbolizing preventive safety) was a foregone decision.

For the four major categories of information, color meaning is pretty eclectic. Of blue and orange, blue was arbitrarily selected to accompany the home page, so orange was used to symbolize "personal" stuff. In academic regalia (graduation gowns, tassels and such), including those worn by members of ISU's College of Design, brown is the internationally recognized color. Thus, brown denotes "design" here, too. Since all my other emergency service activities are just methods of killing time until there's a FIRE(!), red, for me, is the only appropriate symbol of "safety." Nevertheless, most safety organizations use green in a cross or other symbol to represent the goal of safety. Consequently, green is used here to represent "design safety." In navigating this site, then, follow the yellow brick road.

Photos. Left-- From left to right: me, daughter Ellen, Dad (Lincoln Clark), son Chris and wife Ann, during visit to Dad in St. Louis for my birthday, 2004. Left center-- "Systems Definition of Interior Design, presented in tabular form. After my initial exposure to systems theory from Gerald Nadler (University of Wisconsin) and in J. Christopher Jones' Design Methods, systems thinking has been one of the main theoretical pieces around which my instructional philosophy has evolved. Right center-- Since 1976, the emergency services-- fire, rescue and EMS, in order-- have defined who I am and what I do. I love this country! Right-- The work of Lars Lerup, especially in Learning from Fire: A Primer for Architects, is a very good model for how to think and how to communicate. NFPA 550: Fire Safety Concepts Tree and Lerup's interpretation of it is the conceptual bridge between firefighters and architects,... if only they all knew it.