- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

Humans have a way of melding science, math and art with other disciplines to enhance the aesthetics and practicality of everything. A 5-month-old Internet haven empowers children to think about and react to design through a slick Web site that's perfectly, well, designed, to inspire.


Site address: www.3d-i.org


The site's executive producer, Chichi Pierce of New York City, conceived the idea and collaborated with the Doc Tank's Immy Humes, Supercosm LLC, Pentagram, Cooper Hewitt/National Design Museum's educational department, and Parsons School of Design. The site is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Creator quotable:

"The site was created to inspire 9- to 12-year-olds to become the next generation's graphic designers, product designers, architects and fashion designers. 3d&i is teaching children visual philosophy. The world we live in is all about design, from the shoes we wear to the fork we eat with, the buildings we live in and the cars we drive," Miss Pierce says.

Word from the Webwise:

With three Ds discover, design and discuss as the primary sections and an "i" standing for the personal pronoun and also the eyes we use to take in our surroundings, the strange title of this site quickly becomes understandable. It teaches in a dazzling environment.

The opening page, a multicolored mass of rectangles, contains entry points to 3d&i with buttons popping out to highlight features, clickable questions available for investigation, a large product image to draw in the curious, and a great navigation tool featuring orbiting spheres labeled Architecture, Fashion, Graphic Design and Product Design.

My quest to explore the varied faces of nature, engineering and art began with a stop at Discover, which houses 12 stories of invention, 10 peeks at creative folks and three step-by-step looks at the process of design. I enjoyed the history of big pants, presented in eight pages of text and color images that explained the theories behind the fashion statement and its various permutations. I also learned about an underwater restaurant in Israel and how Ayse Birsel developed a high-tech toilet (the Zoe Washlet) for a Japanese company.

Those who boldly venture into the Design section will be asked to roll up their virtual sleeves and produce a logo for numerous applications with the help of a robust paint/text online program. Visitors can produce a logo for display on top of a snowboard or develop a new watch style in a detailed simulation. Designers have the chance to submit a finished product for posting on the site or enjoy viewing the creations of others.

Visitors who want to offer an opinion can find relief in the Discuss section, where the site's mascots lead discussion boards and pose questions such as: "How would you make your hometown look great?" "What do you think of the new quarter designs?" "What would your dream gadget be?"

Ease of use:

Visitors need the latest Macromedia Flash plug-in and recent browser to fully enjoy the site's design. Navigation extras include a site map for a related-links area on every page, pop-up information boxes and that wonderful rotating-orb menu.

Don't miss:

I loved the cartoony PEP (personal explorer pod) simulation found in the Design section. After reading primers on construction, weight, style, power, speed and pollution variables, young engineers construct a vehicle that must cross an obstacle-laden ocean. Once all parts are added to the basic body of the PEP, visitors can take an animated ride to see if they succeeded.

Family activity:

Transform an old pair of jeans into a skirt following the instructions found under the Discover section and floating around the Fashion sphere. Scissors, pins, thread and a sewing machine are required to put together the clothing masterpiece.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

The target audience will love the mix of visuals, activities and relevant, demographic-specific topics found throughout. A visit to the discussion boards, however, will make parents demand a pay raise for their children's teachers. Although supposedly monitored by the developers, the chats often stray from the topics and end up showing just how moronic and insensitive some youngsters can be. This stream of stupidity sharply detracts from the overall excellent goals of 3d&i.

Overall grade: B

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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