Tag Archives: Elegance

A guest post from Megan Milam about Kiwi Elegance

An offending snowmaking machine - small margins for error lead to elegance values (photo courtesy of Alan Lam)

Megan Milam took my class as a first-year student and won the low-carbon meal competition – by riding her bike to get sushi if I remember correctly.  Megan has continued to work with me throughout her time at Clemson, which has included some pretty amazing work co-ops. Her most recent adventure took her to New Zealand, where she found elegance that I’ll let her describe. Read More →

Elegant fences

A living fence (picture from Carol Foil on flickr)

Nobody wants their donkeys to escape.   Fences like these would solve the escaped donkeys problem, but they rely on metal poles, which are not available everywhere and not particularly beautiful.   Living fences, like those shown below, are more elegant. The trees do everything a metal pole would, but the trees actually look nice and sequester climate changing emissions while they’re at it.

Assignments that discourage elegance

A capstone report

Have you ever left useless information in a paper? I still do1. Maybe you just wanted the teacher to see that you did this work, even though it was no longer relevant. Maybe you were personally attached to the irrelevant work and didn’t want to write it off as a sunk cost 2. Whether it’s a school paper or an assignment at work, a complicated solution Read More →

Elegant bathrooms


Many readers will be familiar with the problem represented in the bathroom below, a problem that is compounded when you are wearing sandals (For a full description of proper etiquette in these situations, check out post #555 on 1000awesomethings.com). Assuming you have good aim, dividers can solve the problem, but not elegantly. This painted on fly is a much more elegant solution to the overspray problem Read More →

Elegant intersections

elegant intersections

This intersection is simple, but not functional.   This intersection is functional, but not simple.   This intersection is functional and simple, and much more elegant than the other two.1 For more information on why it works, google “traffic calming,” “Hans Monderman,” or “shared space.” [↩]

The end of my “office”

My office circa 2013 - pretty traditional

Our department is raising money for a new, or upgraded building. There’s no question we can improve on what we have. Lowry Hall was originally constructed in the mid 1900’s at a time when the trend was to bolt desks and chairs to the floor and, judging from the size of these desks, when most college students were about 5’ tall.  The windows are drafty Read More →

Dirty elegance


One of my favorite elementary school memories was when mysterious dirt clods appeared all over my playground. At recess that day, my friends and I used the natural ammunition to play a cross between capture-the-flag and team dodgeball. The next day our teacher announced we couldn’t touch (or throw) the dirt clods. That was obviously impossible, so we weren’t allowed on the grass part of Read More →

How can concrete be elegant?

See how nice stained concrete can look

Is concrete a sustainable material? Those arguing “no” would point to the fact that its production accounts for about 5% of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. The other side would argue that concrete’s durability and thermal properties (concrete insulates and can moderate temperature swings) outweigh the negative impacts of its production. They could also point to advances in concrete technology that reduce the emissions impact. Read More →

Flaming camels and road diets part 3 – we can create elegant sustainable solutions

Main street in Greenville, SC (after its road diet)

Part 1, Part 2 We are capable of creating elegant solutions, it’s just that the forces dragging us towards the complexity at point 2 are more powerful than those pulling us back down once we get there. In school, we have grades and assignments that reward complexity. Your paper should be at least 10 pages. You must show all your work. The cost estimate should have Read More →

Flaming camels and road diets part 2 – elegant and sustainable solutions are not easy

elegance fig

Part 1 Elegant solutions represent the simplicity on the other side of complexity. Ideas at point 1 in the figure are simple, but not elegant because they don’t meet user needs. When faced with attacking elephants, Timur’s men who panicked and ran found a simple solution, but one that would not have led to the capture of Delhi. Similarly, just about anyone can come up with Read More →