A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted.
Ramona Pringle, Creator and JournalistOur guest this week is Ramona Pringle. Ramona is a creator, journalist, and researcher whose work focuses on the interactions between humans, technology and the world around us. She’s a contributor to numerous media outlets, including tech columnist with the CBC (Canadian broadcasting corp), and Director of the Creative Innovation Studio at Ryerson University, in Toronto. You can find her on Twitter @ramonapringle.
Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single pageShow notes:Diva Ring Light ($250)
A ring light is sort of what it sounds like. It's a donut-shaped light, LED, that you use when you're recording videos. My office where I work it is so bright in the morning and it's dark in the evening. And even if I'm not broadcasting, you want to have a good, clean image to project. My background is in production and I will say 10 years ago, I was so excited because I invested for my production company in these LED lights. They were amazing because they at the time seemed very small. I remember flying out to do an interview and lugging this box which was very, very heavy, I'm going to guess over 60 pounds, and dropping it on my foot at the airport before we were taking off for the interview, I'm pretty sure I broke my toe and had to get through this entire flight, interview, return trip with just this excruciating pain because they were so heavy. And so one of the incredible things about the ring light is you're just dealing with this one light. I love the fact that it's easy. It's so simple. It's so user-friendly and it's lightweight. You don't need to worry about knowing how to set up three point lighting and worrying about bad shadows or bad angles. It's not super heavy. And it feels like for the way that we're all working right now, a great tool to have on hand.
Phone case with chain ($22)
This is exactly what it sounds like, and for someone who hasn’t become reliant on this it is, as nerdy as it sounds, but it has become essential to me. I did a lot of remote work even before the pandemic, which means, always having a device on me (but always feeling conflicted about that). One afternoon, when my daughter was 18 months old, I couldn’t find my phone, but thought “that’s ok I don’t need it, I can be in the moment screen free.” Then I found it in the toilet, 3 hours later. A nanny who was working with us had the phone case with a chain. If you have little kids, it is a life saver because a) your phone is less likely to end up in the toilet/dishwasher/sandbox, but b) it is hands free for people who never have free hands.
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters ($19)
This book to me feels so timely and so relevant to the moment. It's not explicitly about technology. It's not explicitly about design, but I would say that it should be read by technologists and designers thinking about the ways that we engage and why we engage and some of what's broken and the ways that we engage with each other that may not be fulfilling our needs ultimately. One of the chapters that jumps out is she talks about creating a temporary alternate world. And I spent a lot of time in video games and alternate worlds online and studying them and making content about the medium, documentaries. And she talks to just that concept, even if it's not in a virtual sense, of an alternate world as a shared experience is really incredible. She talks about designing an event as a world that will only exist once. And isn't that just a lovely way of thinking about how people engage — even right now, we're having this shared experience that will only exist once, at least in real time as it's unfolding. It was really inspiring to read it.
Press Here (Interactive Book for Kids) ($8)
We were given this book by three different people, which speaks to how much creative people and I think designers like it, and this is a book that children love. My daughter loves it. Maybe this is mommy-brain of me, but I would go so far as saying I think that this book could even sit on adults' coffee tables. Press Here is a children's book. It's very cleanly designed. It's basically just white with primary colors or black and white with primary colors and you open up the first page and there's a yellow dot that looks like it's just kind of scribbled on with crayon and it says, "Press here" and you touch it. There's nothing to it. It's a paper page. There's no batteries. There's no sounds. When you press it, you flip to the next page and all of a sudden there's two of them. You progress through that book that way. It asks you to turn the book upside down and all of a sudden, all these little dots, when you flip to the next page, have fallen to the bottom of the book. So then it asks you to turn it around and it's as if you're manipulating the images on the page, as you move through it. At a certain point, it asks you to clap and the circles get bigger or blow on them and they move to the other side of the page. Those interactions, those magic moments or animations, if you would call it, that happen when you flip the page, certainly for a little kid, it's very magical. But again, even in terms of thinking about interaction and thinking about design, it's really, really clever the way that it's been designed.
About The Recovery Cohort:
I am the director of The Creative Innovation Studio at Ryerson University which is a network of incubators for innovation within the creative industries, including media, fashion, music and design fabrication (interior design, robotics, maker-y stuff), that bridges academia and industry. This fall, in response to pandemic, and the 3 intersecting emergencies we’re living in the midst of (health, social and environmental), we’re running a special program focused on rebuilding and reimagining the creative industries.
We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $390 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! If you would like to make a one-time donation, you can do so using this link: https://paypal.me/cooltools.– MF