Design. Improvise. Smile.
Sunday afternoon sketch
A movement to get teenagers to make a pledge is afoot!
Never in human history have we had singular source of reputation. Reputation has always been multi-facetted. Some people cheat at poker. Some people cheat on their wife. Some people do both.
- Paraphrase of Clay Shirky
The best ideas are the most dangerous, since they take hold and are the hardest to change. Hence, the Macintosh is dangerous to the progress of user interfaces precisely because it was so well done! Designers seem to be viewing it as a measure of success rather than as a point of departure. Consequently, it runs the risk of becoming the Cobol of the 90’s.
We often get caught up in the speed of change that new technologies bring to our 21st century lives. As thoughtful beings, we must reflect, “Is this change good? Will we survive and thrive?” Our brains are wired to fixate negatively on change (potential danger) and associate “good” with the status quo, making it easy to become pessimistic about the future. However, we should remain hopeful, not because of an inherent belief in technology’s value, but rather a belief that humanity will learn to adapt and thrive regardless of the changes technology brings.
Ours in not the only generation to face dramatic change. Those living during the 19th century faced unprecedented advances, particularly, the proliferation of railroads. This new transportation lead the social critic, W.R. Greg to reflect to his generation:
“Beyond doubt, the most salient characteristic of life in this latter portion of the 19th century is its SPEED, — what we may call its hurry, the rate at which we move, the high-pressure speed at which we work, — and the question to be considered is, first whether this rapid rate is in itself a good; and, then whether it is worth the price we pay for it…. the moral consequences are probably graver still, though both sets of effects [physical and moral] are as yet only in their infancy, and will take a generation or two fully to develop.”
(Literary and Social Judgments, pp. 263-267)
Like Greg’s generation, we too, live in a world where SPEED and its consequences feel in their infancy. While we could attempt to make a value judgement about the effects of railroad induced speed throughout the 19th and 20th century and derive predictions for our own future, we would only be conducting an interesting academic exercise. The point is that humanity is still here today, 150 years after the advent of the railroad. We have adapted to the changes, even adapted our definition of speed. Now, ironically, taking a train is generally about slowing down, relaxing, and experiencing an idyllic countryside, not getting to a destination as quickly as possible. That which in the past was a symbol of speed is now an agent of reflection.
We are right to be cautious in the face of the immense changes technology brings to our lives, but we should also remember to keep faith in humanity’s ability to adapt to those changes.
Designers are visionaries with strong points of view about technology and the “right” way to design a system or service. This stubborn nature leads many a designer to complain that their perfect product vision failed to be properly implemented. Typically, blame falls on the client or developer. How rarely does one hear, “I, almighty designer, failed to understand and make the right compromises with a client” or “I, Photoshop god, failed to design a product that could actually be developed within the allotted time and scope of a project?”
Here we could take the lead from how profound philosophers with radical ideas handled their own, practical political lives. In Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sarte, Walter Kaufmann writes:
Unconciously he reminds us of a lesson we learnt from the Greeks, from Plato in particular: that philosophical profundity and political sense do not always go together… Radicalism is sometimes eminently fruitful in philosophy, while political good sense is probably inseparable from moderation, compromise, and patience.
Our innovative design ideas might earn us design awards and industry recognition. However, if we wish for those forward thinking design ideas to take root in business and society and therefore have the greatest possible impact, we’d best learn how to compromise.
Future is an interesting choice for a main nav. It’s not technology, but rather the future of everything. People might not be interested in technology, but who’s not interested in the future?
- 125 billion friends on FB
- Comments are left over a billion times a day
- .5 billion use it on a daily basis
- 500 million mobile users
- FB #1 application downloaded on mobile
I’m not surprised that people fear technology. Its newness is confusing and no one’s quite certain what to do with the promises it offers. Furthermore, technology allows us to encounter people who are different from us, the very people we are likely to fear. We fear the unknown. And technology is both an unknown itself and a vehicle to connecting us to greater unknowns.
For the first eight years of our marriage, [Michelle and I] were paying more in student loans than what we were paying for our mortgage. So we know what this is about.
And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income. But we only finished paying off our student loans—check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States—we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.
We need a safe place to be alone and be ourselves and think and feel and consume authentically. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of people crushed intto watching, listening and reading the same thing. There’s already enough pressure to do that. And constantly performing all the time? It’s just exhausting. There’s a reason every stage has a curtain.
By Katie Inglis
I sat down with my friend and colleague Jennifer Sukis to talk about her upcoming and much anticipated project To Be Brave, a countrywide camping road trip where she plans to interview interesting folks that have taken the plunge to follow their dreams, and write a book about…
I’m sure that all of these visionaries would appreciate that they’ve been reduced to finger puppets.
This is a nice follow-up, comment, and counter opinion to the idea of everyone now being creators. The tools needed to create are now more accessible. It’s definitely worth the read.
The other day a co-worker complained about the abundance of social media outlets for collecting and organizing design inspiration. There’s Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Tumblr, Flickr, Stumbleupon, and the list goes on. Most designers read the same blogs and try to be the first of their friends to retweet or forward on interesting material. He lamented that because the sources of our information are all the same and just repeated and broadcast across different platforms, our designs end up looking the same. Designers have become content aggregators instead of content creators. While mash-ups exhibit lateral thinking and collaboration, they also lead to designs without any mark of individual who created them.
In his classic, East of Eden, John Steinbeck wrote about the dangers of an individual facing the collective, industrial society at the turn of the 19th century. According to Steinbeck, the greatest danger is losing the creative individual voice in a collective, systematic world. Steinbeck writes about the industrial forces at play during his life, “when our food and clothing and housing are all born in the complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking.” Similarly, as designers inspired by the same material, the same mass thinking, our thinking reverts back to the collective voice over the individual voice.
For our designs to express our individual creativity, we must first find our individual voice and ask ourselves three questions Steinbeck asked, “What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?” When we do this, we’ll find our voice to express in our work. This however, cannot be done unless designers chose to step away from the media streams and find their own, individual sources of inspiration, their own voice apart from the crowd. Then, these individuals must become creators, not consumers.
An inspirational excerpt from Steinbeck’s East of Eden:
“I don’t know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know. Some of these forces seem evil to us, perhaps not in themselves but because their tendency is to eliminate other things we hold good. It is true that two men can lift a bigger stone than one man. A group can build automobiles quicker and better than one man, and bread from a huge factory is cheaper and more uniform. When our food and clothing and housing are all born in the complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking. In our time mass or collective production has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion, so that some nations have substituted the idea collective for the idea God. This is a great tension in the world, tension toward a breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused.
At such time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?
Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.
And now the forces marshaled around the concept of group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning hammer blows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have take.
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government that limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.”
My new project. Replace all of the capacitors in my console.
This is definitely worth the read for everyone using FB.
“If a government requires you to download a document, they should make sure there’s a freely available solution and a freely available platform that can run that solution. For example, if they make you download a .pdf, they shouldn’t endorse Adobe. They should make sure there are .pdf readers and writers that support what they need you to do with that document — and they should fund development of that software, the same way they would put in a wheelchair ramp. The same way we have accessibility when it comes to the physical world, they should provide some public services while you’re involved. People need to be humans.”
I understand the irony that I’m posting this to my blog. Excerpt below:
“To think,” writes the narrator in Funes, “is to forget differences, generalize, make abstractions. In the teeming world of Funes, there were only details, almost immediate in their presence.”
Like Funes, we now live in a world teeming with details. While in earlier times we had to proactively select what to commit to writing—or, in preliterate societies, to commit to memory—today we record everything by default and choose later what to retrieve. In the blink of an eye, the select-then-store paradigm that had been in place since the dawn of human history has been inverted. In addition, under the new store-then-select approach, we aren’t the only ones doing the selecting.”