Posts tagged design
One Design for Everyone, Forever

All references of race, worldviews, languages, bodies, minds, emotions, animals, and aliens are intended as satire. I personally hold no prejudice toward anyone.

When I took out my sketchbook purchased at a big box store that’s 8 1/2 x 11", I did so because it’s the only size everyone uses. I used a Bic pen because it’s universal. It fits perfectly into all of our four-fingered; one-thumbed hands and contrasts so against our light skin so we can see it better. We read the English branding on the pen just like everyone else in the world. When I click it against the wedding ring on my ring finger — sized for everyone—I feel a sense of relief, evaporated from all anxieties of discomfort.

Then, I began to design. I looked through my unisex glasses designed for everyone to see better with and when I wrote, my handwriting was legible for everyone, including those who read and write in Arabic, Mandarin, and Braille. The ink was chosen so even my colorblind dog can read it. I’m so happy in my stretchy t-shirt fitted for every child, woman, and man paired with a matching baseball cap with a plastic fitting mechanism on the back so it fits babies and those with pituitary adenoma. My design is liked by everyone in the world, including the blind, illiterate, and dyslexic. It was inspired by our environment. I live in Chicago, a city of glass, steel, and concrete—rich variations of gray… so, when I think of friends in rural Oregon, who have some of the greenest nature in the United States, I know they feel the design could’ve been created by someone who understands their aesthetic sensibilities most.

When I think of my clients, they’re all the same. Just a pocket of money asking me for the same design I sell to everyone. I don’t see a reason to revise it because it’s worked for 25 years now. 25 years is all it takes to know. I don’t use computers because tangible designs last longer than digital designs. If you want to use it, you’ll have to buy it from me in person. No shipping. It’s been presented on billboards, in virtual reality worlds, and used to represent every product and service ever offered, revealing the inside joke of vector graphics. Every artificial intelligence that’s tried to recreate it just jammed up.

I’m a purist, so the design will last forever. It is and will always be better and more relevant than everything else ever designed. It’s divine. All perfect things are divine. If your worldview doesn’t align with divinity or perfection, it’s okay because it’s still designed for you. It’s simultaneously designed for every individual and organization. It’s designed for every extraterrestrial being, including those in parallel universes. Time-travelers agree — it’s the best there is, ever was, and ever will be.

So, we’ve decided to close down the field of Graphic Design because everyone in the field has either become depressed or changed professions. Fortunately, my design is bringing people out of depression because it stimulates every feeling, dwarfing depression to a cakewalk.

One design for everyone, forever.

Purity of work

"When I first started working, I had this kind of vision that around the world there was this kind of thin filament and around that world, there were particles in that filament, very widely dispersed... and those particles were people who were looking for me.  You know, they didn't realize it, but they needed me and I was certainly looking for them.  And, I realized there were people out there who saw the world the way that I did and I had to somehow get in touch with them — to find them.  In order to do that, I had to work that was very pure so that I could put out a pure signal so that eventually that signal would pass through that thin filament and that one person in Rotterdam would see it, hear it, and find me.  And, in order to do that you have to live very modestly.  If you want to do the work that is really your work so that you have the freedom to do the right thing."

Bruce Mau said this in an interview with Michael Renaud for a talk I attended in 2014 during the 25th anniversary of the Chicago Humanities Festival.  At the time, I wasn't consciously engaged with the field of design like Mau, but I experienced his Massive Change exhibit in 2006 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, so I was thrilled to be in the audience.

Mau's way of working purely connected with the ethos I've had throughout my career.  When we work, having a client, user, viewer, or audience provides empathy throughout the creative process.  Beyond and more broadly, the way we work is an infinite game, one where ethics and purpose drive us to do work that matters; work that helps us contribute to making our world a better place.

How do we keep this infinite game in perspective on a daily basis? 

Stay modest, seek high-quality learning experiences, don't chase short and fast rewards, and according to Bruce Mau, stay pure to maintain your freedom.

The most intimate object

A cup is the most intimate object.  Embracing it with our hands, we raise it to our face to consume its contents with the senses of smell, taste, and touch.

Imagine two cups:  one is a mass-produced machine-made diner mug — one we've all seen or used countless times.  Its handle is large enough for one, two, and sometimes three fingers, aware of multiple preferences.  The white, neutral glaze is consistent and helps us see the contents easily, which seem more important than the mug itself.  Its white surface needs to be maintained for cleanliness, for the future.

via Amazon

via Amazon

via Charlie Cummings Gallery

via Charlie Cummings Gallery

The other is a one-of-a-kind mug made by ceramicist, Matthew Schiemann.  Its handle is only large enough for one finger, curving toward the shoulder of the mug, a curve that echoes at the bottom side of the body where the opposite hand, when cupped, fits in its embrace.  A modest foot reminds us it also belongs on the tabletop.  The dark glaze on the inside contrasts with the speckled green and brown gloss on the outside that appears spontaneously uncontrolled, yet consistently covers the surface of the stoneware clay.  This mug is made for the present moment, for the observant individual.

Modern design emphasizes systems, geometry, and grid structures that control a future-oriented approach.  Its precision, autonomy, and openness consider its audience broadly and economically.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese term, opposite of modernism.  It emphasizes imperfection, natural materials, one-of-a-kindness, and personal experiences.

In the modern to wabi-sabi spectrum, where do you drink from?

First impressions last

After finishing breakfast this morning, I picked up my keys, opened and closed the front door behind me, opened up the car door, sat down, closed the door, and realized I left my lunch on the kitchen counter.  It was so easy to walk through those doors because the designs of these doors and complex locks are so elegant and reliable, I was able to thoughtlessly change my environment.  This is good design.

When Elon Musk invented and patented Tesla’s sleek, automatic door handles, he encouraged a more elegant and joyful relationship between a person and a car.

When we think about relationships, we often think about the spaces between people, environments, products, and interfaces.  How can we connect people more elegantly, seamlessly, and joyfully to what we make?

Simplicity = Reliability

Humans are endlessly complicated, as studied through psychology, sociology, anthropology, and medicine.  Within and around such complexity, we design systems and products to manage and serve our needs.

Raymond Loewy, who helped establish industrial design as a profession made the drawings below in 1933, which communicate how simplification happens over time:

With such radical complexity in our lives, a simple design that addresses direct needs is better than a complex design that tries to do too much.  When something is reliable, it appears elegant and unstoppable.  So, when a design is complex, refine towards simplicity to test reliability.

Design for Feeling

Good design requires an experience that makes us feel good.

But, who markets the design, who will educate users on how to utilize the design, who will fix the design, and how will the design be retired after its lifetime has ended?  Every design has a life and users experience each phase of that life, so considering the entire ecosystem surrounding a design is paramount to how it makes them feel.

Furthermore, how will the design be experienced over time?  Learning how to use the design, mastering the use of the design, enjoying the design, and sharing the design with communities contributes to how we feel independently and in our at work, home, and learning environments.

Designed experiences can be readily found in some of our culture's most successful businesses:

  • Amazon

  • Apple

  • Disney

  • Google

  • Nordstrom

  • REI

Each of these companies offer an experience that makes us feel good time after time, building our trust, confidence, and mastery with using their designs.

Robert Henri

In my early 20's, I read ferociously and strategically.  I was fortunate enough to have access to a university library, a museum library, and a public library and I had two rules:  I could only walk out with as many books that would fit in the bag I brought and I had to read all the books by the time the books were due, and I rarely renewed what I loaned.  Pretty simple.  I'd stack these books on my desk at home and kept a few in my backpack, reading all of them all at the same time, yet intermittently so I could synthesize and contextualize the knowledge faster.

While reading so many books about art and design, I learned of a book titled "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri, which reportedly served as a book that helped many artists and designers understand who we are in terms of history and culture.  I stumbled across it in the stacks from Indiana University's library... it was bright blue with a white, sans-serif, condensed typeface high on its spine.  I slid it from the shelf, opened the cover, and leafed to the first page:

Art when really understood is the province of every human being.  It is simply a question of doing things, anything, well. It is not an outside, extra thing.  When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He becomes interesting to other people.  He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding.  Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it, shows there are still more pages possible.  The world would stagnate without him, and the world would be beautiful with him; for he is interesting to himself and he is interesting to others.  He does not have to be a painter or sculptor to be an artist. He can work in any medium.  He simply has to find the gain in the work itself, not outside it.  Museums of art will not make a country an art country.  But where there is the art spirit there will be precious works to fill museums. Better still, there will be the happiness that is in the making.  Art tends towards balance, order, judgment of relative values, the laws of growth, the economy of living— very good things for anyone to be interested in.

The work of the art student is no light matter.  Few have the courage and stamina to see it through.  You have to make up your mind to be alone in many ways.  We like sympathy and we like to be in company.  It is easier than going it alone.  But alone one gets acquainted with himself, grows up and on, not stopping with the crowd. It costs to do this.  If you succeed somewhat you may have to pay for it as well as enjoy it all your life.  Cherish your own emotions and never undervalue them. We are not here to do what has already been done.  I have little interest in teaching you what I know.  I wish to stimulate you to tell me what you know. In my office toward you I am simply trying to improve my own environment. Know what the old masters did.  Know how they composed their pictures, but do not fall into the conventions they established.  These conventions were right for them, and they are wonderful.  They made their language.  You make yours.  They can help you.  All the past can help you.

Robert Henri, "The Art Spirit", 1923. pg. 1