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robertogreco : approach   8

DE$IGN | Soulellis
"I’ve been thinking a lot about value and values.

Design Humility and Counterpractice were first attempts to build a conversation around the value of design and our values as designers. They’re highly personal accounts where I try to articulate my own struggle with the dominant paradigm in design culture today, which I characterize as —

speed
the relentlessness of branding
the spirit of the sell
the focus on product
the focus on perfection

and they include some techniques of resistance that I’ve explored in my recent work, like —

thingness
longevity
slowness (patience)
chance (nature, humility, serendipity)
giving away (generosity echo)

I’ve been calling them techniques, but they’re really more like values, available to any designer or artist. Work produced with these criteria runs cross-grain to the belief that we must produce instantly, broadcast widely and perform perfectly.

Hence, counterpractice. Cross-grain to common assumptions. Questioning.

And as I consider my options (what to do next), I’m seriously contemplating going back to this counterpractice talk as a place to reboot. Could these be seen as principles — as a platform for a new kind of design studio?

I’m not sure. Counterpractice probably need further translation. An idea like ”slowness” certainly won’t resonate for many, outside of an art context. And how does a love for print-on-demand and the web fit in here? Perhaps it’s more about “variable speed” and the “balanced interface” rather than slow vs fast. Slow and fast. Modulated experience. The beauty of a printed book is that it can be scanned quickly or savored forever. These aren’t accidental qualities; they’re built into the design.

[image by John Maeda: "DE$IGN"]

I’m thinking about all of this right now as I re-launch Soulellis Studio as Counterpractice. But if there’s anything that most characterizes my reluctance to get back to client-based work, it’s DE$IGN.

John Maeda, who departed RISD in December, where I am currently teaching, recently delivered a 4-minute TED talk, where he made this statement:

“From Design to DE$IGN.”

He expands that statement with a visual wordmark that is itself designed. What does it mean? I haven’t seen the talk yet so I can only presume, out of context. These articles and Maeda’s blog post at Design and Venture begin to get at it.

Maeda’s three principles for using design in business as stated in the WSJ article are fine. But they don’t need a logo. Designing DE$IGN is a misleading gesture; it’s token branding to sell an idea (in four minutes—the fast read). So what’s the idea behind this visual equation? As a logo, it says so many things:

All caps: DE$IGN is BIG.
It’s not £ or ¥ or 元: DE$IGN is American.
Dollar sign: DE$IGN is money.

DE$IGN is Big American Money.

and in the context of a four-minute TED talk…

DE$IGN is speed (four minutes!)
DE$IGN is the spirit of selling (selling an idea on a stage to a TED audience)
DE$IGN is Helvetica Neue Ultra Light and a soft gradient (Apple)
DE$IGN is a neatly resolved and sellable word-idea. It’s a branded product (and it’s perfect).

In other words, DE$IGN is Silicon Valley. DE$IGN is the perfect embodiment of start-up culture and the ultimate tech dream. Of course it is — this is Maeda’s audience, and it’s his new position. It works within the closed-off reality of $2 billion acquisitions, IPOs, 600-person design teams and Next Big Thing thinking. It’s a crass, aggressive statement that resonates perfectly for its audience.

[Image of stenciled "CAPITALISM IS THE CRI$IS"]

DE$IGN makes me uneasy. The post-OWS dollar sign is loaded with negative associations. It’s a quick trick that borrows from the speed-read language of texting (lol) to turn design into something unsustainable, inward-looking and out-of-touch. But what bothers me most is that it comes from one of our design leaders, someone I follow and respect. Am I missing something?

I can’t help but think of Milton Glaser’s 1977 I<3NY logo here.

[Milton Glaser I<3NY]

Glaser uses a similar trick, but to different effect. By inserting a heart symbol into a plain typographic treatment, he too transformed something ordinary (referencing the typewriter) into a strong visual message. Glaser’s logo says that “heart is at the center of NYC” (and it suggests that love and soul and passion are there too). Or “my love for NYC is authentic” (it comes from the heart). It gives us permission to play with all kinds of associations and visual translations: my heart is in NYC, I am NYC, NYC is the heart of America, the heart of the world, etc. .

Glaser’s mark is old-school, east coast and expansive; it symbolizes ideas and feelings that can be characterized as full and overflowing. And human (the heart). It’s personal (“I”), but all about business: his client was a bankrupt city in crisis, eager to attract tourists against all odds.

Maeda’s mark is new money, west coast and exclusive. It was created for and presented to a small club of privileged innovators who are focused on creating new ways to generate wealth ($) by selling more product.

Clever design tricks aside, here’s my question, which I seem to have been asking for a few years now. Is design humility possible today? Can we build a relevant design practice that produces meaningful, rich work — in a business context — without playing to visions of excess?

I honestly don’t know. I’m grappling with this. I’m not naive and I don’t want to paint myself into a corner. I’d like to think that there’s room to resist DE$IGN. I do this as an artist making books and as an experimental publisher (even Library of the Printed Web is a kind of resistance). But what kind of design practice comes out of this? Certainly one that’s different from the kind of business I built with Soulellis Studio."
paulsoulellis  2014  conterpractice  design  humility  capitalism  resistance  branding  speed  slow  consumerism  sales  salesmanship  perfection  wabi-sabi  thingness  longevity  slowness  patience  nature  chance  serendipity  generosity  potlatch  johnmaeda  questioning  process  approach  philosophy  art  print  balance  thisandthat  modulation  selling  ted  tedtalks  apple  siliconvalley  startups  culture  technology  technosolutionsism  crisis  miltonglaser  1977  love 
june 2014 by robertogreco
my learning disability
“This learning story was excerpted from The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap (Longstreet Press, 1996).

---------------

All my life, I have had a hard time learning flower names. I would look at a flower and try and try, but the name simply wouldn't come. It was very frustrating.

Then one day I took a different approach: I started with a flower's name, and then tried to think of why the name fit the flower. It became a challenge, a little game I would play with myself. I actually became quite good at it.

I had turned a learning situation into a project to fit my individual interests and learning style.

Now I have no trouble with the names of most flowers. I have come to see flowers as a metaphor for the process of learning itself.”
learning  seymourpapert  flowers  learningdisabilities  workarounds  approach  metaphor  anotherway  howwelearn  names  naming  via:litherland 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Why Good Classes Fail [Digital Ethnography blog]
"So rather than focusing on emulating particular techniques and methods, we should be doing everything we can to embrace, inspire, and use our own empathy in order to better understand and relate to our students. It is only from this space that we can effectively generate and use the appropriate techniques and methods for any particular task. In this way, there is no “recipe,” “secret sauce,” or “silver bullet” for teaching effectively that can be used by anybody, anytime, anywhere. Instead, I’m proposing a “generative” method, one in which we “generate” the appropriate method that takes into consideration the broadest range of factors that we can manage to accommodate."
howweteach  howwelearn  method  carlrogers  2012  listening  interestedness  disinterest  disconnection  disengagement  engagement  gardnercampbell  pedagogy  students  connection  reproductiion  scalability  personality  approach  silverbullets  de-scripting  unschooling  highereducation  education  learning  teaching  empathy  michealwesch  interested  scale 
february 2012 by robertogreco
design methods for everyone
"1. designing your design process 2. what to do first? 3. what if I can't think of a solution? 4. what if I have too many ideas? 5. what if my ideas seem good but do not fit 'the problem'? 6. what if my perception of the problem changes? 7. what if I get into a muddle? 8. how can a first attempt be improved?"
design  method  methodology  collaborative  approach  glvo  process  designthinking 
october 2008 by robertogreco
Matt Webb on movement as a metaphor for the web (Webb 2.0?) (kottke.org)
""resistance in contemp society to trying out ideas...New ideas...accepted or rejected...choices vigorously defended. If it's going to help figure something out, why not look at problem from every possible angle? kottke.org = big part of my process of idea scaffolding. I don't necessarily agree or disagree with everything I link to1 but reading articles and then describing them to others is a good way to continually wonder, "Gosh, isn't it interesting to think about the world this way?"
kottke  design  mattwebb  ideas  ideascaffolding  analogy  metaphor  cv  howwework  thinking  generalists  translation  gamechanging  acting  faking  fraud  science  society  risk  failure  experimentation  approach  openminded  perspective 
february 2008 by robertogreco
The Democrats' Choice: Manager or Visionary | The American Prospect
"Obama's advisers, by contrast, are likely to point you toward his speech at the NASDAQ, which highlighted his desire to transform our economy through the application of moral leadership."
elections  2008  barackobama  hillaryclinton  policy  politics  economics  approach  problemsolving  leadership 
february 2008 by robertogreco
Slide 1 of 41 (Movement, S&W)
"more I work with designers who have been through design school – trained particular way of thinking – more I know I’m not one...have to fake being designer quite a lot...how to articulate approaches designers take for granted...constantly make myself idea scaffolding.

Fortunately what I do have is a background in science, so I’m good at watching, hypothesising, and trying stuff out. That helps a lot.

It’s some of that idea scaffolding I want to talk about today, a particular way of thinking about the Web. And what that way of thinking is going to lead to is a proof of concept application, and a design method of how to put it all into practice."
design  mattwebb  ideas  ideascaffolding  analogy  metaphor  cv  howwework  thinking  generalists  translation  gamechanging  acting  faking  fraud  science  society  risk  failure  experimentation  approach  openminded  perspective 
february 2008 by robertogreco

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