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robertogreco : perfection   14

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
Mastering the Art of Sparking Connections
"1. People are the key ingredients.

2. The more varied the group, the more valuable the connections and outcome.

3. To foster a spirit of improvisation, create a comfortable environment.

4. We value discussion over presentation

5. Each camp is a series of small and loosely-joined events.

6. We value intimacy over publicity.

7. Productive discussions happen more easily with thoughtful, informed facilitation.

8. End — don't start — with a trust fall.

9. The better the planning, the smoother and more spontaneous the outcome.

10. We value experimentation and evolution over perfection.



How Spark Camp Will Evolve"
events  sparkcamp  amandamichel  andypergam  mattthompson  amywebb  planning  values  diversity  improvisation  comfort  conferences  discussion  conversation  howto  loosely-joined  intimacy  publicity  facilitation  eventplanning  unconferences  experimentation  perfection  trust  inclusion  conferenceplanning  accessibility  inclusivity  inlcusivity 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Free Cinema - Wikipedia
"Free Cinema was a documentary film movement that emerged in England in the mid-1950s. The term referred to an absence of propagandised intent or deliberate box office appeal. Co-founded by Lindsay Anderson, though he later disdained the 'movement' tag, with Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti…

The manifesto was drawn up by Lindsay Anderson and Lorenza Mazzetti at a Charing Cross cafe called The Soup Kitchen, where Mazzetti worked. It reads:

These films were not made together; nor with the idea of showing them together. But when they came together, we felt they had an attitude in common. Implicit in this attitude is a belief in freedom, in the importance of people and the significance of the everyday.

As filmmakers we believe that
      No film can be too personal.
      The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments.
      Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim.
      An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude."
tonyrichardson  karelreisz  directcinema  cinémavérité  jeanvigo  free  1959  1956  1950s  manifestos  manifesto  glvo  srg  edg  filmmaking  film  style  attitude  perfection  sound  small  size  freedom  everyday  freecinema  documentaries  documentary  thesoupkitchen  lindsayanderson  lorenzamazetti  wabi-sabi 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Made Better in Japan - WSJ.com
"For decades, Japan simply imported the wares of foreign cultures, but recession has led to invention. The country has begun creating the finest American denim, French cuisine and Italian espresso in the world. Now is the time to visit."

"During the robust economy of the '80s, Japan's exports ruled, and the country would import the best that money could buy from the rest of the globe, including Italian chefs and French sommeliers. Which made Japan an haute bourgeoisie heaven where luxury manufacturers from the West expected skyrocketing sales forever.

But now 20-plus years of recession have killed that dream. Louis Vuitton sales are plummeting, and magnums of Dom Pérignon are no longer being uncorked at a furious pace. That doesn't mean the Japanese have turned away from the world. They've just started approaching it on their own terms, venturing abroad and returning home with increasingly more international tastes and much higher standards…"

[See also Stateside: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/adam-davidson-craft-business.html ]
daikisuzuki  engineeredgarments  hyperspecialization  hospitality  hotels  apprenticeships  tiny  small  quintessence  shuzokishida  restaurants  kansai  tokyo  hitoshitsujimoto  realmccoy's  nylon  magazines  jeans  craft  coffee  denim  detail  perfection  food  fashion  lifestyle  economics  luxury  japan  scale 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Weekend At Kermie's: The Muppets' Strange Life After Death | The Awl
"A character without specificity is not one."

"To demonize is to become the demon."

"When I say that the Muppets’ art direction is makeshift, I don’t mean that it’s shoddy. But it celebrates human limitation. As we watch one of these movies, we never lose our awareness that these scenes were made by men and women. Craftmanship, the game of how good any one artist can be, is presented—not hidden—and as such it can inspire others."

"What matters in the Muppet universe isn’t perfection, but expression. Dancing across the screen, they embody the philosophy that it is not what you look like that matters, but what you do."
art  creativity  film  copyright  muppets  puppets  perfection  human  humanism  specificity  makeshift  making  craft  limitations  constraints  via:rushtheiceberg  doing  meaning  purpose  glvo  jasonsegel  jimhenson  remix  remixing  remixculture  craftsmanship 
july 2011 by robertogreco
PSCS fundraiser: "Learning isn't about being perfect"
[Great piece by a PSCS parent, plus…]

"Here's what she took out:

“Lest you think I’m praising too much, let me say it's a growing community there. They have their bumps, and they meet challenges head-on. They try. They stay open to learning and growth.”

This, I think, shines a spotlight on a fundamental problem we face in schools, and highlights an area in which PSCS is so remarkable. For generations, school has been about getting the right answer. It has been about getting an “A,” acing the test, being perfect. Take a tour of some other schools in the city and they’ll show you only the classrooms they want you to see, only the shiniest students, and only the teachers who appear to be perfect. It’s all a part of the myth that says, when you’re learning, mistakes should be avoided at all costs.

That’s not who we are. And that’s not what learning looks like.

Learning means stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something new, then reflecting on the experience."
pscs  learning  education  schools  progressive  unschooling  deschooling  stevemiranda  pugetsoundcommunityschool  lcproject  mistakes  reflection  tcsnmy  cv  perfection  community  self-knowledge  self-directedlearning  2011 
april 2011 by robertogreco
If we try to engineer perfect children, will they grow up to be unbearable? - By Katie Roiphe - Slate Magazine
"In the long sticky hours of boredom, in the lonely, unsupervised, unstructured time, something blooms; it was in those margins that we became ourselves…our new ethos of control…contains a vision of right-minded child rearing that is in its own enlightened way as exclusive & conformist…Built into this model of the perfectible child is, of course, an inevitable failure. You can't control everything, the universe offers up rogue moments that will make your child unhappy or sick or ­broken-hearted, there will be faithless friends & failed auditions & bad teachers…All I am suggesting is that it might be time to stand back, pour a drink, & let the children ­torment, or bore or injure each other a little. It might be time to dabble in the laissez faire; to let the imagination run to art instead of art projects; to let the imperfect universe & its imperfect ­children be themselves." [Read it all.]
parenting  children  imperfection  learning  identity  boredom  supervision  control  unschooling  deschooling  perfection  failure  happiness  unhappiness  risk  risktaking  laissezfaire  imagination  glvo  self  teaching  cv  unstructuredtime 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Wabi-sabi - Wikipedia
"Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous & characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty & it "occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty & perfection in West." "if an object or expression can bring about, w/in us, a sense of serene melancholy & a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi." "[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging 3 simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, & nothing is perfect."

Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, & can be applied to both natural & human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks & anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness & elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object & its impermanence are evidenced in its patina & wear, or in any visible repairs."
patina  beausage  imperfection  unfinished  aesthetics  architecture  art  beauty  buddhism  design  culture  japan  japanese  simplicity  perfection  poetry  philosophy  zen  wabi-sabi  marceltheroux  johnconnell  jesserichards  coding  software  refinement  via:lukeneff  melancholy  tcsnmy 
august 2010 by robertogreco
15th Anniversary: The Brian Eno Evolution
"In an age of digital perfectability, it takes quite a lot of courage to say, "Leave it alone" and, if you do decide to make changes, [it takes] quite a lot of judgment to know at which point you stop. A lot of technology offers you the chance to make everything completely, wonderfully perfect, and thus to take out whatever residue of human life there was in the work to start with. It would be as though someone approached Cezanne and said, "You know, if you used Photoshop you could get rid of all those annoying brush marks and just have really nice, flat color surfaces." It's a misunderstanding to think that the traces of human activity — brushstrokes, tuning drift, arrhythmia — are not part of the work. They are the fundamental texture of the work, the fine grain of it."
via:preoccupations  brianeno  davidbyrne  kevinkelly  interviews  art  imperfection  unfinished  music  writing  2008  perfectability  perfection  photoshop  human  texture  glvo  conversation  learning  collaboration  wabi-sabi 
july 2010 by robertogreco
YouTube - OBSESSIVES: Pizza - CHOW
"An oven built by hand, tile by tile. Four pizzas on the menu, with no fancy-pants toppings. Anthony Mangieri does one thing at Una Pizza Napoletana, and he does it the very best way he can."
obsession  pizza  perfection  recipes  food  specialization  anthonymanglieri  slow  simplicity  specialists 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot -- albeit a perfect one -- to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes -- the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."
art  process  procrastination  fear  perfection  learning  teaching  education  craft  tcsnmy  psychology 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Seth's Blog: The problem with perfect
"I think it's more helpful to focus on texture, on interpersonal interaction, on interesting. Interesting is attainable, and interesting is remarkable. Interesting is fresh every day and interesting leads to word of mouth."
perfection  experience  experiencedesign  design  products  services  texture  interaction  business  glvo 
january 2008 by robertogreco

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