Amy Elisabeth Spasoff captured terrific images of Night Drop including some glimpses at the brand identity we designed for the basement bar and upstairs restaurant (Branch).
Click here to have a look at the rest of the gallery.
This week I was reminded that it’s the designer's job to pay attention to what no one else is noticing— to see at what’s within and around us, and to occupy the spaces where most people don’t want (or know how) to go.
Our frantically-paced world has made it incredibly challenging to slow down and truly see things. It has become increasingly difficult to identify the stories we are telling ourselves, or to truly experience the unhurried nature of the world we live in. Recognizing and resisting this cloudy reality isn’t impossible, though. We are awakening to the necessity of rest so we can ask ourselves those bigger and crucial questions: what are we sorely missing? Where are our blind spots?
This idea feels timely as I’ve currently been working on a title company's website with a significant emphasis on aesthetic. I found myself sitting with number of thoughts: “What will people think of this design? Does it showcase my credibility as a designer?” About midway through the week something caused me to look at the work differently—and I began to ask a better question: “What would a realtor or home buyer experience when they visit the site?” I was struck by the short-sightedness of my initial questions, and so I began to stretch my attention to include the concerns of the people who would be using the site. I began to visualize what things might be like from these other vantage points— a first time home buyer full of anxiety and confusion, or a lender who’s putting faith in a client’s knowledge and experience. Approaching the site design from a different perspective felt much more effective in improving my work’s potential than the standard position based entirely on my own point of view.
Paying attention is not an ability we receive in a spectacular flash of enlightenment—it’s meant to be an ongoing journey of discovery. And it’s a choice we’re called to make everyday.
Here are a few links that are worth paying attention to.
Hurry Slowly, Episode 15: Oliver Burkeman — Against Time Management
I had to listen to this one a few times—and will probably listen to it a few more. I particularly enjoyed the parts about paying attention, and how essential it is for us to actively decide what we will spend/devote (instead of “manage”) our time to, because time isn’t an unlimited resource.
Design Observer, Episode 74: Eyes and Hands
This one also required more than a couple listens (and probably will need a few more). The entire episode is full of great moments of wisdom, but I particularly enjoyed the middle segment about the role of the designer to look and critique. Also, there’s a fantastic conversation within about the designer’s need for humility, not empathy. (Even more reason to give this episode a listen: there’s an intriguing bit about students being assigned to walk around in adult diapers.)
Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
I’m reading this because it was on a list of the top non-design books that designers should read. The book—which takes place entirely within the span of an escalator ride—is seen through the eyes of someone who dissects the details of each object he has noticed or an experience he’s felt—from the microscopic differences between plastic and paper straws, to the extended analysis of why both his shoelaces broke within two days of each other. This isn’t a book you could easily skim through, as the beauty of it is in the mundanity of the details. The material provokes a such variety of emotional responses—there were times I somehow wanted to cry from laughter (but also times when I wanted to drop-kick the book because it required so much of my attention).
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This novel follows the generations of a Korean family for more than a century, and their movement from their homeland: they slowly drift beyond the borders of their village in Korea to the much larger cities of Japan. It’s a book about identity, and a book about time—it’ll probably make you cry. If you want to know what life might look like for a non-privileged person within a country that is blind to that struggle, it will enlighten you to their plight by placing you directly in their shoes.
Faces Places, a film by Agnès Varda and JR
Meg and I just watched this at the Contemporary Arts Center. The essential moment of the film for me was when Agnes was asked, “What’s the point?” Her response: “Imagination.” It reminded me of a line from the Mary Oliver poem that I mentioned last month. “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination.” Imagination: seeing with the mind’s eye. It’s the gift we have the ability to give and receive.
These last two links are from from CreativeMornings|Cincinnati. I’ve had the privilege of working on the CM|CIN board for the last two years, but in the interest of growing my business and focusing on teaching at the university, I’ve decided to step down this month. These two links come from events that I played a role in planning. Both of these have been deeply meaningful to me and continue to shape the way I see the world.
Shakkh Ismaeel Chartier at CM|CIN
Ismaeel reminded us that the great mystery is within ourselves. That while it takes vulnerability and time to look within and pay attention to what’s happening inside ourselves, it’s worth the struggle. And maybe that’s what the world needs most right now.
Larry Bourgeois (and me) at CM|CIN
I facilitated this on-stage conversation with Larry for this CreativeMornings talk. The theme was ‘Genius’. The major takeaway was this: genius requires humility, vulnerability, and passion. It reminded me of what Adam Robinson shared (at DO Wales 2017) as the common theme of all the geniuses he’s ever met: they all had a childlike aura. During the Q&A, I asked him what that meant, and he told us how they never stopped asking questions—as opposed to always having the answers. Genius—and childlikeness—require all three of those traits: humility, vulnerability, and passion.
This past week marked the shuffle of the calendar into February— now one month along in this fresh new year. As I reflected on January, I found it to be a good month. (In some ways, it hasn’t gone exactly as planned, but perhaps it’s better that way.) At any rate, I thought I’d share a few of the ingredients that contributed to a pretty worthwhile month— plus a dive into this week’s links.
Always carry a book. I read more books during this last month than I’ve read in some entire years. It’s partially due to those early-dark evenings, but additionally I’ve chosen to pick up a book instead of tuning to social media for inspiration or entertainment. The biggest help for this newly-increased reading habit has been to always physically carry a book with me. In the here-and-there moments of my day, I could pick it up and sneak a read— even if only a single page.
Meditate. I’m in a meditation class at The Hive led by my friend Joey Taylor. It’s helped me get back into the practice and learn to go much deeper with it than I have in the past. There’s been a lot of self discovery through the engagement of the process.
Embrace randomness. I read about Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies in Messy by Tim Harford. It’s a card deck, full of random tasks/suggestions to remind you to get out of your comfort zone. I made my own set of cards and used them on a few projects this month. During one project I pulled out the card that said “use a sharpie”— I promptly obeyed and proceeded to use a sharpie for the whole project.
Pursue Arbitrary Stupid Goals. I learned about abitrary stupid goals from the aptly-named book, Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin. She speaks of goals that “aren’t too important” but “gives you a driving force in life.” My arbitrary stupid goal? Take pictures of trash and post them to Instagram.
Support local immigrants. After watching The City of Gold, a documentary about Los Angeles food critic, Jonathan Goldstein, Meg and I have been on the hunt for our city’s finest ethnic cuisine. In the process we’ve found much enjoyment through this culinary adventure. It’s also a practical way to support our local immigrant population. Vote with your dollar, folks.
Use less technology to organize your life. Every few months I go on the hunt for a better system of efficiency for my design practice. I’ve wasted precious hours testing out time management systems, project organizers, and other applications that had promised to give me my day back. I’m not buying it anymore. This month I moved my to-do list to index cards (inspired by Tim Harford’s book Messy again). Next I might just switch to a paper calendar.
And now for the links. It’s difficult to identify a particular theme based on what I’ve been reading this week, but there seems to be a faint political and slightly-religious bent in what has interested me most. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad" We have an Airbnb guest staying with us who is performing with the Cincinnati Orchestra this weekend. (They're playing Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad") Inspired by our guest, I'm listening to an orchestral recording of the piece. I love the album cover. And I love coming home to our guest rehearsing in the house.
Offscreen Issue 18 I recently became a subscriber and I’m in the middle of Issue 18. I enjoyed the interview with Erika Hall of Mule. She shared that Mule isn’t focused on User Centered Design. Rather, it aims for Value Centered Design. The objective is to create value for both the customers and clients.
The 10 Worst/Best Things Trump has Done in his First Year in Office I’ve been conversing with my brother-in-law, a Trump supporter, about the President’s first year. It’s been an interesting dialogue. I’m trying to learn be more objective and non-judgmental, which is a difficult thing to accomplish nowadays. In that pursuit, I’ve sought objective and non-judgmental resources (tips welcome). This article struck me as a fair critique of the President’s first year.
A Post-Obama Democratic Party in Search of Itself Piggy-backing off of the previous link, I found this article intriguing. It’s an objective critique of the left. In particular, I enjoyed the questioning of the litmus test the Democrats have used for their base. For instance, the belief that you can’t be anti-abortion and a liberal. I’m interested to see what will become new essential policies to adhere to in the party’s future.
Leveling the paying field: LA cafe lets patrons choose prices – and hasn't lost cash “Snook said the inspiration did indeed come from a bearded disruptor - Jesus.”
Twelve rules of life Following just a few of these rules will likely lead to a more exciting, less complacent life.
Rands in Response Slow writing is good writing.
Been head down this week working with a client who's creating a global standard for responsible mining. The main piece is a book. I've enjoyed getting back into book design after a bit of a hiatus. There's a collage involved as well. I love collage. It was timely since I just read in The Lonely City (see below) about collage and it's power to mend and bring disparate ideas/things together. The project's been fast, leaving little time to "overthink." Sometimes you just have to make. I actually think the results can turn out more authentic, or surprisingly delightful that way. In this particular case, that's been true. I actually kept a note card on my desk this week that simply said, "make something ugly." The idea, as I took it, was to not focus on the end results. Just make something (even if it's ugly). Get feedback. Move forward. Repeat. That's what I did and eventually, I made something beautiful. Afterward, I edited the note card to say "make something ugly, beautiful." My thought there is that my work has to go through an ugly phase before it can become beautiful.
As far as links to share, I think there's a common theme of interiority this week. From reading about loneliness in The Lonely City to asking "what if money was no object?," the content I've consumed has challenged me to look within myself.
History of the Second World War Magazine I bought the whole collection of History Of The Second World War magazine about ten years ago. Been using them as inspiration on a recent project.
Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol Just read about their collaboration in The Lonely City (book). Check out the work. It's amazing.
The Slash: 20-Foot Clearing Stretches 5,525 Miles Across World's Longest Border Kind of amazing. People are mighty capable creatures.
"Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver Joey, my friend and meditation instructor, shares this quote. I love the line, "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."
Jordan Peterson's 12 rules for life Rule 12.
What if money was no object? Found this oldie in my Evernote archive. A very good question. “What would you do if money was no object?” As a business owner, this is a tough one. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hours and dollars and forgot variables like happiness or legacy.
“Marketing” just means being considerate Marketing has been a bad word in my mind. Recently, I've realized it's need. Design and marketing are symbiotic. This article is timely and helpful as I overcome biases. Thanks to J.G. for the share.
You’ll Never Really Feel Like You’ve ‘Made It’ (And Why That’s A Good Thing) It's cliche, but George Founds, one of my design professors, always said "life's about the journey, not the destination." A good reminder here, as always, from Ryan Holiday.
Google Arts & Culture (website)
It's very easy to get lost in here.
George Heilmeier’s Method for Solving Research Challenges (Article)
Good questions lead to better answers. Revisit this early and often.
Exit West (Book)
This book was truly touching. I continue to linger on this quote,, "We're all migrants through time."
If Edward Hopper Used Instagram and Facebook (Article)
Learning about Hopper and found these funny memes along the way.
New Logo and Packaging for Diet Coke (Article)
"One thing that seems clear, and made overt in this case, is that major brands are contorting to Millennials and the resulting design expressions are coming out too forced."
Tracing the Hallowed Graphic Posters of the Zurich Schauspielhaus (Article)
Gosh. These posters punch me un the gut in the the greatest way possible.
'The Crown' Characters With Their Real-Life Counterparts (Article)
Meg and I love The Crown. It's pretty amazing how well it was casted. Thanks to Lindsey for the share.
How To Think, in eight easy steps (Article)
What if we reflect, instead of react?
Is this the perfect playground full of junk? (Article)
I’m so jealous of these Welsh children.
35 Insightful Questions from the Proust Questionnaire (Article)
Ask better questions. Have better conversations. I'm going to start asking these on Facebook.
Two Very Different Kinds of Illustration (article)
In a recent conversation at the Depot, I mentioned that the illustrations on my apps are starting to blend together. Chris, my studio mate, pointed out that there's an article for that.
Investors to Apple: Fight iPhone addiction among kids (article)
Just this past semester, I had my students explore screen addiction as an assignment (one day I'll share the results). Articles like this validate the problem the students were working to understand and offer humble solutions toward.
Warren Buffett’s daily breakfast allowance (article)
Simple, Stylized Minimalistic Devices Mockups (product)
Entranced by the design. Looks like a solid tool for the UX designer. I'm still sticking with as my goto tool.
Brand New: The Best and Worst Identities of 2017 (article)
I don't keep up with BN on the daily, so it's catch up on the best and worst of 2017 in one place.
Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives (book)
When we let go of control, our creativity flourishes. Tim proves it. In the middle of this book and loving it.
When trees don′t want to touch each other (article)
Look up next time you walk in the woods.
Roxane Gay: “I’m Really Bad At Saying No." (video)
"My no is an actual no." I like that. Beautiful words and video.
Extraordinary Routines (website)
My routine for 2018? Keep it simple. Go to bed early. Wake at 5:30. Meditate for 20. Read a verse. Pray for others. Do 3 sun salutations. Run or walk (with no music or podcast). Read something inspiring over breakfast. Go to work by 8:30.
10 New Principles Of Good Design (article)
There's some goof stuff in here. In particular, I liked this line, "Good design chases more than clicks."
Arbitrary Stupid Goal (book)
When Michael Beirut and Austin Kleon said this was one of their favorite reads of 2017, I figured I ought to give ASG a try. I'm glad I did. It was a delight.
I was intrigued by this book because it's about a future where people start to want more contact through physical touch, instead of through our devices. I found it both insightful and entertaining. It paired well with The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen.
City of Gold (film)
Jonathan's life excites me. While not a food writer, I'm inspired to live a little more like him.
The Shape of Water (film)
I wasn't sure what to expect. I actually thought I wouldn't like it. I loved it. So did Meg.
A moment of silence, please (article)
Take a moment to give thanks for those who have helped you become who you are. That's just great.
Ronald Clyne (google search results)
Taking inspiration from these colorful, type-centric, album covers by Ronald Clyne
12 Ways You Could Be Getting More Out Of Your Local Library (article)
I'm lucky that the local library is a block away. Recently, I've been using it a lot more.
Random Oblique Strategies Online (website)
Brian Eno created a set of cars that stimulated creative ideas. There's an online version. Bowie created "Heroes" with the cards. What will we create?
‘20 Most Important Inventions of All Time’ by Anton Repponen
This is kind of mesmerizing.
How to Deal With Bad Design Suggestions
We've all been there. This is helpful.
Ethics for Design
Who wants to watch this together?
Convenient little to do list.