probably my best invention yet: The PB&PJ (Peanut Butter & Pre-Jelly).
I dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes — all the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms.
Michel Foucault, “The Masked Philosopher,” interview in Le Monde, 1980
via Frank Chimero
Part I : Challenging Assumptions
I’m working on developing a habit of challenging assumptions. It started with Designer’s Debate Club, a bi-monthly event I co-founded and have participated in as both organizer and debater. In selecting a topic, prepping the debate, recruiting debaters, and hosting the event, I have found myself digging into my own points of view on everything from formal education to the need for designers to learn code. It’s debate as sport, and the key is to dissect your own assumptions and anticipate the opponent’s attack. That habit has spilled over into my work and I plan on flexing that muscle further.
There are certain types of assumptions that now trigger this reflex. They are usually broad assumptions, things that have held true for a long time, and rarely been challenged.
I recently joined a panel for a discussion/debate on the future of design education. The unchallenged assumption among that group was that the quality in-person discussion and critique that you get in institutions cannot be replicated online. But when you start to pick it apart, there seems to be little there that is fundamentally unique that can’t be — given enough time — broken up and provided by a series of specialized services. (Something I am slowly working on in my spare time).
photo by Alexey Bednij
For the past ~18 months, I’ve been working as a product designer. And I’ve spent that same 18 months trying to understand what that means. This an attempt to articulate, in the broadest sense, what it means to practice product design.
My product design work is the work I am most proud of, but it doesn’t anthologize or summarize well. Most of it goes unnoticed. It’s doesn’t manifest as discrete, blog-able units. It doesn’t Dribbble well. It’s broader than wireframes or UI or screenshots. If a product were a house, it wouldn’t be the interiors, or the frame, or even the foundation. It would be the reason for the house, the motivation for the house, and the idea of what the house could be and the purpose it could serve. Product Design is formless.
I put a lot of time into brand, UI, UX, etc. But those all feel like they are at the periphery of what I do. Those skills exist in the execution layer and support the product, but without solid product thinking, they are baseless.
A year-and-a-half’s worth of thinking (and plenty of stammering through my explanation of why I left behind a more comprehensible design career) has landed me on this working definition of what it means to be a product designer. Here goes…
Product Design is…
A picture means I know where I was every minute. That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual diary.
—Andy Warhol (via @CollabFund)
First off, GIFSELECTIONS is one of my all time favorite blogs (this was an old GIF of mine that they dug up and reposted, so I’m reposting their repost. I challenge them to repost this repost of their repost!).
It sounds absurd, but micro animation might be an emerging discipline in design. I took a motion design class in school — at the time it was just an additional skill in a designer’s repertoire. Now it’s an entire industry that I hardly have any real grasp of. If that industry can live almost entirely on a few standard formats (10,30,60 second spots, 5-10 second bumpers, etc), why couldn’t a GIF design industry emerge designing for 1,2,5,10 second loops? Probably an absurd notion, but I would have never expected the fragmentation design has already seen (letterers, packaging designers, design-y illustrators).
So go ahead and bet your future on GIFs. Your parents will love you for it.
This little guy is for a special thing we are working on for Days. Not going to reveal the secret yet, but in the meantime you can watch his friendly eyes blink at you and hug your screen.
Culture is a thing of surfaces and secrets. The anthropologist is obliged to record the first and penetrate the second. Once we’ve figured out what people believe to be true about themselves, we can begin to figure out what’s really going on in this culture.
I got Sexpigeon’d!
Sold this inky shadow to Keenan, who’s a swell guy. Miss this bike already, but have too many bikes, am trying to cut down on bikes. This is an easy bike to endo on, and my endo days are certainly over. So goodbye to all that.
PS — I should not that I bought this bike through Bondsy, which is the raddest way to buy/trade/give away/sell stuff.
“OK Glass, get me space ice cream!”
Weird reminder of a past life. About 2 years ago, I was given access to an original IBM office clock and tasked with redrawing the face. It took a lot of work to preserve all the idiosyncrasies as I redrew those wonky numbers, while editing out all the print defects and mistakes from the original to give it a fresh, clean feel (the template used for that original clock must have been old and worn).
A few months later, Schoolhouse Electric and Supply Co. released this “faithful reproduction of the classic IBM indicator clocks found in offices, warehouses and schools during the mid-20th century.” A beautiful piece of industrial design and I was strangely and abruptly inserted into its history, and now I don’t even do that kind of work anymore. Weird, wild stuff.
1960s IBM 13.5” Standard Issue Clock
Old school tech.
I see the value of writing clearly and concisely becoming an increasingly important skill for digital workers… an important medium for getting work done and convincing others of our ideas.
I’ve always loved working with with people that write; not necessarily for the content they produce, but for the signal it provides. A person that writes is someone that believes their ideas are worth being heard. In an industry that runs off of vision — vision that is often refuted or even mocked by peers — it takes a bit of audacity and presumption to keep pushing your own ideas, your own vision of the way things are and ought to be.
Writing is a signal that you believe in your own brain, that it produces quality stuff that’s worth other people’s time and attention. There are plenty of great thinkers and builders that don’t write, but I appreciate what writing can say about a person, sometimes even more than the writing itself.