Monday, February 28, 2011

Bruce Mau and Stefan Sagmeister

So, about Bruce

"Design and culture converge around literacy, equity, society."

Bruce Mau Studio works in print (Zone Books and I.D. magazine) as well as in architectural practice (environmental graphics and wayfinding). "Massive Change: The Future of Global Design" a exhibit, a book, a website, an initiative) with the goal of "exploring the legacy and potential, the promise and power of design in improving the welfare of humanity" based off of interdisciplinary thinking. Worked with 100 designers (people who were changing the world whether they knew it or not, whether they called themselves "designers" or not).

He's interesting to me because he looks like just about the happiest designer in the world, all pictures of him are of him laughing, that kind of deep throated, tilt your head back kind of laugh. He must be doing something right.

Okay, so my mantra of the week is:
7. Study.
A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

I need to think of doing work as most of a positive, I think that's the only way I'll get through this week. it's not this have-to, must-do thing of doing work for the sake of making deadlines, but it's the opportunity to study, to grow, to learn. Hard work and having a positive attitude towards working hard will only benefit me, so that's what I plan on doing. :)

On Sagmeister's "How good is good"

I've often asked myself whether or not design was as "impotent" and "frivolous" as Sagmeister talks about at the beginning of the article. Frankly, he's right. We as a field encourage people to buy more junk, we portray others to the best of their ability whether or not they are a good cause or not, and we help others take credit for doing something good, even if they only did a good deed for the publicity. Even after listening to the Hallmark Symposium lecture about the M Project, and trying to talk to my friends about what I learned, I had some difficulty articulating what skills the designers brought to the project to make change. Uh, so they made these cool posters and got donations for these water pump. Oh, that's cool, my friends said. Okay, so maybe I didn't do the best job describing that good deed, but it laid down a real question in my mind. So you have science trying to cure cancer, what are we doing besides making posters?

Well I think that Sagmeister answers that question for me, design helps us remember important events (like the 9/11), it simplifies our life (the metro card), it unifies (any flag), it makes the world a safer place (clear directions for medication), it helps people rally behind a cause (posters!), and make us more tolerant (these are just to name a few). So like Sagmeister says, if design is this good, that's a pretty great reason to get out of bed in the morning and design. :) Some useful inspiration and motivation for a design student.

What is Design Thinking Anyways?

Notes from reading (important points):

design thinking applies designer's abductive reasoning to business (formal logic)

deductive and inductive: grounded in science, end declaration of true or false, build on previous knowledge (standoff shoulders of the giants who have come before us)

deductive: (logic of what must be) reasons from general to specific (crow)

inductive: (logic of what is operative) reasons from specific to general (small town)

William James and John Dewey explore formal declarative logic --not true and false at the end, but the process by which we come to know and understand. Knowledge acquisition not conceptual, not this abstract progression towards absolute truth, but instead dealing with inquiry and evolving interaction with context or environment.

The Pragmatist philosophers: knowledge comes only through experience

Charles Sanders Peirce: no new idea could be proved deductively or inductively using past data, new ideas did not come from conventional forms of declarative logic (inductive or deductive), therefore a third must exist.

First step of reasoning is not observing (deductive/inductive), but wondering, "logical leaps of the mind." Abductive reasoning. Not declarative because it does not ask to seek a true or false, but modal reasoning, because it seeks to post what could possible be true.

Abductive thinking scares businesspeople, can fail designers if they are not aware of what is technologically feasible, and must make business sense to succeed.

Balance in three types of reasoning.

About Author:

Roger Martin:

Dean of Rotman School of Management since 1998

Writes extensively on design, regular columnist for BusinessWeek's Innovation and Design Channel, author of "The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitve Advantage"

In order to be innovative in business, we must not rely exclusively on analytical thinking (that refines current knowledge) and turn to design thinking (from mystery to heuristic, a rule of thumb that guides us to a solution, to algorithm, a predictable formula for producing an answer).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Journal 3: TED talks

So, last night I watched a few TED talks:
Stefan Sagmeister shares happy design
Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity
JJ Abram talks about the mystery box
Christopher McDougall asks the question: Are we born to run?
Steve Job's How to Live before you die
Rob Forbes on the way of seeing
And finally,
Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience and memory

So basically, rather than writing up this journal entry at a reasonable hour, I ended up watching way more TED talks with my boyfriend and falling asleep wondering whether our experience self or our memory self have more influence in how happy we are as human beings. And caused me to wake up in a foul mood because I had gone to bed much later than I had intended.

with that said, probably the best Sunday night ever. So, I'm just going to briefly talk about what stuck out most to me from all these TED talks:

Sagmeister talks about this Korean artist that has posted up hundreds of blank speech bubble stickers on random advertisements, photographs, anything in New York (I believe that was the city), and that there are three audiences that receive happiness from this interactive design. One, the artist herself. Two, the people writing quite hilarious messages in the bubbles. And three, the people reading these speech bubbles.

In art, it's easy to design what happiness looks like, but it's harder to design a happiness response from your audience. You can draw or paint a sunrise, but to create a room with a retractable ceiling for your viewer to experience the subtle colors of a sunrise or sunset is far more desirable.

Sir Robinson is one of the cutest english men ever. Old, yes. But thoughtful. He makes this great statement about how we as humans have tried to mine certain prized educational commodities, like the ability to solve math problems or the ability to perform well in science, rather than honing in on all of the possible education attributes a child is good at, whether that is more in dance, art, or music. He stresses that creativity is just as important as literacy within education and we have tried for too long to stifle creative growth.

JJ Abram has ADD and I had a difficult time distinguishing him from that Seinfield character. But, he talked about why he is so attracted to mystery boxes, or the concept of creating mystery and suspense in film or television, or whatnot. He talks about his grandfather who gave him he first camera a lot, and play some interesting scenes from Mission Impossible Three and Jaws. Not my favorite, but whatever.

McDougall is the shit. I read his book Born to Run this summer and it literally changed my life. Watching him speak made the book become more real for me and it was just as sassy and energetic as I thought he would be. He talks about how this group of indians in the Copper Canyons who chose flight over fight when the Spanish came to the Americas, and how they today are living the same way they have lived the past 400 years. They are peaceful, corn and mice eating, beer drinking, megamarathon running people who do not know poverty, heart disease, depression, warfare--any of the things that plagues our modern society. He talks about three mysteries of the world: How we evolved from a pea brain creature to this fat brained species and how for thousands of years we were hunting without the creation of man made tools, How women suck at sprinting but once you get her into a megamarathon setting (100+ miles), they are just as good as men and usually finish those races more, And another point that I've forgotten just now. Well, that'll be something to look forward to if you watch this TED talk, because it's that good. Anyways, so he is basically advocating for us to return to our roots, that the one thing that ties all these three questions together and explains us as humans is the fact that there was a time when we as a species hunted in a pack. LIke ran fucking antelope down as a communal pack. And that only if we return to a compassionate, team-working, running species will we find more happiness. And that we should all throw away our tennis shoes because they fuck up our feet.

Steve Jobs dropping out of college after 6 months bc he felt so guilty about spending his working class family's life savings on his education at Reed College. But stayed afterwards for 18 months on the floors of his friend's dorm rooms, putting up coke bottles to pay for food, and walking 7 miles every week to a church for a hot meal. All of this just to drop in on classes that he cared about. He took a calligraphy class there and learned about letter press and typography and calligraphy, and fast forward a few years, used what he learned to elevate the typography of the mac, and (because microsoft copies everything) changed the overall aesthetics of the personal computer forever. That's connecting the dots, something that you can only do in retrospect, but gives you comfort in today and tomorrow because just the simple concept that a few years down the road you'll be able to use what you are doing today gives you the comfort and reassurance to take a few risks.

Forbes showed photographs of interesting compositions in nature/life that he's taken over the years. Basically the idea that design is everywhere around us, it's only the process of seeing it.

Loved Kahneman's talk about the experience self and the memory self, and how it related to our happiness. But, since I have some other homework to catch up on, i'll let you watch it yourself. This, and watching Inception and the Matrix within the last two weeks made me think about my memories and thoughts a little differently. Enjoy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

20 Rules of Good Design

The three that I think are the most important:
Concept: Having a clearly defined concept and creating work that is focused towards that concept and maintaining the honesty of that concept.
Be decisive: The idea of doing things with a purpose, or not at all.
Communicate not decorate: Communicate the concept, not adding elaborate or extraneous elements just for pretty sake.

The three I need to practice:
Type is image, it just as important: This is also one of my most important rules, a close close tie with communicate not decorate. It's something that something I lose sight of when I'm designing, sometimes the simplicity of a word or phrase, how short or long a word is makes designing around it difficult. The simplicity of the words "Dandelion Wine" and "Ray Bradbury" during this bookjacket redesign project has really challenged me, and focusing on the type and letting that shine through without being so dependent on imagery is something I'm working on.

Squish and separate: Need to work on my typography skills, paying attention to all the hierarchy rules, typographic color, size contrast, etc elements from last semester that I need a refresher on.

Negative space, create it, not fill it: I love the swiss and Jan Tschichold and whatnot because there is something about their creation of negative space that resonates with me on a visceral level. I need to utilize space better, create it, embrace it.

The ones I think should be ignored:
Type is only type when it's friendly: eh. Since I'm on Tschichold..I don't think his type is necessarily the most friendly, it's plain and unobtrusive, and kinda harsh along the edges, but I love it and I think it's a great reflection of type.

Ignore fashion: We are designers, we are supposed to be mindful of fashion and the needs of a client, who are probably really mindful of fashion in relation to their image.

Dieter Rams and Don Norman

Dieter Ram's "10 Commandments for good design" expresses the most important principles for what he thought was good design. The principles that I connected the most with are:

Good design makes a product understandable. As it applies to graphic design, it is about paying attention to the details, the hierarchy, the typographic color, the color palate, the texture of paper you print on, all the details that goes into communicating the mood, style, feel of your design concept. This clarifies your concept to your audience.

Good design is honest. It's about communicating and not decorating, utilizing negative space in a composition, keeping to the honesty of what you are designing, not offering promises that can not be met.

Don Norman's TED talk about 3 ways good design makes you happy was such a pleasant watch. He talks about how how design makes you happy on a visceral, a behavioral, and reflective way, how our subconscious instinctively connects with design that looks and feels friendly, that does not cause us anxiety, that makes us feel good about ourselves or portrays some positive image. He's all about the effects of positive thinking. One thing that really stuck out with me is this psychology experiments he mentions during his talk. A group of people are told to do a task that will determine their IQ, causing them to feel anxious about performing the task. All fail. Next, another group of people are asked to do the same thing, but they are relaxed with candy before, they are all about to perform the task. Norman talks about how our brain releases dopamine that causes us to be relaxed and makes us capable of forming more "out of the box" ideas. That's why brainstorming works so well, because when you are relaxed with the idea that no idea is a bad idea, you are more capable of forming better ideas.

Maybe that's why my entire weekend of design has been kinda slow, sure progress is being made, but that that reflective part of my emotions and thinking has caused me to become anxious with self doubt. So I'm listening to the new happy Taylor Swift music and eating valentines sugar cookies. Hopefully finally I'll get these projects done. Norman's talk, even just his demeanor, his delivery of his talk reminded me about how important being positive is. And I do have a totally different user experience when I am using something "friendly-designed." I respond to vintage, warm colors, cute graphics, rich whimsical textures and patterns a lot more than I'd care to admit. It makes me feel good. It makes me want to design when I see design that looks happy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Journal 1: Writing Visual

Writing goes hand and hand with designing for me, since designing is so much about problem solving and finding solutions, writing is a way for me to organize rambles of thoughts into concrete ideas and themes. Writing Visual stresses the importance of sketching and utilizing free-writing and mind mapping tools to generate lateral thinking. This is what we as designers have to be fully adept at, at finding relationships between different disciplines and ideas, forming original ideas that are conceptually sturdy, not clique or accepting the obvious answers. This reading goes through several different writing techniques--mind maps, concept maps, free writing, brainwriting, and word lists--as ways to generate visual imagery. These tools are simple and stress the uninhibited recording of thoughts, as a way to make discoveries and connections not blatantly apparent. I did not realize how important this process was for me until reading Writing Visual, how important it is for my creative process to really conceptually think about my designs and whether they are working on an intellectual level. Mind maps and making several mind maps helped me organize and record all of my thoughts, concept maps helped me recognize the hierarchical relationships between certain themes, free writing helped me discover which themes were most important to me and the understanding of the book, and word lists helped me determine what visual imagery will help me in designing this book cover.

Free Write

Dandelion wine is about growing up, losing faith, and recognizing that a life without acceptance of death would not be a life worth living. It is the impermanence of our being, the nature of who we are as human beings, how terrible delicate our time in our world or reality is, that makes us want to, need to live our lives to the fullest. We will never be as young as we are today, never as naive, or as curious, or simply as unclouded in our judgements as we are today. Youth is this undeniably tender concept that few have spent enough time appreciating, it’s an ephemeral state that lasts too short. I chose Dandelion Wine because my friend told me that after reading this book, she wanted to harvest dandelions and make dandelion, and that is the feelings I have after reading this book. Nostalgia for a simpler time. A town like Green Town that exists only in our memories, a town where its inhabitants go to hillsides to set up red and white checkered picnic cloths, to eat ham and egg sandwiches, and enjoy the sweet taste of Eskimo pies and ripe, puckered cherries. It is the taste of lemonade, tart and sweet sliding down your throat when its unbearably hot outside, it’s about running through the night with only the dance of fireflies lighting your path, it’s about swatting gnats from slices of watermelon. This world that Bradbury is ten times more vibrant, more saturated with color, it’s a Rockwellian America where people don’t have to lock their doors, where neighbors walk each other home at night, where you can get a pint of ice cream freshly scooped from the pharmacy.

Time flies faster and sinks slower in this world. Days are lazily dragged on, you notice the sweet aroma of freshly cut grass, delight in what it means to be alive, to pick wild strawberries and fill pails with fox grapes. It’s about building relationships with your brother, getting into wrestling matches, playing Statues and Hide and Seek with friends. It’s about death. About appreciating how real and how alive you feel because you know that this, this summer, this life, is impermanent. That we are all easily taken. But death, though a scary idea to Douglas and Tom at first, it is just all part of growing up. It’s that transition from being a child and rejoicing in life, and becoming an adult, and rejoicing life even more because you understand how temporary it is. Like a beautiful summer spent bottling up dandelion wine for a cold winter night, but not having regrets or a sense of loss when the last bottle is empty. Because there will be another summer of harvest again, and though it might not be your harvest, you can teach your children and grandchildren of the harvest of ’28 and how to make dandelion wine as well.

The Essence of Summer. Bottling up dandelion wine, capturing June, July, August in liquid form. Each bottle signifying different moments in life, why was The Lonely One’s murders not darker, why was John Huff’s leaving not less vibrantly yellow? Life does not discriminate, each bottle is just a memory of the time that has passed. The good and bad cannot be distinguished. It should not be distinguished.

Rituals and Revelations. Doug and Tom record all the normal, everyday rituals of summer. The new tennis shoes, making dandelion wine, beating the living room rug, mowing grass, picking wild strawberries. But they also decide to record revelations, because they know, they feel it in their bones, that this summer is different. They feel it in their bones. This is the summer where they are no longer just going about the daily rituals of summer like a child just enjoying the free time away from school to play outside, they recognize the lessons to be learned. They teach each other the importance of far-telling, of memory, of people who pass away and die. It makes me wonder if I’m just obsessed with my rituals, of going to school, doing design work, working two jobs, rather than appreciating the fact that in this time, I am fully alive. Maybe I should be writing down my revelations.

The Happiness Machine. Leo Auffman sought to build this machine that would guarantee happiness, joy. It was a rolling picture machine that showed the romance of paris, of visiting these romantic lands of egypt and europe, it smelled of perfume and made gentle noises that whizzed and whined with the sounds comforting to the soul. But it brought no happiness because it was so forced, it was this man-made contraption that tried to calculate what people would find happy, what is stereotypically important--traveling, self revelations that is associated with traveling--not what is really happy. Happiness can be as ordinary as a going home to your family, watching the people that you love and care about the most make the most out of their day, it’s fresh bread in the oven, real butter on the table, your wife with flour in her hair and a smile on her face, your children setting the table, the crackling fireplace and the scent of vanilla and cinnamon, the warm lit of faces of the people that matter the most. It’s realizing that happiness does not have to be this glorified, overstated idea that shove down your throats, it nothing but simplicity. The ordinary, the everyday is happiness. It’s being content, not content like you are settling, but being fulling, incandescently content with who you are and what you have made for yourself. And that, is the greatest happiness of all. It is the machine that makes your life work, because it is simply just happiness.