Archives for category: art or design related

Going through university, even a design university we often write papers. I in particular because of my self-directed curriculum wrote a lot of papers for the various non design courses that I took.

I loved it, writing that is.

But I never saw myself as a writer. It’s absurd to be greedy with passions, isnt it?

I even dared to write a fiction story once, it was no good I’m sure, but I certainly enjoyed it. And even now, I write consistently. My thoughts are always in words, my notes are always written, my sketchbooks betray my calling.

Writing is important to designers as well. Everytime I imagine a persona, I turn to fiction, I write the story, the full story, with all the tiny little bits that make my characters live. But then that gets taken away, it becomes a storyboard, or even, storytelling, to an audience, that has little patience, that wants only the important parts.

So yes, I write, but is that writing?What is real writing?

I’ve been told recently, and before that as well, that I am a good writer, and that I should do more of it. But I’m a designer. Isn’t it greedy to want more? Wouldn’t I be diverting my own energy?

But if I did try, how would I? What does one need to do to become a writer? Is simply writing just enough?

What makes a writer a writer?

Am I allowed an alter-ego, one that writes, perhaps secretly?

In a very provocative final lecture by Cameron Tonkinwise in his course Rethinking Sustainable Design, Cameron summarized the course and then led us into a new discussion on sustainability as presented by Allan Stoekl in his book “Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion and Postsustainability” .

In many ways this was also Camerons answer to the question he posed earlier of “How do we want to live?” because if Sustainability is a question, and not a simple one then we know that every question has many potential answers. Likewise, one of the biggest problems with sustainability are the various ways in which it plays out to be a survivalist rhetoric. Sustainability is presented as an end point, a type of Cosmopolitan Utopia, where humans are pleasantly different together. But the biggest flaw with this line of thought is that it strips from humans all of their messiness, emotion, desire and eroticism. It is not the answer to Cosmopolitanism as a challenge that Kwame Appiah sought, because in this dialogue it was not a choice. It is a reactionary move on humans in response to the environment. Its a homeostasis that takes from us our ability to innovate and create and make decisions and to live with emotion and reduces us simply to animals that co-inhabit and survive.

In this Cosmopolitan sustainable future, it is a boring “Utopia”. I put Utopia in quotations because it is a false Utopia, a Utopia stripped of movement and motion.

If the question is “How do we want to live?” then the follow up question is do we want to live in stasis, do we want to end up in a perpetuated pattern of living in accordance with the environment, playing out the same story again and again?

Or do we want to imagine something different, we know that currently the imagination that has culminated in the neo-liberal capitalist state has left us “de-futured” in Clive Dilnots words; So how can we proceed?

Can we have our future imagine a future? What is sustainability in motion?

I apologize, this post is longer than most. But its good, I promise 🙂

So, today I sat through a marvelous lecture on Life Cycle Assessments by my Professor Cameron Tonkinwise at Parsons.(Its a long lecture but worth it, Cameron is one of the most entertaining speakers anywhere. I mean, he made LCA an inherently boring thing, extremely interesting) Here he was explaining some of the theory behind LCA’s and how they are not the answer to sustainability that we were all looking for. LCA’s are highly politically charged and biased and there are a lot of constraints behind what they actually say.

This is not at all to say that they shouldn’t be done, because they should, but as with everything, one has to take it with a grain of salt.

The biggest take away was that LCA’s teach you to never think of products as simply a product, but that one has to think of products as ecologies. Both living and existing in time and an ecology that has a relationship to many other products and materials.

But more importantly, Product Ecologies don’t even go as far as we need them to go. What we really need to start thinking about are Practice Ecologies and running LCA’s on lifestyle associated with two different products (practice) rather than simply the two other products.

And it also becomes important to think about the notion that, when one buys a particular product, he needs to fit that product into his life. This often means adopting practices around the objects that we have. One needs to learn to read on a laptop to make use of its reading capabilities, and I for instance have massively adopted new behaviours and practices in order to teach myself online reading.

So then here is the question. Today I had my mother buy me a graduation gift (she has no idea that she bought it for me, yet!!) it was a laptop bag that allows me to attach it to the handlebars of my bike.

For the longest time I have told myself that the main reason why I do not bike to school ( a 1 hour bike ride) is because I have no convenient way of carrying my laptop, safely.

I do not like to bike with a backpack because I sweat as it is, with a bag not letting air escape, I would be drenched. Clearly this won’t do.

I have been pondering this problem for a while, not actively attempting to resolve it. When all of a sudden today, bam!! here is a bag that is meant to solve that problem, just for me. And its not as awful as a panier (those things are just not cool looking).

I went on an all day search and finally with the assistance of a friend I found it. It was $208. Aside from my cheap bike $350 and technology, I have never paid that much for any “thing.” But I really wanted to change my lifestyle, I wanted to leave myself with no more excuses.

Now I am facing a dilemma, I will need to radically change my lifestyle, as it is no longer a product that is holding me back. I am moving now into a realm of practice. I have a certain way of working now, a certain amount of things I carry: laptop, sketchbook, markers, cellphone, books, food. Ideally this bag fits into my existing lifestyle, if not I am worried that I will have to now change my lifestyle to fit this bag. And even worse, hopefully it fits my bike in the first place, otherwise this will all be meaningless.

I will probably end up buying a new bike to fit my bag (I really don’t like my bike, I’ve been meaning to save up and replace it for a while, now I may have no choice)

So this brings me to the question. What is easier when attempting to enter into a new practice. Is it easier to change yourself or is it easier to change the objects in your lifestyle? All I want to do is bike, did I choose the best option, were there other unexplored directions?

Recently, I have had a bit of an obsession with process, it seems to me so much more important, more powerful, erotic even than the result of the process, the product.

Another way to say it is that the act of creating resonates so much more with me than the creation.

As a public performer, I may be biased because it is always about the act of creation, not the final product, creating is ephemeral, it is empathic.

In thinking even of failure, it seems the only way to truly value failure, is to understand the value of the process. Failure is critically valuable if the process was something we could learn from. And failure in and of itself is not so bad if the process was enlightening.

Theres something about process that allows it to be shared, shared in a way that really allows for creation.

Elaine Scarry talks about the third site of beauty being creation, in that, when we encounter beautiful things, we ourselves want to make beautiful things.

In this respect, I think process is even more empowering, because when we encounter a beautiful process, we are not only incited to create, we are also given the tools how.

In her talk at Parsons on Designing Big Society, Lucy Kimbell talked about how she and her husband built their home while living in it. It seemed to me that she was living the design process, inhabiting an unfinished space, making decisions on the fly, constructing from the inside, and working on a team with the neighbors and construction workers and handymen to make this happen.

I was most intrigued with the thought, that the neighbors, city officials and construction workers were exposed to a living, breathing design process, a way of living and of thinking, and I wonder, how much they empathized with it. How much of it bled over into their lives, their manner of thinking, their ways of making and doing.

Process just seems much more beautiful than its outcomes. Because it can be shared, because it can be adopted, reused and even recycled.

Earlier today I read a blog post by Frank Chimero called Designer’s Poison. In it he talked about what he felt some of the most crucial challenges for design, as we move forward. One particularly resonated with me. It was about a shift from teaching and valuing design as a noun and moving towards design as a verb.
And it seems the biggest debates in design and business right now center around this very notion.

We need to learn to love and embody process, not necessarily its outcomes.

How do we do it? Should we do it?

Earlier this year around January, there was a Design Conference at Parsons with Koln International School of Design called the Critical Gift in Design.

One of the talks revolved around the notion of challenges that lie in communication and the group that I was in talked about the “Like” button.

One of my favorite Design writers/theorists  Clive Dilnot responded witha  very interesting thought. His words roughly were like so:

Communicating is a word of the past – its no longer communicate – it’s now understand – Comprehension. we can only like or not like

Are we now only capable of understanding, of liking or not liking, of being in 2 dimensions, or does like and not like go beyond 2 dimensions. Is understanding more valuable than communicating. Is communication reciprocal?

Because learning and education are things that I think about a lot.

Because I am now 1 month away from being graduated.

Because of many other reasons as well, I have started to think about this question.

Being in a university, is a very safe experience. It is a lot like being spoon-fed, you have a traditional learning environment and teachers, and courses and majors and disciplines, and if you manage to get a very good advisor it is entirely possible to go through college without ever making any serious decisions about what you are learning.

This is not at all to say that decisions aren’t being made at all, but many times, we don’t questions certain things about our education. A graphic designer doesn’t ask why he has to take color theory, its already been decided. But a graphic designer also doesn’t ask why they aren’t taking calculus classes.

So essentially where I am headed is this idea that we get a spoon-fed education but in the end we don’t come out like gingerbread men out of a cookie cutter, we all have different skills and different competencies, even if we took the same classes.

Thats because we teach ourselves, somehow, somewhere. Some of us read, some of us write, some of us surf the web, etc. Theres more in depth discussion on how we learn here and here @ whataretheseideas. The second link discusses the differences between active learning and passive learning.

Now that I will no longer be a student, I will have to become way more active in my education, I won’t have the luxury of being spoon-fed anymore.

And so I have been thinking recently, that there are so many new innovative things happening related to education. MIT Open CourseWare, Khan Academy, Ted, Skillshare, Brooklyn Free School, etc.

The resources exist to teach yourself, how do we do it?

How does one remain an active learner after college?

Are there systems in place that can help one navigate new tools?

How do you learn?

As everyone is well aware, print media is facing a readership crisis, one-upped by the internet and the powers of aggregation that be, and then again by gadgets like the iPhone and iPad. Tangibility arguments aside (see the joys of holding a a physical book in your hands), physical artifacts are often useful because they are complete in and of themselves and have a much longer life0span than digital media (books have been preserved for thousands of years intact, but how long does your twitter feed last before posts end up being deleted?), how can we radically rethink print media and integrate it into much more efficient methods of aggregation?

Reading an article about the web wunderkids of the Washington Post, I realised that technology has already stepped out of a purely digital realm, and it is super useful. From translation apps to bar codes on your product, or QR codes on the street? How about this?:

Well, can we rethink the way we integrate technology into the real world? What if newspapers and magazines were really just maps, “hotlinks” or “information maps”, where you see a title and a short description, followed by a QR code which you scan to see the actual article? You keep the tangible artifact of the paper and the crispness and detail of printed pictures and archivability/manipulatability of print with the up-to-date connections of technology and cutting the cost/waste of paper. In a sense, you have made booklinks and hyperlinks physical artifacts. Combine that with dedicated servers to store information…

What are the other intersections of technology and the real world? This sort of ‘augmented reality’, what potential can it offer us?     RK

There have been many many depressing articles about post college life for students. I don’t think i need to share them, im positive everyone has read them.

They’re bleak

There doesn’t seem to be many choices. In fact GEN Y, I think, is already slated to be the most educated generation ever, because there isn’t much choice but to go back to school.

So this begs the question “what is the alternative?”

Sometime next year, The New School in partnerships with are working on a “workshop”, “event”, something that is meant to invite graduating design students to participate and imagine a lifestyle where they can achieve this.

This looks like it will be really cool, partially because it begins to address a lot of my concerns, not about life post college, but about having students do something, disrupt (my favorite word recently).

So in preparation for this, i am attempting to begin to imagine a resource tool kit for what the graduating (graduated) students could arrange in ways to begin to design a new way of life for them. I am not positive how to approach this but my idea is to first understand what are my basic needs in NYC on a daily basis and what resources exist for me to begin to meet those needs?

I can imagine that i need

– Food

– Transport

– Free time to be creative (in whatever practice I studied)

– Housing

-Communication (phone, internet, snailmail)

These are seeming really obvious, as they would in beginning to formulate a research question.

I want to begin to collect services, objects, apps, anything that begins to support a student in those categories.

Clearly i also need to make those categories more refined. Good design researchers would tell me to chronicle everything that i do, or go out and follow graduated students to base what their needs are. (im just finishing university now so an abundance of free time doesn’t exist)?

1. Does anyone have any research that might assist in this? Perhaps an artist followed people for a day? Something of that sort?

2. What do we need to go through our days?

3. Can you recount to me everything you did yesterday?

Something that I have been thinking about a lot recently is that question above.

In my own experience, I am never as creative as when i’m hurt. I start to write poems, and write letters, and draw things. I blast music really loud and start dancing, making up rhythm and motion, creating a dance.

I wonder where this urge comes from, to make, to create?

Maybe it has a lot to do with going back to being human. – all that Heideggerian stuff — Man is as Man Dwells thus Man is as Man Makes.

And that when we feel hurt, we do the only thing we can which is create, bring things to life, love. We do that which is the most human thing we can do, we try to feel like we are a part of something, a part of humanity, a part of culture?

Maybe its like the argument Elaine Scarry makes on beauty and that it unselfs you and makes you want to protect?

We try to make beautiful things to step outside of ourselves, to then see that beauty.

Or her argument in “Body in Pain” where creation is the act of taking away someones pain?


Is creation a healing process?

Am I the only one who creates after heartbreak?