Archives for posts with tag: design

For the past few months I have been in a bit of a reverie. A lot of major events culminated in my life in one major intellectual meltdown. These were the end of a long arduous process of living and coping with a sick father and a long arduous process of living and coping with the fact that I was a student.

Well, my father passed away and I graduated.

These happened within a month of one another. It was a major turning point in my life. And one of the major changes was that my brain just turned off. As if there was a switch and it had been flipped. I couldn’t bring myself to follow my twitter feed, to read articles and do research, not even to write a blogpost. I was seemingly all burnt out after 5 years of college and a long process of being an emotional pillar for my family.

So instead of thinking, I pursued forgotten romances. Mainly reading fiction, drawing and painting and sitting on stoops doing nothing but watching people go by.

And then reality hit me and I realized I was nearing the end of my savings. It was time to do something. But I still couldn’t quite turn the brain on. It refused to listen to my plea.

Until recently. It just happened. Boom, we were back online.

It felt amazing. Thinking, feels amazing. But so did the rest of my summer, so did not thinking, so did reading and painting and people watching. Today I started reading a book I bought a few months back called “The Creative Economy: How People Make Money Off Ideas” by John Howkins and it mentioned that creatives go through four different processes. One of these is incubation. Its a process of letting ideas germinate, of relaxing and just giving yourself the opportunity to feel.

I think that that’s where I was these past few months. I was incubating giving myself the chance to understand the intense research and actions of the past few years. I realized just how important incubation is. But I don’t think that incubation is valued and understood, at least not in our current economy. It seems like lost, wasted and unproductive time.

How can we change that perception. Is that actually how we perceive incubation or is it just the way I think it is perceived. And finally, if it’s more than my own biased perceptions, how can we begin to reimagine the systems in place to allow for incubation?

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Now that I am done with school there’s a question that has been running through my mind. This question of professionalism.

According to Richard Sennett we can think of it in the same vein as being a craftsman, and to be a craftsman one needed to put in 10000 hours into your craft. Is that what makes a professional? When you are a craftsman?

Or is it when you beat resistance and make sure that you show up to work everyday? Is it when you do the work? As suggested by Steven Pressfield.

I recently added a signature to all if my emails and asked if that meant I was now a professional? A friend jokingly answered “no, it just makes you slightly more efficient.” Which is true.

My grandfather recently gave me a graduation gift and told me that now that I’m done, I need to go buy a suit, because when he was leaving the army his commander bought him a suit as a gift and said he was now ready for the world. Is a suit what I need, will that make me a professional?

A professional is not an amateur. So what exactly makes one no longer an amateur?

I’m currently reading a book about learning nationalism at the El Paso – Juarez Border and I was struck by the holistic approach that the authors Susan J. Rippberger and Kathleen A. Staudt have in describing education on both sides of the US – Mexico Border.

Of particular amusement to me was the stress in part of the book on the differences of personal space in Mexico and in the US and the ways in which this plays out in the physical structure and layout of the classroom.

Upon showing a video recording of a classroom in Juarez (which by its description, seemed very constructivist in its approach) to students in a Graduate Seminar on Education, a student commented on the difference between the Mexican classroom dynamic and the US dynamic by highlighting the similarity between individual desks and cubicles, essentially equating the stress on individual student desks as preparation for a capitalist mindset in which you are just a cog in the machine, a single employee in his cubicle.

I couldn’t help but repeatedly highlight that passage, it struck me as being one of the most hauntingly accurate critiques of American classroom layouts.

At a time when businesses everywhere are realizing the importance of workplace environment and removing cubicles as they attempt to create more collaborative work spaces, I can’t help but wonder how much of this collaboration is permeating to our schools, to our kids.

Any hope at a collaborative structure in the workplace seems like it should start by creating a collaborative work structure in the classroom.

How do we create collaborative work spaces? Is it enough to just have children sitting in small groups? Should we be sharing materials as well? How much of a role does the physical environment play in teaching and developing collaboration and creativity in our classrooms? Especially when those are the skills our businesses are seeking so passionately now.

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?

My problem with keeping too many tabs open in my browser has become so bad that I am actually developing a fear of links.

Because I worry I will find more interesting information, and it will be another tab, and more things getting delayed, and more information to process, when I already had so many open interesting things to read.

Sometimes I give up and solve the problem by creating bookmarks. But thats not a valid solution because those bookmarks also get unmanageable and inevitably I ignore the bookmarks because they are out of sight and open up more tabs.

Firefox in its beta version, maybe its new version, Havent used it, introduced a way to organize and group tabs by themes. This was good for a while, but it didn’t quite solve the problem.

But all of this brings up a different issue as well. Many times I keep tabs open because they are relevant to a project I am working on, or a post I am writing or something. And to close it, means that I won’t find it again. The information is not crucial enough to take up important space in my bookmark bar, so it never makes it there.

There needs to be a way to navigate and recall the information that i go through on the web.

I initially thought that I would be using twitter to keep an archive of information I found relevant, but I have increasingly discovered that it is not a valid tool for that, it has no built in search feature, no way of organizing data to other relevant data, no topics architecture, etc.

What I feel I need is the digital equivalent of a library or a bookshelf. A way to organize and archive my links and tabs, by topics, by author, by blog. With a dewey decimal system, or a dating system, and built in search. Its like my bookshelf but digital, so that I can come back to it, and glance over it.

Kindles are great and all, but the bookshelf in my apartment lets me glance at it and find many books relevant to what I am working on, and I can pull them all out. Kind of like opening a bunch of tabs.

Clearly, this would also need a section that organizes things that are most recent, that I didn’t get a chance to read yet, or perhaps that I haven’t organized yet. All of those open tabs are like a bunch of books on my coffee table that haven’t been put on their proper spot in the bookshelf.

I’m sure theres something that exists for this, somewhere, right? #milliondollaridea!!!

So the final question really is 2 questions.

1. How do we navigate through transient data (tabs that aren’t destined for bookmarking)?

2. How do we remember on the web?

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?

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 Shareable.net 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?

Worldmaking?

Is creation a healing process?

Am I the only one who creates after heartbreak?

 

There will be a series of posts on this topic moving on as I am currently reading The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque.

So far, its mouthwateringly exciting. And I have only read the introduction by Gary Hamel.

But there is already room for discussion. Hamel gives us some new facets that the businesses of old capitalism will have to re-think.

One of these, is the idea that businesses will have to start thinking about customers as more than just the people who purchase their products but as all the people who are influenced by them and their products.

This is certainly revolutionary, or maybe its not so revolutionary in that we are slowly realizing that you cannot ignore the people around you, thats just bad for business.

So what does that mean? Who are the customers now?

What are they buying if not only the products?

How do we understand the currency that is influence?

what does that mean for corporate fairplay?

And what does this mean from a service perspective?

I am sure that many of these questions will be addressed as I progress into the book, and many more will come to mind.

But lets start with these no?