Language is new again. Short arrangements of words come to mind. They are similar to phrases that sound familiar. But they have something that is slightly off kilter that causes one to pause. Not content to have them live alone, I combine them with an image that might relate to the words. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. These are not secrets, but instigators. Provocative, they enable the mind to wander.
‘Taking a dish that is well known and transforming all its ingredients, or part of them; then modifying the dish’s texture, form and/or its temperature. Deconstructed, such a dish will preserve its essence… but its appearance will be radically different from the original’s.’ —Ferran Adrià – El Bulli 1994-1997
I’ve wanted to wake up, sit down with coffee and make something wild. Then do it again and the next morning again. Working fast and free.
What fired this up, after yet another late night of tech immersion, was a visit to Javier Mariscal’s site. I’d been away too long. Estudio Mariscal is a designer’s vacation. Bursts of energy and freedom, the appearance of no rules, though there are many, and a loud laughing clapping joy of creation that I have come to miss, whilst sitting on the yachts of tech, wet salt in my face as we crash through deep sea.
I love technology. The brightly lit young players blow me away. The vast majority of the products I will never use, or will be brushed off like dust, and so what? It’s the click of persistent code-checking, the strike of flame and a new product mix glows then flares. Fire.
All in all as a graphic designer I look at interfaces which grow spare and cold. Readability without personality. We are so engineered. Visual design at a shrink. Shy. Clean: The dreaded default word used by initiates. On occasion I want to throw some graffiti at perfect typography. I want to remember we are a collective of monkeys enjoying bananas. It’s not that serious. Humans who laugh and cry, deliberate, celebrate, fornicate, kick ourselves and slap backs and hug one another and eat lunch quickly, getting honey mustard on our fingers. Sites can do that.
Instead we have the new dentist’s polished surgery . Competent, white-tiled and dull. Do not touch. I wouldn’t want to eat in a restaurant like that. And I bet the kitchen in back is a wee bit messier.
Back to Mariscal. The studio produces messy. Humor. Fun. A whole family is involved. Full of sunshine and patios, good food, weirdness and kid-style drawing, big banging colors that bleed over lines and creep where it shouldn’t.
Except it all works and he runs a fabulously successful studio out of Barcelona, making work for the whole world.
When you get Mariscal, you get life. It’s chaotic. Not much in Silicon Valley or Alley, is let out of the house before much of the cat litter is swept and the floor mopped. Iterative or not.
The most brilliant toys and tools on earth, changing lives and doing it so that it looks like lab work not spade work. It’s the latter. It will come to be enjoyed as such.
So here is belief in the steaming minds and laptops charging ahead with the greatest period of innovation in memory. Puff it out three times daily. Dollars and digits on fire. And let’s start some disrespect for pixel perfect manners. Let’s have a code / art fight. Bring garden tools and bar room stools. Look at Mariscal. Can you see what we are missing?
“First surprise, then fascinate. Finally, convince.” This is our strategy.— Javier Mariscal
This is my work. If you would like to work with me, please get in touch.
Phone: 347 202 7817
“‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.” — Charles Dickens
The task is not to breed generalists. It is to enable the specialist to make himself and his specialty effective. — Peter Drucker
I have been making patterns for several years. They have grown in size, and have become simpler, quieter.
The text alone was the pattern below before I made it noisier. I was thinking here of something that would cover an entire store window, a story-as-graphic. One could look through it.
Surprise + Clarity = Delight
Design can have a myriad of purposes: to inform, persuade, sell, or delight. To delight means to present something with a different point of view, while retaining clarity. It makes others see the world in new and different ways. We are taught a set of skills important for our growth and survival: communication, arithmetic, wellness, and many others. But no one teaches us how to perceive the world. Perhaps this is a job for delight: to delight someone is to give a small lesson in how to see the world as something good. ~ Frank Chimero
It is also, for me, the love of the grind of making design every day, late into the night. I place less emphasis on passion.
TED on the Run: How a Conference Copes With Success — and Brickbats — Steven Levy for Wired
Portrait of Steven Levy, Writer
What’s still lacking is the interface. We have more information than we have skills to turn it into useful knowledge. It’s a human problem, not for lack of the technology. We are still using computers that require a ton of babysitting and human guidance to get much done with them. We need more background, policy-driven computing. The real goal of the vision is a deep extension of our senses—more knowledge and more control of our world. We want to know more about people, more about the places we’re in and where we are going, and more about the things we have and might acquire. — Mark Rolston Chief Creative Officer, frogdesign
I have in mind patterns I have created for years, forming a tissue framework that works in reverse: rather than information design content as a starting point, the idea is to begin with an abstract framework and see how the surface of it, the architectural tissue might better guide an effective interface. Nascent stages … rather than a non-contextual example here, I chose a photograph of a profoundly human moment that has nothing to do with computing.
Advice for designers from one of the greats — Hartmut Esslinger, founder of frog design.
and a superb example of their work. A proposal for the next generation New York City payphones — The Beacon — click below. This is a gorgeous solution to the question: What do we do with payphones in New York?
Why are so many experts so wrong, yet people keep listening to them? Who really is worth listening to about the future? Philip Tetlock, the author of Expert Political Judgement builds on Isaiah Berlin’s characterization of judgment modes into Hedgehogs (who know one big thing) and Foxes (who know many things). Hedgehogs don’t notice and don’t care when they’re wrong; that’s why they’re so compelling. Foxes learn.
Hedgehogs believe in Big Ideas – in governing principles about the world that behave as though they were physical laws and undergird virtually every interaction in society. Foxes, on the other hand, are scrappy creatures who believe in a plethora of little ideas and in taking a multitude of approaches toward a problem. Hedgehogs are more easily seduced by clear narratives. Foxes are more data-driven, less willing to stake out strong positions.
Hedgehogs: “relate everything to a single central vision …in terms of which all that they say has significance.” They over simplify, don’t use diverse data sources.
Foxes: “pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory….entertain ideas that are centrifugal rather than centripetal;…..without seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from, any one all-embracing inner vision.”
One should be able to consider two sides of the argument, think in terms of probabilities rather than certainties, and be able to hold conflicting thoughts.
Foxes believe in a plethora of little ideas and in taking multitude of approaches toward a problem. They tend to be more tolerant of nuance, uncertainty, complexity, and dissenting opinion. Most innovations and new ideas are found in tiny places where others fail to look. Ignoring the hedgehogs and generally accepted thinking will afford opportunities to see familiar problems in new ways. ~ Nate Silver
Portraits of Power is a series about notable, noteworthy or plainly cool people in sports, business, the arts, the sciences. These portraits focus on essential shapes that create character in the human face. Most are private commissions. These are created in Illustrator, optimal for use on mobile devices and suitable enormous enlargement. There are myriad applications for drawing this way. Other subject matter to be posted soon.
Steven Levy, Author and Columnist, Wired.com
Gianluigi Buffon Captain and Goalkeeper Italy’s soccer team
I’m ten days out of my second cataract surgery. My eye scratches, wells with tears suddenly, and I don’t look into it yet, close-up, in the mirror as I shall.
My right eye. My left was done eight months ago. “Oh, don’t worry, “ said the non-medical world I encountered. ‘My sister was at the movies the same afternoon. My uncle went out for lunch straight from the hospital.” Not me
Eight months before we were satisfied the left eye had settled, and it was time to work on the right. I’ve had a life of eyes. But I’m not here to tell that story I want to talk about photography and design, taking photographs daily,
‘Art is not about communication. Art is not a way of conveying information. It’s a way of understanding information. That is, creating a work of art is a means we have of making sense of the world, focusing to make it clearer, not a way of communicating some understanding of the world that we already hold.’ — James Kochalka
I HAD THE OCCASION TO SEE SOME WEB DESIGN WORK clients of mine had commissioned by another designer. The clients appeared quite proud of the work delivered. Until I pointed out that web design templates had been used, that these templates were widely available on the web for free, and that there were thousands from which to choose, using a simple two-word Google search.
This revelation caused some dismay and distress. The clients were certain the work done was original, created from the ground up. I felt quite badly for them paying for custom work in good faith, but they were clearly getting ripped off and I felt a responsibility to provide some insight into what I saw. Why did I not just let it go? Because such improper practice by designers damages the design profession. Templates require simple modifications. Some added content, changes to text style and colors. It’s working with a kit of parts. Custom work, by contrast, takes time, some depth of humanistic thought, as well as technical expertise. A high bar.
Custom design works hard to be compelling, to solve problems — templates do not care. Original custom design can be reconfigured to offer new solutions — templates have no such ambition. Templates have no intention. Custom design marries itself to brand positioning—templates choke the branding program before it draws first breath. It’s like branding behind bars. This is problematic on several fronts. It undermines professional standards designers like myself must maintain, and as importantly, I don’t like seeing people getting ripped off by professionals in any field, whether by lawyers, mechanics, dentists, or designers. We put our trust in a mechanic, that the replaced part has not already done fifty thousand miles in two cars. The free template website is one of those parts. You might be able to drive it for a while, but pretty soon something breaks down. Will your designer be able to make seamless additions building parts indistinguishable from the template? If so, why not build from the beginning? Because one can skip over the hard part and miraculously present something born fully formed. That’s your clue as a client: The first iterations are too polished. There is no evidence of early stylistic struggle, the blind alleys, the rough starts. The best designers have all of these.
Template sites will show their weakness when new content must be added, or a change is needed in function. A part is needed and it is missing from the kit. Our designer is now stuck. He actually has to make a part that fits. He makes an element out of spit and glue and what usually happens is it just doesn’t match perfectly with the template. Should the client find the fix unacceptable, the cost or logistics of replacement could be prohibitive. When you employ a designer, I urge you to ask whether the work you will receive will be original work, if that is what has been promised. Original work means someone is not, at this very moment, looking at a version of it on a screen somewhere. Ask whether it can scale, be flexible enough to serve the changes companies inevitably encounter? Modified templates do not mean the work is now an original design. Templates mean your “custom” work is actually all over the web. If you are OK with that, ask yourself why.
WE NOW KNOW ENOUGH to know that we will never know everything. This is why we need art:
it teaches us how to live with mystery. Only the artist can explore the ineffable without offering us an answer, for sometimes there is no answer. John Keats called this romantic impulse ‘negative capability.’ He said that certain poets, like Shakespeare, had ‘the ability to remain in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’ Keats realized that just because something can’t be solved, or reduced into the laws of physics, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. When we venture beyond the edge of our knowledge, all we have is art.
But before we can get a fourth culture, our two existing cultures must modify their habits. First of all, the humanities must sincerely engage with the sciences. Henry James defined the writer as someone on whom nothing is lost; artists must heed his call and not ignore science’s inspiring descriptions of reality. Every humanist should read Nature.
At the same time, the sciences must recognize that their truths are not the only truths. No knowledge has a monopoly on knowledge. That simple idea will be the starting premise of any fourth culture. As Karl Popper, an eminent defender of science, wrote, ‘It is imperative that we give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it is beyond our reach. There is no authority beyond the reach of criticism.” — Jonah Lehrer via Maria Popova
“DO STUFF. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.” ― Susan Sontag
STARE. IT’S THE WAY TO EDUCATE YOUR EYES. Pry, Listen, Eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long. —Walker Evans
Coat Rack, Hat & Cap Rack, Mail Rack, Umbrella Rack, Dog Lead Rack. Painted Aluminum.