If anyone ever asks you what industrial design is – and they will – just show them this.
It’s sort of the epitome of our process, isn’t it? From drawing to prototyping to testing to building the final car or toaster or spoon or whatever. We build things. If we find something we can’t build, we invent a technology that can.
Shame about the livery though, the matte black air test model was gorgeous.
How have your summers been? Good to hear. I’ve missed you all.
In the meantime, I’ve built a desk which I hope to post photos / build notes of eventually. Today I’m in search of a minimal / modernist lounge chair. I’m not really sure yet, but something comfy for reading and movie watching.
I don’t wear a pedometer, but I’m willing to bet I’m walking / longboarding 50+ km per weekend. It’s pretty glorious. I rarely take the camera, though, which takes some getting used to. There are lots of things that I’ve passed and thought “Man, that’d be an awesome photo” but then I remind myself how much better it is that I simply enjoyed it instead of trying to capture it. I’m learning to be selfish like that. Enjoy the world for my own sake.
“You should enjoy it.” and I didn’t. Instead, I worried about it. … … I wished I’d enjoyed it more.
It’s a common thing, it seems. This is where, I think, I see the need for more enjoyment of transience instead of end goals for end goals’ sake. The journey can be the rewarding part instead of just the grind in between zero and one.
Pretending you know what you’re doing is pretty much the same as knowing what you are doing, so even if you aren’t sure, just go for it anyway.
– The Holstee Manifesto, if I’m not mistaken. Actually, and I just quoted that from my head, so I’m probably both a terrible source of information and a lazy liar.
I’m a big fan of Errant Signal because it’s such a transcendent platform – game reviews are there, yes, but even those are so much more than about just the game itself. Then, there are works like the above, which tackle the bigger topics without the immediate proxy that the specific game would provide.
It’s a cool topic, gamification, and one that I always meant to write about myself. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I have any further commentary to provide – he nails it dead on. I could put the industrial design spin on it and talk about the psychology of using a physical product instead of a virtual one, but when it boils down the metaphors stand: using something for the sake of itself is different than using it for some arbitrary reward. I might add, actually, that the physical product market does add another logically pointless reward: this concept of coolness.
While you could argue for and against the coolness of using Foursquare, the virtual gamification doesn’t immediately care about what others think. You’re getting rewarded for the things you do. Sometimes it’s a public thing – you want others to see your achievements or point score or whatever, but it’s not nearly as open as, say, driving a nice car or wearing that expensive watch. The reward mechanism for physical product usage is available much more directly to strangers on the street. As such, choices are made to maximize that, often in spite of more practical and reasonable concerns. This would be a prime example for using a system (or product) more for the reward than for the inherent joy of the product itself. This would the real-life equivalent of grinding for GP.
Coolness – if I may go off now on a complete tangent – is a bizarre thing. It’s only acceptable if it’s seemingly effortless. People who try too hard to be cool are even less cool than where they started because true coolness would be apathetic to being cool. The truly cool people are those who just are, while the people who want to be seen as cool cannot be. It’s actually one of the few status related actions in humanity that I really appreciate. It’s hilarious and ironic and much like golf rewards those who are able to relax and let it be. If you try too hard to be good at golf you will tend to do miserably. Then there’s the downward spiral: if you slice a ball terribly the mulligan has to be better, so you try harder, and it gets worse. Repeat. The more you fail trying to be cool the more you want to be cool and the harder you try, the more you’ll fail.
In summation, golf and coolness are Chinese finger traps, and both Chris Hecker and Chris Franklin are awesome.
I had the idea years ago and promptly forgot about it entirely, but here, once more, a chance to get it out there:
It’s an app for your phone (could also be made as a physical product, but honestly, why?) with a clock and a counter, a reset button and a pause / resume button. You put in how much you make per hour of work and then it constantly and fluidly counts up as you go. Pause for lunch / breaks or whatever and keep a running count.
Silly, sure, but I’d love one.
Take it one step further: add a subtraction amount. When you eat lunch or buy something, you take money out of that count. It’s not a sophisticated book keeping thing by any means, but it’d be cool to be able to chart the constant rise (hopefully) and pitfalls of spending over time.
Maybe it’s just me and my obsessive need to quantify things in real time.
Anyway. App makers: it’d be so easy to do. Do it! Share it with me! If you make billions of dollars off sales from it, take me out somewhere nice for dinner or something.
“One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.”
I’ve been writing to myself a lot on this topic lately. It’s one of frustration and strife in my new freshly graduated world. But also: hope. I’m not afraid at all.
There’s two things that come to mind when I look back upon myself. One.Two. They sum up nicely: knowing that life is finite, how do I choose to spend each hour?
I’m not sure industrial design is my answer. It’s awesome, yes, and I love it with incomparable passion, but I’m also attracted so deeply to the artisan ideals. Wabi-sabi. I want to make things for people. Sometimes there are things that are supposed to reach a lot of people – this is where industrial design is used – but sometimes I just want to make one of something for someone and know that they’re using it and probably will continue to as long as I know them. If they stop, of course, I will never live it down. Just jokes. But seriously. One knife. One chair. Maybe a handful of lamps or guitars. I want to make things for people. That, in whatever form it takes, seems to be the resounding root of my self worth and ‘success’ in life.
As best as I know right now. I mean, the older types would argue I haven’t even begun my life yet.
Donald Glover is a talented man. His ability to change personas at a whim is remarkable, leading to a career that goes from witty writer to rap star to actor. He isn’t even thirty yet.
And I ask myself, how do people gain such widespread fame so fast? How do these candles burn so bright and so hard that it’s impossible to ignore them?
When I was young I believed deeply in meritocracy. To be famous you had to be good at what you did. I say fame here not in the celebrity sense, but in the leader in your field sense. Do most people know who Donald Glover is by name? Maybe quite a few. Do many know who Jony Ive is by name? Probably not many. Still, I consider that fame in that field.
When I found out about Snooki, that worldview sort of shattered.
My theory could be summed up “If you build it, they will come” as if people just had a talent detector and they would somehow magically find you if you were good enough.
Now, it’s a sort of false dichotomy to compare an entertainer – a person who’s job it is, literally, to sell themselves as fun, likeable people – and a professional whose job it is to make things and otherwise stay out of limelights. There’s also a cultural divide when we look at design specifically. The Scandinavian designer philosophy is very different than the American one.
It isn’t my explicit goal to become famous (it’s been pointed out that prestige is often just another way to get you to do something you don’t like for free) but I do wonder how we can, as people who devote our time into our work and not into our personal marketing, try and sync those up into a resonance that burns bright as tribute to both.
In the meantime, since I don’t have an answer yet, keep burning.
“I actually attack the concept of happiness. I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”
I’m rarely upset but I’m entirely fine with the state we call sadness. Friends have often raised an eyebrow at my philosophy but the above quote summarizes it really well: happiness isn’t actually my goal. My goal is contentedness, wholeness. Anyway, I’ve touched on this before. Twice. So I won’t get into it again.
I find myself at two points simultaneously and as much as I don’t want to bring personal life into this column I feel like it’s an important topic for the inspiration of all: beginnings.
The two points are at odds with each other. The first, a cliff soaring over the sea, with salt and spray and rocks at the bottom. I stand at the top, looking down. The second quite opposite: sitting securely in a rollercoaster cart at the base of a hill, ready to be pulled up by the chain lift. These things both are my upcoming graduation. I’m excited, to say the least.
And so I watch the above and I try to absorb the wisdom of those who have gone before me and I try to keep an even mix of those who succeed and those who fail, which often become the same person over time. Ze Frank, as I’m sure we’re all familiar, is a fantastic example of both of these; perhaps one of the first viral sensations.
There’s a subtext in that video that I really like, and it reminds me of Ira Glass’ writings on the similar subject: a call to make mass, mass bodies of work. Whatever you want. Who cares? And this is where obscurity actually works in your favor because you can put crap out there and learn from it and not fail in front of (too) many people (something that I, though minor in my celebrity as I am, fear personally). And I think we as designers get pigeonholed into genres that we feel trapped in. I think Ira and Ze (and, for that matter, Jobs and Rams and Eames etc.) were successful simply because they did whatever they felt like. Typography here, toy design there, maybe some bottles for a craft brewhouse, radio plays, interviews, dancing videos. I mean, the diversity of Ze’s work by itself is bizarre and remarkable. Having never met him, obviously, I can’t really testify, but he seems like the kind of guy who a) often finds something around him that trips his fancy and b) actually does it. I am, at the moment, trapped in the first part. I’m constantly amazed and inspired and in love with the world itself but I get distracted and forget to ship, which is the key part to the whole learning-by-doing/failing – you actually have to do things. I know. Shocker.
So. An invocation for beginnings. “Fuck, let’s do this.” as he says, to be blunt. Throwing caution to the wind (which, let’s be honest, is anything you design actually going to be that dangerous to make?) and just getting things done. Seeing all those inspiring things and actually doing them. Walking Dead isn’t that good anymore anyway, you don’t need to sit around and waste your time on that.
As for me: I don’t even mind the cliff I’m looking over. I think I know deep down inside that I can swim and the fall in between, well, is an Olympic dive really any different from a fool’s flailing? Nah. It’s a good show either way.