Thursday, July 3, 2014

The internet is a beautiful place.



Swiss Miss is an amazingly cool person, and she's the businesswoman who I look at and always say "I want to do that. I want to be like her." This is the talk she gave at 99U, and it made me ask myself what my superpower is — Obsessiveness? Perfectionism? Staying up 'till all hours?
If you want to learn more about Tina Roth Eisenberg, you should check out the interview I did with her last year.
I also get pretty dorkily passionate about personal finance (because it matters SO MUCH for creative people, and so many people refuse to acknowledge that*) and The Billfold enables much of this obsession. This week, they've been killing it, especially with posts about people who I admire and how they do money. Ira Glass! Alan Lastufka! I really hope that they get an interview with, I dunno, J.K.Rowling or maybe Oprah.

*This is a topic for another post, but in short, if you're constantly worried about how you're going to make rent, it's hard to make your best work. It's important to talk openly about money and about how people make a living in creative fields. Austin Kleon's money tag on tumblr is also great.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How the Recession Reshaped the Economy: An Explosion of Information Design

Who among us doesn't love a good chart? I find them irresistible. Does that make me a dork? Probably. Does that make me a smarter, better-rounded person overall? Hopefully. My latest source for intense charts is The Upshot, a blog from the New York Times.
I also happen to be fascinated by the economy, and this series of charts combines both of those.
The green lines represent the industries that have recovered, and the red lines represent the industries that haven't. Industries on the left are lower-paying, industries on the right are higher-paying.
 You can click on any of the little lines to get a more detailed view of that industry.
 And then they dissect labor trends, like the growth of low-wage service jobs, and the growth of high-wage STEM jobs.

And show which sectors of the economy are expanding and contracting.


And point out that "Made in America" will one day refer to more digital products than physical.

You can see it for yourself here.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Susan Szenasy, Design Advocate

There are two topics that I've been hearing about frequently, and I'm fascinated by the different ways we're handling them. The first is design as empathy, and the second is information overload. Susan Szenasy discussed both of these in her talk at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, on Friday, May 9.
I love the idea of design as communication. Not communication design, that's a separate category, but design as the means of sending a message. Designing for someone, and focusing on that connection. The thing you're designing isn't going to connect with everyone, but it will connect with some people in a deep way, and that's what matters. Szenasy mentioned a class that she taught, in which only a few people spoke up, but had really quality input on the topic. “In connecting with those few people, you create a dialogue that everyone benefits from.”
I think those ideas have a huge effect on the built world. It's this widened empathy and appreciation that occurs, with users thinking “somebody thought of me as a creature who likes beautiful things. Thank you.” I think that widened empathy and thoughtfulness is powerful — it has the power to change and improve the world we live in.
The second topic, information overload, feels particularly relevant to my life. Right now, I have fourteen tabs open in Chrome, one with a podcast playing, Scrivener open with a short story that I'm working on revising, and a text document open with my notes from Szenasy's talk. I switch constantly between twitter and tumblr and fifteen million other things I'm working on. As Szenasy asked, “when do we slow down and pay attention?”
However, Szenasy isn't against social media. She likes the way it allows people to share the things they're interested in, the things they're looking at right now. “I love all social media that puts an idea out and allows you to click further.” She said “All the media is fabulous, the way we use it has to be smarter," an idea with which I fully agree.
Sometimes, “we have to say “I stop here and pick up a book.”"
I think that's going to be a question that people ask more and more, as we keep moving faster and becomes more integrated in our lives. I'm interested to see how people will handle that differently — will it become popular to have a phone-free weekend retreat? Will we occasionally take a few weeks off social media? How many people will fully embrace the constantly-connected lifestyle?
On that note, I'm off to read a book in the park.
Here's a post from the Metropolis POV blog about Szenasy's book, and if you're interested in purchasing it, you can do so here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Poketo!

I'm not sure how I found out about them, but I've been aware of Poketo for a couple years now. I had the chance to go in December, and it was nothing short of a spiritual experience*. The store is perfect, it feels like it has all of the material things that a person needs for the perfect life. It's like walking into a magazine, but a magazine curated by your most stylish, artistic friend. Everything felt like it was so perfectly considered and executed, and I wanted to stay forever.
Cute mugs and baskets.
Designer-ly socks.
I wanted to touch most of the things on this table.
The notebook-hoarder in me had to be restrained from this display.
We bought this chocolate. It was delicious, and the packaging is adorable.
I wish I had started Poketo.
*Please note that I'm not a person who takes the concept of a spiritual experience** lightly, I reserve it for places like Muji, Poketo, LACMA, MoMA, and films like A Single Man. I'll write a blog post about A Single Man someday, and it'll be amazing.
**I know that someone will call me out for being too consumeristic, but please realize that this is 90% in jest.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Materials and Form

I saw this project today, and I was fascinated by it. It's called Not Granola, by Aaron Rappaport.

It's a Panton Chair. But it's made out of grass and clay. Does that fundamentally change the nature of the chair? I know that there are physical differences between clay and plastic, and the way they feel and move and function, but how else does it change the chair as an object? The Panton Chair was designed in the 1960's, and it looks and feels like something from that era - something that abandoned traditional notions of how a chair should be, and it looks very fresh and exciting because of that.
With mud, straw, sand, and clay, that's all different. It no longer comes off as refreshingly modern, but it feels like this strange, natural approach to modern design.