April 26, 2015

Literature and Mars: Fernando Rosales, Designer and Typographer

It was by way of his interest in the cosmos, particularly his logo for the Mars Initiative (logo), that I discovered the work of Fernando Rosales, who works in editorial, publication, branding, and interactive design. Here, he shares his thoughts on connecting with literature and the outer space.

On being a graphic designer and typographer:

How did you arrive at doing the kind of design work you do? 
Was there an initial encounter of design that played 
a memorable role in your career path?
I remember first seeing the work of modernists Jan Tschichold and Josef Müller-Brockmann. You can’t go wrong with those guys. Their work was like some ineffable revelation where things like layout, grids, and typography suddenly started to make sense. I’m the kind of person that is drawn to the more formal design approach of the modernists.

Which came first: the interest in typography
or the interest in design?
I grew up in Miami surrounded by the Art Deco buildings and neon-signs of Ocean Drive. The city’s unique design sensibility, with its eccentric colors and typography, certainly made an impression on me, even if I wasn’t conscious of it at the time.

My landing in design was kind of a natural evolution from an initial interest in art that further developed into an interest in digital art, which allowed for me to integrate fonts. This segued into graphic design pretty neatly.

What is your process of realizing a creative project, 
from notion to completion?
First of all, I usually like to have a good understanding of what the subject matter is. This could mean a talk with the client, asking for a brief, or personally guided research.

Typically, I’ll be writing notes and sketching things in a notebook or on loose sheets of paper as I’m doing research. For the Mars Initiative, I began with research notes, sketches, and then some light mood boards of color, typography, and references from sci-fi movies and anime (below). If it were a print project, then it would involve paper stocks, textures, as well as Pantone swatches—so so so many Pantone swatches.

Then I begin exploring the designs on the computer. Whether using Illustrator, where vector graphics are concerned, or Photoshop for digital work, this part of the process can take a long time. I try to print things out regularly to see the designs off-screen and mark up with a pen, then go back to the computer and make adjustments, rinse, and repeat. The process can involve the client as you share design rounds and get feedback in return. For example, I shared Mars Initiative logo options until a direction was chosen.

Usually an idea starts off more complex, and I slowly take away and simplify it, making for a clearer overall final design. Ideally, this means reaching a point where you achieve a balance between being aesthetically pleasing and functional. For instance, I actually wanted to make real patches for the Mars Initiative and I had to simplify the design further and further until it worked for the embroidery process (above). The physical requirements of the final product ended up informing and shaping the design.

Considering the increased awareness of space travel, 
I admire your logo for the Mars Initiative. How did you get 
to design it?
I’m a big space nerd. Particularly fond of Mars too. I’ve read lots of scientific papers and science fiction centered around it. I follow planetary scientists and the Mars Curiosity Rover. So I was all over something like the Mars Initiative.

I have a romanticized notion of space and what the visual language for it should be (informed by popular culture, movies, etc). Unfortunately, this expectation is usually met with disappointment. I’ve noticed that many space and science-related startups or non-for-profits have poor design acumen, which is a shame as these subjects need to be engaging and inspiring in order to reach both kids and adults. So I contacted the Mars Initiative team and offered to lend a hand. Still more to be done.

Your interests also piqued my curiosity. Let’s start with 
literary history: who and what from the history of literature 
influences you and why?
As far as literary history, transcendentalism really is one of the most memorable. Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets and writers—period. She didn’t shy way from existential questions that at the time were pretty unconventional. Outside of America, I’d say the literary traditions of folklore in Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, and Wales are some of my guilty pleasures. The stories are creative, witty, and full of wisdom. They surprise you even now.

History, in general, though is fascinating. Much of our current world was defined by choices made hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Typography for instance is tied to the history of language. For example: What are those weird “f”s that are used as “S”s in writings prior to 1800s? Well, they’re called long “S”s and went out of favor in the 19th century for being confused with standard lowercase “f”s. But it’s fascinating to know this bit of history as the long S was in use for hundreds of years.

Regarding your interest in the cosmos, who,
and what influences you and why?
Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” and particularly his famous passage entitled “The Pale blue Dot” were my first introductions. Professor Brian Cox with his series Wonders of the Universe and of course the one and only Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” reboot are doing a wonderful job of continuing in Sagan’s footsteps.

As mentioned above, Science and Space are lacking in design. I’ll never forget how the CERN lab in Geneva, when presenting the world-changing discovery of the Higgs Boson in particle physics, did so using comic Sans and atrocious PowerPoint slides. Scientific discoveries deserve better than that.

How did you arrive at your interests in literary history 
and space travel? How do you keep them relevant in your work 
as a graphic designer and typographer? How do you 
sustain being a “History, Science, and Folklore aficionado”?
Simply put, I love books. Particularly science-fiction or history. This may or may not be directly relevant to design.

However, to quote Michael Beirut in “79 Short Essays on Design”: “Not everything is design. But design is about everything. So do yourself a favor: be ready for anything.”

Hypothetically, if I work on a History Channel piece that takes place in the 1700s, I’ll know to use the historically correct long “S” as I described above. That just makes things fun.

How do you attract work and clients?
As of now, I have work coming in from different avenues. I’m a part of Working Not Working, a freelance network through which you can update your availability so you are not receiving email inquiries when you’re already working, and vice versa, so you can get work when you’re free. It makes freelance much less of a guessing game for both agencies and designers alike. So I’m very lucky to be a part of that.

I also seek out other projects that interest me personally through my studio, or the type foundry Templar Type that I just started with three other partners. For Templar, we are now doing custom type work for magazines such as ESPN, Entertainment Weekly (below), and GQ, as well as working on a few personal fonts.

I would recommend having multiple outlets for work to come in through. Keeps things interesting, as you’re not stuck doing the same thing over and over, that would drive me crazy. I like to switch things up periodically. So if I’m doing a website for two months when it’s over, I might like to work on a font, or do some letterpress work, and leave the laptop screen entirely for a change.

What is your definition of growth, as it relates to your career?
As a creative person that’s now starting a few businesses, and has been freelancing a lot, my growth has been to become more responsible and knowledgable when concerning the business side of things. How to negotiate contracts, when to turn down jobs, and then, of course, the actual practice of running a business. It’s a side of design that unfortunately gets left out of design education generally.

“Growth” can be a very personal thing as well. It requires a sense of progression. So if you’re making progress getting better at something, even if it’s slow, it’s still progress. Pat yourself on the back. Dust that dirt off your shoulder, etc. Think long-term goals for growth. I’m working on sharpening my type-design skills currently—that’s going to take years to get to a place where I’m comfortable, but I’ll get there eventually.

On creativity, design, working:

Both your Twitter address and Blog 
are named “Alternate Matter”, what does this mean?
Ha-ha, interestingly Alternate Matter has become a sort of personal brand apart from my own name.

Started out as a blog name, but now it’s become my go-to name for all social media and even my Xbox live gamer tag. (I like to be consistent if nothing else.)

The term is derivative of scientific discoveries such as anti-matter and more recently Dark Matter, some as-of-yet-undiscovered principal of astrophysics. In a different way, it can be taken to mean matter, as in the subject matter of the work I do, or matter in a design sense as printed matter. It’s open to interpretation, which is why it suits my interests.

How do you handle disagreements while you’re working?
I think there are disagreements between you and the clients, and also those between your own team. I see them as a natural process. Questioning things should be welcome at every stage. Everyone has opinions, some are just more valid than others. Hence, moments where you have to flex your designer-logic muscles and convince the client that their obsession with dolls, apart form being mildly discomforting, has no place in the branding of their product. Disagreements between coworkers is another thing entirely—myself, I try to leave egos in check somewhere far away and dark at all times.

What part of your work is particularly trying, 
and how do you deal with it?
Burning out and Time management. I’m literally the worst with time management, late-night binges of work is a staple. At times, I’ve become nocturnal. I’m certainly not alone in this. I think freelance allows for freedom which sounds fantastic, but can backfire to the point where you never stop working. If I can give any advice, it’s to provide some separation of life and work. Having an office or desk away from home to work is great, so you can work 9-to-5, or marathon for a few months, and then take a month off for vacation. Whatever works for you.

What tools do you use and recommend to work on ideas 
and make them grow, to collaborate, and get things done?
I think Slack is a pretty good resource for a small team to use, as it facilitates communication and collaboration very well. Dropbox is a must, of course, though Google Drive works just as well. Prototype.io is good for mocking up prototypes of apps or sites fairly easily for the intermediary proof of concept design stages. Personally, I prefer to use a Wacom Tablet these days over a mouse, as it’s more versatile, also more comfortable.

What is your definition of bad design?
The standard answer is bad design fails to solve a problem. Too vague though. I’ll elaborate with design that’s trendy just to be trendy. See Trend List. There should be a turing test or beschdel test for trendy-ass design. If you check positive on a certain number of Trend-List trends then you better rethink your design.

Dieter Rams said good design is long-lasting. Trends are the complete opposite. That being said, the definition of a trend is subjective, and there are some trends that are functional—these can be forgiven.

If you were approached with: 
“Fernando, I want to do what you do.” 
What’s your response?
It’s common to be asked how one can become a graphic designer. It will take countless amounts of grueling godless human-hours of practice, and then staring at typefaces, until you can name the font in use on the packaging of an edible thong.

In all seriousness though, I’m an optimist about design as a career choice. You won’t get any doom and gloom from me. If you want to pursue design, I say go for it. The amount of work in New York City alone for artists and designers is staggering. If print is dead, than we’ve hit the second coming.

How does the city of Brooklyn, New York,
contribute to your work? And what makes it special
for startups/business/creativity-at-large?
The Brooklyn community is very supportive of design and illustration. We don’t exist in a vacuum here as you might feel is the case elsewhere. (Albeit, this may also apply to Manhattan.). But it facilitates a positive culture for freelance creatives with plenty of co-working spaces such as Bat Haus, Makeshift Society, and Brooklyn Desks. There’s an appreciation for print design here that is so invigorating, whether it be magazines, books, comics, or posters.

There are all kinds of printmaking studios for some forays off-screen. I recommend The Arm Letterpress, if you’re interested in printing some wood and metal type, and Drink ‘n’ Draw for figure drawing sessions to polish up on your Illustration game. All this adds up to a community that makes it easy to meet like-minded folks.

• • •

All images courtesy of Fernando Rosales.

• • •

Read more from Design Feast Series of Interviews
with people who love making things.

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April 15, 2015

The Beauty of Wood Type: Jim Moran at the 39th CreativeMornings in Chicago

Imagine life back in 1880, the year the J.E. Hamilton Wood Type Company was established. “Science Magazine” was first published. The first electric streetlight was installed in Wabash, Indiana. The Cologne Cathedral was completed. The first cash register was patented in Dayton, Ohio. This time period is the context for the evolution of wood type, the passionate focus of Jim Moran’s CreativeMornings/Chicago presentation—celebrating the fact of precedents.

In its first 20 years, the Wisconsin-based J.E. Hamilton Holly Wood Type Company grew to be the largest producer of wood type in the U.S. Its growth was due to the surging popularity of print, particularly by newspaper companies. During the early 1900s, the company changed its name to Hamilton Wood Type Manufacturing. It continued to manufacture wood type until the end of the 20th century.

Today, that history is preserved at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin—the only museum of its kind dedicated to the history, education, and creation of wood type. Moran is driven to preserve this piece of history—a noble effort, because human beings forget technological progress. At the 5th “D: All Things Digital Conference” in 2007, Steve Jobs, in reference to the beginnings of the personal computer revolution, recalled what is judged as increasingly miniscule when it comes to computer memory: “We ship computers now with a gigabyte, two gigabytes of memory. And nobody remembers: 128k [kilobytes].” Moran wants people to know about the invention of wood type and appreciate its importance in the history of tools.

An audience member asked about why there is a cultural fascination with type and printing. “Physicality” was noted by Moran, in addition to “handling” wood type and its tools. The sensation of movable type (invented circa 1040) is physical. The movement. The handling. Moran said, “There’s that beauty of type that never goes away.” This tactile sensation is also shared by Ches Perry, a traditional sign painter, who spoke at the 32nd CreativeMornings/Chicago gathering. Like Perry, Moran handles physical tools to make things. Compared to Perry’s paints and brushes, Moran uses wood type and printing presses. A desire for the human touch in human creativity, which marked the large turnout to see Moran, was also apparent in the large turnout to see Perry, particularly when he demonstrated painting letters by hand.

Majority of the CreativeMornings/Chicago meet-ups are concerned with the present than the past, with speakers such as Jason Fried on software, Scott Thomas on web-based icons, and Sara Frisk on branding. In the attitude and practice of previous speakers, such as Perry, who persist traditional sign painting, and Jay Ryan who persists screenprinting, Moran reminds us how the past is relevant. His talk stressed the importance of a period of history, upon which today’s communication toolkit is built upon—and would not have evolved without.

The Hamilton Wood Type Museum has a collection of more than 1.5 million pieces of wood type in a 45,000 square foot space. This constitutes a critical development in the long line of precedence toward our current way of communicating. It inspires reception of visitors from all over to not only attend, but also participate in its activities dedicated to the narrative of wood type: its physicality, its handling—its beauty—and printing with it.

Moran’s emphasis that Hamilton Wood Type is a “working museum” (above), with its open invitation for everyone to experience the physical craft of wood type, bolsters the importance of remembering someone, a group, an invention, an identity, that contributed to an aspect of life that is easily taken for granted. Glad that Moran is enthusiastic about wood type, and the methods that go with using it. I’m motivated by his keeping the memory of something alive and making it accessible for everyone who’s interested to handle wood type, compose with it—then go to print.

• • •

Soundtrack while writing:
“Words Of Love” by Patti Smith
“Nightswimming” by R.E.M.
“The Geography of Nowhere” by William Tyler
“Tessellate” by Alt-J
“Ride My Arrow” by Bill Callahan
“Cirrus” by Bonobo
“None Of This Will Matter” by The Autumn Defense
“Don’t Let it Bring You Down” by Neil Young
“Life of Sin” by Sturgill Simpson
“Lonely Daze” by Kate Tempest
“Everlasting Arms” by Vampire Weekend
“Zero” by The Smashing Pumpkins
“Number 9” by Moon Hooch
“I Don’t Want To Change You” by Damien Rice

• • •

Big thanks: to BraintreeThe Department of Design at Leo Burnett (Host), Vitamin TRazorfishChia Pods, for being Partners of Chicago CreativeMornings #39; to organizer Kim Knoll and operations manager Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers for greatly helping to make CreativeMornings happen monthly in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

• • •

My coverage: view more photos of 39th CreativeMornings in Chicago; read more write-ups about Chicago CreativeMornings.

Jim Moran also spoke at the 6th Cusp Conference (above) in Chicago. Read my write-up and view photos. Furthermore, the Hamilton Wood Type Museum was the focus of documentary film “Typeface.” Read my interview with its director and producer Justine Nagan.

• • •

2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.

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April 12, 2015

Tweeted March 2015: Food for thought

Tweet icon designed by Adame Dahmani from The Noun Project collection

“Today, being able to continuously learn and share new knowledge
is as important as showing up on time was in the industrial economy.”
—Harold Jarche
Tweeted by @marciamarcia on March 31

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt
Tweeted by @ItsArcoh on March 29

“It’s time to build for fun.”
—Kevin Wang
Tweeted by @kphw on March 28

“Every sentence is an innovation.”
—John Cheever
Tweeted by @parisreview on March 28

“Writing teaches writing.”
—John McPhee
Tweeted by @parisreview on March 27

“Every now and then I get the impression
that people would rather react before they think.”
—Neil deGrasse Tyson
Tweeted by @neiltyson on March 26

“Be makers of things, not just consumers,
because our future depends on it.”
—Dave Perth
Tweeted by @creativemorning on March 26

“Bitterness: anger that forgot where it came from.”
—Alain de Botton
Tweeted by @alaindebotton on March 26

“If I were ever abducted by aliens, the first thing I’d ask
is whether they came from a planet where people also deny science.”
—Neil deGrasse Tyson
Tweeted by @neiltyson on March 24

“Invest your life in what you love.”
—Jessica Jackley
Tweeted by @creativemorning on March 24

“You can’t write notes in class and listen to the instructor
at the same time. I know you think you can. But you can’t.”
—Jeff Cohen
Tweeted by @jeffcohen on March 22

“Behind every great woman is like four or five even greater women
who she’s lucky to have around her.”
—Lara Hogan
Tweeted by @lara_hogan on March 22

“A niche is the intersection of an industry and a skill.”
—Robert W. Bly
Tweeted by @marciamarcia on March 22

“I believe you have to be willing to be misunderstood
if you’re going to innovate.”
—Jeff Bezos
Tweeted by @ValaAfshar on March 21

“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience
is a form of exploration.”
—Ansel Adams
Tweeted by @TheSchoolOfLife on March 21

“The more shame, the more clicks.
The more clicks, the more advertising.”
—Monica Lewinsky
Tweeted by @jenny8lee on March 19

“We accept that with innovation comes mistakes.”
—Tegan Martin-Drysdale
Tweeted by @creativemorning on March 19

“Imagine your healthy future self and start living that life now.
Break your journey down into little battles you can win.”
Tweeted by @TEDTalks on March 18

“The human body is made of 72% water and the rest is pure will.”
—Marie Louise Kold
Tweeted by @creativemorning on March 18

“Women make immeasurable contributions to our world.”
—President Obama
Tweeted by @BarackObama on March 8

“Writing is self-taught, completely.”
—James Salter
Tweeted by @portmagazine on March 7

“Have the bravery to find those people, put yourself out there,
and try to create work for them.”
—Christiaan Van Vuuren
Tweeted by @creativemorning on March 6

“There are three basic principles behind any well-designed product:
truth, humanity, and simplicity.”
—Sohrab Vossoughi
Tweeted by @swissmiss on March 2

• • •

See: Patronage series of duly discovered

Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made collection, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

April 10, 2015

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Recycled Tee Pillows by Brittany Campbell

What are you working on—on the side?

I have had an Etsy shop, Britty Jane, for a few years now, but have only used it as a place to sell screen prints, graduation announcements, and wedding invitations. I recently moved, and while trying to downsize my belongings, I came across all these awesome t-shirts that I no longer wore, but couldn’t bring myself to give away. I decided to repurpose these shirts into pillows. Friends and family members loved them so much that I started making pillows out of their favorite old shirts. I then decided to start selling them on my Etsy shop. I repurpose shirts from friends, family, and thrift stores.

In addition to my recycled t-shirt pillows, I am also in the process of creating a kid focused tour-guide-book series called Tiny Travels. I have finished a Chicago book, and I am currently working on books for San Francisco, New York City, London, and Paris. I have plans to run a Kickstarter later this year to help print my first round of books.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

It’s a matter of prioritizing. First and foremost, my day job currently is most important. It’s what pays the bills. I work on these projects whenever I am able to find time. I usually spend my weekends and evenings researching, getting inspired, or actually producing my products. As I have gotten older, I found that spending time, energy, and money on side projects, not only makes me more productive in my day job, but also allows me to reach my creative goals.

Why have a side project?

I am super lucky to have a job that allows me to do what I want to do. That being said, I am an in-house designer, so a majority of the work I do has to fit within certain brand standards. Having side projects allows me to grow creatively and create work that doesn’t have to fall into the same brand styles that I have to use during my day job. Having side projects is also just a very therapeutic thing for me, especially when it’s a project that people enjoy and appreciate.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Brittany Campbell.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.

This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.

Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

April 7, 2015

Patronage Package 15 of Duly Discovered


“Human-Centered Hiring in a World of Automation”
by Abby Neilson

“The Benefits of No-Tech Note Taking”
by Carol E. Holstead

“How to Kick-Start Your Content Marketing Strategy”
by Sarah Whitman

“Stop Wasting Your Employees’ Time”
by Jennifer J. Deal


“The Steve Jobs You Didn’t Know: Kind, Patient, and Human” 
by Rick Tetlezi and Brent Schlender

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School: A Charming Catalog of Excuses and An Allegory for How Human Imagination Works”
by Maria Popova

“25 Unconventional Business Books that You Won’t See
on Most Bookshelves (But Should)”

by Gregory Ciotti

In Memoriam

“Rev. Willie T. Barrow, Activist and Civil Rights Icon, dies at 90”
by Lolly Bowean

“Michael Graves, 80, Dies;
Postmodernist Designed Towers and Teakettles”

by Robin Pogrebin


“I’m Ready” by Geographer

“Room” by Lizza Anne

“Lake Charlevoix” by Dana Falconberry

“Feels Like a Wheel” by Death Grips


“Dollrs To Donuts” by Steve Portigal


“NASA to Study A Twin in Space and His Brother on Earth”
by Nell Greenfieldboyce

“Modern Love in China: Shaking Your Smartphone
to Find Your Soul Mate”

by Frank Langfitt

“‘Looks Like Laury’ Shines The Power of Friendship
on A Failing Mind”

by Deborah Franklin

“25 Years After Art Heist, Empty Frames Still Hang
in Boston’s Gardner Museum” 

by Renee Montagne

“SXSW Debuts Robot Petting Zoo for A Personal Peek into The Future”
by Laura Sydell

“With Sunny, Modern Homes, Joseph Eichler
Built The Suburbs in Style”

by Susan Stamberg

“A Man’s Incomplete Brain Reveals Cerebellum’s Role
in Thought and Emotion”

by Jon Hamilton

“From Afghanistan’s Rubble, A Teacher Builds A School of Ideas”
by Philip Reeves

“6 Ways to Make Learning Visible”
by Angela Stockman

“In L.A., Now You Can Use City Land for A Free Vegetable Garden”
by Adele Peters

“Seven Decades On, Anne Frank’s Words Still Comfort”
by Scott Simon

“The Family Peach Farm that Became a Symbol
of The Food Revolution”

by Dan Charles

“Behold! The Cosmos Created from The Contents of A Kitchen”
by Poncie Rutsch

“Silicon Prairie: Tech Startups Find
a Welcoming Home in the Midwest” 

by David Schaper

“The one quality all successful leaders need”
by Amy Errett

“Why China’s Pollution Could Be Behind Our Cold, Snowy Winters”
by Michaeleen Doucleff

“The Unique Challenges of Being
a Middle-Aged Woman Entrepreneur”

by Vivian Giang

“Minecraft Creator Gives Autistic Child A Voice”
by Keith Stuart

“Grace Hopper, ‘The Queen of Code,’ Would Have Hated that Title”
by Arun Rath

“NASA Probe Reaches Orbit Around Dwarf Planet”
by Geoff Brumfiel

“10 Years Later, A Pair of Strangers Revisit A Leap Not Taken”
by Story Corps

“‘Grand Bargain’ in Workers’ Comp Unravels,
Harming Injured Workers Further”

by Howard Berkes

“Liberia’s President: Ebola Re-Energized Her Downtrodden Country”
by David Greene


“Wired video abuses ultra-protective iPhone cases,
two withstand slams, one even survives falling safe”

by Jeremy Horwitz

The Business Model Canvas
by Strategyzer

• • •

See my series of tweeted food for thought.

Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made collection, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

March 17, 2015

Navigating Climate: Katherine Darnstadt at 38th CreativeMornings in Chicago

Although Katherine Darnstadt, an architect who founded Latent Design in pursuit of projects in community development, titled her talk “Let’s not talk about the weather,” she did address “Climate,” CreativeMornings’ global theme for February 2015. Weather and climate are different. The former deals only with short-term effects. The latter is about patterns over long periods of time. Darnstadt and her team invest their work into initiatives that are integral to improving the economic, cultural, and social climates of an area for the long-term.

Climate of fear

In a recent addition to my Designer’s Quest(ionnaire) series with civic designer Megan Deal, she shared this common challenge:
“Some of my biggest challenges are generally rooted in fear. Fear of failing, fear of ridicule, fear of getting it wrong.”
Darnstadt acknowledged that fear is part of her process, both when it pertains to a project and her role as a business founder. Eleanor Roosevelt advised, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” To seek and complete essential projects. To start and run a business. These are everyday-scary endeavors. Doing the work one desires to do is iterating a severity of fearlessness to manage effectively. Roosevelt’s recommendation taken to the max.

The CreativeMornings community, from hosts and volunteers to speakers and audiences, all know fear in their own way. Everyone is vying for their preferred horizon of potential, their preferred work environment, their preferred state of the world. Fear provokes these ambitions—Darnstadt’s is fueled, even facilitated, by it.

Climate of help

Darnstadt’s talk echoed the anthem of Neal Sales-Griffin at the 34th CreativeMornings/Chicago:
“My happiness is not derived from money—it’s from helping people.”
As part of her emphasis on“Design Priorities,” Darnstadt pointed to critical—interconnected—areas of civilization, such as education, policy, health, and transit. Any of these has the stature of a vital organ. Each qualifies as a “wicked problem.” Darnstadt’s charge is to help dethrone the perception of massive challenges as formidable at any level. In the vein of Chicago-based Greater Good Studio, who spoke at the 21st CreativeMornings/Chicago, she is already accepting of the fact that, as Greater Good Studio put it:
“Unmet needs are easy to find in the social sector.”
Her firm Latent Design is not a clearinghouse to broadly address all social issues. She and her team curate according to their taste and threshold of what coheres advantageously with their agenda and capabilities. This cohesion between business and work helps Darnstadt steer her firm toward high-fidelity(1) execution, because these socially engaged efforts—a scrappy blending of architecture, urban planning, civic strategy, public relations, and disciplines in between—demand an allegiance to a worldview, which, through Latent Design’s lens, is the proliferation of “meaningful places.”

A refreshing aspect of Darnstadt and her team is that addressing the grand scale and scope of “wicked problems” with sweeping solutions is not mandatory. There are numerous teams of people persisting on grand problem-solving in a grand manner, but Darnstadt offers a nimble approach by delivering projects within communities where critical improvement is needed. This scenario is inherent with a diversity of problems to be solved. The kinds of projects that this scenario affords may be finite in their application but are grand in their impact on improving people’s quality of life, whether found in a neighborhood building or a city block. This is dictated by the small composition of her team. Yet our world is nestled with worlds, close (like a backyard) and distant (like a island nation), desperate for enhancement. Darnstadt posed self-examination to creative people of whatever practice:
“Who are we really designing for?”
A paralyzing question. It is also a polarizing cue to think and act critically. The world of a food desert demands it. The world of a natural-disaster prone location demands it. The world of a mixed-use housing project demands it. The world of new construction demands it. The world of an impoverished town demands it. The world of a crime-ridden neighborhood demands it. Need—locally, regionally, internationally—is a universe. Darnstadt’s practice of scaleable empowerment helps advance the popular stance of anthropologist Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Personal bubble popped once again.

Climate of change

Darnstadt’s presentation was thick with talk of “change.” A contemporary escalation of this concept is “transformation.” I’ve been historically weary of the tidings of change, pushed by the zealous locomotion of consulting and politicking displayed everywhere. My ears hardened a bit to Darnstadt’s repeated mention of “catalyst.”

But the community-related narratives that Latent Design fiercely participate in and help shape are part of a larger, daresay meta, narrative: evolution. The Darwinian view of change spans billions of years(2). Darnstadt’s work, such as facilitating a “one day build blitz” for Metropolitan Family Services to help convert “the worn-out school into a learning center” and the YMCA Meta Media lab, spans weeks, in the present tense. Latent Design’s attention and agility toward delivering a reality of change, whatever the scale and scope, coincides with a global ripple of positive efforts, no matter the scale and scope, to help make the world a better place—a meaningful one. Darnstadt stressed to not underestimate the power and influence of “collective memory,” paired with collective survival, where change is inevitable and when change remains an open invitation.

As a prelude to his talk at the 23rd CreativeMornings/Chicago, held during Chicago Ideas Week, Max Temkin, inventor of the game “Cards Against Humanity,” showed a clip of Steve Jobs’ insightful expression of change:
“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
Darnstadt and Latent Design move on to embrace the next initiative and wrestle with it, proudly in fear, failure, and impeccable freedom.

During my chat with Darnstadt afterwards, I shared that her talk had a vibrating effect of me, particularly due to what she addressed holistically in relation to architecture, education, and infrastructure. In her novel, “The Ice Queen,” Alice Hoffman wrote:
“…If the tiniest of actions reverberated throughout the universe in invisible and unexpected ways, changing the weather and the climate, than anything was possible.”
This fragment is part of a passage about a “thesis” about “magic.” Magic may be the contemporary synonym for “innovation.”

(1) Almost used “high impact” but experiencing fatigue with this phrase. Then there’s “creatives”—don’t get me started.

(2) Reminded of Chris Eichenseer’s talk about insignificance at 20th CreativeMornings/Chicago.

• • •

Soundtrack while writing:
“I Can’t See Clear” by Espers
“Lately” by Evenings
“Train Under Water” by Bright Eyes
“Nothing’s Changed” by Tricky
“Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick” by Ken Mode
“Pathways” by Milezo
“Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes
“LGBT” by Lowell
“The Waves” by Villagers
“Turbo Dizel (Turbo Diesel)” by Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra
“Some People Will Tell You” by Sarah Jaffe
“Golden Twin” by Wild Ones
“Heaven Mountains” by Move
“Tessellate” by alt-J
“So Begins Our Alabee” by Of Montreal
“La Voz Tan Tierna” by Acid Pauli

• • •

Big thanks: to Braintree (Host), Vitamin TRazorfish, L&L Graphic Solutions, Green Sheep Water, for being Partners of Chicago CreativeMornings #38; to organizer Kim Knoll and operations manager Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers for greatly helping to make CreativeMornings happen monthly in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

• • •

My coverage: view more photos of 38th CreativeMornings in Chicago; read more write-ups about Chicago CreativeMornings.

• • •

2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.

Please consider supporting Design Feast
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March 4, 2015

Patronage Package 14 of Duly Discovered



Lit Hub



Apple World Today

Food Travelist


“Pete Peanut and the Trouble with Birthdays”
by Sean Hewens and Mimi O. Chun

“It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War”
by Lynsey Addario

“Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story”
by Michael Rosen

“Last Stop on Market Street”
by Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson

“Women in Tech”
by Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack

“Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized: The Complete Interviews”
by Gary Hustwit

“Get What You Want: The Ultimate Guide
to Figure Out + Getting What You Want in Life”

by Courtney Sanders

“Go Set a Watchman”
by Harper Lee


My Darlin’


“Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers
and the Emergence of a People”

by Thomas Allen Harris

“Voyage of Time”
by Terrence Malick


The Hand & Eye


“Diamonds” by Laura Mvula

“Who Loves the Sun” by Zee Avi

“Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue” by Duke Ellington

“Love Songs You Love to Love” by Robin Hilton and Bob Boilen

“Be Still My Heart” by Postal Service

“Everlasting Light” by The Black Keys

“Hypericum” by Gem Club

“The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana

“Morning” by Beck

“Default” by Atoms for Peace

“Afraid of Nothing” by Sharon Van Etten

“Clear the Air” by Jacco Gardner

“Star” by Luluc

“Boléro Sonambulo” by Manuel Galbán and Ry Cooder

“Glow and Behold” by Yuck

“Marvel” by Thumpers


2015 World Press Photo of the Year by Mads Nissen


“Sales & Marketing Nation” by Christian Costa


Greeting card “You auto-complete me” by Paperwheel


“In Beta Release, Apple Introduces New, Racially Diverse Emojis”
by Eyder Peralta

“Good Clothing Company Provides Independent Designers
with Low Minimum Production”

by Nicole Giordano

“The Books that Made Me Who I Am”
by Roxane Gay

“What’s It Like to Live without Electricity? Ask an Indian Villager”
by Julie McCarthy

“Spectacular video of solar flares will mesmerize you”
by Amanda Schupak

“Europe Experiments with Co-Housing”
by Lauren Frayer and Ari Shapiro

“Can a Computer Change the Essence of Who You Are?”
by Lulu Miller and Alex Spiegel

“Miniseries Explores the Ugly Fallout of a Disciplinary ‘Slap’”
by Elizabeth Blair

“Hundreds Remember N. C. Students Murdered
in Possible Hate Crime”

by Reema Khrais

“The Lincoln Memorial could have been a pyramid…”
by Phil Edwards

“The Ebola Diaries: Trying to Heal Patients You Can’t Touch”
by Nurith Aizenman

“The Tiny Desk Concert Contest Winner Is…”
by Bob Boilen

“Why you should be sharing more of your work”
by Belle Beth Cooper

“Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer”
by Rob Stein

“10 Traits that Trump ‘Likable’”
by Gina DeLapa

Bob Dylan
by Robert Love

“[Field Trip] Susan Connor NY”
by Alexandra Sklar

“Anchors Aweigh”
by Maureen Dowd

“Gotcha: Satellites Help Strip Seafood Pirates of Their Booty”
by Christopher Joyce

“How I Learned to Stop Comparing Myself to Others”
by Meredith Fineman

“FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler:
This is How We Will Ensure Net Neutrality”

by Tom Wheeler

“How an algorithm is taught to be prejudiced”
by Ben Johnson

“How do you solve a problem like censoring YouTube?”
by Aparna Alluri

“Post-bankruptcy Detroit’s a bargain for corporations”
by Adam Allington

“Once a Vaccine Skeptic, this Mom Changed Her Mind”
by Jon Hamilton

“Redesigning Neonatal Healthcare”
by Simone Solondz

by Alma Hoffmann

“22 Movies Every Designer Should Watch on Netflix”
by Mark Wilson

“Balancing Ambition and Happiness”
by Lisa Gerber

“When will Chicago get its next super-tall skyscraper?”
by Chris Bentley

by Kandy Christensen

“A mile wide, an inch deep”
by Ev Williams

“Beloved Japanese Author Answers Questions…”
by Maggie Penman

“Fight Parkinson’s: Exercise May Be the Best Therapy”
by Richard Knox

“Former Basketball Player Scores as a Filmmaker”
by Priska Neely


“Make the SHIFT” by Marcia Conner


“Be the Change” by Jenna Bresnahan

• • •

See my series of tweeted food for thought.

Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made collection, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.