November 21, 2014

Typefaces designed to enable communication: Nicole Dotin of Process Type Foundry


Elena—the typeface (above)—captured my attention. It was designed by Nicole Dotin, co-founder and partner of Process Type Foundry in Golden Valley, Minnesota. With her husband, Eric Olson, their studio originated on this intent: to make typefaces they desire to use, hoping others would too. Here, Nicole gives her opinions on making typefaces.

On being a typeface designer:

How did you arrive at what you do as a typeface designer? 
Was there an initial encounter of typography that played a role in your path toward becoming a typeface designer?

It was a case of finding myself more and more interested in design, then typography, then finally typeface design. Sometimes you find your interests through the culmination of small moments rather than a single blast. However, attending the University of Reading’s MA Typeface Design program was an important step for me. It gave me the time to focus on learning to design a typeface, and without that, I would have either never started, or it would have taken a very long time to arrive at the same place.

What were essential activities/steps you took to start and establish yourself as a typeface designer? And why were these activities/steps important?

I can’t say I feel established, and even if I did, I’m not sure I would admit it. Once you feel established, where is there left to go?


Getting semantic here: Do you mind being called a font designer, typographer, or a letterer?

There is a tendency in the design world to use terms related to type design, typography, and lettering, interchangeably. For example, type designers are often called typographers when those are two distinct practices (a type designer makes type, a typographer uses type). However, if professionals are going to communicate with one another, a common language is paramount. It’s not fussy or pretentious to use the correct terms; it’s being a good communicator who acknowledges the differences between related but distinct practices.


What is typeface design’s purpose 
or obligation in our society, the world?

To enable communication and reflect culture.


Who, even what, are your typeface design-related influences?

I appreciate designers—like Gerard Unger, Zuzana Licko, or William Addison Dwiggins—who create well-designed typefaces with a modern outlook. My perception of modern is that they address their era’s cultural and technological environment rather than looking wholly to the past. But further—and I’d add designers like Roger Excoffon or Imre Reiner—they march to the beat of their own drummer.

How important is it for you to follow your instincts?

I don’t separate out the idea of ‘instincts’ as special knowledge separate from my normal body of knowledge. So, they are no more or less important than other ways I make decisions.






How do you arrive at the idea of a typeface you want to realize?

Typefaces can start from just a spark or even a whim and develop from there. I started my typeface Pique (above) by trying to redraw an ‘a’ from a piece of lettering I found. Although Pique looks nothing like that ‘a’, it was the spark.

What is your process of designing a typeface, 
from notion to availability?

I tend to take my time designing a typeface—because I want to give it everything possible—so the journey is usually a long one. And, at the end, it’s hard to remember all the steps I took to arrive at the final product. It all becomes an indistinguishable blur where only the highlights remain.


Similar to a lot of other elements of visual culture, it feels 
like a typeface is birthed every moment. What is your take on the proliferation of fonts?
I have mixed feelings. I’m happy there is so much public interest in typography and type design. Some widespread recognition of our craft is heartening. However, it often feels like a very shallow interest. On a lot of levels, this is fine for the reader or casual user of type; they get to choose their interest level. I don’t think it’s as acceptable for designers dipping their toes in type design or journalists writing about the field. There’s a lot of sloppy work out there that does a disservice to users, readers, and consumers of type. On the positive side, there are a lot of great, well-crafted typefaces to use these days.


What typefaces do you judge as beautiful, even timeless?

This is a strange idea, to single out only beauty to judge a typeface. Typefaces are tools, and a beautiful axe that can’t cut down a tree is worthless.




I’m an admirer of your typeface Elena. Must ask: 
How did you arrive at the name?

Most typefaces have a work-in-progress name. Elena, for example, was called Cardigan after the street (above) I lived on at the time. At one point, my partner Eric experimented with a serif typeface he gave the working name Elena (my middle name). When I designed my own serif typeface, I reclaimed my name and called it Elena.

Whether in a bookstore, physically or online, 
do you judge a book by its cover design?

Somewhat. It gives me some sense of what the publisher and author want me to know about the book before I read it, in design language. But other than that, no.




On your Website, there’s mention of a “rural studio experiment.” Can you elaborate what this is, how and why it was done?

There was a period of time when Eric and I where in-between houses, because we sold ours in preparation for moving to England so I could attend school. The opportunity presented itself to live and work about two hours outside the Twin Cities. Since we can choose to live wherever we want, we’re always curious about what might suit us best. So, we moved to a cabin on a quiet lake (above) where the loons were our closest neighbors. This was just when social media was starting up and we didn’t yet have a constant tether to the outside world. It was springtime, then summer, and it was as idyllic as you could imagine. The experiment ended, however, when we moved to England in the fall.


How would you describe your business’ work culture? 
And why is it important?

The core of our studio is two people, so it’s pretty laid back. However, we take our work fairly seriously and that permeates everything we do. What we decide to work on, we give 100% percent, and if we can’t do that, we simply don’t do it.


What is your workspace like? How does it contribute to doing the quality of work you want to do?

Since my business partner and I are married, we have a detached studio that sits about ten feet from our house. I don’t know that it has a big effect on our work, but it has a huge effect on our life. Our commute is about 30 seconds, and the time we save not driving to work helps us keep our lives balanced.


How do you get the word out about what you 
and Process Type Foundry do?

We use the normal channels and also rely quite heavily on word-of-mouth. More importantly, we try to make typefaces that are worthy of people’s attention.


How do you attract custom work and clients?

We work on custom projects when it seems like a good fit for our talents and the client’s goals. But, at this point, we let the clients seek us out.

What is your definition of growth, as it relates to business?

We worry less about growth, and more about sustainability. We don’t have a natural interest in business and what would come of business growth, but we love what having a business has enabled us to do and be. So, we keep the business healthy but have little interest in the idea of business growth.

On creativity, design, working:

How do you handle disagreements while you’re working?

Very directly. My partner is not only my partner in business, but in life as well. This allows us to cut to the chase on issues pretty quickly. And when all else fails, we usually try to lighten the mood with a joke, usually at the other’s expense.

What part of your work is particularly trying, 
and how do you deal with it?

Dealing with professional designers who use our typefaces but decide not to pay for them. We want to get paid for our work like any other designer.

What tools do you use and recommend to work on ideas 
and make them grow, to collaborate and get things done?

Tools are very personal, but my toolset is pretty basic … a little email, some pen and paper, a shared calendar. Most organization and collaboration software is too complex for our studio’s needs. Plus, most issues can be easily handled by a quick face-to-face conversation.


How do you stay creative? 
What are some of your sources of motivation/inspiration?

When my mind is bored, I tackle a new challenge usually instinctively. That’s the great thing about running a business, everyday brings a new challenge.

What is your definition of bad design?

A thing that has no purpose, no reason for being. A thing that fails to meet the needs of its reader or user. A thing that adds nothing to the conversation.


If you were asked, “Nicole, I want to make a type foundry?” What’s your response?

I might try to talk you out of it.

Any other aspects of your work that would be interesting to creative practitioners and aspiring product/business makers?

Probably.

How does the city of Golden Valley, Minnesota, 
contribute to your work? And what makes it special for startups/business/creativity-at-large?

The Twin Cities has a well-established creative culture, including a thriving design scene. We’ve gotten a lot of support from local designers and agencies that have purchased our typefaces and from institutions, like the Walker Art Center or the now-defunct Design Institute, that helped promote our work in some way. Plus, there are actually other typeface designers living here, a rarity. It’s a great city to be a typeface designer.

• • •

All images courtesy of Nicole Dotin.

• • •

Related: Looking at Letters and Designing Them: Laura Meseguer, Type Designer—my Interview.

• • •

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


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.

November 18, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Sophia Richter’s Hello New York



What are you working on—on the side?

Hello New York is an explorer’s guide to a New York less traveled.

New York fascinates me for many reasons, but largely because it is all at once so many things to so many people. The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan are each home to an infinite number of unique worlds of peoples, cultures, and treasures that not only coexist, but thrive because of each other.

Hello New York is a project to celebrate some of this diversity of people and place that is so core to what New York is today. I hope to bring to life some of the wonderful places that are less talked about, make a 4–6 hour visit there more accessible, and maybe even encourage a bit of out-of-the-comfort-zone exploring.

With guides from Jackson Heights to Gowanus to Snug Harbor, you can expect a day of guided wandering from notable food carts, to beautiful street art, to speakeasy drinks and back. Plus, of course, a healthy dose of NYC-neighborhood history!

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

One of the beautiful things about New York is its seemingly endless sense of opportunity. Even if I had the time to wander every crevice of the city across its 5 enormously diverse boroughs, my starting place would have entirely re-invented itself by the time I got back to it. New York is a city for the restless, the perpetual traveler, the constantly curious.

I’m one of these people—always traveling, always reading the first 2 minutes of a hundred different articles, always moving around somewhere, and likely photographing something in the sky from the middle of a sidewalk (don’t tell Mom). For this reason, my side projects and especially Hello New York, are what I would do on weekends anyway. But now, I have an excuse to document and share my wandering so that, if I’m lucky, a few more people will be able to enjoy more of this wonderful city. As for the writing and editing and all the rest of it, I’m a bit of a night owl and coffee addict, so consequently, also not much of a sleeper.

Why have side projects?

Side projects give us the space to identify and experiment with our passions, both creative and professional. Risk-free, expectation-less, and without deadlines, they allow and encourage us to try new things and fail without the burden of consequence. If I’ve worked on something for a month and still think it’s a good idea, I’ll go for it. If not, I abandon it and take the learnings onto my next project. While I was a management consultant working for large companies, I started Hello New York to explore my passion for cities. Now, almost a year later, I’m a consultant for New York City.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Sophia Richter.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.


This debut series is provided in affiliation with 50,000feet.


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.

November 5, 2014

Crossover of possibility: Neal Sales-Griffin at 34th CreativeMornings in Chicago


One person. Many roles. Neal Sales-Griffin shared his diverse, intersecting fields of interest in his talk at the 34th gathering of the Chicago-CreativeMornings community, whose October theme was “Crossover.” Griffin’s personal experience spans a number of areas: video games, music, investment banking, venture capital, and consulting. In his life, Neal has crossed over into many disciplines, having their distinct language and tools.

One of his significant crossovers was diving into software design and development. Its language: Ruby. Its tools: apps and infrastructure of the Web. Like he had done before with other disciplines, Neal immersed himself. The difference this time was the grand effect of possibility he observed and witnessed. “Digital,” let alone “being digital,” is a term that is bandied about a lot. Such descriptors have an exotic air. They pan the landscape and point up, to an aerial reality of transmissions and waves. The natural metaphor of the cloud has been claimed, poetically and productively, as an ideal to engage. In his talk, Neal dispensed with digital fanfare. His take on the Web, with its languages and tools, was straightforward, without any sneezes about innovation, no big-data cheers. Instead of a buzzwordy algorithm, a timeless driver of allegory was shared, simply and directly: Happiness. He proudly repeated, “My happiness is not derived from money. It’s from helping people.”

It’s easy to tout technology’s wares. But it’s hard to steer technology toward people’s actual long-term understanding and use of it. In finding out how to code and navigate the circumstances surrounding the Web’s languages and tools, particularly its influence on people, Neal turned his learning experience into one for others. This, in turn, became his source of happiness. If there’s one clear variable—crossing over from one chapter of life to another, from one set of certainties (whatever the type) to another, it’s happiness.

The brave set of possibilities that Neal desired to help make for others evolved into The Starter League, where people who want to make Webapps to help solve a problem they care about—learn how to design, code, and ship an idea, from start to Web-based reality. Neal, with his co-founder Mike McGee, found a way by creating a structure and space for people to learn and practice the pliable medium of the Web toward something meaningful to them.

When Neal acknowledged those (below) who currently completed a course of classes at The Starter League, it was a monumental portrait of crossover. Each participant in The Starter League made a change in order to bring about change to a specific slice of living, whether it’s finding great gifts for loved ones to keeping track of what’s happening with close friends.



Joining The Starter League is a commitment to intensive learning-and-doing. Rigorously applying the pursuit of a dream to the grindstone, over a period of months. Crossing over from one quality of life to another takes continuous effort, which Neal made and keeps advancing, as The Starter League has recently expanded to being supplemented with the launch of The Starter School, which provides a program to make a Webapp as the seed for a business.

Neal’s persistent self-discovery and effort toward realizing The Starter League speaks to the longing for happiness, specifically a happiness felt when making something—that article, that book, that drawing, that film, and so on—and putting it out there, for other people to potentially reap a level of benefit from it. Seeing this capacity to feel happy beyond oneself, and contributing to other people’s experience of happiness is truly epic. As designer and “Design Matters” podcast host Debbie Millman believes, “If you want to offer something to the world, then it’s important that you help others do that too.”(1)

Out of anything that assumes the factor of “scalability” pertaining to the language and tools of the Web, Neal demonstrates something that is worth scaling: Help—it scales. Its hearth is the family, cascading into living and working, forward into areas in-between. Throughout, when a level of help is given, a degree of happiness is felt. People can have such motives and act on them.

A critical bond, for survival, is composed of help and happiness. I felt this to be the kernel of Neal’s insistence, concerning his co-founding of The Starter League and The Starter School, that “It’s more than just learning how to code. Not a code movement.” Giving help and happiness, facilitating their cause and effect, are innate objectives. To Neal, help and happiness comprise a natural investment that compounds in satisfaction.

The Web is heralded as an equal-equity medium. It is open to learn and apply to a dream. Neal knows the Web in a way that is accessible to everyone. A bridge-builder, not a gatekeeper. From my interviews with makers, Neal greatly persists in creating a fulfilling pattern of people taking their creative medium of choice and helping others to behold it, furthermore, benefit from it, whether it’s woodworking, improvisational comedy, designer-career advice, parenthood, and numerous other specialties.

Crossover essentially means a change, in dictionary-speak, a change in “category.” Neal, through his efforts of The Starter League and The Starter School, is not expanding people’s categories. He’s expanding their possibilities. Crossover within reach.


(1) From episode “How to Create Meaningful Work” (October 20, 2014), an interview by William Channer with Debbie Millman.

• • •

Big thanks: to The Department of Design at Leo Burnett—for hosting—Braintree, and Basecamp, for sponsoring Chicago CreativeMornings #34; to organizer Kim Knoll and operations manager Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7, and to the Chicago CreativeMornings crew—Benjamin Derico, Talia Eisenberg, Chris Gallevo, Keith Mandley, Neftali Morales, all—for their volunteer work in making CreativeMornings happen in Chicago.

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

• • •

My coverage: view more photos of 34th CreativeMornings in Chicago; read more Chicago CreativeMornings write-ups.

• • •

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




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

November 3, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Bethany Betzler of the Artifact Makers Society



What are you working on—on the side?

Artifact Makers Society is a project I created to promote quality craftwork and contemporary design of local origin. We do this online through our site and in real-life through retail partnerships, gallery exhibits, and studio visits. We also connect retailers, gallery owners, collectors, and architects/designers directly to the makers we represent, in order to help them find the best of what is made locally. Our focus is on consumer goods for the home and other environments.

We’re native to Detroit, and right now, our primary concern is with promoting the works of Detroit-based designer-makers, but “local” to us means provenance, a sense of place, and an authentic connection between object and city. So as Artifact grows, it will begin to represent works from people in other cities throughout out the world. That’s our dream—to build a site where people can learn about what is being made where and why it matters. We are also in the process of developing more in-depth content about designing and creating quality objects that are ethically and sustainably made, so that people can get a sense of the big picture of why these types of makers matter. For us, it’s not just about cool craft wares or trendy design, but how designers can invent new ways of designing that lends itself to more mindful production and consumption.

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

I don’t watch TV, and limit my time browsing the internet, furthermore, unfortunately, probably don’t sleep or exercise as much as I should. I work with another company full-time, so my time to work on Artifact is limited to my week nights and weekends, or in the morning before I go into the office. I hope to begin involving others in the project as volunteers or interns so that more brains and hands can be involved in moving Artifact forward.

Why have side projects?

This side project was created not just to have a side project, but to do something I feel is important for the world, something which is not driven solely by the need to create revenue, but by a desire to see more people being more mindful of the objects they buy and how they impact the planet. I think that, in time, Artifact will become a fully fledged business, but in the meantime, it is important to me that we play and take the time to experiment with the way the project is received. Working on Artifact on the side right now means that I won’t unintentionally push the project forward in the wrong direction, just because I am trying to make a living from it.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Bethany Betzler.


This debut series is provided in affiliation with 50,000feet.


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.

November 2, 2014

Tweeted October 2014: Food for thought


Tweet icon designed by Adame Dahmani from The Noun Project collection

“The only thing I love more than building my own ideas
is helping beginners learn how to build theirs”
—Raghu Betina
Tweeted by @starterleague on October 31, 2014

“If we don’t expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from hurt, we are surely doomed.”
—Mrs. Jennings
Tweeted by @TEDTalks on October 30, 2014

“Anyone else starting to get the feeling Steve Jobs did OK
choosing his successor?”
—John Gruber
Tweeted by @gruber on October 30, 2014

“Never forget the people who believed in you
when you just started out.”
—Tina Roth Eisenberg
Tweeted by @swissmiss on October 30, 2014

“You cannot understand what’s going on with Ferguson today
without knowing this history.”
—Richard Rothstein
Tweeted by @BillMoyersHQ on October 29, 2014

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
—Aristotle
Tweeted by @TheSchoolOfLife on October 29, 2014

“All I wanna do is make things.”
—Katie Thompson
Tweeted by @ktkozar on October 27, 2014

“Find employers that value your time.”
—Bryan Innes
Tweeted by @savannahmillion on October 25, 2014

“If I don’t write, I begin to feel unsettled and uneasy,
as I gather people do who are not allowed to dream.”
—J. G. Ballard
Tweeted by @parisreview on October 24, 2014

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
—Bertrand Russell
Tweeted by @TheSchoolOfLife on October 23, 2014

“I am a creator motivated by love.”
—Tom Lawton
Tweeted by @elizabethkim76 on October 22, 2014

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening
to what another has to say.”
—Bryant McGill
Tweeted by @swissmiss on October 21, 2014

“There is no greater intelligence than kindness and empathy.”
—Bryant McGill
Tweeted by @swissmiss on October 21, 2014

“In language, the words are asleep until we dream them.”
—Damion Searls
Tweeted by @parisreview on October 21, 2014

“I’ve felt the need to re-create, to restore lost ways,
lost places, lost styles of living.”
—William Goyen
Tweeted by @parisreview on October 21, 2014

“Once you free yourself from the need for perfect acceptance,
it’s a lot easier to launch work that matters.”
—Seth Godin
Tweeted by @swissmiss on October 20, 2014

“A little vulnerability can make you a whole lot stronger.”
—Dan Wieden
Tweeted by @johnmaeda on October 20, 2014

“The only way you could ever tackle the world
was to write something that no one could hold off.”
—J. P. Donleavy
Tweeted by @parisreview on October 20, 2014

“All I want to do all day, every day, is make.”
—Beth Sheehan
Tweeted by @SheePrints on October 19, 2014

“When a writer tries to explain too much–he’s already
out of time when he begins.”
—Isaac Bashevis Singer
Tweeted by @parisreview on October 18, 2014

“You cannot have community without a shared reality.”
—Penn Jillette
Tweeted by @ChiDM on October 17, 2014

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
—Carl Jung
Tweeted by @CoryBooker on October 17, 2014

“We cannot lose the war against cancer. It not only costs us billions
of dollars, but it costs us people we love.”
—Jorge Soto
Tweeted by @TEDTalks on October 15, 2014

“Everything we enjoy, an 8-hr work day, vacation,
the right to vote, was caused by agitation.”
—Sally Rumble
Tweeted by @sallyrumble on October 15, 2014

“Being self-motivated and willing to work your ass off
is more important to me than having a very clear end result.”
—Lotta Nieminen
Tweeted by @swissmiss on October 14, 2014

“Ada Lovelace Day is for celebrating Ada Lovelace.
If you want to celebrate women in tech do it every day.”
—Mike Monteiro
Tweeted by @monteiro on October 14, 2014

“The miracle is that a work of art should live
in the person who reads it.”
—Henry Green
Tweeted by @parisreview on October 13, 2014

“I think cartooning gets at, and re-creates on the page,
some sixth sense…in a way no other medium can.”
—Chris Ware
Tweeted by @parisreview on October 12, 2014

“The market for something to believe in is infinite.”
—Hugh MacLeod
Tweeted by @DuaneKing on October 10, 2014

“How do we live well, not better—that’s what we should live
for at all ages, starting at birth.”
—Marta Benavides
Tweeted by @MWHodin on October 9, 2014

“Art does not move forward through individual acts of isolated genius,
but through collaborative exchange.”
—Andrew Raftery
Tweeted by @marciamarcia on October 8, 2014

“The creative adult is the child who survived.”
—Unknown
Tweeted by @sallyrumble on October 6, 2014

“Every lesson we teach is one we need to learn!”
—Sandee Kastrul
Tweeted by @ACEidenberg on October 6, 2014

“Everybody is creative.”
—Sally Rumble
Tweeted by @DrewGneiser on October 5, 2014

“One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received
was to stop waiting for advice.”
—Helena Price
Tweeted by @creativemorning on October 5, 2014

“Art is the bridge across the gap between peoples and cultures.
Writing is one of the arts that can help link people.”
—Charles Ray
Tweeted by @studioloraine on October 5, 2014

“You’re not here to please everyone.”
—Russell Simmons
Tweeted by @UncleRUSH on October 3, 2014

“Always focus on your effort, instead of the results of that effort.”
—Russell Simmons
Tweeted by @UncleRUSH on October 3, 2014

“What is and what can be is our task going forward.”
—Steve Powers
Tweeted by @MsGenDupuis on October 3, 2014

“We use busy as a stand-in for the real reasons
we don’t want to do a thing.”
—Debbie Millman
Tweeted by @brainpicker on October 2, 2014

“You don’t find the time, you make the time.”
—Maria Popova
Tweeted by @swissmiss on October 2, 2014

“Expect anything worthwhile to take a really long time!”
—Debbie Millman
Tweeted by @swissmiss on October 2, 2014

“If you’re looking for a work/life balance,
chances are you don’t really love what you’re working on.”
—Debbie Millman
Tweeted by @brainpicker on October 2, 2014

“When a city’s creative community lifts each other up,
the entire city rises.”
—Blake Howard
Tweeted by @BrandWriter on October 2, 2014

“If you take the money out of it, it becomes authentic.”
—Tina Roth Eisenberg
Tweeted by @Raleigh_CM on October 2, 2014

“Trust breeds magic.”
—Tina Roth Eisenberg
Tweeted by @juliajamieson on October 2, 2014

“Every decision should come from the heart.”
—Tina Roth Eisenberg
Tweeted by @Tess_OConnor on October 2, 2014

• • •

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.

November 1, 2014

Patronage Package 10 of Duly Discovered



Apps

Inbox by Google

Books

“Ways to Connect: On Interface & Product Design”
by Ryan Singer and William Channer

“The Mountain” by Melissa Reinbold

“Gutenberg’s Apprentice” by Alixe Christie

“I’d Rather Be Short” by Becky Murphy

Design

“Narwhal letterpress art print” by Kristen Dake

“Garamond” monograph by Kirsten Green

Card Party by Andrew Ashton

“Advice to sink in slowly” posters founded by John Stanbury

Illustration

“Space Shuttle” by Lynette Sage

“Power Lady Posse” by Becky Murphy

Music

Halloween-themed Tiny Desk Concert by Neko Case

Album “La Isla Bonita” by Deerhoof

Album “Storytone” by Neil Young

Band The Rural Alberta Advantage

Album “The Best Day” by Thurston Moore

Album “Ask Me to Dance” by Minnie Driver

Podcasts

“Breaking Down Your Business” hosted by Jill Salzman and Brad Farris

Stories

“The Colorful, Blossoming D. C. Arts Scene In The 1950s, ’60s”
by Susan Stamberg

“50 Great Teachers: Socrates, The Ancient World’s Teaching Superstar”
by Eric Westervelt

“Behind The Scenes, Storyful Exposes Viral Hoaxes For News Outlets”
by David Folkenflik

“Mindy Kaling On Refusing To Be An Outsider And Sexism On Set”
by Rachel Martin

“West Virginia Pottery Company Keeps Popular Fiesta Line Thriving”
by Linda Wertheimer

“The First Female Typographer”
by John Boardley

“A New Orleans Charter School Marches To Its Own Tune”
by Eric Westervelt

“As Museums Try To Make Ends Meet, ‘Deaccession’ Is The Art World’s Dirty Word”
by Elizabeth Blair

“13-Year-Old Girl Is Determined To Be The First Person On Mars”
by Rachel Martin

“CDC Sets Up Mock Ebola Ward Set Up in Alabama”
by Nurith Aizenman

“Alaska Must Translate Election Material into 2 Indigenous Languages”
by Emily Schwing

“‘Inner GPS’ Discovery Wins Nobel Prize In Medicine”
by Rob Stein

“Art Project Opens Long-Closed Ellis Island Hospital”
by Scott Simon

“The Man Who Casts The Metal For The Master Sculptors”
by Karen Michel

• • •

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.

October 31, 2014

New designers guided at the Hike Conference


In October, 2014, a time machine landed in Chicago. Distinguished members of the design community spoke to the new generation of creators—designers, illustrators, coders, and strategists. Representing different design disciplines, these 15 speakers shared their viewpoints, marked by “moving forward through the rearview mirror”(1), at the Hike Conference for new designers. They reflected on their current state, informed by the precedence of experiences since their graduation from design school. Certain themes and truths arose as a pattern among the presentations held at the second Hike event, created and organized by The Secret Handshake.

Befriend yourself and others

When considering the ratio of importance between people and things, Bryan Innes, a designer at Twitter, places all the weight on the former. Specifically as it pertains to human beings and human relationships.


Bryan Innes, Twitter

Upon leaving the island of academia, the tendency is to hone in on the role of materialist, to start shaping a massive body of work, and extend an additive set of tools, from hardware to software to salaries to a library of references. Accumulating material is empowering, but is immaterial. To Innes, “People matter, not things.” This connects with author Ian McEwan’s description: “A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.” We humans are fragile. Human interaction is easily prone to a brittle nature. More reason to pay attention and practice Innes’ people-matter-prescription of acting as a friend with co-workers, clients, vendors—and with oneself.

Each speaker shared their emerging itinerary so far, as a designer, from the world of school to the world of jobs, whether it was Alisa Wolfson’s arrival at Leo Burnett, where she established the Department of Design, to Alison Mendel’s arrival at IDEO, to Kim Knoll establishing Knoed Creative with her husband Kyle Eertmoed. Each discovered their individual path since graduating from their formal education. All experienced struggles, bouts with agitation and self-doubt, while initiating and building successful traction in their respective careers. With each chapter, they encountered people who influenced them. People helped each one to navigate the demands and climate of their livelihoods, spreading out, as they forged their name and reputation as a designer. They relied (and keep relying) on people who relied on them. People matter.

Mind your manners, especially your ego

The poet Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” She testified to the fact that people can hold long memories. To help ensure that pleasant memories are secured, the majority of speakers collectively presented a fundamental and lasting guide to etiquette:
  • Alisa Wolfson: “Be humble.”
  • Bryan Innes: “Don’t be a dick.”
  • Chuck Anderson: “Be careful how you treat people.”
  • Kim Knoll: “Don’t be ego-tastic.”
Attaching to Knoll’s point, ego is a major requirement. It feeds ambition. However, left unchecked, one’s ego can rise to acidic levels: self-awareness sharpens into self-preservation, which, in turn, can simultaneously assume a number of toxic directions: arrogance, suspicion, (passive) aggression. Self-awareness mutates into selfishness. Ego may have nothing to do with who you, in essence, are. It may just be the mask you wear.

The fact that each speaker showed their vulnerability, when sharing cherished nostalgia and lessons from their gradual career as designers, speaks volumes about their character. The audience of burgeoning designers was given the gift of insight to help make their future less tense and more perfect. Because their future is now, and we join in it.

Evolve

Alison Medland’s telling of her journey was remarkable. Her formative years, as an undergraduate, conditioned her to be ambitious. During and immediately after graduation, she adopted, what I strongly felt to be, a Darwinian model to push her career. As she put it, “It was ‘survival of the fittest.’” This phrase (1864) was coined by philosopher and biologist Herbert Spencer. It was used by naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin in the fifth edition of his epic book “On the Origin of Species” (1869). He intended it to mean “better designed for an immediate, local environment.” Medland firmly set herself to getting better, to be the job.


Alison Yard Medland, IDEO

As a freshly-minted designer, she inserted herself in a work environment characterized by a “constant cutthroat grind.” She evolved into a “workhorse,” hot-blooded and competitive, with discipline and focus aggressively exercised. For the first half of her presentation, she exhibited the halo of an alpha female.

Then, her talk took an unexpected turn. She revealed her epiphany, that her work had totally consumed her to the point of alienation: “I distanced myself from myself.” The result: a sclerosis of the heart and mind. Her meeting of future husband, Kyle, proved to be a transition. Kyle’s curiosity, particularly his “noticing power,”(2) in the form of drawings, fed by musings, and photography, fed by sightseeing. It was not only Kyle’s presence that acted as a tonic, the brunt of advancing her life-redesign initiative was Medland herself.

I asked her afterwards if there was a specific method she utilized to contribute to her positive change, her answer was, essentially, self-examination. At the core of her unfolding self-awareness was a profound truth: “Graphic design is a tiny grain of what I do.”

Designers boost contrast in conception and execution. Medland’s school-to-world commencement demonstrated this aesthetic quality to the max. She reworked her worldview by restarting.


Alisa Wolfson, Department of Design, Leo Burnett

The cycle of starts was addressed by Alisa Wolfson, who reinforced, “Starting never ends.” Design is an iterative process. The same applies to life. It takes courage to start something new, especially when it’s done all over again.

This innate desire to start, the availability of this impulse, its frequency, presents a privileged opportunity to put one’s self to work. In the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, the story’s lead character, Max, exclaimed, “Let the wild rumpus start!” Starting celebrates living. No starting, no working. Without the start, no project approached, no art realized. Starting, and starting again, leaves the taste for not-getting-started in the dust.

Possible from here

Perhaps a percentage of the audience, mostly composed of newly graduated designers, saw a reflection of themselves in the speakers as they envisioned their future-in-the-making.

Before Hike Conference creators and organizers, Laura Helen Winn and Jason Schwartz, and their volunteer team launched their first event in San Francisco on April 4th and 5th, 2014, I had the privilege to interview them.

Regarding the practice of organizing gatherings like theirs, Winn said, “I think it’s because sharing knowledge is inherent in the design practice. In order to become a designer, you have to learn about the designers who came before you and the designers who came before them. The thing I miss the most about art school is the class discussions we had about a reading or an artist’s body of work. Hearing people with conflicting opinions share their point of view, and occasionally reach an understanding of each other, is real magic. I guess I just want to keep that dialogue and magic going as I pursue my career.”


Kim Knoll, Knoed Creative

The Hike Conference gave attendees a huge advantage at the boundary between their undergraduate education and a dynamic frontier of professional practice—an advantage vetted by experience and one that keeps giving over time: perspective.


(1) Phrase from book “Forward through the rearview mirror: reflections on and by Marshall McLuhan” (1996).

(2) “Noticing power” was coined by design researchers Steve Portigal and Dan Soltzberg. Read my related post.


• • •

See my photos of Hike, “A conference for new designers,” created by The Secret Handshake.

• • •

Big thanks: to Chairs, Board, and Volunteers, who made Hike Conference’s first year happen; to Morningstar for hosting.

• • •

Read more of my coverage of events related to design and creativity.


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