Charles and Ray Eames on Design

Charles Eames’s diagram explaining the design process. From the Oakland Museum of California’s outstanding Charles and Ray Eames exhibit.

I saw the Charles and Ray Eames exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California this past weekend. (Thanks to James Cham for prolifically tweeting about it. It was really, really good.) Among the many highlights was this 1972 interview on design. It’s short and sweet, and you should read the whole thing. Here are my favorite excerpts:

What is your definition of “Design,” Monsieur Eames?

One could describe Design as a plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose.

Is Design an expression of art?

I would rather say it’s an expression of purpose. It may, if it is good enough, later be judged as art.

Is it a method of general expression?

No. It is a method of action.

Is Design a creation of an individual?

No, because to be realistic, one must always recognize the influence of those that have gone before.

Is Design a creation of a group?

Very often.

Is there a Design ethic?

There are always Design constraints, and these often imply an ethic.

Does Design imply the idea of products that are necessarily useful?

Yes, even though the use might be very subtle.

Is it able to cooperate in the creation of works reserved solely for pleasure

Who would say that pleasure is not useful?

To whom does Design address itself: to the greatest number? to the specialists or the enlightened amateur? to a privileged social class?

Design addresses itself to the need.

Thinking Out Loud (and Iteratively) Is Hard

On January 2, I wrote:

Last year, I only wrote five posts on this blog, my fewest ever. It wasn’t for lack of material, and it wasn’t even because I didn’t have enough time. I did lots of journaling and drawing, I just did most of it in private.

I want to re-adjust…. I want to think out loud a lot more, especially about my work, while also still sharing the occasional personal tidbits.

Today is February 14. This is my seventh blog post of the year, which means that after 45 days, I have already published more than I did all of last year. I’m doing great! (I’m not just saying this. I truly feel this way.)

And, I’m struggling.

On the personal side (i.e. this blog), I have a bunch of half-written posts and notes. As far as I’m concerned, many of them are almost good enough to share, but that last bit of effort is still work, and I just haven’t been able to get there. I either need to make a tiny bit more space, or I need to re-frame my standards.

I’m really struggling on the professional side. I have some drafts that I’ve been working on for many months (in one case, for multiple years). I also have some posts that are almost ready to go. I co-wrote one of them with another person, which helped a lot. But I’m also trying to shave too many yaks, which is creating a bottleneck. I managed to force myself to publish something last week, which was not only relatively painless, but also got a nice response. However, I find myself stuck again.

I don’t want to overthink this. I’m doing great right now, and I’m probably not too far from getting over the hump. (Writing this is helping me.) But I’m realizing (to my surprise) that I’m suffering from a bit of performance anxiety. It’s all mindset. I wouldn’t say my audience today is much bigger than it was, say, 10 years ago. In fact, you could make a pretty good, data-driven case that it’s smaller. It’s less about size, more about self-perception, I think — vanity if I’m being honest. Somehow, it all feels higher stakes to me.

This is all good. It will help me be more empathetic when I’m helping others work more transparently and iteratively. And it’s a good reminder that it’s all about practice. Once I get some more reps in, I’m sure it will all get easier again. Let’s see.

Two Seconds a Day in January 2019

Toward the end of my photo a day project in 2015, several people asked me if I was going to do it again in 2016. “Heck, no!” I responded. That project meant a lot to me (still does), and I loved doing it, but it was a lot of work, it took up a lot of mental and emotional headspace, and I was burned out on sharing.

Still, once you get into the habit of making, it’s hard to break. It just feels good to make something every day, to watch a little bit of incremental effort become a body of work. And it’s especially nice when it serves as a kind of journal of your life.

Even though I was saying no to doing another 365 photo project, I had started toying with the idea of doing a one second of video a day project. I had seen a few of these floating around on the Internet, and I was amazed by how much a single second of video could capture.

I started playing around with this at the beginning of 2016 and didn’t even get through a week. Over the next few years, I tinkered with other daily project ideas, but wasn’t motivated enough to do one.

I decided to revisit the one second a day idea this month. You can see the results above. I started with one second a day, and really liked it, but when I showed it to others, they said it was too fast. I decided to go with two seconds instead, and I like it even better.

Doing this was much less stressful than my 365 ever was. First, it was only 31 days. I might do another month, but I haven’t decided yet. Second, I’m not sharing every day. Third, video is much more forgiving than photography. You get two more dimensions — movement and sound — to capture something interesting. Fourth, I don’t care that much about getting good at video right now. I’m just playing, which is pretty liberating.

That said, I’m slightly more primed to capture video than I was three years ago. I’ve been inspired by several friends and colleagues (and, in some cases, their kids) who often produce simple, but really fun and compelling videos. My experience with photography helps. I also read Walter Murch’s outstanding, In the Blink of an Eye, a few years ago, and it made me see video in a whole different light. Finally, the 1 Second Everyday app makes it super easy to compile and edit your videos. (The iOS version is superb. Sadly, the Android version is terrible.)

Using my iPad Pro as my Primary Computing Device: Day 1

On Saturday, I sent my MacBook Pro in to get its keyboard repaired. Because my Hackintosh died late last year and I decided to keep things simple, I will be without a computer for two weeks for the first time in my professional life.

Boo hoo, right?

Ten or even five years ago, this would have been a big problem, but in this age of advanced mobile devices, it should be okay, at least in theory. I have a first-generation iPad Pro 9.7 with keyboard and Pencil, and I enjoy it very much. I use it a lot for sketching (via Paper) and writing (via Bear and Ulysses). Because my iPad does not let me multitask as easily as on my laptop, I’m able to focus more, which is great for reflecting and writing. Everything syncs to the cloud instantaneously, meaning I can access this data on my laptop immediately.

The iPad has limitations that make it difficult for me to replace my laptop entirely. For example, G Suite does not play that well with the iPad. I can’t ALT-TAB between different documents, the mobile versions of the app have limited functionality, and I haven’t figured out how to easily use the desktop versions of the app via Chrome.

It’s all good… until you no longer have access to your laptop. I timed my repair (which will take 1-2 weeks) to when I figured it would be least inconvenient, and I’m making a go of using my iPad as my primary computing device in the meantime. Here’s what I’m learning so far:

  • My bag is much lighter!
  • Writing blog posts via the WordPress app works quite well!
  • I can’t easily print from my iPad to my 2011 Brother printer. Exploring options now.
  • I’m not sure how well conferencing via Zoom will work. At minimum, I usually take notes while I’m on Zoom, and I often use its more advanced features, such as screen-sharing and breakout groups. I’m not planning on doing the latter on any upcoming calls, but it’s a good opportunity just to see if any of this is possible.

We’ll see how this all goes.

Etymology of “Conspire”

Gail Taylor is doing exciting new things with Tomorrow Makers and is seeking conspirators. Going through the new website today, I learned:

To conspire, in its literal sense, means “to breathe together.” It is an intimate joining.

Here’s what Google has to say about the etymology of “conspire”:

Here’s something I wrote on Faster Than 20 a few years ago about literally breathing together when collaborating.