Sometimes I just think about all the beautiful furniture I could purchase when I eventually have a little more money/space. Perhaps when I have a home that’s more than 600sq. ft I can make some investments. Here are some of my favorite chairs (in no particular order):
Womb Chair by Eero Saarinen: I can imagine myself curling up in this fabric chair with a sketch pad and some masterful ideas about design. This might be my thinking chair.
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman: I know it’s cliche, but I don’t care. It’s gorgeous, timeless, and I’ve been a fan of the Eames philosophies since the first time I watched Powers of Ten. I have a feeling my Corgi wouldn’t mind curling up in this with me.
No.14 Chair by Michael Thonet: My favorite historical design. The bentwood technique used to create the bistro chair is one of the most simple and elegant processes in chair design. I would love to fill a breakfast nook with a few of these.
Puns have often been the source of eye-rolls and disgusted looks in my conversations with friends. I enjoy them. Okay, I’ll be honest… I love them. But while puns are one of the oldest forms of humor, they’re often seen as one of the lowest. Why?
A pun is “a form of word play that deliberately exploits ambiguity between similar-sounding words for humorous or rhetorical effect.” It is simply a play on words. Writers throughout the years have remained on one side of the fence or the other — they love them or hate them. Some editors have become so furious about the misuse of puns that they’ve even prohibited them from appearing in their publications (The New York Times for example).
Even though we abhor puns in everyday conversation, we generally find them entertaining in visual design. Why are puns received differently in the verbal and visual worlds? It’s in the way we communicate. When you hear a pun in conversation, you experience it at a different level than if you were to see it in a logo or on a poster. As Paul Rand so eloquently said, some of his most successful designs were only made possible through the use of puns because they “entertain as well as inform.” Many designers I know are hesitant to use this form of humor in their designs. Sure, puns aren’t perfect for every logo, campaign, or project, but they can connect levels of information about a product or service in a way that’s exciting and memorable for the viewer.
Graphic wit or humor isn’t about being side-splittingly funny. It’s about being just clever enough to take up some space in the viewer’s memory, without coming off as arrogant or desperate for a laugh. If a chuckle comes of it, that’s great. And if it’s just funny or memorable enough to be passed along to a friend, that’s even better. Irony, similar-sounding words and double-meanings are all vehicles for puns. Don’t be afraid to try them. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is make a dumb joke; you might be surprised how well it works.
I had a few favorite professors in design school. One from my typography studio would walk up and call my uppercase “O” a lemon and draw a stem with leaves on it. He would also take someone’s calligraphy project, rip it up, and call it garbage if he thought he was right. And the funny thing is that he always was. He knew good design. My friends and I couldn’t win an argument with him when it came to design technique and fundamentals — and we loved it. His critiques were often extreme, full of character and on point. Because of that we always wanted his opinion.
While my former professor’s critiques were effective due to their ridiculousness, your critique doesn’t need to be as extreme (unless that’s how you roll), it just needs to be constructive. The following are a few tips to improve communication while you give criticism.
Take stock of your attitude. Are you in a bad mood? Bitter? Or just negative in general? When someone comes to you for critique they are looking for valuable feedback. How can you give their work the consideration it deserves when you’re preoccupied with that speeding ticket you got earlier in the day?
Ask yourself if you’re the right person to be giving feedback. We all love sharing an opinion or two, but if you don’t have anything else to add to the conversation besides “Looks good,” you may not be the best person for the job. Think about who you could put in contact with your designer to get them some constructive criticism.
Put down the iPhone. Close your laptop. Pay attention. Giving good feedback starts with being involved and engaged. If you’re distracted, you won’t be giving feedback that’s helpful.
Understand the project. Good advice is advice that helps the project get closer to the goal. This is only possible if you know the intention and purpose of the project. Make sure it’s clearly explained to you before you dive in to the critique.
Be specific. Don’t say “That logo is stupid” or “I don’t like that color.” Be clear and logical, rather than vague and confusing. Back your opinions up with tangible reasons.
Ask questions. Understanding why the designer did what he did could help you see his vision more clearly, or uncover hard-to-find flaws in his logic. Heck, you might even learn a thing or two.
Be unbiased. Don’t put someone down to make yourself feel better. Don’t sabotage someone’s project. Stuff like that breaks the unspoken rules between designers. If someone respects you enough to ask for your help, respect his work enough to give it an honest, appropriate, well-tempered critique.
Give a next step. Your advice should give the designer a clearer view of the project and its objectives, or even a new concept or path to follow. Maybe you could offer up a relevant book or blog to strengthen his skills in specific areas.
Listen. After you give your opinion, be ready to listen to why your designer might agree or disagree. Critique is fun when it’s a two-way street. Let him enter into the conversation freely.
Check back in. If you’re available or have a few minutes to see how the project has improved, why not ask to see it? Knowing how your advice came across and whether it was helpful will let you know if your critiques are improving.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you need practice, get together with friends and host a portfolio day. Take turns giving and receiving suggestions. One of the best ways to learn about giving critique is to get critiqued. Listen to what people are saying as they discuss your work and think about how it affects you. Is it harsh? Helpful? Smart? Vague? As you practice, your communication skills will improve, making you a better designer. This sounds like a win for everyone involved.
While catching up on my design blog reading, I came upon a post about Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei being detained and tormented by his government. I realized that I had just learned about this artist and his work when reading about the Human Right Logo Competition. He’s on the jury, among dozens of worldwide influencers, and tasked with choosing the logo finalists.
Reading about Weiwei’s life on the great wiki reveals just a superficial look at the kind of discrimination the country’s citizens are facing. Take a minute to read his wiki or check out the BBC Country Profile for China.
I’m going to let some ideas brew in my brain for a time. While I definitely don’t do spec work, and hardly ever enter design competitions, I’m intrigued by the noble mission of the competition — create the first global human rights logo.
A previous post caused a bit of an uproar in the Twitterverse among the Phoenix design community. I took several days away from social media to reflect in solitude, as well as discuss the reactions with people who read them. I have a few notes:
I am immensely proud of the growing design community in Phoenix and did not aim to attack the city, community or any individual at all.
Some believed I was disregarding those who already give their resources, time or talent. That was not my intent and I want to commend those who already volunteer.
I wrote the post thinking of those in the #PHXDC who do not volunteer their resources or talent and see no reason to do so.
I also wrote that post thinking of those in the #PHXDC who do give their resources or talent, but only out of selfish ambition to gain attention (not to help people).
My intent in writing that post was to theorize why people from other states lump Phoenicians into a category of uncaring, unloving, self-servers. These are the three people groups we need to engage, because the weight of fulfilling Phoenix’s needs cannot fall on the shoulders of a few. Here are those groups and my thoughts about them.
THOSE WHO AREN’T INVOLVED
I’ve noticed that some people heavily involved in the #PHXDC have a natural proclivity to treat people who don’t want to volunteer as lepers. If we value volunteering, we need to share with them our reasons behind and the value we find in volunteering, rather than avoid or slander these members of our community. If we want to change our polarized state, we need to converse with people we disagree with, not berate or ignore them. Some would respond that the Say Anything events or other forums are meant to engage them, but are those events really something a truly inactive person would attend? I don’t have the answer yet for how to reach this group, but I have a feeling that it’s got to be in some way we haven’t tried yet.
THOSE WHO GIVE TO GAIN ATTENTION
We all give for some reason. I don’t know every individual’s reasons for volunteering, but I have a sense that those who were openly responding to my post have more than gaining attention on their minds when they help people. To really delve into this, it would take a much longer post on a totally unrelated topic, so I will move on after saying one thing… Some people would like to argue that giving to gain attention is completely valid, but would you really want to live in a city that gave for only that reason? Imagine if that was the heart of Phoenix.
THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW
For those who responded that I haven’t done my research about projects that need volunteers, I can just say that I have done what I can on top of my own volunteering. Those who actually know me and my heart can testify to that, while those who only know me by my twitter handle or in passing can merely make assumptions. Regardless, my or any designer’s inability to find specific projects by chance, or through the right avenues, is not a reflection of desire, dedication or intelligence. And I would hope that, as a community, we would not assume the worst about people. It’s a sign that the opportunities are not presented in a way that people who want to serve would easily know what opportunities are available. We are communication experts, shouldn’t this be an issue we can tackle?
In light of that, I got a wonderful email from Dave Bjorn who told me about a project he’s working on that seems to be a great solution for that problem. I’m not sure what details I can give out, so I’ll refrain from compromising his project and just say that it’s something we can all get excited about. Thanks, Dave, for putting this on my radar.
WE HAVE THE SAME GOAL
In the end, I believe there was a bit of miscommunication that needed clarification. Those who were upset by my post have the same desire I have — to see the #PHXDC, and the city as a whole, be transformed into one that cares for people. I hope that the points at the beginning of this post have helped clarify my excitement about how Phoenix has changed and my hope for where it seems to be going.
I want to end with an addendum. Even though my previous post was written in part to those designers without a desire to volunteer, I’m not saying that volunteerism is the “duty” of a designer any more than that of a postman or an accountant. Generosity is a question of conviction of the heart. I give because of how much I have been given in Christ. Others give, or don’t give, for many reasons. If any of us who volunteer impose expectations of behavior on someone, no matter how benevolent it may seem, it is very anti-choice and anti-reason. No one should ever be manipulated to give out of guilt, fear, shame, or any manner of duress. Hopefully we can inspire each other, not tear each other down.
After a somewhat controversial blog post, I needed to disconnect from the internet, computer and phone for a while. I needed time to meditate, pray, and enjoy the company of actual, real-life people. What I found was that my vision was clearer, my problems seemed smaller, and my brain wasn’t nearly as scattered as it had been recently. With my career being so dependent on social media and technology, it’s easy to let them define my social life and my introspective life as well. I went hiking and pushed myself farther than I had in a long time. I went to dinner and held a conversation without wondering what was filling my twitter feed. And now, having been back for a little while, I’ve realized how much I had believed that my internet culture was my real culture. While I know your profile, I don’t really know you. And you don’t really know me. While I strive for honesty in all my online interactions, there are just things I won’t share; I expect others act the same way. And that’s a good thing. These online personas are carefully crafted to show the best of ourselves (that includes the negative things that we paint in a positive light). Lesson-learned… My real life friends, the ones who know my heart and mind, deserve more attention than I give to my twitter feed. If you know me IRL, you can expect an invitation to meet up IRL coming your way.