It started with strategy and ended in stimulating…

can one be tired of strategy?

In Amelie, a man who physically cannot go out into the world without his bones breaking calls her out on strategizing out of fear, planning endlessly. I to0 have been planning endlessly, un-committed I have tackled 2 to 3 projects a term, frivolously changing the world on illustrator. The more complex the more I felt it would work. Designers are known for over designing, I think many become designers because if they were to become writers (I chose writers because I feel like they constantly scrutinize and perfect their work, or at least enough do), all they’d get is a book as an output. and that obviously isn’t “serious enough” (I wish the Little Prince had visited a planet with a designer re-designing his planet). Instead now, they get to scrutinize (is indeed a kind euphemism) a design. I think this is legitimate when working on a highly functional project, Baudrillard in the System of Objects compares the design evolution of the plane and the car. Planes in a way are objectively scrutinized, improved, in the name of safety and efficiency, on the other hands, well, cars aren’t… as much.

Cars aren’t the only example. For instance, today I fell in love with a book published to tell the tales of a partnership between two IDEO members: Kara Johnson and Martin Bone. It was a beautifully engaging process. Then I closed the book thought about it, looked at it again, thought about it again. And then I felt. Thinking set aside, I felt. I felt frustration. Yes, it is true this work excites me (I will leave up to you the degree of sexuality according to which you would like to process this statement), the work was a printer in felt-mmmmmmmmm-S.E.X.Y. But so what. Really? It’s fun, it’s pretty, it’s cute. Honestly I love the whole project (the printer is one of about ten experiments), all the pieces to come out of it are enthralling, dreamy and ballsy. Yes BALLSY.

So here are two voices in my head: vision-driven design vs. functional design?

Then comes another, a third thought. I am watching Sarah’s Key. Because it was adapted from novel to script by an author I now (as of this morning) truly admire. He has made comments on family that were more powerful and igniting than any felt-wrapped printer could even hope to be. That’s right printer, you heard me. Anyways, it intertwines two plots, one of which is a depiction of le Rafle du Vel’d’Hiv, a frightening point of french involvement on WWII. Now I am thinking, what do I do with my felt-y printer now, dream about it as I watch people starving? Because I mean I’m sure we could take a trip to Wiki-Leaks and find a couple of instances where horrible things are happening right now. And then what, what do you do?!

I was able to sit in on my first SERVICE DESIGN class two days ago, wonderful experience (feel free to stop reading and applause for a few seconds), in a way service design is the epitome of “planning.” When you finish the class you present a CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAP, a nice cluster of words to say: I PLANNED FOR THE PAST 20 WEEKS.

So here are three thoughts: subjective design, objective design, or organizational design?

And then there is the really pretty word, “human-centered” design. Hmmm… I would like to confirm that I deeply appreciate the world of design and that my current little teasing exercise is purely out of love (and some hate as any passionate relationship ought to provide).

But here it is, today I was hungry. I was low on money, banks were inaccessible, buses too expensive, and distance too far… Basically I was healthy but in a slight discomfort. So I walked to school and decided to work, think away from where I was, feed on my thoughts. It worked, it passed enough time that I bumped into a friend, then another, I borrowed some money, bought a bag of rice-based japanese chips which we shared while playing drawing games. How do you design that? By designing a service that refuses to have banks in your vicinity, that block your card so you can’t use ATMs, by posting rentable friends? Today proves to me not everything can be objectified, especially not pure happiness.

What I think is funny is that design in its evolution has developed a tendency to objectify. And I don’t like that. When someone starts saying they want to create an “emotional design” I cringe.  There are problems in the world that are worth addressing, but it seems design should not be addressing the problems EVEN if it relates to the ergonomics of a surgeons tool, instead it should help make the world into a major-super-duper-mega-spacetacular-incubator, where we all become dynamic and fun people. I would like to call attention to the fact that I REFUSED to say “dynamic and fun problem-solvers” because glorifying phrases like that are the reason so many of us are so messed up now days: problem solving in its phrasing poses a threat, an obstacle, which we don’t even know really is one in the first place and second of all it makes others think they aren’t problem solvers. ?!?!?! The fact that our tools have separated from other apes PROVES THAT WE ARE ALL “PROBLEM SOLVERS” so please stop stating the obvious with sexy words and start doing something interesting! Again, it doesn’t have to be “innovative” just STIMULATING. Design haikus! Haikus are short poems that simply capture the essence of a moment, of the feeling of a moment and then passes on the baton to whoever wants. Its lack of customizability is what makes it ubiquitous! Isn’t that wild?!

I guess this is my answer. What a wonderful post! I thought I would just be ranting, but there is a hint of constructivism here! The reason why I wrote this post was an amalgamation of stimulating experiences: a moving movie, an insightful interview, a delightful design, a hopeful hunger, a great game (alliterations are obviously intentional), all STIMULATING experiences which then have pushed me to do more. I guess what I am saying is:

Whether you design (or perhaps make, create, bring forth) a subjective design, an objective design, or an organizational design, MAKE IT STIMULATING!

Please comment 🙂 or go design something stimulating!


Eating japanese chips


2 thoughts on “It started with strategy and ended in stimulating…

  1. i m thinking … the fact that you can think out loud and invite ppl to comment is a result of planned design whether the ppl invited will response is the human element.

    So what if design is truly about negotiation between the planned (carefully designed) and the human element. what if design is there to just function as a platform, stage for ppl to take over. set of rules, variables but ultimately ppl are the players. what if the design element is stripped to bare bones? basic function, core communication… how it is used is up to the user. Given elements with set of rules the rest is open to the user to decide. I think the most exciting objects are those that are adoptive to the user and its environment, objects that are sort of unfinished. is it acceptable for us as designers (or should I say our egos) to step aside and give up the control of the final outcome? to what extend can we trust our audience? Do ppl ultimately want answers or questions that will lead them to their answers? how do you achieve that balance?

    I m thinking that sometimes ppl like to be surprised, surprised by what they can do (to me its the best feeling) so what if the design’s roll is to be there to guide and keep on truck / safe passively? What if less is more IS the answer but when it comes to the designer’s intervention?

  2. For the records…(so to speak):

    responses, responses, responses…
    I thought about your post today, and Vina’s response, and then your response to that one…
    thinking, thinking…
    1a. But what about the way Amelie strategized for the people around her? Wasn’t she able to push people into engagements, nudging them into life, out of fear? Or opening their eyes? (Am I missing the picture here? I realize that you use Amelie because she solely strategized around fear for herself, but in the way she interacted with the other characters, with the exception of Nino, weren’t they similar to the “haiku” situation? I’m just not very clear on this, maybe because it is late, or because I just haven’t gotten it. I hope I’m not just picking at a meager point…but I thought there was another way of seeing the movie. So I suppose, in a way, in attempt, to answer your original question: yes…but…

    what I’m thinking is this:
    as it was with Amelie, maybe it is degree/extent that is the variable in finding the balance that’s being discussed (like in Vina’s post? correct me if I’m wrong)…
    and as of right now, those categories of designs are specific to each case…case by case…the variable fluctuates…

    stimulating is an interesting point to fall on…is there more?
    does it turn into interactive from then on? so the baton is passed…
    do we want/care about the questions/answers?
    so it is less about us (designers designing?) then, right?
    because I think the stimulation in itself is charged and to some extent, enough of a spark…is that what you’re saying here?
    because there is this jumbled world, and therefore, we bring awareness, being-ness, mindfulness, ______-ness through stimulation?

    On a much clearer note, that photo is jus fab.

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