Oprah time: Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand

Paul Rand’s slim book Thoughts on Design was originally written after World War 2 when he was in his 30s. He hadn’t yet done some of his most iconic work such as the IBM or TV network ABC.

Untitled

Straight out of the gate it focuses on design and its applicability to the job in hand. My friend Stephen used to talk about designers falling into two categories:

  • Idea led designers that focus on the communications problem
  • Style-led designers. Their work has a particular look and feel, that might be fashionable (for a while). The Designers Republic as falling into this category

Rand is blunter in his assessment under a section called The Beautiful and The Useful. His point isn’t that they are mutually exclusive. Obeying classical art rules creates useless design unless it addresses the communications. The sad thing is that 70 years later it still needs to be said with the same urgency.

Rand describes the designers challenge as an overlap with strategy and planning functions in agencies. Rand started in agencies a generation before planning emerged as a discipline. Planning started in London advertising agencies. The idea of leaving pre-conceptions out of the process is a keystone of planning and strategy.

Finally, Rand focuses less on typography than one would expect. Instead he focuses on the creative use of space and direction. He viewed debates around the use of typography as an unnecessary distraction. Typography decisions would be resolved by wider thinking on space and direction. Thoughts on Design is surprisingly accessible.

In praise of (D)SLR camera

If you still use a camera nowadays given the usefulness of smartphones, the phrase mirrorless has become de rigueur. Photography like most other things in life have become progressively more digital. Technology is increasingly mediating every aspect of our experiences.

Viewfinder

I still like ‘mirrored’ or single lens reflex cameras. Digital single lens reflex cameras free the photographer from the tyranny of film; but still allows the photographer to frame up a shot in advance before using the battery life of the camera.

Looking through the view finder of an SLR gives you a temporary isolation from peripheral visuals allowing you to focus mentally as well as physically on the subject in question.  It allows you to slow down and take your time in the moment.

Of course, as with most technology experiences, the human experience is viewed in a very one dimension manner. An object to be overcome in the least minimum viable way possible.

The Internet of Stupid Things

A more charitable phrase for what many consumers call the Internet of Shit. Yes lots of products can be internet enabled, but should they be? There is a mix of challenges:

  • Products that are internet enabled but shouldn’t be – the Happy Fork or the Griffin Smart Toaster being classic examples. I found the Griffin Smart Toaster particularly disappointing as the company’s products such as the PowerMate are generally really good
  • Products that would be benefit from tech, but shouldn’t rely on the the cloud. I’d argue that Nest would fit in this category where cloud outages could have serious impacts on the consumer

It is interesting to see that Li & Fung (who are famous for global supply chain management provided to western brands and retailers) are involved in this. The qualitative design research they did on skiing wearables for a client – which begs the question of what value Li & Fung’s client brings to the table.

Jargon Watch: Kickstarter

If you’re reading this blog, you will have heard of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Kickstarter has become synonymous with crowdfunding and has become a verb.

I’ve personally subscribed to projects with very mixed results. My most recent experiences have been one of disappointment to the point that I no longer use it.

It was interesting to hear Kickstarter used in a different context, that reflects my experience with the platform.

I like the Techmoan YouTube channel as a good deal of its content introduces retro technology, many of which is is equipment or media formats that I hadn’t come across previously.

The channel host Mat used Kickstarter not as a brand, but as a verb to imply that a product was somehow inferior and lacking in quality. It has become synonymous with an amateurish effort. Just because technology and globalisation have democratised access to manufacturing; doesn’t necessarily mean better quality products. That can’t be good for the brand.

This is on top of crowdfunding’s high degree of funding failures, product failures and increasing numbers of alleged fraud.

Jargon watch: deep design

Blue deep sea squid

The key underlying belief to deep design is that modern life systems and processes aren’t designed for humans. From industrial design, to administrative processes and algorithms – all could be categorised as ‘inhumane’. If you’ve ever dealt with work visa forms in a foreign country you’ll know what I mean.

Human-centred design was supposed to address this. But it fails to scale or handle complexity. Deep design adds a layer of EQ to this.

More information
Deep design to the rescue: Solving wicked problems of the future | Campaign Asia