Chain Letters


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Celene Aubry
“The natural path to solving any design problem is rarely straight.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Melissa Deckert + Nicole Licht
"We really enjoy the ideation stage of a project because it is where we can be thoughtful and considered, but also allow ourselves to entertain crazy ideas."


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Victor Melendez
This December, we’re elevating the act of gift giving by pondering the items inside the box: examining design as craft, poring over process, and picking the brains of designers whose technical skill turn products into objets d’art.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dana Chisnell
You might think these aren’t design questions, but you’re in the business of culture change.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Toni L. Griffin
I strongly believe—and have seen firsthand—how shared ownership in creating a vision plan inspires greater collective action.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Chelsea Mauldin
“Most broken government systems are not designed—they accrete, bits and pieces stuck on to address problems.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Steven Heller
“Design is a profession that has grown out of its stereotypes.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Elysia Borowy-Reeder
“Information is everywhere now. We need educated, well-versed curators to make sense of it.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alexander Tochilovsky
"Reading the imprint of past choices can teach us a lot about how to be a designer today."



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sean Adams
The point regarding design history is about documentation. If the work is not documented and disseminated, it disappears.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Margaret Gould Stewart
Margaret Gould Stewart is Vice-President of Product Design at Facebook where she leads a global team of product designers and researchers for teams such as Artificial Intelligence and Privacy & Data Use.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Arthur Cohen
I support a world in which design is not elevated and codified into some idealized “other,” but rather integrated into everyday practice that is just good business.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Randy J. Hunt
“There are examples of designs that were the spark of an innovation and there are examples of designs that added to and evolved an otherwise already innovative idea.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Grace Jun
“Design is way of seeing and a way of doing. A unique perspective and method that combined can lead to innovation.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Zachary Lieberman
“Tools and jobs will always change but the fundamentals stay the same.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Pangaro
In my experience, an understanding of the processes of design and the means for expanding techniques and capabilities are a matter of practice and critique, tightly coupled.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dori Tunstall
“Designing is not about a job. Design is one of many pathways for doing meaningful work in the world.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Gail Anderson
“As a designer, I am sensitive to the way people consume information, and very concerned about the survival of print.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Joan Wong
“I’m not sure the experience between print and ebooks is really that different.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jennifer 8. Lee
“In my line of work, sometimes you have to wait for the future to catch up.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Anna Gerber
“Readers and writers are open, adventurous, and eager to try new things. Even if those experiences are not always perfect.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Moore
“Streaming has shocked new life into the music industry and the vinyl we all hold dear to our hearts. Now the platform is finding a new generation of ardent fans. As designers, that’s where we can influence a movement.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Emily Batson
“A key part of my job is collaboration. I enjoy the negotiation of finding a concept that truly works.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Frank Ockenfels 3
“I am a true believer of creating in the moment.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lawrence Azerrad
It‘s June, and you know what that means—the unofficial kick-off of summer concert season. This month, we examine design and music, and why fans everywhere benefit when these creative industries work in concert.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jamer Hunt
“And it’s likely the case that most design criticism today focuses on ideology more than aesthetics, as we’re going through a period of long-overdue self-scrutiny.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Molly Heintz
Labeling design, or anything, “good” is a slippery slope—good for whom?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Andrew Blauvelt
Criticism allows for self-reflection, and that is necessary when we use words like discipline and field to talk about design.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alice Twemlow
“Of course design criticism is still relevant—it just inhabits formats that we might be less familiar with.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Karin Fong
“A bit of uncertainty is good for the design process. I would hate to be trapped in the sureness of my own thoughts.”



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Deva Pardue
“I don’t believe that being an artist or a designer by definition makes you an activist. I think the responsibility arises when you have something relevant to say.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Rhea Combs
“I believe art has many functions, and one of them is to interrogate the status quo.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lindsay Peoples
Celebrating Women’s History month and how to better design for inclusivity with The Cut’s fashion market editor, Lindsay Peoples.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Julian Alexander
What made Julian Alexander become a designer, and what was it like working with 50 Cent during the start of his career?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jason Murphy
“Inclusivity. That is the cliché. Where are they doing that?”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Ced Funches
“Admitting you may not be the best person to bring a vision to life is the hard part.”



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dian Holton
"As designers, we are problem-solvers, visionaries, and teachers," says Holton. "It’s important for us to be empathic and proactive in learning about our audience, so that we can provide meaningful experiences. This means getting to know the people who may not be like you."


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Briana Como
“We make an effort to be aware of and remove bias by focusing on behaviors instead of demographics when creating distinct personas.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sarah Doody
“With anything we create, the first step in the design process must be to understand. This happens through research.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Richard Ting
Richard Ting, Global Chief Experience Officer at R/GA, continues our Chain Letters interview series.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jessica Gaddis
This interview is part of a new Design Observer series, Chain Letters, in which we ask leading design minds a few burning questions—and so do their peers, for a year-long conversation about the state of the industry.



Observed


Everything you ever wanted to know about the origins of Dutch design (but were afraid to ask).

A meditation on the history of design—and the rise of strategy—from Jarrett Fuller.

A meditation on analog beauty—and vernacular signage—from Elizabeth Goodspeed.

Richard Stengel makes a compelling case that journalism should be free to save democracy. “According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, more than 75% of America’s leading newspapers, magazines, and journals are behind online paywalls. And how do American news consumers react to that?” (Subscription required.) 

Please, please, pleaseget some sleep.

The Supreme Court allows Idaho to ban transgender health care for minors. For now.

Historically, we’ve invested huge resources to keep cities and nature separate. But we now know that the health of the soil and the health of people are the same story. So, what does this have to do with design? Join the unstoppable John Thackara and Milan Politecnico professor Ezio Manzini today at 11 am ET as they discuss this critical—and surprisingly overlooked—environmental issue.

Conducted through audio interviews, Ana Miljački's I Would Prefer Not To is an oral history project on the topic of the most important kind of refusal in architects’ toolboxes: refusal of the architectural commission. (Miljački, an architectural historian and theorist, is also Director of the Critical Broadcasting Lab at MIT.) Produced in conjunction with the Architectural League of New York, this podcast features conversations with a number of fascinating practitioners including Diller + Scofidio's Elizabeth Diller, WXY partner Claire Weisz (who we interviewed in Season Three of The Design of Business | The Business of Design) and Nina Cooke John (a Season Nine guest).

This past winter, a diverse cohort of students from the MADE Program at Brown + RISD and Harvard immersed themselves in a wealth of data provided by the City of Boston with the mission of uncovering novel, meaningful, and joyful perspectives on navigating and understanding the urban environment. Their resulting projects—a series of interactive exhibits ranging from envisioning the evolving contours of the coastline to revealing the secret lives of the city’s trees—will be on view this week at the Boston Museum of Science.

Designers are leaving corporate life in droves, re-designed out of their own jobs. “The strategic design gold rush is over,” reports Robert Fabricant.  So, where are they going? “[A} new class of platforms and networks have emerged, including NeolDesign Executive CouncilChief Design Officer School, Design Leadership Job Board, and Design Leaders.” This isn’t a bad thing, he says. “These platforms specifically target ‘fractional’ design leaders who are looking to support one another, collaborate on projects, better communicate their value, and source new income-generating opportunities, both individually and collectively.” 

A new project designed to amplify Indigenous-owned businesses on Google Maps and Google Search gets high marks from Huitzilli Oronia, a Chicana designer from Denver, Colorado, and the creative production agency Hook.  Oronia contributed Google’s Indigenous-owned attribute icon and associated launch materials to the initiative. “This wasn’t just another campaign; it represented an opportunity to help Indigenous business owners share their heritage and foster deeper connections between the businesses and their consumers,” she says.

Yet another social app built around talk, not text! 

Faith Ringgold, the multimedia artist whose soaring work documented race, class, family, community, justice, and the African American experience in the U.S., has died. She was 93. Her work included painting, sculpture, mask- and doll-making, textiles, performance art, and children’s literature. “Few artists have kept as many balls in the air as long as Faith Ringgold,” the New York Times art critic Roberta Smith wrote in 2013. “She has spent more than five decades juggling message and form, high and low, art and craft, inspirational narrative and quiet or not so quiet fury about racial and sexual inequality.”

Nike is under fire for its “needlessly revealing and sexist” Team USA women’s track and field kit. “Wait, my hoo haa is gonna be out.”

AI is rewriting the internet. Here’s what to expect from Microsoft’s Copilot, Google’s Gemini, and OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4. “These AI tools are vast autocomplete systems, trained to predict which word follows the next in any given sentence. As such, they have no hard-coded database of ‘facts’ to draw on — just the ability to write plausible-sounding statements. This means they have a tendency to present false information as truth since whether a given sentence sounds plausible does not guarantee its factuality,” says reporter James Vincent. Yay! The future sounds…?

The National Governors Association has launched a new Health Equity Learning Network to support policy solutions and share strategies to reduce health inequities in the U.S.

Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist who became known for his groundbreaking work in bias, heuristics, and how people make decisions, has died at 90. Kahneman became widely known for his 2011 book Thinking, Fast and Slow, which aimed to “improve the ability to identify and understand errors of judgment and choice, in others and eventually ourselves, by providing a richer and more precise language to discuss them.”

Maqroo means readable: Leo Burnett Dubai agency has partnered with Omantel telecom network to create a new dyslexia-friendly Arabic font. “Arabic is one of the oldest and most beautiful languages in the world. With 12 million words it is also the most complex, making it even harder for those with dyslexia to learn it,” says Leo Burnett Dubai art director Abdo Mohamed. (It’s also beautiful.)

Wicked looks good.

The much anticipated Humane AI Pin has arrived, an expensive, subscription-based wearable chatbot — or “second brain” — that nobody seems to like very much. Yet, I guess.

Who will represent working-class life?documentary about the UK-based photographer Tish Murtha is asking important questions about which stories are told visually — and supported by the art establishment — and why. “She showed the reality of poverty and deprivation in communities where the misery of unemployment had been allowed to settle by the Westminster political classes who considered it a price worth other people paying for the boon of undermining trade union power,” writes Peter Bradshaw. “But in capturing the faces, particularly the faces of children, Murtha showed her subjects’ humour, optimism and refusal to be cowed.”

An employee who worked as an art installer secretly hung one of his own paintings in the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, and we’re not that mad about it. “He was carrying tools; that’s why he went totally unnoticed,” said Tine Nehler, a museum spokesperson. “As a technician, he was able to move around all areas of the building outside of opening hours.”

Marian Bantjes critiques the design and logic (and design logic) of the food pyramid (and pyramids in general).

Lesly Pierre Paul’s New Vision Art School turns to the arts as a way to continue local traditions and keep neighborhood children out of gangs. 

Tahnee Ahtone joins the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City as Curator, Native American Art. She was previously the Director and Curator at the Kiowa Tribal Museum in Carnegie, Oklahoma.

News we love: founded in 2002 by Nínive Calegari, a teacher, and McSweeney's founder (and author) Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia receives a $1 million donation from Yield Giving, a massive philanthropy effort by Amazon co-founder MacKenzie Scott.

Next week, Case Western will host design anthropologist Christina Wasson, who will deliver the 2024 Applying Anthropology to Real World Problems Lecture. Entitled The Participatory Design of Indigenous Heritage Archives, Wasson will describe how she has adapted participatory design methods to develop archives that preserve indigenous languages. (Thursday, April 18, at 4 p.m. in Mather Memorial Building, Room 201.)

Margerete Jahny belonged to a rare demographic of industrial designer: she was East German—and female—and according to design historian Günter Höhne, she was the first East German industrial designer, of any gender, with a university education.

New “networks” and “platforms” targeting “fractional” design leaders who are looking to support one another, collaborate on projects, better communicate their value, and source new income-generating opportunities, both individually and collectively. More on the reinvention design leaders are facing, by Robert Fabricant.

Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado are ending the practice of anonymous surveys to determine which bills should live or die. The change to make all parts of the survey public comes months after a judge ordered lawmakers to stop using their previous secret ballot system to prioritize legislation because it violated Colorado’s open meetings law, reports the Longmont Leader.



Jobs | April 24