“Solving problems is the lowest form of design. Because design wants more from us. It wants our humanity. It wants our optimism. It wants our honesty. It wants our ideas for what a better world looks like. Some days, those are small ideas. Some days, those are big ideas.”
Matthew Butterick, from his TYPO 2013 talk

On collecting, commonplace books, and peeking into others’ thought process

I have a confession to make. My Google Reader has a folder labeled “Bookmarks” where I’ve subscribed to the Pinboard and Delicious accounts people I admire—people much smarter than me. Obviously these profiles are public, but somehow I feel like I’m intruding into their private spaces, like I’ve opened a filing cabinet drawer that I’m not supposed to look into.

There is something interesting about looking at these collections, whether they be on Pinboard, on Delicious, on GimmieBar, on Pinterest, or even on Tumblr. Sometimes these collections are meant to be shared but I’ve found more often they are meant for archiving. Maybe there is a thread of an idea in an article or an image that can be used for something but they are not quite sure what yet. It’s like looking into someone else brain, getting a glimpse of their thought process.

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“The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not “think up” but “notice.””

Paul Graham’s How To Get Startup Ideas is an excellent read on startups, idea generation, and the future. Followers of my own writing probably know I’m a big fan of noticing.

But how do you turn what you notice into a startup? I love Graham’s central thesis: "Live in the future, then build what’s missing."

“If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions and you have to, you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win, otherwise good people don’t stay.”

Part three of the online video series Everything is a Remix is all about The Elements of Creativity. The idea behind creativity and innovation is that it must happen in a network—no good ideas are ever birthed in isolation—they must build on what has come before.

I highly recommended Steven Johnson’s excellent book Where Good Ideas Come From that really dives into this idea. I completely devoured this book and it’s easily one of my favorite books I’ve read this year so far.

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

—George Bernard Shaw

(via Design and Truth by Robert Grudin)

Steven Johnson on where good ideas come from. The history of GPS was completely fascinating to me. (via YMFY)

Year End Review

It’s hard to believe that 2010 is coming to a close. It was a big year for me academically, professionally, and personally. I thought it’d be nice to take some inventory of a few of the big ideas that I wrote about here on the blog this past year and the topics that will likely continue through 2011.

  1. Design is a language. Like the French have words for things we don’t in English, design is better suited to communicate some ideas that just words or just images can’t quite convey.
  2. Design is a liberal art. Design can be used as a problem solving tool and should be taught in schools as such. Design can take complex information and present it in a simple, concise format.
  3. Designers no longer have the last word. Now more than ever, designers must create frameworks where the user can interact and contribute to the conversation. Designers no longer create static work, now we need to build platforms that encourage conversation, improvisation, and surprise.
  4. Collaboration is central to the creative process. Working with others adds friction and restraint that working by yourself doesn’t provide. It’s hard work, but I think the pay off it worth it.
  5. iPads and Kindles will not kill the traditional, printed book but they will change it. It’s important to consider what we feel is worth printing. Designers need to take advantage of the benefits print offers that a digital book can never duplicate and then tailor each book to fit the chosen medium. The written word is changing and each medium can play a different role.
  6. Starting new projects is hard, but once you start you have momentum and can keep going. The lizard brain will try and stop you from doing your work. Sometimes the hardest part is just starting.
  7. Art is about shining a light into a dark world. There is so much pain and suffering and complaining and misery but there is also hope and joy and love and redemption. Art needs to show that. Art needs to show people this world is still good.
  8. White space is important in design and it’s even more important in life. Take a break sometimes. You deserve to rest a little. That’s as good a new year’s resolution as any, I think.

It’s been a busy year and 2011 already promises to be exciting. I can’t say it enough: thank you for continuing to follow along, read, and explore with me. See you in 2011.

“Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, small people talk about other people.”