Frankly, my dear, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

It’s been a while, but I couldn’t think of anywhere better to post such a rant.

People don’t care about what we do. Okay, that’s a gross generalization, but in the context of this rant it’s 100% true business. As a working designer (Ha! I can say that now) I’ve begun to see this more and more, and I find myself with fewer and fewer options on how to effectively (and tactfully) combat this predicament, which is as follows.

Tonight I was presenting some commission work I had done over break (this was outside of promosrv, for reference sakes) to my client. I’ve worked for said person for years, and tonight was showing a nearly finished project. When I walked into the room to show this off, my client immediately asked the others in the room “What does this need? What do you think?” which opened up an effing can of worms. (…okay. Small interjection first. This shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Half of being a graphic designer (or any designer, for that matter) is about taking criticism, picking out the good stuff, and using it to your advantage. However, this only is applicable when those giving criticisms are qualified to do so. )

People immediately were giving their opinions, saying “it NEEDS this.” “it SHOULD HAVE this.” and I felt both entirely enraged and defeated. Had these been art professors, other designers, trained seamstresses or sculptors– I would’ve been lapping up their comments like mad, but this wasn’t the case! This wasn’t only offensive, but it was illogical. Allow me to explain.

Here’s how the scenario goes. You are a client. You need a poster/chair/dress/interface/website designed. You know you can’t do these things yourself because you aren’t trained to do them, so you call a designer. This designer, who has GONE TO SCHOOL TO DO THESE THINGS, and is TRAINED IN THE SUBJECT AREA works on your project. The designer gives you back this project and says “this is really good stuff.” You then take this project and hand it off to other people and say “What do you think this needs? Do you think this is good?” Not only is this counter productive, but this is completely and totally illogical. Why would you hire someone who knows what they’re doing if only to hand it off to people who don’t? Let me re-phrase this in a different situation.

You have a mole on your back. You think the mole might be cancerous, but since you’re not a doctor you really have no idea. So you go to see your dermatologist, who has GONE TO SCHOOL TO DO THESE THINGS and is TRAINED IN THE SUBJECT AREA to check out your mole. He looks at your mole and says “Yup, that’s cancerous.” You then proceed to walk out of the exam room into the waiting room, lift up your shirt and ask the other patients waiting “Does this look cancerous to you? What do you think?” when none of them are qualified to make any sort of educated decision.

While the latter story is obviously ridiculous, why is the first any less so? It’s because people don’t value what we do. Anyone can purchase photoshop (which, mind you, might be another rant sometime. I think you should have to prove you’re an art student or a professional to get your hands on software because otherwise everyone on earth thinks they have artistic ability when in the darkest reality of the word, they don’t. I used photoshop as a 14 year old and let me be the first to say it wasn’t good stuff that came out of it.), anyone can make a flier with ‘word art’, so why should ‘artsy-folks’ opinion even matter? We are hired because we obviously know what we’re doing– so why would you ask someone who obviously doesn’t?

In my sincere pissed-offedness following this situation, I consulted MTD, who simply laughed at me and said “ah, you will be there many more times. I’ve been there many times. Sometimes, if you can, you just need to tell people to shove it, or you take your check and move on and the work they get is crap.”  He told me the former department head used to say in such situations– “You wouldn’t hire a plumber to work on your heart.” and would leave it at that.

So the real question comes down to (I’m sorry my entries always end in quasi-rhetorical questions) how do you either tell people off for such behavior (or correct them politely?) or change their attitude on design as a whole? I’ve always abhorred (but kind of admired) other designers who simply tell these people to screw off– but then you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’ve always put being a good person higher than being a good designer, but at what point as a professional do you have to tell your clients they are not the designer so you can get on with producing good work?


I am back.

Well, this has taken too long, my apologies.  Between computer issues and trying to work as much as i could (significantly more difficult working odd jobs through summer unemployment)  I found SpeakDesign falling to the wayside.

It has, however, been a productive summer for the maturity of myself as a designer.  I believe I have gone from rash and uncontrolled to patient and thoughtful.  With individual art review, the senior level design class, and an empty portfolio,  it was time to grow up, and I did just that.

With all that out of the way, I would like to speak my mind on myself as a designer.

I was never exposed to art or design before college.  I took one art class in high school because it was required.  In fact, I was exposed to the opposite side of the profession spectrum: engineering.  My childhood was filled with building everything from cars to homes.  I spent days with my father on military ships, learning the in’s and out’s of engineering and testing, quality assessment, and manufacturing.  Other days, We were out at construction sites wiring and designing home theaters.  This was my first taste of design, and i didn’t even know it.

With that being said, it was in no way the design we are doing today.  It was primitive, simple, with a large number of restrictions like room, the location the homeowner wants, the equipment the homeowner has selected.  We had little choice, the the choices that were made determined the interactions the would take place with the objects.  From there I took this experience to my schools theatre department. Quickly I became the lead scene and lighting designers.  I fell in love with what I did not know at the time was form studies and ideation.  At that point, college was in view, and architecture seemed like the logical choice.

It was here that I learned of Corbusier and Van der Rohe, and other designer’s and architects who viewed the form of engineering as true beauty.  And while I still wish to become an architect, I have learned the importance and satisfaction of product design.

I now know that lighting design and architectural lighting are what i truly want to do.  I have always been fascinated with how much the light of an area affects the feel or mood, and I now have the tools to achieve this myself.  And while a sleek, sexy form full of elegant curves is not the most important thing in this area of design,  the beauty of the over all piece is always there.  Think the lighting of a museum especially The Field Museum in Chicago or the Museum of Science and Industry, as the lighting in these places has always impressed me.

So I guess I am a little different then the people I surround myself with.  I want to work in high stress, large budget, massive feats of engineering even if it does mean less creative freedom.   The thought of working freelance scares me, and has no attraction at all.  That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make beautiful, thought provoking object and artifacts. I love making things beautiful, no matter how bad I may be at it currently.  I do believe form is incredibly important, and will continue to worry about it in all of my work.  However I feel my personal views lean toward the turn of the century movement of “form follows function”  with a nice helping of Robert Venturi’s “Less is a Bore.”

Lets See If It Works Out.

Do good, be good.

What you design says a lot about who you are.

I see my personal philosophies trickling into the things I design. Do you?

A Response to (forget about it)

I can only conclude from the short pessimistic blow you delt that something has gone wrong. Whatever it maybe rest assured that we all have had some issue regarding design. know I have encountered my share this summer, what with not having a place to work or model. And on top of that is this overlying search for identity and authorship within my work. Giant question marks still loom in the shadow’d future.

I can answer all your questions you posed with a confident Yes. We do all these things and more. Design is a duplicitous field fueled by passion and loathing.

I am sure you have heard the phrase “can’t see the picture if your inside the frame.” Actually you said it and it rings true for every passing moment of my life. I have come across a first had account of the American Revolution written by a historian in his time and In relation to this topic and the topic at had I find his description of the picture and in this case the forest to be eloquent and humble.

” It is the story of the revolutionary period, ending in 1789, that we have here to relate in its principal outlines. When we stand upon the crest of a lofty hill and look about in all directions over the landscape, we can often detect relations between distant points which we had not before thought of together. While we tarried in the lowland, we could see blue peaks rising here and there against the sky, and follow babbling brooks hither and thither through the forest. It was more homelike down there than on the hilltop, for in each gnarled tree, in every moss-grown boulder, in every wayside flower, we had a friend that was near to us; but the general bearings of things may well have escaped our notice. In climbing to our lonely vantave-ground, while the familiar scenes fade from sight, there are gradually unfolded to us those connections between crag and meadow and stream that make the life and meaning of the whole. We learn the ‘lay of the land,’ and become, in a humble way geographers… The facts are to near to us we are down among them, like the man who could not see the forest because there were so many trees.” – John Fiske, The war of Independence, p.3

So if we can somehow crawl to the hilltop and look out upon what we are doing as designers will wee see the quest for; beauty, for satisfying clients, for spreading a message, for posing our values? Yes! It is clear that you, me, all the contributors of this blog are passionate about design. But the big question I believe is are you Compassionate? Will you bear hardships, drudge through slop and go through arguments for Design? This is a question for everyone. Like any good relationship that has endured, your relationship with design must also endure. Design is like a 5 yr old kid. If it is complacent, quiet and keeps to himself then the thrill goes by the wayside and he is not as fun as one who is more energetic, confusing, and curious. I will end this mega rant with that. Take from it.

Feel good about it.

Why do we design?

No, really, sometimes it’s good to ask. Do we just want to make things pretty? Please the client? Help spread a worthwhile message? Spread sustainability? Do we do this for the money, or because we simply think it’s fun to do?

It’s (not) just stuff.

I tried to post this last night– wordpress tells me it did. My computer says it didn’t. If it shows up as a repeat, my apologies.

This is the tale of two homes & our responsibility as designers. 

Since Andy first informed me of emotional durability sometime this spring, it’s been in the back of my head with everything I buy and everything I own. What am I attached to, and why? How can you design things that people are more likely to love? Loving objects is weird. Really. It’s the same reason my father cried when his ‘95 Miata was crushed by hail and why if my house were on fire I would grab my blankie and run. Which brings me to my next point. 

While I’ve mentioned this outside of web 2.0, one of my best friend’s houses burnt down this weekend. The house was huge, beautiful, with things in it that too, were loved. Wedding albums & hunting trophies & several first communion dresses. Houses, even though we move to and from them, are loved. Things in them, as silly as they are, are LOVED. The loss of things with emotional durability is traumatic. Which also moves me foreward.

Matti is moving out of his house. I’m super excited for their family- the house they’re in now is far too small for three boys. However, this post-divorce house is all I’ve known for nearly four-and-a-half-years. I painted that bathroom downstairs when I was 16. Matthew and I made a party out of re-painting the kitchen one late night. I can tell you where everything goes in the cabinets when I empty the dishwasher. I know that you have to slam the back door to get it closed. There a million firsts & moments I cannot re-create anywhere other than in that house, that has changed and re-arranged since the first date I sat awkwardly on a green leather couch and held hands while watching Monty Python’s holy grail. I’m happy to see the move take place– but I’m not happy about the move taking place. In 1920 when the house was built, did the architect build a porch so perfect for two people for a reason Was emotional durability built into that house, or do I merely love it because I love its inhabitants? 

But even as I type this– stuff is just stuff, right? Houses are built and torn down every day, I shop at Vinnie’s religiously and understand that one man’s junk is always another’s treasure. Matti’s house is just a house. Their new house will be just as beautiful and I’m super excited to see what memories happen there. But then there’s the pile of smoldering rubble off of 550 that was a home Sunday morning and a complete loss on Sunday night, proving that in fact, stuff isn’t just stuff. Stuff (which I’ve been using as an umbrella term here) is something you’ve used so much you feel like it’s yours in more than the sense of ownership. The things we own are irreplaceable, even if it’s bound to be trash from the moment it’s made. As designers, I think we should remember this. The things we design have the power to make people feel this way; we can make and break the way we feel. So, with this great power of directing affection (when possible) comes, per usual, great responsibility. Remember that everything we design, be it visual, physical or conceptual, will effect the way someone feels. It’s up to us (and them) to decide just how much. 


Your Thoughts Please.

Hello all,
So it has been my goal this summer to continue my work even though school is not in session.
Love-SeatI have recently made great progress on this one particular design which I am calling Love-Seat. As you can see it is not a love seat in the traditional sense, no cushion, no close (shared) proximal relationship, so on. So why do I call this A love seat? The answer lies in the fact that as relationships thrive on proximity they also survive on space. This having been noted I designed this love-Seat with the intent that even though there is a clear division in space between to partners there is also the same experience of a shared apparatus. This design was/is a culmination of research taken from public spaces (airports, bus stops, city seating) and also research from more intimate settings, (living room, dining booth, so on) The previous is evident in the middle seat being turned upside down but purposely designed to still embody a seat like form. Here you can draw from your own conclusion like the middle urinal rule and the one safe seat space at the airport. This above all highlights one’s fear of have their personal bubble breached. The intimacy we experience within day to day living also becomes apparent as our need for our own space grows within our own homes or social groups. So If you are still with me at this point then it is safe to say that this object which is solely designed as a piece that highlights our personal insecurities and need for our own space can be effective in communicating its message in a public or private setting. But it is my intention that this piece become an installation in either of those spheres or within an art gallery it self though my greatest fear is designing something that never gets used. Again I have considered the dysfunctional nature of this object and its placement with a functional setting and have made it so that it raise questions on our behavior. Simply stated this is a piece of design that has on foot in the art door and one foot in the design door.

In closing, I would love to hear your thoughts about this design, topic, or both.