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


Turns out, Thomas Edison once tried to claim credit for an invention created by the most prolific Black inventor of the 19th century because, of course he did. Granville T. Woods was the first to patent the induction telegraph, which allowed moving trains to send messages to stations. Edison lost a nuisance suit he filed against Woods over the patent, but the world got the last laugh: Woods is still widely known as the “Black Edison.”  

The 2023 winners of the Prototypes for Humanity Awards honor innovations in the design and development of synthetic yeast, weed-generated plastic alternatives, and an app called Kapak that flags suspicious procedures and raises awareness about corruption risks. 

Humorist, cartoonist and unparalleled observer of ennui, Roz Chast also does embroidery.

Now that human-centered design has had its moment—let's all say a big hello to LOON-CENTRIC DESIGN.

"Every aspect of her—her voice, her carry. her tone, her charisma—all these things spoke to me visually and sonically," observes designer, sculptor, and afrofuturist Angelbert Metoyer. His statue, I am Barbara Jordan, was unveiled last weekend in Houston. And in Pittsburgh, Daniel Liebeskind reflects on his monument honoring the victims of the 2018 synagogue attack. “It’s not a cemetery,” notes the architect." It has to be an affirmation of life.”

Design, as a professional field, feels broken to some practitioners. A new book, What Design Can’t Do: Essays on Design and Delusion by Lisbon-based designer and writer Silvio Lorusso, offers sanctuary. “What was once a promising field rooted in problem-solving has become a problem in itself,” he writes. “The skill set of designers appears shaky and insubstantial – their expertise is received with indifference, their know-how is trivialised by online services…If you see yourself as a designer without qualities; if you feel cheated, disappointed or betrayed by design, this book is for you.”

Designers are podcasting now! (We know, we know.)

Is it a car? Is it an art installation? Behold solar designer Marjan van Aubel's genre-bending sculptural interpretation of the Lexus Future Zero-emission Catalyst (LF-ZC) concept car.

Art Basel Miami Beach: ain’t nothing but a party

Mice, evidently, are now self-aware. (Which may explain why none are running for U.S. president.)

Leading us ever closer to a landfill-free circular economy, designers are turning to waste as an increasingly flexible material. Using fruit peel, orange seeds, and coffee ground waste collected from businesses in Italy, Krill, a Milan-based design firm, creates products that can be redistributed to the same businesses for use in their offices, instead of furniture made from common plastics. They've created (and patented) a plastic-like biomaterial they call Rekrill: it's fully organic, biodegradable, and can be used over and over again. (Spoiler: it's also expensive.)

Volkswagen, Volvo, Chrysler, BMW, Porsche, Bugatti, Audi, Ford, Kia, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz all have male design heads, yet women buy more than 60 percent of all new cars sold in the Unted States. Will the rise in the design and production change all that? Debatable.

How Samuel Ross thinks about the design of a park bench as an opportunity to “house” the body.

Did you know that the humble graham cracker was once a symbol of dietary restraint? That chewing gum was once a substitute for rubber? That away from the bar cart, brandy has been used as a cardiac catalyst and a sedative? Design (and intentionality) in food and flavor profiles: a compendium!

The entirety of Logan Airport's candy apple red Terminal E was designed around the concept of efficiency, for travelers and airport workers alike. A curvy structure boasting floor to ceiling windows, ultra-high ceilings, and literally no right angles in sight, Spanish architect Luis Vidal has introduced an iconic structure painted a prismatic red and clad in more than 52,000 square feet of something called photovoltaic glass. (Which, as it turns out, generates its own electricity.) Internal innovations include a sensory room, a space for anxious fliers or neurodivergent travelers who might need a visual and auditory respite from a bustling terminal. “Airports are the cathedrals of the 21st century,” observes the architect. “They serve as the main gateway of countries, requiring a bold presence to leave a positive and lasting impression on the traveler. They must be design-focused because ultimately, everything in a well-designed airport revolves around the freedom of the passenger.”

Through December 16, The Italian Cultural Institute in Lima, Peru is exhibiting a series of posters designed by graphic designers and artists between 1923 and 2022, which collectively tell the story of the 23 editions of the Triennale Milano International Exhibition to date. (You can explore the posters online here.)

Nigerian designer Nifemi Marcus-Bello is an empath, an optimist, and an (aptly) self-described archivist. In addition to his own robust and increasingly global practice, his personal research project (entitled Africa – A Designer)  will be exhibited in Europe next summer. The project looks to document and archive unauthorized Indigenous designed objects that have found their way into our daily lives. 

Long-time Design Observer contributor (and self-professed "student of mall history") Alexandra Lange reviews The Well, a mixed-use space in Toronto. “The result,” Lange observes, “is a bit like adaptive reuse gone Vegas: bigger, smoother, and more mechanically “different” from building to building than a neighborhood that has grown organically.”

An overwhelming amount of media is disproportionately owned by a uniform, wealthy class of global industrialists. Which makes Nukhu—a model and forum for community minded cinema, based in New York—an etraordinary thing to behold. Founded in 2016 by Sanjay Singh, Nukhu's mission empowers independent BIPOC artists and in so doing, nurtures an enlightened artistic community. In an industry where financial backing and recognition remain formidable challenges for independent filmmakers, Nukhu emerges as a beacon of hope and empowerment, standing at the forefront of a movement dedicated to facilitating opportunities and reshaping the narrative for independent artists. (Read more about their Nukhu-powered celebration—called Nukhufest—here.)

Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) is a global coalition of nonprofits, tech companies, and universities working to make meaningful climate action faster and easier by independently tracking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, harnessing satellite imagery and other forms of remote sensing, artificial intelligence, and data science expertise to identify human-caused GHG emissions when and where they happen. The website is fast, responsive and frankly, brilliant.

Also in Miami this week, the Japanese female wrestling league Sukeban will be taking over Miami’s Lot 11 Skatepark for one night only to crown its first-ever World Champion. (Stream it here.) In Japanese, Sukeban translates as “delinquent girl,” a nod to the female equivalent of the male banchō in Japanese culture. According to Olympia Le-Tan, a fashion designer and the league’s creative director, the importance of projecting each wrestler’s personality and character through their costume was crucial. (Don't miss the belts.)

Remember Tilly Talbot—billed as the world's first AI designer? She was first announced by our friends at Dezeen last spring, made an appearance at Milan Design Week and beginning today, is “in residence” at The Standard in Miami, for Miami Art Week. Tilly—a bot—was invented by Snoop Studio founder Amanda Talbot after “pondering the relationship between AI and human loneliness, programming her under the studio’s principles of human-centered design that prioritizes nature.” Adds the human Talbot: ”Tilly will challenge you on materials." 

Seventh-generation Diné (Navajo) designer, textile artist, and weaver (and according to her Instagram, part time skater and model) Naiomi Glasses is the inaugural artist in residence … at Ralph Lauren.

The 22nd annual ArtReview 100 is here — click through for an eclectic and inspiring array of artists, many of whom use their platforms to speak truth to power. Photographer Nan Goldin tops the list; her most recent work has been dedicated to exposing the art world’s complicity in the opioid epidemic by accepting money from the Sackler family.  

Love Odih Kumuyi offers an excellent blueprint for designing meetings for inclusion and innovation. It’s all about the psychological safety. “Based on current dynamics or past experiences, individuals have a generalized sense of whether their voices will be received with respect or silenced and dismissed. Leaders asking for individuals to vulnerably share ideas must carefully curate an environment where the rules of engagement are in alignment with principles of psychological safety.” 

The controversial president of the COP28 climate summit, Sultan Al Jaber, does not seem to be on board with fossil fuel targets. “[P]lease, help me, show me a roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuels that will allow for sustainable socio-economic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves,” he said at last month's She Changes Climate summit. 

London-based designer Brendan Callaghan obscures typography through a series of imagined destinations in his project, Untold Roads—an exquisite site for adventurers—or, frankly, for anyone who appreciates a beautifully articulated demonstration of what happens when form reinforces content. See the case study here.

In Boston, Northeastern University is looking for a full-time Professor in Design, Civic/Social Values and Democracy. Details here.

Minnesota flag finalists' entries into a statewide competition all reflect common themes and elements: all of them have a star, a nod to the state's motto "L'Etoile du Nord," and some shade of blue (for the land of 10,000 lakes). FairVote Minnesota—an organization which advocates for implementing ranked choice voting—conducted the election, and more than 12,000 people cast their vote. Here's the winner.

The first graphic appeared on a Kansas plate in 1942, with sunflowers on the lower left and right sides. Since then it's been a wild ride. (If you're late to the Plategate party, here's a primer.)



Jobs | December 11