Can new definitions open new possibilities?

This facebook post on Design Kompany got the Origin conversation started…

YESTERDAY IN A SHOP I HEARD ENGLISH. It had been a while since I heard my own accent, clear and steady. I looked to where the source of this was, and caught sight of a young girl, maybe 9 or 10. She switched to Khmer when two smaller girls sidled up to her and took either of her hands.

Were they cousins, I mused?

Had she grown up with parents born in Cambodia, had she learned the native English of a land like England or Australia, complete with their own slangs and facial cues and other things you learn only when you are raised in that place?

But what about ‘place,’ anyway? Why should it be defined by the border of a nation, an ethnicity, or even a language? Watching the children together, at play, it was clear. They were ‘from’ the same place… maybe Childhood.


They were from, let’s see.

Let’s get creative here.

In how we define bounds.

They were from ‘a world that invites,’ ‘a place of connection,’ ‘a universe where laughter is joy, and joy is currency.’ They were from, that is, let’s see… ‘a community that holds hands, smiles, laughs and engages with that which might be interesting, that which might invite sharing of stories, making of plays and jokes.’ They were from… ‘Humanity.’

At this awareness, I got happy. There might be hope for us as we all explore our identities, and how we’re more alike than different. These little girls were all smiling, all three of them, skipping about beneath their mothers’ elbows, pointing at frilly dresses, testing out the oversize shoes the way any little girl in any place might.

Does this resonate with you? I’m going to keep posting bits and pieces from now through 21 April, when we will host our last conversation salon in Phnom Penh on the topic of ‘fromness.’ ORIGIN will invite anyone who identifies with this topic, anyone at all. Perhaps you grew up in #PhnomPenh. Or outside of it. Maybe you’re ‘from’ Kampot Province, or somewhere else. Maybe you want to just discover who else is curious about this idea. Join us in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to mix and connect, to talk and discover what it is that outlines your own sense of belonging. Come and share with us, Where are you +local+?

Come play. 21 APRIL in #PhnomPenh is Origin.

The Art of Not Knowing

Art of Not Knowing by Dipika Kohli
Read more >

A NEW ESSAY COLLECTION, by DK’s Dipika Kohli. It’s about many, many things but most of it is about uncertainty. How we can’t possibly know a thing before we start, and how we simply must investigate our way towards what feels right, and how that even works.

First release will be 1 June for members S P A C E. Then, pre-orders will be released 1 July.

Read more >

Let’s meet in S P A C E

DESIGN KOMPANY are gathering people in online forums lately, to connect and reconnect. To talk together. In small circles, or larger ones. Sometimes this becomes real life, as in the salon series we have been hosting since 2006 in cities around the world when we find the moment of inspiration and the right mix of people to convene and do what DK likes to think of as ‘a jam.’

A jam session. A place to show up, as you are, with what you have to contribute.

Music has a lot of parallels with design.

There are stanzas, which are ‘rooms’ (the Italian word for ‘room’ is stanza, yes?). There are moments of silence, when we are at rest. We play off of one another’s expressions. This is conversation: at its best, the salon space and jam session each makes a room for a particular kind of art. (I will tell you more if we meet online or in real life, because there’s more to say but you need to have a section of getting-to-know-you time for it to be, well, interesting.)

An important part of making it so that it gets interesting is continuity. Progression. So a huge part of the high-quality jam is having shown up, over time.

This was the big learning from 2 years of hosting online programs. It matters. Showing up. Over time.

That’s why we are hosting S P A C E online now. Too. I mean, there are always real-life things.

But as our team continues to learn and shift and grow, we are still connecting with new people, wherever in the world we go. Sometimes we move. Or others move.

This is the world we are in right now, isn’t it? Digital, roaming.

But so? Why should that have to curtail the momentum?

When there’s a flow, when the feeling is good, when you have a good feeling about a person and what they might bring to the circle of ideas in good time, when they are ready, why not keep talking? I am thinking of Edward de Bono’s book, Six Thinking Hats. I am thinking of his Thinking Club, which he said needed to be six people who show up regularly. I am thinking of some things I overheard about a certain mens’ group here in Phnom Penh that may or may not fizzle due to lack of commitment by people showing up over time. There is something here, very surely. We need sustained connection. To have the conversation that will take us places, that will be interesting, over time.

Watching people play music together who have been doing it for a long time is a nice thing to do, as long as you can see that they still enjoy their connection, right? And that’s the same with artist collectives, design houses, and even teams of people at their jobs in other dimensions that I can only imagine about. I know that of the three architecture firms I worked for, only one had a space for the ‘jam.’ I loved that job. Of the two newspapers where I was once upon a time a staff, only one of them made Monday morning meetings to brainstorm together for stories a priority. I absolutely adored that job, and would have stayed until the end of my life, but for the call of the road and the journeys to come.

I have to N + 1 it, or I will stagnate.

But the movement and the learnings and the push and the nudge for N + 1 style of spacemaking and conversation salon-hosting is what I’ll personally bring to our conversations.

I wonder if you want to join me, and the others, here in S P A C E?

Here are a few upcomings.

Or, you can subscribe to the weekly eZine, S P A C E, here.

Look forward to welcoming you there! —AS

N + 1

‘WHY’ is the first question.

‘Why are you making S P A C E?’

‘Why are you doing Design Kompany?’ ‘Didn’t you guys used to do branding?’

‘What is N? What is the point?’


I have thought about them, and how to deal with them.

I have not done well with this.

Why? What is the point of anything? Why even exist at all?

But after contemplating, long and hard, I am learning that it is okay to just not think about it too much, because that is staying in the box. That is not going to the edge, looking out. Inquiry-based design. Thinking about what’s possible, not what always was. The death of mankind will be (any number of millions of things seen and unforseen, one of which is) clinging to the status quo. If we cling, we will never be open to the possibilities of one another’s ideas, thoughts, perspectives, feelings. I am reading. Systems thinking books. Applications of stuff. I was an engineering major, but my work has been in architecture and journalism and here, at DK, in thinking up stuff for people. Seriously.

The thinking up stuff part got interesting when the people who commissioned us were open to the process. I used to think this was just regular, that everyone likes to fly off the edges of their boxes, and that we will do the jam together. But only a few people, a select kind of people, really like to do that. Are interested in it. Thankfully, a few of those people found DK over the years, and they became friends, collaborators, patrons, and clients. They became people in our circle, the people with whom we share ideas, network, talk, and think up more stuff. Together.

I made S P A C E in order to keep in touch with people, at first. To just share a little bit in a mailing. This grew into a sharing that involved interviews with creative people around the world. People who were exploring the process, and doing intriguing things. Beyond just everyday commerce, I mean, sure, sometimes that’s part of it, selling things. But selling things is not the POINT. It is not the objective. Creativity and exploring it fully, meaningfully, at the edges of N boundaries into the unknown, unchartered territories of ‘N + 1,’ that. That is the thing we are talking about, each week, in S P A C E. It’s now a weekly eZine. It’s fun. Writing, sharing. Conversation making. The jam is still happening, and it happens with you. If you are here, reading, if this is resonating, maybe you would like this sort of journey with us.

IT IS SMALL, this community. I mean, it is. Not many people come to this website. You know, I used to think it was all about SEO and sharebars and whatever. But now, I just want a few people here. To talk. About innovation, spacemaking, creativity, processes, the ignitions towards opening new directions and empathy and paying attention to others. And caring. And learning. And growing, together. That’s another part of it. That’s another thing, about N + 1.

I love writing here, in the protected pages on this blog. And posting links to things. And seeing how some of us respond, from time to time, in the comments there. Sometimes the guests of S P A C E meet in person, too. In real life. When there are events around, then I love to include them. All members of S P A C E are always welcome to any of our events, as my personal guest. It’s a way to share, and continue to meet in person, and a way for me to keep in touch in that dimension transcending 3D into the hard-to-find-room-for one that we are so longing for, some of us. Time.

S P A C E and N + 1 are concepts, sure they are. But we are making boxes of time. And spaces for real-life connection. We are showing up. We are gathering people. We are discovering how we might all learn and grow, together, in the way that is flat hierarchy. Circle-y. No one is pushing any kind of agenda, and we are respectful and mindful of other people’s point(s) of view(s).

GETTING INVOLVED. Many ways. You can join events in real life or programs that are online. You can subscribe to S P A C E. You can meet us in THE FORUM. There are so many styles of doing the N + 1 kind of jam. The question is, are you ready? Not for everyone, of course. Then again, that’s kind of how I like it. Small, cozy. Making meaning, and at times, when there is poetry and a shared connexion moment, sometimes, making art.

Scroll down to see what’s happening now…

Meet me in Vientiane: ‘N’ is NEXT

16N gathers 16 strangers in real life. To talk about a thing that starts with an ‘N’…


‘N’ Vientiane: NEXT

LET’S MEET IN REAL LIFE. Just 16 people. To talk together about the idea of ‘NEXT.’ This is the idea of 16N: to gather people whose paths might not have otherwise have crossed. Briefly. Once. For a conversation of the kind you’ve never experienced before: it’s not a workshop, it’s not a party. It’s nothing like you’d expect. That’s what people have told us, at ‘N’ events in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and London. ‘N’ Vientiane is NEXT.


More information, including details of how to request an invite, is at this page >


Metaphilosophy and metaphysics, with clouds


Get together with a very small group of people to talk about things that feel more interesting than the usual drone of:

  • ‘How long have you been in Phnom Penh?’ (yawn)
  • ‘What do you do here?’ (Why? Are you job hunting?)
  • ‘Where are you from?’ (How about ask me where I’m local?)

The idea. After a series of four really amazing ‘Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh’ salons, limited to just a few people and small and informal in style, we bring back Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh, this time the #5 edition, by invitation only. Share your availability with DK by email and we’ll choose a date and time that works for most. Max 6.

Agenda. Guided, prompt-led conversation. No experience or expertise necessary. Proficiency in English is best, but all are welcome. Light, relaxed, nice view. How to design space for great dialogue? Conversations that, I promise, will veer far from the vein of the above. That is the work of DK.

Fee. USD $15 per person to participate. Free for patrons of DK. (Want to become a patron? Here’s how.)

RSVP through the form below. Details to follow.

Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh
Rooftop Philosophy #1 – #4 happened here.

When time stops


Yesterday, a watch stopped. Hers.


This was the second time this kind of thing had happened. That is, a watch stopping. That time, his.


Both times, in the middle of a superb conversation that, really, slowed into a moment. Conversations with people that I had just met. That day, or a few days prior. Really good sweeping topics that spanned the universe, life and death, birth, stillness, space, poetry, philosophy, conspiracy theories (me), art, skepticism of nonsense (them). And you could feel it, just there. The stopping. Then, it was literal. How does this kind of thing happen?

Let me try to feel my way towards the ‘how,’ even if I don’t get there. With words, of course. Words are a sort of paint for me, the paintings I’ve been looking at this week reminding me to play with them a bit, to see where the layers might take us.

Yes, the ‘something’ that happened, let us call it ‘!*’, whatever ‘!*’ was, well, I know it happened, it happened because I felt it, not just in the way that you feel when you are feeling a shift in the breeze, or that kind of thing, but because you are sensing something inwardly shifting, which is reflecting something larger, very large indeed, and you know that the quantum bits and pieces are at play, or that strings are vibrating, or that there are nine other dimensions (nine? More?) that are resonating in the same hum, or a different one, or a new color, and that, taken together, these things are beginning to make a new pattern. Of course the intricacies of the design are beyond our capacity to ‘note,’ and NOTEWORTHINESS being the theme this week-and-a-half here in London, of course I have to philosophize a bit about it, here and there, when I find the urgency of the moment in which that frequency will suggest, in a gentle but firm whisper, ‘Yes, now.’

The reflections begin

I HAVE BEEN QUITE LUCKY, this trip. I have met some of the most outstanding people I’ve ever encountered in my life. And all at once. At ‘N’. The most incredible thing happens when we assemble, just sit together, talk together. [Not like in the round, in the workshoppy-style that SN, remarking on DK’s style of making circles, had once called ‘circle time.’ Was it 2014? It’s stuck since then. Circle time. Yes, we love circle time here, of course we do, but you just can’t always go into the circle space because sometimes you are meeting in public spaces and it just would be weird.] I mean, you might get kicked out. In this instance, for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS, we convened at the National Theatre. While on the one hand I had made the good acquaintanceship of some of the people working there, who noticed that I was greeting people who didn’t know one another and would be later pointing the latecomers towards our table, asking, ‘Are you here for the blind date?’, and letting them know where I was, yes, while they were on my team, you could say, in making it happen that people whose paths might never have crossed were, at ‘N’, designed to intersect in one moment, well, I don’t think they would’ve been cool with it if we did some circling up and talking about things like I like to do sometimes at these sorts of conversation installations. I don’t know. Maybe it would have been okay at the Royal Academy (pictured), whose purple velvety cushioning made me want to curl up and read a book, any book, by, say, J. Krishnamurti (thank you JB), all evening and through the night and the next day, but then again, circle time is special. I don’t know. I think you have to just feel like it, in that moment. Like so very many things, that are good. That are noteworthy, even. But then, ‘Royal’ doesn’t start with an ‘N’, so that’s it, it’s a no-go, right there. Plus, ‘Royal?’ Who wants to make it all hoity-toity? Not me.

Unfolding stories

THERE IS SO MUCH more to say about ‘N’ and the things that preceded it, the conversations that revolved around that strong central gravitational point, ‘What’s remarkable? Why do we think so?’ I’m going to be sharing more about it slowly, through the eZine, but also, with guests who took part in ‘N’ London this time. There’s stuff to report to past guests, of ‘N’ in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and the one to happen next, in Copenhagen. I’m getting to it. All of it. But I need some time.

Writing, today. In pencil, on the keypad. In my head. Writing for the sake of writing. Writing for the self. This is the time that won’t come back. This is the time to sit, quietly, and make a poem or two, and let the flow come as it does, when and exactly and only when it’s ready. These are the moments, aren’t they?, when time stops.

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