Swiss hills and unlikely friendships

Switzlerland stuff.TODAY IS SATURDAY, it’s late, and the fan is so strong it is disrupting the signal. Which signal? There are so many kinds, and the one that I want to talk about right now, right here, is the signal that is connecting right now through the real-world aether to one particular geographical locale. In Switzerland.

Switzlerland stuff.
Switzlerland stuff.

TODAY IS SATURDAY, it’s late, and the fan is so strong it is disrupting the signal. Which signal? There are so many kinds, and the one that I want to talk about right now, right here, is the signal that is connecting right now through the real-world aether to one particular geographical locale. In Switzerland.

Lots of things to say about Switzerland. The Alps. All those different languages and international-feeling-ness. But I have to admit I never really got too knowledgable about that country. Aside from one giant and daytime train trip from Milan through Basel, exchange there, to the next place, there wasn’t much to report from that foray. My father told me I’d already been there, when I called him up to talk about trains and snowsides so pretty you’d think you were on the cover of that Simply Red album. But Dad said, ‘Switzerland? Big deal. You’ve been there.’

This one.
This one.

Had I? ‘Yeah. You were 2.’ Going around the world was never a big deal. Going to Europe, going to Asia, wherever, whenever, it was about the sweep. Motion, as it works, is about velocities and the spectrum of conversations that scoop up and flow windward—those. Those are the things we remember—at least the one with AZ, can’t remember the line-by-line, but the gist is always with me. Coffee. Switzerland, somewhere in the middle. Conversation. A sort of poem. A sort of breeze. But today, none of that.

Today: a new friend. Switzerland via [DELETED], somewhere along the way, writing. A lot. Together. More now than in the past, somehow, perhaps it’s because these are the times (the times of transition) that we feel the pen has the best way with us.

The_Henry_Miller_ReaderThe pen!

Oh, the power of the pen, that dumb idea I’d had about the nobility of the word to crush out sexism, racism, and all the other ‘isms’ (except maybe xenophobia-ism, ’cause most of the world thinks English is somehow more worth learning than, say, Khmer, but why? Why shouldn’t we all speak at least three languages, like those folks in some particular cluster of Switzerland? Aye.)

Folly of the idealist.

Writing?

Oh, no. Don’t try to make ‘art.’ Just look at the penniless, brilliant New York writer, Henry Miller.

Seeing a promise through

THE PERSON THIS NOTE is for most surely knows I’m writing exactly to him. I’ll not put his initials here, lest he become embarrassed. Though we’ve not met, and I hope that’s not an absolute, I am respectful of this person’s style, and his newfound love of writing. I have to thank him for the work that we did together in probably Design Kompany’s best-ever project. I have to say, with real gratitude, I wouldn’t have been able to come this far in the space of making S. P. A. C. E. without his input, and mostly, participation. Ambient and intermittent, email exchange can be a strange and fascinating kind of ‘room’ for dialogue. But when it’s going well, it’s about the connection. Even if we’re far, we can be near, and even if we’re near, it can be from a place of mutual respect and a warmth of friendship that’s hard to come by once we exceed the age of 16. So I am positive. Writing. In Switzerland somewhere hazy—I don’t know my hillscapes—somewhere he must be doing that. Yes. He is writing, I’m sure. In a state of quiet poise, in a moment of reflection. Pools, perhaps the color of Lake Geneva, and didn’t the Swiss boy in college say something to me once, about that lake, about the Evian bottle design, and not know that one day, later, way later, in life, design and the integrity of design would become hugely important to me, and then, we’d talk about that? Meaning-making, conversation. These are the best journeys, you know.

Unquittingly

IT’S NOT THAT every time you say you should do something you have to, I don’t believe in giving up the shinier opportunity just because you’ve committed your word to a thing. I understand about sunk costs, and I see the value in uprooting and moving quickly to the next place. (Some of you, my oldest friends, already know this about me.) But I have learned from [DELETED] that staying the course can be a beautiful kind of thing, too. You can discover the value of patience, of living through the ups and downs (didn’t Ricky Gervais talk about peaks and troughs, in that last session of The Office?). And you can grow. One of the highest qualities of space becomes, then, this. Progression. A commitment to do something you’ve said you would do can lead to a whole other kind of breakthrough from those I’m used to here at DK (the off-the-cuff, out of the blue, ‘a-ha’ kind is my usual speed, and then, a long void of nothing). But! Long-term. This is nice. This can lead to a kind of comfortable familiarity, the same blossoming of deep friendship that is built with a lasting friend, a comrade in life, a kindred spirit, and a close friend. So tonight, a toast. To friendship. And… to be continued. —DK

November 17: FLOW. Hit your peak productivity with this workshop in Malmö, Sweden

MOST IMPORTANTLY, what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

imageThis week in Malmö, Sweden, we are hosting our first-ever workshop on productivity. It’s called FLOW.

GREETINGS FROM SCANDINAVIA, ladies and gentlemen. DK is ambling about here for a spell, bumping into people and places so as to make space for real life. Workshops and conversation salons, that is, for people we are meeting in Malmö and Copenhagen.

(It seems pretty wacky to be writing that, but then again, it seemed weird to be hosting tweetups in Hanoi and esoteric salons asking, ‘Is the medium still the message?’, like we did with Aether, in New York’s Bryant Park, and other stuff. So much to share about past stuff, and how we are changing towards more conversation-space design in 2016, but the present moment is pressing upon us and so let me not get carried away reminiscing or projecting.) For now, it’s really about happening upon an insight: what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

ON FRIDAY, DK GOT TO MEET SS, a photographer lately taking images of airplanes. They’re supersaturated pics, because they’re printed on metallic paper, I learned. He told me this and a lot of other things, things I was enjoying more than what the previous art reception (larger, boxier), had to say about anything. Oh, and how did I get to SS’s show? I followed some people out of the other place, a fancy gallery, one of those that I once thought were really cool but now see as institutions. This person I struck up conversation with invited me to hop into the giant bucket attached sturdily to the front of his bicycle. Why not?, and there I was, climbing in just like a kid might. Room to spare in this. Viking country.

So nested, I asked, ‘Um. So, where are we going?’

‘I’m not sure yet.’

I like this kind of party, already.

But we are going to meet SS, I find out.

Who will talk about planes and photoshoots with musicians everywhere in the world, but in a light, nonpretentious way that makes me feel glad that I came to Denmark. Then we will go on to philosophize, of course, about how to find the flow and make work that is truly interesting. Creativity, productivity, flow. Call it what you like. Portraiture comes up. Selfies. Chuck Close. ‘I like that Chuck Close quote,’ says S, ‘about working on things.’

I think he meant this one:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case. —Chuck Close

THIS SENTIMENT, interestingly, is also going to feature in our workshop this TUESDAY in Sweden. Who’s around? Stop by, say hi. 🙂 —DK

Flow Workshop
Foo Cafe, at the Media Evolution City building
17:30-19:00
Malmö, Sweden
‘Flow Workshop’ event page on Facebook > | Foo Cafe’s Flow Workshop registration page >


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Resistance. Flaming. Will ‘N’ Bangkok work?

Click to learn more about 'N' Bangkok >SO THAT’S WHAT I’m finding out, in the responses coming back, some of them heavy-handed (‘There’s no way I’m paying you’), and some of them just weird (‘How do I tell my boyfriend? How do I know you’re not going to kidnap me?’) Uhhh…. What?

EMAIL. What a fantastic, weird space.

‘N’ is giving me a crazy unique perspective on how much things have changed since I last used email to get in touch with people I didn’t (yet) know. Those days, I was writing for a newspaper, so I often reached out to random people for quotes, for references, for corroboration, for more expert opinion, and for photographs or samples or other things that I could use to illustrate a particular story. Quotes, yes, I said that, huh. Good quotes, enlightening and to point, were gold.

The world as I knew it from my standard-issue reporter’s desk was an open book; Internet was a way to find the people I needed to connect with to discover, step by step, what a story ‘wanted to be.’ Much like painting, you made a foray into the unknown territory, then through hunches and gut-feel, and sometimes messing up, and sometimes hitting on ‘the happy accident,’ ie a thing you didn’t expect but somehow gave you a new inspiration, writing a story was about discovering the gem.

‘N’ is the biggest (uncommissioned) story I’ve taken on to write, and I’ve only just begun preliminary note-taking, observation on my hunch. I’ll tell you that in a second. ‘N’ Phnom Penh was the first round of searching, of seeking, something that I had a gut feeling about. Here it is. The hunch: Space is disappearing for people to be heard. I mean truly heard.

Let me say that again.

Space is missing. To connect, for real. That means, to feel you are being heard.

I think we need more than ever a way that’s low-committment and low-key and just light.

To be heard. To connect.  Quickly. So ‘N’ is short. And just once.

Creativity is inborn, everywhere

ASIA GETS A HARD REPUTATION for being ‘uncreative.’ But that’s not true. People just don’t value creativity, so they don’t practice. And they get stunted. That’s why you have Singapore (boring and plastic and dull) or fear of risk (ergo, boring and plastic and dull).

The creative in each of us is looking for new input, so as to put at bay some ennui. Because that which we are consuming online is far too skewed towards the bizarre (girl rolls down window to get picture of lion on a safari; is eaten), gross (video clip on autoplay about a guy who maims people and tapes it), or just plain dumb. I mean, really dumb. What about our brains? What about our hearts and hands?

As a person who has largely made a life and a living from creative work, I can’t stand by and watch this. I can’t deal with the way we are frittering and squandering the best of our potential; distracted by the likes of apps such as Invisible Girlfriend or games designed to manipulate and bend us to their will, a la Farmville.

So what to do.

Well, make ‘N’. Or, at least try.

‘It’s not for everyone’

Click to learn more about 'N' Bangkok >
Click to learn more about ‘N’ Bangkok >

A BIT OF LEARNING. Not everyone is into the idea of getting out of the box. So that’s what I’m finding out, in the responses coming back, some of them heavy-handed (‘There’s no way I’m paying you’), and some of them just weird (‘How do I tell my boyfriend? How do I know you’re not going to kidnap me?’) Uhhh…. What?

Rather than go into the long story about the oddness of internet exchanges (will do that in a private post—I feel like I’m finally able to relate to my friends who tell their horror stories about online dating), or expound on the exasperating feelings of the lack of quality on the internet, I will just share with you one quick response I gave to a person who said, very honestly, (and something that I welcomed was that honesty), ‘What is N? Seems abstract.’ Here is my answer:

As I get to talking to a lot of people about what it is (and try to go into why it matters), I realize quickly that something this unusual is definitely not in the mainstream consciousness. But it’s about mixing things up, meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t, and getting out of the silo of an industry/group. In America I hosted a lot of events that were far less designed like [DELETED] and [DELETED], in which I invited editors and bloggers and photographers in my hometown to get together and talk about what’s going on. They were surprised to find out how much they could learn in a very short time just by sharing their own take on a thing like ‘media, change, new media’. I like the efficiency of making a space where so much exchange can happen in a very compressed time. Who has time anymore?? That’s why there’s ‘N’.

Status of ‘N’ Bangkok

‘N’ CANNOT HAPPEN unless exactly 16 people join. We have 11.

Between now and the actual date, I’ll reconfirm with people. Tap a waitlist, most likely.

Or cancel.

If Bangkok is less open to this than I had imagined (and it is way, way less open than I had imagined!), I’m not opposed to cancelling ‘N’, if we can’t get to 16. I am totally fine with changing ‘Bangkok’ to another city.

Maybe it’s just not the right time, or the right place, or the right people.

Except: 11 people think it is. Can I discover the next 5? Can I make it happen for all of them? I’m going to try.

As always, I will do my best. Let’s see.

Next ‘N’ events: London, Copenhagen

ARE YOU IN LONDON OR COPENHAGEN? Request an invite at the bottom of this page >

November 27: Drift & the Nomad conversation salon

ARE YOU THINKING of moving abroad? Meet others who also want to try out life on the road, or at a distance, with a couple of belongings and good wifi connections.

imageARE YOU THINKING of moving abroad? Meet others who also want to try out life on the road, or at a distance, with a couple of belongings and good wifi connections.

Hosted by Dipika Kohli, who is visiting Copenhagen (and presently based in Phnom Penh via Seattle, Tokyo and Cork).

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Details

DRIFT & THE NOMAD
Friday, November 27
14.00-16.00
Cafe Paludan
Fiolstræde 10, 1171 København K, Denmark
DKK 90pp // EUR 12pp (Excludes food and drink)

Map.
Map.

What to expect

AN OPEN FORMAT conversation salon that will draw from the experiences and move in the direction that makes the most of who we meet together, on the day. We will enjoy getting to know about one another’s questions, interests, experiences, and understandings about the reality of living ‘on the road,’ and some of the myths, plus points, as well as sacrifices that this style of living and working necessarily entails. A low-key conversation that won’t require any special experience or background; it’s for those who want to come along and join, in the ‘Open Space’ style of hosting that says: 1) Whoever comes is the right people, 2) Whatever happens is the right thing to have happened. And some other things. Enjoy, connect, and let’s see what happens. When conversations are in flow, it is a lot of fun. Here’s a pic from a past conversation salon:

DK hosted Designers' Korner in Seattle on the first Monday of each month for two years.
DK hosted Designers’ Korner in Seattle on the first Monday of each month for two years.

Agenda

DRIFT & THE NOMAD
14.00 Introductions
14.10 Q&A
15.00 The Best Part
15.15 Values + 20Q*
15.30 Wrap

*To give you something to sink your teeth into, we will also distribute a simple questionnaire, ’20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Commit to Nomadic Existence’. To be shared on the day with those who join in.

How to register

Fee is DKK 90pp. You can register in one of two ways:

  • Secure your spot by registering in advance through this online ticketing link >
  • Send an email to designkompany [at] gmail [dot] com.

Is it on Facebook?

Yes, but we’re not big on FB, so it’s not going to seem like the giant awesome conversation salon that it will, in actual fact, be. 🙂

DRIFT & THE NOMAD on FB >

A conversation installation in Bangkok: NOW

'N' BangkokALL TOTAL, ‘N’ as a project will meet 16 people in 16 cities. Of the whole entire world, that’s just 256.

Will I find them?

'N' Bangkok
‘N’ Bangkok

OUR NEXT CONVERSATION INSTALLATION is ‘N’ Bangkok, which will gather 16 strangers who’ve never met in that city. But just ONCE.

Ever since the first ‘N’ event in Phnom Penh, I’ve been thinking hard about how to talk about it in a way that’s clear, and yet tells the story without divulging too much about it, because no two moments are the same. That’s kind of the idea.

Onceness.

Framing the moment, the urgency of NOW.

Pictures? No pictures. Why?

Because why should someone get to consume an experience in pictures without taking a risk to show up for it in real life? That’s not fair to those who DO make the step to take the chance, and join in on something that who knows what it is.

People.

‘N’ is about the people who choose to play.

A slew of conversations, good and bad

THE MORE PEOPLE I CONTACT THROUGH all the channels I remember how to use from my days in newsreporting (and the ones that came in handy, after, when I set up Design Kompany LLC in Seattle), the more I’m learning about how we are all so very, very different in our styles of talking to each other. Sometimes I get really amazed and happy, like when certain people just immediately say ‘Cool, Where is the signup?’ Because those people are going to be really fun to meet: already know this, without even going anywhere. Of course there is the other side of the story. The first time I got a hate mail I had to go lie down for about an hour and talk it out with my best friend on this very intermittent signal that wasn’t quite clear, and though I didn’t cry, I sort of felt sad. Because who wouldn’t want to meet 15 other people interested in NOW?

A lot.

But that’s okay. All total, ‘N’ as a project will meet 16 people in 16 cities. Of the whole entire world, that’s just 256.

Will I find them? I think so. Already on my way.

Are you curious about ‘N’? Go here.

‘N’ says: ‘Hej København’

'N' is coming.A SPECIAL GUEST post, ahead of ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

'N' is coming.
‘N’ is coming. Read about 16N >
N
Read ‘N’ posts related to Copenhagen >

COMING TO COPENHAGEN SOON.

The way ‘N’ work is this.

When 16 people join ‘N’ we will fix the date, time, and place.

Because of this: it’s about the people. The exact set of 16 who will choose to join this conversation installation. It’s not really about anything other than the MOMENT in which we can align the stars (well, vectors), so that people converge. Once.

Yep. That’s what ‘N’ is—

‘N’ is about the people who choose to play.

How far are we from creating ‘N’ Copenhagen? 14/16ths of the way.

Looking forward, NEARNESS is our theme.

A special guest post, coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

ARE YOU CURIOUS?

More about ‘N’ Copenhagen. More about ‘16N.’ —DK

Is it obvious? True validity isn’t about making bank

S. P. A. C. E. is for dreaming.IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, for the eZine S. P. A. C. E., I’ve been thinking nearly continuously, like a long line from the intersection of Street 63 and Mao Tse Toung Boulevard all the way up to where there is supposedly a well-lit designer-y kind of space that one day I am recommended I ought to go and see. Oh, what have I been thinking on? One thing. VALIDITY.

IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, for the eZine S. P. A. C. E., I’ve been thinking nearly continuously, like a long line from the intersection of Street 63 and Mao Tse Toung Boulevard all the way up to where there is supposedly a well-lit designer-y kind of space that one day I am recommended I ought to go and see. Oh, what have I been thinking on? One thing. VALIDITY.

Following a hunch

SUPPOSEDLY I AM TO FOLLOW that vertical road’s line one of these days. To the end. Meet a person. Say some things. Do something. If I do, it will be just another opportunity to do the big work of ‘N+1.’ Go outside the comfort zone, see what’s there. Even if that means taking a risk. Getting lost, getting hurt, getting stuck in the rainy season flood, losing my shoe, getting caught out in a conversation that is no fun at all because the other person is a total narcissist, etc. etc. You can always opt to do the so-called safe thing, and stay where you are. But that would not be ‘N+1.’ It would be ‘N+0.’

And that doesn’t sound like it would really be that important, at the end of my life, to have been like, ‘N+0+0+0…’ I prefer growth. Conversations, high-quality, are good ways to make space for that to happen. So that’s what all this stuff is about. The ezine publication. ‘N’ the series of 16. And other stuff too that I’m sharing only with a very inner circle of people who ‘get’ it. It’s easier that way; because life is short and it’s simpler to talk in these embryonic stages of designing a thing that will evolve sooner or later from good to brilliant, to stay low-key about it. To keep it light, small.

Making space for ‘N+1’

I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED how no matter which city in the world I wind up in, I start to get pegged as ‘that person who does things and gets people together.’ Sometimes, I would do this quite happily and voluntarily. It was nice to be the one person everyone at a party or gathering knew, and that really inflated my ego. Maybe it’s in response to all that overwhelming attention I got personally that I’m not talking too much with my real name. Because in the last year, everything I’ve learned from books, and smart people, and creative folks, and clients, is this. It’s sooooo not about ego. The best things happen when they’re not about you. Which is the case when you’re designing something for a client, of course, as well. You have to really let it be about the other person, if you want it to be truly great. But then, it’s sooooo hard to re-imagine ‘design’ as something that does the big work of ‘N+1,’ even though really, design is about making things way better by thinking them through completely and intelligently. Too often today design = photoshop, and that’s dumb. That’s why even though we have “design” in our name, we never, ever talk about us doing design these days. Can’t. The word’s been co-opted by the people who buy Illustrator and say, ‘Okay. Now I’m gonna do the thing I need to do for my creative outlet.’ Let them. That’s not what we’re doing, here.

OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS, the big partymaking (Dazzle, POP, Sugar, Flourish, Gather, Math+Jazz, etc, etc) have moved into a smaller space. Tiny, invite-only salonmaking. Because the partymaking of old days had happened in a city where people fan the flames, constantly, on the egomaking stuff. They like to collect you. Into their collections. Now its instafame. Then it was Facebook. How many followers? As if one’s inner sense of worth was reflected accurately in those numbers. As if the social proof which is so arbitrary and fleeting and tenuous and not even real, mattered more than everything. (Including actual worth).

So what IS value? What DOES count? Why? How do we think about this, about yardsticks and societies and cultures and breaking free to create our own dimensions of that which we deem to be hugely meaningful. Because isn’t that it? Isn’t value not a number, but a sense of something’s capacity to be interesting? (Our Sept/Oct series of S. P. A. C. E. will take as its—oh, my God! A cockroach! Okay, I have to wrap this pretty fast). Isn’t value about a person’s glistening, true, inner, powerful, capacity to give? To contribute? Is this not worth?

How VALIDITY became a theme for S. P. A. C. E>

TONIGHT IT IS LATE as I type this, and maybe that’s why I’m not going to hold back. There used to be times when I started blogging again here (very recently, as you may take note), that I would think, ‘But that’s more ME and not so much DK, is it? And so, where to put things? Which boxes?’ It turns out that there’s only one box. I really only care about one thing. It’s new. It’s this year. It’s something that I didn’t realize matters to me more than I ever imagined it could or would. It’s about questioning assumptions about what and how we measure as ‘worthy’ or ‘good.’

Turns out there are whole vocabularies around these ideas, and schools of philosophy, too. As a kind of pop philosophy person, someone who doesn’t get all up in the face of people and isolate certain areas of possible ‘issues to be taken with X or Y or J,’ but rather, someone who just wants cool ideas about things to get talked about a little more, and with more verse and rhyme and poetry, you know, well. That. That’s what I’m trying to make and do here.

So when the things got complex about what it is that we ‘do’ at this blog (because now it’s just a blog, like in 2006), what it is that we do became a question to many, I realized it’s quite all right to blog in the first person again, as I always did, and probably always will. First person is real. First person is honest. You can’t hide behind some kind of name (okay, guilty—I’ve been doing quite a lot of that in recent days and weeks and months), but you can’t, in first person, TRULY ever hide. I read somewhere that the computers can figure out your writing style, like in four milliseconds, if they had to crunch it. They could know. They could suss you out because, like DNA, the way we speak and how we write is unique.

What counts, then? What’s worthy? What’s valuable, what’s meaningful, what’s important? I read the best quote yesterday online. It was this anti-capitalist ‘love notes’ series, and one of them said: ‘You are worth so much more than your productivity.’

So when we start to think about what value we can add to the world at large, what we can bring to society in the form of actual content, not just goods and services that people will buy because people will buy anything that is nicely packaged and overly done up even if they can’t be sure what they’re getting inside. People. Buy. Everything. They consume, left and right, and so do I, and we don’t even think about it. Critical things, like where is this food coming from? The way the young visitor who came here and celebrated an impromptu wedding (long story) on the upper levels of the building spoke of. Things like this. How we feel when we literally consume—partaking of chemicals that are buried in our food—didn’t occur to me since the days of reading Integrated Nutrition because I had a low iron count.

What I wanted to tell you that I haven’t yet is this. Work isn’t the only thing. Moneymaking is just one kind of way—a means, to an end. It’s not about what we have in our lives, but who. It’s about who we are, too, not just whom we’re around. You could get more philosophical here. You could even get pop philosophical. But I’ll save that for anyone who wants to meet me in S. P. A. C. E.

VALIDITY is here. —DK

Gearing up for ‘N’ Bangkok: our theme is NOW

16 people x 16 cities.THIS WEEK as I do some research to learn about what people in Bangkok think about NOW, I’m getting to meet some extraordinary people. I’ll be able to tell you about some of them, soon, in a blog post series that I hope will bring new voices into ‘N’, the project, and document along the way some of the learning that’s going on. This could start with the people behind a giant boxing match that just happened on Saturday; can’t think of anything more immediate about the physicality of NOW than a fight.

OUR THEME FOR ‘N’ BANGKOK is NOW.

NOW.

‘N’ is a conversation installation that gathers just 16 people. Just once.

16 people x 16 cities.
16 people x 16 cities.

It’s about the moment.

Right here. Right NOW.

IN THESE LAST FEW MONTHS as I have been talking in the back channels with more people than I realized I would when I dreamed up this project, I have been doing a lot of learning. About people. Being someone who has largely worked alone (writing, design work, the occasional art show), I find it really humbling. I have learned very quickly how to deal with the things that I heard happen. Passive-aggressives. Trolls. Those who are comfortable slamming you from the other side of a screen, but would never say those things to you, in real life. Never.

I get it. People don’t want to be pushed out of their boxes. Boxes are comfortable. (But they are stifling).

AT THE TIME of this writing, we have only six five spots left. Which is lovely and incredulous and beautiful and makes me want to say, ‘Thank you,’ profusely, to the 10 who have so far put their trust in me to design an ‘N’ that’s great. (I hope a few from ‘N’ Phnom Penh will share a couple of lines, telling Bangkok what to expect, so I can post here? Have been musing on a way to link the ‘N’ conversations, but not without losing the ‘onceness’ idea. Hard.)

Anyone working in creativity or something in the world of making and doing in this age already sees the value of this kind of opportunity. You know that new ideas don’t just fall onto your head like an apple. You have to go outside (metal landscapes, physical ones). And you have to talk to people. That’s what one of my editors used to say. ‘Get out of the office. Talk to people.’ They loved that ‘Man on the Street’ interview style and it was fun to do, too. I wanted to do more of those but you know, it’s so much easier to not.

What to expect now…

THIS WEEK as I do some research to learn about what people in Bangkok think about NOW, I’m getting to meet some extraordinary people. I’ll be able to tell you about some of them, soon, in a blog post series that I hope will bring new voices into ‘N’, the project, and document along the way some of the learning that’s going on. This could start with the people behind a giant boxing match that just happened on Saturday; can’t think of anything more immediate about the physicality of NOW than a fight.

But before that, a short Q&A with a Bangkok magazine editor, and what he thinks about the ‘Thainess of Thailand,’ as well as our theme. Here. Soon.  –DK

 

Thinking of Bangkok

'Bangkok' January 2015. A zine by DK ‘Bangkok’ January 2015INVENTING DIALOGUE SPACE is sort of a lofty goal, I realize, but it IS one way for us to connect. I know that ostensibly meeting strangers in a short space can be great for networking for business, or just making friends, but it’s also… I’m not sure how to put this, but… it’s also a way for us to discover who we are, and begin to see that there are so many other ways of thinking about the SAME topic or idea. And that the ‘scholars’ don’t have copyright on thinking out loud, together.

Bangkok
Bangkok

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED. Was talking to a lot of people intermittently through the last three or five weeks, about making ‘N’ happen, in Bangkok. Clearly things are different about Bangkok now that someone detonated a bomb in a shrine in the city center.

Trigger, for me. Bomb. A bomb that exploded in the underbelly of a particular plane, in 1985. That one. That bomb forever changed my existence. This was 1985. THIRTY years ago. And I’ve thought about it every day since—because that bomb took my closest friend. Finally put that story together, just in June. See KANISHKA >

'Bangkok' January 2015. A zine by DK
‘Bangkok’ January 2015

So it’s kinda insensitive-seeming, maybe, to zip right back to the project of ‘N’ when something like this happens. A bomb blows up and people are freaked. Of course. But, there’s this—

I remember when that happened in 1985. A bomb. And… the whole reason I made ‘N’ in the first place was in response to the things I have discovered are a way to combat the hate. The crime that happens because someone somewhere had a kooky idea or got brainwashed into thinking something. Without dialogue, so much goes awry. Without closeness and human contact (love, affection, friendship, community), people go crazy. They are seeing this happen in America, right? I mean, I think so. The hate crimes. Random shootings. Seething, under-the-surface stuff that is HARD to figure out, point at someone and say, ‘That. There. Take that person away, let’s not have any of the riffraff anymore.’

INVENTING DIALOGUE SPACE is sort of a lofty goal, I realize, but it IS one way for us to connect. I know that ostensibly meeting strangers in a short space can be great for networking for business, or just making friends, but it’s also… I’m not sure how to put this, but… it’s also a way for us to discover who we are, and begin to see that there are so many other ways of thinking about the SAME topic or idea. And that the ‘scholars’ don’t have copyright on thinking out loud, together. I love salons. In art school in New York (short-lived), I remember going to poetry slams for the first time. Cinematographic features and shorts. Architecture lectures. Game nights. Nightclubs. Everything for a lot of different kinds of stuff; all of it intriguing, all of it alive, because of its very uniqueness when juxtaposed to the thing just prior, just after. I loved this mix of New York. Back then, anyway. A time before I lived anywhere else, really. Asia, now. Asia again. Japan for a year—way back—and now Cambodia. Loooooong story.

The tickets for ‘N’ Bangkok were released today. That means we are making our way there. Even if there is going to be some worry about future attacks—you just don’t know what’s going to happen, ever. Risk, uncertainty. Conversation, connection. What do we have if we don’t have our memories? The time we spend together, in high-quality, deeply connected, even if that’s just for the fleeting NOW?

See you soon, BKK. Thinking of you and those whose lives were jolted this week. —DK

The best is yet to come, and this is why

Space to think.ENTER THE AGE of the conversation, here at our studio, and the new work to come. Don’t judge us by our past stuff on the internet. We were just kids, 20 years of trying stuff and making it up, emerging with homemade methods that started to work (and later we found out has been articulated by academics in a strange but intriguing form that they have named ‘design thinking’ but which we know is really just ‘design,’ heh), seeing how to flop and maybe nudge to better. All in the spirit of upping the ante, raising the bar, and doing the big work of N+1, together.

Space to think.
Bangkok, January 2015, This is where  S. P. A. C. E., an eZine, began.

NINE OUT OF TEN TIMES when I write here I am wondering, ‘Is anyone still there? Does anyone read this blog,’ as in, ‘Is it being received?’ And if so, what are your responses?’

I wish I could hear you.

This feeling is what inspired a shift here at DK two years ago from writing this blog to moving towards the subscription eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

Which is a conversation, because it’s two-way.


Ignore everything to date: NOW is yesterday’s future

Everything is perfect, but there is a lot of room for improvement. —Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)

I AM IN SEARCH of a contemporary style of making events, and creating high-quality ‘rooms’ for dialogue. So much happens in the interstices, I know, this is getting esoteric. Sorry. But it’s also really fun to get together with people and get out of our boxes. I mean, the usual ones, where we have to get something seemingly known, seemingly important ‘out’ of something. Or someone. The day of the transactional relationship, however, is over.

What people want now is high-quality experiences.

Not stupid stuff. Not dumb stuff. Not lame stuff, not boring stuff.

No one wants to waste their attention, or their time.

So where do you turn?

Before I tell you my personal fix for this problem, I’ll need to rewind a little and share some of what I’ve noticed from the past.

DID YOU NOTICE HOW the Western cultures love to reward the so-called ‘expert,’ the person who goes to the panel discussions and gets to sit at the front of the room, in a slightly elevated seat. It’s happening here in Asia, too.

You see all these tables set up in a way that lets you know just who is the person to pay attention to, and then you get these total narcissists up there spewing who cares what because they’re not listening to us in the audience. So then you know what happens? These events are TOTALLY BORING. And the reason I know this is because I’ve been one of those people on a stage, wondering, ‘When is lunch??’ I’ve loved the idea of being asked, previously, but now, I always say, ‘No.’ Because I prefer a conversation.

Inclusive. Relaxed, engaging, fun. Direct, honest, open, and SHORT. This artist statement I wrote ahead of a show at Form/Space Atelier in Seattle said: ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ That sentiment still holds, 110%.

But I’m not making art shows now.

I’m making salons, experiences, conversation-led space for mixing it up. In short, the kinds of engagements I would want to be at, personally. ‘Scratch your own itch,’ isn’t that what they say in the tech entrepreneurship community?

Give me something smart, elegant, but easy to take part in. Give me something that’s intimate, but not too intimate, because it ends pretty quickly and we all get to go home. Give me intellectual stimulation, great dialogue, honest people, and a good set of activities that will make me glad I was there. Teach me something but don’t pander. Don’t act like a big shot. Give me space, to do this how I want to do this, to be who I am. Don’t tell me what to do or who to be, but if you invite me, and you seem real, I’ll be there. Only. If. —Design Kompany


Paving the road to ‘N+1’

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
― Anaïs Nin

SO THE NEW STUFF HERE eventwise is all a bunch of stuff at a very small scale of engagement. So we can see each other. We can be there, really be there, and make it up together, on the spot. There are always going to be prompts because that’s just the nature of who I am, and what I do. I wish at my TEDx talk I had done this.

I wish I had said, in the middle of it, ‘OK, now I’ve talked a lot. Let’s spend five minutes just quietly talking to the person next to you about what you’ve heard, and seeing what you discover.’ Imagine! Yet this is how it works, in true dialogue.

And if it’s just me talking ‘up there,’ without any response, it’s not dialogue. And it’s not fun. For anyone.

'Bangkok' January 2015
‘Bangkok’ January 2015

Enter the age of the conversation, here at our studio, and the new work to come. Don’t judge us by our past stuff on the internet. We were just kids, 20 years of trying stuff and making it up, emerging with homemade methods that started to work (and later we found out has been articulated by academics in a strange but intriguing form that they have named ‘design thinking’ but which we know is really just ‘design,’ heh), seeing how to flop and maybe nudge to better. All in the spirit of upping the ante, raising the bar, and doing the big work of N+1, together.

Related: Check out Ira Glass’ talk on fumbling til you’ve got it in this visually illustrated video >

What’s ‘N+1?’ Gonna get better at articulating this in about a year, but for now, here is the working definition:

N+1: Make room for all of us to challenge ourselves, to grow out of our silos, to become better as people and human beings and friends, parents, givers, be-ers, community leaders, and wholly excited by doing the work we choose. To be the people we always loved most. To open the doors, to extend our limbs, to breathe with relish, and to jump. —Design Kompany


Meet me in S. P. A. C. E.?

S. P. A. C. E. is an eZine
S. P. A. C. E. is an eZine

HERE IS OUR new eZine, S. P. A. C. E. It’s a weekly, with the best-of highlights of everything we’ve learned from working on all sorts of projects for smart, open, and highly creative people around the world since 1995.

It’s snippets of great texts, tips on how to be better at creative thinking, some gleanings from our Phnom Penh work in innovation consulting, and of course, lots and lots and lots about design.

Related: What Neil Gaiman said about the mountain, and implied about artistic integrity >

The kind that we always knew was really Design. Which isn’t pixels, or Photoshop, or a logo. It’s actually, when done well, a conversation, beautifully expressed. Which is what makes this sort of design a form of art. —DK

On the challenging nature of not-knowing

NTOLERANCE. EMPATHY. Sizing up the self and learning to connect deeply, with real awareness, to others. It’s self-actualization stuff. I know, top of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs. But some people who might be reading this know: it IS a need. And that is why there is this project. That is why there’s 16N.

N
Read ‘The Man Who Discovered N’ >

THE INTERNET ISN’T CONNECTING on this computer (Dell, borrowed), but I’m okay with that. I’ve been meaning to write you for a while. Tell you some of what’s been happening, in the heart of the city where I’ve been living a year plus now. Seems weird. Phnom Penh. Cambodia?? Who knew.

I guess that’s part of what I wanted to share, today. The not-knowing but thinking, ‘Heck. Why not?’ series of steps that started as concept, vague and ambiguous, but caught form when you had to do something concrete, like buy a visa.

Things that you did and realized, with time, were taking you to a general new direction. Where things you thought, before, that were obvious and given, now you question, daily. With a critical eye. Like: Capitalism, sure. Politics? That’s about people caring about the greater good… isn’t it? Art and artists and contemporary galleries and the way it’s really about commerce, not beauty, not really, if you get down to the heart of it. And then there’s the whole regime of the school system, the work system, the things that Robert Pirsig synthesized into the mammoth work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (imploring us to think about stillness and artfulness versus just the nuts and bolts of getting things done), that masterpiece that really in a big way was the prompting towards this thing that got started, this thing we now call ‘N+1’ work. well. All of it. It’s… different, when you’re away, especially for a long stretch, and you can see the far horizon from whence you’ve come, and kind of be glad you’re away.

Learning from crusty, gritty, and terribly wise people on The Road

THE ROAD TEACHES LOTS, and you can occasionally forget to notice its lessons. A guy in Gangtok with a hat in his middle years said, ‘Ýou don’t know what a trip’s about until it’s over. And even then, it takes a while.’ The work that I was doing here with Design Kompany changed after my 1-year amble around South and Southeast Asia. You could say I was looking for something, but I’ve done this thing before, a couple of times, so I knew, too, that the thing was always right here, right with me. And now I’ve found it. It’s ‘N.’

Related: 16N gathers 16 people who’ve never met for ONE moment of CONNECTION >

The making of space. For uncertainty. For others to experience that which we learn when we move, one step forward, into the territory of the not-known. It’s pretty fun, actually, when you start to get confident with it. It stings, too, (but less with age), when you meet with blank stares, name-calling, or the other thing: hate. America and other parts of the West have tremendous volumes of it, and I sense, even though I can’t know, I sense that the reason why there’s so much of a mess right now in the USA with regards to hate crimes is because no one ever really sat down with someone else (new, strange at first, seemingly so different) and just had a conversation, out loud. Real life is relegated to the realm of Guy Debord‘s Spectacle. He called it. So did Orwell. Damn.

Is there a way to ‘fix’ this? Tolerance. Empathy. Sizing up the self and learning to connect deeply, with real awareness, to others. It’s self-actualization stuff. I know, top of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs. But some people who might be reading this know: it IS a need. And that is why there is this project. That is why there’s 16N.

Meet. Connect. Find the new.

This, this very opening, inspires the way to the Next.

Which, of course, is the point of everything. Who really wants the status quo? Not me, and not anybody I’ve learned to care about, deeply, and over time.

Related: ‘Relationships matter’ and what a systems thinker said about that, at our LinkedIn profile >

—DK

An open letter to ‘N’ invitees

Kings Cross Saint Pancras //  Photo by A. Spaice 2015WILL I SEE YOU AT ‘N’? This is just once. This is just to discover 16N. Are you wondering, ‘Who else will join? What will happen? Will I get something from this? Will I learn?’

I found you because I am coming to your city. And I want to meet you. And if we are really, really honest, it probably won’t happen unless we design time and book space.

Kings Cross Saint Pancras // Photo by A. Spaice 2015
King’s Cross Saint Pancras // Photo by A. Spaice 2015

HELLO AND WELCOME. IT SURE MUST BE WEIRD, from your perspective, getting an invite to something as obscure as ‘N’.

First things first: Perhaps you’re not into it. And that’s okay. Thanks for coming this far, to see what it’s about.

But maybe you are wondering… what is this?

Yes? Please read on.

AS YOU ALREADY MAY HAVE NOTED, I AM SENDING ‘N’ invitations to people who seem, from what I can read online, to be interested in ‘interestingness.’ What does that mean?

Interestingness is the quality of being more inclined towards the not-so-obvious.

Interestingness is about curiosity, openness, and readiness to accept multiple viewpoints (as opposed to just one’s own).

It happens in places where we are allowed to experiment with ideas, to play, soft and light, towards the things that happen in the breakthrough moments, when they happen.

‘Ah-ha!’

But interestingness—or the quality of becoming ‘interesting’—involves a little bit of risk.

Related: The Man who Discovered ‘N’ >

MOVING TO ASIA from Seattle started all this. The ‘N’ thing. And the ‘N+1.’ People who are interesting are: looking at things critically, considering new angles, open, enjoy new input, aren’t overly pinned to their own ways of thinking and being, care about real life conversation, want to connect intellectually with others who want to do the same, look for new opportunities to try new things, are always challenging themselves, are ready, are listening, might just be in the right place at the right time. For ‘N’.

Related: What George Bernard Shaw said about circumstances >

WILL I SEE YOU AT ‘N’? This is just once. This is just to discover 16N. Are you wondering, ‘Who else will join? What will happen? Will I get something from this? Will I learn?’

I found you because I am coming to your city. And I want to meet you. And if we are really, really honest, it probably won’t happen unless we design time and book space.

You can leave the hosting part to me.

All you have to do is say, ‘Yes.’ —AS

‘But are strangers REALLY that interesting?’

'N' Phnom Penh  // APRIL 2015SO WE WERE SAYING ALL THIS, and then I took a deep breath, and it felt like the Dream again and also reading Debord, and I looked at her and said, ‘Thank you for the great conversation! I really learned a lot.’

‘So did I!’ she said. And then, there it was. The answer to her question, the title of this section. Are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

‘Yes!’ I cried. ‘See??!’

We laughed. Then she said, ‘I knew you were gonna say that.’

'N' Phnom Penh // APRIL 2015
‘N’ Phnom Penh happened at NUK Cafe. Now inviting guests for ‘N’ in Bangkok, London, and Copenhagen.

I TOLD HER the truth. I was a little dejected. Another ‘No’ for Bangkok ‘N’.

Slow going, this. Asking 16 strangers to get tickets for something they’ve never heard of, that asks them to pick a date together, that comes from ‘the internet.’

It works like this: 16 people, on their own paths, converge ONCE for a conversation about a theme that starts with ‘N.’ In a venue that has an ‘N’. In a city with an ‘N,’ too.

16 people x 16 cities.
16N

Being interviewed about ‘N’ the concept

I MET A FRENCHWOMAN on her way home. She was fascinated with ‘N’, but she was also skeptical. ‘Pessimistic,’ she said. But she had me, when she asked a terrific barrage of questions. She is in marketing.

It went something like this.

You need a ‘speech.’

DK: A speech? No, no, that sounds like… no. this is just… This is just what I’m doing! ‘N’ is the thing I need to do! I don’t know. Oh, you’re saying I’m not being clear about what it is. About how to make it accessible? Oh, that. Yeah. I’ve been criticized for this. It’s kind of like jazz or esoteric theater, isn’t it? You know, I don’t want to be like that, though, even though I think jazz and esoteric theater could be messaged in a better way so more people see how cool it is to go out into the weird space of improvisation or just thinking deeply and connecting lots of threads in a thoughtful, artful way. Not like Mashable, you know? Anyway. I realize, you’re right: it’s about how well have I communicated what I’m offering, what I’m making, why I care about it, and why I’m inviting people. Okay. Hit me.

What’s in it for you?

DK: Connection. Just once. Nothing hard. Outside of work and family. Connection, yeah. I was in reporting and news for four years as a staff writer. And before that, I did a lot of independent traveling, on my own dime, from savings from jobs in architecture, cafes, the usual gamut of oddball things that one does if one is in their young years and learning about the world. And I found from all this learning that there is only ONE thing that really turns me on. Great dialogue. It doesn’t have to be smart, or overeducated, or labeled something. It just has to be GOOD. And you can design for that. You really, really can. I have a seven-point checklist now, that I developed when I met some of the greatest people who make you feel, quite quickly, at ease. So I took what I learned from all the conversations of my life and made ‘N.’

Related: Some years ago, this idea was foreshadowed in Ireland, in our 2003 short video, ‘Teddy O’Neill.” Watch it here >

Because the magic happens in the MOMENT, and it’s not about being prepared for it, or looking for ‘a website,’ or an app, or a ‘perfect person.’ It’s about right there, right now. Eye contact. Being in the same place at the same time. Sheer chance. For me, making that happen simultaneously for 16 people is a real achievement. It’s way more interesting to me than sitting about writing or drawing and trying to pitch my work to loads of people in the hope of ‘being published.’ This is being published, this blog, right here. You’re reading. If you weren’t reading, I wouldn’t be writing.

And it’s only because there is a RECEPTION that anything meaningful really happens. It’s only because the SENDER has a RECEIVER, and they are locked in a conversation that’s timeless and wordless because it hits on a sensation that only they can know. I know, it’s really big stuff here, what I’m talking about. I call this moment of reception ART. Everything else, when ‘artists’ go around the world talking about themselves but not caring who’s listening so long as the room is full, well, everything else is just public masturbation.

Why do you do this?

DK: Make space. For real. In a short, designed block (a volume?), and not get overwhelmed with the work of human contact. I know, it sounds crazy psychology kookiness. But sure, Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols informs this. So does Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So does ‘Basic Writings’ by Heidegger, if you want to know, and all those guys who figured out that when you change the way you look at things on a quantum level, the things you look at change.

How do you choose whom to invite?

DK: Gut feeling. I’m looking for people who are: Open. Making. Doing. Sharing. Yet the invitation process is designed to let people self-select.

What do people need this for?

DK: The ones who balk at this are the ones who need it the most. But of course, I can’t say that. The reason people need this is because we have to get out of our heads sometimes, our usualness, to find out what’s really interesting. To go to the edge and see what’s there, and sometimes that’s just not what people want to do. One person put it this way: ‘I’m not ready to emerge a butterfly.’ Fair enough. But if you want to realize your fullest self, you have to push yourself to the edge, and break it.

But are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

DK: EVERYONE is interesting.

Concept of ‘N’: One moment can change the vector of your life forever

AS I WAS packing my things and taking leave of this lovely new acquaintance yesterday afternoon, I was marveling at how the conversation lasted two hours. She is probably on a plane right now. She and I will possibly meet again but it is going to take a lot of coordinating so it’s not totally one hundred percent guaranteed.

Still, we had a connection. We talked about life, and what people really crave and how we just want to talk, and be heard, and then she told me about the meaning of someone she knows’ tattoo, and drew it for me in my notebook, and we talked about that. Action. Dialogue. Things happening. Things having mattered.

Confirming the reality of our own existence and its worth because we had eye contact, or if the SENDER isn’t alive anymore, (Guy Debord’s book Society of the Spectacle popped out of my bag during this conversation), then you can still have that CONNECTION even through temporal space. I told her about the red dress I got at a boutique right after seeing Dali’s Dream. The shopkeeper made a comment about something that she saw in me, (and I can share that, if I ever meet you in real life.) I stopped blogging at this site about my personal stuff because I realized it wasn’t being RECEIVED in a way that let me know it was being received. And I couldn’t ask, ‘How are you finding this?’ Even if that response is something crude or rude, it’s still a response. And you know, when you have people saying NO that just means you’re on your way to something very interesting, indeed.

So we were saying all this, and then I took a deep breath, and it felt like the Dream again and also reading Debord, and I looked at her and said, ‘Thank you for the great conversation! I really learned a lot.’

‘So did I!’ she said. And then, there it was. The answer to her question, the title of this section. Are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

‘Yes!’ I cried. ‘See??!’

We laughed. Then she said, ‘I knew you were gonna say that.’

‘It’s not about being right.’

She knew I was gonna say that, too.

Read more about ‘N’

DK’s ’16N’ project gathers 16 people for ONE moment of conversation. See DesignKompany.com/16N

The why of N

N
Click to read ‘The Man who Discovered N’ >

A COUPLE OF PEOPLE have asked me why I make ‘N’. Very fair question, especially if you’ve been invited by AS recently. If you like myth and fiction, this story, ‘The Man who Discovered N’ might be fun.

Urgency of NOW

FRAMING MOMENTS. The big idea for ‘N’ is to frame ONE moment of CONNECTION with 15 other people who are curious about what an ‘N’ event might be like to experience in real life, who dare themselves to take a chance on something so new it’s almost weird. This might be really scary for some people, because what’s the outcome? What’s in it for you, what’s in it for me, in other words, what’s the value?

Question: what was the value of growing up close to grandparents who cradled you when you were a baby? Or, what is the value of hearing natural sounds of birds, or of stepping onto a boat when you’re not sure where it’s going, or how, or what you have to do to keep it moving? What about when you take a chance on a trip, on a new relationship, or on another thing that will push you to challenge your own sense of identity, the very essence of who you really are?

Once we step out of our comfort zones, however, that’s when the real insights come into play. Ask anyone who’s done something really hard what they got out of it. Of course they will say, much after the fact, that they learned something. That they grew.
But it takes some designing. And that’s what ‘N’ is for.

Making space

PLAY. Play is such a big part of discovery, and finding the way to N+1 (more on that if you’re curious, but only 6 months after ‘N’), and learning, and most importantly, growth. Without play we get suffocated, and I feel like most of the way we are taught to do things is Western ideas (I was raised in the US) about how to argue one’s way to right.
What if there are two or three or five million ‘rights?’ Quantum science got me thinking hard about uncertainty and I got to do some cool projects that showcased how not knowing is a big part of growth. First step, and all. Risks.
And that’s what ‘N’ is for, too.

Next

N. Making space. For a moment of connection. In a bounded box. Handled with care.

‘N’ is coming. Bangkok

Ad agency Hakuhoudo’s Masaharu Kato on creative thinking

Process of making.
Click to read about S. P. A. C. E. >

IN A BOOK called Kougu*, which in Japanese means “thinking tools,” author Masaharu Kato of ad agency Hakuhoudo offers a few tips to come up with fresh ideas. I’ve used them when coming up with ideas for our clients, and thought I’d share some of my favorites…

Tips on how to start concepting ideas

1. Know what you are looking for
Start with a clear idea of what you’re trying to come up with. A catch phrase? A new name, a logo? Once you identify your goal, repeat it aloud to yourself a few times, and engrave it on your mindscape.

2. Focus on the surface: color, shape, size, word.
You can gather ideas anytime–driving to work, taking a stroll, during your lunch breaks. When you start these ‘idea gathering sessions’, sometimes it helps to decide ahead of time that you’ll focus on something arbitrary, say the color “red.” Think about the problem you are trying to solve, and at the same time, focus on the color red. You’ll notice red things around you that you’d might otherwise ignore, just by being focused on that color. Tuning into these details can lead to unusual, fresh connections that help you solve the problem.

3. Write thoughts down wherever, whatever they may be.
The act of writing activates your brain and focuses your thoughts. Use anything – post-it’s, the back of napkins, or a sketch book, to write. The point isn’t to come up with perfect notes, so don’t worry about keeping everything together or too tidy. Don’t worry about whether your thoughts are “good” ideas, either. Just keep writing–sometimes that’s enough for something brilliant to pop up in your head.

Here’s an example.

SAY YOU’RE TRYING to come up with a tag line for your new product – a new condo complex on the waterfront. You are thinking about the condo – how big it is, what kind of amenities it has, your target demography, etc. Then, you go out gathering hints outside. Focus on something specific, like, for example, the color blue today…

The sky is blue (for once, in Seattle! Hey, maybe weather should play a role in this), so is this car (an SUV – what kind of cars do the prospect tenants own?), and a mailbox (maybe they can offer a concierge service for the tenants, drop-off points for mail, dry cleaning, packages, rented videos/dvds?).

Jot stuff into a notebook as you go, connecting dots and coming up with more random links. Get your head to work this way so you can get to really interesting ideas more quickly.

*Published in Japan by Hankyu Communications, 2003.

Get more like this

IMG_1087
Get S. P. A. C. E., our eZine. Click to read more.

WRITING PROMPTS AND MORE are coming together at Design Kompany’s new weekly eZine. More here on S. P. A. C. E. >

What counts as remarkable, valuable, and real? VALIDITY is our theme for July and August eZine S. P. A. C. E.

Theme is VALIDITY for July and August series of weekly eZine S. P. A. C. E.
Theme is VALIDITY for July and August series of weekly eZine S. P. A. C. E.

WHEN I WAS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER, on staff at a daily in Seattle, my big day was Tuesday.

That was the day ‘my’ page came out. Page three. ENVIRONMENT, it said, right there at the top. My business card said, ‘Environment Editor.’ Showtime.

This was a trade journal, a daily. All week I would be working to gather just the right things to include, and only those that would be of interest to specifically the kinds of people who would pay for this paper, and that wasn’t everyone, not even a fraction of the mainstream, if you had to be honest about it.

Which is how I learned about niche publishing. How I got interested in, over the years, switching up from ENVIRONMENT to S. P. A. C. E. Maybe it was the architects DK (my after-newspapers and self-designed collective) worked for in Seattle, or the dreamers, artists, engineers, musicians, organization heads, and so many, many other people in the time since, but I got into it. Spacemaking. And that’s my newest, most favorite-ever beat.

Still gathering bits from people. Still getting wind of things through the Net. Trying to curate just the right set of stories, tips, resources and fine fragments, while also holding the safe space for true dialogue (the kind with a center, and not sides). Members of DK (who are those who pay dues) get S. P. A. C. E. every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. Today I’m gonna send one announcing the new July/August theme, VALIDITY.

That’s how things shift, isn’t it?

You find yourself doing what you know how to do (curate, edit, share), but for exactly the people who care about what you care about. Niche. It’s a real thing. Maybe S. P. A. C. E. isn’t for everyone, but what I learned from Seattle is that it totally doesn’t have to be for everyone, and it’s better if it isn’t.

So lately my ‘Tuesday page’ is S. P. A. C. E.

Of course it’s not mine at all. It’s members’.

It’s what you tell me, and what you say, and how that fits into the big thing, that 100th monkey idea plus collective unconscious and other things that connect us, even when we aren’t right next to each other, face to face. Wish we could be, but this is a way to keep the conversation flowing, and to keep it progressing. Hard, when we are inundated with feeds, tweets, likes, links, kids, spouses, work, our own hangups, friends, not-friends, and more. Pro-tip: Declutter the channels. Go with what you like. And just that. Niche.

How to get S. P. A. C. E.

S. P. A. C. E., Design Kompany’s eZine ($), comes out on Tuesday mornings. Don’t miss the July and August series on VALIDITY. Join today: here >

A snippet:

TALKING TO PEOPLE offline a lot more in recent days. Getting back out there, fraternizing, seeing what’s going on.

A particular topic keeps coming up: What ‘counts’ as ‘worthy.’

So this July and August, let’s explore ‘validity.’ That is, let’s take a round look at the ideas of: remarkability, weightiness, validity, quality. Already a few friends here in Phnom Penh are resisting, but I think the challenge is part of this space. More on relationships and why I believe great ones come from a mutually inspiring push and pull, in a bit… —Read more when you join here >