SELF Ha Noi

MAKE A SPACE for reflection in this relaxed, prompt-led evening workshop.

SELF offers you a chance for you to discover, along with a small group of new and different others, a Concept of You. Built from 10 years of experience designing brand identities for curious and inquiring people in Seattle and, more recently, hosting conversation salons on a wide mix of topics to explore ways of talking together in Bangkok, Malmoe, and Phnom Penh. Walk away with a clear, three-word summary that describes with flair and accuracy Who You Really Are. ‘To thine own self, be true,’ et al. Limited seats, advance bookings only. More here.

Image: ‘Magazine pieces’ from the Distracte series by Design Kompany 2015

 

Who I make N for

THERE COMES A TIME IN EVERY LIFE where we face a crossroads.

You know when you’re there. It’s a big deal, this noticing of the moment of having to make a very significant choice. Which way will you go?

Who are you, and why are you doing this? The guest had asked.

Sincere question, and yet, I couldn’t find a way to answer honestly, not quite. I mean, I had some ideas about what ‘N’ was about when I first hosted it, here in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh. I got clearer when I did this again in Bangkok. The goals for ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY and ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW were, I think, more about making something interesting actually happen. Rather than, you know, sit around and imagine how much better everythign could be and complain that there is no good art anymore, and why is that, and the banal nature of everything that gets popular on YouTube (a woman I had asked on twitter about why her post went viral said she thought it was because there was an element of ‘hating on’ someone else, that those were the posts that went around quickly, and so, she was writing more of those kinds, to get attention, even though, she admitted to me, she really felt like her other works were better.) Quality, then. A space for something magical to happen. What does tat mean? It’s different for everyone.

But I think, really, when asked if there is a point or a purpose to gathering people in 16 cities around the world, cities which have an ‘N’ in them (two ‘N’s is better, of course), to converge with 16 strangers to talk about a topic that starts with an ‘N’ is that, really, well, these are quite arbitrary constraints, no?, and that, in fact, there is no point.

Let me reiterate..

The point is this: there is no point.

Something I learned from Man and Superman, last summer in London at the National Theater. Sitting in the audience in a place I had booked two days prior, while home and searching the internet for people to invite to ‘N’ in that part of the world and discovering, well, look at this, it’s Ralph Fiennes acting on stage, and this is Bernard Shaw, and, well, I simply must… attend this.

Is there a point?

No.

That’s what they said.

That’s what they said, right there, on that big stage. The world of theater is so brilliant, sometimes I fall in love with it, and it’s very good to keep going to things. I’m not the type to just up and go to foreign countries on account of plays happening, not usually, in fact this was a lark, but I am so glad I did. Because I care about learning, and people, and connection, and Art. Capital ‘a’ Art, that is. The kind that you can experience over time, across distance. I don’t think the same feeling would have emerged if I was reading it, but I did find it on Google books and got a few of the lines that most moved me. One of them of course, and I’m paraphrasing because the best bits that you feel when you hear them may not fit the agendas of those who post online with quotes that back up their own viewpoints (it’s really real, isn’t it? Bias.) But my own bias is this. I believe that the purpose of living is to live in the moment, the unadorned, unattached, unexpecting right here and now. And ‘N’, I think, is about onceness, chance conversations and connection happening in a closed, bounded space where someone (that would be me) is ‘holding the space’ for people so that they feel safe, included, welcome, invited, warm, and, if this goes well, and I think it has, judging from the past experiences with 32 people I didn’t know before in BKK and here in Phnom Penh is that, yes, that is valuable. Yes, people want converastions that go beyond the usual variety of ‘paid or laid’ agenda. I know! I’m saying that. Out loud. Here. I want to talk to people who want to talk to me, about the big things, the art the culture the light the space the beauty the moment the magic. The magic! It’s very exciting when we can discover one another, and arbitrary constraints are a big part of design projects. So the brief I made for myself went as such: Find 16 people in 16 cities. The people won’t know each other. They will show up for a ‘big blind date,’ they will have decided a date together, collaboratively, and they will do this by making a commitment first (in this case, purchasing a ticket). Such a commitment makes it easier to believe that it will happen. I have made a promise to the guests who have registered. 16 people. In one moment. To meet and talk, together, about NOTEWORTHINESS. That’s the London one. The Copenhagen one is about NEARNESS. Hoping that the dates for both will be kind of close enough together that I can just make one big trip there and go to both places, so that, you know. Airline tickets. Time.

Here’s another one, from Man and Superman:

‘This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.’

Can you dig it?

#play16n on: twitter instagram facebook

Now registering for ‘N’ London, ‘N’ Hanoi, ‘N’ Copenhagen, and ‘N’ Bologna. Say hi through the note below, if you’re curious. I’ll share more.

A story in Ha Noi begins: ’16N’

IT IS TIME to go to Viet Nam again.

A lot of conversations in virtual space, lately.

About Ha Noi, and ‘N’, and what that is. And why we’re doing it.

‘You know, if you want people to be interested in what you’re doing, you should show that you are doing it because you get something out of it. That was the number one question I’d gotten, from N in Phnom Penh and Bangkok and in person when I was in London and Copenhagen, too. I wanted to get sixteen people together for a conversation salon, about a topic that would start with an N, and in cities that have N’s in them. That was the criteria. I thought it was a fun game. But you know what people wanted to know?’

‘What?’

‘What’s in it for you, DK?’

‘…’

‘What the heck is the point of it all? Some were more vocal and opinionated than otehrs. But I think the point of it all is very obvious, to me, anyway. And then I find little bits and pieces that other, smarter people have written and posted about how as human beings what we really do well is connect in person, eye-to-eye, and when that happens we can normalize our own ideas about things and we can feel more lively, alive, you know?’

‘…’

‘So I know to some it seemed like a social experiment. I got some really strong hate mail from the Phnom Penh person who professed to be a creative person but was totally irritated with me for trying to ask him to come to something and pay a whopping sixteen bucks… that was the first one, and you know, how in Phnom Penh everyone’s so ketchi, yeah?, Yeah. At first these notes used to make me really cringe inside, like I was doing it wrong. But then… then I found out from the OTHER people, the ‘whynotsayyes’ types, that it was a GOOD thing to be of an opinion. That it MATTERED to take a stand, take a side, and ‘push back on the culture of maybe.’ Oh, I want so much to go into the details here… how it got planned, designed, why I am going to be doing it in Ha Noi, and then back to Europe… Bologna…’

‘But what’s in it for you, DK?’

‘Yeah! I know, right? This is the stuff of living, if you ask me. Being around other people who are interested in big questions, but aren’t getting space to ask them because it’s uncool to talk about metaphysics and cool to talk about [DELETED], which has NO bearing on the quality of my life and has no way of adding to it in any way but seems to be the topic of interest not because it’s interesting but because it’s socially acceptable! MORES, and what’s ‘socially acceptable’ IS NOT WHAT IS GOOD FOR US, most of the time, because what’s SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE is drudgery and ennui and living in a box of computing and digital messes and head games and disintegration of integrity and flakiness and banality and the Society of the Spectacle and media outlets that are buying up all the spaces so that the good stuff is getting drowned in the sea of irrelevance that Huxley talked about but OH, I can’t get all… I can’t do that… I can’t get all ENNUI and WOE IS US about HUMANITY, did you konw HUMANITY is ending? This month? That next month the theme for S. P. A. C. E. is swithing to KAIROS? It’ll be good for me to get out of this doomy gloomy spot where I think a lot of artists, writers, and scientists were back when they came up with the A-bomb, back when there was all that sadness around the fact that humanity had this thing to it, this streak, the sorrow… Krishnamurti’s eloquent take on it… the sorrow within us, and then that Dao stuff… I did a lot of research for this sequnce, you konw. I might need to put a little paper together summing it up, a PDF. I’ll do that. I’ll make it available to people who join me at N for Ha Noi, how about that. And maybe for the new subscribers to S. P. A. C. E., too. There is good stouff on the tables, for it… I’m looking forward to it… wow. I’m looking forward to the KAIROS. And N! N is about MAKING IT HAPPEN. Kairos. Framing the moment, designing rooms for great dialogue and connection. Celebrating the urgency of NOW.’

‘Dude. That sounds really esoteric and inaccessible.’

‘Well. That’s who I am. And this is the kind of stuff I make. And I am looking for 16 people who want to talk about a topic starting with N in Ha Noi when I get there. We’ll make it up, together. We’ll do this one differently from the other topic-setting ones. I will ask the people who are asking me, WTF is N, DK?’ And we will design it, together.

ARE YOU IN HA NOI? Want to be part of it?

Get ‘N’…


Get N

A salon about the creative process and why we bother to make, design

SALON & MEETUP FOR DESIGNERS. This is the first time that we have ever hosted Designers Korner in Phnom Penh. We’ll make it short, sweet and a chance to mingle with creative people based in this city or just passing through.

Here’s everything that DK is currently hosting >

We have a LinkedIn page that connects people who’d participated in Designers Korner when we were based in Seattle. That was a lot of fun. It was a regular event, once a month. Let’s try this and see how many people show interest, and go from there. Tickets are available here.

It’s designed to be very small, and a chance to share some of the creative projects we are all working on.

DESIGN KOMPANY is seeking creative people to connect with in real life.

Designers’ Korner is a traveling series we throw from time to time when the feeling is right. Started in Seattle 2007-2009, and has since been seen at arts-friendly venues in Durham NC and Bangkok. This will be our first Korner in Phnom Penh.


WHO SHOULD COME.
You also have a difficult time accepting ‘schools of design’ or fads. You will have earned your chops, but know when to keep your eyes and ears open. You are naturally curious and want to connect with the world in a meaningful way. You care about quality. You know that ultimately, your toughest client is yourself. You are someone who has worked in a design field for long enough to know that networking with others who’ve also got some experience is time valuably spent. That’s because we have different approaches to overlapping concerns: choosing our clientele, continuing to innovate and grow our businesses, how to best develop new products and services, and where to uncover new opportunities.

THE WHY. The world is changing, and the ‘how’ of making work work is something we can learn from one another in a conversation salon like this: real-time, real-life conversations with others also doing, making, sharing and growing. DK seeks others who are interested in learning about the way others think, that is, who are open to new ways of trying things. Ultimately, we make a break from the old thinking of ‘this is how it’s always been done.’ Status quo kills beauty in design. That’s what we feel. Making spaces for us to meet and talk is the ‘why’ of Korner.

WHAT YOU’LL GET. Are you a designer? Do you work with people? Are you interested in talking more with others who do both? Come to this first-ever conversation salon of ours in Ubud and you’ll get Design Kompany’s eBook, S P A C E VOL I, an annual of our 2016 discoveries in the best thinking on the way things are changing in design fields and new inspirations. A $55 value, S P A C E VOL I will be yours for free.

A LIGHT PROGRAM. Perhaps you’re interested in talking shop—about international business styles and how they vary, about lessons lessons learned from growing a business that continues to evolve, about trends and chapters in the emerging fields of digital technologies, communications, and how we relate to others through visual composition, through words, through Snaps… Let’s meet and talk more. A light program will be shared with those who confirm attendance. A secret venue for this, which we’ll share when you order your ticket. Meantime, welcoming your questions.

QUESTIONS. We are open to all conversation-starters, and welcome you to join our space. Best way to connect is twitter, but we are also on facebook and instagram.

The work is in the doing

GOING THROUGH THE EMAIL. Doing the work. ‘N’ work, that is. I have got a new list of invitees to reach out to, an old one to follow up with, and the rest.

Got to talk to more than 100 people if I can find 16 to say ‘yes’ to ‘N’. (Learned this from ‘N’ Phnom Penh and ‘N’ Bangkok last year, phew.)

MAKING ’16N’. This is the biggest project DK has taken on so far: gather strangers in one moment of a conversation, in a space designed and hosted by one of us. In a city that starts with an ‘N’. It’s kinda nuts.

But why? Why even bother?

People do ask this. A lot. Why does this work matter to you guys? Why does it mean anything to get people who don’t know each other to meet, and talk, offline, in real life?

Long story, this. I’ll cut to the chase. Without discovering people and their ideas—of new ways, new to a person, that is—that person can’t grow. Adapt based on new inputs. Learn.

Part of maturing is, sure, about being open-minded.

But you can be as open-minded as you want and sit alone in an armchair reading books and not really having active knowledge of what it’s like to look directly at the eyes and straight through them, into the heart, of the Other.

Other doesn’t have to be Scary.

Other can reveal something to us about… ourselves.

(Enter Jung. Exit Jung).

Othering.

This is a term that just walked into my world one day in recent conversation with DM. It’s weird. I never thought… But then, of course…. And so….

My Western colleagues and I have been programmed to fear or disdain or isolate ourselves from Others.

Others who think about a different kind of clothing to wear (this as teens).

Others who are not like us in physical appearance.

Beliefs, dogmas (dangerous, this last one, but I’ve said why in 30K words in a book you can find here).

Others who may, just maybe, judge us. Fear.

Fear is put into us because we don’t know.

But physics! Physics at the very small scales is ALL ABOUT not knowing!

‘We have no idea where that bit got off to,’ et al.

The mystery of the universe becomes a fun thing to think about, to conjecture. I talked about this with a particle physicist, SW, who had been touring about in Asia with some kind of software. It was a random encounter and an unlikely conversation, but taht was the upshot. ‘Where did it all start? Where soup did we all come from, anyway?’ More just me marvelling into the cloudy nothing, awed about the whole of the every. (Kind of gets metaphysical, huh.)

No one has to be right. Contrary to all the stuff that we’re taught to believe (getting famous is good, the great genius and his remarkable breakthrough is to be sought, etc), it’s not like anyone can ‘figure it all out’ without any sort of input. And the richness of that input is what invites fertile ground for sowing the sorts of seeds that lead to brilliant blooms.

Getting poetic, now. Sometimes that just happens.

Anyway, the point: No one human being alone can know.

But what if we could know, at least a little, the feeling of Other and the Unknown? Through bit by bit engagement? As in, a little bit at a time of learning what another way is like? You don’t have to take a college course to experience a little bit of, ‘Huh, that’s new.’ You can just have a conversation salon.

NEW DIRECTIONS. Starting things up. In the staged spaces of Designful Meetups. More than anything, the work is about the invitation. Which is why there are so many of these going out, this week and through the weekend. Why?

The invitation is THE most important part.

Of quality spacemaking, that is. Subject for another day.

Unless you feel like you’re personally invited to something, unless you feel like the sender is someone who actually cares if you’re part of the story they’re making, then it’s going to fall on deaf ears. You know what else? Everyone says they’re so busy and stuff, but what are people so busy with? That kind of intentional decisionmaking of where to spend time on what and with whom is kinda important. Because before we know it, our time’s gonna be up.

When people get together for ‘N,’ for example, when they meet to talk together—16 people per city—and talk on topics that start with an ‘N,’ it starts to be clear.

The arbitrary nature of constraints like ‘Has to have an N in it (the city, the venue)’ and ‘You have to get a ticket ahead of time, since I want to really make sure this is going to happen and not just let’s just talk about it)’, these.

These are frames.

To design a space.

To hinge a great dialogue—but maybe that’s too heavy a word—a great conversation jam upon.

The secret? It doesn’t matter WHO comes or WHAT happens in the box. The point is that it HAPPENS. Which means all the work of designing ‘N’ is, quite honestly, in the drudge work of slogging through email and making tons and TONS and EVEN MORE invitations. Because I’m looking for the magic set of 16. Sixteen in each of 16 cities, eventually (2 have happened so far), who will say, ‘Yes.’

If you’re a new invitee, I get it. You don’t know me from Adam. Don’t know what’s involved. And I’m asking you to just trust the process. Walk into the unknown.

When it works, it’s cool. I love it.

A wide mix opts in, I’m noticing. (Gotta start with 100, though.)

But…

That means no cliques, clubs, or preaching-to-the-choirs. It’s hard, this, because everyone is programmed to think, ‘Wait. Is this about ME? Or is this something ELSE? Is this OTHER?’ Which makes it kinda tricky.

Hm.

Okay, yeah.

The box.

You get enough framing up (date, place, time, people) and you have a bounded box.

A safe space.

You step into that space and meet.

We meet.

Guests and me. Their hos for ‘N,’ for example, and other conversation salons, workshops, commissioned facilitation thingies, and so on.

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE LEARNING for DK has been to discover that whatever happens IN the box isn’t the point.

All salons and events—for commission or for fun—are about gathering people in spaces where they might feel a little out of their usual routine, meeting people they might not have otherwise have met. Most consistent feedback is, ‘I had so many great conversations. We talked about __, but I never thought about  it that way before.’

You get a lot of molecules together and they start heating up and guess what, they get ‘excited.’ That’s what we called them, in science class, in seventh grade, didn’t we? Molecules are getting excited. Excited states are fantastic. You get amped. Wait, no. That’s voltage…

So what am I doing today? Making the invitations.

Emailing like mad.

The new invites.

For ‘N’.

London, Copenhagen, Ha Noi, Bologna. The work is in the doing… We have to get 16 per city… That means 100×4… 400 invitations…

It’s gonna be a little busy, hunkering down over the internet these next few days.

Making my way around the world, looking for people to play 16N.

When 16 vectors cross in a bounded box: ‘N’

SO TO REMOVE SOME OF THE MYSTERY behind ‘N’, which you may have been invited to in recent days, I wanted to let you in on the story.

Because after one year and a little bit, ‘N’ is becoming clearer.

As clear as a variable can be, that is.

A variable that also happens to have the little arrow above it, indicating it’s a vector.

A vector, recall from geometry, is a point that has a line poking out of it, extending infinitely in that one specific direction. ‘We’re on a particular vector here…’

So when the idea of getting 16 people together who didn’t know one another in a designed, hosted and comfortable space for conversation that’s not boring or predictable came up, the image of sixteen vectors crossing in a point sort of popped out of the chaos of the randomness of that which was around me, at that time, in that particular moment. It started to be clear then that the moment was important for me. Not just when I make my zines and collages and try to go with the feeling, to celebrate the sensation of just improvising on the spot and making it up as I go, but in reality, too. (Reality? Whatever is reality? That’s a philosophical conversation for another time, perhaps in S. P. A. C. E.) But for now, the story of ‘N’.

BRICOLEUR. I LIKE THE IDEA OF HAPPENING upon things. Of finding small bits and pieces around me, and collecting them. Those who know me well know that I am a terrible hoarder of magazines, especially when they are beautifully laid out with lovely typesettings. And typefaces. And general colors, and the paper is nice, and, and… Happening upon the spaces in which I discover these pieces is as much a part of my zinemaking as the materials that collide, somehow, together to become the booklets and studies and once-off collages that for some reason seem to me to do that thing I realize now that ‘N’ also wants to do. Freeze-frame a moment.

A particular coincidental crossing of… people, in the case of the real-life event ‘N’, or in the case of the making of tickets for ‘N’-going guests, the pieces that happen to fall into my space in the just-beforeness of the events.

So it seems natural that the tickets for ‘N’ Phnom Penh were built of magazines I found around the time that was about to happen (April 2015), and that the ones for ‘N’ Bangkok were made of a draft for an eBook I was writing all about that city—some highlighted where errors needed attending to, all of them 8-page minibooklets, and some of them with messages from guests of the first ‘N’, here in Phnom Penh…

Pictured at the top of this page is today’s work: starting to create tickets for the ‘N’ event in Hanoi. Just 16, as always. See 16N >

Making them from bits and pieces I picked up in Denmark.

These tickets will be distributed to guests who’ll be invited to register to ‘N’ in Hanoi.

It’s all very lighthearted, I think, in the approach?

I mean, I’m not sure of how to answer people’s questions that pop up over and over again as I invite guests to ‘N’ salons around the world…

‘Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you?’

Um. Hm.

Can I punt on that, for now?

I think in my heart of hearts, I just can’t help it. I can’t help doing this because I see that it brings people together for awesome conversations. The kind that aren’t boring, and the kind I just love. I imagine this is what people aim to do when they have receptions for various giant occasions—but it’s small-scale and differently approached. Still, the bringing-together of people for a moment of great dialogue with those whose paths they’d not have crossed, really excites me.

I’VE MADE MORE THAN 400 invitations so far for ‘N’ events in the four cities:

  • ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS (6 ‘ticket-yeses’ so far)
  • ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS (5 ‘ticket-yeses’ so far)
  • ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY (16 ‘ticket-yeses’ with ‘N’ held in April 2015 at NUK Cafe)
  • ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW (16 ‘ticket-yeses’ with ‘N’ held in October 2015 at Nikko Cafe)

THE GAME. Of the four cities, 2 have seen ‘N’ happen. Sixteen people got tickets, and mutually agreed a date. If that sounds bizarre, it kind of is. But I’m more interested in finding people who say ‘yes’ than those who say ‘when.’ If that makes sense? I’m looking for commitment, and yeah, it’s probably not the easiest thing to say ‘yes’ to, this idea of pre-registering and then deciding a date with someone you’ve never seen or worked with in the past. But you know what? I love the people I am meeting through ‘N.’ Not in an overly intimate, ‘best friends’ kind of way. I mean in a mutually respectful, ‘Yeah, I see you, and I see you saying, what the hey, it’s only a couple of quid and a couple of hours—who knows what might happen?’ way.

I’m looking for the spirit of start, taking a little chance on a thing. Just… a small one. Onceness is the thing. That’s why invitations expire, too.

‘I’M NOT JUST A NUMBER.’ Because did you ever notice how people collect friends, as though we’re numbers? That’s part of why I don’t have a personal FB page, and why I deleted my personal twitter. It’s why I don’t like it when people ask me first thing for my FB, because I’m pretty sure they don’t really care about what I care about and most likely we’ll never have a real conversation online. I guess what I wanted to do was to create an event like ‘N,’ in which 16 variables (16N) represent 16 people, who become real and complex and three-D and have feelings and opinions and can say things in a way that we can never say them online-only. Once. One moment. Of conversation. On a topic that starts with ‘N’. In a city that has an ‘N’ in it. And why 16? Oh, that’s because of 2^8. Clearly.

The framing of the moment is the big work of ‘N’… At least it is, for me…

WHAT HAPPENS NOW. I’m not even going to be able to predict this but that’s okay. I’ve been feeling great about the cool people I’m in conversations with about ‘N’ in London (NOTEWORTHINESS is our theme) and ‘N’ in Copenhagen (NEARNESS). Because I think this is a time when people really do want to connect offline, and in person, and without all that pressure that there is because wow, real life is intense. And often loaded with expectations (let me refrain from spelling these out—I think most of us know what I’m alluding to? and if not, send me a note through our contact page and I can share and we can start a conversation). Because quality comes when we can see each other, hear each other, and feel like we’re being seen and being heard.

So that’s what I task myself to do at each ‘N’. Allow everyone space. To feel included. Seen, and heard. It’s a big month, this one, for me and for invitation-making for ‘N’ events in London, Copenhagen and soon, Hanoi. As soon as I get these things glued together and finish each ticket with an ‘N’ vector insignia… Soon.

Trusting the process. Looking for whomever might become my guests for ’16N.’ Curious? Go here.

GUESTS. Did you attend an ‘N’? How did you receive it? Does this stuff resonate with you? I’m still ruminating, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve been invited, well, feel free to ask me anything. Except, um, ‘The exact date is when?.’ I’m working on that, in a poll, with registered guests, right now. To be continued! —AS