Prototyping S P A C E in Gangtok, India

LIFE. STORIES. Multiple, divergent, intersecting, and contradicting pluralities of narratives: the things we are pursuing here are not so much about gathering outcomes and publishing stuff that sounds and looks interesting (but has no content); rather, we want to invite into our innermost circles, in S P A C E, the exact kinds of new and different others who will show us, together, as we get going, in our conversations in the protected-page posts that constitute, as a set, the thing we call S P A C E, well yeah. All of it. Is a thing now. There’s a bulk to this that I can’t deny; a gravitas and a resonance that stays with people. They tell me this. ‘I really enjoyed that exercise you did; it was super relevant at the time, do you remember, you put us in groups, ‘Past,’ ‘Present,’ and ‘Future?’ asked my friend MR, whom I’d met at one of my events in Bangkok and who went on to join DK again at something called ‘16N‘ in that same city, the next year.

S P A C E || Bangkok // DK 2015
‘N’, the big blind date

(Honestly, we didn’t recall that exercise or think much about what it might have meant to everyone; at the time, we were just hosting, and hosting means you’re talking to people and making sure everyone feels included, that her or his voice counts, that she or he is invited to all the conversations circling about, moving, changing, diving into other spaces, letting that happen.

Afterparty for ‘N’ Bangkok at jazZ happens! // DK 2015

Of course the afterparty for ‘N’ there had to be at a jazz club: improvising in collage and collaborating with jazZ happens! there, that was also very fun. With both, it’s a jam session: making it up as we go, but also, playing off what we learn, together, from one another. Most importantly, there’s no hierarchy. It’s flat. We’re talking, together, in dialogue. Round tables. Let me tell you a bit more about this idea, of circles. (SN, watching Akira Morita in action one time hosting a meeting, had called it ‘circle time.’ We love circle time, here at DK. Why? Lots of reasons.’)

Real dialogue

‘Book of Blue’ is an art book, made in Bangkok, Phnom Penh. 2014

Dialogues that are really good are the kinds ‘with a center, and not sides,’ as William Isaacs, had put it in his book, Dialogue. How lucky I am to have been able to reach out directly to Isaacs, ahead of my conversation salon series, ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ which had happened in Gangtok, Sikkim–a part of India that my relatives in Delhi aren’t too familiar with outside of an image of ‘the snowy mountains’. Well, wow. There is of course Kanchenjunga, but before I go marveling about the miracles of the Himalaya, and daydreaming about going back there in November (yes: mark it! Atelier S P A C E || Gangtok is in the works), well, yeah, so what was I saying? Oh! This: I’m lucky, very, I could ask William Isaacs directly, over email, in 2013, thinking hard about the design of Modern Sikkim and how to collaborate well and whom I should contact to make a go of it and what we would do in the spaces-to-become, well, yeah. How I could make such a conversation salon series work well was important to me. Researching that. Learning what to do in the instance that someone tried to be overbearing (this happens a lot, in societies where there are hierarchies established from social class, economic status, or hey, let’s be real, male and female gender roles), all that normal stuff you have to figure in, and be ready to take on, when it does hit you, all that. And I remember the email coming back. What a good feeling, to get a note from the internet to say, Just do what you’re doing and here’s some more stuff to think about, more or less. Well. What a nice thing to feel reassured that no one knows what’s on the way, not ever, not fully, but that allowing things to pop up by hosting a space that is inviting, safe, comfortable, relaxing, and readied for the things-that-might-happen, well, that’s the work. And the art. So it began. A journey into making more and better such space, or, as I call it now, S P A C E. I’m the architect of it; we follow a checklist, it has 7 points, to do this in a way that works, in DK’s style. Which is what? Well, you can read my personal artist statement thingy at this website, if you’re curious about what interests me about gathering people in these ways. ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ Find it in context at dipikakohli.com.

Modern Sikkim // DK x Echostream 2013
Gangtok roundtables begin with the conversations about the role of government. Over chai and biscuits. Doesn’t everything good start with ‘tea talk?’ I think so. // DK 2013

But in the meantime, there’s this.

Philosophy of the moment

8 October

GETTING SET. For our first-ever online salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ In which we’re going to share all of the best learnings and gathered notes from our decades-long pursuit of the big questions, ‘What are we doing here? What does it mean? What is ‘good’? What makes it remarkable? What does a meaningful life look like? How can I make changes so that I can better enjoy the life I have? What does it mean to love? How does it feel to let go? Where are the important notes to carry forward? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Who am I? Who am I, apart from you? What is my role in society? How am I doing, and where I am going, and does it mean much to consider these questions, and besides, what is ‘time?”‘ What’s this all about? Find out.

Writing and designing, connecting and discovering in Aarhus, 2015. This was where we learned about ‘relational art.’ It’s been all relational art, everything, ever since. (HT AP, BM and SCH).

 

The Prospect of Beauty || Atelier S P A C E pre-event

Join DK and very small handful of others at this new, and different, style of conversation salon. Our theme is ‘The Prospect of Beauty’. Discover the parlor games ‘Art of Not Knowing’ and ‘Excerpts of Note,’ as shared in similar small scale salons in Tokyo, London, New York and Hanoi. Welcoming the very curious and looking forward to receiving you. A meetpoint, and programme, to be emailed to registered guests *only.* Advance bookings only. (Ticket sales close at midday on Wednesday, 1 Nov.)

This is a pre-event for Atelier S P A C E || Singapore.

Order your ticket here.

A designers’ guide to 25 of Singapore’s day-work cafes, art stores, and ‘third places’

 

 

AFTER MUCH SEARCHING ONLINE, and even more not-finding, I have given myself a writing commission. Go to Singapore. Walk around. Look at stuff. See who’s doing something interesting. Discover them, drifting towards whomever or wherever intrigues, without too much noise, or fanfare. Talk to people. And see where the cool stuff is going on. The good stuff. Not just what people say is interesting, or pay to promote, or whatever. No advertorials here. No sponsored posts. That is just not what we are into, here. No thank you. We are interested in real, genuine, and authentic conversations, with people who actually mean it when they say things, and who show up, and who are, like us, intrigued by the possible, the new, the near, the now and the next. When I go around town with my marked-up map, checking out some of the cafes to see if they really are the kind of places I would go to and work out of if I were, say, a designer or a writer with a laptop looking for somewhere to lay low and focus, or a place to walk into and get inspired, or a place that just has the kind of vibe you really want to have if you are looking for ‘your people,’ in a city that feels, from what I remember, on my brief past visits, to be… let’s say… distancing? Maybe the world is just like that now, it’s hard to find space for real life. True conversation, connection, connexion. Why do I care about this so much? Relational aesthetics, et al. So many reasons. Sure I can write and write and blog and blog and who cares? If I don’t meet you, in real life and eye to eye, then whatever is the point of it? Really. I’m serious. So I’m going to outline for a few people the 25 places that I will discover. I’m gonna shortlist stuff, and post about things, but not here, not in public space. In forums,like ‘Strange Geometries.’ New mini-guide to Singapore, writ for the discerning and authenticity-seeking who are coming from out of town. No maps or pocket guidebook stuff. Just, a list, and essays, and pics. First release will be to members of our eZine, S P A C E. Join us there if you want to read it. S P A C E posts weekly, it’s USD $7/week.

 

The Mirror

AN 8-WEEK or 12-WEEK online programme that prompts you to ask questions designed to elicit self-awareness. Reflection. Connection. Discovery. It’s a 1:DK conversation that is exploratory and emerges, week over week. You’ll be able to choose-your-own-adventure as we go, selecting from the grab-bag of more than 100 prompts that DK have built over the 2014-2016 period when we had hosted something else, called the ‘cojournal.’ Discover and share, co-discover with us. By invitation only. 

 

Wherever you go, there you are

A NOMADIC EXISTENCE has begun.

AS: What is it about?

DK: ‘A Nomadic Existence?’ asked one of my longest-term mentors. ‘What is it about, exactly? Can you name that? Can you paint a picture of what it IS? In other words, what is the content of your forum?’ Let me answer that. What IS it about. It’s about lots. It’s about the things that happen, magically, when we simply make *time* and *space* to converse, together.

AS: How does it work?

DK: I post on Mondays. We have a week to write a response. Then, on Sundays at 7PM ICT, I respond and craft the next day’s post. It’s emergent, one step at a time. It’s N+1. All of this is behind protected-page posts on this blog. Those who are taking part in the online forums are participant, see, and I truly mean are participating in the making of the content, as we go. We don’t have to know each other for a lifetime, heck we don’t even have to know one another for one hour. Or ever have met in real life. But… we show up together, and there’s a pattern of how this works, and what we can do with it, and you know? It’s a kind of community, without all the weird things that some communities turn into… I believe that this is a conversation space, and it’s also an exploration. I don’t know why I’m going into this much detail. Because I care so much? Because I lack editing skills? That’s where you come in, A. Thank you.

AS: Why is it interesting? What makes it different?

DK: We are looking for the a-ha. It comes, at times. I believe there is a way to design space for meaningful, magic moments. Connexion. Real connexion. I believe it has to be designed for, this kind of quality of truly well-collaborated, well-made space. There is design, but design is useless if it’s not inclusive and inviting and welcoming and made-by-the-collection of those who are there.

Continue reading “Wherever you go, there you are”

What is Design Thinking?

LISTEN TO this interview Victor Jimenez, a seasoned entrepreneur and popular podcaster, did with DK’s own Akira Morita. The two are close friends, and talk regularly across the world about topics related to performance, learning, being better, and growth.

Design thinking? It’s about what problem are you solving, and for whom. You can listen to the full story, ‘Using Design Thinking in your Business,’ which has already been recorded and uploaded at The Flywheel Podcast at this page: http://victorjimenez.co/tfp-003-using-design-thinking-in-your-business/

Today in S P A C E we’ll discuss. In a parallel conversation that may also take place on this day, we’ll open the comments for the topic of, ‘What is Design Thinking,’ on the comments pages below. Possibly also on facebook, depending on interest there.

Check in on 30 May throughout the day [ICT timezone], to see what’s unfolding. #designthinking

Discovering Origin

A CONTINUATION in virtual space of conversations near and far about things related to ‘fromness.’

Where are we from, what that means to us each individually, how multi-local identities shape who we are.

This is a build on something that we had run online last year, a series of 12 conversation starting prompts designed to open this kind of discussion. It was called ‘Home & Away’. Welcoming back those who participated, inviting those just connecting now to mix, together, in this one-week conversation, ‘Discovering Origin,’ in virtual S P A C E.

7-DAY PASS.
Be part of it when you join us with a 7-day pass, here’s how to get it.

Agile publishing


***

 

 

FOR A LONG TIME I used to be like most of the people I know who claim to want to write. I mean, I wanted to get picked up.

By some kind of an agent, or a publishing house.

Then, get toured around the world.

Splashy dinners, press conferences, lots and lots of people asking me about my stories… all admiringly but of course asking the same repeating questions.

But. But.

Fancy ashtrays for my splashy-splashy. ‘You smoke?’ ‘Of course I don’t!’

No.

Something.

Got in the way of that.

Not because of drive… I had a lot of drive, back then. I guess I’m a Gen X slacker in other ways, but I do like publishing and I will do it, and blogging is a kind of publishing, and even though I haven’t been writing here very much for the last three years it doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing and sharing.

Just not in public, like this.

I preferred small, private circles.

I still do.

Some of the time I wrote for newspapers, first freelance and then as a staffer. Then I got into magazine stuff. Then I decided it wasn’t for me, that piecewise thing you have to do (read: pitching) and not experimenting with the medium, which is way, way more fun. Thanks to a couple of internet friends scattered in timezones near and far, I’m able to connect more deeply through writing (but only with some people, of course. You can’t share intimately with everyone.) Maybe this is why I don’t care so much about getting famous, now. It just doesn’t matter. What matters is hanging out. The quality of the conversations. The people I meet, what we discover together, what we learn from each other. How we grow.

Not famous

SO YES. IT IS TRUE.

I had this thought about fame, though. A lot, probably, through most of my early twenties. Back then, mostly in those big cities with yellow stuff pasted onto walls around subways, I picked up flyers about going to get my correspondence writing course started, and then, I left them behind. I don’t know why.

Someone I just met said, it’s human to want to be famous. I’m not convinced that this is so true, though. I think it’s narcissistic, sure. And yeah, the Western cultures have a thing about that. But living in Asia for three years (and counting) will do something to you. Will make you think, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Who cares?’

Heidegger: ‘What is Metaphysics?’

 

Next steps: writing and publishing

THINGS NOW ARE INCREDIBLY NEW, and the old-school model is still nagging at the artists. Why is this?

Ego? Who cares if it’s ‘popular?’

JS wrote: ‘Do what moves you.’ Something about pining for fame… (JS is famous, by the way)… as much as this is so normal if you grow up in a place where fame is worshipped,… But well, something about the pursuit of #1, and that alone, seemed dodgy, to me. Who decides on the criteria, for one? What do you consider to be interesting, intriguing, alluring, mysterious? Because most likely, it’s not the stuff that’s going to top the pop charts. Well, at least, if you’re like me. I’m into other things. Philosophical stuff, going to the edges (literally, sometimes), looking out and over, maybe even taking a jump (literally, again. Like in India’s Himachal Pradesh, at Manali.) Not saying you have to do it this way or that way. Paying attention to the way, though. That’s important. Because along the way you’ll find the things that add to your story, the Book of You. Voicefinding is underrated, you know. Taking time is, too. Discovering, messing up, finding your way, the way again, there it is. Why are the Westerners so outcome-focused? I noticed in recent weeks that I had this one outcome in mind about a thing, and it didn’t go exactly as I had pictured, and on the one hand I was so disappointed I teared up a bit, but on the other, we had something else in its place. We had a different kind of thing. Another way. And it was fine; in its own way, it was beautiful all exactly as it stood, unjudged and unexpected. Is that the thing, then? Letting things happen?

Finding one’s voice, I felt, seemed like the most important journey, to me, when I was watching everyone follow the pack. The herd mentality is pretty crazy. Human, of course. But we gotta watch that. What are we doing, and why? It’s necessary to pay attention to this. Intention. Even in my younger days, I knew that to experience life would be more important, than to try to make sense of what had happened, so far. There wasn’t enough of it behind me. I wanted to go. See. Learn, make, and do. Of course people said that was stupid. These were the people who later went into investment banking and got houses that are now ‘underwater.’ They also told me that I was a ‘free spirit’ and wasn’t that just lucky-for-me, but twenty years later they are still looking for a weekend off to ‘go and write my novel.’ Yeah. A weekend. F.

Traveling opened it up, though, got me away from those people and their poisonous don’t-can’t thinking. (Total opposite of N+1. More about that in a bit.) First job I got enough to save some to start this habit. That’s how I got traveling. To East Asia. Southeast Asia, South Asia. Europe, too, of course. Moved there, even. Started things out. Made it all up as we went along. Slowly, surely. One step at a time.  It became a kind of method, a sort of dance. Go, see. Suss. Learn, then make the next decision. You know, the more I think about it, the more this isn’t just about a way of life that has nothing to do with wanting the praises and accolades that, I think, many many people that I would have known when I was, say, yeah, twenty-three, would have said they wanted. The thing is, I met a lot of those people, along the way. People who had made it. Were on the book tours. Were traveling the world, on other people’s dimes. But they didn’t have the one thing that I had, in so many giant waves and troves and uncertain amounts, seemingly indefinitely. They didn’t have time.

‘Hello, internet. I’m doing fine without you.’

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.

There is no perfect

The Achievement Conversation I HAD NO IDEA these conversation salons were so large in quantity and varied in theme. Stayed up a little too late drawing lines on a large piece of paper, making highlighter marks in yellowgreenblueorange, connecting some boxes, trying to categorize, see where the threads are. Looking at a lot of data, you could say. Thinking about the story. The arc, that is. And in some weird and intriguing sort of way, ‘a-ha!’, it popped right out. And I found it.

The thread of the conversation series, which so very many people in the last ten years have asked me all about in various phrasings (‘What is it? Sounds interesting, but I don’t get it’ or ‘WTF?’ or ‘What is the point of it, though?’ or ‘What do I get from this?’) have made me search deeply to find an answer to, I think it comes down to one thing.

The Achievement Conversation
The Achievement Conversation. Curious? Ask >
TOTTING THE SERIES OF THINGS DK HAS DONE SINCE 2005 when we started in Seattle, I discovered a whole slew of conversation salons.

Yes, conversation parties. People stop checking their phones, and no one buys drinks because they’re too busy talking. (Venues don’t like me much). Sort of a mix of workshop and cocktail hour, or sometimes more focused with real worksheets and things. Just in 2014-15, we have hosted a series of conversations (Origin, Beauty, Math+Jazz, N, Value, Hello August, and most recently, Ennui). A recurring theme is ‘achievement.’ What are we doing in Phnom Penh: what brings us, what keeps us here, where are we going with our careers?

Really? Salons? Achievement? What gives? I thought we were a design studio? Something has shifted, dramatically, in the last 10 years. We’re no longer talking about our past work in brand identity design.

On growth and the process of shift

I HAD NO IDEA these conversation salons were so large in quantity and varied in theme. Stayed up a little too late drawing lines on a large piece of paper, making highlighter marks in yellowgreenblueorange, connecting some boxes, trying to categorize, see where the threads are. Looking at a lot of data, you could say. Thinking about the story. The arc, that is. And in some weird and intriguing sort of way, ‘a-ha!’, it popped right out. And I found it.

The thread of the conversation series, which so very many people in the last ten years have asked me all about in various phrasings (‘What is it? Sounds interesting, but I don’t get it’ or ‘WTF?’ or ‘What is the point of it, though?’ or ‘What do I get from this?’) have made me search deeply to find an answer to, I think it comes down to one thing.

There is no perfect

GROWTH.

That is, personal growth.

That is, development.

I used to think ‘development’ and ‘growth’ and even the overmany syllable word ‘innovation’ were just too used. They’ve become cliches. Truth is, most of me still thinks so. I’ve avoided this in my diction for the sheer reason that training in news journalism makes you want to delete all jargon, and fast, and hard. So you don’t see me talking about ‘growth’ out loud here on the blog. You see ‘N+1,’ of course, because what’s the problem with using mathematics? Nothing. But that’s my way of saying ‘growth.’ There’s a lot more to say about that, but I’ll leave ‘N+1’ for another post (or series).

Development is another thing. You see people who really, really want to do something. Creatively, I mean. They think taking a weekend painting course (have you heard the expression, ‘Sunday painter?’) is going to be a good creative outlet. They think that if they had a whole week off from some day job somewhere, they would do their thing that they’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it’s picking up an instrument. Maybe it’s a poetry workshop, a mountain, or installation of a chandelier.) What doesn’t happen in our world of creativity and innovation and growth and development is that honest and true thing that one simply must—MUST—find one’s way to, either by some link, or just the fact of having done a lot of things that don’t work and having to come to terms with where one is, and how it will work, and what it will become. What I’m talking about of course is the creative process. Which starts with the blank page and opens up to all possibilities and then, as luck would have it, begins to make itself into a pattern that the person who is making begins to see. Observing clearly is the work of all science, and all art is making meaning of it.

The journey is all there is

AND WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN? It means the creative process in and of itself is the personal growth work. It means that starting to start is the beginning step (I call this concept of intention setting, and the nudge, ‘N + 1/infinity’). It means that nothing is going to happen unless you commit to diving in, and going deep, and staying a while, with the process. Our old blog used to have a category, ‘Trust the Process.’ I had no idea that this was the whole crux of Design Kompany. Making meaning is up to each of the people who join us for a time, do a gig with us. I don’t mean interns or employees—I mean clients. Clients come into the ‘sandbox’ and play for a while with us. It’s a jam. It really, truly is. When we discover our way to the pattern someone will note it. It’s best when it comes from a place that’s honest, true (and I was going to say brave and Hemingwaylike, but none of those elephant shootings and arm wrestlings are necessary). What IS important is trusting the process. A lot of people want to skip all the hard work of the journey from N to N+1, and just go ahead and publish, or print a CD, or make a t-shirt, or whatever else. But usually the first thing that comes out is complete rot. You have probably noticed when you are writing, and then you go back and edit, that the entire first paragraph of a first draft is probably dispensable. [I’ve just deleted the first paragraph of this story.]

What happens then? You have to do the work.

You have to get into it.

This can take a very, very long time.

It can hurt. It can twist and shove the ego back to wherever the ego comes from. It can agitate, delight, sing, dance, and puncture. You are wounded when the flow doesn’t come up to your standard of liking. Then you might change your mind altogether about what it is you like anyway. Maybe you hate Jane Austen and you can say that out loud, all that era’s chauvinism and silliness, or you can admit to never having read The Naked Lunch, sorry, no, and you can get to a point where you decide esoteric theater really isn’t your thing. You know you’re supposed to like things that you spend a lot of money on for tickets, but you’re still okay with getting up at halftime and walking out the door. Life gets you thinking, experiences teach, and you adjust into a person your younger self would look at and go, ‘Huh. That’s me in 20 years??’

You know what the real work of achievement is? Knowing that the person you are now (N) and the person you are becoming (N+1) will both be cool with the learning that has to happen between one point and the next. It’s the achievement of the journey itself, not the ‘winning’ that might come from an external validation source. That source might be dead by the time you get to N+1. And then who’s gonna pat you on the back?

You know it’s really like that. Starting to start is the big work. But how?

That’s the question each of us has to answer for ourselves. But maybe it’s not so much the answers that matter, but the starting to start thinking in this vein that is the trick. How do you know what interesting is? You feel it in your bones. When a thing is good, when a work is right, when the creativity and the process become a joy and not a slog, that is when you will discover your own thread, your own pattern, your own distinct momentous ‘a-ha.’

Best of luck, and yeah, we’re all on that vector, and so, as you venture, may the force be with you. —DK

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Jai Ranganathan: ‘Sharpen and heighten’

OFFLINE CONVERSATIONS lately are turning to the process itself, and, to take it further, discoveries that happen on the way to ‘making.’ Maybe it’s in the air? Looking back on what creative people have told me about this work of making, I recalled something I learned from science podcaster Jai Ranganathan. (Find him on twitter at @jranganathan.) We had met at a science conference in NC’s Research Triangle Park. That was the kind of place where bunches of people convened to share tips on making science interesting to a general audience, more or less, and I discovered Jai was set to instruct scientists at University of California Santa Barbara on how to use social media.

Conversations about sharing discoveries inspired this interview with Jai Ranganathan.

DK: What do you need to think about when opening a wide-open project like a podcast? That’s a pretty big blank canvas.

JR: First, define your purpose. Then, what’s your scope? Do you want to be a local brand? Have a national audience? If you want a large audience, people really go for video.

DK: OK. So if you know your purpose, then what? Any tips?

JR: Sure.

  1. Think about where can you add value. Ask businesses, ‘What’s a problem you have?,’ and then share, ‘Here’s how we might solve it.’
  2. Give your product away so people want to know more.
  3. You can do latest tips. Interviews. You could have seminars.
  4. Just get started. Do it frequently. Keep it short—2 minutes.

DK: Wait, so you just have to be prolific?

JR: You don’t have to be flashy, or always funny, or the best-looking. But you have to be compelling in your voice. Be engaged, animated, and interesting.

DK: But what about talent?

JR: Talent is overrated. You have to be interesting/entertaining first, or else it doesn’t matter what you have to say!

DK: How do you do that?

JR: Boring podcasts are that way because people are checking boxes off a how-to list, as opposed to doing something that’s really them. Anything creative like this—podcasting, video, or writing—is about deciding what you want to say, and what’s your way of saying it. How to make that your own is key.

DK: How did you get into this?

JR: I was doing my postdoc in conservation biology. If you’re not a scientist, your job is to write papers. I was disenchanted after a while. How likely was it that what I wrote would lead to action? So as a hobby, I started interviewing scientists. I’ve always really liked radio. Someone found me and offered to pay me to do this, so now I have $2,000 broadcast-quality equipment and I make a good living. But, I had hoped more people would listen.

DK: What can others learn?


JR: It takes a while to figure out what you’re doing and why the heck you’re doing it. Don’t make it too scripted. You can have a script, but don’t read it. Imagine somebody giving a talk and reading a script–it’s death! And you know, you have to like doing it. And keep doing it, that’s key. Don’t wait to get good. No one sprouts out of the earth fully formed.

First published in S P A C E

‘A sprinkle of magic dust’: guest post by idApostle on 25 years of logo design

Editor’s Note: This post disappeared for a bit, but now it’s back. Also find it at Steve Zelle’s blog, here. (Editor’s Aside: Steve, pretty cool about the quote! Fancy that.)

 

Steve Zelle of idApostle comments about the creative process ahead of “Make.”

The Process of Imagination, Analysis and Action

By Steve Zelle

The creative process involves tangible actions juxtaposed with the intangible mystery of creativity. It often suffers under a linear approach and blossoms when you dare to ask “why don’t we try ….” It’s what makes something more than just an idea. It offers a result via the marriage of imagination, analysis, and action.

For twenty-five years, I have been involved in logo design. For the last year, I have also run a site that showcases the creative processes of other logo designers—sixteen to date. My intentions with the site were to better understand the creative process, improve my own and increase awareness about the value it provides.

After all this time, I have learnt that the creative process never looks like this:

The creative process never looks like this.

In fact, the creative process of logo design truly is impossible to diagram, although many of us try in order to put our clients more at ease with it. It can’t really be put into distinct phases although many of us also try to do this in hopes that potential clients will feel more comfortable investing their time and money. In truth, I have found that the creative process requires a leap of faith from everyone involved. Its elusive nature manages to move a project forward, backward and sideways simultaneously.Â

The creative process is chaos wrapped around structure and held together by a sprinkle of magic dust.

The studies on Processed Identity show that while all designers approach projects in a unique way, the creative process—the time spent reading, writing, having conversations, organizing, editing, prioritizing, mind mapping, creating mood boards, sketching—”is essential to developing a deep understanding of a client’s needs. It’s what inspires and enables us to create something beyond the generic and adequate. In my experience as a logo designer, the creative process has proven to be my most valuable tool. It’s also crucial to a wide range of other disciplines including science, philosophy, architecture, art and writing.

We have all experienced occasions where it is clear the creative process has been minimized. It’s not difficult to recall poor user interfaces, cliche solutions, and ideas executed with seemingly little thought as to how the end user will engage with them. In contrast, by embracing and investing in the creative process, it’s possible to create moments of joy, satisfaction, and delight.

It is unfortunate that the creative process is constantly in need of protection from budget cuts, deadlines and non-believers. It seems to be the first corner cut. You need clay to make bricks[*]. It takes time, energy, dedication, and the willingness to build, knock down and build again (over and over).

I have learned that I best serve my customers by looking at the logo as simply a by-product of the creative process. I have also learned that protecting the creative process is essential and non-negotiable.

About the Author

Steve Zelle is a logo and brand identity designer based in Ottawa, Canada. He operates as idApostle and is the founder of the community driven design website, Processed Identity. You can reach him through his website or on Twitter.

*Paraphrased from: “Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently, “I cannot make bricks without clay!”, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.