Towards the next thing, 5N

IT MIGHT BE A LITTLE PREMATURE to start blogging about the next ‘N’ already, but it is here, in my heart, as soon as the last one finishes. There is, of course, the thank-you not that I am still writing. For those who joined us at ‘N’ in Hanoi… wow, just last month. At the very end of June, when we were all sweltering and wondering if we could really pull that off, must have been really surprising (as one guest told me, hello GN!) for some to see that we did get together, 16 of us, and then, we took a selfie.

I need to share that.

I need to do that right, but I am also realizing that there is no ‘right’ for things like this. Blogging, is it already old school to be a blogger? I do not do product placements. There are no sponsors. I feel sad when I go to a nice event only to see that it’s been co-opted by some giant car dealership or beer company, and it becomes, well, more of the same. The banal.

This happened before, when I would join events that were ‘free’ but turned out to be anything but, what with the snapping of photos for someone’s ‘promotion’ and the marketing materials that are shoved at you more subtly in 2017 then they were in the 1990s, they don’t print flyers and blast them at you, they just… what? Make weird psychological triggers, capitalize on your insecurities, make you feel like you need something (absolutely ‘must-have’ it), because you’re not complete enough without… But ‘N’, if you were wondering, ‘N’, I think, I believe, is a way to really come back to just being who we are, together in a small circle, small is important, but not too small, because… you need a mix of people and I’ve found 16 to be perfect.

Four groups of four, that’s a bit of a holdover from the days when I recall working with other consultants to bring the jigsaw method to play in experiential learning workshops that we would design together. To varying degrees of success, of course. It’s not trendy or sexy, what we’re making here, in S P A C E salons, workshops, magazine, print stuff, zines, eZines, and things to come. Things to come! There is always that wild card spot. ______. Anything is possible, anything anything.

‘N’ CPH. For ‘N’ in Copenhagen, so far we have 5 people who are ‘in’, and that’s exciting. Things have changed a lot since 2015, though, since that time when they said ‘yes’… Still. We have been in touch. Corresponding, from time to time. The theme is NEARNESS, and that means building trust, over time. Showing up, even ambiently on email, is important, I think. Learning, changing, as I go.

More patient, as I learned to be from those I met in Copenhagen in 2015, on a foray into that place to see about making ‘N’ happen. I got there and realized I didn’t have enough time to find the people I was looking for, that those whom I would meet would need time to meet again, that email wasn’t something people do anymore (this is just something I do, is it?), and that… you have to kind of know people before you can show up from out of town and throw together something as wacky and undefined as ‘N’. But… I have been… staying the course. I still did some small things, a little talk about productivity and a couple of salons: Internet I Hate You and Drift and the Nomad. Both were good. Small, clean.

OPTIMISTIC. For Copenhagen, for 5N, whenever it will be, and however it comes into shape when it does, I am optimistic. I have been practicing at this, just that… cultural differences. It is so not like America, you don’t just walk around handing out cards and putting up flyers and saying, ‘This. This is good. You should do this.’ No one takes that kind of craic seriously, there. And why should they? I like the place because people do show up when they say they will… no fuzzy cancellations or weirdness which happened so often here in Phnom Penh that I got riled up about enough to design ‘N’ Phnom Penh in the first place. That was when you had to get tickets ahead of the poll-making step, so you really had to commit before you even got to help select the date. Same with Bangkok’s ‘N’. And London’s. This time, though, in Hanoi, I thought it would be interesting to kind of wing it. Once you get there, and you start being yourself, and people can see that you are earnest about it, what you’re making I mean, then yeah. It works. It can, it does. It will, for CPH, too. (But if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too.)

IS IT WORKING? That’s subjective. Maybe people wouldn’t see the losses that are coming back financially as successes, but I, personally, find each ‘N’ moment to be such a magical one, such a gem, that I can’t help but keep motivated to carry forwards. ‘Success’ isn’t about ‘outcomes,’ it’s about paying attention, I think, to what you are learning as you go, and being able to adapt yourself so that you can, well, add to your life instead of simply check things off some list.) Is it working? Who knows. We are just 4N in. I am going to be writing more about Hanoi soon, and maybe I’ll share about Bangkok and Phnom Penh, too. There were ‘N’ events here I hardly wrote about, mostly because… new at ‘N’-hosting. New means… reluctant to share. Less so now. Less new, more open. Blogging again, weird, that. Anyway. Here’s to the journey. And very warm welcomes to those just joining us, in S P A C E.

The people from before


It might seem really strange to want to go to the cities of the world and find random people and gather them in one moment of conversation. Each. One moment each. In 16 cities: 16 people in each city. For about two hours, each. So they can meet each other.

Yeah, writing that seems really strange, even I can see that. If you don’t know me, though… it is. If you know me, it makes perfect sense. Because I’ve done a lot of learning and changing and traveling, and I guess in a lot of ways I’ve given up a lot of other things (things that people might call ‘security’). Personally. That’s just me, though. Maybe it won’t really matter, at the end of all of this. I guess thinking about the end a lot, too. Not in a dark way, just in a, ‘Huh. So that’s where we’re all going,’ sort of a way. The great, fat ending that is going to be the same no matter what we do in the meantime.

DESIGNING ’16N’. So I figure in the meantime, why not have fun. Why not play. Enjoy the day to day, but when that gets boring find people to talk to, to connect with. I used to do this in small tea party styles, at my house or apartment. More of the time, apartment. Small, humble, but always in a place where you might run into something or someone interesting. Usually. Yeah, if you wanted to. You could. But then weird things happened. Cities changed. People stopped looking at each other, and started walking with their faces straight ahead, avoiding you. Or poking their glowing pieces of rectangular plastic. Not being able to notice anymore that right around them were a whole bunch of others. Also doing the same. It became more normal to meet online first. To talk after you establish some kind of digital rapport. Then meet. For, obviously, a definitive reason. Not just because it’s fun to talk to people. In fact, it’s become weird. You become weird because you want to just talk.

But it’s not just about the talking.

HERE IS THE THING ABOUT ‘N’. Oh, I haven’t said anything about it yet. Here is the unfolding story. Okay, so now, now that you’ve read that? :), here it is. When we meet people, things happen. I’m talking about in real life. I’m saying, like, when you just happen to be somewhere and you happen to meet some people, that’s one kind, you know? That’s a real way. It doesn’t always have to be pre-arranged for it to be a meeting. It can be strangers who don’t already know the details of what you do for work, how tall you are, that you have one greenish-brownish eye, or that you wear size 7 shoes. They can just see you and see how you smile, and see how you see them. That is real. That is the stuff I miss. So I made ‘N’ because I didn’t want to weird people out. But I guess it does, in some ways, some of the time. What is the point of it?? Why are you flying around the world to try to get strangers together, in real life, just once? What’s in it for you?

Beauty is in the moment. Art is in the connection: a timeless, wordless conversation only the sender and receiver can know. I made that up, you know. It will resonate, I hope, with a few of you: 256, really, in total.

When you go somewhere new, you become someone else. Sort of. You at least grow a bit. Stretch yourself from your normal bounds. That is what is in it for me. And that is what I invite people to do, too. Maybe it isn’t fair, because it’s so much harder, perhaps, for people to take me up on the invitation. Want to come to ‘N’? It costs. We’ll agree on a date, together. In a poll. And then, I guess, for my part of it, I have to make sure that I can really really do it. Really get there. Show up. Ninety percent of it is showing up. I have been humbled and awed and deeply grateful to the 32 people who came to the ‘N’ events in Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Wow. I mean, really, wow. I have these faces popping into my mind, people who became real, who sort of walked out of the internet. And there we were, together, in 3D. All of us. The 16N events were about that moment of connection that happens when we set the stage like this. I’m a trained engineer, so a bit of a dork about how to design things. And I wanted to design a space for that eye contact to happen more easily than it does these days amongst strangers, that magic discovery that happens when we find people, when we happen to, you know? I’ve been so bored on pre-arranged meeting thingies, having to go to events I don’t want to, seeing the same people complain about the same people (KH, looking at you), but then, also, wondering what to do about it. There was twitter. There was instagram. I’m not a big FB person, so I don’t know how to use it. But there was that. There were ways to find people online and meet them sort of and then get together in real life. But what about just going and seeing if I could make it happen, live and on the spot? [I picked, unfortunately, Copenhagen in which to do this. I gave myself six weeks. When I started to realize that was going to be hard, hard, hard to pull off what I could pull off in cities elsewhere, on account of it taking time to get to know people in Scandinavia, and of course, that is so how I am, too, so I was respectful of that, but then I knew I would have to postpone it. And so I did. And in the meantime, I had time. To just explore. To see the city. Walk around. A lot. Find the venues that might work for ‘N’ when next I came. Find the people I had met online. See if they checked out with what my gut had said about them. I found out, wow, I found out sometimes I was so wrong. That I had one whole idea in my head about how it would be and it was not. I guess this is what blind dating must be like. Maybe the hookup apps are so popular because it’s so easy to go, ‘NEXT.’ But I’m not a ‘NEXT’ goer. Not easily. I am very, very selective about whom I meet and talk to, even when it’s in that just-walk-up-to-someone and say hi kind of way. Even then. I’m shy. Terribly. So it’s no wonder that sending invitations around about ‘N’ to the world and seeing most of them go unanswered and some people getting worried or calling me names or making assumptions about my intentions, which, I guess that’s fair, because who DOES this? Who does ‘N’? And that… somehow… that is what makes me want to keep going. Because someone has to do it. There wouldn’t be these magic moments. Just 16, all in all. After 16 cities, that’ll be it. The series. The end.

Or maybe, the beginning.

Because sometimes, the biggest and most beautiful step, is that one. Showing up. The dilemma is about the people… the people I haven’t met yet, and how to discover them… and the ones I’ve known forever and ever… the people from before. Where to focus? Who shares with me an ‘N’ kind of connection? Are memories of old conversations and feelings just nostalgia? And isn’t nostalgia dangerous? Because it stops us from expanding beyond where we are, into the front-edge, and just-past, to the New?

I’ll write more about ‘N’. In this way. More of the real story, of what it feels like to try to make something happen. A thing that is really about people meeting one another. In that old fashioned way of looking at ourselves in the eye, and, perhaps, taking the time to learn new views and in the process, discovering a slice of who we really are. In the biggest, broadest, most human way. We are here.

NEXT. Next stops: ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS, ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. And Bologna and Hanoi, to be following thereafter. One day I’ll get to Portland, Ore., and also New York. You could be a part of it. Curious about ‘N’? Ask me anything:

Add 62

TODAY I AM GOING TO UPDATE the page that tells the story of ‘where is N’ now? The story is happening. There are conversations going on. This is really exciting now, there is momentum, let’s talk about momentum! Gumption gumption gumption. And magic. Flow. And what’s even better than all of that? Guests. So happy to be hosting ‘N’ for you. I can’t wait to meet you. To the journey!

‘Et eksempel er frygten for at udleve mine passioner’

Frygt og Lykke. A short essay by Aske Pedersen

I VIRKELIGHEDEN HANDLER det ikke om at skrive, men om at åbne mig op for andre mennesker. Og for mig selv. For at gøre dette, er jeg nødt til at smide min facade, mit uigennemtrængelige skjold af forsvarsmekanismer, og hvad sker der, hvis modparten ikke kan lide det den ser? Noget af det mest uhyggelige er at gøre sig sårbar, blot for at blive såret.

Update October 2018: S P A C E the zine begins in print with the new zine, ‘Janteloven.’  Learn more here.



TODAY, a guest post by Aske Pedersen from Aarhus, Denmark.

(English version here.)

Frygt og Lykke

JEG ER BANGE. Ikke for mørke, højder eller for at dø. Nej, jeg er bange for ikke at slå til, at være utilstrækkelig, og derfor foregår der en konstant kamp indeni mig. En kamp mellem frygt og lykke. Et eksempel er frygten for at udleve mine passioner.

Når folk spørger mig, hvad jeg virkelig godt kan lide, siger jeg næsten altid at skrive. Men hvorfor har jeg så ikke rørt tasteturet i snart et år? Jeg ved, at det gør mig glad, men noget holder mig alligevel tilbage. En del af min identitet og selvforståelse er bygget op omkring forestillingen om, at jeg er god til at skrive. Hvad sker der med mig, hvis forestillingen ikke holder? Hvis jeg virkelig giver det bedste jeg har, men det bare ikke er godt nok. Denne frygt holder mig fanget i en magtesløs og narcisistisk stilstand, hvor jeg gemmer mig for frygten og udskyder konfrontationen. “I dag er jeg træt, jeg skriver i morgen. I morgen har jeg travlt, men der er tid i næste uge.” Næste uge bliver til næste måned, og næste måned bliver til næste år. Frygten vinder kampen, og min selvfølelse bliver baseret på en løgn, som jeg ikke længere tror på. Men der er sket noget i kampen mellem frygt og lykke. Jeg skriver.

I virkeligheden handler det ikke om at skrive, men om at åbne mig op for andre mennesker. Og for mig selv. For at gøre dette, er jeg nødt til at smide min facade, mit uigennemtrængelige skjold af forsvarsmekanismer, og hvad sker der, hvis modparten ikke kan lide det den ser? Noget af det mest uhyggelige er at gøre sig sårbar, blot for at blive såret. Denne frygt holder mig fra de mest spændene samtaler, nye venskaber, kærester og evnen til at kunne elske rigtigt. I mødet med andre mennesker vælger jeg den nemme vej, hvilket for mig, er humoren. Ironi er blevet en så stor del af mig, at grænserne er blevet udhviskede. Jeg ved ikke længere, hvornår jeg er ironisk, og hvornår jeg ikke er. Måske har alt jeg siger en grad af ironi, hvilket betyder, at jeg kan sige stort set alt. Men mister mine ord så ikke betydning?

Det er ikke kun det jeg siger, det er også måden jeg lytter på. Ofte tager jeg mig selv i at udtænke mit næste svar, før modparten er færdig med at tale. På den måde er jeg sikker på at undgå den akavede stilhed, og samtidig kan jeg fremstå mere intellegent. Dog går der noget tabt i processen. Jeg glemmer at lytte, og jeg formår ikke at se mennesket overfor mig. I stedet kommer samtalen til at foregå på mine præmisser og ofte til at handle om mig. Måske er jeg nutidens narkissos, eller måske er jeg bare bange, eller måske er det én og samme ting.

Hvis man koger det ned, handler det om at tage den sikre vej i samværet med andre mennesker. I samtalen kommer vi ind på alle de selvskrevne emner som studievalg, vejret og geografiske placeringer, og så kommer der et par vittige bemærkninger. Bare så det hele ikke bliver for kedeligt. Det er ikke pinligt, ingen er blevet såret og alle har det fint. Fint… Hverken mere eller mindre. Men jeg gider ikke længere have det fint. For når målet er at undgå fiasko, udelukker jeg samtidig muligheden for succes. —AP

Fear and Happiness

I AM AFRAID. Not of darkness, heights or of dying. No, I am afraid of not being enough, of being inadequate. And because of that, there is a constant battle inside of me. A battle between fear and happiness.

An example is the fear to live out my passions. When people ask me what really lights my fire, I almost always say writing. But then why haven´t I touched the keyboard in almost a year? I know that writing makes me happy, but something is still holding me back. A part of my identity and self-understanding is based on the conception that I am good at writing. What happens to me if that conception breaks? If I really give it my best shot, but it´s just not enough. This fear keeps me in a powerless and narcissistic standstill, where I hide from the fear and delay the confrontation. “Today I’m tired, I will write tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m busy, but there should be time next week.” Next week becomes next month and next month becomes next year. Fear is winning the battle, and my self-esteem is based on a lie that I no longer believe in. But something has happened in the battle between fear and happiness. I am writing.

REALLY IT’S NOT AS MUCH about writing, as it is about opening up to other people. And to myself. To do this, I have to throw away my facade, my impervious shield of defense mechanisms, and what happens if the counterpart doesn’t like what it sees? One of the most frightening things is to make yourself vulnerable, only to get hurt. This fear holds me back from the most interesting conversations, new friendships, girlfriends and the ability to really love another person. When meeting other people I choose the easy option, which to me is humor. Irony has become such a big part of me, that the boundaries have become blurry. I no longer know if I’m being ironic or if I’m not. Maybe everything I say has a touch of irony, which means I can say almost everything. But then what significance do my words hold?

It’s not only what I say, it’s also the way I listen. Often I catch myself devising my next answer while the counterpart is still speaking. That way I’m certain to avoid the awkward silence, and at the same time I can appear more intelligent. However something gets lost in the process. I forget to listen and I don’t manage to really see the person in front of me. Instead the conversation happens on my terms and is often centered around me. Maybe I’m the modern day Narcissus or maybe I’m just afraid, or maybe they are one and the same.

IF YOU BOIL IT DOWN, it’s about taking the road of comfort in the companionship with other human beings. In the conversations we go through the even written topics such as education, the weather and geographical locations, and then a couple of jokes are thrown in just so it doesn’t get too boring. Nothing is embarrassing, no one has been hurt and everybody is fine. Fine… No more, no less. But I don’t want to be fine anymore. Cause when the goal is to avoid failure, I exclude the opportunity of success. —AP

Pushing through the dip: on process and perseverance, or something

I WANT TO MAKE ‘N’ for London and Copenhagen and Ha Noi this year, and I’m going to just have to keep on inviting people until we find the magic sets of 16 per city. Bearing with me are the guests who’ve joined so far. I’m so lucky and grateful that a few of us are on for new things, for challenges, for learning as we go, for mixing it up, for giant blind dates, and for, yes, the human connection that can happen when we unplug, show up, say hi.

DK’s 16N project gathers 16 strangers in 16 cities. Cities that have an ‘N’ in them. On topics that start with ‘N’. This began in April 2015 in Phnom Penh with ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY, then in October that year continued with ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW. We are now inviting new guests for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS and ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Here is an update from the series, ‘Diary of N’.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get new insights every week in DK’s eZine S. P. A. C .E.

MAKING MY WAY OUT OF THE BOX. It’s true. I’ve been hiding, sort of. I’ve been avoiding the work of actually inviting more people, because it takes a lot of mental effort and huge emotional reserves. I mean, not like the kinds you would need to go through trauma or anything.

Just—when you are idealistic and hopeful and optimistic and believe like anything in the power of people to work together collaboratively, beautifully, together when they only have a chance to meet and get over their initial seeming differences then yeah, you get discouraged to see that most people, I’m talking about 99% or so, but I haven’t done all the math yet, will not agree with you.

Maybe they’re scared. Worried. Not into it. Don’t think it’s important to ‘go outside the comfort zone.’ Is that what I’m asking people to do? It seems that way. That is what I hear, mostly, in the responses to my invitations—

‘You’re asking me to go outside my comfort zone.’

And sometimes, that is a welcome thing. I guess now that I’ve been hiding for a while I’ve had a chance to regain my enthusiasm for ‘N’. Some cool people are joining and I have made a promise to them, that I will make this happen. I am the kind of person who does what I say I will—it’s a huge value I inherited from my father, who is stout, and stubborn, sometimes keeping us from getting along, but boy, do I love that about my dad: his consistency in doing what he says he will. Later in life, I learned that is the best way to build trust and quality relationships—for work and for personal stuff, too. Show up. Do what you say you will.

I want to make ‘N’ for London and Copenhagen and Ha Noi this year, and I’m going to just have to keep on inviting people until we find the magic sets of 16 per city. Bearing with me are the guests who’ve joined so far. I’m so lucky and grateful that a few of us are on for new things, for challenges, for learning as we go, for mixing it up, for giant blind dates, and for, yes, the human connection that can happen when we unplug, show up, say hi.

I’m sharing the journey in some updates on our blog, but mostly in email conversations with people who have opted in to our mailing list at Design Kompany. (Just go to the contact page and click ‘get updates by email’ if you are curious.) I’m guessing most people are not aware of the quality level I am looking to make for ‘N’.

I AM GUESSING THAT they would see this, initially, as some sort of quick buck thing. They don’t know that it’s actually running at a loss. That is to say, the sponsor that everyone asks me about is actually my own studio. And we’re not rolling in it, like. We’re just… we care about uncertainty, trying things, taking chances, showing up, making something beautiful if we can find people also interested in those things. (Lately, business execs, generation Z, and innovation R&D heads.) It’s not everyone, for sure. And that is the learning, to date. It’s actually very, very few people. But then again, it wouldn’t be worth it if, through this giant maze, I didn’t find my way towards them.

TO BE HONEST, I don’t know how I would respond if the tables were turned. That is, if someone from the internet whom I didn’t know asked me if I wanted to get a ticket to some event that had never been done, with people I didn’t know and couldn’t read up on beforehand, and on a date ‘to be determined’ together by the registered guests, Hm, what would I say to that? Maybe it’s because of the challenge of trying to be more open this year, to say ‘yes’ more, to try new things myself that I wanted to keep going with ‘N’ after Phnom Penh and Bangkok and really try to make it to 16. I’m not saying it has to happen all at once, perhaps a break after the UK-DK tour this year. The rest can wait. It can happen over sixteen years, if it must, because what counts is the moment of it happening, in those places, not the hurrying through… I care about ‘N’. I guess I care about it because it is introducing me to a very neat set of people, (you know who you are), and the future ‘N’ guests to be determined, and it is for them, for meeting them, the chance to know them for a bit, that I want to keep pressing forward, and push through this awkward ‘givey-uppy’ moment, the one that some people call ‘the dip.’

To be continued….

#whynot #sayyes

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get new insights every week in DK’s eZine S. P. A. C .E.

S. P. A. C. E: ‘Diary of N’

…PEOPLE WHO’VE said ‘yes’ to this wacky and weird idea. Followed all the instructions. Showed up, on the day. What happened in Phnom Penh and Bangkok was very special. And it’s because of the people who came. I can’t even tell you how cool it was. We made it possible, ourselves. We chose to be there, and we were there. Because we were curious. We wanted to be. That’s what made it magic.

Published in S. P. A. C. E. for members of SELF.

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I’ve given myself a task. To find 256 people. In cities that have an ‘N’ in them. To talk about a topic that starts with ‘N’. In a venue that starts with ‘N’, too. So far we’ve gone to Phnom Penh for ‘N’ Normality at NUK Cafe, and to Bangkok for ‘N’ NOW at Nikko Cafe. The next few places are on the books for later this year, and I am now working to invite the magic set of 16 to each of those places. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the number one reason is:

‘N’ is magical.


It’s working. The thing that an innovation consultant we know and work with closely said innovations are solutions to the right problems that users love to use. The important parts: ‘Right problems,’ and ‘love to use.’

The problem: people aren’t connecting in meaningful ways. Outside of work or romantic relationships, it’s hard to discover space and time to connect for quality dialogue, intellectual play and stuff like that. ‘A 30 year old guy talking to another 30 year old guy?’ someone on a train I met somewhere in the autumn said, ‘Well, that’s just weird. It’s like a date. What do you like? I don’t know. What do you like? That’s just… weird.’

Is it?

Can ‘N’ let it happen, so it’s NOT weird?

My original gut feeling was, ‘What if we could stop trying to collect people? As if we’re all numbers. What if, instead, we were all N, so randomly chosen and highly self-selecting. And then, when we have this very short moment of a conversation space in real life, those ‘N’ who’ve chosen to join the project become real people. The kicker: you have to check in your phone at the start. This is a picture of what it ‘feels’ like to be there. I took this picture in Copenhagen.

People. It’s about the people.

256 in total.

You. Me. Us.

People who’ve said ‘yes’ to this wacky and weird idea. Followed all the instructions. Showed up, on the day. What happened in Phnom Penh and Bangkok was very special. And it’s because of the people who came. I can’t even tell you how cool it was. We made it possible, ourselves. We chose to be there, and we were there. Because we were curious. We wanted to be. That’s what made it magic.

‘A – H A!’

EVER SINCE the idea to make ’16N’ flashed into concept in March 2015, I have sort of obsessively been writing people or bumping into them and asking, ‘Will you like to hear more about ‘N’?’ Sometimes they say yes.

I wanted to design a way for us to all meet each other at the SAME TIME. Serendipity and chance, but sort of on purpose. An experiment? Something. The idea being let’s see who comes. Let’s see what happens. Non-boring conversations, please. How to make it happen? This was my premise: You can design for great conversation. You can engineer conditions so that it’s more likely to hit on something cool in the space of a short burst of time. (PS, I’m an engineer by training, a designer by school of life.)

What I needed were these things:

People’s trust.
A unique proposition.
A firmness in structure.
A way to make it fun.
Openness within the structure, on the day.

NO DOUBT this is a work in progress. But if you’re here because I invited you to an ‘N’ in your city, there’s more to share, at the password-protected link. Let me know you are there, and I can share more.

Diary of ‘N’ is published in Design Kompany’s eZine S. P. A. C. E. —DK

Published in S. P. A. C. E. for members of SELF.

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The book of songs #3: ‘Back to the heart’

THEY DON’T HAVE to go around posting things on Medium. They just know.

THERE IS SOME WEIRD CHRISTMAS JAZZ going on lately in my internet radio streams. This is irritating.

I’m into internet radio; a long time ago it used to be TODAY FM from out of Ireland, because, well, I like that station. Nowadays it’s jazz stuff from Denmark, since I was just there sussing things out. Tokyo in the 1990s. Other places, in the middle, for similar musical investigations, though I couldn’t have called them such, it was just hanging out back then, but most clearly the one I recall for its energy was Small’s. In New York. Cycling ‘cross the Brooklyn Bridge late late late after a show there or elsewhere, maybe not a show, maybe it was the nightclub scene. (Limelight. Yeah. Yeah.)

We never really change

ANYWAY, way back then and suddenly very recently once more, I’m on a new search. Open ears, conscious of the importance of sensing as you go, and going, and looking, listening and learning. (The work at DK in the last few years has been all about making space for people to also get lost in the uncertainty, which is of course rather esoteric but many people like to talk about Heidegger and the Nothing and I think that they are the kinds of folks who, perhaps, might be inclined to want to hear a little more. So it goes, that you find your 0.02% of the world population, if you’re lucky, that ‘get’ you and you ‘get’ them. More about that in a second, when you hit the moment of intrigue.)

Listening and learning

PEOPLE I CONNECT WITH and I share this: we’ve been looking for some new inputs.

To come back to the world of music, I’m going to many places, and lots of clubs small and smaller to see what I can hear. Many times it’s a whiff, that’s just how it is, but every so often you discover something really incredible or run into true intrigue. It happens when it happens and there’s nothing you can really say or do to create the moments of, ‘Hey, wow. This is cool.’ I used to call it ‘the a-ha,’ because that’s what designers like to talk about.

Yeah! That! Thatthatthatthatthat!’

It’s like this could be their whole conversation.

‘You know?’
‘The moment.’

Boxes and edges

YOU GET INTO a box, which is in and of itself a huge amount of fussing and overcoming of inertia of the variety that you can ask me to pontificate about, if you meet me in some whiskey bar sometime. (Or if you read S. P. A. C. E.)

You see the edges a little but then you get to working out more of the details of the dimensions and the textures and you see the limitations. Yet we all have to have frameworks to make sense of things, or to let go of the pressing urgency to ‘make sense of things,’ altogether.

Play space, in the box, leads to opening of dimensions that are sentient and close, and these are the ones that make us human. Yes, human. It used to be unfashionable to talk about our humanness, but now, with the obvious limitations on what turning ourselves into machines (workworkwork) can do to our health or distract us from looking closely within to hear our own hearts, the songs there!, and discover a purpose, well. We all know how that story is going.


REAL ARTISTS are doing stuff. They don’t have to go around posting things on Medium. They just know. And so, with the heart open and the eyes wide, I looked in the corners and upon the stages to find the songs that felt right, that made me feel good. It’s a collection. And it’s gonna be called, uh…. what should it be called? Oh, right. It’s the Book of Songs. ‘Cause it’s here at the edges where things mix and come into color that the magic of the moment comes alive. Isn’t art about connection? Conversation? Discovery and making it up as we go, tripping and learning and then, a-ha!? I am writing. I am going to write the best bits into the Book of Songs. —AS

S. P. A. C. E: ‘A last long look, from the far harbor’

TODAY I AM WRITING FROM SWEDEN. Tomorrow I will go to Denmark. It feels very strange Writing these Words from a computer that has a keyboard setup for SV. There are some intriguing characters that come up, like ö and Ö and when you see them here, you are moved, because the unexpected rises and makes you say, äHuh.ä

TODAY I AM WRITING FROM SWEDEN. Snow and rain. Tomorrow I will go to Denmark. It feels very strange Writing these Words from a computer that has a keyboard setup for SV. There are some intriguing characters that come up, like ö and Ö and when you see them here, you are moved, because the unexpected rises and makes you say, äHuh.ä

In fact it is in search of the unexpected that most of this adventuring has been exactly for. I know that sounds weird, perhaps it is to most. But to some it will make perfect sense. There was that letter to Eric Kensington that T. E. Lawrence wrote, for example, something that I will be sharing about this Friday in Copenhagen at DRIFT & THE NOMAD.

Meanwhile there is really a lot to say about how we stop to look at what we are doing, when we are at moments between things, between spaces. The interstitial, the philosophical, the long last look before we pack and move to wherever it is… the Next Place.

From one hamn (Swedish for ‘harbor’) to the next havn (as in ‘København’). Let it begin… Again. Anew.—DK

‘N’ Copenhagen: A conversation about NEARNESS

‘N’ IS A CONVERSATION installation in which 16 people whose paths never would have cross will meet ONCE. It’s an international series, and in each city (which will necessarily contain an ‘N’), we have a theme that starts with ‘N’. The theme for ‘N’ Copenhagen is NEARNESS.

'N' Copenhagen ticket
‘N’ Copenhagen ticket
‘N’ IS A CONVERSATION installation in which 16 people whose paths never would have crossed will meet ONCE. It’s an international series, and in each city (which will necessarily contain an ‘N’), we have a theme that starts with ‘N’. The theme for ‘N’ Copenhagen is NEARNESS.

At the time of this writing, DK has delivered three of the 16 tickets to guests for ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. It is an evolving and intricately woven story, one that is invitation-only and designed specifically to bring us together in a conversation space that will invite, surprisingly, deep connection in a short burst of time with relatively unknown people. I know, it sounds crazy. But so far ‘N’ has happened in Phnom Penh (NORMALITY) and Bangkok (NOW), and more is on the way.

Curious to read more? Interested in finding out how to request an invitation? Find out more at this overview page or this link for updates about ‘N’ Copenhagen >

‘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 >
Read ‘N’ posts related to Copenhagen >


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.’


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

When scientists hate logic

Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]IT’S NOT ABOUT VISUALS, or smart and overpromising headlines. It’s about what’s here, right here, in our connected, subconscious, unconscious, and querying minds and hearts. It’s about our asking questions, and discovering, in doing so, our very humanness.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]
Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]
I KNEW THERE WAS SOMETHING special about Niels Bohr.

Being a nerd about small units of matter, about particles, about fuzzy logic, quantum math, and the general area of work in which people are asking giant questions on scales both very large and very small, it was only a matter of time before I’d investigate what the physicist thought about things.

Them personally, I mean.

There are some amazing scientists who have fascinating things to say about existentialism, being, and if you watched The Theory of Everything about Stephen Hawking in recent months (as I have), you will be on the same page with me about the wanting to inquire about brilliant scientists’ philosophical musings, too.

So when I found it, I said it.


This quote:

‘No, no,’ said Niels Bohr, the physicist who gave us the model of the atom. ‘You’re not thinking. You’re just being logical.’

Dissecting purpose

ON A 2007 VISIT TO DENMARK and the splendid city of Copenhagen I found the cemetery where you can wander about and happen upon this man’s grave. It’s pretty magnificent, in fairness, for a place of final rest. You can tell someone really loved him. But he also had things to say about poetry, poetry!, what about that has anything to do with science, the PhD kids from Raleigh-Durham would want to know. Asking questions about the why and how of things, the metaphysics and existentials, what the? ‘Why would you bother about that when you can dissect the genome, cut open a rat, or brew potions designed to numb the brain?’

‘Well, I say!’ I think, cornered.

Saying nothing.

(Nearly broke up with quite a few friends over the dogma of theirs, but being in the Research Triangle Park I was outnumbered. Then I left. Then through the natural drift that happens when people move to the opposite side of the globe, relationships with scientists and logicians largely fizzled, to my great relief.)

Had I had a comeback, it would have been a direct quote. Bohr, of course, again:

We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections. —Niels Bohr, physicist

There had to have been something to give them, though, but I just didn’t know what it was. Couldn’t possibly guess, because I was still too young, too fresh, too oblique and earnest and believing of the old idea. That, okay, I’ll go ahead and say it. That people want to hear about philosophy. That they want to be challenged to go outside the boxes. See what’s there. Possibility. Potential, et al. But, as it was clear when I got to talking with my dear friend Patti Rieser in recent days, that people just can’t cope with too much of too much. Is that what we said? It was a different time, a different time zone, but that was my take-home message.

What? They don’t want to ask,

‘Who am I? Where am I going? Will this have mattered, in the end, at the big giant finish line of life?’

Protest, from me.


The same kind of resistance to the things that familiar people had said when pressing me against the wall. Of reason. Of making sense of those giant things that of course had to have a rhythm, a pattern, an orderliness. It’s the stuff of Man and Superman, Bernard Shaw, the very essence of wanting to get to the bottom of it. Except… There isn’t a bottom, and if you found it, it’d be, well, it’d be… turtles! All the way down.

This is only the top shell. I’m sharing about Bohr today at our eZine, S. P. A. C. E., which publishes for members every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. I’ve been wanting to tell you more about that, in this blog, but have gotten a little distracted with making up ‘N’.

More about S. P. A. C. E., though, just below. —DK

Get more like this

Collaging airline magazines, as per usual.

DESIGN KOMPANY IS SHIFTING this year towards a subscription eZine in lieu of our more usual blog.

I know we had one for 10 years or so and if you were following that, thank you. But as we are adless and not sponsored and don’t put in little product thingies into our blog, not ever, and never have been, and don’t ever plan to be, the only way to generate new works of high quality is to give them time.

Time that I want to spend writing for you (if you are one of those people I almost immediately connect with, because you want to read things to ask big questions and not passively swallow whatever’s presented by Giant Corporations, that is) will require a little bit of confidence that you are there, reading. Membership is a way for me to know that there are people out there, who want, as I do, inspiration that’s out of the bounds of the usual.

It’s not about visuals, or smart and overpromising headlines. It’s about what’s here, right here, in our connected, subconscious, unconscious, and querying minds and hearts. It’s about our asking questions, and discovering, in doing so, our very humanness. 

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Subscribe now

Design is in motion for new ‘N’ events in Bangkok, London, and Copenhagen

YOU MIGHT BE WONDERING what all this ‘N’ stuff is about. That’s cool, I mean, I think that part of the idea of creating something is to let it discover itself, as it grows and matures. Kind of like a plant. Or a toddler.

We are just 1/16th of the way into the big project, ’16N’. First one was in Phnom Penh, back in April. After ‘N’ Phnom Penh I have a bit more to say about the how and why of ‘N,’ but also, it’s largely going to become what it does because of who chooses to self-select and become part of it, too.

As in the case with Phnom Penh, there are going to be 16 people who choose to join in something that doesn’t have a clear point-by-point “what it is” because part of the whole journey is the exploration. That’s not to say there is zero formality. You will, if you get a ticket and register and everything, get an agenda, and instructions about the expectations, too. It’s like a cross between a workshop and an improv theater and something else: maybe just school. Without grades. All of us are teaching and learning, because we all have so many extraordinary things to say. It’s amazing. ‘N’ is for uncertainty, it’s for ‘Anything,’ it’s for… whatever it feels like it is to you. When this all got started, I had this crazy notion about the ‘N vector’ but then it got really mathy and geometry and Euclid and non-Euclid started coming into the picture, and when I started to go on about it with SM in recent days and things got quiet for a split second he said, quite astonished and astonishing me with the clarity of it, ‘Where do you get these ideas?’

Oh, well, that’s a long story. But for now, I can share the themes?

Themes and space for interpretation

Here’s what’s up:

  • COPENHAGEN. For ‘N’ Copenhagen, it’s NEARNESS. As in: What’s close? How does it affect me? Proximity. Self-awareness. Relationships of all dimensions. Thinking about Denmark and reminiscing on a trip there eight years back, I recall the comment: “We have to speak English. It’s a small country, with so many others on so many sides.” As in with NORMALITY as a loose theme we picked for Phnom Penh, the idea is to leave things open enough for some play and interpretation but also give a frame for the upcoming event. ‘N’ Copenhagen will be a space for 16 people I will invite personally between now and then to spend some moments thinking together about this very abstract idea. Because it is in a new country with a different language from mine, I’m asking for help from a few people in CPH, too. Want to help? Contact DK >
  • BANGKOK. ‘N’ Bangkok is on the way, too. Theme is ‘NOW’. What’s happening in this moment? Can’t think of a better place to have a conversation installation about the very essence of what ‘N’ is about, which is, namely, celebrating the MOMENT. Framing the urgency of NOW. I know, I know, it’s all so very esoteric and philosophic. But really, it’s play. Design Kompany has always been about play, and it won’t stop just because we grew up a bit.
  • LONDON. ‘N’ London is getting sorted, as well. Theme: ‘NOTEWORTHINESS.’ What’s remarkable? Why? In a big city like London, you have a lot of people going about their business, looking at their feeds, processing data, making data, all of that. But what of it is really worth taking note of? How do we know?

The idea isn’t to make a long-term party or networking “thing”, but rather, see who comes forward in this self-selecting way to participate in something that’s by design a little quirky. Playfulness is more relaxing. Play and sharing, seeing what might happen, emergence, that sort of thing. Improv is part of this story. Serendipity, chance. Want to help? Contact DK >