Philosophy of the Moment

A DAY AGO, I sent an email invitation to a handful of people in: Seattle, Durham NC, and the place that I affectionally call ‘The Road.’

What kind of invitation? To join me for an online salon in October called ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ I’ll tell you about that more in a second. But the feeling is this. So many people. So much time. So many places. And so many great conversations. What if I could find a way to wrap us all into one space, to talk together about ideas and things that have popped up, from these, that we would all find curious? Or maybe handfuls of us would? And if that could happen, what might we learn, together? What could we make, too, if things got really interesting? An anthology, perhaps? Like The Mirror, in 2014? Something in print? What about zines? What about, what about? And that’s how I got excited about it. The starting of the thing–an interactive forum-salon, in protected-page posts, that is S P A C E.

Update: Signup for more info about POTM…


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‘What I want, DK!…’


LET ME ELABORATE.

ANTHOLOGY. We put together a cojournaling project, then compiled the collection of opt-in contributions in the short eBook, The Mirror, 2014. Ask me for a free copy.

Those places I met the people I invited? They’re from certain bases, of my past life in different parts of the world. Presently I’ve been thinking hard about such ideas as bases, because… well… it’s al long story, and one that I’m not totally sure I want to put here in the public space, but one in which a few of us explored quite nicely, in a 2016 writing salon called, ‘Home & Away.’ That was the first-ever forum-space. Some people really dug it. Some people left. But you have to take chances on things if you want to see innovations. And I like risk taking, if you know me you know that, but some of the time, I take much smaller steps than I wish I could. Writingwise and art wise, though, it’s much easier for me to take big jaunts out into the unexplored territories because, unlike most stuff, with writing and art I feel like I’ve had a lot of time and space to really practice. To get past my own qualms about, ‘Is this good enough?’ F yeah, it is. So go for it. So I do. I make S P A C E into salons, I do that because I like to correspond. I write a lot. Maybe too much. Maybe too often, certainly, too long at a time. This one, this [post] is long. I’m writing the extra bits in, I’m seeing that pargraphslong texts can be daunting, but… that the people I connect with best read. They read, to the end. And you know what else? They check links. AM and CW were among our very first clients in Seattle. (Hi, guys!) I still remember when they came to the office, that was my first one that I had ever rented, committing cold, hard cash to a thing as nebulous as ‘rent,’ because of a promise of it leading to ‘possibilities,’ which you know of course, it did. Big ones. Manyfolded. And at our meeting, I had said, you know, my blog has lots of long, long posts, that people don’t read. AM had countered, ‘I read. I read everything.’ And you know what? Most of the people I really like in life, they read. They read everything. The whole checking links thing was part of a post that used to be on this blog, about the Seattle-based DIY indie fair, ‘Urban Craft Uprising.’ I went to that not knowing what the hell to expect but finding

Design Kompany’s first office in Seattle, shared space with one of our our clients, D+A Studio. Hanging in the window are the square-format photos by the talented Laura Totten, who was hip to the equal-sided image way before instagram. We collaborated to make a show, ‘Dazzle,’ to exhibit her works in our office space. A great party. A great memory. More things like this, to come. // Seattle, 2006

myself surrounded by a very specific type of person and writing a post called ‘Psychographics.’ In which I had quoted CJ, whom I’d met a the art gallery OKOK and run into again at UCU and he, there, upon hearing my comment, had said, ‘Yeah, yeah. These are very specific people all right. They’re the people that check links.’ Check links! Wow. Well, okay then. Let’s let that be a thing. ‘Kay, cool. Lessons learned: My favorite people, who are DK’s community and network and clientele and collaborators and friends, read til the end, read everything, and check links.

Noted.


From out of left field

 

***

Niels Bohr

I GOT QUOTED ONCE, on study abroad, in the back of the ‘yearbook’ for saying something that, my goodness, my hero N. Bohr might have enjoyed hearing me say. I said, ‘I don’t make statements. I just say things.’ See? Statements imply you know something. But Bohr, good man himself, said: ‘The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth.’ The friends that I had in those days didn’t give two shites about quantum theory, or possibilities, or new angles, or the potentiality of multiverses and suchmuch. They just wanted jobs. Jobs! My jobs almost always turned into departments of philosophy. I can tell you some stories, but I’ll spare you. Because: Ichiro.

Ichiro Suzuki

Instead of trying to ‘figure things out,’ or hit a homer for every single damn thing you try to do, the way that they tell you when you’re younger you need to, if you grow up in a country where I grew up, because success looks like a major league baseball game where all the lights are on full blast in midsummer and the crowds are loud. You go there and you watch and you see the big show. Casey at Bat notwithstanding, you go. You hit homers, if you’re good. That’s the thing. But me? I’m changing. I’m interested in other ways to do it, to show up for my own at-bat… Yeah. Show up like…

Ichiro.

Yeah. I’ll rev up like Ichiro, try to make a poetic thing happen by just stilling into the moment. Show up for the on-deck circle, then head up to the plate. Batter up. A single to right field works for me, these days: no need to get high and mighty, trying to be Cecil Fielder, or anything like that. Work is getting around the bases. Work is making your way to home plate.

 

Arriving at home

In 2014, S P A C E was a set of themed eBooks, six in all, on topics that felt like the right ones to dive into, with the circles of people we were in conversations with at those times.

Work is the work it takes to score the runs that earn the points for the team. Collaboratively. This. This is the new thing. Showing up, but also, being aware of the strengths of the rest of the team. And our team is pretty wide-ranging, now that I look at the whole picture. Some fascinating people have come through DK’s doors.

Things moved into cojournaling spaces, and now, we have the interactive magazine, S P A C E. And print zines, too. Lots, and lots, in other words: but the philosophy thread remains consistent. It’s where we are most intrigued. Exploring together the art of the conversation that gets us all thinking more critically and with an eye towards making our own lives more pleasurable. I read somewhere once that is the definition of philosophy. Then SY told me about Epicurus… And more to say, one day, about that. (But if you’re curious, read this fabulous poem that S had introduced me to, ‘Oriah’s invitation.’)

Clients, interns, part-time collaborators, commissioned artists, and more. I’m really lucky to have had that chance to make and share, and to work things out, in a way that’s evolved, these last, oh, I don’t know, what’s 2018-2005… okay… so, that’s what, 13 years. Thirteen years freelance studio-ing up at DK. I think we’ve learned where our strengths are: we have good pitchers, that’s pretty much the secret sauce around here. Pitchers who have a clear awareness of the simple but important fact that every at-bat is its own thing. That each batter up is her own ball of questions, struggles, philosophies, psychologies, temperaments, and triumphs. All of us are playing baseball, really. Just that, sometimes, it goes the way you think it would, like it’s a Cubs game from the 1990s, and you’re just watching them go through the motions. I can hear Harry Carey in my head saying it, ‘We’re just playing 1-2-3 baseball, here,’ and then, later, if things go his way, ‘Cubs win! Cubs win!‘ But the game is different, here. A wider field: the one that takes up the entire surface area of the globe. We’re going to play, now. A big game of giant rounding-around-the-bases. Batter up. And here’s the pitch…

 

Introducing ‘Philosophy of the Moment’

NOW THAT DK have been based in Asia, more or less, for the past four years, we’re using this angle on the way the world seems to have shifted to gather people in online forums and talk, together, about what to do to make stuff better. I know that sounds really heady, and lofty, but the truth is, that if we can make our own lives more clear to ourselves, and understand our own contributions to ‘the world,’ and I’m not talking about in a way that’s corny, cheesy, or ‘do-gooder-y,’ like toooooo many people [from abroad] come to Cambodia every single season (and last, if they’re lucky, three months to do… well, let’s see, what I’m really saying is… the stage is pretty giant, the stories myriad and numerous. Influenced by the new perspectives of having been, by sheer osmosis and inertia, in one place for so long (one year in motion in South and Southeast Asia, followed by four years at the time of this writing, in Phnom Penh, with the occasional excursions to Northern Europe–Sweden, Denmark, and [this summer in] Finland, and I’m not sure which spot is next but I’m going back, sometime, I can’t help it, the palette is what draws me, mostly, but more than that, the quiet spaces, but that’s a different story). And yeah. I’m ready. To share the conversations more widely: there are so many intriguing people whose paths have crossed with mine in these last five years, (the four here in Cambodia, and the one before that, on the road, in search of ‘uncertainty,’ or the practice thereof, long story, very esoteric, landed in no fashionable bullet-point list of outcomes, just lots and lots of e-correspondence in the time since with people all around the world whose ideas are still intriguing to me, people who have taught me very much, and people whom I’m really excited to interconnect, though S P A C E. More and more, lately. But in very small circles. Invite-only, kind of, since the end of the last registration period. That was for ‘Slow Moment.’ This time, it’s just a small circle of us probably who’ll join in to POTM. We’ll dive into philosophy. Of the moment. Ergo, ‘Phil. of the Moment.’ Like that?

Mm-hm. So okay. What is it? Philosophy of the Moment is a four-week side conversation online, nested in our ongoing interactive salons happening concurrently in our forum, S P A C E. We are going to spend some time over four weeks in

‘Book of Blue’ popup collage and live drawing at jazZ happens!, Bangkok// ‘N’ afterparty, 2015

October talking together specifically about ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ It’s open format. Four rules of Open Space: the people who come are the right people, it starts when it starts, ends when it ends, and the things that happened are the only things that could have happened. In other words, give yourself a break when hosting an Open Space because it’s about framing the thing and letting the jam just happen. As jazZ happens in Bangkok put it on email to me before we made ‘The Book of Blue’ together there, ‘Let’s let it roll.’

The people who come will be the right people. We’ll explore creative writing tips from experts whose advice has gotten us places. Collectively, sharing what we know from individual experience. Just like in our real life salons, like, for example, this one. We’re going to make things, too. A short anthology. This project is for people whose paths DK has crossed in recent months, whose writing and ideas have inspired, and intrigued us. We want to make a ‘room’ in a virtual space (that would be a protected page on this blog, with comment threads, and a password to get in), so that we can send weekly prompts to get us talking together, to get us learning together, too. From each other. I said that already, didn’t I. Guess it matters a lot to me: listening to one another, hearing each other’s voices and perspectives, being open to the possibility of being changed by what you hear. And all in a flat hierarchy. In which every. Voice. Counts.


POTM will be hosted by DK’s Dipika Kohli.

‘The secret is to just begin’ –As told to DK by A. at AOTZ

2016: Year of the Circle. Studies in relational aesthetics.

MAKING SOMETHING through art or writing is one goal, but learning together is the main objective. Experiential publishing, this.

This is our method pre-start, this month:

  • Invite guests to take part. Make sure they are from a wide range of backgrounds, geogrphic locations, past experiences, and philosophies on life.
  • Ask people if they want to commit time to this project. Make sure they do have the bandwidth to do so.
  • Be interested in other people, and check through the application process if the guestlist also is so inclined.
  • Know that we are all going through this as if on a journey, together. That the outcome will be less important than the process of learning as we go. Being open to the veering and changing is hugely important, and we must communicate that up front: this is a journey we’re going to largely improvise, as we go. Are you cool with that? Then let’s begin.
  • Begin. Gather people to register before 8 October. Start on that date. Continue through the end of October. See what material has come together and. where we could push the envelope and see what kind of meaningful story or narrative or poetry or art we could fold into a short book. The anthology could be a collected work that becomes a digital book (if material is sparse) or a printed one. We’re in conversations with a book designer in Singapore about this, and we are quite serious.
  • Sample questions to get started: Travelers and artists, romantics and poets all know about the difference between time that is spent and time that is well spent. Kairos and chronos time, the shifting edge from one to another. Can we focus and look at these questions: when is it good, what makes it great? How do you know when to change things up?

A zine. Made in Phnom Penh, in 2014. This kind of thing set the stage for what became in 2017 the roving international popup, Atelier S P A C E.
Adrienne Moore and Barry Wilson, close friends of mine, at the opening reception for my show ‘Today I Love You’ in Durham NC 2012 //  Photo by the lovely and highly recommended Durham-based OMNI Studiophotos

With everything I make, I want people to relax. To feel air, space and comfort. Philosophy: the pursuit of making life more pleasurable through considering it from various angles. Let’s try this. (More about POTM is at this page.)

Let’s converse? Let’s play. Curious? Ask me anything. Leave a review. Comments are open. Say hi?

I’m here, and I’m listening.

 

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‘What I want, DK!…’


S P A C E || Computing

‘THEY JUST…’

‘Yeah, well.’

‘Well, you know I can’t really judge. I’ve been doing the same thing all day.’

‘Computing?’

‘Yeah.’

‘I mean, if it was ten years ago, and MA and I were hanging out having our meetups on Tuesdays like we used to, all those many lovely weeks, I think… we would have turned it into something similar. Co-worky and everything. I’m sure of it, actually, now that I think about it. But we didn’t because we didn’t have that technology. Instead we talked. A lot, really. And those were memories I treasure from those days.’

‘You guys did that regularly. Every..’

‘Tuesday at ten. At Vicky T’s. I really got to know her over those chats. Something about showing up, regularly, over time. All those weeks, those doodling sessions, conversations, just letting things come up as they wanted to. Not forcing it.. .making the time for one another. Just us, that was nice. It’s actually the only thing I miss about Seattle. And JB, of course. JB, for sure.”

‘…’

‘And yeah, now that I think about it… it IS weird. Co-worky office-y over dinner with laptops, phones, and wine, and food, and phones, and phones and laptops and texts…’

‘…’

‘Sometimes I’m just glad I was born when I was. But then again, like I said, I did do the whole computing thing all day. So I can’t judge.’

‘And yeah. I’m about to go do that, now.’

‘You could just stay here, and do it.’

‘I could. Stay here. Yeah. I will do that.’

‘See you, then. After everything.’

‘Ciao, ciao.’

*

*emails* ‘That was fun, hanging out!’

*emails* ‘See you in a few hours!’

This is 6/100 in the series 100 conversations.

After Seattle, after design and brand identity

I want to be out there, wherever ‘there’ might be. —RH

 

AN ACQUAINTANCE from Seattle was just passing through Phnom Penh, where I’ve been based for the last three years. It was surprising and fun to catch up. RH and I hadn’t known one another well, but had common friends in the publishing industry and a mutual respect for each other’s aesthetic sensibilities, design sense, and openness to trying new things. I remember that because you remember those kinds of things, not the piddly details but the overall impression: intelligence, behind the words. A tweet exchange and us saying, sure let’s get a coffee.

We met by the Russian Market at a place that does some nice ones, something that is surprising to so many coming to Cambodia from Europe and N. America, I think, because, what, they’re expecting things to be Third World-y, and sure, they are, but… there are also gems, here, beautiful architectures, for one, and the people actually smile at you, which has more life-giving qualities than anyone might ever imagine if they weren’t used to such things. Like us. Ex-Seattle and ex-US and ex-Japan and ex-UK… (and you see where this is going, yes?)

Anyway it was good to reconnect with someone who used to know you in a different light, altogether, on the other side of the world. He asked if DK was still doing branding and I kind of had to stifle a laugh. Doing ‘branding’ in 2017 seems ridiculous to me (my logo? That box? That’s just a free thing from a free software, something that was just lying around).

CHANGE IS THE ONLY. This is certainly new. This ultra casual approach to the way one represents himself through design, as opposed to when DK was insisting earnestly and fervently that design is super-duper important, in our 2004-2009 phase in Seattle. Some people are probably still there, insisting. But the times have moved on. I see people cutting and pasting logos all the time, where I live. It’s not even important what it looks like, anymore. It’s what it stands for. Authenticity. The very young ones know this, the ones that are younger than the tied-to-my-phone thirtysomethings because they can actually stop and look at you and talk to you and listen, they are good at this focusing thing, in a way that… I also really enjoy. I do. I was… jaded, I think. I had checked out, when I got into this box. I didn’t think anyone in the world was left to care about asking the philosophical, metaphysical, existential, transcendental kinds of questions and go into the play and do the jam with me. It seemed a bit too full-on, I think. I just withdrew. Got that from my dad, I fully admit it. We just don’t deal with things. We hide.

Underground and footloose in Asia, there wasn’t a whole lot to do then but write and so that’s what I’ve been doing, except also, I always get into the discussions that make people go, ‘Wait a minute. No one’s ever asked me that before. This is really helping me, this is helping me reflect.’ Someone in Palo Alto asked me to come over and do an experiential workshop on reflection, and I did. It was fascinating. Never had I thought that this sort of vein of conversation was anything less than ‘normal.’ But it isn’t. At all. The immediate question-asking is uncomfortable, of course it is, and it is totally not normal. To make people ask big questions about their ‘why’ and their purpose? Not simple. A woman in Sweden asked me in a sauna, ‘Why do you want to get people to open up?’ I told her that’s where the magic is. Waking Life calls it the ‘holy moment.’ Infinitude of other, infinitude in self.

In a less abstract way, I tried to share. The way I liked the feeling of learning with the others, through more and better dialogues, then how I learned by doing different things (lighting, music, space, furniture, food, drinks, prompts, magazines, folded things, light things, totems, comment cards, cut and paste, heart-shaped post-its, serious-colored post-its, workbooks, zines you could fill in the blanks on, et cetera) some of which worked poorly and others that made the magic happen, and that was how it went. Not teach-y, just learn-y. Together, we asked questions of one another, wrote together. That’s how I developed a new set of questions, sequenced them, made them into 20-minute modules and put them into a workbook. I showed this book to a few people. Some of them later went through the questions. Got feedback, tried it, revised it, redid it, rewrote, and reconnected. At least a little. Now here I am, making this page. I guess this means something. Sharing. How uncool right? But. Yes.

I hadn’t even realized that this was always the case, because I had underestimated the whole giant thing that goes into making a design in the first place: conversation. Good conversation. I don’t just mean rapport. I mean building towards something: progression, richness and complexity, play and freshness and surprise. (Ask me about my checklist, with the 7-point outline.)

All that stuff.

In Phnom Penh

 

If it’s not artful, if it’s not a space that’s held well, then the art of it isn’t going to happen and if there’s no art, there’s no beauty in the design that will fall forth. Seriously. No art, no beauty. No conversation, no beautiful concept. This is how it is. And why would I ever get involved in something if there wasn’t a chance to pursue beauty? All this. Thinking. Since Seattle. Didn’t know, until someone shows up from there, an anachronism in my new life, pulling questions from the sky in vocabularies I haven’t heard for some time, abstract queries, learning and asking. I appreciate this kind of stepping out towards the unknown, in that open space that makes us all vulnerable. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced this, as I’ve been hiding behind my blog here.

In this box.

 

A disembodied white cube, as DM had put it. Ah, yes.

In the box is safe. My mother would like that. Don’t take any unnecessary risks. That guy, that one guy, who said that thing I put in the eZine, about laying low… This:

Processing my notes in London, November 2016

Out of the box? That is tougher. But… I’d missed it. I found out, there and then. Maybe it’s time to come out a bit, yes? Then I went to London. Made ’16N’ happen, somehow, there. NOTEWORTHINESS, we talked about that. Met some fascinating people from my internet encounterings. They didn’t know me from this white box, but wow, it sure did get cool. We had the jam, the jam that I love. In real life. Playing, together. This is what we used to do at DK with ou clients, wasn’t it? The branding thing was just an excuse.

Yeah, so yeah. It’s true. I used to think logos and identities were really, really important, and I think they were, kind of, insomuch as they helped us all make an excuse to talk to each other about what it was that really mattered to us. Branding? Of course big questions come up. Who are you, really, what do you want to say to the world, and how will your work offer that expression? Now, let’s pack that up into some kind of a nice design. Yes. There. Right? But wow. We sure did get philosophical there, didn’t we, and that was sure fun.

‘I want to be out there,’ R had said. I think he was wondering to himself as much as me, this question about where to go next to make an impact. ‘Wherever “there” might be.’ That was the start of the ‘big game,’ as the chess gamers say, where it started really getting interesting. Out of the box. Out of the zone, the familiar bounds. I nodded. I was quiet. I have learned in my three plus years in Asia, both on the road and here in Cambodia, to listen more than to speak. Things get said in the silences, more than you will ever realize, unless you’re awake to it, learning to let go of the thing you want to communicate next. I think. I believe. I feel. But it’s not about me, is it? I’m just here, reflecting. ‘Tell me more.’ ‘Okay. Well, I think… there have to be more people thinking this, right? That there’s more out there? Wherever there might be?’ ‘I think so. More people are exploring ways to do this, I think, given the obvious limitations that staying in silos will naturally create. Even in glittering Seattle.’

‘Kay, I don’t want to diss Seattle.

I love it.

Sometimes I let myself think back on the mountains.

The skyline.

 

BOX DESIGN. There is a feeling, as R had pointed out, that going way, way outside the boxes just isn’t comfortable for most in that part of the world, where we both used to live. I started reflecting and it made me think about the journeys for me, since leaving Seattle (hard) and taking to the road (less hard, but more struggle-y). The thing is, there was a massive tradeoff, I thought, but it was a perceived tradeoff. I thought I was giving something up by quitting the office, the apartment in Capitol Hill, the network that was budding, the beginning of something that felt like a being-known kind of a feeling, and so many other intangibles that one might tie up with the word ‘community.’ But what I gained was far, far more important than these things. Because only once I took the time to do the big work of really looking within could I see very clearly what was important for me wasn’t a house and stuff and status and gigs, but possibility. New people. New learning. That was why I needed the road, and the journey. Me, personally. Found this out through asking myself questions. Questions I now have ready to share with you, if you are curious, through the thing at the end of this page. THE MIRROR. More in a second. Certainly a move away from one’s roots or adopted home is not what everyone wants, or needs. But knowing what it is that moves you, that is huge work. I personally had that transition, you know, going from a murky gut-feel that Seattle wasn’t ‘it’ anymore to this place, a whole ‘nother life, a different kind of community, a strong sense of what it is I make here, why, and how I’m of value to the people I am connecting with now. Reflection. That work. Tested some things. With the California program, a while ago, in 2014, and online since.

‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS

In the early days when I talked about THE MIRROR I guess I felt people were looking for what I was looking for. The new input, the original thinking at the margins and beyond. I guess I felt like everyone had wanderlust and the poet-philosopher heart, but no. No, no. And that’s cool. That’s totally fine. I don’t even get along with those people who profess to be academically philosopher types. They kinda… well. No name-calling. I’m just going to keep going. Writing to you. Being really honest. The divergent thinking that we knew already was so important to the design process had to be something I actually lived, with my life. Like, actually go out of my box. Because of Seattle’s… bubble, yeah. I’ll be honest. And more than that. I just felt like there wasn’t enough of a jam session to enjoy the conversations that might pop into place, not enough of a mix in the way one might approach her life. Too much same-y. Where were the others? I wanted more.

We were there and engaged and talking and learning, together, and sometimes it was really good. The great conversation sessions, though, I remember were tied up with some sort of program, which meant that there was a very self-selecting group, and by nature, these groups were sort of insular. I mean, I don’t want to criticize. But they were one-dimensional, you know? People sort of looked the same, even, in a certain kind of group. Newcomers talked about the Freeze, just google Seattle freeze, and how it’s there and there is this thing where, someone from the East Coast said, ‘People in Seattle only play with one friend at a time. They don’t like to mix you up.’ I didn’t believe this person, not really, because I wasn’t like that, and people joined me at things where I could design and host the sorts of parties, meetups, networking things like Designers Korner and Flourish and other live events that brought very different kinds of people together, if only briefly and just once.

Why? The answer to why is simple. For my own personal curiosity. For learning. For sharing, together. I wasn’t quite ready in the early days to just pack up and leave Seattle, I still loved it very much. The fresh air, the water. The mountains, of course. Dan Savage wrote about them in a column, I remember reading, where he just kept repeating it. ‘The mountains are beautiful.’ And they are. But there is more out there, than just those mountains. Not many years ago, I saw them, in Nagarkot, from a whole other point of view, at moonrise. *poignant pause*. But the going only got started when I saw that what mattered to me was to keep on learning. Because I didn’t want to stagnate or get complacent. From lack of input. Lack of original thought. Lack of serendipitous encounters with new and different, a tendency towards ‘safety,’ whatever that means. Misoneism. Fear.

AND THIS. To the sensitive aesthete, there’s something else that’s going to happen. The things that are made are just not that innovative. They’re actually kind of boring. BORING is… well, it’s less-than, isn’t it? Less than our best? Going out of the box starts with pushing past that coefficient of static friction, starting, in other words, and though kinetic frictions will remain (doubts, fears, practicalities and the constant worrying about how to make things work), the important thing is that you are in motion. Momentum. Why we get along with architects, software developers, jazz musicians, theater performers, and the kinds of designers who love process as much as we do is the same. We care. About the journey. From here to ‘there,’ wherever ‘there’ might be. This is the work we call N+1.

A brief history of N+1 shifting

SEATTLE. DESIGN KOMPANY STARTED IN SEATTLE in 2004. At first, we weren’t sure what we were going to make, or for who, but we knew it was a pretty important time to ‘just try this.’ Unlike many in our industry, we found out later through the process and learning and making things up as we went, we were much more interested in the creative process—and discovering the concepts for particular designs came through inviting our clients to be part of that, with us. It was way less about ‘making something pretty.’ The one time we got a call from a prospect that asked us to ‘just make it sexy,’ I said it wasn’t a fit and thanks and it was a wake-up. I knew my time was going to end, soon. That we were different.

Upon reflection, I see now we were interested not in the outcome, which we knew had to be quality and would, eventually, but that this wasn’t the objective of taking on a new engagement. What was important was something else altogether. The journey. The most fun projects, and those that yielded the most unexpected, fresh designs were those in which our clients played with us in ‘the box,’ letting us closer and closer, so that we could, together, discover the ‘a-ha’ which all beautiful creative processes love to meander their way towards. Divergent ideas are all welcome, until that moment. When you have that moment, you have the ‘it’ that you need to build everything to come upon. The ‘it’ that isn’t just a thing, or a concept even, but the product of lots of exploring, together and openly, ready to accept whatever might fall to hand or ear or eye, and let it move you in a different direction. That is the whole thing: design exists to sketch a framework for this, just this, this journey.

 

Landing softly in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH. Our insistence on process over outcomes hasn’t changed. We are still making our way around to new adventures, making bits up as we go, playing with spaces and inviting others to join in them and explore the edges of their comfort zones with us. A long season of work in brand identity design for mostly the kinds of business owners who were, like us, interested in discovery through the time and work of really looking inward, got us to the portfolio that we had on this website for a long time. I don’t have that here now because it just isn’t what we do. You see a picture of something and you think, ‘I want that.’ But that’s… just not possible to show here, anymore. What we do for each of our clients is completely, one-thousand percent different. It’s not even like a bespoke tailor, or a museum, or a cafe, because in those instances you know you’re getting a suit, arts that you might like, or a gourmet pour. No. Here, it’s different. What we do at DK with others also collaborating with us, as clients or acquaintances or co-creators or even just friends, is what I like to call ‘N+1’ work. Making spaces for others to engage in the process. The process being that journey. The one from here to the next thing, wherever it is, whatever it might be.

To the journeys! —AS

The best is yet to come, and this is why

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

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

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

I wish I could hear you.

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

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


Ignore everything to date: NOW is yesterday’s future

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

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

What people want now is high-quality experiences.

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

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

So where do you turn?

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

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

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

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

But I’m not making art shows now.

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

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


Paving the road to ‘N+1’

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

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

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

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

'Bangkok' January 2015
‘Bangkok’ January 2015

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

One Fish, Blue Fish for Miyabi Japanese Restaurant

HERE’S THE NEW logo and color scheme for Japanese restaurant Miyabi.

Most of the people who hire Design Kompany work in professional services. So it’s always a treat when someone comes along who just likes our process, and wants to try it out. Miyabi came to us because they really wanted to establish themselves as a family-friendly Japanese restaurant. (Most of their customers were people visiting the just-next-door Toys R Us.) It was important to nail the brand message first: “Fun, delicious, and quirky.”

Handy, too, that AM is a native speaker of Japanese. (I’m medium. I’ve passed for Japanese once or twice in telephone calls. Always a hoot.)

Here’s the original post.

A Japanese restaurant asks DK for a logo, menu, and business card design.

Creating a Japanese restaurant’s brand identity

A JAPANESE RESTAURANT IN the TUKWILA, WA area asked us to design a new brand identity when they realized they wanted a change.  They’d been in business for a while, but wanted a new image.

Still, Miyabi wasn’t 100% sure what story it wanted to tell through the rebrand and design for the new look.

In addition to a menu, we also created a series of ads to run in local hotel directories, and Japanese-language telephone directories, too. We made a winter holiday postcard with this design, too, which was a lot of fun!

Original post

Here’s the new brand Design Kompany made for the Japanese restaurant Miyabi.

Design Kompany came up with the total brand image: a custom typeface for ‘Miyabi,’ custom illustrations, the color palette, and the typefaces to pair with the new logo.

At first the owners of this Tukwila restaurant thought they might like a sleek, Japanese bistro look that would be upscale and posh.

But after talking with Design Kompany, it became clear that “young people looking for a fancy date spot” just isn’t Miyabi’s target audience.

Families come here. Local regulars. And business folks who happen to be in the area, which is near Sea-Tac airport.

“After going through [the questionnaire] with you guys,” Miyabi co-owner Hisako Shirakura said, “we realized we want a look that says ‘we’re fun.’

“We want people to know they can come here and have a nice time. And… we want to surprise them.”

“Quirky, in other words? A little… off-center?”

“Exactly!”

So we brought to the team Design Kompany illustrator Aaron Barker. “I was really enthusiastic about working with Design Kompany on a sushi restaurant’s logo,” he says. Aaron drew the fish and created the font for “Miyabi”.

I tried many ‘style’ concepts, from sketchy pencil to crisp vector graphics, abstracted letterforms to kawaii, or ‘Japanese cute.’ I’ve spent a lot of time around fish my whole life, visiting aquariums, commercial fishing… And in high school I even took a workshop with the famous fish illustrator Ray Troll. –DK illustrator Aaron Barker.

Keep an eye out for more from this up and coming artist, who sometimes signs his drawings “Aaron Bee.”

New business cards for Miyabi came out at the end of 2006.