Designing for the aesthetic moment

GOOD MORNING FROM Phnom Penh. Quiet reflection, at DK World HQ, here at the turn of the year. Three issues of our ‘A Philosophy of the Moment’ collection for Winter 2018-19 are ‘done and dusted,’ as we used to say in print. Except these are digital. So ‘done and filed’, I suppose. And much more is ahead, thanks to good work and great people whom we’ve bumped into and who are challenging us to explore, experiment further, and push the envelope.

WORLD TRENDS. Because now more than ever, the work to bring us together instead of drive us apart is obvious to everyone who is trying to collaborate meaningfully across divides of all kinds. Or even just take note that there do exist huge chasms that keep some from being heard: on purpose. Looks like with our programmes to make zines with people near and far by gathering us in very small circles to really pay attention to each other and learn, DK and our teams are riding the wave of a worldwide trend. A wave which includes many things that we’re still discovering about, just now. Political theory, for ex. Relational dialectics. Intersectionality. And more.

NEW STARTS. These first S P A C E issues, (pictured above), are set in Finland and Cambodia. They will be part of a larger collection of co-created zines designed and put together for DK’s Winter 2018-19 S P A C E collection. It’s called ‘A Philosophy of the Moment.’

Thanks to new crowdfunding support, DK are able to give our full creative attention in early 2019 to the making of new zines in this co-creative manner.

As in the past, what we’ll make from now on, too, will be put together in new places, with people whose paths in those locales might never have crossed. Gathering. Connecting. Interconnecting. Sharing: in real life, on the spot, in the moment.

Dialogue. Design. Making meaning. Aesthetic moments. Self discovery. Showing up. Conversation and connection and space for real life.

Collaborating teams at DK are making S P A C E.

To hold all of this.

ZINERY. At first, it might look like just pieces of paper. But the zines make it possible for us to discover each other and give time to get to know new perspectives, and flesh out our own ideas, too. So that’s why, once you get to experience it, you find out that zine-making and our ateliers offer more than just paper productions. Experiences. And much, much more. Hard to describe. Hard to claim. But if you’ve been there, you know.

ATELIER S P A C E. Looking back on the work to gather and connect people for hyperlocal, high-quality moments of dialogue and co-creation to make ‘zines,’ there’s a lot that is becoming clear to us. All these years of designing for clients and you get to know when to pay attention to the emergent pattern: the inklings that become the height of the ‘a-ha’ apogee and the sudden awareness that yes, here it is, this is the thing, the concept, that here we are, OMG WTF, that this is really it.




OUR TEAMS at DK are, as per usual, talking. Processing. Sharing. Learning, through dialogue, across chords of a circle that stretches the globe. In this way we are practicing ‘aesthetic moment’ design. Which is what I wanted to talk about here, today.

The different places we’ve been have brought us close to new populations of ideas, new kinds of query-making. Forays of a variety that are vast and have a particular kind of beauty; not knowing that these were there, because you can’t ever know, we trusted the process. Going where we don’t know anyone, seeing what we can learn, and trying new things, in real life, on the spot. Together. It’s been 5 years since this all started, with the ‘Year of Uncertainty’ project. (No agenda, no plan, no income, no savings, no contacts, and airplane tickets to a city in Southeast Asia we’d never been to… round-trip tickets that we’d only use half of. All that led to lots. Learning, meeting people, quality, more. But the upshot of it is something I can’t encapsulate here, in the public-facing blog. It is, however, something that we can elaborate on in our eZine.)

More about the learnings on ‘relational aesthetics,’ ‘relational art,’ and ‘relational dialectics’ vis-a-vis systems thinking, ahead for those who are with us, starting from January and through the year. Links at the end of this post, if you’re curious about how to get on board.

Aesthetic Moment: a fleeting sense of unity through a profound respect for different voices in dialogue.

Certainly it takes time to get to know an outfit as weird and crazy as us lot, here at DK. But yeah. We love a great party, and the online stuff is pretty fun. Feel free to sign up to get email to get to know us better. Or, jump right in to a part of the conversation when you subscribe to S P A C E. Subscribe here. More on the way.

A happy New Year from all of us at DK.

Thanks for reading, for connecting, and for inspiring us when we have had the chance to meet in person and talk deeply about so many, many things.

Five years: I <3 Cambodia

TODAY OUT OF THE BLUE, I recalled some tidbit of wisdom that reminds me of how true it is that we are able to make things happen if we put our minds to a focused direction. The tidbit went something like:

We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year but underestimate what we can do in five.

The 5-years-and-counting journey in Cambodia is getting outlined and packed-together, in the way I like to do when taking stock and making summary statements of ‘what I’ve learned’ to myself. I remember doing that for every single project, at my first job. An architect’s office. Before that, I’d write down what I thought I’d learned from my college projects, mostly civil engineering stuff, all those diagrams, all those flowcharts, all those steel load calculation I-beam thingies.


I-Beam. Steel Mechanics. I got a stupid ‘B’ in this class. The other ‘B’ was in… psychology.



Ace is high

IT WAS HARD work and tiring but the important part, I think, was learning to get through the tedious. Problem-solving. Arranging items, making calculations. Learning what problem it is that you want to solve. What variable you want to optimize for. These are the things of engineering school. You work all night on a homework assignment, or anyway, half of it, then you meet for coffee at usually Caribou on Hillsborough Street to find JK, who would have the other half, and there you go. Voila. Done. From what I learned, thereafter, JK went into finance. Said so, once, in a letter? Or a call? I can’t remember. I went into design somehow. Not that I studied it. Not that I studied journalism, either, but worked for a daily for two years and an alt-weekly for two, too. (‘Two, too.’ I like this little thing.) When we were seniors, we talked about what we were gonna do next in Life. The big chapter of Next. J wasn’t taking the EIT. ‘What’s the point? I’m not going to be an engineer, ever. And neither are you.’ I took it, passed. I never became a PE (professional engineer). Last time I heard from J, I was in art school in NY, cycling around over the Brooklyn Bridge at half past three usually, running around to jazz clubs with a black pen and white paper, all night long. But hell if I didn’t know how to take a derivative. LaPlace transforms, however, were never my strength. Why am I talking about math?

My father, an engineer told me not to study architecture because it was too artsy, and so I went into structural civil engineering, no, wait: it was geotechnical. Soils. Soil mechanics. Talk to me about clay. Talk to me about silty-sandy.


The hydraulic gradient. (A+). ✨




OR NOT. But if you did engineering, ask me to tell you my joke. Have one good joke. I’ll tell it to you. Oh, I know why I’m talking about math. Yeah. Because, KE. Fractals and chaos and our renderings on the computer all night while we tried to figure out the equations and Julia sets and z stuff. K, my best friend in those days, and roommate, and optimistic, very dear friend. K, who came to ‘Today I Love You’ the art installation where so did my high school art teacher and a new client at a big university who had signed the contract with the software guys who had subcontracted DK and whom I’d yet to meet. ‘Hi, I’m DK.’ ‘Hi!’

And yeah: serendipity. Entropy. The way things emerge. Chaos, turbulence: flow. This is starting to sound like a poem.

Poetry and math. Math and jazz. These are the things. It’s getting interesting around here. In S P A C E. Shoo.

I <3 MATH? But math is fun. Geometry, sin cos tan. Relational art and relational aehsteics and trigonometry are all related. Related ! See what I did there. Wow, I type like this when I’ve had too many coffees in a row, and it’s loud where I am because of some kid’s video game, and of course the pops. Too loud radio. Too many people on their phones. I forgot why I liked being fa away, in Finland (very very quiet). But I also had missed the chaos of all this: the noises blurring into each other and ridiculousness of conversations that the so-called ‘do-goody’ types come and do nothing of substance. But maybe they need five years… be nice, DK. Be nice. Ooo. One of them is ordering something, in that typical way of condescension, making a wisecrack that he doesn’t think anyone can understand. Me, on my headphones, trying to blare out the jarring juxtaposition but secretly  enjoying it, too. The chaos. What a change from Caribou on Hillsborough, and all those gridded pages of calculations and discrepancies coming up and the most important conversation being what to do next. Here, it’s anything is possible. Anything is next.

But next, more immediately, is KL.


KL // DK 2018