Last night, I was reading a bunch of extraordinarily boring articles online, which made me very tired, and also, reminded me all over again that the internet contains a lot of junk, written by clickbait-seeking who-knows-who, and their poorly paid ‘gig economy’ freelancers who are ‘finding my creative outlet on the side.’ This is sad. And this, too, the feeling that you couldn’t find anything really good to read without being bombarded by popup ads (2000s) or advertorials masquerading as ‘This is my honest opinion’ affiliate-link people, made me feel like starting my own mini-magazine. Which has no endorsements, ads, or BS.
Such a dearth of real-world, real-time information that I could discover, on the spot, also made me feel like hosting parties to get people together and seeing what we could find out, in the real world dimension, too. So that’s part of why I began to convene people in very small circles, in my conversation parties. It used to be really large-scale, but I found out I prefer simplicity. Depth, substance, and progressions over time. With just a few. This is why I make a membership-based thing called S P A C E. It’s so that we—we as in me, and the people who, like me, want what I want, ie quality–could get to the work of talking about thingsin ways that don’t waste people’s time.
Curating as I go, I’m putting together an August series for Papers, which is going to be about innovation, not in the business-speak sense, but in the live-it-and-talk-from-experience-of-actually-trying-things kind.
It will be published in S P A C E. It’s a special edition of S P A C E. It’s members-only. Memberhip costs. You can find out more about how to become a member of S P A C E at this crowdfunding page, under ‘perks,’ see ‘Basic Membership.’
After about seven years of not doing any graphic design work-for-hire, something changed.
Someone asked me to make a thing.
I started it, and as I went, I realized, it’s time to bring this service back and offer it again, to those who might run across this site and say, ‘I like that! I want to hire these people. Who are these people, anyway? And what is S P A C E?’
Glad you asked.
We are a team of people who collaborate in the cloud: Dipika Kohli is the creative director. Akira Morita is a cofounder working on design thinking and innovation consulting. Jas Plac does our outreach and communications. And A. Spaice does research & development. These days we make a weekly e-mag, called S P A C E. it’s about design and discovery.
The people we meet in the places where we go (mostly Southeast Asia and Northern Europe, since 2014), share stories, sometimes, and when they get to a place where they feel like they’re becoming something substantial, we shape these into ‘zines.’
They’re 16 pages, each, designed to be read in a single sitting, say over coffee. At times, we make black & white issues so they’re easy on printers, so you can download, print, fold and assemble your own, by adding your own creative flair.
Got into a bit of a discussion about this with someone yesterday who is 24.
This person was highlighting to me his past work, in something that I didn’t find too terribly intriguing but he really wanted to impress me, I guess, so we watched some clips of things that he had produced. I suppose he is an event producer, but not trained or anything, just self-designed. That’s fine, of course. I’m self-designed in design, having studied civil engineering and worked in architecture and journalism. But design is something people just ask me to do.
For example, a friend from that era, VH had asked me to make a senior t-shirt, when we were in high school, because she liked my drawings and comics, and no one else was putting forward an idea, and I was the Vice President of the Student Government at that time, so we put out a call, I think? And I don’t think anyone entered. So I made it. I don’t even know what it looks like now, thinking back, but V. had liked it and was happy. I had done t-shirts for Governor’s School East for my hall, too, and before that a lot of things like program covers and posters through elementary and middle school that had won prizes and stuff, so. I guess. That it was… destiny, haha. Or just… a knack for it. And lots of attentiveness to continuing to do it, not get sidetracked by other things, just doing the drawings when I felt like it. Helped that this was in an era where we didn’t have internet. Nice thinking about the senior t-shirt design, again. That was fun. I was 17.
Depth. I was talking about yesterday’s conversation and somehow got distracted thinking about being 17. It’s kind of related, though, right? I mean, you get good when you practice, but you have to have some kind of latent talent to start getting good, too. And encouragement. Fact. In my case yesterday, I think skipping over ‘talent’ and ‘practice’ and ‘encouragement’ was taken for granted by this young person who saw $$$ ‘I got paid for this’ $$$ as an indication of its having had value.
Not to me.
The thing I saw was just… well. Lacking in substance.
Happens. And more and more these days, when we have substitutes for real life in the form of video streams and chatboxes. What happened? Well, that’s out of scope, here.
My thing is, let’s bring some of the good stuff. Let’s open the doors here at DK again, and show people how they can arrive at… quality. I know how to do this. Why not share. Selectively, of course. Not for everyone.
I have a particular way of deciding if I will care about a project, which has everything to do with the attitude of the person asking me to work with him or her or them. Truth is, if I don’t see much thought in something, I have no interest whatsoever.
Most people I meet on the road I will know for less than three hours. I meet a hell of a lot of people, on the road. Yesterday, I just listened politely, but then, something happened.
Weirdly, it just did…
Sometimes this does this. I went into speechmaking mode.
Perhaps because we had a third guest, join us in the middle. Who. Was. Really. Attentive, and who had gone through my samples of drawings, and poetry and other stuff that I felt like sharing, with great admiration and accolades. Okay, it was flattering, but yeah, he really was curious about me, my work… my thinking. What I’ve been up to here in Vietnam. I have some stuff now that has Vietnamese language translations, too. So you can tell, if you’re the kind of person who can tell, that is.
Maybe there’s not one particular type; but there are a few people… one out of a hundred?, who resonate with DK’s style.
D: The other day, someone asked, What’s your TEDx talk about? I said ‘Death.’ Then he said, ‘Ooh!… Edgy.’ But it was 8 years ago
A: You are. DK is edgy
D: Well, once someone in Seattle said I was popular
A: You are not popular. You are edgy
D: How is this ‘edgy’! I don’t even a phone and I type on zoom chat to you and use email
A: That is edgy
Quality is a vector: it goes up and down
Everyone knows capitalism doesn’t care about quality (or morality, or ethics). It has one thing it cares about.
This—DK—is different. This is a place where we optimize for something else.
I call it…
The level of thinking, the level of work, the level of caring, and something that had… substance… was clear to this third person. Not my companion in the conversation, but the third person. For that guest’s benefit, despite my headache and slight cold and all-day bus ride, and variables that I don’t feel like putting down here, despite it all, there I was, launching, as I do, into… well, S P A C E.
Was kind of fun, actually. HT KEF, who would have enjoyed it, and sat back, I know, smiling knowingly, with the sharp observations of only KEF, which would go, roughly, I think, ‘Just another step in the evolution of DK.’ Since KEF and DK have been acquainted since, and were dear friends for most of the mid-1990s, I can picture it, and I can enjoy the knowing that yes, that’s it. We’re on a new trip, now. All kinds of things are starting up again. But, quietly.
Anything is possible, that was our tagline back in 2004 when we started DK in Seattle from that chic architects’ office sublet. I wonder if AH remembers it. Or EP. I wonder if JK does, or if any of our clients, guests of brown bag lunches like Dream Kitchen, or collaborators for projects who helped with illustration or photography or web dev, or friends, or guests at our parties like Sugar and Dazzle will recall it. The feeling. The feeling of going into the unknown, together, to quest what we may. In a place that goes… there.
Think Sun Ra, for example.
Think… Art, substance, magical potentially… taken together, a little spark… set against the backdrop of Debord’s Society of the Spectacle blandness… what is this? This? This is DK. This is what we do. Discover, design, and outline it: together. Quality.
For the summer of 2019, DK and friends are co-creating the zine series, ‘In the Vernacular’. Free to apply. Apply here.
Select candidates will be invited to register (programme fee is USD $160) at this page.
Don’t miss the chance to be part of an international conversation in which new and different others DK has personally connected with in real life or on the internet are gathering to share, learn, and continue to discover ways of taking old ideas and breaking into the new.
WHEN. 1- 30 June 2019.
WHAT IT IS. Architects, designers, graphic artists, graphic illustrators, and writers are invited to co-create the series with Design Kompany’s A. Spaice. Hosting the conversations in asynchronous online exchanges, DK will gather the key points of the emerging dialogues and create custom prompts every Tuesday. To more the direction of the conversation so as to come up with a coherent set of thought to then pack into weekly digital zines. These, together, will get us talking, and talking together, in S P A C E.
‘The whole is something other than the sum of its parts.’
LET’S TALK ABOUT learning. How we discover, find, and make new connections. Ideas, shapes of thinking and the input that comes from places that might not be the ‘usual’ ones. No more boring meetings: What are the containers that make great conversations *happen*? Cnversations that lead to better collaboration and better work? Those are important. Let’s not waste time. Let’s make things better, together.
Better and more enjoyable: that’s the key. How do we design the S P A C E that lets fresh thinking flow?
Let’s consider. Let’s discuss.
‘Strange Geometries’ is our first invite-only salon on this topic. Min 4. Max 7.
WHAT YOU’LL GET. DK will share:
Grice’s ‘Maxims of Conversation’, as introduced to us by Eric Chuk, who studied narrative ontology
Six Thinking Hats, a method of opening dialogue.
The Open Space Technologies how-to.
Free eBook, ‘SELF’, by DK’s Dipika Kohli (a USD $95 value).
Application required. Apply below.
This workshop will be hosted by DK’s Dipika Kohli. She has delivered seminars at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on the topic of Design Thinking, a series caled SELF as a 9-week experiential program at Stanford University, and for an architects circle in Seattle DK was invited to present, ‘Just Be You.’
MAKE A ZINE with just a handful of others, in this international atelier series, Atelier S P A C E.
ATELIERS. These pop up from real life when we converse offline with new and different others. It brings storyfinding back to person to person contact, while ‘journalism’ becomes increasingly less human-centered. Who will we tell our real selves to? Each other, in real life, offline, away from package-making for others and towards more listening for common threads and similar experiences. In so doing, we feel more connected, DK have found, and inspired to improve, too.
Starting in Battambang in Cambodia in Sept. 2017, we are moving in Asia to discover people who are curious, creative, and ready for something new. Our cocreated Battambang issue was on the topic, Ennui. In Singapore (10-12 Nov) our zine was on the theme The Third Place. In Penang (6-11 Dec) we took a different focus, Growth. Each theme is based on what conversations emerged when we meet new people in real life in those places, and simply take time to talk. Then we work to make a zine that is cohesive, and is hyperlocal to the place and the contemporary narratives. What will happen, whom we’ll meet, who will join, and what zine we will then together produce is an open question. Let’s consider the possibilities. Let’s make a space.
A new book from Kismuth Books is set to launch on 5 November in a small cafe with just a few people. Join author Dipika Kohli for this once-off low-key event, in which you’ll get to discover the creative process and ask any questions you have about how to start writing your own personal stories. Kohli was an editor for a small paper in southwest Ireland and a daily in Seattle before shifting to more work in sharing essays and first-person stories. Her book Breakfast in Cambodia (September 2016), was based loosely on two columns (for Saathee Magazine and Northwest Asian Weekly), about life and travel that landed her in Phnom Penh. Dipika was a Ted Scripps fellow in Boulder for environmental journalists in 2003, and the winner of two Japan Foundation grants for photography. She is currently co-hosting Atelier S P A C E with a small circle of people interested in co-creating something together, in sprints, and packing hyperlocal stories into short zines. Don’t miss this chance to connect in real life with a handful of others, and talk together about life, nostalgia, publishing, and the culture of drift.
Join DK and very small handful of others at this new, and different, style of conversation salon. Our theme is ‘The Prospect of Beauty’. Discover the parlor games ‘Art of Not Knowing’ and ‘Excerpts of Note,’ as shared in similar small scale salons in Tokyo, London, New York and Hanoi. Welcoming the very curious and looking forward to receiving you. A meetpoint, and programme, to be emailed to registered guests *only.* Advance bookings only. (Ticket sales close at midday on Wednesday, 1 Nov.)
[Update: Before Design Kompany became a roving atelier to gather people’s stories on the spot in real life, we were gathering perspectives in our online community, behind protected-pages at this blog. This post was originally an exclusive for a forum, ‘The Village,’ on work, life, and relationships.]
TODAY I INVITE you to read a short email conversation with Michelle Lynn Stephens, a poet I’ve been in touch with since the time we met at a fun open mic. We share roots in Durham, NC, and recently reconnected when I hosted a tweet chat about self-publishing. That opened a space for an entirely new conversation, in which I got to know more about where things have gone for Michelle since we met. Here’s our interview, which took place over email through the spring of 2017. This piece was originally published as an exclusive for our online community, S P A C E.
Venturing into the unfamiliar
DK: We talked in our email conversation about journeys. And leaving, and how that can inspire us. Can you talk about this a little bit?
MS: How interesting that you should ask this question, as I met you at the beginning of my open mic journey! I am definitely the adventurous type. I love trying new platforms and traveling to different venues. I have met so many wonderful people who have been very supportive and eventually became my creative village.
DK: Can you tell us about what you’ve written, so far?
DK: OK. Besides writing and traveling, I think we also talked about family. And… dating?
MS: The sequel to Diary of a Divorcée Diva is all about dating, but nowhere near finished. There is a tad bit of dating adventure in the first book and my short story in the anthology is about getting back out there after divorce. The anthology is focused on single mothers, so that may be where you are remembering the parent thing.
DK: But then, there is the massive adventure of parenting right? The ultimate adventure into the unknown?
MS: Kids are fun and inspiring! The only downside is losing sleep sometimes when they are young and finding courage to let them go off own their own when they are older… While my toddler is my only biological child, I have had a plethora of little ones in my life and don’t feel particularly new to parenting. I have always taken care of children and it feels very natural to me.
My mom tells me that I wanted to do whatever she did with my baby sister, such as feeding her, combing her hair, rocking her and such. I took care of my baby cousin, I have several godchildren who call me ‘Ma’, I volunteered at daycare and after school care programs as a teen… I once had stepchildren who I adored and I take my niece and nephews around with me quite often.
DK: After we met in Durham, where have the journeys taken you?
MS: My circle in Durham encouraged me to share my talents with so many others. I may have been afraid to venture back out after my California dreams faded into the working world, if it were not for my arts experience in Durham. It is a place that embraces and supports the arts tremendously. The path from Durham led me to the next town over, then to major cities like Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to share my words. I gained the confidence to submit my work to some heavy hitters in African American literature and became a part of a book project that turned into a #1 National Bestseller. My territory is ever increasing and I dream of seeing my work on the big screen someday, but I would also like to remember where I came from and remain a part of the circle that started me on my way.
DK: On your way… to where? Curious.
MS: I have back and forth from the DMV area often, as my significant other takes on mostly government contracts. I love the arts up there as a spectator, but unfortunately have not been able to participate much as an artist. I have no support system there, as far as babysitting goes. There’s always a book festival, library event, or museum to stop by in DC and the scenery is quite inspiring…
DK: Venturing out seems important to you.
MS: I am a firm believer that venturing out into the unfamiliar serves to strengthen your creativity. It opens your eyes to things you have never seen and expands your worldview. I have not traveled as far as you have, but testing the waters up and down the East Coast has been very fulfilling. Even before I began doing poetry and publishing, I was off to California and exploring the performing arts world. I experienced being among the best performers, in the audience of great theaters, in studios, filming for television on Hollywood sets, at casting and modeling agencies and briefly attempted to form a singing duet. My time there was amazing and continues to influence my writing and stage performances today. There is, however, a time for stillness when it is time to gather your thoughts on the page.
DK: Who are your favorite artists?
MS: My favorite artists are two alumni of North Carolina Central University, my late aunt, educator Barbara Tuck Ebron and the incomparable Ernie Barnes, a Durham native.
DK: Art venues?
MS: My favorite museum is the Smithsonian American Art Museum. They have very diverse exhibits with everything from presidents to Native American experiences to African American musicians and writers on grand display.
DK: Can we share an excerpt of one of your books?
From The Divorcée Chronicles: Diary of a Divorcée Diva…
I never felt so free as I did on that flight to LAX. The sky was the limit and I was literally on top the world, looking down on it from Cloud Nine. No one could tell me anything would ever go wrong ever again at that moment in time. After chatting it up with Darren a little bit about my hopes and dreams as always, he suggested that maybe I should look into moving to Cali, too. It would be the perfect place to start a totally new path in life and get away from all my troubles. I daydreamed myself about it right on to sleep.
“Good evening, passengers. This is your Captain speaking. I hope you have enjoyed your flight. We are approaching our destination and fully expect a safe and uneventful landing. Thank you for joining us. Have a good night.”
Waking up to stare out the window at the stuff that dreams are made of was surreal. The view of the Concrete Jungle, with all that water surrounding it, was amazing. I saw nothing but miles and miles of highway and bright lights! I had on my cute little sleeveless cotton dress that was hit just above the knee and got a rude awakening when I stepped onto the tarmac. The cold, sweeping air hit me right in the face.
“Whoa!! How can it be freezing in California in the middle of July?!”
“Kay, this ain’t Cackalacky. Ain’t none of that humidity out here. Don’t you know this is the desert?” Darren was always so thorough in his ex-planation of everything. Always had been, even back in the days when he was trying to tell me why we needed to break up and just be friends.
“You gone love the way it feels outside tomorrow when the sun is out, though. I’m telling you, Kay. The wea-ther is addictive.”
“Ok, I’m just gonna have to trust you on that one ‘cause it’s just freezing my legs off right about now!”
That night as I looked out the 12th-floor window of the hotel at all the lights that put the dark, tree-lined streets back home to shame, I was hooked and my mind was made up. If the rest of Cali was like the view from here, I was gonna call it home and soon.
The next day, Darren and I headed out to paint the town. He was right about the weather being gorgeous and we checked out the usual tourist traps like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater, then watched the many talented hopefuls acting out at Venice Beach. We toured the star homes and rode past all the famous places like Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, Capitol Records, and the Hollywood sign. We even checked out South Central and in the words of Ice Cube himself, I gotta say it was a good day.
“Tomorrow we’ll go look at the apartments I found online”, Darren said.
“If you decide to move here, you can just find something when you get to town because people move in and out around here all the time. It’s not like back home.”
DK: Thank you! Last question: What’s the best advice you ever got?
A CONVERSATION SALON in virtual spaces about family, fromness, and the journeys that interweave. A 12-week programme. Starts 1 June. Application required. Limited seats.
How did this get organized? ‘A lot of people have been in correspondence with me through the last few years about ** family ** and I thought it might be neat to bring us together in a forum-style space. The idea is to convene a small group I know personally, and whom I feel I can trust, as we design and build this next thing (a book? another co-created anthology like THE MIRROR? something else?) together as we go,’ says host A. Spaice.
A CONTINUATION in virtual space of conversations near and far about things related to ‘fromness.’
Where are we from, what that means to us each individually, how multi-local identities shape who we are.
This is a build on something that we had run online last year, a series of 12 conversation starting prompts designed to open this kind of discussion. It was called ‘Home & Away’. Welcoming back those who participated, inviting those just connecting now to mix, together, in this one-week conversation, ‘Discovering Origin,’ in virtual S P A C E.
7-DAY PASS. Be part of it when you join us with a 7-day pass, here’s how to get it.
Editor’s note: First published in S P A C E in 2017, this short Q&A about the creative process still rings true today to those of us at DK who remain very curious about how to continuously improve on what we make.
OFFLINE CONVERSATIONS lately are turning to the process itself, and, to take it further, discoveries that happen on the way to ‘making.’ Maybe it’s in the air? Looking back on what creative people have told me about this work of making, I recalled something I learned from science podcaster Jai Ranganathan. (Find him on twitter at @jranganathan.) We had met at a science conference in NC’s Research Triangle Park. That was the kind of place where bunches of people convened to share tips on making science interesting to a general audience, more or less, and I discovered Jai was set to instruct scientists at University of California Santa Barbara on how to use social media.
DK: What do you need to think about when opening a wide-open project like a podcast? That’s a pretty big blank canvas.
JR: First, define your purpose. Then, what’s your scope? Do you want to be a local brand? Have a national audience? If you want a large audience, people really go for video.
DK: OK. So if you know your purpose, then what? Any tips?
Think about where can you add value. Ask businesses, ‘What’s a problem you have?,’ and then share, ‘Here’s how we might solve it.’
Give your product away so people want to know more.
You can do latest tips. Interviews. You could have seminars.
Just get started. Do it frequently. Keep it short—2 minutes.
DK: Wait, so you just have to be prolific?
JR: You don’t have to be flashy, or always funny, or the best-looking. But you have to be compelling in your voice. Be engaged, animated, and interesting. DK: But what about talent?
JR: Talent is overrated. You have to be interesting/entertaining first, or else it doesn’t matter what you have to say!
DK: How do you do that?
JR: Boring podcasts are that way because people are checking boxes off a how-to list, as opposed to doing something that’s really them. Anything creative like this—podcasting, video, or writing—is about deciding what you want to say, and what’s your way of saying it. How to make thatyour own is key.
DK: How did you get into this?
JR: I was doing my postdoc in conservation biology. If you’re not a scientist, your job is to write papers. I was disenchanted after a while. How likely was it that what I wrote would lead to action? So as a hobby, I started interviewing scientists. I’ve always really liked radio. Someone found me and offered to pay me to do this, so now I have $2,000 broadcast-quality equipment and I make a good living. But, I had hoped more people would listen.
DK: What can others learn?
JR: It takes a while to figure out what you’re doing and why the heck you’re doing it. Don’t make it too scripted. You can have a script, but don’t read it. Imagine somebody giving a talk and reading a script–it’s death! And you know, you have to like doing it. And keep doing it, that’s key. Don’t wait to get good. No one sprouts out of the earth fully formed.
The creative process involves tangible actions juxtaposed with the intangible mystery of creativity. It often suffers under a linear approach and blossoms when you dare to ask “why don’t we try ….” It’s what makes something more than just an idea. It offers a result via the marriage of imagination, analysis, and action.
After all this time, I have learnt that the creative process never looks like this:
In fact, the creative process of logo design truly is impossible to diagram, although many of us try in order to put our clients more at ease with it. It can’t really be put into distinct phases although many of us also try to do this in hopes that potential clients will feel more comfortable investing their time and money. In truth, I have found that the creative process requires a leap of faith from everyone involved. Its elusive nature manages to move a project forward, backward and sideways simultaneously.Â
The creative process is chaos wrapped around structure and held together by a sprinkle of magic dust.
The studies on Processed Identity show that while all designers approach projects in a unique way, the creative process—the time spent reading, writing, having conversations, organizing, editing, prioritizing, mind mapping, creating mood boards, sketching—”is essential to developing a deep understanding of a client’s needs. It’s what inspires and enables us to create something beyond the generic and adequate. In my experience as a logo designer, the creative process has proven to be my most valuable tool.Â It’s also crucial to a wide range of other disciplines including science, philosophy, architecture, art and writing.
We have all experienced occasions where it is clear the creative process has been minimized. It’s not difficult to recall poor user interfaces, cliche solutions, and ideas executed with seemingly little thought as to how the end user will engage with them. In contrast, by embracing and investing in the creative process, it’s possible to create moments of joy, satisfaction, and delight.
It is unfortunate that the creative process is constantly in need of protection from budget cuts, deadlines and non-believers. It seems to be the first corner cut. You need clay to make bricks[*]. It takes time, energy, dedication, and the willingness to build, knock down and build again (over and over).
I have learned that I best serve my customers by looking at the logo as simply a by-product of the creative process. I have also learned that protecting the creative process is essential and non-negotiable.
About the Author
Steve Zelle is a logo and brand identity designer based in Ottawa, Canada. He operates as idApostle and is the founder of the community driven design website, Processed Identity. You can reach him through his website or on Twitter.
*Paraphrased from: “Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently, “I cannot make bricks without clay!”, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.