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The Self-Reliance Project
The Self-Reliance Project is a daily essay about what it means to be a maker during a crisis—to think through making, to know yourself better through the process of producing something—and how this kind of return to self-knowledge might just be the entire point.

It’s title comes from the 1841 essay on self-reliance by the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote with astonishing clarity about the perils of conformity and consistency, about what it means to follow your mind, trust your instincts, and listen to your heart.

So for now, stay well, stay home, and do your work. But don’t just take it from me. Take it from Emerson.

Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.

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The Design Observer Cooperative

Observed | July 31

Branding a pandemic. (via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | July 28

Why do these Apple ads, from a company that takes such pride in design, feature four people who are clearly not trained designers, designing? [BV]


Observed | July 27

Communicative efficiency is not the same as communicative empathy, and one of the truly gut-punching limits of social media is how poorly it corresponds to the individual experience of human grief. A primer by Jason Fields. [JH]


Observed | July 22

Futurefeed is an online space where writers, artists, and thinkers are invited to experiment + explore ideas that are important to them over an extended period of time. [JH]


Observed | July 21

Open a new window somewhere in the world. [BV]

The X-Prize Mask Challenge is looking for a face mask that is attractive, innovative, and achieves the filtration efficacy on par with a surgical mask. PS: You also have to be under 25 years old to enter. (Via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | July 16

How Mexico City crowdsourced a map of its riotous informal bus system. [BV]

The atlas of surveillance. (Yes, you read that right.) [JH]


Observed | July 15

Social Matter, Social Design challenges the way we look at, think of, and interact with the social world by emphasizing the role of materiality. [JH]

When governors are graphic designers: a continuing story. [JH]


Observed | July 14

Design For America, the World Design Organization, and IBM team up to launch the COVID Design Challenge. [JH]

A national reckoning: why It is falling to individuals to become their own interim museums and archives. [JH]


Observed | July 10

Together again for the very first time, Microsoft ditches backgrounds for foregrounds—like simulated office desks. [JH]

A new, coronavirus-inspired concoction at Alinea, one of the world’s most famous restaurants, is spurring backlash online. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | July 08

A look inside the typography of the Biden campaign, by Hoefler & Co. [JH]


Observed | July 06

Designer and photographer Margaret Morton, who taught for many years at Cooper Union and at Yale, died last week at her home in New York City. She was 71. [JH]


Observed | July 03

Architect James Biber on backgrounds as the new foregrounds. (Via Adrian Shaughnessy.) [JH]


Observed | July 01

An exhaustive study of house address number styles. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | June 29

Aric Jenkins curated some essential writing on racial inequity and injustice in urban planning and design for Pocket. [BV]

Alice Rawsthorn and Paula Antonelli cohost Design Emergency, a new series on Instagram Live. [JH]


Observed | June 26

In the “you can’t make this shit up” department, from the company once described as a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money, Goldman Sachs releases a new font you’re not allowed to criticize Goldman Sachs with. (H/T Jeffrey Kittay) [JH]


Observed | June 24

The Drift is a new online magazine about politics and culture. (Don’t miss what bores them.) [JH]


Observed | June 23

June 24 at noon Pacific, 3pm Eastern: don‘t miss Rachel Gogel speaking in the Ladies Who Create series from Dropbox. [JH]


Observed | June 10

IBM will no longer offer, develop, or research facial recognition technology. [BV]


Observed | June 01

For the Army Corps of Engineers in 1944, Harold Fisk created extraordinarily beautiful maps of the changing Mississippi River over time. [MB]


Observed | May 29

A brilliant and timely design exploration: Alexandra Bell disrupts perception by rewriting headlines. (Via Lana Rigsby.) [JH]


Observed | May 28

The new book from Scott Berkun, How Design Makes the World, “will help you see design everywhere and question why it works—or why it fails.”—Ellen Lupton. Watch the trailer. [BV]


Observed | May 27

Kate Wagner at McMansionHell on the rise of Coronagrifting: “cheap mockups of COVID-related design ‘solutions’ filling the endlessly scrollable feeds of PR-beholden design websites” [MB]


Observed | May 21

Former Design of Business | Business of Design podcast guest David Rockwell creates a kit for instant outdoor restaurant dining. [MB]


Observed | May 20

Floodwaters threaten Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. [MB]



Jobs | August 03