Chain Letters


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Celene Aubry
“The natural path to solving any design problem is rarely straight.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Melissa Deckert + Nicole Licht
"We really enjoy the ideation stage of a project because it is where we can be thoughtful and considered, but also allow ourselves to entertain crazy ideas."


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Victor Melendez
This December, we’re elevating the act of gift giving by pondering the items inside the box: examining design as craft, poring over process, and picking the brains of designers whose technical skill turn products into objets d’art.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dana Chisnell
You might think these aren’t design questions, but you’re in the business of culture change.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Toni L. Griffin
I strongly believe—and have seen firsthand—how shared ownership in creating a vision plan inspires greater collective action.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Chelsea Mauldin
“Most broken government systems are not designed—they accrete, bits and pieces stuck on to address problems.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Steven Heller
“Design is a profession that has grown out of its stereotypes.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Elysia Borowy-Reeder
“Information is everywhere now. We need educated, well-versed curators to make sense of it.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alexander Tochilovsky
"Reading the imprint of past choices can teach us a lot about how to be a designer today."



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sean Adams
The point regarding design history is about documentation. If the work is not documented and disseminated, it disappears.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Margaret Gould Stewart
Margaret Gould Stewart is Vice-President of Product Design at Facebook where she leads a global team of product designers and researchers for teams such as Artificial Intelligence and Privacy & Data Use.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Arthur Cohen
I support a world in which design is not elevated and codified into some idealized “other,” but rather integrated into everyday practice that is just good business.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Randy J. Hunt
“There are examples of designs that were the spark of an innovation and there are examples of designs that added to and evolved an otherwise already innovative idea.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Grace Jun
“Design is way of seeing and a way of doing. A unique perspective and method that combined can lead to innovation.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Zachary Lieberman
“Tools and jobs will always change but the fundamentals stay the same.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Pangaro
In my experience, an understanding of the processes of design and the means for expanding techniques and capabilities are a matter of practice and critique, tightly coupled.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dori Tunstall
“Designing is not about a job. Design is one of many pathways for doing meaningful work in the world.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Gail Anderson
“As a designer, I am sensitive to the way people consume information, and very concerned about the survival of print.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Joan Wong
“I’m not sure the experience between print and ebooks is really that different.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jennifer 8. Lee
“In my line of work, sometimes you have to wait for the future to catch up.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Anna Gerber
“Readers and writers are open, adventurous, and eager to try new things. Even if those experiences are not always perfect.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Moore
“Streaming has shocked new life into the music industry and the vinyl we all hold dear to our hearts. Now the platform is finding a new generation of ardent fans. As designers, that’s where we can influence a movement.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Emily Batson
“A key part of my job is collaboration. I enjoy the negotiation of finding a concept that truly works.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Frank Ockenfels 3
“I am a true believer of creating in the moment.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lawrence Azerrad
It‘s June, and you know what that means—the unofficial kick-off of summer concert season. This month, we examine design and music, and why fans everywhere benefit when these creative industries work in concert.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jamer Hunt
“And it’s likely the case that most design criticism today focuses on ideology more than aesthetics, as we’re going through a period of long-overdue self-scrutiny.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Molly Heintz
Labeling design, or anything, “good” is a slippery slope—good for whom?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Andrew Blauvelt
Criticism allows for self-reflection, and that is necessary when we use words like discipline and field to talk about design.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alice Twemlow
“Of course design criticism is still relevant—it just inhabits formats that we might be less familiar with.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Karin Fong
“A bit of uncertainty is good for the design process. I would hate to be trapped in the sureness of my own thoughts.”



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Deva Pardue
“I don’t believe that being an artist or a designer by definition makes you an activist. I think the responsibility arises when you have something relevant to say.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Rhea Combs
“I believe art has many functions, and one of them is to interrogate the status quo.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lindsay Peoples
Celebrating Women’s History month and how to better design for inclusivity with The Cut’s fashion market editor, Lindsay Peoples.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Julian Alexander
What made Julian Alexander become a designer, and what was it like working with 50 Cent during the start of his career?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jason Murphy
“Inclusivity. That is the cliché. Where are they doing that?”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Ced Funches
“Admitting you may not be the best person to bring a vision to life is the hard part.”



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dian Holton
"As designers, we are problem-solvers, visionaries, and teachers," says Holton. "It’s important for us to be empathic and proactive in learning about our audience, so that we can provide meaningful experiences. This means getting to know the people who may not be like you."


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Briana Como
“We make an effort to be aware of and remove bias by focusing on behaviors instead of demographics when creating distinct personas.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sarah Doody
“With anything we create, the first step in the design process must be to understand. This happens through research.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Richard Ting
Richard Ting, Global Chief Experience Officer at R/GA, continues our Chain Letters interview series.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jessica Gaddis
This interview is part of a new Design Observer series, Chain Letters, in which we ask leading design minds a few burning questions—and so do their peers, for a year-long conversation about the state of the industry.



Observed | March 19

In response to last week’s Christcurch mosque shootings, Meena Kadri teamed up with her former Māori language teacher Te Ataahia Castorina to compile a set of Māori words + English translations celebrating unity. If you learn and share 10 Māori words this week, make it these. [BV]


Observed | March 18

Journey back to a time when serifs were Antique, sans serifs were Grotesque, and extra bold faces were Fat. [BV]

“A six-year-old could have drawn that logo!” Well, in this case, he did. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | March 15

Street art used to be the voice of the people. Now it’s the voice of advertisers. [BV]

Scientists have not kept pace with the work of discovering new species. Now, a growing number of committed hobbyists – ranging from a Belgian bus driver to a California cybersecurity expert – are out in the field, igniting a boom in documenting the world’s biodiversity. [BV]


Observed | March 14

In a week where the transportation department is facing some of its most pointed criticism, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao wants to speed the commercial adoption of untested technologies like driverless vehicles and hyperloops—without addressing the dramatic, necessary changes needed today. [BV]

In 1927, the Italian Futurist artist and designer Fortunato Depero created a monograph of his work unlike any book that had been seen before. Called Depero Futurista, or “Depero the Futurist,” it is also known as The Bolted Book, because it is famously bound together by two large industrial aluminum bolts. And you can have an exact replica! [BV]


Observed | March 13

Olympic Games sport pictograms were first introduced at the Tokyo 1964 Games, and have been a part of the games ever since. The Tokyo 2020 pictograms were designed by Masaaki Hiromura who “tried to express the dynamic beauty of the athletes through these pictograms, while respecting the legacy bequeathed by the pioneers of the Japanese design industry in their designs for the Tokyo 1964 Games.” [BV]


Observed | March 12

Our collective wisdom is perhaps one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments ... this is because people—no matter where they are, no matter from where they come—possess intrinsic curiosity, creative souls and inquiring minds. [JH]


Observed | March 11

Art powered by disability: ‘I fear being trapped in the statue of my own body, whilst my mind gazes out.’ [BV]

A grand collection of the tiniest of books — 950 of them — is now on display at the Grolier Club in New York City. [BV]


Observed | March 08

Neighborhood Golf Association, a new film from Nicolas Heller, highlights “Tiger Hood”, a NYC photographer who created a street version of golf to help pass the time while he sold his work. [BV]


Observed | March 07

Reckoning with design’s role in the production of more and more objects and more and more waste. [BV]

Net neutrality gets a power-up! [BV]


Observed | March 06

The Architecture & Design Film Festival returns to DTLA next Wednesday at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. 24 outstanding films are on the schedule. [BV]

‘A Sense of Place’ is a graphic art project that reveals how places can develop deeply felt strong identities and culture and includes an interview with the lovely Debbie Millman. [BV]


Observed | March 05

Out today from Penguin Random House: Follow This Thread. A twisting journey through the world of mazes, real and imagined, unraveling our ancient, abiding relationship with them and exploring why they continue to fascinate us. [BV]

A wildly popular mobile game allows users to decorate virtual spaces with real-life (and easily purchasable) furniture. It’s the future of advertising—but what does ‘Design Home’ say about the future of the people who play it? [BV]


Observed | March 04

The scion of a storied Amsterdam family rediscovered Rembrandt paintings that lead to an art-world feud. [BV]

Artist Katie Holten has created a New York City Tree Alphabet. (A is for Ash, B for Birch...) She’s encouraging people to download the free font and create tree messages that will be planted with live trees this spring. [BV]


Observed | February 28

A flip through Playboy France reveals experimental layouts, an innovative use of typefaces, and, a design direction that can absolutely be described as “tasteful.” It’s more about typography than titties. [BV]


Observed | February 27

Underwater photographer of the year awards announced. The winners don’t disappoint! [BV]


Observed | February 26

Saint Louis designers celebrate America’s 60th National Park through typographic focused posters. Type Hike, started by designers James Walker and David Rygiol, continue their type-focused collaborative nonprofit with their 5th installment, ARCH. Vote for your favorite poster here through March 24. (via John Foster) [BV]


Observed | February 25

An argument against modern architecture. [BV]

When the %$#@! did we start to use obscenicons? Belive it or not, as early as 1901. [BV]


Observed | February 21

Science answers the age old question: Why does a grape turns into a fireball in a microwave? [BV]


Observed | February 20

The Sunset Strip occupies a short stretch of Sunset Boulevard, but its reputation as a stomping ground of gangsters, glamour girls, rock stars and hell-raisers has held an oversized fascination for decades. Curbed LA dives deep. Part One. Part Two. [BV]

Should historic logos be protected in the same way as historic buildings? (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | February 19

My new favourite part of Twitter is Josh Lipnik’s tours of the modern architecture of the US midwest. Here he looks at the modern architecture of Columbus, Ohio—houses, schools, churches, banks, and even a cool Space Age horse racing track. [MB]

The authoritative, totally not subjective, incontrovertibly definitive and 100% correct L.A. Times Fast Food French Fry Rankings. [BV]



Jobs | March 19