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


“While designers are eager for praise and acclaim and create an aura of ostensibly cultured and intellectual pursuit, often involving awards and accolades, design itself takes no responsibility for what happens when things go wrong.” An excerpt from Manuel Lima's latest book.  

“As a person who spent the first part of my career as a graphic designer and art director, I immediately saw the visual power and nearly infinite graphic possibilities of this image.” In today's New York Times, Charles Blow discusses the irrefutable power of an iconic photograph.

Scientists are designing a space suit that converts urine into drinking water. More here.

Graphology geeks, rejoice! A new book featuring a selection of treasures from the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford is out from our friends at University of Chicago Press.

Sad but true: according to Q1 data collected by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, undergraduates choosing to major in Art History, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, and Graphic Design are associated with the highest rates of unemployment across the nation.

The Underground Railroad Stamps, for the United States Postal Service—released in May— feature 10 portraits of some of the men and women who escaped slavery and/or helped others escape: Catharine Coffin, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Garrett, Laura Haviland, Lewis Hayden, Harriet Jacobs, William Lambert, Jermain Loguen, William Still and Harriet Tubman. Designed by Antonio Alcalá, of Studio A,  the stamp, observes Steven Heller, “has done an important job of teaching American history to the public through these miniature ‘posters’ ”.

Randy Hunt is the new chair of the MFA “Designer as Entrepreneur” program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, succeeding founding co-chairs Steven Heller and Lita Talarico.

At Tulane, architecture students build homes for the homeless.

Cesar Rivera—who leads design for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta—has been named the next board chair of AIGA.

Founded in 1944 by Winston Churchill’s government to help accelerate post-war economic growth, The UK Design Council is on a mission to put the planet at the heart of the sector’s work.

Figma's new AI tool hits a roadblock.

Unlike most of the world, Iceland's design scene skews overwhelmingly female. Nat Barker explores what makes the tiny Nordic nation so different.

"If MoMA is going to get serious about this world, it needs to start by dumping the whole concept of “Latin America” and start getting specific." Carolina A. Miranda skillfully reviews Crafting Modernity, an exhibition about design (yes, in Latin America) that runs through the summer at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Logo lunacy for the New York Jets!

Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan—a philosopher, neuroscientist, geostrategist, and futurologist who currently leads the Geopolitics and Global Futures Department at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Switzerland—holds strong opinions about architecture, which he characterizes as “an intrinsically philosophical enterprise grounded in aesthetics and ethics, including theories of human nature”. And he has something to say about its future, particularly in the age of artificial intelligence.

Co. Design is now Fast Company Design.

From our friends at the MITPress Reader (an occasional newsletter that we can't recommend highly enough), the architect Moshe Safdie offers a beautiful remembrance of steps—and insights on their complexity—that led him to a life in design. (Also in this edition: graphic design enthusiasts will love this story on the design of the original edition of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown's Learning from Las Vegas.)

At The Design Museum in London, a more "rainbow-hued version of the Barbie universe". 

Right-leaning public interest groups have filed a barrage of federal lawsuits intended to dismantle long-standing corporate and government programs that consider race in job placement. With an alleged goal of “complete race neutrality” (a view of radical equality that, for example, lawyers for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty think is “in line with the Declaration of Independence”) litigants are chippping away at the use of affirmative action across America.  

As we wind down Pride Month 2024, a look at how queer theory apples to urban design: as theory and practice grows more empathetic towards the needs of its diverse stakeholders, queer urban design brings a broad and holistic shift to understanding identity and community in publicly inhabited spaces, challenging traditional (and often rigid) methods of city planning by applying more inclusive criteria to reflect fluidity and interconnectedness. 

Longevity, by Design: Apple has published a 24-page document outlining its key principles for designing hardware that endures.

Manchester City released a brand-new club font to use on the player’s shirts. But instead of tapping the skills of renowned typeface firms who routinely work with sports teams and brands, the Premier League champions asked former Oasis rocker Noel Gallagher to submit a brief. So he did! And the crowd went wild.

Designer Vivienne Westwood’s personal wardrobe goes to auction.

The UK's Design Council has announced a plan to upskill one million designers for the green transition by 2030. Their report, A Blueprint for Renewal: Design and Technology Education, was published with a group of 20 design and education organizations. 

The Peabody-award nominated audio documentarians at Scene on Radio have just dropped CAPITALISM. A full season, a dozen or so episodes, exploring the world's dominant economic system -- how people shaped it over time and what to do about it now that more and more people see capitalism as the problem, not the solution. Produced by host/producer John Biewen with co-host Design Observer’s Ellen McGirt and story editor Loretta Williams, among other amazing collaborators.  The trailer is here; find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Speaking of AI, Kevin Bethune would like a word with Adobe. 

#Config2024: Figma announced a significant redesign, including new features and AI tools designed to help simplify the user experience. And, in case you were wondering, “All of the generative features we’re launching today are powered by third-party, out-of-the-box AI models and were not trained on private Figma files or customer data,” writes Kris Rasmussen, Figma’s CTO

Designed by PearsonLloyd for Teknion (a family-owned business with an environmental conscience and an international reach) Aarea is a chair that unites the concept of circularity and the simple reality of human needs: intuitive and ergonomic in use, it is made with a minimum of components and materials.

Old news: Apple rejected — “spurned,” actually —a proposal to integrate Meta’s AI chatbot with iOS “months ago,” says Bloomberg. Get a room already, gah.

It only touches the ground in six places: how to build a house that sits lightly on the land.



Jobs | July 16