01 January 2010

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Søren Kierkegaard had it right. And his quote is perfect for the start of a new year. Whether it be the past month or the past ten years, January 1st offers us a chance to consider all that we have been or could be. Like starting a journal with a crisp new notebook, we seem to get a stab at starting over.

But before we go there, a sort of purging needs to occur so as to avoid dragging unnecessary characters or plot lines into the next chapter. We find ourselves noting accomplishments and failures, asking questions about the future and likely proposing ideas about how we vow to change our wayward ways. A few blogs have offered up their accounts (I'm sure there are more):
Decade in Design
Cracking Open A Time Capsule from 1999
The Decade's 14 Biggest Design Moments

In the spirit of this, I wanted to recount some significant moments from the past year. I suppose I do this because I have been working through my own vision of what my discipline and career choice will entail. I've found myself wrestling (in the best possible way) with what I understand about design and what role I see myself playing in its vastness. I obviously can't speak for everyone else but as I mark the last 12 months I realize that I find myself in the middle of something that is both exciting and complex.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I respond, "I'm a designer," which used to mean I was a graphic designer. Translation? You make logos and websites. After this year, I now see design as a discipline that has moved beyond concept and production outcomes alone (which was how I was essentially taught). Happily, I find myself working alongside industrial designers, occupational therapists, health care professionals, educators and many others who want to make a difference by using our skill sets to shift the way things have traditionally be done. I find myself relieved to be connected to others who are seemingly content with what feels like a broader definition of design.

Below is a list of my chapter headers for this recap (or so I think so today). I'm going to spend the next week or so writing more on each topic so as to handle them in manageable chunks. I come to these ideas after spending my holiday break watching Long Way Round and Long Way Down (A BBC series where Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman travel the world on motorcycles). If you read my blog or know me personally, you are aware of my ongoing interest in how design can be used to impact communities with limited access to the resources we are privileged to have. I'm also keen to access their ideas so as to improve my own practice and process. The journey taken by Boorman and McGregor offers a window into the inherent complexities that surface in our attempts to make this world a little more livable. As I watched them journey, I began to reflect on these ideas:

1. Innovation is a tricky business.
2. Just because it's old, doesn't mean it's broken.
3. Just because we speak the same language, doesn't mean we understand each other.
4. Don't underestimate the ingenuity of others.
5. Poverty can't be solved by a campaign. Or a website.
6. Solving anything complex requires perseverance in everything.
7. Designers should be schooled in economics and politics. This affects everything.
8. When it gets hard, you might just need to wait.
9. Sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone.
10. Honesty is such a lonely word.
11. The mobile phone is the new computer.
12. To whom much is given, much will be required.

So as I live the beginnings of this new year, I will attempt to understand it better by looking back. Stay tuned for more!

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