31 March 2011

An Ode To Common Things

I have a crazy,
crazy love of things.
I like pliers,
and scissors.
I love
and bowls -
not to speak, of course,
of hats.
I love
all things,
not just
the grandest,
small -
and flower vases.
Oh yes,
the planet
is sublime!
It’s full of pipes
through tobacco smoke,
and keys
and salt shakers -
I mean,
that is made
by the hand of man, every little thing:
shapely shoes,
and fabric,
and each new
bloodless birth
of gold,
carpenter’s nails,
clocks, compasses,
coins, and the so-soft
softness of chairs.
Mankind has
oh so many
Built them of wool
and of wood,
of glass and
of rope:
ships, and stairways.
I love
not because they are
or sweet-smelling
but because,
I don’t know,
this ocean is yours,
and mine;
these buttons
and wheels
and little
fans upon
whose feathers
love has scattered
its blossoms
glasses, knives and
scissors -
all bear
the trace
of someone’s fingers
on their handle or surface,
the trace of a distant hand
in the depths of forgetfulness.
I pause in houses,
streets and
touching things,
identifying objects
that I secretly covet;
this one because it rings,
that one because
it’s as soft
as the softness of a woman’s hip,
that one there for its deep-sea color,
and that one for its velvet feel.
O irrevocable
of things:
no one can say
that I loved
or the plants of the jungle and the field,
that I loved
those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.
It’s not true:
many things conspired
to tell me the whole story.
Not only did they touch me,
or my hand touched them:
they were
so close
that they were a part
of my being,
they were so alive with me
that they lived half my life
and will die half my death.

Pablo Neruda

13 March 2011

An Interactive Sketchbook

Sketchbook Project Austin
As I created my sketchbook for the Art House Coop's Sketchbook Project, I wanted to include an aspect of interactivity in it.

I'm pleased to report that someone has contributed an idea to my search for a typographic tattoo! I now have the addition of Lubalin's ampersand (centre image). And ironically, it happened during the South by Southwest Interactive festival.

If you live in any of the cities included on the tour, please take some time to check my book out (and contribute)!

Photos courtesy of Zach Bulick

10 March 2011

Design Thinking de Bono style

The main difficulty of thinking is confusion. We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity all crowd in on us.

Western thinking is concerned with "what is," which is determined by analysis, judgment and argument...but there is a whole other aspect of thinking that is concerned with "what can be," which involves constructive thinking, creative thinking and "designing a way forward."

-Edward de Bono


I am currently reading de Bono's Six Thinking Hats and today used it as a method for students to work through the various layers of problems they wanted to solve in their communities.

The great thing about this process? Because you aren't thinking in multiple directions you are less likely to get lost in the complexity of an issue. By focusing on a common way for everyone to think about a topic or concern, you can avoid frustration and enable a group of people to come to the table on equal footing.

As we worked through an issue, I asked them to all think about it by focusing on one way of thinking at a time. Here are the colors/hats and the corresponding ways of thinking:

White Hat: neutral, objective, facts, figures
Red Hat: emotional view
Black Hat: cautious, careful, points out the weakness of the idea
Yellow Hat: positive, optimistic, hopeful
Green Hat: creativity, new ideas
Blue Hat: control, organization of thinking process

It was fun to watch the groups attempt to keep focused on one particular type of thinking and not default to what may have been more familiar or comfortable. Through this experience, I was reminded how these other systems/tools of thinking can be useful in breaking down barriers with multidisciplinary teams, which is common when working in research or social impact design spaces.

03 March 2011

Dialogue Through Design
I'm going to be talking about my work in Rwanda with the chair of the IDSA Design For The Majority section. Feel free to listen in!

02 March 2011

Brainstorm 101

Designing Social Change kicked off last night and because of the diversity of backgrounds and experiences, I like to start the course with an exercise where we engage divergent thinking when approaching a problem we want to solve (instead of defaulting to our typical convergent posture). In this case, we sought to re-imagine common objects. Before we look to tackle something more intensive, we want to be sure we have the ability to frame something that is a little less complex. For this class, it was a Ziploc bag, a fork, chopsticks and a bulldog clip.

To facilitate this process, I draw on the resources of IDEO (and the d.school) to help students brainstorm in a new way:

#1 Defer judgment: there are no bad ideas at this point because there's plenty of time to judge after

#2 Encourage wild ideas: it's the wild ideas that often provide the breakthroughs and we can always bring ideas down to earth later, we need new paths for non obvious ideas

#3 Build on the ideas of others: think 'and' rather than 'but'

#4 Stay focused on topic: you get better output if everyone is disciplined

#5 One conversation at a time: that way all ideas can be heard and built upon

#6 Be visual: sometimes a picture really can speak a thousand words

#7 Go for quantity, not quality: set an outrageous goal and surpass it!

We also had a virtual guest! Tim Brown's TED Talk is a lovely way to introduce the ideas of design thinking to a multi-disciplinary team.