An outlook on the designer's future

There is a connective path of thinking within design. Whether designing a digital app, a responsive website, a print campaign, a modern home set in the desert, constructing a painting, or leading a team meeting - all of these things are designed. In fact, most every thing we do in life is designed to some extent - from the way we dress, to how we communicate with one another, to the photos we post to our social media accounts. Design is everywhere. As a designer, I believe that designers develop a different sense of how to approach many various things in life based on the continued success and failure of being a practitioner.

Over time, a designer becomes aware of this sense in their work and it then becomes second nature to their existence. This process then bleeds into all areas of a designer’s life and the process of strategic design thinking is heightened from how one drive’s their car, to how we scan and order food from a restaurant menu. Time and thinking about things with a designer's outlook develops over time, adjusts/shifts and heightens itself to become an elevated form of strategic thinking, decision making and process evaluation in all aspects of life.

This is the result of years being a practitioner in a field(s) of work that forces the mind to think heavily about, not just the outcome of the work, but the process in which we arrive at that outcome.

But, designers are more than just practitioners. Designers are cultural thought leaders. Design moves us forward. As we continue to create more tools and accessibility for others to create, the discipline of design becomes a sacred place to advocate for the craft, the fundamentals, and the true mastery of creating things in a way that embrace virtuous aesthetics.

Designers are caught in an uncomfortable place. But like all things, discomfort causes growth.

There is an oscillation of holding on to the craft of our predecessors, and finding new meaning of design within our advancing society.

Design must focus on the holistic view of culture and society outside of the individual craft. The autonomous thinking of a multidisciplinary human where all creativity begins to connect. An approach to advancing our mindfulness as creative leaders. To break through from being viewed as a practitioner, and truly leading the minds of where society is to go from here.


Painting with syringes, an exploration of metamodernism

 

Plato did not believe art to be a form of creation, but as imitation.
"Certainly not, he merely imitates".

Creativity is regarded as discovery. In which the artist is discovering things for the first time that already exist. However, my work has yet to be discovered since it has not existed before in history without the accompaniment of medical advancements. Therefore, the execution with the tools painted through unexplored emotions and techniques, as the creator, has not been discovered until now. Which means this isn't discovery of something that has existed previously, but the essence is being created for the first time. This metamodernist approach to defining the creativity in the work creates a tension between the sincerity of creating and irony of discovery defined throughout history.

My art work is the oscillation of attempting to create out of the tools, techniques and mediums, which cannot be replicated by another known figure in history. Since all people with my disease have died very young, it was not until the 1980's where my disease could be managed and live a somewhat healthy life. Therefore, I am creating new art work in history while imitating the erratic and chaotic artists via abstract expressionism.

The interesting part about this approach is that technically, without the medicine to keep me alive this long, I am using the same equipment that keeps me alive as the tools in which I create the work. The paint and colors are reflections of emotions and sincerity of life to color the canvas. There is tensions and beauty in this approach. Needles and syringes used to create bold and abstract pieces that otherwise should have never existed given my own existence technically shouldn't be in of itself.

My work is metamodern. Defined through the oscillation of the technique and the approach of the creative definition in history.

Art imitates life. Life imitates art.


Before birth I was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening hereditary immune deficiency called Agammaglobulinemia, or XLA. This disease is a genetic defect which makes my body unable to produce white blood cells. I have undergone expensive and extensive treatments my entire life through intravenous and subcutaneous medicine. It’s a constant process to maintain my health, but it gives me a very different outlook on my own existence and the world around me. In short, it’s the thing that drives me to create. A blessing and curse.

I have hidden this from the world for most of my life - for fear of being misunderstood, or rejected. But I have realized that this is the very thing that makes me who I am. Over the past year I have begun using this to drive creativity in a new way. Through paint on canvas.

Read more about my recent experience donating my stem cells.


Hunting today is metamodern

In today’s society, we don’t need to rely on hunting for daily survival.

For 75,000 years, humans have hunted and eaten meat to survive. Long enough to survive to advance civilization through the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, the renaissance, modernism, post-modernism, to where we are today. We now exist in a time where eating meat is a manufactured service, animal agriculture is at an all time high, millions of people have the luxury and freedom to choose to be vegan by way of the conveniency of food accessibility in our society. This convenience, whatever diet you are on, is something incredibly foreign to the entire history of human civilization.

Morality aside, eating meat has been a vital part of the human experience and the survival of our species on this planet. Only recently, have we been advanced enough, accessible to alternative diets and given enough time to ponder the morality of meat eating. In my opinion, it’s a slap in th face to the rest of human civilization that came before us, who advanced our existence through survival long enough for us to have the luxury to debate the morality of eating meat.

Hunting is something not many people partake of in todays society. But, hunting is proven to effect the conservation of many animals.

Hunting, the act of sincerity for our food. The irony and tension of carving an animal up in the wild to forgo the desire to purchase a Big Mac at the nearest McDonalds drive-thru. The very act of engaging in primitive, archaic functions to rectify our very existence is, in itself, a form a metamodernism.

Hunting is least about the act of pulling a trigger and taking the life of animal. It's about the renewing of ones spirit by being closely connected to the wilderness and participating in primitive rituals that we need not engage with in current society, but we choose to because of the fullfillment it brings. The notion that we can still be resourceful for ourselves in a culture that has everything on-demand. The idea that we can choose to exist outside of the animal agriculture industry to feed ourselves by way of the land.

Now, you might be saying, “Why not just go vegan/vegetarian?” I have. But for me, the fulfillment of my existence is about being connected to this earth in every way possible. For so long, hunting has been given this terrible, redneck, low-brow reputation; but I think this is wrong. I believe there is a much deeper respect and knowledge of our own mortality and existence when you take part in something that every animal on the planet engages in. There is something connected about it all and if you hunt, you know exactly what I am talking about - if you don’t hunt, then it’s hard to imagine the flood of emotions about life and death and love and respect when you take down an animal in the middle of the wilderness knowing this animal will sustain you for a long time.

Hunting is an art form. It takes skill, patience, perseverance on many levels to be able to successfully hunt your own food.

Hunting is art. Hunting has been around for centuries and even though we don’t need to hunt, the very act of hunting in society today is the exact tension and oscillation between how we should being living and how we used to live. This balance of both emotions, as a hunter, is metamodern.

Modernism and postmodernism do not apply. The dichotomy of the tension and intentional act of harvesting an animal in our refined and advanced society is the very tension that is driving and moving our society forward. Hunting today is not for survival. Hunting is a statement on our existence in the world, a powerful one at that.

*I choose to hunt for my food. I choose to eat a mostly vegan/vegetarian diet unless I have hunted my own food. I welcome any emails or conversation about this topic in an open and honest dialogue. I realize this is a heavy subject for many and I hope my post here has shed some light on why I live the way I do. 


The Design Practitioner vs. The Design Thinker

As design tools through digital and print mediums become more accessible across the globe, we enter an era of design that allows many to explore what it means to be a design practitioner; that is to say, the techniques and time put into exploring the actual doing of design is greatly accessible. However, with all experienced designers, there is a strategy and thought process that develops over time. Years of exploration, failure, success and repeating this process around the actual doing of design manifests itself in the form of strategy, process and iterations on an individual and/or group level of involvement. Over time, designers begin to develop a heightened sense of design, recognize the positive parts of design and transform from being a practitioner of the craft to becoming recognized as a thought leader within the industry and organization.

In this new era of digital accessibility to many various design tools, designers who have been honing their craft for years (and even decades) should recognize their role in this fast moving atmosphere. Instead of becoming bitter about the onslaught of fly by night design shops and many unqualified people taking on design roles for their own projects and organizations; I believe it's important that we begin to recognize the clear dileniation between a practitioner of design and a thought leader of design.

A practitioner is a worker.
The practitioner uses the tools nesseccary to work in the design medium required. In digital, these tools range from graphic design, prototyping, photo editing, front end development, video and motion design, among many other tools. The modern designer is multidisciplinary - not by choice, but by nesseccity of the industry, job market, and requirements of projects set forth by leadership who have recently begun to understand the value (economically) of good design.

A practitioner today has many responsibilities and is often regarded as a "unicorn" type to the organization, but, the reality is that these multidisciplinary designers are applying the foundational elements of design thinking across a wide range of tasks and mediums. These practitioners are examples of the true value of design thinking throughout multiple mediums, across organizations, and even in daily living. Design thinking is powerful and we are finally at the intersection of society where the value of this thinking will be an intrinsically important role within the advancement of commerce, culture and aesthetics both digital and physical.

Let us not confuse the value of design thinking with execution. They are different but possibly mutually beneficial. There are many design practitioners who are incredibly talented at their work but they lack the intuition or practical application of design thinking into their work. That is at no fault to them, but the oscillating balance between being a practitioner and a thinker is unbalanced. This is a dangerous space to operate. In my opinion, design will be moving towards the value of the ability to think as our tools for serving as a practitioner become more accessible and automated. Just as working in photoshop 15 years ago to edit pixel by pixel for retouching an image has become some from hours / days worth of work to a matter of seconds, being a practitioner in the execution is going to be more automated . Designers need to understand the balance and difference of a practitioner and thinker.

This balance and difference is the future of design and the design industry. Design must fully embrace the foundations of design in every aspect.

Without these foundations embraced and advocated at the highest level of designer, expectations of an end product is unrealistic is there is a lack of the foundations that have brought design to where it exists today. The execution within itself must rely on the balance between aesthetic, function, form, development, testing, feedback, experience, quantitative and qualitative data and aligning with the overall brand style and narrative. The metamodern designer takes all of this into account when working on a design. We cannot afford to have an unbalanced approach to our work with the role as designer in modern society.

As we move forward, we must not look at the design industry as having an identity crisis, but we must continue to advocate for the value of design, the importance of design fundamentals, communicating these values and providing true return on investment through every project. There is a great oscillation between being a practitioner within society and forging new paths with thinking and ideas and the future of design in society.


Metamodern empathy and design

The emotional intelligence of our existence can be understood, altered and designed to suit a better existence. The designer's thinking of this approach leads to us developing a better life and existence for all humanity.

Empathy is lacking within our society. The sincerity and concern for our fellow man exists in the notion of impractical approaches and a distance of trying to connecting human to human. The greatest design and work comes from an outward reflection of inner empathy towards an individual, group or people or humanity in general. Empathy is the driving force behind our thought patterns and how we interact with the world.

Understanding your capacity for empathy and having self awareness about this is a vital part for growth as a designer. Without empathy, we cannot truly understand each other. We cannot design for problems across the human existence. Empathy, most notably, has been considered a weakness throughout history, but as we propel forward into the oscillating space of our existence between sincerity and irony, empathy will be the driving force to uncover and discover the truest forms of what matters - and as designers - it is our curiosity that will move us forward to find solutions for these challenges.

Empathy is a powerful untapped tool. Empathy is the opposing driving force from our early design ancestors and greatest design icons. In the modern and post-modern era, designers (even the greatest) are wildly known to have been driven by their own egos. Seen by society as the alternative or contemporary artist in their own right, designers created for the commentary of society in either commenting on the large and inspiring ideas, or deconstructing these ideals and creating ironic work that created controversy, commentary on the state of culture, commerce and society.

But today, this ego-driven approach to design is broken. The designers who still hold on to this ego will be left behind. The designers who outright choose to design for their own self gratification will be seen as a problem to society. Within metamodernism, there is an oscillation between the modern and post-modern : this struggle exists within the designer and the message and/or the process and execution : but the driving force behind all of this should be empathy. The sincerity to prompt society to look in the ironic mirror, only to have the others question themselves, not to be told by someone else (a designer) what they should question. This oscillating dance is a balancing act that can only exist through empathy.

The design and art community is infiltrated with ego. The ego is a poison to productivity, great ideas and collaboration. Ego can be quickly recognized by those who always seek to get credit, or those who subtly hint at their taste being better than the rest of society. These egos need to be destroyed. This is not post-modernism.

Discovering empathy within design isn't directly related to the work, but a slow process within yourself as a designer and the awareness of how to interact with the world. The importance of empathy in the work is not just how it directly influences, but also how it is indirectly influenced. Sociological settings, human interactions, relationships with others, listening, awareness, vulnerability to explore/think/create with others are all areas in our lives that grow our empathy toward others, but also influence the work in positive ways.


The metamodernism of design

Design, as it grows into multidisplinary across print, identity and digital mediums becomes more and more closer to art and the designer referred more as an artist due to the lack of clarification on the designers role as practitioner, workman, and thinker in society - both socially and economically. Therefore, this lack of clarity causes the modern designer of today to represent the leading movement of metamodernism as their work and process is engulfed in the definition of metamodernism as a whole.

Unseen at the surface of society - a designer, in whatever discipline, (but especially in digital) engages in creating solid/concrete design based on fundamentals established over decades and centuries of the practice - only to knowingly accept that the design will change, shift and morph itself whether by the bastardization of development or from the results of an AB test and the learning from data - or an update to the design after years of additional work by the same designer or a team of other designers. A concrete approach with known fundamentals to a fluid process and end result created an oscillation within itself from designing work with passion, sincerity, and empathy to understanding the unlying fact of irony that this work will inevidebly change no matter what.

To me, this experience, strategy, process and set of emotions defines metamodernism as it exists today. The oscillation between two poles (modernism and post-modernism) and having enough self-awareness to understand and accept the diffferences regardless of personal preference.

There is a constant struggle between the designer and society where the view of the designer is seen as a workman, a hammer swinger, the last stop on the creative subway. Whereas, designers see themselves as providing deeper meaning, powerful thinking and strategy behind every choice of a design. The emotive dance between the perception of the designer and the reality of the work has created an struggling paradigm between the designer as a worker and the designer as a thinker.

The value of design has always been exemplified through history as the immediate visual communication to the modern culture. Designers have been at the forefront of culture, thinking, and progression. As this progression has led society to be inundated with technology, tools and social platforms for every person on earth with access to the internet to be part of this cultural immediacy, it begins to drown out the value of the designer. But, I believe, for the designer to survive, we acknowledge not only the oscillation of our work between being the workman vs being a thinker, but also the oscillation of the perceived value within our society.


The pendulum aesthetic

Design movements seem to swing like a pendulum. Back and forth. Minimalism, modern, sleek design is poised throughout our cultures and societies from the hands of designers across the globe. This ripple effect takes place every few years and we see a shift, well, more like a tidal wave of a certain aesthetic across various types of mediums, marketing campaign, product designs, etc. In a certain era of time, a designer could walk down the street and more than likely decipher the type of product, message, or campaign something was designed for purely based on the architecture of the aesthetic. The color, font style, texture, photography treatment and energy of a design can quickly render itself to being grouped into a thought-shared aesthetic within various industries at certain points in time.

This pendulum seems to swing back and forth faster and faster from the Swiss influenced modern approach of the Bauhaus era of design, to the reckless and abandon-all-rules of the ever chaotic approach of the 90’s. Somewhere between the two, we find the aesthetic of various designers who have garnered their own sense of style by focusing strictly on either side of the pendulum, or creatively balancing the two within their personal work.

The 90’s saw a group of designers who threw out all conventional design thinking influenced by the Swiss or Bauhaus modern movement and set out to disrupt every piece of visual they could get their hands on. Magazines, posters and prints during this time looked chaotic and completely destroyed. The visual language was oscillating and finding some sort of balance from all of the clean and minimalist designs that saturated the markets. Helvetica was an outcast during this time. Primary colors were disregarded. It was a playground of grunge and texture is and disturbance. It was reminiscent of the culture - it resonated with the music of the time (grunge and alternative came into the mainstream). And this pattern continued until the late nineties when Steve Jobs launched the visuals for Apple and the introduction to the iPod. The clean and minimal approach was back, with a notion of evangelical tones and zen approach to the visual brand. The pendulum was swinging back and soon every digital and tech company was copying the aesthetic because it was dominating the market. And on and on, this happens constantly throughout culture.

Furthermore, commerce, business and revenue sales tend to drive the swinging aesthetic pendulum back and forth. Designers either follow an aesthetic that is working at the time to provide value to increase sales and revenue; or they have bought enough time to explore, experiment and begin swinging a the aesthetic pendulum back the other way; if the sales follow, then so does the industry aesthetic.

Instead of bouncing back and forth, ever so often between these two dichotomies of design; clean vs. chaos. I believe visually, the true effectiveness of design lies somewhere in the moment where we can oscillate both at the same time. Presenting a clean product or brand in a very rough and distorted way. Or… a very dismal and chaotic product or work designed in a clean, minimal and modern way. To me, what I am trying to describe here, is that designer’s need to pay attention to the messaging and tone of the thing itself and use the visual approach to create the tension within the product, campaign or message. This approach creates an oscillation of a metamodernist approach to the work, and in turn, is more effective than the constant swinging of the aesthetic pendulum. It’s a difficult approach to take on and execute, but if done correctly, I believe has the biggest impact to resonate with our audience.


Wabi Sabi approach to design

Nothing is perfect on the web. We are always changing, growing, and evolving. From the responsive design approach, the various available devices, the growing demographics of our audience, and the constant progression of technology; it’s time we have a Wabi-Sabi perspective of the web.

Wabi-sabi (???) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi

During the 1990s the concept was borrowed by computer software developers and employed in Agile programming and Wiki to describe acceptance of the state of ongoing imperfection that is the product of these methods.

As a designer, I believe it’s important to accept the constant changing elements of the web. By focusing on a solid process that allows for quick prototyping along with making foundational design decisions that have proven the test of time (such as: typefaces, grids, golden ratios); the ever-evolving imperfect web we are designing for will hold a timeless solidarity that will be more open and flexible to change.

The web is in a constant flux of change and impermanence. Design must be able to evolve and change with the web quickly and progressively. The closer we move towards a responsive and adaptive web, the more we must embrace a wabi-sabi philosophy with design.