I’ll Always Be Thankful

This is so beautiful. Enjoy. Hug your people.

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Inventor Spotlight: Takuma Yamazaki

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a pencil that amplifies the sound of writing

If you use Twitter, then you’ll see that I have the following statement pinned to the top of my feed:

“Technology is an effective amplifier. We need to decide, and then design, what it is we want to amplify.”

So I was delighted when I came across this project, The Sound of Drawing, from young Japanese designer Takuma Yamazaki in which he literally amplifies the action of making marks with a pencil. With this project, he draws attention to an age-old method for writing notes or poetry or drawing lines and images. If you are the type who gets pleasure from moving a piece of graphite across a sheet of toothy paper, then you will appreciate what this project does to heighten that sensation.

Here’s Yamazaki’s statement about the piece: By amplifying the faint noises created by the friction between pencil and paper, this project represents a new way of communicating with stationery. I reflected on the meaning of drawing, and discovered that stationery can be not only writing instruments, with the purpose of leaving visual information, but also musical instruments. By redefining stationery as creative tools for drawing sounds, this pencil offers a fresh creative experience for both people who are sighted and those who are not.

 

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Check out Yamazaki’s portfolio here

Originally posted on Spoon & Tamago

Artist Spotlight: Irene Posch & Ebru Kurbak

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Irene Posch and Edru Kurbak are artists and designers who that integrate handmade textile making with computing. They refer to their work “Macro Electronics” in that their technology isn’t hidden in a black box, but rather, visible and with stories to tell. Their hope is to inspire their viewers to explore computing themselves and ultimately to diversify who makes technology.

 

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Posch and Kurbak in DesignBoom

Interview with Irene Posch

The Credentials We Don’t Have

I read a piece in Forbes the other day that listed 10 reasons why smart people doubt themselves. A point that caught my attention was point number 5: They tend to focus on the experiences and credentials they don’t have, rather than on the ones they do.

This reminded me of my professor for an MBA class I took ten years ago. She gave this advice to all women in the class: get your credentials. Note that she was the only female professor teaching in the program and she spoke from experience. She had not one, but two PhDs because having one wasn’t enough.

I’ve heard other credentialed women give the same advice: get your credentials. ‘You want to be able to get up in front of a group of men and be sure that they know that you can do the hard thing. Then they will take you seriously.’

Being smart never feels like it’s enough. You can write smart papers and present them at prestigious conferences, be invited to speak on panels to share your insights on your research and experience. But if you don’t have the right credentials on paper, it can be a major distraction and yet another reason to confirm the story that you aren’t good enough.

But what if you change the story? What if you catch yourself when you fall into the trap of focusing on what you haven’t done. What if you redirect your attention to the things you have done and ask yourself how you might build on those things? What if you say NO to the old and familiar traps and create something new?

 

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Ten Reasons Smart People Doubt Themselves (Forbes)

Negativity Bias (Psychology Today)

This little drawing from Liana Fink

A decade of food pictures

toms and peaches

As a designer interested in sustainability, I’ve learned a lot of lessons from food system innovators. And as a daughter of a mother who owned and operated a catering business called Gorgeous Food, well, I think food is gorgeous.

So I have a lot of food photos. I used to share them on facebook but since I am cutting back on social media these days, I’ve gathered a bunch of those photos into this google album. Enjoy!

If you’d like to use some of my pictures for something of your own, you may do so as long as you attribute the image(s) to me with a link to this blog.

 

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Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food on PBS

some of my favorite regional food makers:

Sweet Land Farm (our CSA)

Good Food Collective (innovative distributor in ROC)

Greenstar Coop

New Hope Mills (the pancakes!)

Wiemer Vineyard

Lively Run Goat Dairy

 

 

From Self-Esteem to Self-Compassion

In the field of psychology, there has been a shift in nurturing self-esteem in children to nurturing self-compassion. You can see evidence of this shift in the popularity of books by Brene Brown and Carol Dweck and the rising interest in mindfulness practice, especially in schools.

What’s wrong with teaching self-esteem? It has been proven to breed narcissism and unkind behavior toward others. It motivates people to put others down in order to prop themselves up. And high self-esteem can have a negative effect on how we react in difficult situations. This is not the outcome we really want or need these days.

Enter Self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff articulates three elements of self-compassion:

  1. Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment. This means being kind to ourselves when we struggle or fail rather than judging ourselves too harshly which can result in a downward spiral of self-criticism. Self-kindness has us respond to failure like so, “This is hard right now. How can I pay attention to how hard it is and move through it?”
  2. Common Humanity vs. Isolation. This means that when we struggle we realize that we aren’t the only person in the universe in this situation. When we struggle, it’s good to remember that we all struggle. This helps us feel less alone and keeps us from falling into a downward spiral of isolation.
  3. Mindfulness vs. Overidentification. This means that when we struggle, we keep it in perspective. It’s the difference in thinking, “I did something stupid” (mindful) rather than “I am stupid” (overidentification). When we are mindful about our struggles, flaws, and failures, we understand that we don’t always behave perfectly but this doesn’t mean that we are “bad.” We’re just human.

When we shift from self-compassion to self-esteem, we create a kinder world together. That said, many systems still reward narcissistic, hyper-individualistic behavior (grades, for example) and I’m not sure how to navigate that in the context of this shift. What do you think? It’s a doozy of a problem, for sure.

 

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NYSED.GOV report on Mindfulness in Education, July 2018

What Self-Compassion is Not

Change Agents and Distractions

January 1st is a day that a lot of people choose to set new goals for themselves or recommit to old goals that they’ve gotten away from. Now, I’m not saying that you should set goals at the start of the new year. But if you do use this time to think about and set goals (I do), then there is a pair of terms that can help you stay on track: change agents and distractions.

CHANGE AGENTS. This is an exercise in answering the question, “Why now?” That is to say, once you know what your goal is, articulate why now is the time to do it. What has changed in your life to make now the right time? An example might be, “My kids are finally [X age] so I can put more energy into starting a business” OR “I spent the last five years learning about Y and now I’m ready to build on that knowledge and pursue Z goal.” You want to identify change agents so that you can say with confidence “Now is the time.” And when you fall off track, as we all do, you can articulate the change agent to remind yourself why you are well positioned to recommit.

DISTRACTIONS. These often come in the form of sunk costs. Sunk costs are things that happened in the past that we can’t do anything about. Yet they haunt us. They sound like: “I should have done this. Why didn’t I do that?” I really struggle with the distraction of sunk costs. But I find that having a name for them and knowing that they have their own agenda–to distract me from my goals–helps me see them more clearly and find the clarity to move on. Distractions will always be there. The trick here is to train yourself to not let them get in the driver’s seat. Keep ’em buckled up in the back.

Good luck with setting and working on goals if this is something that you do. If your goals feel a little scary, then you have set some good ones! Remind yourself of change agents and call distractions by their name to stay on track.

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Check out https://seths.blog/ for some great reads on change management

The Business Value of Design – McKinsey

There’s a lot of fluffy writing out there about the business value of design. It’s frustrating. So I was super happy to hear this report from McKinsey yesterday which maps out the value of design clearly and includes evidence, themes, problem areas, and advice.

THE EVIDENCE

To tee up this investigation, McKinsey looked at the performance of 300 publicly listed companies over a five year period and pulled out two things: 1. Their Financial Performance and 2. The Design Actions that these firms took. (Design Actions can range from putting a designer on the exec board to deciding to track design metrics).

What did they find?

The revenue growth of top design performers was almost double that of their industry peers.

These are good numbers.

They also found that the business value of design reaches across industry sectors. Their study includes analysis of three distinct industries: consumer packaged goods, medical devices, and retail banking.

THE THEMES

The report defines four themes that contribute to the positive correlation between financial performance and design actions:

1. More than a feeling. These companies bring as much research and rigor to design as they do to other business functions

2. More than a department. Design isn’t done in a siloed department. In fact, the researchers found that siloing designers can actually lead to decreased financial performance. Instead, design-driven firms embed designers in cross-functional teams throughout the organization

3. More than a phase. Design-driven firms adopt an attitude that design is never done. They iterate on their design from strategy to launch and beyond by building prototypes, gathering customer feedback, and turning that feedback into better designs and customer experiences

4. More than a product. Design-driven firms understand that customers don’t respond to individual widgets as much as they respond to the entire experience with their company. With so many physical products having software and service components these days, this should be a no-brainer

 

THE GAPS

Nothing sums up the gaps between theory and practice better than this quote from the report:

If you look at these actions, while they may be commonsense, they’re not common practice, because they need senior management to orchestrate.

Why is it so hard to integrate designers? Well, they are different. What makes having them on your teams great also makes having them on your teams challenging. The advice? Look for “T-Shaped” designers that have a depth of knowledge in design and breadth in related areas like business strategy and technology trends.

Another tip for moving to an integrated design practice is to not do it all at once. Instead, pick a project and apply the themes to that project. That’s your prototype. Mock it up, test it, iterate, then scale.

 

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The full podcast and transcript is here

 

Reflecting on 2018

studio

It’s reflection time. I love it. Here are some highlights from 2018:

For the first half of the year, I wrote and published a blog post every day. I always start my day with writing. Mostly I write in my journal. But something about writing for my blog feels different. Blogging helps me figure out what I really think. And it helps me track how my thinking evolves over time. My blog even helps other people – they tell me so!

SPRING. I did a lot of “upskilling” in 2018. In spring, I participated in Seth Godin’s altMBA. It’s a 5-week cohort-based course with lots of great reading, discussion, and exercises on leadership. My favorite reading from that course was The Coaching Habit. In addition to the course content, I loved the actual design of the course and the business model. Very clever.

SUMMER. At the end of summer, I visited Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Maine. While I didn’t study there, the visit inspired me to pick up my own artistic practice when I returned home. This is the major shift I experienced in 2018: a return to my own art and design work.

FALL. This fall while I was teaching Maker Lab at Ithaca College, I was also participating in a 6-week cohort-based course from the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT. This course is geared toward K-12 educators which I am not. But it was free and with a really smart and international crowd, so I signed up and did my best to apply the reading, discussion, and exercises to college-level teaching and learning. Glad I did it.

In addition to these online courses, I took some hands-on courses locally. I took a 5-session mezzotint course and a 4-session course in metalsmithing. I liked getting ink on my hands in the former and loved shaping and joining brass, silver, and aluminum in the latter. I also took a woodworking workshop at the makerspace and made a Shaker-inspired footstool. Fun! And I took a lamp-making workshop at the public library. That was cool, too.

WINTER. Finally, toward the end of the year, I found a studio mate for a very affordable art studio in an old industrial building. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. I’ve been enjoying setting up my half of the space and reconnecting with my tools, materials, and old projects. Projects that I couldn’t really finish when they were set up in my living room or on my dining table. Now I have a space of my own. Well, it’s a shared space. But I like it.

I hope you enjoy reflecting on 2018 and that you are looking forward to 2019.

Onward!

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It’s worth mentioning that I’ve significantly cut back on social media. I’ve taken the apps off my phone (I did that this summer when I went to Maine). More recently I’ve blocked most social sites from my web browser. While sometimes they are useful, mostly they are distracting and even anxiety producing. Also, I’m not feeling great about Facebook (and it’s little brother Instagram) as a company. I don’t want to buy what they are selling or contribute to their data gathering activity.

Artist Spotlight: Maarten Baas

Maarten Baas destroys things. He has a whole series called smoke in which he burns iconic furniture, rendering the pieces to charcoal silhouettes of their former selves.

Maarten Baas reimagines things. He has a whole series called clay in which he hand-molds industrial objects in brightly colored polymer, rendering them cartoon versions of themselves.

Charing or hand-forming classic objects helps us question the assumptions that we make about them. Questioning assumptions is a healthy practice. So while Baas may seem destructive and wasteful, he is really being productive in inspiring new ways of thinking about old things.