Digital Commonplace

The practice for collecting bits of knowledge is called a Commonplace book and has been around for thousands of years.

As humans, we so often feel helpless in our own smallness, yet still we find the resilience to do and make beautiful things, and this is where the meaning of life resides. Nature reminds us of this constantly. The world is often cast as a purely malignant place, but still the joy of creation exerts itself, and as the sun rises upon the struggle of the day, the Great Crested Grebe dances upon the water. It is our striving that becomes the very essence of meaning.

🖋 “I work in the music industry and there is a lot of excitement around ChatGPT. I was talking to a songwriter in a band that was using ChatGPT to write his lyrics, because it was so much ‘faster and easier.’ I couldn’t really argue against that. I know you’ve talked about ChatGPT before, but what’s wrong with making things faster and easier?” Leon by Nick Cave (Aug 2023)

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit … a mobility of illusory forms immobilised in space —James Joyce, Ulysses

Three months ago, I was a normal person. Now all I think about 24-7 is the dinkus. Did you know that dinkuses is an anagram of unkissed? I did. For the uninitiated, the dinkus is a line of three asterisks (* * *) used as a section break in a text. It’s the flatlining of an asterism (⁂), which in literature is a pyramid of three asterisks and in astronomy is a cluster of stars.

🖋 “Ode to the Dinkus” by Daisy Alioto (8 Jun 2018)

When Vintage Books reissued Ulysses in 1990, they used a hollow white star. “Typography in Joyce is always pointing to some dimension of the materiality of language,” said Nicholas Andrew Miller, an associate professor at Loyola University Maryland. “Typography is a way of reminding readers to pay attention to every mark.”

🖋 “Ode to the Dinkus” by Daisy Alioto (8 Jun 2018)

Digital is based on an architecture of infinitely repeatable abstractions in which the original and its copy are the same; analog ages and rots, diminishing over generations, changing its sound, its look, its smell. In the analog world the photograph of the photograph is always one generation removed, fuzzier, not the same; the digital copy of the digital photograph is indistinguishable so that “original” loses its meaning.

🖋 “The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic” by The Awl (17 Dec 2014)

There is a diverse space of social media outside of the shadow of the major platforms, and we believe it is there where the key to a different future lies. As Ruha Benjamin says, “imagination is a battleground.”1 Currently, we are living in the imagination of venture capitalists, a few corporations, and Mark Zuckerberg. To break out of it, we will have to imagine something different. We hope this project will be a valuable contribution to that process.

🖋 “An Illustrated Field Guide to Social Media” by Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci & Ethan Zuckerman (14 May 2021)
  1. 📃 Ruha Benjamin, assoc. professor Afr. Am. Stud., Princeton Univ., How Race and Technology ‘Shape Each Other,’ keynote address at Emerson University Teach-In on Race (Oct. 18, 2019)

Ultimately, I think it’s going to be near-impossible to build out the right patterns for a prosocial big-world protocol without being scarily prescient about ethical hazards, deeply versed in how common abuse patterns, demonstrably determined to prevent every bit of preventable harm, and absurdly great at egoless comms and course correction. I’m not seeing that yet.

🖋 “The Affordance Loop” by Erin Kissane (20 Jul 2023)

Rogers believed that the need to love and be loved was universal, and he sought to cultivate these capacities through every program, saying in a 2004 documentary hosted by actor Michael Keaton, one of his former stagehands, “You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And consequently, the greatest thing we can do is to help somebody know they’re loved and capable of loving.”

🖋 “Why Mister Rogers’ message of love and kindness is good for your health” by Richard Gunderman, The Conversation (13 Jun 2018)

Just a few months before he died, Rogers recorded a message for the many adult fans who had grown up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” In it, he practiced what he preached, saying:

“I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger. I like you just the way you are. And what’s more, I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe. And to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.”

🖋 “Why Mister Rogers’ message of love and kindness is good for your health” by Richard Gunderman, The Conversation (13 Jun 2018)

There’s a powerful argument that just as cholera was stopped by cleaning the water, Covid will be stopped by cleaning the air. The virus thrives in badly ventilated, shared spaces – especially classrooms, where students sit together for long periods. One study found that mechanical ventilation systems in classrooms reduce the infection risk by 74%.

The importance of ventilation and filtration is not lost on our lords and masters. Parliament now has a sophisticated air filter system, incorporating electrostatic precipitators. According to the contractor that fitted them, they ensure airborne viruses and bacteria are “kept to an absolute minimum within the space”. The same goes for the government departments where ministers work. At the World Economic Forum in Davos this month, there were filtration systems in every room, in some cases protecting politicians who have denied them to their own people. It’s almost as if they believe their lives are more important than ours.

🖋 “We are all playing Covid roulette. Without clean air, the next infection could permanently disable you” by George Monbiot, The Guardian (26 Jan 2023)

You need only gently propose that we might return to wearing masks on public transport to provoke hundreds of people on social media to bray “freedom!” and denounce you as a tyrant. Against their tiniest of freedoms – keeping their faces uncovered on trains and buses – the trolls weigh freedom from disability and even death, and decide that their right to breathe germs on to other people is the indispensable liberty.

🖋 “We are all playing Covid roulette. Without clean air, the next infection could permanently disable you” by George Monbiot, The Guardian (26 Jan 2023)

Once the tools stand between us and the language, we become entirely reliant on tool-builders to determine what features are available.

When our primary tools intervene so strongly between us and our ‘materials’ – the core web languages – we can accidentally flip the pace layers of the web on their head. Suddenly CSS is able to move faster than the ecosystem, and we’re stuck waiting on our tools to catch up with well-supported platform features.

That’s not how a healthy ecosystem should behave.

🖋 “When Our Tools Hold Us Back” by Miriam Suzanne (11 Nov 2022)

Webmention is an open web standard (W3C Recommendation) for conversations and interactions across the web, a powerful building block used for a growing distributed network of peer-to-peer comments, likes, reposts, and other responses across the web.

📃 Webmention by IndieWeb Camp

Good luck using any screen design tool on the market. Not only are all of those things – very clearly – important design decisions, but they are also easily possible with just a few lines of CSS. In this new era of CSS, the 📃 design tools are now the limiting factor.

🖋 “The New CSS” by Matthias Ott (18 Jun 2023)

In other words, the goal of capitalism is not free time but economic growth; any time freed up goes right back into the machine to increase profits.

📖 Saving Time by Jenny Odell

Something unlonesome was what I needed, but also something I could do from a rocking chair; I required a reminder that there were quick and even wise people in the world with ideas, quips, even lectures that would force me to learn something.

🖋 “The Twitter I Love Doesn’t Exist Anymore” by Virginia Heffernan (1 Apr 2023)

Today a friend pointed out that translating the “perfection” of an idea from one’s head to the physical world doesn’t allow for contribution or collaboration from others. To maintain that something is perfect in your head is to be closed off to its evolution.

I read his poems and was overcome by their grandeur, and by how much his writing reminded me of Whitman. (“We must risk delight,” he wrote. “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”)

📖 Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The trouble is that what we think we’re doing, whenever we’re busying ourselves trying to pay off productivity debt, is working diligently towards a moment in the future when everything will feel OK: when we’ll have staved off catastrophe once and for all, or fulfilled our potential, or justified our existence. (The details vary widely, because the ways in which people are screwed up varies widely, too.)

📃 The Imperfectionist: Nothing to prove

Throughout the conversation, Zelensky displayed his gifts for spontaneity, irony, and sarcasm. He didn’t tell jokes, exactly, but he said that he cannot part with humor altogether. “I think that any normal person cannot survive without it. Without a sense of humor, as surgeons say, they would not be able to perform surgeries—to save lives and to lose people as well. They would simply lose their minds without humor.”

🖋 “Liberation Without Victory” by Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg (15 Apr 2022)

“Jesters were allowed to tell the truth in ancient kingdoms,” he said, but Russia “fears the truth.” Comedy remains “a powerful weapon” because it is accessible. “Complex mechanisms and political formulations are difficult for humans to grasp. But through humor, it’s easy; it’s a shortcut.”

🖋 “Liberation Without Victory” by Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg (15 Apr 2022)

I have been reading a lot about ‘stress’ in the medical literature. Everyone seems to agree it is about as bad for your health as smoking, and beyond a certain point practically guarantees a major adverse health outcome. And yet the only recommended treatment for stress is not to experience it in the first place. It’s not like anxiety or depression, where you can go to your doctor and get treated and hopefully experience some degree of symptomatic improvement. It’s like taking illegal drugs—you’re just not supposed to do it, and if you do, you should try to do it less. There is no available medication to treat the problem, and no therapeutic regime backed by any real evidence. Just don’t get stressed! It’s very important, or you could make yourself really sick!!

📖 Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

For example, God made us the way we are, as complex human beings with desires and impulses, and compassionate attachment to purely fictional people—from whom we obviously can’t expect to derive any material satisfaction or advantage—is a way of understanding the deep complexities of the human condition, and thus the complexities of God’s love for us. I can even go further: in his life and death, Jesus emphasised the necessity of loving others without regard to our own self-interest. In a way, when we love fictional characters, knowing that they can never love us in return, is that not a method of practising in miniature the kind of personally disinterested love to which Jesus calls us? I mean that sympathetic engagement is a form of desire with an object but without a subject, a way of wanting without wanting; desiring for others not what I want for myself but the way I want for myself.

📖 Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Splitting design skills into creative and technical roles with industry has not helped—they need to be reunified and acknowledged as a team effort. The beauty of crochet and knitting is that it is impossible to divorce artistry from practicality, but then again, makers have never separated the two—particularly crocheters, whose craft put up the best resistance to industrialisation.

“Framing Our Problems with Fit” by Natalie Warner, moorit. magazine

“Fusion in a lot of ways is the ultimate clean energy source,” says Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research and E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics. “The amount of power that is available is really game-changing.” The fuel used to create fusion energy comes from water, and “the Earth is full of water — it’s a nearly unlimited resource. We just have to figure out how to utilize it.”

🖋 “MIT-designed project achieves major advance toward fusion energy” by David Chandler (8 Sept 2021)

Do you ever read an article that’s so good you have to read it again immediately and you almost feel upset that you hadn’t read it sooner? And it makes you realize your questions were circling the main premise of the article, and finally, the article gave you answers to questions you hadn’t even narrowed in on yet? It’s beautiful.

Everyone believes they are the foremost authority on their own soul. For millennia, philosophers have argued otherwise. Plotinus was the first to point out that self-knowledge entails a weird self-doubling. If we are able to know ourselves, who is doing the knowing? And what is it, exactly, that is known? Schopenhauer called this predicament Weltknoten, the “world knot,” a paradox that many modern philosophers have solved by eliminating, wholesale, the interior view. The self is a bourgeois construct, a grammatical mistake, a software program designed to model potential actions and assess their survival payoffs.

🖋 “Know Thyself” by Meghan O’Gieblyn (13 May 2021)

Writing is no longer considered a technology, but in its early days, it, too, was criticized for distorting a person’s image. The problem, Socrates complains in Plato’s Phaedrus, is that consciousness dies the moment it hits the page. Ask the written words a question, and they will not answer. “They go on telling just the same thing forever.”

🖋 “Know Thyself” by Meghan O’Gieblyn (13 May 2021)

Simone Weil: “I am also other than what I imagine myself to be. To know this is forgiveness.”

🖋 “Know Thyself” by Meghan O’Gieblyn (13 May 2021)

As Andrea Mignolo points out:

It points to the activities of design as a source of value, instead of focusing solely on the products of design.

This illustrates that the value of a designer doesn’t lie solely in their personal talents, propensity for creative thought, or the deliverables they produce. That value is overshadowed by how good their processes are, and how well they manage them within their team of stakeholders.

🖋 “No, not “everyone is a designer”” by Benek Lisefski (8 July 2019)

Speaking of teams: 🎬 Ibara high school (1st place at 2019 Inter-High School Championships)

As a hard worker who is often pushed to the limits, and who spends much of my free time on “side projects,” I have taken several unpaid breaks that I couldn’t afford, just to rest. Productivity addiction, like other types of addictions, is a coping mechanism. It’s a habit formed to ward off emotional distress that gets louder when the mind gets quieter; a habit that can go on for a while before realizing you are actually suffering. But eventually, working hard on terms that don’t feel naturally good leaves little space for reflection, and no time to refocus.

🖋 “A soft manifesto” by Cortney Cassidy (23 December 2020)

It’s not easy to find extra time and energy to exist when the part of you that learned how to assimilate by being productive is stronger than your “real” self.

Mainstream society is uncomfortable when someone isn’t trying to harness and monetize a boundless ambiguity. Like the “what for?” and “but why?” I get at my corporate job when I experiment on extracurricular projects like recruiting some of my coworkers to make a short film about everyday color theory. To ease their discomfort, I answer in terms that present some potential (if unconventional) viability.

🖋 “A soft manifesto” by Cortney Cassidy (23 December 2020)

Is it fair to consider having knowledge gaps on a team a form of “tech” “debt”?

I believe in a team where everyone has knowledge gaps in different areas, which is why a team is so much more powerful, creative, and productive than any single individual. I’d say codebases have tech debt (aka devs are unhappy working on it) whereas teams have strengths and maybe you could say weaknesses, if it’s not a cross-functional team, for example.

If you’ve been hired as a dev, then I think it’s safe to assume you are capable of having baseline knowledge of the codebase and of doing your job. Whether anyone walks you through the codebase, can adjust to your needs, vs. throwing you in the deep end and expect instant results is another matter entirely…

As the efforts to assimilate us largely failed and we remained, mostly, in our homelands, Americans have gradually assimilated to our cultures, our worldview, and our modes of connecting to nature. The parks enshrine places, but they also emphasize and prioritize a particular way of interacting with the land. … For many Americans, our wild spaces are a solace, a refuge—cathedrals indeed. America has succeeded in becoming more Indian over the past 245 years rather than the other way around.

🖋 “Return the National Parks to the Tribes” by David Treuer (May 2021)

Modernists was the belief that mass production, intentional use of materials, and functional and modular design were inherently socialist ideals: giving the widest range of people access to the highest quality products. “I think what Massimo saw as the strength of Swiss Modernism was that it was replicable. It wasn’t predicated on inspiration or individual genius or talent,” Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, who worked with Vignelli for ten years, told me. “You could systematize it. I think that’s why it caught on in corporate America.”

🖋 “Graphic Designers Have Always Loved Minimalism. But At What Cost?” by Jarrett Fuller (1 April 2021)

Her thesis, Design Dissection, uncovered how ideas around minimalism subtly signal different values. She found that the more minimal an advertisement’s design, for example, the more expensive the product it was marketing. On the flip side, more visual complexity and larger text on an advertisement often meant cost and affordability played a bigger role in a potential buyer’s decision. “It’s like the hoarder mentality. You sometimes see rich hoarders, but it’s usually associated — class wise — with poverty,” she continues, “You want to keep everything because you might not be able to afford it. Emptiness, on the other hand, shows that you have the luxury to decide what to fill or not fill your space with.” (As da Vinci supposedly said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”) The same, it turns out, is true in graphic design.

🖋 “Graphic Designers Have Always Loved Minimalism. But At What Cost?” by Jarrett Fuller (1 April 2021)

In his recent book on the cultural history of minimalism, The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism, Kyle Chayka argues that minimalism always obscures complexity: The minimalist interface you use to order your takeout, for example, sits above a complex network of gig workers that make sure your ramen is still warm when it arrives. The simple presentation hides the complicated system just below the surface, whether that is the infrastructure for data collection or the multi-conglomerate corporation. (The digital design version of this is the hamburger menu: It gives you a clean layout before revealing an anxiety-inducing number of buttons hidden behind it.) The company wants to appear friendly so it can take your data, the magazine with lots of white space is accessible only to a wealthier readership, the invisible interface is filled with dark patterns to get you to buy, share, browse, or search more.

🖋 “Graphic Designers Have Always Loved Minimalism. But At What Cost?” by Jarrett Fuller (1 April 2021)

The very promise of modernism — its modularity and replicability — is what made it a convenient tool for capitalism, turning it into a style that helped usher in our current aesthetic blandness. In trying to be everything it becomes nothing. Call it modernism, flat design, or minimalism, but in the end, the variations on this style have evolved to primarily communicate an aesthetic, or a false idea of taste. Today, the message is the design itself.

🖋 “Graphic Designers Have Always Loved Minimalism. But At What Cost?” by Jarrett Fuller (1 April 2021)

This erases the vernacular of local cultures and the plurality of human experience — race, gender, class — reinforcing the myth that design decisions are neutral while creating aesthetic hierarchies of good and bad design. What started as a utopian ideal leading us into an egalitarian future, inevitably would become another system of oppression, pushing the tastes of the few onto the many.

🖋 “Graphic Designers Have Always Loved Minimalism. But At What Cost?” by Jarrett Fuller (1 April 2021)

[Kate] Eichhorn argues that the people most deeply affected by digital memories are those who stand to gain the most by being allowed to reinvent themselves.

🖋 “I Called Off My Wedding. The Internet Will Never Forget” by Lauren Goode (6 April 2021)

“The postwar generation might have had a few photographs, but not an excess of documentation. This meant you could edit your memories, which I personally think is a good thing.” Now, Eichhorn says, our lives play on a constant digital loop. If it’s not the end of forgetting, it’s at least the diminishment of it.

🖋 “I Called Off My Wedding. The Internet Will Never Forget” by Lauren Goode (6 April 2021)

I asked [Omar] Seyal if Pinterest had ever considered a feature that let users mark a life event complete. Canceled. Finished. Done. “We would have to have a system that thinks about things on an event level, so we could deliver on the promise,” Seyal said. “Right now we just use relevance as a measure.” But had Pinterest considered that, in the long run, people might be more inclined to use the app if it could become a clean space for them when they needed it to be, a corner of the internet uncluttered with grief?

“I think it’s an even stronger statement than that,” Seyal said. “If we solve the problem you describe, the user doesn’t necessarily come back more, but we might have solved what’s a terrible experience on the internet. And that in itself is enough.”

🖋 “I Called Off My Wedding. The Internet Will Never Forget” by Lauren Goode (6 April 2021)

Dissolving the nature/culture distinction, Purdy suggests that in the Anthropocene, we should figure nature not as separate, but as a partner in collaboration.

📖 How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

If everything in our world is a product of the earth (all tools, all textiles, all plastic wrappers, all houses… all came from the earth), and we are about to look at nature as a collaborator, then what is the internet? Is it like mathematics, totally made up and only existing in our minds? There’s a required infrastructure for the internet. Is it the most separated from the earth while still reliant on earth hardware or earth wiring? Is the internet only simply a reflection or manifestation of our social structures, cultures, and groupings? Why can it exploit or manipulate our animal brains? How do we turn the tide on it and become collaborators? Connecting to nature is rewarded with an indescribable sensation that one is merely a part of something bigger. There’s a bodily reaction to nature that does not exist for the bright, cold screens around us. Unless the internet exploited your depression, your insecurities, your rage, etc. The internet was once a safe place for me to process my reality, and now it is my job to build small parts of it. Now my processing must remain private to retain an air of professionalism and security. I cannot be weird. I cannot make mistakes. For learning and growing is unacceptable to do in public. My external shell must be confident, wise, compassionate, all-knowing, and whatever other forms of put-together perfection we seek from a brand.

I mourn the turtling of us all.

I’ve always thought of the web as being an extension of a public library: it’s meant to contain information that’s accessible by the public. It definitely drives my work/passion/interest in making extremely accessible websites.

However, part of the problem with social media is the lack of context (🖋 “context collapse”) and a desire to cater to all audiences, not a specific audience, which results in the most bland, least offensive content. (I’m really poorly summarizing the book How to Do Nothing here.)

If the internet had a sense of place: what would that look like? this is where Seattleites hang out, this is where Londoners hang out, etc.

Thinking about place is really challenging my initial view that all of the internet is meant to be accessible by everyone. maybe there are places where actually I don’t belong. the arts and the media know that they cater to a specific audience: no one attempts to cater to all humans of all ages of all cultures via a single movie, a single magazine, etc. even public libraries are restricted by their geographic boundaries and cater to the communities in their area: one public library’s series of lectures would not necessarily apply to all public libraries everywhere. So really: why should the internet be any different?

my own self is deeply sad. i’m beginning to know that that’s fine too. 'cause i think happiness is overrated and it’s not actually the goal of life

📃 meg remy aka U.S. GIRLS interview by murielle victorine scherre

i’m beginning to love my sadness and see as a fuel and a tool

📃 meg remy aka U.S. GIRLS interview by murielle victorine scherre

for me I found it’s easier the least amount that you interact with the news… and kind of… mainstream culture in general it’s easier to be content with your meaning and what you have

📃 meg remy aka U.S. GIRLS interview by murielle victorine scherre

The function of nothing here—of saying nothing—is that it’s a precursor to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech.

📖 How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

I absolutely love this book. I will do my best not to share every single thing I highlighted.

Even with the problem of the filter bubble aside, the platforms that we use to communicate with each other do not encourage listening. Instead they reward shouting and oversimple reaction: of having a “take” after having read a single headline.

📖 How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

In the context of health and ecology, things that grow unchecked are often considered parasitic or cancerous. Yet we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative.

📖 How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

Cyclical and regenerative is The Moon!!

[artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s] manifesto opens with a distinction between what she calls the death force and the life force:


A. The Death Instinct and the Life Instinct:

The Death Instinct: separation, individuality, Avant-Garde par excellence; to follow one’s own path—do your own thing; dynamic change.

The Life Instinct: unification; the eternal return; the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species; survival systems and operations, equilibrium.”

The life force is concerned with cyclicality, care, and regeneration; the death force sounds to me a lot like “disrupt.”

📖 How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

The Moon is everywhere now that I notice it. This is some kind of cognitive bias, but I am into it. We need more of the moon in our everyday lives.

Just as I need someone to observe things about myself or my writing that I can’t see, mainstream society needs the perspective of its outsiders and recluses to illuminate problems and alternatives that aren’t visible from the inside.

📖 How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

Have you ever noticed how comedians describe themselves so accurately? Do other comedians point these things out to them, or do they have incredible self-awareness?

Privacy is often seen merely as a safeguard against prying eyes and exploitative corporate entities. However, to summarize the ideas of Georgetown University law professor Julie E. Cohen, privacy is more than an instrument to advance liberty or check control. It is a buffer for self-development free from the influence of society and culture. It enables all the factors we need to develop distinct identities: autonomy, free thought, creativity, experimentation, and exploration.

🖋 “This is Your Digital Fingerprint” by Nick Briz and Clayton D’Arnault (Summer 2018)

Surveillance creates an environment that breeds conformity, obedience, and submission; the very ingredients that define the totalitarian societies feared by the likes of Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxley.

🖋 “This is Your Digital Fingerprint” by Nick Briz and Clayton D’Arnault (Summer 2018)

The last two data points you’ll see animating on the cover are the “font-list” and a “canvas-hash.” The former is the list of fonts you have installed on your computer. Browsers need access to your fonts in order to render the texts on your screen, but because users often add to the list of fonts that come default on their devices, this can become a particularly effective way to identify you online. The “canvas-hash” is perhaps the most unique characteristic. The HTML5 canvas is used by developers to draw 2D and 3D graphics in the browser using JavaScript. Though the same canvas code executed on different devices will render images that appear the same to our eyes, because of a list of differences among devices, the images will not be 100% identical at the pixel level. For this reason, when the pixel data of a rendered canvas image is sent through a cryptographic “hash” function, the resulting ID will be unique to that device and thus ideal for fingerprinting.

🖋 “This is Your Digital Fingerprint” by Nick Briz and Clayton D’Arnault (Summer 2018)

By using static wireframes and static layouts, by separating design and development, we are often limiting our ability to have that creative dialogue with the Web and its materials. We are limiting our potential for playful exploration and for creating surprising and novel solutions.

🖋 “Painting With the Web” by Matthias Ott (31 October 2020)


the comparison to artist, musician, or writer is different than comparing to making a film or building a component library

If we want to explore and create amazing things with those new technologies, we need to be able to have that creative dialogue with the materials in front of us. And in most cases, this means: We need to work directly in the browser. We need to paint with code.

🖋 “Painting With the Web” by Matthias Ott (31 October 2020)

trying to build job security here

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. … The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. … The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness.

🖋 “David Foster Wallace on Life and Work” (19 September 2008)

Have you noticed two bright objects in the sky getting closer together with each passing night? It’s Jupiter and Saturn doing a planetary dance that will result in the Great Conjunction on Dec. 21. On that day, Jupiter and Saturn will be right next to each other in the sky – the closest they have appeared in nearly 400 years!

📃 The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn by NASA (18 Dec 2020)

NASA has a tumblr!!

After reading the poem 📃 Tinnitus by W. S. Di Piero, I searched the web for “agglomerationists” which brought up a result for the following article quoted below. It reminded me of the older days of the web searching and stumbling upon someone else’s garden.

Even a bit of casual introspection seems to rather quickly reveal that sensory experience is a unified whole; it does not present the separate data of the sense organs as closed, discrete packages of information easily separable from each other. Moreover, I myself have never had a sensory experience unaccompanied by a whole host of other interior goings-on, be they thoughts or emotions, welcome or otherwise.

🖋 “Why I am Not a Minimalist” by Taney Roniger (2011)

yes. feelings are a mix of whatever emotions are flooding through your body and whatever thoughts are swirling in your mind.

That so much Minimalist art looks industrio-mechanical is hardly a coincidence; the impersonality, the obsession with quantification and measurement, the mechanical uniformity, standardization, and fixation on repetitive form so prominent in Minimalist work – what are these if not the values glorified by the mechanical philosophy? Wasn’t it Lewis Mumford who observed that as our machines have become more sophisticated and autonomous, we ourselves – and therefore our artistic expressions – have become more mechanical? (I believe it was also Mumford who coined the term “partial suicides” for what we’ve become.)

🖋 “Why I am Not a Minimalist” by Taney Roniger (2011)

As a software engineer, I am taught to check my human impulses at the door. I make hundreds of assumptions about how a piece of code should work, which is precisely why I cannot find the bug. I need another mechanically trained mind to review and catch my assumptions, and I do the same for others. And yet, software engineering can be such an isolating pursuit as the work happens between one human and one computer. I am trained to think like a machine, but I cannot detach my logic from the rest of my thoughts and feelings and biases, just as Taney rightly points out between the viewer and Minimalist work.

I observe some software engineers holding their creations close to them, becoming defensive of criticism, beaming at recognition, just as anyone in the creative field would. However, they seem more surprised by this behavior in themselves and in others.

I am sure I am paraphrasing someone by saying humans are trained to use computers, not the other way around. how tragic.

Let’s listen to artists about technology!!

p.s. the thought of ‘purity’ as a bodiless, mind-forward technological future is frightening

Contemplative reading might be viewed as a minor act of rebellion in the internet age.

In times as dark and fearsome as these, it’s not enough to be gardeners of the intellect; we also need to be caring for our souls through art that challenges us and shows us beauty.

🖋 “Let’s All Read More Fiction” by Adrienne Lafrance (14 January 2020)

“Certainly something that I’m trying to accomplish in my work, in my two novels and in the show and the novel I’m writing now, is to try and situate love and romance in all its overwhelming power—and all the pleasure and desire that comes with that—in the difficult complexity of ordinary life,” Rooney said. “To take the mundane, unglamorous difficulty that we all have just being alive, and to allow romance to infiltrate that, and not be dishonest to either aspect.”

🖋 “The Irresistible Intimacy of Normal People by Sophie Gilbert (30 April 2020)

The everyday stuff is the real stuff. It makes me feel normal, which is often what I want most.

“My feeling,” Rooney said, “is that what is really intrinsically human is the ability to love and sacrifice yourself for another person. Of course human beings can be violent and cruel and domineering and oppressive. But they can also be very loving and tender. That is what I’m attached to, and that is what informs my socialism and my egalitarian principles—the belief that without constraints we can actually love each other.”

🖋 “The Irresistible Intimacy of Normal People by Sophie Gilbert (30 April 2020)

the metrics were measurable. the side effects were merely theoretical

no matter how noble our intentions, or how thoughtful our choices or how much we believe in what we’re building, the impact is what’s left in the balance after the dust clears. what is the impact on all of us, of having our attention co-opted in this way? we’re all immersed in this question now

we give value to things by giving them our attention. what happens to our values when we’re not in control of our attention?

🎬 Seeing through the net by Wilson Miner

Do you like the smell after it rains? Some Australians named it petrichor. It’s a wide mix of chemicals, but mostly plant oils and certain metabolites of soil-dwelling microbes like actinobacteria. The best known of these compounds is (4S,4aS,8aR)-4,8a-dimethyloctahydronaphthalen-4a(2H)-ol, or geosmin, but there’s also 2-methylisoborneol, or MIB. If you mix them up and give people a little sniff, they say it smells like a rainstorm or like fresh-plowed soil. It’s a little odd, because petrichor is undeniably musty, and we usually don’t like musty smells. In fact, when geosmin collects in beets and catfish, it’s considered an acquired taste at best. But pretty much everyone likes the smell after rain.

The other strange thing about petrichor is how phenomenally sensitive we are to it. We can taste it at about 10 parts per trillion in water, and smell it at 5 ppt in air.

For petrichor, we smell as well as scent hounds; we are 200,000 times more sensitive to it than sharks are to blood.

🖋 “6, 95: Barrel aged” by Charlie Loyd

I fucking love petrichor

It’s clear enough that mainstream American society, for all its talk of various doomsdays, tended to think of them as something that alpha men would shoot and/or drive over, not as something that mostly women in mostly care-based roles would be compelled to drag us all through. It’s clear that a lot of people thought their neighbors would turn against them when things got rough, not the opposite.

🖋 “6, 95: Barrel aged” by Charlie Loyd

The lack of balance between masculine and feminine is actively hurting us. We need to embrace the feminine within ourselves and in each other. We need to value it.

In the context of health and ecology, things that grow unchecked are often considered parasitic or cancerous. Yet we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative.

📖 How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

the moon appears again!

The feminine is the center of health, the interior, and it belongs in the middle. The masculine, in all of us, is meant to protect and defend that bright, vital core. The masculine is strengthened by valuing the feminine and protecting it—and weakened by valuing only the masculine and protecting that instead. Men are strengthened by honoring their own feminine elements, just as they are strengthened by protecting and listening to women.

📖 The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

this book really opened my eyes to how much I default to masculine behavior and how much I scoff at my intuition, my empathy, my sensitivity, my quietness

Since the masculine got all the good words (bold, assertive, logical, reasonable) and embracing the feminine, frankly, seemed soft—I had just chosen accordingly. Nurturing, intuitive, empathic—these were okay qualities in their own way, but obviously secondary to bold, assertive, reasonable logic. I knew that trusting my intuition should be kept to myself, my subjective experience was in the end just anecdotal, self-care was an indulgence, being too receptive was passive, asking for help exposed weakness, sensitivity was annoying, inward exploration was naval gazing, and on and on down the list.

📖 The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

As someone whose manager once accused her of navel gazing, I feel a weight released and a validation that I was just acting femininely, which I intend to embrace.

Because there is no empathy without embracing pain. Indeed, nonempathic responses, like trying to fix something that can’t be fixed, or becoming hyperclinical about an emotional problem that just needs to be heard out, or closing down in the face of someone else’s suffering—these are all ways of denying the dark, and staying safe up in light. Empathy is not sweet or sugary or nice—it’s about the strength it takes to go down and be with the dark.

📖 The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

The Heroine’s Journey is the voyage into the Underworld.

Persephone, abducted by Hades.
Inanna, diving down through the gates of the shades.
Ishtar, banging at the black gates.
La Loba.


The heroine is not Luke Skywalker, Jesus Christ, or Siddhartha.

The heroine is the bride of Hell.

A Heroine’s Journey is just a badass female on the Hero’s Journey. Lara Croft, Katniss Everdeen, Wonder Woman, Brienne of Tarth. A hero with breasts, and beauty, and a Valyrian sword of steel. And the reason there were so few examples and it felt so unfamiliar to me was just because women have been restricted, caged, and left out for so long.

📖 The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

Broussard says her initial search for the mirror world won’t be especially difficult. “This is a pretty straightforward experiment that we cobbled together with parts we found lying around, using equipment and resources we already had available at Oak Ridge,” she says.

🖋 “Scientists are searching for a mirror universe. It could be sitting right in front of you.” by Corey S. Powell (30 June 2019)

As abstract as Grignani’s work might appear, his starting point was always a tireless analysis of the real world that he transferred into countless notebooks, translating his obsession for the growing influence of technology on human life into complex mathematical formulas.

Grignani thought “being an artist was not a profession but an attitude of those who have deep interests associated with their sensibilities,” and his math capabilities and artistic drive were matched only by his exceptional manual skills. …

Even looking back on his work as a whole, it’s impossible to confine Grignani to a specific movement, not least because he made a point to be different from everyone else. “What fascinated me with his work was the intimate relationship between graphic design, architecture, and fine art, all blended with consistency: the search itself is the art,” says French illustrator Malika Favre who first discovered Grignani’s work through an interest for Op Art.

🖋 “The Hypnotic, Mind-bending Work of Italian Designer Franco Grignani” by Sara Schifano (28 June 2019)

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

🖋 “Better Schools Won’t Fix America” by Nick Hanauer (July 2019 Issue)


Adam J. Kurtz, author of Things Are What You Make of Them has rewritten the maxim for modern creatives: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life work super fucking hard all the time with no separation or any boundaries and also take everything extremely personally.”

🖋 “The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles” by Molly Conway (18 February 2019)


That’s not to say there isn’t joy to be found in turning something you love into your life’s work — it’s just to say that it’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetizing a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit?

Whenever I have some time to myself, I panic. Unstructured time — especially spent alone — is phenomenally rare in my life and I feel an overwhelming obligation to make good use of it. I should get some laundry done. Meal prep. Ask each item in my dresser if it brings me joy. Figure out how to fold a fitted sheet. Paint my nails. Work on the play I’m writing. Do a face mask. But instead, I deal with my option paralysis in the least helpful way possible: by scrolling through my phone alone in the dark until I run out of battery (literally or figuratively) and put myself to bed feeling like I’ve lost something valuable and hating myself for it.

🖋 “The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles” by Molly Conway (18 February 2019)

I feel seen

A Waste of 1,000 Research Papers

Decades of early research on the genetics of depression were built on nonexistent foundations. How did that happen?

🖋 “A Waste of 1,000 Research Papers” by Ed Yong (17 May 17 2019)


I was just reflecting on how beautiful it is to genuinely apologize. To admit a mistake or that you are wrong is acknowledging and accepting that humans are not perfect. It gives me hope.

The three most difficult things for a human are not physical feats or intellectual achievements. They are, first, returning love for hate; second, including the excluded; third, admitting that you are wrong.

📖 Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony De Mello

There’s an old joke that a Finnish introvert looks at his shoes when he talks to you, and a Finnish extrovert looks at your shoes.

It’s also reasonably certain that, no matter what you do for a living, becoming less aggravating to others while you’re on the job is likely to make you and your co-workers more contented as well. “At the end of the day, we all care about how we’re treated,” Theisen said.

There are also situations in which measurement itself can lead to bad results. The Times recently published a story about a Veterans Administration medical center in Oregon that had boosted its “quality of care” ratings, as measured on a five-star scale, by turning away the sickest patients. Gathering those ratings had nothing to do with HappyOrNot, but the underlying issue applies to assessments of many kinds. Life wouldn’t necessarily be better if we all did the equivalent of teaching to the test.

🖋 “Customer Satisfaction at the Push of a Button” by David Owen (29 January 2018)

As a whole, the disciplines embraced industrial production and aimed to create an integrated daily environment where design touched everything, from a teaspoon to a city — as its founding director, Walter Gropius, later put it. The distinction between the fine and the useful arts was to be abolished.

🖋 “What Was the Bauhaus?” by Barry Bergdoll (30 April 2019)

Craft night!

Gropius was trying to hold on to the name “Bauhaus,” one of the few “things” he had insisted upon taking with him from Weimar as the property of the school when the institution moved to Dessau

🖋 “What Was the Bauhaus?” by Barry Bergdoll (30 April 2019)

“Please do not feed the egos” -a sticker on a coworker’s computer

Meyer held that factors like climate, hygiene and human sociology, as well as the nature of modern industrial building materials, should generate the forms of modern buildings.

🖋 “What Was the Bauhaus?” by Barry Bergdoll (30 April 2019)


He also studied solar energy, even if few today claim that sustainability is a Bauhaus trait, fixated as we are on the Bauhaus “look.” But its success has often led to a reductionism in our understanding of the rich nexus of artistic movements that crisscrossed at the school itself, as well as the diverse developments it helped inspire.

🖋 “What Was the Bauhaus?” by Barry Bergdoll (30 April 2019)

just like life

By both rejecting style when it could be reduced to fashion, and embracing an aesthetic that was too easily reduced by followers and commentators to exactly that, the Bauhaus ensured that its legacy would be universally embraced and almost as widely misunderstood. As the avant-garde painter and theater designer Oskar Schlemmer noted about the school’s emerging aesthetic in 1929, “This style is to be found everywhere but the Bauhaus.”

🖋 “What Was the Bauhaus?” by Barry Bergdoll (30 April 2019)

In print, page sizes, paper stock, and printing methods are carefully controlled, and the resulting artifact is shipped to the consumer of that media. In digital, the only thing that is sent to the consumer is a set of instructions that are later assembled by that consumer’s device.

🖋 “Fluid typography and the creation of Typetura” by Scott Kellum and Sal Hernandez. Edited by Ana Monroe. (31 January 2019)

Vesta will shine its brightest in years, affording skywatchers a rare opportunity.

The second largest main belt asteroid and a bona fide protoplanet, Vesta reaches opposition on June 19th, when it will come within 170.6 million kilometers of Earth, the closest it’s been in at least two decades.

🖋 “Vesta Gets Close and Bright” by Bob King (30 May 2018)

The way programs assign meanings to symbols is a reflection, or representation, of how programmers believe meanings are logically assigned to symbols.

Meaning carries inherent subjective and evolutionary ingredients determined by unlimited semiosis that cast a shadow of doubt upon the idea that the users’ context, requirements, and capacities can be fully captured by any human interpreter at any given time.

📖 The Semiotic Engineering of Human-Computer Interaction by Clarisse Sieckenius de Souza (2005)

There are 5 conditions to make it more likely to get into the open mode: you need

  • space
  • time
  • time
  • confidence, and
  • humor.

Humor makes us playful. How many times have important discussions been held where really original and creative ideas were desperately needed to solve important problems, but where humor was taboo because the subject being discussed was “so serious”? This attitude, seems to me, to stem from a very basic misunderstanding of the difference between serious and solemn. I suggest to you that a group of us could be sitting around after dinner discussing matters that were extremely serious, like the education of our children or our marriages or the meaning of life (and I’m not talking about the film), and we could be laughing and that would not make what we were discussing one bit less serious. Solemnity, on the other hand, I don’t know what it’s for. I mean, what is the point of it? The two most beautiful memorial services I’ve ever attended both had a lot of humor and it somehow freed us all and made the services inspiring and cathartic. But solemnity, it serves pomposity, and the self-important always know that at some level of their consciousness that their egotism is going to be punctured by humor. That’s why they see it as a threat… and so, dishonestly pretend that their deficiency makes their views more substantial, when it only makes them feel bigger. pfffffbzt! Now, humor is an essential part of spontaneity, an essential part of playfulness, an essential part of the creativity that we need to solve problems no matter how serious they may be.

Here is how to stamp out creativity in the rest of the organization and get a bit of respect going. One: Allow subordinates no humor: it threatens your self-importance especially your omniscience. Treat all humor as frivolous or subversive, because subversive is of course what humor will be in your setup as it’s the only way people can express their opposition since if they express it openly, you are down on them like a ton of bricks. So let’s get this clear: blame humor for the resistance your way of working creates. Then, you don’t have to blame your way of working. This is important, and I mean that solemnly, your dignity is no laughing matter. Second, keeping ourselves feeling irreplaceable involves cutting everybody else down to size. So don’t miss an opportunity to undermine your employees’ confidence—a perfect opportunity comes when you’re reviewing work that they’ve done. Use your authority to zero in immediately on all the things you can find wrong. Never, never, balance the negatives with positives. Always criticize, just as your schoolteachers did. Always remember, praise makes people uppity. Third, demand that people should always be actively doing things. If you catch anybody pondering, accuse them of laziness and/or indecision. This is to starve employees of thinking time, because that leads to creativity and insurrections. So, demand urgency at all times. Use lots of fighting talk and war analogies and establish a permanent atmosphere of stress, of breathless anxiety, and crises. In a phrase, keep that mode closed. In this way, we no-nonsense types can be sure that the tiny, tiny, microscopic quantity of creativity will all be OURS. But, let your vigilance slip for one more and you could find yourself surrounded by happy, enthusiastic, and creative people who you might never be able to completely control ever again! So, be careful.

🎬 Creativity In Management by John Cleese

We have to embrace that we cannot control anything anymore. We cannot put a fixed size, width or ratio to stuff anymore. It’s liquid and it’s flexible. We have to set the corner points right and then it has to flow.

Robert Shule

All advice is autobiographical. It’s one of my theories that when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.

📖 Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Ira Glass

Initially found as a comment by Alicia on 🖋 “Inspiration vs. Imitation” by Jessica Hische. Of all places to find the most encouraging, inspiring, heartfelt, and most needed words. Because I feel this often, and I’m partially speechless.

via 📃 Alicia (thank you)

Some of the best works of art are simple gestures, basic designs, and concepts that seem so obvious you wonder why no one did it before (ahem, all Apple products). But no one did do it before. It takes a talented designer to have the wisdom to use a simple, elegant design with confidence and purpose.

📃 Why I like this cover by Sarah Urist Green

JSG Boggs drew his very first bill in 1984 while sitting in a Chicago bar. The artist was doodling on a napkin, and the waitress liked his drawing and asked if he would pay his 90-cent bill with it instead of real money, and the “Boggs Notes” were born.

That was the start of JSG Bogg’s weird tale of “economic” art and later on, legal troubles. Boggs began “spending” his very own bills for face value - he would draw an elaborate note denominated $10 in exchange for $10 worth of goods.

Soon after, no doubt in part because of the high quality of illustrations, Boggs notes became very collectible - however, Boggs refused to sell his notes directly to collectors. He preferred to exchange his money for goods, at restaurants, bars and shops, and then tell the collectors where to hunt for the Bogg notes. In a way, Boggs likened his economic transaction as a performance art.

Boggs made his own versions of US as well as other countries’ banknotes - although instantly recognizable as “funny money” (one of his most famous notes was created for the Florida United Numismatist convention shown above, complete with “IN FUN WE TRUST”), Boggs were repeatedly arrested for counterfeiting in the USA and abroad.

The US Secret Service raided Boggs’ exhibit and home, and confiscated most of his artwork. Although to this day he was never charged with counterfeiting, the Secret Service refused to return his work.

📃 JSG Boggs Art Money.

More: 📃

Ottmar Mergenthaler: Inventor of the Linotype.

It was a race against time.

The key to this entirely new machine was the individual matrix. Mergenthaler estimated that each magazine would hold approximately 1,200 matrices, which couldn’t cost more than six cents each to manufacture. He took his sample brass matrix to J. Ryan, one of Baltimore’s largest type foundries, because they used a similar matrix for manufacturing hand-set type. Ryan simply laughed at him. He estimated that they would easily cost over a dollar each after the type impression had been made. “If you can produce these matrices for the type founders at fifty cents apiece, there is a fortune in store for you on that line alone, and you need not waste your energy in useless attempts to make impossibilities. Assuming that your machine as such is a success, yet it is bound to fail on the cost of the matrices if for no other reason.” (1)

Instead of giving up, Mergenthaler’s mechanical genius and his passion pushed him forward. Astonishingly, he set about inventing over thirty specialized machines for the manufacturing of the brass matrices. Each matrix required sixty different machining processes. In the end, his workshop could create the necessary brass matrices at less than six cents apiece. Production of matrices on a commercial sale may well be Mergenthaler’s single greatest achievement.

📖 The Eighth Wonder by Doug Wilson

Nineteenth century mechanical genius.

Any time someone says we cannot make some amazing ecologically-friendly, innovative new product because it is too expensive, I am going to be thinking of Mergenthaler.

Doug Wilson went on to create a film about Mergenthaler and the Linotype:

🎬 “Linotype: The Film” Official Trailer from Linotype: The Film on Vimeo.

If you’re brainwashed without knowing it, truly believe whatever it is, then can you still be held responsible for your actions to the same degree? Do your intentions become more important?

Are we all ‘brainwashed’ by our perceptions, one way or another?

The color white is only white because it is next to something that is less white, like grey or gold or pink. Pink is only pink because it is next to something that has less pink in it or none at all. Color is so relative that it cannot really exist on its own. It is perception. Can color be truth? Can the same color, which when in different contexts appears to be different color, much like a chameleon, (see the checkerboard optical illusion), be completely an absolute truth?

The human body cannot detect everything in its surroundings, obviously. There’s a vast range of sound waves, light waves, odorless gasses, and so forth that are filtered from our view. They’re simply removed entirely.

If our other perceptions function similarly and our massive thinking muscle is receiving a constant stream of data, false data, untrue and filtered data, can we really find any truths?

Art is pure representation. All portraits are made to represent a person, but are not actually the person or any person. They are a collection of colors and materials used to represent something else.

Math is pure abstraction. All numbers, formulas, graphs, slopes, lines, and so forth have no physicality. They don’t walk around on the streets. The glyph ‘7’ is a representation of the concept of the number seven.

So, in both fields, we have these representations. Both intend to discover truth(s). Whether or not real truths are found, isn’t the intention the reason we study them? Doesn’t intention create its essence, purpose, meaning, etc. and give it its life?

To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit: it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse.

📖 Design, Form and Chaos by Paul Rand (Also quoted in Layout Workbook by Kristin Cullen.)

This is one of my favorite things about designing. It leads to the notion that you cannot really read “raw” or pure content, the kind unaffected or uninfluenced by an outside mind. Passages are pushed along a specific path with the help of the type’s subtle organic tendencies or the excessively modern whitespace. Or, they are stopped in their tracks through abrupt boundary bumping with its neighbor next-door!

Prehistoric, or tribal, man existed in a harmonious balance of the senses, perceiving the world equally through hearing, smell, touch, sight and taste. But technological innovations are extensions of human abilities and senses that alter this sensory balance — an alteration that, in turn, inexorably reshapes the society that created the technology.

According to McLuhan, there have been three basic technological innovations: the invention of the phonetic alphabet, which jolted tribal man out of his sensory balance and gave dominance to the eye; the introduction of movable type in the 16th Century, which accelerated this process; and the invention of the telegraph in 1844, which heralded an electronics revolution that will ultimately retribalize man by restoring his sensory balance. McLuhan has made it his business to explain and extrapolate the repercussions of this electronic revolution.

🖋 “The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan”

Popular culture and personal identity are inseparably enmeshed, and to understand one is to gain insight into the other. So: what power does culture wield over personal and artistic identities, and how does that power operate?

Source: GS 602 Module 4 Session 2-3

Thus it was in Paris that the Michel Foucault who became a global celebrity – the openly gay, awkwardly brilliant, political activist and virtuoso writer – was born.

Source: GS 602 Module 4 Session 2-3

At this time [1960] he also released the works that were later translated into English as Madness and Civilization and The Birth of the Clinic. Both attacked the institutions and procedures characteristic of modern medicine, and inaugurated Foucault’s lifelong preoccupation with how individuals are “administered” and rendered docile by bureaucratic institutions such as hospitals, prisons, the military, and schools.

Source: GS 602 Module 4 Session 2-3

As Nietzsche understood, and Foucault did too, one mode of self-overcoming consists of thinking your way out of the shackles of received ideas, and forming your own set of truths about the world.

Source: GS 602 Module 4 Session 11


(Definition) Canon: A general rule, fundamental principle, aphorism, or axiom governing the systematic or scientific treatment of a subject. A canonic principle determines what does and does not belong in a field of human endeavor.

Canons have been powerful tools in the hands of traditionalists, who have often fought to exclude peoples and ideas that clamor for inclusion.

Source: GS 602 Module 4 Session 11

Such as:

The African-American civil rights movement of the 1960s is one example of an oppressed people clamoring for justice, inclusion, and a different canonical version of history.

Source: GS 602 Module 4 Session 11

The consumption of uncoated free-sheet paper, for instance — the most common kind of office paper — rose almost fifteen per cent in the United States between 1995 and 2000. This is generally taken as evidence of how hard it is to eradicate old, wasteful habits and of how stubbornly resistant we are to the efficiencies offered by computerization. A number of cognitive psychologists and ergonomics experts, however, don’t agree. Paper has persisted, they argue, for very good reasons: when it comes to performing certain kinds of cognitive tasks, paper has many advantages over computers.

🖋 “The Social Life of Paper” by Malcolm Gladwell

This idea that paper facilitates a highly specialized cognitive and social process is a far cry from the way we have historically thought about the stuff.

🖋 “The Social Life of Paper” by Malcolm Gladwell

What we see now, with the proliferation of web addresses and usernames, is a disappearance of capitalization and word spaces. What goes around comes around, even if it takes a very long time.

Source: GS 615 Module 2 Session 5

But unless you are a graphic designer, most of the graphic clutter that surrounds us is a bit like the weather: it’s just there. Yes, we often have reason to be grateful for it, such as when an efficiently designed railway timetable gives us useful information; or when a well-designed instruction manual helps us complete a tricky task; or when a smoothly functioning website allows us to book tickets. Many of us treasure a favourite book jacket or record cover for its style and aesthetic heft. We might even be pleased to buy some soap powder because the cheerful packaging catches our eye.

But we rarely stop and look at this stuff — I mean really stop and look at it in the way that we might stop and look at a painting or a work of art. We absorb the messages, but only rarely take time to look at how the message has been constructed. In other words, we gulp the wine, but never look at the glass.

And there’s a good reason for this: most graphic design can be categorised as “quietly good design,” to use a phrase coined by the design critic Alice Rawsthorn. This is design — whether it’s product design, interior design or graphic design — that gets on with its job without drawing attention to itself. It does what it sets out to do, and is neither intrusive or particularly engaging.

🖋 “A Layperson’s Guide to Graphic Design” by Adrian Shaughnessy

Despite the diversity of design practices and the plurality of modern visual communications, I think there are only two sorts of graphic designers.

This split is fundamental to understanding graphic design. There are many different ways of defining the split, and there are, of course, huge areas of overlap. Massimo Vignelli, an Italian born graphic designer who has lived and worked in New York for most of his life, and who is responsible for much elegant and refined work, defined the split with his customary precision:

“One is rooted in history and semiotics and problem solving. The other is more rooted in the liberal arts – painting, figurative arts, advertising, trends, and fashions. These are really two different avenues . . . one side is the structured side, the other is the emotional side.”

🖋 “A Layperson’s Guide to Graphic Design” by Adrian Shaughnessy

Most recognise the fundamental difference between artists and designers: artists create work that comes from an inner impulse. Or to put it another way, they write their own briefs. Graphic designers, on the other hand, respond to briefs supplied by others — they are reactive. To go back to our glass of wine — artists supply the wine, graphic designers supply the glass.

🖋 “A Layperson’s Guide to Graphic Design” by Adrian Shaughnessy

All the heights and the depths and breadths of tangible and natural things — landscapes, sunsets, the scent of hay, the hum of bees, the beauty which belongs to eyelids (and is falsely ascribed to eyes); all the immeasurable emotions and motions of the human mind, to which there seems no bound; ugly and terrible and mysterious thoughts and things, as well as beautiful — all are compassed, restrained, ordered in a trifling jumble of letters. Twenty-six signs!

Francis Meynell (1923)

The designer is confronted primarily with three classes of material: a) the given: product, copy slogan, logotype, format, media, production process; b) the formal: space contrast proportion, harmony, rhythm, repetition, line mass, shape, color, weight, volume, value, texture; c) the psychological: visual perception and optical illusion problems, the spectators’ instincts, intuitions, and emotions as well as the designer’s own needs.

📖 A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand

This is not to say graphic design is principally about aesthetics—graphic design differs from fine art/painting in that it must function, serve a need, and be able to be reliably reproduced. It’s part of a designer’s work to resolve the tension between function and aesthetics, art, and utility.

What do graphic designers do? They solve ill-defined problems. They make sense out of complex or diverse information. They create patterns of relationship and meaning. They plan. They conceptualize. What do graphic designers use? Images. Typefaces. Color. Words (language). Grids. Hierarchy. Paper. Ink.

As technology changes, people need an interface in order to understand how to use it. Accordingly, the applications for graphic design expand and change (for example, graphic design for cell phone screens or electronic billboards).

Source: GS 615 Module 1 Session 4–5

Further Reading: What is Graphic Design? by Quentin Newark, A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand.

…our concept of contemporary “popular culture” is inseparable from capitalism. It is tied to the marketplace, and to participate in that you need money and the desire for consumer products. This is what connects pop culture to the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie is a money class, but generally not an extremely rich one. It is a successful working class.

Source: GS 602 Module 1 Session 5-6

As such, popular culture is really about us – about our identities, our lives.

Source: GS 602 Module 1 Session 5-6

Popular culture, then, can be traced back to the French Revolution of 1789, and to the rise of the bourgeoisie, liberal democracy, and consumer capitalism. One well-known cultural form that exemplifies these transitions is the novel, since it represents the existence of a new public educated enough to read, wealthy enough to buy books, and large enough to make the market for novels financially viable. Newspapers and magazines likewise proliferated in this period. This presents a sharp contrast to the earlier 1700s, when the only real audience for literature was the aristocracy, who made up perhaps only 5% of the overall population.

Source: GS 602 Module 1 Session 5-6

Books are super influential! And I love Labrouste’s Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève built in 1842-50 for being the first commissioned public library. Open to the entire public, it displayed and contained books that were not chained-up or locked-up behind bars. The entire facade is carved with names of scholars and scientists in chronological order. Who is the first carved name? Moses.

Source for refreshing my memory: European Architecture 1750–1890 by Barry Bergdoll.

Consistently and throughout our entire human culture, we have given this bias to our vision. We link vision with the very act of thinking and reasoning. You can see this in our language: when we understand something, we tend to use words connected with sight. We have “insight” or “see the light.” We have “clarity.” We work from “a point of view.” We describe ideas as “brilliant" or “dull.”

Unfortunately for us, it simply isn’t true. Our vision, or at least our act of seeing, simply is not reliable. There would be far too much visual information for the human brain to process unless we made a great many assumptions about the simple light entering through our eyeballs, assumptions of which we are generally completely unaware.

The eyes do not see in any useful sense; seeing happens in the brain. The same is true of all our senses; when you experience some sort of taste, it is not the taste itself that is the meaningful part, but what you interpret from it and think about it.

Source: GR616 Module 14 Session 4

How To Be A Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy — I checked it out from my local library. I wish I had been introduced to this book sooner. I am loving the way the margins of the book are set up, especially as a way to feature the (aqua-marine blue!) footnotes instead of hide them.

I can really thank Aaron Heth for writing about his experience of his four years in design school as it introduced me to the book.

Have a philosophy. Not necessarily a manifesto, but ideas and decisions that made up your role as a designer. Reading through that first book of Shaugnessy’s put me on a specific track to constantly improve my work: A part of my philosophy that developed in school was ‘if you always follow, you will never lead.’ Try to avoid getting caught up in fads, trends, or even aesthetics that you particularly like. Instead, expand upon them. Use your own experiences, and in the process make your own mistakes. As much as we’d like to objectify design, and as important as that is in design school, it is still, in many ways, subjective.

📃 Four years by Aaron Heth

When we over-saturate ourselves in other people’s work it short-changes our own creative development. For example, so many of the design inspiration sites on the web today serve up content in bite-sized chunks, resulting in a form of visual junk food. While the work featured on these sites can be some of the best our industry has to offer, the way that it’s displayed usually throws concept and story out the window in place or pure visual sugar. The story of a design (the problem and solution) are stripped away so only the visual execution is left to absorb. This view of design rots away the core foundations of our profession.

📃 Consumption: How Inspiration Killed, Then Ate, Creativity by Owen Shifflett

3. Adapt but don’t Adopt. What is needed is an adaptive approach to creative processes, not an adoptive one. In the words of Bono – every poet is a cannibal, every artist is a thief. We all draw from sources outside ourselves. The challenge is in finding your own voice, in adapting elements, thoughts, processes – whatever – and not not in adopting them. One strips former things down, re-purposes them, combines them with parts from myriad other sources still, and takes us to a different place than when we started. The other just likes what he sees, gets “inspired”, steals the original idea, and makes it his own with a can of spray paint. One is creative, results in something new and comes from the inspiration of many sources; the other is just imitation and while it might well be the first step in learning your craft, it won’t get you any further.

📃 In Defence of Inspiration by David duChemin

Waiting for inspiration is death. Shostakovich suggested composers should write every day, not so much because it moves you closer to completing a score, but because it reminds you where you are. By continuing to work an idea you leave yourself ready to receive the next one. Pablo Neruda also wrote every day believing who could not know if today would be the day he wrote his greatest poem unless he actually sat down to write.

📃 Inspiration And/Or Creativity by Fernando Gros

Fernando Gros quotes an excellent, but slightly discouraging, piece:

And, sorry, all those romantic notions you have of absinthe spoons, manic episodes and Kerouac-like rambling on a long roll of butcher paper really aren’t operative. Creative work is mostly showing up every day and enduring a million tiny failures as you feel your way to some thing a bit new.

📃 Working In Close by Brian Oberkirch

This entire category would not have existed but for the efforts of John Baskerville (1706–1775). As an inventor, he made advances in papermaking (smoother, whiter paper), ink (darker) and printing (more pressure) which led him to redesign letterforms for these technological improvements. While to our modern eyes these faces might seem ordinary, Baskerville’s types were considered outlandish in the 1700s in England. According to some reports, his books were criticized as being a potential cause of blindness.

Source: GR617 Module 4

Art is an idea that has found its perfect form.

To realize a work of art, certain conflicts must be resolved between ends and means, form and content, form and function, form and expression. It is the merging of these conflicts that determines the aesthetic quality of the painting, the design, the building, sculpture or painted piece. You know the big problem in art is bringing these two antagonistic elements together.

Harold Bloom means when he says, without the aesthetic, whatever the discipline is, it’s something else. Without the aesthetic, typography is something else. Not typography, and you get into this trendy stuff. Without the aesthetic means it’s not done with love. It’s done for some ulterior motive, because it sells, because it’s popular, it’s crazy, you know, all this stuff. Easy to do. Snappy, fast, crackles. All these reasons.

Paul Rand (1914–1996)

Isn’t it fascinating to realize that no image, no form, not even a shade or color, ‘exists’ on its own; that among everything that’s visually observable we can refer only to relationships and to contrasts?

M.C. Escher (1898-1972)

Louis Reith’s work is currently featured on Little Paper Planes. They write,

Louis’ work explores the typographical forms beyond readability and seem to abstractly document arctic voyages of the past.

All the research shows that the creative process is basically the same: generating ideas, evaluating them and executing them, with many creative sparks over time

📖 Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation by R. Keith Sawyer