Clippings — week of 19 October 2015

This long weekend felt like a blessing. I’d neglectied a whole lot of housework during recovery, and the weekend was a good opportunity to catch up on these chores. I went through the list from doing the laundry multiple times to even gardening. Living in an apartment has limitations, but small pots of succulents are perfect for bringing some nature indoors. My plants are at various stages, but most are ready to be propagated. This article on propagating succulents has helped me a lot. Small clumps of off-sprouts and leaf cuttings are laid out on my desk, callousing over and waiting to be potted next weekend.


Why too much choice is stressing us out | The Guardian →
It’s clear. When we have too many options, we spend more effort and time trying to rationalise our final decision. This investment raises our expectations of the desired outcome and makes us unhappy if these expectations aren’t met. I think I’ll have to read The paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz mentioned here too. It seems like a fascinating topic.

Jeong Kwan, the philosopher chef | T Magazine →
A thorough overview of the Korean temple cuisine, accompanied by beautiful photographs of dishes and the surrounding nature. The connection between vegetation and food are not only limited to Buddhist monks but are embedded in the traditional Korean lifestyle. The methods of food preparation metnioned here can often be seen in the countryside. I can remember seeing my grandmother plucking weeds in her extensive garden without any tools. Crouching down, she would lovingly talk to the pumpkin plant, the leaves and fruit of which would make their way onto the dinner table. When we slept, we slept on the hard floor beneath blocks of fermenting beans hanging from the ceiling and stinking up the entire room. Even the wispy rope was rubbed by hand into shape. I really love it when memories resurface as a reaction to the written work of others.

Final words | Aeon →
4 lines of 25 characters per line, where blanks and hyphens can notate the entire life of a loved one. Intended for the living but representing the dead. This was a poignant read on epitaphs from the author’s personal journey in the context of the world.

System shock | Medium →
A bug that revived System, a bitmap font from many years ago that changed the feel of Medium entirely. A thoughtfully prepared article that unpacks the error with historic nods and apt humour.

How emojis find their way to phones | NYT →
With iOS 9.1, there was a bunch of new emojis introduced. My favourites are the robot and the unicorn. Reading this article opened my eyes to a whole new world. Who knew there was such a job as an emoji grammarian?


Offline reading

As soon as I saw there was a new Margaret Atwood novel, I knew I had to read it. The heart goes last was an easy and gripping read. Quite an unusual piece of work by Margaret Atwood, but it was still characteristically dystopian with some feminist undertones. The narrative follows a couple, Stan and Charmaine, who takes part in a social experiment to combat the failing economy in the form of a self-contained community. There are some chilling scenarios and downright weird technologies described. Not for the weak-hearted.

Clippings — week of 12 October 2015

I’ve been in recovery mode these past few days. I require less painkillers, but I’m still feeling under the weather. My calorie intake is probably at an all time low. But I’m glad that I can finally go out and enjoy some meals, and more importantly, read more this week.


After wisdom teeth removal | Well Oral →
I’m not sure how many times I read this document since my wisdom teeth were extracted, but I’ve been holding on to every word. It’s funny how matter-of-fact the content is, but how reassuring it is to have something like his to guide you. I can’t imagine what it might have been like when this sort of information wasn’t readily accessible.

Things I want to ask my dog | The New Yorker →
I’ve never had a pet dog, but the way that the dog is addressed here makes it easy for me to imagine what it might be like to have one as a companion. The questions contribute to a wider narrative of the author, and the unspoken exchange also made me wonder about the insight that the dog might’ve had.

4 steps to true freedom | Behaviour Gap→
Planning minimises uncertainty but has its limitations. I become fraught if some situation doesn’t resolve exactly as prepared. Planning gives me a sense of control, but it’s too easy to lose this and become more stressed. Living in the moment and accepting what reality brings you is more liberating than living a life with your head in the future.

Explaining graphic design to four-year-olds | Medium →
It’s hard enough to explain what design is to adults. Distilled down to the essence of what design means, the children were able to understand and accept the nuances and even some of the process required in design. Honestly, they probably have a better idea of what design is than some corporates today.


Offline reading

Over the past two weeks, I made my way through The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis. The written style is fairly academic and often required contemplation.

Unlike most books on creativity, it didn’t make me jump up and want to start something new right away. Instead, it made me want to pursue things that I’d already started, and keep at it. The thought that the the Renaissance (wo)man is making a comeback has been niggling away in the back of my mind. It was helpful that the book highlighted the importance of human resilience in a given subject, which I found very refreshing.

The examples given in the book are broad, starting with archery, moving onto jazz, dance, arctic exploration, painting, and much more to provide solid examples of what it means to fail. More than that, how we can be sensible about failure and perseverance in order to accomplish small successes, all necessary to move towards mastery.

No more wisdom teeth

I was too optimistic about the removal of my two lower wisdom teeth this week.

My face has ballooned. I still can’t feel the left side of my tongue. I’ve been swallowing drugs, baby food, mashed everything and ice cream. I think I’ve had enough of the baby food.

At almost every turn, I found myself googling away, thinking that something had gone terribly wrong. Yesterday was particularly bad, and every result pointed at it becoming worse, but the troublesome side looks infinitely better this morning. I’ve learnt that it’s destructive and unnecessary to rely on masses of unfiltered information when it comes to health (and probably a lot of other things too).

I’ve also learnt that I take for granted the ability to eat. It’s currently proving to be an arduous process of making biting motions at the mashed things with my front teeth and trying to gather all the contents towards the back. It’s so much harder with everything swollen. Eating half of an avocado takes me twenty minutes. Though, mashed with a pinch of salt and pepper, this eye-sore of a dish has complex flavours that I wouldn’t have noticed at my normal pace. I’m learning to eat all over again.

Clippings — week of 28 September 2015

Reading through my journal this week, it looks like it’s been a busy one for me with evenings full of various chores. I felt I didn’t get enough reading time this week, so I’m surprised that I managed to put this together. I’m happy to say this week is coming to a close.


Learning to die →
Being a twenty-something year old, death is something that happens to other people. The days fold into each other so naturally. As a consequence of this, it takes a great effort to think about the mortality of those around me. The absence of someone really close to me will be something that I will have to face eventually.

Stagnant and dull, can digital books ever replace print? →
A sweeping journey of our reading experience through technological innovations, Craig Mod describes our relationship with various containers of content. I nodded at the convenience of the Kindle that has easily become a daily companion. I’m unsure about whether my current satisfaction will wane as Craig Mod describes here. Some content will never be appropriate for the Kindle, which is why I don’t depend completely on it. However, the uniform treatment to content seems like a fair way to compare books that were meant for reading alone. In my view, it allows us to fully appreciate the word-craft of authors because design (or lack there of) can enforce distracting opinions.

Get to know your work →
The importance of keeping a professional workbook is demonstrated by Dana Pavlichko. Collecting thoughts piece by piece as you work results in a tighter design system, built upon the foundations of documented reasoning. It’s common to see the workbook as a requirement in education, a good opportunity for students to develop good habits. However, it’s often the case that students will rush to fill up these so-called workbooks at the end of assignments (I have also fallen into this trap before). I’ve learnt through the years that an ongoing transcription in the maze of the design process is beneficial. Trying to remember the route you’ve taken and marking dead-ends is a lot more difficult at the end of the journey.

How Spotify’s Discover Weekly cracked human curation →
I’ve been looking forward to Mondays these past few weeks, thanks to Spotify’s Discover Weekly. I noticed that Spotify has been apt with their playlist recommendations — Songs for a sore head and Late night indie appearing at around midnight, Low-key weekend and Lazy daze on a Sunday morning. Discover Weekly took a step further, generating a playlist each week with pretty accurate recommendations just for me. It was interesting to read about how the company was able to use the combination of my listening history, 2 billion playlists generated by Spotify’s 75 million users, and some clever algorithms to generate these weekly digital mixtapes.


Offline screening

Last week, I read The Martian, and I had a chance to watch the film yesterday. We went to Light House Cinema, sitting in a comfortable two-seater couch. If you’re a Wellingtonian, I can’t recommend the cinema enough. There weren’t many people with us, and I felt I was able to take in the film without too many distractions.

Even if I knew what was going to happen in great detail, I found myself hooked. The tension between the bureaucracy and humanity of NASA was just as how I’d pictured. The casting was spot on, and the space scenes were beautiful. Everything seemed too easy to deem real. There were differences between the book and the movie and some of the detail was lost, but they were forgivable for the form that the story took on. I must say, it was possibly the most orange (burnt-sienna) film I’d seen, closely followed by Mad Max. Not surprising, because this is what Mars looks like.

Clippings — week of 21 September 2015

I don’t tend to buy magazines, but Uppercase issue 26 was the exception I made this week. There was a large focus around postage stamps with a showcase of enviable collections and even self-issued postage stamp sheets as art pieces. I’ve been accumulating vintage New Zealand stamps to use, and it was a good prompt for me to write some letters and put the stamps in use.

Much to my delight, the iPhone 6S (in space grey of course) arrived on schedule on Friday. I’ve been tolerating the cursed battery life in my iPhone 5 for the last three months. The phone would suddenly die without warning all too often, leaving me silently fuming and burning my insides. On superficial examination, I prefer how the Watch looks with the black iPhone 5, but I’m appreciating everything else about the 6S so far.


Writing by omission →
Speckled with personal anecdotes and advice, I really savoured this article. The process of taking away things that are unnecessary when working on a piece of writing is similar to that of working on a piece of design.

The creative writer leaves white space between chapters or segments of chapters. The creative reader silently articulates the unwritten thought that is present in the white space.

The idea of ‘greening’ words intrigues me. A process that I will try my hand at in my future compositions.

The things they carry →
A response to the refugee situation in Europe, the author describes the difficult experiences of her mother as a North Korean escapee. It’s easy to look at the media reports and abstract the individuals as numbers. It’s simply convenient to think of the refugees as a large group. But it’s important to take time to think about the fact that each and every one of these refugees carries a personal narrative.

Home brewing the perfect pour over coffee →
Complete with tasteful photographs, I enjoyed reading about Yozo Otsuki’s brewing technique. It’s very similar to how I go about with the Chemex. I guess coffee jargon makes me happy. There are lots of interesting equipment on Kurasu, with the collection of kettles looking particularly tempting.

IBM animation fundamentals →
I came across a section on animation from the IBM style guide that I hadn’t seen before. Taking characteristics and timing of movements from their physical machines, the animations of the interface today have been defined by the historic achievements of the company. I appreciated the unambiguous language that described the unifying style of motion that the company is striving towards.


Offline reading

I’ve just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. I usually shy away from science fiction, but the tale of a stranded astronaut on Mars was surprisingly unputdownable. The science and engineering behind Mark Watney’s attempts to survive in Mars were impressive. His resourceful and comedic thoughts read like my own in his log entries. The shifting narratives between the mission control centre and Mars made me feel like I was jumping from scene to scene in a movie. There were some toe-curling moments, and during those times, I felt like I was in dire situations with him. It was easy to imagine the terrains, piecing together photographs and footage that I’d come across before. The atmosphere described by Weir’s language was like looking at gritty brushstrokes of an expressive painting. I’m looking forward to watching the film interpretation.

Clippings — week of 14 September 2015

I injured my left achilles tendon last weekend. Putting any weight on the foot was painful, and I had to hobble my way around everywhere this week. On the day following the incident, my Watch buzzed and told me that it was time to stand. It seemed like the system was explicitly advising me to withstand more pain. I recoiled. With knowledge of the most intimate details about myself, I expected it to know that I was injured too. But how could it? For something so smart, I realised how basic it could be. I turned off the standing reminders.


Pitchfork review of No No No by Beirut →
I missed the release of Beirut’s album No No No last week. It has received some mixed reviews, with Pitchfork rating it only 6.7 out of 10. While I agree with points mentioned around its lack of complexity, I can’t help but to like the new tracks for Zach Condon’s silky voice and catchy melodies.

Famous writers on keeping a dairy →
Maria Popova begins her article with an advice from Madeleine L‘Engle that really resonated with me.

“You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,”

I pour the most unedited emotions into my journals. I learned through the many failed attempts that it’s easier to write for my eyes only. The idea of people rustling through my writing is frightening, but it’s the only way that I can remain truthful. As a deeply self-conscious introvert, it’s been liberating to celebrate, whinge, exclaim and ramble on without an audience. It’s a living testament to who I am.

Adrian Frutiger Dies at 87; His Type Designs Show You the Way → RIP Type Design Legend Adrian Frutiger →
The legendary Swiss designer and typographer Adrian Frutiger passed away last weekend. I still remember cutting out irregularly dispersed letters that made up words like Octopus, all set in Univers 65 in order to conduct physical kerning exercises at design school. I never warmed up to Frutiger as a typeface, but the grotesque Univers and geometric Avenir made my heart beat. They were the first few typefaces I ever purchased as a student.

An interview with master calligrapher Seb Lester →
I’ve been following Seb Lester’s work for a while, and I’m happy to see that he’s finally being widely recognised through social media. It’s interesting that he‘s steering towards art from the commercial design realm that he belonged to. Another must-read is Seb Lester’s how to get started in calligraphy written by the man himself.


Offline reading

How to write short: word craft for fast times written by Roy Peter Clark was an engaging book I read this week. Being a book on writing, it was unsurprising that I wasn’t caught on any ill-constructed sentences. It was simply an immaculate read. However, the sheer number of chapters and ideas were slightly overwhelming, and the brevity of some left me wanting more. As a whole, the book seemed a little scattered due to the format. There certainly wasn’t a shortage of ideas and advice. Highlighting and jotting down passages and thoughts, I found it appropriate that the most interesting chapter was around marginalia as a genre of writing. I’ve always been precious with physical books, and I maintained that I would rather have cramped hands than wispy creases on the spine of a paperback. So my method of marginalia doesn’t live in the margins physically, but they’re mostly there in my commonplace book. The contextual exchange between myself and the author inside the book is a romantic notion, but I doubt that I could ever change my ways.

Clippings — week of 7 September 2015

The Apple announcement took up most of my reading time this week, analysing various marketing material and articles for my daily job. I’ve decided not to go into detail for today, but I will mention that I have pre-ordered an iPhone 6S (64GB, space grey to match the Watch). What a geek.

In other news, I finally subscribed to The New York Times. The combination of neat illustrations paired with top quality writing pushed me to give in to the subscription modal dialogue that really bugged me every time I hit the monthly quota.


The myth of quality time →
Life doesn’t work like a pre-written script of a play. You can’t plan for “quality time”. Good interactions happen organically, and it’s important to be present in the moment to walk into moments of sincerity.

The internet of way too many things →
For some solutions, there are no problems that need solving. “Innovative” solutions that are supposed to take care of (made-up) problems can be downright ridiculous. You wonder how the products managed to go through all the hoops and into reality. It leaves us to think about our values and expectations as consumers. When is it appropriate to adopt technology, and at what point do we draw the line?

Dear Google designers →
What a massive undertaking the redesign must have been for the Google designers. While details are not yet perfect, it’s highly likely the logotype will keep refining. It hasn’t grown on me yet, but one of my favourite details is the pagination of search results. The repeated ‘o’ above the page numbers is playful and, the red amongst the yellow rings makes the component very usable.

The perfect product designer →
Sounds like a daunting specimen.


Offline reading

Princess Bari by Hwang Sok-yong was the novel I read this week. The story revolves around Bari, a girl who escapes from North Korea and endures unimaginable hardship from a young age. Bari is sensitive to the spirit of others around her, something that she’d inherited from her grandmother. Conversing with the spirit of her grandmother, she learns to cope with loss by comparing such a tragic event to a commonplace situation.

The people who brush past you on the street are gone as soon as that moment passes. Think of those you saw yesterday, or even a moment ago. They’re gone. You can’t hear them or see them.

This is something that all Koreans have learned to do, especially those who have gone through depression that the Korean War brought, learning to re-evaluate situations and get on with life. It was how my parents were raised by our grandparents, and a lot of the values were transferred to us.

The story drew attention to the sharing of many values, and the wider culture and tradition that both North and South Koreans adhered to. It was a difficult reminder of the hardship faced by the North compared to the privileged lifestyle that the South have come to live and expect. The contrasting fates due to the arbitrary divide.

Sora Kim-Russell translated the text wonderfully well. It was certainly interesting to read the novel in English. When the phrases were too Korean to translate well, I would try translating back, brining about a smile to my lips. These moments added to the experience of reading, like a small exchange between the author, the translator, and myself (the native reader). The translation is smooth sailing overall and makes the important piece of Korean literature readily accessable.

도장 (dojang) — the traditional Korean seal

The fascination started back when my family was living in Seoul. One of objects I revered the most as a small child was the personal seal that my parents individually owned. I remember they were always kept safe, zipped up in tiny leather pouches and hidden somewhere out of my reach. I could play with the red paste, stamping my fingerprints everywhere, but the seals themselves were strictly out of bounds. This was because the seals were used in lieu of signatures — the concept of signatures didn’t exist in Korea, and the 도장 were the only recognised way to bind contracts. You can see why my parents were so careful with them.

There’s something intriguing about making a mark to claim an object as your own, especially when there’s a consistent and systematic way of doing so. I was 20 years old when my aunt back in Korea offered me a 도장 of my own. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. That was the point in time I had lived in Korea for the first ten years of my life, and the other ten in New Zealand. It was the perfect vessel that would hold the convergence of the two cultures. I intentionally drew up an English-based design.

The outcome was beyond any expectation. It still feels like a treat to be handling such a beautiful object. The exterior is embellished with fine lines of thread that make up a pattern of traditional motifs. To open the box, you simply unhook the small ivory piece from the loop. The felt that cushions the block of marble is bright red, a stunning contrast from the gentle green and gold.

Turning the marble block around to the stamp face exposes thin slashes around the lettering, strokes that have been chiseled away by the craftsperson. It’s easy to imagine how difficult a material this might have been to work with. The gleaming marble is cool to touch. Upon examination, there’s a deliberate blemish on one of the sides. A small zigzag has been hand-etched onto the surface that lets the thumb to orient the stamp correctly. There’s no need to twist my wrist to see if it’s oriented the right way.

The heft of the marble keeps the block in position without having to do much work. Like most stamps, I simply tap ink on, then press down to print. The slight curve of the top protects my palm safe from the sharp corners.

There is no practical need for a seal in New Zealand. However, the personal symbolism that my 도장 bears is important to me, and it has been my identity for half a decade now — appearing in professional documents to the more intimate personal paper-based exchanges. The combined experience of such contrasting materials make it a joy to handle each time.

It is a small but richly ceremonious object that I’ll cherish for a lifetime.

Clippings — week of 31 August 2015

I’ve been drinking more coffee this week. Switching over to the Chemex system may have had something to do with it. I particularly enjoy the smooth flavour and gentle texture that a good cup of pourover coffee exudes. The hourglass shape of the Chemex equipment brings about a smile to my face, and it really has been a perfect start to my mornings. There has been plenty of reading to accompany my coffee drinking too, the very best of which I’ve saved for today to share.


More time is better than more money →
The pace of travel is a difficult one to master. Weekend trips away seem to come to an abrupt end. You feel like you’re just warming up to it, then Sunday arrives on schedule. Going away for a week or two is marginally better. Having slightly more time makes you feel uneasy because there’s a brooding need to make the most of it, cramming in all sorts of back-to-back activities. The smarter way to travel is just taking your time and savouring moments.

The healing power of hugs →
Most people I’ve interacted in person know that I don’t like hugs. It just feels awkward, even with my close friends. I really don’t mean to offend, but I naturally flinch, seize up, or step back when it’s too late to refuse the embrace. When I started reading this piece, I was anticipating paragraphs filled with eye-rollable benefits and some airy-fairy reasoning on why hugs are good for you. I was wrong. The sterile description of how to conduct a ‘therapeutic hug’ made me realise why I enjoy very few hugs. It’s all about the intention. Variations of I-haven’t-seen-you-in-a-while hug simply don’t work for me.

Emotional intelligence in design →
It was enlightening to read about the hidden costs of design decisions made for masses. Prioritising scenarios or certain edge cases over others means you’re choosing to alienate the minority you may not have thought about without really knowing the intensity of the effect. By designing products, we’re creating a dialogue and consequently a relationship with our customers. We need to be more careful and shift our perspective more than we might be comfortable doing.

Designers should design, coders should code →
I see merits sharpening my pencils to go through Design+Code. Personally, I’m beginning to agree that a designer should be a designer more so than the other side of the argument. This is mainly based on my experience as a bilingual, constantly switching between English and Korean. More often than not, my near-equivalent knowledge of both languages hinders how I communicate. The languages will often fight or try to suppress one another. My brain tries to combine the two that doesn’t work when spoken outwardly. I find myself trying to replace words and restructure sentences so that it makes sense. This affects the accuracy and speed of delivery. I constantly have the feeling that I haven’t mastered any one of the two, falling short of completeness. The conflict doesn’t happen with my third language, where I know enough classroom French to understand what’s going on, but doesn’t get in the way of my daily communication. In this way, I can see that I could be better off staying a designer who strives to understand technical implications and how things are built, but not necessarily responsible for the code. There’s just so much to learn and master in one context.


Offline reading

This week, I read a delightful book, Adventures in stationery by James Ward. Much of the book discussed big brands and how they came to be. It was interesting to read about the spectrum of patents that stood out and iterated upon to become household names today. My favourite part was when László Moholy-Nagy (whom I revered in design school) was mentioned for his love for the Parker 51. Launched in 1941, the Parker 51 was a pen from the future, sporting a hooded nib and a streamline body. Moholy-Nagy thought that it was ‘one of the most successful designs of small utility objects in our period’, explaining that it was ‘light, handy, extremely well-shaped, unobtrusive and perfectly functional’. Needless to say, my very own dove grey P51 received some attention this week. Reading the book also made me dig out my copy of 51 Sketches, a beautiful book that features 30 years of Bill Culbert’s working drawings and sketches with the P51. It’s worth nothing that Bill Culbert’s fascination with light in his work shows a strong affinity to Moholy-Nagy, and I can’t help but wonder if he’d been influenced by Moholy-Nagy when it came to choosing a writing instrument. Then again, Culbert’s use of the P51 could have been a coincidence, much like the overlap of revolutionary tools employed by many within a particular time period.

Hobonichi 2016

It was just yesterday that the Hobonichi 2016 store opened up for early purchases. These Japanese-made planners are elegantly designed and are made of supreme materials. They’re certainly the best I’ve come across. I use mine as more of a diary than a planner, as a space to debrief on a daily basis.

Keeping a log of events from the day is regimented in Korean schooling. Both the kindergarten and elementary school I attended in Seoul made everyday journaling a compulsory activity. Everyone was encouraged to reflect on the day, then express what had happened. The schools even issued standardised notebooks. I still remember filling the big rectangular block with a drawing and writing clumsily in the lines underneath.

The routine disappeared once my family moved to New Zealand. It was only recently that I thought twice about the benefits it may have brought. When I began journaling again, I found that the process miraculously stopped me from being an insomniac. Closing the journal has been a conscious effort that also closes the door on my chaotic brain. Because I write in my mother tongue, I can roam freely in my expressions whilst maintaining my knowledge of the language structure. The contents of the journal make the object the most private thing I own.

There’s a great introductory feature about the English planner and the beautifully crafted A&S covers on the Hobonichi website if you’re not familiar with the brand. I’m looking forward to the unique thrill and anticipation that a new journal brings.

Clippings — week of 24 August 2015

Introducing Clippings. A log of reads that I’ve enjoyed and taken something from, presented at the end of each week.


The moral bucket list →
I attended the memorial service of a good friend and former colleague of mine who passed away last weekend. Needless to say, it was a week that made me question my own mortality. This was a thought-provoking and appropriate essay that made myself think about what kind of person I’m perceived to be and will be remembered for. I often steel myself to contain emotions, living in complete diplomacy and bland anonymity. I’m slowly learning to be more genuine and true to myself rather than constantly trying to avoid friction with diverging opinions.

Grit is for cowboys →
It’s easy to get trapped into blind perseverance without taking a holistic view on what you’re trying to accomplish or what effects it might have on you. I have twice burnt myself out, egging myself to do more and do better, without properly seeing the greater effect. Design and repetitive manual labour from a process point of view simply don’t fit together.

The illusion of time →
This article offers practical advice and good examples that demonstrate how we perceive waiting time on digital products is completely subjective. There are also explanations and ways to alleviate pain caused by longer periods of waiting, simply by making better deicisions in optimising for the specific waiting time. I thought that the article collated some of the scattered reference material I’d seen from different places really well.

Dear developer. Love, designer. →
As the title eludes, this was a great writeup about how developers can help the designer and enhance the overall solution. I thought that the article really captured my feelings that I’ve had but haven’t yet tried articulating. I found that developers may know of patterns that may suit the solution better, especially when dealing with native apps. Function-focused conversations and limitations of time prepares me to think about sensible iterations for the future too. It really is a privilege to be working in a cross-functional team.


Offline

I’m embarrassed to admit I’m making my way through the Harry Potter series at the moment. I started with The Philosopher’s Stone a few weeks back, and I’m now in the middle of the lsat book. I suppose I was recovering from a burnout, and it was something that I could read without having to think too much. My eyes were glazed for the majority of the books, but a scenario with the Weasley twins made me draw parallels with what I’d talked about last week. Fred and George had just been granted to use magic outside of school as they turned 17. From that moment, the twins relied on their wands completely, not even bothering to walk a few paces to collect something. Being the responsible mother, Molly tells Fred and George off for using magic for every little thing. It was easy to imagine technology as the magical component of the world we live in. Convenience doesn’t beat living slowly and savouring moments with our entire body. And at times, technology can be a very roundabout way of doing something simple, but we usually employ the means to save time. By cutting time though, I wonder, what else are we cutting out from ourselves?

Towards a sense-driven life

I’ve always been known as someone obsessed with physical books, fountain pens, inks, stationery, and various paper-based ephemera. However, in my third year of working in tech industry, I noticed that I’d been unconsciously tip-toeing away from tangible materials that I’ve been raised with in design school. If you’re a traditional designer, you’ll recognise this as an abomination. To me, it seemed like the equivalent to an illness, and there was only one solution. I had to be more deliberate in my choices. And what better way was there than to document myself culminating on small tactile experiences that I’d become a small expert in?

Symptoms

It all began when everything I did had to be executed in the most efficient, immaculate, and fastest way possible. The feeling that I was constantly late was most pronounced. It was exhausting to catch up to the millions of thoughts, and of course I was never fast enough to grasp the intangible. I was consumed by the insatiable need to find the quickest route, the most accurate way to complete tasks, and I even forbade myself from serendipitous processes in my design thinking. I noticed I moved away from manual ways of doing tasks, only to replace them by predictable and mechanical methods. My occupation ultimately calls for pixel-based outputs which only reinstated this behaviour.

Diagnosis

The rushed nature of my feelings inevitably led to my complete and utter unhappiness that I exhaustively hid. I believe this was a big stressor and was likely the cause of physical breathlessness.

Patient notes

I realise now, only with the gift of hindsight, that I’d been trying to abstract myself from the physical world. Kenya Hara talks about this phenomena in his book Designing Design, where he suggests that our sensory perceptions and receptivity are starting to fade away due to the increasing tendency to live conveniently. He argues that technology is always driving us to slack off. For me, it was clear I have been drawing and writing less, moving straight onto the computer where no motor-based glitches would be made. I was merely collecting stationery and ephemera without the need to employ them in my daily life. I was far away from existing in reality.

Prescription

Living a balanced digital–analogue lifestyle is what I’m hoping to achieve through this channel in two ways. The first is to pay attention to my immediate surroundings and publish a subjective report or review on a particular material experience. The second is to interweave my drafting and publishing process which won’t be visible to you directly, but will be a conscious effort from me.

“Sense-driven” describes a situation in which progress pivots on our sensory perceptions.
—Kenya Hara

I envision this space being filled with my appreciation of well-crafted objects, books, and fountain pens through a heavily design-bent lens.

Transmission

I hope there is something beneficial for you in what will be my inward-looking and somewhat self-centred journey. I am by no means a professional writer, but I will strive for grammatical correctness and naturality in prose. I would love to hear about your observations too. Drop me a line on Twitter or send me an electronic mail for your longer thoughts. I’ll be glad to hear from you.

—Julie Jeon


Hara, K. (2001). Designing design. (3rd Ed.). Switzerland: Lars Müller Publishers.