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.