Posts Tagged ‘Design’

I paid a visit to a man that will soon be 99 years old. He was – at one point in my pre-divorce nuttiness – a lover of sorts (he was well over 90 at the time). He is now a man who I have grown to love dearly, even if his bottom set of dentures fall out during dinner. He’s just that great of a guy.

Then I biked home to my daughter who was curious if I had somehow experienced his death since I had been gone so long (at his age, she reasoned, you really never know)… A very clever teen who is absolutely on the emotional money nearly 100% of the time.

There was a message on my machine from a man who had enchanted me only two nights before and he had me utterly tickled again to hear his soft voice telling me sweet things that (this time!) were of a more personal nature. A man who spoke to my soul because he had said, basically: BEAUTY WILL HEAL YOUR BRAIN. Well, sort of. But it was as if the speech he was giving was the one I had been formulating in my head for years, where you sit there in the audience going “yes! yes! duh! yes! God, I know! yes!!” and your energy is shooting off in all directions as you forget to breathe.

I guess I have a knack for falling in love immediately (and irretrievably!) with brains. That was the case with my 90 year old, that was the case with the ethics and beauty man on stage. Looking back, that was the case with just about every relationship I have ever been in, from the get go. I beg that 50% of the world’s population will forgive me, but normally, it happens to me with members of the opposite sex. It just works out that way, for the most part. With the exception of one or two dear friends and Rachel Maddow – as I certainly love them/her and am indebted and inspired to Rachel by what she contributes (literally daily!) to society.

But falling in love – while nice – isn’t enough to sustain this particular body. Being loved in return is what gets the glow going. Which, although the day had been going better than expected in regards to reciprocity … I was having an awful time with something else:

… the man on my machine made only one mistake during his lecture. He said that designers would have “plenty of work.” While I am sure some do – and what a wonderful thing for them – I seem to be in a process of becoming something else – from designer to ? … what exactly is not quite clear yet. It has evolved into fact that I simply cannot handle the eminently shallow, art and creative directing, better-and-wittier-than-thou and we-are-all-that types in agencies. To their credit, they are doing what they have to do. But are they REALLY giving us true cultural contributions? Ästhetic value? Deeper moral spaces? Now that they have perfect command of flash (after years of code study), are they REALLY going to let us in on something truly interesting, inspiring and culturally relevant? I suppose perhaps some are, but unlucky for me, I have never met them. Would they REALLY also be able to watch a 90+ lose his teeth after biting on roast duck and still not miss a beat in their devotion (or lose their appetite?) because they know what “it’s” REALLY about? Are they loving their own partners intensely against all physical odds (giving birth, aging, too little exercise, gravity)? Are they learning about sharing food with snails in their own gardens because killing all of them is just plain impossible? Are they acting constructively as often as possible on matters of absolute importance to the world? I certainly HOPE so. But I have my share of doubt, and it’s growing. Sadly. So much for the upholders of the truth, the good, the beautiful.

And even if agency life wasn’t so bad, then there are the clients. Clients I have lost only because they found me to be “educational” (the word, when spoken in German, smacks painfully of being a condescending wench that has no business talking to marketing directors like that). Indeed, I had been trying to teach the man about taste. Meaning. Clarity. Beauty. Truth. My career as a teacher at a design school was beginning, so he was a unwitting prophet, bless his naive heart.

Then there are other clients that essentially order you to do things you would never, ever, ever do. And you put up and shut up, or you lose a client. Which, considering that you are now working for less than a third of what you had been able to charge five years ago, you of course do. I’m not complaining about price, I have learned the value – quite literally – of less. But culturally, ethically, you know you are making a mistake. You know you should get up and walk out. You know you should start producing your own dandelion wine for sale at local farmer’s markets before you continue to put up with such degradation for even one more minute. The only problem: you have virtually no clue how to make dandelion wine. And getting the recipe online just doesn’t seem to be the right way to go about it…

And so it goes. Despite all the thunder and lightning, the heat isn’t going away.


UPDATE:  Thank you for those that sent in early entries for the first presentation that took place yesterday, April 6th, in Munich. That helps us all to get a feel for what it could be – I will post the results of these first steps soon, either here or at another location. Stay tuned! And keep those entries coming!

Pretty much everyone I know (and many people I don’t) seem to agree that, generally speaking, peace is a nice “add-on” to have. “We’re good” when it’s there and – if we can remain alive – we somehow manage to bumble through when it isn’t.

This is the current “branding status” for peace:


The symbol with the lines was originally developed by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The dove (with an olive branch in his beak) is an ancient symbol. The “V” sign with two upheld fingers is actually signalling victory and thus - peace. The flag comes from Italy: peace, pace, paz, pax (and in another context shalom and salaam) … all in the same spirit and this time with rainbow colors. Then there is the little origami bird from Japan with its own fascinating history …

… but the symbol I find most fascinating of all is this one:


Having appeared (without the circle) on Stone Age amulets, this one goes back a ways. With the circle, it became the logo for Pax Cultura (Peace through Culture, Cultural Peace) with the dots symbolizing Art, Science and Religion, three of the most embracing of human cultural activities. Anno 1935 or so.

Fast forward to 2010. It just so happens that I know this lovely person who also happens to be a prince. And a prince with a mission.

The idea is to take energy and resources from “developed” countries and bring them to less developed countries in forms that differ from the current status quo (one example: weapons). Currently, the form being not only discussed but actually produced can be found in: tiny little bells. You know, the kind the Salvation Army rings. These little brass babies are bells intended to ring in peace. Become bigger. Figuratively. Literally. If cultural work won’t bring us peace, maybe sound will? Bells to represent peace, to resound in and with peace. Raw materials from Africa processed in Europe, erected in … whatever place needs to hear the sound of peace, if only for a moment. Where I grew up, if you could actually ring a big bell that vibrated through the countryside, it meant you wore a lot of black, swore rarely, kneeled daily. Perhaps that can change. (The who can ring it part, not clerics swearing.) Perhaps the reason for ringing a bell needs to change. And who is actually “allowed” to do so, for though I firmly believe it should still be a “sacred” act – like the singing bowls or the minaret – I think more people should be allowed to step into and experience what “sacred” is, can be…

A foundation has been established, much work has already been done, the prince is running ragged trying to find support for this undertaking. He asked me to help and I am simply extending the invitation out to whoever is interested in finding a NEW SYMBOL FOR PEACE / PEACE BELLS, to be used for anything and everything involved with the ensuing marketing procedures: flyers, posters, websites, banners, brochures, etc., all advertising as an active, positive, pro-active productive force for peace. The romans recognized with the olive branch and dove that it wasn’t just the absense of war, that peace meant active cultivation. I would add to that: at all times, all levels.

Bells ringing may not be everyone’s ideal. In fact, I know some who are extraordinarily irritated by the sound. But I come, time and again, to the symbolism within both the bell, the sound, the logo, the condition and state of being that peace is. Sustaining peace is like sustaining bliss (truth be told, I find them synonymous) – it takes dedicated work, inner and outer.

If you would like to join us on the development of this logo, I’m asking entries to be sent in by May 1, 2010. Low-ish resolution PDFs are fine, with name, country, email on the page. All entries will be handled with the utmost care, authorship respected and credit given where credit is due. By sending something, you are agreeing to it being published/used. Should any type of renumeration ever be possible, that is not ruled out, but currently all work is understood to be pro-bono. Send to meafb at hotmail dot com.

Thanks to all who have already expressed interest in this undertaking! Much love, M.


It took only two of the thousands of applications offered for the iPhone to convince my partner: it became a “must-have” product based on the weather and the compass apps. Naturally, he now is spouting off about a variety of other functions. But those two functions (on my phone, before he ordered his) knocked him over the edge. He is, if I may say so, a changed man due to this product.

Mind you, he is no designer. Truth be told, we are diametrically opposed regarding our level of education and the ensuing social stratum. Normally, that would give you a few clues as to the car he drives, the clothes he wears and the newspapers he reads. Or does not read. So goes the cliché. The richness of discovering how wrong clichés can be is part of the lesson here. An important lesson, I believe, for the future of design, specifically product design in the most varied of sectors.

I would postulate that there is some connection between the aesthetic value of any given design and the development of consciousness in the broadest sense. This is a big statement that I intend to expound upon some other time. But very briefly, it is my belief that the things we touch, hold, use, need, value also touch, form, affect and develop who we are. Not just in the banal sense of - as any old American knows - giving us our position in the socially conspicuous consumption caste system. The fact of my mobility being assisted by a Ford, an Audi or a Bentley defines me more quickly than anything else to anyone else. And getting out of the car with Jimmy Choos and a Louis Vitton bag cinch the picture. But it’s also reciprocal. My Audi teaches me about curves and textures and pictograms. Inside the car. Because that is where I live large chunks of my life.

A tiny part of what made my partner a “must have” for me was the fact that, no, he didn’t have any academic titles and yes, he began his factory career at the age of 15, but he had a Braun razor! His shoes were lovely. His undergarments were spectacular. An essential fact to understand why I say this, is that I am a designer by trade and passion. These things matter to me in a way no non-designer would ever understand. But I understood that the choice he made in choosing these products on an extremely limited budget stemmed from the way his inner world worked. He valued value. He turned things over again and again before finally making that choice. (And still does, btw.) Watching someone choose less is much more valuable than watching someone choose more. (If I would ever spend thousands of dollars on a purse – which I wouldn’t – I would never purchase a Louis Vitton bag. The “why” in that is an essential element in this theory that needs further study.)

Which brings me back to my postulate. Allow me to dream for a moment. Take the iPhone as our first example of a massive shift in consciousness caused by design meeting function (– it wasn’t, of course, but this is a dream…). Suddenly, people realized that having a sleek, intuitive, truly “sexy” product in their possession was not only a positive notch for their social status but truly, authentically, aesthetically fun. Easier. Joyful. That product raises the bar on all products (not just phones) from that point generic cialis cheapest price. At least for iPhone users. It may not make people run out and buy a different car, but I do think it changes them, in their aesthetic sensitivity if nothing else, from that point forward.

This is a change that is happening more rapidly than ever. In my humble opinion and experience, I would say that Braun was the “pre-Apple” type of company that recognized the usage-consciousness connection early on and followed their design principles without compromise. It would not surprise me in the slightest if many an IT and/or design professional in and around Apple had Braun calculators on their desks. Or is there a coincidence in the calculator app on the iPhone?

As a former native of Detroit, I’ll take the argument to automobiles. Driving in yet another motor city I call home, I noticed a compact Alfa Romeo that they have named (we still have progress to make in this department) “Mito.” Impressive from the front. From the back, I was reminded of the unfortunate mistake – my size 14 opinion – of the back of a Ford “Ka.” The back of the Mito coming from Italians, I hesitated and thought, “well, perhaps more men DO like fat bottom girls than Paris will lead us to believe?” (Most car designers still being men, from what I know.) Because that’s what the forms of both the Ka und the Mito bring intuitively to mind. Wide, squatty. That may be a tremendous comfort to millions of women worldwide, but –come ON – is it joyful design? (In all fairness, the Mito is fun from the front.)

But what happens to you when you see, as was my experience on the same road on a different day, a small, silver, completely perfect “compact” Bentley? It evokes the same feeling as when you meet someone who is completely and totally beautiful in a physical sense. Where bones are positioned in breathtaking places and you just cannot take your eyes off of their sheer perfection. You are truly transported to a place of visual bliss. (Forget the near-immediate “wanting to own” reflex for a minute. Just enjoy the bliss in the moment.)

We’re still dreaming. Now imagine this happening to you with, say, a toaster. Or a cup. Or shoes. Or a chair. It is already happening to you with your (i-)phone. Imagine this happening to you more and more – and it is an affordable, achieveable fact for each and every factory worker worldwide. It may not stop global warming. It may not solve world hunger. But when we come to expect bliss in the tiniest of consumer products, we may move on to expect more bliss. And then more-than-bliss. We may be happier with less for longer. Designers/companies can turn the clock of obsolescence around and make things last longer. If they are beautiful and bliss-inducing, we will want them to. With the world’s resources fast disappearing, we made need them to work on such solutions more quickly than we think. We (the people) may remember, as any good designer knows and intelligent companies never forget, that “consumers” are humans first. And humans have a right to bliss. Sooner or later, they’ll fight for it.


Excuse me Seth Godin. Even EXCEPTIONAL Designers (and though I won’t name any names, you know who they are flagyl 400…) are going through what this video so excellently shows. 

Look for us now disguised as massage therapists, taxi drivers and tap dancers.


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