The late David Bowie said,
“As we struggle to keep up with the tidal changes, there are a few who toil in the dark, moving the tide with their hands.”
Which one of these people are you?
I was never much of a blogger. In part because I never felt there was genuinely anything I had to say that wasn’t a round about complaint.Yes – I definitely would have included constructive feedback. But the dread of inconsistency in posting cancelled any positives out. I have always thought, from the very beginning, that blogs were just another way of the world saying “Look at me! I have an opinion and it’s important and should be taken as fact!” That was… what the late 90’s, early 2000’s?In the present day I am in conflict about it. In the one hand, yes – blogs are still exactly that. Everyone thinks they’re the expert or that their opinion is incredibly important or … what’s more common now…??? Oh. That their photography or that their travels are something the world needs to see. We get it. You’re single or young and attached to someone and you have nothing but the wind in your hair/at your back whatever… I’m spit balling a statistic here, but I’d imagine that upwards of 90% of those people think they live some unique incredible life and they probably come from money and all their photos look exactly the same on Instagram and you can find them in the magazine Kinsfolk.
See? I’m bitter and complaining. But here’s the other half: blogs are both therapy for the writer and they’re actually becoming more refined. I don’t read news daily (that’s a lie – I Reddit like everyone else). But the stuff I make sure to check daily (that’s also a lie, it’s more like every other day) come from blogs. Great blogs like Under Consideration’s Brand New , The Daily Heller and UniWatch and the non-design based blog Seattle Sports Hell. Those are regularly some great reads.
I don’t expect to be able to reach that level. But I … yeah, I don’t care. I need to talk about what I’m doing because I work in a basement studio by myself and I want to talk about the work (or non-work) I’m doing and how it can be applied for my projects and yours. So if you’re a designer (maybe) or a client (probably not), please enjoy my frank approach to my work and the work of others.
… Systems thinking …[is] a way of thinking that gives us the freedom to identify root causes of problems and see new opportunities. – Donella Meadows
This is me. Joe Snodgrass. If you read this article about the Creative Personality by Psychology Today you will know fairly completely who I am. There are some sub facets that work along with this. Often this complicates things. But sometimes it makes marvels. Take the sub facet of Systems Thinking. It works like magic with a truly creative personality. It’s a rare way that the application of systems thinking can have a truly altruistic side.* Unfortunately, as a natural systems thinker, I am nearly always unable to work at an expedited pace. I have to know the system before I can work in it and improve it. Fortunately, when an absolute necessity arises and I need to finish something on a deadline or work on a project over a few days instead of weeks, I am able switch it off (kind of, it’s more like I ignore it) and make something that I typically find satisfying. It’s also a problem because I tend to overthink things. I’ve made some real garbage work due to exactly that. There does have to be a bit of spontaneity (or even wild randomness) in design. It’s not all 1+1=2.
In fact, and this will be my final point for today, creativity has a double meaning in design and I don’t think people on the whole have been using it right. The overwhelming majority of designers I know personally in this region (the Inland Northwest) are more interested in making work that’s cool instead of work that is effective. Now – I should be clear in stating that I am allowing leeway for the likelihood that work made at work is closer to the criteria as required by their employers client. In fact, funnily enough, I think most design firms in my particular city of Spokane are creating real lack luster, antiquated work. Why? Because design in Spokane is stagnant for the most part. The new hot designers fill their portfolios and Instagram feeds with regurgitated stylistic trash that’s been going around the western states (in particular) like a plague. It’s going on 3 years now at least. Three years and the same stylized inclination is still being used ’round these parts. Why is this a problem outside of the abuse of an aesthetic that was never very good (but altogether easy to mimic)? Because real design will change aesthetically as appropriate. And because the older generation of ad and design firms and their creative directors (again, not all – but most) seem to be less in tune with design today, they hire the latest hot designer or some substitute of similar inclination. Now you have a fundamentally fractured system manager continuing to run a system with broken parts because its subsystems were never fully formed because they reinforced their subsystems with cheap plastic parts.
So this is my intent: to weekly (hah) focus on foundational things like the principles of design, creative approaches, aesthetics, application of systems thinking in regards design – and how to apply all this stuff (or how I’m applying it) to the real world. … and yeah, there will be some musings. But mostly complaining followed by constructive feedback.
*People often say application of systems thinking fails in a lot of important settings. This is true – but only when you apply it in a selfish way. Why? Because the system you’re trying to apply an approach to has individual parts not honestly seeking an altruistic end. Each part wants to work against the intention of the larger system. Even if just a little bit – a lot of littles make a wonky, poorly run larger system.