this site is a design site. i’m a designer, i post my design work and written thoughts on design. but, as i’ve been fortunate enough to build somewhat of an audience, i feel compelled to disseminate certain ideas and points of view that are dangerous and destructive to the establishment but healthy for you. however, the design disciplines are more than an appropriate forum for these ideas. so, you should work, as will i, to find application to you work as designer when i say;

you should question everything.

question your teachers, question your mom and dad, question your belief system, question your culture’s values, question your school, question yourself.

question the design industry, and “thought leaders,” question the rules of typography, question the ads and the brands, hold them to account.

question this very post and question me. i’m a father and a teacher. so, in a couple of ways even i myself become the establishment, and it is my hope that my children and students question me and everything i say. i’d rather my children and students question me thoroughly than follow me blindly. the probability is high that i’m off the mark in more ways than one.

i’m not advocating contrarianism. do not seek to prove something or someone wrong, only seek to prove it. if you question a thing and it proves to be false, then ignore it. if it proves to be true, accept it. if the answer is unclear, keep questioning.

keep questioning.


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a little while back i wrote a post called “brands are not like people." it was mostly a reaction to thierry brunfaut’s post/talk called "brands are like people" (thierry is head of creation and partner at base design.)

i also submitted that post to after a few weeks, having written that post moved out of the front of mind, and i hadn’t received much of a response to it. so, i was surprised, and a little nervous too, i must admit, when thierry himself mentioned me in a tweet and linked to that post on the aiga site.

i tweeted back and thierry and he replied, “I linked your article because I believe we are all enriching this interesting topic.”

this is such a such a great way to be in the world, to share information, even if it some way is contrary to your own opinion, in order to enrich the topic for everyone.

my original post was a response to the blog post that was a written text version of thierry’s “brands are like people.” talk. thierry pointed me to the video of the talk itself, which, admittedly, i should have watched already. but, i did it yesterday, and while i still don’t think brands are like people, i do respect and mostly agree with the spirit of the idea.

base design’s twitter bio reads “successful brands of the future care about people, not branding,” which is also a statement to which i would give my assent, basically.

i get exercised when i see branding or advertising being used dishonestly or to manipulate or exploit people. in this i guess brands could be like people in that i get exercised when i see people using their personhood dishonestly or to manipulate or exploit. but the thing is, a brand can’t do anything by itself. there are people using the brand dishonestly, or using it honestly. but a brand is just a tool. a brand can’t really care about people any more than a hammer can. a person can use a hammer to build shelter or to bludgeon another person. likewise some people use a brand as way to spread messages of compassion and love and others use a brand as a wall behind which to hide and escape personal responsibility. if your branding and advertising is deceptive, YOU are deceptive. YOU should be held responsible.

perhaps i’m arguing over semantics. be honest, be compassionate. don’t trick people into buying stuff. shoot straight. thierry and i agree that as designers we should help to connect humans to humans.

answers are enabled on this post. what are your thoughts?


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i’m reading john t. gatto’s weapons of mass instruction, which is a fantastic unveiling of the real purpose of compulsory schooling (spoiler alert, it ain’t pretty). just reached what he call’s his “real learning index,” which is a superb checklist to run your self against to see if you are optimized for real learning. it’s below;

1. self-knowledge: this is the biggest prize of all. without it you are lost and will flounder again and again through life. by now you should have introspected enough to know your own character: its proclivities, strengths, weaknesses, blessings, curses. how much assistance has your high school given you to accomplish this? 

2. observation: your powers of observation in any situation should be razor sharp; at will you should be able to function like an objective cameral tape recorder sucking in accurate data for later analysis. can you “read” the primary documents and images from every age and place? or must you take someone else’s word for their meaning? 

3. feedback: are you rigorously trained to pick up cues about yourself from the reactions of others and from signals out of the environment? do you have trouble accepting criticism and evaluating its worth? if you rely on test scores and teacher evaluations as stars to steer by you are in for a shock when you discover discrepancies between what you’ve been taught to think and reality. 

4. analysis: can you take a new problem, break it into structural and procedural elements, gauge the relationships among those, reckon major outside influences, and do all this without expert help? 

5. mirroring: have you learned to be everyone else as well as yourself? can you be a chameleon at will? or are you trapped in your own tight skin the way little people are. can you fit into every group, even a group of your enemies, opting in and out as you please, yet remaining yourself? 

6. expression: do you have a voice that’s your own? can you deliver that voice with clarity, style and force in writing and speaking? without that, your ability to recruit allies will be feeble, and you will likely be swallowed up by someone whose expressiveness is superior to your own. 

7. judgement: can you evaluate dispassionately? can you see through falsehood? the society you are entering is a house of mirrors; little of what you see and few of those you meet will be what they appear. the most attractive personalities are invariably dishonest. how much chance did you have to develop judgement and test it? 

8. adding value: do you add value to every encounter, to every group of which you are a part? do you even know what that means? if you aren’t worth something to others, then truly you are worthless. that’s kurt vonnegut speaking in one of his books, slaughterhouse five, i think.