Monthly Archives: December 2010

Uma and her Cameras

Uma is a photographer I met in London during my recent show there. I noted how she carries an old format camera AND a digital one. Most younger people I see today are enamored by chemical film — I had thought it had something to do with the quality of the blacks or the gamut of flesh tones. But in 2010, I understand that most of those technological hurdles in quality are now cleared.

I spoke with Prof Henry Ferreira of RISD’s Printmaking Departmentonce about the arduous task of old-school gravure printing as compared to point-and-click inkjet prints. His comment took me by surprise. He said, “Well, they’re the same for all intents and purposes.” And the it hit me. “But with a different process, you have a different dialogue with the tools. That dialogue takes you to a different place.” So it had nothing to do with the actual output, but everything to do with the person making the work.

So when Uma matter-of-factedly said to me, “I become a different person when I use a different camera. So it always produces different results.” Two Umas from two cameras. The process changes the person, which changes the outcome. -JM

Old vs New vs Good

A prominent digital designer was in Tokyo recently, and shared a story about an experience he had in his neighborhood in London. He decided to embark on a journey to as many antique shops as possible, and to purchase antiques with particularly romantic stories attached to them. Unexpectedly, each of the shopkeepers surprised him with a consistent response to his question, “Tell me about this object.” The dominant responses being, “Well, it’s *old*.” Or, “It’s from the 1800s, and is really *old*.”

He found this response of “it’s old” (and therefore it’s *good*) quite puzzling. And then got to thinking how as a digital, “new media” person folks would ask him about his work to which he would respond, “It’s digital. It’s *new*.” And by the same token, implicitly, it’s *good.* He realized that neither “new” nor “old” are sufficient rationales to express quality. That the quality of “good” is something more. Like this story he related. It’s a good one, for certain. -JM

The Two Briefs

At WEF Dubai, a design leader of a major company spoke of the two kinds of briefs his team usually received from internal clients:

1/ A brief that is broad and exploratory that can help understand the customer better to spark inventiveness. There is an openness to the solution space.

2/ A brief with a clearly defined problem and the solution described at the end of the statement. What’s “off the table” in cost or functionality is made clear.

The latter he called “an engineered spec” and the former he essentially referred to as an RFV, or “Request For Vision.” My previously defined Brennan’s Hierarchy of Imagination ascribes this discrepancy with top-of-the-pyramid design as an RFV — usually coming from a decision maker with a longer time horizon view, or OPEN; the bottom-of-the pyramid design as spec-based and usually coming from a decision maker that is tightly time- and resource-constrained, or NOW.

Most everyone lives in the NOW especially in times of crisis. But to clear a long-term path our of NOW, you need to allocate room for the OPEN. One could argue that NOW is about managing, and OPEN is about leading. Doing both is key. So both briefs are welcome.

Separation vs Integration

I recently spoke with a design manager who explicitly separates their creatives from their business people as a way to keep the creativity level high. Have always been someone to argue for integration so was surprised to hear this. Made me realize that even when you separate the two, the biggest challenge is designing and nurturing the bridge that connects the two halves as a whole.