I had a conversation with Maya Lim about the design of an old Archie McPhee product, the Toothpick Bird. I think her new version of the Toothpick Bird is hilarious in its simplicity.
I’ve been reading CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People: Inside the World of Design Thinking and How It Can Spark Creativity and Innovation by Warren Berger. The basic idea of the book is to teach you to look at the world as a designer and then to show you how apply that to whatever your passion happens to be. I’ll write more about when I’m finished.
In passing, he mentioned Bruce Mau‘s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth and from the little bit he said about it I had to immediately put down the book and look it up. Bruce Mau is a very successful designer and he wanted to put down his thoughts on creativity in a manifesto. It’s 43 ways of changing your perspective and getting started. It’s 43 ways to move forward when you’re stuck. It’s a map out of the creative rut that you might find yourself in.
Bruce Mau wrote it in 1998 and unleashed it on the internet. It’s one of those things that just might change your life. I’m cutting and pasting a few bits of it below, but you should read the whole thing.
4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
9. Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
31. Don’t borrow money.
Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
43. Power to the people.
Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.
Esopus is more than a magazine, each issue is a work of art. The “articles” in the magazine are actually pages turned over to a different artist to do whatever they like with. From found beauty to pages from sketch journals to movie scripts and photographs, it’s packed full of fantastic stuff. The design of the magazine and presentation is as impressive as the material it contains.
I got latest issue in the mail today and was inspired to write about it because it has a “can’t miss” section. 24 scanned pages from a journal a soldier kept in a German POW camp. 2nd Lieut Gerald Limon drew cartoons, recorded the lyrics of songs written in camp and kept a detailed list of what books he read while he was there. Beautiful, heart wrenching and completely inspirational.
The price for subscribing might seem high ($18) for a magazine that only comes out twice a year, but they actually subsidize with donations and sell it at less than cost because they want to reach a wider audience. It’s non-profit, which means no ads and no one to answer to.
Did I mention that it comes with a CD of music? This month it’s songs inspired by dreams that readers sent in. Did I mention that there are removable pieces and foldouts? This month, there’s a pocket page that holds a reproduction of an old handwriting exercise book that has been subtly modified by an artist.
I love it. This is their site. I give it my complete and unpaid endorsement.
Today I wanted to share one of my favorite design sites, NotCot. NotCot features an array of reader submitted pictures and stories featuring interesting design. The visual part is the hook, you won’t find any big blocks of text here, just interesting visual after interesting visual. If you want more information, each links to its source. Today, they’re featuring everything from art cars covered in toys to benches made from tennis balls.
Not only that, but they have two other sites with the same basic setup. notcouture.com is their clothing site (which is just getting started and really hasn’t found its feet yet) and tastespotting.com which focuses on food. This is a foodies dream, page after page of luscious food photographs.
If you work in a visual medium NotCot is a great place to start your day and a quick way to keep up with what’s going on.
I’m reading Life of the Party a history of the Adams practical joke and novelty company. You know them, they make all those tiny Joy Buzzers and Whoopie Cushions you find on wire rounders in novelty stores. It turns out that their company was founded on a creative use of industrial waste.
Their founder work for a dye company that paid handsomely to remove the chemical dianisidine from the German coal-tar derivative they sold. He noticed that when people were around the chemical they sneezed uncontrollably. So, he packaged it in a tube (labelled Cachoo sneezing powder) and sold it as a practical joke!
So often, what other people dismiss or throw away is actually a good source of ideas or material. Adams built an empire on a waste product. There could be any number of valuable assets just waiting for you in the nearest garbage can.
One word of caution, despite being labeled “It’s harmless, it only makes you sneeze,” it turned out to be toxic and eventually be banned by the FDA. So, modern sneezing powder is just ground pepper.
The author of Life of the Party, Kirk Demarais, has a great blog with lots of info about the novelty and toy industries.