Alice Rawsthorn

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Alice Rawsthorn

Design Critic of the International Herald Tribune

Jul 19


Throughout design history, designers have aimed to change the world for the better, by solving problems and creating new opportunities.

What do you consider to be the most important challenge for designers to tackle today?


Sarah Cloonan

Graduate Student

Sarah gave the final word

The most essential tool for designers today is not necessarily design itself but the optimism that their work is capable of informing, affecting and altering society’s attitude and engagement with its physical and virtual atmosphere… Are we as designers capable of completing this difficult task?

Monday, July 19 at 12:46pm


Angela Riechers

Designer and writer

Designers are staring directly at the collision zone of all possible formats for every project: print, web, video, iPad… It’s a little bewildering. Rather than freak out about living on the frontier, I think we should embrace it and remember that at the end of the day we are still trying to design beautiful things, not just create things that work well across different media. In other words, don’t let the formats dictate the form.

Monday, July 19 at 12:42pm


Sarah Cloonan

Graduate Student

Sarah gave the Final Word

This is actually a question I ponder almost daily. My education and prior work experience in the architecture profession leads me to constantly vacillate between two positions: one that places the responsibility to develop products that help to reshape and improve the way we function individually and as a society firmly on the designer and yet in another somewhat contradictory way, I struggle with the environmental repercussions of our desire for design progress such as carbon footprint and consumption, as well as the preservation of specific design models. Historically speaking, we look to pivotal shifts through the seminal work of the Arts and Crafts movement, the Bauhaus, Mid-Century Modernist textile and furniture designers, to name a few, for our inspiration. However, in a sense, the most essential tool for designers today is not necessarily design itself, but an optimism that their work is capable of informing, affecting and altering society’s attitude and engagement with its physical and virtual atmosphere.

So, my question then: “Are we as designers capable of completing this difficult task?”

Monday, July 19 at 12:46pm


Amelia Black

Design Researcher

Design has the tendency to place itself front and center, to be THE solution, to solve THE problem… without much self-awareness for the complex story of culture as a whole and the limited role our practice plays in the larger narrative. Just look at the recent blitz around Bruce Nussbaum’s piece on humanitarian design for Fast Company if you need proof.

Designers today struggle with their ability to see themselves as anything less than the protagonist in the context of how we read our own work. It is how the hype is born, but it is also the greatest challenge in moving forward – learning to see ourselves, our work and our field with the kind of grounded rationalism that honors other ways of knowing/living/decision making will lead us all to ecological balance of design practice and living in and with the world. It is a story whose end goes way beyond the next design fair, environmental disaster and into the hands of users.

Monday, July 19 at 1:10pm


    Sarah Cloonan

    Graduate Student

    To respond to the great posts by Amelia and Avinash, I couldn’t agree more. While I was drafting my response to Alice’s question, the German word, einfuhlung, often translated as empathy came to mind. Empathy, as opposed to sympathy, is a critical component to the design process. As for humility, this is where I find myself constantly on the fence. There is definitely a great deal of responsibility placed on designers to lead by example as Amelia describes, but also to let go of the design object and to engage others in its use, function – ultimately the design object’s life. I found the following description of the word einfuhlung in the work, Empathy and Analogy by Allison Barnes and Paul Thagard, “the object of empathy is understanding…empathy is a way of knowing.” And, as Avinash has suggested, the best way to accomplish this is to listen.

    Monday, July 19 at 5:35pm

Empathy, and Humility.

We understand today, maybe better than we ever have, the consequences of our actions on the lives of others, as we go about designing the man-made world.

People are not just ‘users’ and ‘consumers’, objects to be studied and measured, or hands at the other end of a feedback form, or disaffected communities in underprivileged lands. They are not passively waiting for designers to change their lives. They respond and react, accept and reject the work of designers. They have a voice, and we must be willing to take the time, let go of our egos, and listen.

Monday, July 19 at 1:20pm


Daniel Sellers

Web Worker

We are moving towards a world that is more and more connected via the internet. Data is everywhere and instant access is the name of the game. But when it is all said and done what does that really give us? The great challenge we as designers have before us is to create systems that remove distraction and help people manage this new level of connection.

It is simple to create distractions. With the each layer of connection we add the number of distractions available to us increases exponentially. We all run the risk of being fascinated by everything and truly understanding nothing. We as designers need to create tools that will people navigate the flow of information that surrounds them without becoming consumed by it.

Monday, July 19 at 4:17pm

    This is really well put. Internet often gives users the illusion of being more informed… yet, most cases we are just being more distracted from the task we were focusing on.

    Monday, July 19 at 9:18pm


Kara Pecknold

Designer/Design Researcher

To ensure we understand the complexity in which we find ourselves.

Politics impact many things and the challenge is to handle the scale of the issues appropriately. There are global inequities (as the recent dialogues on “humanitarian design” have presented) and I believe we are tasked to continually consider the ethics of our outputs.

Monday, July 19 at 5:27pm


Gemma Jones

Web Tinkerer

I agree with Angela – designing for all these different formats and platforms is a major challenge.

Being aware of the limitations and capabilities of each mobile device, mobile platform (iPad and other tablet devices that will come on the market) as well as the many different browsers and legacy platforms (*cough* IE6) is a very hard thing to wrap your mind around. Its a very exciting challenge to think of solutions for each and to tailor them to each platform rather than trying to make them the same over everything. Consistent, yes – the same, no.

Monday, July 19 at 5:41pm


Pete Karl II

Web Application Engineer


The vocabulary that will grant them awareness and descriptive power to fully utilize available technology, relevant marketing, and apt design in their work.

Designing & building experiences on the web doesn’t stop at design, engineering or marketing. Every one of these capabilities should be as informed as the other.

I think this is a challenge we all face. Making the best use of what’s out there is tough when we don’t know what’s out there (or how to talk about it).

Monday, July 19 at 6:17pm


Oliver Schaper

Senior Sustainability Strategist

We need to participate through design in a global restoration project that creates fundamental frameworks of coexistence in a shrinking world. Design is among many things the discipline of elegant interpretation of the natural and man-made environment, so that we gain inspiring and meaningful access to its complexities and make it part of our everyday life in a mutually beneficial way. Finite resources and a growing global population create problems that can only be solved by creative minds. Today, nothing seems more relevant than that.

Monday, July 19 at 6:56pm

Alice Rawsthorn

Alice Rawsthorn

Design Critic of the International Herald Tribune

Day One of this Glass House Conversation produced some fascinating responses – thank you! Three key themes emerged. One was the need for designers to work more empathetically both with collaborators from other disciplines and the people who’ll use the end-result. The second was the need for global restoration. And the third the need to navigate the complexity of multiple technologies.

These themes seem to be linked. Designers face the challenge of finding new ways of working in order to fulfill the new roles and responsibilities that are now open to them because of the urgent need for global restoration – a process that the World Economic Forum calls “global redesign” – and the unprecedented speed and scale of technological change.

What are the specific challenges that designers could – and should – tackle as their contribution to global restoration? And technological chaos? Are there any ongoing projects that give you hope for the future?

Tuesday, July 20 at 4:31am

Paddy Harrington

Paddy Harrington

Creative Director, Bruce Mau Design, Toronto

Exponential possibility will be the biggest challenge designers will face in the coming decades.

New technologies, services, and materials are becoming available at an incomprehensible rate. That means that no one designer can act as the ‘master architect’ any more. The possibilities are simply too expansive for any one person to contain.

The new challenges of this era need interdisciplinary collaborative teams that span unexpected and diverse areas of knowledge to get to the most relevant and compelling design outcomes.

The future of design is to embrace and leverage this multiplicity.

Tuesday, July 20 at 1:36pm


Rose Thorn

Sustainable designer

The exponential possibilities that Paddy has identified are major challenges, but must not distract us from the challenge of creating a carbon-neutral society. Or helping society to move towards being carbon-neutral. Achieving that goal will be incredibly complicated, we are only just starting to understand quite how much, but there is no point in designers talking about global restoration or global redesign without it.

Tuesday, July 20 at 1:43pm

    Paddy Harrington

    Paddy Harrington

    Creative Director, Bruce Mau Design, Toronto

    What’s most exciting about the networked model of design practice is the exponential possibilities that it unlocks.

    Paul Hawken describes a global movement that we cannot identify in a singular way for exactly the reasons discussed above, it is so diverse, dispersed, and multi-dimensional that it goes beyond our capacity for simple comprehension.

    In this new context can we imagine more than carbon neutral? Can we imagine a series of solutions that clean the air and the water instead of simply reducing our impact to zero?

    Even this very definition of the challenge is too simplistic. Stewart Brand’s thinking on Four Environmental Heresies suggests that we must also think of solutions as evolving over time. What may not seem to be the best solutions today are actually ideal in the context of a world still struggling to produce viable alternative energy sources, for example.

    Above all, we must operate on simple principles like rigor and generosity. If we can work collaboratively with a more positive outcome in mind, then the network will have a sum positive effect that is greater than the sum of the parts.

    Tuesday, July 20 at 4:25pm

fuller design communication and expanded knowledge of the digital world.

i love pete karl ii’s post, which asks for a better vocabulary and design communication. as the designed experience wraps itself into more networks and spaces every day, literal or virtual, it is becoming all the more crucial that we find new ways to describe designs and what they do. translation and analysis are growing in necessity, even as i write this comment.

Tuesday, July 20 at 7:18pm


Nicolae Halmaghi

Design Strategist


First congratulations to your salon. No doubt, this will be THE platform for serious D-discussions.

Regarding your topic. Design has evolved from creating pretty things (from the beginning of time) to hiding flaws, so that products can move (more or less throughout the 20th century), to making “desirable things” (Alessi with all its D-stars), to making “desirable things with fundamental missions” (OXO, Project H) – to DesignART, (Newsome, Baas & Co) to Design Thinking, the intelligence of the design mind. (…not exactly the NBM Team, Nussbaum/ Brown / Martin pr machine, but more the MBM Team: the Mau / Buxton / Maeda ideology)

All of these design cultures, plus tons more, are still alive and are being practiced in one part of the world or another. They all operate based on, sometimes, fundamentally different principles, even though they all belong to the same design discipline.

As Paddy mentioned earlier, interdisciplinary knowledge, RESPECT for other fields and high specialization, will be the key to the success of the next generation of designers.

Understanding the DNA and the internal workings of diverse and sometimes unrelated domains, allows future designers to find their true calling, as well as craft relationships across disciplines, materials, industries, in context to the big picture, without assuming a subservient role.

Regarding your question about examples for global restoration projects, the New York High Line comes to mind. I truly believe this project represents the common man’s “Bilbao Effect”. Every single city or region around the world could use the NYHL metaphor as key example for urban revitalization.

Wednesday, July 21 at 10:09am

As many of you pointed out, designers need to step up to the challenge of participating in issues at scales that are novel to them, and in order to do so they need to be prepared. One thing is to manage to get a seat at the table, another it is to prove the seat is not only deserved, but also should be permanent.
A huge challenge is communicating the importance of design to a wide audience not of museum-goers or cultural section readers, but rather of policy makers, economists, sociologists, plumbers, nurses… all the while remaining true design people.
Design should be taught in junior school so that it is part of people’s culture from the get go. Then we would not have to climb on glass to justify its importance.
Also, we would not need to translate it and disfigure it so that it can be understood by non-designers. We are making too many efforts and sacrificing too many of our best feathers in order to not intimidate and to be loved. Please see this yummy piece by Jamer Hunt for further reference:

Wednesday, July 21 at 3:54pm

Paddy Harrington

Paddy Harrington

Creative Director, Bruce Mau Design, Toronto

“People who live in glass houses…”

The maxim could perhaps be nowhere as true as here in this forum.

For designers, as for most professions, and especially against the backdrop of exponential complexity, context becomes a dominant consideration.

Our capacity for creation must coexist with what we are seeking to change, and there is no single ‘stone’ that we can ‘throw’ to affect this change that fits all situations universally.

One set of conditions may require us to speak with one vocabulary to a particular audience in order to maintain a productive level of precision that is inappropriate with another audience where that ‘precision’ does nothing more than alienate.

Oprah’s book club is wonderful because it provides access to some great literature to many who might not otherwise have access or even know where to start. Or it’s a cynical marketing device meant only to sell more books. Or it’s both.

A populist approach is at once derided for being too simplistic while applauded for the democratization of knowledge it brings. Depends on your point of view.

A post-it note is at once a tired cliche and a brand new tool that expands capacity. Again, depends on your point of view.

Speaking of tired cliches… in this era of exponentially increasing technology, connectivity, and interactivity, design is eating itself. The thirst for content in this context propagates a descending spiral of cannibalization that demands something ‘unique’ with each turn, in increasingly rapid cycles.

Again, context is king (and queen). And the royal duo changes residence constantly. All it seems we can do is be sure to not throw stones, because all their houses are made of glass. And it’s as important as ever that we embrace contradiction and simultaneity in a world that demands yeses and nos.

The most successful approach, however earnest it may seem, is to embrace the authorship of the collective voice, rather than the singular, and practice tolerance and understanding in the interest of getting to a smarter place.

Wednesday, July 21 at 5:38pm

Alice Rawsthorn

Alice Rawsthorn

Design Critic of the International Herald Tribune

Three days into this Glass House Conversation, we’ve had yet more fantastic contributions – thank you! There’s also a clear consensus that designers have to change their way of working to become more fluid, collaborative, inclusive and empathetic.

With two days to go, it would be great to hear what you think needs to happen to achieve that, other than ditching the Post-it. (Thank you Paola for the link to Jamer Hunt’s post.)

And picking up on Paddie’s point about throwing stones from glass houses, it would also great to hear what you’d choose as the priorities for this new wave of designers. As Nicolae suggested, New York’s High Line is a great model. What are the others? And what new challenges would you like to see designers tackling in future?

Thursday, July 22 at 7:32am


    Amelia Black

    Design Researcher

    I’d offer that we need to question the craft of design, so that we can better understand the act of making that makes us designers. What are our tools? To whom are we responsible? And to what end?

    Engaging the potential for empathetic and collaborative practices within the field of design means reaffirming the methods of engagement. Sense-making, while embracing the complexity of the task at hand so that instead of simplifying the question we allow the chaos to expose new models within the existing frameworks.

    Looking for examples, I find the story of Bananaplac to be particularly inspiring. Developed by Fibra Design Sustentável (a company established by industrial design students in Rio de Janeiro), the material is an alternative to hardwood and is derived from discarded banana fiber. Because it is non-toxic and requires little processing, it can be produced near or on banana plantations adding jobs and a means of income to local economies. On a different scale, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an impressive transnational collaboration that was manifested from an understanding of the climate in which we live. An environmental and architectural exercise in empathy and collaboration.

    Thursday, July 22 at 3:46pm


Marianne Denniston

LEED AP, Interior Designer

Educating the client to remain full circle in the design and execution of sustainable projects is ultra challenging. All too often a client feels that solar panels, recycling containers and bamboo flooring fulfill sustainability requirements, and helps reduce their share of the carbon footprint. Taking clients through the entire LEED process of intellectual understanding and informed decisions, and keeping them on the 110% committed path requires determination.

Thursday, July 22 at 8:50am

Re: examples of projects that suggest great promises for design in the future, indeed the High Line is a wonderful case study. Another–at a completely different level, thin air right now but could set the basis for important developments for us all in the future–is Synthetic Aesthetics (, “an international research project connecting synthetic biology, art and design.”

It has been set up by Stanford and by the University of Edinburgh and it features not only some the best scientists in the world–among them Drew Endy, the father of the biobrick–as well as good artists but also, alas, great designers. I am in awe of the energy and passion that Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, a recent grad of the CA Design Interactions program, is pouring into this and other projects that set designers firmly in the middle of the discussion on the evolution of the human species.

It takes guts to participate in iGem, a synthetic biology geekfest at MIT, be the only design team together with RCA pal James King, he of the Steak of the Future project, and kill. Also, it takes quality and intellect to stay there. There have been other good examples of interdisciplinary design-science teams. The more good designers collaborate with scientists, the safer we will be in the future. Got this, Craig Venter?

Thursday, July 22 at 10:16am

    sorry, small typo when introducing Daisy Ginsberg: it is RCA Design Interactions. I am sure you already knew…

    Thursday, July 22 at 10:17am

Paddy Harrington

Paddy Harrington

Creative Director, Bruce Mau Design, Toronto

The Saudi Arabia Mega City projects are astounding and deeply complex endeavours.

New cities built, literally, from scratch and each focused on different ‘themes’ that serve as the basis for the development of entirely new value chains in the areas of education, economy, science, technology, and sustainable energy.

They necessitate new ways of approaching design that work best when experts from different fields blur lines between their expertise instead of defaulting only to what they know. To defer judgement is key if these hybrid teams of designers, scientists, economists, politicians are to collaborate in a productive way to define something new and relevant.

Thursday, July 22 at 11:50am


Derek Damko

Freelance Graphic & Web Designer

Lately I have been taken by user-centered design. So often I have designed for what I think is good and the right design for the client. We need to ask more questions when designing a project, make content just as important as the aesthetics. We need to be problem solvers not just making things look good, because what looks good to us may not be to the end user. One last thing, is we need to look outside of our particular field of design and get inspiration from somewhere else in the design world, or even beyond that.

Thursday, July 22 at 12:35pm

Re-inventing onself. Designers are no longer the keeper of the keys. Our clients have the same access we have to our online resources and our design centers are now open to the public. What used to be called Junk Mail magazines offer excellent design options at a fair price, and are often leading the design trends. A lot of our mystique has been rubbed off by these new challenges. While we may miss the good old days, there is not time to morn them. We must become part of the new media. I do not know how it will all unfold, but I know people will still need useful and beautiful things that can only be imagined by the creatives.

Thursday, July 22 at 5:58pm

For many, the most important challenge for designers is Unemployment or the survival of their firms given the downturn in the economy and resultant lack of construction.

But moving beyond the realities of the economy, those still working need to address the inter-related issues of Affordability-Energy Efficiency-Sustainability for the mass market.

Chic designer houses in the Hamptons and LA are nice, but 95% of the world will live in homes smaller than 2000 square feet (and that’s overly generous). How do we maximize those spatial efficiencies, in a manner that is respectful to the environment, and can be delivered to more people.

And if the result can also be attractive, good design, all the better.

Thursday, July 22 at 6:12pm

In the landscape, providing the amenity of privacy and freedom in an ever decreasing amount of open space.

Thursday, July 22 at 9:59pm


Tom Fiddian

Senior Designer


Now more than ever designers have to act responsibly. Sustainable and inclusive (universal) design, were in the past treated as niche genres, but are now moving into the mainstream (especially sustainability). This trend will continue as the issues that they try to overcome; dwindling natural resources, aging population, etc, become greater and affect more people.

Designing responsibly isn’t easy; it’s much simpler to design unsustainable un-inclusive products and services. It’s hard work. Therefore I see this as the most important challenge, one that designers must adapt to or they will be left behind when these issues become one of the greatest market forces.

Friday, July 23 at 4:51am

Alice Rawsthorn

Alice Rawsthorn

Design Critic of the International Herald Tribune

We’re now in the fifth and final day of this Glass House Conversation on the most important challenge for designers to tackle today. The response has been thrilling. It has been wonderful to see so people making such fun, thoughtful, imaginative and provocative contributions. Thank you!

Day Four produced some inspiring role models: from the collaborations between designers and synthetic biologists at Synthetic Aesthetics and iGem, and between designers, scientists and economists on the Saudi Mega-Cities, to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the invention of Bananaplac as an alternative to hardwood. It also flushed out new challenges for designers: self-reinvention, focusing on the user, affordable energy-efficiency, reclaiming public space and, an underlying theme for the whole debate, responsibility.

With one day to go, it would be great to hear more examples of how designers and their collaborators are getting it right and, of course, more challenges for the future.

Friday, July 23 at 6:30am

The most important challenge that a designer needs to tackle, is themselves. Designers themselves define the Problems and the solutins. They are the problem and they are the solution as well.

Friday, July 23 at 7:44am


Nicolae Halmaghi

Design Strategist

As Paula mentioned, now that (some) designers have a seat in the boardroom they can produce massive change with massive Impact and consequences.

I see great challenges and opportunities in re-designing entire ecosystems of decaying cities and regions. Detroit, for example, could become the ultimate 3D canvas for design and designers to unleash their potential.

Ford’s green River Rouge plant, another prime example of design impact, (along with Zaha Hadid’s BMW blue collar architecture plant in Leipzig) could become the poster child for the new design revolution, where nothing gets cut, build, or moved, until it gets filtered through the lenses of the design profession. …I may be a little overoptimistic.

Friday, July 23 at 9:01am


Brent Robertson

President & Chief Creative Officer

That we at the peak of emotion (psychology) based design. We need to be looking at a new paradigm of how we connect to people. The categorization of individuals and their motivations based on psychology, the tenants of how we got to where we are now, need to be used as a tool to inform us about how we reach people in a world motivated by an ontological (state of being) perspective. It’s something great designers do by intuition, but reconciling that intuition and grounding it through understanding will be critical. There are early works correlating ontology to purpose driven design, but we are in the earliest stages of this work.

Friday, July 23 at 9:42am


Jared Hueter

Designer, Dean of Design: Priestley Charter School of Architecture and Construction

Good design starts with strong relationships. We have to reach a level of understanding and empathy (as mentioned by Sarah) so that we then have the ability to serve our clients and not ourselves. We bring our high school students through a process of understanding their own perceptions and misconceptions to lead them to connect with a client to understand and improve their daily experience.
Also, the gap between public policy and the public is an area that the designer is needed as a mediator. So often we see policy makers uneducated in the impact of their decisions while the community lacks the voice to be heard. Teddy Cruz, Urban Think Tank, and Waggonner and Ball Architects are a few designers who are attempting to fill this gap.

Friday, July 23 at 10:28am


Allan Chochinov

Editor, Core77

What an inspiring conversation. We might also consider adding in the ingredient of “who” should be doing the designing with regard to many of these challenges ahead. Natalie Jeremijenko has argued, for example, that engineers are a critical element in the equation. Paddy Harrington and others here have urged for more interdisciplinary design teams. Paola has been a great advocate for the participation (and provocation) of science and scientists. I’d like to offer a place at the table to “uncredentialed” designers of many stripes–from DIY enthusiasts to makers, hackers, fabbers, advocates, and interventionists. Theses kinds of creative thinkers are often highly interconnected, passionate about IP issues like Creative Commons, and interested in sharing recipes in addition to (or often in place of) manufactured artifacts. Obviously straight-up design practice has produced a mature, repeatable process that can frame problems, surface insights, prototype solutions and factor in systems thinking. But given the enormous challenges ahead, we’ll want to leverage the efforts of as many flavors of creative people as possible, working individually, in concert, and in forms still unknown, all toward a common good. Maker Faire as design conference? Just maybe. Thanks for the great topic Alice!

Friday, July 23 at 10:45am

I’m not much of a philosopher so let me use a personal anecdote:

I have a 1903 house sitting on an island. I bring my own water and produce my own power there (solar, wind, propane). We process and carry away all waste. Its a learning experience. This island house teaches me about what it means to live small.

I think the greatest challenge for designers today is to help us return to simplicity and efficiency, rather than what is disposable and complex and excessive.

Isn’t that what we love about the Glass House? Simplicity and efficiency.

PS A few years ago we marvelled at Bill Gates’ house where the flat screens on the walls displayed his vast collection of art. Seems to me the Glass House figured out how to do that 50 years earlier with alot less electricity.

Friday, July 23 at 10:49am


    Joe Philippon

    Dierctor of Website Developement

    John, this is off of the question’s subject, but your island house sounds perfect!

    Friday, July 23 at 3:38pm

The design challenge today is to get every human being on earth safe and adequate housing. It’s simple, but not easy. The internet and all the ever changing platforms I see discussed here apply still to a very small segment of the global population. If it can be used for transfer of data for housing, fine, but let’s depend less on theory.

Friday, July 23 at 11:55am


Amy Kundrat

Principal, ARK Projects | Executive Editor, CTbites

Tools, tactics and platforms may be superfluous if we don’t take the time to understand our user/clients/audience. This is something that Sarah Coonan so eloquently sums up in a word: EMPATHY. Are we able to listen closely, are we open enough to understand and are we willing to iterate for the sake of our users?

So perhaps the biggest challenge for designers today, would be, well, designers.

Friday, July 23 at 12:05pm


Sarah Cloonan

Graduate Student

Firstly, I have to thank Alice for a question/conversation/provocation that began here, well, virtually on the web, but physically, in their original format, in discussions and meetings that were in themselves both open and guarded simultaneously. The Philip Johnson Glass House itself can be described as a Modernist masterpiece – able to articulate the tenets of Modernist architecture that we, as designers continue to revere; and yet, and I tread here with a bit of trepidation, those salon conversations remained incredibly insular, partially because of the exclusivity associated with an invitation to engage physically with that iconic, transparent residence. Going forward then, how do we use our design history to inform and somewhat shape our future, and at the same time not get bogged down by it. In other words, to refer back to Paola’s post, how long is the board table, and is it even a table at all? Or, is it a collection of lily pads where designers, engineers, scientists and artists engage with each other and the public in a highly connective method. And, to reference back to my own prior posting then as much as we all revere and admire the tenets of Modernism with exaggerated horizontals and transparent plate glass walls, they also retain the properties of insulation and protection, when what we really and truly need is openness and understanding.

Also, as a former New Orleanian, Jared I truly admire the work of the Priestley school – they are after all our future designers!

Friday, July 23 at 1:10pm


Max Fowler Cohen

Executive Director, Parley Creative Group

I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this week’s conversation unfold and am glad to have found a moment’s pause to join in near to the end. One or two people touched on this idea, but I think it can’t be said enough that design’s great challenges are often the tautological, the self-reflexive. Designing design will always be the hardest, because it is challenging to be self-critical, to stand strong against one’s own ego, when it is our emotions and our great loves and hates that give us the motivation to keep doing what we do every day. It’s exactly those things that we as designers love about our ideas that we have to learn to temporarily abandon- at least at the thought-experiment level- in order to stay fresh, and in order to serve others. I think that empathy plays a big role, but I also think having an understanding of selflessness tends to be overlooked because it’s so connected to empathy / understanding others. On this note, I sometimes cringe when people use the phrase ‘global redesign’, in that, while I like the idea of a global sea change in civic and design thought, the term gives off the sense that there’s one way to fix everything. Even when people are using the idea of global redesign in the context of talking about decentralized design processes and stakeholder initiatives, I find that they talk like the concept is the only way. All I know is that all paradigms are just that, ways of seeing. As a discipline, design is no different.

I also wanted to remark that, while there was some discussion of involving humans (‘consumers’) in the decision-making processes of design, I think the most important thing is to actually encourage the development of cultures in which people feel comfortable making things spontaneously and without themselves being puzzle pieces in somebody else’s design plan. Individuals, I’ve noticed, have the tendency to judge their own work against the industry standard, and often, this silences creative voices for good. If someone learns how to convince people that it’s OK to draw and paint things regardless of skill level, or that one shouldn’t be afraid of singing in public from time to time,that will be a moment of design triumph. Just as, through our involvement with the Glass House Conversations, we seek to design design, I see creating creation as a key supporting process of that endeavor.

Friday, July 23 at 7:26pm


Selected list of words appearing in this and other conversations.