Archive for January, 2009

Folklore and Fantasy

I’ve always loved fairy tales and was fortunate enough to have discovered the wonderfully strange and surprising adult world of the true Brothers Grimm while still fairly young, thanks to a collection of books passed down from my great-grandmother. Those stories lead me in turn to Greek, Roman, Norse and Irish myths and mangled pronunciations aside, I could still tell you many of those stories today.

But I had never before heard of the Kalevala, the ancient Finnish origin story cycle until I read about Marimekko’s Spring 2009 introductions. While there is awhole wonderful collection of new fabrics, my favorites are those by Sanna Annukka, who was inspired by the interlocking stories of Väinämöminen, the shamanistic hero of the Kalevala, whose adventures (and misadventures) gave shape to both the Finnish landscape and its peoples character.

 

Kanteleen kutsu

Kanteleen kutsu

 

Kanteleen kutsu (Call of the kantele) show the enchanted forest animals who have gathered to hear Väinämöminen play music on the kantele, the instrument he created from the jawbone of a giant pike. In addition to the fabric, Marimekko has developed an entire series of products—mugs, tea towels, potholders, etc.—featuring many of the individual animals from Kanteleen kutsu.

Even Väinämöminen himself was so moved by the music he played on his new instrument that he cried Onnen helmet (Pearls of happiness) giant tears that flowed into the sea and changed into precious gems. 

Several of the stories focus on various character’s interactions with the Taikamylly (Magic mill), which, instead of churning out grain, produces tools, coins, jewels, and more.

Kaleva is the Land of Heroes and Ihmemaa (Wonderland) illustrates that magical realm including Lake Alue where, hidden in the depths, a whitefish has swallowed fire fallen from the skies above.

 

Onnen helmet (Pearls of happiness), Taikamylly (Magic mill) and Ihmemaa (Wonderland)

Onnen helmet (Pearls of happiness), Taikamylly (Magic mill) and Ihmemaa (Wonderland)

 

You can see more Marimekko’s Spring 2009 collection here.

14 January 2009 at 9:47 am Leave a comment

Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School

So as I was cleaning out and starting a New Year,  I came across this piece written several years ago by Michael McDonough and published by Design Observer. I have to confess, I pull this out periodically and reread it because it is timeless advice for designers.  Each time I read the list something different hits me. Lately, its number 9 -Show me the outputand I’ll show you the money. What ones strike you?

Enjoy and Happy New Year.

From Michael Bierut, Design Observer Blog  03.24.04:

The Architect’s Newspaper is my new favorite design publication. It’s a 16-page tabloid that comes out about twice a month. It’s literate and timely, a fast-paced collection of news, reviews and opinion from voices as various as Michael Sorkin, Peter Slatin and Craig Konyk, all beautifully designed (in two ruthlessly efficient colors) by Martin Perrin. And, best of all, it has a gossip column.

Last month, they published a piece by Michael McDonough, the accomplished New York-based architect, writer and teacher, called “The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School.” I read lots of these kinds of things (and even written a few myself), but I found McDonough’s not just entertaining but actually quite useful, and valid for nearly any kind of design discipline. He has graciously given us permission to reprint it here at Design Observer.

The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School by Michael McDonough

1. Talent is one-third of the success equation.

Talent is important in any profession, but it is no guarantee of success. Hard work and luck are equally important. Hard work means self-discipline and sacrifice. Luck means, among other things, access to power, whether it is social contacts or money or timing. In fact, if you are not very talented, you can still succeed by emphasizing the other two. If you think I am wrong, just look around.

2. 95 percent of any creative profession is shit work.

Only 5 percent is actually, in some simplistic way, fun. In school that is what you focus on; it is 100 percent fun. Tick-tock. In real life, most of the time there is paper work, drafting boring stuff, fact-checking, negotiating, selling, collecting money, paying taxes, and so forth. If you don’t learn to love the boring, aggravating, and stupid parts of your profession and perform them with diligence and care, you will never succeed.

3. If everything is equally important, then nothing is very important.

You hear a lot about details, from “Don’t sweat the details” to “God is in the details.” Both are true, but with a very important explanation: hierarchy. You must decide what is important, and then attend to it first and foremost. Everything is important, yes. But not everything is equally important. A very successful real estate person taught me this. He told me, “Watch King Rat. You’ll get it.”

4. Don’t over-think a problem.

One time when I was in graduate school, the late, great Steven Izenour said to me, after only a week or so into a ten-week problem, “OK, you solved it. Now draw it up.” Every other critic I ever had always tried to complicate and prolong a problem when, in fact, it had already been solved. Designers are obsessive by nature. This was a revelation. Sometimes you just hit it. The thing is done. Move on.

5. Start with what you know; then remove the unknowns.

In design this means “draw what you know.” Start by putting down what you already know and already understand. If you are designing a chair, for example, you know that humans are of predictable height. The seat height, the angle of repose, and the loading requirements can at least be approximated. So draw them. Most students panic when faced with something they do not know and cannot control. Forget about it. Begin at the beginning. Then work on each unknown, solving and removing them one at a time. It is the most important rule of design. In Zen it is expressed as “Be where you are.” It works.

6. Don’t forget your goal.

Definition of a fanatic: Someone who redoubles his effort after forgetting his goal. Students and young designers often approach a problem with insight and brilliance, and subsequently let it slip away in confusion, fear and wasted effort. They forget their goals, and make up new ones as they go along. Original thought is a kind of gift from the gods. Artists know this. “Hold the moment,” they say. “Honor it.” Get your idea down on a slip of paper and tape it up in front of you.

7. When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance.

Overconfidence is as bad as no confidence. Be humble in approaching problems. Realize and accept your ignorance, then work diligently to educate yourself out of it. Ask questions. Power – the power to create things and impose them on the world – is a privilege. Do not abuse it, do not underestimate its difficulty, or it will come around and bite you on the ass. The great Karmic wheel, however slowly, turns.

8. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; or, no good deed goes unpunished.

The world is not set up to facilitate the best any more than it is set up to facilitate the worst. It doesn’t depend on brilliance or innovation because if it did, the system would be unpredictable. It requires averages and predictables. So, good deeds and brilliant ideas go against the grain of the social contract almost by definition. They will be challenged and will require enormous effort to succeed. Most fail. Expect to work hard, expect to fail a few times, and expect to be rejected. Our work is like martial arts or military strategy: Never underestimate your opponent. If you believe in excellence, your opponent will pretty much be everything.

9. It all comes down to output.

No matter how cool your computer rendering is, no matter how brilliant your essay is, no matter how fabulous your whatever is, if you can’t output it, distribute it, and make it known, it basically doesn’t exist. Orient yourself to output. Schedule output. Output, output, output. Show Me The Output.

10. The rest of the world counts.

If you hope to accomplish anything, you will inevitably need all of the people you hated in high school. I once attended a very prestigious design school where the idea was “If you are here, you are so important, the rest of the world doesn’t count.” Not a single person from that school that I know of has ever been really successful outside of school. In fact, most are the kind of mid-level management drones and hacks they so despised as students. A suit does not make you a genius. No matter how good your design is, somebody has to construct or manufacture it. Somebody has to insure it. Somebody has to buy it. Respect those people. You need them. Big time.

1 January 2009 at 12:51 pm 1 comment


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