On Social Design

Category “Social Design”

In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World

I first heard John Thackara speaking at an OpenTalk at the ExperimentaDesign Bienalle, in Lisbon. That was 2005, but ever since I’ve been a confessed follower of his writings. I bought In The Bubble that very same day and it became one of my cornerstone student books, from which I drew inspiration and a lot of questioning. I was one of those students who longed for the exercises to be a bit more about purpose and real problem-solving, and a little less about indulgent self-expression. The book even had a similar structure as one of my all time favourite books, Italo Calvino’s “Six Memos for the Next Millennium“. I was dwelling for years in Calvino’s Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, and Multiplicity, and on the suspense of the unfinished Consistency. I found it a fresh way to approach them again after Thackara’s own frameguides: Lightness, Speed, Mobility, Locality, Situation, Conviviality, Learning, Literacy, Smartness, and Flow. In the Bubble is a tour de force that rides along these principles.

When I recently came across the notice that it is out in French, Italian and Portuguese (from Brazil), and expected soon in Dutch, German, Japanese and Chinese – the memory of those days came back, and how novel most of those ideas were to me, and it felt like taking it off the shelf again.

In the Bubble is about a world based less on stuff and more on people. It confronts us with the straightforward questions: What is this stuff for? What value does it add to our lives? and their multifaceted answers. The solutions and alternative paths he presents don’t form any Utopian scenario, but rather present us with a vast array of innovation projects and products already real. This wealth of examples emphasizes how ethics and responsibility can inform design decisions without hindering social growth.
The less-stuff-more-people world will still be in need of good design – systems, platforms and services will have to be efficiently put together. This transition from what he calls “innovation driven by science fiction to innovation inspired by social fiction” is still hold back mostly by inadequate information diffusion (overloaded and underframed) and a lack of holistic and systems thinking.
“Use, not own” is one of the mottos he sets forth. This implies a shift to a service-based economy, rather than product-based one. Paul Hawken, author of The Ecology of Commerce and of The Next Economy, while considering this book once stated:

“If there is one pervasive criticism of global capitalism that cuts across all ideologies, it is this: goods have become more important and are treated better than people. We are producing higher quality computers than children. John Thackara’s brilliant book about quotidian design describes design innovation driven by social fiction instead of science fiction. This is design focused on what Fernand Braudel called ‘everyday life’: the demands and pleasures of caring for others, raising children, meaningful work, and journeying. These inspired and innovative technologies return people to the heart of the world and help them create a fulfilling life.“

Thackara also exposes the often forgotten vision of how “every product that enters our lives has a ‘hidden’ history, an undocumented inventory of wasted or lost materials used in its production, transport, use, and disposal.”

Thus, if you have any French, Italian or Portuguese speaking friends interested in these issues, here’s a good recommendation for them. Added to all that has been mentioned, the new edition is said to be substantially changed from the original English edition. It’s abridged, and it features an updated introduction and three new chapters – on Food, Development, and Telepresence.

The French edition was translated by Anne Despond-Barre and is published by Marc Partouche for Cite du Design Editions. The Italian edition was translated by Niels Betori and is published by Pier Paolo Peruccio for Allemandi. And the Portuguese edition is published by Marcelo Melo at Virgilia and available from Saraiva.

Meanwhile, you can listen to John Thackara himself reading extracts from the book in an installation at the Permormative Cities exhibition at the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture.

Original article by Joana Bértholo.

Do good: be bad to yourself

That’s right, I mean it. If you want to do any good, you have to beat yourself up. It’s pretty easy though, just be a normal human being and strive for conquering the world. Why not aim to be the king, queen, prince or princess? To get to the top, you have to fight for it. What, you thought you could just climb the ladder, step by step, go higher and higher and you’ll get to the top of some roof and from there you can see other roofs and you’ll be happy sitting on top of roofs, chillin’ having a beer?

Well, sure, the ladder is meant to get you up. Everyone’s solution of what to use to get you up is to get a ladder. What if the ladder was never there? What if it wasn’t so easy to get up? What if all you had was your body and the urge to climb? You might find some tools and dig at making some steps, or call over a friend to lift you up, or make a rope somehow. Did I even mention what it is that you are trying to climb? I leave that up to you. Do you even need to climb? Who am I to tell you that you need to climb?

Design is the same way.

We’re talking about doing good, being good, yadi yadi ya. Come on people. What is good? Having a big house for my family in 2 cities and 3 beaches so my children can appreciate a wealthy life full of joy and no worry for money? Or, is good working in a non-profit organization, making ads for anti-poverty campaigns? Who is anyone to tell me what is good for me? The only good I know of is my strive for improvement on every level in my life. The only good I know is when I don’t listen to people around me who think they know what is good for me, and for themselves. The only good I know is when I listen to everyone and make my own decision on what is good for me, for others, and act on it.

So much for social design. I say kick yourself in the ass for not doing what you are capable of doing. That’s how you do good.

Original article by Ghazaleh Etezal.

DIY LOVE Guide

There are basically four types of Love:

a) Self Love (Self)
Mental. Love who you are, what you do, and acceptance regarding your own limitations

b) Love based on friendship between two people (Philos)
Mental. Friendship is the foundation of a successful relationship and could eventually evolve to the next level…

c) Love between you and your beloved one (Eros)
Physical. No explanation/manual required, right?

d) Unconditional Love (Agape)
Spiritual. Highest type of Love we can achieve. It’s totally selfless, not including giving and taking like previous types. It’s about loving everyone (including people that you never met), animals and our planet

2) Listen to your Heart and then Hack it! (Awareness)

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams: who looks inside, awakens.”

Carl Gustav Jung

3) Spread YOUR Love with everyone (Viral)

Show how much you care for this planet and its habitants.

For different perspectives on this topic from a group of lovely specialists, go to TEDtalks.com – Love tag.

“All you need is love. Love is all you need.”

John Lennon

Have a wonderful day. And life.

Original article by Gustavo Machado.

Black Tuesday is the new pink.

I worked in advertising for a few years so every now and again I peruse an industry pub to see what shop got what client some incredible ROI on some incredibly expensive campaign (I am not a geek I just play one on this blog). The other day a story caught my eye in AdWeek titled, “Depression Chic“. It was about how consumers are showing an interest in the Great Depression and how this trend is being leveraged as a successful marketing theme. Huh, so Black Tuesday is the new pink.

Admittedly, I have gotten an Evite or two featuring a picture of a very sad looking breadline and even felt some goose bumps the first time I watched the latest Allstate ad, but when Andrew Shaffer was quoted in the article as saying,

“Every other decade of the 20th century has been plundered. The Great Depression is actually something fresh“,

I was, well, for lack of a better term, depressed. No longer able to stomach reading about fashion designers titling this seasons line, “American Gothic” or finding their inspiration from “a weather-beaten farmer’s hat” I sought solace from our friends at trendwatching.com. They told me all about “Generation G“. That is G for generosity. People are giving back. People want to pay it forward. Now this is a trend I can follow.

Corporations are letting consumers decide where they should put their big donation dollars, some are even offering incentives to get involved in their community (think Starbucks). Open source code is hip, people are giving their stuff away and Marketwatch recently advised its readers to volunteer (ok, so it was for the sake of staying professionally relevant while taking time off from work but still). I’m still pretty drunk on Obama’s cool aid, maybe even feeling a wee bit brazen. So, dare I say that I will see their trend and raise them a movement. That’s right, I think we got a movement on our hands. What do you think?

Originally posted at Empax’s Blog by Kathleen Raftery.

Social Design at IM Magazine

IM Magazine is a international online magazine that aspires to show the best things in the world in order to build a better world. It strives to be an inspirational encounter with different projects, movements, world-changers, videos, blogs, and a multitude of possibilities to be explored at their website. They shed light over the so called “bright side of the world”, which unfortunately too many times stays in the shade of the public knowledge and conventional media. This way, they help build a positive agenda, but in the lines of what the SocialDesignSite tries to do with its platform.

IM Magazine is the place where one can discover a world filled with visionaries, thinkers, philanthropists, voluntaries, inventors, investors, researchers, social entrepreneurs, social innovators, projects – and social designers. Having the privilege to become a part this group of journalists and collaborators from all over the world, reporting on the most extraordinary global accomplishments, I together with Suk-Han Tang (SocialDesignSite) recently contributed with an article on social design.

It is a longer exploration than what one can find at the SocialDesignSite, covering an attempt to define the term in it’s multitude of usages, and illustrating it with some meaningful projects. Full article here.

As the IM Magazine is an initiative that was born and based in Portugal, this article exist also in a Portuguese version.

Original article by Joana Bértholo.

Design matters, like never before.

In a world changing faster than at any other time in human history, a dynamic and critical analysis of what is ‘good’ design could not be more urgently required. Whilst new communication technologies are offering revolutionary platforms for mass collaboration and opportunities to democratically converse within a global community (1), simultaneously the world faces unprecedented environmental, social, and economic crises (2). Are designers really capitalising on social media platforms and collaborative opportunities? What do these democratic shifts and global challenges mean, and what future role do they offer to the designer, writer and critic?

In 1998, writer, curator, and graphic designer Ellen Lupton (3) described how Michael Rock’s 1996 notion of the ‘Designer as Author‘ had “enlivened debates about the future of graphic design“. A decade on however, the arena of critical discourse in graphic design still remains very young (4). In comparison to architecture, fashion, fine art and cuisine, professional writing and criticism in communication design remains limited to only a handful of recognised names (Poynor, Heller, Rock, Lupton, et al.), and any substantial analysis of design authorship and criticism is restricted to those same voices (5). With post-graduate programs in design, writing and criticism springing up in both London and New York, however, design historian Margaret Maile predicts that the notion of what is considered to be ‘good’ design is set to face a whole new set of critical standards, led by a new breed of professional design voices.

“The slow development of criticism within design may in fact be related to the very concept of “Good Design,” which traditionally has prioritized rationalism, functionalism, and aesthetics over a deeper recognition of the broader cultural and contextual implications of design. But the reign of “Good Design” may be coming to a close as the discursive floodgates open, fueled by design criticism graduates with new ways of thinking and writing about design.”

Traditionally the notion of ‘author’ has been associated with the written word. However I believe, as French philosopher, critic and sociologist Michael Foucault argued, an author is not constrained to storytelling, but is a broader term used to describe a creative individual; “[…] it is ‘the author’-by which we mean any creative agent, whether writer, painter, filmmaker, or theorist-that allows us to conceive of the subject as a specific and particular individual, someone who can be distinguished from all other subjects.” (6)

When German critic Walter Benjamin wrote the text “The Author as Producer” (1934 cited Lupton 1983) he explained how “writing (and other arts) are grounded in the material structures of society.” Similarly, Foucault’s theory of ‘The Author Function‘, “the necessary thing that marks a particular discourse or set of discourses and authorizes them to circulate within a society” remains apparent today. When recalling favourite books, movies or even designs, it is often not the work itself that is remembered but its authorial voice. Danaher et al. (2000. pp.153-4) explain; “It is the name of the author that sells books or that attracts us to movies – John Grisham’s name is typically far more prominent on the covers of his paperback novels than the titles, and a movie is promoted as ‘the new film by George Lucas‘.

In 1946 British author George Orwell (7) suggested four motives for writing: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and/or political purpose. Essentially driven by authorial content and discourse, individuals (authors) across the world are proving this theory valid, informally and, often unconsciously, branding weblogs with authorial motives: self-promotion, a subjective aesthetic showcase, a historical exploration, or with a social, environmental or political premise. Not only is everyone a designer now (8), or a critic, but everyone has become an author too.

With such democratic ability to freely publish thoughts and criticisms, the rise of the ‘layman’, ‘amateur’ and ‘informal media’ (9) is set only to grow more powerful, interconnected and far reaching. Without continual analysis of these publishing platforms and comprehension of contemporary forms of communication, the ‘DIY’ culture of criticism and self-editing will only continue to threaten the very nature of what defines a professional author and critic. Questioning the future of digital design discourse with regard to its monetary value, Eye Magazine editor John L. Walters explained how prolific design writer and critic Rick Poynor stopped writing for prolific design weblog DesignObserver.com, as the platform did not generate an income.

In a feature for Eye Magazine, design historian Martha Scotford (10) attempted to illustrate the power of digital design discourse using a concept of “googling the design canon”. Albeit a limited exploration, she insightfully reflected;

“From a book you can get a cohesive design history; from the web, never. But there is no turning back. While books and journals will continue to be important repositories, appreciated for their credibility, capacity and user experience, the web will increase in volume and useage.”

Considering my own authorial voice in relation to the diverse study of the author and critic during term one of the MA Design Writing Criticism program at London College of Communication, I strongly believe that further recognition of online design writing is critically relevant to the future of design. As designers evolve within an increasingly interconnected society, and as the very notion of good design changes, the designer, writer and critic must, in the words of Ellen Lupton (1998), become a producer with “the skills to begin directing content by critically navigating the social, aesthetic, and technological systems across which communications flow.”

by Kate Andrews.

(1) Gormley, I. (2008). http://www.UsNowFilm.com
 (2) Berman, D. (2009). Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change the World. http://www.davidberman.com/dogood
 (3) Lupton, E. (1998). The Designer as Producer. http://www.elupton.com/index.php?id=43
 (4) Maile, M. (2008). Design Criticism for the 21st Century. Core77.com
 (5) Triggs, T., and Gerber, A. (2007). Design Criticism has long been the poor relation of other forms of critique. Blueprint Magazine.
 (6) Danaher, G., Schirato, T., and Webb, J. (2000). Understanding Foucault. London: Sage Publications.
 (7) Orwell, G. (1946). Why I Write. London: Penguin Books. pp.4-5.
 (8) Gerritzon 2003, Simon cited Thackara, J. (2005). In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World. p.1
 (9) Seijdel. (2007). The Rise of Informal Media. Open.
 (10) Scotford, M. (2008). Googling the Design Canon. Eye Magazine.

The least a designer can do: about codes and deontology

In his new book Quantum Shift in the Global Brain (1), systems theorist and twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize Ervin Laszlo, suggests a practicable behavioural code derived from an ecological and planetary ethics. He ascribes this code a ceiling and a floor, or a maximum and a minimum code, i.e., what one should be doing ideally, and the least one can do.
The maximum code can be formulated as: Act so as to further the evolution of a humanly favourable dynamic equilibrium in the biosphere.
Laszlo himself states that this ideal code, though a long-term aim to keep in sight, is Utopian in the short-term as a guide to action. Hence the need of a more immediate regulation – the minimum code. That is to say that if we can’t without further delay shift our behaviour into positive contributions to the systemic functioning of nature, than we should concentrate in limiting and neutralizing the negative impact we are now having. The minimum code would then be formulates as: Live so that others can also live. (Needless to add this is a global “others“, not just the “others” down the road). This is derived from Kant’s: Act so as to allow your action to become a universal maxim (2). That was – in 1785 – Kant’s standard of rationality from which all moral requirements were to be derived. But back to Laszlo:

“In the final analysis the minimum code would create breathing space, buying time for the necessary behavioural changes, while the maximum code would offer an ideal toward which to strive when the time is ripe for such changes.”

More than taking the opportunity to signal a book that I suggest as a direct entrance to the top-10 must-read of 2009, I hope to raise the question over the lack of a shared deontology within the design industry. How would Laszlo’s minimum and maximum code translate into a set of actions in design methodology?

If you’re reading this, let’s say, from Canada or the UK, you’ll find it perhaps a less pressing question. This moral incentive was most likely since always in your curriculum as a student, and this notion of social responsibility perhaps thoroughly debated. It has been gradually but permanently integrated in your overall approach to design (if all went well). However, there is a large geographical discrepancy when it concerns socially engaged design as something fostered at an educational level. My personal experience led me to believe just that, having studied design in Portugal, with short experiences in Belgium, Holland, and Germany. Back then the gap was huge. I never had these issues debated in my classrooms, even if I’m aware (and rejoicing with it!) that now after only a couple of years they have taken the stage.

Over the years, I’ve managed to build a (vague?) idea of what is happening in American universities, in the UK, a bit in Canada, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Italy – largely informed by having designer friends studying and working in these places. But I would love to know what is happening in India, Venezuela, Japan, Turkey, Greece, Brazil – and so forth. If you are reading this and have a bit of knowledge to add about such places – among others – perhaps you could leave a paragraph or two about it in the comment area. (Thank you in advance).

I leave you now with AIGA’s Standards of professional practice, which include the essential “The designer’s responsibility to society and the environment“. I leave you as well with a personal favourite, Milton Glaser’s Road to Hell. (2002)

“A few years ago I had the pleasure of illustrating Dante’s Purgatory for an Italian publisher. I was impressed by the fact that the difference between those unfortunates in Hell and those in Purgatory was that the former had no idea how they had sinned. Those in Hell were there forever. Those in Purgatory knew what they had done and were waiting it out with at least the possibility of redemption, thus establishing the difference between despair and hope.
In regard to professional ethics, acknowledging what it is we do is a beginning. It is clear that in the profession of graphic design the question of misrepresenting the truth arises almost immediately. So much of what we do can be seen as a distortion of the truth. (…) To establish your own level of discomfort with bending the truth, read the following chart:

12 Steps on the Graphic Designer’s Road to Hell.

1 – Designing a package to look bigger on the shelf.
2 – Designing an ad for a slow, boring film to make it seem like a lighthearted comedy.
3 – Designing a crest for a new vineyard to suggest that it has been in business for a long time.
4 – Designing a jacket for a book whose sexual content you find personally repellent.
5 – Designing a medal using steel from the World Trade Center to be sold as a profit-making souvenir of September 11.
6 – Designing an advertising campaign for a company with a history of known discrimination in minority hiring.
7 – Designing a package aimed at children for a cereal whose contents you know are low in nutritional value and high in sugar.
8 – Designing a line of T-shirts for a manufacturer that employs child labor.
9 – Designing a promotion for a diet product that you know doesn’t work.
10 – Designing an ad for a political candidate whose policies you believe would be harmful to the general public.
11 – Designing a brochure for an SUV that flips over frequently in emergency conditions and is known to have killed 150 people.
12 – Designing an ad for a product whose frequent use could result in the user’s death.

(Taken from MetropolisMag. I recommend you go and look at the source as I find it that the colour gradation adds some needed drama to it.)

Original article by Joana Bértholo

(1) LASZLO, Ervin, Quantum Shift in the Global Brain, How the new scientific reality can change us and our world, published by Inner Traditions, 2008.
(2) Kant’s categorical imperative is the central philosophical concept in his moral philosophy, as well as modern deontological ethics. It may be defined as the standard of rationality from which all moral requirements are derived. (From Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, 1785).

Love, violence and mastering the joy of design

Design. Oh design how I love you. I hate you so much because my love for you makes me hate myself. I love being a designer but I hate design. I love designing but I hate talking about it. I love talking but I hate people who talk so much. I hate designers but I love to master designing. I am a designer, I love people. I am a designer, I am people. I am passionate and violent, I make and destroy. I want to be a revolution. I am a designer, I am.

Crazy am I?

A little girl who came to Toronto from Tehran, leaving her childhood in the land of fertility. Iran with my mother. Iran with my father. Iran with my brother. I just ran far away from everything, out to explore a new reality.

I tried to define myself so many times. I fell in love easily. Not with boys. No, boys didn’t come into the picture until late in the game. I fell in love with the energy of joy. Joy was all I ever wanted, really. Am I any different from you for craving joy? It was my best friend and I’m sure you are best friends too.

First joy came into my life through the piano. Memorizing notes and completion free of mistakes was joy. I took lessons for a year and learnt all the notes. My teacher loved me and she said I was a great student. I started hating it though. I hated it so I beat myself knowing I wasn’t going to be the best at mastering piano. It made me mad. Others were better, I just wasn’t good enough.

So I left piano and found joy again through sport. It was the start of a very long and brutal relationship. We broke up many times. Joy wasn’t very nice to me, even though I visibly invested energy into joy over anything else. I gave my heart away for the joy of sport. I cried when winning, cried when losing. I would practice for joy. But I hated myself! I hated not being able to master it. I would try so hard but got rejected so many times. Sport wanted it to work too but demanded too much from me. I felt like shit. I felt like I was trying hard and not getting mutual love in return – like as if he could never understand my love for him. I now think the reason for our breakup was because I wanted to master the sport over mastering the joy of the sport. Through my process of mastering, I killed my joy in sport. Others were better, I just wasn’t good enough. I broke my own heart.

The computer. Oh the joy of the computer was there for as long as I can remember. Commodore 64 in Iran was the favourite childhood toy. Gaming was joy. We came to Canada in 1996 and the computer became more embedded in our lives since my dad had always been ahead with computers and software. My brother and I had the advantage of being raised with computers. I still remember the dial-up days, with Yahoo Chat and ICQ. Not that many people in middle school were tech saavy back then. I still remember the computer labs very limited with their computers programs and barely any of them had access to internet. All-the-Right-Type was a speed-typing program that I will never forget. I had a joy for mastering that too. Type fast! Free of mistakes! That was joy.

What about art? Well drawing was fun. I liked drawing things. But hell no, I was by no means the best artist. I was decent but it didn’t give me deep joy and I never thought about doing any masterpieces. I didn’t draw for fun for that long. I forced myself to do it because I wanted to master it. I couldn’t. I wanted to draw from my imagination, but couldn’t. Someway or another, I ended up in a program that was starting in a middle school called CyberARTS. My grade 6 teachers recommended that I go there. So I got in. I think that’s when my life began to take shape. I started dating art and computer fun, but I was still in love with the joy of sports.

From grade 7 to grade 12 (1998 – 2004), I continued getting to know computers and art. I was already in the pot to become a graphic designer. I had no choice, it picked me. Graphic software was fun for me to learn. It was a new language and I loved being given projects to work on using that language. I learnt so much about the life through the process of each project.

Writing? Well as you can see I enjoy doing it. Writing to me has always been the best way to express myself and articulate my thoughts. Writing was a joy for as long as I can remember. Did I ever dream of being a writer? Nope. Did I ever want to master writing? To some degree, but it didn’t bother me as much as my other mastering obsessions. I viewed it as a tool to be creative and expressive. It wasn’t until this past summer when I took a Creative Writing course (after OCAD told me I needed to take one last credit to graduate) that I confessed to myself I am a poet. Lillian Allen empowered me. She told me I had it. She said it to my face. I didn’t take my English teachers seriously in highschool when they would give me high marks and lots of comments on my writing. My grade 11 teacher used to go crazy over the poems I wrote in her class. I just never thought it was worth anything. I liked doing it for myself. It was my method of becoming my own teacher and mentor.

When the athlete in me died, I was dead. I knew I had to fall in love again. So I gave it all to graphic design. I’m free baby. I’m out to love you. I had 4 years of professional loving at Ontario Collage of Art & Design to master the joy of design. I did it, and quite well actually. I mastered the joy of design and I’d like to take this time to thank myself for mastering this joy. I could not have mastered this joy if I didn’t love myself. So I thank me for loving myself and staying in this relationship. I continue to call myself a professional graphic designer but I thank myself for realizing that I am by no means the best at anything. Because the only thing I am is me. And that is the story I just told you.

I am love.

I seek the joy of mastering design because I am Ghazaleh. I want to learn. I want to apply my learning and I like to use my brain. I don’t want to be the best at anything that confines me because I want to be free of order. I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I learnt that being a graphic designer is a privilege so I used it to my advantage. I threw myself out to the world with it. Here I am world! I design!

I could have never learnt more about myself by letting go of what I thought was best for me. I broke up many many times. But I was me. I had only me, my two eyes, ears, and my gut. I went to Florida with it, Chicago, New York, UN headquarters and even the MIT and Harvard campuses, on my own two feet with my own money. I admitted that I had some things to figure out.

Here I am now. 2009. What can I tell you?

I am Ghazaleh, the girl you always knew — doing what I want, designing from what I learn. Because design is beyond what you ever thought was real. Design is the process of mastering joy for people. So in order to master the joy of design, you have to design for people, constantly. Design is the ultimate creative force in each human being. Design means taking responsibility to make something that impacts those who interact with it. Whether its one person, a neighbourhood, or a nation, design is not an object – it is energy. It’s not what you make but the people who it resides in. It is people.

Be a designer. Listen. Look. Think. Link. Plan. Do…and never stop.

The fancier you think you are, the further away you drift from being a real designer. Stay true. Stay real. Find joy. Suck it up and fight for it. You have to be mean to win the grand prize. And winning the grand prize of mastering joy takes a lot of designing, even the grand prize itself.

Original article by Ghazaleh Etezal

one life: make money to save yourself; make art to save the world

I’m sitting here on my bed with my 3 year-old Apple Powerbook — one of the old ones that has no Intel chip or Super Drive. I’ve forgotten how old I’ve become. I was in school with so much drive for social design. I must admit though, my drive made me super aggressive. Not very attractive. Is it?

I’m unemployed by choice at the moment.

Oh my! Unemployed? That’s such a disgrace to my education and my strive for being great. What a failure, right?

Sure. Why not call it a failure? I’m so tired of thinking that I’ve got the final answer and living up to my own super expectations. I haven’t been able to sleep well because of all this “design” thinking. The internet and my stupid laptop make it so easy for me to forget who I am. I’ve had so much of good and bad in my life and lost sense of what is important for my health and well-being.

I never wanted to save the world. I have no idea where it suddenly came from. Maybe because I was angry at everyone. As if I knew something that others didn’t and I would hide and pretend like I didn’t think I was better than everyone else. Maybe all I really wanted was a companion, to really get it, and do it with me; to save the world together and use the internet to spread it.

I’m lost.

Because after all that I have done, after standing up for what I believed was right, I admit that I’m a selfish girl and everyone else is selfish too, especially the ones that deny their selfishness.

I jumped into a neighbourhood and stood still for a year. I listened to everything. It was chaos. I began to see the design of a local community and how complicated and interconnected it was. I realized that people all matter and every person thinks that they matter more. I started to see what “social” really meant. And I just designed on my way. By design I mean doing things that I was capable of doing.

I’m not going to lie or brag, but I’m a social cat. I love talking to people — from CEOs to the homeless. It’s the most enjoyable thing for me and that was something I only realized after I got out of school. I was more than lost in school, I was free. I could do anything I wanted but knew that I had to figure out the “world” part when I got out of school and I couldn’t waste any time. So speed became me and I hurt myself that way.

No regrets.

I realized that designing networks is all that matters. Networks = people. Connect people and you’ve done social design. And if you really are full of creativity, love and passion like myself, please practice it as an art. Just make art. I don’t know what your art is, but mine is poetry. I feel free when I do it. So, do something that will make you honor yourself. Put your heart out for the world to see. Don’t shove it down people’s throat, don’t say you’re right, don’t make people feel like they’re stupid and please don’t talk about how there is a final answer “somewhere” out there. Make money to save yourself; make art to save the world. You have one life and people care about who you are if you care enough for yourself to craft something beautiful and share it. Art is something you do for free, for yourself, for exploration, for discovery. Art is the universe in your voice.

Who knows?

Maybe you’ll make lots of money with your art one day!

Original article by Ghazaleh Etezal.

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