I participated in the closing event of Helsinki Design Lab yesterday (thank you guys, it was great). Among a set of brilliant talks (I’ll be sharing more thoughts later), one that I was quite impressed by was Timo Arnall’s keynote on visualizing the abstract. RFID or WiFi for example are terms that most of us hear pretty frequently, but communicating these complex things is pretty hard for non-technical people. We have a lot of infrastructure around us that we can’t see or feel in any way, yet we have to rely on it. Arnall has worked on great projects to make the invisible seen - giving the immaterial a visible shape.
But what I think is even more amazing than the work that’s been done today, were these examples of light painting used to study people’s actions in the beginning of the 1900’s.
In 1914, Frank Gilberth and his wife Lillian photographed people working in manufacturing. They used small lights to illustrate the work flow of a certain task, and aimed to simplify the process by making all steps visible at first. Science or art - again, I think it’s a fine line..
Good friends visiting for the weekend make a rainy city fill up with sunshine.
“I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterwards.” -Albert Einstein, 1916
Do not be afraid to want a lot.
Things take a long time; practice patience.
Avoid compulsively making things worse.
Finish what you start.
Often people start out by thinking about all the things that they can’t do. Once you take that path, it’s very hard to get off of it. Shoot high and shoot often.
“What an irony it is that these living beings whose shade we sit in, whose fruit we eat, whose limbs we climb, whose roots we water, to whom most of us rarely give a second thought, are so poorly understood.
We need to come, as soon as possible, to a profound understanding and appreciation for trees and forests and the vital role they play, for they are among our best allies in the uncertain future that is unfolding.”
― Jim Robbins,
The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet
Notebooks by lisacongdon on Etsy.
I have endless faith in things turning out for the best if you keep trying.
I believe in the good in people.
Some say an optimist is just naive, and that might as well be true. But they don’t see that only people with a bit of blue in their eyes can change the world for the better - and for good.
No designer (all the people working on products, technologies, social structures, the ways we learn and see things and interact..) can keep going on with their work if they don’t believe a change is possible. Every truly great leader talks about dreams. Every scientist about to break through knows they must be right.
But most of us rather listen to people criticizing the government policies, the decisions politicians make, the lack of progress, than to people who are working to change things around. Caring too much or trying too hard is not sexy. We like to point out problems without offering solutions or setting out questions to solve together. We should be helping our communities move forward, not sharing ironical blog posts of how someone failed.
Being a pessimist is so much more easy. You can justify every mistake, every unfair or misfortunate thing that happens to people, by thinking that’s just the way the world works. You can stop trying altogether, as it wouldn’t change a thing anyways. You can throw your hands up in the air and blame the situation, the government, the society. What you don’t realize is that you are the society.
What is a city but a sum of it’s people? What is a country but it’s local communities?
Who has the power to start a change but you and me?
Believing that everything will be okay doesn’t mean I wouldn’t know there are terrible things happening to some of us. It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t break my heart to hear of people being mistreated and abused, killed and tortured. What especially hurts, is seeing people who have given up hope. I know that things really don’t end up alright for all of us. But I believe that we could change that, if we really tried.
For every person tyrannizing others, there are dozens to stand up against them.
For every tragedy caused by someone who couldn’t see another way out, there’s a million acts of kindness realized every day.
There could be more. You could be more.
But this is not the message most people want to hear. People want answers that say: ‘There’s a system that will magically take care of this country.’, and they want to find someone else to take responsibility. Some say the society should be taking care of it’s weakest, yet they don’t want to be paying taxes on their own income for that. Then again, the government funding is often spent on feeding the machine instead of feeding the people in the streets. Some say that it should be every man for their own, and yet they would never be where they are if it wasn’t for someone else as well. Somebody show me a system that saves lives - there is none. It’s always a person somewhere in there, usually someone who still hasn’t lost their faith in humanity.
Working with technology, I’m a firm believer in that there are better ways we can enable people to take control of their lives. We can come up with amazing technologies to help people living in rough economic, natural or political environments. We can connect people from all over the world to solve global problems, and we can provide tools for neighborhoods to solve their own.
But I don’t believe that any invention can replace the power of hope, of optimism, of people tirelessly working to make the world a better place. And you feel so much lighter getting out of bed every morning, believing that everything will be good.
“What is an adventure? That depends on where you are starting from. Little girls in your country, they hide in the gap between the washing machine and the refrigerator and they make believe they are in the jungle, with green snakes and monkeys all around them. Me and my sister, we used to hide in a gap in the jungle, with green snakes and monkeys all around us, and make believe that we had a washing machine and a refrigerator. You live in a world of machines and you dream of things with beating hearts. We dream of machines, because we see where beating hearts have left us.”
-Chris Cleave, Little Bee
For the first time in years, I read a novel from cover to cover without ever putting it down or turning a single corner of a page to mark where I stopped. Chris Cleave got me hooked from the beginning till the very last page of the book, and I can’t think of a more beautifully sad way of telling the story of Little Bee.
I spent a few days this week learning to snowboard. Besides a few probably broken ribs and excitement to learn more, I was a also left with a newly found fascination towards the documentation of movement. Looking through the gondola window at lines drawn by people going downhill was somehow meditative. You could see when they had fallen down, gotten up and continued their way.
Looking into a huge amount of different kinds of monitoring devices has been part of my work lately, and I had already developed a small inner crisis having to do with the field. There seems to be so incredibly much that we can monitor and capture, but it’s so hard to find good reasons why. What can we do with massive amounts of information, how can we make a difference, what are the things that we should concentrate on? Does quantifying yourself or your surroundings make you happier? Could it?
Maybe sometimes it’s about the journey more than the outcome. Maybe what matters is the feeling of achievement when you get to look back. Maybe you start changing your behavior when you see how you did things earlier and where it’s gotten you, or maybe you realize you don’t want to change a thing.
A new start for a new year, what a better time to start capturing some motion.
Tim Knowles has given a voice to trees, documenting their movement in the wind, giving them a canvas and a pen.