Chain Letters

Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dana Chisnell
You might think these aren’t design questions, but you’re in the business of culture change.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Toni L. Griffin
I strongly believe—and have seen firsthand—how shared ownership in creating a vision plan inspires greater collective action.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Chelsea Mauldin
“Most broken government systems are not designed—they accrete, bits and pieces stuck on to address problems.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Steven Heller
“Design is a profession that has grown out of its stereotypes.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Elysia Borowy-Reeder
“Information is everywhere now. We need educated, well-versed curators to make sense of it.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alexander Tochilovsky
"Reading the imprint of past choices can teach us a lot about how to be a designer today."



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sean Adams
The point regarding design history is about documentation. If the work is not documented and disseminated, it disappears.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Margaret Gould Stewart
Margaret Gould Stewart is Vice-President of Product Design at Facebook where she leads a global team of product designers and researchers for teams such as Artificial Intelligence and Privacy & Data Use.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Arthur Cohen
I support a world in which design is not elevated and codified into some idealized “other,” but rather integrated into everyday practice that is just good business.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Randy J. Hunt
“There are examples of designs that were the spark of an innovation and there are examples of designs that added to and evolved an otherwise already innovative idea.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Grace Jun
“Design is way of seeing and a way of doing. A unique perspective and method that combined can lead to innovation.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Zachary Lieberman
“Tools and jobs will always change but the fundamentals stay the same.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Pangaro
In my experience, an understanding of the processes of design and the means for expanding techniques and capabilities are a matter of practice and critique, tightly coupled.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dori Tunstall
“Designing is not about a job. Design is one of many pathways for doing meaningful work in the world.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Gail Anderson
“As a designer, I am sensitive to the way people consume information, and very concerned about the survival of print.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Joan Wong
“I’m not sure the experience between print and ebooks is really that different.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jennifer 8. Lee
“In my line of work, sometimes you have to wait for the future to catch up.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Anna Gerber
“Readers and writers are open, adventurous, and eager to try new things. Even if those experiences are not always perfect.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Moore
“Streaming has shocked new life into the music industry and the vinyl we all hold dear to our hearts. Now the platform is finding a new generation of ardent fans. As designers, that’s where we can influence a movement.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Emily Batson
“A key part of my job is collaboration. I enjoy the negotiation of finding a concept that truly works.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Frank Ockenfels 3
“I am a true believer of creating in the moment.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lawrence Azerrad
It‘s June, and you know what that means—the unofficial kick-off of summer concert season. This month, we examine design and music, and why fans everywhere benefit when these creative industries work in concert.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jamer Hunt
“And it’s likely the case that most design criticism today focuses on ideology more than aesthetics, as we’re going through a period of long-overdue self-scrutiny.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Molly Heintz
Labeling design, or anything, “good” is a slippery slope—good for whom?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Andrew Blauvelt
Criticism allows for self-reflection, and that is necessary when we use words like discipline and field to talk about design.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alice Twemlow
“Of course design criticism is still relevant—it just inhabits formats that we might be less familiar with.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Karin Fong
“A bit of uncertainty is good for the design process. I would hate to be trapped in the sureness of my own thoughts.”



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Deva Pardue
“I don’t believe that being an artist or a designer by definition makes you an activist. I think the responsibility arises when you have something relevant to say.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Rhea Combs
“I believe art has many functions, and one of them is to interrogate the status quo.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lindsay Peoples
Celebrating Women’s History month and how to better design for inclusivity with The Cut’s fashion market editor, Lindsay Peoples.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Julian Alexander
What made Julian Alexander become a designer, and what was it like working with 50 Cent during the start of his career?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jason Murphy
“Inclusivity. That is the cliché. Where are they doing that?”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Ced Funches
“Admitting you may not be the best person to bring a vision to life is the hard part.”



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dian Holton
"As designers, we are problem-solvers, visionaries, and teachers," says Holton. "It’s important for us to be empathic and proactive in learning about our audience, so that we can provide meaningful experiences. This means getting to know the people who may not be like you."


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Briana Como
“We make an effort to be aware of and remove bias by focusing on behaviors instead of demographics when creating distinct personas.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sarah Doody
“With anything we create, the first step in the design process must be to understand. This happens through research.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Richard Ting
Richard Ting, Global Chief Experience Officer at R/GA, continues our Chain Letters interview series.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jessica Gaddis
This interview is part of a new Design Observer series, Chain Letters, in which we ask leading design minds a few burning questions—and so do their peers, for a year-long conversation about the state of the industry.



Observed | December 10

What a new retrospective reveals about Andy Warhol, and about our swerve away from humanism. [BV]

The 1st printing of the Bolted Book sold out so fast that it’s going into a second printing in January 2019. Sign up now to receive a free custom-designed book display stand. [BV]


Observed | December 07

The boozy and violent story behind America‘s Eggnog Riot. [BV]


Observed | December 06

#TBT: Vintage tech: the ballpoint pen. [BV]

#TBT: The beauty of a well-designed knob. [BV]


Observed | December 05

The competitive book sorters who spread knowledge around New York. [BV]

What do Dick Bruna’s covers have to do with Japanese matchboxes? This exhibition finally answers that question. [BV]


Observed | December 04

During World War I, in the ensnarled disputes about wartime deception and the equal rights of women, conspicuous “dazzle-painted” ships were condemned as “painted women.” Social Repercussions of World War I Ship Camouflage. [BV]

Rumsey Taylor, from the New York Times, on All of It from WNYC, about his story “The Mystery Font That Took Over New York.” Joined by Steven Heller about the history of storefront signs in NYC. (17.00 mins or thereabouts) [BV]


Observed | December 03

Mourned by many: Glamour magazine is gone. [BV]

The new font Berthe, from Abyme, is featured in the new online publication of Caractères ordinaires. [BV]


Observed | November 30

Beautifully-designed Bauhaus books and journals by Gropius, Klee, Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy and more, now available for free download. [MB]


Observed | November 29

We live at the end of an era characterized by relentless anxiety around the self as a product: what it means, who owns it, what it costs, what it’s worth. [BV]

Three innovations that started out as inclusive design solutions. [BV]


Observed | November 28

A new model for social design? The NYC Democratic Socialists of America offers an interesting example for systematizing volunteer political design work. [BV]


Observed | November 27

Likely the United States’ first woman employee, Mary Katharine Goddard signed the Declaration of Independence and was a key figure in promoting the ideas that fomented the Revolution. [BV]

Fighting an outlaw biker gang by...seizing the rights to its logo? [MB]


Observed | November 26

A working guide to the repair of rust, dust, cracks, and corrupted code in our cities, our homes, and our social relations. [BV]

In this age of data and its manipulation, it’s important to remember algorithms are opinions, not truth machines, and demand the application of ethics. Don’t believe us? Watch this short animated video. [BV]


Observed | November 23

With 26 million TONS of plastic ending up in the ocean every year, we’re thankful for entrepreneurs like this who can turn a plastic bottle into a fashion statement. [BV]

Ever wondered where Hogwarts is located? Or the Castle of Aaagggghhhh? Check out Fake Britain: a map of fictional locations in England, Scotland and Wales. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | November 21

Glenn Gould’s heavily marked-up score for the Goldberg variations surfaces, letting us look inside his creative process. [BV]

A visual indulgence: Brassaï, the outsider who photographed Paris after dark. [BV]


Observed | November 20

Prolific title designer Pablo Ferro is recognized for introducing narrative and nonlinear dimensions to films spanning from Dr. Strangelove to Men in Black. Ferro passed on Saturday. His legacy lives on. [BV]

Because bullshit is almost everywhere, we assume we know how to recognize it and thus what it is. Subjectivity and its discontents. [BV]


Observed | November 19

Super recognizers: the people who never forget a face. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]

Amazon’s “stealth brands” are represented by $299 crowdsourced logos. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | November 15

Juan Ángel Cotta’s work, especially a collection of hardback books he illustrated in 1960, is one of the missing links between South American publishing and the European modernist traditions. —Steven Heller. [BV]

Need some inspiration? 25 reasons to keep on making stuff “in this time of rampant assholery.” [BV]


Observed | November 13

Are we confusing readability with literary value? The case for difficult books. [BV]



Jobs | December 11