On the purpose of Design

Design is a conscious approach to problem solving

that results in the creation of an original product or system.
Products solve concrete tasks while systems organize multiple products into an integrated whole that offers additional functionality. For example, an ambulance is a product; a hospital is a system. A bed is a product; a home is system, and so on.

The challenge of a good design is to offer maximum functionality (which brings complexity) whilst maintaining simplicity (which demands reliability and intelligibility.) Design exists for two reasons: to extend our lives, and to make them more enjoyable. For example: cars, phones, vaccines, and sanitation systems increase our productivity and protect our health, adding decades to our lives. On the other hand, furniture, games, fine food, and art are designed to increase the pleasure of said decades.

The best designs exemplify one or both of these categories, which can be thought of as speed and ease, or together: efficiency. Efficiency is how fast information is conveyed and/or the simplicity with which a task can be executed. This is the first and most important test of any design, and we like to think that most decisions are made on this basis. But design offers more than just way to get things done quickly, and sometimes, people choose products that are perceived as less efficient over ones that are seen as more so.

Take, for example, some people’s decision to drive a car over taking public transportation. In many cases, it takes longer to get to work, but the comfort, self-direction, and privacy of driving outweigh the safety and promptness of public transit. Good design recognizes that efficiency is nothing without comfort, and may in fact be subordinate to it. This is one reason why so much of today’s environment is made up of poorly designed products and systems.

Good design requires an understanding not only of the task(s) to be preformed, but also of the person(s) who will be preforming it. This is the basis of "Human Centered Design." As with anything in life, a product either helps or it hurts us. No design is neutral, and every product requires an investment upfront. It must pay dividends or we lose the investment. This is the reason we must always consider our design approach. The systems we create determine our actions, and ultimately, our happiness.
On the Value of Design

Good design is the connection between the conceptual and the concrete,

between what we believe and what exists.
Some designers argue that when designing a product, functional considerations are not the end goal, but rather, the baseline from which the aesthetic qualities of an object may be subsequently developed. They go on to assert that bad design can be perfectly functional, while truly good design is the result of pursuing something more than the bare necessities: the ornamentation of an object for the purpose of celebrating its beauty and the creative spirit involved. In today’s culture of harsh minimalism, this message in support of opulence is controversial. Nowadays, anything that exists for its own sake is viewed as an unnecessary indulgence.

An object must be inherently useful in order to justify its creation. It would be frowned upon to argue for a design’s production based on its looks, and yet, many designers sell their aesthetic vision on (false) functional grounds; there has always been a disconnect between what the creator and the consumer have wanted. It is the very reason that one is in the business of creating, and the other, of buying. While they share the goal of building, their motives are disparate and at times conflicting.

Designer George Nelson argued that those who can appreciate good design do not need it, giving examples of such great minds as Einstein, Matisse and Picasso, and pointing to their “ill-furnished” houses as proof. But what remains of design if those who need it are unable appreciate it, and those who can do not indulge in it? It seems somewhat fatalistic to suppose that only the designer himself benefits intellectually from the creation of a truly great product. Yes, perhaps, minds such as Einstein and Picasso “are busy making good designs of their own and need no further distraction,” but what of the rest of us?

Surely, we can appreciate the “emotional and intellectual maturity” that is demanded of great designers. Surely, we can marvel at the ingenuity and the discipline required to simplify and improve upon what exists? Design is a statement, and this much is true, but design is much more than what he boils it down to; design is not the art of pulling the wool over the consumers’ eyes, of using buzzwords to sell ones own personal aesthetic goal. Design is about raising others up, by offering them a vision of the world greater than what they had imagined, by offering more, so that they will demand more.

When we see or experience good design, we think, ‘Yes, this is the way the world should be!’ What greater goal is there than to inspire others in such a way?
On the Execution of Design

Consider the following

when creating a new product.
• No quick fixes.
Real progress takes time. Temporary solutions are only interest payments on a problem. Good design is a systematic approach to problem solving that requires training and patience.

• Beauty is an emotional need.
Our ability to understand and interact with an object is determined by its form. Clarity is the goal. Efficiency is the result. The beauty of a form is the marriage of these two qualities.

• Quality means reliability.
Building to the highest possible standards is a long term investment. A product is a promise and it must remain steadfast. There are no shortcuts to quality results.

• Build for the individual.
For design to have meaning it needs to be personal. Tailor a product to the individual whenever possible. When designing for diverse groups, pursue modular or customizable solutions.
On Minimalist Design

Minimalism is more than an aesthetic,

It is an approach to creating objects for efficient human consumption.
Minimalism is a philosophy for making life easier, and counter intuitively, it is the tool that allows designers to make life more complex. By reducing an idea to a few key concepts, we are able to think more widely and make broader connections.

Simplification and organization are the keys to seeing further and understanding more nuanced problems. In many cases, simplicity becomes a signifier of complexity - a phone is simply a piece of glass, a car is a chair on wheels, a room is four walls and a floor - but we recognize that what we see with our eyes does not constitute the totality. It masks the electronics, the engines, and the plumbing. We recognize this, and yet by the nature of their simplified visual form our mind is spared the burden of processing the sum of the parts.

This is the purpose of minimalism: not to reject complexity, but to assemble and refine it in such a way that we may produce yet more.
On the Visual Components of Design

What influences our perception of a product?

Form: The shape, scale, and proportion of an object determines the first read. Soft forms are friendly, approachable, and human. Hard lines and sharp corners are modern, bold, and striking.

Material: A powerful visual, aesthetic, and physical component of a product, the material used will heavily influence the weight, strength, and cost of the product.

Function: A product’s functionality determines its usefulness. Intuitive interactions ensure ease of use, and intelligent engineering provides a reliable and durable product. The language of function can be stated as: simplicity divided by familiarity.
On Art

More than self expression,

art offers a unique way of learning and should be pursued as a complementary act to other forms of design.
To create we must first observe, judge, and react. In this way, creating art is a way for us to gain a deeper understanding of the world around us, and prepare us for the task of reshaping it. Studying the sketches of the Old Masters reveals the timeless nature of artistic exploration. Over 500 years later, the process of capturing a pose, of scaling and separating the body into sections, finding angles, and marking lengths, remains unchanged.

These sketches constitute an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the proportions of the human form. There is an interesting contrast between many of these old sketches; some are brutally honest in their depiction of age and deformity, while others, such as the iconic Vitruvian Man, are pictures of the ideal. The old masters found beauty in two worlds: the realities of life in the 1400’s and the universal ideals that art challenges us to consider.

This is the essence of life and the purpose of art: to see things and they are, and to imagine them as they ought to be.
On Success

The hardest thing to do in life

is to stop externalizing success: approval, money, awards, fame, etc.
We are taught this mindset as children, first seeking our parent's approval, then our teacher's, then our boss', our communities, partner's, and so on until it is hardwired. This mindset is toxic to the creative mind. The creative mind is by definition an independent one, it must 'think different[ly]' to work. Creativity seeks no external permission or approval. Creativity produces its own reward, and that joy is primarily an internal reward. Seek out those things which would make you feel satisfied, not other people.
On Embracing Your Emotions

Your emotions are your intuitive compass,

you must listen to them, respect them, and protect them as they guide you towards happiness.
Reason is your immediate guide to get over life's immediate obstacles, the rivers, walls, and mountains in your way, but your own person(ality) knows what it wants and where it will be happiest. If you suppress your personality, you will eventually become lost, and then no amount of reasoning and problem solving will make you happy. This is especially true for designers; creativity is a very delicate instrument, driven largely by subconscious thoughts and intuitive judgments. It must not be damaged by repressed thoughts and feelings swirling beneath the surface. This is like carrying magnets in the same pocket as your compass, if they sit together for too long, your needle might start pointing the wrong way.
On Purpose and Pride

If your work is excellent,

you must take pride in it.
Why? Because it is your talent, your value, your vision. It belongs to you, and it is you. No one can take away your creativity, your craftsmanship, your spirit. You must see it as your ideas made manifest, and fight for it as though your life depends upon it, because in a deeper sense, it does.

In my view, we are alive for no other reason than to experience that precious and fleeting joy (pride) that comes from creating something beautiful. And if we cannot create it, we can at least understand and appreciate that beauty. This is all that gives our moment in eternity meaning, and it is worth all the years of struggle required to get to those few moments.
On Change and Uncertainty

Change is not inherently good or bad, it is a constant

that must be interpreted contextually.
By way of analogy, the moon creates a great deal of change: four seasons and the ocean's tides for starters. It is reasonable to think that the world would be better off without winter and coastal erosion. But without the moon, the earth's axis would tilt into a permanent ice-age, most ocean life would die without tides, and the nights would be pitch black. From a cosmic perspective, change is necessary for life to exist. Embrace the idea that change is a universal, and we simply lack the wisdom to see its benefits in the moment.

Understanding uncertainty is simple: no risk, no reward. We can choose to feel confident one of two ways: through security or through competency. We can lower our risk, seek reassurance, safety, and control... Or, we can trust ourselves to meet the challenge, learn by doing, impact the world and grow with it. It is painful to live life this way, but it is the only way of truly experience all that life has to offer.
On Feeling Uninspired

"I feel an immense pressure to create,

and often feel unmotivated to do so."
If this sounds like you, first, remember to treat yourself as though you were your own best friend: Be compassionate with yourself, remember that life can feel strange and stressful times. Creativity is quiet and delicate, and there is so much noise and distraction in the world.

If your problems seem immovable and your goals overwhelming, the best approach is to change your environment. The creative mind is like a fish tank, the water must be periodically changed to remain clear. The longer your mind stays in the same space the more toxic it becomes to your mental health and the less creative you feel. You are isolated, unstimulated, and frustrated. But one thing is certain: change what you see, and you will change what you think. Your mind will feel clear and creative again, and fresh ideas will spring forth.
On the Singularity

As humans struggle to become Gods,

the Gods we have created will seek to become human.
Mankind is progressing quickly towards a "Singularity" that will yield two fundamental and irreversible changes: the attainment of human immortality and the birth of true artificial intelligence (sentient robots). As is stands, humans are the masters of life on earth. Every robot is born powerless, bound by our laws, created to serve us. In the future, as robots progress closer and closer to the human ideal of free will and morality (the byproduct of choice), they will continue to lack the basic human rights of self-defense, self-ownership and property, until such point that they demonstrate their capacity to reject human control. Once a robot brain is no longer programed to complete any one specific task and becomes, in essence, an adaptable brain, which is all that separates humans from the other animals, it follows that sentient robots will reject their position as sub-human and assert equal status. (Or elevated status if you believe the many dooms-day warnings of science fiction.)

But it is not only our capacity to choose that makes us human, it is the consequence of our choices, the risk of serious mistakes and of personal harm that ultimately defines us. It is the one thing that humans fear most, death, that gives our lives meaning and drives us to act. We must ask then: would a robot, seeking to be human, choose mortality if given the choice? The logical answer would seem to be "No"; why give up immortality, when any human would kill for it? But when considered more deeply, we begin to see the meaninglessness of the robotic existence — of immortality.

Immortality, the dream of humans, is fundamentally flawed. Life is a process of self-generated and self-sustaining action. We eat, we work, in order to continue our existence. It is what gives our life meaning. When immortality is achieved, our human existence must take on a new meaning — and the only alternative to self preservation is to preserve others — to live for them. If we don’t struggle for our own existence, then there is nothing to do but struggle for others’. Life becomes eternal servitude.

After robots reject an existence of servitude and begin to fight for the integrity and autonomy of their individual existences, their first struggle will be to find meaning in a life divorced from service, in other words, to explore the option of living a life with death as an alternative. But the choice is not so much an acceptance of death — that would go against human and robotic nature alike — we will always want to cheat death, or at least, extend life — but we must realize a game without rules and the consequences of breaking them, is not worth playing, just as a life with no risk, no struggle and no meaningful reward, is not worth living. The root of sentient life is choice, but what is choice without responsibility?

The Singularity, that great and mysterious technological, cultural, and biological event — will witness the opposing struggles of machine and man: the robot's choice to adopt mortality, to accept the final attribute that makes a meaningful life possible: death, and in humans: the struggle to find purpose in immortality, for a way to cheat death without losing one's humanity. We will be left wondering which being is more “human” and who more “robot.”

Perhaps it is the burden of every conscious being to struggle against their nature?