Friday, June 10, 2022


A comparison of a squid with sea monks from the sixteenth century shows that in olden times, fisherman had very vivid imaginations.

My Chinese zodiac is the year of the monkey, with the element of earth making me an earth monkey (I assume). A superficial description of my character traits are as follows:
"They are optimistic, confident and have strong initiative. They have high intelligence, quick reaction ability, and strong adaptability to environmental changes, so they can handle any urgent and complicated matters calmly and clearly. They like socialization and are warm-hearted, so that they can get along well with others.”

My astrological sign is Pisces which is described as:
“They dream on such a lofty scale that their reach often exceeds their grasp. [These] people enjoy living in the limelight and gravitate toward a fast-paced lifestyle that offers them glamour and romance. Pisceans hold on to their memories from childhood, good or bad. Even if they feel burdened by the past, it is almost impossible for these sensitive souls to cut themselves off from family. They make conscientious parents. They know how to foster an an atmosphere of liberalism and good times. They have an instinct for making money. They have the ability to stay within a tight budget.”

Comparing the zodiacs of Persia and Asia, one makes me out to be a monkey of the earth who will not make a great fortune and be unhealthy, while the other says Pisces is a water sign and fortunes are to be mine because I’m good with money. Maybe I am both, of the earth and the water. A monkey and a fish. A monkfish, if you will. I readily admit my mind is sometimes a laughing monkey. Other times it is a sleeping monkey. Sometimes it is that monkey picking and eating ticks from the coat of another monkey. Still other times, it is that monkey who sits in the corner of the compound, quiet, bored, crouching in a slump and scratching his ass.

As a designer I wish I could design something as great as these horoscopes. A design that always reflects what the user wishes to see or needs. A clock that always shows you have plenty of time to spare. A pen that makes your handwriting look wonderful and full of bon mots. A bowl that always holds just the right amount and always leaves you sated, never hungry or bloated.

What I wouldn't give to have the skill to be able to say something absurd that sounds true and convincing to the listener. In many ways, this is a classic disinformation technique. Start with a truth (the sky is blue…) mixed with something vague, (…due to certain compounds that disperse the blue part of the spectrum. Wait? Certain compounds?) to come to a stupid conclusion (Blue light dispersing compounds were added to our atmosphere by the UN to disrupt our sleep.) to cause confusion and mistrust. It seems like a super-power. Maybe words with their malleability and interpretation are simply more powerful than design. Though I guess plenty of trucks are designed to make lesser men feel greater, many shoes have made shorter women feel taller, and well, less said about the "power suit" the better. This is not the goal of design, or so designers like to say. Designers solve problems, though a common problem we have to solve is how to make more money. Not that I'm complaining. This ability to make compromise appear intentional or the underwhelming seem desirable, goes with the territory unfortunately. Yet, if you can truly solve a problem and make it sexy at the same time, then that really makes something valuable.

As the 1st century Roman architect, Vitruvius would say, firmitas, utilitas, and venustas. It sounds better in Latin but is often interpreted as meaning a successful design should have commodity, utility and delight. My experience has been if something works well and is delightful, it will have value, though many times if there is a market for something, and you make it work, the delight part can be left behind. I've also found it can be difficult to bring "delight" to tools you make for work. It shouldn't be that way but you know, if you are building software that someone needs to do work, "delight" may be a hard sell. They don't call it "work" for nothing. In some ways, maybe designers are like astrologists. Not that we try to prognosticate, but that we try to tell you something we made up and make it seem like something you needed or even wanted to hear. At least that's the way my current work has felt, not every day, but a lot of days. Maybe if we could find a little more "utility" then the "commodity" part would be easier to find and that would be a true "delight" to me. Until then, I'll be grounded on earth but try to navigate the currents like a fish. A monkfish if you will.



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