Dunne + Raby

Photo from  Dunne & Raby's   Technological Dreams Series: No. 1, Robots, 2007

Photo from Dunne & Raby's Technological Dreams Series: No. 1, Robots, 2007

The pathway to becoming a UX designer and/or Service Designer is always a fascinating story. If you take the time to ask fellow professionals in the field of how they came to be, I guarantee that it will be time well spent. The beauty of this industry is the fact that people have diverse backgrounds from probably every field you can imagine. This is why I love the HCD world.

Another reason why I love the HCD world is because if you look for it, you can pretty much find it in any field that exists. And when you do, the people you meet have no idea that they are actually participating in a HCD-like manner. 

One of the places that I found Human Centered Design is in the conceptual design world. Take for instance the subject of 'Critical Design'.

Critical Design uses critical theory to approach designed objects in order to challenge designers and audiences to think differently and critically about objects, their everyday use, and the environments that surround them. Many design professors teach this way of thinking with their design students who are producing highly conceptual artwork within the design realm. Are you still interested? I'll keep going.

I'd like to introduce you to a duo who teach as design professors in London and Vienna and make projects stemmed from Critical Design. Their names are Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby.

Another photo from the same series.

Another photo from the same series.

'Their work has been exhibited at MoMA, NYC, the Pompidou Centre, Paris, and the Design Museum in London, and is in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Frac Ile-de-France, Fnac and the MAK as well as several private collections. [...] In 2015, Dunne & Raby received the first MIT Media Lab Award.' I don't think that I have to justify their impact within the design world - they are well respected and consistently referred to when new work is presented to the world.

Techies - listen up.

Although the list of work they have produced is quite long, I'd like to bring attention to one of their projects called, "Technological Dreams Series: No. 1, Robots," created in 2007, which is a great example of Critical Design. It provokes the idea that ‘one day, in the future, robots will do everything for us’ and the question of how we will interact with them comes to the surface. In this project, designed robots are shown to project the ‘new interdependencies and relationships [that] might emerge in relation to different levels of robot intelligence and capability.’ (Dunne & Raby, Project Info)

I am a firm believer that it is though works like Technological Dream Series: No. 1, Critical Design ultimately takes on the role of questioning ‘the limited range of emotional and psychological experiences offered through [existing] designed products.’ (Dunne & Raby, Project Info) It emphasizes the condition of today's design culture as it ‘limits and prevents [designers] from fully engaging with and designing for the complexities of human nature.’ Although this can be seen as a negative way to view designed objects, Critical Design ‘is more about the positive use of negativity’ as it confronts designers to think critically about people they are designing for. This theory supports HCD through this confrontation and many designers have, since then, turned to HCD for guidance.

How wonderful, right? And very appropriate for our HCD/UX/Service Design field.

If you have time, watch and read about the robots. Think about what a world would be like in the future if robots and technology actually behaved in this way. I challenge you to consider why we are in partaking in this industry and to think about what ways you can use this fictional narrative to make what you are currently making more human and healthy for today's world while keeping the future in mind. If we don't start now, we could very well be living in a world where technology dictates our behaviors and way of life rather than allowing our human culture to grow organically while technology serves and evolves with us.

Anne Nowak

Before I left Copenhagen, I went to go visit my new, extended tribe at Alhambra & Sons for a second time. There was one artist in the studio whose space I was very drawn to - you can see some photos of her spot in this blog post. I wasn't able to meet her the first time I visited but I was able to meet her this time around.

Her name is Anne Nowak and her work is: oh, so fantastic.

Interesting fact: the studio that I saw a week before my second visit was not the same studio that I walked into this second time around. There was new work everywhere and there was a productive energy that you could feel was charging the space.

I was originally interested in talking to Anne about some cyanotypes that she had made called 'Dead People's Flowers.' They are beautiful prints created with the process of her going to graveyards and collecting flowers that were thrown out after they had wilted or died. I wanted to purchase one if I could - turns out that she wasn't selling them quite yet because she had some shows the collection was going to tour. (It was recently featured in NYC at Armory Week and has since been gaining a lot of interest.)

There was also another piece that I was interested in taking home with me and it was that of a moon. I loved this piece the moment I saw it and wanted very much to make it a part of my life.

This is a White Moon print from Danish artist, Anne Nowak, and you can purchase it here.

Coincidently, Anne was producing her print, Haze, and was planning on making some White Moons as well. I asked her where I could buy her print and she told me the name of some stores but then offered for me to purchase directly from her. More often than not, anytime you are able to buy directly from an artist, it benefits them more than if you were to go through a store - so, of course I said yes. 

We talked quite a bit and she went on to make her first 'White Moon' of two that afternoon. 

Prepping for 'White Moon.'

Anne Nowak inspecting her 'White Moon.'

I started to talk to her more about her recent flood of productiveness and she explained to me that she was just so inspired by NASA's photography of planets and space that she had to do something about it. I know the feeling. When you're inspired, you have to ride that energy otherwise you lose it and it leaves you to wallow in regret for a while. 

Anne showing me her 'Black Moon' print where the whole process is reversed.

Prototypes of work where you can see her inspiration take effect. What I would do to have these, I do not know!

When Anne decided to work on the print I would take home with me, it got really quiet. During the making of the first moon, she was describing all of the components that were going into it: the spray paint, the kind of paper she used, her template, etc. but the entire time this moon was in production, there was a mysterious cloud that silenced the both of us.

Anne preparing to wrap up my 'White Moon' on the bottom right.

We looked at it after it was done and compared it to the first one.

"It's darker in its energy," she said. "Maybe it's because I was making it for you."

I laughed. I am known to have interest in dark energy so I'm glad she was able to pick up on that. It was almost as if she felt who I was and translated it into one of her many versions of her moons. Fascinating, no?

This art piece is something I will cherish and always keep close - not only because it is visually pleasing but also because of the story that comes with it. I fundamentally believe that as much as we are automating a lot of services through technology, we as humans will crave craftsmanship and personal interaction as time goes on. So, if you haven't already, find some artists, spend time with them, and invest in their craft. You may learn a thing or two about your own skills but they may also reveal things about you that you may not know.

Moral of the story is that Anne Nowak is a fantastic artist and it was so lovely to meet her and spend time with her in her studio space. Follow her on Instagram and check out her work on her site

Service Design Notes: More and more, people are wanting to know how something is made rather than just being given product. To demonstrate process is a great way to design services because there is an underlying educational component the service receiver is also receiving. It keeps users engaged throughout the process and the end service that is being received feels more satisfactory and goal-like.

More Visual TREATS:

A New Letterpress Friend: Katrine

I wrote about a letterpress artist I had contacted in this blog post but I found another letterpress artist that I also wanted to meet. I sent a 'hello' email before my trip and we found time to connect. 

I rode my bike over to the other side of Copenhagen and stopped at an address located in Østerbro. I was told that I was going to be going to a wine shop which peaked my curiosity but I was just happy to meet someone in my tribe.

Meet Katrine

What a rock star, right? When I walked in, I immediately knew what she was doing. This lady has integrated her letterpress work and passion for printing within her wine shop, Trøffelsvin, where she sells printed cards and centers all of her signage with her letterpress work. Beautiful and really clever.

As a letterpress printer and artist, there are different business models that you can create for yourself. Some run a full time print shop with custom work, some run artist studios while teaching in academia, etc. but the point is that if you have a passion for it, you make an effort to integrate it into your life in any way you can. 

I had such a wonderful talk with Katrine I got to meet her husband as well. Both are stellar human beings and you can just feel the presence of good people when you run into them. I spent a good amount of time with them and then went on my way. They were kind enough to invite me over for dinner so I'm really looking forward to it as my trip comes to a close. More to come!

More Visual TREATS:

Black Diamond + A Neighboring DOME

I spent the day biking around the city and it's amazing what the bike culture is like here in Copenhagen. The order of importance goes: Bikes, People, and then Cars. Like Whoa. The rules are there and people follow - there's no question about it. It took a little while but I learned what all the hand signals meant and I was now part of the largest, bicycle driven transit city in the world. 

I wanted to read a bit so I went to the main library that housed a modern wing called the black diamond. 

The room where there is absolutely no talking or cell phones allowed. 

But the real beauty of the library is its modern wing. The architecture of this place is so thoughtful. It has a quiet confidence as it stands by the largest and most classically designed library in the city as if it is paying homage to the space while transitioning history and projecting it into the modern world. 

When you walk out of the library, there is an awkward area that needed some help. I remember thinking this from the last time I visited. In efforts to mediate this space, some architects designed and developed a dome that is unbelievably beautiful and wonderful. It has an energy that I can't describe and a peacefulness that transcends beyond what I could even imagine. 

These are some people hanging out and enjoying the day. That dog met me with love and because it was raining, the term 'wet dog' was fully realized.

The architecture in Denmark is quite remarkable and makes me question why the US is not as thoughtful when it comes to public space. I've seen a few places that are really well done but what if we all made an effort to do this? Would our country feel more thoughtful and inspired just by being surrounded and encouraged by great architecture? Would we live our daily lives with a bit more intention if encompassed by great urban design? I think so.

More Visual TREATS:

An Extended Art Community

Do you have a tribe?

Throughout my experiences in my adult life (so far), I belonged to many tribes when I started my career. As I get older, some tribes have faded and I'm glad for it because I think it spread my relationships way too thin. After pivoting my career early on (you can read a little bit about it in this blog post), I began to identify myself into two tribes: UX/Service Design and Letterpress/Art Makers. These are broad categories and there are sub-tribes beneath these trees but the point is that I found them and I am never letting go. 

If you don't have a tribe that you identify with, I encourage you to seek one out. Community is the only way to collectively survive as humans and I am ever so thankful for mine.

Before coming out to Denmark, I did some research into these communities that exist in Copenhagen and found a letterpress artist named Megan Adie whose work I found really interesting. I wanted to meet her so I reached out. Unfortunately, she was at a printmaking residency in Basel (such a good excuse to not be available!) but she was kind enough to invite me to her collaborative space where, in concept, it was just like Spudnik Press where I currently teach letterpress. I respect Spudnik's business model very much so I was even more excited and determined to pay a visit.

Having spent a few days to myself, I was eager to meet some people so I headed over to Alhambra & Sons and felt those jittery feelings you get when you're going to a dinner party where you don't know most of the guests.

The result from these kinds of events can be:
1) Meh. The food was good but I'll probably never see those people again; or
2) I can't believe it took so long to meet these people. Where have they been all my life?! 

So which one was it? 2!! It was 2!!!! 

From left to right: Julie, Hanne, and Fie

These lovely ladies welcomed me in, fed me lunch in the truest Danish fashion, and we chatted about all things art, culture, politics, you name it. I find it cognitively fascinating that those who choose to take part in certain mediums tend to show interest in similar topics of conversation and values. I could feel the passion of these women as they talked about the current state of Danish politics and I could see the love they had for their craft as they allowed me to watch them work. 

Fie + Julie @ Kit Couture

Fie and Julie work for Kit Couture which is a new company that offers wonderful knitting kits for those who love to knit. I, myself, could never actually figure out the patience for knitting but I know a dear friend who does so I purchased a set of needles for her. The concept of the company is brilliant and very well branded. They haven't shipped out to the US yet but I brought some cards along to hopefully spark some orders. 

Hanne Zachariassen @ Miss Asphalt

Hanne is a fashion designer who runs Miss Asphalt where she creates clothes from found fabrics and does a lot of experimenting with her patterns. She also runs workshops for those who want to learn how to sew and you can feel her passion oozing through her stitches. 

I had a great time here and I definitely will not forget these girls. I'm going to visit again before I leave to say my goodbyes but I'm so happy to say that they are an extended art community for me here in Copenhagen. Another piece of home.

More Visual TREATS: