It's All About How You Start

It happens to everyone. You are mid project and you realize that you didn't start correctly and as a result your project isn't quite up to snuff.

This is why design matters so much. Even more, this is why a proper understanding of design is paramount.

The problem arises because we consume so much design everyday. From our house, to our car, to the bowl we eat from, our screens, not to mention the never ending stream of content on our screens... On and on and on it goes, where it stops, nobody knows.

Because we are such great consumers of design, most of us have an experiential understanding of what good design is. But we can't explain it. We definitely could not teach a class on design. Most of us have a hard time actually defining the word.

We are lost in a sea of design, and yet few of us have any real insight into the underpinnings of it all.

The truth is, what we design, designs us in return. The shape of a floor plan in a rail station determines how people walk through that space. The shape of a page, what you put on it and where determines the readers actions as they follow you through your story.

So you might ask, "Why does this matter? It sounds like you are rambling." Here's why it matters.

The world is full of people executing design without even understanding what it is. This is why there is so much bad design. That bad design is LITERALLY affecting all of us, everyday, helping us to continue to make the same choices that we have been making for quite sometime.

It's like a home builder who is an everyday Joe who knows how to build a house because "he's seen a lot of them and he knows what a good house looks like."

Yeah? What about Japanese design and woodcrafting? Know anything about that? How about the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century? The Greene Brothers? Do you know WHY the Japanese built houses the way they did for hundreds of years? On top of that, could you build a house by yourself with no ones help, from start to finish?

The questions aren't meant to make one feel stupid or ignorant. What they are meant to do is point out that if you want to build houses, first you really need to understand not only the proper how, but even more important, the proper why.

It comes down to the little things. Installing the dishwasher two more steps away from the silverware than was necessary means that every time you go from the dishwasher to the silverware drawer you walk an extra four steps. So, if you are super efficient, and you never forget anything on your first trip, you only tally up four extra steps a day. After ten years of living in the home, that little design flaw cost 6 miles of walking or a full day from your life.

You might say, so what? It's not that much. Who cares?

Well, if it is possible that one little flaw that small is robbing you of your precious life one drip at a time, how many other things in your home are that way? What if there are over one hundred flaws like this in the design of your home? Maybe even hundreds? What about your car? What about the supermarket? What about your job? Your phone? Your email? Your social media accounts? Your family? Your vacations?

Hmmm. It's starts to pile up, doesn't it?

Speaking of flaws, why are we currently spending resources globally cleaning up our natural environment?

Bad design.

What if the scientists who were making fuels out of peanuts and hemp oil 150 years ago had won? What if all of our plastics were made from hemp as Henry Ford imagined almost 100 years ago? What if all of these things were biodegradable and more integrated into the way the planet works? It's been possible for a long time. We have the technology. We have everything in our grasp to build the most amazing future for our kids, but it seems so hard to get out of this spiral we have put ourselves in.

Shit. How do we get out? 

Start learning how to start. Learn about the the foundations of everything you interact with. Don't just learn about it, put the knowledge to use. Extract the wisdom and meaning from everything in your life and you will start building an excellent foundation. An excellent foundation for what, you might ask. An excellent foundation foundation for being an excellent designer of an excellent future.

Jesse Barney

November 19, 2019