My father, an architect, once told me, "Don't forget, Elyse, design is a position of privilege." Often, his words are imbued with double meaning. At first pass, he was reminding me to be grateful. It is a privilege to have a livelihood based on actualizing my mind's eye; I sit in a position where people trust my judgement to improve some aspect of the world. At the same time, my father was telling me to take precaution. Design has traditionally been an industry of people that come from privilege. Our family entered the design industry from a different position in life. As a result, the design challenge -- the inequities, the broken systems, the needs of the people -- will be framed in our minds fundamentally differently. Within that one statement, I knew my father was challenging me to think about my personal contribution and to hold the title of "designer" with respect and a sense of purpose.
Below are 4 principles that guide both my work and life. You can see how these principles come alive in my portfolio of work, but I've also include a few more personal aspects -- experimental projects, passions, meditations, booklists -- to substantiate my point of view.
1. Innovation come from diversity of thought and life experiences.
In a politically correct world, how can we have authentic discussions about diversity? I've created a small experimental project called "Let the White Man Speak (but Let the Colored Woman Have the Last Word)". It's a series of facilitated interviews with interracial couples, where the white male gets interviewed first and the colored woman gets to annotate the interview transcription with her point of view and reactions. This was inspired by Letters for Black Lives, where a google doc was shared worldwide to help Asian immigrant families have open and honest conversations about racial justice, police violence, and anti-Blackness. I'll be posting the interviews soon!
Art & Craft
2. Always be connected to the process of making.
My Art: In design research interviews, so much wisdom and life is shared. Here are some examples of how I process all the emotions and stories in art -- not just to create a new service or business line.
My Craft: (marrceramics.com) I've been teaching and making ceramics for over 15 years. I believe it's critical to have a bodily experience of making. I have to move at the pace of clay, which is a meditative process. Yet at the same time, ceramics helps me triangulate between thoughts of physics, chemistry, cooking & food, and aesthetics.
3. Ditch the jargon. Use straight talk. Be seen.
Yes, you could label my work as "human-centered design" or "design thinking" or "social impact design". Personally, I stopped calling it that. I no longer see "human-centered design" as a skillset, it's a value. Either you have the values and principles that guides the work or you don't. From your value set flows a very intuitive way of working and process. In return, you will build resonant, meaningful, organizations that people trust.
4. Be curious. Actively engage the world.
Here are few things on my mind right how:
- Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman by Peter Korn
- Eartha by Cathy Malkasian
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
- Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shynru Suzuki
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- The East Bay's Evolving Tech Manufacturing Sector
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Silent Film with live organist at Grace Cathedral
- Self watering planters
- Digital printers for three-dimensional objects
Like these vibes?
Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org