Ten Principles for Good Design from Dieter Rams

Dieter-Rams-and-his-designs

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer whose design approach is “Less, but better”.
He believes good design:

  1. Is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  2. Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
  3. Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  4. Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  5. Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
  6. Is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  9. Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  10. Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

As designers we have a great responsibility. I believe designers should eliminate the unnecessary. That means eliminating everything that is modish because this kind of thing is only short-lived.
–Dieter Rams – interview with Icon Magazine

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Notes of Civility

A letter on civility from Anton Chekhov to his older brother, a drunk painter and writer, from Letters of Note.

To my mind, civilized people ought to satisfy the following conditions:

1. They respect the individual and are therefore always indulgent, gentle, polite and compliant. They do not throw a tantrum over a hammer or a lost eraser. When they move in with somebody, they do not act as if they were doing him a favor, and when they move out, they do not say, “How can anyone live with you!” They excuse noise and cold and overdone meat and witticisms and the presence of others in their homes.

2. Their compassion extends beyond beggars and cats. They are hurt even by things the naked eye can’t see. If for instance, Pyotr knows that his father and mother are turning gray and losing sleep over seeing their Pyotr so rarely (and seeing him drunk when he does turn up), then he rushes home to them and sends his vodka to the devil. They do not sleep nights the better to help the Polevayevs, help pay their brothers’ tuition, and keep their mother decently dressed.

3. They respect the property of others and therefore pay their debts.

4. They are candid and fear lies like the plague. They do not lie even about the most trivial matters. A lie insults the listener and debases him in the liar’s eyes. They don’t put on airs, they behave in the street as they do at home, and they do not try to dazzle their inferiors. They know how to keep their mouths shut and they do not force uninvited confidences on people. Out of respect for the ears of others they are more often silent than not.

5. They do not belittle themselves merely to arouse sympathy. They do not play on people’s heartstrings to get them to sigh and fuss over them. They do not say, “No one understands me!” or “I’ve squandered my talent on trifles!” because this smacks of a cheap effect and is vulgar, false and out-of-date.

6. They are not preoccupied with vain things. They are not taken in by such false jewels as friendships with celebrities, handshakes with drunken Plevako, ecstasy over the first person they happen to meet at the Salon de Varietes, popularity among the tavern crowd. They laugh when they hear, “I represent the press,” a phrase befitting only Rodzeviches and Levenbergs. When they have done a penny’s worth of work, they don’t try to make a hundred rubles out of it, and they don’t boast over being admitted to places closed to others. True talents always seek obscurity. They try to merge with the crowd and shun all ostentation. Krylov himself said that an empty barrel has more chance of being heard than a full one.

7. If they have talent, they respect it. They sacrifice comfort, women, wine and vanity to it. They are proud of their talent, and so they do not go out carousing with trade-school employees or Skvortsov’s guests, realizing that their calling lies in exerting an uplifting influence on them, not in living with them. What is more, they are fastidious.

8. They cultivate their aesthetic sensibilities. They cannot stand to fall asleep fully dressed, see a slit in the wall teeming with bedbugs, breathe rotten air, walk on a spittle-laden floor or eat off a kerosene stove. They try their best to tame and ennoble their sexual instinct… What they look for in a woman is not a bed partner or horse sweat, […] not the kind of intelligence that expresses itself in the ability to stage a fake pregnancy and tirelessly reel off lies. They—and especially the artists among them—require spontaneity, elegance, compassion, a woman who will be a mother… They don’t guzzle vodka on any old occasion, nor do they go around sniffing cupboards, for they know they are not swine. They drink only when they are free, if the opportunity happens to present itself. For they require a mens sana in corpore sano.

And so on. That’s how civilized people act. If you want to be civilized and not fall below the level of the milieu you belong to, it is not enough to read The Pickwick Papers and memorize a soliloquy from Faust. It is not enough to hail a cab and drive off to Yakimanka Street if all you’re going to do is bolt out again a week later.

You must work at it constantly, day and night. You must never stop reading, studying in depth, exercising your will. Every hour is precious.

Anton Chekhov

be an enthusiast

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

Roald Dahl’s UNCLE OSWALD

Passion makes can make a good idea great.

Bukowski’s Movitational: Move On, Regardless

I have not read a lot of Bukowski mainly because I always remember an interview clip of Bukowski verbally and physically abusing his wife.

This motivated me a few days ago after a ran across it on a lit quote feed I follow:

Regardless

“The nights you fight best are
when all the weapons are pointed at you,
when all the voices hurl their insults
while the dream is being strangled.

The nights you fight best are
when reason gets kicked in the gut,
when the chariots of gloom encircle you.

The nights you fight best are
when the laughter of fools fills the air,
when the kiss of death is mistaken for love.

The nights you fight best are
when the game is fixed,
when the crowd screams for your blood.

The nights you fight best are
on a night like this
as you chase a thousand dark rats from your brain,
as you rise up against the impossible,
as you become a brother to the tender sister of joy

and move on

regardless.”

— Charles Bukowski
mwbw-bukowski

the first draft

It is hard to make time to write, and even harder to start writing. I want the first draft to be the only draft, as if my word is scripture, my pen commanded by a higher being. These ridiculous expectations stem the flow from thoughts to paper and creates a truly jumbled and terrible waste of trees.

Don’t sweat it. Writing is work. Edit.

Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist.
– Jane Smiley

“When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.

But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them.”

– Dr. Teresa Belton

Art, Freedom, and The Kiss–A Tribute in Syria

“If you can not please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few”

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) is an Austrian painter and first president of the Vienna Secession ( an artists’ union), whose goal was to rid itself of classical oppression and motto was “To every age its art. To art its freedom”. The majority of his subjects are women, and most of his paintings were considered pornographic in the late 1800’s. He specialized in theater decoration in his early years and his love of costume is clear in his paintings of socialites.

His paintings remind me of the artwork and stained glass windows I have seen in sanctuaries across the nation–bright colors, lots of gold, mosaics, and heavy symbolism–snakes, flowers, sword, halos–but more human.

A few days ago I saw that a young man, Tammam Azzam, painted The Kiss (1908) on a bombed-out building in Syria, only a few days after the UN placed the death toll at 70,000 (homage at bottom). I am glad this image bounced back to us from space, somehow sent from a country where the government has disabled cell phones, landlines, and electricity. This image conveys hope and compassion to a land in dire need of help.  Gustav would approve.

gustav-klimt.jpg!Portrait hygeia-detail-of-medicine-1907Medicine, 1907, University of Vienna Ceiling Paintings, destroyed by the Nazi SS in 1945

Hope2-Klimt Hope II, 1907-1908

klimt.adele-bloch-bauer Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907

Gustav_Klimt_049 Portrait of Emilie Louise Flöge, 1902

the-kiss-1908(1)The Kiss, 1908

tammam-azzam-freedom-graffiti-150x150cm-archival-print-2012-edition-of-5-courtesy-of-the-artist-and-ayyam-galleryTammam Azzam‘s homage to The Kiss
Note: the majority of the images were taken from wikipaintings.org

Startups Are Enjoyable Work and Pain

Startups are not fun, they are stressful and quick-moving but they come about from a necessity to DO MORE and that is what makes them so enjoyable. A successful startup is building on an amazing number of failures, of dumb ideas and fitful nights obsessing over tiny details. Learning to manage time and duties, finding out what it truly means to “self-start”, and effectively coping with the stress and setbacks creates a wealth of tools to use for the rest of your life. Sure, I might fail in this endeavor but the time won’t be wasted, unless I learn nothing from this experience. I embrace the hard work because now I am building something that I want, for you.

“Startups are not magic. They don’t change the laws of wealth creation. They just represent a point at the far end of the curve. There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars’ worth of pain. For example, one way to make a million dollars would be to work for the Post Office your whole life, and save every penny of your salary. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years. In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years. You do tend to get a certain bulk discount if you buy the economy-size pain, but you can’t evade the fundamental conservation law. If starting a startup were easy, everyone would do it.”

Paul Graham on “How to Make Wealth”

Colson Whitehead’s Rules for Writing

The art of writing can be reduced to a few simple rules. I share them with you now.

Rule No. 1: Show and Tell. Most people say, “Show, don’t tell,” but I stand by Show and Tell, because when writers put their work out into the world, they’re like kids bringing their broken unicorns and chewed-up teddy bears into class in the sad hope that someone else will love them as much as they do. “And what do you have for us today, Marcy?” “A penetrating psychological study of a young med student who receives disturbing news from a former lover.” “How marvelous! Timmy, what are you holding there?” “It’s a Calvinoesque romp through an unnamed metropolis much like New York, narrated by an armadillo.” “Such imagination!” Show and Tell, followed by a good nap.

Rule No. 2: Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you. You can’t rush inspiration. How do you think Capote came to “In Cold Blood”? It was just an ordinary day when he picked up the paper to read his horoscope, and there it was — fate. Whether it’s a harrowing account of a multiple homicide, a botched Everest expedition or a colorful family of singers trying to escape from Austria when the Nazis invade, you can’t force it. Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages like, “Only you understand me.” Your ideal subject should be like a stalker with limitless resources, living off the inheritance he received after the suspiciously sudden death of his father. He’s in your apartment pawing your stuff when you’re not around, using your toothbrush and cutting out all the really good synonyms from the thesaurus. Don’t be afraid: you have a best seller on your hands.

Rule No. 3: Write what you know. Bellow once said, “Fiction is the higher autobiography.” In other words, fiction is payback for those who have wronged you. When people read my books “My Gym Teacher Was an Abusive Bully” and “She Called Them Brussels Sprouts: A Survivor’s Tale,” they’re often surprised when I tell them they contain an autobiographical element. Therein lies the art, I say. How do you make that which is your everyday into the stuff of literature? Listen to your heart. Ask your heart, Is it true? And if it is, let it be. Once the lawyers sign off, you’re good to go.

Rule No. 4: Never use three words when one will do. Be concise. Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your mellifluous sentences. Learn how to “kill your darlings,” as they say. I’m reminded of the famous editor-author interaction between Gordon Lish and Ray Carver when they were working on Carver’s celebrated short story “Those Life Preservers Are Just for Show,” often considered the high-water mark of so-called dirty realism. You’ll recall the climax, when two drunken fishermen try to calm each other after their dinghy springs a leak. In the original last lines of the story, Nat, the salty old part-time insurance agent, reassures his young charge as they cling to the beer cooler: “We’ll get help when we hit land. I’m sure of it. No more big waves, no more sharks. We’ll be safe once again. We’ll be home.” If you examine the Lish papers in the Lilly Library at Indiana University, you’ll see how, with but a few deft strokes, Lish pared that down to create the now legendary ending: “Help — land shark!” It wasn’t what Carver intended, but few could argue that it was not shorter. Learn to kill your darlings, and don’t be shy about softening them up in the hostage pit for a few days before you do.

Rule No. 5: Keep a dream diary.

Rule No. 6: What isn’t said is as important as what is said. In many classic short stories, the real action occurs in the silences. Try to keep all the good stuff off the page. Some “real world” practice might help. The next time your partner comes home, ignore his or her existence for 30 minutes, and then blurt out “That’s it!” and drive the car onto the neighbor’s lawn. When your children approach at bedtime, squeeze their shoulders meaningfully and, if you’re a woman, smear your lipstick across your face with the back of your wrist, or, if you’re a man, weep violently until they say, “It’s O.K., Dad.” Drink out of a chipped mug, a souvenir from a family vacation or weekend getaway in better times, one that can trigger a two-paragraph compare/contrast description later on. It’s a bit like Method acting. Simply let this thought guide your every word and gesture: “Something is wrong — can you guess what it is?” If you’re going for something a little more postmodern, repeat the above, but with fish.

Rule No. 7: Writer’s block is a tool — use it. When asked why you haven’t produced anything lately, just say, “I’m blocked.” Since most people think that writing is some mystical process where characters “talk to you” and you can hear their voices in your head, being blocked is the perfect cover for when you just don’t feel like working. The gods of creativity bless you, they forsake you, it’s out of your hands and whatnot. Writer’s block is like “We couldn’t get a baby sitter” or “I ate some bad shrimp,” an excuse that always gets you a pass. The electric company nagging you for money, your cell provider harassing you, whatever — just say, “I’m blocked,” and you’re off the hook. But don’t overdo it. In the same way the baby-sitter bit loses credibility when your kids are in grad school, there’s an expiration date. After 20 years, you might want to mix it up. Throw in an Ellisonian “My house caught fire and burned up my opus.” The specifics don’t matter — the important thing is to figure out what works for you.

Rule No. 8: Is secret.

Rule No. 9: Have adventures. The Hemingway mode was in ascendancy for decades before it was eclipsed by trendy fabulist “exercises.” The pendulum is swinging back, though, and it’s going to knock these effete eggheads right out of their Aeron chairs. Keep ahead of the curve. Get out and see the world. It’s not going to kill you to butch it up a tad. Book passage on a tramp steamer. Rustle up some dysentery; it’s worth it for the fever dreams alone. Lose a kidney in a knife fight. You’ll be glad you did.

Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise. I cannot stress this enough. Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn’t. It’s like washing the dishes two days later instead of right after you finish eating. Get that draft counter going. Remove a comma and then print out another copy — that’s another draft right there. Do this enough times and you can really get those numbers up, which will come in handy if someone challenges you to a draft-off. When the ref blows the whistle and your opponent goes, “26 drafts!,” you’ll bust out with “216!” and send ’em to the mat.

Rule No. 11: There are no rules. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too? No. There are no rules except the ones you learned during your Show and Tell days. Have fun. If they don’t want to be friends with you, they’re not worth being friends with. Most of all, just be yourself.

 

from “How to Write“, NY Times: July 26, 2012

An Open Letter to Todd Akin from Eve Ensler

This open letter is an important read for all men and women, especially women, especially men with daughters or who plan on having children and especially those who are planning on voting Republican. The decisions made in the next 4 years regarding women’s health will affect you and your daughters and sisters and mothers someday so you better make sure you make the right decision now.

Here is the story:

MIssouri Rep. Todd Akin told a MIssouri TV reporter  “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” in regards to a rape victim becoming preganant. That’s odd, because the Center for Disease Control reported more than 32,000 pregnancies a year are a product of rape. In response, Eve Ensler, an American playwright, performer and women’s right activist wrote an open letter to Mr. Akin from the Congo, where she is currently helping rape victims.

Dear Todd Akin,

I am writing to you tonight about rape. It is 2 AM and I am unable to sleep here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.

I am in Congo but I could be writing this from anywhere in the United States, South Africa, Britain, Egypt, India, Philippines, most college campuses in America. I could be writing from any city or town or village where over half a billion women on the planet are raped in their lifetime.

Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake.

As a rape survivor, I am reeling from your recent statement where you said you misspoke when you said that women do not get pregnant from legitimate rape, and that you were speaking “off the cuff.”

Clarification. You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.

You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.

When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped — intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.

Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn’t get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evilcontent? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a “legitimate” rape.

Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are on your bed or up against a wall or locked in a small suffocating space. Imagine being tied up there and imagine some aggressive, indifferent, insane stranger friend or relative ripping off your clothes and entering your body — the most personal, sacred, private part of your body — and violently, hatefully forcing themself into you so that you are ripped apart. Then imagine that stranger’s sperm shooting into you and filling you and you can’t get it out. It is growing something in you. Imagine you have no idea what that life will even consist of, spiritually made in hate, not knowing the mental or health background of the rapist.

Then imagine a person comes along, a person who has never had that experience of rape, and that person tells you, you have no choice but to keep that product of rape growing in you against your will and when it is born it has the face of your rapist, the face of the person who has essentially destroyed your being and you will have to look at the face every day of your life and you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.

I don’t know if you can imagine any of this (leadership actually requires this kind of compassion), but if you are willing to go to the depth of this darkness, you will quickly understand that there is NO ONE WHO CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE to have or not have the baby, but the person carrying that baby herself.

I have spent much time with mothers who have given birth to children who are the product of rape. I have watched how tortured they are wrestling with their hate and anger, trying not to project that onto their child.

I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.

Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.

And by the way you’ve just given millions of women a very good reason to make sure you never get elected again, and an insanely good reason to rise.

#ReasonToRise

Eve Ensler
Bukavu, Congo

What makes a book a classic?

Definition of a classic book, as according to Italo Calvino’s in “Why Read the Classics?” from The Uses of Literature. 

1. The classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying: ‘I’m rereading…’, never ‘I’m reading….’

2. The Classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.

3. The classics are books which exercise a particular influence, both when they imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable, and when they hide in the layers of memory disguised as the individual’s or the collective unconscious.

4. A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.

5. A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.

6. A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers.

7. The classics are those books which come to us bearing the aura of previous interpretations, and trailing behind them the traces they have left in the culture or cultures (or just in the languages and customs) through which they have passed.

8. A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off.

9. Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected, and innovative we find them when we actually read them.

10. A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.

11. ‘Your’ classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it.

12. A classic is a work that comes before other classics; but those who have read other classics first immediately recognize its place in the genealogy of classic works.

13. A classic is a work which relegates the noise of the present to a background hum, which at the same time the classics cannot exist without.

14. A classic is a work which persists as a background noise even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway.

Personally, my classics offer a sense of discovery upon each reading (#4).

Gandhi’s List of Blunders

This list contains “the seven blunders that human society commits, and that cause all the violence,” according to Mohandas Gandhi.  He gave it to his grandson in 1947, 3 months before he was assassinated.

Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principles.

60 years later, human society has not made much progress in these areas. Hopefully, younger generations are learning from our mistakes.

Lesson Plan

Perhaps we could endeavor to teach our future the following:

  • How to focus intently on a problem until it’s solved.
  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
  • How to read critically.
  • The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
  • An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor.
  • How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group.
  • Project management. Self-management and the management of ideas, projects and people.
  • Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage.
  • An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever.
  • Most of all, the self-reliance that comes from understanding that relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving.

— from Seth Godin