Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

How much is design worth?

September 23, 2007, 5:47 PM

Or any kind of art, for that matter? (and by art I do not reffer only to the 6 or so arts, but to all human arts, from wine making, cooking, child teaching, hair cutting, client selling, football playing, anything that implies a degree of lifetime effort to be better and better at what we do).

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.
“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”
So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the woman his work of art.
“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”
“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.
“B-b-but, why?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”
To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

Another similar thing, this time a real fact, was James McNeill Whistler‘s (american-british painter) response to John Ruskin, a very respected art critic during the Whistler-Ruskin trial:

In 1878 Whistler sued the critic John Ruskin for libel after the critic condemned his painting Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (..)
At the trial, the lawyer for John Ruskin, cross examined Whistler, “Mr Whistler, tell me, how long did it take you to paint Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket? “Half a day.” replied Whistler. “So,” continued the lawyer, “you are charging two hundred guineas for half a day’s work?” “No.” replied Whistler. “For the experience of a life time.”

Next time you think about how much to ask for a job, for a project, for a part of your life experience, think well.
How much does a part of your life cost ? Designers are not janitors, paid by the hour for sweeping x number of hallways. Designers do not sell groceries. Even farmers (especially romanian ones) are underpaid, nobody thinks about how much effort and risk goes into growing one feeble carrot. Pulling it out of from the dirt may be worth just one buck, but how about the countless hours of care before ? Tracing a photo in 20 minutes, designing a logo in 2 hours, drawing a simple (but not simplistic) symbol in 10 seconds may look like only a ten-dollar effort, but how about the kilometers of lines drawn before, the countless tweakings of just one bezier point that doesn’t “look right”, that made that 10-second symbol possible ?

Nowadays people are fighting for the smallest price. Capitalism, they say. So hello, indian programmers, chinese workers, ukrainean web designers and so on. Just because these people can’t afford to ask for a normal price, but can afford to work for so little money because they live in cheap, under development countries, everybody rushes to use them, happy that they’ve just saved one hundred bucks. Quality is less important. Price is the supreme ruler.

Is it for free? Yes? Can I get it any cheaper than that? Then I’ll have five, please.

It’s all about respect, I think. And recognition.
Respect for the professional, for the one that chose to dedicate his/her life to doing just that, the thing you need now. Recognition for the value you receive. The value that will help you in being more succesful in your business, in being prettier, richer, stronger, healthier, happier or whatever else you wanted. You had a problem, and the professional helped you with it. That deserves compensation. Equal compensation.

You get what you pay for.
Or should I say SI/SO – shit input, shit output?
These days, “everyone’s in the design business“, as Mr. Robert Wong puts it very well.

Thanks Trick for reminding me about Picasso. And good luck in Italy ;)

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The real Steve Jobs and why design wins

September 14, 2007, 3:17 AM

Great portrayal of Steve Jobs’ by Robert X. Cringely.
(via Subtraction)

I was suprised by the iPhone’s price drop, but even more surprised by the open letter to all iPhone customers. The tone was polite, honest and direct, but I had the feeling it left no doubt about who’s in charge. It was obvious long time ago that Apple designs with arrogance (Clay Shirky beautifully writes on this topic in this “A Brief Message” post). But Mr Cringely manages to strip down Mr Jobs entirely, exposing his marketing genius, leaving no doubt about the recent price drop and it’s purpose. You almost get the feeling, as you read in awe, that Steve Jobs is the new Palpatine, soon to take over the entire universe in his white&minimalistic iDeath Star :))

Joke aside, this useful insight which proves Apple can and does do anything it wants with it’s customers only underlines the true power of design (no, not the dark side :P). The whole Apple strategy is dead simple, make the best looking and coolest designed stuff people need (or we think they’d need, since we, designers, know better, right ?) and the cash starts flooding in. Why ?
Because we still have little real, good, efficient design around us. We think we do, but we don’t actually. This is why a well thought product manages to sweep the market so easily: because it has (almost) no real competition.

The only problem is when the unchallenged leader begins to slow down, overconfident with its size and power. Or when it becomes so engulfed by it’s arrogance that it begins to lose contact with the end of the chain, the buyer. All great empires have fallen, as history unkindly has proven (well, capitalism seems to be the most succesful so far, but I don’t want to imagine what would replace it, should it fall). But for now, Steve Jobs still wants to show everybody he’s won. So the show will still go on, with, maybe, the best to come. And in the end, it’s all good for us, users.

(via Subtraction)

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Thinking about quitting

September 1, 2007, 3:21 AM

I wanted to write about this for some time now. I guess I just wanted to let it hatch for a while. But today somebody told me something that made me think about it again.

How many times haven’t I thought of quitting ? (haven’t we all ?)

Every single time I am down by some reason, big or small, be it personal or professional, I find myself thinking of quitting and trying something else. It’s normal I guess. Even when I’m pretty close to actually doing it, I still know “it’s just a phase, you’ll get over it”. It’s annoying to be a rational person. You spoil your own fun most of the time. Always analyzing.

Quitting is pretty much like saying “I won’t drink again”. But you never really quit drinking (well, at least most of us). Just because you felt bad once, twice, that doesn’t mean you’re going to give up. You just bow in front of “the porcelain god” and start all over again next time.

Quitting your job. Oh the joy of it :) Nothing compares to the feeling that you’re going to be free soon. You go to work with a smirk on your face every day. You enjoy being nice, helpful, even if they treated you badly, even if they don’t understand their bussiness, their job. You smile, knowing that you are already free. After all, what can they do ? Fire you ? Hahahahahaha.
But then, you might have the job you wanted, you hoped for. It’s inevitable – like Agent Smith says – that sooner or later you’ll think about quitting again. There is no such thing as a “dream job”. It’s either them proving to be less than expected, it’s either you, feeling the worst looser from your profession. But you’ll get ofer it. You usually do.

Quitting people. That’s big. Caring for someone means you are giving away a part of you. A part you can never get back if you decide to quit. That’s why it hurts. It’s that simple.
People change. A friend told me that women change completly after seeing their name written on that paper, next to yours. Then you start thinking about quitting. Again. Sometimes you quit just because you’re too tired of trying not to quit. Sometimes you want to quit, you know it’s what you should do, but you just can’t. Just because you don’t want to quit, you change. You learn to like new things, you learn to actually show through many means that you care. At least you should try to. Otherwise you’ll be quitting in no time. Or the other will. Which brings you to the other big thing.

Quitting yourself. Your own way of living, of dreaming, of spending your free time, of talking and interacting with people. Every time I decide to do something different I quit my old self. So quitting is definitely good sometimes. But not easy. Sometimes you just don’t want to. You are, after all, your worst enemy, critique, client. Your own nemesis.
Quitting your own false friendliness. If only I could do that more often. But it takes courage to be painfully sincere. Although it’s such a good strategy. Nobody expects it, so they’ll be off guard when you lay it all out, not hiding.
Quitting your inner child. Do that and you’re dead. You might look alive, but you really aren’t. You’re just a shell. No ghost, just a shell. Only children love. Adults like. Admire. Grow fond of. Get used to. But never love. So I feed my child. I take care of it’s fantasies. I let him dream. Play. And I love people who do the same with their child. I’m drawn to them. I admire them. They are so few.
Some children are sad, though. Sick. And a whole lot more are dead.

Why do I quit ? Or why don’t I ? Because of hope and courage. When I don’t have hope, I make it up. While grinding my teeth, of course. And I keep going. When I have courage, I cut my hope down and live on, finding another hope. And there’s the third, don’t-wanna-talk-’bout-it, option. Lack of both hope and courage. When you just let yourself drift, too tired, too broken to care where you are going. Rambling, waiting for some hope to find you, or some courage to save you.

One way or the other, you keep going. You have to, time doesn’t stop for getting up and dusting yourself. In the long run, we’re all dead, right? Might as well try something till then.

A teacher told me once: “Bati campii cu gratie” (pretty close to “you’re beating around the bush gracefully”). Guess she was right. But I won’t quit that either. Not yet.

(Thanks Guerri Night for providing the mood)

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Rollin’

August 30, 2007, 5:41 PM

This caught my eye today, sitting outside the office for a break. I was amazed to see that the happy-no-worry-kid was riding a beautifully designed bike :) I’d sure love to see more smart design like this in Bucharest every day.

rollin.jpg

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Why chinese will rule the world…

July 29, 2007, 6:27 PM

Simply because they invented Tangram. I first found out about Tangram when I was an art student, and I’ve been fascinated by it’s complexity, achieved with such simple pieces. Apparently it originated from yanjitu, a furniture set from the Song Dinasty. It pleased me greatly when I first saw this:

tangram_01.jpg

It’s made by Daniele Lago and I’d love to have one. Actually I like it so much that I think I’ll make one for my living room :) (can’t afford to order one, these designer-furniture things cost a lot but can’t blame them). Be sure to check the site for other great designs.

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“Part-time friend”

, 5:50 PM

Remember “Tyler, you are by far the most interesting single-serving friend I’ve ever met…” ? Here’s a hint (like you needed one – but since I’m a “visual” person, here’s the pic to set the mood :P):
fightclub35.jpg

Nowadays we have the “part-time friend”.

It works great, you don’t have to do much, you need a basic internet connection and a messenger, forum, mirc, hub account or the like. What to talk about ? Doesn’t matter. By the way, have you seen the latest Harry Potter movie ? Yeah, thought of going too, just didn’t have who to go with. So, what’s up ?

It never ceases to puzzle me how easily (compared to “face-to-face encounters”) it is to talk with people you’ve never seen or seen once at most. Everybody obviously has the same need of relating, of communicating, but it seems everybody preffers to do it sitting comfy in their armchair in front of the pc/apple/phone (or maybe iPhones, ya maniacs :P – there’s no telling what people use nowadays to stay online – might as well be the fridge).

It’s interesting how detailed and spontaneous some discussions get, you begin to talk with the other person like you’ve known each other for quite some time, and when you get to really find some things you’re both interested in or have similar ideas, wow. Magic. What is really interesting however is what happens after (it’s sometimes something like “the morning after” feeling, after a one night stand). Everything returns to normal, casual hellos, how-are-yous, let’s-see-who’s-onlines. Till the next time something out of the blue happens again, I don’t know, stars aligning maybe, and you are old friends once more :). This is why it’s a “part-time” friend, since it’s not “once-on-a-plane” thing.
Sad thing is that in time you begin to get online just so you won’t feel lonely, even if you don’t talk to anyone. Knowing that you’re “connected” makes you feel good, just knowing that there is a possibility of talking with someone. It’s so easy to see why MMORPGs are so successful, everyone wants to be sorrounded by people. Even if they have pointy ears (I wonder if racial discrimination will develop in WoW :))). These days small children have blogs, as Andressa writes. It’s just a matter of time until we’ll all be plugged in 24/7.

Jacked in

Or maybe we’ll become something like Asimov’s Solaria, a planet inhabited by human colonists that resent phisical contact so mauch that their society only functions through holographic viewing of the others and, after many millennia of isolation, they have evolved into hermaphrodites, able to procreate by themselves.

But maybe beer will save us from damnation :)) If you ever need one reason to go “close and personal”, beer is the way. You can never fail with a good pint. After all, beer has been helping us make friends since the 7th century BC (wiki),

beerugly.jpg

or as it is said, “in vino veritas, in cervesio felicitas”.

Cheers!

P.S. Did I mention that beer also improves the creative process ? :D

lightbeer.jpg

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Ratatouille – a delicious movie

July 8, 2007, 4:04 AM

Sometimes I think that kids these days don’t have “the magic” we used to have some good years ago. It’s true they have tons of games, internet, information, etcetera etcetera but most of these are just “quantity” instead of “quality”. Some gems appear from time to time, but few manage to give the “timeless masterpiece” or “true soul enchanter” feeling. And even among these, most of them are retellings of old wonderful stories we used to read at our grandparents’.

Ratatouille

Ratatouillle (also highly rated here) is by all means a “feast” for the soul. Pixar has what it takes when it comes to technique, but even they don’t always hit the right recipe (can’t help the puns, sorry :P). Cars, for example, was far from great, good, but never great. Incredibles was loads of fun, but all based on reinterpreting comics and action-movies cliches. Bug’s life.. Woody Allen is a genius, can’t beat that.

Ratatouille

And here comes Ratatouille. It looks jaw-dropping, sounds excellent, but the story.. the characters.. That’s where it truly is wonderful. The expressions, the looks, the tiny gestures, the nods, sighs, grimaces, they all make you believe, absorb, watch in awe as Remy’s wonderful universe engulfs you. Every single character is a joy to watch, you can’t help laughing heartily, the voices are perfect (funny thing to see who the people actually are, you get the feeling that they are just some people voiced by Remy and the other characters). Peter O’Toole as Ego has one of the best “villain-esque” characters ever, reminding a lot of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas :) and having one of the best scenes in the movie, the Marcel Proust’s madeleine effect.

Ratatouille
This movie will surely earn itself an Oscar, and if it doesn’t then it will either be beaten by another “chef d’oeuvre” or it will be one of the worst cases of Academy forgeries and set-ups :P

In the end, this is what kids nowadays have, gems that are not only on the pages of a book, but right in front of their very eyes, moving, breathing, living by themselves. And just like all truly wonderful stories, Ratatouille manages to enchant anyone, from kid to grown-up.

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Wasn’t gonna talk about it…

July 7, 2007, 12:30 PM

…but surfing through Flickr I came to see this, fotos from the Apple store on the day the iPhone was launched. I know Apple has some of the most fanatic adepts, it can probably compete islamism when it comes to it’s followers’ dedication :P

Here is the first guy who bought the gadget. How can an object inspire so much joy, excitement? Even kids are less enthusiastic sometimes. Beeing sort of a tech geek myself, I know that getting some new aparatus will have its highs, but this seems just way out of normality. Or something like that. It reminds me of the Mr. Bean gag when he comes in the morning and pops the balloons he used to give the impression he was sleeping first in line at a new store :)
iPhone Frenzy

It’s sad when things get to own us, instead of the other way around. It would be nice if we had a Tyler Durden to burn our material chains from time to time and wake us up to reality :) Just let go?…
Fight for your freedom!

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The good, the bad and the Apple design…

May 11, 2007, 2:23 AM

Pray for Apple

Last year I came to Bucharest (largest in Romania) because I wanted more than any other large Romanian cities could offer for my career. The first thing I remember seeing on my first day was the new iMac on my desk. After admiring it’s design, it’s compactness, it’s coolness, it’s look-at-me-I’ve-got-no-towercase, I started mumbling and cursing, since I had never used a Mac before. It took me a week or so to get used to it, but more than one year after that, even though I’ve learnt to love many of its features, I’m still not convinced Apple is “the way”, contrary to what most of my fellow creatives think.

Funny thing is, while reading this article from Design Observer, I’ve started thinking that Apple is becoming more and more like the Big Brother they pretended to defeat in their 1984-ad. Or like some sort of a Microsoft 2.0 (everything nowadays has to be web 2.0, right ?), one greedy corporation trying to take over the world market, this time in the name of great design and user friendliness.

I’m all for great design, but sometimes only one type of “great design” might be bad design. “Or to put it another way, if you round too many corners, you lose your edge.” (Design Observer)

or maybe “one Apple to rule them all” ?

Later edit: another funny article about macs vs pc on the best page in the universe :P (via studioprimer)

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On the (steel) road

May 5, 2007, 12:07 PM

I love those hills that spread through all Transilvanian landscape. If I miss something from my time living in Cluj it’s definitely the ability to look almost anywhere at the city’s skyline and see the surrounding hills, knowing that at anytime I can get my bike and go riding through the forests and bumpy roads. Nowadays Bucharest’s urban jungle will have to do…

Love'em hills

In the meanwhile, Cluj is changing (finally, after 12 years of beeing held back by its previous mayor Funar). The center of the city is mostly ditches, but by the autumn it will have a completly new Eroilor Street. The left side in this following picture will be a huge sidewalk, with statues, fountains and (I hope) lots of trees.

Coming soon..

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