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

Would you define yourself by your tastes or by your creations?

January 5, 2012, 2:23 PM

Following the thought-provoking quote, “your taste is why your work disappoints you” from Ira Glass, here is a new ‘kick in the gut’:

When you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. Your tastes only narrow and exclude people.
So create
— why the lucky stiff

Yet another push, if you still need one, to spend more time creating your own work and less looking at what others are doing. As it gets easier and easier to be online 24/7 — tweeting, instagramming, facebooking, blogging or Internet-knows-what — it gets harder and harder to find the time for your own projects. And I’m talking about investing at least a few serious hours, if not days’ worth, not just thirty minutes here and there, doing trendy all-caps posters using Twitter ‘wisdom’ for copy — even if some seem to make quite a good name for themselves in this way.

It’s also a bit unsettling to realise that if you could judge yourself by your creations only, you wouldn’t have a very good opinion of you, isn’t it?

Before you ask, the source is not a joke, it’s the pseudonym of a programmer, you can read more about his interesting story and disappearance here — I’m hoping he just decided to create more.

Via Quote Vadis. You might also like my post, “My taste is why my work disappoints me.”



My taste is why my work disappoints me

October 19, 2011, 7:37 AM

A thought-provoking piece, something that should probably be read as a mantra each morning, titled “Your taste is why your work disappoints you”:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have that special think that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one story. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just gotta fight your way through.
— Ira Glass

In short, there is no easy way out. You have to sweat over everything you do if you want it to be any good. Of course, you need talent just to have a real chance of getting somewhere in what you’re doing, but that will only get you as far as ‘decent’ — you need perseverance to make it to the ‘good’ section. And, with a bit of luck, you might even see a glimpse of ‘great’.

It felt like a small epiphany reading this — too often I’ve found myself unhappy with my work. I’ve always thought that a good way of learning is to watch others how they do it. And it was, for me at least. I would often surprise my college friends by being able to work in their style after watching them do just one or two drawings. But watching is not enough. It can break the ice for you, but if you want to make it to the shore, you’re on your own, with no one to help you. You have to go through it alone, fighting your own damned self. Beacons (mentors, colleagues, other sources of inspiration) might guide you awhile now and then, but most of the time, you’re in the dark, swimming for your very soul. You do get better with age if you keep going, but your best chance is to barely make it to the shore when you die. Any other way is just Sirens fucking with your mind. If you ever think “It’s easy, I know how to do this”, they’ve probably got you.

You do get better with age if you keep going, but your best chance is to barely make it to the shore when you die. Any other way is just Sirens fucking with your mind.

The quote is a transcript from a video interview with Glass, the “On Taste…” part. You can watch it here on Youtube. Via Untitled Mag, Kottke.



‘It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little’ — John Ruskin

April 13, 2011, 10:18 AM

This is a must-read for everyone, except maybe hard-working humans that grow their own food and don’t have a bank account (and I’m sure even they do a bit of trading, even if it’s with livestock or grain):

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

— Known as the Common Law of Business Balance often attributed to John Ruskin. John Ruskin was an English art critic and social thinker, also remembered as a poet and artist. His essays on art and architecture were extremely influential in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.


“… I ask [the money] for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.”

As a side note, John Ruskin was also involved in a famous trial with Whistler, the American-born British-based painter. Whistler sued him after Ruskin was publicly less impressed by one of his paintings. Here’s an interesting dialogue during the trial, between Whistler and Ruskin’s lawyer:

Holker: “Did it take you much time to paint the Nocturne in Black and Gold? How soon did you knock it off?”
Whistler: “Oh, I ‘knock one off’ possibly in a couple of days – one day to do the work and another to finish it…” [the painting measures 24 3/4 x 18 3/8 inches]
Holker: “The labour of two days is that for which you ask two hundred guineas?”
Whistler: “No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.”

Picasso also said pretty much the same, a bit later on.

Via Quote Vadis; photograph taken from