There’s something very nice

2363917267_717551e7a7about jargon. It gets a bad rap from a lot of people (who hasn’t in their life played a little bullshit bingo? I know I have. Sometimes still do. If you don’t, check this out), saying that it obscures the meaning of what you’re trying to say, or makes you sound like a pompous ass. And sometimes, yes, it does that. But there’s also something really nice about jargon. It makes you feel like you know what you’re talking about and in some cases even means you know what you’re talking about.

I’ve been working in branding and design for a good 8 months now, and I’m slowly getting the hang of the design lingo. I know what Pantone and CMYK is, what the difference is between perfect binding and a half Canadian, and I even used ‘negative space’ in a sentence the other day. I’m by no means an expert yet, but I’m loving getting a hang of this, and learning the jargon is making me feel like I am really earning the salary that I’m getting at the end of each month. I hate feeling stupid, which I did a lot at the beginning of starting work here. I had no idea about anything design related. But slowly and surely I’m catching up. I’m starting to know what questions to ask. And boy, does that feel good.

So excuse me whilst I throw around a few more designer-lingo-words, honest, I’m not trying to show off, but I’m enjoying finally getting the hang of them.

After this, nothing was ever the same

2347136639_90695325d1

The title of this post, and the inspiration for it, was shamelessly ripped by me from this article in today’s Observer. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. The article asks several artists about life-changing encounters with books, music or art. The ephiphany-kind-of-life-changing. We’ve all been there I think (have we? Are there people out there that have never had one?). Something hits you. A book, a quote, a song, a piece of art. And somehow, life just isn’t the same after it.

Epiphany, besides just being a beautiful word, is such a beautiful concept too. A moment of clarity. Of divine (and I use that in the loosest sense of the word, any religion will do here) inspiration. I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. When I wrote about careers a while back, it shot through my head that many of the choices I made were either random, or the result of an epiphany. And epiphany came back to tickle me this weekend, as I was thinking about an assignment for MADS which has us dissect why we want to do the course.

The best example of epiphany in my life so far was the decision I made for my undergraduate degree. I had gone to different university open days at uni’s up and down the country, looking at History, American Studies, Chinese, English. I decided to follow my fascination with the US, enroll in English at Nijmegen uni for my basic first two years (way back when we still had a propadeuse, now long replaced with a BA/MA system) and then move on to American Studies. Done and dusted, decision taken by the official government deadline of December 1st of 1994, the year before I started my degree and I started to prep to go to Nijmegen. Until one day in April  I received a promotional booklet from another uni. Opened it (hey, I am an info junkie, I can’t help myself), saw an article on Book & Publishing Studies, turned red in the face and showed it to my mum. ‘Mum, that’s it, that’s what I want to do.’ Bless her heart, my mum took it in her stride and said ‘OK, dear, go ahead and do it then.’ I changed universities, scrambled to find a place to live and set off to this uni to do a course (again preceded by a propedeuse and second year in English) that I had no real clue about beyond that I HAD to do it. There’s just no way I couldn’t. There’s also no way I could explain why I knew and why I wanted to do it beyond it being the coolest thing ever. I had no idea what practical use it would have and wasn’t worried or phased in the least by that.

Come to think about it, the choice for LBS was pretty much similar. I had no real understanding why I wanted it, or what exactly it was I was going to be doing (sssshhht, don’t tell the admissions people that). I just knew I had to do it. And knew it pretty much instantly. And same for MADS, how could I NOT do it? I must admit though, that at the time when I am hit by these bolts of lightening, I have a hard time articulating how I know or what I know or why it matters so much. I have given up  asking ‘why?’, or no, that’s not true. I still ask ‘why?’, but now know that I might not get an answer. But heck, at least life is full of fun surprises this way! Here’s to epiphany. May you and I have lots of it in the years to come.

Not half bad

2292910007_8a7a33196eThink about this:

‘Everything else is designed for you to throw away when you are finished with it. But where is “away”? Of course, “away” doesn’t really exist. “Away” has gone away.’ (Cradle to Cradle)

Don’t throw it away. There is no away. [seen on a painting at London Art Fair, can’t remember what the artist name was]

I think this was one of the quotes that most impressed me from a book I recently read called Cradle to Cradle (McDonough / Braungart). Impress might not be the right word. It blew me away (well, there is no away, but you get my drift). I had never thought about it this way. There is no away. Just because I throw it out, doesn’t mean it disappears into thin air.

The book really got me thinking about sustainability and the environment and that kinda jazz. And that automatically leads to feeling guilty and bad. We know we’re doing the wrong thing, but I don’t want to be told what I’m doing wrong constantly. That’s what I think from a marketing perspective is the biggest problem with all things green: they make me feel bad. Guilty. And that ain’t making me wanting to grab my purse. Not really.

In the book, the authors phrase it like this:
‘Instead of providing an inspiring and exciting vision for change, conventional environmental approaches focus on what NOT to do… Like our ancestors, we may react automatically, with terror and guilt, and we may look for ways to purge ourselves — which the eco-efficiency movement provides in abundance, with its exhortations to produce and consume less by minimizing, avoiding, reducing and sacrificing… The goal is zero: zero waste, zero emissions, zero ‘ecological footprint’. As long as human beings are regarded as bad ‘zero’ is a good goal. But to be less bad is to accept things as they are, to believe that poorly designed, dishonorable, destructive systems are the BEST humans can do. This is the ultimate failure of the ‘be less bad’ approach: a failure of the imagination.’ (Cradle to Cradle)

Hurrah. Less bad is a failure of the imagination. Less bad is dead. Let’s go for good. I love good. Good makes me feel good. It makes me want to buy it, sell it, flog it, advertise it, engage with it, and share it.

One of the ideas I liked best in the book was the idea of products as a service:
‘Instead of assuming that all products are to be bought, owned, and disposed of by “consumers”, products containing valuable technical nutrients – cars, televisions, carpeting, computers, and refrigerators for example – would be reconceived as services for people to enjoy. In this scenario customers (a more apt term for the users of these products) would effectively purchase the service of such a product for a defined user period.’ (Cradle to Cradle)
Wow, so how cool is this? You don’t buy a washing machine as a product, but as a service. In 5 years time I will return it to the manufacturer who will take it apart and make new products from it. Now THAT is an idea you can sell. Marketers, innovators, CEO’s of the world: here’s a disruptive business model. Right there. Think of car sharing services such as Zipcar or Streetcar. Or the Velib scheme in Paris. Products are dead. Long live the product as a service.

And finally, to close, here’s what the Cradle to Cradle guys say (and they are so much more eloquent than I am):
‘Should manufactures or existing products feel guilty about their complicity in this heretofore destructive agenda? Yes. No. It doesn’t matter. Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Negligence is described as doing the same thing over and over even though you know it’s dangerous, stupid or wrong. Now that we know, it’s time for a change. Negligence starts tomorrow.’

[edit 15/03: just found a TED talk by one of the authors of Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough, check it out here.]

Morose little old lady

So, am I turning into a morose old lady? That thought has been wandering through the vast expanses of my brain over the past week. Ehm. I’d like to think not. Yes, I on occasion write angry impassioned blogposts when I think organisations are saying or doing stupid stuff. But there’s also a lot in this world that makes me very very happy. And maybe it’s time I remind myself of that. And since the best way to do that is to write and force myself to click ‘save’, you’ll be a witness. So this is about what makes me insanely happy right now:

Pict0004

Yep, it is what it looks like. An old TV. But not just any old TV. It’s a 1950s (I think) Philips. Look at how beautiful this is! It’s a work of art. Those lines, that shape, the four buttons at the bottom, the little legs. And for the first time in almost 3 years, I’ll have a TV again. Never mind that it’s analogue, has no power cord and is currently stored in my parents’ attic. I don’t actually want to watch TV on it anyway. What am I going to do with it and why did I buy it? I have no clue. Yet. I have no clue yet. I had a gut feeling about this. I want it. And now I’ll rationalize my way into why. I might make a nice fishbowl. A colleague at work suggested making it into a mini-bar. And it’ll go nicely with the two lovely Gispen armchairs I picked up at an auction last year. My new TV/fishbowl/object d’art/minibar.

[edit to add: just saw that this is my 400th blogpost. That calls for a little celebration!]