• Rituals punctuate our daily lives, and holidays reveal just how anciently-rooted many of those rituals are. All those rituals have been 'designed' at some point, within the particular contours of cultural context, but what would a contemporary practice of ritual-designing look like? The Stanford attempted a study of that question last year, but this season is a good time to revisit the project: people are bringing fragments of the outdoors inside and celebrating feast days as we lurch towards the shortest, darkest days. Perhaps our ancient relatives felt a palpable drift towards a likely doom in that slow waning of sunlight. In uncertain times especially, our rituals help steel us against the fearsome unknown. Formalized, aestheticized practices provide just enough a social umbrella through their artifice to gather up the people we care most about, huddling around what little light there is. We will the days longer, fabricating hope out of thin, cold air, tiptoeing to the precipice with clear eyes and full hearts. Even in highly technological and secular times, rituals remain as common as they are vital.

  • NASA shared a bunch of conceptual paintings and renderings from over the years, comparing them side by side with the final systems that were ultimately built. Like rituals, the ability to invent shared symbols and imagery to rally others around is a uniquely human superpower, a pseudo-magic creating the conditions for change. In design and engineering, plans, drawings, renderings serve this communicative function. Those images persuade, cultivate buy-in, and weave disparate threads of multiple disciplines into a solid, unified cable of labor.


 Building Things:

  • Some sound wisdom on how hardware startups should go about building their early teams, and what does and doesn't make sense to outsource to external players. The article counters the startup-world advice trend of advocating for internal design teams always. The reality is that new product lines for hardware startups tend to be infrequent, and keeping a full internal ID team productive and engaged between those product launches can be challenging and costly. In general, early hires should be reserved for things that require continual work (manufacturing logistics) or fairly rapid iterations of shippable-improvements (firmware, software). 

On Screen: 





More next week.