Design solutions don’t come from a shelf “She’s long, she’s tall, she’s six feet from the ground, She’s tailor made, lord she ain’t no hand-me-down” … from Jimmie Rodgers Blue Yodel No. 4 We usually now use the term hand-me-down when we are referring to something that has been used and is now being recycled, like children’s […]

Design by Post-it

Contemplation beyond sticky notes I was recently a guest critic at a student presentation at a design university. It was very slick, with excellent graphics. As it scrolled along, I felt sure that I was seeing the results of what I call Design-by-Post-It-Notes. And, sure enough, the presentation eventually showed some evidence of process and […]

Minimal: Design’s love affair with economy

I’ve been intrigued by minimal expression for a long time: practically as long as I can remember. There were pictures of the cave paintings at Lascaux in the encyclopedia that we had at home, when I was a child, and I marvelled at how much was accomplished with so little. At the gestures that spoke […]

Things matter

Some so very much more than others Things matter. Material things. Of course they do. But they don’t all matter the same; we have our favourites. Things usually refers to what has been made. Especially made with an intention. An old distinction has been made between that which is utilitarian, like tools and that which […]

Alternatives to virtuous vegetation

I hate kale. I realize that that’s not very politically-correct of me. Kale is overfull of virtue and its consumption will undoubtedly keep me cancer-free and wholesome in every way. But I don’t like it. I kind of wish I did, but I don’t and the vague social compulsion I feel to embrace it actually […]

Star struck

Designers overly impressed with their work? Many years ago, back in the first century BC, the architect and author Vitruvius laid out the objectives for good architecture. His rules can reasonably be applied to design and they have weathered well: Firmitas (stability), Utilitas (usefulness) and Venustas (attractiveness). The things we make, whether buildings, chairs or […]


Designers set apart by their work I used to ask a fresh group of first year students to raise their hand if they considered themselves to be an outsider. Everyone would. Then I would suggest that they look around and realize that they were no longer outsiders, at least not within the environment of the […]

Nordic 2018

Top of the world design fellowship In early March of 2018, I flew to Oslo to deliver a paper at a symposium at the Metropolitan University there. The planning had taken a year and a half, which overlapped with my teaching at OCAD University and consequently became the last of my commitments to it, contracted […]

Liberal: Capital L or lowercase?

I was called a liberal recently. And I wanted to reply threateningly as the Virginian said: “Smile when you call me that.” I knew I wasn’t being flattered, even though my only known flaw at the time was that I was from Toronto.But my accuser wasn’t completely wrong. I’m a designer too, and that kind […]

Canadian copies

Less flattery, more innovation needed I hate being embarrassed. Most of us do. Our dislike of that self-conscious sting is part of what keeps us behaving in a socially acceptable way, and that’s a good thing. But we tend to remember when we get caught out. Years ago, I was touring a group of students […]