This Will Kill That

In a chapter titled “This Will Kill That” of Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo presents his thoughts on the death of architecture, or rather, on the migration of civilizational content from the … Continue reading


In the post-modern world, the world of mass consumption, success is measured by your power of consumption, that is, your wealth. Thus we have people who buy expensive goods like cars and … Continue reading

Designing Action

I mentioned in my previous post that typefaces which are heavily influenced by handwriting give us the pleasure of feeling a sequence of perfectly executed strokes. In addition to this, there is … Continue reading

The Letterform in a World Without Handwriting

As handwriting gets replaced by typing, and as students move from the pen to the computer, the essence of the letterform undergoes a change. It is not hard to imagine that in … Continue reading

The Reading List Newsletter

Differentiating between facts and perspectives, and my new newsletter
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. Continue reading


The shrinking perception of knowledge
I don’t remember who first said it that humanity’s accomplishment of circumnavigating and mapping the world has led to the conceptual shrinking of the world as perceived by our minds. After the … Continue reading


Almost all media produced in our modern mass society is consumer media, that is, media produced for the sole purpose of consumption. In practical terms this means the consumption of your time … Continue reading

Standardized interfaces. In order to better adapt and evolve, companies standardize their interfaces, just like a hundred years ago designers began to use standardized parts to speed up the mass manufacture of goods. This is obvious in mobile app design, where the app’s interface components typically conform to a selection provided by the platform, allowing those components to be updated in step with operating system updates. This also happens on the Web, where components are modularized in order to make it easier to make site-wide updates. The result of this is that design itself is standardized and modularized, and in turn, simplified and stripped of style, because when the designer begins to think of their work not in terms of compositions but in terms of parts, they will always come up with simpler and simpler parts since each part is thought of as a brick in a larger whole, and thus must be simplified to make it usable in multiple contexts. And so, we arrive at the opposite of a painter or a sculptor who decorates a particular part of a building in the context that it will be seen to a maker of bricks whose products can be used in as many contexts as possible, and while the advantage of the latter is obvious, the aspect of the former is lost.

Durability via superfluity. Contrary to superficial logic, it is not the usefulness of a work that makes it last. Rather, it is those elements that have no clear use that elevate the work beyond a mere use object, not to speak of an object of consumption. This is because unlike utility, which is always tied to a particular time, place, and subject, the superfluous elements, its decoration, have a value of their own outside of the work itself. Because of this, the most useful of goods will lose all of its durability the moment it is unable to perform its function, while a work enriched by superfluity will retain a value beyond itself, and will be valued for this even if the primary use of the object no longer matters. The phenomenon of collecting, such as, for example, stamp collecting, would not exist if the stamps were not decorated with unique illustrations with every new issue. The illustration on the stamp is wholly irrelevant to its function, and precisely because of that it elevates a tiny piece of paper to an object worthy of collection, infusing it with a durability unmatched by any purely utilitarian good.

Why Modern Design Is so Bland

It’s not simply a matter of changing taste that drives modern design towards a minimalist aesthetic. Modern design has been gravitating towards minimalism from the beginning of the last century, and with … Continue reading

The Reading List

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. This is what good books can give us, for, in the words of Ruskin, what a good author gives us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

Every month I send out recommendations for books that will challenge your thinking and give you more eyes on a range of topics that include design, technology, history, and philosophy. Sign up below: Here is the first letter.