Victoria, British Columbia
My friend Emrys Damon Miller (in the low-light photo in front of Casa de las Américas in Havana, above) has shared the “work-in-progress” principles behind Rocketday, where he is the Director. These principles are intended to “offer some insight into why and how” the firm operates—they certainly get a thumbs-up from me…
1. Make your contribution an improvement on the whole system. Healthy ecosystems on this planet. Human rights protected. People living with meaning in their lives, and with physical, mental & emotional health. That is what we want to achieve. Each task, each project at the studio should be in alignment with those goals.
2. Don’t rush, but do work hard. Get off society’s treadmill of hyper-fast activity, as it’s not only unhealthy for individuals, it often encourages unsustainable & unhealthy over-production and over-consumption in society at large. Don’t create short-sighted “band-aid” solutions that are inefficient & often wasteful. Don’t rush. However, do work hard. Do focus. There’s a lot we can do for this world, and we choose to do it with some level of intensity. Be active, engaged, always pushing & building your abilities. But find the right pace so it which allows care, strategy, and enjoyment in the act of creating.
3. Go deep. Care about the project, the audience, the team, all involved.
4. Don’t simulate where you can be authentic. Minimize the occasions when simulations are being used instead of the direct authenticity, as society is beginning to forget what is real. For example, be careful when using linoleum with fake wood imagery on its surface as a stand-in for wood. In visual design, this theme of simulation/authenticity comes up with drop-shadows, beveled buttons, fake weathering & texturing, digital fonts mimicking hand-writing. It is healthy for people to remember what is direct and authentic, and what is contrived and deceptive. Feel free to use simulation as a conscious, post-modern gesture, when you’re inviting the audience to notice the simulation (like Sagmeister’s large op-art navigation buttons or Gerhard Richter’s paintings). But when simulation is not consciously part of the piece, don’t simulate where you can be authentic.
5. Be honest. (Variation on authentic.) Be honest with your clients, your colleagues, and your audiences in all your relations — from honest feedback to colleagues, to honest messages in the marketing campaigns we design.
6. Be direct & transparent with cash. Don’t trick customers into paying for a service indirectly. Don’t have stocks & RRSPs that are supporting companies & activities that are not in alignment with your intentions and your vision of a healthy world.
7. Don’t whine / complain. Articulate places you wish could be improved, and then either plan & act on a solution, or accept the situation as-is.
8. Create meaning with your work. There are many ways we can bring meaningful solutions, services & products to people’s lives. Accomplishment. Beauty. Community. Duty. Enlightenment. Freedom. Harmony. Justice. Oneness. Redemption. Security. Truth. Validation. Wonder. Understand and have intention in the meaning your work brings. (See makingmeaning.org).
9. Think & imagine first, act second. Thinking is something we can do at a capacity beyond other animals. Combining reason, imagination, memory, ethics, and common sense with our intuition is humanity’s privilege — our greatest super-power. And it’s an evolutionary throw-back when we don’t take enough advantage of our capabilities here before action.
10. Explore and acknowledge what you’re doing on a deep level. In graphic design, ask where does the paper we print on come from. How our computers are manufactured. What role graphic design has on society and ecology.
11. Always work to create the best possible solution. This is what progress is. This is how we step forward and grow, and how all parties can feel pride and satisfaction in the work.
12. When you are privileged to do so, consider money second, not first. Try to choose a lifestyle which affords a financial buffer in your life. Then put your focus on creating projects that you enjoy, and that offer value to our world. After you’ve established value, then figure out how the enabling finances will flow.
13. Do not compromise your own health nor your family when working extra hours on graphic design projects. Sometimes the best work comes out of a late, late night, with extra coffee and some loud music. But take care of health and family too!
14. Treat staff, coworkers, clients, collaborators, vendors with generosity. (This includes font designers, software manufacturers, makers of the music we listen to in the studio).
15. Be confident, but try not to be arrogant. Have humility, be open minded, and respect what others contribute. But don’t be shy about what you actually can bring to a team or situation.
16. Work with conflict gracefully. Feel free to get pissed. Know that destruction & vice are both part of life, and participate in both. But don’t hold grudges (for too long). Argue only constructively. Protect yourself from repeat harm, but then forgive & move forward.
17. Learn from others. From books, school, websites, conferences, colleagues. Sometimes the best solutions for a particular need have already been discovered by someone else in the industry.
18. Use innovation. Technology, industry, society — everything in this world is changing. Sometimes the best solutions for a particular need will require some invention, some innovation.
19. Build for maximum longevity & efficiency & effectiveness.
In consumption, we often talk about the three “r”s — reduce, reuse, recycle. A product with a long shelf-life benefits both reduction & reuse, in contrast to products with shorter shelf-lives.
20. Make peace with the fact the universe doesn’t care. Don’t become a fundamentalist, and don’t get too self-righteous. Take on the above 19 principles as the most passionate hobby. Various religions and science don’t give us one clear path — the universe may even be impartial to our actions. Following the above principles are intended to simply be healthier, more aesthetically attractive & ennobled than sloppier alternatives.