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The Self-Reliance Project
The Self-Reliance Project is a daily essay about what it means to be a maker during a crisis—to think through making, to know yourself better through the process of producing something—and how this kind of return to self-knowledge might just be the entire point.

It’s title comes from the 1841 essay on self-reliance by the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote with astonishing clarity about the perils of conformity and consistency, about what it means to follow your mind, trust your instincts, and listen to your heart.

So for now, stay well, stay home, and do your work. But don’t just take it from me. Take it from Emerson.

Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.

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Join us as we practice social distancing the best way we know how—in conversation with all of you.

In 2003, we started Design Observer as a great place to meet for conversation about all the ways design affects our lives. Little did we imagine it would an even better place to meet seventeen years later.

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Observed | September 17

From Aunt Jemima to AI, How Racism Creeps Into Design: an insightful video from Bloomberg Equality. [JH]

The 40 winners of this year’s Posterheroes Becoming e-Quals competition have been announced. Congrats to all! [BV]

German artist Max Hattler finds inspiration in the immense size, muted colors, and relentless repetition of the facades of Hong Kong’s apartment high-rises. [BV]

Swatch Bharat—online collections of Indian native aesthetics, created to preserve artifacts disappearing due to globalization—has completed their eighth collection. Get inspired![BV]


Observed | September 10

Rachel Berger’s Shooter Box—an exhibition protesting the United States military’s use of Microsoft Xbox controllers as battle equipment—now on view at California College of the Arts. [JH]

Pantone No. 1837, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a conspiracy theory about art and commerce. [JH]

Designing a better airport. [JH]

Revisiting a seminal guerilla signage project, twenty years later. [JH]


Observed | September 03

Everyone’s a (design) critic! The internet goes wild—not in a good way—for the cover art “design” for Drake’s new album. [JH]

A new graphic novel on censorship—from MITPress—gathers insights and highlights from a profession under attack. [JH]

Rebranding Chernobyl with a logo that decays over time. (Via Michael Bierut.) [JH]

Today we chase after information, without gaining knowledge. We take note of everything, without gaining insight. We communicate constantly, without participating in a community... This is how information develops a lifeform: inexistent and impermanent. [JH]


Observed | August 27

A spectacularly researched—and meticulously produced—history of design and visual culture in Louisiana. (Via Nancy Sharon Collins.) [JH]

Alan Heller, who collaborated with Mario Bellini, Massimo and Lella Vignelli, and others to produce memorable objects in plastic, dies at 81. [JH]

Originally located in Marshall Field’s unused 1905 South Prairie Avenue mansion, The New Bauhaus school opened its doors on October 18, 1937. Bauhäusler László Moholy-Nagy, director, began to shape the original Bauhaus curriculum to suit his purposes. Gone were the craft-based distinctions that helped enforce gendered segregation and discrimination in the German workshops. An in-depth look at the founding of American Bauhaus. [BV]




Observed | August 20

Preserving Black historical resorts is a radical act: Amid the violent segregation of the Jim Crow era, leaning into Black joy, leisure, and recreation was a form of quiet radical resistance. [BV]

Our favorite water bottle designers have debuted their newest product, a sleek, steel vessel for all your portable beverage needs. [BV]

Populism—fascism—and design: Derek Hill explains. (Via Mike Errico.) [JH]

Punishment for ... a logo? [JH]

Data visualization in three parts: Mars rover, seabed geochemistry, and drought and climate change. [BV]

How the ice cream truck made summer cool. [BV]



Jobs | September 25