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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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Design Observer Studio Sessions
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 | November 26

Dave Hickey, the author of Air Guitar and The Invisible Dragon, has died. The influential art and cultural critic was 82. [JH]

Rethinking design—as a transformative catalyst for change—in the circular economy. [JH]


Observed | November 15

Bob Gill, “bomb-throwing revolutionary”“, “polemicist”, and, yes, the important and influential graphic designer, dies at 90. [JH]

Who designs the city? A compelling, inclusive, and actionable inquiry. [JH]

All hail the mighty ... typewriter! [JH]


Observed | November 12

Periplus* Workshops, offers a new and unique opportunity for emerging designers to respond to nature in the rural and ancient Mani Region, near Kalamata, in Greece. [JH]

A new retrospective of Barbara Kruger’s “endlessly hashtaggable” work opens at the Art Institute of Chicago. [JH]


Observed | November 05

Inspired? Revolutionary? Or just batshit crazy? A consulting architect on a proposed new dormitory at the University of California Santa Barbara claims its design premise is "unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being". [JH]

If you think you’re not part of this well-oiled machine of excess—and its dark underbelly—you’re wrong. (Don’t miss the Swedish teapot man.) [JH]


Observed | October 29

Black students make up only 9% of enrollment at 96 schools teaching art and design in the United States. But thanks to D’Wayne Edwards, that is about to change. [JH]

At just 61 years old, Nigeria is still an emerging nation—and it’s a hotbed of design. [JH]

Humor, art, activism: discuss amongst yourselves. [JH]

What do the words “design” and “delicatessen” have in common? You’re about to find out! [JH]



Jobs | December 08