Michael Erard is the author of Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners (Free Press). His writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Science, Wired, Slate and many other publications. His book about what we say (but wish we didn’t), Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, came out in 2007 (Pantheon).
















Observed


“This is her fifth long-form visual project,”writes Wesley Morris in his review of Renaissance, Beyoncé’s newest movie, out now in theatres. “We’re now talking about an auteur.” Morris doesn’t stop there. “Simply at the presentation level, coherence and visual imagination are in the house.”

Did you know that the Institute for Scrap Recycling sponsors a design award? And that it has done so for more than three decades? Friends, you have until February 12 to submit your game-changing ideas. Get cracking.

Legendary architect William McDonough—who was one of the first proponents of “circular” design—thinks we’re talking about the issue all wrong. And on that same topic, this year's Business of Design summit brings together policymakers, business executives, and creative leaders to identify critical challenges, innovative ideas, and smart design processes driving circular design. (More here.)

Thanks to a number of new collective projects in Paris, Ukrainian design is becoming a fully-fledged part of the global creative industry.

This just in from the Department of Dystopian Prognostications! A new AI tool— called COLE, named in honor of Henry Cole (the creator of the first graphical Christmas card in 1843) lets you type in a graphic design project idea and have an AI generate not only the image, but the text to support it baked in. 

The Female Design Council names a new director: Angharad Coates previously served as director of communications at the New York Academy of Art and was most recently a managing partner at Camron, a design-focused public relations agency.

Designing better (and more inclusive) (and more innovative) meetings.

"It’s interesting, highly random, and even has the excitement of gambling and card drawing." A designer uses MidJourney to explore new dimensions in typography. 

As the talent pool for luxury artisans in Europe dwindles, fashion brand LVMH has created a unique apprenticeship program in the US in partnership with Tiffany & Co., the  Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, the trade school Studio Jewelers, and RISD. “We are teaching the next generation of craftspeople how important the details are,” says Dana Naberezny, chief innovation officer of jewelry at Tiffany and head of its workshop in Manhattan.

Loon-loving Minnesotans, this is your last chance.

Hundreds of documents related to chattel slavery — including wills that bequeathed enslaved people to relatives —have been discovered among probate records in Fulton County, Ga. "We were able to uncover some interesting stories about slave owners," says Chief Probate Judge Kenya Johnson. "A story that I hadn’t heard before: Slave owners paid for their slaves to go back to Africa."

Due to climate change, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been forced to update its "plant hardiness zone map," an essential tool for gardeners (and anyone wondering why native plants are dying.)

Russia’s Supreme Court has banned "the international LGBT public movement," calling it an extremist organization.

There’s another Mona Lisa. Or is there?

Michael Latt, a film marketing consultant who had become a beacon for social justice, was murdered by an intruder in his Los Angeles home. Latt, 33, was the founder and CEO of Lead With Love, a social impact marketing agency that deftly married activism and art. His collaborators included directors Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, and Barry Jenkins.

Save the date: Riyadh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been selected to host the 2030 World Expo, according to the Bureau International des Expositions.  "Expo 2030 Riyadh, The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow,” will run between October 2030 and March 2031.

Acclaimed American photographer Larry Fink, the self-described “Marxist from Long Island,” has died at 82. His black-and-white photographs ranged from portraits of working-class people to the entertainment elite. “He was a dear friend and a free spirit,” said his longtime gallerist, Robert Mann.

Uh, what’s wrong with networking? The COP28 president-designate Sultan Al Jaber is facing accusations that his team has been using this year’s climate convening as an opportunity to make fossil fuel deals for the UAE’s state-owned oil and gas company, allegations he vehemently denies.

New data from McKinsey & Co. show companies are no longer promoting Black professionals into leadership jobs at the rate they were two years ago. And that’s a problem. “If you were borderline committed, you’ve just kind of exhaled and retreated,” said Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, a research and consulting firm.

It may surprise you to learn that £88 billion of UK pension savers' money is invested in fossil fuels. Still unconvinced? Climate deniers, meet Oblivia Coalmine

A Japanese economist, Tatsuyoshi Saijo is at the forefront of the Future Design movement, which aims to figure out how to get the world to care more about future generations. He is one of the fifty individuals shortlisted on Vox's Future Perfect list—identifying the  thinkers, activists, and scholars working on solutions to today’s (and tomorrow’s) biggest problems.

We are all redesigners, now—or at least we're all becoming engaged design critics. In the US, Kansas citizens reject their state's proposed new license plate design (claiming, among other things, that it looks too much like New York's plate) while in the UK, residents of Gloucester dispute the design of a Covid memorial. 

Every front page in the New York Times—since 1852.

Design thinking has missed the mark, says Anne-Laure Fayard and Sarah Fathallah in this must-read piece in the Stanford Social Review. “We reject design thinking as a singular tool kit prescribed to solve social problems,” in part because, it has failed to do so. “Instead, we call for a critical stance on design, where critical means both discerning and important.”

The United States, Britain and more than a dozen other countries on Sunday unveiled what a senior U.S. official described as the first detailed international agreement on how to keep artificial intelligence safe from rogue actors, pushing for companies to create AI systems that are "secure by design." .

Dasha Tsapenko is one of a growing number of designers growing clothing from mycellium. (More here.) 

A brief respite of eye candy: this exquisite scrapbook—with typography made from matchboxes, dating from 1875—will bring you a rare moment of analogue joy. (Thanks to Debbie Millman for sharing it!)

Design Observer's approach to paying it forward includes supporting big dreams for those who deserve to see those dreams become a reality. (Spoiler alert: you won't find any “top fifty gifts for creatives” lists here this, or any holiday season.) Instead, we'll be sharing ideas over the next few weeks for ways that you can help someone else. Start here.

South African designer Thebe Magugu incorporates vintage (family) photos into a new line of clothing. (Read more about the Heirloom Shirt Project here.)

Remembering George Tscherny, the graphic design powerhouse whose work defined a post-war golden age of corporate growth, innovation, and consumerism.



Jobs | December 02