Chain Letters


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Celene Aubry
“The natural path to solving any design problem is rarely straight.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Melissa Deckert + Nicole Licht
"We really enjoy the ideation stage of a project because it is where we can be thoughtful and considered, but also allow ourselves to entertain crazy ideas."


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Victor Melendez
This December, we’re elevating the act of gift giving by pondering the items inside the box: examining design as craft, poring over process, and picking the brains of designers whose technical skill turn products into objets d’art.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dana Chisnell
You might think these aren’t design questions, but you’re in the business of culture change.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Toni L. Griffin
I strongly believe—and have seen firsthand—how shared ownership in creating a vision plan inspires greater collective action.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Chelsea Mauldin
“Most broken government systems are not designed—they accrete, bits and pieces stuck on to address problems.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Steven Heller
“Design is a profession that has grown out of its stereotypes.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Elysia Borowy-Reeder
“Information is everywhere now. We need educated, well-versed curators to make sense of it.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alexander Tochilovsky
"Reading the imprint of past choices can teach us a lot about how to be a designer today."



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sean Adams
The point regarding design history is about documentation. If the work is not documented and disseminated, it disappears.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Margaret Gould Stewart
Margaret Gould Stewart is Vice-President of Product Design at Facebook where she leads a global team of product designers and researchers for teams such as Artificial Intelligence and Privacy & Data Use.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Arthur Cohen
I support a world in which design is not elevated and codified into some idealized “other,” but rather integrated into everyday practice that is just good business.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Randy J. Hunt
“There are examples of designs that were the spark of an innovation and there are examples of designs that added to and evolved an otherwise already innovative idea.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Grace Jun
“Design is way of seeing and a way of doing. A unique perspective and method that combined can lead to innovation.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Zachary Lieberman
“Tools and jobs will always change but the fundamentals stay the same.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Pangaro
In my experience, an understanding of the processes of design and the means for expanding techniques and capabilities are a matter of practice and critique, tightly coupled.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dori Tunstall
“Designing is not about a job. Design is one of many pathways for doing meaningful work in the world.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Gail Anderson
“As a designer, I am sensitive to the way people consume information, and very concerned about the survival of print.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Joan Wong
“I’m not sure the experience between print and ebooks is really that different.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jennifer 8. Lee
“In my line of work, sometimes you have to wait for the future to catch up.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Anna Gerber
“Readers and writers are open, adventurous, and eager to try new things. Even if those experiences are not always perfect.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Paul Moore
“Streaming has shocked new life into the music industry and the vinyl we all hold dear to our hearts. Now the platform is finding a new generation of ardent fans. As designers, that’s where we can influence a movement.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Emily Batson
“A key part of my job is collaboration. I enjoy the negotiation of finding a concept that truly works.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Frank Ockenfels 3
“I am a true believer of creating in the moment.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lawrence Azerrad
It‘s June, and you know what that means—the unofficial kick-off of summer concert season. This month, we examine design and music, and why fans everywhere benefit when these creative industries work in concert.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jamer Hunt
“And it’s likely the case that most design criticism today focuses on ideology more than aesthetics, as we’re going through a period of long-overdue self-scrutiny.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Molly Heintz
Labeling design, or anything, “good” is a slippery slope—good for whom?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Andrew Blauvelt
Criticism allows for self-reflection, and that is necessary when we use words like discipline and field to talk about design.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alice Twemlow
“Of course design criticism is still relevant—it just inhabits formats that we might be less familiar with.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Karin Fong
“A bit of uncertainty is good for the design process. I would hate to be trapped in the sureness of my own thoughts.”



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Deva Pardue
“I don’t believe that being an artist or a designer by definition makes you an activist. I think the responsibility arises when you have something relevant to say.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Rhea Combs
“I believe art has many functions, and one of them is to interrogate the status quo.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Lindsay Peoples
Celebrating Women’s History month and how to better design for inclusivity with The Cut’s fashion market editor, Lindsay Peoples.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Julian Alexander
What made Julian Alexander become a designer, and what was it like working with 50 Cent during the start of his career?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jason Murphy
“Inclusivity. That is the cliché. Where are they doing that?”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Ced Funches
“Admitting you may not be the best person to bring a vision to life is the hard part.”



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Dian Holton
"As designers, we are problem-solvers, visionaries, and teachers," says Holton. "It’s important for us to be empathic and proactive in learning about our audience, so that we can provide meaningful experiences. This means getting to know the people who may not be like you."


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Briana Como
“We make an effort to be aware of and remove bias by focusing on behaviors instead of demographics when creating distinct personas.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sarah Doody
“With anything we create, the first step in the design process must be to understand. This happens through research.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Richard Ting
Richard Ting, Global Chief Experience Officer at R/GA, continues our Chain Letters interview series.


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Jessica Gaddis
This interview is part of a new Design Observer series, Chain Letters, in which we ask leading design minds a few burning questions—and so do their peers, for a year-long conversation about the state of the industry.


The Design Observer Cooperative

Observed | September 22

City Monitor is part of New Statesman Media Group’s innovative new data journalism division, which will provide essential business intelligence across topics such as energy, cities, banking, media, and technology, among others. Follow them here. [JH]

Nicolas Heller is helping save New York City, one Instagram post at a time. [BV]


Observed | September 21

Help support this monumental public messaging campaign promoting the patriotism of science, religion and voting from Class Action Collective. [BV]


Observed | September 17

The strange, uninspired history of Spotify’s bland logo. [BV]


Observed | September 16

Behold: Calamityware! (Via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | September 01

Got a Very Serious Book to sell about the dangers of radical right-wing overreach? In book publishing, this is the summer of the Sith Lord design palette. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | August 20

Design criticism is everywhere. Why are we still looking for it? A must-read essay from Jarrett Fuller. [MB]

Goodbye mosh pits, hello “personal platforms.” A new music venue in the UK was designed for socially distant concerts. [BV]


Observed | August 18

Contactless filming: design for never leaving home. [JH]


Observed | August 17

No books were harmed in the testing of these animals. [JH]


Observed | August 14

How do activism slideshows go viral on Instagram? By co-opting popular design aesthetics from brands. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | August 13

Can you identify the city in which each picture was taken? A visual quiz. [JH]


Observed | August 06

On the power (and ephemerality) of street art. [JH]

The UX of LEGO interface panels. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | August 03

Antica is a new type family designed by Ale Paul & the Sudtipos team. [JH]


Observed | July 31

Branding a pandemic. (via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | July 28

Why do these Apple ads, from a company that takes such pride in design, feature four people who are clearly not trained designers, designing? [BV]


Observed | July 27

Communicative efficiency is not the same as communicative empathy, and one of the truly gut-punching limits of social media is how poorly it corresponds to the individual experience of human grief. A primer by Jason Fields. [JH]


Observed | July 22

Futurefeed is an online space where writers, artists, and thinkers are invited to experiment + explore ideas that are important to them over an extended period of time. [JH]


Observed | July 21

Open a new window somewhere in the world. [BV]

The X-Prize Mask Challenge is looking for a face mask that is attractive, innovative, and achieves the filtration efficacy on par with a surgical mask. PS: You also have to be under 25 years old to enter. (Via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | July 16

How Mexico City crowdsourced a map of its riotous informal bus system. [BV]

The atlas of surveillance. (Yes, you read that right.) [JH]


Observed | July 15

Social Matter, Social Design challenges the way we look at, think of, and interact with the social world by emphasizing the role of materiality. [JH]

When governors are graphic designers: a continuing story. [JH]


Observed | July 14

Design For America, the World Design Organization, and IBM team up to launch the COVID Design Challenge. [JH]

A national reckoning: why It is falling to individuals to become their own interim museums and archives. [JH]


Observed | July 10

Together again for the very first time, Microsoft ditches backgrounds for foregrounds—like simulated office desks. [JH]

A new, coronavirus-inspired concoction at Alinea, one of the world’s most famous restaurants, is spurring backlash online. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | July 08

A look inside the typography of the Biden campaign, by Hoefler & Co. [JH]



Jobs | September 27