Justin Childress
Designer & Creative Director


Daily Record

November 16th, 2017

Over and Over and Over

This tweet and the ensuing conversation reinforced for me once again how inevitable it is that design aesthetic will manifest itself in “movements,” and that even though we’re in a digital era now vs. a purely physical one, this doesn’t mean that a subconsciously collective desire for objective aesthetic standards no longer exists. People, in this case clients, want a style because they want to understand where they fit. I find it interesting when designers don’t acknowledge this, or even (periodically) seem to see it*, when they desire to push beyond what exists and is repeatable in a currently common vernacular because it’s “stale”, without necessarily recognizing its cyclical alignment with similar movements in the past. It’s impossible to view aesthetic standards outside of the contexts of the culture (economic and symbolic) that dictate them. There’s a reason that things start to look the same; because that’s what people will pay for. The market rewards familiarity. This is why design history is such an important aspect of design eduction; this has happened over and over and over.

The question becomes, then, what is the fundamental mission of formal design education? Is it to push the discipline forward, as is the case with so-called “critical” design programs? Or is it to prepare students to operate well within the present commercial market, to be able to take cues from culture, to become effective professional practitioners? Too often I see students who come out of the more academic programs who are completely unequipped to work in the “real world,” while I inversely interview seemingly hundreds of young designers who have slick portfolios, but no critical perspective on the discipline. This dichotomy seems like a failure of design eduction, and is probably what we should be working on fixing.

*At this point I’m reaching way back into provoked memory, far past the cited tweet, which at face value I actually agree with.

August 2nd, 2017

Remembering the Right Things

“The danger for the leader comes if you cannot truly love yourself. If you are at war with yourself then you will be unable to lead others with empathy & compassion. You may pretend—but you will always be found out.” — Alan Moore DO/ DESIGN

As I was flipping through Alan Moore’s very pleasant book “Do/ Design: Why Beauty is Key to Everything” last night, I settled on this passage, and found it to contain a brief observation that perhaps defines my last couple of years more aptly than most. The last year especially has been an exercise in coming to glaring terms with my inadequacies, both personally and professionally, and it is only recently that I have been able to begin to more objectively recognize the often self-imposed dissonances, conflicts of self-identity or labeling or striving, that have made it difficult not only to seek “Happiness,” but to even recognize that “Loving One’s Self” (i.e. Happiness) is a thing that is particularly valuable. Or, perhaps, a thing that even really exists (in contrast to Achievement, or Virtue, or Legacy, or Impact). It’s easy to forget that your strengths (especially when it comes to leadership) are solely defined by your relationships to people, especially in an inherently human discipline like design. Empathy, compassion, kindness, and helpfulness are all purely relational concepts, and the cultural core of not only a good “design practice” (as if that caveat is necessary), but of everything.

This is easy to forget, though. Your insufficiencies, in contrast, are easy enough to identify even in a void, especially if it’s one of your own making.

I hope I’m getting better at remembering the right things.

May 28th, 2017

Breaking the Rules

In design, or any discipline of making, there is a distinct difference between “breaking the rules” and simply being naive of the rules. A reactionary rejection of formally “trained” approaches, the result of conceiving of the these approaches merely as the manifestation of a thoughtless, common vernacular, as nothing but the historically-dictated precedent for popularly “purposeful” design, is not within itself something to be admired. This attitude breeds its own form of anti-intellectualism, and aligns itself with a type of uncritical abandon that these same practitioners would defy in other quarters. Even “breaking the rules” should be a purposeful exercise, which necessitates a fluency in the language that is ultimately being rejected. Willful ignorance isn’t admirable in any venue, even in design or (gasp) art.