On why I don’t work at a firm.

“Why don’t you work at a firm?”

I’m asked this a lot.  A whole lot.  Of course there’s not one reason but many, and this isn’t a post about all of them. It’s a post about one.

If you somehow think it’s a poor reflection on the industry for someone to curse like a sailor- now would be the time to go somewhere else, because I’m going to, and I’m not going to apologize to you for it.

Understand that I am aware that in other places, this situation happens less often. I won’t say it doesn’t exist- I have no way to know that. I do know that in other locations, it happens less often than it does in NYC.  However, my willingness to move from NYC is *zero*. Full stop, zero.  So I can only refer to what goes on here.

Today, I was looking at the design/arch job postings on Craigslist. I have them on an RSS feed. Occasionally, I’ll see something worth replying to. Not often- mostly they aren’t looking for me, and I’m not looking for them.  That’s cool.  But I’ve seen an absolutely innumerable (really, as my friend Cindy can tell you as I often send them to her to boggle at)number of  job listings that want a laundry list of real, professional qualifications- but will pay *absolutely nothing*.  They call them “internships”.  But they’re not. They’re not for school credit. They don’t provide a stipend.  They’re slave labor.  Let’s call them what they are.  And I’m tired of people getting away with it. That’s it.  It needs to stop. I might be a good designer, but I’m a good one with a big mouth and a significant lack of fear.  So I’m calling it out, because I. Am. Done.

And on this day? I finally reached my limit with this bullshit.

Finally, an ad offended me so much, that I had to write something here.  I’m not going to link to the ad, because eventually it will disappear. No. Let me show you the copy.  The bolding is mine for emphasis, and not present in the original ad(but the typo IS in the original ad.):

 
Looking for a interior designer or architect for an internship at a small, creative design firm. Must have experience working on all types of nteriors, condo development projects, restaurants and bars.
Current projects in the office include kitchens and baths for new developments, restaurants and bars and interior renovations. Must have a good knowledge of materials and lighting. Must know CAD and excel.

This is an internship position only and must have min 3-5 experience.

  • Location: DUMBO
  • Compensation: none
  • This is a part-time job.
  • This is an internship job
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Here, let me respond to this ad:

Fuck you.

No really, I can’t make that clear enough.

Fuck. You.

Let us review.

They want someone with experience with all kinds of design projects. (check!)

They want someone with experience with design software. (check!)

They want someone with a minimum of 3-5 years experience in the industry. (check!)

THEY HAVE NO INTENTION OF PAYING THEM. (I’m sorry, but you couldn’t POSSIBLY have just said that out loud, right?)

And they can’t even PROOFREAD their own ad.

You know, maybe these people are in some mysterious industry I’ve never been a part of, but you know what? I don’t KNOW any designers with 3-5 years experience that can AFFORD to NOT BE PAID to use their hard earned professional credentials and experience.  Who have the luxury of “interning part time” (also a joke as we all know there IS no such thing as part time design in reality) for NOTHING whilst paying their own travel, food, and clothing expenses, never mind you know, the life expenses they’re not being paid for.  So either you need a) someone independently wealthy.  b) you need someone completely supported by someone else (with a spouse or parents who can and will support them to work for your ass for free.) and wait,  c) someone with so little self esteem and is so desperate that they are willing to work *for free* with 3-5 years under them. I’d say they want a kid fresh out of school that they can pay 10 bucks an hour (oh but wait they aren’t even offering that), but really they don’t- again, they want someone with 3-5 years experience.

I’d call it “dreamland” but that would only insult a great song by The Merry Thoughts, who deserve better than this shit.

I will say that this is not a way to get a great designer to work with you. It’s not even a way to get a mediocre one.  I’m not even sure it’s a way to get a bad one. I don’t know WHO you get with this nonsense, but I do know that you *shouldn’t* get ANYONE, because this isn’t a job offer.

I wish I could say that this was the first, or fifth or even fiftieth time I’ve seen this.  It isn’t.   I think this one insulted me so much because firms that sound even remotely interesting to me are few and far between, but I stopped to read that one.

But I think that from now on? I’m gonna post a lot more of those- because my being silent is now over.

It’s over. This has to stop. If you can’t afford to pay someone with 3-5 years experience to work on your projects you don’t GET someone with 3-5 years experience. Also, raise your prices, because your business model is unsustainable. 


Advertisements

Legos do not have a gender. And neither do the projects they create.

This is a Lego brick.

 

This is a Lego brick.

It’s in black and white because I overexposed the hell out of the original shot, but other than that, it’s an ordinary Lego brick.  It has four sides, six nubs on top, and a nub on the bottom.  You know what it doesn’t have?

A gender.

There are no boy Legos. There are no girl Legos.  A Lego is a Lego is a Lego.

You know what also doesn’t have a gender?  The things you make out of Legos.

Now that everyone is thinking “wtf is she on about now?”, a few hours ago someone retweeted something and it floated in front of me. I’ll be honest- I don’t remember which of my friends retweeted it, and I don’t know the original source – the person who said it is not someone I know, and I can’t even remember who it was. I do know what my reaction to it was, though.  Here I am, several hours later typing angrily into my keyboard, because I need to say this.

What it was about was a Lego build of Venice, Italy, seen somewhere.  The comment was “Finally, a Lego build for the ladies.”

Oh. Hell. No.

HELL no.

Not for nothing, but Zaha Hadid kicked in the door to the Pritzker Prize in 2004, and even that took too damned long.  But that one sentence explains so much of why women in architecture and design *STILL* have to fight tooth and nail.  STILL.  It’s ridiculous, and I’m not letting it go by without calling it out.

Venice is a beautiful city.  It’s lovely and romantic, which is (I am quite sure) what was meant by the comment.  But it is also a place of *fantastic* engineering.  It is a city based on the *technical marvel* of the built environment vs. nature. I am damned sure that was *not* what was meant by the retweeted comment.

On my desk I have two Lego builds. One of the Empire State Building. The other is of  the Guggenheim NYC.  Are those Lego models not for me?

*checks*

*checks again*.

Nope. No penis.  Still female.

The point of Lego- which is still the greatest toy ever for anyone who loves to build, adult or child, is that it allows you to create anything. Anything.  From a firehouse, to the Empire State Building, to Venice, to a bed for your cat. NONE of these things has a gender. There are no “builds for the ladies” without the inherent assumption that OTHER builds are for the men.

Bullshit.

This particularly kind of gender-biased and odious thinking in architecture is why in a magazine spread about architects, you have to BEG them to include a woman, even though there’s no shortage of talented women in architecture.  It’s about why women routinely decide not to deal with engineering- because they have to deal with stupid shit like this all the time.  It’s about why when you say youre a designer, as a woman, what people *hear* on the other end is “decorator*.

It’s RIDICULOUS. And here in MY space? I will not stand for it.

Besides, gang, it insults *MEN* just as much.  For everything assigned to women in some offhanded gesture of casual, institutionalized sexism, it excludes men from that same thing.  That’s nonsense too, and I’m not having it.

Legos? Neutral. Lego builds? Neutral. ARCHITECTURE? Neutral.  DESIGN? Neutral.

LEARN IT.

 

 

 

Where RL and virtual design collide into a cataclysm of failure.

I often talk about that place in the Venn diagram (what? I like Venn diagrams) where RL and VW (in my case, SL) design skills overlap. I think it’s interesting to note the ways that design is design is design, and that when humans are utilizing a product or space that their needs basically remain the same no matter where that design is ultimately located.

Of course this works both ways- when a design is good, it tends to be good pretty much everywhere. When a design fails spectacularly…yeah, it fails everywhere too.

So let’s talk about a couple of things.

1. You don’t fuck up a charity project.

Now, I have more experience with charity projects than the vast majority of people. Big ones. Small ones. International ones. I’m gonna repeat this:

You don’t fuck up a charity project. When you want people to donate to charity, your goal is to first and foremost make it *easy* for them to do so. Every obstacle you put in their way loses money for your chosen cause. Every time someone hits a barrier to giving you their hard earned cash, a certain percentage of them will decide that the hassle for them to give YOU money is too much, and walk away. The more barriers, the more money lost. It MUST be an easy experience.

2. When planning a large event like a convention, trade show or something similar, you need to keep several things in mind:

a) You must keep traffic flowing. Bottlenecks are bad, mkay?

b) You must create a traffic pattern in which people can walk in *one* path, *one* direction, and go from start to finish and see *everything* at the show. See point 1 above. People want to see everything at a show. If you get them lost, make it difficult for them to track their progress, or determine what they’ve seen and what they haven’t, *you will lose money and attendees*. They will not stick around long enough to buy anything, because they will be too busy being pissed off at your shitty layout. This is *not* the time to get crazy with the cheez whiz. Simplicity is key.

c) you must allow your vendors to sufficiently differentiate their spaces from one to another so that customers can easily create their own mental landmarks (i.e.: the giant booth with the castle on top, the booth with the lollipops in front, the booth with the dragons to either side- you get the idea). Forcing a great degree of continuity and sameness is contrary to your goal. People are visual- they will remember a visual cue much better and more quickly than a store name. They will also be more likely to tell their friends using that method as well, but if they forget a name? They will not bother to tell anyone.

Now, there’s a lot of other things involved in this kind of design, but those things up there? They’re not negotiable. They apply to every large scale event everywhere. It applies in the real world, and in any and all virtual worlds.

And then…

We have this year’s Hair Fair. Which is *precisely the opposite* of all the things I said just now. It is a colossal, epic cataclysm of design failure. The vendors have every right and reason to be *furious*, and I have no doubt at all that the unbelievable level of failure on the part of the physical layout is costing the vendors and the charity for whom they’re raising money, a LOT of cash.

Hair Fair raises money for charity. In this case it’s Wigs for Kids, which helps out kids who are dealing with cancer. However, see point one, above. There are problems that are unique to SL (lag, sculpties and rez time) that are problematic here also (the lag is unavoidable- the sheer volume of sculpties is plain old garden variety stupid), but the main issues are related to basic and fundamental design principles which exist *everywhere*.

Previous Hair Fairs were not like this. You *could* walk all the way around all of it (all four sims worth) in one path. This one is markedly different, and not for the better. The vendors are stuck into tents, creating a confusing warren of disconnected buildings and seemingly unpredictable entrances and exits. In reality, the layout is symmetrical, along a central axis. But since the tents are not open to the front, once inside, you lose your sense of direction easily, particularly when faced with the enormous amount of lag one expects at an event like this.

Hair Fair 2010

Hair Fair 2010

The tents themselves are ugly. They look like a cross between the set of M*A*S*H* and the backstage area of a cut rate fashion show. There’s no connection between them and the outside, which is a shame, since they would feel far less claustrophobic were they open to the front. There’s a strong sense of disorientation, and it’s nearly impossible to determine what you’ve seen and what you haven’t from a distance, because the visual cues of differentiation from booth to booth are almost nonexistent.

There's no room for differentiation

between one booth and another.

The only way to successfully navigate this mess is to teleport from location to location- except the notecard of the SLurls contains a listing of *unlinked* ones. (again, adding yet another step- see point one. Oh also, the Slurl for Analog Dog is incorrect- this is the correct one: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Hair%20Fair/228/86/25 )

However, not even THIS will help you, because on three of the four sims, point to point teleportation has been disabled- forcing you to a landing point or to follow a beacon, adding to the confusion. Only the most determined (and I really mean the MOST) determined hair shoppers will bother with this for four sims worth(roughly 200 vendors) worth of stuff. The percentage of people who will see everything or even bother to try is vanishingly small.

Four sims worth of this kind of insanity? Oh hell no.

Now, before everyone jumps my shit for “picking on a charity”, I want to say a couple of things- the reason why Im so annoyed by this is *because* it’s for charity.  The  CHARITY and the vendors deserve better than this.  Also, I am part of the vanishingly small percentage of people who saw *every single vendor*.  I spent over $30,000L.  So I paid my nickel for my stance on this.  I know that if I did not have a *vested* and deep interest in getting this stuff (I do, for modeling purposes) I would have gotten my ass out of there after the first half sim- not because of the lag (which is expected) because of the layout.

I am sure the people who run Hair Fair are lovely and good people. But I am begging them to find a professional designer to lay out their fair next year.  Hell, I’ll even do it for free. But this? This is a fiasco. No. Do not want.

Reminder: It’s not about you.

I know, I’ve said this before. Apparently, we need a refresher course.

This morning, a question was asked about “aesthetic theory” or something like that. Basically it was asking designers and architects why they feel compelled to talk about some kind of overriding aesthetic concept/principles when clients rarely prioritize the theory behind such things. Lots of answers.

Question:

The number of clients who are interested in the aesthetic philosophy behind a project is minimal #justsaying so why do architects bang on?

The answers ranged, but several were super disappointing, dripping with arrogance and barely concealed disdain for clients as a whole.

My answer:
Holdover from arch/design school. all asked to justify our projects in this way, even tho clients dont care about that.

It’s true. We’re required to justify entire design philosophies, even beyond concept, lest we be accused of “putting something in because it looks nice.” Every decision we make MUST be justifiable in some larger sense.

What’s also true is that clients usually don’t care. They care about whether or not it looks good and how much it costs. They rarely go farther than that because hey, isn’t that what they hired you for?

However back to the arrogant responses(which I am not reprinting)- once again, let’s remind everyone that ultimately, it’s not about the designer. It’s about the client. And when the client *MAKES* it about the designer, I suggest you should be concerned, because that says to me that the client is less concerned with their own project and more concerned about whatever perceived “status” they’re getting out of it. Truly, if that concept rocks your socks, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know that about you.

Check your overinflated ego and remember that what you design is about your client. YOUR job is to coalesce their wants, needs and desires, create a package that meets them (and their overall aesthetic preferences), and prevent them from doing something illegal, unsafe or grotesquely stupid, while working within the budgetary constraints they have. Really, that about covers it.

Aesthetics aren’t about you. They are about *them*. You should be able to design things that they love, but you wouldn’t choose for yourself if it were the last available design on Earth. You should be able to design outside your own narrow personal aesthetic preferences (and if you can’t, please send your job to me, because I can, and your clients deserve better than you’re giving them.)

You *SHOULD* be able to justify any design choice you make. But not by some abstract aesthetic theory. This isn’t design/arch school. By showing how each and every choice relates to the needs *THEY* lined out in the programming (brief) phase. That’s how this game is played.

FFS, it isn’t about you. It’s about the people you’re there to help. LEARN IT.

Flush This: A discussion of bathrooms in two parts, part two.

Dateline: Two days ago.

The question was raised “Should women be designing ladies’ rooms?”

It was at that moment that I seriously considered wading in to the main conversation but decided not to risk a migraine. I bit down on my urge to say “SERIOUSLY? DID SOMEONE SERIOUSLY SUGGEST THIS?” at a volume that would make glass break and suggested politely that thoughtful design knows no gender. (This is often the case- polite response, screaming internally. It’s noisy in my head a lot.)

But since this is *my* blog, let me reiterate this:

Seriously? DID SOMEONE SERIOUSLY SUGGEST THIS?

See, even as a hypothetical question of “how does design change when x does it instead of y”, I’m not sure who this insults more, but it’s not a compliment to anyone. Let’s break this down:

1. It insults men. It says that men are obviously so lacking in basic understanding and home training (that clearly, they cannot have gained anywhere or learn anywhere) that they couldn’t possibly figure out how to thoughtfully design a ladies’ toilet. Obviously women do something in the bathroom that is so far outside the realm of understanding to men that they can’t POSSIBLY figure it out and design for it appropriately. More on this notion in a moment.

2. It insults women. It basically implies that in fact, we ARE doing something so outside the realm of understanding of men that clearly, only those of us versed in the art of oh I don’t know, not having a Y chromosome could possibly ever understand how to do it. It’s just too…girly for men to bother with and only women can do it right.

and finally, my favorite insult of all…

3. Does this mean people who are transgendered shouldn’t be able to design bathrooms? Does this become like the IOC where we should (again, realizing this was a hypothetical question but I’m showing how outrageous this entire line of thought is) test people to determine their sex? “Oh sorry, you had gender reassignment surgery so no bathroom design for you.”

Now, this question was not brought up with any of these three things in mind. Sadly it was brought up because unfortunately, it is taking far too long for a traditionally male dominated industry, PLUS those people who are responsible for building code in many places, AND lawmakers to learn some *basic facts of the universe*.

Here, let me help:

Women take slightly longer in the bathroom, on average, than men.

Not every woman, and not every time. As an overall group, yes- we do. Even sadder is the reasons ascribed to that- that we’re just primping or fussing about or whatever the fuck it is that sexists think about women in general. But that’s not really it. It’s due to two things- one- we don’t have exterior biological plumbing, and two – often our clothes are more complicated. That, folks is it. But the former is an immutable biological fact. Learn it, live it, feed it on Thursdays. The latter may not be immutable fact, but it is often true, particularly in winter months. Both of these things combine to create a situation where if you are designing a location that has male and female facilities, you *do* in fact, need more of them for women than men. A trip to ANY stadium, convention center, mall bathroom or amusement park will show you this problem in action. It can be identified by LONG lines for the womens facilities and NO line for the mens. It’s not because “men can hold it longer”, it’s not because “we’re playing with makeup or fixing our hair”. It’s because we can’t easily pee standing up, and we don’t have a way to “zip and whip”. We have to essentially partially undress every time we need to run to the bathroom and that takes a little longer.

Now, it’s a valid question to ask “WOULD a woman design toilets differently.” I contend if there’s a serious difference that cannot be ascribed to the individual designer in question, then you’re talking about *bad designers* in general. Part of our job is to understand our end users. When you can’t get the bathroom right you’ve missed this vital piece of your job. It’s one of the reasons I get so cranky when bathrooms are overlooked- when you so this you’re denying a fundamental part of *everyone’s* daily experience. You’re failing to really understand your end user. I would expect that if a male designer were designing a ladies room and wasn’t sure he’d gotten it right he’d just *ASK* a woman to look and see if there was anything he’d missed. I know I’d do the same thing if I were designing a facility for a group I wasn’t a part of- it’s called *research*. It’s what we do, isn’t it?

Yes, it is true, undeniably that building code and lawmakers need to finally and fully grasp that women do take a little longer and need more facilities than men because of it. But just as important is WHY- not some ridiculous and false notion of why that relegates women to the girly corner. A basic understanding of how people function in a real life way would do. But to suggest that there is some fundamental thing that male designers cannot and do not understand about women in regards of how they use a bathroom is insulting to everyone, and we can and should do better than that.

Defining our terms.

Art is not design.

Design is not art.

These concepts overlap, but they are not synonymous. Were we to create a Venn Diagram, it would illustrate this relationship perfectly.

Oh. Wait. I already did that.:

Before we go any further than this, we need to really define “art”. In this case there’s two definitions we need to be concerned with.

1. To say something beautiful, created by a person or people, is art.

A painting, a sculpture, a piece of music, a photograph, a ballet.  All of these are examples of which we are familiar.  There are many others, of course, but you get the idea.  To say that art is a beautiful thing is common and we know what that means when people say it.

2. To say a physical object, created by a person or people is challenging, describing, informing or otherwise making a social or cultural commentary.

These things may not necessarily be beautiful.  They *CAN* be and often are, but that’s not their primary purpose.  Their purpose is to get people to think about culture, relationships between people,  and society.  I tend to think of these things as “Art” and they are the stuff of which “Art pretension” thrives on.  They’re the sort of things that people stroke their chins over and say “hmm, yes” a lot about.

So having defined that for purposes of this post, I want to talk a little about design.

Design is purpose driven.  When you design a building, the building has a function. When you design a restaurant, that restaurant has a function.  The same thing can be said of anything one *designs*, from a catapult to a coffee machine.  You can design a knitting pattern and make a scarf. You can even use design in the process of making art- I map out a design for each egg that I create, but the finished product is not a design project. It’s a piece of art.  However, if I design someone’s kitchen, that’s a design project, no matter how pretty it is.

All of that brings me to a post that appeared yesterday on Dezeen.  Go have a good look. I’ll wait.

When I first saw this, the post had just gone up, and there were no comments to it yet. When I went back this morning, apparently I’m not the only one who wasn’t pleased. But what really bothers me is that the *supporters* of this work don’t seem to get that fundamentally, THIS IS NOT A DESIGN PROJECT. It’s an ART INSTALLATION.

Frankly, I think it’s a pretty good art installation.  I really mean that. I think that as *ART* (definition #2, though it’s not a bad looking object either) it works quite well. It conveys a clear message and provokes thought about the concepts it addresses.  In that sense, it’s very successful.

As a design project, this FAILS, completely.  It’s not *REALLY* a bookshelf.  It’s not. It’s designed to hold very specific books, intended to make a societal and/or cultural statement.  If you put other books on it, it ruins the intent of the artist (yes, I said it cause it’s not a design project and I’m not going to call it one.) So really, its only purpose is to make that statement, and no other. It does not serve *an actual function* beyond making the cultural statement.  The books, even though they’re being held by the shelf are only there *AS PART* of the overall statement.

It’s NOT DESIGN. It’s ART. I don’t think it’s BAD art, either. But It. Is. Not. Design.

Considering the fact that there are innumerable *DESIGNERS* creating oh, I don’t know, actual design projects that could be featured on what is supposed to be a design blog, the fact that Dezeen doesn’t seem to be too clear on what design is/is not and what art is/is not is… well pretty disappointing (yes, I do have a gift for understatement, why do you ask?)

Come on.  Show some damned design work.

When interests collide.

I had meant to post about this yesterday, but didn’t get to it before getting sucked back into the Miami Project. Those who read my personal journal already know this, but this week’s episode of South Park featured an appearance by Jay Maynard, The Tron Guy.

southparkthumb.jpg

This capped off a day which was already surreal for other, unrelated reasons but this was certainly the cherry on the sundae. First of all, I don’t usually watch South Park. As much as it’s true that cartoons are essentially *all* I watch, I will only watch SP if it just happens to be there. In this case it was because Futurama had ended and I was busy winding a ball of yarn, so my hands were full. Imagine my surprise when all of a sudden Jay is on the show. I went running for my computer to IM him, screaming to turn on the television. As predicted, he had no idea this was coming (and Matt and Trey really screwed up his accent.) and both of us sat there watching while he was mauled by a panda of all things, which for other reasons completes some bizarre circle of life moment that would take too long to explain.

Now, Jay is a frequent commenter here and he’s a close friend(and was for years before all this Tronguy stuff.) But that’s not why I’m mentioning this here. It’s just that I helped Jay design the suit (yep. It’s true.) and out of all of the things I’ve ever helped design, this one has had a life *far* stranger than I could have ever possibly imagined. I know I never imagined this (and I am pretty sure Jay didn’t, either.)