February 13, 2023

Design Feast’s Makers Series—123rd Interview: Information Designer & Consultant Sandina Miller Materializes Honest and Humble Clarity


It was the typographic nerdy of Sandina Miller’s Twitter feed that led me to her work that focused on a discipline I cherish a lot: Information Design. Here at Design Feast, she articulates her passion for making communication that’s as clear as it can be to guide effectively its recipients.

Firstly, congratulations on exceeding a decade as a Typographic Designer and Consultant! What does independence mean to you? As it relates to creativity, making, working.

Thank you! The time’s gone fairly quickly. When I initially moved from on-staff to freelancing, my focus and background were in wayfinding as well as print typography with a smattering of digital design. Now I’m increasingly focused on communications.

Being independent means I can be flexible and more in control when working on my own projects. It also means I bring a different perspective when I do projects with on-staff design teams. Creatively, it can be both freeing and taxing. I decide my own schedule which means I can take a break when I need it without worrying about contracted hours. However, the flip-side is I can get engrossed in work and forget to take a break—this is where the office tea-breaks are handy! Also, working at home alone means I don’t get to enjoy the team-vibe of being in a studio. I miss the catch-ups, chatter and impromptu feedback that improves my ideas and stimulates me to think in different ways. I also miss the mutual support of agency life: being in a studio and able to turn around and ask for or offer help.

How did you become interested in a career involving typography, information design, communication design? Who, what helped motivate you?

Good question! I’ve always had varied interests—from philosophy to maths (yes, really although my maths cells now seem to have deserted me)—but design won. Before university, I did the International Baccalaureate (IB) at an international college. IB schools emphasise extra-curricular activities and I did a few, including writing and doing layout (Anyone remember PageMaker?) for the college magazine. When it was time to apply for university, I chose the University of Reading where I got a scholarship to study typography and graphic communication. The Reading course was a great mix of hands-on vocational work with history and theory to keep me more intellectually engaged.

My university mentors (especially Gerry Leonidas, Paul Stiff, Sue Walker and Paul Luna) supported and encouraged me on several major projects: from type design to wayfinding to my dissertation on newspaper design.

After I graduated, I worked with Mark Barratt and the Text Matters team in Reading, UK. It was an intense time, and I grew a lot as a person and as a designer. I learned so much about practical adjustments, working with clients from academic, public and non-profit sectors, real-world digital design, and accessible, inclusive design.

Over time, I became a facilitator as well as creator. Whether I worked on a map, a poster or a social media marketing plan, the core was managing different elements, content and people to develop solutions. The people I met, worked with and learned from—whether at university or professional working at Text Matters—all helped me build on my formal training to become 
 


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What will stay free to completely explore at Design Feast are the 347 insightful interviews with an awesome range of Designers, Bloggers, Makers and realizers of Side Projects.

December 29, 2022

Design Feast’s Makers Series—122nd Interview: Ashley Lukasik Designs Immersive Experiences that Stoke Deep Collaboration and Ideation

Photographed by Miriam Doan.

The cultural trifecta of the Bauhaus (especially the legacy of László Moholy-Nagy), Design Methods and Human-Centered Design culminated in discovering Ashley Lukasik, who is one part documentarian, one part curator, one part facilitator—all parts designer. She founded and leads Murmur Ring—specializing in immersions. Here at Design Feast, she elaborates on this tactile, visceral offering and her creative process to stimulate collective curiosity as a humane, holistic asset to enhancing business strategy.

During your talk to the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings, I wondered (verb intended, since the team of your talk was aligned to the CreativeMornings theme of “Wonder” at the time) what an accurate, even precise, job title would apply to you. Iterations included Metaphysical Yenta to Director of Narrative Vibe to Keeper of Stimuli. Yet, I kept returning to you as an Experience Designer. When you describe the kind of creative work you do to people who don’t know, what do you call yourself?

Wow, all of these titles are 1,000 times more interesting and lyrical than those I’ve mustered for myself! I tend to refer to myself primarily as a producer of experiences and stories, grounded in the ethos of human-centered design. I’m mainly driven to unearth the creative talents of others and bring them to wider audiences who can expand upon them. When done well, it is a very organic and collaborative process.

It was at IIT Institute of Design where you discovered the label, concept, discipline of human-centered design. Is this true? Can you describe this process of discovery?

Very much so. I entered the field of design when it was rapidly gaining attention and application in industry at a broad scale. In large part, corporate interest was stimulated by the rapid advancement of digital technology that was forcing organizations to think differently about how their products/services/culture could appeal to people and–more importantly–how they would contend with what was emerging, murky and not yet codified.

At ID, my role was to shepherd in new research and projects in collaboration with organizations who were interested in adopting tools from design. I also produced events and content to broadcast the incredible work of our design community but with the goal of making fairly abstract content and projects more accessible (penetrable?).

At first, arriving in the world of design was like landing in a Utopia. Really?! There are other nerds out there who are just as interested in trying to make sense of the mess of the world?! With real methodologies to go about it?!

As time went on, I became interested in how we can effectively infuse more creativity back into the discipline. I get bored easily and was starting to find the typical design project to be formulaic. The heavy focus on


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Help Design Feast to keep producing this kind of content! Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to champion creative culture through hundreds of interviews, dozens of write-ups and more. Consider becoming a supporting Patron with a monthly donation—all that’s asked is $1 or another tier that feels good to you.

What will stay free to completely explore at Design Feast are the 346 insightful interviews with an awesome range of Designers, Bloggers, Makers and realizers of Side Projects.

December 5, 2022

Design Feast’s Makers Series—121st Interview: From Indie to Industry, the Wild Journey of Apparel Designer Jessica Caldwell


Whether it’s Denver or Colorado Springs, the Centennial State is a core part of my U.S.-travel fandom. While recently revisiting The Mile-High City, I wanted to meet Jessica Caldwell—in person this time. Originally discovered her and her work (check out my first interview in 2014) via Twitter where I noticed a (former) feature about “Independent fashion design for modern, badass women.” She ran her apparel business Machine Apparel—where the spare and sharp aesthetic, expressed throughout its collections, appealed greatly to me.

Today, Jessica designs outerwear for The North Face.

Here at Design Feast, learn about a few main aspects about how she made such a gritty, at times harrowing, all-around exciting, transition from fashion business founder to joining one of the world’s best clothing brands.

You were an independent designer for how long? Five years? Which is a lot of time. Each of those years was definitely dense with your hustling, your grinding. Bootstrapped. You’re in it, totally. You were your own kind of war room, so to speak. You're in the trenches.

When you made that shift from independence to entering the world of a renowned, popular, formidable fashion brand, what were those independent fashion design sensibilities that stuck with you as being more true now than it was then? What were those practices as an independent, hard-working fashion designer and maker that you still carry with you—that you still tap into in your role at The North Face?

I had my own line, Machine Apparel (samples from fashion collections below), just about four years. It was a rollercoaster of creativity–lots of experimenting, trial and error, and working with very limited resources to make things happen. I still look back at that time as one of the most creative periods in my career, because it was total freedom. There were a lot of ups and downs though—as I navigated my way through building a creative business.

Working for myself really helped me develop all those key skills beyond design that I still implement daily. I had to self-manage, know how to jump back and forth between many types of tasks (marketing, accounting, operations, etc.), and still find a way to satisfy my creative side as well. Working at The North Face keeps me on my toes in the same ways. I’m working on multiple seasons at a time in all different stages of development, I’m going to fittings, talking with athletes, and still sit down and actually design product! I’ve learned to stay flexible, organized and to ride each wave as it comes.

Everyone has their own information architecture. I would be very curious to see how you not only collate but also curate your collections of stimulation. Because one of your independent practices, which you still carry through, is your persistent scouting and collecting of inspiration.

When I was a kid, I used to cut out pictures from magazines and save them in a shoebox. Then I’d craft these big collages on the walls of my bedroom. I still do that today, only now it’s all digital. I am constantly saving posts from Instagram. I’ve got my Pinterest algorithm dialed, and I always have a notebook with me to write down ideas, or quotes from books, songs, etc. I’m constantly taking photos when something catches my eye too—my camera roll is a


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August 26, 2022

Design Feast’s Makers Series—120th Interview: Fashion Designer Lina Lavi’s Big Love for Altruism and Activewear

Lina Lavi found and cut her path as an Apparel Designer. Here, she elaborates on turning this self-awareness into a self-fulfilling career. Giving thoughts too on mentorship and self-love.

How did you become interested in the apparel industry?

As someone who has always found joy and expression through art, I knew I wanted to go to art school after I graduated high school. I decided to take some time after high school to find a direction for myself. I had an introduction to apparel when I worked in retail. I found clothing was an exciting form of self-expression, and I loved helping people find pieces that gave them confidence and a sense of identity.

What were essential steps you took in initiating and ultimately becoming an apparel designer?

I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts with a major in Fashion Design at CCA in San Francisco. I found a specific area of interest/passion within the industry, which for me is sweater design. I leaned into sweater design through school and my career—and to this day, my sweater design knowledge and passion have gotten me just about every job I’ve had. I also made sure to take advantage of internships while in school. I have connections and dear friendships that have stemmed from those initial years in my design education. Internships are a great way to get real-life experience in the industry, but making genuine connections with the people is what is truly going to help you succeed.

Conceptual storytelling is one of your design methods. What do you mean? Can you share an example?

Honestly, it is just a fancy way of saying mood-board development! I think it is important to start with 


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August 14, 2022

Design Feast’s Makers Series—119th Interview: Fastening Herself to the Emotional Undercurrents of Stories, Illustrator Sara Wong Brings a Marvelous Vision to the Surface

Through a nuanced range of colors, asymmetric compositions, among other visual qualities, how Sara Wong interprets humanity in both her editorial and personal illustrations is poetic. Here, she elaborates on both her path toward becoming a full-time illustrator and process of keeping valid her illustrative skills (on her child-sized desk).

How did you become interested in Illustration toward ultimately becoming an Illustrator?

I didn’t know what illustration was until my senior year of high school when I found Sam Weber’s work in an awards-annual under the category “illustration.” Until that point, the only words I had were “art,” “artist,” and for some reason, “graphic designer.” Even if I didn’t have the language for it, what interested me about illustration was using pictures to tell a story—having a clear narrative goal. I loved illustrated children’s books and the idea that different people drew things in different ways. I had one book of mermaid stories from around the world, all illustrated by the same person but in a different style to match the region, which kind of blew my mind. My parents were very supportive and my mom had a habit of applying my art to things, like birthday invitations. All of this sort of culminated in the idea of illustration having this diverse power of communication and application, so when I finally found the word, I just followed it and headed off to college to major in it.

What methods/activities did you initiate to help you actually start working and living your passion? Because “Just do it” is easier said than done.

I graduated college with a job at a small design studio and a typical student portfolio, just sort of all over the place and more a reflection of the classes I took. I wasn’t using my illustration skills during the day so I was coming home and putting that energy into remaking my portfolio to reflect the work I wanted people to hire me for—in my case, I wanted to be trusted to tell difficult, emotional stories. That new portfolio got me an illustration job at Meta (at the time, Facebook) where I art-direct today, as well as a foothold into the freelance editorial world.

You’re, as you put it, obsessed with excavating and elevating the pathos of subject matter you’re illustrating. How do you realize this quality in your work?

I think a lot about this in my mark-making and at the color stage, though to say “think” is probably too generous. I find that my 


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July 4, 2022

Design Feast’s Makers Series—118th Interview: Photo Artist Adrian Octavius Walker Practices Fully his Creativity by Thinking, Dreaming and Mightily Doing

The photography of Adrian Octavius Walker possesses grounded qualities of confidence, elegance, grit, most of all, the beauty of Blackness. Here, he elaborates on nurturing his photographic practice and making milestones as an independent Mixed Media Artist.

Nate: Adrian, thank you so much for carving out time our of your busy schedule. Thank you for your persistence to connect. Big shout-out to our mutual connection in LaShun [Tines]—how do you know him?

Adrian: I believe we just met on social media. Our first time meeting was at the show.

Nate: What show was that?

Adrian: It was called “The Art of Blackness” at Block 37 [in Chicago]. It took place on February 12.

Nate: How did you discover this show?

Adrian: I was contacted by him via social media. I think it was LinkedIn. He reached out to me and put the bug in my ear about it. I knew a few other artists that were a part of it. Went ahead and showed two portraits from work of mine entitled “We Matter.”

Nate: “We Matter”—is this on your website? I’m professionally creeping on your website right now, as we speak. Multitasking. Just want to acknowledge that I always try to give visible traceability, you know, giving credit where credit is due, especially when it comes to discovering new, vital creative voices, which is, again, one of my primary drivers for Design Feast and the Makers series—all types of makers in all stripes. Thanks again to LaShun who steered me to your direction, and that you’re part of the Midwest, that you’re passionate about photography. I knew right away when I went to your portfolio-site that I needed to reach out to you. So thank you for the green light to join an interview. Appreciate that. Have a lot of questions to ask. Let me start with you being a proactive photographer. You’re very nerdy about the craft and the execution of photography. How did you arrive at the desire to become a photographer? How did you discover photography?

Adrian: I kind of had this sense of documentation when I was younger, not knowing what type of documentation I was going to do. There are many type of ways to do documentation, like as an interviewer or a writer. I just always had a photographic memory. So I thought about cameras and always was into art and photography, vintage photographs, sports photography, lifestyle imagery and stuff like that. I dove in. In college, I used to throw 


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May 1, 2022

Design Feast’s Makers Series—117th Interview: Design Leader Adam Kallish Ruminates by John Christopher Jones’ “Design Methods”—a Seminal Book that Remains Timely but Stuck in Obscurity


Penned by John Christopher Jones, an Industrial Designer and Educator, “Design Methods” is a design-related book that I remain enamored of—especially curious about its never rising in awareness throughout the community of designers. Here, one of its top admirers, Adam Kallish, reasons how this proved to be the result.

When, how, where did you discover the book “Design Methods” (1970) by John Christopher Jones?

It was in 1986. I was a Bauhaus-trained designer and in graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design where my cohort was exposed to visual semiotics. This first year was disorienting, and at times, I felt punch-drunk on concepts that bordered on metacognition. 

In the RISD library (back then, libraries were different than they are today), I was doing research for my thesis and came across a curious book called “Designing Designing,” written by John Chistopher Jones in 1973—three years after his book “Design Methods.” In “Designing Designing,” there were chapters called “A Thought Resolved,” “The World Without Imagination,” etc. Very esoteric, bordering on the poetic. In one of the chapters, he discussed “How my thoughts about design methods have changed over the years” and it was here I learned about his book “Design Methods.”

I learned later that the original title for the 1970 edition was “Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures.” The methods he outlined in his book are the seeds that come together to propose better human futures.

Sounds like you don’t regret reading “Designing Designing” before “Design Methods” since the latter was published first?

No. After three years, Jones reflected on that three-year gap from when he wrote “Design Methods” until when he wrote “Designing Designing.” When I read John Christopher’s second book [“Designing Designing”], it opened up a world that was somewhat disorienting. But when I first read “Design Methods,” I was like: Okay, here's some structure I can grab on to. “Design Methods” is a cookbook, compared to “Designing Designing”—a reflection.

Do you recall your impressions after reading “Design Methods”—What were some immediate ones?

It was very difficult to read and understand, because his writing style is not easy to take in, as he was referencing many trends and movements from crafts to the age of the computer. There were diagrams and charts to show connections between frameworks and methods. After I read it once, I was terrified, because I was grappling with unfamiliar concepts. I decided to read it again, and then it started to make sense to me. 

What’s memorable about this book and why?

This book started me on a journey to learn about using design as a framework for change—not just designing two and three-dimensional products which is how I and many designers were trained, but one where design could be used to facilitate observation, analysis and synthesis. Design as creating cognitive systems and processes. 

Methods have techniques which Jones felt “enable people to design something, to go beyond their first ideas, to test their designs in use or simulated use, to collaborate in creative activity, to lead design groups and to teach and to learn designing.”

The book has two sections:

“The Developing Design Process” explores: what design is, traditional craft methods, the need for new methods through four key questions, the new methods reviewed, the design process disintegrated into divergence and convergence, choosing strategies and methods.

The second section consists of design methods in action through convergent methods, strategy control, divergent methods, searching for ideas, exploring problem structures and methods of evaluation.

Very logical on the face of it, but very difficult because much of what he was proposing had little precedent, and it also felt very scientific. It wasn't science he was proposing but rigor.

Table of methods from “Design Methods” (1970)—page 80 plus front and back inside covers). Adam added both the gray zones and the notations along the bottom that grouped methods according to themes.

At first, this was very scary, because how could that be considered design? Then I let go and realized that while learning the craft and practice of design that grew from a value chain of historical events—the Arts and Crafts movement, through the Bauhaus, then post-war institutions like Ulm, I recognized that design could be used to address social, political and economic issues, not just products.

Because I came from the sciences—to me, this was similar to a form of the scientific method where you have speculation which then becomes a hypothesis which then is tested by others to become a theory and then an accepted fact. Jay Doblin, the American Product Designer, was also in search of a higher meaning of design and came up with the idea of design as a state (products) and as a process (methodology).

Diagram of Design—leveraging Design Methods as a framework (Adam Kallish, Nate Burgos).

Why do you think John Christopher Jones put out this book?

“Design Methods” was the culmination of a few decades of lived experience for John Christopher Jones. He was trained as an industrial designer, but had odd ideas for practicing it. For instance, he wanted users to be involved with product development, which today sounds very common sense. But in the 1950s, this was viewed as very odd and counterculture. 

Regarding the ramp-up toward John Christopher Jones conceiving, writing “Design Methods,” what external circumstances/factors do you sense motivated, even provoked, him to realize this book?

John Christopher Jones recognized the relationship between the craftsperson and the designer by commenting that much of the content in the crafts was based on the transformation of raw materials into finished form through tried and true knowledge of incremental improvements. 

With the industrial age and mass production launching modern living standards, design needed to focus on increasingly complex problems before anything was created, for architecture, urban planning, engineering and product design were liable to create unimaginative and impersonal forms from unimaginative problem definitions. 

Jones wondered why and probably realized that design was relegated to expression toward production and had a small zone of control to really influence and impact product-based decisions that were being made by business executives, marketing and engineering. He wanted to address this power imbalance and embrace new methods from other fields and new forms of collaboration to challenge assumptions and reframe what people thought problems were.

In the early 1960s, London, there were several individuals, including John Christopher Jones, who attended the The Conference on Systematic and Intuitive Methods in Engineering, Industrial Design, Architecture and Communication Studies (1962). This event was organized by John Christopher Jones and Peter Slann who, with conference invitees, were bound by concerns with the way their modern industrialized world was being created. Designers, engineers, academics and artists attended—even Gordon Pask, Director of System Research, who came up with cybernetics, attended this event. 

At the end of the conference, J. K. Page, Professor at Sheffield University and Chairman of the conference, stated that the “only area of agreement seems to be systematic design is a three-step process—analysis, synthesis and evaluation.” He also rightly stated that “the bigger the scale (of the problem), the more difficult it becomes to make analysis cheaply.” Lastly, he speculated on the role of “design as a strategic framework (like planning) cannot control detailed design, all it can do is provide the framework for others to operate within to get to the detail.”

The participants recognized that the lone designer producing design products did not work with the complexity of a post-industrial society. Designers must work in cross-disciplinary teams where each participant brings their specific skills, language, experiences and biases to define and solve problems. In 2022, this sounds mainstream, but in 1962, this bordered on science fiction. 

The proceedings were published, which I also read from a very dusty copy found in the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, library.

Similar to his contemporary, the architect Christopher Alexander who co-wrote “A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction” (1977), would you say that John Christopher Jones, in his book “Design Methods” (1970), that he was also interested in patterns?

Yes. You cannot divorce them from the larger social, political and economic contexts at the time: England was recovering from WWII, there was still rationing and the capital was being rebuilt.

The 1950s and 1960s were also the rise of science and technology, and modern government that was going to make the world better—or the hope anyway. Both Christopher Alexander and John Christopher Jones were part of that whole generation who viewed logic in science and technology as a way to counteract the effects of World War II—the destruction.

There were growing concerns at the [1962] Conference on Design Methods, that relying too much on science and technology—in logic—might also not be a good thing, and that we cannot lose our humanity because of the benefits that we gain from science and technology. From an interview with GK VanPatter, Co-Founder of Humantific and Author of “Innovation Methods Mapping” (2016), John Christopher Jones asserted, “I deplored the move (soon after the 1962 Conference on Design Methods) towards treating designing as if it were a science, putting rationality before intuition, and largely forgetting that the purpose of design methods was to change design practice and to improve life.”

What do you surmise was John Christopher Jones’ desired outcomes from getting this book published?

It is said that every person has a book in them that is waiting to be birthed. It is also said people write books first to address their own curiosities and drive to create, before specific markets are identified to purchase a book. So my speculation is that John wrote the book to aggregate all the ideas he was exposed to and to put it into a book

It would be easy to reduce the book to a jumble of ideas and diagrams that seem to obsess over methodology. Jones viewed methodology as “mere symbolic contrivances” and “would lose its value” if it did not reflect “the personal issues which matter most to the people who will take decisions.” 

So Jones felt that people had to choose methods that were most meaningful for people to gain greater agency and control over any outcome. But any outcome would benefit from using groupings of methods to align on an agreeable and humanistic outcome. He stated that “Methodology should not be a fixed track to a fixed destination, but a conversation about everything that could be made to happen.”

Unfortunately, the book was not accepted and he even recognized that “we sought to be open-minded, to make design processes that would be more sensitive to life than the professional practices of the time. But the result was rigidity, a fixing of aims and methods to product designs that everyone now feels to be insensitive to human needs. Another result was that design methods became more theoretical, turning it into academic study of methods instead of trying to design things better.”

How would you describe John Christopher Jones’ writing style?

Difficult and poetic at first. He was communicating in the way that was comfortable to him. Once your brain acclimates to his writing style, it becomes clearer.

How does “Design Methods” fare currently as part of the design-related library?

Very well. It sits on my shelf with a plethora of other books on methods.

Strategyzer is one of the most prominent current generators of thematic books and has popularized many methods that have been around for a number of years. The LUMA Institute, which came out of MAYA Design in Pittsburgh and was just bought by Mural, has their System of Innovation of Looking, Understanding and Making

IDEO popularized design thinking and generated their method cards. All of these examples, to some extent, are emulating what the book “Design Methods” was trying to do in 1970, but there has been fifty years of iterating and a widening of design as a facilitator of change using human-centered methods. 

When “Design Methods” was released in 1970, in a world where design was viewed as corporate identity and product design, it was still focused on styling and commercialization as it was defined back then. When you and I started to collaborate about design methods over a decade ago, I went back using the internet and wanted to understand who was using the book “Design Methods.” What I found out was that designers were not using it because I found little reference to “design methods.” Surprisingly, where I did find references to “Design Methods,” it was being used by computer science and schools of engineering academic programs as a way to think about systems design.

The design community ignored the book “Design Methods” because it was a book way ahead of its time. I also think John Christopher Jones was a flawed messenger and did not think about the marketing of the book. 

This is no different than Chuck Owen at the Institute of Design at IIT who labored in the 1960s and 1970s to articulate structured planning which used mathematics and logic to map how design could affect how organizations approached a problem.

What’s the place of “Design Methods” as both attitude and document in the current community and practice of design?

“Design Methods” initially was focused on how design could be integrated into engineering and grew to recognize the multidisciplinary nature of solving contemporary complexity in all its forms. John Christopher Jones recognized the role of business, as one stakeholder among many, but did not view design methods as a business management tool. Design management focuses on how to define design as a business function and provides a language and method of how to effectively manage it. Does this sound familiar in 2022? Yes!

To me, “Design Methods” is a seminal book that is almost invisible but created the foundation spanning 50 years of experiments and movements that codified much of what is in the book “Design Methods.” Any first iteration of anything is flawed from the start because it is a prototype. Only through socializing ideas and having people use them and build upon them through trial-and-error can something grow and influence others. 

Unfortunately, the book “Design Methods,” even today, is not known hardly at all. Yet, without the work of William Gosling, Christopher Alexander, Peter Slann, Nigel Holmes, D. G. Thornley and many others that followed, we would not view design today as a discipline and community of practice that can define business models, transform markets and affect society using the design methods that were first aggregated in 1970.

• • •

📷 Title page photographed by Nate Burgos. Bookshelf-image from Adam Kallish.

• • •

📹 Watch this video-short [2:42]—part of the Design Feast series Rare Book Feast—in homage to “Design Methods” (1970) by John Christopher Jones.


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