June 16, 2014

Minimal to the max: Scott Wilson at 31st Chicago CreativeMornings

Photos by Nate Burgos. View More.

When CreativeMornings announced their monthly theme for June 2014 as Minimal, Scott Wilson, Creative Director and Founder of MINIMAL, was a clear choice(1) to speak at the Chicago chapter’s thirty-first gathering. Beyond the firm itself, through work on his Lunatik product line and projects with clients like the World Wildlife Fund and Nike, Wilson has epitomized this quality in both his personal work and professional studio.

The desire to minimize is counterbalanced by the reality of chaos, fed by the impulse to keep adding more stuff. Human-made products, services, systems can be described as microcosms of chaos. One residual example: my Mother complains that the remote control has too many buttons, resulting in accidentally summoning a display mode not welcomed. (This is on top of the fact that there are separate remote controls, per piece of hardware, connected to the TV set.) The common (and convoluted) television remote control can serve as an obvious indicator for a larger situation that is permanent, and consistently desperate for an attitude refocused on the minimal.

From the sprawl of chaos, Wilson identified six areas for an intervention of minimal-minded forethought and execution: geek factor, complexity, risk, indecision, gap, and time. Each is loaded with paradox. Regarding geek factor, perhaps catering to a savvy and sophisticated audience is counterintuitive, and thereby, dismissive of those prematurely judged as artless. With complexity, perhaps the urge to simplify restrains understanding and usage rather than enabling them. With risk, perhaps it can be an empowering force. With indecision, perhaps the flexibility of choice produces a crippling effect instead of a liberating one. With gap, perhaps this doesn’t necessarily need to be filled. With time, perhaps making something worthwhile feeds delusion than clarity.

In tandem, Wilson offered a mini checklist pushing the minimal:
“Minimize geek factor. Minimize complexity. Minimize risk. Minimize indecision. Minimize gap. Minimize time.”
Tall orders, but intuitively prescribed as life gathers more excess (with leaks of unintended consequences) faster than it attains the means to sensibly cope with it. Though minimizing has its limits, minimizing to achieve moments of depth is a worthwhile activity that Wilson encourages to give form and function to, with the potential by-product of value.

(1) Kudos to Knoed Creative, the host and operators of CreativeMornings/Chicago, in selecting speakers—for each month—to share their perspective.

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Big thanks: to MINIMAL—for hosting—and Razorfish for sponsoring Chicago CreativeMornings #31; to organizer Kim Knoll and operations manager Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7, and to the Chicago CreativeMornings crew—Joy Burke, Pedro Carmo, Rusty C. Cook, Benjamin Derico, Erick De La Rosa, Steve Delahoyde, Chris Gallevo, Neftali Morales, Jeremy Mumenthaler, Isaac Steiner, Martha Willis—for their volunteer work in making CreativeMornings happen in Chicago. Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

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Read more Chicago CreativeMornings coverage.

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2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.

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