Artist / Illustrator / Author Christoph Niemann wrote a elegant piece in a recent New Yorker on simplicity in design. Nevermind that he was talking about the story of designing his strangely addictive app Petting Zoo; it’s a universal lesson that we all struggle with. His words are best read by clicking on the link, but if you can’t bear to click away, this is the crux of it:
As an artist you have to try new things. You have to experiment, and not care about whether the new things actually make sense. You can sketch and plan all you want. But, to discover new territory, you have to get your hands dirty and benefit from the flaws and accidents. Eventually, however, you may arrive at a point where even well-meaning minds won’t be able to get your idea, let alone realize that there even is an idea to be gotten in the first place.
That’s where you have to bring out the ruthless editor in you, who takes that idea and cuts it down…to its core.
Simplicity is not about making something without ornament, but rather about making something very complex, then slicing elements away, until you reveal the very essence. After all the slicing away, you may realize, now that you can clearly see the idea, that it’s actually not very good.
That’s the hardest part: letting go of an idea that, having spent a number of passionate nights with, you have fallen in love with. Even with a certain amount of routine, this letting go sadly doesn’t become easier. The natural instinct then is to rely on what you know is working. It’s unfair, but this is the surest path to boring and predictable results.
The painful and inevitable struggle remains to create in a childlike and openhearted manner, but to be un-wistful and cruel when judging one’s creation.
We have dozens and dozens of products that have gone through this internal struggle. Some emerge from this wash cycle as cleaner, simpler, and better. Others, once scrubbed, are still just not very good. We’ll never be boring and predictable, but that means it’s even more important to be able to let go of ideas that aren’t very good.
Anchoring the corner of our NEMO design space is a 12 foot high rotating shelf, filled with oddities, curiosities, and design inspiration. Although it might look like an overgrown junk drawer, don’t be deceived by its appearance.
It’s not just “stuff”, because “stuff” can disappear without any one noticing (or caring).
Every single thing on these shelves has sparked some tiny sliver of an idea, or inspiration in aesthetic, texture, form, color, function, and even delight. And in a way, this is where so many seeds of NEMO products are first planted.
Some of our favorites? For starters, there’s a 10 foot pole that can roll up to fit in your pocket. The eponymous Hoberman sphere. Magnets of silly strength. The organics section we especially love—bolstered by the amazing moose shed that Cam (NEMO’s founder and CEO) stumbled upon a couple years ago.
There’s been lots of talk in the last week about risk taking and what kind of role it should play in adventures. Check out this piece in the NYTimes, followed by Steve Casimiro’s response in Adventure Journal.
Steve’s message is hits the bullseye. If you can’t bear to read anything more than a paragraph, here’s the takeaway:
I don’t know if this is maturity or prudence or simply experience. All of the above, maybe. The big difference between the me on Whitney Gilman and the me today is that I’ve learned that risk can be managed. Not all of it, or it wouldn’t be an adventure. But it’s also not as black and white as the Times or others suggest, where you’re either likely to die doing something you love or you simply don’t do that thing you love. That big grey area in the middle is where you find adventure, where you find risk, and where, to me, the best of life begins.
We’ve been supporting Long Treks on Skate Decks for a few years now, from their trips through Peru/Bolivia to Morocco. The latest journey in a skate through China from Qinghai, Xining to Sichuan, Chengdu.
Unlike the previous trips, Adam Colton completes his journey here solo. And it is not an easy trip. Between the big trucks, constant honking of car horns, no sleeping pad (his choice, not ours), freezing temperatures, dirt roads, and high elevation, we were glad to see Adam come back in one piece:
Adam’s key to surviving the mental and physical exhaustion? Read on:
For me, the key to distance skating is not realizing you’re distance skating, go figure. It helps to not be aware that you are pushing a not so efficient plank of wood walking speed with a backpack on up a very large mountain with cars buzzing close to you. Why not be distracted with more lovely thoughts such as your girlfriend, why you were such a crazy person in high school, or dreaming about some made up family and how you would raise kids. Problem was daydreaming for a long period of time did not happen because I was always struck out of it with a horn blaring in my ear.
We have so much potential and options here in the USA. For most of us in the US we can pick and choose to rough it and survive in the wilderness on a camping trip, get cold, and then come back home to a warm place. I can go on the internet and arrange a whole trip, flight, and accommodations in a far off place like France. I have mountain biking trails at my disposal all around me. Even though we live in a very complex time with lots of gadgets and distractions, we can still pick and choose our way through it all. I was here in China roughing it with the people surviving in their harsh environment but the whole time I had the option of leaving; I was going to leave. The families I saw in China did not have this option really. This was their life and it was fine and they were happy, working together as a family unit surviving, but I feel very fortunate to have a life with so many options and opportunities.
The Oxford Junior Dictionary has cut blackberry from the latest version and has added BlackBerry. There is something wrong with this, right?
This infographic does a great job of explaining why wilderness matters. Realizing this is an issue is the first step. As the article says, the good news is that the cure is free and available to all.
At some point in the last 7 or so years, it became apparent that Red Bull has resources beyond most of our means. Which is really a polite way of saying that they have an operating budget that would undoubtedly put them in the top 10 list of countries listed by highest GDP.
Every industrial designer in the house can’t help but to be utterly impressed by some of these prototyping capabilities.
We’re psyched to hear that the tent is being used as a cooking/dining/lounging area for clients and expeditions.
The tent has been up for 3 rotations on Vinson—about 3-4 weeks in total, seeing a fair amount of use. Want to know a little nugget of information? UV can be the single biggest factor in tent deterioration for Arctic expeditions. Even though the UV level is not as intense as in equatorial regions, factors like heightened ozone depletion, continuous 24 hrs of daylight, and a crazy high albedo from snow/ice reflectance all contribute to the extremely high UV index.
Expeditions like ALE’s put up the tent for the duration of the trip (max of 90 days) —meaning that a typical season can see from 1000-2000 hours of exposure. If you don’t take this bit of data in account for design, the fabrics will wear out and fall apart FAST. We designed the outer shell fabric for Isopod 300X with UV durability at the forefront.
The base fabric is a 150D polyester, since polyester has much more UV stability than nylon fibers. A Dyneema ripstop is then woven in to reinforce the fabric and give advanced UV protection. Dyneema is a super fiber of sorts, and exhibits almost no degradation with respects to UV exposure, water absorption, etc. UV inhibitors are also added to both the color dye, and the microporous breathable coating, giving a rock solid construction for environments like Antarctica. Proof is in the pudding though, so we look forward to hearing from the ALE team for many years to come.