I dedicate this one to Jonathan Harris
“In life, you will become known for doing what you do. That sounds obvious, but it’s profound. If you want to be known as someone who does a particular thing, then you must start doing that thing immediately. Don’t wait. There is no other way. It probably won’t make you money at first, but do it anyway. Work nights. Work weekends. Sleep less. Whatever you have to do. If you’re lucky enough to know what brings you bliss, then do that thing at once. If you do it well, and for long enough, the world will find ways to repay you.”
– Jonathan Harris
Jonathan Harris is one of those people who sticks with me as a source of inspiration. He’s just always there, Mr. 27, helping me think differently. Let’s take this Friday afternoon to memorialize a few favorite Harris-isms that I mull over from time to time.
Trends of the web & communication
In his PSFK talk from 2012, Jonathan mentions four trends he’s not a fan of.
- Compression: from the call to the fax to the email to the chat to the text to the tweet, it seems we’re reaching a terminal velocity of how compressed our communication can become.
- Disposability: the immense information churn of today means that so much of what we communicate is fleeting. It’s old news that’s swallowed up before we know it.
- Curation: a lot of the self-expression online has become assembling lists, using that sense of taste to represent who you are.
- Self-promotion: we create online personas that are an advertisement for ourselves. Look how exciting my life is.
In an article on Farmer & Farmer, Jonathan draws parallels between software and medicine. More and more, information technology affects how we think, feel, act and live our lives.
What is the ethical responsibility of designers that shape how millions of people behave each day?
“In designing interventions to address particular problems, you should understand that you can never simply ‘fix’ a problem. By adding a new element into a system, you increase the complexity of that system, which may have the effect of fixing the problem you saw, but which will also inevitably introduce new and different problems. This is how interventions work. They address one issue, and in doing so, they create new issues, and the world becomes more complex. So if you intervene, do it with humility, knowing that your well-intentioned actions will create unforeseen problems of their own.
So then why act? Why add complexity? If any intervention will create both good and bad, then why intervene at all? Why not simply sit and watch?
We should act because the world is getting crazy, and beautiful interventions are needed.”
From Debbie Millman’s Design Matters interview:
“Whatever you’re doing, do it as well as you can. And if you start with very small things like brushing your teeth well and making dinner well then that starts to move out in concentric circles and to bigger things in your life. Once you say, ‘Well I brush my teeth really well, and I make my really dinner well, but I notice that my job, I don’t like it all,’ suddenly you say, ‘Okay, that’s the next thing that has to change.’ …Very quickly it takes over your life until you’ve examined all the things in your life with this lens of quality.”
This one goes out to you, JH. Keep doing what you do. I look forward to following your journey.