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The Self-Reliance Project
The Self-Reliance Project is a daily essay about what it means to be a maker during a crisis—to think through making, to know yourself better through the process of producing something—and how this kind of return to self-knowledge might just be the entire point.

It’s title comes from the 1841 essay on self-reliance by the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote with astonishing clarity about the perils of conformity and consistency, about what it means to follow your mind, trust your instincts, and listen to your heart.

So for now, stay well, stay home, and do your work. But don’t just take it from me. Take it from Emerson.

Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.

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Join us as we practice social distancing the best way we know how—in conversation with all of you.

In 2003, we started Design Observer as a great place to meet for conversation about all the ways design affects our lives. Little did we imagine it would an even better place to meet seventeen years later.

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Observed | June 15

Everything you ever wanted to know about, well, everything (design-related, that is). Or so they claim! [JH]


Observed | June 09

Is protest more potent when you adopt the typeface of your subject? Don’t miss these photos. [JH]


Observed | June 08

Artist Corita Kent’s famed Hollywood studio is saved in a landmark historical preservation victory. [JH]


Observed | June 01

A fascinating look back at the internet’s major milestones. [JH]


Observed | May 27

Next week marks the 100 year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the focus of a new historic center, Greenwood Rising, opening next week. “Greenwood Rising honors the icons of Black Wall Street, memorializes the victims of the massacre, and examines the lessons of the past to inspire meaningful, sustainable action in the present.” [BV]


Observed | May 26

How Colonial Pipeline’s archaic branding told us all we needed to know about the company. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]

President Biden revokes Trump‘s controversial classical architecture order. [JH]


Observed | May 25

Design Twitter goes wild over David Hockney’s typographic reworking of the Picadilly Circus logo. [JH]


Observed | May 19

Join the Society of Design Arts (SoDA) and AIGA Baltimore for an online talk by Rafael Cardoso, part of a virtual series created to promote the rich and plural histories of Latin American production in design. Free registration here. [JH]


Observed | May 18

After a decade of design and planning, +Pool has been approved by the city of New York. Listen to Michael Bierut’s conversation with founder and designer, Archie Lee Coates IV, on Season 6 of DBBD. [JH]


Observed | May 12

Kerby Jean-Raymond will be the first Black designer to show at Couture Week in Paris. Listen to Michael Bierut’s interview with him on Season 6 of The Design of Business | The Business of Design here. [JH]

The kind of speculative mashup you need right now. [JH]


Observed | May 10

“Nothing is unaffordable in a C.G.I. dreamscape, and rent is never due.” Anna Weiner on the speculative design world of “renderporn”. [JH]


Observed | May 09

Ellen Degeneres launches a new reality show to find the next great furniture designer. [JH]


Observed | May 07

Infusing design with equity: one designer’s perspective. [JH]


Observed | May 06

Last week Microsoft announced that they wanted the Twitterverse‘s help picking a new default font. This seemingly trivial choice by Microsoft will determine what works looks like for hundreds of millions of people. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | May 05

In conjunction with the Walker Art Center, BluDot announces OpenStudio: a free design program for kids aged 9 to 14. [JH]


Observed | May 04

Titus Kaphar signs with UTA where he’ll start developing film projects based on his paintings. [JH]


Observed | May 03

A new site celebrating the Uruguayan publication La Semana highlights the personal and public triumphs of this memorable newsweekly. (In English and Spanish.) [JH]

Rhode Island’s license plate—known affectionately as the wave, and designed by Rhode Island native and RISD graduate Tyler Smith—will be redesigned by the, um, public. Holding an open design contest is bold and exciting;, writes architecture critic Will Morgan. It is also a recipe for disaster. [JH]

Wallpaper offers a superb roundup of advocacy and support groups working for equity, inclusion, and change in deisgn and related industries. [JH]


Observed | April 28

Lehrer Architects LA‘s second Tiny Home Village project has opened this week to residents in North Hollywood. Yet tiny houses aren’t always loved. Discuss! [BV]

How to really look at art: an eight-step guide by Antwaun Sargent. [JH]


Observed | April 27

Dwight Garner reviews the new novel by Rachel Cusk and notes its unusual (and seemingly deliberate) type choice: Optima! “Optima is unusual to see in a novel,” Garner observes. “I tried using it to type this piece. It made me feel I was working on Laurie Anderson’s laptop.” [JH]

At the nation’s newspaper of record, the term “Op-Ed”—a relic of an older age and nod to an older print newspaper design—is being retired from duty. [JH]

How mathematicians use their chalkboards to reveal the conceptual and visual beauty of their discipline: a new book by photographer Jessica Wynne. [JH]


Observed | April 21

Astrid Cooper is a curator in Bath, England. Also, she is five years old. [JH]

A new illustrated children’s book—featuring a flying gherkin—from Foster + Partners. [JH]


Observed | April 20

Introducing the whitest paint ever invented. [JH]

Just in time for Earth Day: Belgian artist Alain Verschueren’s Portable Oasis lets you spend quality time in the garden while social distancing at the same time. [JH]



Jobs | June 22