Cultivating "Disruptive Wonder"

Any time I encounter the word design the aperture of my attention opens a little wider. I’m fascinated by what the act of designing is exactly all about. I’ve always thought that designing was the ordering of materials and mechanics toward a specific end: working lines and curves to design an expressive typeface, marrying fabrics and cuts to design a stunning dress, building with geometric shapes to design a home. 

At least, that was my perception of the design process until I began spending my days at Yestermorrow. 

My time here so far has been decidedly focused on growing a fundraising and marketing program. But in between building outreach strategies and drafting press releases and searching for a strong database to take us into the future, I step into the studio or the workshop to see what’s going on there. What I’m learning in that looking is how open-ended is the process of design —it’s not so much about achieving a finished piece as it is about opening to the bigness of possibilities and letting “failures” move you closer to final. 

Designer Kelli Anderson puts words to this process in this recent and very engaging TEDx talk. If you don’t know Kelli by name you may know her by her compelling infographics—just one of the many expressions of her design muse. Kelli describes her process as uncovering the hidden talents of everyday things and cultivating “disruptive wonder.” When you see her paper record player cum wedding invitation; or her solar-powered popsicle truck, an “infographic on wheels”; or the utopian New York Times that she and her collaborators got in to the hands of hundreds of thousands of commuters one weekday morning you understand how this attention to a different order can create something wholly new and wonderfully welcoming. 

If you seek to open your perceptions to more of what is possible, to do something surprising with the basic pieces of experience, watch this short TEDx video. I expect you might enjoy it.