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Abstract: The Art Of Design

Abstract: The Art of Design is a documentary by Netflix, and it's different. In the past, most of the documentaries recorded how designers work and how great they are. But few focused on the "abstract" thing — the core of art. In my thoughts, "abstract" here is how designers caught the fleeting moment of inspiration. It's hard to record and makes this documentary valuable.

Abstract Illustration: Inspiration, Life, Work, and Practice

Christoph Niemann: Illustration
From New Yorker covers to Instagram sketches, illustrator Christoph Niemann plays with abstraction and interactivity and questions authenticity.

The first episode records a illustrator, Christoph Neimann. He draws covers for New Yorker.

One thing moved me is what he about getting inspiration: "Chuck Close said, ‘Inspiration is for amateurs. Us professionals, we just go to work in the morning.’ One thing I love about that quote is that it relieves you of a lot of pressure. It’s just about showing up and getting started. All that matters is you have to sit at your desk and draw, and hope for the best."

In the past, I always thought designer are doing a different job: they are inspiration seekers and the only job that can be regarded as life without worrying about "work-life-balance". But Christoph Neimann told me, it's totally wrong. Designing has no difference with other jobs: they work 9AM to 6PM, they start their day sitting in front of the working desk, and practice every day exactly like musician and athletes. No work is easy, and all of us need to practice every day.

Abstract Footwear Design: Solve Problem, Design Future

Tinker Hatfield: Footwear Design
Tinker Hatfield’s background is architecture and athletics sparked his game-changing shoe design for Nike, including the iconic Air Jordan series.

"The goal of design is not to express myself, instead to solve problem."

Tinker Hatfield was an athlete, he felt that the shoes for athelete are badly designed, so Nike started from solving problems and believes in the functional design since then.

Functional design is intuitively fit for business, because solving problems largely equals to satisfy requirements, hence to stimulate sales, occupy market and finally make Nike company succeed. Nike's prosper now can largely be concluded to their design philosophy:

"Design is about solving problems."

From this perspective, Tinker Hatfield is more like a entrepreneur than only a designer.

Nike is already a winner in current shoe market, but how about the future? Nike created E.A.R.L. They are exploring the convergence of electronics and shoes. Tinker Hatfield impressed me with his thought, which I think will make Nike prosper in the future:

"Design is about predicting the needs of the future."

Abstract Architecture: Convergence and Break Rules

Bjarke Ingels: Architecture
Architecture Bjarke Ingels unites function, fantasy and sustainability in “pragmatic utopian” designs like a clean power plant topped with a ski slope.

"You don't have to choose between building a parking structure or an apartment building. You don't have to choose between a house with a garden or having a penthouse view. You can actually have both. And once you force these sort of seemingly mutually exclusive concepts together, you actually get a new hybrid that somehow ends up looking different because it performs differently."

One of Bjarke Ingels's thoughts is to combine different concepts together, which is the same as what I mentioned before in Nike's E.A.R.L. project: convergence. Converge several common things to get a brand new thing.

"And maybe in Copenhagen, if you would look out, you would think that it's red brick and red tiles. Six stories, end of story, pitched roof. But when you think about the things that people really associate with Copenhagen, that the Copenhageners think are unique to their city, they always think about those historical spires. If everybody followed the rules, Copenhagen wouldn't look like Copenhagen."

Breaking rules makes new things.

Abstract Photography: Design to tell stories, Design for purpose

Platon: Photography
Platon’s fearless portraits capture the souls of world leaders and ordinary people. A shoot with Gen. Colin Powell provides a window into his process.

"I'm not really a photographer at all. The camera is nothing more than a tool. Communication, simplicity, shapes on a page. What's important is the story, the message, the feeling."

People like to name a job by the tools used. For example, photographer is someone who use camera to photo and get graphs. But when we recall those great photos, we remember the story in it instead of the graph itself. If we see photograph from the design's perspective, this is like functional design.

"Before a shoot, I'm not thinking, 'How can I get a good picture?' but 'What can I learn from this person?' Every time. The human condition is so complicated. Questions like: what is good leadership? How important is compassion? How to cope with failure? Questions that we all actually want to know. Including myself."

Take photos for purpose, and design for purpose.

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