It’s Time I Talk About 30 Weeks

A couple of months ago, I heard about 30 Weeks. The program is a big experiment backed by Google’s Creative Labs that wants to test the theory that designers would make great founders. I’ve read a lot of discussion and debate on the topic, and had my own opinions supportive of the concept, so I decided to dig deeper. 

Most people I know think of me as a designer first, and that would be accurate. Running a studio, it’s what I do with all of my time. However, I came late to the game. I went to design school at 28. Before that, I was blindly trying to start my own thing. I was always taken with the idea of entrepreneurship, and pursued it for a few years in my 20’s with various ideas. I learned a lot about failure, preparation, connections, emotional ups and downs… the whole package. I only went to design school when I realized that there was a creative side of me that wanted a deeper education and that I felt would be the missing piece in my future endeavors. Since then, I’ve had a wonderful experience running a small shop and working on great projects with even greater clients.

Anyway, to make a short story into something tweetable, I got into 30 weeks. I applied, was invited to join a design sprint/interview and worked with a wonderful group of creatives, and was accepted into the program. 

What this means is that, for 9 months, I’ll be working under the mentorship of some powerful and accomplished creative minds in tech. It will be a rapid fire jump into creating value through design, collaboration and development. The team at 30 Weeks wants to see all the projects successfully launch, so they’re giving an insane amount of energy and attention to providing resources. 

And that resource pool is impressive. Some of the brightest, most successful, and most seasoned minds in NYC design and tech are involved and will be helping with mentorship, education and connecting the individual teams with opportunities. I’m lucky and blessed to be a part of such a talented and carefully selected pool of designers who are going to be bringing a lot of great ideas to the table. A year from now, things will be much different than they are. 

As an additional note, there’s the question as to what is to happen with Display. It’s been hard to get going over the last few weeks as client demands have been insane but I have a show recorded and am currently editing. There were a lot of issues with the sound that I wasn’t able to hear when I tested the recording, but I’m going to use it to learn more about editing and see if I can fix the levels. I intend for Display to actually help feed my future projects, as I am generally working toward a games focused future. I really felt that positive affirmation as I recorded the show that the format is good and the topics will be well received. I hope that gut feeling doesn’t let me down. Either way, it was a ton of fun and is something I look forward to doing more. I hope to have a show live soon, so more news on that later. 

Sorry, Mr. Sagmeister. You’re wrong.

Today I watched a video where Stefan Sagmeister told me and the rest of the world that designers aren’t storytellers. I agree with him on a few premises. Sure, we aren’t always telling stories. Sure, it’s a buzzword that makes people feel good and helps people think we know what we’re doing. In some senses, maybe it can be destructive if the purpose of a particular project isn’t meant to tell a story. I’ll give him that.

But, Mr. Sagmeister, I challenge you on this one. Designers are many things. Each one different. Some of us are definitely storytellers. Some of us are saying nothing. Some of us are decorators. Some of us are copycats. Some of us are failures. Some of us are attention hungry trend followers. Some of us are getting old and irrelevant. Some of us are young and don’t have a clue. Some of us are riding the wave. Some of us aren’t sure we should be where we are. Some of us are smart but lazy. Some of us are discovering we’re only good at one part of the process, and are learning how to adapt that to our work. Some of us are conceptualists. Some of us are executors. Some of us feel threatened by things we don’t agree with. Some of us accept things however they take shape and roll with the new shape of things.

As designers, we don’t stand for anything and everything. We stand for great, well-considered work that serves the purpose it sets out achieve. We strive to express not just what’s inside ourselves, but the identity of those we serve. That’s why design is unique from fine art. In that process, we aim for balance and proficiency in the attributes of design that make it great. If we break the rules, we do it with purpose. If we do it without purpose, there’s a reason for our purposelessness.

So, Mr. Sagmeister, some designers are damn good storytellers. I’d hate to take that label away from them because of your narrow definition. You may not value storytelling through design, but there is great work out there that hinges on it.