Blue isn’t a “trending color”, and Empathy isn’t NEW to design!

Lord here we go. Another rant piece.

Well oh well, Melissa. I heard you loved the fully opinionated JennySelf experience, so here we BOTH are. 

I love following up with design. It’s something I’m relentlessly passionate about even though I hold an amazing bonfire of 1 about it, but whatever. I am that bonfire, and design is my spark, my firewood, and my ocean behind me. 

I love following Creative Market. They deliver some seriously delicious resources for amazingly cheap prices. Their articles are usually humorous and/or really informative. This latest one about trends however? Stinky McStinkertons.

You cannot tell me a primary color is trending. Blue will always be “trending” as long as there are corporations to brand and customers to buy. Blue is trustworthiness. Serenity. Patience. Calm and soothing. SO MANY THINGS ARE BLUE! So many things have been DESIGNED blue. That’s not a trend. 

Geometric patterns are a trend.

Flat design/long stretched out shadows are a trend

Blue is not a trend.

Blue is the atom that builds the motorcycle and the dolphin in the same amount of effort. Blue is reflected in the sky and the ocean, neither one is trending thanks to the help of its color.

Which brings me to my next little rant about something so intrinsically linked to what it’s a part of I can’t even believe it took people this long to notice: empathy and design.

Allright allright let me back this up. See, Jessica Walsh is a big deal in the design world. It’s small, about as small as this microhouses everyone’s dying over. And we fixate. We find a designer, a style, a moment, a color and we obsess. 

Jessica Walsh (in my opinion) is today’s designer’ obsession and she deserves to be. She brings deeper thought to a mostly superficial industry and for that I truly am grateful. You may have heard of her and her experiment with Timothy Goodman where they tried to see if you could just date someone. Or designed a dating experiment. It looked cool, the story telling was riveting and it was really interesting to see process so bare like that. 

But I’m a design nerd. A design nerd obsessed with process, but anyway.

The latest project from Walsh & Goodman is a designed protest in front of Trump Towers in NYC. Build Kindness not Walls. TOTALLY AGREE. 





My issue comes at the fact that empathy is now (as in because Jessica Walsh so graciously brought it to the fore front) is established within a design context. Empathy has always been intrinsically embedded within design; the whole very concept OF DESIGN is empathetic. I organize and present this information to you, viewer/experiencer, and I do so in order for you to fully grasp what this client is asking you to understand. In order to do that effectively, I have to understand a) what the client is aiming to do b) who the client IS c) who the audience is and d) what the audience finds most appealing (this clearly influences the ‘how’ of that presentation). ALL OF THAT IS EMPATHY. Yes a knowledge of visual rules, yes a knowledge of software, font sensitivity and knowledge is a plus, but 100% first and foremost is the ability to understand and connect in order to convey.

I’ve been designing this way for years. 

No I don’t need a medal, a parade, or even a Fast Company article (because they were not that kind to Jessie Walsh. I don’t need that kind of publicity). What I need is for people to understand design as a visual expression of an empathetic understanding. Walsh and Goodman didn’t bring that to the table. Hell, even my beloved Sagmeister didn’t really start that out.

Who I understand started that out was El Lissitzky. Taking History of Graphic Design changed my life, guys. Yeah okay that sounds lofty and ridiculous but it is emphatically the truth. Hearing about how El Lissitzky was hired by the Communists to communicate their revolutionary message to the poor, illiterate stretches of farmers in the outskirts of Russia– and how he DID reach these illiterate individuals with the simple use of shape and color (aka DESIGN! and not trends! BUILDING BLOCKS OF COMMUNICATION, okay okay Jenny okay) illustrating a fairly complex message in the simplest of terms. 

THIS is design for me. This right here. And hearing this anecdote (and writing about it now) I was moved by designs’ ability to truly make a difference.

Am I pleased Walsh & Goodman are using their awesome talents for good? You better believe it! And I wish it continues from here on out, no matter who gets credit for it. Design is in itself an empathetic service utilized visually or experientially. Once we start recognizing it and treating it for the bombass communication extravaganza it IS, the fuller we can utilize it (and the amazing people who do it) far beyond shallow trend articles. 

All I’m sayin. 

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