Living Beautifully Compendium No2.
Beautiful things are prepared with love.
Beautiful experiences lift the human spirit. They say, optimistically, life is worthwhile. If we can be more beautiful in our thoughts and in our actions, we can learn to live and work more beautifully. We’ve all had enough of ugly.
This is the second ‘Living Beautifully Compendium’. It shows people striving to deliver truth, meaning and authenticity through beautiful products, experiences and solutions.
This compendium explores beauty beyond the superficial; things beautifully made with the latest technology or uniquely handcrafted, buildings that are beautiful in their conception and construction, food grown and cooked which is restorative and sensual, beautiful experiences and culture that nourish one’s soul…all, Living Beautifully.
稼ぎ頭 日本酒 Kasegigashira Japanese Sake — If you want a beautiful hedge invest in good roots, don’t go for ‘the quick fix’. I was told this as a young man, by a wise man. Some things can take the time they need. Not the time you think they need. Time, like the hedge, is earthed. Take your time, the time it needs. No more, no less. These thoughts came to my mind as I watched this man making Sake.
Brunello Cucinelli has been making clothes very successfully since 1978. Cucinelli pays his staff more than the average wage for their jobs, insists they work no longer than eight-and-a-half hours a day, and spends around 20% of his profits on what he calls “the gift”. He also runs a craft school. His is the Crafting Organisation, he says, “It must be gracious. Everything in this business has to be gracious. Profit is the gift when creation is perfect.”
The Robot Lawyer — DoNotPay. The law is an ugly business, we never think about it until its too late. It can be expensive, it’s a minefield of quality, causing endless doorslamming, headbanging, handwringing and worse.
DoNotPay has been created by British student Joshua Browder who is based at Stanford University. You might call it a legal chatbot — an automated service that provides free legal advice on a number of routine issues. With parking tickets it claims to have a 55% success rate, so — given that it’s free — it looks like a reasonable bet, if you think you might have a case. It now claims to cover upwards of 1,000 different legal issues (from tackling disputes with a landlord to what to do if your credit card is stolen, how to deal with unwanted cold calls, contest insurance claims, extend maternity leave or deal with harassment at work). Automation can be beautiful.
Davy J — is a swimwear brand for open water life. Designed to survive a dive, pull off a cliff jump or handle a waterfall, it’s a new kind of active swimwear — that you can actually swim in. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an average of 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are left in the oceans every year. This corresponds to 1/10 of all marine litter. The project supports the development of a circular economy and is working with 100% regenerated nylon yarn from consumer waste, including spent and ghost fishing nets. For every ton of waste net collected there is enough nylon regenerated to create more than 10,000 swimsuits.
Páramo — Directional outdoor clothing. PFCs, or perfluorinated compounds, are a staple in many fabrics used for outdoor clothing. They are popular with the industry’s big brands because they create a porous outer layer that allows impermeable, waterproof materials to breathe, while making surfaces repel water and oil.
Páramo is one of the few PFC-free outdoor brands currently on the market. Páramo uses an alternative fabric technology, and the company ensures all its garments are fully recyclable. Gabriel Branby CEO of the axe manufacturer Gransfors Bruk, talks about ‘The Total’, what you take, what you make and what you waste.
Kano — say, ‘anyone can make’. I believe that ‘making’ is important in defining who we are. We are all creative, we all have the right to make.
I came across Kano in 2014 via a lovely article written by Miranda Sawyer. I liked what it and they had to say. Kano says, the modern world is filled with billions of machines. But, only 1% of 1% of us can open them up and change them. Kano creates computers you make and code yourself. Simple, fun, and for everyone.
Peter Randall-Page, Sculptor — I asked my my friend the potter Jono Smart, what he found beautiful in this world. PRS was his response, “Peter Randall-Page is the best explainer of why sculpture is important and a superb sculptor himself”. I saw the work at the RA Summer show, it was big, textural, organic, permanent. I stroked the granite piece — it was also sensual.
Volvo — breaking the mould. One of the questions I am asked is can a business be scaleable, ethical and profitable. Are these not contradictions? Volvo says all its cars will be electric from 2019. I was once asked by a CEO if beauty could be applied to any business. “Would you want to do it any other way I asked?” Volvo just made it faster.
Making — by Nike. MAKING is a tool to inspire designers and creators to make better choices in the materials they use. We know that every decision a designer makes in the product creation process has an impact on the environment. But given the range of options that exist, making informed choices can be a challenge. Useful and beautiful.
Naim — Naim Audio is one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. It has been designing and producing handmade music systems from its base in this historic Wiltshire town since it was incorporated in 1973. It now exports to more than 45 countries and has more than 60 products in the range. The story of quality, in this instance the quality of sound, the quality of the experience and how that can change how you feel.
Worldreader — every child deserves the right to knowledge, accessed through reading. With low-cost technology, culturally-relevant digital books, and a network of corporate and nonprofit partners, Worldreader are helping millions of people read more and read better. All mobile enabled. Its a remarkable story that shows how technology can scale for good.
Aerende — I came across Aerende via being copied in on an Instagram conversation. This resulted in me jumping in the car and driving to ‘Go See’ Emily Mathieson, founder of Aerende. Emily talked about the purpose of Aerende that sells beautiful products for the home, all of them made in the UK by people facing social challenges. Emily says, it’s a bit like a (very) small, independent department store — a special place to find a range of carefully crafted products from around the British Isles, created by makers who are unable to access or maintain conventional employment. Its a beautiful idea, its a human idea, its a caring idea.
Estonia E-Citizens — I came across Estonian e-Residency in late 2014. What a great idea I thought. A small Baltic country, one even might say teeny tiny, was exploring what it might mean to be a country in a networked world, in a global world. How do you evolve, how do you become attractive, how do you bring in revenue to help GDP? The answer was inspired e-Residency. Estonia was the first country to offer e-Residency. A know a few of my friends who run businesses have already set up shop in Estonia.
E-Residency is a transnational digital identity that anyone in the world can apply for to obtain access to a platform built on inclusion, legitimacy and transparency. E-residents then have access to the EU business environment and can use public e-services through their digital identity. The primary reason e-residents are joining this community is to run a trusted location-independent EU business online with all the tools needed to conduct business globally. People from138countries have applied for e-Residency, even the Japanese Prime Minister.
The Santa Cruz Guitar Company — I have been playing guitar on and off since I was 12. This year my friend Chris Baréz-Brown put a Santa Cruz Guitar in my hand. It was just magnificent, the tone, the depth of tone, its vibrancy, its playability. I fell in love, it was such a joyful experience. In this very watchable film, Richard Hoover, the founder takes us to his workshop, he talks about how they get ‘the tone’, he talks down to earth wise words. “we work for meaning”, he says. Beautiful things are prepared with love, its what lends them their immortality.
Nyt Hospital Nordsjælland — Hospitals, are places where we go when we are very ill, and should be places designed for recovery and restoration. They should be beautiful. Research has shown that patients exposed to nature, natural daylight etc., who eat fresh produce, recover quicker requiring less medication. Architects Herzog de Meuron, have designed and are building something very special in the forests of Denmark.
What is the purpose of a hospital? According to Herzog de Meuron it is “the healing of the ailing human being. This new hospital shall overcome conventional operational borders. The tall hospitals of the last decades, with their functionalist language, have rarely achieved this goal”. If you want to see more images, here is an image search.
Waugh Thistleton — Pioneer in tall timber buildings. It was the folks at Folkhem the Swedes who can build social housing from wood who pointed me towards Waugh Thistleton Architects. Based in Shoreditch they are a practice who are focused on designing and building sustainable dwellings, housing, homes, places for humanity to exist. They are a world leader in engineered timber and a pioneer in the field of tall timber buildings. I love their work. This production method has the potential to be a financially viable, environmentally sustainable and beautiful replacement for concrete and steel in high-density housing.
As Emerson said, ‘beauty gets us out of surfaces and into the foundation of things”. Right.
St. Henry’s Ecumenical Chapel — Turkku. I have known about this church for many years. All spiritual places are designed to restore, to lift us up, to nurture us away from the material world. I have seen a few and enjoy them. Yet, there was something about St. Henry’s that arrested me, the very first time I came across it. It just has that potential to hold the gaze. As a friend said to me, “you know when something is beautiful, because it speaks to the soul”.
Stony Island Arts Bank — is based in Chicago. Re-purposing buildings, upgrading their relevancy, is as important as making the new new. Stony Island Arts Bank (love the name) is now a community exhibition centre and library that contains a diverse collection of words in books, sounds (entire record collection of seminal Chicago house DJ Frankie Knuckles) and magazines. Theaster Gates, a successful artist himself who made this regeneration happen said, “its the accumulation of a single commitment to place”. We need, communities need places that are open, free and inclusive. They say life is worthwhile.
The British Library — Thinking about the Stony Island Arts Bank, got me thinking about the British Library. Libraries are the cathedrals of nowadays. I have been coming here since 2000, and every year it grows in popularity. My humble advice would be, rather than sitting in some dreary place go to somewhere that enriches you as you do your writing, thinking, meeting. Beauty is a verb.
Glass House Living — containers have changed our world. Goods made somewhere, far away and sent somewhere else, far away. They are an incredible invention in many ways. But now we are rethinking what does it mean to be a container. And we link that to this question how can we create affordable places to live at nominal cost, but we want quality. Glasshaus say their container designs have been developed by a group of like-minded individuals. All are interested in aesthetics, its got a look good, but also issues around sustainability, flexibility, and adaptability. Beauty and utility as one and the same thing.
In 2012, Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz quit their jobs and set off to build a glass cabin in the mountains of West Virginia. They used recycled windows and it cost them $500 to build.
The Pantheon of books — Ideas change how we see the world. We build with ideas. Its why the King James Bible, the first bible written in English was said to be revolutionary, because it made available to all, the ideas that are the foundations to our democracy. Martin Luther King carried a copy of the King James Bible.
Commissioned by Documenta 14. Argentinian artist Marta MinujÍn recreates the ancient Greek Parthenon (known as a symbol of the world’s first democracy) with steel, plastic sheeting, and around 100,000 books that are currently prohibited in various countries around the world.
Wood stack — comes from Slaughter Manor. This is a wood stack that has been considered in its making. It is common as a thing, this one more interestingly, is a work of uncommon grace. This image reminds me that no matter what it is we make we can make it to be elegant, useful, beautiful, meaningful, joyful.
Wooden hot tub — Keeping with the wooden theme, a tree height hot tub at Cradle Mountain Lodge. The Japanese artisan Soetsu Yanagi said that things ‘made with the heart and the hand, tell us that life is worthwhile’. Even if its raining.
Bamboo Bridge — Bridges fascinate me. We take them for granted, yet they play such a key role in connecting us. Connecting families, connecting ideas, becoming porous membranes between here and there. In the Philippine creation story, the first man Malakas (Strong One), and the first woman, Maganda (Beautiful One) emerged from two halves of a bamboo tree. Its a lovely myth. Bamboo also possesses the compressive strength of concrete and the tensile strength of steel. This is a bamboo bridge. Built in 2016, it cost in total, $10,000. As the economist E.F. Schumacher said, ‘maximise wellbeing — minimise consumption’. Limitations engender creativity.
Buddah — Japanese architect Tadao Ando. They say when you see something beautiful you know it. When I came across this Buddah at the Makomanai Takino Cemetery in Sapporo. I knew it to be a beautiful thing. Surrounded by a hill of lavender plants this is such an elegant piece of architecture.
Haeckels of Margate — The smell of baking bread, the smell of the sea, the smell of your lovers skin, What is your favourite most memorable smell? I can remember coming home from long trips abroad working in cities. To stand at night in my garden, pulling down the scents of the countryside into my lungs. Spring, summer, autumn, winter they all held magic. We forget how important smell is to us, as it carries so much information about the world we are in right then and we hold as memories years later.
When Beauty Visits by Lei Ming Wei Venice Bienalle 2017 — A simple but magical participatory work by the Taiwan-born artist Lee Mingwei.
A single visitor at a time is invited by either the artist or another host to spend time inside the Scarpa Garden of the Giardini, where these is a chair provided especially for the guest to enjoy the garden. Each guest will receive a gift from the host, the guest is requested not to open it until they next encounter Beauty. Once opened, what they will find is a story of another person’s encounter with beauty, which was gathered by the artist. Though seemingly understated and unquestionably ephemeral in nature, this project explores our perception of how beasuty is shared, encountered and remembered. It also provides the participants with an intimate opportunity to experience and perhaps discover, the elusive beauty that lies within us and in our surroundings.
The Love Supreme Festival — Glynde Place, near Brighton. I love Jazz. Its been a part of me and my life since I can remember. Frank Zappa once suggested that jazz wasn’t dead, it just smelt funny. But, I disagree its there for a reason, like all great music is. I was seduced by Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. The range of festivals shows us that as much as we talk about AI and automation, there is profound beauty in human connection.
Howlin Fling — Isle of Eigg Festival. The people of Eigg bought their Island as a community, ending a lifetime of servitude of trying to get along with the owners of their island with their capricious ways. I love the idea that they out there, on the edge of the British Isles Eigg has its own festival. Led by Johnny Lynch of Pictish Trail, the festival on the Hebridean isle of Eigg features techno, art rock, a wheelbarrow of beer and hugs all round. They say they are the UK’s friendliest festival going. Once you go you never leave.
The Do Lectures — A few years back I gave a talk at The Do Lectures. By that time I had given a fair few talks. For me it was truly a special experience. Founded by Dave and Claire Hieatt, The Do Lectures were conceived to bring together doers of the world to inspire people to Go Do Something themselves. Recently I visited Dave Hieatt, we are out walking near Cilgerren in Wales- his phone rings, its someone Dave wants to come to speak at DO, it might be Tim Berners Lee. I am listening to Dave on the phone, explaining that rather than turning up doing a talk and leaving, the specialness of Do is when the speakers stay, hanging out. Now having been a speaker at Do, I could not have agreed with Dave more.
I found my time at the Do Lectures fun, and challenging in that it led me to reflect deeply about the world I was living in.
The A to Z of Dance — This film just says ‘LIFE’. This film says ‘LETS DANCE’, this film says ‘LIFE IS WORTHWHILE’ from the street up. I watch and re-watch these amazing people from LA, do amazing things with their bodies. Fired by their imaginations. Fueled by their hearts. Heart, Hand, Mind the holy trinity of craftsmanship.
I defy you to watch this film only once. It is so well made. The quality of the dancing, the music, the editing, the artistry of the cinematography. The life giving performances and of course a celebration of all cultures. We are all the same. We are all creative. Our human bodies are extraordinary. Plus, we are all made from the same stuff — stardust.
Lucy Churchill — stone carver, mason, artist. Hammer and chisel, hand guided by the hearts imagination. Lucy Churchill carves beauty, blocks of stone into works of uncommon grace. Sensual lines in stone seduce, forms that exist in a spiritual space. Accessible, immortal, sensual, textured. Perfect.
Lucy runs workshops. Hold a chisel and hammer, create the immortal. This workshop might help with your personal development, it might help with your work as a designer, in whatever medium you work in. It will be an experience, one you will remember and treasure.
Museum Bayeler — My friend Julien Robson a curator of contemporary art has been in more museums around the world than most. I asked him, in his opinion what was one of the most beautiful he had experienced? No hesitation, Museum Bayeler in Switzerland. Designed by Renzo Piano. Read more about the Museum.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset — Another of Julien’s recommendations was Hauser & Wirth in Somerset. As Richard Long would say, “Old World, New World”. Ideas made manifest change how we see the world. Art plays an important and key role in this ever unfolding story.
PINC — People, Ideas, Nature, Creativity — PINC started off life in The Netherlands, in the mid 90's, Founded by Peter van Lindonk and now run by his wife Nelleke and her children. People, Ideas, Nature and Creativity, a gathering of minds with a focus on science, art, humanity, and the fundamental pieces that create the human experience. I have had the opportunity to speak at both PINC in The Netherlands and in Sarasota Florida. For me its always a wonderful experience, as my hosts are so gracious and to listen to others who make our world more interesting, more creative, simply better is always a great honour.
Hand drawn goal with chalk — When I was about 10 years old, we used to play the game World Cup. We had to choose a team. This always created fierce debate, as we all at that time wanted to be either Holland, as Johan Cruyff, or Nateskins, Germany as Müller, or Beckenbauer, or Brazil as Pele. Shirts were our goal posts on a patch of land. Then, the whistle blew to start our own World Cup. It was intense, sometimes rough, goals scored that were at times sublime as they curved but a finger nail around the out stretched hand of the goal keeper. We created it all with our imaginations, our collective will — with our passion with bodies putting themselves on the line. What experiences we created with so little. You can do a lot with imagination, with will. Constraint you see is really no constraint at all.
Sophie’s story — I met Sophie through my book DO Design. I asked what would be an experience that could be described as beautiful. This is one of the stories Sophie gave to me.
I visited Borneo in 2011, it is to this day the most remote place of the world I’ve travelled to. There, I took a trip to the rainforest where I camped for 5 days with locals. Two special things about it:
1) the river — I sat in a barge alone one evening, the water was calm and limpid, the trees and the purple sky reflected on the surface like a transfer recently peeled off. When I looked up, ‘flying foxes’ had invaded the sky. There were so tiny and high and had the entire sky to themselves; we were so far away from anything else, their presence felt powerful and evoked a sense of freedom I cannot describe.
2) the people — there we were welcomed by locals, who fed and taught us about life in the jungle; way the sky works, how to find our way back if lost, what is/ isn’t edible. Each night we would sit around fire and they’d play music for us…mostly old songs as they do not have access to technology and the latest stuff. I was fascinated by the facial expressions and hands of one of the guy specifically. The gentle vibration of the strings as he nonchalantly brushed the guitar, smoking a rolled cigarette. There is definitely something about sitting with other souls around a fire at night…the warmth, the light softening the faces, the voices intensifying with the silence…and the roundness. Something special about circles, the connectedness it implies.
Morning Gloryville — a few months ago I was on the Tube (underground), the late morning Piccadilly Line train stopped, people got on including two women, glitter on their faces, garlands around their necks, wearing posh lycra and trainers. They were beaming. I made the observation as a question, “I see you are dressed for the office?” They giggled and we struck up a conversation. “Morning Gloryville”, they said. “Never heard of it”, I replied. Over the next few stops they told me all about it.
I asked my new found Gloryville friends if they had enjoyed it. Absolutely, and they are going again. Joyful.
Sunday Assembly — “Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More”. A few years ago I was asked to ‘do a sermon?’, for a Sunday Assembly. The event started with a mass Danish Clapping competition (hilarious), the song sung, “Living on a Prayer, by Bon Jovi’, awesome. Especially as it takes me back to some fun times, my sermon was next, then the intervention of a professional fool. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The experience reinforced my belief ‘we’ as human beings need to be able to transcend / belong collectively together. Festivals, Choirs, Carnival, Sport, Dancing, Food even are examples.
Now there are over 70 Sunday Assembly chapters in 8 different countries where people sing songs, hear inspiring talks, and create community together. Why do they exist? Because, life is short, it is brilliant, it is sometimes tough, Sunday Assembly help build communities that help everyone live life as fully as possible.
The healing power of the sea — Harry has a passion for the sea. What he discovered was that it held more healing powers than he realised. It has changed his life, in a good way. Good things come in three’s we say. So here are three films that relate to the healing power of water when we put ourselves into its cold loving embrace.
Johanna Under the Ice — Finnish freediver Johanna Nordblad holds the world record for a 50-meter dive under ice. She discovered her love for the sport through cold-water treatment while recovering from a downhill biking accident that almost took her leg. British director and photographer Ian Derry captures her taking a plunge under the Arctic ice.
Afterglow — Vivienne Rickman-Poole swims in the deep waters in Snowdonia. This is Wales as in Tolkien country. Listen to her description of how the water feels through the months of the year as the body senses the changes. Time to think, clarity of thought, peace, depth, space. There is scientific evidence that cold water swimming provides immense benefits for those that suffer with depression.
Natasha Brooks another cold water swimmer, writes, “Cold water, cuts through everything, it’s so physical. You get out of cold water and feel so alive, your skin is zinging from the cold.”
Wind generation — Wind generation. What is a beautiful solution to our energy needs? Surely something that is regenerative, like a design criteria. This is the, “how do we?” question. Can it scale to serve the needs of a few billion people? Bloomberg New Energy Finance has calculated that “the lifetime cost of wind and solar is less than the cost of building new fossil fuel plants. Bloomberg predicts that wind energy will be the lowest-cost energy globally by 2030. (This accounting does not include the cost of fossil fuels with respect to air quality, health, pollution damage to the environment). Ongoing cost reduction will soon make wind energy the least expensive source of installed electrical capacity, within a decade. A single sweep of their 269 foot blades generates enough energy for one households daily use. Via Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken.
Tai Chi — Hua Yue Tai Chi interpreted by Erik Matthiesen and Joseph Agami on a foggy autumn morning at Skydebanen, Copenhagen. Slow down, life does not need to be lived at supersonic speed. I am sure when Tai Chi was imagined then made, then finished — people at the time, talked about acceleration, the ‘pace of change’ and the price of bread. What drew me to this film was an ancient practice known to be healing, known to be restorative — made in Copenhagen, as humanity makes its way to its morning destination, in the background.
A contemporary setting (a basketball court) for a practice that goes back to 1670 in its current form, though the essential principles of Tai Chi are based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, which stresses the natural balance in all things and the need for living in spiritual and physical accord with the patterns of nature which is 3000 years old. Slow down, to increase your awareness. Then you see the world differently.
Replenishing our planet — restorative to planet as well as people. We are chopping down about 15 billion trees a year and planting about 9 billion. So there’s a net loss of 6 billion trees a year.
BioCarbon Engineering, a UK-based company backed by drone manufacturer Parrot, has come up with a method of planting trees quickly and cheaply. Not only that, trees can also be planted in areas that are difficult to access or otherwise unviable.
Grow your own — There is nothing better than planting, tending and eating your own veg. The tending to the soil to make it rich and fertile has its own unique rewards. We intuit them. Composting becomes a way of life and feels good to know you are, in some small way nurturing a small patch of soil. Potatoes, brassicas, garlic, onions all taste better.
Relae — Chef Christian F. Puglisi opened restaurant Relae in 2010 on a rough, run-down stretch of one of Copenhagen’s most crime-ridden streets. His goal was simple: to serve impeccable, intelligent, sustainable, and plant-centric food of the highest quality — in a setting that was devoid of the pretention and frills of conventional high-end restaurant dining.
I have Christian’s book. Its inspiring, passionate, real. Why compromise when you can have better, is a thought that comes to me as I read his stories of ‘why the why’ is the most important thing in the world if you want to make and create.
Eating in Mexico City, Guide via Kinfolk — Winner of Latin America’s Best Female Chef award in 2014, Elena Reygadas has made a name for herself with her restaurant, Rosetta, located in the bustling Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City. Here, she guides us on where to dine in the Mexican capital.
Olafur Eliasson — is an artist, known for his extraordinary work with light. The Weather Project at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall perhaps one of his best known works. Olafur has a studio in Berlin where he employs a staff of 90. Everyday the staff sit down to eat freshly cooked vegetarian food, sourced mostly within a 10km radius of Berlin, or grown on the roof of the studio. The kitchen is at the heart of the studio. The daily communal lunch, Olafur believes, is about showing respect and hospitality to his staff, its about dignity. “Cooking,” says Olafur, is caring for others, it is a gesture of generosity and hospitality that functions as a social glue; it amplifies social relations and translates thoughts into food, into giving and sharing”.
Ginger Pig — Butchers. I am partial to a bit of pork. I have strong memories standing next to my father as he carved a big joint of pork for the Sunday lunch. The Ginger Pig began over 20 years ago, with a near-derelict farmhouse and three Tamworth pigs. Tim Wilson the farmer now farms over 3,000 acres of their own pasture and North Yorkshire moorland, working with a small network of like-minded farmers to supply their London butchers’ shops. At the heart of everything they do is good animal husbandry and welfare; livestock that is looked after well in the field will simply taste better on the plate. They also run butchery classes.
Rick Steins India — I remember watching Rick Stein’s India many moons ago. It was captivating, such an unlikely star of the small screen. Yet his passion and love for food, for people, for curry is what made this such an enjoyable experience to watch and wonder. Like the food he was eating and cooking it was authentic.
“I was told about an ancient 8th-century temple in the town of Mamallapuram . . . but always being a bit peckish, I headed straight for the restaurants on the beach instead.” You watch all six episodes here.
Peter Childs, the inspiring Head of the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London talks to me about beautiful AI and beautiful Automation. What is the connection between the hymn Amazing Grace and the concept of beauty? Should beauty be taught throughout higher education? I discuss these ideas and more with Peter and whether beauty as a lens applies to the world of engineering.
Richard Seymour — on beauty. I met Richard right at the beginning of my career. A man who is always thoughtful, always charmingly provocative. This is a TED talk he gave on beauty and how it relates to product design and where, more importantly we feel and intuit beauty. This is a TED talk he gave on the topic. “Beauty” says Richard, “is the hardest thing we can ever create”. I agree.
Ways of Hearing — A new podcast from Radiotopia featuring original series of all stripes, from emerging and leading producers around the world. The current series, Ways of Hearing, is a six-part series about listening in the digital age from acclaimed musician Damon Krukowski.
Ear Hustle — The podcast is a partnership between Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, currently serving time at San Quentin State Prison, and Nigel Poor, a Bay Area artist. The team works in San Quentin’s media lab to produce stories that are sometimes difficult, often funny and always honest, offering a nuanced view of people living within the American prison system.
We always have a choice. Creativity can be made in the most difficult of places.
Eddie Izzard, Death Star Canteen. If you know this, there is nothing I can add. If you don’t this sketch, my advice is watch it.
Wisdom — Inspired by the idea that one of the greatest gifts one generation can give to another is the wisdom it has gained from experience photographer Andrew Zuckerman asked 50 of our time’s greatest thinkers and doers — writers, artists, philosophers, politicians, designers, activists, musicians, religious and business leaders — all over 65 years of age. 7 questions. “Humanity needs dignity, like we need water and air”, says writer Wole Soyinka. The result, Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give to Another,
The Fight for Beauty. Our path to a better future by Fiona Reynolds — I loved this book. Emerson’s quote comes to mind, “beauty gets us out of surfaces and into the foundations of things. It gave me a doorway to walk through to understand how hard it is to protect our natural world and our place in it. The book opens with a quote from John Muir, “not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress”. Fiona Reynolds was Director General of the National Trust for many years — hard won experience and knowledge. “If we care about our future”, writes Reynolds “we need to fight for beauty”.
Fewer Better Things — Per Håkansson is a good friend of mine. We forged our friendship in Seoul and Japan working together. Thereafter talking about everything over wonderful food with a bottle of wine. Per is a pioneering citizen of this world. He writes a regular newsletter, Fewer Better Things. Find out more about Per. Thank you my friend.
Notes on Book Design by Derek Birdsall — As a young designer, Derek Birdsall was my mentor. His studio in Islington was something to behold. The day I first met him he was designing books, one about Lucien Freud and the other on Shaker Design. He took me under his wing and taught me to think, imagine and feel the space between the lines. Derek taught me about the fine detail that goes into making a beautiful piece of work. Notes on Book Design is a summation of all his knowledge. Derek was a craftsman, of that there is no doubt. But the most important lessons were those that shaped how I approached my work rather than the practicalities of it.
Fowler writes, “While there are a lot of materials about how to write code and how to deploy distributed systems, there’s much less about how humans can work together more effectively to achieve their goals faster. This stuff is complicated and it matters. Version control, code review, pager rotations, devops practices. Increment exists to provide practical and useful insight into what effective teams are doing so the rest of us can learn from them more quickly”. Nice. Its good to share.
The Unknown Craftsman by Soetsu Yanagi — “Work done with the heart and the hand is a worship if life itself”, wrote Yanagi. Craftsman working in a set tradition for a lifetime? What is the value of handwork? Why should even the roughly lacquered rice bowl of a Japanese farmer be thought beautiful? The late Soetsu Yanagi was the first to fully explore the traditional Japanese appreciation for “objects born, not made.” Mr. Yanagi sees folk art as a manifestation of the essential world from which art, philosophy, and religion arise and in which the barriers between them disappear. Lessons still relevant today. Wisdom never goes out of fashion.
How to Love by Tich Nhat Hahn — When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness. Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. We know that all real truth and sincerity are simple by virtue of being true and sincere.
Filling a watering can — Go fill a watering can with water. It is such a wonderful sound. The flowing water speaks as it trickles, thunders, rushes, flows. It speaks of life’s potential, promise, growth, vitality. It is restorative calm in a world which at times fills chaotic. Its a simple thing. Sometimes the best things are. These thoughts came to me as I was filling the watering can.
Yasuhisa Toyota — Designs acoustics, he says, a concert Hall is like an instrument. Designing a concert hall is something like making an instrument, like a violin. There are no rules,’ says Yasuhisa Toyota, president and founder of Nagata Acoustics America. With over 30 years of experience in designing some of the world’s finest performance venues, Toyota is an established international authority in the field of concert hall design. Here is a talk he gave on the challenges of designing for sound.
Dhafer Youssef in Concert — when I was at college I met a wonderful man called Sam Smith. Who even at the tender age of 18 was a bit tidy with a guitar. Who already possessed at extensive knowledge of music, Jazz, classical, rock etc., We used to jam together in the old farm house we were living in some 8 miles west of Oxford. When Sam says something is worth your attention I listen. This is Dhafer Youssef playing a concert in Turkey. Sam’s advice, “open a bottle of wine, sit back and listen to some amazing music”. Thank you Sam.
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World — Werner Herzog. Society depends on the Internet for nearly everything but rarely do we step back and recognize its endless intricacies and unsettling omnipotence. Werner Herzog explores our rapidly interconnecting online lives.
Truth —A beautiful film for a man who makes beautiful work. This short documentary about the artist Mario A. Robinson who says in the film, “The real power of art, is the ability to galvanize and organize all those pigments and materials, and pour a soul into it.”
The Overview Effect —When astronauts go into space and look down at the earth they find themselves having a deep spiritual connection with it that is both shocking and beautiful. Theirs is a profound epiphany – a realisation of the inseparable relationship between the cosmos, the earth and humanity. It is a moment of transformation, of catharsis, an irreversible cognitive shift
This experience is called the overview effect, as astronaut Edgar Mitchell says in the film, ‘You see things as you see them with your eyes but you experience them emotionally and viscerally as if it was ecstasy and a sense of total unity and oneness. The molecules in my body and the molecules in my partners’ bodies, and in the spacecra had been prototyped in some ancient generation’s stars. In other words, it was pre y obvious ... we’re all stardust.’
Pina Busch — A tribute to the great German choreographer Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders. Bausch asked that we, “Dance, dance otherwise we are lost”. We need dance, it is such a universal medium of communication. All cultures, either old world or new world, need dance.
Watching the dancers I get that sense the work is emotionally raw, direct and humanistic in its approach to movement. Bausch’s had great capacity to harness movement’s power to tell stories and challenge preconceptions.
LOVE JAPAN — This is one mans visual poem of what Japan felt like to him, whilst travelling with his girlfriend through Japan. Directed, filmed and edited by: David Parkinson, with a Bon Iver soundtrack, which feels just right. This piece is enigmatic, soulful, and beautiful. Film is many things, it tells stories, it is aesthetic, kinetic, a doorway to another way of seeing, it could be shallow but it can also carry great depth.
Through my years helping companies craft innovative businesses, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that beautiful businesses are the future. They are proven to be attractive to employees, buyers and investors. They are profitable. And they are loved. Through workshops, talks and consultations, my life’s mission is to help businesses discover their own unique beauty.
What would your business look like were it more beautiful?
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