End of an Era.

Primer Stories, Season 2

This week, one of my best friends and I put to bed a project that we had invested our last five years into.

The project, a web zine called Primer Stories, gave more than it took, but it took quite a bit. As I sit here, writing a eulogy for the project, I can’t tell whether I’m sad or elated. This post will attempt to be a post-mortem of sorts, as much for myself as for anyone else.

Our Project was formed during a period where the normalization of the web felt like a welcome relief; Squarespace instead of janky…

Taking design back from the corporate lizard people.

Joe Alterio

It was about 2015 when I got asked about Design Thinking.

Design thinking?’, I thought.

You mean like staring at a canvas silently, cursing yourself up and down for hours until suddenly something occurs to you, and you save your job for at least one more day?

Or did they mean Leonard Bruce Archer and his seminal work around systems thinking for the Royal Academy of Art in the 1960s?

No, what the clients were all talking about was this piece of flaming debris:

Joe Alterio

A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. The scorpion climbs onto the frog’s back and the frog begins to swim, but midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both.

The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung the frog, to which the scorpion replies,

“That code doesn’t reflect my designs.”


Products that require both design…

A question of audiences.

Illustration by Joe Alterio

In 2015, my friend and I did a talk called Make The Web Weird Again.

The premise was a rather simple (and maybe naive) one — the internet that we grew up with, the one of the baffling experimentations that made it the headiest art form we knew, was dying. The rise of the big platforms had neutered the creativity endemic to this communication form in the first place. Affordances for ad words, mobile loading time, SEO, frameworks and the rest had sanded all the edges off. …

Observation as a prerequisite for design

Design, like technology, is a tool.

Tools are at base neutral. A hammer is neither good nor evil. A hammer used to build a shelter for refugees might be considered “good.” A hammer used to assault someone might be considered “evil.” Technology is a similar case, with similar logical parameters. In that light, “defending design” or “believing in technology” are illogical statements. They are means, practices, and constraints that are used to various ends. One can “defend hammers” as much as you like, but the hammer will exist perpetually, whether you believe in it, defend it, or disparage it.


Joe Alterio

Creative Director, Formidable Labs. Partner, Primer&Co.

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