beautility.

james keller
Jan 2, 2016 · 2 min read

2016 is the year that i hope to capture, explain and explore the notion of beautility by cataloging those experiences, products, and objects that inspire me. i hope you enjoy.

(more about this project can be found below the index!)

#11 portland bridges

#10 utility without beauty: laptop bag

#9 white bowl

#8 sticky notes

#7 rocks glass

#6 mineral water(ator)

#5 moleskine notebook

#4 NYT iPad app

#3 woolen socks

#2 metal spoon

#1 linen blanket

What is beautility?

i generally hate portmanteau, but there is one in particular that has actually been a recurrent theme in my career — beautility. while i was certainly not the first to coin this term, i do believe i stumbled upon it honestly, in the mush of my own head.

my favorite bike, marmalade, is both beautiful + useful

at the time i was working at an ad agency. a huge, beautiful, messy, brutal and interesting agency that specialized in brand and that is famous for the art of storytelling through television spots. although i was a designer by trade, i had the infuriating job of being the digital strategist in the building, at a time when “digital” was still very foreign and intimidating for the creative teams. my role was not to create, but to help point the creative teams in the right direction; to align the brand strategy with digital tools in a way that would most effectively reach the target audience.

in my weekly boxing match with the Executive Creative Directors, i remember using the term “useful” like a weapon. while the team consistently had ideas that were funny, endearing, surprising and novel — none of them provided long term value, only quick-hit entertainment. despite the fact that both then and now “useful” is still a quite relevant strategy, it became evident rather quickly that banging the drum of “useful” was not a way to endear myself to others in the building… and thus the word beautility was born into my vocabulary.

i‘ve evolved my beautility pitch for almost a decade now — calling on designers to create things that find the perfect balance of beauty and usefulness. this very simple call-to-action, both personally and professionally, has helped bring many inspired experiences, products and objects into the world.

at the beginning of a new year, i always get the itch to create. this year i want to create inspiration as much as i want to create artifacts. i want to work on my writing. i want to learn more about photography through the art of doing. i also want to reconnect with my community in a way that expands beyond a mere 140 characters… so here goes nothing.

james keller

Written by

pillow fort architect. accidental entrepreneur. designer of micro digital moments & wrangler of designy-type people. five whole feet of fury.