About a year ago, I happened by the offices of Carbone Smolan, a design and branding agency here in New York. Their work for clients ranging from Morgan Stanley to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was–is–wonderful. But I was most entranced by a collection of personal journals that co-founder Ken Carbone showed me.
They were a colorful lot, filled with sketches and images, book reviews and nature finds, riffs on news stories and collages of words and pictures. Carbone started the practice after a curator at the Louvre, where his firm was creating the wayfinding system, showed him one of Gauguin’s own notebooks.
He’s continued keeping a journal for some 15 years, not just as a diarist might–as a way of recording thoughts, feelings, and impressions–but as a wellspring of inspiration for his design practice. The side benefit, he says, is that the habit has now trained him to pay closer attention to his environment–to slow down enough to really see what’s around him.
I was so intrigued by this practice, and so convinced that anybody in a creative line of work would find it useful, that I asked Ken to give a master class on journaling to the Fast Company editorial staff. A short version of his talk, which he has also given several times as a keynote address called Curiously Curious: Celebrating Analog in a Digital World, appended below, serves as Ken’s introduction as this week’s guest design blogger.
In Ken’s blog, which he’s calling “Yes to Less,” Ken will critique some well known designs against his own standard. For Carbone, a design’s success should be measured not only by its beauty, but by its ingenuity, and by how well it functions. Be sure to check out his postings to see which designs he finds “Flawless” (five stars), and which are deemed “Clueless” (one star.)
Join the fun by nominating your own choices along the spectrum from brilliant to bogus. In our estimation, Carbone is strictly five stars.
Here are a few more examples of Carbone’s work: