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Can An Apple A Day Make You A Better Designer?

Ken Carbone of the Carbone Smolan design agency thinks so. “It’s my design yoga,” he says.

For designer Ken Carbone, an apple a day keeps the designer doldrums away. An occasional Co.Design contributor, as well as the co-founder and chief creative director of New York’s Carbone Smolan agency, Carbone has committed to designing a different apple every day for all of 2015. The only rule is no two apples can be designed the same way.

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Using everything from clay to watercolors to pencils to iPhone apps, Carbone has designed over 180 apples to date. But Carbone didn’t set out to design a different apple every day: the original apple was drawn on a whim. When he was done with it, Carbone posted the image to his Instagram account, and for no particular reason, captioned it: An Apple a day, No. 1. “Once I did that, I figured I was committed,” Carbone laughs.

It’s a very different type of design work than the intensive campaigns Carbone Smolan has created for W Hotels, Morgan Stanley, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Musee du Louvre, and more. Yet as a designer, Carbone says that he finds the exercise extremely fulfilling… so much so that he recommends it, or something like it, to other designers.

“It’s kind of design yoga for me,” Carbone says. “As designers, we’re so bombarded all the time, and the velocity of life becomes merciless. For me, this has become a great tonic to that. As a designer, I just feel there’s a lot of value in doing a simple exercise every day that taps into your artistic side while removing you from the frantic pace of modern life.”

Carbone also feels that his Apple A Day project has allowed him to address his client work more nimbly. While the project might not be the kind of heavy design lifting Carbone has to regularly do for his firm’s clients, it’s still a deep design problem. It requires him to regularly try new approaches and new tools, reappraise his design methodology each and every day, and be tenacious.

“When you do design on our scale, you have to stick with it until the end, not be afraid of a blank page, and constantly reasses what you’re doing” Carbone tells me. “In a small way, this project reflects all of that.”

Carbone says he will continue to design his apples until the end of the year. You can follow him on Instagram to keep up with the project.

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