is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. RSS sponsorship opportunities available through /Syndicate Ads.+
I consider myself lucky that I have some modest respect from among my peers in the design industry, and I also consider myself fortunate that many of these designers like to keep me abreast of their recent works and new projects. As a result, I get a fair amount of posters, pamphlets, books, magazines and assorted other promotional stuff, usually mailed to me but occasionally pressed upon me in person, too.
Many of these items are very creative and quite stunning, and I’m often impressed by the time, labor and expense that goes into them. But I also find them somewhat bewildering and, if I’m honest, burdensome.
From the Printing Press to My Garbage Can
I’ll spend a second or two looking at a lot of these items, but for the most part I really don’t know what to do with them and would rather be rid of them. Most I’ll simply toss right into the trash because there’s nowhere for me to file them away, and even if there was, I’d probably never look at them again anyway. The ones that are particularly elaborate or impressive I’ll keep around for a bit — maybe a few days or a few months — but I usually just stack them up in a pile with assorted other items that are low on my attention meter, until such time as I feel less guilty about tossing them out.
Sending items through the postal service might seem like a great way to grab someone’s attention and to sidestep the huge volume of competing signals online, but to me it feels more like an expensive and elaborate method of getting something from a printing press into my garbage can. In spite of the sheer magnitude and noise of online promotions, I’m much more likely to pay attention to things that I’ve seen on the Web. Similarly, I’m far more likely to blog about things I’ve found on the Internet than I would about things handed to me physically.
A lot of designers are devoted to the notion of actual objects and their superiority over digital transmissions, but in truth, a lot of the collateral that designers produce in print is pure ephemera, suitable only for the most fleeting attention. By contrast, digital content has so much more life and longevity and is so dramatically cheaper relative to its potential reach, I can’t understand why any designers bother to print things up and send them out anymore.
Also, I can’t believe it’s 2011 and I still had to write this post.+