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 Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair 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. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
After a decade of working as a designer, I’m not sure that I’ve done much more than refine my ability to make things presentable in anticipation of a sale — I’m the rag full of spit and polish that buffs a showroom car. I’m not putting that down as a way for making a living, as lots of the smartest people I know have dedicated themselves to much the same thing… but in my darker moments, when I’m indulging my inner Holden Caufield, I wonder if 21st Century American society amounts to nothing more than a roomful of salesmen all trying to sell things to one another.I say this because of late I’ve been feeling that this mode of living — or this way of working — has effectively drained me of something essential: an ability to originate, to create. I’ve so willingly accepted the indoctrination of free markets that I’ve become seemingly incapable achieving anything outside of those markets. Whether the blame can be laid down to a constraint of time, energy or will, I think it’s been years since I’ve been able to make a drawing, and to derive a sense of satisfaction from the drawing itself, rather than from its ability to grease the wheels of the sale of some product.
Instead, everything I do is about organizing information for commercial interests — whether it’s under the rubric of contractual design or the pretense of venues of personal expression like this weblog (which is, in my own admission, too often a report on things to be consumed). Again, there may be nothing so awful about that, but sometimes I find those interests are so far removed even from the actual transaction — the actual exchange of money for goods — that the end product can be described as nothing more than an abstraction of meaning, which is to say a kind of derivative of some original value. Without conceding entirely to cynicism, I have to confess a suspicion that this may be all design amounts to.+