Five predictions for 2022. Issue #100.
The demise of the Bored Ape — and the bored human. Plus the DIY creator economy and web accessibility. And print is back, baby.
Welcome back to Gornisht, where I (and others) review the state of design, the nature of mind, and their occasional and occasioned intersections. Sometimes I refer to this as Design Consciousness. This newsletter is a medium-sized labor of love. If you like it, please consider sharing it with others. Here’s a pretty blue button with gently rounded corners designed to create “engagement”:
Fare thee well, Thay
I’m writing this on the day that the brilliant and beautiful Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh passed from this world to another. If you don’t know him, They, as he is often known, was a prolific writer, a very active political activist, an educator and the founder of what is sometimes called engaged Buddhism. He founded Plum Village, a retreat centre in France that I would love to visit, someday. He risked his life, helping Vietnamese boat people, and gave his life to translating Buddhism and Zen practice for Western audiences.
As I wrote to my friend and leader of our dharma group, my hope is that his message will continue to ripple into all of our hearts and create new energy for all of us draw upon in times of hope and need. Thay has written millions of words (perhaps in fact and definitely in spirit). For our present purposes, I’m choosing to share these few from the interview above:
Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realize your ideal of compassion.
That’s what I am, in part, trying to do here. And I hope maybe you are, too.
Five predictions for this year 2022
January has become the month when predictions are made for the rest of the year. Newsletters, blog posts, articles and tweets — we are currently awash in forecasting. It makes sense — posting predictions in December means no one will read them while relaying them in February just feels a little bit belated. So it’s January! Let’s try five predictions related to design, culture and technology from the head of Andrew.
Some of these may sound overly optimistic. But I would rather just say they’re crafted out of shards of hope found in fourth wave exhaustion.
1. We will slowly come together again
We are all so exhausted. Each morning I awake and pull myself together to face the day ahead — and I fare okay about nine days out of ten. Every one of us is doing the best they can, even when they think they are not. We are all simply doing our best. Every minute of the day-long day, even in our anger and frustration, we do what we think we can.
And yet our minds are also quick to judge, to react, to make mincemeat of our perception of actions and inactions, ours and others. We can’t seem to reconcile the fine reality that we are beings of celestial nature with these unfettered expectations about ourselves and those we foist on others. Being drained makes it that much more difficult to see that everyone is doing their best.
The pandemic will not come to a screeching halt this year but it will peter out. It’s highly possible we will see this event becoming endemic in April or May or June — and a few say that we could be almost there already. Will there be another variant? Maybe. If not, my prediction is that our fatigue, our languishing as the social psychologist Adam Grant called it recently, will not last.
We will gracefully and gratefully crave the companionship of others — in person and in new situations. By the late Spring, we will witness socializing in ways that we can only imagine now. Travel will increase again and with it, the ability to see and be with others. We will meet in our sanghas, our circles and our supermarkets.
Yes, some of our engrained behaviours will have unfortunately become engraved. But we will all do our best — getting out, seeing others who will see us.
2. Bored Ape Yacht Club apes and their ilk go away
When stuck indoors for two years, people get up to stuff. That’s what NFTs feel like right now. Many NFTs (in their currently popularized formation) will lose their value. Yep, I’m calling it. As of this writing, the minimum investment for a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT (essentially a digital image that can be owned in perpetuity) is about US$300,000.
(Jimmy Fallon purchased the above Bored Ape for US$145,000, providing legitimacy to the speculation mania. Note that he also gave grotesque legitimacy to another bored ape, Donald Trump, on his show in September 2016.)
As the NFT market is flooded with more and more of this flotsam and jitsam, we’ll see this tulip market collapse — investors will take their money out of the monkeys and start investing in real art and artifacts and maybe even experiences. There are 10,000 of these apes. Wait until there are 10 million copymonkeys and we’ll see what happens with this charade.
It was designers and developers that created this mess — and it’s not the first time that digital artists tried to create false scarcity for their work — but it was and is unscrupulous investors and techno-utopian marketing mania that foisted this scourge on us. NFTs could have an ethical place in our future economy but not as they are currently configured.
3. The DIY online creator economy will become monetarily more experimental
NFTs are one part of what is often referred to as Web3, which loosely corresponds to a digital economy built on the blockchain. The progressive part of the Web3 concept is that we consumers of data will be able to own what we make and that we can easily buy and sell on the internet safely — and without interference from monopolies. In other words, we can own digital objects and information freely — apart from massive companies like Facebook, Coinbase, or Google.
The problem is that companies like Facebook, Coinbase and Google are investing heavily in Web3, essentially securing markets and making the shiny promise of an open and privacy-conscious web look more like a paper thin ducat.
But there is a small shining hope. Privately owned DIY creator platforms like this one (Substack) and open source creator platforms like Ghost will start to develop new tools to allow digital (and analogue) makers to flourish. We will see web-based newsletters and websites and learning tools and images and video sit on platforms that adapt open source protocols (like Polkadot), which will us to both access them more readily and contribute to independent creative agents.
For instance, Substack might allows readers to purchase just this one newsletter (either once or permanently). You, dear reader, will be able to read this post for the kingly sum of .05 — and for, say, $2,000.00, you could own it outright. We are already seeing this with privacy-first browsers like Brave, where you can reward “content creators”.
What would the terms of rental and ownership be? And what exactly would you own, anyway? Further, what will happen to paid subscriptions, which provide longer-term, recurring revenue to creators and to the DIY platforms themselves? These are the questions that we will be asking in the next year.
4. Designers will re-examine web accessibility
I have been designing accessible websites for nearly 20 years now. Not every site I have created has been perfect. But it has been important to me — and to my work — since, well, Web1.
What is web accessibility? The standard bearer continues to be the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (better: W3C WAI). The organization defines it like this:
Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, people can:
perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web
contribute to the Web
We should want this. All designers should want their work to be findable, usable, readable and navigable on the web. In British Columbia for instance, 20% of the population — nearly 1 million people — report having some disability. The reach of design and designers is propelled by access and the rules and regulations that support it.
In the next year, we will see new legislation emerge in the U.S. and Canada on the state, provincial and federal levels that further mandate web accessibility. Ontario, for instance, is slightly ahead of the curve. Access will increasingly not be an option for designers but a prerequisite. My operative hope is that designers will increasingly care about not only how many people experience their work — but will consider the diversity of people who are able to access and appreciate it.
5. Print will come back
Related to 1 (human connection), 2 (digital speculation), 3 (creator economy growth), and 4 (broader accessibility), printed materials will make a comeback.
I know, it’s hard to believe. Paper is expensive. Fewer and fewer people are buying newspapers and magazines.
But we are digitally inundated. Our minds and bodies have never been so separated. And part of deep human connection is not only having palpable experiences with others, but being able to share palpable objects that bring meaning to our time on earth.
Printed matter will come back, perhaps not with a roar — but we will start to see a wave of small presses, publishers and printers put out paper objects again.
I recently upgraded my RISO machine (a specialized duplicator that can print thousands of pages a minute using a technology that is very much like screen printing). I have a few experiments planned over the coming months. And my plan is to open it up to other designers in late Spring of this year. Stay tuned — and email me if you want more info.
Reading: I just cracked open Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. This is the paragraph from Newport’s website that makes me want to read it:
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, Deep Work takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories — from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air — and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored.
I have been wanting to read it for years; thank you to my colleague who lent it to me.
Listening: Improbably, Sonic Youth is releasing a full album of songs that were not released in the 2000s. What? I’m listening to the 7-minute single out now on Bandcamp called In & Out. Check out the dope cover by designer Darryl Norsen.
Thank you, dear friend, for reading to the end. Wishing you a peaceful and joyful week ahead.