The Boundaries of Problems

The Boundaries of Problems

I was at the grocery store the other day, and they were out of bread—and hotdog buns, hamburger buns and anything bread-like. The shelves were barren.

Our physical office is basically closed, with all of our agency’s team working remotely from home.

The economy has collapsed. Small businesses are worried. Restaurants and bars are being shut down, or struggling to modify and keep the lights on—and people are unemployed. Lots of people.

My kids’ school has been canceled for the next couple weeks, with rumors swirling that it will be canceled until next year.

I got an email from an agency consultant stating that “Thousands of agencies will close” because of the pandemic.

As all this crazy stuff is going on, I can’t help but think about my business, and my team, and my family and how this all is going to affect us, and I keep asking myself this question “In the face of all these problems—what does the world possibly need with design?”

It’s just all so heavy. In the face of a global pandemic, design seems pretty unimportant.


Comforting ghosts

But art is important. And creativity is important. I truly believe these things. And so I look to my old heroes to help shape my thoughts, and pull me out of this rut—and I wanted to share what I found.

One of my heroes, famed designer (and St. Louisan) Charles Eames, gave a recorded interview in the 1970s about design.

He was asked, “Mr. Eames, what are the boundaries of design?”

He replied with a question. “What are the boundaries of problems?”

So, in the face of all these problems – what does the world possibly need with design? The answer might not be one of visual aesthetics, but of mindset. We’re facing something that is forcing us to redesign our lives. Our jobs. Our families. Our government. And believe me, redesigning something people are used to is no easy task.

And I just wanted to share that some of the best ideas come from joy, positivity and humor.

It is difficult to make anything great without them.

“Your life is your most important project. So why not do it creatively?” – Ayse Birsel

Our values have shifted overnight. And until it shifts back, I’m going to learn to bake the best damn bread I can.

Constraint fuels creativity. Keep your head up. Let me know if I can do anything.


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Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

More posts by Mike Spakowski