Weeknotes Week 133

It's happening again. The timeline between the end of week and our weeknote going live is slipping. This is mostly due to the fact that we're at a wonderful moment in the year: budgeting. At Sitra we're crossing our tees and dotting our eyes on the plans for next year, playing out scenarios at different investment levels, and having a conversation about how to best manage the portfolio of projects.

In light of the above-mentioned focus soaking up a lot of our attention, a random sampling of Things We Looked At.

Still from Social Life of Small Urban Places, a film by William H. Whyte. More on this below...
Still from Social Life of Small Urban Places, a film by William H. Whyte. More on this below...

Today we're flattered to see our efforts highlighted in a piece in today's edition of the UK's Guardian. The essay by Justin McGuirk does a great job of explaining how we approach situations which are often difficult to make sense of, let alone gain traction on. Justin's explanation of the way that specific, tangible entry points allows for new forms of consensus is a refreshing read. We are often struggling to put these notions into clear words, so it's nice when someone else does your job for you.

A trickle of feedback is coming in from the book. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share your thoughts with us already. We've taken to saving these emails to a folder and in some cases printing them out and dropping them in the impact box, a tattered cardboard container filled with tokens that help us trace the impact of our work.

It feels a bit funny to revert to such a low tech solution, but the palpable sense of accumulation is a nice psychological side effect. One of the things we're trying to be better about is understanding the feedback and responding to it as we shape future plans. So by all means, if you're keen to give us feedback on how you see HDL as useful to your work, or how it might be more useful, we're all ears.

Another still from Social Life of Small Urban Places, a film by William H. Whyte
Another still from Social Life of Small Urban Places, a film by William H. Whyte

Speaking of books, I will be in Romania this week delivering a keynote and a workshop at the Connection 2011 conference.  I'll have a couple copies of the book with me so if you're interested in having one, just ask.

Film break! Careful... you're in for a full hour.

How excellent is that? Dan and I have been digging through some archival materials (including the Social Life of Small Urban Spaces) as we explore the notion of "legible practice." What does it mean to carry out a body of work and to self-consciously do so in a way that makes it easier for others to follow or to join in?

In some sense this has been a discourse about what it means to be "open" but we've gravitated more towards the word "legible" because it speaks to the difference between just doing something where people can observe, and doing in a way that opens up and documents the tacit decisions for others to understand.

William Whyte's work checks the usual boxes of sitting at the intersection of design and social sciences, but what inspires us is the blunt, thorough approach to observation as an evidence base for design principles. The video is still refreshing from the vantage point of these 23 years on. It's this kind of spirit that we are subtlely trying to bring to our work (and yours?) through tools like the Design Ethnography fieldguide.

If you're into this kind of design practice, I highly recommend that you take a look at the Young Foundation's Head of Design job posting. It's a good post at a great outfit but applications close this week.

Finally, I'm happy to have the opportunity to point to work by Seungho Lee, our superstar intern from last year, who is doing great stuff through the venue of his company About:Blank which makes excellent products with local craftspeople here in Finland. This video is about one of About:Blank's chairs, a humble process that nevertheless is pursued with an excruciating level of detail and care. Congratulations to Seungho & team.

One more thing. It's fall time here and the many courtyards of Helsinki are, for these few weeks, some of the best kept secrets of Europe.