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Year-End Insight Mashup

By Emily Bryan on January 4, 2012

Watching 2011 fade into the mist, one can’t help but reflect on the things that matter most…psych! Yes, this is a year end post. No, it’s not your dime-a-dozen New Year’s cogitation. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, we’re a pretty intellectually curious crew, learning and re-purposing ideas from the most far-flung sources. I was curious to hear from the gang what the most insightful things they heard or read in 2011 were and why. So I asked. Here’s what they had to say:

Ice Cube… on Design!
As it turns out, Ice Cube studied architectural drafting before becoming a rapper. Who knew he was a design aficionado?! He shares his fascinating perspective on the Eames House in this video. I love the parallels between design and music techniques like mashups and sampling. “It’s not about the pieces. It’s how the pieces work together.” -Kristen Cromer
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Just F’ing Do Something
I’m cheating and posting two, but they’re really just different statements of the same idea: just f’ing do something…good things will happen. I think of one or both of these any time I find myself in a rut or just procrastinating. -Brad Sukala
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Sleepwalk With Me
I’m a big Mike Birbiglia fan anyway, but this special recording floored me. It’s technically a comedy album, but it is so much more than that…told as a single story with a lot of hilarious tangents, it’s a brilliant take on the human condition from the “everyman” perspective. The ease of delivery diverts you from how carefully it is constructed, and the humor is a sweet icing on top of what is actually a very emotional and heartfelt story. It has a little bit of everything in it, and the first listen provided me with one of those rare moments of realizing what I was experiencing was a “masterpiece”. An inspiring piece of work. An aside – yet another instance of how we are all patients. -Russ Starke
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“Be More Like Yourself” – Thomas Williams
Thom was a cherished poet, writer, artist, musician, husband and teacher to thousands of kids. He was my High School English teacher, mentor, and friend. Thom left us December, 2010. This quote embodies his simple-yet-challenging style. I wrote it down in my notebook after I learned of his passing and have revisited it throughout the year. -Phil Charron
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Food at Our Feet
I asked Emily if there are any healthy lunch spots near our office. “No.” But perhaps we were too literal. There’s food everywhere, at least according to Rene Redzepi, creator of Noma, a restaurant in Denmark that’s been recognized two years running as the best in the world. Much of his menu is made up of food he and his staff foraged from its surrounding environs. It’s the age-old artist trope of taking the obvious, the available, the overlooked…and transforming it through inspired labor into something that’s intangibly *more*. With a bit of study and some creativity in the kitchen, an evening walk could eliminate a trip to the grocery store. -Dan Busey
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Artfully Visualizing our Humanity 
As a part of my Grad degree, we spent a lot of time looking into how to make vast amounts of abstract data accessible for people. This Ted talk by Aaron Koblin blew me away, not just for the way he brings complex data to life, but also for his collaborative, distributed projects including the Johnny Cash filmclip ‘Ain’t no Grave’. It’s really stunning to see how each contributor’s small artwork is woven into an amazing video. Really speaks to the power of collaboration, which is so central to what we do. -Gareth Roberts
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Louis CK Phenom/Father 
In general, I’ve been a huge fan of what Louis CK has done this year. He writes, directs, even edits his own show, and his $5 pay-me-directly-to-download comedy special quickly grossed $1 million (with $280K promised to 5 different charities and $250K to staff bonuses). But what I read that struck me as most innovative is that he crams all his work into ½ a week so he can spend the other half with his kids. -Ken Ryzner
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Living with Ease
In Mettā (Loving Kindness) Meditation, a recurring theme is a “life filled with ease”. Sounds nice, huh? But try really being at ease. It’s tough to achieve. This relates back to Russ’ earlier post about the role of pervasive technology in our lives. From waking to sleep – and even during sleep – we are surrounded by tools to help make life easier. And they do. But it takes a lot to manage and tend to all these ease-making tools. We cram more into our days as a result of the time these tools have saved for us. I think about this a lot and how we in the design field can be making decisions that better facilitate ease, not just the promise of it. -Emily Bryan
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Silly Things are Important Too – “Don’t wait until you know who you are to make things.” – Austin Kleon
I believe that we learn so much through the process of making something, whether that thing is a painting or poem, sketch or sculpture, or just a great big mess. Not only do we gain and practice new skills, the things that we create communicate aspects of ourselves that might never otherwise come to light. It’s important to acknowledge that making silly things is just as significant. -Mike Colibraro
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Sketching: The Visual Thinking Power Tool
Early in 2011 I read a great article by Mike Rohde on A List Apart about the importance of sketching. The practice of sketching has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. At Think Brownstone we always make sketchnotes of the conferences we attend. Sketching is a vital part of our design process, and so we’ve framed our whiteboards and sketch on them together every day. I wholeheartedly agree with Mike Rohde when he says “Sketches have an amazing ability to foster discussions about ideas. With colleagues and especially clients, I’ve found sketches give everyone involved the permission to consider, talk about, and challenge the ideas they represent. After all, it’s just a sketch.” -Brian McIntire
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Software With Soul
I’m a huge fan of Fast Company Design and find it to be a great digest of innovative thought in the design world, particularly because it typically hits it from the practical, results-oriented side and doesn’t let “design for design’s sake” slide by. Neither do we. Anyway, one of the pieces posted earlier in the year has stuck with me since – I don’t find myself needing to explain the value of experience design these days as often as I once did (respect for it is in evidence in interesting places these days), but I still love this cheeky little video that simply explains why our sometimes unsung discipline is so important. -Carl White
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On behalf of the entire Think Brownstone team, we wish you a Happy New Year full of fun insights!