018 | Reframing intentions
Using language with the intention to cultivate inclusion and ideas.
Welcome to Beginner’s Mind — a newsletter by me, Christian Solorzano, an artist, photographer, designer, and writer based in Chicago. This newsletter explores the threshold between creativity and mindfulness.
It’s been a while since the last issue of Beginner’s Mind. I’ve been preoccupied basking in sunshine and downpour. Chicago has been scorching recently with temperatures reaching almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
I’m considering publishing Beginner’s Mind with more frequency. The prolonged break in-between issues make it difficult to maintain consistency. I keep a journal and a pen nearby at all times and am usually scribbling ideas for potential issues of this newsletter but unless I ride the wave of inspiration — sometimes those ideas just end up collecting dust and going nowhere.
So expect more frequent issues that might be reasonably shorter and feel more like public journal entries.
I’ve been enjoying using Substack to publish Beginner’s Mind — at some point, I might even consider adopting a subscription-based model.
What happened in August
This month I had the opportunity to give an hour-long lecture to a group of seventh-graders. The topic was Careers in Graphic Design. It was a primer into the various paths that a kid who is into creativity and art can pursue. Had I had more time with the students, I would have asked the students questions about their interests and ideas.
Pursuing a career in design has its challenges like most careers. The rise of accessible design software has democratized design and has turned everybody into a designer — which makes it increasingly challenging for young designers to find their voice in the midst of an industry bombarded with trends, an infinite feed of content, and social media influence. And although everybody has innate creative faculties, our industry can be harsh, toxic, and debilitating, and without resilience and aptitude, a career that we pursued because of our passion for design, can undoubtedly turn into our worst enemy. But you can’t say that to seventh-graders!
In 1994, designer Tobias-Frere Jones said:
The great democratization of typography will threaten the livelihood of many designers unless they change their selling tactics.
Twenty-seven years later — not much has changed.
Also, I led an event with The Chicago Graphic Design Club. My colleague, Patrick Smith, and I facilitated a manifesto workshop. I compiled a collection of manifestos that participants were encouraged to read beforehand. We then gathered for a ninety-minute session where we discussed the history and cultural impact of the texts on our design practices. We had various interactive stations that asked the participants to reflect on the following:
I operate a design studio that produces visual artifacts rooted in experimentation. We’ve been creating a handful of prints recently. You can learn more about us here.
The language we use
In the latest issue of Beginner’s Mind, I explored cultivating curiosity and compassion by going back to the basics and diving into what it means to be human.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on language. Over the past weeks, there have been some instances where people I’m closely interacting with are using corporate jargon that I find unnecessary and confusing — not just for myself but for others as well.
It brings to mind a panel that a colleague and I facilitated a few months ago on Psychological Safety at work. It took place right during the middle of the pandemic when leadership was exerting energy on ways to foster healthy and supportive teams.
There was a term that was introduced to me, which is the “common knowledge effect”. This refers to when a group of decision-makers relies on information that is widely known and common, to make their decisions. Sounds fine, right? The issue is that often this favors the majority and does not take into account outliers and considerations that are in the hands of a few. The common knowledge effect is a byproduct of a culture that silently says ‘we don’t know what you know, therefore it is worthless‘, which as a result diminishes voices.
Solutions to overcoming the common knowledge effect are being skillful in welcoming unheard voices, ensuring that information discussed is widely known and understood, using language that is not laced with unnecessary jargon, promoting spaces of inquiry, and distilling complexity into simplicity.
More importantly, if we have a seat at the table, let’s ask better questions and open the floor for voices that often go unheard, and let’s be unapologetic in our action to challenge how things have always been done.
Beginner’s Mind | A Playlist
To go with this issue, I’ve created a playlist.
If you follow the Beginner’s Mind playlist below on Spotify, every month or so, it’ll be refreshed with new music.
Næturdögg Eydís Evensen
Phonic Michael Whalen
The Child With A Lion Harold Budd
Goldberg Variations, BMV 988: Aria Glenn Gould
I Would Like To Think Nils Frahm
Glen’s Goo The Dead Texan
re:member Ólafur Arnalds
Tangerine II Michael Brook
Burning Inside Ministry