“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Designs with Soul

I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of designing with soul.

First a little background. I’m not audiophile, but I do love music, especially pop music. I’ve never liked industrial music of any kind. Techno or Freestyle. I always expressed my distaste for this music because it feels “souless” to me. It just feels empty.

On one hand, this could just be that it aesthetically doesn’t resonate with me and my spirit, thus feeling cold and lifeless and devoid of passion. But I actually think it is more than that and I believe that this sense of soul in design translates to almost all of the creative arts and design disciplines.

There are many pieces of creative expression that I love. Few are souless unless being cold and souless is the point of the work, in which case it probably doesn’t feel so much souless as it does feel melancholy, cold, or lifeless.

But now let’s take a step back. What is soul and what is the nature of being soulful? Well considering I’m a devout atheist, I have say I’m not the best person to speak on the topic. But I’m probably one of the more spiritual atheists you’ll find, and it is from this point of view that I’ll attempt to move forward. We’ll learn that for some techno is possibly soulful, but why for others it can’t be, and why for me it seems like it can’t be.

So, what does it mean to be soulful? Well, for me it is all about connected. This concept of the universal soul that many speak of in different religions and even psychological theories, seems to speak to me the most as an atheist because “soul” in the context of creation seems to be mostly about connectedness. And of course, the next question would be “connected to what?”

I don’t have all the answers here, but I notice soulful design when I use it or otherwise experience it. It can mean that the design tries to connect itself historically to the body of design language. It can also mean that the design attempts and succeeds (at a level of critical mass) to connect the points of the eco-system the design resides in. But most importantly I think that it is about the designer and how connected they are to the design, the design problem, the design eco-system, and to the design process.

This last thought which I had most recently has taken me to re-think the imortance of sketching and prototyping. I have no empiracle data, but I am definitely sensing that the more grounded people are in their practice of sketching (for design) and prototyping (or otherwise increased fidelity modeling) the more soulful the designs become. Further, I sense that souless designs are done by people who are not connected to doing the work they are hired to do, but do it out of necessity instead of out of passion & joy. It is work that is handed to them as a task or activity to accomplish towards getting paid, instead of something where their own inspiration can be a canvas for their expression.

Anyway, these are my thoughts for now on the topic, and I hope others might join in and take a think on the topic.

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