Peter Sjöstedt-H, Philosopher

Interesting reading material (also check out the two books), especially if you’re dabbling with psychedelics. Also featured on this podcast on youtube. His writings seem to have been fundamental in creating (“moulding the character”) Karnak, a hero from an upcoming Marvel movie.

Concerning the self-help “spam” on Medium

Being great, being more, is a life struggle and telling people to follow these few simple steps, few simple mantras, to some epic greatness is the most irresponsible of lies.

Just when I started to include a daily scan on Medium in my morning coffee routine, I noticed the exact same thing. My newsfeed is populated (still to this day) with countless self-help articles. I can’t get rid of them. For one eventually insightful article, there’s 20 overly enthusiastic “You can do anything” articles. But I hate to be the one destroying this illusion, but no, you can not do anything. Not by mimicking Steve Jobs diet routine or combing your hair like Richard Branson. Nope.

Mercantilism / the reason you answer your work email on the weekend

But with mercantilism, one of the first major economic theories, how a person spent his or her time directly corresponded with the wealth of the entire country. According to economists of the time, any form of waking idleness lost a country money — and was declared a grave sin. The time between seasons and harvests, the time between anything at all, if not spent at work, was simply and suddenly a waste.

So, I’m technically a sinner since I spent half a year doing nothing. I get that. Honestly, that’s how a burn-out does make you feel. That is also why the UBI (unconditional basic income) sounds like you’re throwing money at a bunch of freeloaders. Our entire society is conditiond and indoctrinated with this – relatively young – concept.

The Brotherhood of Eternal Love

One could argue that these guys basically enabled what we look back at nowadays and call the summer of love. Interesting, yet tragic. Or maybe not enable – but they played a major role that probably no one really realised. Especially not here in Switzerland..

Should be readily available on your favourite torrent tracker. Just to keep the spirit alive of making stuff available for free for the sake of enlightenment. 😉

Probably the most tragic observation is that Leary felt in the sixties already that the system sort of doesn’t quite work. That there is an imbalance of power, to say it like that. And here we are, almost 60 years later and it feels weird to look at the world today with these things in mind.

The more I read about this specific period of history, especially about the psychedelic movement and it’s interaction with politics and the economy on a global scale, the more fascinated I become. This is so much more than a bunch of hippies going rogue. Something much bigger almost happened, ending with Leary being incarcerated and effectively silenced and removed from the stage, just before entering politics. And the subsequent dissolve of the movement without leaders.

Just thinking about how things might be different is interesting. Not implying it would be the solution to all problems.. certainly not. But reducing this movement and period of time to a best of album and a bunch of images of people with long hair and beards is a gravely oversimplified version of reality. This is when politics started to become lifestyle marketing in the US, when the war on drugs started, globalisation started to take off, banks became a force of the state for good, the beginning of the age of information and global mass media.. basically everything that put us on this track we see today. And no, I still don’t know wether that’s s good thing or s bad thing. Probably somewhere in between..

This was the last time in recent history the status quo has been questioned on such a deep level. Not like any other subculture. And the conformity machine has won.

I yet have to make a clear picture of this, but .. interesting, nonetheless.

The interactions of society, the movement, economy and politics of that era are very interesting. Or did you know that one of the first guys to promote the idea of cyberspace in the nineties (and thus subsequently VR) was a key figure and member of the  “acid test” movement in the sixties? The guys who made the “hippie bus” a thing? I think we probably owe a lot more to Albert Hoffmann in recent history than we allow ourselves to admit.

I think we need to dig a little deeper.

The century of the self

The evolution of psychology in marketing resulting in the Consumer Democracy. Extrapolate from there.

But to try and be optimistic, I would say, the fairphone idea is a start. Or another result from focus groups. 😛

“Think different”, huh?

This documentary, even though it’s 4 hours in total length, kept me seated until the very end. The lines being drawn, the dots connected are not underlined by opinion and there is no new information shown. After all, it’s about the past.. it connects events that might not be perceived as being effectively connected. And that’s whats mind boggling. To realise something you kinda knew all along but now there’s finally a historical base for that looming feeling..

It is staggering to see how business always managed to turn a societal movement into a market segment. They did it again with all the subcultures. Once they cracked the code of the consumer’s mind, anything can be sold to anyone. Doesn’t matter what. Doesn’t matter where.

I get it with the whole “economy creates wealth for society” idea, trust me. The only problem I have is that a) the same mechanisms are applied to politics with devastating results in the US and Britain (and certainly elsewhere) that completely undermines the idea of democracy (proof me wrong, France, I dare you). And b) the biggest part of society doesn’t even know (ehrm, doesn’t care much either) about the fact that they are just market segments and extrapolated focus groups on such a large scale. I find the science fascinating. And I guess it’s just an extension (evolutionary step?) of the herding applied in previous centuries. The irony is strong though. By trying to be a self conscious individual and being served individually branded mass products, the snake bites it’s own tail, very hard. This freedom of choice is really only virtual in it’s nature. It’s a lie we accept willingly. Because the alternative would probably be worse. But it still feels a bit like brainwashing to me. If there are regulations for how much CO2 is supposed to be in the air because if affects quality of life physically, shouldn’t there be restrictions on neuro marketing because it might affect you in ways that are not entirely predictable and actually trigger some sort of action that you are not aware of?

Honestly, I can’t say wether this is bad or not. I think a capitalist finds it a genius development. But a humanist questions it’s impact on society as a whole. I would be happy with a compromise. But I guess we are actually already there. You can choose between being targeted based on your values or based on your needs. There’s no escape. Soap can make you more masculine, more ecologically conscious, more economically satisfied, more concerned about yourself in general. If you tell someone “it’s fucking soap” he might not have any idea what you’re talking about. Is this being disconnected with reality? Are we just kinda stuck in our quest for self realisation, self awareness, self this, self that .. aren’t we just acting on sort of a proxy guilt when buying stuff that sends 10% of revenues to Africa or what not? Do I always have to choose? What if I decide to not give a fuck anymore (I did)? What if there is something like too much choice?

Oh the irony..

Political systems might fail, sooner or later. But someone is always making a buck somewhere, carrying away some profit from one system’s demise to fuel another’s growth (and subsequent demise). Circle of life, I guess.

Oh, one thing one might add here is that corporations get a hit in the head nowadays thanks to social media quite often. Which is a new twist that wasn’t quite there yet when the documentary was made. I think this is actually quite a good way to keep them in check. No threat works better than a looming boycott. Oh this gets those PR reps fired up in no time.

Thankfully, I haven’t seen such impact on politics in Switzerland yet. But we’re always behind a decade or two on things like that. I remember someone trying to entangle me in a market research phone call for city council last year in Aarau. So maybe.. brace yourselves.

Maybe we should get democracy to update it’s UX and run a few focus groups on the democratic process. And it’s mind boggling that “No, there is no App for democracy, we worry about security and we prefer being manipulated in other ways” while it’s possible to send a picture of my dick half way across the globe in a second or two. Society, I love your priorities.

Resident Evil: The final chapter

This is the worst movie I have seen in a long while. I loves me a good action flick (even cheesy ones) but that’s just ridiculous. I don’t even know where to start so I’ll just leave it at that. I had to skip plenty of times over boring dialogue and even the action had the suspense of a hammock.




It’s dead. Since a long time (2015). Quietly disappeared. Shocking, knowing they had something like $30M in funding. More..

The struggle

I am currently recovering from a burnout. Concentration, the lack thereof, is what bothers me most. It’s hard to accept that there are very hard constraints in place about the things I can do and the things I can’t.

It feels as if I’m still a long way from being able to have real focus for a few hours in a row, but it gets better. Very slowly.

I removed myself from the social media circus, got rid of all the news alerts and news apps and that indeed makes a difference. I am currently considering removing all portables from my life. Smart phone, tablet.. or at least deleting everything but the eBook Reader App.

It’s still hard from me to even focus on reading a long text „casually“ (skipping lines without noticing and things like that).

It feels like I switched from a sixteen track recording machine to a crappy dictation device in terms of my attention span and parallel processing abilities.

I (my ego) want to do more but my brain simply doesn’t play ball. It’s frustrating and humbling, constantly overestimating my own abilities.

A week goes by so quickly, it looks blurry and there is no feeling of achievement. Simple tasks (sending a letter to some insurance) take days and weeks. And I can only focus on one thing, while everything else immediately fades away and remains forgotten. Task switching turned from something I did 20 times a day to a sheer impossible thing. The transition is incredibly hard. I even forget about the piece of paper where I wrote down some things or my todo list. Heck, I forget that I have one in the first place.

I noticed I can spend three or more hours reading stuff on Reddit without even noticing how time goes by. Even though there would be a hundred better ways to spend time. All those distractions are like heroine for my brain. There’s only one channel available and having this channel filled with a stream of information blocks everything else out. Ironically, even this lone stream is abruptly interrupted with one single notification of an email on the top of my iPad. Toxic.

TL;DR, change things while you still can, because recovering from the Big Bang that happens when you’re completely depleted takes a long time and isn’t pleasant at all. It feels like starting from scratch all over again, tormenting your ego in the process. Not worth it.

This again

Webdesign is getting boring? Frankly, I disagree.

Not the youngest of articles but the same discussion happened on medium the other day. So this comes up again and again and I can very well understand the feeling.

I really get it. We used to have a lot of fun with bevels and fake shiny plastic back in the day. Oh how I enjoyed Winamp skins, noise filters and fake mercury letters. After all it was what got me hooked when I was 14 or so.

We actually aspired to create more user friendly websites for a long while, making fun of animated gifs.. now look where we ended up: the web is (well, mostly) rather user friendly and everybody and their dogs creates animated gifs. hehe. So one problem is solved, the other had some kind of pop culture revival.

Content first, no bullshit design doesn’t need to be boring. Just because Ruder and other typographers established structured and well organised grid layouts (that we all love), print hasn’t become any more boring either. The fact that we have great grid frameworks for the web takes a lot of fiddling away and we can figure out how to use this to still create individual layouts within the constraints and not sacrifice UX and accessibility along the way. It is possible to create visually pleasing editorial content on the web and not sacrifice UX. However, for the latter you need the client, the budget and the coders that don’t try to explain to you about DITA and what not. I’m sure we find a middle ground, friends. 🙂

Like with all things though, that comes with a price. You can’t expect to quote a website template for 600 bucks and be left with creative freedom. Creativity and design processes are rather inefficient by nature and there’s a good chance that the longer an idea boils, the more refining is applied, the better the result. Now if you complain about boring websites and push prices to the bare minimum and change a few lines of a themeforest template, there’s your problem. For a company, 1000$ doesn’t make a difference if they know the value of what they receive will actually improve much, as well. On a side note, I usually suggest to clients that have basically no budget at all to go for that themeforest route but at the same time making it clear to them that while this might work for starters, it scratches only the surface of what’s possible. For some it matters, for some it doesn’t.

If you think Webdesign is boring, maybe stop using premade templates completely, where you initially think you want to change certain things but then forget about it because it’s much more convenient to use what’s already there. And then there’s a deadline. And the guy liked that photo of a pasture in the hero area that ships with it. Why bother. But if you succumb to this workflow, you’re bound to be bored.

Accept that you are always designing for an audience. If this audience is supposed to find their way and information quickly, there’s only so much options. And that is a good thing for everyone! But there are times where an audience is different, where you are completely in charge of things.

This doesn’t mean that you have to get bored. Drop (or rethink) your dribbble and make a kick ass weird portfolio site that shows off the freaky, non mainstream side of you. Without the hero images and the sidebar and the sexy smiling lady with a headset..

Or make a graphically wild mobile app using Ionic and Cordova just for the heck of it.

Or anything, really.

I know, because I made the same mistake a few years ago and it took me a while to realise what has happened. If you get bored, quality drops, money becomes the main focus and all the love is gone before you know it. If you’re like me, maybe you need to look for contrast to restore balance, thus maybe even discovering new things in the process.

We design for clients, we are bound to budgets and opinions and corporate identities. But we can also design for ourselves from time to time. I did this way too rarely in the past couple of years and I have to rediscover, for example, my love for bold typographic minimalism and noisy collages.

Question design trends, be skeptic. I was never a big fan of jumping on the bandwagon. And I have a hard time connecting to the so called design community because the weight of egos is pushing too hard for my taste. There’s enough kids running after (insert latest design trend here). At least that’s how I feel about it, anyways. There’s things to consider and then there’s the funky gradient everybody uses for their icon backdrop I don’t give a fuck about.

Why the West rules – for now

Being plagued by insomnia might have its perks after all, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten my hands on that huge history book torrent. And this one is worth it.

History book by Ian Morris. Different perspective on history that might trigger a few “figured that out already” moments for Civilization players. 😉 Especially interesting because things are slightly starting to shift again on the globe. Time to put that in perspective.

In a way a big data approach to history minus fancy graphs, but maybe someone gets around to it. *hint hint*

Interestingly, the background of the author underlines my theory that   specialists alone don’t quite make the soup on their own and isolated views tend to be.. isolated.