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Consequences of the Rise of Design

On Tynan

I was walking through the mall a couple days ago. My path took me past a bunch of stores and kiosks, including the Nike Store. I walked past it and looked at their window display. They had a really nicely photographed poster and some cool looking shoes in a bunch of different colors. The store was beautiful and looked like a fun place to be. At the same time, their shoes aren't particularly great, they aren't actually innovative, and they're made of cheap materials. There are many shoe companies that are way lower quality than Nike, but I don't know if there are any with such a disparity between their presentation and the actual product.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this isn't just nike or most of the clothes in the mall-- it's how our culture works now. Back in the day, if you wanted a pair of shoes you'd go to a cobbler. He would design a pair for you, or use one of his existing designs, pick out some nice leather, and make you a pair of shoes. His design work, his execution, and his materials could all be leveraged about equally, so I'd guess that you'd tend to have either poorly designed shoes that are poorly executed and made of poor materials, or well designed shoes that were well executed and used good materials.

These days, things have changed. Design can be leveraged almost infinitely, which has changed the whole equation. Mass manufacturing ensures decent execution, but supplying top quality materials is difficult. A cobbler who makes a hundred pairs of shoes a year can take the time to pick out the best hides to get the best leather. That doesn't scale to making thousands of shoes a day, so material quality drops. Execution has become more consistent, but the benefits of cutting corners is magnified. Saving a penny on making a pair of shoes didn't matter to the cobblers, but it matters to Nike.

So these days, most of what people buy is well designed, decently and consistently executed, and uses relatively poor quality materials. In the mall I walked past a kiosk of phone cases. There were some that were blinged out. Pretty good design in that they fit perfectly on the phone the're meant for, the rows of fake diamonds are all uniform, etc.. Each one looks the same and is okay quality. But the materials are crap-- cheap plastic painted to look like metal covered in lackluster plastic "gems".

What It Feels Like to Always Travel

On Tynan

For the past few years I've been in a state of near-constant motion. I was in Budapest for five weeks straight last month, and that was by far the longest I'd been in one place in years. This lifestyle now feels totally normal to me, so I thought it might be interesting to share what it feels like to live such a life, both good and bad.

Maybe the best part of moving around constantly is that I have a "presence" in different cities around the world. I have friend groups in Vegas, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, and Budapest. In any of these places I can land and immediately feel at home, navigating by memory, calling up friends, going to favorite restaurants, etc.

Because I go to all of these places with relative frequency, I'm generally never gone for too long. So although I don't get to see all of my friends every week like I'd like to, I generally see them every 1-3 months (longer for Tokyo).

If you call these five places my homes, you could say that I have a five "half homes" rather than one full home. In other words, it feels like the sum of these partial residences is greater than one residence, in terms of connection with friends, getting to know a city, etc.

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