The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday offers exercises, prompts, provocations, games and things you can actually do to build attention muscles, stave off distraction, pick up on what everybody else overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Knopf | All purpose link for readers in UK/Europe or US
This newsletter offers related news and ideas and noteworthy projects that have come along since I finished the book. Reminder: I’ve switched from Tinyletter to Substack for sending out these newsletters.Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com. Concerns? Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This one-minute video was going around a few weeks back. I must have watched it at least a dozen times. It shows scores of air mattresses, blowing across a field. They look amazing. To me, this is an absolutely magnificent piece of art.
Technically, it’s not piece of art at all. It’s just a mistake. Apparently (via BoingBoing) the air mattresses were set up in a field, for some kind of outdoor movie event. And then the wind kicked up.
I don’t care how it happened. I say it is art. As those of you who have read The Art of Noticing know, there’s a prompt in the book related to this: “Make It Art.” It’s a bit of a silly game meant to make you channel Duchamp, and reconsider your perceptions of the everyday. An excerpt:
Think then of some regular walk or drive or ride you experience often, or even that you’re experiencing for the first time. Imagine yourself a curator. Decide what, among the things you notice, you might declare public works of art.
For instance, I noticed this pleasing arrangement of traffic cones (below) in a parking lot the other day. I was impressed, and declared them to be art. Next time you notice accidental art, declare it so; if you wish, put it on Instagram with the tag #makeitart and/or #theartofnoticing. This is just for fun, it’s not a promotion or a contest — but I’ll be searching for those tags.
As I argue in the book: “Art is everywhere, if you say so.”
More Boring Architecture
For those of you who enjoyed last issue’s item about perfunctory architecture: Check out this very interesting, semi-related article by the terrific Wayne Curtis, on the design of a suburban chain called Texas Roadhouse — a deep dive on corporate architecture. He writes:
As a consumer who’s walked through the door of many of these places, I’ve often wondered: How do these thousands of chain restaurants and retail clusters and big box stores get designed and constructed so quickly? What role do architects play?
I say this is semi-related because I think that Subway I snapped is actually more banal, and less considered, than these chain-built structures. Another reader tells me of having read that Subway actually prefers not to build new buildings, but rather to occupy existing ones, which makes its opportunities for branding with architecture much more limited. I haven’t researched this (and I feel confident I’ve seen Subways that sure looked purpose-built) but even if the company merely tolerates this scenario from time to time, it would both explain why it’s occupying that ho-hum building that interested me — and spark yet more questions about the original thinking that brought that ho-hum building into existence.
Anyway, read Wayne’s piece, it’s fascinating: here.
My Column for New Medium Magazine, Marker
I’m writing a new design/marketing/business/culture column called Off Brand, for Marker, a business magazine that Medium just launched. The first column is on why sometimes it’s smart to design for the worst; the second asks: if the iPhone is such great industrial design, why does it need a case (that smothers the aesthetic that helped convince you to buy it in the first place)? Check it out! (And as you Medium regulars know, if you enjoy what you read, click the “clap” icon a few times.)
Icebreaker Of The Week
This week’s icebreaker comes from Art of Manliness podcast producer Jeremy Anderberg.
If you had to take a bath in a food, which food would it be?
“It’s my favorite icebreaker question; I've used it dozens of times,” Jeremy reports. “Answers range from chocolate to cheese to my own answer: mashed potatoes and gravy. Answering involves considerations of liquid vs solid, textures, etc. Some people ask about champagne showers.” I’d say champagne doesn’t count as food. But mashed potatoes and gravy? Anyway, a very weird and very fun one!
Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or got it elsewhere) to email@example.com
In Other News:
Some other quick book-related notes:
I had a ball being interviewed for The Art of Manliness podcast. “Rob Walker, the author of The Art of Noticing, argues that tuning into things normally overlooked not only provides fodder for art and business, but can make life seem more vibrant and engaging.”
"Why mindfulness is a little bit like rediscovering your inner child." Thanks to Lizzy Francis for this nice Q&A about the book for Fatherly.
At Forbes.com, Will Burns cites The Art of Noticing in an interesting riff on elements of creativity.
“To help you slow down and spark creativity this back to school season, we’re giving away five copies of THE ART OF NOTICING.” That’s from my publisher, but I think the giveaway is over? Anyway I love that picture! Details on Instagram.
Okay, that's it! As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, and your icebreakers: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!
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