I hope to achieve a rhythm with Merge between the micro and the macro. Examples of micro topics will be tactical stuff like business plans and online advertising, while the macro will come through in an ongoing discussion of business and cultural trends and how they relate to design and entrepreneurship. Today, we go macro.
Kurt Anderson is one of those annoyingly multi-talented guys. An author (latest novel: Heyday), a former journalist, and the host of the design-friendly weekly public radio show Studio 360. His cover story in the April 6 issue of TIME Magazine (yes, the one that has ink on paper) is an exquisitely clear-headed snapshot of the current cultural/economic/creative moment entitled: The End of Excess: Why This Crisis is Good for America. And a snapshot that is relevant to entrepreneurs.
With all of the hyperbolic commentary about the current state of the state, Anderson pushes the pause button in this essay and puts a surprisingly hopeful spin on our seemingly grim circumstances. Looking back at our recovery from previous economic and cultural crises, he discovers that those hard times were followed by periods of great innovation and progress.
“Recall, please, the national mood in the mid-’70s: after the 1960s party, we found ourselves in a slough of despondency, with an oil crisis, a terrible recession, a kind of Weimarish embrace of decadence, national malaise — and at that very dispirited moment, Microsoft and Apple were founded. The next transformative, moneymaking technologies and businesses are no doubt coming soon to a garage near you.”
Or maybe a design studio near you? I would suggest that another area on the cusp of a great leap forward is communication. As designers of communication, we are the ones to lead this trend—and not by waiting for our clients to hire us to design their innovative communication products for them, but to innovate ourselves. Kurt Anderson continues:
“This is the moment for business to think different and think big. The great dying off of quintessentially 20th century businesses presents vast opportunity for entrepreneurs. People will still need (greener) cars, still want to read quality journalism, still listen to recorded music and all the rest. And so as some of the huge, dominant, old-growth trees of our economic forest fall, the seedlings and saplings — that is, the people burning to produce and sell new kinds of transportation and media in new, economic ways — will have a clearer field in which to grow.”
Designers, let’s take the field.
Special thanks to my friend, mentor and new social media user, Eric Madsen for the tip on the TIME article (more on Eric another time).