The Spontaneous Order of Interior Design

It’s tempting to always approach interior design as a top down system. We may start a conception of how we want a room to look and disrupt the natural order of the room, to reorganize it to fit with this conception. Then we try to force our habits to match the design of the room. The whole approach can come with a lot of problems. We may find it difficult to adjust our behaviors. Or find forcing an aesthetic on a room will feel clunky and awkward. However this is not the only way to approach interior design. Consider a more natural or bottom up tactic. One that conforms with our natural spontaneous activities.
Within the study of economics, there is a concept called Spontaneous Order. It is an insight about how order can develop without the need of top down design. Complex and functional systems can be built through what looks like chaos. Evolution is a solid example of this. There’s (likely) no top down design to nature. Why a specific body part evolved can be explained simply through understanding the complex and chaotic incentives that animals face over generations. Walking around on a busy city block is another example. There’s no cop telling you to walk on the right side of the sidewalk. No expressed rules for when to get out of someone’s way. Yet the vast majority of the time, you aren’t bumping into people. The relevant insight here, is that sometimes designs doesn’t need to be over thought. Often systems should just follow the natural order and incentives already in place.
So how do we apply this concept to interior design?
To start off, let’s discuss furniture. Have you ever not had a night stand by your bed? Seriously think about it. Everyone reading this can probably be fit into two categories of experience. Either you left your parents house with a night stand and take it for granted, or you didn’t have a night moving out and asap found a substitute or bought your own. Without one you find yourself with noticeable inconveniences. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and you need your glass of water. Most people have it conveniently placed in arms reach on a stand, at a height near the height of the bed. If you didn’t have the nightstand, the placement of your glass of water becomes a lot more inconvenient. It’s either on the floor, below the bed, or away from the bed on some other piece of furniture. Naturally the incentives are clear for you to buy a nightstand to place besides your bed.
It’s easy to see how we can use this idea for something like furniture, but what about aesthetic design choices?
Here I’ll use a personal example to help illustrate my point. When I first moved into my current room, I found myself often sitting in my bed, always facing a certain direction. This happened to be the most comfortable spot to sit on my bed, were I might naturally lay around while passing the time. Unfortunately while in that spot, the only thing I had to look at was a blank wall. Not just any blank wall, but a pretty ugly one at that. A makeshift wall previously installed in the room before I moved in. My basic incentive was to find something to increase the value of staring off into this direction. I knew I needed something large to cover as much of the wall as possible. I knew it had to be interesting to look at as to avoid getting bored. This lead to purchasing a large world map. Hanging up on my wall, it covers most of the ugly and fulfills all of wants. I have something interesting to look at that never really gets boring. Simply through designing around my natural activities, I was able to reach a meaningful design choice.
Next time you’re designing the interior of a room, consider taking an approach that accounts for your natural behaviors. Obverse exactly how you live in your room. Consider where you eyes fall and where you place your belongings before going to bed. Pay attention to your natural activities and design around those incentives instead of trying to confirm your actions to some grander design. Pay attention to the spontaneous order of interior design.

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How to Get Companies to Use Your Designs

 

Today I want to discuss how designers can get businesses to use their work. Though my experience is running a t-shirt company, I think what I’m about to say has wider application for designers in all fields. I’m going to dissect three messages I’ve received from artists with offers to use their work. None of these are perfect and the first one is absolutely terrible. 

Let’s start with the worst:

message1

So this fella sends me a message asking if I’m interested in his shirt design. The wording is pretty vague.I have no idea if he already has a design created or if he’s just throwing around an idea and wants to get feedback. There’s also nothing to give me any indication of his design quality. This message creates a lot of work for me. I have to ask further for further details that should have been given. 

Message2

This message is a little better. It’s a step up from the first one by offering some samples of his work  and shows that he’s already done designs in my field (cryptocurrencies like Ethereum) . This keeps me from having to ask too many questions as I can gauge his limitations and strengths by looking at the portfolio. He also offers a bit more of a specific offer. However I get a lot of message like this from designers. It’s important to look for opportunity but this message does little to help him stand out. Why should I choose him over any other free lancer I could find online? There is no attempt to build any sort of relationship or give me value. 

Message3

This message gets even closer to the ideal. The designer just straight up sends me some work I could use. I’m prompted to respond, especially given that these designs very usable. It’s completely eliminates any guess work on my end and even saves me the trouble of having to come up with a design idea to commission. This designer has my attention by offering me something with clear value. The context of this specific conversation made the lack of written out value proposition okay. The designer established a relationship with me by having a conversation on a different topic. If you don’t already have an in to a conversation with the business you may want to include a message along with the designs you send in.

If you want businesses to use your designs, do everything you can to minimize the work on their end. Some sort of combination of the second and thirds messages is going to be the way to go. Send them samples of your work, send them designs ideas, and even potentially go as far as sending a free design. Good luck!

Lessons From a Failed T-shirt Store

Before my success with Ethereum Clothing I had a failed T-shirt store, Stateless Apparel (aka SA). It was a side project I took up during my time with the Praxis program. Inspired by my interest in freedom and Libertarian Philosophy, I decided I could find a way to help spread ideas through design. Lots of fun but it was definitely a failed project. An extremely educational failure at that. Here’s what I’ve learned about running a t-shirt store.
1) Avoid acquiring inventory before making sales.

The most expensive mistake I made with SA was printing a couple boxes of shirts before I had any sales. Several years later I still have shirts sitting in my closet. This was an amateur mistake especially in the e-commerce clothing market. Now I know that printing as I get orders is the best way to do it. With Ethereumclothing.com I outsource my printing and shipping to the company Printful. It helps me keep my upfront costs low while freeing up my time to grow the business.

2) Keep website costs low.

Though not as costly as the product problem, I definitely lost some money with my web hosting. Before establishing my revenue I committed to a monthly payment of over $25 on Shopify. Now this isn’t a big cost, but for a first time entrepreneur it was a mistake. With the right combination of WordPress and web hosting systems I was able to get the monthly hosting cost down to under $10. I love Shopify, mind you. I actually currently run my site on it. If you kind of know what you’re doing, you’ll what to use it. I have an affiliate link you can check out. For a first timer though, it’s worth looking at your other options.

3) Start with several designs.

When I was running AS I only had two designs. They were pretty decent looking, but having such an empty site made my store unprofessional. Also if I had more designs I could have made a lot more sales. With my new site and all future projects I’ve decided to start with at least 5 designs.

4) Learn to do the designs yourself when possible.

Both of the designs were outsourced to a friend of mine. Great work! However the designs weren’t too complicated and I could easily recreate them now with my current design skills. I also overpaid. Unfamiliar with the market I offered much higher than I should have. My friend even gave me a discount, likely feeling the commissioned work wasn’t worth the cost. I also missed out on a great opportunity to learn a skill. I currently design most of the work at Ethereumclothing.com and will likely continue to sharpen that ability with further projects.

Failure is a necessary part of the growth process. Though it was unfortunate to lose time and money, I’m glad I had the courage to give it try.