12 Design Leaders Set New Year’s Resolutions

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The end of the year is a time to reflect and have hope. According to Psychology Today, our brains are actually “built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news.” It seems like it’s almost impossible to avoid steeping ourselves in a pessimistic mindset these days, but if you take a moment to scan the data, it turns out things have never been better. We’re safer. We’re healthier. We’re living longer.

Setting a resolution at the end of the year has always been a tradition for me. While we may not accomplish everything we strive to do, writing something down at the end of the year can help us live with intention and, at the very least, further define our purpose. To help us all tune our brains a bit to be more optimistic, I reached out to design leaders across the globe to share their New Year’s Resolutions with us.

1. David Carson

Design Director, David Carson Design

To do more fine art + painting. To clean up my desktop. To cut my keynote lecture/presentation down from 800+ slides. Maybe to 750. Or less.

2. De Nichols

Civic Impact Design Strategist and Keynote Speaker

  1. As a socially engaged designer and activist, I resolve to cultivate more radical collaborations and get more physical with my practice through the design of more public interventions and interactive experiences. I believe design is a crucial tool and pathway towards understanding and affecting human behavior, so I seek to explore how it can intersect the political policies, institutional practices, and cultural norms that influence us.
  2. I also resolve to better utilize digital platforms like YouTube to provide more insight into my experiences as a designer (especially as a young queer woman of color) effecting social impact in our world. It’s a riveting wave of adventures and challenges in my practice, so I want to engage digital storytelling to help inspire and embolden other designers (and students) to understand design as a catalyst for change and use our field for good. 

3. Sean Adams

Executive Director, Graduate Graphic Design, ArtCenter College of Design

I plan on citing more Henny Youngman jokes in 2018. I will stay on schedule for my Design Observer column and be nice to my editor. I will stop dressing like an 18-year-old in 1955.  

4. Bernard Canniffe

Chair, Graphic Design, Iowa State University, College of Design

Design Re[v}solution: I intend to dedicate my skills to serve the underserved, and highlight injustice. To use design as a catalyst to make this world a better place for all, one project at a time.

5. Mariana Amatullo

Associate Professor, Design Strategy & Management, The New School

New Year’s resolutions are more than a ritual that can boomerang back with positive or negative effects. Fully embraced, New Year’s resolutions can afford us a fresh start to accomplishing worthy goals successfully. Gone astray, New Year’s resolutions invariably lead to broken promises—adding insult to injury on the inadequacy front. Needless to say, my ambivalence with the whole concept does not make me the most fervent adopter of New Year’s resolutions … But as a year of profound change closes for me, and as an educator deeply inspired by the field of design for social innovation in all of its complexity, I am committing to continue practicing the hard discipline of listening intently.

6. George Aye

Co-Founder and Director of Innovation, Greater Good Studio

Every day, give the person you’re talking to your complete, undivided attention. Every week, create more content that you consume. Every month, give away your power/privilege to someone who has less. 

7. Aaron Draplin

Draplin Design Co. and Field Notes Brand

  1. More time in Portland! Need to slow down my hectic pace on the road. Been a hell of a year and am so thankful for all the book tour gigs—100+ shows since the book came out on May 17, 2016.
  2. More time playing guitar. I just want to make one song. Currently in high level negotiations with possible singers, bass players and drummers who’ll humor me to get one song on tape.
  3. Doing whatever it take to impeach Don Trump. Already planning a big impeachment party! Streamers, air horns, cake … maybe even one of those blow-up slide things for 44-year-olds? All options are on the table. Sooner the better! 

8. Alisa Olinova

Art Director, verynice

I resolve to be what I always thought a great designer should look like. This means being well balanced, creative and ambitious. I’ll be feeding my creative *and* professional self. I’ll be working on digital illustration and pursuing roles as an educator. I’ll be expanding my tool box with design strategy and marketing strategy. 

9. Martin Lorenz

Founder, TwoPoints.Net

  1. Make something.
    2. Make something relevant.
    3. Make something relevant for yourself.
    4. Make something relevant for yourself, which also benefits someone else.
    5. Make something relevant for yourself, which also benefits someone else and the world we live in.
    6. Be proud about your achievements.
    7. Be proud about your achievements and share your success and failure with others.
    8. Be proud about your achievements, share your success and failure with others and learn from them.
    9. Repeat. 

10. Haven Linkirk

Vice Dean of Design, USC Roski School of Art and Design/Iovine and Young Academy

My New Year’s resolution is to be kind. And when I say “KIND”, I don’t mean the nice, sweet, sappy weak kindness but kind acts that evolves from empathy and informed understanding.

11. Lawrence Azerrad

Grammy-Nominated Designer and Principal, Lawrence Azerrad Design

In 2017 a lot of good came through our studio by the hard work of through focusing daily on follow through, appreciation of what is happening now, and quality … quality of attention, quality of engendering creativity, quality of design, and the first thing, quality of follow through. It isn’t easy to remember this in the stress of normal day to day workflow. Actually, I block time every weekday morning to remind myself of these goals. But I still forget. My resolution for 2018, is to double-down on that quality of attention, focus, and follow through. And to maybe be more forgiving of myself when I do forget. But still try to forget this less. Have a kind and meaningful 2018 everyone.

12. Jessie Kawata

NASA Design Pioneer and Principal Design Director at Microsoft

To explore the edges of science, from the depths of our Earth to the molecules that make us human in order to discover new ways in which design x technology can help improve the future of our planet and the quality of people’s lives.


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