Thinking for Way More Than a Living

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To borrow a phrase from his own “thought-provoking design content” site, Frank Chimero thinks for a living. The graphic designer, teacher, and writer recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for his book “The Shape of Design,” a digital and beautifully-bound 400-square-foot-apartment-cluttering book that seeks to “take design’s temperature,” exploring less of the how and more of the why we make things.

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Growing out of an eponymous talk Chimero gave at the 2010 Build Conference in Belfast, the “Shape of Design” book will analyze the practice of design, digging deep into the creative process by “thinking about the topics that orbit that practice: storytelling, concept, craft, and improvisation.”

In his project video, Chimero tells us the book is a “cross-eyed philosophy” that has “no take-aways,” but instead promises to make readers feel “drunk with the idea you can go off and make anything.” Chimero’s readers are not just designers, but “anyone who makes things,” he explains, “(which is all of us.)”  

And with that small parenthetical inclusion, Frank Chimero melted my pathetically-romantic-Kickstartin-idealist heart. This book isn’t written yet, Chimero says. “You’re just going to have to trust me. Will you?” he asks, handwritten on a yellow legal pad. 

To be brief, Mr. Chimero: Hell Yes.

Just starting to dip my toes into the design pool, I was not that familiar with Chimero before this project, at least, not by name. But a quick poke around his website revealed that I’m often exposed to his work. His wittily literal graphic depictions of abstract ideas, complex phenomena, and philosophical musings have graced the pages of Newsweek, The Atlantic, Wired, GOOD, and The New York Times among others.  

Chimero’s work makes simple poetry of difficult prose. It awakens the right side of your brain when you could’ve sworn you were just using your left. Browsing Chimero’s website, I was most struck by his sincerity.

In addition to the standard “Work,” “Shop” “Profile” “Blog” and “FAQ” pages, there’s also an “Ideas” section, a page Chimero defines as a “collection of significant concepts” that inform “how we make decisions around here.”  

And then there’s the “Ethos” page.  Maybe I’m a sucker for a solid aphorism, but Chimero’s “Ethos” page is what made me go from liking his work to being moved by his whole self. His one-sentence posts go back about two years, and scrolling through I found a few that I think really hit home for us here at Kickstarter. Rather than dissect them, I think — as Chimero gracefully does on his site — it’s better to just let them breathe:

  • Curation is storytelling
  • Tools can’t replace process
  • Make yourself skillful. Then, make yourself vulnerable
  • Collaboration is the new competition

and, his most recent post:

  • Thoughtfulness is free, and burns on time and empathy.

Scanning the 50 comments on Chimero’s project page, among the shipping queries, “right ons,” and gratitude from Chimero are some deeply thoughtful and appreciative words. One comment that struck me in particular came from backer Kyle Watt who wrote:

“The Shape of Design” project exceeded its goal the first day it went live on our site. With over 1,300 backers and funds swelling at roughly 250% of his desired amount, Chimero and his project are a bonafide Kickstarter success.  

But it’s not the numbers that floor me. It’s the ethos at work here that’s so inspiring and worth sharing. 

    1. Eryn Rosenthal on

      Wow, thanks Elisabeth!!! Right on. Frank's skill with a bow and arrow rivals Mercury (or, perhaps, collaborates with him?) :)