Celebrating Michigan’s Totem Animal
Monday, September 19th, 2016

David Stairs Downtown Mount Pleasant, Michigan on the morning of July 16th, 2016 Some things about the Michigan summer are a certainty: mosquitoes, humidity, and recreation vehicles. Summer’s the season when snowmobile trailers are swapped out for boat hitches, and the weekend traffic going north on Michigan’s highways likely includes people from Ohio, Indiana, and […]

BikeTown
Friday, August 19th, 2016

David Stairs I’ve written the past couple of summers about Portland, Oregon and its environmentally-friendly culture. I visited my family again last month, as I normally do in July, just in time for the unveiling of a major new corporate/municipal project. On July 19th Portland launched the Biketown bicycle-share initiative. With a fleet of Dutch-designed […]

The Peter and Anna Richmond House
Friday, July 15th, 2016

David Stairs When I first saw the house, a big old Victorian three-story I thought, “This place is great, but it’s way too big.” I’d been living abroad for a couple of years, and returning to rental space in a college town, where rentals are either of the townhouse variety, or student-destroyed older homes, had […]

Rust Belt + memory
Monday, June 13th, 2016

This is the third in an annual series of essays by students of the Ball State University Architecture program. Previous works by Jesse McClain and Phil Borkowski appeared in 2014 and 2015. —Ed. Kenna Gibson I am from a small town 10 miles away from Muncie, Indiana. Muncie: home of Ball State University, former home […]

Design Criticism as the Cruelest Joke
Thursday, April 7th, 2016

David Stairs Last week I was talking with my 16-year-old about his piano lesson when I asked him whether his tutor had emailed him before rescheduling a recent lesson. “Dad,” he chuckled, “I can’t believe you said that.” Translation: no one of sound mind uses anything but text as a means of communicating these days. […]

Design As Self Expression
Friday, January 1st, 2016

David Stairs If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: design is not supposed to be about self-expression. It’s iterative. It’s altruistic. It’s problem solving. But it’s not supposed to be self-expressive. Considering the number of huge egos in the design world, this feels less and less plausible with the passing of […]

Publication Bias
Monday, June 30th, 2014

David Stairs There is a concept in science, known as publication bias, that suggests editors of scientific journals prefer to publish positive test results over the results of failed, or negative tests. It’s human nature, one supposes, to prefer good news to no news, and it certainly is better for circulation. The only problem is, […]

On Using the Mouth as a Third Hand
Saturday, April 19th, 2014

David Stairs At 10:02am on Saturday, February 23, 2014 I officially became old. X-ray of surgical plate to correct a comminuted fracture of my right distal radius As I left my house to take my dog Asali for a walk I noted that the front steps were blocked by snow. I’d been working hard throughout […]

Everything But Love
Friday, March 7th, 2014

David Stairs Looking for love? It doesn’t matter if you have specialized tastes. Not only the “fetish-friendly” or the “transgerdered” are searching, but single moms, cancer sufferers, BBWs, middle-age widowers, cheating wives, and sugar daddies, too. The internet caters for all races, ages, and economic levels, no sexual preference too kinky or niche group too […]

Life at the Corner of Clever and Inane*
Sunday, September 1st, 2013

David Stairs “Tool hedonism is in ascendance.” —J. Robert Oppenheimer Imagine a world where waste is more significant than thrift, where advertising viagra for sale cheap< trumps taste, and where novelty is the be-all end-all of existence. Not hard, is it? You're living the dream everyday. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman’s 1985 look […]

On Authenticity
Friday, March 22nd, 2013

David Stairs Winter Park, FL. train station I’m having this printed on a t-shirt in 100 pt. demi-bold letters: I survived Universal Studios Over the Christmas holidays I was invited to Florida by an old friend I hadn’t seen since 2005. Never mind that I have purposely avoided the “Sunshine State” my whole life. Each […]

Four Tools for Ivan Illich
Friday, January 4th, 2013

David Stairs Cutting Corners One of the most gratifying experiences is having one’s observations corroborated, especially when they are about another culture. Not one, but two Indian acquaintances responded to my last Indian post, Why India Does Not Need Me, with the same remark: it reminded them of a famous speech by Ivan Illich, “To […]

The Once and Future Brand
Thursday, August 11th, 2011

David Stairs This essay was originally published in Speak Up October 26, 2004. It seems just as timely as ever. Branding. From viagra online canadian pharmacy cialiscoupon-freetrialrx.com sildenafil-20mgtablet.com online eczane cialis sildenafil citrate the pages of Print and Communication Arts to the sessions at the AIGA biennial conference, this is what can only be called […]

Ethics 101 for Graphic Designers
Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Ed. note. This piece recently appeared as 21st Century Ethics for Graphic Designers in Sophie Krier’s anthology I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I Want To Be There published in December 2010 by BIS David Stairs What does it mean to be a citizen designer anyway? Years ago Rick Poyner drew attention to it […]

Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

David Stairs I never thought I’d get so old that I’d begin to sound like Andy Rooney. What is he, about 95? But I realize now that the infernal buzzing of human electronic communications media has me longing for the quietude Obi-Wan enjoyed in his adobe hut on Tatooine.

small architecture/BIG CATALOG
Thursday, December 16th, 2010

David Stairs In February of this year my energetic friend Wes Janz mounted the exhibition small architecture/BIGLANDSCAPES at the Swope Museum in Terra Haute. The show was an elaborate combination of image, text, and installation, and drew on Wes’s considerable acquaintance with the world of “small but effective” architectural practitioners, including students, academics, and professionals. […]

Breaking An Arm
Monday, October 25th, 2010

David Stairs Either we live in the most enlightened era of recorded human history, or the most cynical. I don’t think this statement is contradictory. Last year when I wrote Arguing With Success I was subsequently taken to task for criticising the very motives among designers I’d been calling for for years. One respondent said, […]

Just Deserts
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Solving First World problems with Third World solutions.