conversation design

"Even failure has become a buzzword. Failure ™."

The Resonance Test 11: Jessica Helfand

June 14, 2017
by Lee MoreauKen Gordon

Jessica Helfand resists taking center stage. If anything, she wants to give her place in spotlight to the audience. Helfand, an author and Yale professor and co-founder of Design Observer, thinks that the time has come to stop gawking at the stars pontificating the podium and instead start conversations—meaningful ones—with each other. To this end, she recently prototyped something she calls The Next Stage, in our Boston studio. And the moment that experiment ended, our Lee Moreau jogged her over to a conference room to record a podcast reflecting on the experience.

Listen closely, and you’ll hear her say some bright, provocative, and deeply humane things, such as:

• “Performance is fine if it’s theatre. Performance is fine if it’s sports. But why does performance have to happen in social engagement, in personal interaction?”

• “Even failure has become a buzzword. Failure ™.”

• “I love podcasting because just as I loved like this conversation this morning because, the minute you put other people in the mix, the vocabulary changes, and you get much more of a rich soup. There’s more flavors.”

• “The whole point is to spawn better, easier, more mindful, more consistent, more connected ideas in the world. That’s civilization in progress.”

• “Viral is not a word that’s good if you’re an epidemiologist or an immunologist.”

• “Designers are really good at making stuff look cool. At making stuff look shiny. And I don’t think that the world is a shiny place. And so, we would be doing ourselves and each other a disservice if we didn’t ask some ruthlessly objective questions about what that means.”

• “Why are we autodidacts in terms of technology and not of philosophy or ideas?”

The Resonance Test 11: Jessica Helfand
filed in: conversation design , prototyping

About the Author

  • moreau lee
    Lee Moreau

    Lee Moreau is a Principal at Continuum, a global design and innovation consultancy. An architect and strategist, Lee combines a unique capacity for complex-systems thinking with a deeply empathic perspective, which he uses to critically engage and re-imagine the contemporary world.

    Through research, analysis, and imagination, Lee helps Continuum’s clients understand their entanglement within their own complex set of cultural, material, and economic circumstances. Lee has led service design projects for a diverse group of clients that blur the boundaries between content and experience.

  • Gordon Ken
    Ken Gordon
    Content, Conversation, and Community Strategist

    Ken makes Continuum’s work visible to the necessary people. He creates superlative content, works with colleagues to do the same, and employs social networks to share it widely.

    A card-carrying humanist, Ken co-founded QuickMuse, the improvisational writing website, and JEDLAB, the Jewish education community. He has written for, the New York Times, and many other pubs.

    Ken has an English degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MA in English from the State University of New York at Albany. He framed both diplomas long ago, but can’t seem to find them now—a fact he considers all-too-human.