There are two words every designer needs to feel comfortable saying: “no” and “why.” Those words are the foundation of what we do. They’re the foundation of building an ethical framework. If we cannot ask “why?” we lose the ability to judge whether the work we’re doing is ethical. If we cannot say “no” we lose the ability to stand and fight. We lose the ability to help shape the thing we’re responsible for shaping.

Mike Monteiro writes about the state of UX design.

I planned to get the Cycliste thing* on a long-ish ride this weekend and see if it could hold 16 Litres (Queen’s) of stuff over the long-ish ride. I did, and I sort-of did.

On Saturday morning I strapped it onto the seatpost with ‘some’ effort (not at all how I pictured the business in my head the night before with soundtrack from that Wong Kar Wai film) and an extra 4ft Bungee cord (also from ViaTerra). I was briefly impressed by the cord’s build quality, in soft contrast to the stuff the bag seemed to be forged from. Then I remembered I paid approximately twenty times more for the bag and quickly got the tying up part over with. There is some inelegant threading-through-seat-rails of the straps involved, but it can replace a short warm-up exercise routine if your inelegance matches that demanded of the operation. Mine did. The only thing that got stretched before the ride had metal hooks on both ends.

The road to the beach was re-constructed recently enough to not have been laid to waste by three or four Panchayat administrations along the way, the water department, the state owned telephone company or the hopelessly ironic ‘Japan potable water’ project people (quick translation, entirely inappropriate). Only four across-the-road-excavations so far. All that this means is that you are better off not trusting when I say the bag didn’t swing around or drop down to the tyre on the way, despite all the inelegance and bungee-cord. It could certainly do all that and more on a proper trail or a normal road anywhere in the country.

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Image above: knots in an abandoned fishing net. Non sequitur if you have to ask.

When on the saddle, the bag reminds you it is there with its sides softly brushing against your thighs (part of this had to do with my aggressively aero saddle, I think) in an inappropriate way. It is a nice thing on lonely rides early in the morning. When off the saddle and climbing, it doesn’t sway too much into what could be oncoming traffic on roads where people wake up that early and get into their metal boxes. I’m sure the camouflage pattern did a good job too, of making (the whole of) me invisible to what little traffic there was. Explains that Pulsar coming to a halt in the middle of the road as I was breaking into yet another unnecessary sprint.

The ride was thankfully eventless. The beach was free of too many people watching their cellphones. There was a karate class where some sort of a mid-term evaluation was underway, an impromptu freerunning lesson some way away and a kid running sideways along the crabs running sideways, away from the kid running sideways along the shore. The bag comes off the bike and manages to make me look unfit for anything involving straps while coming off. Ones off, it is easy to transport. There was no sense of shame in lugging it down to where the dry sand met the wet edge on the shore. It being early in the morning helped. It was fairly inconspicuous (thanks to the camouflage pattern) and didn’t scream “expensive gear” or “dog food.” I even took a photo of it lounging there, with the three kids some way away squinting to see what it was that was being thus immortalised. Since—in the name of science—I was lugging around the Kindle, I read the same five pages again and again and remembered none of it.

It is a good, budget, 16-Litre bag if that is what you are after. They could’ve gone easy on the logo-slapping though, and instead chosen brand-coloured straps and wider reflective tape. The seatpost straps are meant for larger aluminium ones, closing in too late on the 25.4mm steel one on my bicycle. Perched over the rear tyre, it is holding a sleeping bag (there because it filled space in one go), a 12 inch laptop (it fits), the aptly named power brick, a 200 page A5 notebook, some rolled up shirts and a tool bag (spare tube, tyre levers, multitool, a puncture kit that has seen better days, Oxford commas, and spanners). No, I did not carry all that to a beach.

I mean to use it on occasional commutes to the studio (25 Kilometers one way, in chaos) and—to justify the cost—on vegetable-bagging runs. It is not a delight to behold, but so isn’t a beaten up Nokia 105 that just works and doesn’t run out of juice the moment you stop stroking its ego.

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Kids that come out of our company are the best product[s] that come out.

— Yvon Chouinard, talking to NPR (How I Built This with Guy Raz)

Reading the Hindu is nostalgic. Too. Often there are phrases and mellow puns—the kind we filled composition books with before we knew irony paired well with an F91W and flannel. Saddened to see them (The Hindu) miss an opportunity to whip out ‘consider the lobster’ for an article on the Swiss mandating stunning them (the lobsters) before boiling them (the stunned lobsters) alive. Maybe their style book doesn’t say ‘what would a 12-year-old you title it?’ in exactly the same words. It is nice (on the verge—not quite—of thirty) to have the morning newspaper put you in canvas shoes whitened with government-issue-toothpaste.

Brands ought to be their own advertisement with the work they do. When a client comes in with a marketing budget (or a request for us to sit with their marketing team) I see red flags. Uttering ‘Social Media Strategy’ before we get into why they think they need to exist, it is a local committee meeting of the communists, sans the confidence. Stretched out on frames allover our city I see people who don’t believe enough; not enough in what they do, not enough in the intelligence of others.

I don’t enjoy looking at the billboards anymore. (Used to be the only people smiling at me were the billboard models. I was in Gurgaon and there all that honking timed my heartbeats.) The good ones (tolerable typography, proper punctuation, oldstyle numerals where they ought to be) are sandwiched among the fairly insecure. The gaudy ones are everywhere. The good ones give way to the absurd too soon. I don’t even enjoy the window-seat on my commute that much anymore.

Jef Mallett’s Frazz (like Calvin and Hobbes, all grown up and riding bikes to work) at GoComics. Many gems in there.

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See La Belle Verte (The Green Beautiful) and Down from the Mountains, from 1996 and 2017.

The Green Beautiful explores the idea of an utopia holding a fine mirror to our broken reality. The film is silly and self-aware. Down from the Mountains is the tale of a family separated by mountains and money. A mother in Verte quips ‘but they don’t have lipstick’ in a moment that refuses to linger with delusions of grandeur. In Mountains, the mother of six holds banknotes against the light as she double-checks the sum she is paid for peppercorns and wonders if it wouldn’t be great if she didn’t have to.