PSFK speaks with two designers who dated each other for 40 days as an experiment to explore the social power of design.
Timothy and Jessica will share insights from their 40 Days of Dating project in which the two friends decided to date each other and record every day of the experience.
We spoke with them about how this social experiment influenced their creative process, what their inspiration was to embark upon it and what lessons the design community can learn from pushing past personal barriers and comfort zones.
Coming from a visual background, what was appealing about entering into a social experiment together?
As a designer, I like to create emotionally driven work that can touch people in some way. Relationships are such a big part of existence, and they effect our lives so deeply, so I wanted to learn more about the topic through this social experiment. Our experiment took place first, back in March and April, 2013, and in the interest of keeping it as real and honest as possible, we did not create the site or the artwork during those forty days. It was not until after the forty days were over, and we had a little time to reflect on it, that we both realized what a profound effect the experiment had had on our lives. It was at this point, in May, when we shared with each other for the first time a few entries from the journals we kept during the experiment and compared them side by side. It wasn’t until then that we realized that other people might find our experience interesting, or might even relate to it. We did not just want to release the text from the journals, but use our strength as visual storytellers to make the story more dynamic. This is when we started taking photographs of our memorabilia, editing videos we took during the experiment, and designing the website to accompany the journal entries.
James Joyce says, “In the particular is contained the universal.” I’ve always believed that. As long-time friends, Jessica and I always bonded over our opposite relationship issues. Using ourselves as a catalyst to help each other was really a once in a life opportunity. Furthermore, I find that the work I’m most interested in doing is inspired by the human experience. As designers and art directors, we have the tools to tell memorable and provocative stories that can potentially connect and inspire people.
What was the most striking thing this project taught you about yourself? And how is that impacting your approach to relationships today?
Going through therapy with a close friend who can call you out on your shit and really push you to overcome some of your weaknesses was a great learning opportunity for both of us. I was going through a period of high stress from some health problems and a heavy workload at the time. The experiment was a wakeup call that I need to focus on myself, first. By the end of the experiment was happier and more balanced than I had been in years. I was not even looking for a serious relationship after the experiment, so it’s funny that shortly after I met an amazing man who I am now engaged to. In terms of relationships, I think it was profound to see how two people can interpret the same event or conversation in such a different way. This has taught me not to overanalyze conversations, to have more empathy and patience with people, and to ask the right questions in relationships.
It challenged me to confront some issues that I had long swept under the rug—and because of that, it has allowed me to rethink the way I approach and handle relationships moving forward. It had been a long time since I let a woman get close to me, and that was important.
Do you think your design aesthetic/style informs the social decisions you make in your day to day life?
To some degree, yes. I think it has some influence of some of the restaurants I go to, neighborhood I live in, the way I decorate my apartment. Even the people I hang out with are mostly creatives, which is a result of that.
I find that the more provocative I can be with my work, the more courage I have with all aspects of my life—and vice versa. I want to continue to make robust personal projects that challenge the boundaries between my work and my life.
What do you feel is missing from the world of design today? Are there things you think all artists should try or interact with?
It is not unusual for creative people to bring their lives into their work. Songwriters, film makers, journalists and artists have been doing that regularly for a very long time. However I think most graphic designers tend to stay away from the personal, or using design for expressive purposes. As designers we have the skills and tools to communicate with a wide audience very quickly. I personally am most attracted to work that has a personal angle, and clearly comes from someones heart. Content creation and expression through design is just as important to me than designing other peoples content. I want to continue to spend more time on more personal work like this.
The idea of putting yourself in your work is something that filmmakers and writers have done for years, but you don’t see a lot of that from the design community. I didn’t think of 40 Days as a design project, though. I was an experiment, first, and we approached it as designers and art directors later.
What will you be talking about (without giving away too much) at PSFK CONFERENCE 2014?
I believe Jessica and I will be participating in a Q&A; about 40 Days of Dating. Hopefully, we’ll spark some interesting questions about the possibilities that designers have, what the parameters of design are, and how that impacts the industry moving forward.
Many thanks to you both!
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