Steven Johnson: “Where Good Ideas Come From”

I’ve just finished reading Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From”- what a sensational book.

Where Good Ideas Come From

Where Good Ideas Come From

It is a history of invention and innovation, focusing on what causes new ideas. Basically to have good ideas you need to read, engage and do widely, to allow part-ideas to bump into each other, but this is selling the book short. There is even an “RSA Animate”-style promo. video for the book, which sums it up nicely in an entertaining manner:

I particularly like his final paragraph:

“…you can create comparable environments on the scale of everyday life: in the work places you inhabit; in the way you consume media; in the way you augment your memory. The patterns are simple , but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle , reinvent . Build a tangled bank.”

It is very similar to my thoughts on what makes a good designer. In 2010 I entered an essay in a design competition, where I tried to write why design is important to me, like a personal manifesto:

“Industrial Design is important because it is fundamentally ‘thinking about things’. To be a good industrial designer you need to think a lot, which means you need to know a lot. Read, listen to the radio, draw, be interested in the world, read some more, ask questions, sketch, talk to those who’ve done it before, contribute, copy, share. Never stop trying to fill your head and you will be a good designer. If you have thought about what you have designed, you can defend your design. If you conscionably can’t defend your design then don’t do it. There are plenty of problems in the world, trivial and serious, that industrial design can address. Have a think about them then have a crack at solving them.”

(If you are interested it can be read in full here:


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