Modern day smoking

People who smoke are the friendliest. They’re the only the group of people I know who will give you stuff for free and lend you one of their precious lighter with no question ask. Smokers are approachable and easy to talk to. They won’t mistake you for hitting on them or trying to sell them something. You’re welcome on their part of the watering hole no matter who you are. Being a smoker makes you part of a tiny, tight-knit group.

I used to be one of them. I love to smoke. I.loved.smoking. I loved the act of puffing and the benefit of being part of that small group. But I dislike the taste or the lingering smell it attaches to your clothing. I always find smoking to be romantic. The act of placing the cigarette filter into your mouth–making sure not to tighten your lips too much, but enough that it won’t fall. Flicking a lighter and protecting the flame from any elements that might kill it. Tilting your head as if asking for a kiss to catch a spark with the tip of your cigarette—burning it just enough for that first inhale of smoke. I find romance in lighting and making the first puff. Maybe it’s John McClane’s fault, Bruce Willis’ chain-smoking foul-mouthed New York Cop character in Die Hard. Perhaps it's the French films that I watch before I really committed to smoking—how Jean Pierre-Léaud makes it looks cool. Every time someone smokes on screen, it also makes me want to light up a cigarette.

I was enticed to smoke when I was in college. There was a certain charm with artist who smokes. There’s always a high probability that you are a smoker if you are a painter, a designer, a sculptor, architect, or a musician. And since back in my day we are allowed to smoke inside our university campus, I find it cool to have a cigarette stuck between your fingers or your lips while working on a project outdoor. I see that there is not much point to smoke when you’re just smoking, so I quit. When I started working, I went back to smoking since most of my peers smoke. Smoking gives you an excuse to take a break when you’re stressed and wanting to socialize or wanting some time with one of your boss who also happens to smoke. The time you lit your cigarette, and by the time it burns your filter, that’s a looming sign that you need to start working on something. A cigarette made me friends, countless ideas, and helped keep me up at night when I needed to work. My girlfriend who also happens to smoke gave us a reason to hang-out and get to know each other more.

But being a smoker makes you a part of that small club that’s sometimes misunderstood and labeled rude for smoking in public. It’s hard to identify yourself as an environmentalist without raising an eyebrow. You are disdainful for the most part of the society and unwelcome for the most part. The stench and the stain in your teeth make you undesirable for some. Only smokers would attract your kind. Quitting makes me an outsider, makes me less likely to hang-out with them. I’m not saying I’m no longer welcome to hang-out, but I no longer want to hang out with them. The smell of cigarette no longer entices me. Like an evil spirit with incense, I stay away from their watering hole.

When I finally quit smoking for health reason, I found the benefits of not smoking outweighed the benefits I get from smoking. But, I didn’t realize it at first. It took months before I saw the benefit of not smoking, the same way I saw the advantage of not being on twitter.

It’s been a few months since I deactivated my twitter account, and it’s more than 30 days since twitter finally deleted my account and data. I was a twitter member since December 2007, a year before they launched. I made lots of meaningful connections on Twitter's platform over the years. Contributed useful information with #RescuePH when it was just starting. Had a friendly debate with people who I barely knew and getting out of it knowing each other more. I was a power user who insists on using a 3rd party app like Tweetbot on my Mac and iOS devices because Twitter'st own app lags behind advance features. I gave advice to people, reported useful information and got to talk to people who’d typically I wouldn’t be able to encounter in real life.

As twitter got matured though, my needs on the platform grew, and my behavior was significantly changed by day, by the hour and to the minute. Getting updated continuously on matters that I care and not care about were making me anxious. Yes, I’m ahead, but it also made me care too much that I forgot about the small world that I inhabit. I've been looking too far forward of myself. Of course, it also didn’t help that Twitter is becoming a toxic platform that allows hate and bigotry. It didn't take long, Twitter had affected my behavior and how I deal with people in general. Like inhaling smoke, I get delighted when I push to pull to refresh the Tweetbot app main timeline, and a new update pops up. I wake up checking everything I missed while I'm sleeping and I look at Twitter before I close my eyes at night. Every time I get to hold my phone, I open Tweetbot even though I just checked it a moment ago. It wasn't healthy anymore. So I quit.

Yes, I do miss all the friends I made on Twitter, but that doesn't mean I don't get to talk to some of them anymore. I had other means. Like smoking, I don't need to be a smoker to hang-out with them. Just like people I met on Twitter. I still get to say hi from time to time. Not only all the time. But it's okay.

Design for Inclusion

There's an old building in Makati where an abundant pack of bats resides. The bats are roosting on the side of the building where the sun doesn't hit, that side of the building is facing the largest park in Makati City. It’s been standing in Makati since 1995 and used by modern businesses daily. It also created the right environment for bats to thrive. The building facade texture helps them cling comfortably with their pups. They've been living there for almost two decades.

I imagine that the architecture firm that designed the building didn't intend for the bats to live within it’s confined. It appears it was designed for co-habitation–where people and bats can live together. I pictured that the first bat who found it, probably used it as a shelter when it rained heavily preventing it from hunting. It became their home that they have to defend time and time, just for them to be able to make it their home, without opposition from its creator and its intended end user. I wonder how many generations of bats and their story of war and retribution before they were allowed to call it their home. Before the owner of the building just basically gave up and moved on. Now, the bats are well adapted; it seems that it has been an accepted fact that the bats are there to stay as long as they want.

My work as a designer trained me to tailor fit my work to an intended audience; packaging that will only appeal to 18-35-year-old male interested in travel and adventure. They are adventurous, physically and mentally strong that loves the outdoors. But we often forget the underlying disability that our target might have. 18-35-year-olds doesn’t mean they have perfect vision; they might be suffering dyslexia, color blindness or entirely blind. They may also be deaf or missing a limb or left-handed.

As a lefty, I am forced to adapt to my environment built for right-hand use. From knobs to scissors, to microwave ovens, etc. We have long been hacking objects to work for us. Ten percent of the 7.1 billion people on the planet are left-handed. And yet, most objects are still being made for 90% of the population instead of designing it for 100% for all users.

I was one of the people who fell in love with Apple’s approach with a one button mouse because the design is universally built for any hand-orientation. Not to mention that there is two USB port on both sides of their old keyboards that lets you plug your mouse depending on where you are using it. They are still the only one who builds their mouse that can work that way. Some companies do make products for lefties, but they are scarce.

As a designer, I should do more than making things pretty. We have an obligation and responsibility to design the world that includes everyone even if it means tweaking your design for that other two million people that will want to use your product. We should stop designing just for the “90%”, we’ve done that a million times. We should strive to highlight and build stuff for the disabled, the disadvantaged and for everyone outside our standard spectrum to create an even better world. If you think that only product designers or architects need to work this way, it is not. Everyone has the responsibility. In the TV series, Grace and Frankie, our titular main characters who are in their prime age, suffers from arthritis and low vision but still very much sexually active. Grace and Frankie had a hard time using vibrators; It hurts their wrist, they can’t figure out the manual with its regular-sized text, that they have to invent a vibrator tailored for senior women. The vibrator worked so well that they ultimately created the best vibrator made for everyone regardless of age.

Regardless if you're a designer or not, I urge you to look past on what is already established and start paying attention more to the smallest segment of our population. Let’s help build standards with the environment in mind and objects that can cater to everyone. Let’s make our work/product more accessible, even to just 1% of it’s intended users. Let’s look at how vision impaired, physically disabled people use objects or get around their surrounding to get inspiration. Empathy should be part of our criteria when we design stuff.

I want the world where Grace and Frankie don't need to build vibrators for senior women. Because designers are already busy figuring out how to make the best vibrator you can ever imagine.