Panagiotis Michalatos on the luxury of choosing to be simple and the emerging trend of simplicity, the power of intuition, questioning our creative interfaces and workflows, and his love for screens.
Pan Michalatos is an architect, lecturer in architecture technology at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a Principal Research Engineer at Autodesk. Between 2006 and 2010 he worked as a computational design researcher for the London-based structural engineering firm AKT.
Along with colleague Sawako Kaijima, Pan provided consultancy, and designed computational solutions, for a range of high-profile projects. They have also developed a range of software applications for the intuitive and creative use of structural engineering methods in design.
Simplicity is an emerging trend; a luxury not everyone can afford.
For the last 10,000 years, human biology has barely changed — yet our lives feel more complex, accelerated, and stressful than ever before.
What are we trying to slow down from?
- "I don't think there is such a thing as a simple life."
- "You need to have the luxury to choose to simplify your life."
- "Everything [including art] has utility for the fact that it is being done."
- "There is a misconception: that our lives have accelerated. […] But for someone 10,000 years ago, [life] would be an equally constant state of stress."
- "Screens are constructed, by accident or intentionally, to be stared at. You don't have a problem focusing on the screen. The problem is looking away from it."
- "We are trying to create tools and workflows for designers that incorporate all the knowledge [existing in other disciplines] to be directly accessible and usable."
- "Software is seen as a way to package knowledge in a usable (and mobile) form, to distribute it."
- "The other people. That's the challenge."
- "We try to find drives to keep us distracted from the fact that we're all gonna die."
- Adams Kara Taylor
- Commodore 64
- oramata (app)
- Monolith (app)
- Objet 3d printer from Stratasys
- Millipede (app)
- Application Programming Interface
- In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg (podcast)
- National Technical University of Athens
- Images of the artifacts used by the main hand by Alberto Frigo (project)
- WarioWare: Smooth Moves (videogame)
- "Simplify your life" on Google Ngram Viewer
- Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
- Red Plenty by Francis Spufford
- Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter
- Holy Anorexia by Rudolph M. Bell
- Cristina Caprioli
- Sawako Kaijima
- Andrew Payne
- Melvyn Bragg
- Dimitris Papalexopoulos
- Paul Valéry
- Alberto Frigo
- Slavoj Žižek
Episode notes · Part 1, Pan's career
- Intro. [0:00]
- Pan Michalatos. [2:27]
- Intuitive. [12:02]
- The "opening" of making. [13:43]
- Specificity. [15:19]
- Simple interactions. [16:47]
- Developing intuition. [18:28]
- Who designs your software. [20:01]
- Rewarding interfaces. [22:56]
- Design automation. [24:33]
- Constrained interactions. [25:35]
- Programming languages - How do coding languages affect user interactions? [26:06]
- Three social contexts - Working with a team, teaching, and doing your own projects. [28:10]
- Side projects. [28:57]
- oramata. [31:01]
- Monolith - A response to the "big promise" of the digital manufacturing industry. [32:46]
- Millipede. [35:52]
- Open source. [38:16]
- Teaching. [39:26]
Episode notes · Part 2, Pan's worldview
- Pan Michalatos. [41:26]
- Is your life simple? [42:00]
- Complexity vs Intensity. [42:31]
- Daily habits. [43:14]
- Commute. [43:25]
- Exercise. [43:47]
- Meditative moments. [44:18]
- Boredom. [44:44]
- Media recommendations. [45:06]
- Focus. [45:48]
- Email. [46:09]
- What makes you more creative? [47:25]
- Your best ideas. [47:52]
- Work in progress. [47:57]
- Deliberate practice. [48:32]
- Disconnection. [49:03]
- Restrictions. [49:45]
- Analog. [50:03]
- Social media. [50:52]
- Digital clutter. [52:48]
- Communicative software. [53:37]
- Success. [55:12]
- A person that influenced you. [56:33]
- A sentence to the world. [57:25]
- Anything you'd do differently? [57:42]
- Nature. [58:15]
- Money. [59:11]
- Clothing. [59:57]
- Objects. [1:00:33]
- Distaste towards clutter. [1:00:54]
- Travel. [1:02:06]
- Fun experiments. [1:02:52]
- What's art? [1:03:50]
- Slow down from what? [1:05:13]
- Slack vs Scarcity. [1:07:08]
- The exceptional and the regular. [1:10:06]
- Book recommendations. [1:15:20]
- News. [1:17:28]
- A creative hobby. [1:18:19]
- Regulating technologies. [1:19:10]
- Future work. [1:21:42]
- On Getting Simple. [1:22:53]
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Theme song Sleep by Steve Combs under CC BY 4.0. Background sounds of people playing golf, vehicles, dogs, bugs, and birds, happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while we were recording.