Eric Karjaluoto

Experiments, Missteps, and Starting Over

Deliberatism started with excitement. The idea had been percolating for months—especially during house renovations. I tried to get rid of things, only to find more. This sounds like a problem of privilege, which it may be, but those closets weren’t filled with treasures. Mostly, they contained odds and ends saved for a future date. In other words: junk I wasn’t ready to part with.

I wondered if others also felt burdened by things. The topic appeared ripe for exploration. I noted ideas for articles, and considered a new blog to house them. A year ago, we found time to bring this idea to life.

My wife says I have an “all or nothing” personality. I obsess over new topics and then create elaborate plans around them. I find extremes compelling. Why run a 10k, when you could do an ultra-marathon? Why doodle, when you could create an entire body of work? Why write a small blog, when you could create something more substantial?

Deliberatism held the promise of a movement: one in a series of voices that asked why we’re so consumed by stuff—and how to live better. Done well, these stories might change my habits, and encourage others to rethink their choices. I saw this as subversive environmentalism. Instead of treating conservation as a moral decision, we would talk about liberation through less.

Writing it as one person started to feel like a limitation, though. This led us to pause and rethink our approach: Why should it be come from only one voice? Could it be opened to others? This approach might reduce the time surrounding its production, and introduce new perspectives. The thinking seemed reasonable, and the site was retooled as a magazine.

We received good contributions and talked to interesting people. The new format was workable and readers responded positively. The pace was no less maddening. Through the day, the agency ran as it always did. We also eked out time to connect with contributors and interviewees, edit content, and create our own. At night, I’d work on illustrations (which I loved creating) to accompany posts, and review/shape any content left over from the day.

This took its toll, leaving me tired. Instead of being overwhelmed with one big project, I now had two. Work hours were out of control, leaving me unable to take a moment to breath. Deliberatism had become a comical paradox: a blog about balance that ruined any such notion in my life.

We pressed pause again.

This seemed foolish. I worried about letting down those who had worked on the project. This wasn’t the first time a plan hasn’t materialized, though, and it won’t be the last. We focused on studio work, I found more time to spend with family, and continued to collect post ideas. (I do this to get ideas out of my head—otherwise I can’t focus on what’s in front of me.)

I don’t want to return to Deliberatism. It was an experiment, and we learned from it. I do, however, need to write—even if no one is reading. I find the process a constructive way to organize ideas.

Lately, I’ve asked how to get away from this screen in front of me. It’s not that I dislike work. What we do at smashLAB is enjoyable—certain parts more than others. I also wonder why our work configuration is so ordinary when there’s little that ties us to any one location.

This is why I’m writing here, instead of ideasonideas or Deliberatism. The first contained essays about design; the second tried to be something big and became unmanageable. This blog is smaller, and more personal. It’s a catchall for ideas I want to understand. It’s a journal during a time of personal change.

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