How to:

I just got back from a trip to Marrakesh, Morocco. It was my first time in Morocco and in Africa in general, and it was an incredible experience.

One of the interesting things is how disciplines develop and only later do we discover new contexts from other disciplines to better understand them. For instance, it wasn’t until design became as mainstream as it is today that we started to realize how much of what they teach in MBA programs (about understanding customers and working to solve their jobs-to-be-done) is in fact, design. It was a process of discovery to find out how much visual design had to do with the design of interactions, systems, products, and businesses.

Similarly, you have a lot of design that was being done in places like Morocco, but contextualized by the Western lens—as much design is throughout the world—as “decorative arts”. But this, too, is design, and Western designers should incorporate it into that art historical understanding.

In a place like Marrakesh, design is everywhere. There’s such an attention to detail in the geometric patterns, such process and craft in the handmade Berber rugs we found in the souk (market), and such an attention to usability and lifestyle in the architecture and landscape design.

One of the things that’s so interesting is how in Morocco, as in much of the Muslim world, privacy is considered as a top priority. Our guide took us to a historically Jewish neighborhood and pointed out how you could tell which houses had been built by Jews by the fact they had balconies. Muslim architects avoid such things—in fact, all windows or openings onto the street altogether—because of how important that privacy is. For a Western viewer from New York, where natural light, windows, and views are so highly prized, it was incredible to discover how open and airy such houses could be even with so few windows facing out. The key is in the central courtyards, which all the floors look out onto and which often contain lush plants and fountains and are open to the sky.

Though it may seem unrelated, as a designer, I couldn’t help but think how our digital products, like Facebook, would be different if they were designed from a similar mindset that prioritized privacy and the tranquility and calm of the interior life versus the bustle of the public on the street.

Perhaps we could think of our products more as these riads, and less of airports, shopping malls, or clubs.

Field Notes

Marrakech architecture

I just got back from a trip to Marrakesh, Morocco. It was my first time in Morocco and in Africa in general, and it was an incredible experience.

One of the interesting things is how disciplines develop and only later do we discover new contexts from other disciplines to better understand them. For instance, it wasn’t until design became as mainstream as it is today that we started to realize how much of what they teach in MBA programs (about understanding customers and working to solve their jobs-to-be-done) is in fact, design. It was a process of discovery to find out how much visual design had to do with the design of interactions, systems, products, and businesses.

Similarly, you have a lot of design that was being done in places like Morocco, but contextualized by the Western lens—as much design is throughout the world—as “decorative arts”. But this, too, is design, and Western designers should incorporate it into that art historical understanding.

In a place like Marrakesh, design is everywhere. There’s such an attention to detail in the geometric patterns, such process and craft in the handmade Berber rugs we found in the souk (market), and such an attention to usability and lifestyle in the architecture and landscape design.

One of the things that’s so interesting is how in Morocco, as in much of the Muslim world, privacy is considered as a top priority. Our guide took us to a historically Jewish neighborhood and pointed out how you could tell which houses had been built by Jews by the fact they had balconies. Muslim architects avoid such things—in fact, all windows or openings onto the street altogether—because of how important that privacy is. For a Western viewer from New York, where natural light, windows, and views are so highly prized, it was incredible to discover how open and airy such houses could be even with so few windows facing out. The key is in the central courtyards, which all the floors look out onto and which often contain lush plants and fountains and are open to the sky.

Though it may seem unrelated, as a designer, I couldn’t help but think how our digital products, like Facebook, would be different if they were designed from a similar mindset that prioritized privacy and the tranquility and calm of the interior life versus the bustle of the public on the street.

Perhaps we could think of our products more as these riads, and less of airports, shopping malls, or clubs.

Updated continuously • Last edited on
9.24.23
Field Notes

Marrakech architecture

Updated continuously •
Last edited on
9.24.23

I just got back from a trip to Marrakesh, Morocco. It was my first time in Morocco and in Africa in general, and it was an incredible experience.

One of the interesting things is how disciplines develop and only later do we discover new contexts from other disciplines to better understand them. For instance, it wasn’t until design became as mainstream as it is today that we started to realize how much of what they teach in MBA programs (about understanding customers and working to solve their jobs-to-be-done) is in fact, design. It was a process of discovery to find out how much visual design had to do with the design of interactions, systems, products, and businesses.

Similarly, you have a lot of design that was being done in places like Morocco, but contextualized by the Western lens—as much design is throughout the world—as “decorative arts”. But this, too, is design, and Western designers should incorporate it into that art historical understanding.

In a place like Marrakesh, design is everywhere. There’s such an attention to detail in the geometric patterns, such process and craft in the handmade Berber rugs we found in the souk (market), and such an attention to usability and lifestyle in the architecture and landscape design.

One of the things that’s so interesting is how in Morocco, as in much of the Muslim world, privacy is considered as a top priority. Our guide took us to a historically Jewish neighborhood and pointed out how you could tell which houses had been built by Jews by the fact they had balconies. Muslim architects avoid such things—in fact, all windows or openings onto the street altogether—because of how important that privacy is. For a Western viewer from New York, where natural light, windows, and views are so highly prized, it was incredible to discover how open and airy such houses could be even with so few windows facing out. The key is in the central courtyards, which all the floors look out onto and which often contain lush plants and fountains and are open to the sky.

Though it may seem unrelated, as a designer, I couldn’t help but think how our digital products, like Facebook, would be different if they were designed from a similar mindset that prioritized privacy and the tranquility and calm of the interior life versus the bustle of the public on the street.

Perhaps we could think of our products more as these riads, and less of airports, shopping malls, or clubs.

Read more