Be serious, it says.What it means, of course, is, be solemn.Being solemn is easy.Being serious is hard.Children almost always begin by being serious,which is what makes them so entertainingwhen compared with adults as a class.Adults, on the whole, are solemn.In politics, the rare candidate who is serious,like Adlai Stevenson,is easily overwhelmed by one who is solemn, like Eisenhower.That's because it is hard for most peopleto recognize seriousness, which is rare,but more comfortable to endorse solemnity,which is commonplace.Jogging, which is commonplace,and widely accepted as good for you, is solemn.Poker is serious.Washington, D.C. is solemn.New York is serious.Going to educational conferences to tell you anythingabout the future is solemn.Taking a long walk by yourself,during which you devise a foolproof scheme for robbing Tiffany's,is serious.
Solemn design is often important and very effective design. Solemn design is also socially correct, and is accepted by appropriate audiences. It's what right-thinking designers and all the clients are striving for. Serious design, serious play, is something else. For one thing, it often happens spontaneously, intuitively, accidentally or incidentally. It can be achieved out of innocence, or arrogance, or out of selfishness, sometimes out of carelessness. But mostly, it's achieved through all those kind of crazy parts of human behavior that don't really make any sense.
And then this funny thing happened. I found that I was no longer at play. I was actually in this solemn landscape of fulfilling an expectation for a show, which is not where I started with these things. So, while they became successful, I know how to make them, so I'm not a neophyte, and they're no longer serious -- they have become solemn. And that's a terrifying factor -- when you start something and it turns that way -- because it means that all that's left for you is to go back and to find out what the next thing is that you can push, that you can invent, that you can be ignorant about, that you can be arrogant about, that you can fail with, and that you can be a fool with. Because in the end, that's how you grow,and that's all that matters.