Introducing Dating by Design
By Caroline Pham
It may be damn near impossible to accurately predict the success of romantic relationships, but communication designer Ayla Newhouse is trying to improve the health of our dating lives by applying design strategy to the perplexing realm of courtship. For Newhouse, design is about intentionality and “using our rational and empathetic brains to intentionally create opportunities that make the human experience better in some way.” As reason and sensibility can commonly be lacking in the dating experience, especially in today’s more casual, virtually driven climate where hanging out has replaced formal dating, succinct text messages have replaced phone calls, and online dating is mainstream, perhaps a dose of design thinking is precisely what we need.
Newhouse’s project, The ABC’s of Dating by Design, pins a specific design element and explanation to each letter of the alphabet, breaking down modern love in a way that’s both comedic and informative. She also offers a Skillshare course for users to design their ideal relationship through a step-by-step program identifying their wants and needs. The idea was born out of a particularly heartbreaking past relationship, which prompted Newhouse to want to invent a toolkit for people to lay the foundation for better relationships, or even improve upon existing ones.
“There are skeptics too though, who think that you can’t design the magic of love because it just happens,” Newhouse says. “Although I agree with that, I also think you can design a framework for love to exist in, like setting up the power grid, so electricity can flow through it.”
We asked Newhouse, good sport that she is, to evaluate the dating potential of couples we’d be interested in seeing paired up. Let’s see how they fared.
By Ayla Newhouse
A is for Alignment: Julian and Lady Gaga
Alignment is one of the foundations of great design, and great relationships. Julian Assange and Lady Gaga are exceptionally well-aligned. These two provocateurs have been featured on the cover of TIME magazine, changed their names, and dropped out of University. Just as designers strategically break the grid, Julian and Lady Gaga could start by establishing some rules, then colouring outside the lines together.
C is for Constraints: Usain and Amy
A bit of well-applied constraint can set you free, in both dating and design. When Usain Bolt, the fastest runner in the world, meets Amy Poehler, one of the funniest women on screen, a few constraints might be useful. Luckily these two Olympians (Amy attended ImprovOlympic) are no strangers to constraints. As a world-class athlete, Usain sticks to a rigorous schedule and diet, while Amy has to choose her words and timing carefully as a comedian.
E is for Empathy: Eduardo and Rosario
Empathy helps us to understand others’ perspectives so we can better relate to their needs and feelings. For Eduardo Saverin, the lesser-known founder of Facebook, and actress Rosario Dawson, empathy would be crucial. While Eduardo has only been portrayed in film (The Social Network), Rosario portrays others on screen. If these two celebrities could look past their public personas, they might find a quiet comfort in each-other’s company.
K is for Kerning: Frank and Nate
Kerning is all about edging letters closer to create balance and symmetry. For musician Frank Ocean and author/statistician Nate Silver to make it work, a delicate kern would help bridge the gap between two opposing styles. While Ocean’s lyrics are about love and longing, Nate’s writing is grounded in fact. Ocean reminisces in nostalgia, while Nate predicts the future. The key for these two would be to meet in the middle, between romance and rationality.
S is for Synthesis: Tony and Camila
Designers are synthesists who combine previously un-related ideas. From the outside, Camila Vallejo, President of the University of Chile Student Federation, and Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, seem impossible to synthesize. But if Tony and Camila could combine their mutual passion to transform communities – Tony is the founder of the “Downtown Project” which aims to revitalize downtown Las Vegas – their relationship could have world-changing potential.
R is for Redesign: Ryan and Huma
Try as we might, few designs and few relationships are eternally relevant. A healthy relationship typically requires a series of design updates. For political aide Huma Abedin and actor Ryan Gosling, who are both in serious relationships, a good design audit might reveal relationship potential. Ryan might take stock of his pattern of dating famous actresses, and find that a partner like Huma could inspire him. And Huma probably needs revised requirements before she can design a new relationship with anyone, including her husband.