TED Community » Tim Girvin

About Me

I'd offer this in the history of my self. My legacy, the work that I do, it's all about curiosity -- a willingness to learn, to get heart fully into challenges that are set in play. My clients, their business paths and what it means for me to aid them -- they are for me: about commitment, about passion, about emotion, beauty and connectedness. There's a string in my life -- a snapping line. I started out with a love of nature, and the oceans -- and thought to link them up, later in college. So I was at The New College, in Sarasota, FLA. And it was supposed to be a new experimental college. But, the science was stiff and unreal -- and in learning about things, we killed them. So I talked to my professor and he commented on my laboratory journals and said -- why not go there, get into that. Journals, drawing, the combination of text, arrangement and visualization. Of course my parents freaked out. And a friend of the family, a big person in the space of art, said "cut off his hands -- art, it's too difficult!". From there, I wandered -- I went to The Evergreen State College; and there you can build your learning programs the way you want. Then I was reaching elsewhere -- like The Cooper Union in NYC; friends were there, so I comped a pass and spent time in there, learning more. Then Reed College -- hanging out with Lloyd Reynolds, at his house, and the campus, there. Then the Imperial College in London. I wrote to people. Then I visited them -- the luminaries of American design. Then I got a NEA grant to go to Europe -- and to present in Moscow and Tallinn, on American Design. But what I was interested in was something specialized -- design / art / culture / architecture / writing: how do they relate? So I spent time wandering along these lines, as well as giving those talks, and presenting everything back in the States. I kept at the writing, the study of art history, the history of the alphabet, paper, book making -- writing and culture; paleography. And I was studying design, fine printing, book design, paper making, printmaking, drawing, bookbinding, calligraphy and architecture. Surely there was some kind of connection, right? And of course there is. Really, they are all woven together, they are all just variations on the theme of threading content, visuals and experience together. And that's where I'm working and playing now. After college, I kept teaching there at Evergreen for a bit; it's so beautiful in the south Puget Sound -- inland water ways, islands, quiet forests, country roads. And moved up into the San juans; and living across from the city of Seattle on Bainbridge Island. That was great -- I had a little rental house in the town on the island; and I had a office right next to the ferry terminal on the waterfront in Seattle. Then, I moved into the city, living mostly in different places in the city -- near downtown. From there I began to work as a kind of specialist renegade designer all over the US. Then Europe. Then Asia. And, for 30 years since that time, it's what I've been doing. Practice. Being content. Making difference. Exploring risk. But it all goes back to that snapping line from the heart of me -- listening to the story, illustrating and advancing the character of it, getting it out to the world.

United States, Seattle, WA
Current organization:
American Institute of Architects
Past organizations:
American Institute of Graphic Arts, Industrial Designers Society of America, Japan Graphic Design Association, Luxury Marketing Council
Current role:
Principal | Creative Director: GIRVIN NYC / Seattle
Areas of expertise:
Strategy Development, Design, Architecture, Motion Design, Writer/Editor, Music, Retail Design, Environmental Graphic Design, Packaging, Story and Script Development

TEDCRED 50+ TED Attendee

More About Me

I'm passionate about

Exploring Risk | Being Content | Making Difference | Story Telling | Finding Anew | Rejuvenating | Seeking Resonance | Listening Loud | Speaking silently | Attention getting.

An idea worth spreading

I offer this: the story of you is worth something; it's good to know more about who you are, and how you are living in this world, In my personal experience -- the element that changes things, that changes the way that people connect with eachother, is about sharing your story. There's real power there, and speaking your story, your path, helps me to understand more about you, what you do, what you are exploring, and where you are going. You can share it with me, or you can share it with others. But please -- share it. Think of it this way, if you can: be your content. Be content. Being content. What you do every day is really about that, isn't it? You are, in your actions and explorations -- and offerings to the world: content. Get it out there.

Talk to me about

Tell me about you and what you are doing -- and really, how can I help you? For a long time, I've been working as a designer and strategist, all over the world. So, maybe you have a question? Help?

People don't know that I'm good at

Paying close attention. I think that I have this character that's all about experiencing things. And when people connect with me, they start talking. I'll listen to them. And everything. All at once.

My TED Story

I made some friends. That's the best part of TED, for me. What stories learned, what friends encountered. But there's one thing that I really learned -- and it kept repeating itself. One, was -- that sometimes in listening, you're really not (listening). So the real key for me, to the learnings of TED; it's: pay attention. And I know that I've mentioned that in other parts of this line of query @ TED.com. So, for example: I'd never really paid attention to the music of Tracy Chapman -- so, for once, I listened; and I met her and told her that. I didn't really know about the amazing layering of mystery(ies) in the story lines and developments of JJAbrams. So I listened, met him and told him about it. Then, there was Edward O. Wilson -- and he'd changed my life as a child, and in speaking, he reminded me about that, the sensing of the curiosity, the character of paying whole attention to the world. So that's it -- paying attention; holistically thinking about the sphere of who you are.


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  • A comment on Talk: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness

    Oct 25 2008: Amazing human. And I feel blessed to have connected with him earlier in my life, and my explorations, of optimization -- and actualization, making things real and truthful. What I find compelling is that idea of fluency, fluidity, flux...and how that connects to the idea that flow, is somehow about fluency in experience -- it's liquidity, it's "flown", to return to an antiquated treatment of "flowing". Looking back, just like Mihaly did, in his opening connections with Carl Jung, the mandalas of the past -- I look to the etymon, to find the heart of things. Flow, what's that mean, really? From the most recent, to the most distant -- flow is: Old English -- flowan (past tense fleow, pp. flowen), from Proto Germanic. *flo- (cf. Dutch. vloeien "to flow," O.N. floa "to deluge," Old High German -- flouwen "to rinse, wash"), probably from Proto Indo European *pleu- "flow, float" (cf. Sanskrit -- plavate "navigates, swims," plavayati "overflows;" Armenian helum "I pour;" Greek -- plyno "I wash," pleo "swim, go by sea;" L. pluere "to rain;" O.C.S. plovo "to flow, navigate;" Lith. pilu "to pour out," plauti "rinse"). It's an ancient word, in the genetics of language. The conventional messaging predominated from the 14th century, but the stronger sense -- flown -- is occasionally attested through the 18th century. But what's interesting about that concept -- that idea of flow -- flowing, flown, and fluidity -- it's about becoming one with something; you -- and the entity | the action | the engagement -- are the same. It's a profoundly "loving" idea -- that connection of being one with something, without destroying it. Flow is love. I love flow...


    Tim Girvin | New York City Seattle | Tokyo | girvin@girvin.com | blogs journals: http://blog.girvin.com/ | http://tim.girvin.com/Entries/index.php
  • +1

    A comment on Talk: Phil Borges: Photos of endangered cultures

    Oct 4 2008: I met Phil in Seattle, at an event here. Talked to him, off and on, over time. And we've stayed in touch, exploring the work and character of his missions -- even, to a degree, the Seeds of Compassion event in Seattle, focusing on children, learning, compassion in community and communion -- worldwide. His Holiness Daiai Lama was there, for the entire event.

    Phil seems to live wholly in the space of giving.

    Giving pictures of the Daiai Lama to Tibetans? I did that. And the only expression I experienced was one of profound joy. I would imagine it would be like heading into some other dictatorial scenario and offering something else -- that celebrates the center of their spirituality -- but is completely contrary to the regime ideology. What then, to do?

    Hold back, then?

    i say give -- in the very spirit of Borges efforts. Put your Self at risk, at the same time, to make it happen.

    Tim Girvin | girvin@girvin.com | Girvin | Strategic Brands -- New York City Seattle | Tokyo | http://www.girvin.com | http://www.tim.girvin.com/ | http://blog.girvin.com/ | http://tim.girvin.com/Entries/index.php
  • A comment on Talk: Liz Diller: The Blur Building and other tech-empowered architecture

    Oct 4 2008: I had a chance to speak to Liz, after the talk, and later in NYC. Modest. Wildly intelligent. And very disciplined in the character of the work that she and her team explore, make, and actually get built. Like Blur. That building, that concept, really seems like something that it's not possible to build -- a building wrapped in mist. Convincingly, it was. The green mile installations on the over-rail line in Manhattan is something more I'm waiting for. It's not there, yet. Those two conceptions are the most resonant to me.

    I'm missing something in the commentary on the "egregious waste" of resources. I must've missed something. But my attraction, to resonance, are two projects that are perhaps less to the character that's been noted. My compulsion is place -- and the making of it, from a design perspective.

    Beautiful work. Beautiful places. And I like places. Not spaces. Green first, then made. And green after, preferably.

    Tim Girvin | girvin@girvin.com | Girvin | Strategic Brands -- New York City Seattle | Tokyo | http://www.girvin.com | http://www.tim.girvin.com/ | http://blog.girvin.com/ | http://tim.girvin.com/Entries/index.php
  • +1

    A comment on Talk: J.J. Abrams: The mystery box

    Oct 4 2008: J.J. Abrams. Having had the chance to connect with him as a designer for Mission:Impossible -- with some added work on Star Trek, I'd comment that contrary to what a lot of others have noted, Abrams is incredibly well organized -- as a creative -- and extraordinarily focused. That intensity -- which some have called manic, others in the blogged commentary as excessive, or obsessive, is what actually drives anyone to work in the motion picture business; it's crazy complicated. And to get anything to happen requires a real sense of vision -- the ability to lead vast teams to get that visual out to...well, hopefully millions of people. I'd add that J.J. is first and foremost a writer, then director -- and surprisingly, given his career path, a family man. In the preponderance of circumstance, people who live in the space of directing films couldn't hope to hold a semblance of familial "connection". That, as he mentioned, is a priority. Beyond that, I'd offer that the key takeaway for me was that idea of mystery -- that creative execution is like something in a magic box. There always needs to be something left -- that remaining mystery, that draws us into a tale being told, a creative expression that carries us someplace...further. But still, the Mystery Box remains. More, a string, here: http://blog.girvin.com/index.php?s=JJ Abrams.

    Tim Girvin | girvin@girvin.com | Girvin | Strategic Brands -- New York City Seattle | Tokyo | http://www.girvin.com | http://www.tim.girvin.com/ | http://blog.girvin.com/ | http://tim.girvin.com/Entries/index.php