Channel Your Inner Designer Like Marie Kondo And Win At Anything by Kevin Landwehr

Marie Kondo isn’t a magician, she’s a designer. And if one well-meaning designer from the East can convince millions of Westerners to talk to inanimate objects, anything is possible


Marie Kondo isn’t a magician, she’s a designer. Designers, easily the most misunderstood of all artists, bring order to chaos in a fashion and style that channels their musings. The more fresh and unique the fashion and style of their designs, the more captivated an audience is by the designer.

Marie Kondo clearly loves what she does, and Westerners are amazed by this because they see her as someone who is enthralled by cleaning, not someone who enjoys designing. Embattled by politics, revolution, and material fatigue, Western societies need her contagious enthusiasm in their feed right now. Her style is immersive and joyous; her methods effective.


Designers are organizers, organizers are designers

Some people may be confused by this idea. “She’s not a designer, she’s an organizer! ”
Again, Design: the most misunderstood art.

Design is the delicious crust surrounding the career pie chart. Designers get a slice containing typographers, decorators, architects, experiential disciplines. Othe arts have a slice for everything from musicians to mimes. Then, a slice where organizers and coordinators live; design is thriving there more than ever, thanks to Marie Kondo.

Poorly designed pie chart makes point about pie charts

Poorly designed pie chart makes point about pie charts

All other slices? Some are more artistic than others: doctors, lawyers, teachers, maids, politicians (especially presidents), and, well, everyone. Design is the one creative skill nearly all living beings (with or without opposable thumbs) possess. All life must organize, coordinate, and strategize every day. Is design the ultimate survival skill? Ask The Three Little Pigs. The more a person adds design to their skill, the more their love for their skill shows.

What a difference a little design makes

What a difference a little design makes

As is typically the case near the end of a decade, societies search for a new paradigm. Kondo’s original book “Jinsei ga Tokimeki Katazuke no Maho” came to attention in Japan in 2010 and sold millions, launching a cleaning boom that made Kondo a celebrity. Now in 2019, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” is having another moment, supported by her Netflix show — and this time, it’s bonkers.


One Well-Meaning Designer

Why, and how, has one well-meaning designer moved millions of people to purge, donate, and re-think concepts they’ve accepted their entire lives, such as how to fold a T-shirt?

If one well-meaning designer can get millions of people to purge valuable belongings by combining joy, relief, and a splash of Japanese mysticism, anything is possible

End-of-decade anxiety has Westerners looking for re-defining design answers to everything from open-space workplaces to personal ideological identity. YouTube channels catch views philosophizing about great awakenings: Is this a simulation? Are you in the matrix? “Gurus” bake pseudo-science into exotic spiritualism and captivate the Silicon Valley intelligentsia as they microdose with LSD and psilocybin.

So the Western world welcomes Marie Kondo as a star, exactly what they need at the end of the decade. Netflix knows their audience wants answers, Amazon knows people are overstocked after nine holiday seasons, and Target knows the style of the decade is fully stale (they’ll squeeze out every last penny from their logo-thieving lifestyle line Magnolia Home, of course.) Most sweaters are dusty and ignored beside mismatched socks. Drawers are stuffed full with old phones and tangled dongles. And what the hell is in that box?

Spark Joy.jpg
Rich People Problems.gif

Ms. Kondo isn’t a decorator for the elite or a purveyor of privilege,
as a few over-hyped tweeters have lazily charged. She’s a designer, and she looks at each of these issues as a designer does. She understands the decorative and cognitive value of negative space. Where design is a message, each component is either necessary or a potential distraction. She sees clutter as an impediment to a signal our very being wishes to receive every day. She solves each of these problems elegantly and with her own idiosyncratic solutions.

For the West, only a Mystical Japanese Designer can make the case…

For the West, only a Mystical Japanese Designer can make the case…

…for something as drastic as throwing away our toys

…for something as drastic as throwing away our toys


Mix Joy, Love, and Design Into a Tool For Change

So as you approach her books and her shows, pay particular attention to the joy Marie Kondo enjoys — not for material toys, and not for cleaning, but for designing a canvas where each of our belongings, whatever they may be, are able to communicate their value clearly and achieve their greater purpose.

Realize that everyone is a designer of some sort. Whether fashioning personal style, the perfect gift for a friend, the method of a technique at work, each of us composes their own personal signature in many unique ways every day. Find that joy for designing and apply it joyfully.

And hold onto that joy, you will surely need it! That’s because the branding gurus working for the corporate machines see the writing on the wall, and that writing is adorable and in lowercase with angled head-serifs and it reads:

the marie kondo joy collection, only at Target

The material West, like the universe, is a vacuum. If empty space opens up, it quickly fills with Target’s new line of Marie Kondo branded home and office organization merchandise. And is Amazon running a MUJI sale?

It’s a conspiracy

It’s a conspiracy


That’s a joke. But not really — we’ve got to start 2020 off on the right foot and if we don’t have cute, inspirational desk organizers we’re doomed. Or so institutionalized materialism would have society think. FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) will work hard to invert and profit from Marie Kondo’s effects, but designers and creative minds paying close attention can weaponize her lesson and continue to create positive tides of change.

Marie Kondo is the designer winning this cultural moment

There’s a lot to learn from Kondo’s appeal: This is a moment for stretching the possibilities. People are searching for answers, for relief, and for change.


Solutions in 2019 will be immersive, joyous, and effective.


Dream bigger: Infusions of wonder, complete departures from the status quo, challenges to institutional intelligence, it’s all possible. Because if one tidy Japanese rebel can get people to speak out loud to inanimate objects, you’re looking at a society ready to accept change.

Now someone, please, get out there and design a better 2020. From the looks of it, there’s going to be a pretty big mess to clean up.

-Kevin Landwehr


If you read this far or think this post might help someone you know — consider sharing it to help spread this piece. Let people know everyone is a designer. Plus, every time you clap a mystic guru gets its wings.

Kevin Landwehr is a design generalist executing brand/visual efforts of every kind for clients of every size, shape, and type.

He took a year off to design a sweet San Francisco brewery and is a big fan of the best tortillas in New York. | LinkedIn |


Incredible Five-Step Secret Guaranteed Exercises for Everlasting Creative Cool by Kevin Landwehr

Exercise your gift, stay sharp, and invent until the day you die


Creative professionals these days are blessed to wear many hats. Experience designer, creative director, brand strategist, brand manager, copywriter, web designer — where are the lines drawn? LinkedIn cares, but many doers have done all of these jobs, bundled into one incomplete title or another. That’s because when it comes to creativity the best of us jump in the boat, pick up an oar and row.

What we’re called is less important than what we create: A look, feel, intellect & spirit for what often started as somebody else’s dream. Not a problem — most commercial creatives don’t want to be famous. We aren’t actors with our names on the movie poster, or writers with our name on the cover, or painters with our name on the canvas. We just want to enjoy our work, make money for our benefactors, and hopefully make the world a more beautiful place.

That said, a different kind of ego powers us, one that gathers deep satisfaction from solving problems. For over a decade I’ve explored a broad range of commercially artistic projects, each problem unique and each solution (hopefully) more creative than the last.

It’s said 10,000 work hours makes an expert. After that, special happens: passion and expertise co-mingle to create amazing things. When we’ve reached this stage though, there’s a tendency to think we know the map. We start to think we see limits. That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep expanding your perception of what’s possible.

Businesses need professionals who invent, visualize, and produce in deeply creative cycles. Artificial Intelligence will eventually replace everyone else: the weakest of the pack. Don’t be weak. Exercise!

Design as a cultural anthropologist

If you’re a marketing professional, you’re empirically rigorous and theoretically sophisticated. You’re excited by changing linguistics. You’re fascinated by food culture. You follow economics, cultural analyses of value, debt, capitalism, and globalization. You’re a social animal, and you love to study folks in their natural environment. Make sure to get beyond your tribe though — can you design for moms as well as millennials?

Design as if you’re a high old hippie bridging the human/digital experience

If you’re in marketing, you’d better be keeping your client relevant. That means more than “digital first.” It means you have to innovate and you have to connect with customers. Not consumers; we’re talking about people. You have to take cold technology and communicate soulful charms that warm the soul.

Create as a writer, a painter, a set designer, an actor, a bartender (same thing?)

You get the idea; bending your talent into adjacent or closely related derivatives feeds your talent. Beyond that, try working within the constraints of various creative fields. How would a painter design a poster? How would a bartender improve a coaster? How would a dancer have done your commercial? If you gave a writer from the 1930's a flux capacitor, how would they design a website? 

Constantly expand the reach of your talent

If you're a designer at through-and-through you should be able to confidently design anything, in any medium and on scalable platforms. If your platform is big, try going after an evasive demo, or working pro-bono for a charity or a friend. If you primarily serve independent clients, seek out some corporate work and discover your flexible side.

Master a complex skill that compliments your discipline

This is where by a power of ten (or something like that) you sharpen up. As a design generalist working in digital and frictionless experience design, I feel compelled everyday to take it further and design branded spaces. Observing and thinking about people interacting inside spaces I’ve created has enhanced my understanding of how we connect customers to brands, products, websites, SaaS & more. 


It’s up to each of us to determine where we need exercise. It usually presents itself as something clients ask for that’s just out of our skill set. Like if you’ve been directing commercials for ten years and you’re overly reliant on your writers, enhance your wit with a few improv classes.

More and more marketing and graphic design professionals are crossing over into experiential environmental concepts

Clients who value fresh ideas pull creatives from beyond the echo chamber


As a personal example, our clients wanted to see just how attached to their brand customers could become. We were happy to do whatever it took to create lasting moments with their brands. Now, we know that part of the XD / Experience Design discipline improves the online experience; but the other side of the concept revolves around designing brand-supportive moments which integrate naturally into the ways we experience the world. And so, without much fuss, we just did what we do: we took it further. Well, okay. A lot further. Did it work? Sure it did. Let’s look at some social data.

Good designers guide brands through difficult problems using a combination of empathy & first principles. What’s really there? Not the paradigm, not the perception; what’s actually happening? What are we trying to accomplish? Are we addressing real problems? Make sure to identify not just what works visually, but what caused the problem in the first place. Once you’ve nailed that down, the rest is execution. The magic will flow.

When you exercise, your creative confidence grows. You don’t rush into asking clients or co-workers what they think, either so that we don’t have to think for ourselves, or to relieve ourselves of culpability for a bad idea, or to massage our need for affirmation (I’ve done so much work for you, look at all the options I’ve given you!) Instead, we ask ourselves these questions:

Does the work engage the human experience? 

Is the storytelling alive? 

Does it give the brand soul? 

Marketing seeds with cold analytics and consumer insights, and succeeds by connecting us to the beauty of our shared humanity. It’s what makes it all so much fun; we’re just working hard, everyday, to be more human... and being human, feeling alive? It never gets old.

Trust me.