Dying and Knowing.

Woke up on the 29th and saw many paying tribute to Virgil.

Virgil Abloh. 28 November 2021. RIP.

The usuals. “Thank you for the inspiration”, “We are so inspired by him, saddened by this loss and excited to see where the legacy he has left will take us all.”

And the more profound:
“Thank you, Virgil, for shining your light on underrepresented voices and communities; for breaking barriers and inspiring generations to come; for sharing your creativity and vision with the world.”

“… greatly shaped my perception of “limits” and what it means to be creative.”

I’ll be honest. Despite his fame, I didn’t know much about his works or his life. It was only through a paid research project on polymaths that gave me a better introduction to Virgil. I have no reason to do a “thank you for the inspiration” post.

“… showing me and millions like me that we can have it all, that we can be a grown-ass kid and contradict the norms and break the rules and can be loved for it.” #virgilabloh

I wonder, wouldn’t it be nice if Virgil got to hear this, when he was still alive?

If I have left a mark on someone’s life, I know I would prefer to know it when I’m alive.

Back in Feb 2007, I spent half a day with Massimo and Lella Vignelli. We spoke about Alan Fletcher, who had passed away a few months back (September 2006). Visibly saddened, Massimo said:

“That’s not right. He didn’t tell us. I didn’t get to see him. He is a good friend.”

May 9, 2014. Vignelli’s son, Luca, put out a call for letters to his dying dad. When I read that in Creative Review, I remembered our conversation in Mumbai – Massimo is doing the opposite of leaving quietly. Letters arrived in crates, from those who knew him personally, and from the masses of young designers who were just inspired by him. “Dear Massimo, although we never met, I feel as we have met…” (Video here).

Virgil kept his battle with cancer private. He didn’t tell us. We didn’t know.

But how does it matter?

We rarely reach out to the people whom we respect and admire, so why do we do so with @s and #s when they aren’t around anymore? Too often I am guilty of this – despite having the great privilege of being able to meet and spend time with many of my early-career-days design heroes, I never told them how much they have impacted me in my works and shaped how I see design.

I have my regrets. “Thank you for the inspiration” would have meant so much more, spoken to someone who can hear it, and not when they are gone. Dear Wally. Dear Ivan. Dear Massimo.

In fact, nowadays, everyone is just a DM or a direct tweet away – if we do it. Heck, we are ever quick to pounce and flame our colleagues and our peers when they don’t meet our standards, but rarely offer a single word of encouragement when we see good works. We don’t expressively appreciate good human. Flaws are magnified. Works are picked apart.

Ended 29th November by stumbling upon a friend’s insta story. Didn’t know she has moved to Canada. After chatting over a few messages I ended the conversation by wishing her the best in a new country.

“You are a talented soul. Canada will find you.”

I always saw her as a very talented human who was unfortunately at the wrong place to grow creatively. At that moment, I wanted her to know she is truly talented. She, should know.

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