Notes on Blocks

On the Aesthetics of Progress

by Molly Mielke

This piece came out of one of our “Are.na Walkthroughs,” during which four people take us through a particular channel and some of the things they’ve collected in it. Our latest one was on April 1, 2022 over Zoom, and it featured Molly Soda, Molly Mielke, Karl Rivera, and Nico Chilla. Here, Molly Mielke shares some of what she talked about while walking us through her “Aesthetics of progress” channel.

Creation of the Birds by Remedios Varo (1957). [In a painting with fine brushstrokes and a muted, brown-green color palette, a goddess-looking figure with an owl face and a violin heart sits at her desk and brings birds into existence.]

I started “Aesthetics of progress” as a personal inspiration bank to broaden my own forward-looking scale of imagination. I’ve always been interested in what motivates people and what our vision for the future could look like, and this channel fused those two interests into one. 

When I play around with ideas, I think in visuals. My brain loves to think deeply about how something should look, feel, speak, and conduct itself in the world. This channel has been my brainstorming spot for how I want the future (that I help create) to feel. It’s nostalgic, natural, and warm — just as I like it. Nothing about these images is tactical or prescriptive — it’s more of a collection of captured moments that when arranged alongside one another, create an altogether new meaning. And isn’t that kinda what the future is? Pulling from what we learned from the past to connect old ideas in a new pattern?

This channel serves as vitamin optimism for me. For that reason, I highly recommend taking this prompt for a spin yourself and seeing what motivation patterns you might uncover.


This was the genesis phrase that inspired me to create this channel. To me, this phrase encapsulates the pinnacle of what I wish to see more of in the world. It’s aspirational and impractical but makes me happy to think about, which is enough to justify its worth in my mind.


I find video games massively inspiring from the standpoint that they probably come as close as we can get to interacting with the world as someone other than ourselves. The old Nintendo video game “Secret of Mana” stands out as a vision for the future that I find particularly fun and awe-inspiring.


This is a Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Spain. What makes it special technically is its molten salt heat storage system but what makes it special aesthetically is its unique form. I find it frankly mesmerizing.


At one point I tried to pin down this aesthetic with words. I don’t think I really nailed it but the three phrases together come close to capturing something.


I really love this image. It’s modular and speaks to a compartmentalized approach to cities and life that I find both compelling and visually stunning.

Molly Mielke is a writer and creative person at large. She's currently making Moth Minds and an editor at Stripe Press and Notion.