Stuff that I liked in 2010 (the Music Edition–Top Albums)

This year I thought I change up my reviews a bit. In the past I’ve diagramed the top ten in terms of release dates and the type of music it was. This year I found that things were more consistent in the type of music I was drawn to. So instead I thought I give a brief overview of my top albums from 2010. I can’t really pinpoint any one influence in terms of discovery. At times I found new stuff from Hype Machine, NPR on occasion and random tweets. If you’re curious to see how I’ve reviewed them in the past, here’s 2009, 2008 and 2007.

1. U.N.K.L.E.: Where Did the Night Fall
I’ve been listening to this album since it came out in May. It was the first thing I pressed play to a lot. There’s a nice balance of ambient and non ambient stuff to work to in the background.

2. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: The Social Network
I really didn’t want to like this album but found myself listening to it a lot walking outside. I did end up seeing the movie and like a lot of others was curious to hear where each song would be scored in a scene. For the most part the tracks made sense except for one. One of my favourite tracks was In the Hall of the Mountain King. In the film they play for the backdrop of a race that felt a bit animated in a not so great way.

3. Sleigh Bells: Treats
This album will help keep the energy going past the first few cups of coffee in the morning. The speed stays pretty consistent throughout without taking any breaks. Lots of discoveries within each song.

4. Wait What: the Notorious Xx
For a while this way my top album of the year. It has a great combo of mashups between Xx and the Notorious B.I.G. Again I listened to this album a ton but when I came back to it a couple weeks ago some of the novelty had rubbed off. When including albums in my list I try to think how often I might listen to the album a year from know. This one will probably be occasional while the other top three quite a bit more.

5. The Rocketboys: Wellwisher
This EP only came out a couple weeks ago. It’s very tight and I suspect there will be a lot of attention for these guys as people discover them.

6. Massive Attack: Heligoland
I have to be honest that I’m still warming up to this album. This was the one this year that within a few listens loved it, than hated it, forgot about it and am starting to enjoy again. There’s something really good yet off with the whole thing—I just can’t put my finger on it.

7. Daft Punk: Tron Legacy
I had high hopes for this one after seeing the first movie trailer. Now that I’ve heard most of it I’m a bit disappointed. It’s a nice film score but doesn’t really compare listenabley to the Social Network soundtrack

8. The National: High Violet
This was my mainstream pick of the year. Even now as I listen to it I think it’s pretty good in that I never got tired of it and could listen to it for most of a day.

9. Beach House: Teen Dream
I got this at the beginning of the year, listened to it a ton and stopped. I didn’t find them gimmicky at all but could only handle the album in short doses after the first month.

10. There wasn’t one real other standout for me. Sure there was Girl Talk, Kid Cudi, Sufjan Stevens and even Kanye West, but I never really got into any of them the way I did with the other nine albums. I’m sure there’s a ton of great albums (not tracks) that I missed. So let me know what else I should be exploring.

Stuff that I liked in 2010 (the Product Edition)

The years is almost up so I figured I’d take a look at some of the things that I actually bought and list them. I decided to list it alphabetically because trying to make it a top ten would be hard to do. For example I don’t think anything can really compete with an iPad on my list. Most of the stuff isn’t that out of reach for the average person—typically when I started thinking about it most of the things I bought were somewhat affordable. What I decided to leave off the list were clothes, food and travel. Those should be saved under the category of experiences. I also didn’t include review books just for the simple fact that I didn’t buy them. I just felt if I was coming up with a Design Notes approved buying guide I didn’t want to include JPGS of things that I never saw in person or wasn’t willing to buy myself. The interesting pattern that I noticed after writing most of the reasons why something made my list was that I could carry it around with me easily, I could make something with it, it inspired me and it was affordable.

Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art
by Patrick Nguyen & Stuart Mackenzie

Beyond the street

Beyond the Street

For anyone that is a fan of street art, there’s two books that should be added to their library. This one one of the two. Aside from hearing first person accounts of some artists a lot of the info that I’ve come across has been from the interwebs. What’s great about this book (aside from the beautiful production) are all the interviews that make up the bulk of the work. The time and effort was well appreciated by me.

iA Writer

iA Writer for the iPad

I’m a huge fan of the keyboard from this app. It’s a smart way of making writing easier on the iPad. Plus the fact that I have a guesstimate of how long it will take someone to read what I’ve written is nice.

Apple iPad MC496LL/A Tablet (32GB, Wifi + 3G)


This is an obvious choice for me. I pretty much use it everyday and find new ways to do tasks every couple weeks that make life easier for me.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 12.1MP Micro Four-Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Lens

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 12.1MP Micro Four-Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Lens

I had been using the Leica D Lux 3 for a couple years, it did a great job but was really slow in terms of being able to take more than one image at a time. I also wanted something more versatile in terms of lens. The GF1 was the perfect camera to graduate to. It’s small enough to carry with me all the time, the image quality is much better and I love using it. I haven’t bought any other lenses yet, but the fact that I can is a great option. Another great feature is the auto bracketing. I could go on and on about that camera…

MUJI Recycled Paper Note – Double Ring – Dark Gray B5 – Plain 80

MUJI Notebook

I would be lost without this thing. I carry it with me as much if not more than my iPad. The book is inexpensive enough that I don’t feel guilty for writing notes in it. It’s also not over designed which is the biggest issue that I find with a lot of branded notebooks out there. The inside of this black MUJI notebook is plain white paper.

MUJI Gel-Ink Ballpoint Pen 0.5mm


I buy these five at time, there’s always one in my pocket and the stream of ink makes it easy to write on almost any surface. If someone’s lost a pen I always give them one of my MUJI gel ink pens if there’s any extras in my bag.

River of News

River of News iPad App

I use a number of iPad apps to stay updated (Pulse, Flipboard, Reeder etc), however when I weant to read from my RSS feeds stored in Google Reader I start with River of News. The UI is pretty straight forward, it has the share functionality that I want and there’s some small visual design details that no one else has been able to match. I just wish they’d change their app icon—it’s brutal.

Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art
by Carlo McCormick, Marc Schiller & Sara Schiller

Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art

Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art

For anyone that is a fan of street art, there’s two books that should be added to their library. This one one of the two. What I like about this book is that it puts a lot of what I’ve seen into a context that I hadn’t really considered before. When ever I go through this book it inspires me—not so much to make my own art, but come up with really cool design ideas. It’s hard to explain except that I find that it’s a lot easier for me to think about designing something after I’ve seen some great art on paper.

U.N.K.L.E.: Where Did the Night Fall

U.N.K.L.E.: Where Did the Night Fall

This is probably my top album of the year. I’ve listened to it a million times and never tire of it. I’m actually listening to it as I write this post.

Zero History
by William Gibson

Zero History

While this isn’t my favourite book of the year (not sure if I have one), I’ve really enjoyed the fact that I can read this book anywhere with both my iPhone and iPad while not worrying about what page I’ve left on.

REVIEW COPY: One Million by Hendrik Hertzberg

One Million Cover

One Million 01

One Million 02

I was recently contacted by John Clifford of Think Studio in NYC who designed the cover of the book Graphic that I reviewed a couple weeks ago. He and Herb Thornby had designed the book One Million by Hendrik Hertzberg and was curious to know if I would be interested in checking it out. I was so within a couple days I had a copy in my hands.

The idea behind the book is to display a million dots while pulling out numbers that seem like data though very quickly becomes a story through information. As I was reading the pages it struck me that I was looking at the full circle of life. Common data was placed in the context of births, deaths, geography, military, space, time, travel, jail, money among many other categories. For instance we learn that 150,300 people crossed the Brooklyn bridge on foot on opening day, May 24,1883 while 150,835 US deaths in a day happened in 2008. It’s information like that to compare that makes the book fascinating.

In the design each dot that has a number associated with it is pulled out on the page. Along with the number is the context of what it means. While the book is 200 pages flipping through each with essentially the same number of dots it never got boring. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of cool website or app this book would make. Each dot could easily have an association that when clicked/pressed could provide more information. Those dots would also be live so some of them over time would move.

The biggest issue i had with the book is that the sources are not listed. I didn’t doubt that the actual numbers were real but it seems like a strange omission. Calling the book a toy doesn’t really omit the need. I think fans of typography and order will enjoy this book though I think there’s broad appeal to those that are interested in the social sciences or people that just like the story of humanity.

Title: One Million
Author: Hendrik Hertzberg
Publisher: Abrams Image

This post took 12 months to do; looking back at my two-thousand-and-ate Monthly Posters for 2008

Live Jan. Poster


feel the luv at 10:15 am

april at 10:15 am

my wall at ten15am

my area at ten15am

My July Wall at Ten15am

12 days late at ten15am

Setting my Septembre Board Up at ten15am

October at ten15am

my board for november at ten15am

last of the calendar series at ten15am

Many months ago, twelve I think, I received a really interesting package of posters from Jennifer Daniel. The twelve posters each represented a month and were illustrated by a diverse set of people. Before I had even opened the tube I knew I was getting something good when the url for the calendar set was Soon after I took pictures of each poster and blogged about it b/c that’s what I do. But I also wanted to take pictures of them in context – I hate seeing design that’s not in their context when photographed… So each month when I changed one of my pin boards I photographed what was around the monthly poster.

Now that I can look back at the last year in calendar posters I can appreciate the genius in the idea a bit more. The concept of changing a poster space each month is kind of cool. In practical terms I don’t think I ever turned my head to see what the date was on paper, but for adding some great visuals it really made my area a bit more fun to work in. It’s such a good idea I might have to steal it next year…

REVIEW COPY: All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* by Laurie Rosenwald

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* by Laurie Rosenwald

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* by Laurie Rosenwald

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* by Laurie Rosenwald

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* by Laurie Rosenwald

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* by Laurie Rosenwald

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* by Laurie Rosenwald

When I started going through Laurie Rosenwald’s book “All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies*” I almost immediately thought that it would be a good companion to “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” by Paul Arden. The only difference being that Rosenwald’s book is not just for creatives.

I obviously don’t fit who the book was written for as I’m not a teenage girl, but as each page reads like a poster with something to ponder it’s pretty hard not to be interested in it. Having no experience with editing what so ever I kind of felt for the editor of this book. How would you even start? The text, ideas and images are so intrinsically put together that any edit of those elements would change the entire page. Right beside the ISBN and Library of Congress info is a mention that “art created with scissors, paper, crayons, a digital camera, Illustrator and Photoshop”. If there’s anything missing in the book, it’s that I would have luved to have seen some scotch tape and glue drips on that pages. It would have added some texture that would have made me forget that I’m looking at a book that’s combined digital and tactile materials.

Another initial reaction was that there should be an audio version of this book. Why? There’s so many bursts of energy that I think it would be fascinating to hear her blurt out everything that’s she’s put on each page. Thinking back about another similarity to Arden’s book, her book is something that you can pull off the shelf, find a page that speaks to you and get something from it. It’s like a reference book that’s not boring.

Title: All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies*
Authors: Laurie Rosenwald
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books

Creative Mornings: Zach Klein and Casey Pugh Notes & Video


12/12/08 Zach Klein and Casey Pugh on Physical Computing from CreativeMornings on Vimeo.

“I was seeking the thrill of learning something new” and so the ten minute talk (it was actually 23 minutes, but who’s counting) started with Zach Klein and Casey Pugh presenting at Creative Mornings which was held in MEET. In the short time that they had, they talked about the basics of physical computing to a bunch of people that probably hadn’t made a circuit before. Within the context of expanding what web 2.0 is/was, there was an explanation of how physical computing will make that information useful while taking it offline

Probably my fav. quote was in reference to a simple resistor – “for a LED, you don’t want to send too much electricity to it because it will explode. hehehe”. All the info that Klein and Pugh mentioned can be found at Among other things that the audience learned was that the Arduino is either named after a bar or an Italian word for masculinity by some geeks with an insecurity complex.

What I appreciated about the talk was that they laid out a couple simple principals and then showed examples that got progressively more complex. While doing that they included a couple of reference books that anyone could pick up and replicate on their own time. If there had been more time I would have been interested in hearing about their thought process on actually creating something. Did they already know what they wanted to build before they started or was it like playing with lego – did they come up with an idea as they were working on connecting the LED’s? Aside from that I was just happy to meet up with some familiar faces and meet a couple new ones.

REVIEW: Urban Iran

Urban Iran

peace for all

Urban Iran

Urban Iran

Urban Iran

Urban Iran

Before opening up and reading Urban Iran I thought I could guess what type of book I was going to get. It would be mostly outside shots with a couple artist bio’s talking about what they did and how they were avoiding the police in Iran. What the book ended up being was a collection of personal stories of how people are coping and in turn how that is influencing their art and culture around them. There were stories talking about particular industries like automobiles, publishing, music and stories about rebellion through facial hair, remembering childhood through books, and social commentary through art among other topics.

The book’s broken up into a couple broader themes from the other topics I mentioned above. There’s the Portraits of the Everyday and the Art of Publishing. In a lot of respects the essay titled Publishing in Iran by Charlotte Noruzi summed up the entire book quite succinctly. Below is an excerpt from the first paragraph.

“In a way, I’ve created a small window for myself through which I can “see” my country, a place that has been a mystery, kept secret and seperate in my mind. My collection of children’s books triggered my sense of curiosity, a desire to know what things are like in Iran now and the need to reconnect with where I am from. I wanted to lift the veil a little and see what’s underneath. I wonder what books were like. What was the publishing climate like now? What was it like to be an illustrator, publisher or artist now as opposed to pre-revolution times? How have things changed? Was their more expression, less? How had the ever-present living and working in Iran, among other places. Roots to my country that were severed so long ago seemed to come alive again with every person I talked to.”

In respect to music – both in terms of downloading and finding lyrics most people take that for granted. Yet imagine if you had to use a phone line to download tracks that would take days to finally complete. Another issue that bands and specifically to this book metal bands, that every band has had more cancellations than concerts. In Hair is for Head-Banging, Coco Ferguson and Sohrab Mohebbi talk about what it’s like to make music and the options out there for bands trying to do their art. In a different essay art was being used as a vehicle to suggest that graphic design is becoming complacent and mediocre b/c people are focusing too much attention on awards and clients outside of the boarders. (A common theme everywhere in the world it would seem). By taking the well known ideas about childhood monsters from their culture, they’ve turned that focus on to bringing attention to what others are doing in their creative field.

I couldn’t help but think while reading Urban Iran that as good as the internet is for finding things, almost all the imagery of the book is new to my eyes. There’s still a lot out there to discover and the stories behind those images contextualize things perfectly. If there was one thing missing with the book, it’s that there was no conclusion. It kind of just stopped, I would have been curious to read what was going to happen next. Will things get worse, better or stay the same?

Title: Urban Iran
Authors: Salar Abdoh and Charlotte Noruzi
Publisher: Mark Batty Publisher

A couple points from seeing Big Spaceship at AIGANY Design Remixed

Big Spaceship at AIGANY Design Remixed

After work last night I walked down the block to the Apple SoHo store to hear Michael Lebowitz and Joshua Hirsch of Big Spaceship. Before the talk I wasn’t planning to post anything but they had a lot of interesting points to consider. While I’m still in the camp that feels that online experiences serve more of a task based function (because who wants to sit in front of a computer all day?), Big Spaceship showed a number of examples of work that made me forget that I was in front of a screen. I was also struck when Michael mentioned a story about how a judge for an awards competition wrote a lengthy letter stating that what they had done “was not how a website should be”. Very good fodder to think about and ask have really gotten to that point where there is only one way to do things? I hope not.

Some other quick notes:

· It seems like they do as much w/ their hands as they do with being in front of the computer

· First example was an intro, they just played it. They then talked about how it was created, made the story interesting enough that you couldn’t help but want to see it played again.

· A lot of their projects have a sound component that played really nicely in the apple theatre. They didn’t talk about sound at, thinking about it now I should have asked them about it.

· The talk was very fluid with crowd interaction. They made it relaxed enough that people felt comfortable asking questions. Bonous from the audience that there wasn’t any stupid questions. Typically they would show a project reel and then crowd questions.

· If i was going to bring them in for a talk (you should invite them), I would be interested in seeing them do one less reel piece and show one project from the beginning to end. Start after the contract is signed for the project, and show everything from the beginning, middle to end. It would be fascinating to see.

· I noticed on their website home page that the links to their blog sites don’t work (what’s up with that?), but the interaction with signing up for their newsletter is kind of interesting. Actually opting out is what’s interesting…

Turning Six Shows from Showetime into a House in Gramercy




As the ICFF was getting underway last year I was so burned out before it even started that I didn’t want to write anything about it. I think part of the unappeal was that after a while everything starts looking the same, feels like everything else and are shown in the same showrooms. Contrast that to a week ago when I received an email mentioning the Showtime House with Metropolitan Home which took six Showetime shows and created a room inspired by the show. I thought it was a cool idea to combine a number of shows into a living environment and wanted to see it for myself. On Friday I visited the house in Gramercy got the tour from Samantha Nestor who’s the Special Projects Editor for Metropolitan Home. Above are the photos I took from the tour.

Inside the house, the chosen shows were The Tudors, Dexter, Californication, Weeds, United States of Tara and The L Word. My favourite room and probably a lot of other people’s was Dexter’s Dining Room by Amy Lau. The attention to detail was meticulous. Details like etched thumbprints on the blood infused wine glass caught my attention. And then there was just the idea of turning a white room into a bloodbath which was fitting to the show.

The Tudors by Laura Kirar room felt up to date if we were still back in the day. Californication from Jamie Drake had a number of fascinating elements. There was a floor to ceiling book column all laid out by hand – to the jar of condoms beside the couch. The Weeds room had a very zen like feel from White Webb. Tori Golub managed to pull off a room for a person w/ six differing personalities. Vicente Wolf created a complementary feel to the L Word Boudoir. On the top floor there were two completely different rooms that had the same shape and space – a bright pink Lounge by Kirsten Brant and the angular Media Room by Luca Andrisani.

As far as product placement tie-in’s go – I really liked the concept. They took a bunch of shows that had strong characters and played w/ the living environment. Combine that w/ a number of designer’s giving tips to those looking for ideas on how to make their living environment better – it seemed like a good fit for me.

Checking out Buckminster Fuller at the Whitney

Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe

Over the weekend I finally went to the Whitney to check out Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe. Sure I knew about him but I really didn’t have a full grasp nor experience seeing any of his work or ideas in person. My first reaction as I started walking through everything was that I wish I could have taken some images for my own personal use. There were so many cool things that I would have liked to have been able to refer to in this post that I can’t. I wish more institutions would take MoMA’s smart photo policy. The other thing that I thought about almost instantly was that this exhibition was going to be as interesting for me as Brooklyn Museum of Art’s © MURAKAMI and MoMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind.

One of the more amusing images was the idea of putting a Dome over Manhattan where in ten years the savings of resources and energy would pay for itself. For a floating community, there was a number of tennis and basketball courts which I found interesting. Probably b/c they’re essentially on a ship and not land locked but taking some of the amenities with them. I luved all the drafting plans that he had. For anyone looking how to document interface work, you couldn’t do a lot better to see how he created his plans. He turned functional plans into pieces of art which isn’t ironic since I was looking at them on the walls of the Whitney. I did find it slightly disconcerting that the “real posters” that were also on exhibition didn’t nearly stand up to the visual impact that the hand draftings did.

Video projections seem like all the rage now though rarely deliver any kind of impact for me. There tends to be a level of separation between the work and myself that hasn’t really been emotionally resolved yet. However for this show there was an animation of geometric explorations that I found quite mesmerizing. I didn’t spend a lot of time with it, but seeing some of Fuller’s patterns in movement really opened things up to a new level. That shouldn’t be surprising as he did consider time in his work but that is pretty had to convey in print or a static wall.

How this show will compare w/ others that look at his work his hard for me to know as I’ve never seen anything put into that context before. But as a starting point to consider as I do my own design it’s hard not to put on a smile. Whether you’re an architect, industrial designer, graphic designer or some digital combination, it would be hard not to push your own ideas a bit further after seeing the show. While there’s a lot of books out there on Fuller, it’s too bad that the catalogue was sold out.

Hearing Dan Saffer talk about “Tap is the New Click” for IxDA NY at R/GA

“Tap is the New Click” by Dan Saffer

“Tap is the New Click” by Dan Saffer

“Tap is the New Click” by Dan Saffer

“Tap is the New Click” by Dan Saffer

“Tap is the New Click” by Dan Saffer

“Tap is the New Click” by Dan Saffer

“Tap is the New Click” by Dan Saffer

“Tap is the New Click” by Dan Saffer

Last night to a standing room only IxDA NY audience at R/GA for Dan Saffer presented what I’m going to guess is an outline of his new book Interactive Gestures: Designing Gestural Interfaces (you can download the first chapter at the site) that is coming out soon. At the end of his talk he mentioned that he would be putting up his slides which I’ll link to once I see them on the Kick It site. You can download the Tap is the New Click Presentation HERE. He likened the next couple of years of gestural interface experimentation to the early years of the web – both the good and bad. As a primer on this emerging field I though the talk was pretty good. I’m hesitant to do a play by play of points b/c that’s what his book and slides can do clearly. But what I want to do is point out a couple things that I found interesting from the pov of someone using an iphone, kiosks and the clapper.

There’s two types of touch screens – iceberg tips which have a small target yet there’s a larger surface surrounding that target that is live. The other is adaptive targets which is kind of like the keyboard on an iphone. As you type in letters the sensors guess what is more likely to be the next letter and create a bigger target b/c of it. On communicating interactive gestures there’s three points to consider: 1. attraction, 2. observation and 3. interaction. If you have an iPhone you know about the unlock slide to turn it on. That type of interaction is known as attraction affordance. It introduces the person to a type of gesture that the interface uses. As for a philosophy to consider, the simpler the task should equate to the simpler the gesture. The best designs dissolve into behaviour.

The q & a afterwards was surprisingly good – my experience in the past at talks in general has not been the case. Some topics covered included tech. will be abused as necessary, sensors as a green issue in bathrooms, face recognition for ads, gesture pollution, will a room be an apple or microsoft room – the implications of that, brainwaves are not gestures, will gesture be patentable or gestures plus a response system be patentable and wearable technology.

IxDA NY and R/GA filmed the event as well. Once I find that link I’ll post it here too.

Crowdsourcing Salon With Wired Author Jeff Howe

Crowdsourcing Salon With Wired Author Jeff Howe

Crowdsourcing Salon With Wired Author Jeff Howe

After hearing the authour of Crowdsourcing Jeff Howe speak at Electric Artists last night it was easy to make comparisons with some other quasi anthro/sociology books that you might find in the business or marketing section of a bookstore this year. The first would be Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky and to a lesser extent Buying In by Rob Walker. For me personally the most basic of the comparisons is that I’ve now seen all three of them speak. Clay talked by himself at Daylife where I work, Rob was interviewed by Fast Company with PSFK and Jeff spoke at Electric Artists and was interviewed by Marc Schiller. In all three cases the Q & A afterwards was fairly flat. No one would dispute that Clay’s a passionate speaker but for the Rob and Jeff events it became interesting to see where the dialogue was going to be directed with the interviewer. By the time each of the books has been written, printed and delivered a lot of the themes aren’t exactly new. After hearing Rob talk I didn’t really feel that I had heard anything that new while last night I did end up leaving Jeff’s talk with feeling smarter then I walked in.

For the talk last night, some of the main business’s that Jeff referenced were Threadless, iStock photo and Dell. I’ve never bought a Dell nor follow anything that they do so I wasn’t really able to relate to that part of the discussion. I have used iStock photo and as a creative I’ve always hated the idea that people send in free illustration work that a shirt company is making money off of. I’ve always seen it as spec work but these days you rarely hear anyone complain about that – so maybe I’m in the minority that has an issue. In any case, the “crowd” is looking for a task to do and those companies all found a way to bring people into the fold.

Keep in mind that crowd is not some mindless mob – in the case of Doritos and their contest to give airtime for a Superbowl commercial, a majority of the entries came from other professionals. In essence a hybrid of pro-am people that were taking their work in a different direction. You may have also heard of Crowdsourcing b/c of the book contest to design the cover. You can check out the finalists from the UK at What was interesting to hear is that the American version did not publish a cover from outsiders but the publisher decided what was going to work while in the UK an entry was selected. Which was right? Hard to say until the number of books that were sold can be figured out. One thing that became clear is that it’s hard to replicate a successful crowd interaction w/ a business if the conditions aren’t there. Walmart tried to fake it for a while and was called out on it. It seemed like for things to work companies weren’t following a scripted plan and had the confidence to let things open up in unique manner and have a dialogue.

REVIEW PART TWO: Design Mind from Frog Design (Issue 08, Numbers)

designmind frogdesign Numbers - Issue 08

designmind frogdesign Numbers - Issue 08

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been carrying Issue 08 of Design Mind everywhere my laptop went. I talked about the design of the magazine in part one of the review at Usually that meant to work, the odd coffee place and from time to time outside. There was something comforting about having it in my hands. As I was going reading the whole issue I tried to pin point what magazines it reminded me of. If I were to create a vin diagram with three circles, the first big ring would be design, and the other two would be the Economist and Harvard Business Review. The intersection of the three circles would be where Design Minds would fall. For the most part the content was fairly high level which this reader appreciated.

Another question I had as I read through was who was this magazine intended for? Perspective clients, other designers and strategists, internally or somebody else entirely? Again I think there were articles that reached each of those groups. The Spiekerman interview was fun yet very smart at the same time. Often w/ interviews the interviewer w/ their questions can become a distracting part of the conversation – that wasn’t apparent w/ this conversation. Plus any designer that plays w/ type will appreciate the conversation about numbers. The article about one designer’s experience w/ his Hasselblad almost made me want to part w/ my Leica D-Lux 3 and go film again (almost).

There was only one page that stuck out in a weird way. It was a concept about Re-Skinning Reality. I couldn’t figure out how the mask idea fit into the concept of the issue on Numbers. I also felt that there was a lost opportunity to use information design to illustrate the article Calculated Design. That article really illustrated the value that design that can provide on a more than just a visual level that most graphic design magazines seem to miss.

People thumb through magazines, find something to glance at and move on. I paid more attention w/ this issue b/c I knew that I would be briefly reviewing it here on designNotes. If I’m feeling a bit smarter after taking the time to read something I consider it a success. While there wasn’t a revolutionary idea inside Design Minds that is going to change the future of design I did feel like I could have a more intelligent conversation w/ friends about design.

Read REVIEW PART ONE: Design Mind from Frog Design at

REVIEW: The Animation Show Volume 3


From time to time I get emails asking if I’d be interested in reviewing things – typically they’re books but occasionally it’s other things. Recently it was an email about The Animation Show Volume 3. I’d never reviewed or even seen a full compilation of Animation shorts so I was intrigued. Who wouldn’t be interested in watching something like that if you’re into visual culture. The catch for me as I started viewing the shorts was if I should go micro and talk about every single clip or be more general and keep it at a macro level?

The idea behind the Animation Show was to collect the best independent animated films curated by Mike Judge (Office Space, “Beavis and Butt-Head,” “King of the Hill”) and Academy Award nominated animator Don Hertzfeldt (Billy’s Balloon, Rejected, The Meaning of Life). After watching the hour 90+ minutes of film, the first thing that came to mind for me was I hope that more people will have the time to watch the collection. The second thought was that animation is a lot more diverse then what most people typically think about, that is if they think about it at all. I’ve included a couple videos to give an idea of what I mean. The first one is from the popular Pes while the other is a promo of the actual collection.

I thought there would be two fundamental things to look for during each presentation. The narrative that they were trying to convey, and how they executed it visually. But it became obvious quite quickly that the entire experience included timing, sound, pace along w/ visuals and narrative. All the stories twisted those elements for their own purposes which made them all unique. That originality was something that I enjoyed seeing and experiencing with each of the clips.

It might be a cliche to mention that most of the shorts weren’t happy go lucky and that they expected the viewer to suspend their idea of reality to go into other visual worlds. And for me it worked. It was really cool to just watch a lot of visual displays that I hadn’t seen before, being a designer I’m always looking to see how others express ideas and animation like the shorts I watched was quite compelling. It would be hard to pick just one favourite among them all. Some held my attention b/c I didn’t know what was going to happen next while others it was more about seeing things in a new light. Carlitopolis by Nieto was notable in that he took a live presentation and bent the rules on what you would expect to see in a live presentation. Versus by Francois Caffiaux, Noel Romain and Thomas Salas summed up how wars start quite succinctly with out words.

There’s a couple additional features that I haven’t fully had time to go through but are worth mentioning as a side note. There’s a number of filmed interviews w/ some of the creators. Even better though poorly executed was the text version interviews w/ most of the people involved. It’s a great idea to include pdfs, unfortunately they can hardly be read on a computer monitor – I haven’t tried printing them out so maybe it’s a bit easier on paper – but I’m almost thinking of grabbing all the text and laying out the type in a better way for myself to read. One interview that was unexpected but cool was that they talked to the illustrator for the movie poster, nice to see him get attention too.

You can get more info about the Animation Show Volume 3 and the Animation Show at

Beavis and Butt-Head Introduction by Mike Judge
(Rabbit) by Run Wrake
(City Paradise) by Gaelle Denis
(Everything Will Be OK) by Don Hertzfeldt
(Collision) by Max Hattler
(Astronauts) by Matthew Walker
(Carlitopolis) by Nieto
(No Room For Gerold) by Daniel Nocke
(Guide Dog) by Bill Plympton
(One D) by Mike Grimshaw
(Tyger) by Guilherme Marcondes
(Versus) by Francois Caffiaux, Noel Romain and Thomas Salas
(Learn Self Defense) by Chris Harding
(Abigail) by Tony Comely
(Shuteye Hotel) by Bill Plympton
(Dreams and Desires) by Joanna Quinn
(Game Over) by Pes

Field-Testing the Field-Tested Book Live in New York

Field-Tested Books Live in NYC

To be honest, the Delancey probably wasn’t the best location for Coudal’s Field-Tested Books live reading in New York. The rooftop was packed which in turn made it kind of loud for the eager audience. There was little room for improve – those that were heard kept it simple and loud so everyone could hear. The other issue was the giant column that blocked a lot of the view. To contradict myself, I’ll mention in a moment why that might not have been so bad after all. Having never been invited to be a part of a book reading I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sure I prepped, I practiced reading my piece in front of Tamara and Madison, visualized success and drank beer to calm my nerves. But until you actually get to the venue it’s hard to predict where things are going to head. With the loudness and not being able to see the readers for the first half it kind of calmed me. Some people are going to be able to hear better than others, and chances of seeing a lot of people read every word was slightly minimized. So far so good in my mind.

At intermission I managed to get to the front where I ran into my friend Debbie and was introduced to Jeffrey. I also noticed that the other side of the column that was blocking my view actually held more people than I thought and yes people would be able to see every word that I spoke. I think my mind was preoccupied talking w/ Debbie which helped in me not thinking about what I was about to do. The second half started without any problems that I could see, though I was in a great spot to hear and see everything. Five people in, it was my turn. After deciding to not have a flashlight shown under my face and only one shout of “speak louder”, things went pretty good for me. I tried not to rush what seemed like an eternity and tried to enjoy the moment.

Some of my personal highlights were finally meeting Steve Delahoyde who’s been a great supporter of what I’ve tried to do w/ my blog here, meeting up w/ Debbie Millman again, hearing Randy Cohen talk in person as opposed to just hearing him on the NYT Ethicist podcast, shaking Jon Parker‘s hand just before he was to talk (after realizing that I was Michael from Canada), hearing a lot of great stories, and most of all just getting the chance to blab and in front of a lot of smart people. I really appreciated all the effort that was put into the entire production of the book to the website to the talk – an incredible amount of time. I hope more business’s like Coudal follow their lead in the future.

Below is the final, final roster of speakers in order…

Ben Greenman
Liz Danzico
Steven Heller
Ron Hogan
Matt Linderman
Randy Cohen
Randy J. Hunt
Debbie Millman
John Gruber


Jon Parker
Andy Ross
Jason Santa Maria
Maud Newton
Michael Surtees
Scott Korb
Pitchaya Sudbanthad
Jeffrey Zeldman

Iced Coffee in NYC Rankings

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A couple weeks ago I mentioned on twitter about my disappointment w/ an iced coffee experience. Not soon after I was given a couple recommendations of places I should check out. Taking those places into consideration and a couple other places I frequent for iced coffee I offer up my ranking. The ratings is by no means an exhaustive list – if you have a favourite that you think I should check out, please let me know. From time to time I’ll update this list w/ new finds. If you’re looking for one that is close to you – check out my google map.

Café Grumpy [Rank 1]Café Grumpy [Rank 1]
LOCATION: 224 West 20th Street

PRICE: $$$$$

CONVENIENCE: Be prepared to be patient and not on a deadline

THE ICED COFFEE: Café Grumpy has the advantage of using the clover which is a single cup press and a variety of beans. I never know what to choose so I go on the recommendation of what’s the best bean of the week for iced coffee – I’ve never been disappointed.

The City Bakery [Rank 2]The City Bakery [Rank 2]
LOCATION: 3 West 18th Street

OVERALL RATING: Almost a Full Cup
PRICE: $$$

CONVENIENCE: For the amount of people that go through the two lines – very smooth

THE ICED COFFEE: Their large seems like extra large in terms of how much you get and considering the quantity it strikes a good balance that isn’t too strong nor watered down. Walking to work, this would be the place where I would stop first – great location and walking down Fifth Ave to Washington Square Park is a nice bonous.

La Colombe Cafe [Rank 3]La Colombe Cafe [Rank 3]
LOCATION: 319 Church St

OVERALL RATING: 3/4 of a Full Cup

CONVENIENCE: Depends if you have to cross Canal St. or not, inside it’s an ok wait time depending on the line

THE ICED COFFEE: If you like it strong this cup is for you. Cool interior though I hate crossing Canal St. to get there, though I’ve never been disappointed when I needed an afternoon boost.

Joe the Art of Coffee [Rank 4]Joe the Art of Coffee [Rank 4]
LOCATION: 405 West 23rd street

OVERALL RATING: Just Slightly Less Than 3/4 of a Cup
PRICE: $$$

CONVENIENCE: Pretty fast

THE ICED COFFEE: It was decent though in comparison to the others it wasn’t that notable. If you had the option of going to a Starbucks or Joe’s – Joe’s would be the obvious choice.

Aroma Espresso Bar [Rank 5]Aroma Espresso Bar [Rank 5]
LOCATION: 145 Greene St

OVERALL RATING: Less Than 1/4 of a Cup
PRICE: $$$

CONVENIENCE: It’s been fast, it’s been slow – not sure what to expect when I wait.

THE ICED COFFEE: There’s been times when I would give this iced coffee 1 out of 5, and the one was only given b/c it was iced coffee. The coffee has been barely cold while other times it’s been ok. It’s only redeeming feature is that it’s in a good location in SoHo for me and the design inside is pretty nice.

My 2 days at Adaptive Path’s UX Intensive workshop in Minneapolis

UX Intensive w/ Dan Saffer

Last week I spent a couple days in Minneapolis taking in Adaptive Path’s UX Intensive. I would have really enjoyed taking the full four days but couldn’t b/c of work commitments. In any case two days was better than none and had the chance to take the Information Architecture and Interactive Design days. The obvious question to answer would be “how was it?”. The simple answer would be to say it was good… But how good and was it worth attending – and I would have to say I was able to connect a lot of dots that I had been thinking/doing but was looking for a bit more structured organization, and it really helped me provide a lot more confidence in how I approach design – so yes it was worth it.

The IA day was by Chiara Fox with help from Leah Buley. The day was divided into four sessions; Metadata & Controlled Vocabularies, Content Analysis, Content Modeling, and Classification & Site Structure. Each of those sessions had an exercise – some were group activities while others were individual. The Interaction Design day was put on by Dan Saffer and Kim Lenox. Again the day was divided into a number of sessions; Introduction & Characteristics of Good Interaction Design, Making Models from Research, Ideation, Design Principles, Innovating Design Methods, Fixing Broken Products and Prototyping. The activities themselves were there own sessions as opposed to the IA were it seemed like it was more of a reinforcement of the concepts on a high level. The ID exercises were Making a Conceptual Model, Brainstorming, Design Principles, Innovating a Design Method and Device Prototyping.

Each day included a workbook that contained all the slides and exercises. The context for all the exercises was for a fictitious hotel in California. All the presenters were quite clear and smart which at times made the learning slightly deceiving. They would share a point that was to be emulated in an exercise, and when I thought I had taken everything in found it challenging to complete. They made things look a lot easier than it was – that was something that I overheard a bit from others. In a lot of ways that’s a good thing – they knew their stuff and we had to learn.

The biggest takeaway wasn’t any particular session or thought, but wanting to take what I had learned and implement it as part of my daily design process. It’s taken almost a week of going through my notes and reviewing the slides. That of course only goes so far without hands on action. I’m pretty excited to see how I can do that in the next couple of months. I’ve put up some photos of my experience on flickr, you can get more info about the Information Architecture workshop at and the Interaction Design workshop at Conferences have their place, but for me at this point in my career the hands on workshops are a lot more valuable to me. If you have the time and resources I would highly recommend trying to get in to any of there workshops, it’s a great opportunity to enhance what you already know.

REVIEW: Photoshop Keyboard Skins at Photojojo

Photoshop Keyboard Skins at Photojojo

Photoshop Keyboard Skins at Photojojo

About a month ago Amit Gupta of and jelly fame emailed me mentioning the new Photoshop keyboard shortcut skins, and if I was interested he would send me one. Always curious to try new things I said sure, please send me one and I’ll review it here once I’ve been able to try it. I’ve now been testing it out for a couple weeks and I’d like to share a couple observations.

Once I received the package in the mail the first thing that struck me was how thin the actual skin was. It’s quite durable but super thin. I requested the skin for the new apple keyboard that isn’t wireless as it’s the one that I have in front of me at work all day. Something that I’m pretty sure you can’t guess until you try it is how many people have never seen anything like it before. Once I had started using it almost every single person that I work with came by my desk wondering what I was using. It was quite a conversation starter.

After explaining what the skin was intended for, one co-worker that’s a developer asked if someone should already know all those short-cuts? The simple answer is yes, but over time people can forget things or just discover new features. So while I’m not going to use each of those functions everyday, it was nice to know what was there at my finger tips. While I’ve been enjoying the skin it’s not completely perfect. Since the skin is completely opaque, there’s no indicator if the caps lock button is on or off. It’s not a huge deal but every once in a while I did wish I could see the green light on the button. A slightly more irritating omission was the sound bars on the upper F10, F11 and F12 keys. While they’re not part of photoshop it would have been helpful to see the sound up, lower and mute symbols. If there was one benefit that was unexpected, I asked a couple people that I talk to online if they noticed less spelling and grammar errors? After they had thought about it for a couple moments they conceded that they actually did notice an improvement.

If you’re curious to know more about the different skins, check them out at

I haven’t read the book yet, but…

Danielle Sacks of Fast Company magazine and Rob Walker of Buying In

Who would have thought that the thing to do on a Friday night was to head over to the Art Directors club to hear a writer talking about a book. That writer was Rob Walker and he was talking about his just released book event was organized by Buying In. The event was organized by PSFK who did a nice job of keeping things organized and running on time. Before starting Rob took a picture of the audience with everyone’s hand over their face. After that he spent a couple minutes talking about why he wrote the book. Soon after that he invited Danielle Sacks of Fast Company for a collaborative talk.

I’m not sure if it was b/c I had read most of Rob’s articles for the New York Times or something else, but the actual conversation between the two of them seemed familiar and slightly old. It was like the conversation could have happened two years ago. There weren’t a lot of new pivot points to grab onto. I also heard the phrase “I haven’t read the book yet, but…” w/ both friends I talked w/ before the event started and the Q/A affterwards. But again people were very familiar w/ the ideas that Rob written about. In part that’s b/c a lot of the stories have been blogged about once they were first published from NYT. It was a good night, just not a new night of hearing about what those murketers are up to.

Coudal Partners’ Field Tested Books: A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain, Field-Tested by Moi

Coudal Partners' Field Tested Books: A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain, Field-Tested by Moi

Some cool news to report (for me at least), Coudal Partners’ latest Field Tested Books just came out and I’m included. I remenised about Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour. Since reading that book many years ago I’ve been a fan of his attitude and passions. You can read about what I had to say at Thanks for the invite Steve…

Circled ring in Union Square

Fight Club in Union Square

When I was walking home a couple weeks ago through Union Square I didn’t really think much of the crowd that circled a couple people. I tend to avoid those types of groups. But as I got closer I heard a thud, a bunch of oooohs and then just as quickly I saw an arm swing back. It was obvious that two people were fighting and the crowd was watching. I was a little sickened and left. It was until a day or two later when I read about fight club via PSFK and andiamnotlying. Having that background info it didn’t seem so bad for me to approach the circle last night when I saw it happening again. Keep in mind that I’m not much of a fan of the caged fighting of UFC. But I was curious to see how the whole Fight Club in Union Square worked out. For two guys fighting it was incredibly quiet. Everyone watching had an intense focus. Sure there was also disbelief that the fighting was happening, but they weren’t about to stop it.

I stayed for about twenty minutes and saw three fights. No one really got injured that much aside from their pride. The first battle was the longest with the two guys taking breaks every couple minutes. One guy was much quicker while the other guy had the height and weight. The second match was an equal match of two fairly lanky guys that didn’t seem to have been out of high school too long. The third match was the most skillful of the three. Lots of swinging kicks and grappling. If there was one match that had the potential to have someone’s head taken off – this was going to be the one. But whenever the guy in the tank top had obviously won he held back. They both knew who had was victorious. There was no need to put someone in the hospital. While it may seem strange to see two people battling show respect if you’ve ever played rugby you know you leave everything on the field and have a beer with your opponent afterwards. There was no beer but water was shared.

Archinect Reviews: Design and the Elastic Mind

Archinect Reviews: Design and the Elastic Mind

Archinect Reviews: Design and the Elastic Mind

If there’s one common outcome to a popular design event, it’s that everyone that attended has an opinion. Even better is that there isn’t any one publication that has the last say with their opinion. I really enjoy reading what other’s have to say about an event once I’ve had down some time to consider it myself on DesignNotes. It’s great to be able to compare notes and see what others thought. That’s why I was really happy that Aaron Pléwke of Archinect asked me if I’d want to pass on some thoughts about MoMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind. Collected are seven people that have some observations that you may or may not have had if you experienced the exhibition yourself – read it at

Notes from AIGA NY’s Smart/Models Event

Having had the benefit of time to go over my notes and consider all that I took in on Saturday at AIGA NY’s Smart/Models Event – I was impressed how each of the presenters had a unique approach to what they did. If there’s anything to take from that, there’s many different ways to be successful – there isn’t just one way. With the contrasts in approaches there were also some ideas that they all seemed to seek out. Happiness, such a simple concept that can be hard to attain. I also heard the phrase “bullshit” more than once during the day.

Drew Hodges opened the all day event with some interesting news. He will be the incoming president of the New York chapter of the AIGA. He also set the tone to some degree but planting a couple question to consider as the day unfolded. “How do you do that?” and “what’s the structure” as the invited guests shared their experiences. He also left everyone considering a story he related to when he first started doing design work to promote Broadway productions. One year his studio made $48,000 while the agency side that did the media buy made over $1.1 million – that got a lot of people’s attention.

AIGA NY Smart Models at Ten15am: EMILY RUTH COHEN

Emily Ruth Cohen kicked off the introductions and moderated the day’s talks. Some underlying themes that she picked up ahead of time from speaking to the presenters was leveraging past business experience, have a set of core beliefs, decide what type of relationships you want to have (with both clients and employees, what kind of work you want to be known for), and what does the future look like?


The first speakers was the collective Athletic. The first thing that stood out from their talk was the innovative and playful diagrams. As cool looking as they were, what it showed was a focused understanding of their strategy in relationship to their business model. What came out after in the moderated panel discussion was that all three partners at the end of the day invoice separately for projects (if I heard that wrong, someone please correct me). It was emphasized that each of the people that are partners bring separate skills to the table so that they each compliment the others. They can each defer to the expert. They also seemed to have a smart attitude in when they bring in business, they’re each willing to pass the project on to the most appropriate person as opposed to keeping if for themselves. That’s more impressive after hearing how they invoice afterwards.

They also spoke to having clear understanding of project management from the start of the project to then end which helps in the flow of work. Other notes that I jotted down from their conversations:
· on the collective: “I hope we made it sound nice”
· trust good people
· on finding their studio that used to be a boxing gym “it smelled of dude”
· on building desks for their studio “I’d recommend doing that”
· questions they through out for consideration “what is your perspective”, “what is the methodolgie”
· expose yourself to all sorts of different worlds
· be a good self manager, don’t take anything too personally
· be successful, excited, happy and creative


While I didn’t know of Douglas Riccard before yesterday, I had experienced a lot of his work first hand between the stuff he’s done for Hale & Hearty to Florent. He framed his talk via his past experiences gained elsewhere. From the skills he learned of presenting his work at a corporate place to his days at M&Co. where he couldn’t wait to get in to work. As time passed he described how the different jobs were not perfect for him and that when he did know it was time for him to start on his own. His personality became his firm. He joked that he doubled his firms size when it went from one to two people. The workspace environment is place to conduct business – he finds it difficult to work in different environments like the home where other things can be distracting. One smart idea that he shared in terms of people requesting projects that you don’t do, but instead of flatly saying no try another approach. Mention what you are good at and talk about the potential of working on other projects together that might be a better fit.

Some of the other things that I noted:
· consider the LTR’s (long term relationships)
· no matter how small, you still need to manage
· what does growth mean to you?
· the elevator pitch – market yourself, what do I bring to the table?
· who to keep, who to kill
· surprise yourself


I’ve never had a lot of success using Basecamp though I’m a huge supporter of what 37 Signals represents. The app wasn’t bad, I just couldn’t get others to buy into the system the first time I tried to introduced it to others while the second time I think people relied on it too much. But I digress – of all the people speaking at Smart/Models I think Jason Fried had the most to offer in terms of what the future looks like. The questions he’s asking out loud and the philosophy he shares was quite different from everyone else that day. More offensive then defensive approach – willing to take risks, fix it later if needed. Granted Jason in the moderated discussion afterwards described the distinction between clients and customers. A single customer isn’t going to be able to push a company around as much as a single client working with a firm that may only have a couple projects on the go. I think your turning design into a commodity if you treat people as customers, but the scale is quite large if you’re selling a product vs a service. In the past designers have been selling more paper products to supplement their design ideas – what 37 Signals is doing is much more true to solving a problem that others can buy.

It’s a cliche to suggest that designers are surprised when their not inundated with slides and images to look at in presentations, so I won’t go on about the one slide that he kept up. It supported his talk, not a big deal. What was interesting about his diagram is that he prefers a lot of quick updates vs one long project. It follows the idea of not being locked into a long term plan. While in theory that’s a great idea I wonder how you can keep focused if you can change directions on a whim? As I write this I kind of wished I had asked that.

I’m not going to do a play by play of everything that was mentioned but here’s a couple other notes that stood out.
· scratch your own itch
· he spent three years as the tech support guy responding to all the emails
· how can we share our experiences – workshops
· blog -> workshop -> book
· if something is good and you put a price on it, others will buy it
· optimize business for happiness
· willing to support employees interests, but they expect them to share that knowldge back to the company
· 2 week projects, no meetings
· sell to the user, not the buyer
· walmart’s prices end with an 8 or 6
· part of the team works remotely, they all get together three times a year
· if you need a pm, scale down the scope
· managers of 1


Joe Duffy’s stage presence was quite apparent before the first slide went up. The idea of change and to a less extent battles were themes through out his conversation. Whether it was about deciding to leave the last partnership, getting clients to buy into the concept or legal battles – this was a guy that had gone through a lot. While obvious after seeing the slide on filtering devices (tivo, satellite radio, ipod, ripping music), it was an interesting m.o. to know what we have to deal with. It built up the idea that we’re at a stage of “Being it”, in the past it was growing it, building it, and telling it. From being it evolved the idea of needing to be reborn and his need to change what he was doing.

Those ideas were emphasized via these points.
· surround yourself w/ people that have skill sets that you don’t have
· reflect the people behind the beliefs
· how can design enrich life?
· what are the core beliefs before day one?
· know what you don’t want to do
· size of firm no larger than 25
· know who we wanted to be
· when he showed a photo of his employees he had a story about almost all of them
· after the project is over – ask what we could have done better, would we want to work with them again
· design business is defined by the company it keeps
· we our are most important client
· looking to work with more clients where they have a stake in the royalties
· process: imagine -> design -> activate
· don’t settle with the clients brief, language before design
· reinvent yourself early and often


Sylvia’s approach wasn’t via the typical client designer partnership. She’s involved more with large institutions like hospitals and education institutes. Again, great stage presence – really spoke with the audience as opposed to at the audience. I liked how she set the tone with the phrase “we build the road by walking”. She was very process orientated which was interesting b/c on one side she mentioned that themes are more important than sequence while on the other hand she talked in great detail about process like assess -> manage -> model -> design -> integrate. One model that she carries in her head in the balance between work, family and civic time. If what she’s doing doesn’t fit into one of those themes she tries not to proceed with it.

More points to her process.
· what are the right problems?
· what did we do right/wrong
· where are the touch points
· the need for speed and clarity
· the role of the advisor
· after you learn the answers to your question, the questions have already changed
· follow the lead afterwards

AIGA NY Smart/Models: Panel Discussion

· on collective – each person is incorporated
· ask the tough questions first
· emulate chefs – they’re sharing the ideas via books and shows – they share
· on competition: easier to out teach than to out spend
· speak at clients industry events – learn about their world
· be careful to be thinking about others as opposed to “me”
· customers can’t boss the process that clients can
· optimism vs happiness
· what do you want to take on?
· if a design feature doesn’t work, the designer has to answer the tech support questions
· err on the side of simplicity
· don’t compare yourself with others

(Book Review) PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave and Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL The Art of the Sticker by Dave and Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL The Art of the Sticker by Dave and Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Mark Batty Publisher:

If you’re a visual person it’s hard not to keep your eyes open as you take in the environment around you. This is especially true if you’ve spent anytime in New York walking around. There’s so much to take in; people watching, looking skyward to the tops of buildings, and of course checking out the street art on poles, signs and walls. I’ve always appreciated that form of communication that straddles the legal boundaries of art in public space. So now more than ever I enjoy keeping an eye open for street art and stickers. I walk daily to work in SoHo and the fact that I have an iPhone that allows me to take pictures fast and the ability to upload them to flickr and to my tumblr account even faster keeps my eyes open. The pace and speed of myself taking those shots is matched by the sheer number of new things that grow on the poles and walls I see on a daily basis. Aside from appreciating that work, I really don’t have any background knowledge to the people behind what they do. On one level there’s a level of anonymousness to it though it’s fairly easy to pick out tendencies after a while. There’s also a lot of online information but you have to know where to look. When I noticed that PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs was being created I contacted the publisher for a copy to review. I was hoping that someone like me coming in w/ fresh eyes that wanted to learn more could get a lot from the book.

The book comes from the same people that publish the magazine PEEL. They’ve taken content from the magazine and clustered it into seven different areas. Those areas were 1. Social/Ploitical, 2. Characters, 3. PEEL (taking on the logo of PEEL), 4. Stencil, Spray & Drawings, 5. Contests, 6. Blackbook and 7. Toys. Each of those sections is backed up with interviews with artists and shows examples of their stickers (and toys). At times I felt like they were constrained with either showing too many examples or not enough visuals on a page. It’s a challenge when showing stuff that’s meant to be outside in the real world and then becomes replicated on a page. I think they were at their best when they didn’t let the computer hold them back and they let the content break the space like the interview they did with Me Love. It was a simple replication of a handwritten note that was the interview. As for the interviews themselves, after a while the questions started to feel similar which felt repetitive.

A book like PEEL is quite important because it becomes a document over time to temporal work. When you see street art and stickers you never know if they will still be there the next day. One thing that I wished each of the stickers had contained information-wise was the date and location that the image was taken. Some of the stickers felt out of context to me in that I didn’t know where the sticker was from nor the time frame in an easy way to see. Was this sticker five years old or maybe it was placed a couple months ago? It would have been cool to see a map at the back of the book with dots of all the cities that the stickers from the book came from. On the flip side i found it quite helpful that most of the artist’s interviewed had url’s to their site.

After reading PEEL I feel that I have a better understanding to what I’m seeing with stickers, but I think the idea of the book could have been pushed much further. Aside from interviews which I mentioned that started to feel the same, I would have loved to have heard more stories on their experiences. Like how an artist decided on the location to place a sticker, how often they went back to see if the stickers had changed, more about their process, dealing with printers, how they evolved their styles over time, did websites and online forums influence them – just general stuff like that. As ambitious of a book as it is, I also wondered if they had missed some of the more well known people out there.

Finally a “design film” worth watching

Kate Bingaman-Burt and Mike Perry from Ethan Bodnar on Vimeo.

I’ve been skeptical of designers on short videos until now. Sure it’s easy to blindly follow names that are recognizable but it’s time to look past the people that publications suggest we should know about. Sorry but I’m tired of that hype. I’m on a promotional kick to those that have something relevant to add. While I was not a fan of the book Handjob and the combined talk at Jen Bekman’s Gallery with Kate Bingaman-Burt and Mike Perry, the above video dares me to reconsider a lot of those first reactions. The film captures an honest self recollection of experiences from both people that anyone that watches can gain something from. After watching the film and considering the talk I saw that day in person it makes more sense now – at least to me. At the time I thought they both were people were bit reserved. But if they had done the film ahead of the talk they may have been spent talk wise.

Before I had the chance to invite designer’s to speak I tried to read up as much as I could about others that had gone through the experience before me. One of the things that I remember reading is that you shouldn’t pepper a speaker with too many questions before their talk. What happens is that they become so focussed on answering your questions that they then loose a bit of their edge when they get on stage. I think the above film may have caused them to be more reserved when it was time for them to talk live. At least for me when I saw the film tonight it made me recognize that sometimes a venue for knowledge is more then just first reactions. Ethan Bodnar who filmed and edited the whole production himself has an incredible knack for doing the right thing at the right time. After watching his film be sure to check out his post at where I first saw it.

Paul Arden and It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be

paul arden

Whenever I talk about books w/ other designers or creatives, I always ask if they’ve read It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden. It’s not a long nor complicated book but by far one of the most influential books that I’ve ever read. Part psychological, part creative and part practical, it’s a book that dares you to dream while at the same time giving you tools of observation that will last a lifetime whether you’re in advertising, online digital or a photographer for that matter. If you haven’t ever heard of this book before you should pick it up on your way home tonight. I mention this book now after following a link to Creative Review’s Blog about Paul Arden’s passing via Design Observer. The design world would be a better place if only there were more design books similar to the attitude of giving back as opposed to look at me monographs.

Thinking about Mind 08 after the Symposium

MIND 08 Notes Cloud

After spending a full day viewing and listening about science and design at the Mind 08 symposium organized by MoMA and Seed Magazine in conjunction with the exhibition of Design and the Elastic Mind I was ready to decompress. To suggest that it was an accelerated day for me to learn about new ideas was quite inspiring. At the wrap up talk it was suggested that who wouldn’t want to go back to school to learn and think more? The next day once I had the chance to recover I started going over my notes. I found the easiest way for me to interpret the phrases that caught my attention was to create a word cloud. The more important the words were to me, the larger they would be. It would give me a chance to see what themes struck a chord with me that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The phrase cloud above is a proximation but by no means literal translation of the entire symposium.

One of the ideas that kept coming up that I was interested in was in terms of scale and how that would translate as something would grow, fold and loop. I can’t remember if it was ever explicitly mentioned but the idea behind the koch snowflake seemed to be an inspiration. Another theme that I was interested in hearing about was how the functions of design, technology and science would blur together to create something new. The word “design” was used a lot but I never got a sense from any of the speakers as to their explicit meaning of it was. While it was understood that design was being used as a term that was not about consumption or decoration was obvious, but as a working term I couldn’t say with any certainty what some of the presenters considered it be.

There was idea of scale, there was also the idea of adaption. I’m not sure if some of the presenters meant to talk in terms of observation, but as the day continued it was interesting to hear and see about how people would learn from their mistakes, tweak things and evolve. At times concepts would be presented that I really had no idea about, but what helped bridge the gap between their knowledge and my understanding was to hear their process which was adapting to their observations. If there’s one issue that I have with the current Design and the Elastic Mind website, it was impossible for me to find and reference the New City information when I wrote about my original exhibition post. In Greg Lynn’s presentation I was drawn to the attitude of making something real yet not necessarily familiar. As he asked who needs another shopping mall? I also thought how he saw roads not as such but as connections was an interesting metaphor. If I were to dive really deep with any of the projects I think New City would be the one I’d want to spend a lot of time with.

While science and design were the key drivers it seemed to me that it was also very much a philosophical day. One of the concepts that Janna Levin proposed was to not look at the universe from the outside but from the inside. Kevin Slavin who I had hear about a year ago talked about process in a way that I hadn’t considered before. The approach that he mentioned was to see something as broken. By having an idea/concept/something else seen as broken you’re able to do things that were never meant to be done. It was quite amazing to hear Hugh Herr say that he designed his own legs after a climbing accident. Something that most people will never have to contemplate but a practical question was about how tall he should make himself?

As I alluded to in the beginning my head was quite overwhelmed by the end of it. The last session had seven presenters. While I did take notes I’ll be honest in saying that I kind of wished that the number of speakers had been cut in half. I can understand you want to give the stage to as many people as possible but it may have been pushing the number of people. While collaboration was implicitly mentioned I wondered how true that was. As a graphic designer it seemed it was more of a diy mentality where graphic designers could have been used in projects was never mentioned or probably considered. There were examples of slick animated renderings but it was also obvious that in some of the other slides visual design was not considered to be important. It was by far one of the best symposiums that I’ve attended in terms of wanting to do more myself afterwards, it just seemed that it missed the chance to see visual design as more then just illustrating data and more as part of the process to change things.

If you ended up missing the symposium they did mention that the talks had been filmed and will be placed at in the near future.

Looking at MoMA’s Design and Elastic Mind Exhibition

Design and the Elastic Mind: Dressing the Meat of Tomorrow by James King

Design and the Elastic Mind: Sketch Furniture by the Front Design Team

Design and the Elastic Mind

Design and the Elastic Mind

Design and the Elastic Mind

Design and Elastic Mind

When it comes to design in galleries I’m of two minds. On one side design becomes something tangible when it’s in it’s natural environment. Of course all design is not something that you can hold in your hand which makes it debatable how you express ideas as part of the process before it becomes a “thing”. On the other side galleries are a neutral environment that allows for exploration of concepts that in theory do not have the same financial pressures that a design would have in the marketplace.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with MoMA’s Design and Elastic Mind Exhibition. I didn’t do a lot of background research before I stepped in. My simplified over view of the exhibit was that MoMA wanted to attempt to show examples where science and design are coming together to create new things and in turn change the world (for the better). Anyone that has hung out on a design blog will no doubt recognize a number of the objects on display. A crowd favourite was the video of Sketch Furniture by the Swedish design firm Front Design. There was a number of samples of the furniture. It was something that I appreciated seeing in three dimensions after their video had been release on the net. Looking at the objects in person it made me wonder how strong they actually were. Could you sit on a chair and not worry about it breaking? I also wondered how heavy it was too – was the plastic lightweight? For all the things that were familiar there were things that I had no background on. The section on nano design became a blur to me. The images made interesting patterns but I had nothing to compare it with in my daily environment. I felt that maybe for others that were going through other parts of the exhibit may have felt the same way about other things. If there was one thing missing from the exhibition, it might have been to create some context for how the products would exist in the outside world more explicitly.

One of the more important concepts that I think a lot of people may have missed with a passing glance was the Dressing the Meat of Tomorrow by James King. I was first introduced to the idea of “disembodied cuisine” at a talk with Anthony Dunne from the Royal College of Art last year. It’s essentially meat that is created in a laboratory. Compared with the energy and waste that real livestock produce, this could be a convenient solution via sustainability. Of course if this meat can be created, what’s the aesthetics of the form and flavour(s)? As an opportunity to create new forms I find the idea quite compelling. I expect to see more of this visual experimentation in the upcoming years.

For anyone that is interested in visualization there’s a number of examples. There’s both examples that you can see on the net like Flight Patterns while others were created specifically for this exhibition. Another talk I saw more recently was with Jonathan Harris who talked about “I Want you to want me” which MoMA commisioned. It’s an interactive piece in the true sense in that you press the screen to see an exploration of Web dating. Another project that I think has a lot of potential but isn’t entirely understandable was NYTE. The display was quite high so I couldn’t exactly tell what was going on – it’s probably better to check out the site at before visiting.

There’s a lot to take in with this exhibition and it became apparent that I did miss some stuff after looking the Design and Elastic Mind Exhibition website at and the book that I bought. Design and Elastic Mind is on till May so I suspect that there will be a lot written on the topic of Design and Science merging in the context of this exhibit. That’s a good thing because I don’t think that topic is going to be disappearing anytime soon.

You can view all the photos that I took of the exhibit HERE or view them in the player below…

Kenya Hara in NYC

Kenya Hara Talk

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

It would be hard for me not to mention at the outset that it wasn’t entirely easy to listen to Kenya Hara’s talk with the AIGA NY Small Talk series. It had nothing to do with his carefully considered words, but just the delivery. Of course english is not Kenya’s first language which should negate some of my issues. If the talk had been entirely spoken through an interpreter questions of how much bias in word selection would have been asked. Did they repeat every single phrase the way he meant it to be? So…

Water Pachinko

Kenya’s talk focussed primarily on two parts of his new book Designing Design (book review to come), those being the chapters on Haptic and Senseware. He is also tied quite closely to Muji and spoke about that too – but more from the questions after the talk had finished. I had already completed reading the chapter on Haptic and seen most of the commissioned pieces – so I didn’t have the same excited reaction that others in the audience had. What I was extremely in awe of was the quick video clips of Tadpole Coaster, Gel Remote Control, Floating Compass that he showed. My favourite was the Water Pachinko piece. Watching the tiny droplets of water in motion was beautiful. The water came to life, it almost seemed like it’s own little urban city in motion. I could have watched it for hours. The photos and descriptions in the book are nice, but to see them living was quite another. I hope that those short videos find themselves on the net so others can see them.

If I’m not mistaken, some of the examples that he showed for Sensware were not in the book. I didn’t remember seeing the Honda prototype cars that challenged the notion of an exterior in the book. The question was posed that if the combustible engine no longer exists past 2020, how will that effect the nature of the cars outside. The examples of different textures on the cars were quite interesting – just as the process of eliminating some of the hard surfaces due to technological improvements in crash detection. I think Honda’s a little over optimistic in challenging some conventions but for the sake of discussion it was interesting. What I found inspiring overall in the display of the examples for both Haptic and Senseware was how well the objects felt together when showed in duplication. Whether it was the Water Compass or the Tadpole Coaster, as a series the visual sense was quite complete.

One idea that was not mentioned but I think is worth throwing out there is the designer art category, and where does it fit into the discussion of design as a commercial application. If you argue that design does not come from a vacuum and that you need open ways to explore design as the book Designing Design seems like a good example of, then there’s no issue. But if you’re a designer working in the commercial sector that is more curious about how that design thinking was transferred to a successful brand like Muji – those answers were lacking from the talk. Of course there’s a chapter all on Muji that I haven’t gotten to yet, but if you don’t have the book you’ll just have to go to the store and experience it for yourself to get your answer.

Evolving from an Internet Radio Program on Design to Authour and Member of the Library of Congress; Debbie Millman and her new book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman Reception

When I first read on a blog that Debbie Millman was going to be publishing a book with interviews from other designers, I wasn’t as skeptical as Steff Geissbuhler writes in his email to Debbie after she inquired for an interview, but I did wonder about the need. After opening the book last night I learned that it’s best not to jump to conclusions too quickly.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve listened to every single one of Debbie’s seventy five episodes of Design Matters radio program, many of them more then once. In Canada I would often block out meeting time from 1pm to 2pm on Fridays so I could listen to it as I worked. I even managed to get on the International Design Stories episode that was recorded in Edmonton (10/05/05 podcast). At the time (and still) there wasn’t anything like it where a designer could learn a lot from a fairly intelligent conversation between people in the design profession in an audio format. But on the flip side, none of those conversations turned into words that landed on a page. Often her program seemed to run too short, an hour would tend to go by quickly. I think Debbie’s new book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer sets out to continue that conversation in a way that wasn’t limited by time.

I picked up her great book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer last night at her full and nearly exceeding fire capacity book reception. I can only imagine what a rush and feeling of accomplishment it was for her. I also wonder how she dealt with the line up of people that just had to say hi and pass on words of encouragement. I know I was pretty tired just standing in line, so I can only guess how she felt when things ended that evening. From my observations she held up continued enthusiasm for more than three hours while treating every person she talked to as the only person in the room – not an easy feat. I’ve placed a number of photos from the event on flickr.

I’ve only had the chance to read the first couple pages of the book so far. Skimming throughout the book, the conversation reads intuitively. The conversation translates well onto the page which isn’t always easy. I think if you can A. Learn something new, B. See something in a new way, and C. Take the information and influence you to become better, a book succeeds in what it set out to do. I’m pretty sure this one does all that and more.

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman

Since this is a book about design, it would only be fitting to mention how it reads visually. Designed by Rodrigo Corral, the cover has a slight sparkle to it that is very hard to capture with a photograph – so you’ll have to take my word for how nice it is. At first I thought the text line length was six to eight characters too short on the inside, essentially one more word per line could have been added. It’s a super picky thing that really isn’t worth mentioning, but I thought I’d throw it out there. But I’ll contradict myself by suggesting that the beauty of the read comes with the line length as is. When you take it with you on the subway as you’ll notice with the photo above, it is extremely pleasant to read in tight conditions. One more interesting fact about the length of the interviews is the reading time, it takes exactly the right amount of time from my subway stop on 34th street to York Street on the F line.

I understand that her second book is geared more towards design students showing the process of many designers. If I had one wish, it would be that her third book is just about Debbie and her work. Essentially as a business person in the design field. I would love to know how she became such a great finisher.

T STYLE at the NYT




How do you take a supplement and make it important? Tonight at the AIGA NY event T/STYLE: JANET FROELICH AND STEFANO TONCHI it was suggested that it takes one part understanding of typography, one part team, one part stylist, one part photographer and one part editor. It’s not by coincidence that I suggest typographer first and editor last. As much as editorial fashion in the know jokes go, the typography of T STYLE will be their legacy.

The actual presentation was fairly ad lib which I found intriguing b/c I doubt it was much different from Janet and Stefano’s day to day interactions. A slide would come up and each would throw their ideas out there. The dynamic between the two was interesting to watch. Observing who was listening to who, who was there to enhance the others words was curious.

The visuals that caught my attention where the number of “T” type explorations after it was deemed five more letters (style) was too much on the cover. Every single slide that had words on the page was crafted in a way that was desired to be read. The slides that contrasted nature and eyes series was probably one of my favs. Seeing the interpretations between stylist, photographer and art director in a simplified nature was refreshing.

The ending came with the promise of something original when T STYLE is unleashed on the web. I think there’s some well founded questions of a site that is entirely design in flash which was what was shown. I just hope that if there’s an element on their site that is blog worthy that I’ll have the proper url at the exact moment to be able to pass it on.

Another NYC Taxi review…

Old Taxi Design Clear

New Taxi Design Clear

Ask a designer about their opinion on just about anything and they’ll have a response. Ask a simple aesthetic question to a civilian about whether they like something or not, you’ll no doubt get an answer. The thing is though, almost everyone forgets after the design has been executed that there was an original brief, usually a process of give and take with the client, and then there’s also the x factor that all influence the outcome. Everyone has an opinion on the new taxis in NYC, but there’s a lot of elements and questions that kind of make it an interesting exercise to talk about. I’m actually surprised it’s taken a couple weeks for the opinions of the NYC Taxi to take off. I don’t think the talk really got off the ground until the NYT blog post There’s even a template to design your own taxi logo.

One of the first questions is does there even need to be a Taxi logo? UPS is brown, a taxi is yellow – why not leave it at that? This is just a guess, but I’m assuming the Taxi logo will also be used on websites, paper documentation and other peripheral materials. Having a stripe of yellow isn’t probably going to work. So even if everyone recognizes the yellowness of the taxi there still needs to be an identifying mark. I don’t know the history of the the elements “NYC” and Taxi are. The “NYC” part of the mark started making an appearance earlier this year on banners like this.

Taxi Type

Taxi Half Full

Taxi Half Empty

The one thing that really stood out to me about the NYC part of the logo was how my eye identifies the shape from the bottom up, not the other way around. A simple type exercise is that if you cut the bottom half of a word horizontally, typically there’s enough strokes from the word to be able to read it. You read from top to bottom. But as I mention for whatever reason, whenever a taxi has passed me by, I’m reading from bottom to top.

Old Fare

New Fare

I can honestly say that I’ve never read the Taxi fare chart. The old one is fairly confusing while the new one is much easier to understand – but is it even necessary to have on the door? Once the door is closed and the taxi takes off, it’s going to cost what it’s going to cost. The chart on the door isn’t going to make me decide to take a Taxi or not. If I could use that space for information I would suggest placing tips on how to talk to a taxi driver about directions – know your street, then mention the cross avenues… And if the taxi driver starts talking, he’s probably not talking to you but someone on a cell phone. That info would make things a lot easier for everyone including the driver and tourists alike.

Old Taxi Design at Speed

New Taxi Design at Speed

Another exercise is to notice how the old and new side of a Taxi looks as it’s speeding down the street. Which one is easier to identify (pretend for a moment that you don’t notice that it’s a yellow vehicle)? In this context the new logo works really well, even blurred you know that it’s a NYC Taxi.

Old Taxi Sign

But the one element of the Taxi that I wished had been redesigned was the sign on the top of the vehicle. You tell a tourist that if the light’s on, that means that they’re available. That is of course true except when it’s off duty, but the lights are still on and I’m sure there’s a bit of confusion. Why bother mentioning off duty, if the taxi isn’t available – just keep the light off. Or devise a better system. Take away the numbers – perhaps just colours: green for available, red for no, or why not a yes/no system. The sign says yes when they can pick up passengers, no if not.

Two more books that I’m looking at, but will be read/review soon enough

All We Need

All We Need

All We Need

All We Need

All We Need

I received book two (of four) that I requested from Springer Publishing today; All We Need, again as with the other books I’m getting I’ll have a real book review soon enough though don’t expect me able to crit the different essays that aren’t in English. I also have to cut open half the pages, but that’s another story. But once again I’m compelled to just take a couple pictures and post them here. While I don’t think words on paper is going anywhere soon, a designers relevance to print has to change. If you don’t want to become irrelevant you have to do something that makes people at least feel obliged to hold on to it, and yes even read it. The craft of this book as Designing Design from Springer that was sent to me are crafted extremely well as they look.

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type

Princeton Architectural Press also sends me books that I enjoy, though I haven’t had the chance to review Hand Job the way I should. I will come back to it soon, but probably from a different angle. I see this kind of type as illustration – is that a bad thing though? And are people confusing this kind of illustration with design today? Hmmm, questions that I’ll be asking as I look through this book.

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