Me at the World Graphic Design Foosball Championship 2006 (WGDFC)

Me at the World Graphic Design  Foosball Championship 2006 (WGDFC)

WGDFC 2006 was a great way to end a busy week. Foosball, beer, designers and some friendly competition. Organized by the office of paul sahre and the studios of karlssonwilker inc., it was a great venue and they ran it pretty smoothly considering how many people were there. Lillian Coryn and myself did our best to represent Renegade. In the end we had two loses and one win. With a little practice we’ll score a lot more goals next year.

Some of the things that I overheard walking around included “are you in line?”, “is that how long the line is?”, “I think the bathroom is broken!”, “no, the bathroom is fine”, and trash talking about typography “hey man, what’s your favourite typeface!”. Looking at the uniforms or lack there of was also a great time passer. In my opinion Princeton Architectural Press won the award for most innovative use of sign stickers that you could probably buy at Home Depot. Big type was popular too, one guy had a big letter “A” in tennis ball material on his shirt, while another team who I’m guessing were from Los Angeles b/c one guy had a giant “L” and the other had a giant “A” which looked pretty cool when they were standing beside each other. There were track suits, people wearing shorts, pink shirts, striped shirts, and one astronaut uniform worn by no other than Felix Sockwell. Lillian and I had a couple cool ideas, but we just ran out of time…

Whenever I go to something like this, I never know how the vibe is going to be. By the end of the night usually everyone is pretty relaxed and having a good time. For the most part that was the case, I met some people that I knew through e-mail and a couple others through reputations. But in a two floor foosball tournament, your bound not to run into everyone you know or want to meet. Till next year.

I’ve placed all my flickr photos from that night at

D&AD Print & Editorial Forum in NYC

D&AD Print & Editorial Forum in NYC

Left to Right: Chris Dixon – Art Director, New York Magazine NY, Peter Buchanan-Smith – Creative Director, Paper Magazine NY, Chair – Jeremy Leslie – Group Creative Director, John Brown UK, Josh Liberson – Partner, Helicopter NY, and Suzanne Sykes – Art Director, Grazia Magazine UK

D&AD Print & Editorial Forum in NYC

Considering the level of speakers and their reputations in the magazine world, I was pleasantly surprised at how intimate the D&AD event was. The 50 (rough guesstimate) people that attended were dressed in quite a sophisticated British kind of way. But it was also relaxed too, and I while I was there by myself I only felt slightly like a loaner, but I digress.

Each designer had ten minutes to present their work. What was really interesting is that each of the four speakers presented in their own unique way. Peter Buchanan-Smith read from a set of prepared sheets of paper about his story of coming to NYC. Josh Liberson spoke to the audience somewhat ad-lib in more of a conversational way about some of the magazines Helicopter has redesigned. Suzanne Sykes got off the podium and talked about her weekly magazine Grazia. Chris Dixon was more commenting to each of his slides from New York magazine. Each person did a really effective job of presenting who they are and what it was that they were about.

Jeremy Leslie moderated the discussion afterwards. There were the inevitable NY vs London questions which I thought was slightly ironic considering two of the designers on the panel were from Canada. When the microphone was turned to the audience to participate, it took a couple ice breaker questions before the audience really felt comfortable asking questions to the four really talented designers. Usually I always have a couple questions, but I really didn’t think there was much that someone on the panel didn’t touch upon. I’m not working in the magazine industry, but I love buying magazines. Beautiful typography, stunning images and great content make my days go a bit better. And each of the four designers presented work like that, so what else did I really need?

After the event I had the chance to talk with one of the D&AD people. Not knowing ahead of time, but this event was D&AD’s first talk in North America. Laura Woodroffe mentioned to me that a lot of entries for their awards programme come from North America so D&AD felt it was time to make a presence, and to get out the word that D&AD is more then just about the awards. One such thing is professional development which is something that I’m hoping to take more advantage of myself.

Jeffrey Zeldman talk w/ AIGA NY

Jeffrey Zeldman talk w/ AIGA NY

Before design talks I like to ask myself a number of questions so I can be a more active listener. Naturally the questions change depending on who’s talking and what their subject matter is. With Jeffrey Zeldman, I know him as one of the leaders in “web standards”. He has a well respected name in a diverse field, so I was interested in what he had to say. The title of his talk was Selling Design, so web standards wasn’t going to be priority number one of the night. Not such a bad thing considering the AIGA organized the event. So what was I looking to get out of the talk – I wanted to learn something I didn’t know, find out his design process, learn about what makes him different.

Something I didn’t know was that he started off in an ad agency before going into the web. And like most others when the web was in it’s early commercial side, those that created sites didn’t have a lot of experience. What they did have was an understanding of the brands they were working on. In one example, his knowledge of Batman helped convince the client that he should design the site. He knew what would diminish the image of Batman and what wouldn’t.

Is it simple enough to create great work only if the client is great? Perhaps not so true – VW wasn’t apparently nit the easiest client to deal with during the glory DDB days. Zeldman concluded that the great ads that got created was that the agency never stopped working on the same job. If you always do your best, even after three or four sets you will still come up with great stuff.

Respect your clients, simple enough – it’s a two way street. But you also have to be able to smell trouble. If you’re getting a lot of paperwork before the project starts, that may indicate a lack of focus. If the problem is hidden in all the early documentation that could indicate other problem issues that could pop up later on.

Zeldman also talked about the importance of being calm and methodical. You need to be able to explain your creativity and research in a clear manner – hence your process. This is helped along with having a relationship with the client before you start showing the design. It’s also important to keep reminding the client where you are in the scope of things, what has already been agreed and what’s going to be achieved.

Along with being able smell trouble, you need to be able to translate what the client is trying to say. As he talked about this, it seemed like I had heard a similar thing at another talk in Edmonton. The point being that you need to understand and interpret what they client is saying.

Everybody understands design today, or at least everyone reacts to design emotionally. When talking about your work to the client, convey the meaning as opposed to the raw technical things that are obvious in front of their eyes.

And you also need to be able to respond to criticism. What is it that they don’t like, and why. He used some examples from Dan Brown – push back, look into it, get agreement. Both sides need to feel as if they’ve gained something from it.

The overall talk was a good refresher on a business that happens to be in design. There wasn’t any shocking new pieces of info, but it didn’t need to be like that either. He related to the audience and in turn the crowd gave their full attention.

In a bit of gossip – the AIGA is getting a new website – probably in December.

Looking Down: how the volume/channel rockers moved up

Oldtivouse Newtivouse

After years about hearing about TiVo in Canada where the cable monopoly kept the recording device out, it’s nice to finally have the capability to start recording shows now that I’m living in NYC. I don’t have a TiVo but a HD package from Time Warner. I could go on and on about the poor user interface that has (and probably will at a future date), but today the review is all about remotes and how TiVo recently updated theirs. Over at the PVR Blog, there’s a review of what an adjustment to the location of volume/channel rockers. This person knows TiVo’s, they’ve even interviewed the head of user experience at TiVo. The biggest issue it seems with the new design is that the hand is having a hard time finding the buttons without looking down. You can read the full reviews and comments that both praise and negate the new design at

Book Marketing Today Online

Book Marketing Today

I don’t think one could be faulted for wondering if book publisher’s are doing all they can in this day when electronic tools can add a lot of value to a book. Publishing on demand hasn’t really taken off, nor has mainstream pdf’s of books. And then there’s audio books – why is there zero interactivity available with the electronic file? How about a book’s website, things are usually less than compelling for me to want to investigate any further?

What has impressed me though over the last two weeks has been some e-mail that I’ve received from an author’s studio and the website amazon. After talking about a “Zag” and “Whatever you think, think the opposite” on this blog, I recently got an e-mail telling me that the book Zag has finally come out (ironically I had purchased the book two days before the e-mail) and amazon telling me that since I liked Paul Arden’s books, maybe I’d like Adrian Shaughnessy’s new one. Yes, this type of e-mail could be considered spam, but on the other hand it also suggests that publishers and others really starting to make the most of opportunities with people online that are talking about books. There’s also the choice of publisher’s sending books out for review before the public sees them. I’ve received a couple of those and I plan to write a more reflective review once I’ve completed them.

And I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this promising new blog:

Check out Limited Language

Disjointed dog, originally uploaded by Michael™.

“Beautiful as the chance encounter, on an operating table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.”
Comte de Lautreamont, Songs of Maldoror (1869)

Read the full essay of Visual communication in 0.4 seconds at Limited Language


Whatever you think, think the opposite

I was happy to hear that Paul Arden had a second book out titled “Whatever you think, think the opposite”. I was truly inspired by his first book “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be”. What surprised me is that I somehow missed the new one at bookstores until now.

While the new title is good, I didn’t get that same rush of inspiration as the first book. Perhaps it had more to do with the fact that I was now familiar with Arden’s style of thinking. I got the feeling that this book was more of a refresher from the first. Some of the same goal themes and looking at things differently came up again.

What I would have enjoyed more is that if this book got more into from the gut stories about thinking the opposite and how to succeed from it. In the end, no amount of knowledge is going to help if you don’t decide on your own to change, but a little kick to the backside doesn’t hurt either sometimes. This book just seemed more like a self congratulator pat on the back.

Muzak of 2006

Muzak of 2006

Here are some of the albums that could potentially be in my top 10 at the end of the year. The one album you should take special attention to is Lily Allen: Alright, Still.

Band of Horses: Everything All the Time
Gomez: How We Operate
Herbert: Scale
Kasabian: Empire
Keane: Under the Iron Sea
Lily Allen: Alright, Still
The Long Winters: Putting The Days To Bed
The Roots: Game Theory
TV On the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Show Your Bones
Yo La Tengo: I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Burnt Toast?

Me looking up wondering if the conversation at the AIGA NY's Your AD Here was going to get interesting

Before I go into my thoughts about the AIGA NY’s Your AD Here talk, I want to make clear that the criticism is not directed to those that organized the event. I’ve been there where you put a lot of time and effort into a talk and the volunteers hope that at the end of the night the audience has gone home with some new ideas…

I’ve never left a design lecture early, but I did tonight for the first time. I think there’s at least three reasons that I can point to my disappointment – though there’s probably a lot more. 1. The moderator asked irrelevant questions, 2. some of the panelists provided irrelevant answers, 3. maybe I am looking for inspiration at the wrong talks – yeah, I wish I went to the Henry Jenkins and Steven Johnson conversation at the Museum of the Moving Image.

The panel was moderated by Randall Rothenberg with Jane Hope, Gary Koepke, Neil Powell, and Brian Collins. I had a couple expectations going into the talk – I wanted to hear something new, how they applied “it”, and to answer the basic premise of what forward-thinking integrated marketing solutions are. I really didn’t get any of that tonight. It was disappointing but true that this talk could have easily happened ten years ago which suggested to me that four of the five people on stage might not really be interacting with what is going on today outside of their own fish bowl. The reason why I would single Brian out was that I think he is the only person on the panel that could claim that people have blogged and just talked about a campaign that truly made people believe in something that he was a part of. That something of course is the Dove campaign that many, many people have talked about. I don’t think it was lost on anyone that people clapped when he asked if anyone had heard of the campaign. I hesitate to use the word campaign as it is more than just that. Each of the other people got a brief chance to mention a campaign that they were proud of: a phone company in Canada (Telus), a SUV company (Hummer), and a beer that I’ve never drank. Now, which one would you want to be associated with?

If there was one thing to take away from the talk, it is those that are taking an active role in communication today have a real chance to win big soon. It is only a matter of time before those that are really stirring things up and asking the right questions are going to be able to talk with those in business who understand that what worked ten years ago will not work today and tomorrow.

Jeffrey Aaronson deux

Jeffrey Aaronson

Below are some of my notes from visiting “Maybe it’s You” by Jeffrey Aaronson a second time.

  • iPod shuffle may be hard for older people to understand if they’ve never used a digital player before
  • the word drama would come occasionally in the personals – as in looking for a drama “free” relationship…
  • some personals were long, others one sentence
  • if you were to read the personals online, the listings would probably suit the person behind the writing visually though you would have probably imagined someone else; confusing I know
  • two or three really stood out, the ones that really had a relaxed sense of humour that were more like a journal entry tended to be the most interesting to hear
  • nothing too sad
  • more could have been done with collateral stuff: I would have liked to have seen a screen capture of the original craigslist post and names of the people beside the photo
  • only was able to listen to 60% of the pictures, I’ll probably visit one more time

Two more albums to listen to

Here’s two new albums to check out if you’re getting tired of the same old thing. First one to explore is Band of Horses, a fairly mellow upbeat first album. I don’t know much of the band or it’s history, but I do know what I like. The second is a jazz album from the Tomasz Stanko Quartet . The perfect soundtrack for walking around galleries in Chelsea on a Saturday afternoon. More to come, but I got to run out for a session with my trainer.

iPod Shuffles Beside Art

Jeffrey Aaronson

Aside from the fascinating photos, the exhibition by Jeffrey Aaonson was notable to me for another reason. Beside each photograph was an Apple iPod Shuffle that contained a sound file. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to listen to any of them. Jeffrey had contacted people through Craigslist personals of people that didn’t have images with their ads. The sound files were of the people reading their personals descriptions. I had never seen an inexpensive mp3 player used in that fashion before. While seeing something on the art wall like that could be considered a gimmick, I don’t think it was. Comparing the interest people had in front of these works listening intently, and comparing that with some of the video installations that required the viewer to use headphones at other art openings, this was a much easier way to keep someone interested.

If you’re in NY, “Maybe it’s You” by Jeffrey Aaronson can be viewed at the Kashya Hildebrand Gallery at 531–539 West 25th St., New York. I know I will be heading back this Saturday to hear what was being said.

UPDATE: I put up a couple notes from my second visit at

What do you keep?

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Right now as I move it’s reset time for me. I have to pack light for my trip as I move east. What do you sell, donate and give away? Everything means something but what hits you hard enough to keep. What gives you enough satisfaction that you give away. What do you pass on to people that can do something more with? Those are things I’ve had to deal with lately. As much as I want to keep all my books, magazines and other things that caught my attention – realistically I knew when I bought them that it was a temporary attention grab. I knew eventually I would have to give them up. It’s only a waste when you don’t get anything from what you read.

design*notes work in progress review

Jemma over at design-erly has been collecting some thoughts on my blog. What caught my attention was the reference quote that she used. “Although the element of review is not highly complex, this style of blog, a personal and reflective style actually provokes quite a high level of reflective judgement.
“They also readily admit their willingness to reevaluate the adequacy of their judgments as new data or new methodologies become available” (King & Kitchener, 2002 cited at”
A casual and personal tone allows for people to change their minds as well as to be less certain. Random thoughts allow us to write without censoring so much, the things we write don’t need the same level of certainty we feel when we write with a highly intellectual tone.”

Take a look at the rest of her post HERE.

Common issues with a new site, Marktd reviews one week of action

If you’re familiar with then a site like Marktd would be a welcome addition to your morning routine. However it’s not perfect as commented on by it’s initiator with his review at Marktd – Week 1 Review My biggest issue would be the lack of people marking. 3 or 4 marks for any story is not enough to make a huge differentiate on stories like digg. I’m looking to see what’s catching people’s attention just like I used to do when visiting the NYT and checking out the most popular stories. If the site catches on with a lot of people getting active with the stories, it should be of benefit. You can check Marktd at

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