≡ List

January 2017

Despite how I feel about graphic design culture, I still love graphic design-ing. There’s maybe nothing else I can spend a whole day totally lost in (like yesterday, with this site).

Modern Romance Good™

“In a sense we are all like a Flo Rida song: The more time you spend with us, the more you see how special we are.”

The whole dating-in-Seattle situation (i.e. not dating at all) has been way different than what I imagined before the move. Grad school and The Freeze have played a part. But mostly, I'm just really enjoying the solitude (although that might be changing).

* Auto-merge multiple scans in Photoshop

Louie⁴ Good™

Working on a new version of this site. Especially with personal projects, I think a lot about design transparency invisibility. 1. What makes a particular choice appropriate enough that the designer’s decision-making isn’t a distraction? 2. Can invisible decisions still be interesting? 3. Why is interesting important at all?

I tell students that a solid personal project can really open doors for them. I’m wondering about organizing a regular meetup-thing to help them work through a project. Bonus: it’d also keep me connected when I’m not teaching.

Also, longer-term, wondering about a project that’d help people (probably kids) identify important ideas and potential goals for themselves by finding patterns in the things they’re naturally drawn to (aka Great™s, Pleasure-Point Analysis).

⚡ good selfishness: “an accurate understanding of what we need in order to maximize our utility for others.” Right now, I’m being more intentionally selfish than maybe ever. And getting a lot out of it.

The Founder Not Great™

Intentional Color Use in Movies. Definitely showing this in class.

How Louis CK Tells (Designs) a Joke

* Local news reports on Louie

There are a few recurring phrases/responses I use that I naturally absorbed from other people throughout my life. And I know exactly who for each. That’s interesting.

One example: the Drew Davies “nailed it”.

I have an absurd amount of free time right now, and I’m stoked about it. Getting caught up, getting in shape, getting rid of stuff, and just getting ready for whatever’s next.

Met separately with [three UW Design seniors] to give feedback about projects/jobs post-graduation. It’s been such a pleasure watching this class mature over the last two years.

An issue I have with startup and graphic/UX design cultures is the frequency of glossing-over/rounding-off/plucky-soundtracking/clever-taglining/flawlessly-casualizing/upper-middle-classing of… life. So much of it feels oblivious to how complex things really are.

Current examples: KIDBOX, Facebook Live commercials, Real Friends Fake News shirt.

My schedule is super open (just part-time freelancing). Not sustainable, but I absolutely love waking up without an alarm, watching TV and reading whenever I feel like it, going to the gym when it's empty, and just generally pursuing whatever little project would feel good to check off right now.

Getting excited about my summer class (265: Intro to VCD). I want to teach it as media literacy — finding effective (and not) graphic design in the world, reverse engineering how it works, and then applying those principles to something new.

Why Self-Analysis Works

“[We] feel… refreshed by… the alchemy of converting feelings into ideas.”

“We take on… the anxiety that arises from admitting how many opportunities still remain to us and how much the status quo can and must be changed.”

* New Elementary LEGO parts/techniques blog

How to Be a Person in the World Good™

BX: the bullshit experience. Trump is a BX designer.

⚡ “The process requires a foam pit. The foam pit makes everything possible.” A classroom is a foam pit. This website is a foam pit.

36/37 is the tipping point in my life where, looking back, I’m like, “Dang, things have really changed since I was a kid.”

Been thinking about how I'm maybe getting close to missing out on the chance to find a lady and be a dad. I'm not sure I even want these things, but I am wondering about how late would be too late to decide.

One reason I'm not on a dating site is that I don't have many current photos of myself. Is this dumb?

I've only used online dating for a month, in 2012. It all makes me uncomfortable anyway, and I'd rather meet women as a natural part of my life.

Also wondering if not getting a regular job is fatally limiting my chance to do that.

I’ve kept a collection of notes (letters, cards, post-its) from other people (family, friends, teachers, ex-girlfriends) that I like to look through sometimes (I did today). Despite seriously minimizing right now, I want to keep these. It’s one of the best tool I have for reconnecting with the past.

* Silent movie practical effects

MacGyvering is a word — and a kind of everyday design.

Paterson Not Good™

I don’t get poetry.

Sneakers Not Great™

* Calling Bullshit, a (proposed) class at UW. The openness to this kind of thinking is why I live in Seattle. So proud.

⚡ “just being able to be yourself is probably one of the… most valuable qualities in any relationship.… [Yet,] how much time is spent wishing other people were different rather than cultivating a sense of kindness towards them as they are[?]

* Mini tension bars. Transforming a wall-mounted towel bar into a (now removable) paper towel holder. And IKEA shelf bookends.

Working through little problems like this (physically and digitally) has been one of my favorite things to do, for as long as I can remember. Also cable management.

* DrumsAnywhere + Freedrum. Looking for ways to keep drumming in a tiny apartment.

Selling my Roland kit tomorrow. I don’t have the room, and it’s proven too noisy for apartment life anyway. Sad to see it go.

Is it weird to say to a woman: “If you're ever single some day, let me know.”?

⚡ “as Nietzsche said, he who does battle with shitheads must beware that he does not thereby become a shithead.” I’m getting a lot better at this as I get older. But I’m not there yet (as grad school made clear).

⚡ “What matters is you, all alone at your desk at five in the morning… a place where you know who you are and what you’re meant to accomplish in this life.”

The Real Story About Fake News Is Partisanship

Our increasing polarization corresponds to the digitizing of our personal lives (both “starting in the 1980s”), and my bet is they’re connected.

⚡ “[viewpoints] on the internet gain a frightening echo because they seem unattached to any single human being. Untethered, [they seem] endless.”

Job-wise, I might stick with graphic design freelance after all. But I’m hoping to focus on straightforward mostly-type layout projects (forms, instructions, basic books). The stuff I legitimately enjoy doing. (Is this feasible? No idea.)

Anymore (probably since the start, really) I’m just not the guy for mostly-image, wow-me-with-this projects.

Whatever the income-generator, it’s gotta leave space for teaching. This wasn’t a criteria three months ago. But after 210, I’m sold (again).

Why not just teach? Because 1. the lifestyle of full-time teaching (based on what I’ve seen) isn’t at all what I’m working towards, 2. part-time doesn’t pay enough to be a job on its own, and 3. I hate grading.

Louie³ Good™

Been getting to a few comics/video-games I’ve collected (unread/unplayed) over the years. There are a lot. Looking back, it’s absurd how much time I expected to have SOME DAY for this kind of thing. Another signal of adulthood.

emotional skepticism: recognizing that our (and everyone’s) emotions influence our logic — that what appears most real is a personal interpretation. This has been a defining feature of adulthood for me.

Journaling (and reflection generally) is super helpful for me. But it’s as helpful in empathizing with how other people interact with the world. Everyone is also, always managing their own thoughts, feelings, goals, and limitations.

Still feeling embarrassed about the last day of 210. But realizing that being a sensitive guy is what makes me a good teacher in the first place. That helps.

A tricky part of writing/sharing stuff here is deciding between: 1. things that are just personal enough (to be valuable) vs. 2. things that are too personal (and weird).

I watched Inception the first time on a solo vacation to Vancouver (in 2010). The movie (especially the music) and that trip are intimately connected in my head.

That trip was the start of this phase of my life. It lead directly to choosing UW — and every part of living in Seattle (and leaving Omaha) since. Pretty cool.

* Truth in Advertising

Fences Good™

⚡ “It’s not your life. It’s life. Life is bigger than you… if you can imagine that.”

⚡ “Any seemingly dull thing is… a composite of smaller events or decisions. Or of atoms and molecules and prejudices and hunches…. Everything is interesting because everything is not what it is, but is something on the way to being something else. Everything has a history and a secret stash of fascination.” The process.

Louie² Good™

Didn’t get the support job at [tech company]. But it’s cool. It was a helpful prototype to test my feelings about actually not-having a graphic/UX design job. I’m ready.

This may seem like the long way around. I’m living in a city full of jobs doing a thing I’m qualified to do. But those jobs just aren’t compatible with the life I want anymore.

So stoked The Bachelor is back on the air.

The root of the word ‘design’ is the Latin word ‘signum’: a mark — which is both 1. a target (goal) and 2. a visual thing (intentional or accidental). So the confusing, dual meaning goes way back. Hmm…

Reading comics, realizing superheroes/villains are a useful example of intentional color choices (expressing personality and characters’ connections to each other).

My goal is to be in Good™ shape (I wouldn’t maintain Great™). Currently: Not Great™.

I have some of my clearest thoughts at the speed/heavy bags on my solo workout days.

Rogue One Good™

I’m more of a Spaceballs than Star Wars guy.

UCA_Newsletter.pdf. Finished this for Justin + The Union. This was (and has always been) fun: figuring out how existing elements can work within fresh limitations.

In high school, I wrote Chapter 2½ (between existing chapters 2 and 3) of A Lost Lady, and I have really clear memories of enjoying that.

⚡ “play > display

Spent the holidays in Seattle again. I enjoy parties/obligations (the move wasn't a plan to escape, exactly). But I really do prefer having this time (most time) to myself.

Louie¹ Good™

The 13 Clocks Good™

Green Room Not Great™

I’ve mostly ignored Tasks.txt for two weeks, and that’s been awesome.

December 2016

Watched 105 new (to me) movies this year. Continues to be the thing I enjoy (and look forward to) more than, really, anything.

10 favorites of the year highlighted below. No Great™s in 2016, though.

Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood is named after Fremont, Nebraska.

Student loan paid in full. I started grad school ready for $50k+ of debt, but (thanks to UW treating TA’s so well and TAing every quarter) I actually ended up ahead.

Primer Not Great™

Young Adult Not Great™

The Myth of the Objective

“if you’re trying to create something new, an objective can stand in your way.”

Interesting. But ‘create something new’ is still, itself, a goal. And being “prepared for an accident” is a design to reach it.

* Under-desk headphone hook. First 3D print.

Blue Jasmine Good™

⚡ apophenia: “the terribly human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns in random data.” Also the “unmotivated seeing of connections… + an abnormal meaningfulness.”

⚡ On the Internet, “we hear content in tandem with its virality, and momentum (rather than the medium) becomes the message.”

10 years ago, I collected and uploaded a torrent of Ludacris songs (“The Absholute Best of"), and it's still being seeded!

* Tomons Wood Desk Lamp. Also excited to get two GE C bulbs in action.

Premium Rush Not Great™

210 student feedback (part 1). It's really positive, but I'd hoped for better. I know I can continue to improve the class and my ability to teach it, and I'm excited for that.

⚡ “[oversharing is] my way of trying to understand myself.… I get it out of my head.… And when I shared about [something], I found that others had it, too.”

✓ Parker: The Hunter + The Outfit + The Score + Slayground Good™ Darwyn Cooke is my favorite illustrator, hands down.

Just the first in a stack of comics, video games, and books I’m planning to work through over the next few months. Stoked.

Like Crazy Not Great™

* The last day of pre-digital type at The New York Times

Tweaking the style of this site, eliminating a few special things (home page images, sunglasses mouseover). Wondering if a special/delightful choice always runs the risk of eventually revealing itself as (at best) trivial or (at worst) self-serving.

La La Land Good™

The Employment

* PDF Squeezer compression app

* Drafts note-to-self app (> IFTTT DO)

⚡ “Please, solve real problems, and solve new problems.”

Things that feel insidious to me: 1. marketing, 2. personal branding, 3. Likes/comments, 4. memes, 5. the idea that a thing isn’t worthwhile unless it’s amazing, 6. snark, 7. crazy (rarely entirely true) stories, 8. puns, 9. bullshit.

⚡ “watching the… [NYT election] dials surely traumatized a generation of voters.”

Passengers Not Great™

Jackie Not Great™

I’ve only driven 2000 miles this year.

Community¹ Good™

L.A. Confidential Not Great™

* Memory Clean RAM utility

* The Outline power/culture/future blog

⚡ “gray doesn’t show up that well on the internet.”

I get irritated when I feel like I need to justify not-wanting a graphic/UX design job. Grad school was part of a plan to open new doors. But I understand the confusion.

Mostly, I’m irritated by: 1. a silly flattening of the single word ‘design’ into those two things, and 2. those industries perpetuating that flattening.

Revised personal definition of design: 1. a bundle of decisions intended to accomplish a goal (or goals), and 2. the process of making those decisions.

⚡ “There are… plenty of technical words that do more to obscure a company’s goals and processes than define them.” Design opacity.

* LEGO Nike Dunks. Inspiration for a LEGO project with Scott.

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X Good™

Last day of 210. Really bummed it’s over. Teaching continues to be one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.

The UW Design Class of 2019 (like the two before it) is full of great kids people.

I told the students that watching them figure out: 1. who they want to be, 2. what they want to communicate, and 3. how to do it… is (for me) the best thing there is.

At the end of a class, I like to wrap-up by connecting design ideas to class moments. Today, it was process (goals, limitations, inspiration, concepting, prototyping, collaboration, feedback) matched with photos of 210 students/projects. It kills me.

I do this to emphasize that (despite having spent the class talking mostly about technical details) design is both smaller (more personal) and bigger (more important) than it probably seems.

As much as I wanted to avoid it, I still cracked. Generally, I'm better than ever at managing my emotions. But they still bubble over sometimes. I'm embarrassed by it.

Sophia (210 student) came to me last week, frustrated with feeling uninspired. I gave her some suggestions (using mostly her own ideas and sketches). She came to me today to say that our conversation was really helpful.

I’m rarely truly satisfied with my graphic design projects. Is this common?

* “there are already plans for a Fast and the Furious 9 and… 10.” Big fan. And I like having movies (and other cultural things) to look forward to. That’s always been true.

I like a lot of downtime between stressful things. The 5+2 work-week/weekend ratio feels off to me. Ultimately, my goal is for every day to feel like the weekend.

* Change Reference Points in InDesign with the keyboard

The Girlfriend Experience¹ Good™

Nocturnal Animals Not Great™

Shotgun Stories Good™

* App Cleaner uninstaller app

Idiocracy Good™

Just one more 210 class left. I'm nervous about keeping it together on the last day.

Getting really close to having lots of free time again, and I’m planning to spend it catching up on things I’ve been accumulating but haven’t actually made use of (books, video games, and LEGO).

* 13" MacBook Pro (Space Gray). Replacing a 5-year-old 11" MacBook Air that was with me through lots of adventures (all of my teaching, freelancing, and grad school). Sad to see this little guy go.

* In A Valley of Violence title sequence

Designing a title sequence could be a sweet class project.

“It was really about looking at [our inspiration] and figuring out what I liked about them and what would work for this….”

In 210, I’ve focused more than ever on showing how to use examples/inspiration intentionally. It’s not about copying, but teaching yourself to find opportunities. Comparing to something that’s already achieved your goals and figuring out how.

“Creatively responsible” is a phrase I’ve been using to describe what I’d like to avoid professionally.

⚡ “At a minimum, we meet her expectations.… At best, we catch her attention. She pauses and allows herself a moment of wonder for our work.” This is ‘delight’, and I think it’s usually a euphemism for bullshit: a thing intended to impress, separate from a design’s primary goals.

* Artists for Education

⚡ “I’ve been expressing my vulnerability because it’s the truth.”

How to be a good designer

Introducing a project (like I did today in 210) can be weird. I'm excited (about what students are about to do), but students often get anxious about the unknowns ahead.

Manchester by the Sea Good™

Westworld¹ Good™

⚡ “Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music.”

When I was younger, it was important to me that I eventually contribute some major project/idea to the world. But that's a lot less important now. And the most satisfying things today (movies, reading, LEGO, personal projects) feel selfishly at odds with making that lasting contribution.

Maybe. Because I really do think it's all headed somewhere.

An important moment in my own media literacy is realizing that — although the final votes on Survivor/The-Bachelor (probably) aren’t orchestrated by the producers — the producers CAN tell a dramatic story (with editing) that leads up to those specific votes.

Everything we understand about each other has been edited.

A fun job would’ve been delivering mail in a large corporate building.

Most weeks, I only need to set an alarm once (Fridays, for 210). Days-without-alarm is a measure of a good life for me.

Started the LEGO Christmas Build-Up (my first set in over a year). I want to make a lot more time for LEGO in my life.

I have 30+ never-built LEGO sets in boxes. Waiting for when I made it to whatever place in life I intended to get to.

Matt (in 210) found this site and wanted to talk LEGO today. A major bonus of this site for me is showing students more of who I am.

At least 50% of the times I leave my apartment, I realize I’ve forgotten something and have to turn right back around. Like seconds later.

A reason I procrastinate is that even if I finish a thing early, I’d probably have my best version of the idea the night before it’s due anyway. Letting it cook — for as long as possible — is a reliable strategy for me in figuring things out.

Are You Fucking Kidding Me

November 2016

The Anatomy of the Obsessed Artist

“Comparing [alternate designs] can reveal the common elements…, and the different ways those elements can be used.”

Dissecting examples is such a useful teaching/learning tool.

* Panic Room title sequence. I remember sitting in the theater, loving these as they happened. Still love them.

The only things I collect anymore are examples of design process/concepts (like this, to use in class) and LEGO.

Bad Santa 2 Not Good™

⚡ “The same type of accident is… preventable now only because the disaster happened, triggering a… redesign.” Mistakes expose design opportunities.

I can always count on Ashley for decision support (in this case, probably bailing out of design professionally).

Watching Survivor or The Bachelor/ette, I see myself more as a Jeff Probst and Chris Harrison than a contestant.

It's not unusual for a total stranger to compliment the coat I'm wearing (twice this month, with different coats!).

* Tally Counter. For counting votes in 210.

* LEGO Monofigs

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Good™

The Overnight Not Great™

The Paper Good™

* Game Boy t-shirt. Ideally, my printed shirts would all be 1-color-on-same-color.

A reason I’m irritated by design-pro culture is that the self-promomotion feels unfair. Masters of a medium, using it to represent themselves. Of course it looks appealing.

Design is not a lifestyle. Every aspect of our lives is design.

⚡ “Well, whoever designed this place, you get the feeling they don’t think much of people.” A design is a bundle of decisions.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Good™

This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory: Ep. 4

“one of the most fundamental activities of all animals [is] the search for patterns.… But unlike other animals, [people] can explain the patterns we find.”

I’ve been donating to Kirby for awhile (I’m listed in the credits!). This is a thing I want to do more of: financially support other peoples’ personal projects.

⚡ Thanksgiving, the holiday when “you are not burdened with two traditional sources of anxiety: gifts and religion.”

⚡ “Fake news isn’t a glitch in the system, but rather the Like economy working at peak efficiency.”

* Spark email app (Mac)

⚡ “Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool: the mistake.”

In 210, it's been tricky/frustrating to get everyone to stop talking at the start of class. My latest tactics are to shout “Yo!” or the name of a student sitting in the back (they'll stop whatever they're doing, and then everyone else will).

Deleted most job alerts I’ve been watching (Amazon/Microsoft/Minecraft Education, IFTTT, Osmo) — except for LEGO and Nintendo.

This week, I’ve been really living with the idea of checking out of design professionally, and I’m excited about it.

Been postponing a lot of small personal projects until 12.14 (post-210). Looking forward to an open schedule again.

Bleed for This Not Great™

Heathers Not Great™

When I watch a commercial, I’m usually thinking about how it’s been designed/constructed to manipulate.

Interesting because I really liked commercials as a kid. My path to professional design really started here.

I think a major life challenge for every person is recognizing that the way they think/feel is not the way everyone (maybe anyone) else thinks/feels.

I told students that 210 itself is a design. As teacher/TA, we also have goals (things we want students to learn), limitations (time), we prototype new ideas (exercises, critiques), and we use feedback (from students) to make the class better.

Many of the people who visit this site (≈ 35%) only stay for a few seconds. I’m really curious what they expected to find.

Asked 210 students for anonymous feedback on the class, and it was really positive. Compared to when I started teaching (in 2011), I think I'm: 1. communicating more clearly, 2. making better use of examples, 3. developing more meaningful exercises, 4. making teaching less about me, and 5. overall, running a tighter ship.

* “you are empathetic, passionate, authoritative, patient, constructive with your critique, and you make class fun!” I'm really proud of this.

210 will be over in less than a month, and I'm really going to miss it.

I think a goal of life should be to 1. figure out what drives/interests you and then 2. utilize it to live a life that feels meaningful and satisfying.

This site has been crazy helpful in that process for me.

Back to boxing for the first time in a month. Also ended a similar break with meditation.

For fun, totally redesigned a form for Pilchuck (they’d only asked for minor edits). I really enjoy form design.

+ joesparano.com v3.6. Thanks to Josh, added an icon filter here. (It also hides personal posts, and I’m stoked to make this page public again.)

Also revising the (right now, unfinished) home page. I usually edit this site live. I’m getting more comfortable showing myself unedited, and I’m happy about that.

Generally, I make more progress (on all kinds of projects) when I just try a version of an idea, test my feelings later, and refine from there.

Been having fun doing this with Command Hooks in my apartment.

Arrival Good™

A design is a bundle of decisions. It can be opened up to reveal the whole history of process, priorities, and goals of the people behind it.

A huge thing that's changed in the last two years is that I now assume ALL my feelings are valid responses to real things. Mainly 1. my intuition of other peoples’ feelings. And 2. feelings I can't rationalize (yet).

This Terry Gross interview was essential in that change. I think about it a lot.

These are the kinds of things that occur to me while I’m watching a really good movie.

The One I Love Good™

One of my favorite things to do is cruise IMDb to see what newly-announced movies I have to look forward to next year.

Been eating fast food 4–5 times/week lately. — probably more than ever. It’s a stress response, but I also really enjoy it.

As an outsider, it’s been interesting to watch the professional/personal relationships in Omaha change.

First call with [tech company] about a customer support job that’d hopefully start in January. Stoked.

The job meets my professional goals right now: 1. not a ‘design’ job, 2. part-time, 3. but pays better than most jobs in those categories, 4. interacting with people, 5. no commute (it’s a remote position), 6. and (bonus) an Omaha company.

As I get closer to this plan, I’ve been more open about projects I’ll do in my free time. But I’m not sure anyone really understands.

It’s cool, though. The beauty of non-income-generating personal projects is that they CAN only make sense to me.

This week, I spent time on new ideas for this site (revising the home layout and adding a journal icon filter), and it feels really satisfying and valuable.

* breakfast galette (at Anchorhead Coffee)

Walking around downtown Seattle, I can’t not smile. I feel so much energy from seeing the mechanisms of a big city in action (architecture, traffic, transit, all kinds of people — actually outside — going places).

An unexpected number of people really like the sunglasses mouseover.

First Space Time (watching and chatting about science/idea videos) with Bryan. The Omaha bonds persist.

We talked about how people are designed (by evolution) to survive on Earth. I hadn’t made this connection before.

* “Dear America: challenge accepted.” Naked City Brewery

When people ask how 210's going, I've been saying “I love it”. I wish the content was less graphic designy, it's a lot of work, and it doesn't pay enough. But the students are doing great work, I think I'm the person for the job, and I'm having fun.

Chaos of Facts

“Playing to an audience more savvy about image-making, Trump knew his erratic spontaneity played like honesty.”

“the constant churn of news seems to make everything both too important and of no matter.”

I save essays like this in an Ideas folder, divided into: Being a Person, Communication, Culture, Feeling, Realness, Relationships, Religion, Technology, and Thinking.

Since I’ve been in/around the UW Design program for three years, I know all 180 students. Whenever I’m on campus, I’ll run into a few of them, and I just really appreciate having these kids in my life.

The school offered me another class to teach (over the summer), and I’ll probably do it.

In 210, I didn’t know what to say about the election that’d be appropriate, so I told them exactly that.

Car got towed (for not paying attention to parking signs). And I’m totally OK with it! It’s actually a valuable chance (like missing a plane last year) to recognize that I don’t dwell on mistakes like this anymore.

210_project2.jpg. Posted these in the Design hallway. [A junior] (who did the same project last year) noticed and said I should be proud of the class. I really am.

Cutting podcasts altogether. I’m really tired of the anxiety of treading water.

Doctor Strange Not Great™

* Ironing Mat. Using a bookcase (already also a coffee table) as an ironing board. Still into tiny apartment life.

⚡ dismediation: “a form of propaganda that seeks to undermine the medium by which it travels.”

Second LINK workshop. This doesn't feel right. It's two groups of people I don't really connect with, together: design pros and high school students.

In 210, introduced remixing as a design tool (with Everything is a Remix). Saying “WE are remixes… of our parents” was fun. I think this kind of perspective-shift and mechanism-reveal is what classrooms are for.

It's important that the students feel the work in this class is reciprocal. Clearly preparing is a sign that I'm invested.

The Conversation Not Great™

I’m disappointed with how little money I’m making (compared to stress-being-felt and personal-goals-not-being-met).

However, I’m really enjoying my current jobs (210, Pilchuck freelancing).

Seattle has gotten me really close to the heart of pro-designer culture. The more I see, the weirder it seems. And I’m feeling confident now that I don’t belong there.

I went to grad school to stop designing in a traditional design-job way, which I think is a complex thing for people to understand.

Stepping away from design professionally is me designing my life. I don’t need other people to understand it. It feels right.

It’d be interesting to hear commentary by someone as they compose an email (about edits and decision-making). It’s such a complex process.

When I wake up in the middle of the night (usually because I have a looming deadline or caffeine after noon), it’s a great time for problem-solving (being only half-awake).

Today, I figured out the name for a 210 color exercise based on Apples-to-Apples: “Apples-to-Purples”.

Apples-to-Purples was a huge hit. An all-time classroom highlight.

A disappointing thing about teaching is that I’m usually the only one who can appreciate the success of a moment like this.

One of my favorite apps (Listacular) has stopped working. An example of how tech things (because whatever makes them work can/will change) can/will break.

The Accountant Not Great™

Sometimes I just want to see a movie, even if there aren’t any well-reviewed options.

October 2016

I wish I could opt out of birthdays. Not getting older necessarily, just the expectations (mine and everyone elses’). They tend to be weird days for me.

Our whole lives, we’re in the middle of the design process. Every day, we’re doing things, learning, and making changes.

Still really interested in everyday design.

One of the major takeaways from grad school was that I stopped thinking there was a professional outlet for these kinds of ideas. Maybe UW was the wrong place for it, but people I’d hoped would care, didn’t.

⚡ “They were more interested in the wedding than the marriage” Sarah. I like this as a metaphor for bullshit.

As fun and satisfying as 210 has been professionally, I’m frustrated personally. I’m accomplishing so few personal goals (reading, boxing, LEGO, website projects), and only breaking even on bills. It feels like a net-negative.

A major drawback of graphic designing (especially freelance) is that it’s not public-facing. I feel in my element when I’m interacting with people directly.

* Timeglass countdown timer app

I woke up with a sweet Donnie Darko costume idea. (Odd because I’m not into the movie or costumes.) But another example of subconscious/dream problem-solving.

I don’t dress up for Halloween. I think it’s wasteful, expensive, and I don’t like feeling judged.

In a Valley of Violence Good™

* In a Valley of Violence poster

I’ve made a commitment to myself that I won’t feel bad for spending money hanging out with friends, movies, movie snacks, coffee, fast food. These things make me happy, and they’re what my money is for.

Designed a 210 exercise I’m really proud of. My goals: 1. a fun mid-quarter break + 2. collaborative + 3. Halloween-ish, + (to segue to the next project…) 4. meaningful color + 5. animation. Solution: students animated-GIF one ‘monster’ part (eye, foot, etc.); each part is 1/6th of a monster with a personality (enthusiastic, irritable, mysterious, etc.), communicated with color; we’ll assemble the monsters on Halloween.

I’d enjoy a job like this. Not teaching necessarily (although I’m loving 210), but designing fun exercises/activities/games that are also, equally educational.

Been hanging out with the current grad students (a bonus of being on campus for 210). Socially, this group is way more of the grad school experience I wished I’d had.

Here’s the thread that runs through tech, media literacy, realness, and selfishness: Digital communication has brought an opportunity/awareness/incentive to construct/edit/manipulate how we present ourselves to each other. Not that all communication IS manipulation, but it MAYBE COULD BE. So it’s tricky (impossible?) to know what’s real. And I worry what that ambiguity is doing to us.

→ Seattle. Not sure on these trips. 1. I’m maybe spending more than I should (this one was $450). 2. I’m tired (staying up late to maximize friend time, plus not sleeping well on vacations). 3. I feel gross (eating and drinking constantly). 4. What I gain (emotionally), I’m partially losing (physically, financially).

I’m irritated by ‘conversations’ that are mostly being talked-at. I like/prefer being a listener and question-asker. But I don’t appreciate feeling like generic ears either.

I’m really aware of the people in my life that I can have real (bi-directional, meaningful, non-incentivized) conversations with. There aren’t many.

* “Would you like a cookie?” Yes.

How anxiety helps us make decisions

⚡ “Showing the outside world who you really are can be the central challenge of your whole life.”

⚡ “Editing is a way of being sure about what you want to show the world. Creating work that you’re proud of is a way of answering the doubts in your head.”

It’s tricky to be honest about my feelings on design jobs/culture when these things are big parts of my friends’ lives.

I like using the idea of fat/sugar/salt (ways of making food exciting) as a metaphor for graphic design bullshit (pop/pizzaz).

A majority of my metaphors are food-related.

Sometime early next year (after 210 ends), I’ll need to generate more income.

I’m considering a very normal part-time job (Safeway, Amazon warehouse). The benefits (which Justin and Jesse helped me think through) are: 1. space for subconscious problem-solving, 2. saving creative energy for my own projects, 3. inspiration for an everyday design project.

→ Omaha. My first SEA-OMA direct flight. It’s weird to me that so many other people are also making this trip.

Why Kind People Lie

⚡ kindness: making decisions by considering how other people might interpret your actions or in alignment with their goals.

⚡ “I’ll tell you what I really love about the game, though — that you always lose.”

Another reason I love Taco Bell is how cleverly they continue to remix the same ingredients. It’s problem-solving.

I find Husker fans (not the team) irritating. I don’t know why.

When I travel, ideas just pour out. I sent myself 11 Do Notes on the flight.

Waking-up/arriving early is starting to make sense to me. As a way of managing stress and reclaiming time for myself.

Of the jobs I’ve had, I feel like teaching is where I’ve done my best work. Second is the floor at Toys R Us (in high school).

There are patterns: I like 1. working with people, 2. being on my feet, 3. games, 4. asking/answering questions, and 5. helping people get where they want to go.

Funny Games Not Great™

I say things are “interesting” a lot. I think it’s a compliment, and it feels less judgey than “good”.

* Cricket Wireless (> H2O > AT&T)

* LEGO Assembly Square. There’s a LEGO-builder’s apartment that’s crazy similar to the place I’m living in now.

This is the 10th building in the series. I've collected them since the beginning, but still haven't built any of them.

I think it’s nearly impossible for me to ever get a job as a LEGO set designer.

Third week of 210. I got slightly-but-noticeably (and justifiably) miffed in class, when students wouldn’t stop talking. I’m not terrible at managing students’ attention, but I’ve seen teachers do it better. Something I need to figure out.

I’m an emotional guy, and there are times (like this) when it shows. But I have a longer fuse than ever. I’m proud of that.

Still feeling super stressed and time-crunched. And still haven’t played Galaga.

But overall, 210 is going really great.

Is there an event where kids (middle schoolers?) can quickly test (be exposed to) lots of activities/jobs to get a sense of what they might be into?

When we say that the design of something is good/bad, we’re talking about how well it does something we want it to do. Talking about design is always talking about goals (and the success/failure at reaching them).

First LINK workshop. I’m frustrated by people in charge of things that don’t help newcomers feel welcome. I can hold my own now, but it reminds me of when I couldn’t.

I try to be an includer as often as I can.

In this phase of my life, I’m not interested in being impressive. I have a solid grasp of who I am and confidence in what I’m doing. If that’s not resonating: no prob. But I’m not compelled to convince anyone otherwise.

I’m sure this has affected the job search.

When I feel comfortable around someone (or lots of people), I tend to make more sound effects, voices, and wacky hand/arm gestures. Been doing this a lot in 210.

Communicating verbally can be a challenge for me (writing, too, but it’s editable). Using sounds/gestures is really helpful.

In 210, explaining how shapes interact in ‘order’ vs. ‘chaos’ compositions, I used the sounds ‘boop’ vs. ‘tcshrzzzzzz’.

This is a reason why I connected to graphic design. It’s a way for me to communicate that also makes sense to other people.

I hate looking at the calendar and seeing I won’t have a full day free for awhile.

⚡ Middle school students are “self-aware, but not self-conscious.” Jason

The sophomores who started in UW Design when I did (in 2014) are seniors now. It’s been cool to watch them grow into more specific, confident versions of themselves.

I don’t mind Seattle’s weather. It’s part of my decision to move, and I think about it that way. Rain or shine, I appreciate it.

I think growing up in a conservative place affected my chances of getting married. In Omaha, I ran out of options because (unlike most Nebraskans) I wasn’t married by 30.

In Seattle, I may have moved too late to catch the women who (in a liberal place) stayed single longer. Doh.

Marriage used to be the goal, and I just needed to figure out who she was going to be. But that’s changed, and I’m good either way. If I meet her: excellent. If not, life continues like it is today: excellent.

Teaching fulfills most (maybe all) of my interest in being a dad.

I’m going all out on 210 exercises. After two weeks, we’re already up to Exercise F. I’d like to get us to Z by the end.

Exercises are where my heart is at as a teacher. They’re about discovery/practice — not about mastering, just figuring it out. The act is the process.

Got all the sophomores’ names memorized.

210 prep (project sheets, outlining exercises, presentation examples, grading) fills most of my free time. I’m happy to be doing it, but I’ve been super stressed since the quarter started.

Halt and Catch Fire³ Good™

When I’m in class, explaining an idea, and students are engaged and ideas are landing, I really feel like I’m in my element.

Today, it was during a presentation on scale, texture, grid, and transparency.

As a teacher, a thing I’m doing differently this time is minimizing talking about teaching. I want to be open about receiving feedback and making changes. But I don’t want students to be too aware of my role. I think that awareness (in the past) has diluted the experience a bit for everyone.

Building presentations for 210. Finding examples is hard and time-consuming. But it’s essential. Examples are threads that connect new ideas to things we already know.

I’ve been working (in conversations and here) on using examples. I can be pretty confusing/abstract when I don’t work at it.

This is my 500th day of posting here.

I’m so tired of the convolution of design as ‘a way of understanding how everything comes to be’ and design as ‘the way things look’.

+ Great™ Movie scenes

* Codeanywhere web-based code editor

I like that 210 is a sophomore-level class. 20-year-olds are in between life phases, and they know it. They’re open about the things they don’t understand, and they’re excited to figure it out. It’s a rare/inspiring mix of attitudes. Middle schoolers have it, too.

From watching the TITLE trainers, I’m better at correcting my own students’ mistakes: make it quick and focus on the problem. (Too much empathy makes it awkward.)

I’m inspired by people doing uncool things confidently.

There’s a Seattle bus driver (who I remember from my 2013 trip) who uses the microphone a lot. And not in a jokey way, it’s all bus stuff.

The Girl on the Train Not Great™

It’s fall movie season and I’m ready.

Watched The Social Network. I’m into every part of it (directing, writing, music, acting). It’s as good as movies get for me.

Maybe the 4th time I’ve seen it. I don’t watch/listen to Great™ movies/albums too often. I’m afraid of diluting the magic.

I’ve been on a major cinnamon graham cracker kick recently.

Nick and Travis are my role models for making time for things they’re into. I’m very bad at this. I don’t do enough of the things I legitimately enjoy (read, build LEGO, play video games, play drums). But this phase of my life is about very seriously figuring it out.

Got an email from [a friend] five weeks ago that I still haven’t replied to. I feel terrible about it. I think about it daily.

It’s not this email or this person. It’s (I think) that writing is hard work and the least efficient way for me to communicate. Even short emails/texts can be stressful.

It’s pretty unusual for me to wake up and think “that was a good night’s sleep”. That’s been true for at least a decade.

How do you turn transactional coffee-buying-talking (with a cute barista girl) into a real conversation?

Kindness is the quality I’m most attracted to. Self-absorption is probably the least.

⚡ “If [something] annoys us, if it frustrates us,… that’s a great opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.”

* LEGO Sanctuary of Four Seasons

New goal: be prepped for class with enough time to play Galaga beforehand. Because 1. it’s a Great™ game, but I never made time for it during grad school, and 2. it’s ridiculous that I still procrastinate.

Third day of 210. I’m feeling really good teaching again. In terms of setting students up with essential ideas (goals, process, communication) and (hopefully) giving them reasons to care: I’m the guy for this job.

My most time-crunched week in ahwile. If I postpone Tasks.txt, journaling, RSS, NYT for too long, I can feel it, physically.

I’m supremely frustrated by tech things that don’t do what they promise to. (Today, my Kindle won’t connect to Wi-Fi.) I’ve spent so much time in my life just getting gadgets to work like they did yesterday.

There’s usually (at least) one broken tech thing in my life. Currently: undelivered text messages, new rechargeable batteries that won’t hold a charge, Bluetooth things disconnecting, duplicate calendar alerts.

The temporariness of tech is anxiety-inducing. It feels different from (for example) my new IKEA shelves, which won’t some day stop holding things.

The 11 Types of NBA Nicknames. Been thinking a lot about pattern-finding.

Designing the challenges on Survivor would be a fun job.

September 2016

I can get from my apartment to Safeway (door-to-door) in less than two minutes.

I guess I thought by now someone I knew from Omaha would’ve moved to Seattle. Not something I need or was planning on, but I really assumed it’d happen.

First day of 210. Standing in front of class (my first as the teacher in two years), with 60 students (my biggest class ever, by far), I felt less anxious (way less) than I expected. It felt good. I’ve gotten a real confidence boost from being asked to do this.

Although, I’m not all that interested in the content of 210 (color and composition). I think I’m better suited for concept/process classes.

I can be a little absent-minded in class, and I don’t mind making mistakes (I feel more comfortable embracing it than hiding it). But I do wonder what students think about it.

Professionally, after grad school, I’m doing essentially what I was doing before (teaching and freelance graphic designing). I’m disappointed by that, but it’s enabling the life I want outside of work.

A few reasons I procrastinate: 1. with more time, I can collect more information and make more connections, and solution will probably be better, and 2. it almost always works out anyway.

I’ll bet I’ve said the words ‘cool’ and ‘sweet’ every day since I was 12.

⚡ “try-hard”: a person who’s transparently and artificially trying to be something they’re not.

I love Greenwood (my new neighborhood). Living next to a grocery store (as a symbol of being in the heart of a metropolitan neighborhood) is a life goal achieved.

⚡ “Whatever you plan to do during the semester, do it on the first day.” Lots of exercises.

Most of my decisions now (about goals, time, energy) are self-centered, but not self-serving: I’m prioritizing myself, but not at anyone’s expense. (Pretty sure, anyway.)

I think about (all varieties of) selfishness a lot. This and realness are definitely the top two themes running through my mind.

Part of the fun of this site is trying to tie up ideas in neat little bundles.

Don’t Think Twice Good™

I had the option to teach two classes this fall (HCDE 308, DESIGN 210). They’re similar, but I wasn’t excited until 210, which: 1. has more exercises and critiques (and less lecture) and 2. stops short of type/images/layout (so the focus really is on goals and concepting).

* Building transparent shadows in Photoshop

I’m not into ‘design cynicism’ (a term I made up): believing that, often, 1. bad things are designed by someone-somewhere to be bad (conspiracies), and 2. good things are designed only to appear good, but are actually bad (manipulation).

I think bad things often happen when people don’t consider how their actions might affect someone else (self-servingness). Which is different than a design.

This contrast in perspectives accounts for some of my grad school frustration.

Authentic Work and Pleasure-Point Analysis

⚡ pleasure-point analysis: learning to “tease out insights concealed in… the satisfaction and distress scattered across our lives.” What journaling is for.

A reason super interestingness in graphic design bothers me: it’s self-serving (the goal is to be noticed); clarity is self-less (the goal is to provide information).

* GE C-Sleep Bulb

Café Society Not Great™

Hush Good™

I use movies as a way to recharge, but to procrastinate, too.

Between Oxide (2012) and Seattle (2014), I spent a lot of my free time socializing. I’ve been in Seattle nearly as long, and I’ve spent most of my free time alone. It’s a big change (the contrast would surprise friends in either place). But (for reasons I’m still thinking through) I haven’t made the kinds of connections here that I made (and still have) in Omaha from that era.

⚡ “There is only one set of brand values: make more money.”

* Spotify Release Radar

Working on EcoTab. I’m not into UX. I’m not happy with what I’ve done so far (normal). But my subconscious isn’t trying to puzzle it out in between (rare). When I see/use other apps, I’m not inspired to get to work. I’m procrastinating (and missing deadlines) — overwhelmed and bored at the same time.

Although, I’m still generally interested in design research (even for UX projects).

I have no professional goals right now (other than income). For the first time I can remember. Any work I’m doing now is just trading my time/stress/expertise for bills-paid. (I did enjoy the Pilchuck project, but I wouldn’t do it for free.)

When I tell someone I could fill all of my time with personal projects, they’ll usually ask for an example. I’m a little embarrassed (but mostly not) to say: this site and a LEGO website (cheeseslope.com).

The first (weekly Tuesday morning) volunteering at BFI, helping with office things. Being available during the day is a huge bonus of freelancing.

Today, I solved a problem moving an Excel database to Airtable. I’m pretty good (and really enjoy) figuring out how to get (software) things to work together. (I love IFTTT. And spreadsheet tricks.)

I don’t want a regular job right now, but if I do some day, it may not be ‘creative’ or ‘design’ (although every job is). The LEGO job I applied to (administrating the graphic designers) might’ve been perfect.

* Vyte meeting scheduler

Indignation Not Great™

Although this page is mostly up to date, I usually have past notes in the queue (to review and add to past days). When I do that (like I did today), I feel a little more open (knowing that fewer will read it). I’d rather write that way all the time, though.

⚡ “I’m continuing to grow, continuing to get older, continue to do well. At the same time, younger guys continue to come in… at some point, [they’ll] take over and you will have to move on. That’s the law of life.”

And it’ll happen to the young guys some day, too. Aging is a whole extra layer of basketball that I didn’t think about as a kid. Especially now that I’m older (37 next month) than most guys in the NBA.

Also guys on The Bachelor/ette. I don’t want to be on the show, but that’s interesting.

CGP Grey explainer video essays (e.g. Misconceptions, Animal Misconceptions)

I’m frustrated at how often in everyday conversations people say things that aren’t accurate (intentionally or not). And how easily something I’ve said changes when it gets back to me.

Spent time at Petco and decided a fish would be too much of a burden on my time. Some kind of pet would be nice, though.

The iconic image of a goldfish in a bowl is a half-truth. This kind of (misleading) construction/idealization is so common in graphic design and advertising.

Halt and Catch Fire² Good™

The Light Between Oceans Not Great™

Rotten Tomatoes is a pretty reliable indicator of how I’ll feel about a movie. Even times like this (where I ignore a ‘rotten’ because I can’t imagine not enjoying it… and then I don’t).

Generally, I’ll avoid movies < 75% (unless I’m really interested in the director/writer/actors). And I’m rarely interested in documentaries, indie, animated, or foreign movies (at any %).

I arrived in Seattle two years ago today.

The apartment is coming together (thanks to shelves and storage). I’m feeling a lot more comfortable now, and I’m having fun tiny apartment problem-solving.

I’m considering getting a fish.

Working on the Pilchuck Auction Catalog. This is straightforward stuff (importing text/images, applying styles, basic layout). Very little risk creatively, and success is basically objective. It’s production work, but it’s really satisfying, and I’m good at it. I want more freelance like this.

The 4 Steps to Getting an Idea

“The subconscious mind cooks the meal, but the conscious mind buys the groceries.”

Dave Grohl played trombone as a kid, too. Big fan of this guy.

I like to make progress on a personal project in the morning (this week: organizing boxes, many untouched since Omaha). On days when I work first, I feel distracted by having these things waiting.

Before that, I spend the first 1–2 hours of most days reading RSS and New York Times.

Work feels like a nuisance. I rarely start before noon.

I told Jesse and Josh this week (embarrassed, but 100% honestly) that I have years worth of reading (books, comics, Instapaper) and video games to get through. This stuff is my priority right now.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him + Her Not Great™

I don’t want to work, but I wouldn’t say I’m lazy. My leisure time (maybe especially my leisure time) is structured, and I’m always moving towards a goal and checking things off lists. Always.

Europa Report Not Great™

I consider myself both really logical AND really emotional. It feels like opposite extremes on the same spectrum.

I like it. It’s maybe my defining characteristic. Even if I don’t understand it, I’m aging into managing it. People can be confused by it, but I think I can empathize with more people because of it.

Jesse said that a public journal (by cataloging contradictory ideas) frees you from easy categorization.

I used to define myself narrowly (on purpose) with #solveproblems/#makedecisions. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that now.

There are a few essential people in my life (like Jesse) where conversations are more like explorations. They really help me make sense of what I’m thinking/feeling.

Hell or High Water Good™

A big switch flipped in my life sometime in the last two years. I’m hyper-aware of things that don’t feel real: interactions that feel phony/shallow (The Freeze) and communication that feels like a performance/construction (social media, graphic designer culture).

I’m not sure where this comes from. Maybe it would’ve happened at this point in my life anyway. (As a kid, I do remember thinking about phoniness.) But the move and grad school (both isolating) have given me a chance to feel/think-about disconnection.

I like being alone though. It’s a reason I wanted to move to a new city. And especially right now, I’m happy to have so much control over my time.

⚡ “You’ve got two options when you find out you’re [being watched], and only two: one is hide and the other is perform.”

The Invitation Not Great™

Took the bus today for the first time since graduation (no free rides anymore). I forgot how helpful it was in keeping up with journaling and emails.

I don’t like being asked to remind someone of something later.

* Milliard Tri-fold Foam Mattress. Fits perfectly in the closet. I love the practicality of a bedroom that disappears during the day.

* How to make eggs in a mug

August 2016

26/31 TITLE days this month. Omaha pushed me to 4th place (no prize). A little miffed.

Still the most consistently I’ve ever exercised (although this was probably too much). I do feel more fit, and living closer to the gym has made going way easier.

Job update: This year, I interviewed for one (SMART), applied to two (LEGO, Microsoft Education), and really tried for one (micro:bit, which I think I’m ideal for and looks like fun) — all lukewarm responses.

It’s very cool though. Freelance is a better fit for the life I want right now.

I keep thinking about the interview. It’s reminded me of things about professional graphic-designer/UX culture that aren’t for me: inflated jargon (“visual design”), bullshit (“What’s your superpower?”), self-importance (“We are looking for a bit more experience in mobile”), and disingenuousness (“Most of all, we want someone who’s passionate about education”).

Generally, I want to avoid throwing anyone under the bus here. But I really have thought a lot about this interview. And it’s been essential in my job decisions since.

Don’t Breathe Good™

23/28 TITLE days this month.

⚡ A good day: “Do you feel like you 1. spent your time and directed your attention to the things that matter?… 2. did a good job?… 3. enjoyed yourself?

I can spend a lot of time in the aisle at Fred-Meyer/Target with the adhesive hooks.

A job I’d be good at but couldn’t prove: design research for 3M Command Strips.

Roadies¹ Good™

Things I’m enjoying about the new apartment: 1. no shared walls in the main room (a nightmare in Omaha), 2. wood floors (carpet is gross), 3. one sink (one soap, one towel), 4. everything’s close at hand, 5. laundry machines take cards (quarters!).

For the first time ever in my life, all of my books are on shelves. (I don’t own many books, this is more about finally having a place to put them.)

Most still unread (a goal over the next few months).

These are the kinds of things I want to focus on right now. Getting stuff out of boxes and living the life I’ve been planning for a decade.

Designing The Joker. How the villain affects the decision-making, limitations, and goals of the hero.

Celeste and Jesse Forever Not Great™

Bought (book/stuff) shelves, a desk, and a (reading/watching) chair at IKEA.

* IKEA KALLAX Workstation. Part of the fun of tiny apartment life so far is finding chances to multitask like this.

I love IKEA. It’s a common understanding that IKEA products are shoddy and hard to assemble. I totally disagree.

I’m not much into the idea of being a dad until the (fictional) kids are at least 8. Same for teaching.

→ Seattle

I have fond memories of shopping at Target (in Omaha). It was special because it was so un-Midwest: forward-thinking, practical, uncluttered, sans serif. And always with a disproportionate number of attractive women their 20’s/30’s also shopping. An oasis.

There are Targets in Seattle. But Seattle has these qualities everywhere.

I use airports as an opportunity to compromise on my (otherwise pretty healthy) diet. Travel is stressful, and it helps.

So Good


Jesse and I discussed the good-absurdity of graphic design freelancing as a job (which, relative to most jobs, pays more but is also less demanding on time/place). Advantages that dovetail perfectly with my goal right now of having as little a job as possible.

But it doesn’t feel fair. What have I done to justify the opportunity to be at home on a Thursday at 11:30a typing this?

→ Omaha. For Virdie‘s funeral.

I’m not big on funerals. I’d rather deal with a death on my own. I don’t want my last memory of someone to be in a casket. And making conversation at funerals is complex (are we happy or sad?).

I feel there’s an assumption that showing up means you care. But I think by the time a person dies, the opportunities to show someone they’re important to you are over.

But I’m going to this funeral because I assume it’d be more complicated if I didn’t. I don’t know what’s actually better for handling social obligations: 1. do what I feel or 2. what’s easiest.

This trip will affect my chances of winning a prize in the TITLE competition, and I’m a little pissed about it.

My goal has been to live in a tiny house some day. I’m just realizing that, as of this week, I’m already there.

19/21 TITLE days this month. The first time I’ve gone 7 days in a row.

An important thing about Friday (sometimes Saturday) Night Taco Joe Time is that I’ve given myself 100% guilt-free permission to do only-and-exactly what I love doing. The door (to Tasks.txt, emails, work) is closed. I look forward it all week.

Eating too. I love eating (I probably have a mild food addiction). On FNTJT, I eat probably too much and get to enjoy it.

I don’t have a lot of email/work to keep up with. But I’m constantly aware of them in the background. 

Cheap Thrills Good™

Easy A Good™

At some point in the last five years, I started identifying more with the parents in movies/TV about high school.

It’s rare to meet someone who asks questions that they’re genuinely curious about and really listens to the answers. These kinds of people are my closest friends, and (when I meet someone new like this) the likeliest kind of person I’ll get along with.

Is this super self-centered? I think I’m also this kind of person, so maybe not?

Mississippi Grind Good™

A few times recently, people have said (unprompted) that I’m a patient person. I’m proud of that. I’ve been working hard to chill out in my 30’s.

I’m a little uncomfortable in the new apartment. It’s clear that I need: 1. a chair for watching/reading 2. a desk for working, and 3. to concede that (for now) I need to put more stuff in storage.

* Put.io cloud torrent app. Internet (all utilities!) are included in my new rent, but torrenting is frowned upon.

Moved into the new apartment. It’s smaller than I’d choose. But ideally, I don’t want to own more stuff than I could live with in one room (I have a few things in basement storage right now). I like the challenge.

Love the location. The (6-minute) walk to the gym was very special.

22 Jump Street Good™

* 22 Jump Street end credits

12/14 TITLE days this month.

Is it ridiculous to say that … I don’t want a job? … a 9-to-5 might make me miserable? … I have so many books to read and articles saved to Instapaper, etc. that a job would get in the way?

Officially said yes to teaching Color & Comp. Despite how I’ve been feeling about teaching, this is too good/big to pass up.

Kristine & Cassie said that they wanted an enthusiastic teacher who could set students off on the right foot (since it’s their first class after making it into the program). That’s such a satisfying reason.

⚡ “Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is… you make bad decisions.”

21 Jump Street Good™

* LEGO Winter Holiday Train. There’s a tiny, rotating train ON the train! (I love meta references like this, in all things).

I’m collecting two LEGO series: Winter Village and Modular Buildings.

All still (never built) in boxes. I’ve been waiting until I land at an apartment I plan to be for awhile. But I may never feel that way. It’s time to start building.

Using a Simple Goal, I’ve been saving 92¢/day (since November) to buy the latest Modular Buildings at the end of this year.

Well shit. Kristine asked if I’d teach Color & Composition this fall. I’m interested: 1. I TA’d the class twice, and I’m comfortable in it. 2. It’s a sophomore class (a special age). 3. It’s fun. 4. Teaching in UW’s Design program is a legit checkmark. 5. And it pays. I’m thinking. At this moment, I’m excited to even be asked.

⚡ “How was your day? Tell me everything.”

This year, I started paying for movies and TV online. But I refuse to accept the you-have-to-have-cable-to-stream-this options (Bachelor/ette, Mr. Robot, USA Basketball). I torrent those guilt-free. Also any album not on Spotify.

I use Kemerling’s “The Middle” to talk about things like this — being asked to simultaneously do an old and new thing. I use it a lot.

Working on EcoTab. Despite my love of problem-solving and confidence in eventually figuring it out: I hate the first phase of new projects, when so many decisions could go in infinite directions.

But I love it after more limitations have been set.

This week, I had a specific (moving) box and a specific stack of stuff to fit into it. That was fun.

A giant LEGO pile isn’t that interesting to me. But five pieces: oh yeah.

For the love of stuff

There’s a contest at TITLE this month to accumulate the most workout days. I’m 6/7.

The Myth of the American Sleepover Good™

* IMDb + Rotten Tomatoes Chrome extension

The Drop Good™

* The Neon Demon title sequence. My favorite part of this movie. Movie graphic design feels selfless to me: it’s about the film’s ideas, not about being the designer.

* The Ringer pop-culture/tech/sports blog. Basketball AND Bachelor/ette?!

* Fontstand font testing/rental app

* Trim typeface. For this site (goals: square-cornered + super heavyweight + looks good in all-caps + 5% interesting + 95% utilitarian). Yes!

I’ve been tweaking this site from the start (March 2015). Still, there are broken things and things that I’m not satisfied with. But I’m having fun figuring it out, changing my mind, and figuring it out again. I doubt it’ll ever feel finished, but I like that about it, and it feels like progress.

Upgraded to the 12lb. medicine ball at the gym. Getting fitter.

Vanity Project

* Real Life “living with technology” blog

July 2016

I love living in a city where it’s almost never 90°. Temperature was a criteria for moving here, and it’s been a major factor in my satisfaction with the decision.

The Brothers Bloom Not Great™

Selling furniture on Craigslist. The money exchange can be awkward, but today, the guy buying my dresser counted it out loud before handing it to me, which helped a lot (acknowledging that somebody’s gotta do it).

I think it’s important to diffuse social awkwardness like this, and I try to often.

For two weeks, Taco Bell Friday Night has expanded into Saturday too. Living my life.

Jason Bourne Not Great™ Not Good™

It Follows Good™

No matter how unkind [someone] has been, it’s still we ourselves who carry that with us, … [and] can choose to let go of it.” People who’ve done shithead things tend to occupy a lot of space of in my head.

How to Be Single Not Great™

Volunteered at BFI twice this week (helping prep to re-open). I like having a flexible schedule for stuff like this. It’s also only two blocks from my new apartment.

My new apartment is super small (211 ft²). It’s a helpful incentive to minimize (even further than my minimizing for the Seattle move). I love getting rid of stuff.

But I’m not ready to be an ultra-minimalist yet. It’s gotten easier as I’ve get older, though. (I’m even getting rid of things I brought with me from Omaha.)

Guesstimated by size, my stuff is: 25% LEGO, 20% clothes, 20% video games and toys, 15% books, 10% drum set, 5% computer, 5% other.

I think graphic design (maybe all communication) has two qualities: 1. clarity (unity) and 2. interestingness (variety). They work together, and both have value. Graphic designer culture prioritizes 2 > 1, but I think clarity is way more important (in making sense where there wasn’t before).

I think it’s very difficult to tell the difference between purposeful interestingness and bullshit. And I worry the “competition to make things as noticeable as possible” is making realness harder to find.

I can do clarity, but I struggle with interesting. I’m embracing that in my own projects, but I think it’s working against me professionally.

My interest in teaching is absolutely on hiatus. As a TA, the difference between what I enjoy (being around students, designing projects) and what I don’t (grading, standing in front of class) became really clear. And right now, I just want to focus on the stuff I enjoy.

I had an offer to teach my own UW class this Fall (in HCDE), and I turned it down.

I like relationship movies told from a guy’s point of view (Up in the Air, Hitch, and Definitely, Maybe — three I re-watched this month). But I’m not sure why. I don’t think relationships really work this way. And I’ve mostly lost interest in being in one.

The Inevitable Takeover of Pop Politics

“Politics and celebrity must both serve the new absolute master, the narcissism of the American people.”

Job update: 1. I’m only interested in jobs that I’m uniquely qualified for and excited about. 2. I’m willing to wait awhile to find it. 3. For now (and indefinitely), I’m happy to freelance from home (doing whatever) instead of taking an (equally unsatisfying) job with an early alarm clock and a commute.

Basically, if it’s not important/interesting to me, I’d like to do as little of it as necessary to pay the bills.

I haven’t had a permanent, full-time job since Oxide (in 2012), and I’m really happy with the last four years (personally and professionally).

The Shining Not Great™

* Text Message Confusion

I’m realizing that maybe the reason I enjoy movie-watching as much as I do is that it’s the longest amount of time where I really get out of my head. Like really disconnect.

Starting a freelance UX project (EcoTab) that could be fun. If I can pick up a project like this every month-ish, I’ll live a pretty good life.

Zero Dark Thirty Good™

I Am Comic

Spending the week catching up on Desktop files, Esquire, and Links.txt. It’s only after I catch up on these kinds of personal things that I feel ready to work on other people’s projects.

* Stripes photo. Every person is a remix. I’m totally a combo of my parents.

⚡ “genealogy of ideas”: The ideas we expose ourselves to lead, directly, to the ideas we have ourselves.

Hunter S. Thompson on goals

“make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal.… Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.”

* Marc Issacs, everyday life filmmaker (e.g. Lift)

A job has major trade-offs: 1. waking up early, 2. commuting, and 3. devoting a lot of my time/energy to someone else’s ideas. The job I’m looking for would offset these things in some kind of major way.

I try not to feel bad about buying popcorn/candy at the theater if I’m feeling like popcorn/candy. It’s as much about eating as it is about living the life I want to live.

⚡ “a man at his best… takes on the world with love in his heart, a laugh on his lips, and the balls to speak his mind.”

Ghostbusters Not Great™

One of my favorite things to do is sit down with an issue of Esquire and read the whole thing cover to cover.

Dope Not Great™

My top priority isn’t to find a job. It’s to have time/money for boxing, movies, reading, volunteering, and personal projects — in a city where I feel good just being here.

* LEGO Lighthouse Point

* CineFix movie video essays (e.g. Things You Didn’t Know)

⚡ common understanding: “People want to just take the meaning off the top… and everybody has a one-word association for everything.”

Prepping to move and reviewing my stuff. It’s gotten easier to minimize as I’ve gotten older (having a clearer sense of what I’m willing to, actually, make time for).

It’s Never Been Harder to Be Young

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Good™

Maybe I’ll find a satisfying ed-design job. Or maybe I’ll find a comfortable freelance gig setting type in instructional manuals. Either way, job will be as important as my personal goals.

* Monodraw ASCII art app. I have some diagrams planned for this site.

⚡ “We don’t call ourselves… ‘a-Zeus-ists’ and ‘a-leprechaun-ists’…” I don’t believe in anything supernatural, but ‘atheist’ feels inaccurate. I don’t see my perspective as a choice, defense, or stance against anything. It’s a non-thought, a zero (same for Zeus and leprechauns).

Adam Savage at the Reason Rally

“somebody is looking out for me, keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less than I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I am capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think, and they still love me. And I’ve concluded… that this person keeping score is me.”

I’m a mid-morning person. With nothing on the schedule, I go to bed at midnight and wake up at 8:30/9:00.

Sold on the apartment. An easy decision after setting neighborhood goals. Nailed it!

The words I use most often on this site are: design, it’s, thesis, feel, people, school, life, love, teaching, projects, ideas (from Google Search Console, which I signed up for to hide this page from searches).

fundamental attribution error: assuming someone’s behavior reflects their personality instead of (more likely) their situation.

⚡ “The faster you respond, the shorter your response is allowed to be.” This may be the email solution I’ve been looking for.

I think I found my new apartment. It’s: 1. relatively affordable, near… 2. a grocery store (next door!), 3. a movie theater, 4. TITLE (I can walk!), and 5. a Taco Bell. Touring tomorrow. Stoked.

Some of the friendliest people in my life here work at TITLE and MOD Pizza.

This has been a real, unexpected bonus of joining the gym. Most of the other people in class, though, maintain that Freeze chilliness (still weird to me).

Boxing is crazy helpful in working out jobs/leaving-or-staying-in-Seattle anxiety.

I can stay here if I’m willing to spend some savings. I’m happier here, and there are way more opportunities (jobs and otherwise). I’m thinking it’d be a smart investment.

Being understood — knowing that my thoughts and feelings make sense to another person — is an essential thing for me. I have these people in my life.

Zero Days

Emotional Education: An Introduction

Didn’t get the SMART job. I understand: it’s UX, which I’m new to. I applied to a similar job at Microsoft this week, and I’m expecting a similar response.

I’m not even interested in UX. But it’s what’s available in ed-design. The job I’m really looking for (and a Master’s degree opens the door to, I think) isn’t necessarily even visual. It’s about ideas and connecting dots.

⚡ “Some people want it cooked. They just want to put a little icing on it and bite it. But it’s really a process to make one of these great songs. It’s layers. Layers and layers and layers.”

* Three Fourths Home game

The Trip to Italy Not Great™

World of Tomorrow

Todd asked if I’d be happy living in Omaha again. I said: “No.… The weather and the conservatism make me uncomfortable. I don’t belong there.”

Although, I miss my friends, and I’m wondering if this might be the ideal opportunity to spend a few weeks in Omaha.

I’ve been wondering if a totally public journal might seem weird. I don’t think it is, but I wonder how it reads. The job search makes the question more pressing, but I’ve always wondered. Total public-ness is also limiting what I feel comfortable sharing.

I could just share non-personal things (►, ⚡, *, ♪, ✓). But reviewing recent posts, I don’t think that’d be as valuable for me.

So now, the only way to see this page is to already have the link. That’ll still give me the accountability (public-ness), but also more room for sharing (private-ness).

At boxing tonight, Greg [club manager] wrote “be in shape” on my heavy bag in chalk (my response to his question about why I joined the club). It was really motivating. A goal (be in shape) and a design (a visible reminder) to reach it.

Lessons from the Screenplay video essays

I’m starting to get pretty anxious about the job search. Or really, the move deadline. I have 5½ weeks until I’ll be leaving this apartment, and moving… who-knows-where.

Thumb War

“The [Twitter] outrage rises above the facts, a disembodied monster searching hungrily for new content.”

Aside from the frustration/anxiety of updating this site, it’s been a nice three weeks of waking up without an alarm, seeing lots of movies, and getting back to boxing.

Tickled Good™

I’ve seen eight movies in the theater in the three weeks since graduation.

+ joesparano.com v3.5. After three weeks of essentially only working on this site, I think it’s ready for job applications. I have things to clean up, but I’m relieved to (finally) be moving to the next step of this process.

Kerning makes me anxious.

The Shallows Good™

I miss Gossip Girl.

+ Great™ TV

It’s pretty common for me to accidentally find graphic design solutions I really like (by switching on the wrong layer, pasting something somewhere I hadn’t intended to, etc.).

I also accidentally went to a kickboxing class (instead of boxing) this week and really enjoyed it.

Rocky Not Great™

I’m still interested in everyday design, but I don’t have any projects planned around it.

I used this example to explain everyday design [at a bar with friends]: if someone wanted to sit with us, we’d make room for them (moving this stuff on the table out of the way) — designing space for them to be.

June 2016

Finally at the making-and-uploading-images phase of this website.

* TinyPNG image compression

* Yummy FTP Lite app

Took the thesis exhibit off the wall. My final_final task as a grad student.

* UW School of Art + Art History + Design 2016 Graduate Thesis Showcase

optimal distinctiveness theory: balancing decisions between things that help us fit in and things that help us stand out.

yea, babe, no way

solvem probleming: inventing a problem in order to change an existing thing into its solution (e.g. transforming an illustration into a logo by adding a ‘company name’).

I get my love of movies from mom. Several of the movies she introduced me to are still on my Great™ list (Quiz Show, Scent of a Woman, Uncle Buck).

* BitCam pocket computer camera

The Neon Demon Not Great™

Working through anything, taking a break is essential for me to figure it out. After the break (exercise, food, sleep, walk to the bus, a different part of the same project), I’ll almost always return with new ideas. Even if I’m feeling good, the break lets me confirm that when I see it again.

Before the break, it helps if I write my goals down and take stock of what I have to work with.

⚡ The Office: Embrace The Cringe

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Good™

⚡ “focus on the process: what you do with what you’ve got.… to really judge ourselves fairly and constructively, we have to continually force ourselves to think about what we’ve got to contend with.”

* LEGO Slimer

* Common Name graphic design studio

I love Seattle, and I’m really hoping to stay here.

⚡ “defend without fouling.” The basketball version of advice I received a few years ago, think about a lot, and have gotten better at since: “The first one to get upset loses.”

Weiner Good™

Still working on updating this site. Caught in the normal mid-project phase of feeling that I’m taking too long (because job applications await), but not being satisfied, but getting closer, slowly, and starting to have fun.

⚡ “it’ll be done, but never I’ll finish it.”

* Bungee typeface

The Stupidity of Computers. Where likes come from (a thing computers can quantify).

The Conjuring 2 Good™

The Conjuring Good™

Devoting the week to finishing my portfolio and tweaking this site, planning to start applying for jobs on Monday.

Waking up without an alarm, nowhere to be, monkeying around with CSS, listening to Spotify. It’s a nice little staycation.

My dream jobs are still LEGO and Nintendo, and they haven’t changed since I was seven.

It’s time to get a job. And get back to reading, boxing and meditating.

I’ll miss teaching, but not grading.

If I ever teach again, I think a fun game to play with students would be “spot the professional graphic designer bullshit”.

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

The Best American Magazine Writing 2014 Good™

X-Men: Apocalypse Not Good™


So much has changed in the last 20 months. One of the most embarrassing, encouraging, frustrating, satisfying, worst, best experiences of my life. (Working on an essay.)

Maggie’s Plan Not Great™


Thesis documentation’s due tomorrow. Still stuff to do. Totally manageable. But it’s a junk food day for sure.

⚡ “What you think is fact is actually someone else’s version of the facts.”

First job interview (SMART).

Starting thesis documentation (the last checkmark). Stoked.

For big projects like this (presentations, papers, essays, personal projects), I’ll usually start a list early where I can dump ideas into for a few weeks (in this case: months). When it comes time to make the thing, I have a lump of ideas, and it’s just a matter of filing the gaps. Crazy helpful.

* Swarm.fm Spotify updates

* “You seem like a cool guy because you like Banjo-Kazooie.” [coffee shop friend]

I’m half-seriously considering a cool emoji tattoo. It’s symbolic of things I think about a lot: realness, anxiety, vulnerability, smiling, aging (the sun), The Freeze.

The first thing I want to do after a few stressful days is watch some movies. It’s the best way I know of to disconnect and recharge.

A Bigger Splash Not Great™

Foxcatcher Not Great™


Graduation is a week from today.

↓ Thesis_presentation.mp4. I wish I’d recorded the audio, but I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did (really well). A grad school highlight for sure.

* Keynote presentation app

After advice from too many smart people to ignore, I’m LinkedIn. It feels super weird to mix friends and job stuff. But I need to get over it.

May 2016

Really looking forward to the conclusion of the grad school phase. Not that I’m overwhelmed, I’m just ready for the next phase — being on a team, making some dough, being a person in Seattle, Instapaper queue, new personal project, boxing, drums. Ready.

An introduction to bullshit

⚡ “If they don’t talk, they don’t get paid.” I think about this a lot (with social media, news, teaching, this site). Is this about the idea being shared? Or the person sharing it? And how would we tell the difference?

Media literacy is teaching kids how to spot bullshit.

Publishing this site is me being OK with the things I like, think, and feel (with the way my brain works).

► Predestination Not Great™

Graduation is two weeks from today.

* Paper website

The Nice Guys Good™

I didn’t figure out how important confidence (or the illusion of it) is until my early 30’s. I default to socially awkward, but when I remind myself to do confident things (make eye contact, don’t talk just to fill space, smile), it’s just so clearly more effective. (Like today, talking to the cute girl at the theater.)

A perfect storm of recharging options for the final 14 days of grad school: quality movies, NBA Playoffs, and Bachelorette. It’s like a dream.

Opening night of thesis exhibit. Even though we still have thesis stuff to do, this felt like a legit celebration of the end.

It’s been awhile since my last big event full of friendly faces (definitely the first in Seattle). It’s crazy to think that everyone I knew tonight I met in the last two years.

I should wear shirts with collars more often.

Finally own a suit (jacket). (Pants when I get a job.)

It’s a really satisfying experience to walk into J. Crew ready to spend some money.

When cashiers give me a choice (“Do you want jalapeños?”), I think I take longer than other people to decide.

I think there’s always a Plan Z. In nearly every situation, I’ll figure something out. Even when (like final exhibit details and finding a job) the clock is ticking loudly.

Thesis exhibit installed. This was more expensive and took way longer (design + install: three weeks) than I’d hoped. But seeing thesis in 3D and having a thing to share with everyone (in a gallery, even) feels really good.

Thesis_app.mp4. Bryan helped me with (did all of) the animation. This guy’s a pro and a real friend.

Thesis_lesson_plans.pdf. This was fun. I really enjoy designing projects and exercises (and I think I’m pretty good at it).

In design terms: I like the challenge of having a goal (what the students should learn), but with unlimited ways to get there. An infinite system (like LEGO).

There’s a real risk for me in the job search. I feel like I’m qualified to do the thing I really want to do (design around education). But it’s super specific, and I’m not all that qualified to do much else.

BIGCHILL. Todd is my role model for unapologetically being cool being himself.

* How to change placeholder text in InDesign

Thesis.txt (my thesis tasks file) is getting real small.

⚡ “Everyone needs to keep a Journal.” I think so, too. Primarily, this site is for me. But secondarily, my goal is to be an example of someone who really believes in it.

I started keeping one (privately) in 2011, and it’s been an incredibly valuable way to get ideas out of my head and really take a look at them.

The public-ness of this site is a new dimension that’s valuable in new ways. Like keeping Omaha friends updated. And holding myself accountable to saying what I really mean and not saying things I don’t.

But a little weird, too. I’m guessing some people are uncomfortable telling me they’ve read this. And others are uncomfortable telling me they haven’t. I totally respect both. Just an interesting thing I haven’t really figured out how to address.

I’m usually dissatisfied with my design projects. Since the process is iterative, it’s never finished. So thesis couldn’t have been done before now. It won’t be done when I graduate. Or ever.

But, if I narrow the scope to just the things I’ve done this school year, I’m happy with it. I think I found a problem, an opportunity, and a solution.

I like waking up knowing I’m spending the day on one project, even if it’s the whole day. (Today, it’s finalizing text in thesis lesson plans).

When I tell someone I’m getting a design degree, they’ll almost always ask what kind of design, and I love that. Because there are so many (∞) kinds.

Graduation is three weeks from today.

↓ uwdesign2016.com.gif

I probably reveal more of what I’m thinking/feeling than average. That’s been especially (sometimes embarrassingly) obvious since the move (relative to Seattle or grad school, or both). But I think being a proactive communicator is helpful.

⚡ Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens. I love Kirby and everything he does. The original series changed my life.

I’m not into Star Wars.

⚡ fave economy: the way that likes/favorites incentivize “anesthetized, hypermediated and impersonal ex­­changes,” and “editing… between the making and sharing”.

Installing thesis exhibit. It feels great to be holding definitive parts of this project in my hands that won’t change (because they’ll be mounted on the wall). There are still thesis things to do, but this checkmark is a big one.

I feel like I’ve picked up some valuable skills in grad school (design-researching, -writing, -interviewing). But the job search will be the real test of whether or not that’s true.

I know so little about professional (vs. academic) Seattle.

* “Nice rag!” Annabelle (about thesis exhibit text)

Almost all of my graphic design projects trend toward the same mix of not-very-interesting, but chunky and readable. I’m embracing it, and I wish the world had more of it.

* Falconboard. For thesis exhibit. I’ve always felt awful buying foamcore.

Should I Help Others or Be an Artist?

Coherence Good™ A slow-fi relationship drama is exactly my kind of movie.

+ Links.txt. Where I save links for later. I’ve been spending Friday nights with this list (and Taco Bell), and I really look forward to it.

* Mytory Markdown plugin. For syncing Links.txt (a FoldingText file on my computer) here.

* How to record video of an iPhone screen

Liberals and Conservatives

Andrew Herzog, interaction designer


Another reason I avoid email is that I’m constantly battling two things when I write: being succinct (less words) and being friendly (more words).

Talking icon design (in HCDE 508), I showed Nicholas’ #iconaday and highlighed Bryan’s icon as a favorite (along with this photo).

Several times at UW, I’ve used Omaha friends’ projects as examples. Warms my heart.

Love¹ Good™

Back to the gym after a month off. The break was helpful for staying on top of thesis. But I’m feeling the stress anyway, and I’ll bet punching some stuff would’ve been helpful.

+ Friend blogs

⚡ “No comments section.”

Thesis_logo.pdf. I’m happy with this. I still have fun designing logos, figuring out how to seam ideas together.

⚡ “Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made. We are dependent on one another…

Despite thesis deadlines, I’ve been spending full Saturdays catching up on journaling, email, RSS, and Tasks.txt. When I get back to work, I can concentrate knowing I’ve zero’d-out these other things.

A helpful part of getting older has been starting to understand why I feel the things I feel.

* Brik Book LEGO MacBook case

Captain America: Civil War Good™

I hate posing for photos.

No luck on micro:bit (for now). But it’s cool. It was easier than I expected to find something legitimately exciting, and I’ve only just started looking.

The Family Fang Not Great™

12 Monkeys Not Great™

Peer critiques have been an essential part of the whole grad school adventure. There are times when we’re all on the same wavelength, working through ideas, helping each other get unstuck, and it’s a really special thing.


I’ve learned some new things about type and color in grad school. Mostly from TAing and watching Geoff.

A few years ago, I developed an exercise to teach logo design process (animals + department store products). I’ve used it a few times since (and today in HCDE 508). It’s fun, and it works every time.

A crazy-ideal job would combine design research with designing classroom projects.

I’m wondering if it’s possible to frame ‘realness’ in design terms: is the designer’s goal really what the user/audience thinks it is?

My favorite words (shtick and zaftig) are both Yiddish. I also use schmooze, schlub and schlock pretty often.

Waiting to hear back about maybe-interviewing for a possible-job with micro:bit, and it’s possible I’ve exaggerated my chances. (It really sounds awesome, though. And I’m totally qualified. I think.)

I keep forgetting that on the other side of thesis I’ll have a master’s degree. Tight!

Not that it’s been crazy. But it is the longest continuous project of my life (starting January 2015.)

Obama at the 2016 Correspondents’ Dinner

I add 5–10 articles/week to my Instapaper queue and read 1–2. The queue is at 2,024 and I totally intend to read them.

There are 400 movies in my IMDb watchlist and 878 books on my Goodreads bookhelf.

I love living in Ballard. I can walk (walk!) to two grocery stores, a dozen coffee shops, a movie theater, a tailor, MOD Pizza, and Taco Bell. It’s been a dream, and it was one of the goals of the move.

* Trasandina typeface. For thesis logo. I’ve spent weeks looking for the right mix of friendly + squarish + chunky.

April 2016

+ Great™s. I love lists. They help me think.

A collection of lists like this paints a really clear picture of a person. (Jesse’s Resources page is 100% Jesse).

Black Mirror² Good™

Final two thesis interviews. Altogether, I interviewed seven middle schoolers (four girls, three boys, and their parents).

These two were the best yet (mostly because I found better questions on each call). I’ve learned a ton about interviewing by just doing it. It’s been super interesting, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

My favorite questions: “Are there rules to using Instagram? How do you learn them? How do you decide what to post? Do you ever delete photos? Does Instagram represent real life?”

One of my favorite moments in grad school was (during the first quarter), when Tad walked us through an interview transcript from the interviewer’s point of view.

I’m realizing that many of the ideas I keep coming back to (media literacy, super normal, bullshit, taste, social media, graphic designer culture) are all versions of the same thing.

Zootopia Not Great™

Uncanny Valley

For thesis, it’s been hugely motivating knowing I’m always less than 7 days away from having to explain to Annabelle what I’ve been up to.

We do a project in HCDE 508/308 where all of the students design a poster using the same text and images, and I love it. I think a whole class could be built around projects like this. There’s so much to learn from seeing different solutions to the same problem.

I think a reason graphic design can feel frustrating is that a big chunk of the ‘problem’ isn’t really solvable. The success is usually tied to likability (which changes person-to-person and over time) and interestingness (which is relative to all other ideas in the world, now and in the future).

Still, I’m starting layout on thesis lesson plans (where the big decisions are made and the puzzle just needs pieced-together), and that’s fun.

My procrastination is relative. (I’ll often get something done because I have something I want to do less also to-do).

Black Mirror¹ Good™

* Brutalist Websites

⚡ “The work is all that’s happened in the day. It is a process, not a thing.”

⚡ “You have to flip back through old ideas to see what you’ve been thinking. Once you make sharing part of your daily routine, you’ll notice themes and trends emerging…

Eye in the Sky Good™

Recorded a Decisions with Friends with Josh. My new plan is to record these at pivotal moments in friends’ lives. Josh was all in, and I think some valuable things came out of it.

I’m no pro at interviewing, but I want to get there. I really have fun asking questions and tying answers back together.

A Decade of Viral Dance Moves

* Sliding Webcam Cover

Maybe it’s just spring talking, but thesis feels on track, jobs seem possible, and the (long-lost) mojo is returning.

I’m not really a sit-on-the-grass-in-the-sun kind of guy.

► Fuller House¹ Good™

This site has helped me see connections that I maybe wouldn’t’ve without it.

The latest: realizing that I really want to design around teaching and learning. This seems totally obvious now, but I didn’t see it. Duh. Stoked!

A few times a day, I send myself notes for this site. I try to flesh them out and post within a day. If I don’t post notes for a few days, I try to stay true to my original intent. (I posted this on the 20th).

Journal debt stresses me out a little.

* On The Media podcast

+ Portfolio. Maybe 65% complete (content-wise), but the essential projects are here.

Even unfinished, it feels great to have this on the Internet.

I like concepting in writing, but it’s problematic for portfolio-making (leaving me with fewer things to show).

This portfolio is me embracing being totally not interested in graphic design as a job. And I’m feeling great about that decision. (So far.)

For six weeks, I’ve been getting a MOD pizza every Sunday night, and it’s crazy how quickly time is passing between pizzas.

I get so much use out of OS X’s Split View.

My goal is to be far enough ahead on thesis to watch all of the NBA Finals (in June, the last week of school). And The Bachelorette.

Back on portfolio. I’m glad I waited on this. I have a clear sense now of what I’m applying for (design research in classrooms) and what it needs to do (show the process).

Two things from teaching that continue to resonate: alternatives and examples — ways to get thoughts out on the table.

* LEGO Cyclops. Chunky.

⚡ The Principle of Least Astonishment: “intuitive designs don’t surprise us — they just work.”

When I have a deadline coming up (like thesis and portfolio), it’s pretty common for me to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about details. But a great chance to do some reading.

⚡ “I always view writing as sort of sculpture — that I’m carving something out of a lump of clay.”

⚡ When it just has to get out the door

I like how Kemerling’s writing reads like he actually sounds. (That’s one of my goals here.)

I’m looking forward to putting the drum set back in action (after the move).

When I want a candy bar (maybe once a month), I usually go for the Peanut Butter Twix.

Microsoft Research presentation on micro:bit. Asked if they’re looking for people to join the team, and it sounds promising.

Whatever happens next, it’s nice to have recognized that this is the kind of thing I want to do (designing around teaching and learning). And it’s for middle school kids!

When I want a candy bar, I almost always go for the Peanut Butter Twix.

The Voyeur’s Motel

As much as I love longform journalism and movies (and the processes behind them), I’m just a fan and have no interest in trying to do either.

Another aspect of The Freeze that’s been true for me is that people do seem to regularly flake out on getting together.

⚡ “If you’re curious about something, it’s for a reason… it’s a clue on the great scavenger hunt.”

Everybody Wants Some!! Good™

Emotionally, the new MDes students have mostly mirrored us from a year ago. It’s a rough combo (for me: unprecedented reading, writing, egos, critiques, lack of sleep, solitude, and gray skies).

And emotionally, good things have come out of those depths: 1. this site, 2. making exercise a part of my life, 3. recognizing that movies keep me sane, 4. a deeper appreciation of my free time, and 5. a clearer understanding of what really matters to me at the end of the day.

Overall, I’m really happy with the grad school decision.

An Evening of Conversation with Killer Mike

My realest conversations are still (by far) with Omaha friends.

It’d be interesting to interview MDes students, before and after grad school. I’m really interested in this kind of before/after documentation.

This interview with Donovan is essentially my ‘before’. (I never followed through on solveproblems.tm or Night School™.)

Since grad school, I’m even more motivated to make sure I’m writing as clearly as I can. It’s frustrating to read academic writing (especially about design) that feels inaccessible to regular people.

I love coats.

In grad school, I’ve learned to legitimately enjoy having my work critiqued.

It’s been fun to get into the weeds and find better ideas. But the focus has been almost exclusively on problem-finding, and I don’t have a good sense of what I’ve been doing well.

Jim Henson: How to Make a Puppet

I usually procrastinate on important things. But I’m learning that if I take a small step (like opening a file), it’s enough to keep going.

* LEGO Motorized Mini Golf Maze

Midnight Special Not Great™

⚡ “Make the spiritual search more important than the problem.” The process.

* Certified Fresh + Streaming


Spring Not Great™

March 2016

Finally met (role model nice guy) Mike Fretto in person. (The first person I talked to about UW MDes in 2013.)

I’d love to find a job that combines design research + education. I think my portfolio could actually make a good case for it, too.

Being a person looking for a job, I worry that people think I’m networking when I’m just being friendly.

First day of HCDE 508 — the last class I’m scheduled to TA/teach. That hasn’t been true since I started teaching five years ago (this month).

I’ll really miss in-class exercises. I love starting with a small idea and trusting students to run with it — not knowing where they’ll take it, but knowing what they’ll discover. It’s a blast, and there’s nothing else like it.

My ability to communicate clearly in person is affected (mostly) by how often I do it and how well I sleep.

Locked myself out of my apartment. I didn’t have my phone to call my roommate. And even if I could call from another phone, I don’t know her number. Whoops. But it was interesting to realize that I actually was out of options. (A neighbor came home and let me in later.)

Talking about job plans, I’ve been saying “anything could happen”. I love change. But more than any other point in my life, I’m as anxious as excited about what that could (will) mean. The deadline to stay in Seattle is August 15th (when my lease is up).

I do not like anybody putting limits on what anybody wants to do in their life.… These are really important issues to me as a human being and creatively. If someone said, ‘You know… I’m thinking of doing this or that…,’ I’d say, man, you’ve got to go for that. It sounds like that’s what you want to do.”

⚡ “we’re living inside commercials

The Lookout Good™

Still working on my portfolio. But I’m happy with what’s taking shape. Not surprisingly, I’ve spent most of the time trying to maximize its not-specialness (content > container).

I think a lot about authenticity/realness (in graphic design and life).

How to Be a Good Listener

⚡ “A big worry in a competitive world is that we feel we can’t afford to be honest about how distressed we are.”

Hot Rhythmic playlist. I listen to most music for the beats.

I’ve gotten flak for listening to pop. But I love it, and I’m not embarrassed by it.

This feeling — that people shouldn’t feel shame for being themselves (about anything) — underlies a lot of what I spend time thinking about and hope to help people with (somehow).

I started posting to this site a year ago, and it’s become a real part of my life.

I’m in a weird place, professionally. I’m most interested in design research (which I haven’t done professionally), most able to demonstrate graphic design experience (which I don’t want to do professionally), and most qualified to teach (which I love, but feel ready to move on from professionally).

If I buy a box of graham crackers or vanilla wafers, they’ll be gone in three days.

Batman v Superman Not Great™

Devoting this week (Spring Break) to my portfolio. I don’t have much to show (visually) from grad school. But I’ve learned a lot about design process, research, writing. If I can show that (conceptually), I’ll be happy.

⚡ “sympathetic joy”: the opposite of jealousy

Ocean Eyes (Astronomyy Edit)

Last day of Winter quarter (⅔ through thesis). I’m behind schedule, but the hard part’s done (finding a problem and a solution), I know exactly what’s left to do, and I’m damn happy with what’s done.

So far, thesis isn’t scary, overwhelming, or frustrating. I’m having fun, and I’ve had plenty of time for movies, reading, and boxing in between.

Deadpool Not Great™

Grad school’s been isolating (there’s just a lot of solo work to do). I’ve appreciated the time to focus/think. But I’m really ready to be a person in the world again.

The American Man at Age TenSusan Orlean interview

⚡ “What’s the most important thing in the world?” “Game Boy. The best magazines are Nintendo Power,… and Mad Magazine. The best artist… is Jim Davis.” Also me in 1992 (age 12).

Graduation is 12 weeks from today. By then, I’ll have finished thesis, have the exhibit up, have given the presentation, have written the process book, and (hopefully) have found a job.

Your Sister’s Sister Good™

⚡ “A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.”

♪ Vees and Exes

I only spend 10–20 hours/month on freelance, but it’s started to feel like a lot of free time to lose.

⚡ “Spursy”: practical and selfless. I love The Spurs.

⚡ “We are a digital experience studio, working with global brands.” Anything could happen job-wise, but I’m not into in this kind of thing.

Another reason I’m ready to move on from teaching graphic design is that — although I have fun tweaking tiny details in my projects — I don’t think they’re important. And it feels false to tell students they are. Which isn’t helpful in an industry that adores super-slick perfection.

* Feedbin Email to RSS

I can’t exactly prove it, but I think I’d be really good at design research.

I edit posts here to tweak line breaks. Mostly to avoid widows, but also because I like the editing challenge.

* Type Sample bookmarklet

Spent all weekend on thesis app, and I’m at the point where I’m having fun. It’s been the usual arc when I make things: 1. I procrastinate to avoid 2. the anxiety of decision-making, until eventually 3. I’m excited to wake up and get back to it.

I feel so much better after making the big decisions: color, type (Merriweather, Roboto, Miso, Rubik), and shtick (halftone).

10 Cloverfield Lane Good™

There’s really nothing I look forward to more than a new, well-reviewed movie. Movies have become a crazy important thing in my life (especially since the move).

I still can’t get over how Seattle strangers interact. Often (navigating a crowd, walking down an aisle at the theater, holding a door), people won’t make eye contact.

I’ve switched to all free or paid-for fonts (movies, too).

► The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Not Great™

* PDF Expert app

Dropping in on the juniors and sophomores to see final projects this quarter (the first of four classes today). I love watching these kids learn, change, and find their way. The process!

Compared to any portfolio I could build (am building), this site is the best document I’ve ever had of how I think and what design means to me.

I didn’t get the LEGO job, but I’ll try again.

* “Joe said that every decision should have a reason behind it.” — HCDE 308 student

Winky Dink and You

I often journal from the bus.

+ Added an RSS feed here, updated after 24-hours (so I have time to edit).

* EmojiOne open-source emojis. For thesis app mockups.

Work from Home

Sometimes I’ll think about something for awhile before I figure out why. I’ve had a vague sourness towards graphic designer culture (for years), but it’s really come into focus since the move. I’m making notes for an essay.

Working on the thesis app. On graphic design projects (in this case, UI) I’m always battling to balance the expectation of special with my preference for not-special.

* A Practice for Everyday Life graphic design studio. This feels like that balance.

I don’t enjoy the choosing-typefaces-and-finding-the-shtick phase of graphic design projects. But once those limitations are set, I do enjoy the making-the-pieces-fit phase. That’s always been true.

⚡ “intellectualizing emotions

Two more thesis interviews. It’s interesting (every time) to hear kids’ response to: “tell me about this photo.” The interviews are my favorite part of thesis.

Back in Time. Huge fan of Back to the Future. II is my favorite, for the same reason I like Toy Story 3 and Creed: the problem-solved of having mined depth from a finished story.

I’m always thinking about how things come to be. The process. I love it.

An unexpected thing about grad school is that in thesis year (now), the job search is the real priority.

Victoria Good™

* Pivot screen rotation app. For reading comics on my MacBook (post-iPad decision).

Bought an iPad for thesis. I’d planned to keep it for myself, but within a day, I changed my mind. My current three-gadget system (MacBook, iPhone, Kindle Paperwhite) feels right.

I avoid adding gadgets to my life. Passwords, syncing, and charging feel like extra worry.

I chew way more gum than anyone else I know.

⚡ “implicatory denial”: disputing a fact to avoid the effects of admitting it’s true.

February 2016

I reference saved links on this site quite a bit.

I think about food a lot, and I definitely use it as a reward/diversion (including now, MOD Pizza Sunday Nights).

I’ve been itching to work on my portfolio site (unexpectedly) — after realizing it should include teaching and personal projects, too. That sounds fun.

Spent the day with Semplice, and it’s the building-block interface I was hoping for.

* Dynamic Dummy Image Generator

⚡ How to Build a Perfect Team. I’m looking forward to being on a team again.

I think about this Garry Shandling profile often. “The act is the process” is maybe the essential theme of this phase of my life.

Frequencies Good™

On my walk to the bus, Bob the Barber still waves every day from across the street.

Active Learning Workshop. At UW, I’ve spent time learning about teaching (in workshops, lectures, and two classes), and I like being around teachers.

I’m still really interested in the things classrooms can do. Maybe a job that combines education and design?

I’m having fun writing lesson plans (for thesis).

Media literacy is taught mostly by asking questions, and I’ve been thinking a lot about them (in these lessons, thesis interviews, and design research jobs). I’ve been practicing.

Closer. Discover Weekly continues to deliver.

When I like a song, I save it to my * playlist. I’ll listen to it 15–20 times (over a few weeks) and eventually move it to the 20×× Good™ or Great™ playlist. (Great™ songs are posted on this page.)

I started saving annual Great™ playlists in 2006.

One of the big changes in my life since grad school is that I’m hyper-aware of time trade-offs (time spent on one thing is time not-spent on other things). And of the essentialness of making time for movies, boxing, and Taco Bell Friday Nights.


Applied for a job at LEGO. No matter what happens next, I’m stoked to be at a point in my career where I feel qualified to have done this.

99 Homes Good™

I think better and procrastinate less if I focus on one project a day. Today and tomorrow, portfolio. Sunday, freelance (Film Streams).

⚡ “bullshit is [a construction] absent of any concern for the truth.… What matters is that you’re paying attention.”

Reassuring thesis feedback from a middle school teacher. I pitched him on testing my lesson plans with his class, and he’s in.

My first Husky hoops game to celebrate this solid week.

* Transparent Folders. I discovered these at UW last year, and I love them.

* markdownID. For converting FoldingText (where I write everything) to InDesign.

Thinking about examples. In a presentation, I said an icon for ‘chai’ should feel distinct from an icon for ‘coffee’, and that clicked. Two weeks ago, I used Where’s Waldo to explain whitespace and contrast.

I look forward to catching up with RSS every morning. It’s a rare anxiety-reducing technology in my life.

I like seeing the phrase ‘graphic design’ in use (instead of just ‘design’). I try to use my design words carefully, and I credit Burroughs for that.


* LEGO Boxer Minifig. New desk buddy.

I’m using thesis reading/writing as a chance to spend more time in UW’s Reading Room.

Where to Invade Next Good™

⚡ Beginnings (e.g. Teller, Chris Ware)

⚡ “a child’s eyes rove over the whole field of phenomena, and suddenly one thing clicks, and it’s like magnets clicking together to form a chain that the person is attached to for the rest of their lives.”

Halfway through Winter quarter. I haven’t been meeting my goal of 40 thesis hours/week, but I’m happy with the progress.

It’s a choice. I’ve been making time for reading, movies, and boxing. I’ve scoped thesis to a point that still feels fun, valuable, and manageable. Really enjoying the thesis-life balance.

NBA’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge is inaccurately named

Charade Not Great™

I’ve been to three design research talks this month (Adobe, Amazon, Microsoft). I might not be qualified, but I think I’d be good at it.

In all three, the graphic design of the slides was (encouragingly) not special.

⚡ Being 12 podcast + video

* SleepMute app

↓ Thesis_exhibit_draft.pdf

* BLOKK mockup font

* Dating a memoirist illustration

A few times at UW, I’ve used Omaha student sketches (from Jesse, Molly, Josh, Sara, Matt) as examples. A world-colliding moment, and no one else has any idea.

I love the word ‘chunk’, and I do it often (graphic design, writing, time management). This site is chunked.

* IDEO Design Kit

* appear.in video chats

⚡ “I write to figure out what I think about anything.”

⚡ Literacy for the 21st Century. Realizing I’m so compelled by media literacy because it’s design’s complement. If design is the process of reaching a goal, media literacy is turning around and retracing the steps.

Been checking for jobs at LEGO, Nintendo, Wikimedia, Longform, IFTTT, Dropbox, Spotify, Readdle, Google, and Amazon (Kindle) — companies that’re already a big part of my life.

I’m definitely open to jobs that aren’t specifically labeled as ‘design’. Every job is in some way design.

I’m pretty productive if I schedule a movie at the end of the day, knowing there’s a time limit and trip to the theater on the other side.

Anomalisa Not Good™

♪ Apogee (RJD2 Remix)

I’m getting better at the speed bag and jump rope.

Enemy Good™

⚡ If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS

Read a job posting for a graphic designer, described as someone who wants to “make things beautiful”. Not that beauty isn’t valuable, but I’m not motivated by or good at it. I’m hoping to find a job where beautiful (delightful, interesting, special) isn’t a goal.

For the first time since the move, a day full of good conversations in lots of places. I underestimated how much a new city + grad school would affect even the smallest moments with people — and how important those are to me.

I’m looking forward to finding a job, being on a team, and making days like this a regular thing again.

Fourth thesis interview with a middle schooler. I don’t think I’m very good at interviewing, but I’m excited to keep practicing.

* Pixeljoint. I love obvious limitations (pixels, LEGO).

I feel anxious standing in front of classes. It hasn’t changed much/at-all since my first class (in 2011). Despite feeling confident in my teaching and otherwise having fun being in class.

It’s cool, though. It’s never been my goal to be a standing-in-front-of-class teacher.

January 2016

Thesis_proposal_3.0.pdf. Not required, and I’m well into this. But I’ve learned in grad school that explaining an idea to someone else is helpful for even figuring out what I mean.

Actually, I knew this from teaching. But I’m embracing writing as a tool now more than ever (also: this site).

And I still have fun setting type and laying stuff out.

45 Years Good™

Locke Good™

Thesis is coming together, but however it turns out, my favorite grad-school-era project will be this site.

A Question-based Design Approach lecture. I’m curious about design research as a job (it’s interviewing people, mostly about decision-making).

My dream job has always been (and still is) LEGO-anything.

Jane Got a Gun Not Great™

Journalist audio editor

* Chrome → Simplify page. I’m always trying to find the cleanest way to save PDFs of favorite articles (which I do 1–3 times/week).

Talking to Justin last month, he described his blog as “reporting” (observations and investigations, presented publicly). That’s been helpful for thinking about this site.

* jesseharding.us

⚡ My secret life

My first trip to Seattle was Nov 2013, and I stayed in a part of downtown I hadn’t visited again until today. I reconnected with memories I had (then) of thinking about a possible future (now).

So is Seattle what I imagined? It sure is. I love being an urban dweller. I’m at home ideologically. It feels full of potential in every way.

I really look forward to new episodes of The Bachelor. Like seriously, which has been a complex thing to explain. (And embarrassing, but I’m mostly over that.)

Here’s why: I’m fascinated by relationships, feelings, and choices — especially people talking about them. And women in hot tubs.

Boxing takes 2½ hours round-trip, and it feels like a chunk of my day. But I never regret making time for it. Thesis or job or whatever, the things I do in between are the point.

Reading this J.J. Abrams profile, and his career (like lots of people) started in middle school. Each of the kids I’ve interviewed has a serious hobby already (producing music, playing football, flying planes).

I decided on (graphic) design in middle school. And here I am, working on an MDes.

Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show

One of the things I’ve learned from teaching is the power of examples. In thesis interviews, I’ve been explaining ‘ideal’ with examples (mostly from @socality), and it’s working.

* Modern Love podcast

First thesis interview with a middle schooler, and it couldn’t have gone better. He was excited to talk about his Instagram decision-making and had zero problem with real vs. ideal. This was a moment of truth for thesis, and it feels like a giant check mark.

⚡ “when [people] create messages, they make choices, intentionally using the frame to show some things, but leave others out.” Media literacy is really about the decisions everyone makes when they communicate all the time.

* Mecabricks LEGO modeler

Reading more about real vs. ideal self and reconsidering idealized social media messages as (surprisingly) positive things. They’re “hopes, aspirations, or wishes” — goals (everyday design).

The next step is showing kids that the messages they’re reading (and comparing themselves to) might be someone else’s goals — and so, also not reality (yet).

The Revenant Good™

Finally licensed/insured my car. I said before the move that I couldn’t wait to be car-less in Seattle. Turns out even excellent public transit can be impractical (groceries, boxing), and I missed driving.

* Metromile per-mile car insurance. Because I’ll still mostly use the bus.

I avoid emails because it takes me so long to write them. I’ll often edit (rearrange, condense) a five-sentence email for 15 minutes. For longer emails, sometimes I’ll pause and come back later. It’s absurd, but I think it’s important to send concise emails, and it just takes time.

Writing recommendations for a few favorite sophomores, and it’s easy because they’re really good at being students: asking questions, making changes, just proactively and egolessly learning.

Grad school’s been a complex balance of feeling like I need to prove myself, but also feeling mostly out of my depth. I think I’ve gotten better at it over the last year, and I credit the sophomores (and now-juniors) for showing how it’s done.

Turn to Salt

Safety Not Guaranteed Good™

⚡ “big talk”: meaningful conversation; the opposite of small talk

⚡ “I think I have an antenna that picks up on what other people are feeling.… But it also makes me… nervous, insecure.”

Sampling social media apps (for thesis), and I’m legitimately into Yik Yak. It’s interesting that when people are anonymous, they veer immediately to the real stuff (feelings and relationships).

I’m really interested in the dynamics of relationships. Not just romantic ones. But all the ways people negotiate the other people in their lives.

For most projects, my initial ‘sketching’ is just list-making (in FoldingText). It helps me think when I can edit and keep ideas organized.

I’m going to try to get a job without LinkedIn. I have no idea if that’s realistic.

⚡ “What I do for a living is try to help people share things about themselves that might be of value to other people.”

99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style. So up my alley.

Spent the week burning through last-minute thesis reading, and I’m glad I did. I think this study on real, ideal, and false selves is the thing I needed to tie everything together. Hopefully.

* Karan Singh, illustrator

Shattered Glass Not Great™

* LEGO Microsquare™ {2}

⚡ Oh my Gosh, Zilla

I’ll take any excuse to avoid writing/replying-to emails.

A thing I miss about teaching (vs. TAing) is designing lessons/critiques. I’ve had a few chances at UW (one today in HCDE 308). I love the design challenge, but especially: watching it play out (not knowing exactly where students will take it, but knowing it’ll be helpful and fun).

+ Thesis in days. It’s helpful for me to visualize time. (I started doing this after seeing Your Life in Weeks.)

This American Life: Middle School

Spent 47½ hours this week reading/prepping for thesis (all in Pomodoros). Blocking out time was really helpful. I’m feeling ready.

Thesis is (for real this time): a mobile journaling app for middle schoolers that helps deconstruct and reflect on social media messages.

The next five months will be full of thesising and job-searching, but I want to keep making time for movies, reading, and boxing.

The Skeleton Twins Good™

⚡ How Jerry Seinfeld Writes a Joke

♪ In 2 Minds

Grad school’s given me lots of new things to think about (in every part of my life). But academically, the big ideas are 1. everyday design and 2. media literacy. Things I loved already but can now wrap my arms around.

⚡ “the best way for readers (or media consumers) to take control of their lives is [for] ‘the reader… to become a writer.’” Not literally writing: design.

Finding the Self in Selfie. Several people recommended this, and it’s fascinating. The kinds of interviews I’ll maybe do some day.

Comet Not Great™

December 2015

I usually bring cookies to parties.

This Is a Generic Brand Video

* LEGO Architecture Skylines

* RadioActive Podcast. Workshops for Seattle highschoolers to learn radio production. I know zero about radio, but I’d love to be a part of this.

Starting today, thesis is my job. Planning on eight hours/day, five days/week until June.

Two things I said about this site: 1. I’m the primary audience, 2. journaling feels as essential to my health as exercise.

+ The best summer of my life

► Star Wars: Episode VII Not Great™

Spirit_Fox_logo.png. Goals: a fox + a gleaming eye + match SOLID70 typeface. Even if this goes nowhere, I enjoyed figuring it out.

Teen Voices: Dating in the Digital Age

Carol Good™

Writing here, I’m totally OK knowing that I’ll contradict myself eventually (so far: jobs and thesis). And I don’t mind. My goal is to capture thoughts/feelings accurately, as they happen. I think change is healthy, and documenting it has helped me make sense of it.

* Ji Ga Zo Puzzle. I’m into infinite systems.

The Big Short Good™

→ Seattle

I saw most of my favorite people this week, and I miss them a lot. But I’ve felt best lately at home reading, writing, watching, thinking. And I’m ready to head back.

I have no control over when solo modes start or end. It’s not antisocial, just pro-individual. It’s complex — being motivated by people/relationships — but choosing mostly to be alone.

I miss Runza. (It’s a reason I’mflexitarian.)

I don’t miss 20°.

* LEGO Disney Princesses

Beginners Good™

On this trip, a lot of people have asked about dating in Seattle. The truth is that grad school’s been hilariously unhelpful for meeting single women in their 30’s.

On my Omaha trips, most days are back-to-back coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks (each with different people). It wears me out, and I eat way too much. But I don’t feel like I have time to lose while I’m here.

Nick and Kara call me “uncle Joe” around Tommy, and it really means a lot.

→ Omaha

Storytime 3. Probably the last time I’ll host. I love the format (the presenters were top-notch this year). But my Omaha connection is fading. And crowds are weird.

Still, I feel great with a microphone (despite being socially anxious otherwise). I don’t understand why.

⚡ “Boxing… carries within it the first definition of the word. It suggests geometry — lines and angles…

The Dream Boat

→ Omaha. Missed a flight for the first time in my life.

Two of my heros live nearby: Kirby Ferguson (Portland) and Tony Zhou (Vancouver).

The Girl in the Book Good™

Last class with the sophomores. Spending the year with these kids and the now-juniors has been an ideal way to wind down the graphic-design-teaching chapter of my life.

I can’t not get schmaltzy on the last day of classes. It’s embarrassing (although I held it together today).

* Home Alone album cover

* Reeder RSS reader app

At boxing, spent time on the speed bag and jump rope (both way harder than they look). Since undergrad, it’s been really helpful to have personal, objective goals in my life (piano, drums, boxing). That offset the external, subjective unknowableness of design as a job.

Rule of three (writing). Making the grid (x/x/x) = a list. Breaking the grid (x/x/y) = comedy.

My favorite kind of design is instructional — building sandboxes (exercises/projects) for students to explore ideas. I’m just realizing that I haven’t done this since the move. It’s another teaching-thing I’d like to keep doing (without having a traditional teaching job).

It’s really likely that thesis is going to be a sandbox (for middle schoolers, exploring how social media posts are constructed). And I’m stoked to be back in my element.

* Open Culture blog

► The Hunger Games: Mockingjay² Not Great™

This week, I was told that (ideally) I should be scared about thesis (I’m not). I don’t think it’s OK/healthy for any part of school to feel scary, lonely, or punishing. Or helpful for teachers to cultivate those ideas. Thesis research has been fun, and I’m already doing better work because of it.

I’m considering a graphic redesign of this site. Right now, it’s not interesting (or special) on purpose. (I think, usually, interesting is a distraction from clearly communicating.) But I also think it’s possible to be both.

Some of my favorite people are super clear communicators (Obama, Mr. Rogers, Louis CK). And everyone is interesting.

⚡ “If I felt it, it’s for writing.” I journal all of the important stuff. Mostly here (but sometimes off the record).

⚡ “I really like people, and I also don’t always know what to do with them.… There’s something about my work that speaks to a deep discomfort with being in society.” I didn’t save this when I read it (15 Sep 2015), but I’ve thought about it a lot since.

Days like today — when I switch between teaching (giving feedback on sophomores’ final projects) and studenting (getting feedback on my thesis proposal) — are seesaws of confidence.

And still, I’m feeling good about thesis. But I think some design teachers underestimate the emotional impact of criticsm that’s not balanced with supportive feedback. (This would’ve been an interesting thesis topic, too.)

I’ve been skeptical of the Freeze. But I can’t get over the weirdness of how people ignore each other in public here.

My Projects. Heard this two years ago and finally found it!

I don’t want my haircut to be a distraction at Storytime 3, so I’m going to wear this hat (Farkus-style).

* Sworkit exercise app

⚡ “An emotion is what you feel when something that matters is happening to you.”

⚡ Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Master of None¹ Good™

Went to my first AIGA party thing in Seattle. The move has felt like a reset (professionally, personally, interpersonally). That was intentional, and it’s been really positive. But sometimes, very weird.

Thesis_poster.pdf. Lots of positive, helpful feedback tonight. Thesis 3.0 is really coming together.

My first trip to Seattle was two years ago (for the MDes poster show).

When people ask what happened to thesis 1.0, I say I thought it was maybe too big. But it’s also because I’ve embraced that I’m just not interested in regular teaching (standing in front of classes) anymore.

* “Joe is like Adele a dad. Listen to everything he says.” — juniors (to the sophomores)

Being a TA for these two groups of students has been my favorite part of grad school.

November 2015

If I have cookies, I’ll probably eat a bunch and decide later it was too many. And if there are cookies left, I’ll probably do the same thing the next day.

* Chris Ware’s animated New Yorker cover. Absolutely my favorite graphic designer.

⚡ “There’s so much beauty in the pain of [playing like shit].”

Went to boxing class for the first time in 10 days (I’ve had a cold). I really missed it, as a hobby and as exercise.

Spent the rest of the day drawing for this week’s thesis poster show. I rarely sit down and draw anymore (as a kid, I did constantly). It takes a lot of tweaking for me to be satisfied (that’s always been true), but today was fun.

* Marie Mainguy, illustrator

Women at Work

* LEGO Sisyphus kinetic sculpture

super normal: design that’s intentionally not special.

Creed Good™ Great™

Mr. Robot¹ Good™

On Mentoring

* Rubik’s Cube World Record. There’s something really “fuck you” about kids who are totally into something that isn’t objectively cool.


A few reasons I’m not into holidays. 1. I’m skeptical of choices based on traditions. 2. I don’t like to cook. 3. I try not to spend money on things that only last a day.

Getting encouraging feedback on thesis so far. And I have enough research to justify designing for middle schoolers (which I was hoping for).

* WordPress Desktop app

If I could edit my quote on design, I’d use ‘invisible’ instead of ‘transparent’ (which does mean invisible, but weirdly, also the opposite). It also feels less pretentious.

Words I use a lot: feel, think, sweet, cool, weird, definitely, totally, really, a lot.

Reading for thesis, I realized that saying social media messages are constructed is saying they are *designed*. (Every tweet, Instagram, Like, comment has a goal and a thought process behind it.)

I mention Omaha in conversation at least once a day.

* Smallpdf

Last day of DYH. It’s been a complex ten weeks. Met some cool kids, but (as with YTYM), saw that spoiled by group dynamics, students being mismatched to the class, and teachers (including me) without the skills to (even still) make it a place kids wanted to be.

For thesis, I have the dots (research), and now I’m looking for connections (project ideas). I’m confident that somewhere in the middle of social media + media literacy + adolescent development there’s a cool project waiting.

Trying a new time management plan: combining Spielberg’s “one for me, one for them” and Pomodoro. Alternating fun and work (an hour each).

Fun = reading, watching, journaling, RSS. Work = thesis, grading, emails, calls.

* Tadam timer app

I like knowing that I’m younger than guys still playing in the NBA (Kobe, Tim, KG).

✓ The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory Good™

Thinking about goals for a (probably graphic design) job after school, I’d love to focus on stuff I enjoy (typography, understandability). And divorce from the more decorative stuff I’m not good at (branding, marketing).

Writing tips and the psychology behind them

⚡ What Comes After Religion?

* “Just a little taco bell & movie money.” — Mom

Screen printing is one of the few practical things I can do.

► Spotlight Good™

As a TA, I’m not good at quickly coming up with specific, alternative ideas for students to use. But I think I’m good at understanding their process and figuring out which ideas to keep and where there’s still potential.

⚡ “At some point,… you stop writing hits. And when the hits go away, they almost never come back.” Happens to pop producers, but also boxers, NBA players, professional wrestlers, movie directors, graphic designers.

Gotham City Through Time

The first scene of The Dark Knight is my clearest memory of sitting in a movie theater and just being totally into it.


Am I excited about thesis 3.0? Definitely. Would I be doing it for fun on my own? Probably not. Am I surprised — after what I’ve been thinking about life, design, and work — that my thesis isn’t a true passion project? Yes.

I love pants.

Becoming Your Own Fan

Adventure Of A Lifetime

* MUJI Cabins + Vertical House. I’ll live in a tiny house some day if I can.

* Rumsey Taylor, editorial designer (e.g. The Completist)

+ Sparano Scale™. Updated the 2010 post from the Oxide blog.

I spend 60–90 minutes a day writing and editing this site. More if I’m messing with code.

Generally, I don’t communicate clearly. But writing every day (here) has been excellent practice. And it’s helping.

As a talker, though, I think I’m still pretty confusing.

Thesis 3.0 pitch went well, so the topic (kids’ social media literacy) is likely it.

When I present ideas at UW, I wonder if the graphic design choices around the presentation itself are distracting. Not the type, color, layout I’ve chosen. But just that those choices are there at all.

I think a lot about how being (having been) a graphic designer adds a layer of expectation/distraction to communicating ideas.

* Print Edit plugin. For cleaning up research PDFs.

Bieber, Diplo and Skrillex Make a Hit

I’m learning a lot about CSS by monkeying around on this site.

⚡ “conversation smoosh”: the problematic way that Twitter, texting, and commenting are a hybrid of talking and writing (immediate, but immovable).

Nearing big decisions, it’s helpful for me to spend a day absorbed in research, then sleep on it. I usually wake up feeling something definitively.

Like, I think thesis 3.0 is: a social media literacy website for kids. Explaining ideas like “all media messages are constructed” in plain language with illustrations. Cool.

October 2015

My Writing Education: A Time Line

They could mock us, disregard us, use us to prop themselves up. But our teachers, if they are good, instead… take us seriously.”

Experimenter Good™

Got my Washington driver’s license, and I’m stoked. Feels like a cool-club membership. Also makes the move (and haircut) official commitments.


Truth Not Great™

* Producer’s Place

Anna Sale interview. Big fan of Death, Sex & Money.

Spent the week thinking about topics for thesis 3.0. Two feel interesting and important (both for kids): 1. the effects of social media, and 2. the value of journaling.

The committee nixed thesis 2.0 because it was research (not problem-solving). That’s true. I saw it as the start of a bigger project (that I’d continue after school).

I still love problem-solving. But I’m excited about the difference between designing around goals (proactive, internally motivated) instead of problems (reactive, externally motivated).

We Men of Science

⚡ “The future is… [either] determined by chance and necessity or formed by intention through design.” Design is being an active participant in your life.

Burning Down the Mouse

* Esquire Classic Podcast

I’d categorize this site as “socialless sharing”. Along with Casey’s idea of “public-private”.

Those contradictions have been helpful. Compared to my tweets/Instagrams, I feel more honest here (knowing ideas can’t be liked/not-liked). But compared to my private journal, I’m more objective (knowing other people will read it).

A Zuckerberg Kind of Love

Sixth week of DYH. Phones (and chargers, earbuds) are really important to students. I think a lot about having been a kid (mostly) pre-Internet. And how that switch will only happen once in history.

One House


I try to avoid hangout things that feel like performances (Apples to Apples, Catch Phrase, karaoke, bowling).

Crimson Peak Not Great™

Grad school hasn’t been a very supportive place to explore ideas. But that feeling is the main reason I finally launched this site.

* MUJI Angle File. I feel better about containers if I can see inside.

Terry Gross and the Art of Opening Up

First thesis committee meeting. Project 2.0 (interviews about everyday design) was rejected. My interests continue to feel not academic enough. But that’s maybe why they feel valuable. Considering 2.5 (maybe 3.0).

Inspiration I brought: Inside Obama’s Decisions, Aspects of Everyday Design, The  And, Decisions with Friends, Storytime.

During phone calls, I’m usually walking around the room.

* Pop-Up Magazine Good™

In meditating and boxing, it all comes back to breathing.

* LEGO Winter Toy Shop toys

Jesse is my role model for designing a life. He asks himself if he’s where he wants to be, sets new goals, figures out how to get there, then gets there, and asks again.

Immanuel Kant

This year, I recorded interviews with Adam, Jesse, Ashley, and Todd. A chance to practice, and to capture my favorite people thinking out loud.

I’m listening to them for the first time, and thinking: 1. I feel lucky to have these people as friends, 2. interviewing is fun, and 3. I don’t think anyone in Seattle has met this Joe.

+ Decisions with Friends

Steve Jobs Good™

Fall movie season is my favorite time of year.

I try to tell the teachers in my life what I value about their classes. (Today: boxing trainer Ray.) Worthwhile classes are designed to be.

Miyamoto on Super Mario Bros. World 1-1

Fifth week of DYH. One-on-one conversations with students feel more valuable than talking to whole classes.

I think about this a lot: the infinite interestingness of a person. And how easily that’s lost in groups.

I miss Vala’s Pumpkin Patch.

On Writing Well Great™

⚡ “[Humor is] the strange incongruity between our aspiration and our achievement.” Comedy = design failure?

⚡ “Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it.”

Introduced mom to the idea that design is a process of reaching goals, and she got it. It’s been easier to explain this to people who don’t call themselves designers.

⚡ “I don’t like to write; I like to have written. But I love to rewrite.”

There are two reasons I talk about Taco Bell as often as I do. 1. I genuinely like it. 2. People seem to think it’s cool/funny/OK to criticize liking Taco Bell. But I don’t believe that anyone has better taste in anything than anyone else.

It’s one of the goals of this site: to document the things I like, do, and think about — because just having done those things makes them totally valid things to do.

Already memorized all 63 sophomores’ names, and I’m pretty stoked about it.

Sicario Good™

It’s obvious now that what I love about teaching is being around people finding their way in the world. And having a chance to help while I’m there. Being a TA is mostly only those things, and it’s been helpful to see them in isolation.

I’m not into art.

I’m OK knowing that the stuff I’m most interested in doing and thinking about isn’t available as a job.

Sometimes I’ll eat a whole block of graham crackers.

Writing by Omission

In applying design to life, a few people have told me that I’m approaching fuzzy and unknowable things too logically. But I don’t see design as entirely logical. I really trust my feelings (professionally and personally). The exciting opportunity is in embracing that design can (and usually does) integrate thinking and feeling already.

⚡ “it’s in solitude that we learn to think for ourselves and develop a stable sense of self, which is essential for taking other people as they are.”

⚡ “evidence of design ability… allows an archeologist to distinguish between a species that is not quite human and one that is.”

The Martian Good™

Third week of DYH. In this and YTYM, most students signed up without being into design or filmmaking already. And in both classes, there’s a lot of (distracting, frustrating) classroom management instead of designing stuff and making films. Lots of possible explanations, but I think there’s a connection.

September 2015

Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation?

School starts tomorrow. Which makes this the last day of probably the best summer of my life. I watched a lot. Read a lot. Connected new ideas for thesis (and beyond). Reached important conclusions about my relationship to teaching and design. Made exercise a real part of my life. Kept a quality sleep schedule. Just, like, really caught-up on stuff and got on top of things. And that’s a rare and satisfying place to be.

Eating the Dinosaur Good™

surrogate activity: doing something to have something to do; an artificial goal.

Thesis_calendar.xls. The next 34 weeks. Making spreadsheets is fun.

Second week of DYH. One of the most important things a teacher could teach (in every classroom) is how to communicate. Mostly by example.

⚡ “All human creations involve design, though some of the most successful designs are so intuitive that we may take them for granted unless we stop to study them closely.”

Sonic Highways Good™

I’ve said before that art and advertising aren’t design. But I see it differently now. Both have goals, process, and decisions. So does making a cheeseburger.

* Everything is a Remix: References. Grad school has taught me the magic of bibliographies.

I edit most things here after they’re published. Usually in tiny ways (to be more succinct or accurate). My initial plan (2012/13) was to journal on paper, scan, and upload, which now seems totally ridiculous.

I’m really happy I joined TITLE. It’s a hell of a workout, and punching stuff is legitimately fun.

Right now, I’m most interested in communicating through examples (from other people, instead of things I’ve made). It’s a strategy I learned from teaching and all the video essays I can’t get enough of.

⚡ “We all have this black box inside ourselves…, and being interviewed allows us to open it and sort through the contents.” I’m really interested in what interviewing can do for people.

I’m probably turning my thesis into a collection of interviews (with kids?) about everyday design.

Retiring #solveproblems. I think I’ve found a more flexible, meaningful, succinct way to capture the same idea. Feels like saying goodbye to a friend.

* LEGO Toys R Us. An add-on to one of my favorite sets.

Somewhere in the middle of my summer reading (fun and research), I landed on a new personal definition of design: a process (any process) used to reach a goal.

Second day of DYH. Tested the new definition, and it clicked.

⚡ “What I hope we’ve done… is make something that wasn’t here before.”

* The Nerdwriter video essays

* Pocket Casts podcast app

First day of DYH. In the last few years, I’ve learned a lot by just putting myself in new places (mostly classrooms) and seeing how I feel.

⚡ Everything is a Remix (Remastered). I’ve thought-about/recommended this so many times. I’d like to do something as valuable some day.

→ Seattle

It’s in writing ideas down and talking them out with friends that I discover — not just how to say things — but what they even mean to me.

⚡ Multi-tasking: how to survive in the 21st century

⚡ Zeigarnik Effect: when our minds are preoccupied with unresolved tasks.

End Theme

I love salad bars.

Updating Omaha friends on my plans, it maybe sounds like I’ve lost interest in the things I set out to do. But I just have a clearer understanding of which parts of which things I’ve loved the whole time. It feels like I’m isolating the parts and connecting them into a super special new thing.

When I talk about decision-making, people sometimes assume I’m talking about: 1. right and wrong decisions, or 2. having control over everything. But my goal is to help people 1. feel confident in whatever decisions they make, and 2. feel in control despite life’s limitations. I need to be clearer about that.

→ Omaha

I get super reflective while I’m traveling.

✓ Man’s Search for Meaning. Connected some fundamental dots for me between design and life. Great™

* DIY Gamer Kit

When I say teaching, I really mean mentoring, advising, or helping. I want to help people get to where they want to go.

⚡ “The person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest.”

positive sociology: the study of how people organize their lives to be rewarding, satisfying, and fulfilling.

I prefer projects/ideas that are about thoughts and feelings (> data). And everyday problems (> super-serious problems).

+ On my first year in Seattle. Exactly a year. I like using milestones to reflect on changes and set new goals.

More benefits of short hair: worry-free naps, wearing a hat for part of a day, unlimited fresh haircut feeling.

Design + the search for meaning. Most of what I think about during the day is how design and problem-solving are basically everything. But I don’t know what to do with that yet.

Queen of Earth Good™

The Directors Series: David Fincher

⚡ “When we call designers problem solvers, the connotations are very grand.… It helps if we remember that, to a person hungry for scrambled eggs, a short-order cook is a problem solver.”

I’ve started keeping lists of things to ask friends about later (Friends.txt), a workaround for my awful memory.

Regular guys on their fashion choices. I’m fascinated by everyday decision-making like this.

Straight Outta Compton Not Great™

I watch the VMAs every year. It makes me happy to see stuff coming together and weirdness normalized. Billy Ray + Mike WiLL Made-It: important! Sans serif + Old English: important! It feels like we’re all moving forward.

I want to be the guy who plays live drums at the VMAs.

* Elastic, motion designers (e.g. VMAs 2015, Oscars 2015)

August 2015

First class at TITLE Boxing Club. Loved it. Bought a membership and some gloves. The first time I’ve ever joined a gym.

Of all sports, I’m most interested in boxing and basketball.

I really look forward to new episodes of Bachelor in Paradise.

* LEGO History of the Batmobile

The Amazing Story Generator

+ joesparano.com v3.0. Thanks to Burroughs, I’ll be adding some new pages soon (from a list of ideas I started five years ago).

It’s felt risky to show this site before it’s exactly the thing in my head. But building incrementally has already given me five months of posts, and I’m happy about that.

The End of the Tour Good™

⚡ “It’s so simple. It is what it does.”

Halt and Catch Fire¹ Good™

⚡ “I tend to be skeptical but not cynical.”

Dictionary Stories

Met with SoDo MakerSpace and Link. This summer, it’s been really encouraging to meet more people invested in positive, student-centered programs.

I have consistently awkward interactions with cashiers. Maybe it’s in my head, but I like that I can avoid it at Starbucks and Taco Bell.

I love introducing people to FoldingText.

⚡ How to Age Gracefully

* Hazel automation app

* Tinybop. If I decide not to teach after grad school, the kind of place I’d be excited (and maybe-qualified) to work.

Song Exploder: Alexandre Desplat

I have a habit of stacking things up (physically and digitally) and letting them sit, for too long. (Things to read, scan, organize, have-tailored). Current projects excluded, I’m on track to have zero stacks soon, maybe for the first time in my adult life.

* Fleksy keyboard app

⚡ “Any attempt… to make [design] a thing-by-itself works counter to the fact that design is the… underlying matrix of life.” Of the new ideas I’ve been introduced to this year, I think about this one the most. My gripe with the graphic design world is in having reduced design to a thing-by-itself.

Generation Like

Marc Maron interviews President Obama + Fresh Air interviews Marc Maron

Ten Thousand Years

They Say, I Say. Some of the most helpful advice I’ve ever read on writing (especially this chapter).

* Launcher shortcut app

Maybe once a week, I’ll wake up with a solution to a problem. Usually from yesterday, but sometimes for things I thought I stopped thinking about awhile ago.

Whenever I’m in downtown Seattle, I feel so much appreciation for this city and being a part of it.

* Tasks.txt (> Wunderlist)

The Morning After

Met with SAM this week to start planning DYH. Putting ideas together today, exploring how design is everywhere (writing, music, graphic design, architecture, etc.) Pumped! This is where my heart is.

Battle Bunny

This summer, I’ve been eating better, exercising, and meditating regularly, and I feel healthier now than I have in years. But especially since the move.

Generally, I feel more positive about the future after talking to teachers about teaching than talking to designers about design.

The Gift Good™

I worry sometimes that my interests as a teacher are too narrow to be a realistic way to make a living a year from now (or ever).

I also wonder sometimes what it’d be like to work for Amazon, Nintendo, or Google after graduation.

Southpaw Not Great™



It’s been two months since I buzzed my head, and I love it. It’s super easy, free, and I can walk in the rain. Mostly, it’s a better reflection of who I am. I don’t think there’s any turning back.

Last week of YTYM. Some students (self-admittedly) aren’t excited about this class. But I think they were just misplaced, and their feelings are totally fair. Everyone is interested in something, and it’s so important that adults help kids figure all of this out.

My mom was really good at that.

Most of what I know about typography I learned from Esquire magazine.

Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy. So many parallels between comedy, design, and teaching. Great™

* Semplice. Starting the thesis (+ professional Joe) website.

After really helpful feedback from a teacher, I’ve decided to make a short film about the project, featuring (excited about this!…) interviews with middle schoolers on problem-solving.

I feel especially aware that a solid thesis website is the thing that’ll carry me through to a meaningful professional life after school.

There are few things I dread more than a phone call, and I don’t know why.

Love and science are my religion. And Kermit the Frog and Mister Rogers.”

Catching up with the Notable Banter posters always warms my heart.

* Balega Hidden Comfort Socks. And now all of my summer socks are the same style/color, too. I love socks!

Kelsey is my role model for how to be a friend. She makes time, listens, remembers things, and asks about them.

I have an awful memory, and I worry that it affects my friendships.

* Spotify Discover Weekly

Fifth week of YTYM. A student (totally out of context) asked when I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I love this kind of classroom moment, when students are developing an awareness of their potential and considering options.

I knew in middle school. I remember having as much fun designing a poster of Mortal Kombat moves as actually playing the game.

* Do Note → Dropbox. Using this to add thoughts to an ongoing Journal.txt file (1–3/day), then decide later which to publish here.

Several people have asked why I watch The Bachelor/ette. It’s the decision-making! I’m totally fascinated by it.

⚡ The Story Behind NBA Players’ Jersey Numbers

July 2015

Seeing movies in a theater continues to feel like a (nearly) essential life thing.

► Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Good™

It’s been so validating this year to get into the research on problem-solving and find that I’m not crazy (or at least not alone) in thinking it’s so valuable.

I’m infinitely interested in learning about teaching. I didn’t feel this way about graphic design.

⚡ “Think now for later.”

Fourth week of YTYM. Frustrating at times, but I’m happy to be thinking about important teaching stuff like: earning respect, balancing accountability and kindness, using questions instead of demands, and teaching by example.

Many of my favorite conversations are with Ashley.

I’ve been reading a lot since the move (way more than ever before), thanks to the bus.

Noting. Learned this from Headspace. I’m distracted a lot by thinking/feeling something that’s not relevant to what I’m doing. This technique has been helpful.

⚡ “That’s the weird thing about creativity, right? When you get real, you have your biggest success.” Whatever ideas and projects I’m known for some day, I hope realness is a defining characteristic.

► Trainwreck Not Great™

I like being mostly anonymous in Seattle.

Although, it still feels odd that people generally ignore each other in public.

Every 2–3 weeks on a Friday or Saturday night, I pick up some Taco Bell and spend a couple hours watching new music videos. It’s one of my favorite things. A helpful way to stay current culturally and discover new pop jams.

I really, really appreciate living within walking distance of a Taco Bell.

Cleared out my Instagram photos, which means I’m offically done sharing on social media (but still following friends with RSS).

Today’s the first Thesis Thursday (for school Joe). Tomorrow is Friday Freeday (for personal Joe), followed by the first Solve Problems™ Saturday (for professional Joe). Trying to be smart with my summer.

I love having an open schedule. It’s not that I don’t want to work. My hope is that I’m getting closer to a meaningful, integrated personal-professional life with zero time spent on anything that feels like work.

This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory: Ep. 3. Kirby is one of my heroes. The research, the connecting-dots, the ideas, the communicating. I want to do this some day. Soon.

I’ve struggled to fully and tangibly communicate my ideas about problem-solving and decision-making. I hope my thesis will do that (it’s the main reason I’m in grad school).

Inside Out Good™

* Rolling Stone Archive

⚡ The Durable Led Zeppelin. Page was only 31 and the band had released six albums. Crowe was 17 and writing for Rolling Stone. I’m 35, and I wonder sometimes where I’d be now if I’d discovered teaching sooner.

⚡ “Technique doesn’t come into it. I deal in emotions. It’s the harmonic side that’s important.”

Ant-Man Good™

⚡ The rules of Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner. I’ve been collecting problem-solving examples like this for years.

My ideal classroom is a place where this (paired with examples from movies, music, writing, LEGO, illustration, comedy, etc.) all make sense together.

* RightFont font app

Grandpa died this morning. He was selfish and bitter for as long as I knew him (not angry, but not kind either). He offered so little (especially as a role model).

Some people say we should be extra forgiving of family, just because they’re family. But I think every person (friend, stranger, or family) deserves that same open heart, until they don’t anymore.

Self-esteem in 2015: clicks, likes and followers

⚡ Sick in the Head. Man I’m excited to read this. Comedy is a kind of design (embracing process, working with limitations, finding truth, communicating). It feels real to me, while so many things done professionally in the name of design really don’t.

⚡ Eames Design Q & A

Since I started teaching (4 years ago), I’ve really improved at getting out of my head and just being available for students. I’m a generally anxious guy in most other places, but I really do feel comfortable in a classroom.

⚡ “If you tell me you hate email, then you’re telling me you don’t have control over your own life.”

* JackThreads men’s clothing store

* Readdd design readings blog

♪ Finna Get Loose

Spent most of the weekend working through my Wunderlist. Some tasks are short (read this article, pay rent), and others take time (call this Omaha friend, buy socks). I’m down to 15 tasks (from 100). The running average is about 30 (but 100 isn’t uncommon). I don’t know anyone else who spends entire weekends working through a todo list like this, but I live by it.


* Bodylastics Resistance Bands

I loved Friday Freedays last quarter, and I get to keep them this summer. It’s a day for whatever I need more of this week. Wunderlist, a movie, happy hour, reading, Taco Bell, etc.

The  And. People talking about relationships is my jam.

I’m sure I’ll write about relationship stuff here eventually. But since the move, I rarely think about it (which means bonus energy for other projects).

I’m disappointed when people don’t follow through. On anything, but especially when we’re collaborating on personal (client-less) projects. Not coincidently: the projects with the most potential, which makes the waiting worse.

♪ Intro (Leaving)

* Real-Time Transit in Google Maps. My goal is eventually to use zero apps. I can delete one of the two transit apps I was using, so I’m one step closer.

Second day of YTYM. I’ve had the chance to watch three teachers effectively keep a group of high school students (who aren’t entirely into making a documentary) interested (mostly). It’s an inspiring thing to watch, and it’s just what I’d hoped to learn.

⚡ “The… fetishization of the… designed experiences we rely on to make decisions has distracted us from our original goal of simplifying our lives.”

First day volunteering for Yesler Terrace Youth Media (YTYM). My goal this summer is just to be helpful somewhere, see how community centers work, and learn by watching teachers teach in a less academic environment. I can see all of those things happening here.

A student asked if helping high school students make a documentary is what I want to do with my life. In the sense that I’m helping kids build self-confidence, communicate, and solve problems: it is exactly.

Spent the last two days catching up on a month of emails (from the final weeks of the quarter and China). I really don’t like email. Most of that’s on me, though: I think it’s important to write succinctly, but it can take me awhile to write even a few sentences (this post took an hour!).

Omaha Man To Probably Stay In Omaha Another Year Or Two. Omaha is a nice place, but I coasted in my 20’s, and I wish I’d moved earlier.

* Spotify (> Rdio)

No Sleeep

* Soundiiz

* LEGO Apartment Life

Talking to kids isn’t easy. It’s interesting to note the different ways adults talk to kids, especially middle schoolers: 1. sing-songy condescension, 2. super-cool sarcasm, and 3. just talking to them like people you respect.

It’s tricky to align phone schedules between Omaha and Seattle. What we need is an AOL Instant Messenger-style available/busy status, but for phone calls.

* Sample-Stitch

This week, I’m volunteering at a BFI workshop for 6–8th graders, making scale models of favorite memories. I’m working with two seventh-grade boys, both great kids (and both making models of theme park rides).

There’s a theory that most teachers naturally understand certain grade levels more than others. Mine is definitely middle schoolers.

* Input Mono typeface. For this site.

June 2015

The Year of Words. That Went Fast. For a year now, Justin’s shown how valuable it is to think out loud. He’s a constantly inspiring guy. As a writer, thinker, designer, and seriously as one of the best people I know.

Met with Seattle Art Museum about (hopefully) helping teach Design Your Hood (DYH) this fall. This is the sort of professional opportunity I’ve been working towards for awhile (youth + design – selling stuff to people). Stoked!

⚡ What Is Comedy For?

Food I miss from Omaha: Runza, Taco John’sPudgy’s.

Dropbox File Requests

Jurassic World Not Great™

⚡ “Social media is… perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval.”



First meal back in America: Taco Bell.

I’m skeptical of crazy stories. It’s so easy to exaggerate, mishear, and misremember. I’m careful to tell stories accurately or not at all, which I think is why I have so few crazy stories to tell.

⚡ “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

I don’t understand haggling (which we’re doing a lot of in China). The pre-scripted steps and artificial drama weird me out. And we upset a woman by trying to haggle on a leather jacket when she’d already started from her lowest price.

↓ Suzhou_street.mp4. I took a lot of video in China, and I prefer capturing snippets of everyday life like this.

I’m not at all interested in singing karaoke.

⚡ Where Were You When Elvis Died?

“All our public heroes seem to reinforce our own solitude.”

It’s never been more apparent to me that fashion is a universal language.

⚡ The Age of Too Many Feelings

Oliver Munday, illustrator (e.g. Summer Reading). Illustrators are some of my favorite problem-solvers.

I love eating, but I’m not really into food-ing (exploring new restaurants, recipes, kinds of food). I just wanna eat.

Nanjing_bench.jpg. I was waiting for the rest of the group and a woman asked to stage this shot with me. We’ve had a lot of strangers in China ask to take photos with us.

⚡ This Magic Moment

⚡ “History is made at night.”

China is as strange and interesting as I’d hoped. I love change. It gives me a chance to reconsider things I’d taken for granted and shows consistencies that reveal the real things in life.

→ China

⚡ “a loud shirt”: a decision intended to draw attention to itself.

↓ Thesis_proposal_1.0.pdf. I’m really proud of this. After five years of thinking, it’s the most detailed description so far of the thing I’m working towards.

With the proposal finished, so is the first year of grad school! There’s no time to lose on my thesis, and I’ll spend the majority of the summer getting a head start. Pretty damned excited to get to work.

In the right context, I still really enjoy graphic designing. I spent a few hours tweaking the typography of the proposal (for fun). I’ve never wanted to stop pushing pixels altogether, and if plans come together, it’ll allow plenty of opportunities to keep graphic designing stuff.

⚡ “I can’t tell you how to draw it… but I can tell you how to think about it.”

For only the third time, I buzzed my head. I’m excited for (at least) a few months without hair product or barber visits, and I’ve been doubting for awhile that it’s even worth the time and expense anyway. My head’s rounder than I remembered, too, which is a bonus.

No matter where I’m at, there’s no substitute for Jake. Love that guy.

A friend asked if moving to a totally new place has been helpful for focusing on grad school, and it really has. I don’t intend for this to last forever, but it’s the most solo I’ve ever been, and it has serious advantages for focusing and reflecting.


⚡ “If they get it, they get it. If they don’t, that’s on them.” This is so where I’m at right now. Not arrogantly, just realistically (I hope).

I love Every Frame a Painting and SoundWorks Collection. Some day, I’d like to do a similar series about the problems-solved/decisions-made of authors, directors, musicians, designers, etc.

Affinity graphic design apps

52 weeks from now, I’ll be presenting my finished thesis project.

Lots of Seattleites are disappointed by how fast the city is changing. But I just got here, and I’m inspired by it. When we talk about change, we compare the present to the moment where we entered the story. But what about the time before that? Is everyone’s inspiring start someone else’s disappointing change?

Exciting doors continue to open from communicating my goals to anyone who’s interested, and I’m making new Seattle friends at the intersection of design, kids, and education. I’m excited for this summer and finally starting to build the idea that’s been in my head for too long.

Things from Omaha that I rarely have to think about in Seattle: tornadoes, hail, conservatism, religion.

I eat a lot when I’m stressed. And then I eat a lot to celebrate being done with stressful things.

⚡ “I am still uncomfortable… saying what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ in design. Who am I to say?

There’s a stack of books on my desk (about problem-solving, middle school, and self-esteem), and I’m really looking forward to getting to it. It’ll be my summer reading list, and it feels more like a hobby than research.

Getting a LEGO catalog in the mail is still one of the best things I know.

⚡ “All learning is understanding relationships.”

I expected grad school would be a chance to experiment with personal projects, but most of our work has been assigned. I’m happy with what I’ve learned, but I wish we’d been applying the same new skills to projects we were really invested in.

May 2015

Spark email app (iOS)

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man. I’m a huge fan of this guy: his hobby and his job were the same, he was an absolute pro at it, he was a sensitive dude, and he prioritized a good life above everything else.

LEGO Back to the Future

⚡ “the battered idealist

Thank You David Letterman!

I’ve been a TA all 3 quarters this year, and I still really love teaching (more than ever). But the working with students part feels so much more worthwhile than graphic design part.

The basics of graphic design are great for becoming a better communicator. But the nuances we spend most of the time talking about aren’t important relative to so many problems in the world.


A job posting as a middle school design teacher for Studio H is pretty much exactly what I want to do with my life. But I’m not really qualified (or ready to leave Seattle).

There’s not a single person around to talk about basketball or The Bachelorette with.

Submitted another draft of my thesis proposal, and after 3 months of writing (plus 5 years of thinking), I feel like I’m actually staring in the face of a real project. Pretty exciting! And I have exactly 1 year to do it.

⚡ “buddy > bully”

Even though he’s a crazy-busy guy, Nick answers almost every time I call to catch up.

Headspace. I’m 11 days into this, and I’m sold.

⚡ “By thinking more about the happiness of others… we start to find a little bit of extra space in… everyday life.”

* Clicky web analytics

9 Squares

Esquire Classic

I’d really hoped to find a mentor in grad school, but it’s looking like my design interests are too much also about education and psychology to resonate with Design faculty.

Mad Max: Fury Road Good™

Topics and Time icons

I’m confused by designers who legitimately want to help people, but don’t show the same kindness for everyone else.

LEGO Mosaic Printer

People ask where I’ll work after grad school, and I have no idea. I’ve known all along that there’s not a place yet for the stuff I want to teach. Ideally, I’ll open that place. But if that’s not realistic, I’m sure I’ll be able to teach something somewhere, and that’s all that really matters to me.

In the UW quarter schedule, it’s difficult to appreciate the process. At the start, we’re talking about the end. In the middle, we’re talking about what’s next.

⚡ “A lot of unhappiness comes about… because we can’t let other people know what we mean clearly enough.”

How to Pronounce. Helpful for a Midwestern white dude in a city full of people from all kinds of more interesting places.

Coolors color scheme generator

* Slash Edit plugin. For editing posts on this site.

Mad Men⁷ Great™

First meetings with Yesler Community Center yesterday and the Bureau of Fearless Ideas today. Planning to spend most of the summer volunteering and learning how community centers work. Seattle totally embraces these places, and I feel like this city is the right place for me.

A Short History of Love

Lean On (CRNKN Remix)


Met an Uber driver this morning from Nepal. He moved to the U.S. 15 years ago to escape political intimidation. The paperwork required for his two sons to move to the U.S. took 5 years. (He said if he’d known it would take that long, he wouldn’t have left Nepal). These are real problems.

Almost all of the people I’ve really connected with in Seattle are originally from the Midwest.

I’m wondering if most problematic misunderstandings and disagreements happen when people are on opposite sides of the logic/emotion continuum. And if we’d all benefit from learning to balance the two. And if problem-solving (both logical and creative) is a way to do that.

⚡ “I always worried about you, because you marched to the beat of your own drum. But now I know that’s good.”


I’m not sure yet if having a project in mind before starting grad school was a good thing or not. But as of today, all of us first-years have a picked topic and presented it to faculty, and it’s kind of a relief for everyone to be attached to something now.

Origami prototyping app

Sometimes I’m just like: Oh man, I live in Seattle!

I don’t think people are as socially supportive of strangers or friends as they could be (smiling, being an active listener, helping people feel welcome in a new place, empathizing when someone feels embarrassed).

Later this week, I’m presenting my thesis plans to faculty. In my slides, I’m including sketches from some several favorite students — memories of teaching in a presentation as a student, about my future as a teacher.

I often want to say “this is not a conspiracy theory” (especially in grad school).

I beatbox on walks to the bus and in stairwells, mostly unconsciously. I probably spend 15 minutes a day on it, which makes it easily the hobby I’ve spent the most time on in my life.

Rhythm Necklace app

Writing emails takes longer and feels less personal than the alternatives (face-to-face, phone, text, chat), so why am I spending so much time sending and replying to emails?

⚡ A Brief History of Plugging In

Independent “Lo-Fi Sci-Fi”

I feel more confident when I’m wearing sunglasses.

► Ex Machina Great™

Slow-Fi is my favorite movie genre, and it continues to deliver. Movies like Ex Machina, Looper, Source Code, and Moon are clever problem-solving exercises.

♪ Calculator

It takes two to follow through.

Writing my thesis proposal, I’m discovering that problem-solving has always been most valuable for me personally — for feeling confident in my decisions and having control over the direction of my life. And I want to teach it in the same way.

Lentil Loaf Sandwich

This site is approximately 75% graphically designed (getting some development help). But it’s 100% designed to share what I’m thinking and doing, which is the goal. I almost want to graphically undesign it to illustrate those prioritites.

In Seattle, strangers rarely make eye contact with each other (it’s the opposite in Omaha). I made a point to compare them this week, and it feels better to make that connection than to ignore (and be ignored).

Wigwam Merino Socks. This is now the only sock I own. Excited to completely eliminate sock thinking from my life.

⚡ “If you have a cosmic perspective, you don’t take anything personally.”


→ Seattle

So much of what people do is just staking a claim, trying to get their piece of the pie. Often at the expense of other people, often intentionally, and usually just because.

About every 2–3 weeks since high school, someone volunteers a comment about my hair or the way I walk. I’m not as self-conscious about that now as I used to be.

When people ask how grad school is going, I’ve been answering honestly. It’s sometimes good and sometimes pretty rough. But (understandably), I don’t think people know what to do with that.

April 2015

→ Omaha

I planned this trip last month, guessing correctly that it’d be great to see some familiar faces about now.

It’s the middle of the quarter, so I’m taking a break from classes and projects. But UW people have been (kind of beautifully) great about it. Grad school will always be asking for something. I don’t think everything is important, and my choices have reflected that. Not selfishly, I hope, but in a way that feels healthy and realistic.

LEGO Café Corner Interior

I’m loving my middle school education class. I probably should’ve been a middle school guidance counselor.

Talkie Tapes

I fully intend to be an 85-year-old guy who says ‘dude’ and ‘sweet’ and listens to current pop jams.

Sitting at coffee shops, I seriously don’t know how long is too long to be staring at my computer, socially. How often are you supposed to look up? Do other people think about these things?

♪ Ingenue

Seeing movies in the theater continues to feel like an essential life thing: for taking a break and inspiring new ideas.

While We’re Young Not Great™

* “It’s like he saw a sincere person once, and he’s been imitating him ever since.”

We Used to Dance

* Font Awesome Icons

* The Brooklyn Nets dancers are named the The Brooklynettes. #solveproblems

I wanted to buy a Real Change newspaper from a guy, but didn’t have any cash. I walked to an ATM, and it started to rain on the way. He’d left by the time I returned, and I wonder if he thought I was lying.

Real Change News app

I’m not finished designing this site, but I’m putting words on the Internet again, and it feels good.

Buying a leather jacket was one of the best decisions of my life.

Itsycal calendar app

Getting feedback on my thesis proposal, I realized that the value I see in problem-solving is mostly as a personal skill. Feeling confident in yourself and your decisions, not really as a service for other people. And all of this is different from the way design is usually defined.

⚡ “warm demander“: teaching by holding students to a high standard, but supporting them along the way.

⚡ “Why don’t you just write down all of your dreams so I can shit on them.”

♪ Beware the Dog (Autograf Remix)

♪ Gemini

⚡ “What it takes to be a master: a blend of stubbornness and sensitivity.”

Grad school is teaching me when to stop and check if my truths are also true to other people.

I’m reading about middle school lunchroom social dynamics, sitting in the UW food court, and my life is coming full circle. I’m realizing that middle school may be a miniaturization of our entire lives into a totally accessible moment in time, which is incredible.

I think I’ve found a single statement to articulate my life goal: I want to help people build confidence in themselves through problem-solving and decision-making.

Started editing Jesse’s interview, and it’s good to hear this kid’s voice again. I hope to be as cool and self-aware some day.

♪ Hazey (Gabriel Garzón-Montano Remix)

I’m surprised (discouraged) with how many designers don’t see decision-making as part of the design process. (I see it as the essential step). At least for my thesis, I think it’s time to focus on problem-solving alone.

Round and Round. I’m so proud of these dudes, making things happen and caring about other people.

Gray Felt MacBook Sleeve

Furious 7 Not Great™

March 2015

LEGO Macintosh

Everything takes forever. (Every task requires time, and without prioritizing, doing all the tasks would require all the time.)

⚡ When Muhammad Ali Was a Has-Been. Despite not really being a sports fan, I get a lot from reading career retrospectives of athletes. It feels like some kind of ultimate truth.

Flio laptop stand

On the Madness and Charm of Crushes. Me, every day on the bus.