• Wow, that was incredible.
• “I try to look at the biggest possible picture.”
• Sold my Nintendo collection to a Craigslister for $2,000 — 54 Game Boy + GBA games, Virtual Boy + 8 games, 60 DS games, 23 GameCube games, N64 + 11 games.
• Kept a few things: GameCube (maybe my favorite industrial design ever), plus games that account for some of my favorite memories of any kind, ever (Faceball 2000, Link’s Awakening, Wario Land II and 3, Animal Crossing, and Wind Waker).
• I’ve been following a strategy for getting rid of stuff that’s made the process easier: keeping only representative samples from a group of things, the ones that truly resonate — the Great™s. It’s worked for toys, books, LEGO, video games, stuff I made growing up, and stuff from other people. Souvenirs from life.
• I collected so much stuff in my teens and 20s, planning for some future day when I’d have time consume it. Now, my decisions tend to do the opposite — preventing future me from needing to worry about a decision I’m making today.
• This year, I’ve reduced my total stuff by at least half, and I’m getting damn close to a reasonable, satisfying minimalism.
• So, I guess the sophomores call me “Sweet Joe” and the other Joe “Street Joe”. Which, yeah, I like it!
• “Zuckerberg may genuinely want to make the world a better place, but… his philanthropic innovations are also meant to further his company’s dominance. The bottom line takes precedence.”
• Commute update: figured out a plan that lets me (through a carpooling trade) take the train on Thursdays. Which is 2 ½–3 hours less driving and stress every week.
• I’m typing this from the second level of a double-decker commuter train. Living the dream.
• TunnelBear, VPN app
• Starting to seem like a good idea.
• TunnelBear Blocker, Chrome extension
• The apocalypse will be immediately preceded by a spinning wheel animation.
• When I started teaching Color & Comp, I wrote that I wasn’t all that interested in the content. But actually, it’s been legitimately fun and interesting to watch students learn, at a super basic level, how to meaningfully visualize ideas. On our final project (album covers and movie posters) it’s obtuse stuff like vulnerability, confidence, indignation, etc.
• This matters to me because: 1. learning to communicate thoughts and feelings is (I think) an essential life skill, and 2. this is graphic design divorced from marketing — just real, no-BS, super good decision-making.
Adobe Spark Post
• “Automated reward systems like YouTube algorithms [encode exploitation] into the systems we are building”
• “the algorithms don’t discriminate — and neither do the kids.”
• “this is being done… by a combination of things and people. Responsibility for its outcomes is impossible to assign”
• James Bridle, technology writer/artist
• “when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash” (Paul Virilio)
• “technology… separates us directly from the events of real space and real time”
• Been trying to find a good, basic t-shirt. I think this is the one.
• Seems like there might be a correlation between how much you care about something and your willingness to ask questions about it.
• Thinking about this after a date with the girl from Greenbean, who didn’t ask many (any?) questions.
• “most of what actually happens is people seeing the same event differently.”
• “The problem with Facebook is that it does give us what we want… and that hinders us [from being dissatisfied and] building for the future.”
• “One of the best things you can do for your own thought is not to go around telling yourself that other people are wrong.… Most people are wrong most of the time.… If you detach [personally],… you'll actually see and notice [facts] more.”
• RXBAR, protein bars
“I help startups and businesses come to life through crafted brand identities…. I believe design has the power to shape meaningful human experiences.” How are these adjacent sentences?
• One month at CWA, and things are starting to click. It's been super good, but I’m still very much figuring out what the job is and could be. I’m learning kids’ names, they’re getting more comfortable with me, and there are moments where I can see myself getting really good at this.
• This week’s infographics lessons were tight: 1. we deconstructed examples in the world, 2. students were making stuff and solving problems (fun for me and them), 3. some of it on paper, even, and 4. we used tech as just one part of larger process.
• It’s fascinating how, with a good spectrum of examples for students to analyze, followed by a few questions about them, it’s possible to ‘teach’ students how to make something of their own. It’s not necessary or even helpful to give them instructions.
• I’m trying to teach technology and design as things that are always in support of some other pursuit (not ends in themselves).
• Apple Symbols font, symbol library
• I hear “Mr. Sparano” 50–75 times a day now. It's pretty cool.
• Realized today that specialist teachers (like me, music, art, P.E., etc.) get to teach the same kids over multiple years. If I’m also teaching middle school next year, I’d have the same students from 3rd–8th grade. Which, wow. How cool would that be?
• Got a date.
• It’s got a boxing gym!
• Infographics lesson with the 5th graders: win. Showing examples and asking: “What do you know by looking at this? And how do you know that?” — fun and interesting every time.
• “In any creative process, you have two parts of yourself competing against each other: the part that wants it to be done, and the part that wants it to be good — and those parts will never agree.”
• “You're not in it to be good — you’re in it to suck. And to keep sucking until you eventually figure out how to make something good.”
• At CWA, during my Google Earth demo, students (3rd graders) suggested Trump Tower as a location. I assumed they were joking and laughed it off. Wisely, another teacher (Matt) reminded me later that I should be careful of that. It’s not political for them, they’re just curious.
• Social media: our own private Truman Show (Hidden Brain)
• A strategy for reducing decision-making anxiety — satisficing: “[picking] something that meets all of your [goals] but may or may not be the absolute best” instead of maximizing: “[picking] the best of all possible alternatives”.
• OK, so the commute has been great for podcasting.
• A bonus of teaching undergrads is that we can really go deep on ideas. Watching students get stuck on — but eventually resolve — their concepts is a big reason why teaching is so fun and meaningful for me. And I think I’d lose that by teaching younger kids exclusively.
• Monday and Wednesday dinner routine: MOD Pizza + Rainier + 7-Eleven ice cream sandwich.
• Looking for signals.
• The Tragedy of the Commons: “Optimizing for the self in the short term isn’t optimal for anyone in the long term.”
• Getting tired of being the 11th wheel.
• I want my own family Thanksgiving, with my own wife, my own kids, at my own house — a situation which still feels really far out of reach.
• I doubt there’s anything more complex than being a thinking, feeling human being.
• Spending the break catching up on journaling. At times, this page is (ironically) stressful to maintain. And these posts take a deceptively long time to write. But that tension — the resolving of thoughts into words — is such an irreplaceably valuable exercise.
• Upgraded to a new Pioneer car stereo with Bluetooth and a speakerphone to make the Tacoma commute a little more enjoyable and productive.
• Social media continues to feel like a place where, mostly, people just awkwardly leverage each other for their own small, empty gains. It’s weird.
• How is me writing this any different than that? 1. There are no metrics here (no likes or followers to be had). 2. This site isn’t part of a network. I’m not jumping into view and elbowing myself into a ‘conversation’.
• I need to shop at Whole Foods more often. 😎
• Professionally, Color & Comp is great — it feels like an ideal match for my industry experience and my goals as a teacher. But I get a lot from it personally, too. I enjoy conversations with the sophomores — they ask a lot of questions and give me a lot to think about. I’m inspired by them — they’re full of enthusiasm, ideas, talent, and potential. And they’re refreshingly egoless and unjaded. I really look forward to going to class.
• I’m already thinking about the end of the quarter (in 3 weeks) and already sad about it.
• 100th movie of the year.
• Who is Don Draper? (ScreenPrism)
• It’s awkward talking to friends about their design industry projects when they can’t be specific about details. I get it, and I don’t fault them for doing what they promised to do. But that boundary is weird.
• I like that there aren’t any trade secrets in teaching. If anything, education is fundamentally anti-trade-secret.
• I don’t mind paying for parking anymore — sometimes at absurd levels (spent $12.00 tonight for 2 ½ hours). Feels like a fair price for living in a dense metropolis. I rarely did this in Omaha, and definitely not without complaining about it.
• I think I’d be OK if I never had to make design-industry-job small talk ever again.
• Nebraska: The Good (Enough) Life
• “it takes a look inward… to realize who you are, embrace those qualities, and take a leap of faith. And this is quite a reward: ‘I came here to play basketball in the exact same way I’m [doing] it right now’” (Kevin Durant)
• You could replace ‘here’ with ‘to Seattle’ and ‘play basketball’ with ‘teach design’ and this is how I’m feeling right now, too.
• Both the kindness and ambivalence of strangers really gets to me.
• Setting up the new iPhone and re-logging into accounts is surfacing the awkwardness of tech security. Because our data is not in one place, accessible only to the people who can physically interact with it — but in every place, accessible to potentially anyone — we’re treated as a stranger (as if we could be anyone), every time.
• 5th graders are cool. And they have no idea. They’re starting to grasp who they are, and without giving into the social pressure to hide it. Which comes later (but not much later) in our lives.
• Learned today (from students) that Chrome’s “There is no internet connection” dinosaur is also a game.
• “This was so fun!! I’ve made like 3 since” (Jorda) (5th grader, about the surveys we made today in Google Forms).
• The Turnaround podcast, interviews with interviewers
• Anna Sale interview (The Turnaround)
• “One of the really important traits of an interviewer is to communicate… [that] there’s a reason you’re asking them these questions.… It’s because these are things that everybody goes through but also can feel the most isolated around. So I’m going to ask you about these things, but it’s not just to be provocative. I’m looking for places of resonance.” In other words: what the interview is designed to do.
• On Mondays, I’m teaching 8 year-olds and 19 year-olds in the same day, and I’m just really stoked about that.
• At CWA, I teach the same lesson at least twice each day (Mondays: 2× 3rd, Thursdays: 2× 4th, Tuesdays: 3× 5th). Inevitably, I learn things the first time that I can apply the next (steps I can explain more clearly, inconsistencies between my interface and the students’, things I assumed students had learned earlier but haven’t). I have the same opportunity with Color & Comp on Fridays.
• A bonus of teaching is that I still get plenty of chances to do layout and typography (mostly through building project instructions and worksheets), which I really enjoy.
• I designed a worksheet today for the 3rd graders to explore Google Apps. Instead of walking them through the clicks on screen, I organized the around the app icons and asked for each: “What is the name of this app?” and “What can you make with it?”
• On the worksheet, I also asked them to add two apps of their choice and draw their icons. One of the students said she really enjoyed the icon-drawing part.
• This is a major trick of teaching that I’ve figured out over the last two years: turning lessons into lots and lots of questions — ideas to be discovered and learned by thinking and doing.
• I wouldn’t say I’m bad at email. It’s just, sometimes I get a little tired of it and take a break.
• Kaleidograph, geometric pattern toy
• I’ve had one of these for as long as I’ve had an iPhone. And it’s still one of my favorite things of all time.
• I still think it’d be ideal not to have a phone at all. But it does facilitate a lot of forward progress in my life that I’d be disappointed to lose: 1. a camera (especially for teaching), 2. transit directions, 3. sending myself notes (Drafts), 4. music (Spotify) and podcasts (Pocket Casts), 5. movie showtimes (IMDb), plus my calendar (Calendars 5) and reminders (IFTTT). I use these apps all the time.
• Taking advantage of having a little more money coming in by buying a few things that’ve been on Buy.txt for awhile.
• And also otherwise just spending a lot on coffee, food, and whatever. It’s fun.
• It’s time to be dating again. So time. This is the next thing, now that the job is checked off the list.
• Qualities I’m attracted to: 1. kindness, 2. sincerity, 3. presence, 4. proactivity, 5. intelligence, 6. curiosity, 7. spunkiness, 8. being a good communicator, 9. an openness and enthusiasm for talking about thoughts and feelings.
• I think it’s interesting that we don’t have control over this at all.
• “People can do what they will but they cannot will what they will.” (Schopenhauer)
• This Is Water Commencement Speech (David Foster Wallace)
• “what ‘teaching me how to think’ [means]: to be just a little less arrogant, to have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties.”
• Kano Pixel Kit, coding and pixel toy
• Taught a pre-made lesson to the 4th graders on web searching, and it was kind of a dud. I mentioned this to another teacher, and he said (in a way that was good to hear), “That’s teaching.”
• Had my first two-hour, one-way commute (left Tacoma a little late and got caught in Seattle traffic). Yeesh.
• [Situation]: what’s the difference between friends hanging out and the early stages of dating? Just intent?
• An interesting thing about teaching is noticing that I can literally see things that students can't see (yet). When I’m giving them project feedback, it's mostly this kind: pointing out things now that’ll be obvious to them (looking back) at some point in the future.
• HackMD, sharable/collaborative Markdown editor
• Tacoma commute update: it sucks. Every week, I’ll now be burning a full tank of gas and spending 7 hours in the car. That’s unacceptable. It’s been useful for phone calls and podcasts, though.
• irony: “saying or doing something in a way that prevents others from knowing if you even meant to mean it or not to mean it.” It’s a way of detaching and creating distance.
• play: “the process of encircling something [embracing its limitations] and then manipulating the contents that are within it”
• irony vs. limitations/play: “A game is a place where you accept the arbitrary absurdity of the world and instead of rejecting it, you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to take it for what it is and mess around with it’”
• As a teacher, I love building lessons that are (essentially) games — where students are learning and having fun by designing around limitations. Designing is not a distancing from reality (like irony), but a way of confronting reality — staring it in the face, and choosing to see disappointment as an opportunity.
• The big ideas continue to connect. I didn’t see the relationship between irony and limitations/design until now.
• Although CWA is an ideal combo of stuff I’ve done before and love doing (designing lessons, teaching technology as a design tool, teaching media literacy, working with kids, working in a K–12 school, and collaborating with other teachers) — this is the first time I’ve done them at the same time.
• It’s totally the job I’ve been working towards. But there’s a lot I don’t know right now. And I don’t expect to be good at it right away. Particularly, I don’t expect to know exactly how to even teach technology to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. And I don’t expect that the lessons will be particularly cohesive, fun, or resonant.
• But I DO expect to learn and get better as I’m doing it. And I’m cool with starting from what I know works (including using other teachers’ lessons).
• This was my strategy for Color & Comp (2017 is my fourth year being part of the class), and I think this version is the best it’s ever been.
• Gray is an awesome name for a kid.
• How do people stay caught up on emails? How?
• I think the only real solution here is just to write emails quickly — a thing I can’t manage to do.
• “If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow… about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to write about.”
• “Committing to having a point of view and scheduling a time and place to say something is almost certainly going to improve your thinking, your attitude, and your trajectory… [because you will be] outlining what you believe and explaining why.”
• This page continues to be one of the most valuable things I do for me — 1. in writing it (and the critical thinking that that demands), and 2. in building a resource I can refer back to later.
• “You’ll be seeing that on your local newscast.”
• posterize: “[to dunk in a way that] is spectacular and athletic enough to warrant reproduction in a printed poster.”
• I didn’t know what this meant until now. Awesome.
• “We, the ones who are asphyxiated without periods by ourselves, take other people very seriously…. But as a result, we cannot keep swimming in company indefinitely.”
• “There can sometimes be enough in five minutes of social life to take up an hour of analysis.”
• Mike Birbiglia: The New One, live
• Posting my FUAY list.
• I decided to do this after overhearing some (probably, very nice) people actually use the word ‘co-founder’ in conversation. I see ‘founder’ and the whole startup ethos around it as an awkward lovechild of design and business. And I’m just so deeply irritated by it.
“Sorry, an error occurred while processing your request.” Tech things are designed as if they don’t fail. But they do fail, constantly.
• Digital Color Meter, color grabber
• Third day at CWA (4th graders on Thursdays).
• I thought memorizing 61 students’ names (at UW) was an achievement. I now have 115 more (at CWA).
• Second MOD Pizza day in a row. Must be getting stressed.
• Some days are weirder than others. Some days, I feel more anxious and awkward — despite talking to the same people and the doing the same things that felt anxiety-free the day before. I don’t understand why, but I’ve mostly let myself off the hook for feeling bad about it.
• If I made movies or music, I’d do this, too. No question — they’d all have to be the same.
• Second day at CWA (5th graders on Tuesdays).
• It’s really interesting how different 5th graders are from 4th and 3rd graders (they’re quieter, more analytical, more self-aware). Age ten is the pivot point.
• This is my first time teaching at a K-12 school, and there are major bonuses that I hadn’t considered when I applied: 1. free lunch, 2. there’s a lot of variety in my day (snack time, recess, second recess), and no two days in my week have the same schedule, 3. I’ll usually be on my feet and rarely sitting in front of a computer, 4. there’s a lot of kindness and calmness in the air — and not an ounce of BS, irony, or cynicism anywhere.
• This last thing is a big differentiator between how the design industry and teaching feel to me.
• SDWT: self-directed work time.
• “Hey, you’re the tech guy.” (Kid in the hallway)
• This is a very, very cool job. I’m stoked about it, and I’m pretty sure this is exactly where I belong.
• Email signatures have got to stop.
• “Today is your birthday. And today is Halloween. So I’m pretty sure your birthday is on Halloween.” (3rd grader)
• First day at CWA (3rd graders on Mondays).
• “Q: How many words per minute can you type?” 120.
• “Q: What’s your favorite kind of movie?” I’ll see almost anything with a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
• “Q: Have you seen Only the Brave?” Yes.
• “Q: What’s your favorite candy?” Twix.
• The Seattle–Tacoma drive is not going to work for me (it’s an hour, all road). One of the big reasons I wanted to move to a major city was to eliminate driving from my life.
• Would I be willing to move to Tacoma eventually? Not sure. I love living in a dense metropolis, which (compared to Seattle) Tacoma isn’t.
• Still working on finding a train/bus/park-and-ride option. It’s tricker than I expected.
• In the mean time, it’s absolutely worth the trouble. And I can get some podcasts listened-to.
• “Hillary Clinton is on my screen.” (It was an anti-Hillary political ad.)
• creatical thinking: creative + critical thinking (i.e. media literacy)
• If an event involves costumes, karoke, or dancing, I will probably not be there.
• “it’s not just the poor who are getting squeezed out [of Seattle]. It’s the firefighters and school teachers and a lot of other traditional middle-class occupations”
• Long-term, my decision of teaching vs. design industry isn’t made. My heart screams teaching. But it pays problematically low (in Seattle, at least). A design industry tech job would pay a lot more, for sure (2–3 × as much). But I have serious questions about how I’d eventually feel (deep, deep down) about taking one of those jobs.
• I’ve just committed (happily and by choice) to another 10 months of teaching (between CWA and UW). But this is also a commitment to being on hold — not moving to a more reasonably-sized apartment, saving, or traveling.
• Life is really good. And I’m stoked (STOKED) about the new job. But, personally, this is not the next phase.
• Sugar Momma is the obvious solution to this problem, and I’m totally open to that.
• “What even is Omaha?”
• Now that I’m about to start teaching at a K–12 school, I’m getting emails about picture day, the cafeteria lunch calendar, homecoming, etc. This is awesome.
• 80% vs. 100%: The Secret to Productivity (vlogbrothers)
• “90% of what I’m gonna learn, I’m gonna learn doing that first 80%… and having it be out in the world.… And as I get to 80% of the best that I can do, over and over again, really fast: suddenly my new 80% is way better than my old 100% percent ever could’ve been.”
• My last BFI Field Trip (since I won’t be free on Thursday mornings anymore).
• I started helping with these last year (pretty reluctantly) and really grew to enjoy and feel confident working with younger kids. Particularly 4th and 5th graders — the same grades I start teaching at CWA next week.
• As fun as these were, the students are new every week, and I think that limits how satisfying of an experience that is for me. At CWA, I’ll work with the same students for (nearly) a full school year, and I’m excited about that. That’s a first for me — for any age group.
• It’s reassuring to hear 9- and 10-year-olds making fun of our loser idiot cartoon of a president.
• “To be, rather than to seem.” (Cicero)
• Seattle has a Nebraska Street.
• I was drawn to teaching originally because I wanted to focus on my favorite part of being a graphic designer — the process. I realized later that it’s not really the teaching, but the learning that’s interesting to me — also a process. And I realized recently that many steps of designing (feedback, prototyping, collaborating, inspiration, reflection) are actually just ways of learning.
• This is a big reason why design classes feel so valuable to me.
• Grad school connected those dots, and I’m so grateful for it.
• This quarter in Color & Comp, on the two days projects have been due, I’ve devoted those days to reflecting on that project (students writing and sharing what they learned, plus giving me feedback on the project itself). It’s been so good. They’ve been really wonderful days.
• Reflection is the clearest connection between designing and learning.
• Unsplash, free high-res photos
• A little worried about my workload over the next six weeks (between UW and CWA). Color & Comp (despite the expectations of the position), is more than a 50% job. I teach a day I’m not even supposed to be there (Fridays). And I spend a lot of time planning and meeting with students outside of class. I love it, though.
• “The shots that I shot were shots that I [normally shoot], I just missed them.… you want every shot to be perfect. And that’s just not the game of basketball. There will be times when you… go 2-for-8.” (Dwyane Wade)
• Color & Comp is going better than ever. Next level. I’ve made two big changes that are really working: 1. integrating more deliberate discussions about process, and 2. even more actively asking-for and integrating students’ feedback into the class.
• But I’ve made some dumb mistakes, too: forgetting to mention essential info, missing opportunities to reinforce big ideas, and just generally being confusing. And I’ll probably continue to do those things.
• I tend to connect with people who are comfortable talking about their feelings and who volunteer the ideas on their minds. The opposite is true, too — I’m generally turned off by people who avoid these kinds of conversations.
• My CWA interview day was full of fast friendships like this.
• Safari: Never Auto-Play. This feels way overdue. It’s important that we have some say in how media comes at us.
• Moral Machine, crowd-sourced self-driving car decisions
• Caret, Markdown editor
• Might replace FoldingText — which I adore, but it crashes unreasonably often and hasn’t been updated in over a year.
• Classic technology situation: a thing works until — inevitably — it stops working.
• As the users, we have no say in what happens to apps that break. They aren’t personally repairable, like a car or a pair of boots.
• Helped at a BFI workshop where Microsoft was testing new features for its video-editing app. Our group made this. Super fun. These kids were really good problem-solvers.
Playbook, design industry Q&As.
• I’m just really getting tired of design industry pros giving advice to no one in particular.
• This is different than feedback (which is a conversation with specific people who have specific questions about specific goals in a specific context).
• Also weirded out by how much design industry writing is about management and career strategy. And I think it’s sad when students and recent grads start to buy into it.
• Whenever design and business intersect — when we’re talking about designing relationships, for personal gain — that makes me uncomfortable. (Still working through this idea.)
• How do you do, fellow kids?: “[a person] pretending to be part of a community that they are clearly unfamiliar with.”
• Today’s the end of an unusually busy two weeks (Color & Comp, CWA interviews, wacky freelance deadlines, volunteering at BFI). Good things, and mostly decisions I made. But this was too many commitments and I’m feeling super stressed.
• Not coincidentally, I haven’t been boxing in two weeks.
• Codes on The Wire #1: “Good Police” (ScreenPrism)
• “A man must have a code.”
• Met with a Color & Comp student (Ian) who (after our first graded project) was having doubts. I said this: “The disappointment you’re feeling confirms how much this matters to you. And you also know, specifically, where there are opportunities to improve — places to invest that energy. These are really good, new things that you didn’t know last week.”
• A nice bonus of teaching at an elementary school is that there probably won’t be any grading.
• Junk food celebrating.
• During my CWA interviews, several people asked — if this job expands to full-time next year (and I think that’s likely) — would I be willing to give up teaching at UW? I said that I’m hoping I’ll love this just as much, and there’ll be a hard decision to make next year.
• But of course, yes, I would. And it’s possible this is my last time teaching the UW sophomores.
• Did it. Got the job. So stoked. More to say.
• Between UW and CWA, I’m teaching full time now. One of my 2017 goals.
• Interviewed at Charles Wright Academy for a digital literacy position, which included teaching a lesson to a 4th grade class. They’re in the midst of writing stories, so I designed the lesson around book covers. We did an analysis of existing covers (from their book club) and then they started designing their own (using Google Drawings). Really happy with how that went.
• My media literacy reading from grad school has increased the number of questions I ask during class — typically questions that let students connect the dots and find the patterns.
• Like today: “What’s on a book cover?” and “How did the designer choose the cover image?”. Those were fun and interesting for students to answer.
• When I explain how I got from graphic design to teaching, the tipping point is working with the Oxide interns. It was just so clearly more meaningful to me than the client projects I was working on otherwise.
• Life is a little sweeter during basketball season.
• A student in Color & Comp (Yuansi) asked how I “stay so happy”. I said: these students are seeing me doing a thing I love to do (teaching). So much. The longer version is that it’s not just teaching, it’s teaching this group of students (UW Design sophomores). It’s a special group at a special time in a special place. And I really enjoy being a part of it.
• Arcade Fire concert
• It’s a special thing having Omaha friends (Justin and Katie are here now) visit Seattle.
• The 1979–80 NBA season is considered the beginning of the ‘modern NBA’ (faster-paced, cooler, funner), corresponding to Magic Johnson’s and Larry Bird’s rookie year. That season and I both started in October, 1979. Did not know this. Neat.
• Waking up early. I totally, 100%, get it now.
• We have class at 8:30a on Fridays, and I’m usually on campus an hour+ early. Reading Feedbin on a stress-free bus ride,
grande venti chai, quiet campus, AirPlaying tunes in an empty classroom. It’s nice.
• I don’t think there’s any shame in recognizing when you’re good at something and being proud of having cared enough to get there. People don’t do this enough.
• I think I’m a good teacher.
• Josh DaVid, LEGO machinist
• suckcess: “success on somebody else’s terms, undeserved success, when something that sucks becomes successful, or when success starts to suck.”
• Designers: Watch, design and art documentary list
• Just realizing that one of my favorite things about teaching is that there are a group of people who are invested in challenging my assumptions. In class, I’m constantly bumping up against what I thought was true and isn’t — and so, constantly learning. In Color & Comp, I have 62 students asking questions — specifically about things I’ve said and done, revealing interpretations and perspectives I’ve missed.
• It’s LtD: 1. I design a project (with certain learning goals in mind), 2. I present it to the class, and 3. right away, I get to discover (through their questions) that there are versions of that project I didn’t account for. It’s true even with projects that I’ve done multiple times.
• I’ve learned so much about being a person from teaching.
• defamiliarization: “presenting… common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to enhance perception of the familiar.”
• Memorized all 61 of the sophomores’ names. Boom.
• Jim Rutenberg, NYT media columnist
• For the second time in three weeks, I’m freelancing over the weekend on client-delayed projects. When I’d rather be spending my time on other things (taking a break, portfolio, and prepping for class). Over it.
• Cole Haan Grand Crosscourt sneakers (brown). The new default sneaker (I have two pair now).
• How will I read everything I want to read before I die? How?
• “If you’re phony, they will feel it…. You have to really care. And you have to make yourself care time and time again.”
• “I like to be an optimist, but I like to be a realist, too.”
• “These algorithms are executing; they are doing what they were designed to do.… No one other than Facebook decides what it does.”
• astroturfing: “masking the sponsors of a message… to make it appear as though it originates from… a grassroots participant.” As in: grassroots vs. artificial grass.
• Mr. Squiggles, in-browser animation builder
• The confidence continues to return.
• Been thinking a lot about confidence: 1. vs. arrogance, 2. how dependent it is on feedback, but 3. also how, mostly, it’s all in our heads. So weird. So important.
• Had two really good interview calls this week: 1. (Charles Wright) a private school, for teaching digital literacy and 2. (Amazon) a tech company, for a few things. Totally different kinds of jobs.
• But I left both calls feeling like having a non-traditional career path (design industry + teaching, both little kids and college students + grad school) was a positive thing. I think it is. But I’ve had interviews in the last 18 months where it felt like at least some part of my experience was written off.
• Having done those things in that order makes sense to me. I don’t want to write any of it off, and at the ideal job, I wouldn’t need to. It’s all valuable.
• RapCaviar: Visualize videos, beat breakdowns
• One of my favorite questions to ask a room of students is: “What did you learn from [thing we did]?”
• Because (frustrating or insightful) we all learned something. And hearing answers to this question itself is a chance to learn — since we have different perspectives and probably learned different things from the same experience.
• For three years now, a few UW Design juniors (who were in Color & Comp as sophomores) will ask: “So, how are the new sophomores?” I’ll answer: “They’re such a great group.” (And I mean it, every year.) And they’ll respond: “But we were still the best, right?” I love it.
• Progressive Punctuation, lost punctuation marks
• “I’m sorry for getting emotional. I’m not great with this kind of thing. But I just think it’s important, you know?”
• In Color & Comp, I mention students from previous years pretty often. The upperclassmen that the sophomores respect now were once sitting exactly in this classroom, feeling the same way about the students that came before them.
• Buff Diss, tape muralist
• croptomnesia: feeling responsible for a fresh idea that, actually, 1. you had before (autoplagarism) or 2. someone else previously presented to you.
• “creativity may require such forgettings, in order that one’s memories and ideas can be born again and seen in new contexts and perspectives.”
• “There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the [historical] truth…. Frequently, our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other, and ourselves”
• “Indifference to source [of ideas] allows us to assimilate what we read, what we are told, what others say and think and write and paint, as intensely and richly as if they were primary experiences. It allows us to see and hear with other eyes and ears, to enter into other minds, to assimilate the art and science and religion of the whole culture, to enter into and contribute to the common mind”
• For a month, I’ve been following Austin Kleon’s advice and spending the first hour (or two) of most days reading and writing (before I pick up my phone).
• It’s been really good — for doing those things — but also for intentionally reserving disconnection time.
• Riccardo Guasco, illustrator
• Bees & Bombs, geometric animated GIFs
The next phase
• About to enter portfolio-building mode, again. It tends to be such a tedious slog, and I’m not looking forward to it. But I’ve been focusing on the doors it could open, and that helps.
• This’ll be the third portfolio in less than two years. Why? It’s been tricky to combine grad school research, teaching, and design industry projects in a way that resonates. The strategy this time is to prioritize the pictures. Which (stubbornly) I haven’t really tried, and I think that’s worked against me. People like pictures.
• I’m building a separate site for the portfolio (instead of using this one). Because 1. I like the idea of keeping personal and industry projects separate, 2. this site isn’t right for showing big, colorful images, and 3. I’m hoping it won’t need to be up for long anyway.
• A reason portfolios are so anxiety-inducing for me is that they’re a lot of work that’s ultimately temporary. They’re ticking clocks that’ll eventually need to be updated as the web changes around it and the work itself risks becoming dated. Especially true for graphic design portfolios.
• This site doesn’t feel that way to me. Really happy with that.
• Top 10 Movie Props of All Time (CineFix)
• [Situation], man. Super good.
• Having a really good time in Color & Comp so far. When I’m answering questions and discussing ideas in class — with a group of students that are driven, interested, and present — I feel like I’m doing a thing that I’m really good at — like the best version of myself.
• Karen said “Joe is a great designer and an excellent teacher” (in a recommendation email), which made my day.
• Since graduation, I’ve gotten really positive feedback and support from the UW faculty, including the two people that I thought I’d disappointed while I was a student — Karen and Tad.
• A theory of gentrification: 1. “A creative class of impoverished (and generally socialist) artists move to an economically depressed urban area” 2. “Young urban professionals collect the… ideas and art generated by the creative class and commodify them into marketable products [i.e. ‘style’]” 3. “The original area where the artists settle itself becomes ‘stylish’ and is no longer a place where art is made but a place where artistic and cutting edge products and food are sold.”
• “Style is cheap to sell because it is intangible. Moreover, it is always in demand because it is defined by its novelty.”
• Nerdwax, for keeping my new glasses on my face
• First day of Color & Comp (UW Design class of 2020). Feels so good to be back.
• This class will graduate less than 3 years from now. And they’ll have learned and experienced a lot by then. And that train really left the station today. Which is crazy and beautiful to think about.
• Calvin Ross Carl, abstract and typographic painter
• A Short Trip, interactive animation
• Who Are All These Trump Supporters? (George Saunders)
• “Standing in line at the pharmacy in an Amarillo Walmart superstore, I imagined some kid who had moved only, or mostly, through such bland, bright spaces, spaces constructed to suit the purposes of distant profit, and it occurred to me how easy it would be, in that life, to feel powerless, to feel that the local was lame, the abstract extraneous”
• This might be the idea that explains it all. The great disconnect — the corporate, bureaucratic, branded, ironic, digital, socially mediated… disconnect. What’s real, what’s not, and what can you even do about it?
• “people who have devoted themselves to self-honesty and self-observation have an above average chance of meeting with incomprehension, irritation, censorship, or boredom when they attempt to share the data from their own minds”
• “The libraries, cinemas and galleries of the world are repositories for all the sensations that didn’t easily make it into [ordinary, everyday communication] and that contain what we need to state, and crave to hear”
• You know you’re watching a Darren Aronofsky movie if… (ScreenPrism)
• Freelancing: over it. It’s seeped into the weekend that I’d rather be using to prep for Color & Comp.
• Which starts next week, and I’m stoked for.
• “we indulge in [analog experiences] with all our five senses. And I think that’s something we took for granted… as we moved to digitize things as quickly as possible.”
• “software creates a bias. It will always steer you in the direction of what it wants you to do….… it has a set of rules”
• Goals for the end of the year: 1. be in the best shape of my life, 2. have a solid sense of how the design industry job thing is going to work out (if not a signed contract), and 3. finish minimizing my stuff to only the things I really love and use.
• → Seattle
• The Sea-Tac Airport is one of my favorite places.
• I tend to return from Omaha with lots of clarity and momentum.
• When I compare these cities, I talk about feeling comfortable: culturally, politically, weather-wise. Feelings I didn’t have in Omaha and can’t imagine trading back.
• Talking about job plans, several people have asked how I feel about having-made that decision — a separate question from feelings about teaching less or working in the design industry again. I love that.
• And I’m feeling great about it. It’s a compromise, for sure. But it’s intentional.
• Teaching at UW (which I plan to continue) feels like a peak of that particular thread of my career. It’s an honor, deeply satisfying, and fun. I’m anticipating that any design industry job will feel like less of those things. But I’m hoping it’ll open other doors that I’m very ready for.
• For 3 years, I’ve flown back to Omaha every 3–6 months. Those gaps make it easy to measure changes from the last trip and set goals for the next one. Helpful.
• Many of the best moments of my life have been late-night conversations with friends.
• The next year (38) feels like an important one. I don’t want to be a 39-year-old still looking for a job a lady to settle down with.
• Yes, I’d really like to be a dad some day.
• “I appreciate how intentional you are.” (Nick)
• Justin reminded me that I’d set grad school priorities (which I'd forgotten). It was 3 years ago, this month. They were… Top priorities: health, professional progress, friends. And bottom: socializing, things, money.
• Got to catch up with Sahm, Dana, and Sam in Omaha (on The Passion Project tour). And see them interview Kelsey yesterday.
• All of which was really special: 1. seeing some of my favorite UW students in Omaha, 2. KJ and Jesse (students themselves, not that long ago) sharing what they’ve learned, and 3. getting to connect these two parts of my life.
• Learning, growing up, figuring it out, finding your way. I just really love it.
• I give Omaha a lot of flack (it’s so much not the place for me). Still though, it’s the home of many of the best people I know.
• It’s 100× more likely for me to see someone I know (knew) wherever I go in Omaha.
• Compared to Seattle, where I’m still just some dude. I’d like that to change.
• “They disguised their own sensitivity… by extreme insensitivity.… Everything had to be done with at least a twinkle of winking irony. This was an escape route, a way of never having to admit to your peers that you were in fact expressing something from your heart”
• “Trump is the loser who has won.”
• “Support for Trump is an acknowledgement that the promise is empty. He is both the promise [the fantasy of winning]… and the empty center [the knowledge that it’s all a scam]”
• I spend most of my Omaha trips reflecting on the past and planning for the future.
• Getting getting-back-into-the-design-industry advice from Kelsey. Who was our intern at Oxide not that long ago. And it’s such a beautiful role reversal.
• I’ve got quite a bit at stake (personally) with these plans. Maybe too much. And if I strike out, I’m a little concerned how I might feel on the other side.
• “Joe knows what he likes, and he writes it down.” (Nick)
• Rule by Nobody: algorithms and bureaucracy (Real Life Magazine)
• algorithm: “opinions formalized in code.”
• “In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted.”
• Goodhart’s law: “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a useful measure.” (SEO, clickbait)
• Snipperclips, co-op puzzle game
• → Omaha
• I love that, despite its size, Seattle streets are quiet and empty late at night and early in the morning.
• A bonus of having friends who write about their feelings online is that, when I see them again, I have a list of specific questions to ask. It’s way better than: “So… what’s new?”
• “[figuring] out how to use limitations to help the film rather than hamstring it.”
• I don’t consider myself a diehard horror movie fan, but many of my recent favorite movies are horror movies: Get Out, Hush, Don’t Breathe, It Follows, The Conjuring 1 & 2. I love the thing that they can do really well — exploiting some specific limitation or shitck in lots of clever ways.
• I read this a few years ago, and I think about it a lot. This guy lives in Seattle!
• I’ve managed to read 7 months back into in my Instapaper queue, which is great. I have 6 years to go. Dang!
• Started a page detailing my task management ‘system’.
• As skeptical and anxious as I tend to feel about the digitizing of our lives — I do, sincerely, believe in these tools (especially FoldingText and Drafts). They help me process the things on my mind more effectively and naturally than paper.
• I love Greenwood. A dream.
• Playing as the Sonics in Seattle was a special moment.
• Treat Joe Self
• “Putting on anything else seems like a risk… like wearing a target.”
• “Clothing, at least, is something we can control. Wearing gray is a way of soothing the 21st-century chaos”
• “Perhaps the most compelling thing about gray is that it’s not composed of absolutes — it exists between them.… there is no one grayest gray.”
• “I like objects where the egoistic touch of a designer isn’t obvious, objects that feel like the inevitable result of a set of constraints and desires.”
• “the pursuit of a generic so generic that it becomes unique”
• “[Gray is] the one shade that will disappear and leave only infinite possibility in its wake.”
• “we’re almost always writing about someone who’s in his or her 80s or 90s… who [was] in their prime, moving and shaking, changing the world… 40, 50, 60 years ago.”
• This means most people make their greatest contribution between ages 20 and 50. I’m 37. This is my window.
• Why abandoned shopping malls are so captivating: “No mall is forever; their lifespan, like our own, is finite.”
• “the test of whether or not something is actually a gimmick is if it truly enhances the audience’s experience of the [ideas being communicated].… in the case of Memento, the story didn’t come from the structure, the structure came from the story.” (shitcky vs. special)
• There are six movies in the theater right now that I plan to see. That may be (gloriously) an all-time high.
• I arrived in Seattle three years ago today.
• Why do I keep track of these things? I like reflecting. And especially, reflecting at regular intervals — noticing changes over time.
• Really trying to get AA batteries out of my life.
• One reason I don’t want to give up teaching altogether is that, when tell people I teach at UW, they 1. understand what it is immediately, and 2. tend to be impressed by. These are qualities I want out of my professional life, and they don’t feel true with design industry jobs.
• I can’t oversell how satisfying it is for me to live next to a grocery store and 3 blocks away from a Fred Meyer.
• Colibris Fred 102G gray glasses
• These were expensive ($520.00) and more than I should responsibly be spending right now. But they’re exactly what I was looking for. And at this particular moment in my life, they feel like the right investment.
• Interviewing tactic: “Keep going on this point.”
• Son talking to his dad (now) about their family business… that the dad originally shared with his dad (in 1974): “It’s tough, father and son working together.… I don’t think our relationship is as bad as how you and grandpa were. But… like you said: he was old school. But now you’re old school. You’re like grandpa….”
• I could listen to this stuff all day. I think there’s incredible value in interviewing and journaling — but even more in reflecting on it later.
• When I think about the things that, if I had more fun money, it’d be nice to buy guilt-free: I think about coats and jackets.
• And a trip to Vancouver. I haven’t been since I moved, which is crazy. I could get in the car right now and be there in 2 hours and 26 minutes.
• I’ve visited twice (both solo) and those trips have a really special place in my heart.
• “Have you ever looked at something and it’s crazy, and then you looked at it in another way and it’s not crazy at all?”
• 75th movie of the year.
• “It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing: productivity, profits, even comedy. No time for reflection. No time to contract before another expansion. No time to grow up. No time to f••• up. No time to learn from your mistakes. But that notion goes against nature, which is cyclical. And I hope I’m now beginning a new cycle of energy and creativity.” The next phase.
• “I don’t want anyone who reads this to think it’s a message to [them]. It’s not. This is merely an accounting of what I have done.”
• “Q: Late at night, when the lights are out and the TV is off and… you’re not quite asleep yet — what do you think about?”
• “Q: But do you feel lonely? A: I feel an aloneness, and I relish that.”
• “Q: Is there anything you’ve said anywhere in this interview that you wish you could change? A: No, but something I said will, I think, change me.”
• A pattern among the people I really respect is an ability to say — confidently and out loud — this is how I was feeling, and this is what I did about it.
• “What tends to go on in a bull session is that the participants try out various thoughts and attitudes in order to see how it feels to hear themselves saying such things and in order to discover how others respond”
• “What is wrong with a counterfeit is not [its accuracy], but how it was made.”
• “[An honest person] says only what he believes to be true; [a liar] considers his statements to be false. [A bullshitter], however,… is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false.”
• Freelance is always seeping into the gaps in my time. Absolutely a choice I’m making. But I kinda hate that about it.
• There aren’t many decisions I regret in my life so far. But two I think about often: 1. I wish I would’ve left Omaha and (Oxide) my graphic design job years earlier than I did, and 2. I wish I would’ve started playing drums (instead of trombone) when I was a kid.
• Deconstructing Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” video (ScreenPrism)
• Thinking about how I’ll leverage my teaching experience for design industry interviews and realizing that teaching is a kind of interaction design — asking for students’ feedback and then using it to actively design the class itself. Which I do, constantly.
Never Be Closing
• “Being a social outcast can make you a better social observer of the gap between our real selves and our public image.”
• “how many eye contact until date”
• “People think other people are impressed by voicey cynicism in the public square. But in private we’re all really nice and anxious.”
• “At first you loathe the teens, because you know nothing about them and think they’re idiots, beneath you. Then you love the teens because you figure out they are smarter than you, and you make peace with the death of your cultural relevance, because you know you’ll be in good hands. Finally, you recognize the shape of the adults they’ll become, corrupted by money and vanity and hubris just like everyone else.”
• LEGO’s NBA minifigs were the first to have real-world skin colors.
• I’ve been boxing for two years. Still having fun and getting a lot out of it. Easily one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
• I think it works as well as it does for me because it feels like a hobby. It’s fun and full of techniques to learn and master.
• One of the (few) things I miss about life in Omaha was feeling deeply invested in a professional-personal community. Being a guy who was connected enough that I could help someone get one step further towards something they wanted. Or at least help them feel welcomed to the group — a place they wanted to be.
• Having no connections in Seattle, this all changed immediately when I moved. It’s a thing I can do that I haven’t had the chance to do yet here. I miss it, and I want it back.
• Been getting a lot of positive feedback, on lots of things. Unexpectedly. Feeling optimistic.
• Some feedback from students in Color & Comp: 1. “Joe has a lot of enthusiasm and super supportive of the students. Having that environment for the first quarter helped ease me into the design courses.” 2. “Joe clearly cared deeply about the advancement and success of his students and I felt personally encouraged and affirmed by him and his manner of teaching.… My favorite parts… were the more abstract assignments that had to do with expressing thoughts, ideas and concepts…. concepts that Joe was particularly effective at teaching.”
• self ethnography: “an investigative method where an individual documents his or her own experience, acting as both researcher and participant.” (journaling)
• Growth Mindset: an approach to teaching that encourages students to “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point.”
• Designing and learning continue to feel like they’re just different ways of articulating the same essential truths about living.
• In this case: embracing challenges, seeking criticism, finding lessons in the success of others.
• “All this gives [students] a greater sense of free will.”
• A friend asked what qualities define the best students. I’d say they’re the ones that: 1. seem internally motivated and eager to learn, 2. genuinely want feedback, 3. deliberately incorporate that feedback into the next round, 4. aren’t afraid to show what they’re working at any stage of the process, 5. develop variations on concepts, and the variations explore distinct directions, 6. work at finding/making unexpected connections, 7. are modest about their success, and 8. are selfless and earnest participants in other students’ process.
• Alright. It just really feels like it’s time — and probably the last possible moment in my life — to give the design industry another shot.
• To cash in (as Karen said today).
• Why now? I’m feeling stuck socially and financially.
• I interviewed for three middle/elementary school makerspace positions this year. I was close on two, and I think this could very well work out eventually. But I’ll have to wait 6–9 months for another opportunity. With no guarantees.
• I’m ready to get unstuck, now (yesterday, a year ago).
• The things I’ve said about teaching are still true. And I doubt I’ll find a design industry job that reaches the highs I’ve felt in classrooms. But it’s a compromise I’m feeling (suddenly) willing to make — to move forward in other parts of my life.
• Plus, I think I’ll still be able teach Color & Comp every year anyway.
• “clerks on rail cars sorted the mail while it was en route.”
• “It wasn’t until I’d been keeping a journal and turning those thoughts into [something…] that I stepped out in front as myself.”
• One of my idols.
• Thinking about jobs: am I willing to give up the flexility to do things in the middle of the day (like, for instance, watching the VMAs and boxing)? Which, just really feels like living.
• Looking forward to conversations with Omaha friends (in two weeks). Got a lot on my mind. Three years away, and these are still the people I turn to.
• I use the word ‘weird’ a lot. Not in a positive (“Keep Portland Weird”) way. Usually, I’m talking about situations when we: 1. ignore differences between how something is presented vs. how it really is (social media), or 2. participate in something we know is disingenuous or slimy (content marketing). It’s a tension between feeling and doing.
• I read mostly non-fiction, but the opposite is true for movies (I rarely watch documentaries). Huh.
• I haven’t dated at all in Seattle. Combined, the move and grad school were a real chance to be alone with my thoughts. I wanted the time for myself, I took it, I learned a lot, made some big decisions (I do want to find a woman to settle down with, and I do want to be a dad), and I’m really glad I did it. But I’m ready for the next phase.
• Being an independent contractor (as a teacher and graphic designer) isn’t helping.
• “there are no aesthetic choices, nor is there irony, in a coal mine.”
• “You mine coal, you get money, you go home.… It’s simple. Coal is your goal.”
• “I look through [my left] eye, and I look through [my right] eye, and they’re not telling me the same thing — and they have to get along, so I can have a more dimensionalized view of the world.… To move from your singular point of view to another point of view, and keep those views connected… I think that is how we grow.”
• “comics are both sequential and simultaneous”
• Zoom picture book
• [Situation] is very complex. Also really good, though.
• I don’t mind waiting for the bus. It’s a chance to just stand in one place and appreciate how great this city is. I love it here.
• Listening to stories from a friend (Sarah) about a design industry job (Amazon) with its tech company perks, and it’s got me thinking. Would I trade 1. my flexible schedule (which really works for me) and teaching (which is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever been a part of) in exchange for 2. other life things that (a year out of grad school) still feel out of reach financially: a regular-sized place to live, dating, saving, traveling… and all the doors those would open? It’s possible.
• Big parts of my life feel like they’re on hold right now. I’m ready for the next phase, but I’m not sure teaching will get me there. At least, not soon enough.
• “Granted complete freedom of thought, Thomas Jefferson and company assumed, most people would follow the path of reason.”
• “In 1994, the first modern spam message was sent…: global alert for all: jesus is coming soon.”
• “‘Individuals’ explicit religious and paranormal beliefs’ are the best predictors of their ‘perception of purpose in life events’ — their tendency ‘to view the world in terms of agency, purpose, and design.’”
• “‘The likelihood of supporting conspiracy theories is strongly predicted [by] a propensity to attribute the source of unexplained or extraordinary events to unseen, intentional forces’ and a weakness for ‘melodramatic narratives as explanations for prominent events, particularly those that interpret history relative to universal struggles between good and evil.’”
• A conspiracy theory is the presumption of design where there probably wasn’t any.
• “[Trump] doesn’t like experts, because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth.”
• LEGO Winter Holiday Train Station. I hope this series continues forever.
• Moving my podcasts to Feedbin, downloading the audio files, and listening with the Dropbox app (eliminating the need to have a dedicated podcasting app).
• Always looking for ways to nix apps.
• Feeling kinda cranky lately. In a good way.
• I’ve started a file called “F••• you and your.txt” (inspired by this). It’s just a list of things like: startup, generic interview question, meme, tech company perks, etc. Probably won’t post it here, but it sure feels good to type it out.
• Trying not to read into [situation]. Not doing a very good job.
• I’m spending a pretty good chunk of my income on food, coffee, drinks, and movies, and I’m OK with it. Feels like living.
• “De-Michaelization”: diluting the effect of one dominant person on a team so everyone else can participate.
• You know you’re watching a Steven Soderbergh movie if… (ScreenPrism)
• I like asking the question “What did you like about it?” (when someone says they enjoyed doing a thing). I think dissecting our interests (aka pleasure-point analysis) is such a valuable exercise.
• Still thinking about how this concept might lend itself to a workshop for kids.
• Example: growing up, I really connected with the book The Westing Game. I liked 1. how the story is engineered as a puzzle, and 2. the twist, which is just a super clever idea.
• In 5th grade, I was appreciating how it came to be (the design of it) — even if I didn’t understand that until much later. They’re the same big ideas I still think about today, and they’ve been with me my whole life.
• Taking a look at our interests and finding the patterns reveals our perspective, our aptitudes, the big ideas that resonate. They’re a foundation we can build on.
• When a design industry pro designs something self-promotional — when they use their professional skills for their own gain — the result is (in some way, always) manipulation. Not necessarily good or bad, but it’s weird.
• Last day of summer quarter.
• This one threw me off a little. In the end, I’m happy with the students’ work, and I think they enjoyed the process. But summer feels different. It requires more double-checking, clarifying, managing late/missing projects/students, responding to emails that start with “Unfortunately…”.
• Not universally (there were several super solid students in both classes), but I expected more from UW students. I should’ve pushed harder, I lost some enthusiasm (which isn’t cool), and we missed some opportunities.
• Overall, my goal was to design these classes around the ideas that: (with 265a) anything can be designed, and everyone can design, and (with 265c) graphic design is a set of practical, non-bullshit communication skills. These are the two big ideas that drive me to teach, and I think these classes legitimately opened those doors.
• On the last day of the quarter, I really like getting to say “This whole class was, itself, designed.”
• I’m bad at keeping track of USB drives (already lost the one I bought in June).
• Got my own faculty ‘add code’ (for sponsoring independent studies), which I’m pretty stoked about.
• “I’m the founder of [Noun]™, an [adjective] [noun] app for [adjective] [nouns].” Who cares.
• I’d really like to be done making shoe decisions, for life. These just might be the new default sneaker.
• The UW Design VCD faculty are responsible for a good chunk of the paying projects I’ve had in the last year (teaching and freelance), and they’re the main reason I’m still in Seattle right now.
• The man, Justin Kemerling, is responsible for the rest.
• I’m trying a new thing this quarter where I ask students to reflect (in writing) on their decision-making after every project. It’s been great. It holds them accountable to making those decisions in the first place. And it gives me something concrete to grade against.
• I’m energized by students’ enthusiasm. But I’m also discouraged by their inertia.
• I’m constantly tweaking this site (constantly). It’s been fun to have a long-term, low-stakes, incremental creative outlet. (Today, I added a new style to differentiate highlights/quotes from things I’ve written.)
• Several of my teachers’ ideas have influenced the way I teach now. Two are: 1. middle school computer science, where meeting an assignment’s requirements was (logically) only worth an average grade (and surpassing them was worth a better one), and 2. drawing at UNO, where the teacher added to my final grade: “You have the talent, but do you have the passion?”
• “What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behavior to sell ads.… justifications about ‘connection’ and ‘community’ are ex post facto rationalizations.”
• I haven’t posted to social media in two years, and I’m fine.
• I hate grading.
• Why? I think, it’s just that translating feelings into words and numbers (even feelings based on objective criteria, which I try to build my classes around) is hard.
• I’ll have to figure out how to make grading less of a chore if I intend to teach for awhile (which I do).
• Making more time for reading, and I feel really good when I do that.
• “positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones.… Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs — protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections — but in the short term actually put us at risk… [exposing] us to… rejection and heartbreak.”
• “It’s important to care and to try, even tho the effects of one’s caring and trying may be absurd, futile, or so woven into the future as to be indetectable.”
• A tricky thing about job searching in Seattle is that — because of the city’s size and the likelihood of finding someone really qualified — it’s been difficult for me to break through, being a person with some (but not loads of) experience (teaching middle schoolers).
• But for the same reason, it’s been easy to find opportunities to do exactly the same things I was doing before grad school: teaching undergrads (which I love) and graphic design freelance (which is helpful for paying the bills).
• I want my classes to be places where students learn to how ask questions and how to look for answers (for instance, using inspiration and feedback). Versus waiting in line for critique, so I can tell them what’s wrong.
• I’m not there yet. But this approach is different from the way graphic design classes normally work, and I’m excited about that.
• I don’t think students realize how much just showing up and participating differentiates them from most other students.
Content marketing about content marketing. Super weird.
• I’m doubling-down on gray (and black and white). People give me a hard time about how much gray is in my wardrobe, but I feel less comfortable than ever wearing other colors.
• This week, teaching two workshops on poster design for the Washington NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Research Program (at UW).
• I like the challenge of designing workshops. Might be a fun way to make a living.
• Sometimes, a new class project/exercise will be a dud — it’ll be less interesting or connect fewer dots than I’d hoped. Happened today at this workshop. Still though, I end up learning something new about teaching. And the next iteration is always better.
• Treating those duds as part of a process — recognizing them as opportunities to make changes for next time — is so liberating.
• The older I get, the better I am at looking at all parts of my life like this. Got bamboozled by a tricky auto shop? Said a stupid thing in a job interview? Made a dumb investment. Did a terrible job MC-ing an event? No prob.
• The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub: on the McCain 2000 campaign trail (David Foster Wallace)
• “There is a difference between a great leader and a great salesman.”
• “if you’re subjected to great salesmen and sales pitches and marketing concepts for long enough — like from your earliest Saturday-morning cartoons, let’s say — it is only a matter of time before you start believing deep down that everything is sales and marketing, and that whenever somebody seems like they care about you or about some noble idea or cause, that person is a salesman and really ultimately doesn’t give a shit about you or some cause but really just wants something for himself.”
• This resonated so deep. Things I love thinking about (design, media literacy) are directly connected to things I worry about (realness, irony, cynicism).
• I believe, very seriously, that one of our biggest problems is that we’re so far down the slippery slope of salesmanship as a way of interacting with each other that it’s hard to know what’s real — what’s worth opening ourselves up to.
• Salesmanship is a kind of design.
• push-polling: asking a question that’s actually a strategy for influencing the opinion being asked-about.
• Trying a less shticky implementation of the link colors here.
• For me, shticks tend to eventually reveal themselves as having tried too hard. And these are starting to.
• Few things are more irritating to me than getting unsolicited advice.
• Saw this at MOHAI (my first visit), which I loved — a new Seattle fave.
• In 265c, our discussion of typographic contrast and hierarchy was really fun — the kind of mechanism-revealing moment I want to build entire classes around. Still figuring out how.
• I think it’s really interesting how cultural phrases like "One word, all lowercase" and "Have a good rest of your day!" have a life of their own.
• Jessica Svendsen, graphic designer
• typo/graphic posters, poster design archive
• For students who are new to graphic designing, it tends to be a bumpy transition for them to recognize that these skills are fundamentally communication skills. That success is found in communicating clearly and genuinely. And it happens through the designer’s intentional decision-making.
• Often, these students measure success through murky concepts like being ‘pleasing to the eye’ or having a ‘nice flow’.
• Not at all their fault. I blame the graphic design industry for 1. rarely explaining its choices or sharing its process, and 2. intentionally mis-communicating or communicating disingenuously (via bullshit and trends).
• As a teacher, I feel a responsibility to work against this stuff. To help reset students’ understanding of the real value of these skills.
• Another bonus of teaching is that my stress tends evaporate as the class moves along (once the big ideas are set in motion and students are more independent). Versus the design industry, where stress tends to compound as projects approach the deadline.
• LtD is finding the limits of your understanding. By taking everything you know, wrapping it up, and tossing it out there, you get a chance to immediately challenge and hopefully expand those limits.
• One of my longest-term life goals is just finishing my Instapaper queue.
• Halo Top low-calorie ice cream
• As a teacher, I think it’s part of my job to stay on top of the links (for students in need of resources/inspiration). I’ve usually got something.
• “I know you hate emails; I just had a lot to type.” (Mom)
• Strain Theory: the ways people adapt when they can’t achieve culturally-defined goals (e.g. "The American Dream").
• What’s next for LtD? Maybe a workshop for BFI: 1. students design something for someone else in the room, 2. write about what they expect to happen vs. what did, and 3. reflect on what they learned in the process.
• Blow Out
• It’s common for people to assume I’m into entrepreneurship and startups. Which isn’t the case.
• I get the connection. But business strategy (designing ways to sell stuff) feels like manipulation and isn’t for me.
• In the last year, I designed/coded three versions of this site — each a new combo of professional/personal. It was through that designing/redesigning that I figured out what I wanted this site to be.
• I’m really happy with this version.
• Everyone’s job is a kind of design — a collection of goals they’re tasked with reaching. But no one’s job is just ‘designer’ — they’re a designer of-something.
• Being a person who’s pretty open about feelings (in a culture where people generally aren’t) continues to be a tricky thing to navigate.
• It’s surprising (still) how difficult it is to convince design students of the flat-out necessity of setting project goals before they start working.
• Goals make a design’s success measurable. (Otherwise, there’s no choice but to respond with things like, ‘I like it’.)
• Just connected the fact that Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Posse on Broadway is about Broadway street in Seattle. This song and Buttermilk Biscuits were a pretty big deal in my 6th grade class.
• Removed the analytics here. I was a little too curious about it, and it became a weird distraction.
• The diminishing returns of online advertising (Real Life Magazine)
• “On the contemporary internet, it is difficult to find a form of content that does not serve mainly as an advertisement for itself, a whispered plea to keep engaging.”
• "Hello?" is proving to be the perfect title for this month.
• Friends who don’t reply to texts, friends with no time to catch up, students who are late or absent from class, juniors who aren’t showing up for the Summer Personal Project workshop, students in 265 with blank stares on their faces, a job application/email with no response (Blaze Education).
• If I move away from Seattle some day, I’m guessing it’ll be because 1. I couldn’t afford it, and/or 2. I got tired of The Freeze.
• “Hold still for exactly 27 years and 13 days, not a day less. Do not use any energy trying to message me. Remember that I love you.”
• When I’m stressed, boxing it out helps so much.
• Half-way through summer quarter. 265a (Applied Design) has been full of good stuff, and fun. 265c (Intro to VCD) needs some adjustments. I’m still invested in the class as graphic design + media literacy, but my implementation (so far) isn’t landing as the compelling and useful thing I’d imagined.
• It’s alright, I’ve got feedback to work with, and there’s time to make changes.
• It’s been unusually difficult to get feedback from these students, and I’ve been frustrated by that.
• Good or bad, I need to know how students are feeling about a class to keep us moving forward.
• @vanishingseattle, disappearing Seattle places and culture
• The city needs more homes for all the new people, though. And I’m one of them.
• That said, I’m irritated by people who want the world to stop changing exactly at the moment that it’s working best for them.
• A big lesson from grad school is the idea that putting something/anything in front of someone is worthwhile. No matter how resolved it is or how satisfied you are with it: you’ll learn something from the feedback.
• I learned this from Tad. Who, as much as I don’t respect him personally, is responsible for some of my favorite grad school lessons.
• A friend said that this page is confusing to read. I’m OK with that (it’s mostly for me anyway). But for other people, maybe it’s more of a visualization — that some other person, somewhere, is out there, moving forward too.
• The iPod as safety prosthetic (Real Life Magazine)
• An example of LtD from teaching: when I introduce a new project, students will usually ask a clarifying question that I didn’t see coming, and I’ll have to edit the project requirements in some way. Happens almost every time.
• Teaching is more stressful than freelancing.
• Micro but Many, Micro Machines database
• Logobook, black and white logo database
• I have my own database personal project in mind, and I think about it a lot (cheeseslope.com).
• “Pro tip: do what works for you.” (Ask Polly)
• It’s pretty difficult to say “design is [whatever]” or “[whatever] is design” and be wrong.
• Would I like to be in better shape? Yes. Am I willing to give up MOD Pizza and Taco Bell for it? Probably not.
• I think about the ‘escalation’ scene in Batman Begins quite a bit — as a metaphor for how our culture works generally.
• Also intrigued by the idea that there wouldn’t be a Joker unless there was a Batman first.
• We read about this concept in grad school — that a design, once it’s implemented, demands other designed responses from the world around it.
• Just realizing: this is probably the genesis of LtD.
• draw.io, flowchart builder
• Teaching kids about design isn’t really an existing career path. I know this. If career paths are designs themselves (where the goal is a job). And the job I want is new: then the design will be new (untested, uncertain), too.
• It’s helped to keep this in mind. But the last year has still been a little frustrating.
• Am I limiting my opportunities personally (socializing, traveling, savings) (dating, too) by not following an existing career path? Feels like it, yeah.
• It’s cool, though. I’m confident I’ll figure all of this out.
• I always do.
• Q: “Do you want to stress eat?” A: “F••• yeah.”
• Movies about parenting make me think.
• “There are no bad audiences, only bad comedians.” I’m reading this as a teacher. If students aren’t engaged, is that my responsibility? Maybe…
• “These slogans presuppose that… the purpose of human beings is to leave some sort of sign that we were here.… As if making a mark is always a good thing.”
• I have some of my best ideas for class on the bus ride to campus and on the walk between the bus and the Art building.
• Today it was a user testing exercise for 265a that went really well.
• I want my classes to feel like they’re actively being designed and redesigned themselves. Showing a willingness to improve, improvise, take feedback and run with it.
• I’ve started to see awkward social interactions as two-way streets (where before, I tended to feel like the one to blame). Whatever’s causing the awkwardness (judgement, confusion, sensitivity), I think it’s up to everyone involved to help diffuse it.
• Which means that (as long as I’ve done whatever diffusing I can) the actual awkwardness doesn’t bother me much anymore.
• It’s always really good to have Omaha friends in Seattle.
• Matt Heller is visiting now.
• To help the juniors pick summer personal projects, I’m suggesting they: 1. make a list of personal interests and 2. a list of professional goals for the summer, then 3. combine (remix) 1–3 things from each list.
• Another bonus of teaching is that teachers tend to age out pretty late, so I should be able to continue teaching as long as I want. Versus the design industry, which swallows old people whole. Seriously: what happens to them?
• Picked up another class at UW (HCDE 308), this one in spring. Teaching in three quarters now.
• The goal is all four, which would provide 1. health insurance year-round, 2. enough income to pay the bills, but 3. still enough flexibility to teach middle school design classes somewhere, too.
• A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought this plan was feasible. But based on how well UW is going, and based on the jobs I’ve found in the search so far, it seems really damn feasible.
• It might be possible to summarize LtD as: reflecting on the differences between intention and reality (since a design is a manifestation of intent).
• Asked a friend (Ashley) this: Do you ever think a certain phase of your life might be over for good, in a bad way? Or do you see getting older and wiser as always better than what came before?
• I’m tired of being a solo contractor, and I’m ready to be a part of something bigger.
• I rely pretty heavily on feedback from students. I’m always asking, "How’d that go? Did you enjoy it? Was it confusing? Frustrating? What did you learn?”
• Personal project idea: interviewing students who weren’t accepted to the UW Design program but pursued a design career in some other way.
• Feeling stuck. Professionally, and (because of that) financially, and (because of that) personally. UW is the best teaching gig yet, but it’s only part of a plan that I haven’t managed to piece together yet.
• Coindexter’s (a pinball barcade) is opening a block from my front door.
• This is the life.
• An example of LtD from teaching: sometimes I’ll pose a question or give instructions and students will respond in a way I hadn’t expected. I take those as signals that: 1. I didn’t communicate clearly or 2. missed a potential perspective (or five). But the next time, I’ll make some tweaks (using the new information) and usually be able to smooth it out.
• In the fall, I teach two sections of the same class on Fridays, and it’s a great opportunity for this.
• Curbed Seattle: Tiny Homes blog
• Didn’t get the Evergreen makerspace assistant job.
• This is the fifth design/making + education/teaching job I’ve applied for.
• The job search over the last year has been frustrating (for both teaching and design industry jobs). I like to think I have a pretty valuable mixture of professional experience, but it hasn’t felt like an asset.
• Students are still finding thoughtful, unexpected ideas for the Square + Circle (used it in 265a last week).
• It’s become the quintessential class exercise for me: 1. easy to understand, 2. infinite variety, 3. clear, predictable insights to be gleaned, and 4. straight-up fun (for me, too).
• I originally designed it for the first day of my first class (Concept Development at MCC in 2011).
• Once students submit their first hands-on exercise/project, I tend to remember their names. The connection between names, faces, and work tends to stick.
• Elmedia Player and video downloader
• I save videos quite a bit in the teaching/inspiration archive.
• I’m not a conspiracy theorist.
• Every Tuesday should be a holiday.
• communicating > manipulating
• Interviewed with three UW Design seniors (Dana, Sam, and Sahm) for their cool summer project on pursuing passions (professionally).
• I mentioned this site as my main passion project now. Really, it’s the biggest one of my life. And the biggest project of any kind (including client work and thesis). By miles.
• I said that one of the goals of this site is to be an example of a person who doesn’t have the answers. Especially a design professional who’s still finding their way, changing their mind, and un-changing it back, 13 years into their career.
• “We learned a great deal in the design of [the first] Beetle as leaving so many studs exposed at that scale is not ideal…”
• Interface design and our sense of time (Real Life Magazine)
• “The time it takes to receive… a message is also part of its content.”
• One red paperclip bartering strategy
• “Did he change, or did we decide to view him differently?”
• A recurring thought for 2017 has been: “Hello?” With 1. the way people generally ignore each other in Seattle (The Freeze), 2. silence after job interviews, and 3. the general weirdness of communicating digitally.
• I’m not lonely (I’m not even sure that’s possible for me), but I certainly feel disconnected.
Learning through design
• Teaching is fun. Freelancing’s a chore.
• Telling a Story from the Inside Out (Lessons from the Screenplay)
• “a story is as much a journey for the person writing it as it is for the characters in it.”
• “The mysterious thing about telling stories is that it ends up changing you. As a storyteller, the research that you do, the… focus on a theme that you’re dealing with: it ends up seeping into your own system and changing the way you look at the world.” (Pete Docter)
• Why is LtD a unique kind of learning? Designing reveals our perspective, assumptions, priorities, biases, interests, expectations — our understanding of how the world works and our place in it. So, reflecting on a design is a chance to notice how that understanding aligns with reality. And learn from it.
• I think. Still figuring this idea out.
• Big fan of one-shots.
• In 265a, as research for a branding deconstruction, everyone got to buy something at Starbucks. A win-win use of class fees.
• This led to an interesting conversation about whether a national brand could ever really be genuinely ‘personal’ (providing identical experiences in lots of places). Good stuff.
• I say this to students pretty often: the best way to learn about typography is by studying print magazines.
• Communicating clearly and intentionally is hard work.
• My classes tend to be light on lecturing. I’ve seen fantastic lecture classes, but I really believe in learning by doing.
• Designing class exercises feels like building little machines. Plug it in and watch it go. Hopefully in the direction I’d intended.
• I feel more comfortable than ever standing in front of classes. I still feel some anxiety, but I’ve definitely reached a new level of confidence as a teacher.
• Lecture In Progress, design/creative industry information for students
• I’m skeptical of sites like this, which tend to set weird precedents for students by: 1. feeling self-important, 2. interpreting design in one narrow way, or 3. being an oblique promotional device for a product (content marketing). But this feels like a sincere resource for helping people find a place in the world professionally.
• Had pickled peppers for (I think) the first time.
• In 265c, did our first deconstruction (looking at examples of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ graphic design and identifying the techniques/principles at work). Bad ass.
• Tried a new presentation trick: a blank Google Doc that any student could drop examples into, immediately viewable to the whole class.
• So simple! I’ve been looking for a way to do this for awhile. Learned it from students today and put it right to use.
• Class days, like no other days I know of, really do meet the criteria of a Good Day.
• I don’t believe in fate or divine intervention. But I do believe I’ve found the thing I’m better at than anything else (teaching). And that it’s the most satisfying possible thing I could be doing professionally.
• I’m a Xennial: neither Generation X nor Millennial.
• Connects back to an idea I was thinking about earlier: being pre-Internet, but still Internet literate.
• Muppets are a remix. The word and the design are a combination of marionette (moving arms) and puppet (moving head).
• A super general instance of LtD is how the quality of a person’s creative output tends to improve over time.
• 1. Design a thing, 2. learn about yourself and the world through those decisions, 3. design an improved thing, making different decisions with that new information.
• But (as pivot points between life stages) the sentiment is still true.
• As a teacher, I like being at the pivot points.
• I have about 1% patience for art now.
• LtD is not intentionally a job-search shtick. But, I’m thinking it’d be helpful to have one. For summarizing my approach to teaching and projecting some kind of ‘expertise’.
• Looking back, I’m wondering if #solveproblems was helpful in how quickly I found new opportunities after Oxide.
• learning through design
• I could use an abbreviation: LTD, ltd, LtD, L⇠D?
• The Hawthorne effect: when people “modify… their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.”
• I don’t get why anyone still uses ‘www.’
• Mr. Rogers and the Power of Persuasion (Will Schoder)
• How life expectancy works (vlogbrothers)
• I love how often Seattle or UW are mentioned in other things I’m reading/watching.
• This week: #1 NBA draft pick Markelle Fultz (from UW).
• Added Christoper Nolan Batman to the LEGO minifig collection.
• Did an exercise in 265a that I’ve wanted to try: students dissect an interview from Art of the Title to find examples of design process (goals, limitations, concepting, inspiration, feedback, prototyping, etc.).
• It was solid gold. Love that site.
• Wrote a definition sheet for those words without feeling the need to use ‘problem’ or ‘solution’ once. That shift in my thinking over the last few years has been interesting.
• In grad school, I picked up the word ‘approach’ as an alternative to ‘solution’. Which I like for being less definitive.
• I bought design265.info this quarter, using it to create short URLs for different stuff in class. It’s working super well.
• Also got design210.info for fall.
• Ha, snap! It’s interesting how the goal of this post (to promote the watch) is revealed by being the only thing that can’t be substituted with (whatever).
• Reflecting on a design process transforms that ’finished’ design into a prototype — for all design experiences in the future.
• This is my kind of movie. It’s self-aware: a movie about what makes a movie a movie. A movie’s movie.
• All three of my doctors (physician, dentist, optometrist) are women.
• I think women are generally better than most things than men are. Is that sexist?
• First day of summer classes.
• The "What is Designed?" exercise in 265a was sweet. The prompt: find three things that you feel have been designed, anywhere on campus. The questions: 1. How do you know this was designed? 2. What do these things share? 3. What makes them different?
• It worked for getting right to the core of the class: that a thing is designed towards some goal, and that things are designed differently because they have different goals.
• I felt a lot less anxiety today compared to previous first days of class. Like a lot less. It’s not entirely gone, but I feel pretty damn comfortable up there now.
• The more tired I feel, the worse I am at explaining things.
• Finished my final Film Streams newsletter.
• This makes exactly 10 years, and it feels like a good time for the door to close.
• I’m still working towards transitioning mostly to teaching (instead of freelancing) by the end of 2017.
• Deckset is the presentation-building app I was hoping for. It’s removed so much of the angst between the ideas and the communicating.
• Absolutely replacing InDesign for this. Stoked.
• I really believe in this philosophy, of as little interface as possible. It’s why I: 1. use FoldingText for writing and tasks, 2. organize files and photos in macOS folders, and 3. run this site on Kirby.
• It’s so easy for the interface to become a thing on its own (a place for customizing, a layer of tech that can/will break, and proprietary formats that can/will be wall-off or made obsolete). All anxiety-inducing.
• Wrapping up summer class planning (265a/c). In distinct ways, each is shaping up to be (what sounds like) a fun class to teach and take.
• Both classes are chances to prototype. With 265a, I can trial some learning through design. With 265c, new ideas I have for Color & Comp in the fall.
• Sold a big chunk (maybe half) of my LEGO collection for $1,900 (to a Craigslist buyer).
• This is a big deal. I now own few enough things that my tiny apartment suddenly feels comfortable.
• Part of the ongoing 2017 minimizing project. Drums, books, and LEGO are done. Video games and toys are underway.
• It’s been interesting, getting older and watching the stuff I collected in my 20s transition from a source of satisfaction to a burden.
• There won’t be anything here for awhile (possibly never), but I’m feeling really good about the potential of this idea.
• 50th movie of the year.
• I’ve gotten pretty good at parallel parking since the move.
• Discovered a bonus of using a standing desk in a tiny apartment: since there’s no chair, all the space underneath can be used for storage. Nice!
• The dream (tiny) house.
• When I have a big project approaching on the calendar (like summer classes), it’s a useful opportunity for me to check off a bunch of small things. It feels good to clear the way.
• Interviewed for a makerspace assistant at (Evergreen) a private school, and I think it went well. I just laid it all on the table: I think I have a lot to offer, and I’m excited about this position. I’m ready. Let me loose. I’m the guy for the job.
• Spent 88 volunteer hours at BFI this school year.
• I love tiny environments.
• The Seattle No-Look Pass. Hello?
• Helped interview students for the UW Design Entrance Workshop.
• It’s inspiring to meet them at this stage. Where their interest is so clear, and their future as professional designers-of-something feels like only a matter of time.
• Thinking more about why I prefer teaching over the design industry. For me, classrooms tend to be about understanding things as they really are. Versus the design industry, which is often (but not always) about constructing the facade in the first place.
• The first thing to go when my calendar fills up is exercise.
• It took almost three years, but I finally have a Bachelor/ette friend (Aubree) in Seattle. Stoked.
• In July and August, I’m organizing a weekly Summer Personal Project workshop for the UW Design juniors.
• Just realized that this workshop itself is MY summer personal project. Whoa.
• This week, I bought a TV and (later that same day) decided not to keep it.
• And this was after agonizing research on choosing the right one.
• Why? Basically: 1. I was randomly selected to be a Nielsen ratings household (which’d be super cool), and I need a TV for that, but 2. I discovered how much I really don’t want another big tech thing in my life.
• Although this was time-consuming (researching, buying, setting-up, re-boxing, returning), only to end up (still) without a TV: having gone through those steps is not the same as not buying the TV at all. Now I know.
• An example of learning through design.
• My Smile purchases donate to BFI.
• This show is another touchstone from the middle school era that’s stuck with me.
• I have a lot of life goals yet to reach, but I’m really happy with how meaningful it already feels. I have no shortage of ideas, direction, or purpose.
• I’ll almost certainly live in a tiny house some day.
• Another reason I’m drawn to the process (over the product): it’s where the learning, growing, and changing happens.
• Big fan of Rachel’s project.
• These undergrads’ first day in the Design program (September 24, 2014 in Color & Composition) was also my first day as a grad student.
• They’ve changed a lot, it’s crazy.
• Doesn’t seem like that long ago. But now, many of them have full-on design industry jobs (or deserve to), and I’m teaching that class.
• At some point, I think I just have to be OK feeling like a weirdo. The alternative is living my entire life being anxious about it.
• Deckset, Markdown-to-presentation app
• Looking for a way to streamline presentation-building for class. Which is one thing about teaching (along with grading) that I really don’t enjoy.
• inspiring.online, interesting web things
• When we say something was personally ‘influential’ in our past, I think we’re really saying it helped us recognize something that was already there — an interest. Rather than spontaneously igniting a brand new thing.
• “You could schedule a nap during the climactic battle of every single superhero movie and not only miss nothing, but come out better rested and more entertained.”
• I really dread the climactic battle scene.
• Realized that I can print stuff at my neighborhood public library instead of driving to Kinko’s.
• Tech things continue to frustrate (Kindle doesn’t update New York Times consistently, GE C-Sleep bulb stopped turning on in the morning, wireless headphones only-sometimes control Spotify).
• Added ‘shtick’ to Notes on design. This was one of my favorite words for years before I really understood (or was able to articulate) how it connected to design.
• 5‑Minute Crafts, wacky-simple solutions
• v4.1 of this site.
• Simplifying further: 1. there’s only one typeface now (instead of two), 2. only two text sizes (instead of three), 3. only two weights (instead of three), and 4. nixed the page border.
• Why? I keep coming back to this idea: that a design with fewer decisions-made (fewer typefaces, fewer sizes, fewer elements) is more likely to feel more resolved for longer.
• Each decision is an opportunity for mistakes, critique, tweaking, falling out of fashion.
• This is just another way of talking about simplicity or normalcy. But I think it might be possible to quantify it in terms of decisions.
• Had a breakthrough: learning through design, tying together my favorite approaches to both teaching and design.
• It works in two ways: 1. learning about yourself through the decisions you make in a design process (reflecting), and 2. learning about the world by putting that bundle of decisions out there and watching what happens (observing).
• Not my invention, by any means. But I think I can seam together a few existing design + education ideas, framed in a way that’s totally accessible to kids.
• Oh man! I think this might be it, the thing I’ve been working towards. Assembling notes for a longer write-up.
• I’m a little worried that, by committing to teaching instead of the design industry, I’m leaving a lot of potential financial security on the table. And in the short term (while I’m only teaching and freelancing part-time), I’ll continue to have very little of it at all.
• Been watching NBA Playoff games at a bar in my neighborhood. Having the confidence to sit at a bar alone is a very new thing in my life.
A dense metropolis
• CloudMounter app to use Dropbox and Google Drive without syncing
• Started making notes for an essay about digital anxiety.
• Got my book collection down to (I think) the core set I’ll keep for awhile (35 books).
• Mostly, favorite books from childhood and graphic novels.
• It’s a third of where I started at the beginning of the year — having since sold, donated, or digitized 75+ books. Feels good.
• Bought a ticket to see Mike Birbiglia live in November.
• I love living in a city large enough that, if someone’s on tour, they’ll probably stop by.
• Already, there are things I didn’t remember writing about or linking to. And that’s in just two years.
• I’m in this for the long haul, so looking back in 2067 should be pretty interesting.
• Reflecting on change is so valuable. Noticing how thoughts, feelings, relationships, and goals transformed over time — retrospectively witnessing the process.
• In this case: 1. how thesis wove itself together from distinct ideas that (originally) didn’t seem connected, and 2. how my job decisions evolved (in full circle) as I moved away from teaching and back again.
• Moving close to the gym has been so helpful in actually being there consistently.
• Did you see what I saw?, media literacy exercise on perspective and fact vs. opinion
“human brand”: oxymoron?
• No matter what qualities a brand communicates — and no matter how accurately it reflects the company/product behind it — there are always business objectives embedded with the designer’s choices. In this case: desaturated colors, textured lines, and smiley faces communicate human-ness — but the primary goal is to sell Dropbox (by framing it as friendly and easy-to-use). It’s true for every brand. That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s awkward, and ‘human’ (as a communication goal) makes that especially clear.
• This write-up will be a great resource for 265c.
• Teaching requires being a responsive communicator. Not just yammering on, but listening, too.
• I’m fascinated by growing up: how we learn about life as we get older and the choices we make along the way.
• On Thursday mornings, I’ve been helping with WrOBOT field trips at BFI — working with 4th/5th graders as they write a story in two hours. My job is to (simultaneously) type the story, seam students’ ideas together, encourage everyone to contribute, and help them negotiate the creative process overall. It’s a blast.
• Talking to a UW Design senior (Kelly) about what she might do next, these are the things that’ve helped me find direction in life: 1. journaling, 2. compiling (over a few years’ time) a list of qualities of the ideal job (without knowing what that job would be), 3. prototyping jobs quickly through volunteering and side projects, 4. sharing my work and process (which opened doors and helped me reflect).
• I keep coming back to interests: that 1. a clear, meaningful, unique picture of person sits at the intersection of whatever they enjoy, and that 2. those interests are examples of a person’s passions and perspective, and so, suggest what they may be uniquely qualified to offer the world.
• There’s something here, probably with kids and future-planning. But I’m not sure what to do with it yet.
• A reason I enjoy this show so much is the design of the show itself — it’s a simple system with complex and surprising variety. A fun sandbox.
• I’d like to host something again.
• “One of the things I always tell teachers is that you have a great opportunity to tell your students why you find teaching meaningful. Why is that your calling in your life?… The point isn’t to convince students to become teachers themselves,… [but] to show young people what it is like for a grown-up to have a sense of purpose.”
• 180° Pivoting TV Mount IKEA Hack. Trying to figure out how to use one screen as both a monitor and TV.
• It can take me months (months!) of postponing to do things like scheduling oil changes and doctor’s visits. (I finally did both this week.)
• There are few more satisfying moments of adulthood for me than seeing a movie in the middle of the day, eating a bunch of Peanut M&M’s, and drinking as much Coke Zero as I want.
• The Evergrey, Seattle events and issues newsletter
• When2meet, group meeting scheduler
• Personal project idea: interview someone, and then interview them again a few years later about how they feel (now) about their responses in the first interview.
• I admire people with the confidence to give compliments to complete strangers.
• Sometimes I’ll write something for this page only to decide I don’t really believe it. It’s a good test.
• psychological asymmetry: "We are continuously and intimately exposed to our own worries, hopes, desires and memories…. Yet when it comes to others, we are tightly restricted to knowing… [only] what they can or choose to reveal.”
• “We grow boring and conventional, mimicking the externals of other people on the false assumption that this is what they might truly be like inside.”
• 72Pins, modern NES cartridges
• Changed the text on this site to black (from desaturated blue, from bright blue and red, from bright blue).
• It’s interesting how choices like this can feel like they communicate accurately… and then eventually they don’t. Some choices here have started to feel like they’re still trying too hard.
• Just noticed that the logo on Real Life Magazine fills in randomly each time. I like this kind of shtick (like the link colors here) — designed to do a thing, but giving up some control in exactly how it gets there.
• Seattle weather is so much better than advertised. Despite the PNW’s reputation, the midwest’s barrage of extremes felt a lot more depressing to me.
• This last winter was even Seattle’s rainiest ever, and I hardly noticed.
• The final_final straw
• ScreenPrism film analysis video essays
• Rom Cons: Problematic Romance Lessons (Lessons from the Screenplay)
• Nathan For You, management consultant
• “You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.” (Aaron Sorkin)
• I’m a serious procrastinator. (On everything: preparing for class, freelance, emails, this site. You name it. Even things I enjoy.) For a few reasons: 1. The extra time is reliably helpful in figuring things out. 2. I’m a perfectionist, and procrastinating allows me to postpone the anxiety and disappointment. 3. I could refine anything indefinitely, so starting closer to the deadline feels like a smarter use of my time. 4. I think the work is usually better for it.
• When I was younger, I just instinctively procrastinated and felt ashamed of it. Now, it’s an intentional part of my process. It feels like a healthy, productive relationship with my own mind. And I’m likely a procrastinator for life.
• Although, the episodes "First Date" and "New York, I Love You" are .
• I’ve always wanted to live in a city large enough to have national ad campaigns placed on the sides of buildings and buses.
• New email trend emerging: the "thanks for that info I asked for" non-reply. Did you even get that? You’re welcome? Hello?
• Thngs, industrial design database
• The omnipresence of job-searching/switching is a whole new thing in my life since the move. Not just for me, but for so many of the people I know here.
• It feels symbolic of the size, potential, and energy of this city. But the power dynamics (between employers and job-searchers) is a little weird.
• I’m part of the very last generation — in all of human history, past and future — who will clearly remember life before the Internet. Old enough to appreciate the differences, but young enough to actually make use of it.
• It’s an empowering thing to publish (or somehow physically realize) kids’ words and ideas.
• At BFI, we print books on-the-fly during field trips. In high school, I was in an Omaha World-Herald workshop where we designed ads and printed a small newspaper.
• NYT Learning Network, news literacy lessons
• I love living in a dense metropolis. I wanted to watch the Spurs-Warriors game today at a bar, and I have a bunch of options within blocks of my apartment.
• I’m just realizing that, since most of my wardrobe is black or gray, I’m usually perfectly dressed to watch a Spurs game.
• I’m so ready to move on to the next phase of my life. So ready.
• What’ll that look like? 1. More money (for dating, socializing, clothes, less financial anxiety), 2. dating again, 3. a wider social circle, 4. a bigger apartment (for dating and friends), 5. finally finishing my minimizing projects, and 6. a job that feels like the payoff of my grad school adventure.
• It’s been a good week for introspection.
• Posted Notes on design. This’ll be the definitive place for outlining what design means to me, and it’ll grow and change over time.
• Collecting related ideas in one place really helps me think. I’m excited to finally have that file for design.
• A lot of this is from grad school. But as a class, we weren’t really talking about design in this way. We were reading the same papers, but each of us was on our own little design adventure, cherry-picking the ideas that resonated with us. Cool.
• In fact, we were so much not talking about design in the way I’d hoped, it’s the reason I started this site when I did (March 2015).
• egosystem vs. ecosystem: "competition, power, and self-interest" vs. "cooperation, community, and care".
• It’s helpful for me to assume that Trump will eventually fail. Because he can’t simultaneously be an everyman and a businessman. Or simultaneously a government outsider and the president. It’s only a matter of time before he loses support from the people who thought those absurd contradictions were possible.
• The best thing about 2017 so far is finding my lane professionally. The plan is: 1. keep teaching at UW, while 2. also teaching design/digital literacy to middle schoolers.
• This was roughly the plan before grad school, too. But there’ve been some detours. In the last year, I’ve found confirmation that my heart is in the classroom and the design industry isn’t for me.
• I honestly don’t understand how so many people have managed to assemble the elements of a ‘normal’ life.
• I could fill a website with of out-of-context basketball quotes that translate directly to real life.
• NBA Playgrounds video game
• Some of the purest moments of joy growing up were playing NBA Jam. The dunks, cartoony giant heads, hidden characters, secret codes. I loved every part of it.
• Basketball really became a thing in my life in middle school. And here I am, still totally into it.
• So did graphic design.
• I’m noticing (volunteering at BFI) that people who are really good at working with little kids (elementary and younger) are essentially performing as they’re teaching. Which just isn’t a skill I have, and I’m cool with that.
• Class idea: Design vs. Media Literacy. Students design projects with secret goals that, then, other students try to decode.
• The BFI project at Denny Middle School has turned out feeling like the other ‘at-risk’ Seattle programs I’ve worked with. The students aren’t particularly engaged (some not at all), and I’m not sure if much of it is resonating. I leave Denny most weeks indifferent and uninspired.
• It feels selfish to say, but I’m only interested in working with students who are self-motivated and engaged. I think some teachers thrive in classrooms like this, but they aren’t for me.
• Spending time this week getting organized digitally: 1. sorting folders of inspiration (LEGO and illustration) that I’ve been dumping images into for years, and 2. reviewing leftover readings and research from grad school.
• Man it feels good to finally get these done. Even digital clutter weighs on me.
• One of the trickiest things in life to differentiate — when you’re excited about an idea that just isn’t landing with other people — is: am I crazy? or am I really onto something?
• More often than not, I think it’s the second one.
• “That’s the very reason why they put [erasers] on the end of pencils.… Because people make mistakes.”
• “the democratization of fame via social media… is ultimately part of a heightened consciousness of everyday life as a public performance — an increased expectation that we are being watched, a growing willingness to offer up private parts of the self to watchers known and unknown, and a hovering sense that perhaps the unwatched life is invalid or insufficient.”
• A compelling question, though: how does making a movie about someone’s life, after it’s released, change the course of that life?
• Decided it was time to start assembling my earthquake emergency kit (in case of The Really Big One).
• Sonics Arena project. It’s getting real!
• Two of my life goals are to 1. live in a city with an NBA team, and 2. have season tickets.
• furniturisation: "the tendency of everyday objects to be transformed by consumer culture into self-conscious ‘designs’.”
• I’m really impressed with how creatively well-resolved this show is. For what it aims to be, it’s perfect.
• Presentation remote + laser pointer. Gearing up for class (starting next month).
• That first warm day: "it remains an unalloyed fact: The days will lengthen. The ground will thaw. The sun will come. The trees will bud,… and you will be released from that persistent fear that you might not make it.”
• Offscreen Dispatch, digital recommendations newsletter
• Kap screen recording app
• Another reason I like teaching the sophomores at UW is that it’s really the last, pure moment before the industry takes hold.
• Building presentations is one of my least favorite things to do.
• It can be a helpful step, for sure, in figuring out how to communicate an idea clearly. But that often feels offset by the distracting layer of graphic design choices embedded in slides.
• Some day, I’ll present ideas with a just a FoldingText file and images in folders.
• “a shiny object… is a ‘lie’ in its concealment of all the actors or interests that gathered together to form [it].”
• “When things stop working…, intentions, motives, and negotiations reveal themselves bare faced behind the objects and facts.”
• A major bonus of teaching at UW is getting to keep my access to the library, which is legit.
• Dense, academic writing really irritates me. Do you want to help people to understand, or not?
• I’ll be freelancing for awhile longer, which is fine (I’m glad to have it as an option). But I’ll be ready — when the right teaching spot is available — to cut this cord.
• Is this intended to be ironic? Contemporary graphic design is so shellacked with BS, how would anyone differentiate the ironic and sincere versions? Graphic designers have gotten themselves into a real pickle here.
• Maybe applying for this. I’d like to fill some time during the job search with new and interesting ways to keep teaching.
• I hate the whole handshake/hug decision. I avoid hugs generally. I don’t know how to do cool handshakes. I hate the awkwardness of leaving small groups and I’ll usually stay longer than I want to because of it. I won’t try to stop anyone from paying the bill. I don’t say "bless you".
• “Hugely instructive conversations can come out of asking a person why they posted a particular selfie on a particular day.”
• Selfies are media literacy + everyday design.
• Rogue One vs. The Force Awakens (Lessons from the Screenplay)
• I like this format: critiquing two things at the same time — identifying strengths and opportunities while always having access to an alternative example.
• From 1997. Super gross and truer than ever.
• The awkwardness of personal branding, for me, hinges entirely on intention — the design. Are you "teaching a class at a community college" because you, primarily: 1. want to be helpful, or are you 2. "enhancing your profile"? These are very different things.
• Anyone should be asking the same question of this site.
• Why does personal branding bother me so much? Because if we embrace the idea that every interaction with a person is just a potential sales opportunity, how do we know what’s real? How do we know who to trust?
• “Such are the pains people take to appear normal, we collectively create a phantasm – problematic for everyone – which suggests that normality might be possible.”
• “The way we enter the world carries with it an inherent bias towards an impression that history has been settled.… History, we feel, is what used to happen; it can’t really be what is happening around us in the here and now.”
• Working on moving more of the old journal posts over here. I’m happy with how easy it is to update this site now (thanks to Kirby).
• Just realized this: my angle on teaching is learning (about yourself, other people, the world) through the process of designing (building/creating/making) a thing.
• Seems obvious, but this is the first time I’ve tried to articulate it.
• Many of my clearest thoughts happen in the midst of conversations with friends — just having someone who cares asking questions.
• If all else fails, I’ll work at The Container Store.
• I really appreciate how reliably enthusiastic Seattle bus drivers are about their jobs.
• A secret
• I might actually prefer not-having a full-time job for awhile longer. I could use more time to complete some big, anxiety-inducing personal projects: 1. selling my video game collection and a bunch of LEGO sets, 2. reducing my book/Instapaper queue, and 3. generally minimizing digitally and physically. This stuff weighs on me.
• An opportunity cost of a full-time job is having less free time. And I love my free time.
• Vibes are an important factor in my decision-making.
• Interviewed at Evergreen, and the vibe feels way off. Compared to Lakeside (for example), it feels less modern, less welcoming, less genuine — out of touch.
• I got the impression that they don’t really get what I’m up to. Which is absolutely a trend — in grad school and the job search. It’s been difficult: feeling so convinced of a perspective on design and teaching that’s only rarely resonating with professional designers and teachers.
• But, I’m getting better at holding onto my confidence in these ideas moving on.
• In the job search, I probably won’t be willing to give up teaching at UW. It’s at the top of its game, I love the students, I’m proud to be there, and I’m planning to stick around for awhile.
• Always awkward: video chats.
• @thedesignprofs, UW Design faculty quotes
• Is life all downhill from here? (Ask Polly)
• “by the time you really do face all of the terrible things you’re imagining, you might not feel like the same person who is sitting here today.”
• What an idea. That having lived through something might actually be the thing that prepares you for dealing with it.
• UW Fail Forward: Leaders Panel, respected faculty/staff talking about their failures (i.e. un-idealizing their bio and reading embarrassing student feedback). This was awesome.
• I’m really inspired by the faculty and stuff at UW. They’re all so good at their jobs.
• In the last few years, I’ve intentionally found opportunities to be in different kinds of classrooms and with different age groups. Big lessons from that: I’m not a very good or confident teacher unless: 1. I have the chance to get to know my students over time, 2. students are interested in the material, and 3. they’re making something.
• I’m deeply resistant to the idea that anything popular isn’t worthwhile.
• At 37, I feel like I’m solidly on the other side of… something. It’s a place where I can see things I didn’t see when I was younger, and where I feel like I have a fair amount of control over my life. Looking back, that transition feels mostly a matter of just knowing and experiencing more things — not necessarily age. I think I could’ve gotten here earlier with more guidance. And I feel a responsibility to help younger people get there too.
• Here’s a typical Seattle Freeze thing to do: If I’m standing somewhere and happen to be an accidental barrier to something someone needs (like today, a backpack on the floor), they’ll often just grab it without saying anything. So weird.
• Applied for a teaching position at The Evergreen School. I’m less excited about this one than the (nearly ideal) Lakeside job I applied for in February. But still, this could be good. And it’s encouraging to know similar jobs might be more common than I expected.
• Teachers, generally, are the best communicators I know.
• Got an Alaska Airlines Credit Card. Pretty sure I’ll be able to get back to Omaha for free from here on out.
• Finished the Teaching page.
• I’m stoked about the idea that this is my portfolio now.
• Every time I build any kind of portfolio anything, it’s shocking how much time it takes to build images and write descriptions. Every time. Shocking. (This was probably 8 hours, and most of the text was already written.)
• myNoise background noise generator
• Everything video game
• “wherever you are, and whoever you are, and whatever you are: you’re in the middle.… Your senses extend a certain direction, in all directions, and therefore give you the impression of being in the middle. (Because the definition of a person is where you look from.) Everything in the world feels like that.” (Alan Watts)
• As I get older, I’ve started to recognize new connections between the things I’ve been curious about for… ever.
• An example: between self-centeredness and design process — how our natural tendency to ignore other people’s perspectives can be overcome by actively seeking feedback.
• Intentions vs. goals. No matter the vocabulary, being somehow purposeful in your own decision-making is design.
• For me, the word ‘goal’ seems to connect with the most people in capturing whatever that purpose/intention/objective/preferred-situation may be.
• Passengers, Rearranged (Nerdwriter)
• At BFI, helped two middle schoolers with autism write a story. I really enjoy being a part of this kind of exercise, seeing students negotiate a collaborative creative process: their confidence (or not) in contributing ideas, their compromises and disagreements. Good stuff.
• The word ‘founder’ — and the startup-y focus on communicating “I’m a person who started a business” — feels pretty gross to me.
• Resolved an important lingering thought about grad school. The reason that my interactions with one faculty member (Tad) were so anxiety-inducing for me was that, in his classes, learning was embarrassing. Which is a shameful way for any classroom to feel.
• What a prick.
• Writing six-word stories with BFI at Denny Middle School. A fun, easy exercise in the power of limitations. That also highlights how different people can interpret the same thing differently. Examples from today: 1. "I called you my best friend." and 2. "Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. BOOM.”
• First trip to the Seattle Bouldering Project.
• Even if I try a new thing and I’m not into it, I still tend to enjoy having-experienced it. It’s interesting to me that people are interested in [super-specific sub-culture] in the first place. And the way things are designed in response to that super-specific environment (in this case: how the chalk bags seal themselves by twisting closed, or how the color of the hand/footholds indicates the difficulty).
• Trend List, graphic design trends blog
• Northwest Association of Independent Schools. For the (middle school + design/digital-media) job search.
• So far, it really feels like 2017 is going to be the year when it all comes together.
• I almost always regreat agreeing to freelance over the weekend.
• “From the age of 6 I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was 50 I had published a universe of designs.… When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself.… At 110, everything I create — a dot, a line — will jump to life as never before.” (Hokusai)
• FlipBooKit handcrank animation machine
• Maybe the biggest reason I love Seattle is the potential. It feels like so many of my goals are within reach here.
• Potential, abstractly, is one of the driving forces of my life. It’s why I cruise IMDb to see what movies are on the horizon. And why I love teaching and design.
Everyone is a designer. Totally, yes. But I think this essay is misleading. It’s trying to zoom out on the definition of design (which I appreciate), but it’s still narrowly using the word ‘design’ as a synonym of just one kind of design (digital product design).
• For me, "Everyone is a designer" means potentially everywhere, all the time. A person making a sandwich is designing.
• When anyone says "I’m a designer," I think the appropriate response is: "Of what?"
• Djokson, LEGO character builder
• It continues to baffle me how a small shift in my confidence in any situation seems to affect the outcome (teaching, any conversation, conversations with women, boxing). I wish I’d figured this out when I was younger.
• My favorite thing about these movies is that they’ve stuck to their central limitation: anything cool that happens must involve a car. The limitation makes it what it is.
• Although, there’s some BS here (e.g. "The… wolf is facing forward because we want to honor the past we are proud of, without forgetting it.")
• I think branding BS is intended for the client, to give them a sense of having gotten their money’s worth.
• What is branding BS? Maybe… any rationalization that sounds credible, but the design doesn’t actually communicate those ideas (independently of designer’s explanation).
• Getting back to Seattle, boxing was the thing I looked forward to most.
• Omaha friends recharge my confidence.
• I won’t ever have a tombstone, but if I did, I wouldn’t mind if it read: "He wasn’t full of shit.”
• → Seattle
• I didn’t see everyone I wish I could’ve on this trip. But that was intentional, the opportunity cost for actually enjoying these vacations. I’ll catch them next time.
• I drove 275 miles in Omaha in the last four days. In Seattle, I drive ≈ 125 miles/month.
• For me, ‘award-winning’ and ‘online backlash’ are meaningless designations.
• Thinking about why I keep coming back to teaching. It checks the most important intangible job boxes for me: 1. it’s engaging/fun/satisfying/worthwhile (I get a lot from it), and 2. I feel suited to do it (I have a lot to give).
• Got a Round & Round Notable Banter book, which feels like a real treasure.
• Sometime over the last year, I hit the tipping point where Seattle feels more like home than Omaha.
• Omaha’s changed quite a bit since I left (2 ½ years ago). A feeling based mostly on (weirdly) stores and restaurants that’ve opened, closed, or moved.
• Driving through Elkhorn, I hit a coyote and probably killed it. The first time I’ve ever hit an animal that size.
• Turn signals (blinkers) are proactive communication.
• It’s tricky to talk about why I like Seattle without comparing it negatively to Omaha (weather, mentality, culture, opportunity, religiousness).
• There’s too much eating on my trips to Omaha. Feeling pretty gross.
• Based entirely on vibes, I think most people probably don’t get this site (which is cool). But with the people that do, it’s been a meaningful filter for starting and maintaining the realest of connections.
• I miss shopping at Target.
• Radical candor (care personally + challenge directly). The same approach as the teaching concept of the ‘warm demander’.
• Does ‘third time’s the charm’ indicate something special about having two rounds of feedback?
• I think a reason I like RSS so much is that — since it collects all the things I’m into (pop culture, design, movies, basketball, longform journalism, LEGO, etc.) in one place — it’s a constantly-renewing opportunity to remix ideas.
• People in Omaha make more eye contact with strangers than people in Seattle. No doubt about it.
• → Omaha
• Brave private web browser
• A bonus of using Kirby for this new site is that I can edit it offline when I’m traveling (since the pages are just text files).
• “It isn’t pleasant to have [people] making fun of your work…. It was just some simple geometric shapes and a couple of primary colors, yet it seemed to drive so many people crazy. My wife… put things in perspective: ‘Maybe this isn’t really all about your little logo.’”
• Anymore, I’m pretty skeptical of the value of branding. But 1. I’m still interested in how text and images can communicate thoughts and feelings, and 2. I like logo design as a kind of puzzle. But 3. I think justifications of branding decisions trend towards bullshit, and 4. it all feels a little manipulative. I’m also disappointed by the way branding exposes our tendencies to: 5. resist change and 6. value container over content.
• The negative reaction to our branding of Big Omaha 2012 is one of the big 3–4 moments of my graphic design career that switched the light off for me.
• Buying shoes really stresses me out. I try to own as few as possible, so the ones I own need to be usable in most times/places. And finding the right ones can be tricky.
• Adhesive banana hook. Saving some counter space.
• Hacking the tiny apartment for maximum efficiency is a pretty fun, ongoing project.
• It’s been interesting, getting older and recognizing how much I’m like my dad (being naturally pretty selfish) and grandpa (being sensitive and angry about it). Except that, somehow, I’m also able to: 1. see the effects and 2. want to change. Maybe, only because I recognized those behaviors in them first.
• Post-rationalization: finding justification for decisions after they’ve been made — "an open secret in the design industry.”
• Didn’t realize that Jasper Morrison designed the Punkt MP01 Mobile Phone, which I’ve considered switching to multiple times.
• About page posted.
• Jesse and I decided once that an About page maybe dilutes the credibility of a journal site (mixing personal and professional). I still agree, but professionally, this feels necessary.
• I see so many parallels between this show and teaching: 1. engineering exercises, 2. guiding people on a path to their goals, 3. opening up discussions about decision-making, 4. providing on-the-fly feedback and commentary, 5. incentivizing the best in people.
• Figured out my problem with April Fools’ Day: the Internet has turned it into a day about disappointment (good news isn’t true). Pre-Internet (in my experience anyway), it was a day about relief (bad news isn’t true). It was a reminder of how good you’ve got it.
• Designing for shareablity: “what might be best for the… product may not match what is favorable in terms of making it a… viral hit.”
• “Every one of us, whatever our occupation, needs to become a good teacher, for our lives constantly require us to deliver crucial information with grace and effectiveness….”
• “[Good teachers] admit that they are, in most areas of life, pretty ignorant and stupid.”
• “Good teachers know that everyone has a lot to learn and everyone has something important to impart to others.”
• “the more desperate we feel inside, the less likely we are to get through to others effectively.”
Be the thaw
• “Mistakes do not have to be absurd; they can be signs of how little information we have on which to base the most consequential decisions.”
• Mistakes are a form of feedback.
• “No one gets anywhere important in one go. We can forgive ourselves the horrors of our first drafts.”
• This was an essential lesson from grad school: learning to embrace the awkwardness of showing half-resolved ideas. That a draft of something (usually a few half-somethings), shown to someone for feedback, is better than trying to resolve any of it on my own first.
• The behind-the-scenes experience of a thing coming-to-be is often pretty different than the version that’s communicated afterward.
• A major reason I originally decided the design-pro world isn’t for me is feeling uncomfortable with this contrast — between 1. the frequent (and totally natural) frustrations of designing things for other people (at Oxide) and 2. the idealized, frustration-free project page at the end.
• It’s so nice to have a place to put things like this.
• NBA torrents. I can’t watch NBA games on ABC or ESPN without cable, and I think that’s dumb.
• For me, the connection between design process and life is in the questions: 1. Who am I? 2. Who do I want to be? 3. How do I get there?
• Approaching the end of a (productive and good but) unusually stressful week. Soon, a movie theater will be visited. Bags will be punched and ropes jumped. Junk food will be eaten.
• I love something-happens-to-a-few-people-in-space movies. Even if RT suggests I’ll be disappointed, I’ll probably see it.
• A major, unexpected bonus of grad school was that, as a TA in Color & Composition and Typography, I learned a lot of new stuff about color, composition, and typography.
• First day volunteering with BFI at Denny Middle School.
• These are the kinds of opportunities that a freelance schedule leaves room for, and I do really like that about it.
• I get a real confidence boost talking to the UW Design undergrads.
• I love this setup (for everything, not just LEGO): 1. here are the elements you have to work with, 2. here are the rules of this system/series… now 3. make a new thing that fits.
• I’ve just about got my mojo back (I’d say I’m at 95%). I haven’t felt this good personally or this confident in my goals professionally since I left Omaha.
• It’s a bummer that there probably won’t be a Tron 3.
• I think it might be possible to define ‘technology’ as: a thing that works, at best, only most of the time. If it works all the time, it’s something else.
• Half the fun of building my own website is in the tweaking (solving little problems, making tiny adjustments, building it up over time). It’s so satisfying.
• This week, figured out how to show the link colors in the sidebar only on the pages where they’re needed.
• This follows two patterns of things I connect with: 1. all of the pieces are framed by a larger, unifying thing (the whole show fits between the setup and punchline of a single joke), and 2. it’s meta (many of the jokes are about jokes).
• “And then one day someone will steal from you.” (Francis Ford Coppola)
• “when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.”
• “It’s not the book you start with, it’s the book that book leads you to.”
• “Copying is about reverse-engineering.… Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style.”
• “it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.”
• “Conan O’Brien tried to be David Letterman but ended up Conan O’Brien.”
• “I have stolen all of these moves from all these great players. I just try to do them proud,… because I learned so much from them.… It’s a lot bigger than me.” (Kobe Bryant)
• “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” (Howard Aiken)
• “What we respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.” (Saul Steinberg)
• "One day, you’ll look back and it will all make sense."
• It’s easy to be upset with my new neighbor because he’s awake when I’m trying to sleep. But someone is always awake when someone else is trying to sleep. He’s just a dude living his life.
• I do tend to get plenty of reading done when I can’t sleep, though.
• FTP Alias drag-and-drop uploader.
• I can now update this page on the server in five keys: ⌘ + Space + J + Tab + Enter (activate Launchbar + select Journal.txt + send to FTP Alias). Boom.
• Having 100% weekend downtime is a measure of a good life for me.
• This weekend, I’m working on a freelance project for Studio Matthews. The $1,200 I’ll earn feels only barely worth a lost weekend.
• As a graphic designer, on paid projects, the fun of finding a satisfying solution doesn’t always, anymore, outweigh the stress of needing to find it.
• Teaching is stressful for me too, but comparing these two things, teaching feels worth it. For most graphic design projects, the stress usually feels artificial.
• Been journaling here for two years. It continues to be an essential exercise in making sense of thoughts and feelings. (Still working on getting the rest of the posts moved over.)
• Another problem with social media: disembodied words and actions are so easy to be upset by. It’s harder to be upset with someone you can see/hear — negotiating their life, in real time, just like you.
• I had this thought when I figured out my new upstairs neighbor is an old guy, which makes it harder for me to be frustrated by the whole thing.
• Freeze update: I’m finding if I’m willing to initiate the thaw, people are pretty receptive to it. Be the thaw.
• I don’t think I’ll ever know what it’s like to be rich, and that’s disappointing.
• Prayer is a form of journaling. A way of articulating thoughts, feelings, and goals.
• Daniel Gray graphic design blog
• Midnight Marauder, movie poster designer
• “Unlike facts, which can be accurate or inaccurate, narratives have winners and losers.” (Real Life Magazine)
• Went skiing for the first time.
• Skiing is a rare thing where you can see people learning and failing out in the open. And where kids and adults are learning together.
• Pretty consistently this year, I’ve had fatherhood on my mind. Watching Louie sent it into high gear. And moments like today, seeing parents skiing with their kids. I really think I want that.
• I’ve spent way more time on this new site than I expected. Despite its straighforwardness (which was a goal), I’ve invested 80+ hours over two months in graphic design and code.
• Wondering if the second-from-the-top floor of an apartment is maybe the worst floor (noise-wise) because my upstairs neighbor doesn’t know what it’s like to have an upstairs neighbor.
• I had no idea MY floors weren’t soundproofed until now.
• A problem with social media is that it’s so easy to interpret messages out of context — because there’s so little context to be had. The gears of Twitter/Instagram/Facebook are greased by limited information and limited understanding.
• The warm man "has done stupid things,… he has made [dumb] decisions. [But] his weaknesses have made him immensely generous to others.”
• The electric environment: where "everything happens at once. There’s no continuity, there’s no connection, there’s no follow-through. It’s just all now.”
• Daniel Savage, illustrator/animator
• I think people use the word ‘design’ sometimes when they really mean ‘graphic design’… but what they really-really mean is ‘illustration’.
• ColorHexa, Hex color encyclopedia
• Diff Checker tool to compare two text files
• “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” (Amy Krouse Rosenthal)
• Starting today, there’s a new movie I’m excited about every week through summer. It keeps me going.
• Blue Jay
• Kermerling. That guy. Always looking out for other people.
• “You can be our life teacher.” (Matt Wright) (UW Design sophomore)
• Teaching is it for me. I can’t believe (especially since grad school) that I considered anything else (design research, UX, full-time freelance, bailing out completely).
• What changed my mind? It was 210: 1. teaching my own class again (vs. TAing) means getting to design projects and watching them unfold, and 2. meeting a new group of great students and seeing them start to put the pieces together for themselves. There’s nothing better.
• I’m glad I considered those other things, though. It’s so valuable for me to get as close as I can to see how I feel when I’m there. (UX, especially, isn’t for me, and I’m happy to know that.)
• Returning to where I started (teaching) doesn’t feel like wasted time.
• Two downsides of teaching (part-time at a university, anyway) are 1. there’s no team to belong to professionally, and 2. it doesn’t pay particularly well. These are the big reasons I considered a corporate design gig.
• Although, (thanks to the Lakeside blip) I think teaching in a middle school could provide both of these things, which is exciting.
• I love office supply stores.
• “What would Mr. Rogers do?" is a pretty useful trick for me to get my ego out of the way during a disagreement.
• Officially signed up to teach a second class this summer at UW: Intro. to Design Process (265a). Unofficial subtitle: learning to design anything.
• I spent a few weeks deciding whether to take on a second class. But I couldn’t-not do this. It’s a legit opportunity to engineer exactly the kind of thing I want to be teaching from here on out. Should be fun, too.
• Stoked about this. Feels like a beginning.
• This’ll also be my first quarter teaching full-time at UW.
• “[Schools] teach us everything other than the two skills that really determine the quality of adult life: knowing how to choose the right job for us and knowing how to form satisfactory relationships. (School of Life)
• I’ll usually conclude a disappointing story (like not-getting a job) with: "It’s part of the process." Which maybe sounds like an on-brand shtick. But it’s really what I’m thinking.
• Another thing about email: because it’s not live, two-way communication, I feel like I need to cover all the potential ways the conversation could go at once, which is hard work.
• Can’t get enough of movies and TV about the complexities of relationships.
• A reason I like teaching so much is that, in classrooms, bullshit tends not to get anyone very far.
• I like having seagulls around, those little chubby dudes are a constant reminder of living on the coast.
• Personally and professionally, I’ve been in a (welcome and totally worthwhile) holding pattern since grad school. But I’m just about over it and ready to get serious about both.
• During fall quarter (October – December), I was eating a lot of junk food and stopped boxing. So far this year, I’ve been eating better and boxing regularly. And this week, I finally feel really good again. It took 10 weeks to get here. I’ve gotta remember that next time I want to take a break.
• Things I wish would’ve been debunked in this book: 1. that all graphic design is important, 2. that anyone but graphic designers and the client cares much that [whatever] was redesigned, 3. that it’s possible to meaningfully critique graphic design without having been part of the process, 4. that the tiny details truly matter, 5. that portfolios aren’t highly idealized, 6. that a goal of all graphic design is to be ‘beautiful’.
• “I can’t imagine a worse situation than having [graphic] designer’s hold sway over every aspect of our visual world. Beauty and order and understanding often come from mistakes, spontaneity, and things unplanned.”
• “A designer with only a few tools to choose from will make better choices.”
• It’s interesting that design lends itself to so many definitions. Why? What about design makes this possible?
• I continue to be interested in design as a small, personal thing. Maybe the smallest, most personal of things. (Rather than a commercial thing or a big-systems thing.)
• In this summer’s classes, I’d like to do some exercises to help students feel comfortable sketching and sharing. The "I can’t draw" anxiety is totally understandable, but it can be a serious barrier.
• Still working through my book/comics collection (donating, selling, scanning, or recycling most of them). Some read, but most just skimmed. And these are the books I already decided were worth bringing from Omaha.
• There are books I still want to keep physically. But in the end, I’d like to end up with ≤ 25 books (20% of what I started with). I’m so looking forward to being freed from a significant and really dumb burden of stuff. And for what’s left to be a meaningful collection of things I’ve actually used and specifically decided to keep around.
• This all boils down to (at 37) no longer feeling that there’s a future version of me — a guy who has way more time than I have now — that will read these books (and play these video games and build these LEGO sets).
• And getting rid of most of my stuff feels like an essential step in getting to the next phase of my life.
• For me, the value of exercising is at least as much about having chosen a more challenging thing, for my own sake.
• In my life, better choices tend to reinforce more of the same. And the opposite. They’re all linked together.
• “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.” (William Faulkner)
• I think about Conan’s Tonight Show goodbye pretty regularly.
• I think I’ve made peace with the Lakeside situation. I’ve been thinking maybe I lost out because I took too long to apply (9 days, mostly to give my cover letter some real thought). But it’s really more likely that they just found someone better for the job. Which I’d be cool with.
• Still really disappointed this didn’t work out, though. Knowing now that this kind of opportunity is out there, it’s exactly what I’m looking for.
• Setting four goals for this year: 1. be a person in Seattle, 2. start making enough money not to worry about it, 3. with more of it coming from teaching than freelancing, and 4. minimize my stuff to only the things I really love and use.
• “If people aren’t thinking critically about their media consumption, that is partially their own fault — but isn’t it much more the fault of those who underfunded education?… What is casting a vote for Trump compared to enabling the phenomenon in the first place?”
“Three hours is too much Bachelor.” I’d watch at least twice that.
• I’ll probably always love the toy aisle.
• The older I get, the more comfortable I am with feeling that, sometimes, the available elements just don’t lend themselves to a design that feels satisfyingly resolved. Sometimes the pieces aren’t a puzzle. I’m writing this about graphic design, but it really applies to everything.
• There’s satisfaction for me now in having thought it through, making do, and moving on.
• I lost out on (what felt like) an ideal middle school teaching gig (Lakeside) recently, which has been a kinda major bummer. But I think I got close to maximizing my potential inside that process, and I’m happy with that.
• I think one of the best compliments there is is that someone is a good communicator.
• I couldn’t decide if this site’s main color should be blue or red, so now it switches between them. Logic. Emotion. Makes sense. I like it.
• The link colors are totally randomized on each page load. Why? It’s interesting to me that: 1. no two people looking at this page are seeing the same thing, 2. it’s a decision that continues to change, 3. that I don’t have control over, 4. that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.
• I think, mostly, this is an unavoidable weirdness of sharing stuff online. And I think our digital selves are always constructions. But I see degrees between 1. totally buying in and 2. sharing what’s legitimately on my mind. And it’s a balance I’m constantly aware of here.
• Watching the Oscars. There’s something really special for me in hearing people talk about the things they love doing and the people that inspired them to do it.
• They continue to be one of the best ways I know of for checking out and making new connections.
• Keeping up with RSS takes 15+ hours/week, but it’s totally worth it.
• The text on this site is about the size I end up scaling other sites to if they require any lengthy reading.
• Conveniently, this size helps meet Annabelle’s 8–12 words-per-line rule.
• Without a doubt, one of my favorite lessons from grad school.
• FondFont free font index
• Kirby Typography plugin. For hyphenation and typographer’s quotes.
• I’m just squeaking by financially right now, but I refuse to stop spending money on the things that I enjoy the most: movies, junk food, and nachos/tachos with friends.
• Trying a new thing on Fridays where I minimize freelance time and devote the rest of the workday to items on Tasks.txt that I tend to avoid (email, phone calls, job search, checkbook balancing, Desktop-clearing, paper mail).
• Friday Night Taco Joe Time has evolved into a full day of doing things I need to do for me.
• I’ve started to worry about my bookcases falling on me in a middle-of-the-night earthquake.
• Absolutely my favorite LEGO builder (the chunkiness, the small-but-accurateness, the mechanics).
• Tech company excess bugs me.
• Get Out
• “That was six years ago. Everybody changes in six years, you know. It’s just part of growth. Opinions change. Experiences change. So I don’t regret what I said. I’m not going to change what I said. But I am here now.”
• I continue to get a surprising amount personally from the NBA.
• It’s possible that all of our feelings are really a reflection of how we feel about ourselves.
• “’Echo chamber’ social grouping is driven… by advertising-oriented algorithms of tech companies and data brokers,… [which] produce algorithmically measurable identities — just as marketing produces consumers — and not the other way around. (Real Life Magazine)
• I have the option to teach a second UW class this summer, on whatever (design) topic I’d like. This is my chance to teach the design process class I’ve been dreaming of, using the resources I’ve been collecting for years (movies, illustration, comedy, music, graphic design). But two new classes feels like a lot.
• I love being on campus.
• I will procrastinate on just about everything involving writing.
• Being able to write recommendations for students (having even a small amount of leverage in helping them get somewhere they’d like to go) is a real bonus of teaching.
Design is proactive learning
• I haven’t cooked anything on a stove in six months (since moving into the tiny apartment).
• This new site isn’t at all finished (it’s missing pages/features, and I’ve been constantly tweaking code). I like working in increments and acknowledging the process. Any illusion of finishedness would fly in the face of what I even want this site to be or do.
• Timo Kuilder, illustrator
• I’m grateful to have freelancing for bridging gaps between phases of my life. Between 1. Oxide and grad school, and now 2. grad school and whatever’s next.
• Professional disappointment has been useful motivation for getting to the gym.
• As disappointing as the Lakeside blip has been, I’m happy to have a clearer sense of what I want professionally: teaching full-time, ideally a combo of middle school and UW. Which hadn’t crossed my mind as an option before this month.
• I’m happy with the new site. My goals were/are: 1. reduce my temptation to edit around line breaks, 2. feeling free to write as much as necessary, 3. bigger, more readable text, 4. more straightforward overall, 5. refocus on the Journal (vs. portfolio), 6. reflect that I’m moving further and further away from making images (and more towards thinking/teaching), 7. tweak some typography, 8. visually capture more of who I am.
• Once I’m past the first few minutes of a graphic design project (starting the file and importing the content), I’m way less likely to procrastinate.
• Launched v4.0 of this site (well, this page).
• It’s the third new site/portfolio since graduation (in June). A little absurd. But I’ve learned a lot, and each has felt closer to the thing I want my website to be.
• Trying Messenger as my contact method. It’s clickable, straightforward (not email), and not-intimidatingly-personal (not texting).
• Riverdale is the teen drama I’ve been waiting for.
• I don’t like that my professional success affects how I feel about myself, but it still does.
• “If a book is tedious to you, don’t read it; that book was not written for you.” (Jorge Luis Borges)
• I remember exactly when I shifted to talking about movies/TV/books/music this way. It later ended up in the Scale™. But it also precipitated a bigger shift in the way I talk about all kinds of ideas (using more ‘feels like’s, ‘generally’s, ‘maybe’s, ‘probably’s). Trying to make space for other perspectives. Acknowledging that maybe nothing is one thing to everyone and probably nothing is objectively anything.
• I have a hard time understanding maps unless I orient them to the direction I’m facing.
• Hooks (punches) and roundhouses (kicks) are so satisfying.
• Didn’t get the Lakeside job, which I’m shocked by and legit heartbroken over. I thought for sure I had this one in the bag.
• What did I learn (what was I excited for that I’m disappointed to miss out on)? I’m ready to: 1. leave graphic design behind, 2. teach full-time, 3. ideally UW and a middle school simultaneously, 4. be part of a team of teachers, 5. meet new people, make new friends, maybe a lady, 6. not worry about money, 7. do something that I’m uniquely qualified for and excited about.
• Of the jobs I’ve applied for in the last year, this is the second (along with micro:bit) that I thought I was perfect for, got really excited about, then managed not to get.
• For both, I wish I could say: "What the fuck? I would’ve been perfect, and you have no idea.”
• In the future, I’ll probably be more careful about talking about potential jobs. It’s embarrassing to feel like I’m really good at something, but for someone else (in a position to determine whether or not that’s true) to disagree.
• I went to TITLE twice today to work out the frustration of this, and it really helped.
• A combination of middle school + teaching + design continues to feel like what’s next for me. I’m ready to get serious about teaching as the one thing that I do.
• A thing more tedious/stressful than writing emails: writing letters on paper.
• The three big themes I think about (design, realness, selfishness) are all maybe just design. Realness: is the goal of this thing what it appears to be? Selfishness: is your goal for my benefit or yours?
• A reason the graphic/UX design industry isn’t for me is that — no matter how useful the product is or how sincerely the designers care about the process — the real goal (the design of the business itself) is to make a buck. And so the work will, probably, feel disingenuous to me.
• “Books are made out of books.” (Cormac McCarthy)
• “You just have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.”
• “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.” (Walt Disney)
• “To be ‘interest-ing’ is to be curious and attentive, and to practice ‘the continual projection of interest’”
• “Whatever we say, we’re always talking about ourselves.” (Alison Bechdel)
• “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it.” (Dave Grohl)
• An essential part of my graphic design process is saving/comparing iterations. I’ll usually change 1–2 things and save a screenshot or duplicate an artboard, do that for as many options as I can find, then compare. Am I getting closer or further away from my goals? Why does this feel right, but this doesn’t?
• I have a problem with the way memes are used to make fun of people’s mistakes.
• Example: Aaron Gordon’s (missed) drone dunk at the Slam Dunk Contest (which also manages to make fun of Michael Jordan).
• A good chunk of social media feels this way to me: either co-opting other people’s successes or capitalizing on their failures.
• LEGO Survey: “Compared to other people my age…” A: (option 1) I own way more LEGO sets.
• I love NBA All-Star Weekend.
• Thinking through color on the new site. Grayscale continues to feel appropriately practical… but inappropriately unfriendly. So I’d prefer some color, but I can’t argue meaningfully for any specific color(s). Wondering if changing colors randomly might be it.
• Submitted my Lakeside application. I’m stoked about this, professionally and personally. It really feels like the ideal next step: 1. it puts my degree to use, 2. while not-being a graphic/UX design job, 3. teaching middle schoolers, 4. would be a solid building block on the path to LEGO, 5. gets me back on a team, 6. working with teachers (who I tend to connect with), 7. is a short commute, 8. is part-time (so I can keep teaching at UW), but 9. still includes benefits.
• I like knowing that Mad Men is out there, just waiting to be watched again.
• Questions I’m asking, redesigning this site: 1. What’s the difference between refined not-specialness and uninviting boringness? 2. Why do I even care if this site is boring visually? 3. How do I signal that not-special choices are still intentional? 4. Why do I feel pressure to even indicate that my choices are intentional? 5. What am I trying to prove?
• An unnecessary head trip, maybe. But it’s fun to think about.
• On freelance graphic design projects where visually interesting is the goal, I’ve gotten comfortable saying it’s probably not for me. After years of frustration on those projects, it feels good to be upfront about that.
• I don’t see graphic design as one skill anymore, it has subsets.
• These posts will probably be getting longer. A major goal of the new site is removing the temptation to worry (as much) about widows and lines-per-post. Editing can be a fun challenge, but it’s time-consuming.•
• seamful design: "trades ease of use for greater user clarity about how a complex system works.”
• I see seamless design as an increasing source of anxiety. When the thing breaks (and it will eventually), then what?
• Track clicks in Google Analytics. For the new site. I think it’s super interesting to see which links people choose to click.
• Emptied my storage unit. So far this year, I’ve liquidated enough stuff to fit everything I own in 211 ft². (Except my car. And my piano, which is still in Omaha.) Got plenty more minimizing to do.
• A connection between design and education: design is proactive learning. Research, prototyping, and feedback are ways of intentionally finding out: What don’t I know? What isn’t working? How is my perspective getting in the way?
• When Harry Met Sally: Breaking Genre Conventions (Lessons from the Screenplay)
• A reliable (but still mysterious) step of my design process is the day-after. I’ll often go to sleep feeling confident, but feel differently in the morning — seeing a new opportunity I didn’t see yesterday. Petty cool.
• The selfie paradox: "while people often view their own selfies as ‘ironic’ and ‘authentic,’ they are likely to view the selfies of others as self-promotional and inauthentic.”
• There’s a story about Bill Gates as a Lakeside 7th grader in this book, and I’m stoked about that coincidence.
• Whitespace (in graphic design) is a clear signal of intentionality — that a design is in place.
• transmitter orientation: in Western cultures, it’s usually the speaker’s responsibility to communicate clearly — and if there’s confusion, it’s their fault. Eastern cultures are usually receiver oriented.
• CSS Reload Chrome extension, for CSS tweaking
• After a money-saving hiatus, reactivated my Patreon pledges. These people are super motivating for me creatively, and they deserve my support.
• “you, the white people, invented him, [and] you’ve got to find out why.… the future of the country depends on that.”
• Been thinking about this a lot — the way we assume our personal perspective is an objective observation of reality — when our perspective is actually a filter that affects what version of reality we can even see.
• •“a good teacher… retains a clear, compassionate sense of what it was like to be in a different place to where they are now.”
• If we can "remember without shame why we were once on the other side of an argument, we’ll acquire the greatest gift for trying to communicate our ideas to the world: we’ll know what it was like to disagree with ourselves".
• Will Schoder philosophy/history/culture video essays
• Dan Harmon’s Story Circle. The "need" (the circle’s first step) is a goal.
• Aston Grey Shaun boots. Boots feel like another measure of adulthood. And I finally have Seattle-appropriate shoes (i.e. that aren’t sponges).
• Personal project idea: everyday design interviews about shoes.
• Visited Lakeside to tour and they invited me to stay to observe a class (5th graders designing toys). It went great, I can totally see myself there, and I got to confirm that I am (maybe more than) qualified. Without looking for it, this is absolutely an opportunity I wanted in my life. Very stoked.
• I got the impression that they were trying to sell me on the job. Which — after a few months of false starts and discouraging professional feedback — feels really good.
• Watching movies, I’ve started to check out if there’s a crazy-action third act.
• “I just know who I am.… I’m not out there trying to do too much, I stick to the key principles and I embrace it.”
• I didn’t realize this as a kid, but a reason I’m drawn to hoops is that there’s very little distinction between the person and the athlete: 1. they don’t wear gear, 2. the court is relatively small, and 3. there are only 10 people playing at a time.
• Monda typeface. For the new site, maybe. I tend to choose squarish (having square features, but not totally) typefaces for personal projects.
• I’ve spent an absurd amount of time (2 ½ weeks) searching for type for the new site.
• Block Yourself from Analytics Chrome plugin
• Working on this site. Inspiration is useful for more than seeing how people have reached similar goals. It’s also useful for articulating those goals in the first place: 1. "I want it to feel like… this." 2. "Why do I like this?" 3. Comparing inspiration: "What do all of these things share?”
• It’s possible that all good classrooms are a version of the the Matrix — teaching students to see the mechanisms and use them for themselves.
• I disagree with "you shouldn’t care what other people think". Being aware of how others interpret and respond to you feels healthy (personally), considerate (interpersonally), and important (professionally). It’s possible to be an independent thinker who also cares, sincerely, what other people think.
• Caring what other people think is a vital part of designing: asking-for/responding-to feedback.
• Scanned 25+ piano/drum books to PDF, eliminating a whole shelf of physical books.
• In the last six weeks, I’ve cut my book collection by 50+ books (a third).
• lying: being both "inaccurate and self-serving" vs. mistakes (only inaccurate) vs. boasting (only self-serving).
• A lie is a design.
• “I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know.”
• “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections.”
• This is absolutely where I’m at right now. Freelancing a few hours a day, working on this site, reading, watching, boxing again, minimizing stuff. And generally thinking about the next phase.
• 1Writer Markdown editor app.
• With the new site, I’ll be able to post/edit this page with one text file, and I’m super stoked.
• How the internet became a tool for judgment (Real Life Magazine)
• “We could think of judgment as the fast food of the internet.… [And] the ad-driven, click-driven, gamified business model that drives the culture of judgment makes fast food the only economically viable option.”
• This business model makes "the most toxic aspects of contemporary internet culture — things like ideological bubbles or fake news or harassment campaigns — unfixable…. From the perspective of driving user engagement, these behaviors are features.”
• I’m not opposed to social media. It’s been great for keeping up with Omaha friends. I check Twitter daily and Instagram weekly.
• Making sense of (and feeling OK with) ourselves has a lot to do with hearing someone else say they feel the same way — that it’s normal.
• It’s one of the reasons this site is public.
• I’ve gotten even more confident in trusting that my feelings are an indication of something real — even if I don’t know what that something is right away. I’m recognizing that, with enough time, I’ve been able to resolve many of the most complex reactions I’ve had to events in the past.
• When I was younger, I was insulted/frustrated by clients giving heavy-handed direction. And now I’m like: sweet, thank you, let’s check this thing off the list and move on with our lives.
• Q: “Don’t you want a normal life?” A: “Don’t know, maybe.”
This website is a foam pit
• Afiado pixel icons. For the new site.
• IcoMoon icon font builder
• Potential design with kids workshop: prototyping your future with LEGO.
• “Trump’s… deceptions often [do] double duty, serving not just his ego but also important strategic goals.” Realness + selfishness + design. The things I think about the most, more worrying than ever.
• Kirby file-based CMS.
• I’m redeveloping this site from scratch. This’ll streamline posting/editing, which I’m not doing as often as I’d like using WordPress.
• Another important moment in my own media literacy was realizing that awards competitions are businesses. That the primary goals of Communication Arts and the Academy Awards are to sell ads. And that the nominees/winners might be (probably are) influenced by how the perception of those choices will read.
• It feels a little ridiculous to be posting about anything but politics right now. It’s absolutely on my mind.
• But it’d be inaccurate to say I’m not thinking about and doing other things, too.
• Brackets code editor
• Brick Picker LEGO investing guide. If I had a bunch of extra money and space, I’d totally invest in LEGO.
• I spend probably 5× as much time reading about the NBA as watching it.
• After all the stress-eating and not-exercising this fall, I weigh probably (slightly) more now than ever, and I’ve really fallen out of shape. Feeling pretty gross, but working on it.
• “Don’t be afraid. You can call me.” Cellphones are such a complex problem: because they’re always on (electronically and physically), we call less, out of fear of interrupting.
• It’s been a major problem since the move. For long distance communicating, there’s really nothing better/as-real.
• Added a list of Great™ Books.
• 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 the next version of site).
• cottage cheese + orange marmalade
• “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.)
• 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. At what point does a design try too hard (and become visible)? 3. Can invisible decisions still be interesting? 4. Why is interesting important to me at all?
• Fit space-filling typeface
• 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).
• Right now, I’m being more intentionally selfish than maybe ever. And getting a lot out of it.
• I’m not, at all, interested in hustling.
• Intentional Color Use in Movies (CineFix)
• Definitely showing this in class.
• How Louis CK Tells (Designs) a Joke (Nerdwriter)
• 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 a ton (ideal) amount of free time right now, and I’m stoked about it. Getting caught up, getting up earlier, getting in shape, and getting rid of stuff. Just getting ready for whatever’s next.
Met separately with three UW Design seniors (Andrea, Maggie, and Josiah) 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 the startup and design industries is the frequency of glossing-over, rounding-off, plucky-soundtracking, clever-taglining, flawlessly-humanizing, upper-middle-classing of… life. So much of it feels oblivious to how complex things really are.
• 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: Intro. to Color, Composition, & Typography (265c).
• I want to teach it as media literacy — finding effective (and not) graphic design in the world, reverse engineering how it works (or doesn’t), and then applying those principles to something new.
• “[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
• BX: the bullshit experience. Trump is a BX designer.
• •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 tools I have for reconnecting with the past.
• “If I’ve changed and you don’t like it — I’m sorry. But you are changing as you grow also.… I’m extremely proud of you and I would prefer to believe that you are who you are because I am who I am.” (Mom, circa 1995)
• MacGyvering is a word — and a kind of everyday design.
• I really can’t stand movies where quirkiness is intended to represent real life.
• I don’t get poetry.
• 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?”
• Working through little problems like this (physically and digitally) has been fun for as long as I can remember. Also cable management.
• Selling my Roland kit tomorrow. I don’t have the room, and it’s 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."?
• I’m getting a lot better at this as I get older. But I’m not there yet (as grad school made clear).
• Our increasing polarization corresponds to the digitizing of our personal lives (both "starting in the 1980s"), and my bet is they’re connected.
• 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, 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.
• Been getting to a few comics and 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 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).
• Inception (and especially the music) is directly connected in my mind to my solo vacation to Vancouver (in 2010), when I watched it the first time. Walking around that city listening to that soundtrack was pretty special.
• 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.
• And I originally picked Vancouver because it’s where Smallville was filmed.
• “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.
• Didn’t get the tech company (Flywheel) support job. But it’s cool. It was a helpful prototype for testing my feelings on bailing out of graphic/UX design, and I’m ready.
• 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.
• I’m not into Star Wars, but I really like how this movie was engineered to dovetail into Episode I.
• I’m more of a Spaceballs than Star Wars guy.
• In high school, I wrote Chapter 2 ½ (between existing chapters 2 and 3) of A Lost Lady, and I have really clear memories of enjoying that.
• 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 holiday time to myself.
• I’ve mostly ignored Tasks.txt for two weeks, and that’s been awesome.