Solo mode December


I usually bring cookies to parties.


This Is a Generic Brand Video

LEGO Architecture Skylines


RadioActive Podcast, Radio production workshops for Seattle high schoolers.

  • I know zero about radio, but I’d love to be a part of this.


Starting today, thesis is my job. Planning on 8 hours/day, 5 days/week until June.

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


The best summer of my life

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens Not Great™


Teen Voices: Dating in the Digital Age

Finished designing a Spirit Fox logo for Travis.

  • The goals were: a fox + a gleaming eye + the linework of the SOLID70 typeface.

  • Even if this doesn't get used, I enjoyed figuring it out.


Carol Good™


Writing here, I’m totally OK knowing that I’ll contradict myself eventually (so far: jobs and thesis).

  • My goal is to capture thoughts/feelings accurately, as they happen. I think change is healthy, and documenting it has helped me make sense of it.

Ji Ga Zo Puzzle, infinitely-renewing photo puzzle

  • I’m into infinite systems.


The Big Short Good™


→ Seattle

I saw most of my favorite people this week, and I miss them a lot.

  • But I’ve felt best lately at home reading, writing, watching, thinking. And I’m ready to head back.

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


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

  • I don’t miss 20°.

LEGO Disney Princesses

Beginners Good™


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


On my Omaha trips, most days are back-to-back coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks (each with different people). It wears me out, and I eat way too much.

  • But I don’t feel like I have time to lose while I’m here.

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


→ Omaha

Hosted Storytime 3. Probably the last time I’ll host.

  • I love the format (the presenters were top-notch this year). But my Omaha connection is fading. And crowds are weird.

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

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

The Dream Boat


Missed a flight for the first time in my life.

Two of my heroes live in the Pacific Northwest: Kirby Ferguson (Portland) and Tony Zhou (Vancouver).

The Girl in the Book Good™


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

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

Home Alone album cover

Reeder RSS reader app


At TITLE, spent time on the speed bag and jump rope (both way harder than they look).

Since undergrad, it’s been really helpful to have personal, objective goals in my life (piano, drums, boxing). That offset the external, subjective unknowableness of design as a job.

Rule of three (writing).

  • Making the grid (x/x/x) = a list. Breaking the grid (x/x/y) = comedy.


Instructional design is my favorite kind of design — building sandboxes (exercises/projects) for students to explore ideas.

  • I’m just realizing that I haven’t done this since the move. It’s another aspect of teaching I’d like to keep doing (without having a traditional teaching job).

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

Open Culture cultural and educational media blog

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay2 Not Great™


This week, a faculty member (Tad, of course) said that (ideally) I should be scared about thesis (I’m not).

  • I don’t think it’s OK/healthy for any part of school to feel scary, lonely, or punishing. Or helpful for teachers to cultivate those ideas.

  • Thesis research has been fun, and I’m already doing better work because of it.


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

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


If I felt it, it’s for writing.” — George Saunders

  • I journal all of the important stuff. Mostly here (but sometimes off the record).


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

  • And still, I’m feeling good about thesis.

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

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

My Projects. Heard this two years ago and I've been looking for it since.


I don’t want my haircut to be a distraction at Storytime 3, so I’m going to wear this hat (which fits the Christmas Story theme).


Sworkit exercise app

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Social and Emotional Learning in Middle School

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


Master of None1 Good™


Went to my first AIGA party thing in Seattle.

  • The move has felt like a reset (professionally, personally, interpersonally). That was intentional, and it’s been really positive. But sometimes, very weird.


Thesis poster show.

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

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

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


“Joe is like Adele a dad. Listen to everything he says.” — UW Design Juniors, to the Sophomores

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

Taco Bell & Movie Money November


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

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

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


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

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


Marie Mainguy, illustrator

Studs Terkel: Women at Work

LEGO Sisyphus kinetic sculpture


super normal: design that’s intentionally not special.

Creed Good™ Great™

Mr. Robot1 Good™


On Mentoring

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



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


Getting encouraging feedback on thesis so far. And I have enough research to justify designing for middle schoolers (which I was hoping for).

WordPress Desktop app


If I could edit my quote on design, I’d use ‘invisible’ instead of ‘transparent’ (which does mean invisible, but weirdly, also the opposite). It also feels less pretentious.

Words I use a lot: feel, think, sweet, cool, weird, definitely, totally, really, a lot.


Reading for thesis, I realized that saying social media messages are constructed is saying they are designed.

  • Every tweet, Instagram, Like, comment has a goal and a thought process behind it.

I mention Omaha in conversation at least once a day.

Smallpdf PDF tools


Last day of DYH.

It’s been a complex ten weeks. Met some cool kids, but (as with YTYM), saw that spoiled by group dynamics, students being mismatched to the class, and teachers (including me) without the skills to make it a place kids wanted to be.


For thesis, I have the dots (research), and now I’m looking for connections (project ideas). I’m confident that somewhere in the middle of social media + media literacy + adolescent development there’s a cool project waiting.


Trying a new time management plan: combining Spielberg’s “one for me, one for them” and Pomodoro. Alternating fun and work (an hour each).

  • Fun = reading, watching, journaling, RSS. Work = thesis, grading, emails, calls.

Tadam timer app

I like knowing that I’m younger than guys still playing in the NBA (Kobe, Tim, KG).

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory Good™


Thinking about goals for a probably graphic design job after school, I’d love to focus on stuff I enjoy (typography, understandability). And divorce from the more decorative stuff I’m not good at (branding, marketing).


Writing tips and the psychology behind them

What Comes After Religion?

“Just a little Taco Bell & movie money.” — Mom


Screen printing is one of the few practical skills I have.

Spotlight Good™


As a TA, I’m not good at quickly coming up with specific, alternative ideas for students to use.

  • But I think I’m good at understanding their process and figuring out which ideas to keep and where there’s still potential.


At some point,… you stop writing hits. And when the hits go away, they almost never come back.”

  • Happens to pop producers, but also boxers, NBA players, professional wrestlers, movie directors, graphic designers.


Nerdwriter: Gotham City Through Time


Am I excited about thesis 3.0? Definitely. Would I be doing it for fun on my own? Probably not. Am I surprised — after what I’ve been thinking about life, design, and work — that my thesis isn’t a true passion project? Yes.

I love pants.

Becoming Your Own Fan


MUJI Cabins + Vertical House.

I’ll live in a tiny house some day if I can.

Rumsey Taylor, editorial designer


Added the Sparano Scale™, updated from the 2010 post on the Oxide blog.

I spend 60–90 minutes a day writing and editing this site. More if I’m messing with code.


On average, I don’t think I communicate very clearly. But writing every day (here) has been excellent practice. And it’s helping.

  • Verbally, though, I think I can still be pretty confusing.


Thesis 3.0 pitch went well, so the topic (kids’ social media literacy) is likely it.

  • When I present ideas at UW, I wonder if the graphic design choices around the presentation itself are distracting to this audience. Not the type, color, layout I’ve chosen. But just that those choices are there at all.

  • I think a lot about how being (having been) a graphic designer adds a layer of expectation/distraction to communicating ideas.


Print Edit page cleanup plugin

  • For cleaning up research PDFs.


Bieber, Diplo and Skrillex Make a Hit


I’m learning a lot about CSS by monkeying around on this site.

conversation smoosh: the problematic way that Twitter, texting, and commenting are a hybrid of talking and writing (immediate, but immovable).


Nearing big decisions, it’s helpful for me to spend a day absorbed in research, then sleep on it. I usually wake up feeling something definitively.

  • Like, I think thesis 3.0 is: a social media literacy website for kids. Explaining ideas like all media messages are constructed in plain language with illustrations. Cool.

Thirty six October


My Writing Education: A Time Line

  • “They could mock us, disregard us, use us to prop themselves up. But our teachers, if they are good, instead… take us seriously.”

Experimenter Good™


Got my Washington driver’s license, and I’m stoked. Feels like a cool-club membership.

  • Also makes the move (and haircut) official commitments.

Truth Not Great™


Producer’s Place

Longform: Anna Sale interview


Spent the week thinking about topics for thesis 3.0. Two options feel interesting and important (both for kids): 1. the effects of social media, and 2. the value of journaling.


My committee nixed thesis 2.0 last week because it was research (not problem-solving). That’s true. I saw it as the start of a bigger project (that I’d continue after school).

  • I still love problem-solving. But I’m excited about the difference between designing around goals (proactive, internally motivated) instead of problems (reactive, externally motivated).

We Men of Science short story


The future is… [either] determined by chance and necessity or formed by intention through design.”

  • Design is being an active participant in your life.

Burning Down the Mouse

Esquire Classic Podcast


I’d categorize this site as “socialless sharing”. Along with Casey’s idea of “public-private”.

  • Those contradictions have been helpful. Compared to my tweets/Instagrams, I feel more honest here (knowing ideas can’t be liked/not-liked). But compared to my private journal, I’m more objective (knowing other people will read it).

A Zuckerberg Kind of Love


Sixth week of DYH. Phones (and chargers, earbuds) are really important to students. I think a lot about having been a kid (mostly) pre-Internet. And how that switch will only happen once in history.



I try to avoid social things that feel like performances (Apples to Apples, Catch Phrase, karaoke, bowling).

Crimson Peak Not Great™


Grad school hasn’t been a very supportive place to explore ideas.

  • But that feeling is the main reason I finally launched this site.

MUJI Angle File. I feel better about containers if I can see inside.

  • Otherwise, I try to avoid hiding things away.

Terry Gross and the Art of Opening Up


First thesis committee meeting. Project 2.0 (interviews about everyday design) was rejected.

During phone calls, I’m usually walking around the room.

Pop-Up Magazine Good™


In meditating and boxing, it all comes back to breathing.

The toys in the LEGO Winter Toy Shop


Jesse is my role model for designing a life. He asks himself if he’s where he wants to be, sets new goals, figures out how to get there, then gets there, and asks again.

An introduction to Immanuel Kant


This year, I recorded interviews with Adam, Jesse, Ashley, and Todd — a chance to practice interviewing, and to capture my favorite people thinking out loud.

  • I’m listening to them for the first time, and I'm thinking: 1. I feel lucky to have these people as friends, 2. interviewing is fun, and 3. I don’t think anyone in Seattle has met this Joe.


Steve Jobs Good™

  • Fall movie season is my favorite time of year.


I try to tell the teachers in my life what I value about their classes. (Today: boxing trainer Ray.)

  • Worthwhile classes are designed to be.

Miyamoto on Super Mario Bros. World 1-1


Fifth week of DYH. One-on-one conversations with students feel more valuable than talking to whole classes.

  • I think about this a lot: the infinite interestingness of a person. And how easily that’s lost in groups.

I miss Vala’s Pumpkin Patch.


On Writing Well Great™

[Humor is] the strange incongruity between our aspiration and our achievement.”

  • Comedy = failure to reach a design goal?

Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it.”


Introduced mom to the idea that design is a process of reaching goals, and she got it. It’s been easier to explain this to people who don’t call themselves designers.

I don’t like to write; I like to have written. But I love to rewrite.”


There are two reasons why I talk about Taco Bell as often as I do: 1. I genuinely like it, and 2. people seem to think it’s cool/funny/OK to criticize liking Taco Bell. But I don’t believe that anyone has better taste in anything than anyone else.

  • It’s one of the goals of this site: to document the things I like, do, and think about — because just having done those things makes them totally valid things to do.


Already memorized all 63 sophomores’ names, and I’m pretty stoked about it.

Sicario Good™


It’s obvious now that what I love about teaching is being around people finding their way in the world. And having a chance to help while I’m there.

  • Being a TA is mostly only those things, and it’s been helpful to see them in isolation.

I’m not into art.


I’m OK knowing that the stuff I’m most interested in doing and thinking about isn’t available as a job.


Sometimes (often) I’ll eat a whole block of graham crackers.

Writing by Omission — John McPhee


In applying design skills to life, a few people have told me that I’m approaching fuzzy and unknowable things too logically. But I don’t see design as entirely logical.

  • I really trust my feelings (professionally and personally). The exciting opportunity is in embracing that design can (and usually does) integrate thinking and feeling already.


it’s in solitude that we learn to think for ourselves and develop a stable sense of self, which is essential for taking other people as they are.”

evidence of design ability… allows an archeologist to distinguish between a species that is not quite human and one that is.”

The Martian Good™


Third week of DYH. In this and YTYM, most students signed up without being into design or filmmaking already. And in both classes, there’s a lot of (distracting, frustrating) classroom management instead of designing stuff and making films.

  • Lots of possible explanations, but I think there’s a connection.

Man's Search for Meaning September


Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation?


School starts tomorrow. Which makes this the last day of probably the best summer of my life.

  • I 1. watched a lot, 2. read a lot, 3. connected new ideas for thesis (and beyond), 4. reached important conclusions about my relationship to teaching and design, 5. made exercise a real part of my life, and 6. kept a quality sleep schedule. Just, like, really caught-up on stuff and got on top of things. And that’s a rare and satisfying place to be.


Eating the Dinosaur Good™

surrogate activity: doing something to have something to do; an artificial goal.


Made a thesis spreadsheet-calendar planning the next 34 weeks.

  • I love spreadsheets.


Second week of DYH. One of the most important things a teacher could teach (in every classroom) is how to communicate. Mostly by example.

All human creations involve design, though some of the most successful designs are so intuitive that we may take them for granted unless we stop to study them closely.”

Sonic Highways Good™


I’ve said before that art and advertising aren’t design. But I see it differently now. Both have goals, process, and decisions. So does making a cheeseburger.

Everything is a Remix: References

  • Grad school has taught me the magic of bibliographies.


I edit most things here after they’re published. Usually in tiny ways (to be more succinct or accurate).

  • My initial plan (2012/13) was to journal on paper (writing and drawing), scan, and upload — which now seems totally ridiculous.

I’m really happy I joined TITLE. It’s a hell of a workout, and punching stuff is legitimately fun.


Right now, I’m most interested in communicating through examples (from other people, instead of things I’ve made).

  • It’s a strategy I learned from teaching and all the video essays I can’t get enough of.


We all have this black box inside ourselves…, and being interviewed allows us to open it and sort through the contents.”

  • I’m really interested in what interviewing can do for people.

  • I’m probably turning my thesis into a collection of interviews (with kids?) about everyday design.


Retiring #solveproblems. I think I’ve found a more flexible, meaningful, succinct way to capture the same idea (focusing on design instead).

  • Feels like saying goodbye to a friend.

LEGO Toys R Us. An add-on to one of my favorite sets.


Somewhere in the middle of my summer reading (fun and research), I landed on a new personal definition of design: a process (any process) used to reach a goal.

Second day of DYH. Tested the new definition, and it clicked.

What I hope we’ve done… is make something that wasn’t here before.”

The Nerdwriter art and media analysis video essays


Pocket Casts podcast app


First day of DYH. In the last few years, I’ve learned a lot by just putting myself in new places (mostly classrooms) and seeing how I feel.

Everything is a Remix (Remastered)

  • I’ve thought-about/recommended this so many times. I’d like to do something as valuable some day.

15 {09.15}

→ Seattle

It’s in writing ideas down and talking them out with friends that I discover — not just how to articulate those ideas — but what they even mean to me.

Multi-tasking: how to survive in the 21st century

The Late, Great Stephen Colbert

  • I really like people, and I also don’t always know what to do with them.… There’s something about my work that speaks to a deep discomfort with being in society.”

  • “And then he talked about the Food Network show Chopped. The reason he loves Chopped is that it’s a show that is wholly about process, about creation within a limited range of possibilities. ‘This show,’ he said, meaning The Late Show, ‘is Chopped. Late-night shows are Chopped. Who are your guests tonight? Your guests tonight are veal tongue, coffee grounds, and gummy bears. There, make a show.… Make an appetizer that appeals to millions of people. That’s what I like. How could you possibly do it? Oh, you bring in your own flavors. Your own house band is another flavor. You have your own flavor. The audience itself is a base dish, like a rice pilaf or something. And then together it's ‘Oh shit, that's an actual meal.’ And that's what every day is like at one of these shows. Something is one thing in the morning, and then by the end of the day it's a totally different thing. It’s all process.”” #theprocess


I love salad bars.


Updating Omaha friends on my plans, it maybe sounds like I’ve lost interest in the things I set out to do. But I just have a clearer understanding of which parts of which things I’ve loved the whole time.

  • - It feels like I’m isolating the parts and connecting them into a super special new thing.


When I talk about decision-making, people sometimes assume I’m talking about: 1. right and wrong decisions, or 2. having control over everything.

  • But my goal is to help people 1. feel confident in whatever decisions they make, and 2. feel in control despite life’s limitations. I need to be clearer about that.


→ Omaha

  • I get super reflective while I’m traveling.

Man’s Search for Meaning Great™ Connected some fundamental dots for me between design and life.

DIY Gamer Kit


My interest in teaching is really in the mentoring, advising, and helping. I want to help people get to where they want to go.

The person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest.”


positive sociology: the study of how people organize their lives to be rewarding, satisfying, and fulfilling.

  • I prefer projects/ideas that are about thoughts and feelings (over data). And everyday problems (over super-serious problems).


On my first year in Seattle. Exactly a year.

  • I like using milestones to reflect on changes and set new goals.

More benefits of short hair: 1. worry-free naps, 2. no hat-hair, 3. unlimited fresh haircut feeling.


_Recognizing a connection between design and Man's Search for Meaning._

  • Most of what I think about during the day is how design and problem-solving are basically everything. But I don’t know what to do with that yet.

Queen of Earth Good™


The Directors Series: David Fincher


When we call designers problem solvers, the connotations are very grand.… It helps if we remember that, to a person hungry for scrambled eggs, a short-order cook is a problem solver.”

I’ve started keeping lists of things to ask friends about later (Friends.txt), a workaround for my awful memory.


Esquire: Fifty Men Looking Their Best, Regular guys on their fashion choices

  • I’m fascinated by everyday decision-making like this.

Straight Outta Compton Not Great™


I watch the VMAs every year. It makes me happy to see stuff coming together and weirdness normalized.

Elastic, motion designers

Building incrementally August


First class at TITLE Boxing Club. Loved it. Bought a membership and some gloves.

  • This is the first time I’ve ever joined a gym.

  • Of all sports, I’m most interested in boxing and basketball.


I really look forward to new episodes of Bachelor in Paradise.

LEGO History of the Batmobile

The Shape of Design Not Great™


The Amazing Story Generator

28 v3.0. Thanks to Burroughs, I’ll be adding some new pages soon (from a list of ideas I started five years ago).

  • It’s felt risky to show this site before it’s exactly the thing in my head. But building incrementally has already given me five months of posts, and I’m happy about that.

The End of the Tour Good™

Halt and Catch Fire1 Good™

  • “It’s so simple. It is what it does.”


I tend to be skeptical but not cynical. — Penn Jillette

Dictionary Stories


Met with SoDo MakerSpace and Link.

  • So far this summer, it’s been really encouraging to meet more people invested in positive, student-centered programs.


I have consistently awkward interactions with cashiers. Maybe it’s in my head, but I like that I can avoid it at Starbucks and Taco Bell.

I love introducing people to FoldingText.

How to Age Gracefully

Hazel automation app

Tinybop educational apps

  • If I decide not to teach after grad school, the kind of place I’d be excited (and maybe-qualified) to work.


Song Exploder: Alexandre Desplat


I have a habit of stacking things up (physically and digitally) and letting them sit, for too long. (Things to read, scan, organize, have-tailored).

  • Current projects excluded, I’m on track to have zero stacks soon, maybe for the first time in my adult life.

Fleksy keyboard app


“_Any attempt… to make [design] a thing-by-itself works counter to the fact that design is the… underlying matrix of life._”

  • Of the new ideas I’ve been introduced to this year, I think about this one maybe the most. My gripe with the graphic design world is in having reduced design to a thing-by-itself.

Frontline: Generation Like


Marc Maron interviews President Obama + Fresh Air interviews Marc Maron

Ten Thousand Years


They Say, I Say

  • Some of the most helpful advice I’ve ever read on writing.


Launcher shortcut app


Maybe once a week, I’ll wake up with a solution to a problem. Usually from the day before, but sometimes for things I thought I stopped thinking about awhile ago.

Whenever I’m in downtown Seattle, I feel so much appreciation for this city and being a part of it.

Tasks.txt (replacing Wunderlist)


Met with SAM this week to start planning DYH.

  • Putting ideas together today, exploring how design is everywhere (writing, music, graphic design, architecture, etc.) Pumped! This is where my heart is.

Battle Bunny


This summer, I’ve been eating better, exercising, and meditating regularly, and I feel healthier now than I have in years. But especially since the move.


Generally, I feel more positive about the future after talking to teachers about teaching than talking to designers about design.

The Gift Good™


I worry sometimes that my interests as a teacher are too narrow to be a realistic way to make a living a year from now (or ever).

  • I also wonder sometimes what it’d be like to work for Amazon, Nintendo, or Google after graduation.

Southpaw Not Great™


It’s been two months since I buzzed my head, and I love it. It’s super easy, free, and I can walk in the rain.

  • Mostly, it’s a better reflection of who I am. I don’t think there’s any turning back.


Last week of YTYM. Some students (self-admittedly) aren’t excited about this class. But I think they were just misplaced, and their feelings are totally fair.

  • Everyone is interested in something, and it’s so important that adults help kids figure all of this out.

  • Mom was really good at encouraging me to follow my interests and providing opportunities for me to do that.


Most of what I know about typography I learned from Esquire magazine.


Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy Great™

  • So many parallels between comedy, design, and teaching.

Semplice website builder. Starting the thesis (and professional Joe) website.


After really helpful feedback from a teacher, I’ve decided to make a short film about the project, featuring (excited about this!…) interviews with middle schoolers on problem-solving.

I feel especially aware that a solid thesis website is the thing that’ll carry me through to a meaningful professional life after school.


There are few things I dread more than a phone call, and I don’t know why.

Love and science are my religion. And Kermit the Frog and Mister Rogers.” — Sarah Silverman


Catching up with the Notable Banter posters always warms my heart.

Balega Hidden Comfort Socks. And now all of my summer socks are the same style/color, too. I love socks!


Kelsey is my role model for how to be a friend. She makes time, listens, remembers things, and asks about them.

  • I have an awful memory, and I worry that it affects my friendships.

Spotify Discover Weekly


Fifth week of YTYM. A student (totally out of context) asked when I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I love this kind of classroom moment, when students are developing an awareness of their potential and considering options.

  • I knew in middle school. I remember having as much fun designing a poster of Mortal Kombat moves as actually playing the game.


Do Note → Dropbox

  • Using this to add thoughts to an ongoing Journal.txt file (1–3/day), then decide later which to publish here.


Several people have asked why I watch The Bachelor/ette. It’s the decision-making! I’m totally fascinated by it.

The Story Behind NBA Players’ Jersey Numbers

Learning about teaching July


Seeing movies in a theater continues to feel like a (nearly) essential life thing.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Good™


It’s been so validating this year to get into the research on problem-solving and find that I’m not crazy (or at least not alone) in thinking it’s so valuable.

I’m infinitely interested in learning about teaching. I didn’t feel this way about graphic design.

Think now for later.”


Fourth week of YTYM. Frustrating at times, but I’m happy to be thinking about important teaching stuff like: earning respect, balancing accountability and kindness, using questions instead of demands, and teaching by example.

Many of my favorite conversations are with Ashley.


I’ve been reading a lot since the move (way more than ever before), thanks to the bus.


Noting mental technique from Headspace

  • I’m distracted a lot by thinking/feeling something that’s not relevant to what I’m doing. This technique has been helpful.


That’s the weird thing about creativity, right? When you get real, you have your biggest success.” — Judd Apatow

  • Whatever ideas and projects I’m known for some day, I hope realness is a defining characteristic.

Trainwreck Not Great™


I like being mostly anonymous in Seattle.

  • Although, it still feels odd that people generally ignore each other in public.


Every 2–3 weeks on a Friday or Saturday night, I pick up some Taco Bell and spend a couple hours watching new music videos. It’s one of my favorite things. A helpful way to stay current culturally and discover new pop jams.

  • I really, really appreciate living within walking distance of a Taco Bell.

Cleared out my Instagram photos, which means I’m officially done sharing on social media.

  • But I'm still following friends on Instagram with RSS.


Today’s the first Thesis Thursday (for school Joe). Tomorrow is Friday Freeday (for personal Joe), followed by the first Solve Problems™ Saturday (for professional Joe). Trying to be smart with my summer.

  • I love having an open schedule. It’s not that I don’t want to work. My hope is that I’m getting closer to a meaningful, integrated personal-professional life with zero time spent on anything that feels like work.


This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory #3

  • Kirby is one of my heroes. The research, the connecting-dots, the ideas, the communicating. I want to do this some day. Soon.

I’ve struggled to fully and tangibly communicate my ideas about problem-solving and decision-making. I hope my thesis will do that (it’s the main reason I’m in grad school).


Inside Out Good™


Rolling Stone Archive

The Durable Led Zeppelin — Cameron Crowe

  • Page was only 31 and the band had released six albums. Crowe was 17 and writing for Rolling Stone. I’m 35, and I wonder sometimes where I’d be now if I’d discovered teaching sooner.

Technique doesn’t come into it. I deal in emotions. It’s the harmonic side that’s important.”


Ant-Man Good™


The rules of Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner

  • I’ve been collecting problem-solving examples like this for years.

  • My ideal classroom is a place where this (paired with examples from movies, music, writing, LEGO, illustration, comedy, etc.) all make sense together.

RightFont font app


Self-esteem in 2015: clicks, likes and followers

Grandpa died this morning. He was selfish and bitter for as long as I knew him (not angry, but not kind either). He offered so little (especially as a role model).

  • Some people say we should be extra forgiving of family, just because they’re family. But I think every person (friend, stranger, or family) deserves that same open heart, until they don’t anymore.


Comedy is a kind of design (embracing process, working with limitations, finding truth, communicating). It feels real to me, while so many things done professionally in the name of design really don’t.

Eames Design Q & A


Since I started teaching (4 years ago), I’ve really improved at getting out of my head and just being available for students. I’m a generally anxious guy in most other places, but I really do feel comfortable in a classroom.

If you tell me you hate email, then you’re telling me you don’t have control over your own life.”

JackThreads men’s clothing store

Readdd design readings blog


Spent most of the weekend working through my Wunderlist.

  • Some tasks are short (read this article, pay rent), and others take time (call this Omaha friend, buy socks). I’m down to 15 tasks (from 100). The running average is about 30 (but 100 isn’t uncommon).

  • I don’t know anyone else who spends entire weekends working through a todo list like this, but I live by it.

Bodylastics Resistance Bands


I loved Friday Freedays last quarter, and I get to keep them this summer.

  • It’s a day for whatever I need more of this week. Wunderlist, a movie, happy hour, reading, Taco Bell, etc.

The {} And, relationship conversations

  • People talking about relationships is my jam.

I’m sure I’ll write about relationship stuff here eventually. But since the move, I rarely think about it (which means bonus energy for other projects).


I’m disappointed when people don’t follow through. On anything, but especially when we’re collaborating on personal (client-less) projects. Not coincidently: these are the projects with the most interesting potential, which makes the waiting worse.


Real-Time Transit in Google Maps

My goal is eventually to use zero apps. I can delete one of the two transit apps I was using, so I’m one step closer.


Second day of YTYM. I’ve had the chance to watch three teachers effectively keep a group of high school students (who aren’t entirely into making a documentary) interested (mostly). It’s an inspiring thing to watch, and it’s just what I’d hoped to learn.

The… fetishization of the… designed experiences we rely on to make decisions has distracted us from our original goal of simplifying our lives.”


First day volunteering for Yesler Terrace Youth Media (YTYM)

  • My goal this summer is just to be helpful somewhere, see how community centers work, and learn by watching teachers teach in a less academic environment. I can see all of those things happening here.

  • A student asked if helping high school students make a documentary is what I want to do with my life. In the sense that I’m helping kids build self-confidence, communicate, and solve problems: it is.


Spent the last two days catching up on a month of emails (from the final weeks of the quarter and China).

  • I really don’t like email. Most of that’s on me, though: I think it’s important to write succinctly, but it can take me awhile to write even a few sentences (this post took an hour!).

Omaha Man To Probably Stay In Omaha Another Year Or Two

  • Omaha is a nice place, but I coasted in my 20’s, and I wish I’d moved earlier.


Spotify (replacing Rdio)



LEGO Apartment Life


Talking to kids isn’t easy. It’s interesting to note the different ways adults talk to kids, especially middle schoolers: 1. sing-songy condescension, 2. super-cool sarcasm, and 3. just talking to them like people you respect.

It’s been tricky to align phone schedules between Omaha and Seattle.

  • What we need available/busy status, but for phone calls (like AOL Instant Messenger)


This week, I’m volunteering at a BFI workshop for 6–8th graders, making scale models of favorite memories.

  • I’m working with two seventh-grade boys, both great kids (and both making models of theme park rides).

  • There’s a theory that most teachers naturally understand certain grade levels more than others. Mine is definitely middle schoolers.

Input Mono typeface.

  • For this site. I'm really drawn to the practicality of Monospace type.

LEGO catalogs June


Justin Kemerling: The Year of Words. That Went Fast

  • For a year now, Justin’s shown how valuable it is to think out loud. He’s a constantly inspiring guy. As a writer, thinker, designer, and seriously as one of the best people I know.


Met with Seattle Art Museum about (hopefully) helping teach Design Your Hood (DYH) this fall. This is the sort of professional opportunity I’ve been working towards for awhile (youth + design – selling stuff to people). Stoked!

Book of Life: What Is Comedy For?


Food I miss from Omaha: Runza, Taco John’s, Pudgy’s.

Dropbox File Requests


Jurassic World Not Great™


Social media is… perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval.”




First meal back in America: Taco Bell.


I’m skeptical of crazy stories. It’s so easy to exaggerate, mishear, and misremember.

  • I’m careful to tell stories accurately or not at all, which I think is why I have so few crazy stories to tell.


“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

I don’t understand haggling (which we’re doing a lot of in China). The pre-scripted steps and artificial drama weird me out.

  • And we upset a woman by trying to haggle on a leather jacket when she’d already started from her lowest price.


I’m not at all interested in singing karaoke.

Where Were You When Elvis Died?

  • “All our public heroes seem to reinforce our own solitude.”

I took a lot of video in China, and I prefer capturing snippets of everyday life like this.


In China, it’s never been more apparent to me that fashion is a universal language.

The Age of Too Many Feelings

Oliver Munday, illustrator

  • Summer Reading illustration

  • Illustrators are some of my favorite problem-solvers.


I love eating, but I’m not really into food-ing (exploring new restaurants, recipes, kinds of food). I just wanna eat.

This Magic Moment: The final shot of The Sopranos

In Nanjing, I was waiting for the rest of the group and a woman asked to stage this shot with me. This was taken by a photographer as part of a larger photo shoot — I’m not sure what for. We’ve had a lot of strangers in China ask to take photos with us.


China is as strange and interesting as I’d hoped.

  • I love change. It gives me a chance to reconsider things I’d taken for granted and shows consistencies that reveal the real things in life.


→ China

“a loud shirt”: a decision intended to draw attention to itself.


Finished Thesis Proposal 1.0.

  • I’m really proud of this. After five years of thinking, it’s the most detailed description so far of the thing I’m working towards.

  • With the proposal finished, so is the first year of grad school!

  • There’s no time to lose on my thesis, and I’ll spend the majority of the summer getting a head start. Pretty damned excited to get to work.

In the right context, I still really enjoy graphic designing. I spent a few hours tweaking the typography of the proposal (for fun).

  • I’ve never wanted to stop pushing pixels altogether, and if plans come together, it’ll allow plenty of opportunities to keep graphic designing stuff.


I can’t tell you how to draw it… but I can tell you how to think about it.” — Chuck Jones


For only the third time in my life, I buzzed my head.

  • I’m excited for (at least) a few months without hair product or barber visits, and I’ve been doubting for awhile that it’s even worth the time and expense anyway.

  • My head’s rounder than I remembered, too, which is a bonus.


No matter where I’m at, there’s no substitute for Jake. Love that guy.


A friend asked if moving to a totally new place has been helpful for focusing on grad school, and it really has. I don’t intend for this to last forever, but it’s the most solo I’ve ever been, and it has serious advantages for focusing and reflecting.



If they get it, they get it. If they don’t, that’s on them.”

  • This is so where I’m at right now. Not arrogantly, just realistically (I hope).


I love Every Frame a Painting and SoundWorks Collection. Some day, I’d like to do a similar series about the problems-solved/decisions-made of authors, directors, musicians, designers, etc.

Affinity graphic design apps


52 weeks from now, I’ll be presenting my finished thesis project.

Lots of Seattleites are disappointed by how fast the city is changing. But I just got here, and I’m inspired by it.

  • When we talk about change, we compare the present to the moment where we entered the story. But what about the time before that?

  • Is everyone’s inspiring start someone else’s disappointing change?


Exciting doors continue to open from communicating my goals to anyone who’s interested, and I’m making new Seattle friends at the intersection of design, kids, and education.

  • I’m excited for this summer and finally starting to build the idea that’s been in my head for too long.


Things from Omaha that I rarely have to think about in Seattle: tornadoes, hail, conservatism, religion.

I eat a lot when I’m stressed. And then I eat a lot to celebrate being done with stressful things.

I am still uncomfortable… saying what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ in design. Who am I to say? — Kristine Matthews


There’s a stack of books on my desk (about problem-solving, middle school, and self-esteem), and I’m really looking forward to getting to it. It’ll be my summer reading list, and it feels more like a hobby than research.

Getting a LEGO catalog in the mail is still one of the best things I know.

All learning is understanding relationships.”


I expected grad school would be a chance to experiment with personal projects, but most of our work has been assigned. I’m happy with what I’ve learned, but I wish we’d been applying the same new skills to projects we were really invested in.

This is not a conspiracy theory May


Spark email app (iOS)

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man

  • I’m a huge fan of this guy: his hobby and his job were the same, he was an absolute pro at it, he was a sensitive dude, and he prioritized living a good life above everything else.

LEGO Back to the Future


the battered idealist

Thank You David Letterman!


I’ve been a TA all 3 quarters this year, and I still love teaching (more than ever). But the working with students part feels so much more worthwhile than graphic design part.

  • The basics of graphic design are great for becoming a better communicator. But the nuances we spend most of the time talking about aren’t important relative to so many problems in the world.

Moovit transit directions app


A job posting as a middle school design teacher for Studio H is pretty much exactly what I want to do with my life. But I’m not really qualified (or ready to leave Seattle).

There’s not a single person around to talk about basketball or The Bachelorette with.


Submitted another draft of my thesis proposal, and after 3 months of writing (plus 5 years of thinking), I feel like I’m actually staring in the face of a real project. Pretty exciting!

  • And I have exactly 1 year to do it.

“buddy > bully”


Headspace. I’m 11 days into this, and I’m sold.

By thinking more about the happiness of others… we start to find a little bit of extra space in… everyday life.”

Even though he’s a crazy-busy guy, Nick answers almost every time I call to catch up.


Clicky web analytics

The Pleasure of My Company Good™


9 Squares animated GIF project

Esquire Classic back issue database


I’d really hoped to find a mentor in grad school, but it’s looking like my design interests are too much also about education and psychology to resonate with Design faculty.

Mad Max: Fury Road Good™


Topics and Time icons


I’m confused by designers who legitimately want to help people through their work, but don’t show the same kindness for everyone else.

LEGO Mosaic Printer


People ask where I’ll work after grad school, and I have no idea. I’ve known all along that there’s not a place yet for the stuff I want to teach.

  • Ideally, I’ll open that place. But if that’s not realistic, I’m sure I’ll be able to teach something somewhere.


In the UW quarter schedule, it’s difficult to appreciate the process. At the start, we’re talking about the end. In the middle, we’re talking about what’s next.

A lot of unhappiness comes about… because we can’t let other people know what we mean clearly enough.”

How to Pronounce. Helpful for a Midwestern white dude in a city full of people from all kinds of more interesting places.

Coolors color scheme generator

Slash Edit plugin. For editing posts on this site.


Mad Men7 Great™


First meetings with Yesler Community Center yesterday and the Bureau of Fearless Ideas today.

  • Planning to spend most of the summer volunteering and learning how community centers work. Seattle totally embraces these places, and I feel like this city is the right place for me.

A Short History of Love



Met an Uber driver this morning from Nepal. He moved to the U.S. 15 years ago to escape political intimidation. The paperwork required for his two sons to move to the U.S. took 5 years. (He said if he’d known it would take that long, he wouldn’t have left Nepal). These are real problems.

Almost all of the people I’ve really connected with in Seattle are originally from the Midwest.


I’m wondering if most problematic misunderstandings and disagreements happen when people are on opposite sides of the logic/emotion continuum. And if we’d all benefit from learning to balance the two.

  • And if problem-solving (both logical and creative) is a way to do that.

I always worried about you, because you marched to the beat of your own drum. But now I know that’s good.” — Betty Draper

Seattle #infinitebabes


I’m not sure yet if having a project in mind before starting grad school was a good thing or not. But as of today, all of us first-years have a picked topic and presented it to faculty, and it’s kind of a relief for everyone to be attached to something now.

Origami prototyping app


Sometimes I’m just like: Oh man, I live in Seattle!

I don’t think people are as socially supportive of strangers or friends as they could be (smiling, being an active listener, helping people feel welcome in a new place, empathizing when someone feels embarrassed). It bugs me.


Later this week, I’m presenting my thesis plans to faculty. In my slides, I’m including sketches from some several favorite students — memories of teaching in a presentation as a student, about my future as a teacher.

I often want to say this is not a conspiracy theory (especially in grad school).


I beatbox on walks to the bus and in stairwells, mostly unconsciously. I probably spend 15 minutes a day on it, which makes it easily the hobby I’ve spent the most time on in my life.

Rhythm Necklace app


Writing emails takes longer and feels less personal than the alternatives (face-to-face, phone, text, chat). So why am I spending so much time sending and replying to emails?

A Brief History of Plugging In

Independent “Lo-Fi Sci-Fi” movies


I feel more confident when I’m wearing sunglasses.

Ex Machina Great™

  • Slow-Fi is my favorite movie genre, and it continues to deliver.

  • I really appreciate how movies like Ex Machina, Looper, Source Code, and Moon are inside-a-bottle problem-solving exercises.


It takes two to follow through.

Writing my thesis proposal, I’m discovering that problem-solving has always been most valuable for me personally — for feeling confident in my decisions and having control over the direction of my life. And I want to teach it in the same way.

Lentil Loaf Sandwich


This site is approximately 75% graphically designed (getting some development help). But it’s 100% designed to share what I’m thinking and doing, which is the goal.

  • I almost want to graphically undesign it to illustrate those priorities.


In Seattle, strangers rarely make eye contact with each other (it’s the opposite in Omaha). I made a point to compare them this week, and it feels better to make that connection than to ignore (and be ignored).

Wigwam Merino Socks

  • This is now the only sock I own. Excited to completely eliminate sock thinking from my life.


→ Seattle

If you have a cosmic perspective, you don’t take anything personally.” — Neil Degrasse Tyson



So much of what people do is just staking their claim, trying to get their piece of the pie. Often at the expense of other people, often intentionally, and usually just because.

About every 2–3 weeks since high school, someone volunteers a comment about my hair or the way I walk.

  • I’m not as self-conscious about that now as I used to be.


When friends ask how grad school is going, I’ve been answering honestly. It’s sometimes good and sometimes pretty rough.

  • But (understandably), I don’t think people know what to do with that.

Warm demander April


→ Omaha

  • I planned this trip last month, guessing correctly that it’d be great to see some familiar faces about now. It’s the middle of the quarter, so I’m taking a break from classes and projects.

  • But UW people have been really great about it.

  • Grad school will always be asking for something. I don’t think everything is important, and my choices have reflected that. Not selfishly, I hope, but in a way that feels healthy and realistic.

LEGO Café Corner Interior


I’m loving my middle school education class.

  • I probably should’ve been a middle school guidance counselor.

Talkie Tapes


I fully intend to be an 85-year-old guy who says ‘dude’ and ‘sweet’ and listens to current pop jams.


Sitting at coffee shops, I seriously don’t know how long is too long to be staring at my computer, socially. How often are you supposed to look up? Do other people think about these things?


Seeing movies in the theater continues to feel like an essential life thing: for taking a break and inspiring new ideas.

While We’re Young Not Great™

It’s like he saw a sincere person once, and he’s been imitating him ever since.”

Font Awesome Icons

The Brooklyn Nets dancers are named the The Brooklynettes


I wanted to buy a Real Change newspaper from a guy, but didn’t have any cash. I walked to an ATM, and it started to rain on the way. He’d left by the time I returned, and I wonder if he thought I was lying.

Real Change News app


I’m not finished with this site, but I’m putting words on the Internet again, and it feels good.


Buying a leather jacket was one of the best decisions of my life.

Itsycal menubar calendar


Getting feedback on my thesis proposal, I realized that the value I see in problem-solving is mostly as a personal skill — feeling confident in yourself and your decisions, not really as a service for other people.

  • And all of this is different from the way design is usually defined.

warm demander: teaching by holding students to a high standard, but supporting them along the way.

Why don’t you just write down all of your dreams so I can shit on them.”


When You Reach Me Good™


What it takes to be a master: a blend of stubbornness and sensitivity.”


Grad school is teaching me when to stop and check if my truths are also true to other people.

I’m reading about middle school lunchroom social dynamics, sitting in the UW food court, and my life is coming full circle.

  • I’m realizing that middle school may be a miniaturization of our entire lives into a totally accessible moment in time. Which is incredible.


I think I’ve found a single statement to articulate a big professional goal: I want to help people build confidence in themselves through problem-solving and decision-making.


Started editing Jesse’s Decisions with Friends interview, and it’s good to hear this kid’s voice again. I hope to be as cool and self-aware some day.


I’m surprised (discouraged) with how many designers don’t see decision-making as part of the design process. (I see it as the essential step).

  • This has been a frustrating aspect of grad school, and at least for my thesis, I think it’s time to focus on problem-solving alone.

Round and Round. I’m so proud of these dudes, making things happen and caring about other people.


Gray Felt MacBook Sleeve


Furious 7 Not Great™

Me, every day on the bus March


Chris McVeigh: LEGO Macintosh


Everything takes forever. (Every task requires time, and without prioritizing, doing everything would require all the time.)


When Muhammad Ali Was a Has-Been

  • Despite not really being a sports fan, I get a lot from reading career retrospectives of athletes. It feels like some kind of ultimate truth.

Flio collapsible wooden laptop stand


On the Madness and Charm of Crushes

  • Me, every day, on the bus.

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