Letting it cook December


Watched 105 new (to me) movies this year. (No Great™s, though.)

  • Movies continue to be the thing I enjoy (and look forward to) more than, really, anything.

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


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

Primer Not Great™

Young Adult Not Great™


The Myth of the Objective

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

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

Under-desk headphone hook

  • First thing I’ve 3D printed.

Blue Jasmine Good™


apophenia: the terribly human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns in random data.”

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

Tomons Wood Desk Lamp

On the Internet, momentum (rather than the medium) becomes the message.”


Premium Rush Not Great™

Reading 210 student feedback. It’s really positive, but I can do better. I know I can continue to improve the class and my ability to teach it, and I’m excited for that.

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


Parker: The Hunter + The Outfit + The Score + Slayground Good™

  • Darwyn Cooke is my favorite illustrator, hands down.

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

Like Crazy Not Great™


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


Tweaking the style of this site, eliminating a few special things (home page images, sunglasses mouseover).

  • Wondering if a special/delightful choice always runs the risk of eventually revealing itself as (at best) trivial or (at worst) self-serving.

La La Land Good™


The Employment short film

PDF Squeezer compression app


Drafts note-to-self app (replacing IFTTT DO)

Please, solve real problems, and solve new problems.

  • I used to feel this way, too. But it doesn't feel like a realistic response to the design industry anymore.

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

watching the… [NYT election] dials surely traumatized a generation of voters.” — The Outline

  • I'll probably never forget it.

Passengers Not Great™


Jackie Not Great™


I’ve only driven 2000 miles this year.

Community1 Good™


L.A. Confidential Not Great™

Memory Clean RAM utility


The Outline, power/culture/future blog

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

I get irritated when I feel like I need to justify not-wanting a graphic/UX design job. Grad school was part of a plan to break away from that path. But I understand the confusion. Mostly, I’m irritated by: 1. a silly flattening of the single word ‘design’ into those two things, and 2. those industries perpetuating that flattening.

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

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

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

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X Good™


Last day of 210. Really bummed it’s over.

  • Teaching continues to be one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.

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

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

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

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

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

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


I’m rarely truly satisfied with my graphic design projects. I wonder how common this is.

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

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


Change Reference Points in InDesign with the keyboard

The Girlfriend Experience1 Good™


Nocturnal Animals Not Great™

Shotgun Stories Good™

App Cleaner uninstaller


Idiocracy Good™

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

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

Copy and paste across MacOS and iOS


13" MacBook Pro (Space Gray).

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


Art of the Title: In A Valley of Violence

  • Designing a title sequence could be a sweet class project.

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

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


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

At a minimum, we meet her expectations.… At best, we catch her attention. She pauses and allows herself a moment of wonder for our work.

  • This is ‘delight’, and I think it’s usually a euphemism for bullshit: a thing intended to impress, separate from a design’s primary goals.

Artists for Education classroom posters

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


Justin Kemerling: How to be a good designer

Introducing a project (like I did today in 210) is complex. I’m excited about it (knowing what students are about to do), but students often get anxious about the unknowns ahead.


Manchester by the Sea Good™

Westworld1 Good™

Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music.” — Westworld

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

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


Reality TV was an important pivot point in my own media literacy. Although the final votes on Survivor and The Bachelor (probably) aren’t orchestrated by the producers — the producers CAN tell a dramatic story (with editing) that leads up to those specific votes.

  • Everything we understand about each other has been edited.

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Are You Fucking Kidding Me

A bundle of decisions November


LFTS: The Anatomy of the Obsessed Artist

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

  • Dissecting examples is such a useful teaching/learning tool.

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

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


Bad Santa 2 Not Good™

The same type of accident is… preventable now only because the disaster happened, triggering a… redesign.”

  • Mistakes expose design opportunities.


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

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

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

The Week: 10 Things You Need to Know Today newsletter


Tally Counter. For counting students’ favorite project votes in 210.

LEGO Monofigs, single-color minifigs

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Good™

The Overnight Not Great™


The Paper Good™


Game Boy t-shirt.

  • Ideally, my printed shirts would all be 1-color-on-same-color.

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

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

Well, whoever designed this place, you get the feeling they don’t think much of people.” — Westworld

  • A design is a bundle of decisions.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Good™

This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory #4

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

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

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


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


Spark, email app

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

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

LEGO 7: Jinglemix (Christmas Mixels)


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

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

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

Bleed for This Not Great™


Heathers Not Great™

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

joesparano.com v3.6.

  • Thanks to Josh, added a category filter here. (It also hides personal posts, and I’m stoked to make this page public again.) Also revising the (right now, unfinished) home page.

  • I usually edit this site live. I’m getting more comfortable showing myself unedited, and I’m happy about that.

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

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


Arrival Good™

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The One I Love Good™


First call with tech company (Flywheel) about a customer support job that’d hopefully start in January. Stoked.

  • The job meets my professional goals right now: 1. not a ‘design’ job, 2. part-time, 3. but pays better than most jobs in those categories, 4. interacting with people, 5. no commute (it’s a remote position), 6. and (bonus) an Omaha company.As I get closer to this plan, I’ve been more open about projects I’ll do in my free time. But I’m not sure anyone really understands.It’s cool, though.

The beauty of non-income-generating personal projects is that they CAN only make sense to me.

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

breakfast galette (at Anchorhead Coffee)

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

An unexpected number of people really like the sunglasses mouseover.

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

  • A few Omaha bonds persist.

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


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

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


Real Life Magazine: Chaos of Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted projects from 210 in the Design hallway. A junior (Chloe) (who did the same project last year) noticed and said I should be proud of the class. I really am.


Going to try cutting podcasts altogether. I’m really tired of the anxiety of treading water.


Doctor Strange Not Great™

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

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

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


In 210, introduced remixing as a design tool (with Everything is a Remix). Saying We are remixes… of our parents was fun.

I think this kind of perspective-shift and mechanism-reveal is what classrooms are for.

  • It’s important to me that the students feel the work in this class is reciprocal. Clearly preparing for the day's class is a sign that I’m invested.

The Conversation Not Great™


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

  • And… it was a huge hit! An all-time classroom highlight. #teaching

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


One of my favorite apps (Listacular) has stopped working. An example of how all tech things can and will-probably break — because whatever technology around them that makes the app work can and will-probably change too.

The Accountant Not Great™

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

Thirty seven October


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

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

  • Still really interested in everyday design.

  • One of the big takeaways from grad school was that I stopped thinking there was a professional outlet for these kinds of ideas.

  • Maybe UW was the wrong place for it, but people I’d hoped would care, didn’t.

“They were more interested in the wedding than the marriage.” — Sarah

  • I like this as a metaphor for bullshit.


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

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

Timeglass countdown timer app


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

I don’t dress up for Halloween. It feels wasteful, it's expensive, and the evaluation weirds me out.

In a Valley of Violence Good™

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


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

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


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

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



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

I’m irritated by ‘conversations’ that mostly amount to being talked-at.

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

“Would you like a cookie?” Yes.

How anxiety helps us make decisions

Showing the outside world who you really are can be the central challenge of your whole life.” — Ask Polly

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


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

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

  • A majority of my metaphors are food-related.


Sometime early next year (after 210 ends), I’ll need to generate more income. I’m considering a very normal part-time job (Safeway, Amazon warehouse). The benefits (which Justin and Jesse helped me think through) are: 1. space for subconscious problem-solving, 2. saving creative energy for my own projects, 3. inspiration for an everyday design project.

22 (#10.22)


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

Book of Life: Why Kind People Lie

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

I’ll tell you what I really love about [Tetris]… — that you always lose.”

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

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

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


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

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

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

Funny Games Not Great™


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


Switched to Cricket Wireless (replacing H2O).


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

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

I think it’s probably nearly impossible for me to ever get a job as a LEGO set designer. Which was the dream for most of my life.


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

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

  • Still feeling super stressed and time-crunched. And still haven’t played Galaga. But overall, 210 is going really great.

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


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


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

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

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

  • I’m sure this has affected the job search.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Got all the sophomores’ names memorized.


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

Halt and Catch Fire3 Good™


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

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

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


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

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

This is my 500th day of posting here.


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

Great™ Movie scenes

Codeanywhere web-based code editor


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

  • Middle schoolers have it, too.

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

I’m inspired by people doing uncool things confidently.

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

The Girl on the Train Not Great™

  • It’s fall movie season and I’m ready.

Re-watched The Social Network. It’s as good as movies get for me.

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


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


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


Got an email from a friend (Craig Nashleanas) five weeks ago that I still haven’t replied to. I feel terrible about it. I think about it every day.

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

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

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

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

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

LEGO Sanctuary of Four Seasons


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

Third day of 210. I’m feeling really good teaching again.

In terms of setting students up with essential design ideas (goals, process, communication) and (hopefully) giving them reasons to care: I’m the guy for this job.


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

I’m supremely frustrated by tech things that don’t do what they promise to.

  • Today, my Kindle won’t connect to Wi-Fi. I’ve spent so much time in my life just getting gadgets to work like they did yesterday.

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

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

The 11 Types of NBA Nicknames

  • Been thinking a lot about pattern-finding.

Designing the challenges on Survivor would be a fun job.

Pleasure-Point Analysis September


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

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


First day of 210. Standing in front of class (my first as the teacher in two years), with 60 students (my biggest class ever, by far), I felt less anxious (way less) than I expected. It felt good.

  • I’ve gotten a real confidence boost from being asked to do this.

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

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


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

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

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


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

Whatever you plan to do during the semester, do it on the first day.”

  • Lots of exercises.


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

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

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

Don’t Think Twice Good™


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

Building transparent shadows in Photoshop


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

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

  • This contrast accounts for a good chunk of my grad school frustration.

Authentic Work and Pleasure-Point Analysis

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

  • Journaling has been really helpful for doing this.


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

GE C-Sleep Bulb. To give me a little more control over the light in my apartment in spite of Seattle clouds.


Café Society Not Great™

Hush Good™

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


Between Oxide (2012) and Seattle (2014), I spent a lot of my free time socializing. I’ve been in Seattle nearly as long, and I’ve spent most of my free time solo.

  • It’s a big change (the contrast would surprise friends in either place). But (for reasons I’m still thinking through) I haven’t made the kinds of connections here that I made (and still have) in Omaha from that era.

There is only one set of brand values: make more money.” — vlogbrothers

Spotify Release Radar playlist


Working on (EcoTab) a freelance UX project. I’m just not into UX. 1. I’m not happy with what I’ve done so far (which is normal), 2. but my subconscious isn’t trying to puzzle it out in between (which is unusual). 3. When I use other apps, I’m not inspired to get to work (the opposite is true with graphic design). 4. I’m procrastinating (and missing deadlines) — overwhelmed and bored at the same time.

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

I have no professional goals right now (other than income). That's true for the first time I can remember. Most freelance work I’m doing now is just trading my time/stress/expertise for bills-paid.

  • When I tell someone I could fill all of my time with personal projects, they’ll usually ask for an example. I'll usually say: this site and a LEGO website I've had in mind for years (cheeseslope.com).


The first (weekly Thursday morning) volunteering at BFI, helping with office things.

  • Being available during the day is a huge bonus of freelancing.

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

I don’t want a regular job right now, but if I do some day, it may not be ‘creative’ or ‘design’-related (although every job is both of those).

  • The LEGO job I applied to (project manager for the graphic design team) might’ve been perfect.

Vyte meeting scheduler

Indignation Not Great™


Although this page is mostly up to date, I usually have past notes in the queue (to review and add to past days). Whenever I do that (like I did today), I feel a little more free to be honest, knowing that fewer people will read it.

  • I’d rather write that way all the time, though.


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

  • And it’ll happen to the young guys some day, too.

  • Aging is a whole extra layer of basketball that I didn’t think about as a kid. Especially now that I’m older (37 next month) than most guys in the NBA.

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

CGP Grey explainer video essays

  • Misconceptions

  • Animal Misconceptions

  • I’m frustrated at how often in everyday conversations people say things that aren’t accurate (intentionally or not). And how often something I’ve said has changed (even a little) by the time it gets back to me.


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


Halt and Catch Fire2 Good™


The Light Between Oceans Not Great™

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

  • Generally, I’ll avoid movies lower than 75% (unless I’m really interested in the director/writer/actors).

  • And I’m rarely interested in documentaries, indie, animated, or foreign movies (at any %).


I arrived in Seattle two years ago today.


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

I’m considering getting a fish.

  • Working on the a freelance project for Pilchuck that's a catalog of art pieces. This is straightforward stuff (importing text/images, applying styles, basic layout). It's very little risk creatively, and success is basically objective. It’s production work, but it’s really satisfying, and I’m good at it.

  • I want more freelance like this.

Kirby Ferguson: The 4 Steps to Getting an Idea (Remix Method #1)

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

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


I like to make progress on a personal project in the morning (this week: organizing boxes, mostly untouched since Omaha).

  • On days when I work first, I feel distracted by having these things waiting.

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

  • Right now, work feels like a nuisance. I rarely start before noon.

  • I have years worth of reading (books, comics, Instapaper) and video games to get through. This stuff is my priority right now.

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


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

Europa Report Not Great™


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

  • I like it. It’s maybe my defining characteristic. Even if I don’t understand it myself, I’m aging into managing it.

  • People can be confused by it, but I feel like I'm able to empathize with a wide variety of people because of it.

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

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

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

Hell or High Water Good™


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

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

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

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

The Invitation Not Great™


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

Milliard Tri-fold Foam Mattress (Twin)

  • Fits perfectly in the closet. I love the practicality of a bedroom that disappears during the day.

How to make eggs in a mug

Just five pieces August


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

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


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

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

  • I keep thinking about the SMART interview. It’s reminded me of things about the design industry that aren’t for me: 1. inflated jargon (“visual design”), 2. bullshit (“What’s your superpower?”), 3. self-importance (“We are looking for a bit more experience in mobile”), and 4. disingenuousness (“Most of all, we want someone who’s passionate about education”).

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

Don’t Breathe Good™


23/28 TITLE days this month.

AoM: How to Have a Good Day, Every Day

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

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

  • A job I’d be good at but couldn’t prove right now: design research for 3M (on the Command team).

Roadies1 Good™


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

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

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

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

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

Celeste and Jesse Forever Not Great™


IKEA KALLAX Workstation

  • Bought bookshelves, a desk, and a (reading/watching) chair at IKEA.

  • Part of the fun of tiny apartment life so far is finding chances to multitask like this.

  • I love IKEA.

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


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

  • Same for teaching.



I have fond memories of shopping at Target (in Omaha). It was special because it was so un-Midwest: forward-thinking, practical, uncluttered, sans serif. An oasis.

And always with a disproportionate number of attractive women their 20’s/30’s also shopping.

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

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


Jesse and I discussed the absurd advantages of graphic design freelancing as a job (which, relative to most jobs, pays more but is also less demanding on time/place).

  • Advantages that dovetail perfectly with my goal right now of having as little a job as possible.

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



  • For Virdie‘s funeral.

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

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

  • But I’m going to this funeral because I assume it’d be more complicated if I didn’t.

  • I don’t know what’s actually better for handling social obligations: 1. do what I feel or 2. do what’s easiest.

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


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

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


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

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

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

Cheap Thrills Good™

Easy A Good™

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


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

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

Mississippi Grind Good™


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

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


Put.io cloud torrent app.

  • Internet (all utilities!) are included in my new rent, but torrenting is frowned upon.


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

  • And I love the location. The (6-minute) walk to the gym was very special.

22 Jump Street Good™


12/14 TITLE days this month.


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


Officially said yes to teaching Color & Composition (210). Despite how I’ve been feeling about teaching, this doesn't feel like an opportunity I can pass up.

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

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

21 Jump Street Good™


LEGO Winter Holiday Train

  • There’s a tiny, rotating train ON the train! (I love meta references like this, in all things).

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

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

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


Kristine asked asked if I’d teach Color & Composition this fall.

  • I’m interested: 1. I was the TA the last two years, and I’m comfortable with it, 2. it’s a sophomore class (a special age), 3. It’s fun, 4. teaching in UW’s Design program is a legit checkmark, 5. and it pays. I’m thinking. At this moment, I’m excited to even be asked.


How was your day? Tell me everything.”


This year, I started paying for movies and TV online. But I refuse to accept the you-have-to-have-cable-to-stream-this options (Bachelor/ette, Mr. Robot, USA Basketball). I torrent those guilt-free.

  • Also any album not on Spotify.

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

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

  • But I love it after more limitations have been set.

  • An example: this week, I had a specific (moving) box and a specific stack of stuff to fit into it. That was fun.

  • A giant LEGO pile isn’t that interesting to me. But just five pieces? OH yes.

For the love of stuff

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


The Myth of the American Sleepover Good™


IMDb + Rotten Tomatoes Chrome extension

The Drop Good™


Art of the Title: The Neon Demon

  • My favorite part of this movie.

  • Movie graphic design feels selfless to me: it’s about the film’s ideas, not about being the designer responsible for it.

The Ringer, pop-culture/tech/sports blog

  • Basketball and The Bachelor/ette?!


Fontstand font testing/rental app

Trim typeface

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

  • I’ve been tweaking this site from the start (March 2015). Still, there are broken things and things that I’m not satisfied with. But I’m having fun figuring it out, changing my mind, and figuring it out again.

  • I doubt it’ll ever feel finished, but I like that about it, and it feels like progress.

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


Real Life Magazine, blog about living with technology

Every person is a remix July


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

The Brothers Bloom Not Great™


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

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

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

Jason Bourne Not Great™ Not Good™

It Follows Good™


No matter how unkind [someone] has been, it’s still we ourselves who carry that with us, … [and] can choose to let go of it.” — Headspace

  • People who’ve done shithead things tend to occupy a lot of space of in my head.

How to Be Single Not Great™


Volunteered at BFI twice this week (helping prepare to re-open).

  • I like having a flexible schedule for stuff like this. It’s also only two blocks from my new apartment.


Real Life Magazine: How the tech industry speaks to us like children

  • “We cannot find food on our own, or choose a restaurant, or settle a tiny debt. Where that dependency feels unseemly in the context of independent adult life, it feels appropriate if the user’s position remains childlike, and the childlikeness makes sense when you consider that Yelp depends on us to write reviews, and therefore must, like a fun mom, make chores feel fun too.”

  • “[We’re becoming] unable or unwilling to meet our needs without also being entertained. When we learn to expect playfulness from mundane tasks like ordering food or finding a pharmacy, or when we won’t go swimming without a Pokéchaperone, the result is a state of unsuspecting childlikeness, while adults wait in the woods to take their profits.”


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

  • I love getting rid of stuff.

  • But I’m not ready to be an ultra-minimalist yet. It’s gotten easier as I’ve get older, though.

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

I think graphic design (maybe all communication) has two qualities: 1. clarity (unity) and 2. interestingness (variety). They work together, and both have value.

  • Graphic designer culture tends to prioritize 2 > 1, but I think clarity is way more important (in making sense where there wasn’t before).

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

  • I can do clarity, but I struggle with interesting. In my own projects I've been embracing letting go of interesting, but I think it’s working against me professionally.


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

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


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

Esquire: The Inevitable Takeover of Pop Politics

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


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

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

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

The Shining Not Great™

Key & Peele: Text Message Confusion


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

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

Zero Dark Thirty Good™

I Am Comic


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

Stripes photo.

  • Every person is a remix. I’m totally a combo of my parents.

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


Hunter S. Thompson on goals

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

Marc Issacs, everyday life filmmaker

  • Lift, life in a London apartment


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


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

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

Ghostbusters Not Great™


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

Dope Not Great™


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

Longform: Mike Sager

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

LEGO Lighthouse Point

  • Reminds me of Seattle.

CineFix, movie video essays


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

Ask Polly: It’s never been harder to be young

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Good™


Maybe I’ll find a satisfying ed-design job. Or maybe I’ll find a comfortable freelance gig setting type in instructional manuals. Either way, I don't think a job will be as important as my personal goals.

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

We don’t call ourselves… ‘a-Zeus-ists’ and ‘a-leprechaun-ists’…

  • I don’t believe in anything supernatural, but ‘atheist’ doesn't feel like it captures who I am. I don’t see my perspective as a choice, defense, or stance against anything. It’s a non-thought, a zero (the same way I feel about Zeus and leprechauns).

Adam Savage: The Person Keeping Score is Me (video + transcript)

  • “rules do not make us moral; loving each other makes us moral.”

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


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

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

The words I use most often on this site are: design, it’s, thesis, feel, people, school, life, love, teaching, projects, ideas.

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

The faster you respond, the shorter your response is allowed to be.”

  • This may be the email solution I’ve been looking for.


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


Some of the friendliest people in my life here work at and MOD Pizza. This has been a real, unexpected bonus of joining the gym.

Most of the other people in class, though, maintain that Freeze chilliness (which is still weird to me).


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

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

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

Zero Days

Book of Life: An Introduction to Emotional Education


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

  • I’m not even interested in UX. But it’s what’s available in ed-design.

  • The job I’m really looking for (and a Master’s degree opens the door to, I think) isn’t necessarily even visual. It’s about ideas and connecting dots.

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

Three Fourths Home video game. Set in Nebraska.

The Trip to Italy Not Great™

World of Tomorrow


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

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


I’ve been wondering if a totally public journal might seem weird. I don’t think it is, but I wonder how it reads. The job search makes the question more pressing, but I’ve always wondered.

  • Total public-ness is also limiting what I feel comfortable sharing. I could just share non-personal things (links). But reviewing recent posts, I don’t think that’d be as valuable for me.

  • So, I've removed the homepage link to this page, and the only way to get here is to already know the URL. This gives me the accountability (public-ness), but also more room for sharing (private-ness).

At boxing tonight, the club manager (Greg) asked why I joined the club. My response was that I wanted to be in shape — which he then write on my heavy bag in chalk. It was really motivating.

  • A goal and a design (a visible reminder) to reach it.

Lessons from the Screenplay, screenplay analysis video essays


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

Esquire: Thumb War

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


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

Tickled Good™

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


joesparano.com v3.5.

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

Kerning makes me anxious.

The Shallows Good™

Added TV shows to Great™s


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

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

Rocky Not Great™


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

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

LEGO and Nintendo June


Finally at the making-and-uploading-images phase of this website (v3.0).

TinyPNG image compression

Yummy FTP Lite app


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

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

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


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


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

BitCam pocket computer camera

The Neon Demon Not Great™


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

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

Nerdwriter: The Office, Embrace The Cringe

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Good™


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


Annabelle wrote (on our thesis site): “Joe has been a pleasure to work with over the past two years. He is a terrific designer and just a really good all around individual. Joe is passionate about design and education and his even-keeled manner combined with stellar type skills will serve him well in the future. He was a fantastic TA who really connected with the students and continued to check in on them even after they finished our class. Joe always has a smile on his face and I really enjoyed working with him on his thesis project this year.”

LEGO Slimer

Common Name graphic design studio


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

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

Weiner Good™


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

it’ll be done, but never I’ll finish it.” — Todd Cramer

Bungee, vertical typeface


The Stupidity of Computers, where likes come from (a thing computers can quantify)


The Conjuring 2 Good™


The Conjuring Good™


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

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


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


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

  • I’ll miss teaching, but not grading.

If I teach again some day, I think a fun exercise would be “spot the professional graphic designer bullshit”.

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

The Best American Magazine Writing 2014 Good™


X-Men: Apocalypse Not Good™



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

Maggie’s Plan Not Great™


Thesis documentation’s due tomorrow. Still stuff to do. Totally manageable.

  • But it’s a junk food day for sure.


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


First job interview (with SMART).


Starting thesis documentation (the last checkmark). Stoked.

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

Swarm.fm Spotify notifications

“You seem like a cool guy because you like Banjo-Kazooie.” — Dude at Ballard Coffee Works


I’m half-seriously considering a cool emoji tattoo.

  • It’s symbolic of things I think about a lot: realness, anxiety, vulnerability, smiling, aging (the sun), The Freeze.

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

A Bigger Splash Not Great™

Foxcatcher Not Great™


Thesis presentation complete!

  • I wish I’d recorded the audio, but I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did (really well).

  • A grad school highlight for sure.


Keynote presentation app


After advice from too many smart people to ignore, I created a LinkedIn profile.

  • It feels super weird to mix friends and job stuff. But I need to get over it.

Slow-fi relationship drama May


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


An introduction to bullshit

  • “If they don’t talk, they don’t get paid.”

  • I think about BS a lot (with social media, news, teaching, this site). Is this about the idea being shared? Or the person sharing it? And how would we tell the difference?

  • Media literacy education is teaching kids how to spot bullshit.


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

Predestination Not Great™


Graduation is two weeks from today.

Somerset paper website

The Nice Guys Good™

I didn’t figure out how important confidence (or the illusion of it) is until my early 30’s.

  • I default to socially awkward, but when I remind myself to do confident things (make eye contact, don’t talk just to fill space, smile), it’s just so clearly more effective.

  • Like today, talking to the cute girl at Sundance movie theater.

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


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

  • It’s been awhile since my last big event full of friendly faces (definitely the first in Seattle).

  • It’s crazy to think that everyone I knew tonight I met in the last two years.

  • I should wear button-up, collared shirts more often. It works for me.


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

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

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


I think there’s always a Plan Z. In nearly every situation, I’ll figure something out.

  • Even when (like final exhibit details and finding a job) the clock is ticking loudly.

Thesis exhibit installed.

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

Bryan helped me with (did all of) the animation for my thesis app mockup. This guy’s a pro and a real friend.

Writing thesis lesson plans has been fun. I really enjoy designing projects and exercises (and I think I’m pretty good at it).

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


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

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

How to change placeholder text in InDesign


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

Everyone needs to keep a Journal.” — Justin Kemerling

  • Primarily, this site is for me. But secondarily, my goal is to be an example of someone who really believes in journaling.

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

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

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


I’m usually dissatisfied with my design projects (in every medium). Since the process is iterative, it’s never finished.

  • So thesis couldn’t have been done before now. It won’t be done when I graduate. Or ever.

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


I like waking up knowing I’m spending the day on one project, even if it’s the whole day.

  • Today, it’s finalizing text in thesis lesson plans.

When I tell someone I’m getting a design degree, they’ll often ask “What kind of design?”, and I love that. Because there are so many (∞) kinds.

Graduation is three weeks from today.


I probably reveal more of what I’m thinking/feeling than average.

  • That’s been especially (sometimes embarrassingly) obvious since the move (relative to Seattle or grad school, or both).

But I think being a proactive communicator is helpful.


Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens.

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


Installing thesis exhibit.

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

Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age


I feel like I’ve picked up some really valuable skills in grad school (design-researching, -writing, -interviewing).

  • But the job search will be the real test of whether or not that’s true.

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

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


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

Falconboard recyclable rigid media board.

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


Ask Polly: Should I help others or be an artist?


Coherence Good™

  • A slow-fi relationship drama is exactly my kind of movie.


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

Mytory Markdown plugin. For syncing Links.txt (a FoldingText file on my computer) to this site.

How to record video of an iPhone screen

Horace and Pete: Liberals and Conservatives

Andrew Herzog, interaction designer


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


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

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

Love1 Good™


Back to the gym after a month off. The break was helpful for staying on top of thesis.

  • But I’m feeling the stress anyway, and I’ll bet punching some stuff would’ve been helpful.

Friend blogs

No comments section.” — Marc Maron


I’m happy with the logo I’ve designed for my thesis project. I still have fun designing logos, figuring out how to seam ideas together.

Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made. We are dependent on one another… — Kirby Ferguson


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

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

Brik Book LEGO MacBook case

Captain America: Civil War Good™


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

I hate posing for photos. (Today: for the UW Design website.)

The Family Fang Not Great™

12 Monkeys Not Great™


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


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


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

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

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

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


Waiting to hear back about maybe-interviewing for a possible-job with Microsoft Research (micro:​bit) and wondering if I’ve exaggerated my chances when telling other people about it.

  • It really sounds awesome, though. And I’m totally qualified. I think.

I keep forgetting that on the other side of thesis I’ll have a master’s degree. The project is so big that I literally stopped thinking of it as a temporary detour in life.

  • It's the longest continuous project of my life (starting January 2015.)

Obama at the 2016 Correspondents’ Dinner


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

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

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

Trasandina typeface.

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

Versions of the same thing April


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

  • A collection of lists like this paints a really clear picture of a person.

  • Jesse’s Resources page is 100% Jesse).

Black Mirror2 Good™


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

  • These two were the best yet (mostly because I found better questions on each call).

  • I’ve learned a ton about interviewing by just doing it. It’s been super interesting, and I’ve really enjoyed this part of the process.

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

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


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

Zootopia Not Great™

Uncanny Valley


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

We do a project in HCDE 508/308 where all of the students design a poster using the same text and images, and I love it.

  • I think a whole class could be built around projects like this. There’s so much to learn from seeing different solutions to the same problem.


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

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


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

Black Mirror1 Good™


Brutalist Websites


The work is all that’s happened in the day. It is a process, not a thing.” — Austin Kleon

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

Eye in the Sky Good™


Recorded a Decisions with Friends interview with Josh. My new plan is to record these at pivotal moments in friends’ lives.

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

A Decade of Viral Dance Moves

Sliding Webcam Cover


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

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

Fuller House1 Good™


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

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

A few times a day, I send myself notes for this site. I try to flesh them out and post within a day. If I don’t post notes for a few days, I do my best to stay true to my original intent.

  • (I posted this on the 20th).

  • Journal debt stresses me out a little.

On The Media podcast


Published a portfolio for the job search.

  • It's maybe 65% complete (content-wise), but the essential projects are here.

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

  • I prefer to concept in writing (instead of sketching), but it’s problematic for portfolio-making (leaving me with fewer things to show).

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


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


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

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


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

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

LEGO 7: Cyclops

  • Chunky!

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


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

But a great chance to do some reading.

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

Justin Kemerling: When it just has to get out the door


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

Looking forward to putting the drum set back in action (after the move).

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


Microsoft Research presentation on micro:​bit.

  • I asked if they’re looking for people to join the team, and it sounds promising.

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


Gay Talese: The Voyeur’s Motel

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


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

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


Everybody Wants Some!! Good™


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

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

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


An Evening of Conversation with Killer Mike at UW


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

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


Since grad school, I’m even more motivated to make sure I’m writing as clearly as I can.

  • It’s frustrating to read academic writing (especially about design) that feels inaccessible to regular people.I love coats.


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

  • However, as fun as it's been fun to get into the weeds and find better ideas, I don’t have a good sense of what I’ve been doing well.


Jim Henson: How to Make a Puppet


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

Motorized Mini Golf Maze

Midnight Special Not Great™


Make the spiritual search more important than the problem.” — Garry Shandling #theprocess

Certified Fresh + Streaming list


Spring Not Great™

Journaling from the bus March


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


Talking about job plans, I’ve been saying “anything could happen”. I love change. But more than any other point in my life, I’m as anxious as excited about what that could (will) mean.

  • The deadline to stay in Seattle is August 15th (when my lease is up).


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

we’re living inside commercials — JG Ballard

The Lookout Good™


Still working on my portfolio. But I’m happy with what’s taking shape.

Not surprisingly, I’ve spent most of the time trying to maximize its not-specialness.

  • content > container

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

Book of Life: How to Be a Good Listener

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


Hot Rhythmic playlist.

  • I listen to most music for the beats.

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

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


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


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

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

Batman v Superman Not Great™


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

sympathetic joy: the opposite of jealousy


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

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

Deadpool Not Great™


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

The American Man at Age Ten + Susan Orlean interview

  • “What’s the most important thing in the world?” “Game Boy. The best magazines are Nintendo Power,… and Mad Magazine. The best artist… is Jim Davis.”

  • Also me in 1992 (age 12).


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

Your Sister’s Sister Good™

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


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


Spursy: practical and selfless.

  • I love The Spurs.

  • We are a digital experience studio, working with global brands.

  • Anything could happen job-wise, but I’m not into in this kind of thing.


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

Feedbin Email to RSS


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

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

Type Sample bookmarklet


Spent all weekend on thesis app, and I’m at the point where I’m having fun.

  • It’s been the usual arc when I make things: 1. I procrastinate to avoid 2. the anxiety of decision-making, until eventually 3. I’m excited to wake up and get back to it.

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


10 Cloverfield Lane Good™

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


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

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

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Not Great™

PDF Expert app


Dropping in on the juniors and sophomores to see final projects this quarter (the first of four classes today).

I love seeing these kids learn, change, and find their way. The process!


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

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

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

Winky Dink and You, the first interactive TV show


I often journal from the bus.

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

EmojiOne, open-source emojis

  • For thesis app mockups.


Sometimes I’ll think about something for awhile before I figure out why.

  • I’ve had a vague sourness towards graphic designer culture (for years), but it’s really come into focus since the move. I’m making notes for an essay.


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

A Practice for Everyday Life graphic design studio.

  • This feels like that balance.

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

  • That’s always been true.

intellectualizing emotions _ Heather Havrilesky


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

The interviews are my favorite part of thesis.

Back in Time.

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

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


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

Victoria Good™


Pivot, screen rotation app

  • For reading comics on my MacBook (post-iPad decision).


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

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


I chew way more gum than anyone else I know.

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

The inverse of design February


I reference saved links on this site quite a bit.

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


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

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

Dynamic Dummy Image Generator

How to Build a Perfect Team

  • I’m looking forward to being on a team again.


I think about this Garry Shandling profile often.

  • “The act is the process” is maybe the essential theme of this phase of my life.

Frequencies Good™


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

Active Learning Workshop.

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

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


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

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


Discover Weekly continues to deliver.

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

  • I started saving annual Great™ playlists in 2006.


One of the big changes in my life since grad school is that I’m hyper-aware of time trade-offs (time spent on one thing is time not-spent on other things).

And of the essentialness of making time for movies, boxing, and Taco Bell Friday Nights.


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

99 Homes Good™


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

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


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

My first Husky hoops game to celebrate this solid week.

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

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


Thinking about examples. In a presentation, I said an icon for ‘chai’ should feel distinct from an icon for ‘coffee’, and that clicked.

  • Two weeks ago, I used two Where’s Waldo images to explain whitespace and contrast, which was really effective.


I look forward to catching up with RSS every morning.

  • It’s a rare anxiety-reducing technology in my life.

I like seeing the phrase ‘graphic design’ in use (instead of just ‘design’).

  • I try to use my design words carefully, and I credit Burroughs for that._

ASCIIFlow ASCII art creator

LEGO Boxer Minifig. New desk buddy.


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

Where to Invade Next Good™

Beginnings, interviews about breakthrough moments in peoples’ lives

  • Chris Ware)

  • Teller

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


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

  • It’s a choice. I’ve been making time for reading, movies, and boxing.

  • I’ve scoped thesis to a point that still feels fun, valuable, and manageable. Really enjoying the thesis-life balance.

NBA’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge is inaccurately named

Charade Not Great™

2016 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Aaron Gordon vs. Zach LaVine


I’ve been to three design research talks this month (Adobe, Amazon, Microsoft). I don't have the credentials, but I think I’d be good at it anyway.

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

Being 12 podcast + video

SleepMute, automatically mute Macbook on sleep


BLOKK mockup font

  • Using this for my thesis exhibit mockup.

Dating a memoirist illustration


A few times at UW, I’ve used sketches from Omaha students as examples (Jesse, Molly, Josh, Sara, Matt)

  • A world-colliding moment, and no one else has any idea.


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

  • This site is chunked.

IDEO Design Kit

appear.in video chats


I write to figure out what I think about anything.”_ — A.O. Scott

_Literacy for the 21st Century_ Great™

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


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

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

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

Anomalisa Not Good™


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

Enemy Good™

This American Life: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS


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

  • I’m hoping to find a job where beautiful (delightful, interesting, special) isn't a goal.


For the first time since the move, a day full of good conversations in lots of places.

  • I underestimated how much a new city + grad school would affect even the smallest moments with people — and how important those are to me.

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


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

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


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

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

Real vs. ideal January


Wrote a revised thesis proposal (3.0), which wasn't required. And I’m well into the plan. But I’ve learned in grad school that explaining an idea to someone else is helpful for even figuring out what I mean.

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

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

45 Years Good™


Locke Good™


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

“A Question-based Design Approach” lecture at UW.

  • I’m curious about design research as a job (it’s interviewing people, mostly about decision-making).

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

Jane Got a Gun Not Great™

Journalist audio editor


Chrome: Simplify page

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


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


My Secret Life: Secrets are part of growing up


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

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


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

  • Here’s why: I’m fascinated by relationships, feelings, and choices — especially people talking about them.

  • And women in hot tubs.


Boxing takes 2½ hours round-trip, and it feels like a chunk of my day. But I never regret making time for it.

  • Thesis or job or whatever, the things I do in between are the point.


Reading this J.J. Abrams profile, and his career (like lots of people) started in middle school.

  • Each of the kids I’ve interviewed has a serious hobby already (producing music, playing football, flying planes).

  • I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer in middle school. And here I am, working on an MDes.

Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show


One of the things I’ve learned from teaching is the power of examples.

In thesis interviews, I’ve been explaining ‘ideal’ with examples (mostly from @socality), and it’s working.

Modern Love podcast


First thesis interview with a middle schooler, and it couldn’t have gone better.

  • He was excited to talk about his Instagram decision-making and had zero problem with real vs. ideal. This was a moment of truth for thesis, and it feels validating.

when [people] create messages, they make choices, intentionally using the frame to show some things, but leave others out.”

  • Media literacy is really about the decisions everyone makes when they communicate all the time.

Mecabricks, digital LEGO 3D modeler


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

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

The Revenant Good™


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

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


I avoid emails because it takes me so long to write them.

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


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

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


Safety Not Guaranteed Good™


big talk: meaningful conversation; the opposite of small talk

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


Sampling social media apps (for thesis), and I’m legitimately into Yik Yak.

  • It’s interesting that when people are anonymous, they veer immediately to the real stuff (feelings and relationships).

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


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

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

Frank Chimero: Hi, I’d Like To Add Myself to The New Yorker


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

_99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style._ Great™

  • So up my alley.


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


Karan Singh, illustrator

Shattered Glass Not Great™


LEGO Microsquare2

Oh my Gosh, Zilla, social media deception project


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


A thing I miss about teaching (vs. TAing) is designing lessons/critiques. I’ve had a few chances at UW (one today in HCDE 308).

  • I love the design challenge, but especially: watching it play out (not knowing exactly where students will take it, but knowing it’ll be helpful and fun).


Thesis in days

  • It’s helpful for me to visualize time.

  • I started doing this after seeing Your Life in Weeks.

This American Life: Middle School


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

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

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

The Skeleton Twins Good™


How Jerry Seinfeld Writes a Joke


Grad school’s given me lots of new things to think about (in every part of my life). But academically, the big ideas are 1. everyday design and 2. media literacy. Things I loved already without realizing they were things, and I now have the resources to keep learning about.

the best way for readers (or media consumers) to take control of their lives is [for] ‘the reader… to become a writer.’

  • Not literally writing: designing.

This American Life: Finding the Self in Selfie

  • Several people recommended this, and it’s fascinating. The kinds of interviews I’ll maybe do some day.

Comet Not Great™

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