Course Correction

My apologies for the delay, I took a bit of a hiatus there. So lately I’ve been doing a little bit of searching trying to find my way creatively, and from the perspective of my career. This means new beginnings, tough goodbyes, and a bit of stress. What I failed to realize before I began this process is that everyone has their own opinion, especially your friends, and likely you will make the wrong choice in their eyes. Guess what. This is your career, you are in the business of you, additional cliché here, etc. What is important to remember is that if you have been true to those friends and colleagues of yours, they will still ultimately look up to you, despite what they believe internally. So how does this rambling relate to growing creatively? We are talking about support. Every creative needs a great deal of support in some for or another, be it from their co-workers, best friends, girlfriend, boyfriend, or parents. I know that as creatives we feel that we are the best and we do it without help, but guess what—a distracted or lonely designer is a very poor designer indeed. There is no security on which to lean while focusing on our work, and therefore we leave ourselves open to constant distraction and produce products that are far inferior to our potential. So my point this time? Take a look around, thank your friends for being there for you, and continue to work harder than all of them. You will feel refreshed and rewarded.

This edition’s video is a bit more of a stretch and a bit dated, but pay attention to how the emotion is directly related to the mashup of music and video. I can’t get enough of it, and it always helps me move forward.

Locale means nothing, live in the world of your work

Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful to live and work in the center of the creative universe. New York is a playground for us 20-somethings looking to push our personal bounds of expression and imagination. I would go as far as to tell you that the majority of us believe that the next great gold nugget of creative superstardom is laying beyond a distant railroad trestle or Williamsburg loft building. And while that might be true, I’d like to stir the pot and argue that it is not in fact this location that inspires our creativity, but rather our perception and idealization of our surroundings. In many ways this is not the creative capital of the world, but rather the capital of aspiration and idyllic hope. To put it bluntly, it is easy to be inspired here, so we are.

Now, I would be the first one to tell you that I am more inspired in New York than I have been anywhere else throughout my creative upbringing. Going to school amidst templated brick buildings in rural Delaware was not the juiciest kick in the ass for an individual who dreamed of living in NYC the moment he finished The Great Gatsby. However, my key basis of argument with this point is Matthew Pike of Universal Everything. He is undeniably on the forefront of generative design, creating organic interactive experiences for clients including Audi, Nokia, and Nike, all from the comfort of his garden-side studio in Sheffield, England. Seriously, while I listen to a constant stream of horns honking and bums yelling at each other across the street, this dude is chillin’ with a Mac and smelling fresh cut flowers. So how does he do it? He let’s his current surroundings, no matter what they are, inspire him to produce great work, rather than leaning on the crutch of a location which has been publicly deemed ‘inspiring.’ Might we all one day be able to see the potential of our surroundings, rather than than wish we were surrounded by a location of greater potential.

To illustrate this thought, I am featuring a video that I passed around today shot by a neighbor of mine growing up. I’ve always admired Sam Kuhn’s aptitude for capturing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest in his films, and envy his ability to let uninterrupted forest and plains inspire him more than they ever did me.

Permalink: http://samuelkuhn.com/VIDEO/NowhereInParticular/NowhereInParticular.mov

Conquering your fears

I think many of my friends and colleagues would agree that it is easy to fall into a rut during the creative process, and subsequently fall out of love with whatever piece they are currently working on. It happens to me all the time. Deadlines are squished or even worse strung out endlessly, and there is always someone standing over your shoulder waiting to see the latest work. The easy response is to place blame on those people who are affecting your creative process. “It was too noisy today”, “I’m just not into it”, and “I’m swamped with other things” are a few of my favorites, and in all honesty my go-tos. In reality, the real force getting in your way is fear. Fear of failure, fear of others’ perception that you’re just not that good, and fear that you’ll be associated with work you don’t believe in. Even talking about fear has become a cliché in the design community, a topic that I both hate discussing and hearing others discuss. I attribute my inability to work to apathy and laziness. Both of these are still excuses, however, based on an admission of fault rather than sugarcoated new-age attempts at rationalizing why my promises have not been fulfilled.

As we begin another year, let’s start off with a fresh look at fear. The true definition of a force or situation that rattles you, paralyses your physical ability to perform basic functions, and challenges you to emerge stronger with greater balance and focus than before.

Oh, and holy shit!

Learning to never say “when”

I have fond memories of sitting at the breakfast table growing up, with a full bowl of cereal in front of me. Now, rather than pouring the milk myself in the kitchen before carrying the bowl to the table, I would instead sit there and wait for my mother to bring the carton and do me the service of filling up my cereal bowl. A catchphrase used in our house while filling anything up for another person was “say when.” So my mother would come to the table, begin to pour my milk, and tell me to “say when,” to which I would invariably respond “when” when I felt that I had enough milk in my bowl.

I find that working as a creative individual doesn’t always offer the sense of escape that I often fantasized about while in school. Even on the best, most creative days I still find myself working rather than playing, and as the sky goes black and the office becomes quiet, I often find myself saying “when,” even if I know that the bowl is not yet full. Speak to any creative who works with clients–designer, art director, filmmaker it doesn’t matter. When you work for someone other than yourself you are by the very nature of business, working.

For this reason I weekly look for something that assures me that nothing is impossible, and that I can always fulfill my goals by pushing myself harder. I have had a background image on my laptop for a while now, the back cover of the final issue of the Whole Earth Catalog. Yes this was popularized by Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford several years ago, however, I still believe that the message holds true. It is a photograph of an empty country road with the line “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” I believe that is a mantra that every creative individual should hold close.

Since I am trying to make it a practice to use visual aids as well (I am a designer afterall) I bring you this week’s reminder that nothing is impossible. As long as you work for it.

Life is too short to wait for a final product, look for payoffs throughout your process

Hello everyone, I’m sorry that it has been a while. I am looking to update this thing and use it as a means to more frequently and with greater eloquence discuss topics of design, advertising, creativity, and my own sources of inspiration. I started writing this post numerous times, in each instance embarking on a weighty, self indulgent tirade reflecting on what I have learned and grown from during the first year of my career. Well, in short it is this: Work harder than everyone else around you, never be satisfied with the work that you manage to produce amid constant distraction, and realize that you only get one chance on this earth to make an impression. Even worse guess what–it won’t be through the work that you produce. Seriously. Design, advertising, art, architecture, it’s all just physical rubbish. Live your life so that other’s may remember you as a standout, someone who cared far more about other individuals than yourself, and you will leave a legacy far greater than you can possibly imagine.

On that note, if you have to work why not make doing that work a blast. I was late to this party, but I stumbled across Ryan Leslie last week on YouTube. Here is an individual who loves the process of making music as much as he does listening to the final tune. Enjoy and please, remind everyone whom you care for that you love them.

Work featured in Ad Age Global Issue

LBi ran a blog post last week announcing Malavika and my feature as top finalists in Ad Age’s Global Issue cover competition. Check out the LBi post, or visit Ad Age’s website directly to check it out.

LBi Post
Ad Age Article

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Some really nice work from Ken Deegan

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I just came across Ken Deegan on Cosas Visuales. He has a very clean typographic style that appeals to my Swiss/Bauhaus influenced design education.

New York Times Data Visualization Lab

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I am always excited when I navigate to the NYT homepage and find that there is an interactive graphic to supplement the featured article. These “data visualizations” as they are called by researchers, or “information graphics” as they are called by designers, were prolific throughout the presidential campaign, but are still quite useful in everyday activities. For example, I took a peek at the murders in NYC by location when looking for a new apartment in Brooklyn, just to feel a little more secure in the evenings.

Anyhow, the Times is working with IBM to make the ability to produce these visualizations open source, which is pretty cool. If you have the data, you could conceivably make a chart depicting how many of your neighbors remember to take the trash out every week.

My Dog and Pony 2 Last night at Galapagos

I had the pleasure of attending AIGA’s “new” event format “My Dog and Pony” last night at the Galapagos art space in DUMBO. It’s a neat structure, the speakers are requested to step back in time to one of their company’s pitch deliveries and then re-enact that speech for us, the audience. I saw the first Dog and Pony event on AIGA’s Vimeo account earlier this summer, so when the invitation came along to attend the second I knew I had to jump on it. Needless to say last night’s presentations were a riot!

Jonathan Alger of C&G Partners admitted that they had no idea what they were doing when they put together ideas for the New Yankee Stadium (And showed off “Bronx Bomber” a modified version of Thesis, a typeface by Lucas De Groot)

Debbie Millman talked about the process of redesigning Tropicana’s packaging (which was later pushed aside for the now infamous Arnell carton.) I love Ms. Millman, but she was very strategy-centric last night…we just wanted to see work!!

Liz Dansko and Jessie Arrington talked about some work they did for TED, but the delivery was dry and confusing compared with the others.

Michael Beirut of Pentagram gave a hilarious presentation of how he came up with the new logo/typeface for the Museum of Art and Design. By far his talk was the best, hands down. I knew he was funny, but never so much so, and given that he is a partner at one of the most respected, upper tier design firms in the world, it came as a bit of a shock.

All in all it was a great night!

Other star sighting: Tina Roth Eisenberg aka “swissmiss

Custom AcknowledgementGrams

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A big client of ours out here is MoneyGram, and we are excited to be in the process of creating some great work for them. Therefore, it is often proper etiquette to make custom tokens to acknowledge that we genuinely care for the people we work with, not just the work we do.

My bud Hevan Chan came to me in a bind to crank out a couple cards for just such an occasion, and seeing as I had a little time and was stuck doing some more monotonous work, I obliged. These are meant to play off of MoneyGram’s current “hands” campaign, but I thought a little 50’s vibe would lighten the mood. Thank you House Industries for SignPainter!