I want, you want, we want

19 Jun

When going to malls, I always feel this weird sense of guilt. Guilty for spending money that could go towards much more useful things other than clothes, knowing that my closet is full and I really don’t need anything. Yet, I still feel as if I must stay on top of the status quo or get left behind in the dust with everyone laughing at me.

I also get a little disgusted at malls, as I see the thousands of products we sell in America. Most of it is probably made overseas. Americans have the urge to constantly buy more, upgrade, or partake in the latest fashion fad. I’m sure this is true in other cultures, but to the same extent and obsession as Americans?

The other day I took a trip to Target to get some necessary items. I stood in the paper towel aisle, overwhelmed at the amount of paper towel and different brands available. The shelves literally towered over me, as if encouraging me to buy a lot of paper towel, because a lot of paper towel was available. It was strange, that I actually noticed the massiveness and excessive nature of the paper towel aisle. Who’s buying 25 rolls of paper towel at a time? Aren’t people trying to go green? I’m sure most people don’t notice these things, as they have become part to of the norm. But that particular day, I was very aware of the massiveness of American consumerism. We do many unnecessary things. We buy many unnecessary things.


Grandma’s House

18 Jun

Visiting my grandma last weekend; I took a few pics, poked around in her attic, ate lots of unhealthy food, and took naps. She’s 91 and she still drives.

Eggs & Life

17 Jun

This is just for fun. One day I went home to visit my parents, and my dad showed me how they eat hard boiled eggs in Europe and then we talked about life. Happy Father’s Day. I hope you like. (Click on picture to animate gif)


14 Jun

Another day, another dollar, another way to play.

It ain’t so scary

13 Jun

Social media should  not be overwhelming or a daunting task that you leave in the hands of the PR or marketing department. Do not be intimidated by the rapid growth and trendiness of social media networks. Anyone can utilize social tools to grow their brand and/or persona and create a strong network. A little time, personality, content, and engagement will help you to meet your networking goals.

We can’t change what people like, but if you project interesting information, chances are there a few hundred or even thousand people that will like it. Knowing your audience and knowing what they like will help you create content that they want to share, retweet, favorite, digg, and pin. By sharing valuable information for free, you will create a loyal following, and in turn they will support and maybe even promote the service, product or brand you are socializing behind. By giving something valuable away for free, it creates trust with your user base, so that when you are promoting your product or service, it’s more genuine, and less salesman. Be a real person first, and engage with your audience, and then push your services.

People want to connect with other people. We are social beings that naturally long to be in a group than isolated. And today, with so many social networks, almost everyone is in an online group. It’s easier to reach a broad audience today, and if you create valuable content, then people will listen.

The Barr Brothers – Shank Hall

28 May

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of witnessing a talented group of musicians hailing all the way from Montreal, Quebec (well actually the brothers are from there, the rest of the band is from Providence, RI). They played at a fairly small venue, Shank Hall, where they bother you for singles as they don’t have enough in their cash register. Bluesy, soulful folk by The Barr Brothers.

Being a Wednesday, and the fact that the promoter didn’t do that great of a job, the crowd was small. I’m talking 25 people at the most, which is unfortunate as this band was passionate, entertaining, and brought great music to Milwaukee.

The lead singer, faintly remembered playing at Shank Hall previously, although his experience was tainted by some food poisoning resulting in thirty minutes of puking. Shame on you Milwaukee, you should treat our guests like gold.

Because it was a small crowd, it created a very intimate atmosphere, where everyone was at least 8 feet from the stage. They tried out some new songs on us, which were awesome. I was perplexed by their array of instruments and various techniques they used. A pump organ was present, as well as a harp, which both added a lot of dimensions and depth to the sound. The percussion section was seemed somewhat experimental, finding things that make noise, yet the sounds created fit well with the arrangements.

Bicycle wheel, yes, they played a bicycle wheel. I’m not exactly sure how this worked, but they had it mounted onto a stand, no rubber, and would tighten or loosen the spokes to change the sound, and then would play the spokes with a bow. He would also strum the spokes with a drum stick, creating an eery yet subtle sound. I have never seen this done before, so that was quite the spectacle.

The lead singer used some type of string and would pull it across the strings of his guitar while playing chords, which resulted in an eery noise, that is barely recognized on the album, but seeing him create this noise live added to his level of musical experimentation.

“Lord I just can’t keep from trying” is not done justice on the album. To see this song live was an emotional experience, involving a little slide guitar, rhythm, blues, and passion. By far my favorite song of the night.

Walking away form the concert, I felt bad that more people didn’t show up, yet I selfishly enjoyed the intimate setting and hoped that they had as much fun as I did.

I hope Milwaukee treated The Barr Brothers well this time around, and if you don’t come back, I fully understand. Thanks for the encore, and thanks for doing what you do.

Organize, simplify, communicate

21 May

I’ve had too many instances with clients where they expect us to populate their website with content, and they send us a jumbled folder of pictures and images with no specific titling sequence, and they expect us to organize everything and know what’s what!!!! If they’re paying us by the hour, this is a waste of time and money on their part. Understanding this aspect early on in a design relationship is important. Another thing is when they give us bits and pieces of content in 6 emails instead of sending it all at once, or figuring out some type of cloud sharing system. If we get most of the content at once, the chances of the designer missing something are less and less.

So clients working with designers, here’s a few tips to make things go a little smoother:

  1. Organize your content, thoroughly.
  2. Send content in one clean shot if possible.
  3. Respect the designers opinion and input; they know best (it’s their job).
  4. Make sure the communication is clear; find the best way to communicate with your designer.

I’ve also realized that giving a client different options is not always a good thing. Maybe for the first round of concepts, but after that there should only be minor tweaks to the rest of the concepts. If the client can’t trust that our opinion is the best, as we design things for a living, then we are doing something wrong.

In my professional career I would like the be the type of designer that does the research and footwork before presenting to the client one final concept. The internal critique process should be thorough so that the concept presented has purpose; making it easier to convince the client it’s the right choice.

Organized content and clear communication keeps the design process simple and effective.

Book Review: “Situations Matter”

14 May

So today I finished the book called “Situations Matter” by Sam Sommers. It felt really great to finish a book, like I finally accomplished something. The book is about how situations and context have a great affect on how people think and act. Essentially, what happens in our surroundings creates or persuades our decisions. Rarely do we ever make decisions based solely on our “gut” instinct. He shows that people may not be such indvidulaistic thinkers as they would like to be.

Sommers supports his ideas with a long list of references, and also gives examples of studies and will even run some experiments on the reader. He defies some myths and also gives explanations to why people act the way they do in certain situations.

Covering topics such as race, gender, societal norms, and love; the book explains how these characteristics affect how people think. The context affects what we say, how friendly we are, who we are attracted to, and how we perceive others.

For exploring conformity, Sommers shows how we often don’t like to be the odd man out. We want to fit in with the crowd, even if that decision or option is incorrect. When in a group, we want to fit in. When by ourselves, we are more inclined to follow our own thoughts or feelings. Imagine if everyone always thought individually instead of following the crowd? But this observations also shows that people may say or do things because of the situation they are in, not necessarily because that is how they genuinely think or feel about the issue.

When exploring gender, Sommers challenged the idea that men are naturally better than woman in certain subjects like math and science. The research and experiments he referenced showed that women often performed poorly when they were expected or aware that men were also performing the same task. Without knowledge of this preconceived judgement, women perform just as well as men on these specific topics. This is puzzling to me, as I don’t understand why women should feel the need to perform poorly based on being aware that that is normal, but maybe subconsciously they felt it was OK to not perform as well because that was expected. Being a woman, I understand this, but I would hope that after reading this book I don’t allow myself to fall into that trap.

When discussing societal norms or society’s affect on our actions, Sommers explored the preparation and raising of children. If we raise our children with the idea that girls like pink and boys like blue, than we are forcing them to listen to society at an early age, instead of making decisions for themselves, and liking things because they do, not because society says they should. We should not always concern ourselves with what society expects, as this can limit our ideas and thoughts. Straying from the norm often brings about the best ideas. If we are unaware of what is out there, than what we create will not follow all the trends that already exist.

The most interesting chapter for me was the one exploring the topic of love, and attraction. Sommers showed that we often are attracted to those that we are familiar with; kind of discounting the idea of love at first sight. We like what we know, or what we are familiar with because it is comfortable. Also, the idea of a soul mate is somewhat absurd, because if you are continually searching for that “perfect” mate, that ying to your yang, you may miss what is right next to you. We often find great relationships with those that are in close proximity to us. So our soul mates are more likely found with geography than astrology. He also explains that a rush of adrenaline will make you more attracted to the person you are with, so for your next date, go for a bike ride or go base jumping. Then you will definitly get asked on a second date.

The last chapter of the book explains how we categorize people or things subconsciously. These categorizations are different for everyone, based on where we live, our race, gender, and how we were raised. He also explains that we need to stop being so sensitive around discussing and talking about race, as often it is an obvious characteristic, yet we seem to give it a negative connotation if it is brought up. We whisper and look over our shoulders, when if we were more open and respectful when discussing it, instead of treating it like some taboo subject, we would probably relieve some anxiety.

Yes, race is a touchy subject, but if we shy away from it and avoid it, what is that saying to our children? We are so afraid of being labeled racist, that some of us just avoid the subject all together.

Overall, the book gave me insight as to how much context can affect people in certain situations. It has given me a better understanding of why people do the things they do, and I’ve also tried to relate his ideas to interaction design. If we can understand the audience better, than we can create an experience that is more comfortable for them.


7 May

Happiness Is Not a Destination.

Happiness, or the state of being happy, is not a finality of a life. Happiness comes and goes with events in life. Happiness may be brought upon by people, events, music, food, accomplishments, or anything else one may encounter in a life.

The state of being happy is different for everyone, and is a very subjective feeling to discuss. Overall, the feeling of being happy is good. How easily it is for everyone to feel happiness may vary, as well as the level of happiness that they feel.

The journey to happiness is evolving, but never ending. We seek for happiness in commodities, material items, love, lust, relationships, praise, wealth; whatever it may be. There usually seems to be a thing or person associate with our happiness. Can one be truly elated without needing to share it with someone? Can one be isolated, naked, without material things and completely happy? I’m sure, maybe if you are floating in a beautiful ocean among friendly sea creatures and the sun is shining on your face. But this scenario sounds more like a utopian fantasy than a real life event.

Is this the meaning of life then? The meaning of life is to find happiness. That’s what we’re here for right? Maybe, but once we find our happiness, it may be gone the next day or even the next minute. We are always affected by our situations and surroundings, and they can change our mood.

If happiness is a state of mind, then why do our external surroundings affect our state of happiness so much? Most of us, unless we are zen masters, feel happy because something happened. There was an event or an interaction that brought forth the feeling of happiness. I have to say, there are very rare occasions where I wake up feeling happy, but even then, there is an outside reason for that happiness. I woke up early and on time, I could smell coffee, or the sun was shining and bringing in bright light for me to wake up to.

To become happy purely on internal thoughts, one must clear their mind, and then think about something that will make them happy. Then doesn’t this solution just bring us back to the idea that external things give us happiness? That’s probably a stretch, but the mental state of happiness takes effort to reach when isolating the mind. Positive thoughts will bring us peace and closer to the state of happiness.

Thinking of happiness as an end goal will lead to disappointment, over and over again. By creating this “finish line” we will only reach that line, and then realize that our happiness cannot be sustained by that line. We will start running towards the next thing that will bring us happiness. And once we reach that line, we will start running towards the next.

Happiness should not be a destination, but a state of mind. By bringing positive thoughts into our thought process, we will be more pleasant and joyous. Happiness will come and go, but don’t ever lose sight of how it feels to be happy.

Life is a continuous series of events. So baske and enjoy the good times, and learn from the bad times, because next time they won’t seem so bad. 

Random thoughts…

1 May
Organization is a key step in the beginning of the process. Organizing all of the information once it is gathered helps to notice patterns and maybe even inconsistencies in the information. Taking the time to organize and re-evaluate the information will make the process smoother down the road, leading to a cleaner and clearer execution.

I think younger designers tend to rush into the design process, they collect the necessities, and then jump into the design phase. Designers solve problems, so how can the problem be solved if it is not properly identified? Young designers don’t have the knowledge or experience to understand that it’s important to do more preparation. Being thorough in the beginning of the creative process will to find a strong, solid concept to back up the ideas and purpose behind the design.

In my own education, sketching and research was encouraged, but sometimes I wish there was more dialogue about it. Like, posting our sketches and research online and then having a discussion about them. Or simply more brainstorming sessions, as usually the beginning of a good idea will come out of these interactions with others. Designers have to learn to work with each other, as one designer can not stand alone.

Taking risks, and putting yourself out there is more rewarding than the anxiety and fear of embarrassment. I have to say, I’ve never regretted not putting myself out there and taking a chance. I may fail, but I look back and see how I’ve either learned from that failure, or I’ve looked back and laughed at how naive I was.