States United

Check out this flickr set

Says there are prints available I know I'll be e-mailing for one


Another view of the recession

As you may remember, a while ago I was inspired by an NPR story that was tracking individual recession experiences rather than major economic indicators. Here's another one of mine.
Two years ago I started commuting into Manhattan from Connecticut. Since I was just starting out I was looking to save money in any way possible. The train ticket into Grand Central alone was almost $300 a month and then if I wanted to park my car at the station it was either $7 a day at the daily parking lot or $70 a month in the garage with a possible one year waiting period for a spot. Luckily I found a free parking lot; it had only one light, definitely needed mowing in more than one place and even looked like the kind of place that you would hear about some crime being committed in, but I didn't really care because it was free and still within feasible walking distance of the train.
For the first year and a half I could pretty much have any space I wanted as long as I arrived there by 8:00 a.m. but within the last six months I've noticed that there are fewer and fewer parking spots even though I still arrive at around the same time. Furthermore the cars present a year and a half ago were mostly the less expensive economy class cars or older models so my 94 Buick didn't look so out of place, but now I'm noticing that the spots are being filled by much newer and nicer cars.

Negative Space

Thirty spokes come together at the hub
The empty hub houses the axle of the wheel, and this allows the cart to move.
You mold clay to make utensils.
The empty space of the container makes it useful.
While building a house, you put in windows and doors.
The empty space gives us the room to use.
The substantial part creates the space and thus provides the benefit.
However, it is in the empty space that the actual utility lies.
—Lao Zi

Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.
—Ockam's Razor


The "everything will be okay" fallacy

The economy is bad, people are losing their jobs, the world is in a very precarious place with all of the spreading violence and unrest in the middle east and of course we can't leave our warming planet out of the mix. Despite all of this I often hear people say "everything will be okay."
Granted, I think that it's likely that this recession will end and the United States will pick up the pieces, jobs will be created and prosperity will come again but I can't say for sure. Saying everything will be fine is an insulated statement. In many parts of the world everything has not always been okay. If we were born in Rwanda in the 1990s I doubt we would make such statements. To take this analogy closer to the West I imagine that in the late 1930s there were people that figured that the German army would stop with Austria, Sudentenland or Czechoslovakia and that everything would go back to "normal," and I'm sure that in the early fall of 2001 people were sure they were headed for a good rest of the year until the eleventh of September rolled around. The thing is we don't know what tomorrow will bring. Saying that everything will be okay is just an empty promise or misinformed optimism. I don't know if it will be okay but I sure hope it will.


Some advice for myself

The title might make this sound like a stupid idea seeing as though I am myself so if there's anything that I think I should or should not being doing I could just change it. In theory thats how it works but there are plenty of things that I know I shouldn't do but do anyway and plenty of things that I know I should do but don't do. I'm sure I am not alone in this, otherwise everyone would be much a more productive and healthy and businesses like Mcdonalds and Dunkin Donuts would go out of business for lack of customers.
Here's the advice in no particular order of significance.

Turn off the TV. There will always be time for it later and even if there isn't you won't miss too much.

Don't fool yourself into thinking you're being more productive than you are. Looking at design blogs isn't design.

Stop designing without drawing first. That includes the simple stuff too.

Sweat the small stuff. Its the small stuff that's going to bother you when you get work back from the printer.

Don't compromise your beliefs to chase popular opinion. Opinion isn't a validator.


Feet don't taste so great

As you might remember a while ago I had a little rant about all of those "10 steps to become a better…" posts. Well I just recently came across a great "steps" post on Aisle One that made me rethink my aversion to these things. It's very thoughtful list written by Frank Chimero. I could certainly benefit from putting some of the advice into practicing. Particularly this one:


A bad kerning walk to work

Sloppy type is everywhere but the thing that I find kind of sad is that these aren't just photocopied restaurant menus or bumper stickers, they're huge permanent/semi-permanent signs that probably cost a ton of money to produce.

On a positive note I was walking by this sculpture by James Sanborn and had one of those experiences where I really saw it for the first time even though I've walked by it plenty of times.


789 Billion Dollars

I know this whole stimulus thing is probably necessary and I'm sure that if its not a large enough size it won't work properly and then money will be spent for nothing but I still have this one nagging question.
Here's the rough sketch I did just to get the idea down.


Print and Web Design

These days even though the death of the print seems like old news great print work isn’t lacking on the web. These are just a few of the sites where I regularly find excellent print.
Aisle One
Swiss Legacy
Ace Jet 170
The Best Part
I rarely see as much fantastic web work being displayed. There a few exceptions though . I wonder why there seems to be such a disparity.


Some interesting images on the way to church

First of all the type on this store front is bizarre.

Here's a strange combination: A grand opening and a closing sign on the same store front.


Color Calendar

These are the pages of color flip calendar I made last year. Unfortunately seeing it before its bound is nicer than just the one day at a time.


The pencil is mighter than the pen tool

As I mentioned earlier, I'm taking at class at SVA. One recent assignment was to rebrand Anthropologie. While I was coming up with logo designs for the the project I realized that I wanted to do an "A" that took some inspiration from Art Nouveau. I sketched out a few options on paper and then of course went straight to Adobe Illustrator and started going crazy with the pen tool. Don't get me wrong the pen tool is great but I felt like I was taking hours moving anchor points agonizingly small amounts only to find myself still not satisfied with the results. I began thinking that I probably could have accomplished  similar results in much less time if I had just drawn the thing. I was little unsure of how successful drawing the "A" would be but I ended up going for it. I broke out what in comparison felt like ye olde tools; my lightbox, french curves, a straight edge, a compass and a blue pencil. I started tracing a large printed "A" and then started in with drawing the curves. It ended up going much faster purely because when I drew a line and didn't like it I could erase it but it wouldn't be completely gone. I could see a ghost of it so I knew where I had been and why it didn't work. 


CrowdSpring’s misunderstanding of design

Just a warning, this will be long.

I was just reading this article in Forbes. The idea of having contests for design solutions sets the false precedent that design is a commodity and shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the design industry as a whole.
The first example in the article used to promote CrowdSpring's main goal is the contest that decided which architect would get to build the Tribune Tower in Chicago. This example may at first glance seem to be appropriate because of the reference to a design contest but it immediately breaks down when examined more closely. Individuals that wish to become architects must meet a pre-determined set of standards in order to be licensed to practice. This is very important because buildings need to remain standing and without certain standards unqualified individuals could build faulty buildings. The risk of death as the result of a poorly designed printed piece seems unlikely, then again some have said a poorly designed powerpoint slide may have led to a space shuttle disaster.
Furthermore the counterargument used in the article concerning going to a restaurant and sampling the food before choosing to buy it doesn’t even come close to approximating the problem with design contests. It would be a more accurate analogy if the person in the example went to five different places for lunch, ordered five complete meals, consumed each in its entirety and then decided which s/he liked best and paid for that one.
The reason this is the case is because design solutions are created for a unique predetermined scenario and are therefore only be able to effectively fulfill the requirements of the project they were created for. Much like the food, which was consumed but not paid for, design solutions that are not bought are lost work. There is no redeemable value. The designer is left with a worthless design and hours of wasted time.
If this contest mentality were to continue it would devalue the craft and make the profession irrelevant. If we were to apply this same principle to the news industry and large reputable news agencies had contests for the headline stories of the day’s news I can’t imagine that many students would continue to study journalism. Learning the craft of journalism would no longer be necessary, news agencies would produce their product much more cheaply and for a short time quality might remain but eventually as trained journalists phased out the public would lose all awareness of quality journalism and the craft would be lost. All of this just to cut costs and not have to pay for those expensive journalists.
If this kind of mentality prevails then I feel sorry for generations to come who will have to put up with the results.


Chinese New Year

We celebrated Chinese New Year this last week with my wife's parents. One tradition is handing out red envelopes. I think the envelopes look great.