Design is a process

300+ slides

To say I’m excited that Cincinnati now has a Creative Mornings chapter would be an understatement. I have followed the birth of these inspirational get togethers since Tina Roth Eisenberg started them back in 2008. I was even lucky enough to see a few really awesome talks while visiting New York City.

When our chapter was starting, someone put my name in the hat as a potential speaker and I begged off the prospect. I don’t talk publicly very much—I’d only spoke about photos in a bar up in Dayton a few years back—so the notion was anxiety inducing.

But I was bending elbows with my friend Nick Dewald and he encouraged me to reconsider. Sometimes you just need a little push from someone you admire. (Thank you Nick, I offer a most obliged tip of my hat.)

So there was May 17 circled on the calendar and no idea of what I could share.

I started reading books about public speaking. I scoured past Creative Morning and TED Talks looking for a framework. I sought other examples to spur notions.

The task continued by sifting through each chunk of life, trying to glean one thing, some theme, that would lend summary and meaning. Each period ended with a natural transition I felt important to include. As with photos I post in my album, I like to remove the mystery by including the original photograph. I feel like by sharing this, process is revealed.

The day came and a fella asked me if there was anything I needed as I plugged in my computer and got the microphone in place. “A beer would be good,” I joked at 8:30 in the morning. To my surprise he said that it could be done. Perhaps an IPA? He knew me well. (Thanks Eli!)

The talk went on far too long, and I even left a lot out. (In hindsight, I’d cut any of the stuff that didn’t come from personal experience.) But it is what it is, and I managed to “um” and stagger my way through 300 or so slides. I was nervous as heck, and if you stopped by at the podium afterward, I apologize for my clammy handshake.

But the response was genuine and kind, and I appreciate that more than I can articulate.

In preparation to post this, I finally decided to watch the video. If you’ve ever heard a recording of your own voice, you might understand why I never got past the first few minutes. Once I did slog through this past weekend, I was mortified. The movie with slide transitions I sent over to the Cincinnati team was a mess. Nothing lined up. Entire sections were missing. Videos didn’t display. I could blame this on buggy software, but the fault is all my own for not reviewing it before delivery and finding a better solution.

So I remade a movie of the slides in an appropriate format and the kind folks at Creative Mornings re-uploaded it. If you suffered through those 40 minutes prior, I won’t beg you to watch it again, but know that it’s an entirely different experience. Hopefully it mirrors the intention and message.


Which brings me to this last bit of realization…

My premise was that design is a process to solve challenges. Not just graphic design problems, but anything in life. If we simply identify something that needs improved, we can begin the task of finding solutions. I truly believe in this.

I spend a lot of my days solving other folks’ problems for work. It’s something I enjoy immensely, but I’m beginning to see that I’m avoiding this ethic for my own life.

So I’m defining some personal goals and taking note of patterns that have repeated over the years. I’m looking deeper at myself, in hopes to strengthen my physical and emotional being. I want to open myself up to new possibilities with dedicated focus.

I have no idea how this will manifest itself, but I’m hopeful.

And I believe in this process I champion.

Now is my chance to prove it.

Not everything is singing you know. The only important thing these days, is rhythm and melody.

An example of the iterative design process.


Squinting. It’s how I learned to draw!

OMG, shoes

This advice about shoes also applies to shirts, pants, underwear, coffee mugs, socks, non-perishable foodstuffs and toiletries.

Yeah, you read that right. Beefy.

Above? My list of the things I want to do. Today I’m going to cook bacon for breakfast, so I feel like I’m on track to reach my goals.

12 things, blah blah blah

Here are 12 things I talked about that really don’t mean much without context. I’m not a fan of such lists, but they hold value as a reminder. The funny thing is, I could totally go through each one of these tiles and argue the opposite. In fact, here’s what that’d look like:

The opposites

So there’s all that. If you made it this far? Well, I tip my hat to you for the honor. Now go check out the  Creative Mornings site. It’s chock full of different ways to explore and contribute. It’s beautiful in how quiet and integrated all the details work together.


Checking out dud links

I’m extremely lucky that I’ve the week off between Christmas and New Years. Often this time is filled meeting up with friends that might be in town for the holiday, taking down decorations, catching movies at the theater, or simply doing things I want to do.

In this case, I finally caught up with “favorite” photo albums to span the last few years. It’s an annual event I let slip back in 2007 and I’m not sure why, as it’s a fantastic way to give some shape to the flipping of the calendar.

So I hunkered down after Christmas and sorted. And sorted.

It’s an arduous process and I seem to leave more snapshots on the cutting room floor than I’d like, but that’s part of the curating process. I call these albums “favorite” photos instead of “best” because they might not be the most excellent photos in the world. But they might represent a moment that was meaningful.

And 2010? Well it was the hardest to whittle down. The year started with a trip to SXSW and I met so many great folks for the first time. (And I’ve never posted all the photos from that event because there are So. Many.)

I went to Brooklyn. Played ambassador to the midwest for visitors from California. Did a handful of roadtrips to St. Louis, and Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I went to Southeast Asia—for three weeks. I came back from there and went right back out to spend a big hunk of time on the left coast.

And in between all of this travel? I enjoyed my time at home in Ohio. Met new friends. Made new traditions. Enjoyed some old ones.

I like to think 2010 was great, and I’m hoping 2011 continues on that trajectory.

So enough words, here’s links to the favorites: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

Oh hi

Long time no see

So we’re having a fine brunch and my visiting friend says I never update my journal.
And he’s right.
I’ve been awful remiss.

Then just yesterday I read an interview with Jeff Harris, a fellow that has been taking a photo of his life for the past 10 years.

His site was one of the biggest inspirations for me to start playing with a camera. As he faces cancer, he reflects on the past decade and his work.

“Even the repetition makes it interesting.” he says.

And I remember that’s one of the things I got out of all this — I was always hoping to see patterns emerge from my own life through these photos.

But more than that, I wanted to share the days with my friends and family.

Then things got muddled somehow. Self imposed deadlines, comment guilt, forlorn with my own visual repetition, wondering if I was thinking too much. This, that, and the other thing.

It just wasn’t simple.

So I stripped it all down and started anew over here in the album. And I hopped on that short update thing and the yearbook exploded site.

Yeah, I’m still around.

And things are well outside of the screen!

Just trying to stay outta trouble.

Sleeves rolled up.

Tipping my hat whenever possible.

Trying to make sense of it all and keepin’ my eye out for patterns.

Current music: OMD “Of All The Things We’ve Made”

Categorized as Pondersome

how the ferns have grown

fractal nature

19 days ago, these ferns were just peeking out of the ground.

Amazing how quickly they grow.

The cycle of life is not lost during moments like these, but it is coupled with sadness as we learned our friend’s mom lost her battle to cancer this day.

Upon hearing the news, she made arrangements to fly out of Dayton–spending the night at our house before heading to be with her family.

We sat there on the patio that evening, raising a toast to her mom and reflecting on all sorts of life’s complexities that somehow neatly interlock.

All the while the ferns framing our outdoor space glowed by candlelight—waving a slow perimeter between us and the darkness of the yard, and everything beyond.

Then & Now : Chinese Lanterns

August 26, 2008 (left) / January 16, 2009 (right)

We have a strip of these plants dividing our property with the neighbor. They’re fine enough most of summer, but as the season wraps up they burst into a striking orange.

Inside the papery husk is a tiny fruit that looks like a miniature tomato. I call them Chinese Lanterns, but they’re also known as a Groundcherry. [ more info ]

My mom was able to transplant a few successfully to her garden.

In other news: I heard Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the radio yesterday. Having arrived early at my destination, I sat in my car and devoted all my attention to his words.

This passage resonated in particular: “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

I’m not sure how it all fits together, and for certain MLK had a very specific goal of civil rights that day, but the words still bear meaning and I’m very hopeful for Now.

Categorized as Pondersome

Notes to the future

I make the same icons over and over it seems…

As we approach our 2nd anniversary at the studio, it’s time to figure out where we’ve been and were we want to go. Part of this process is to think through our personal vision.

We started this today.

Tom was printing out fun tidbits last I saw, Wendy was plotting out things on a grid, and I grabbed a marker and some post-it notes.

So I threw out everything—personal and professional—then gave a subjective rating as to how well I’m attending to any particular topic. (I’ll admit I borrowed the latter idea from Wendy’s grid)

Tomorrow? We reconvene and look for overlap and ways to help each other.

Photos ZOOM IN to read the notes

Current music: Deerhunter “Activation”

7 years ago

This image, from a trip to NYC in 2004

Seven years ago today, my mother was sitting beside me in a tiny pre-op room the size of a closet. It was uncomfortably early.

I was there for a re-staging biopsy. She was there for support.

I lay there worried about the potential scar I was about to get on my neck, and if it was going to affect my ability to serve in a wedding party the following week.

My mom read a book.
I fiddled with a clock radio.
The measured NPR voices took on a new tone.
A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.
More concern.
Was the Pentagon hit?
The radio trailed off and I was taken to surgery.

I came to hours later and my mom was again, right there. She asked me if I needed anything.


“You can only have ice chips” she said and leaned over with a styrofoam cup, “How are you?”

I remember saying, “I’m fine, but how’s the country?”

Seven years later and sometimes?
Sometimes I feel like I don’t know the answer to that question.

Categorized as Pondersome

everything’s so much more fancy when you repeat it

Ass of truck diptych

I figure if I make enough of these snapshots they’ll become a set and then it’ll seem purposeful and artistic. But on the other hand, I suppose this shot-gun approach lacks intention. It’s the difference between manslaughter and murder.

In other news, we’re going to San Diego tomorrow, and I’m hoping some buddy passes from my sister do the trick. Flying standby freaks me out a little.

As for the photos above, they don’t really relate to California, or packing. I’ve simply been keeping the camera handy because of the nice weather, and for some reason this cement truck and wide load just seemed right while traffic was stopped today.

Current Olympic sounds: The squeaks, grunts, whistles, and bumps of volleyball

Categorized as Pondersome

A night of tv and a lot of ramble

Tom has this tool in the studio. It fascinates me. [ + zoom ]

None of these links open in a new window.

It’s softly raining outside and I’m flipping through the channels, semi brain-dead from a productive day.

(this entry, written at 3:30am)

I see what’s on the DVR, fast forwarding to get to Dooce on the Today Show only to knit my brows by the presence of Kathy Lee. The former Regis sidekick says things that displease me and I mentally replace all her words with “Cody needs a pony” to release tension.