Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: creative

A Mighty Eye Opening Experience

Last weekend Melissa and I went to Camp Mighty in Palm Springs CA. It was fun meeting people I’ve only known through their blogs: Heather Armstrong, Jon Armstrong, Alice Bradley, Maggie Mason. It was also very cool to meet some new faces: Cecily Kellogg, Margit Detweiler and many more. As great as they are, meeting well known digital personalities was kinda far down my agenda. I really wanted to go because of the Life List activity.

A life list is very much like a bucket list save for the depressing POV. Like I said at our team lunch, “the only lists I’ve ever maintained throughout my life were lists of possible band names.” Creating a list of fabulous things I’d like to see/accomplish/experience never really occurred to me. I could be wrong, but I doubt many men have ever created a life list. From the beginning of time we are primarily programmed to slay the dragon and make the donuts.

While the suggestion was to write 100 items, I was only able to get to 75 by the time Camp came around. I wrote them all on my iPhone while riding BART to work. The process of writing the list, regardless of how long it actually took me, was very meaningful to me.

At first, things that were top of mind starting flowing out. As I kept going, I really started to think more seriously about the world and the people that matter to me. I also started to wonder if there were limits to what I could affect. Would it be possible to set up a charity for the arts? Would it be possible to travel to exotic locations? Or meet certain people? As I kept searching my mind, I just kept adding everything to the list and fought the urge to dismiss anything. It was a form of creative brainstorming, so the more I thought “yes and” instead of “no”, the more I surprised myself with the ideas that came to mind.

I’m used to brainstorming at work on a client’s behalf, but rarely never have I done this for myself. The feeling was very liberating and brought me into the moment like very few things I’ve experienced before.

Once I stopped writing the list, I didn’t rearrange or edit it. Why bother? I didn’t want to rethink things. My list is how it flowed from my mind. I did re-read it after arriving at the hotel, and honestly, I was very happy with myself. For someone who isn’t a type-A personality, this list seemed immense, but doable on many levels. It also helped me, as a person who’s had a long history of dealing with depression, to look at life with a strong positive attitude.

At the final event (a team dinner), everyone was given a parting gift. The “boys”—as they called us—received these wristbands that had 5 little metal rings on it. Each represented one of the 5 life list items we committed to check off in the next year. I won’t take this thing off until the next time Camp Mighty rolls around next year. It’s highly motivational, and it makes me feel good just looking at it.

Thank you, Camp Mighty, for inspiring me and helping me see my life in a new way.

Been a Long Time, Been a Long Time

I don’t normally post about my career but kinda feel compelled to. I was laid off last week and it’s weird. I’m shocked because I really thought Digital was a strategic advantage and direction for my company, especially in the Detroit market, where clients just refuse to pay for anything that could be misconstrued as an elaborate production. Digital is theoretically cheaper but that’s only true for so long. Once you get deeper into creative and integration with other platforms, costs typically go up.

Regardless, I’ve been away from the blog for a while now because I’m searching for a new job. My net is cast over the whole U.S. right now and while I prefer Silicon Valley, Chicago and the East Coast, I’m entertaining all offers that could lead to a bright and stable future.

I just spent hours rewriting my resume into the early morning and really think it paints a clear picture of who I am, what I’m interested in producing, and how I think. I hope an employer sees it the same way. 😉

In the meantime, I’ve put my house up for sale . It’s really bizarre to see it listed but I have to. The Detroit market is devastated and frankly, everyone here thinks they’re next to be laid off.

For now, I’m spending time with my family by taking Elise to ballet classes, rocking Miles to sleep and rubbing Melissa’s feet/letting her sleep in/keeping the house neat to help relieve her stress. I so hated to give her the news of my layoff after the year she’s had in the hospital with a high-risk pregnancy and premature delivery.

When Melissa and I decided to move back to Michigan in 2000, we knew it was a risk. There just aren’t as many places to work here as other markets. We’ve had fun in Michigan, met tons of great neighbors, and worked with some fabulous people along the way. But by far, the best thing has been having our kids with our families around to share in that experience.

I will post any updates to the search here. I wish everyone in Michigan and all connected to the auto industry all the best. It’s unnecessarily brutal out there due to circumstances that were really beyond any of our control.

Time to get back to making Miles smile.

My Superhero Is Dead

God how I loved Evel Knievel. As a young boy I initially thought he was fictional. Later on I realized he was a real guy who was on the fast track to superhero-dom. I had the jumping toy, watched him on TV, and just felt so inspired by his insanely stupid yet important heroic deeds. Recently I watched a cable biography of the man and realized what a bastard he was in his real life. Nevertheless, I still revere his acts of courage as pure greatness. Even though he failed several times attempting fantastic stunts, his will to get up and try it was staggering. He looked death in the eye over and over during statistically impossible long life and always ended up saying I’ll be back. What a sad thing. I watched some of his jumps on YouTube and cringed after every one. You would think that after his injuries he’d just say forget it I can’t take anymore but instead he would pray every night and ask God for the chance to try again. To stand alone. To do what made himself feel alive.

Sometimes when my mind wanders, I play this game where I imagine that for 1 day, no harm could come to me no matter what I did. I would try to think of the wildest stuff I could do knowing I’d feel no pain and just get up and walk around again. Jumping off buildings, driving off cliffs, standing in front of moving trains, etc. My body would get thrown all over the place but I’d just stand up and find something else to do. I imagine that’s similar to Evel Knievel. To me, thinking those thoughts is simply a creative exercise. Learning to keep my mind open to any thought and exploring my imagination. I think Evel helped give me that. I use it every day with my work and in that setting, I try my best to have no fear. Any idea can work. It just takes someone willing to dream and stand behind it.

Peppers Sue Producers

A new Showtime tv series is being called “Californication”. Sound familiar? The Red Hot Chili Peppers do so they’re suing for creative identity theft. I find it interesting how the two production companies named in the suit are called “Twilight Time Films and Aggressive Mediocrity, Inc.” A fulfilling prophecy perhaps?


Post Secret Still Amazes Me

I don’t think I’ve written anything about this site before but it has remained in my favorite blog link list for ages and it still, like the title of this post says, amazes me. I find it so fascinating that people mail in creative postcards about their deepest inner feelings. What an incredible use of the internet. Here are some samples:

The Need for Recognition and iPhone

Roughlydrafted has a great piece on the iPhone and the final wave of hater reviews despite the complete lack of information on their part. One really interesting section discusses the idea of Safari on Windows and how that relates to the iPhone:

Apple Hacks the Hackers.
Mehta also noted, There’s bugs in Safari for Windows. There’s speculation that these vulnerabilities will also affect the iPhone. And there’s a good chance that we’ll see vulnerabilities that affect the mainstream version of OS X affect the iPhone. That, to some degree, offsets the fact that it’s a closed development platform. It gives people with malicious intent something to look at and work off of.

Of course, the bugs reported in Safari for Windows are primarily connected to the beta support libraries Apple ported from Mac OS X, not Safari itself, and so are not really related to Safari on the Mac, or Safari on the iPhone.

Still, if there were problems in Safari, it would be a good idea for Apple to throw it out there and have black hat hackers try their best on it before actually shipping the iPhone.

Surprise! You’ve been hacked, hackers! By trying to beat up Safari on Windows, you’ve helped Apple harden Safari in general, which is good for the Mac, but also good for the iPhone. Apple wouldn’t want your attacks on Safari to be linked to the iPhone in its first days of ultra hyped media coverage, so thanks for jumping the gun!

Tip of the hat to the RD reader who came up with that creative thought. I’m sure that could have been part of the plan but relying on the vast universe of Windows Nerds to reveal the worst bugs in your software is a really risky way for Apple to avoid future problems.

Attractive Things Work Better

From an article discussing the internals of Apple, Inc.’s design process:

Norman cites research in cognitive science suggesting that people’s emotions affect the way their minds process information. In his 2004 book Emotional Design, he writes, “Positive emotions are critical to learning, curiosity, and creative thought. … The psychologist Alice Isen and her colleagues have shown that being happy broadens the thought processes and facilitates creative thinking.”

In multiple studies, Isen, a professor of psychology and S. C. Johnson Professor of Marketing at Cornell University, made subjects feel happy through a number of means, including gifts of candy and words or pictures with pleasant associations. The subjects were then asked to perform tasks that measure creativity; over the course of 20 years, Isen and her colleagues regularly found that subjects exhibited much more creativity when they were in a good mood.

And conversely, Norman says, when you’re in a bad mood, when you’re tense, you tend to be less creative–and less patient with the tools you’re using. “Someone in a positive mood,” Norman says, “faced with something that doesn’t work, might say, ‘Oh, I’ll get around it.’ But someone in a negative mood will get frustrated and have a ‘Damn it’ moment.” That’s where design comes in. “Studies tie attractive design to positive attitude,” he says.”

Live Your Dream

There seems to be a push for houses to be built completely by robots. This sounds like you’re going to end up with a cement box but that’s not the goal. For a creative guy like myself, this is just the kind of thing that will totally liberate us from the McMansion type houses to look forward to. If these robots can build something that’s alot more sturdy and exact than humans can, I say let’s go for it.

By building almost an entire house from just two materials concrete and gypsum the robots will eliminate the need for dozens of traditional components, including floorboards, wooden window frames and possibly even wallpaper. It may eventually be possible to use specially treated gypsum instead of glass window panes.

Engineers on both projects say the robots will not only cut costs and avoid human delays but liberate the normal family homes from the conventional designs of pitched roofs, right-angled walls and rectangular windows.

The architectural options will explode, predicted Dr Behrokh Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who will soon unleash his $1.5m (940,000) robot. We will be able to build curves and domes as easily as straight walls.

Branding and UI Design

I have always been a fan of the Mac. The notion that a machine is there to help me be ultra creative is the kind of thing I will always gravitate toward.

What I don’t like is how too many applications for the Mac are slowly starting to look the same. Here’s what I mean:

The granddaddy of them all: Xcode – the developer tool most people use to create Mac apps:

Apple’s latest app that lets you create your own websiteiWeb:

The coolest presentation building software on the marketKeynote:

The core of the Mac user experienceThe Finder:

A pretty damn good browserSafari:

The built-in and all-around quality email appMail:

The best personal photography cataloging and publishing tooliPhoto:

And the top icon organization tool for the MacPixadex:

Now I’m sure you’ve noticed a theme here. Why are they so similar and therefore boring? Apple goes to hideous lengths to incorporate brand into their marketing, their physical store designs, their packaging, their product design. Even developers outside of Apple are aping the whole source list on the left, big space on the right for content. It’s like the web design paradigms of 1996 have taken over Apple’s UI department.

Now I know it’s great to have consistency but that’s really only half of the job that’s being done here. Think about this:

You are buying iWork 06. In fact, it’s the first time you’re purchasing the sofware. You’ve seen the legendary Stevenotes and the online tour showcasing all the badass transitions. You’re ready to throw your crazy fonts in there and other multimedia elements like flash or quicktime movies right in the slide. You’re also dreaming of playing music behind the slides or even inserting a podcast that’s relevant to the subject.

And then you install iWork 06.

What happens next is the ultra-boring interface staring at you.

Where’s the drama? Where’s the sense that you’re about to build something that’ll actually make people ooh and aah at your slickness? It’s not there.

Every year Apple gives awards to the top developers for different categories. One of them is user experience. The last recipient was Delicious Monster for their app Delicious Library.

Now, would you be surprised that Apple went ahead and hired the guy who made that interface? I hope that’s a sign of things to come. That Apple will loosen up and really wow us with some incredibly inspiring UI ideas instead of more of the same.

It’s Official

I got a new job. Yay. I’ve been looking for so long and finally found something that fits. I am the Creative Director at a small company in downtown Ann Arbor. The people are nice and I can’t wait to get thing going around here.

I’m also sitting pretty with a loaded 17 inch PowerBook and a 21 inch monitor to my left. :-)

As for the drive, it’s not terrible right now. The bulk of the traffic is going the other direction and I’m usually able to get above the speed limit for long stretches.

This new job also means that our house is up for sale. We’re not looking to move all the way to A2, just somewhere between. Maybe Plymouth, maybe South Lyon, maybe Northville (although that’s a stretch since we want a newer house).

If you or anyone you know is looking for a really nicely restored home in Fabulous Ferndale, please pass this flyer (7mb) along to them.