Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sometimes, it all just works out

I have had some awful days this quarter, more than usual, but yesterday was just splendiferous. Perfect North Slopes, the small ski area near my house in Indiana, had it's official opening day. I felt great ripping turns, forward and switch, and even threw down a few switch tricks on the smallest, strangest jump of all time. I also decided I need to learn to snowboard. In an hour and a half I went from not being able to go 20 feet without falling to making it down the easy lift (and being able to turn, mind you.) Granted, I am still a danger to myself and others, but I'm pretty proud of figuring it out by myself in less than two hours.

Upon leaving Perfects my car went over 100,000 miles. Yay.

Finally, I went out with my friends from home. I always hate the idea of trying the relive the "glory days" of high school, but with my school schedule (no vacations due to co-op) I hardly every get to see them. It was nothing special. We went out to a bar, shot the shit and had a good time. I'm the type to go a little crazy without friends around, and these are my oldest and best. Though I'm not the one to say this kind of thing in person, I hope they realize how much they all mean to me.

Happy Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to not sleeping next week.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's all part of the plan

Will I be bored in 20 years if things go my way? When life works out just how you plan it, simply the fact that it was planned lessens its impact. The unexpected is what makes life worth living. What if I never lose my job and become a ski bum for a year? What if I never have to live abroad? As much as I want steady work and my 2.2 kids, I want to be a starving artist. This is not to say that I'm bored by my career path. I love what I'm doing and have a passion for design. I just hope that at some point there's some adventure. A great love, a terrible tradgedy, a quest...All great stories have conflict, and I hope something, anything comes along that makes mine worth telling.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do it for her (don't worry, it's a super obscure reference)

I started this thing about a year ago and really got into it over the summer. My blog is a great place for me to throw out what's going on in my head since I don't write much for school anymore. Sometimes it's a stress release; other times I really try to have something to say. And, of course, I supplement it all with the knowledge of Homer J. Simpson.

I was excited when I learned that we would be blogging for class. My posts were lacking structure, and this seemed to be just what I needed to form a cohesive set of musings. After a few posts, however, they became homework. This is not to say that it hasn't been fun or useful as I enjoy reading other students' posts and thought the critique-by-blog was a great help. Somewhere along the way it stopped being about what I wanted to say and began to be simply answering a prompt.

I never really cared if people read my blog. It was for me, like a journal. I've gotten away from that, and I hope to get it back. I scare myself when I'm alone with my thoughts, and it's kind of fun.

P.S. Here's my final presentation board for the tea kettle competition

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Interview/Simpsons QOD

My friend in New York hasn't gotten back to me with the email interview. I'll post as soon as it comes. For now, another word from our good friend Homer:

"You see, the thing is there's five of us: Marge, Bart, girl Bart, the one who doesn't talk and the fat guy. How I loathe him."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Franz Kafka and classical music

I've been reading a lot of Kafka lately, some short stories and The Metamorphosis, and have come to the conclusion that he had to have had a blast writing the way he did. His style leaves the reader not just unsure of what they've read, but often completely baffled. Was there an underlying theme? Was one deliberately omitted? Is the message that there is no message? Shit, I guess I'll have to read it again. Even my mind isn't made up. Sometimes I think he's insightful; other times I'm pretty pissed that I don't have a clue about what I just read. Any way you take it, I can just see him sitting down and chuckling himself, knowing that people the world over will think this hard about the bullshit he's putting down on paper.

On another note, one of my friends is taking a class called "Music and Architecture." He has to listen to samples each week, and I often do so with him. As a result I've been listening to classical music more often, including going to the symphony yesterday, and would just like to say two things:

- 90 percent of my knowledge of classical music has come from elementary school music class. The other 10 percent can be attributed to watching Jeopardy. I really did learn a ton, and I feel like I need to give a shout out to our teacher, Dick McNutt (that was seriously the name he went by.)

- Fantasia is spectacular. It's amazing that an animated film featuring nothing but basically cartoon ballet can be so entertaining for kids and adults alike. It has exposed millions to the delights of classical music, something rarely seen in a culture whose intelligence is being retarded by CSI and Paris Hilton. Mass props to Walt.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Simpsons QOD

Homer, regarding Mardis Gras:
-Besides, it's an excuse to get drunk on a Tuesday.
-It is Tuesday and you've had seven beers.
-But I'm not drunk.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beginning to see the light

From September 30:
In the interest of creating SMART goals: By the end of the quarter, I will learn and utilize at least one new method for design visualization in Photoshop, Illustrator, Rhino and by hand."

How am I doing with this? The USB project was a big eye opener for me. Quick but effective marker rendering, using Illustrator for more that solid colors, combining quick Rhino and Photoshop to get some lively images. I have never really used those tools this way, and I found it to be incredibly effective. I am still struggling with marker techniques, as evident by my teapots, but it's getting better.

I regret that I was not able to use all of these tools for our current project. At the time I wasn't comfortable enough with them and used my old, ignorant method of sketch to 3D. We are at the point now where we need final geometry in less than a week, and time does not exist for perfecting the designs by these new methods. I will however, back sketch the shit out of this project using what I have learned. I feel confident that, with these techniques, I will be able to make my HP project the highlight of my next portfolio.

So, I feel confident in what I have learned, but I have not yet repeated the success I had with the USB project. Future prospects look good, but I must develop these new skills through practice.

One of my personal, non-design goals this quarter has been Crossfit. It's a workout plan that was passed along to me by one of my good friends fighting in Afghanistan. Each day, a new workout is posted online, and I am proud to say that after seven weeks I have not missed a single day. These are intense exercises that are normally done "for time," i.e. no breaks between sets. As a result each day's work normally only takes 20-25 minutes, but it kicks your ass. I can already tell how much stronger and more in shape I am, and I look forward to the workouts each day. I would recommend it to anyone, now matter how in or out of shape you may be (scaled versions are posted each day due to the fact that the full workouts are nearly impossible.) Thank you Mason for introducing me to Crossfit.

The same thing goes for Crossfit as design: I'm beginning to see the light, but must force myself to keep at it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to make the best of an inferiority complex

I hate losing; I hate being worse than anyone at anything. I become agitated, often to the point of anger. While this gets me in trouble socially (this is something I've wanted to write about for a while and will try to get to this week), I have learned to use it to my advantage professionally.

Throughout my entire design process, I am constantly evaluating myself and my work. Is it good enough? Am I working hard enough? Is someone's project better than mine? This has pushed me to strive to design products that stand out from my peers. Do not believe, however, that my work is far and away the best the world has ever seen. It is, in fact, rarely the best in our studio. I simply force myself into a competitive mindset that will not accept failure.

I can see two obvious examples in my light design and our current studio with HP.

For our light, we were given very little in terms of problem statement and direction. It was basically, make a cool looking light that you can pretend relates to a movie character. In terms of doing something that would challenge and enhance my design skill set, I didn't see much point in this. I couldn't accept doing something that, though it may have looked unique, was in no way set apart from the rest of the projects. This drove me to a design that I feel was successful in being both a light and a unique, original product. Check it out in my portfolio (links are to the right.)

During our HP project, we were to define three concepts with "B" level drawings and present them to the HP staff. I was struggling with my concepts at the time, and for the first time, in my opinion, I presented bad work. Being the second student to present, I had a over two hours to dwell on what had just taken place. Frankly, I got pissed. I spent the majority of studio doodling, making lists, anything to help me figure out where to go. The concepts I produced from those two hours were more promising than anything I had created over the past week. I attribute all of this my inferiority complex. I was so upset that I was doing worse than the rest of the studio, and much more importantly worse than what I was capable of, that I could not get my mind away from my work until I improved it.

I grew up with a strange combination of winning losing. I was smart and relatively athletic, but I always felt like I was playing second fiddle to someone. Be it my older brother, who I've admired my entire life, or my own potential, I've developed a personality that doesn't accept failure. While I may not always end up at the top, I'll sure as hell be driven to get there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


So...I'm behind. I've been focusing on my ID project this past week and haven't gotten very far on the tea kettle. Basically I have a few forms (which I haven't scanned and the CGC is closed) for two concepts. Here was the problem statement from my design brief:

Create a tea kettle the brings the serenity of the chado Japanese tea ritual into the modern home. The kettle will function as the boiling mixing and pouring device; it must be elegant, functional, easy to use and create an emotional connection with its users.

My two basic concepts involve boiling the water so that it rises through the leaves and into the upper part of the kettle for pouring (this is a process common to coffees and espressos.) The first concept is a simplified, anthropomorphic form that seems to bow to the users. I have been exploring different types and placements for the handle that accentuate the form and emotional impact of the kettle.

The second concept involves either bowl or cup-like forms that seem to be stacked precariously. The water/tea may rise and fall to different levels as it fills and overflows the bowls

Where I really feel like I need help is with my HP Computer. Here is what I turned in as my final "C" concept:

The frame is a single sheet of aluminum that has been die cut and pressed with bamboo fabric covering the rest of the case area. My design focuses on overtly selling the actual computer as sustainable. Bamboo fabric is instantly recognized as sustainable due to bamboo's incredibly fast rate of growth. Also, Aluminum is highly recyclable, and by using only an "exoskeleton" rather than a full case, there is a material savings of over 60% (not to mention the advantages over molded pieces.)

Other than the styling of the monitor and keyboard, the only feature I am struggling with is the connection between the monitor and the unit. The screen is a 22"transparent touch OLED that slides from an upright to a lowered position to facilitate using the touch feature (reduces arm fatigue.) OLEDs are incredibly light while remaining strong, and see no problem in the monitor being attached on only one side (in the rectangular cutout on the left of the front of the frame) as it is always resting on the desktop. Tony disagrees...strongly.

After talking with Sam last week, I proposed that the bottom of the screen be beefed up visually by widening and thickening the bezel at the bottom to give it more visual weight. Still no good for Tony. I then proceeded to show Tony Sony's new OLED tv which uses a hinge that is incredibly similar to mine:

He still wasn't buying it. I love the idea of giving the consumer something that looks a little fantastic, and I am convinced it will work. Tony's suggestion of adding a leg to the other side takes too much energy away from the main unit, which must be the focus of the computer. I'm thoroughly stumped.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Simpsons QOD

Homer, walking by a homeless man sleeping in a dumpster:
"Heh. Just like Oscar the Grouch."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Upon telling my roommate that Wednesdays are ID nights at Murphy's, he became extremely apprehensive about going. I love how threatened my frat friends are by DAAPers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Story board from the new Rob Zombie movie - Pysch-Robo-Emo Killer Death Bunnies

I voted today

Without any clue as to who I voted for, OBAMA, I voted today; it was awesome. It was the second time I voted in a presidential election, but somehow there was much more energy this time. I went home this morning to go with my mom. Of course, we talked politics on the way there. Here are a few of my politcal thoughts over the last few weeks:

- It's been amazing to see how UC's campus, one of the more apathetic I've seen, has been energized by the election. Every day since I've been back there have been students on campus campaigning, protesting, registering, etc. For a place whose student body usually does nothing outside of go to school, this has been an exciting thing to see.

- It's amazing how divided people can become. My first day back from co-op I got into a screaming argument with my roommate. Granted we were drunk, but that doesn't negate the fact that I was yelling in the face of one of my best friends. Also, my mother's reply to a conservative email was misconstrued as calling my uncle a bigot. Crazy.

- Upon exiting the polls an older man walked up to me, shook my hand asking me if it was my first time. I told him it was my second, his face lit up and he thanked me.

- My mom's last comment before we voted was how different things were this year. Importance, voter turnout, political enthusiasm...everything this year was on a different level than it has ever been before. I cannot fully realize the gravity of the situation on account of my age, but I am grateful to have been a part of something incredible.

The way I design gets me in trouble

Ideate, refine, finalize, create. That's the way it's supposed to go, but, for me, it is rarely that linear.

I often find myself looking for a singular answer to a problem. While this method motivates me to do a great job with my final design, it hurts the intermediate steps. If I sketch something out that doesn't have obvious potential I throw it out (often literally.) Once I find "the one" I take that to final concept quite quickly. It would be much more helpful to attempt to develop multiple concepts before giving the bad ones the axe, leaving my mind open to possibilities throughout the whole process. This method of leapfrogging to the start to the finish probably arose from my first co-op, where I was critiqued for spending too much time exploring ideas.

Take my computer project for example: 200 ideations, 30 refinements, 3 further refinements - all thrown out the door for for my final concept, which was completed in three days. Though a part of it is still related to my early ideas, the main focus of my concept has no previous documentation. There aren't any sketches or explorative renderings. I'm fine with this, as I am confident that it's a good concept, but there is no proof of my thought process leading to my final design. It is hard to justify an idea that just came to me, even though that's what happened. It will probably come down to back sketching on an ongoing project. Weird, huh?

My only solution to this problem is to get much faster at the refinement stage so it is a much more useful design tool. If I am able to quickly refine concepts, I won't be worried about not having time the find "the one."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Simpsons QOD

Look at those poor saps back on land with their laws and ethics! They'll never know the simple joys of a monkey knife fight.