Ideas About Architecture

Every Christmas of my life I’ve found Legos either under the tree or in my stocking. My daughter is finally old enough to play Legos with me and I am enjoying the experience as much as ever. Legos have come a long way since my childhood; from Star Wars to Super Heroes and Technic to Duplo Legos cover a wide range of interests and ages.

Lego Architecture
One of my projects over the summer was creating an annual report for LEGO. While researching LEGO I discovered a new product they recently rolled out. A set of 1210 white and translucent pieces and no instruction book. Imaginations can run wild but if inspiration is lacking the kit does include a 250 page book of LEGO experiments. Try the LEGO store to get one. I haven’t been this excited about Legos in years, but a 1200+ piece box of Legos designed to be designed by users sounds like fun to me.

Edgeland house
Outside of Austin, in a supposedly worthless piece of land is an amazing house. Bercy Chen designed a house embedded into the ground to help regulate the temperature in the house and allow the field to thrive. Appropriately the owner of the house is a science fiction author.


Back to School Edition

Getting ready to start another semester, turning my focus squarely on design I found some great conversations about typography.

I did not get to see the talk Jessica Hische made from this text, but I bet it was awesome. I like the list of foundries and the tips for selecting the best font.

Nico Inosanto created a great display font called Fitigraph. Abundantly ligatured and fun, this font could be used for a wide variety of creamy applications.

This semester I will learn more about Photoshop and create solutions to four design problems.
I am excited and will be sure to post any highlights as they arise.


As promised, here is the PDF of the book I made for the final project in Design Communication 1 – The Joy of Disc Golf

I cut and pasted images and text from the internet for filler, but I also created some of my own graphics, photos, and copy. I really enjoyed this project and I picked up some new insight into the process of putting a book together. I’ve had a love affair with books since before I can remember, but I never really thought about how hard it is to design a book from cover to cover.

I also finished up with Digital Publishing 2 which is focused on Adobe InDesign. One major project was broken up into sections throughout the semester and we built a publication about tea. The final step of the project turned the print publication into an ePub.

With the skills I learned from these two classes I feel confident I could create a book and get it on the web in a digital form, now if only I had a story…

I’ve become a Pod(cast) Person!

The amount of information available via podcast staggers the mind. Any interest is covered, probably by more than one podcast. It’s like talk radio except you get to choose the content. Apple recently updated their podcast app and they improved the interface and added a playlist function. I look through the podcasts I am subscribed to and add the episodes I want to the On-The-Go playlist and then hit play, I get to program my very own talk radio station.

Enough singing the praises of the medium, let’s get to some content.
Many of the podcasts I listen to are design related and a few of my favorites are:
Design Matters with Debbie Millman– Debbie Millman is President of the design division at Sterling Brands and the AIGA. She podcasts her radio show from Design Observer. Each episode is between 30 minutes to an hour and she talks with designers, artists and other creative people about their creative lives.

99% Invisible-Roman Mars is a public radio producer and reporter who hosts this podcast. This one grew on me, I didn’t quite get it at first, but each episode covers some obscure topic about a hidden jewel, like public stairways in San Francisco, or offers insight into the fabric of our daily lives. The recent post about the Modern Moloch sheds some light on the early days of the automobile.

The Deeply Graphic Design Cast-I happened to start listening to this podcast right as they started a “Portfolio Site Pro-Tips Series” which has already given me some ideas and inspiration. They don’t post regularly but every post is worth listening to.

On The Grid-This is the newest podcast in my cue, but after one episode I am hooked. Episode 30:Make it Worse is 47 minutes 52 seconds of awesome. I hope they keep up the quality, after listening to two posts I feel confident these guys have it dialed in.

These are the top of my list, there are others I like but these four are at the top of my mind when I think about design podcasts I listen to.

My whole life doesn’t revolve around design (mostly, but not all of it), I also like science and home brewing.
For science and general knowledge of the world:
NPR:How To Do Everything– The mission statement is “If you need to know how to find a date, or how to find water in the desert, we’re here for you. No question is too big or too small.” I recently listened to Episode 102: 70 Days in Bed with Howard about a man who stayed in bed for 70 days straight as an experiment for NASA and space exploration. This particular episode is more interesting than instructive, but like 99% Invisible, How to Do Everything sheds light on topics most people never think about but affect our everyday lives.

Science Friday-Another one from NPR, every Friday Ira Flatow serves up interesting news from the world of science. You don’t have to get the podcast, NPR brodcasts this show on their radio stations, but I like being able to choose which topics I want to learn about and I can pause it if my kid needs my attention.

Stuff You Should Know-Josh and Chuck provide another resource for interesting information you may not even know you can’t live without. Want to know what makes a one-hit wonder, or how CPR works? Stuff You Should Know has you covered and then some, brought to you by

For home brewing:
The Sunday Session-About once a week The Brewing Network presents a long podcast (2-4+ hours) featuring tips and tricks for home brewing and interviews with professional brewers. One of the better episodes is the live broadcast from Celebrator’s 25th Anniversary Bash, but most episodes are entertaining and educational.

That’s all for now, I’m sure as I wade through the vast ocean of information encoded as podcasts I will find more to share and if you’re following my blog you’ll be the first to know.

March Midterm Madness!

I missed a day and I’m late but in my defense, not only have midterms been kicking my ass, but I have a real, paying client. Yeah, he’s a friend of mine, but I am designing collateral for him and his non profit is using it to promote events.

Today I am posting the results of the midterm project for my Design Communication I class which ties together everything else I’ve been learning since I’ve been in school.

The project is to design a book jacket for a book from a list of books provided. I chose The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I have a copy but I lost the jacket years ago so I thought this would be a great opportunity to make a jacket for my book and get a good grade.

These are the original sketches I made to get the creation process going. I was aiming at a tablet look because the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at the center of the book is a fictional electronic book from MegaDodo Publications on Ursa Minor Beta.



After the sketches I did two rounds of digital comps of the front cover and revisions of the digital comps, then two round of comps for the full jacket.

In the end I like the result. I made a unique and eye catching book jacket and I stayed true to the H2G2 fanbase but didn’t get too cliche with the design. My jacket would fit in with other versions made by other designers, and it would stand out.


ImageThe only thing I did not like about this project was trying to get it printed. It is too big to print on the laser printer at school and the print shop I took it to had problems printing it at full size. In the end the physical jacket was about 1/4 to small for the book so I know I didn’t get an A, but I did learn valuable lessons about dealing with a print shop and the difficulties of designing a book cover which is perfectly aligned and actually fits the book.

I’ve got a few more things to do before Spring Break and then I can relax.

Stay tuned, next week I’ve got something new in the works. 



Keeping with the theme of beauty

Keeping with the theme of beauty, here are some things I find beautiful. (Beside my wife and daughter)

Living in Texas, the idea of anything built out of icicles seems far fetched, but in Colorado, anything goes I guess. Brent Christensen creates these amazing ice sculptures using icicles. Sometimes I’m jealous of the colder climes.

I’ve been a fairly avid reader since I learned to read and I do still own several full bookcases. Even as I pick up more and more titles on Kindle I prefer the paper for books with more than purely educational content. And of course no one can autograph the Kindle editions. So from a bibliophiles’ perspective, Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. They would have to track me down and drag me out of there or I would live there, and I don’t know Portuguese.

And finally, if pressed to pick a favorite movie on the spot, Caddyshack is my knee jerk response. Sometimes Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Evil Dead, or Psycho bubble up but Caddyshack seems to get more rotation. So I’ve got that goin’ for me, which is nice. Bill Murray is awesome in Caddyshack and every other movie he’s been in, even the movies I didn’t understand. (I’m looking at you, Lost in Translation)
Of course I’m not his only fan and some of his fans have made some great art in honor of the man himself.

These are just three of the things I found beautiful this past week, representing very different forms of beauty. Really beauty is everywhere, you can find it in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

Hardwired for beauty

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a well known cliché but this article from Co. Design points to new scientific data which suggests beauty may be in the DNA of the beholder.

We generally regard DNA as the blueprint for our genotypes and phenotypes, but the double helical molecules also carry information collected over the course of humanity to ensure our survival although it’s more accurate to say our genes are the ones which survived. For better or worse we are not so removed from our primitive ancestors and some our deepest impulses are responses to external stimuli activating those ancient reactions.

Primitive responses in our brains can be utilized in design, whether we use it for good or bad is up to the more evolved parts of our brains.

Best finds from the Foundries

This article from Fontfeed is an enlightening look at the difference between typography contests and best of lists. I’m leaning towards best of lists and this one from is my favorite. There’s some great scripts and I really like Our Type Stencils and Euclid looks sharp.

Designing typefaces seems like an amazing and amazingly difficult job. So many characters and spaces between the characters to design. Not to mention glyphs and ligatures, but the payoff of seeing a typeface you created communicating in a design would be worth it.

Would anyone other than a designer appreciate a custom made font as a present?

Super Bowl Extravaganza

The Super Bowl is the biggest marketing event of the year where everyone with at least $4 million dollars to spend on their campaign gain access to millions of people world wide.

I’ve collected a few ads from YouTube. Mostly I liked the all the ads at least a little bit, but the most disappointing thing to me is the number of ads I’ve seen before. When you get a shot to be in the spotlight, you have to bring your A game.

First up is a Mercedes commercial for the new CLA-Class of cars.
I really like Sympathy for the Devil so immediately they hooked me. If I were a young professional thinking about buying a luxury car I would want to identify with the lifestyle the car (and a pact with the Devil) promised. And as the affordable price of the car foils the Devil’s plan, the choice of Sympathy for the Devil makes perfect sense.

Let’s just get all the car ads out of the way first.

This sexy commercial from Fiat ties in their logo and a new convertible model with a sexy model running topless on the beach. They did a great job of building suspense before the payoff of the cut bikini string and the revealing of the new convertible Fiat 500 Abarth.

I love this ad because it uses so many little tricks to activate nostalgia (who doesn’t remember high school and prom), sympathy (walking in the door alone to prom), shock (making out with the prom queen), and triumph (speeding away with a black eye and the largest grin of your life.)
Playing on so much emotion with such a positive ending really makes me want an Audi.

This ad is unique among the stimulus overload of the Super Bowl itself, and the half-time show, and most of the other ads. The calm, soothing voice of Paul Harvey coupled with still pictures made this ad stand out among the hullabaloo surrounding it.

These next two go together because Volkswagen caught some slack for an ad some perceived to be racist. Maybe people are a little too quick to play the racist card. For one, the stereotypical Jamaican accent was shown in a positive light. I don’t think suggesting Jamaicans are happy is a racist thing.
Secondly, the pre-Super Bowl ad features Jimmy Cliff making hundreds of sad or angry people happy. On the YouTube page for this ad there is even a link to buy Mr. Cliff’s new album. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think portraying the Jamaican people as bringers of happiness is racist.
As for the Super Bowl ad, it is clever and memorable because of the juxtaposition of a white guy from Minnesota with a Jamaican way of talking. It suggests the Volkswagen makes people so happy it changes the way they see the world and even the way they talk.

Pre-Game Volkswagen ad

Volkswagen Super Bowl ad

Another ad surrounded by controversy leading up to the Big Game belonged to Coca-Cola.
Some felt it was a racist depiction of Arabs because the Arab character was leading camels through the desert. Again, maybe too fast on calling racist. Maybe the winner of the race changed because of the backlash, but during the game, the winner was announced and the Arab character definitely came out ahead.

The Race

The Last Laugh

I don’t think any of these ads are distasteful or insulting but they definitely garnered more attention because of the controversy.

The best ad for Twitter during the Super Bowl was the black out. More people tweeted about the blackout than Jacoby Jones’ 108 yard return.

Oreo had one of the better tweets.

Their pre-planned Super Bowl ad was great too. Everyone, even the fire fighters, talking in whispers made a riot in the library into a humorous and memorable event loosely based on their product.

And finally, an ad for GoPro cameras works because of the unusual first person viewpoint, which is what their product promises. Albeit not usually from a baby’s view point. Babies may be cliche in Super Bowl ads but GoPro showed off their products’ abilities in a new and interesting way.

So there it is, the Super Bowl Extravaganza. In a mere 364 days we get to do it all over again.

One last fun fact: There are more Super Bowl parties than New Years Eve parties.

One mans trash is another mans art

Recycling doesn’t have to be boring. Besides the ecological benefits, recycling can also mean repurposing and the repurpose doesn’t have to be for any purpose other than art.
There is a great amount of art which finds itself relegated to the junk heap, but these folks are making art from the junk heap.

Here is a collection of great art made from the detritus of our civilization.

James McNabb uses cast away bits of wood from his designer furniture shop to make art reflecting on the transition from rural to urban culture.

In my own backyard, the Cathedral of Junk is a structure built entirely of junk. This is no pile of trash, this is a look at America and our culture through the lens of our no-longer-wanted stuff. Blind to the inherent aesthetic and cultural qualities, the city wants to tear it down.

Not all trash is created equal, some wil merely end up in a landfill, some will become valuable works of art.