What just happened …

Dyson II.

“If you think of doing the opposite of what should be done, you can often stimulate innovation and do something creative and interesting.”

- James Dyson

Delicious Library.

I finally decided to take inventory of all of my books using the latest version of Delicious Library.  it’s a great program and adding books is easily done through text entry or via a digital camera (which is used to scan the ISBN barcode).

Using this program allows me to obtain an immediate glance at my entire library without having to scan the physical shelves in my home.  You can also export your entire library to various social media book sites including GoodReads.

Eyes Wide Open II.

Several years ago, I designed a sugar dispenser for an industrial design class.  I decided on this particular challenge after seeing just how quickly sugar poured out of a similar dispenser at a local restaurant.  Through the design process, I discovered that it was my various interests that played a key role in the final product.

Here are a few examples:

Model Railroading: Once I had a general idea for what the dispenser would look like along with the relative dimensions, I created “sketch models” which are basically rough prototypes made from various materials.  Thinking back to my model railroading days, I chose styrene plastic for later prototypes along with the final model.  Styrene is typically used for the construction of miniature buildings used on a model railroad, and I decided that the material would work well for this project.

Architecture (Core): I wanted the dispenser to be very modern looking and sleek; ultimately something much different from those you would normally see in a restaurant.  I ultimately decided to model the dispenser similar in structure to a modern skyscraper, and I chose a variation of styrene to match the building’s fascade (narrow vertical lines without horizontal equivalents).

Architecture (Supplemental): While I liked the skyscraper concept, I felt that another design element was needed.  In one of my visits to the Los Angeles area I noticed a building that had a protruding metal “screen” with large-scale letters inset within (negative space).  I decided that I would do the reverse and project letters outward (positive space).  But what letters?

Chemistry & Flight Training: Here I combined my original undergraduate goal (chemical engineering) with my flight training experience to come up with the “surface layer” that would rest on one of the dispenser “walls.”  The chemical formula for sugar contains the elements Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen.  Similarly, the airport code relative where I was living is CHO (Charlottesville-Albemarle).  Clearly, the gods had spoken.

The process of designing an object, vehicle, experience, etc. that has value in the real world takes not only solid design skills, it requires the ability to pull from multiple disciplines and incorporate those findings into something powerful.

Until perhaps now, I have always believed that my desire for knowledge was simply leading me astray from a specialization of some sort.  My experiences over the past several years have altered this belief; I now believe my innate curiosity enables versatility and a strong design sense, two things that I highly value.

While I believe that specialization in a given field and/or domain is in my future (that was my original goal all along), I envision staying “plugged in” to just about everything and anything that interests me.  It’s these interests that will continue to play a key role in my technical and creative development – the combination of which will continue to grow beyond what I’ve accomplished to date.


Knowledge transmission.

“The point here is that the crucial knowledge in any innovative industry is not standardized information, routine patterns or the public knowledge of science.  It is also often not the kind of data that can be obtained through quantitative market research involving the analysis of secondary data or statistical survey research, nor from qualitative methods such as focus groups and interviews.  What is really useful is what is new, what are the latest changes and the specialized know-how that individuals have acquired through practice and mistakes.

- Pierre Desrochers, “Geographical proximity and the transmission of tacit knowledge,” The Review of Austrian Economics

Eyes Wide Open I.

I recently signed up to become a volunteer at a local hospital.  One of the many requirements to participate in such a program is to ensure you have been suitably vaccinated and aren’t subject to any serious infections (e.g. measles).

Now my second time in the hospital in less than a year (this time on purpose), I made a point to again survey my surroundings.  In particular, I took a closer look at the heart monitor adjacent to where I was sitting along with the tools the nurse used to take blood from my arm.

Here are a few things I noticed in just 30 seconds:

Center of Gravity: The monitor rested on a short pole connected to a set of wheels that were arranged in 90 degree angles to one another.  What was interesting about this is that the pole was lowered approximately two inches so that its center of gravity was lower to the ground.  This allows the unit to be moved much more easily and rapidly with reduced risk of toppling over.

Robust Power Cord: The end of the power plug was larger in size than a standard power plug.  This allowed the cable to be removed from the wall with little effort, allowing for rapid transport to different locations within the hospital.

Protection: The needle that was used to draw blood from my arm had a plastic cover that was attached just below the collection tube.  After the blood was drawn, as if reading my mind, the nurse rotated the cover (using one hand) until it snapped in place, completely protecting her from the needle end.

Color: The unit was a bright blue color, making it much easier to spot in case of immediate need.

One of the main reasons I mention this experience is because one can find any number of design strengths or opportunities in virtually any situation.  While I have not had the need to use a heart monitor, I could still glean a few key design traits from the device that I could, in theory, use in future designs of my own.

Nurses and doctors who use the device on a routine basis may skim over what I’ve just mentioned, and instead highlight other traits that are more familiar to them.  For example, they may comment on the size of the display or the height of the actual unit; traits that I would take for granted given my lack of experience and exposure.

A good designer is always taking in the world around them to see what’s working and what’s not.  Similarly, design elements used in one situation or context can be employed in an entirely different situation; it just takes knowledge and understanding to enable the transition to occur.

In my next post I’ll give a real-world example and go a step deeper into this cross-pollination concept.


Generation Four.

Additional Thoughts.

Waiting (for what?): A friend of mine passed away about a month ago.  Her passing gave further support to beliefs and opinions planted months, and perhaps years prior.

In short: you don’t want to leave this earth without doing things that you have always wanted to do.  For my friend, the desire to leave an unfulfilling job and to retire were goals that were never realized.

Having attempted to put myself in her place, I don’t think there is anything worse than to lose the option to make your life better and more fulfilling.

Giving and receiving advice: For many years I gave considerable weighting to others’ opinions and suggestions, only to find myself disappointed when things did not work out.  Now, I solicit feedback and advice from a select few and even then I use that information in the context of a greater whole.

On a similar note, I’ll always have my opinions but I am considerably more reluctant to share any advice unless explicitly asked; in fact, many times I don’t give my opinion at all because ultimately everyone knows inherently what they need to be doing in any given situation.  I believe my opinions or suggestions are supporting an existing path that has already been decided by that individual.

Dealing with undercurrents: I’ve placed less emphasis on the desire to become a “leader” and instead placed greater emphasis on core creativity, research, development and innovation.  I don’t know if my goal has ever been to climb the corporate ladder, but amazingly I found myself attempting to do just that.  It’s like an undercurrent that you aren’t aware of until you realize you are far from shore.

I think where this goal started to fragment (for me) was the fact that increased “responsibility” was moving me farther away from what I was interested in doing.  The sheer nature of forward movement was masking who I was and what I ultimately wanted to be doing.  While I am not 100% on where I’m headed (I may never know), I do know that I was headed in the wrong direction.

Dealing with oneself: I’ve learned to be comfortable and content alone.  Frankfurt and Paris reinforced this through complete isolation from family, friends and even technology.  The freedom and flexibility I had during that period was something that allowed me to think and “experience” without any constraints.  Now I’m living my life assuming this situation has permanence.

Belongings & Money: After spending years eliminating belongings that I no longer use, and experienced the joy that “Escape 2011” brought me, the vast majority of my purchases from here on will be experiential-based (Tokyo continues to be on the immediate radar).

Physical & Mental Challenges: Successes (full or partial) in past physical challenges (flight training, triathlons, mountaineering, and foreign travel) help set the stage for future challenges of increasing size.  What could this look like?

What Next?

Now three weeks into this new journey, I’m starting to reclaim a sense of self on all levels – physical, mental, emotional and intellectual – and I am enjoying learning to be myself once again.

True to form, I’ve gone through and purged belongings that I no longer need and increased “security” around those that I still need / want.  My primary objective at this point is to refine the Immersion foundation defined earlier this year and use that as the basis for decision-making and activities in the months to come.

In the meantime, here are a few ideas that I have been thinking about:

Portfolio Consolidation: I am considering shutting down both Pixeldust and Ink microsites and consolidating the portfolios, which could very well result in the elimination of many older pieces whose quality lags behind more recent work.  While I think the current site design is sound, I also believe there is too much redundancy.  Strategy: Keep things simple, relevant and focus all attention on my best work.

Self-Promotion: I think the efforts that have gone into my core portfolio and the various microsites have resulted in a solid foundation to build from.  I’m pleased with the results, but I’m at a point where I’m less interested in promotion for promotion’s sake (career opportunities, etc.) and more interested in further expanding the portfolio.  Strategy: Get back to basics.

Research: I am at a point now where the types of books that I am reading are leaning away from self-improvement and towards other subjects: design, technical subjects and fiction.  It’s a direction that I’m becoming more comfortable with.  Strategy: Refocus research efforts on creative and technical topics, and focus more energies on fictional works.

Bionic 2.0: As mentioned earlier, one of the plateaus I’ve reached is the physical.  Now three years into a strength-building plan, I think I can move into new territories.  Strategy: Focus greater energy on core physiology and refine exercise plan.


Analog & Digital Chemistry (“Reverso”).

This is another song by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto that was performed at the Cocoon Club in Frankfurt several months ago.  One of the key benefits of seeing them live is witnessing the graphical representation of their music shown directly behind the duo.  The imagery is created via complex computer algorithms programmed to be directly in sync with the music.

While there are many examples of this on YouTube, I’ve chosen to link to the original track below.

This song is incredible.