Sunday, December 21, 2008

Come back again!

Dear Guests,

Thank you for visiting during the semester to read my writings and leave your comments. I hope you found your stay inviting and thought provoking. It’s been quite an enjoyable experience for me as well, so much that I will continue to keep the house open even though the class assignment is over. I’m taking a hiatus to update the site (perhaps switching hosts?) and to determine a new purpose… I’m sure it will remain as a design/writing haven.

So, if you’d enjoy your stay at the Gray Suite, please come again. I should be back up for business after the New Year, hopefully with a new a look. I’ll be sure to send out a note for those interested. If you have similar aspirations to continue your blog, please let me know in the comments, so that one, I can continue reading, and two, so that I can (with your permission) keep my suite linked to yours.

Once again, thank you, and see you soon.

Your host,
Heather Van De Mark

Friday, December 19, 2008

!!! >:O


Due to my USB not being that great, I have to erase it every time I transfer files on and off it, otherwise it says there is no room and I can't add new/updated files to it. Well, I just erased my 80% completed revision of Project 4: Classification. I previously posted images of this revision in a state of about 30% revised, so you can imagine how different the final revision was going to be. 

AND I JUST DELETED IT ALL!!! At 4p.m. the day before it's due. To make matters worse, I'm subject to the lab hours, so it's not like I can pull an all nighter to redo it. I either attempt to cram it in the next 4 1/2 hours--starting from almost scratch--or let it go, that A grade I tried so hard for, painfully slipping from my grasp. 


Ugh, my blood is rushing. The muscles in my upper body are pulsating. Ugh. I think I know when I'm defeated. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Take a Break and Laugh

While we all manage through that final push, I thought I'd post these just for laughs. And I think they're fantastic design. Well, the condoms are.The bear is just funny art. I don't really expect anyone to be checking this, but in case you've fallen into that routine of procrastination of checking everyone's blog before doing any work (not that I do anything like that), then well, here you go, just for you:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Show & Tell: Collections

A little late is better than never... I made that up myself. I wasn't sure if scanning my precious, stuffed Elephant was a good idea, so instead I have these cute odds (not the ends) from my collection. 

One is a beer coaster for Delirium Tremens, playing on the idea of the pink elephant which is quite witty for a beer company. The other is a bracelet from the Buffalo Zoo in NY that reads, I (heart icon) Elephants (elephant icon). Other things in my elephant collection:
  • Statue from Thailand
  • Statue from the Dominican Republic
  • Wooden candle holder
  • Photo of an obelisk that had an elephant at the base of it in Rome, IT
  • Photo of me with a large elephant statue outside of a famous museum in Paris, FR that I can't remember the name of
  • And a tiny little plastic statue that I think came from a gumball machine
I'm amassing quite the collection from people (most of the above were gifts), although I urge them that I'm much more interested in live elephants and not replicas, but they just don't listen. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Project Green: Blogs

I was looking over the weekly handout about project green. I thought this is as good a place as any to get my thoughts together.
Here are some professional sites I enjoy:
Smashing Magazine
The Dieline
These sites function in highlighting design inspiration and techniques, but also serve as a platform to make themselves important players in the design industry. I'm drawn to them because they are routinely updated and include a variety of works--SM highlights creative inspiration posts right next to useful CSS tools next to Photoshop brushes; and The Dieline focuses on all types of packaging from labels to inventive repackaging (a re-useable, recycled-paper, water bottle!). I can't think of much that I don't like about them, which is probably why I go them everyday.

Also great blog, undesign related: 101 Cookbooks very clean layout and simple layout, but it really adds a calming feel which I think she is purposely trying to go for.

However, musician blogs I find tend to leave the most lacking. Everyone and everyone is supposed to have a blog. Yet, many people miss the point of a blog when they only update every few months. I feel that blogs are supposed to gain a regular readership and that'll only happen if there's something to read. For instance Kimya Dawson, her "News" page should act as a professional blog of anything newsworthy, however it went a whole year without being updated. I know she was not completely newsworthy from 2007-2008. But her diary--not for professional purposes--is updated with complete regularity. So, I guess that's something that irks me. You'd think they would want to really utilize this tool to maintain a strong fan base.

I really enjoyed doing this, because keeping a blog is something that I've been intending to do, but hadn't gotten around to it. I think there are three main divisions of things I post--intellectual curiosities, examples and personal work. I will probably redesign this blog with that in mind. I'm also considering switching to a different platform, or really looking more into Blogger, because there are some layout/design things that I'd like to fix. Nothing has really been difficult in maintaining this, I'm surprised that I've always found something to post about... maybe lack of readership/comments is disappointing. I'd like to have more of an ongoing conversation, but are blogs really conversations or just one sided presentations with a small Q&A (usually just questions) at the end?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Revision: Project 4 (Categories)

Hi everyone. I figure we're all feeling that last push in the semester. Maybe it's early for that... maybe it's just contractions at the moment? I'm starting the revision process, which I was crossing my fingers I wouldn't have to do, but the numbers (letters) just aren't going to add up otherwise. And I'm particularly invested in revising Project 4, because as Prof. Pointer pointed (ha!) out, I have a weakness when it comes to designing with a lot of information. My grid and hierarchy skills leave something to be desired. And for peace of mind, I just can't have that. Below are my revisions, any specific comments you could make I would greatly (!) appreciate-particularly regarding white space, hierarchy and grids. Or anything at all. Thanks!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Show & Tell: Unnecessary Process

Recently, I saw the new Jose Cuervo ads for their Living Notoriously Well campaign. On first watch, I found them really entertaining. There have been differing opinions on their entertainment value posted on various blogs, but I'll let you decide. To watch the ads go here: Enter your birthday and then click on the right under televised notoriety and watch the two commercials. I thought these were unnecessary processes, particularly How To Negotiate because one of the steps is: have a back up plan. What sort of process negates its worthiness by saying, this may not work, have a back up a plan. It's as if the step to a cake recipe was, buy cake from store just in case. I know it enhances the humor in the ad so I do understand its purpose, but generally speaking, I feel like a well written process should cover all your bases in a way that you'd be successful in the end... but that's just me.

And here is what I am bringing to class, because I found it amusing. The steps show (1) a hand crumpling this piece of paper, (2) the hand hanging the waded paper onto a christmas tree. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

TV and Web Harm Kids

I read this article on Reuters the other day: Lots of TV and Web harms kids' health.

Essentially, a bunch of credible institutions compiled data from studies going back to the 80s to the present, and tallied the information. The studies focused the health effects between children and technology/entertainment, specifically television, but also video games, films, music, computers, and internet use. The findings showed consistency that children who consume high amounts of media have poor health, "The studies offered strong evidence that children who get more media exposure are more likely to become obese, start smoking and begin earlier sexual activity than those who spend less time in front of a screen." Some people have drawn the conclusion that it isn't quality but quantity that is the issue. But, what really got me was the Reuters article constructed the issue like this, "Three quarters of them found that increased media viewing was associated with negative health outcomes." I mean, wow. Three quarters of studies say that our chosen field, effective communication and technological mediums cause NEGATIVE health incomes. Yikes! It really makes you wonder the consequences of the messages you're sending out there, as well as the consequences of the absence of the messages you're not sending out there.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Project 5, Phase 4: Movie

Hello again. If you don't mind repetitiveness, since you'll have to watch this on Saturday, would you mind taking a look at my Phase 4 movie and leaving me a comment for those points where the text goes by too fast or goes by too slow. I'd welcome any other feedback, but this is my biggest concern at the moment. Much appreciated. And, if there is music/sound effects do your best to ignore them, because they're not right at all at the moment. Thanks again. 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Project 6, Phase 3 - TEXT

Hello, class. I'm having trouble reaching the 300 words for Project 6 (Packaging). Below is my content so far. Hopefully, you'll understand what I'm doing by reading it, but in case you don't, I'm re-purposing bricks as book ends for a haughty home furnishing line. If you have suggestions for things you'd like to read about that would fit along the lines of what I've written, please comment!

General audience:
Well off home owners that prefer simplicity and understatements (or even natural antiquity) to opulence and luxury in their home decor.

Text so far:
Brick Ends
from No Mortar … building great design brick by brick

Uncomplicated design need not connote unattractiveness. At No Mortar, we prefer a minimalist approach to house furnishings. Our authentic class B engineering bricks in fire red will enhance your rugged, exposed brick walls or be a well-crafted juxtaposition to your home d├ęcor. This brick set are perfect shelf ends for the minimalist, au naturel or artisanal home.

Built for strength, this brick set is capable of holding books, heavy or oversize books, magazines, records, CDs, DVDs and other items in an erect position on shelves or mantels. Each brick has a unique texture with shallow caverns and pin-hole chasms. The three-hole pattern in each brick not only lightens the weight to prevent excess strain on its ledge, but also adds dynamic visual depth.

Remove the wire holders with scissors to release your brick ends.

  • Class B engineering bricks
  • Fired clay, water and sand
  • 2 dimensions
  • 2.7 kg per brick
  • Made in the U.S.A.
No Mortar’s Home Collection includes well crafted, minimalist home furnishing made from the earth’s most natural sources of clay, sand, stone, wood and water.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Week 10 Reading: Insights

Here are two things that I noticed from this reading, that I'd like to point out because I'm not sure if I could make sense of them in class off the top of my head:

One of the follow-up questions to Jacinto Jesus Cardona's "Bato con Khaki's" is "Why is bato 'too bold' a word for the speaker's 'mother's blood?" (339). Then, right after that, in Jamaica Kincaid's essay "Girl," a dominate voice, probably female (perhaps a mother, older sister or older family friend) speaks to a girl about how to grow up appropriate. The connection between the two pieces highlights how it is the responsibility of the mother/female to raise the next generation both male and female, which is probably obvious because it falls into that domestic sphere.Then, wouldn't it also be presumed, that those children's failures are automatically projected onto the mother? It becomes the mother's responsibility (and shame) when her son becomes a bato or her daughter a slut. Considering all of the outside influences that act upon children--media, technology, peers, other adults, history, it's quite unfair that females are forced to bear this responsibility alone. Katha Pollit supports me (or I guess, I support her), when she wrote "They let parents off the hook--no small recommendation in a culture that hold moms, and sometimes even dads, responsible for their children's every misstep on the road to bliss and success" (399). And isn't unfair to fathers that they aren't given (more) credit for the responsibility or shame that they bear for their children's futures?

Although McQuade and McQuade do a reasonable job to separate gender and race into different chapters, race is still a significant factor to consider when talking about gender (some people debate that it is completely inseperable when speaking of gender). I thought Judith Ortiz Cofer's "The Story of My Body" hit the nail on the head at the end, when she writes,
In college, I suddenly became an "exotic" woman to the men who had survived the
popularity wars in high school, who were now practicing to be worldly: They had
to act
liberal in their politics, in their lifestyles and in the women they went
out with (349) [emphasis added].
The questions of exoticism and exploitation are really interesting. Conversely, in "How to Write A Catchy Beer Ad," when the ad makers were filming the ad, they wanted women "to look hot but approachable, someone I wouldn't be scared to talk to" and thus went with twins who were "All-american and real" (391). (Funny--of course they're real, they picked living, breathing humans?! And what does it mean to be All-American?!) They wanted women who were similar to themselves, but "approachable" which could be read as non-threatening, subservient, less than. And are exotic women thus oppositely viewed as other and scary?

Week 10 Reading

Yes, I am posting on Thanksgiving. Some people may make a big deal out of this, as in this isn't much of a holiday if I'm doing school work, but what's a better way to chill out and digest than blogging? Probably watching a movie, but blogging it is.

I was anticipating this week's reading, because I have a vested interest in gender studies (I wish more people did). Mainly I tell people I have my degree in English, but I doubled, and also have a degree in Feminist Gender Sexuality Studies. Try not to let the F-word scare you.

More or less I found that McQuade and McQuade had good insights and asked several important questions. I highly suggest:
  • p. 343 Judith Ortiz Cofer's "The Story of my Body"
  • p.353 Marjane Satrapi's excerpt from "Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood" - if you haven't seen the film from this graphic novel, Persepolis, Netflix or rent it IMMEDIATELY. It's brilliant (and entertaining) and showed me a world vastly different from the few stereotypes I had in my head about Iran.
  • p. 366 Jane Slaughter's "A Beaut of a Shiner"
  • p. 370 Portfolio: Nancy Burson
  • p. 378 Susan Bordo's "Never Just Pictures"
  • p. 390 Chris Bollard's "How to Write A Catchy Beer Ad"
  • p. 398 Katha Pollit's "Why Boys Don't Play with Dolls"
  • p. 402 ARMY ad "There's Something About a Soldier"

I don't have a highlight this week, however I will post a few insights I had (immediately following this post--yes one rock, two birds.) But I will end with this food for thought from Pollit's "Why Boys Don't play with Dolls."
Every mother in that room had spent years becoming a person who had to be taken
seriously, not least by herself.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Web Accessibility

Tonight, I went to the lecture regarding Web Accessibility for blind persons presented by Anne Taylor, director of access technology, Wesley Majerus, access tech specialist, and another gentleman whose name I didn't catch. These individuals were representatives from the National Federation of the Blind.

It was an interesting talk, and here are a few key points in no particular order:
  • To make an accessible web site, you need to understand how screen readers works (which I don't, and still don't quite get after this talk), and you need to do user ability testing with blind persons.
  • Blind persons have to invest a lot of money (a minimum of $2,500) in screen readers (even more money if they're deaf and blind), so they expect web sites to function accordingly to meet their needs (quite understandable.)
  • They don't believe in text-only pages on the basis that separate is not equal. Reasons against separate text-only sites: they're not maintained as well, they tend to be boring and plain, and it's not a cost effective solution for a company to run two sites.
  • Apparently, Flash sites and PDFs can be made accessible if they're labeled appropriately. (Unfortunately, she didn't get into how to do that--maybe it's a given?)
  • In the next 20 years, the market demand for accessible websites is going to increase rapidly--all those baby boomers who know how to use computers will want to continue to use them in their declining eyesight, old age.
  • Other reasons why you should go out of your way to improve accessibility: by improving accessibility you will automatically improve usability, it differentiates your company as one with particular values, and to avoid legal litigation (the NFB just settled with for $4 million, an amount she said could have been avoided with about $50k worth of accessibility redevelopment to the site!)
I wish she had gone into more detail as to what needs to be precisely done in the coding and what not. Rather than being a tech informational lecture, it was more of an tech advocacy lecture, which is fine, just not what I was expecting. Although, she said much information could be found at their website: The National Federation of the Blind. They also do website certification that is somewhere above federal 508 compliance, which is the sort of thing I'd want to see as a norm.

Choosing to attend this lecture, I missed out on the Bringhurst/language talk at UMBC. If anyone went to that, please post about it or let me know how it went. Thanks.

Call to Action Posters

I feel like these campaigns, sort of put us all to shame... ahh, back to the drawing board. Check it out: Design as a Force of Good from

Monday, November 17, 2008

Week 9 Reading: READING ICONS

I'm going to do this week's recap of the reading a little differently. I was surprised (and yet, not surprised) that the icons the chapter chose to use and questions it asked, were icons I had seen in the past week and questions that had been asked in other design forums. I found this very coincidental, and expected, they are icons after all and chances are their "easily determinable meaning" is often parodied and reconstructed for that very reason.

So, to go along with the bathroom icons on pages 499-505:
I like this design very much, particularly for the angles of their heads. However, if could easily be misinterpreted as one bathroom being for well, number one, and the other bathroom for number two. Nevertheless a good try. And much better than the image of the dog's face on p. 504 from Hong Kong, which I don't understand at all... anyone?

Then to go along with p. 508, Grant Wood's "American Gothic." Which I've seen parodied a hundred times, but really knew nothing about, and was very glad to read Guy Davenport's "The Geography of the Imagination" for insight, I present:

This chapter's Profile is of Tibor Kalman, who altered the racial identities of high profile people, pages 546-556. In true Kalman style, someone/some people altered the racial identities of Barack Obama and John McCain--who to give credit to, I'm not exactly sure:

To sum up, I'd like to look at the Mercedes ad on p. 520-21. It says "Glimpse at them for a split second, and you know exactly what they mean." I feel like the reason we redesign and parody iconic images, is because as message makers we understand that NOTHING has a definitive meaning, icons change according to audience, culture, time, place etc. I'll admit I might be putting words into people's mouths, but this is the way I'd like to see the world: We, as image and message makers, toy with these icons because as much as we create design and images to market, persuade and sell ideas, we'd much prefer to market and sell to an astute and interested audience who would rather read messages and interact with images, rather than "glimpse at them for a split second."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Show & Tell: Favorite Words

Here are some of my favorite words:

RE words: revelation, reactionary, revolution
*These words sound strong and round.

Words whose synonyms I detest: flatulent, skivvies
*I loathe the word fart. And dislike the word underwear. I'm also not crazy about diaphragm, like... and others I will add when I think of them.

Words with a story: wonderful, via
*The first time I saw the movie from the Lemony Snicket (sp?) books, I remember being so content when I left. I loved how it was so imaginative and there was so much child like wonder. And then I realized it was full of wonder aka wonderful. The meaning of the word really hit home in that very moment, and I realized it wasn't just a synonym for good or hapy or pleasant. A character from Jitterbug Perfume (by Tom Robbins) argues, "There are no such things as synonyms!"
*The story for via (pronounced the British Vie-a, not V-a) is that I heard someone talking on NPR and they say vie-a and it took a moment to register what they were saying and it was probably the first time I was aware of the differences of English and the significance of the pronunciation. Bold

Words I mispronounce: mountain (moun'in) or any word with a strong 't' in the ending syllable, it tends to get skipped or rounded out to a 'd', when (win), pillow (pellow). I find it funny that I mispronounce them, so I don't mind at all, unless I'm talking to someone academic/scholarly and then I feel a bit like a joke.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My disdain for filmmaking

I'm not crazy about this movie project. In fact, I've been dreading it since the Profs. mentioned it way back when we had the week off. I don't know why, it's just another project like any other. I thought because my thinking isn't very linear, it may make it extra difficult... but then I remembered my few interactions with film... and I'm still cringing.

In early middle school, I remember some boys who I went to elementary school with, coming up to me one day to tell they had been over to Josh's house and were watching their old soccer games. Well, apparently, there's a video of me playing goalie and one of the other boys (who was of course, the most handsome, charming, funny, soooo cute boy in the sixth grade and a neighbor of mine) running up to the goal and kicking the soccer ball... into my face. I was told I cried. I was told it looked like it hurt. And then they laughed. I didn't remember it at all, but at that moment, I absolutely hated technology that could record past events to be replayed unbeknownest me.

Then, in seventh grade, everyone had to make an "ad" in Social Studies. A friend and I made one for a trip to D.C. that the school was having. I played the Star Spangled banner on my sax for the soundtrack and we acted out a ridiculous script. Oh, the laughter that ensued. The tape of my saxophone playing was way too loud in the background to hear anything that was being said. And too loud to not notice the all too often errors. (I was never much for practicing.) It's like being in a ball park and the singer of the anthem is just too bad that you just want it to end. Well, it's 10x worse for the singer. I wanted it to end too. But no, the three minutes dragged on. How was I supposed to know that you have to actually adjust sound levels? Wouldn't it just tape the way it was playing out in my head?

I quit saxophone and stayed out of the spotlight for most of high school. Until senior year, when in one last show of bravada, some friends and I created a dance routine for Moulin Rouge's "Lady Marmalade" to perform as part of Air Band (essentially an end of the year hurrah where everyone lip syncs to silly songs in front of an auditorium of people.) Mid song I manage to forget most of my dance movies. was much more interested in observing the audience observing me than in actually performing. Well, unfortunately, during the senior week breakfast morning, they decided to have viewing of the evening's performances in case anyone had missed it. I slunked so far down when my group's song came up, I might as well have been lying on the floor.

There also may be a story about an educational video for Spanish class, but I'm not ready to open that Pandora's box. (Did you know Pandora actually had something more like an rounded sort of jug/vessel/vase thing, not a box? Box was just a word a writer chose because it sounded better.)

There's something about film and me that I equate with humiliation. But, hopefully this time it will be better--because I'm not in it, I'm behind it. Nevertheless... please keep your giggles to a minimum... or else I will never work in film again. That's a promise.

On a side note: after this project, I have an increased respect for moviemakers. I've always been impressed by the thoughtfulness of it all: the angle of shots, shooting scenes out of order, creating an ambience, multitasking in every aspect of life (sound, light, movement, time, etc.).
So, props to all you filmmakers out there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Project 5 -Narrative

This iMovie project is definitely going to be not my best work, so to speak. I have no idea how to use iMovie and more own thinking isn't very linear, so this whole thing is going to be difficult. Not to mention, I'm just using jpgs, everytime I want someone to movie I'm working with same still and moving a limb or an eyebrow just a bit again and again. But anyway, that's not what this post is about.

There's something to be said about people who go through the trouble of stop-motion videos. Here's a great one (I don't know if there is sound or how it looks with sound, I don't have sound currently...): They used over 3,000 images.

London (harder, better, faster, stronger) from David Hubert on Vimeo.

[Update 11.12.08]
Here's another cool video (not a stop-motion)--again, no sound, so I don't know if the music is any good. I like the concept. It starts to lag, but watch til the end, the credits part is pretty cool.
I wonder if they hired a hand model?

KRAAK AND SMAAK squeeze me from FunkySpaceMonkey on Vimeo.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Show & Tell: Narrative

For last week's class, I brought a Tretorn ad that was a photograph of a boy chasing a girl on a bike. I thought it might constitute a narrative, but it turns out the image itself isn't a narrative, it's a visual snippet, and as the viewer I create the narrative (he catches the elusive girl). Although, I think it was close to a narrative because it did show action . I think the main thing that prevents it from being a narrative is the fact that it didn't show a progression of time. I suppose that's the difference between vignette and narrative. Vignettes are snippets. Narratives include time.

I guess an important thing to discuss is to define what narrative is. Dr. Gisbon says it has to include two characters, conflict, time... maybe some other stuff. The dictionary defines narrative: a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious. So I think the most important part of narrative is that it's an account of events (plural!). So not characters, conflict, etc., but time.

Which brings me to this Candian Club whiskey ad, which is one of my favorite ads. I think this is a narrative because we see the images as retelling events, and the headline "Your mom wasn't your dad's first" is the thread between the images. With both these elements there is a narrative within the ad, rather than being supplied by the viewer--although, the viewer could easily add more to the narrative with some imagination.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Week 8 Reading

Real quick, some good parts from Chapter 3 in McQuade & McQuade.
  • Tom Brokaw's "An Ode To Loved Labors Lost" p. 253, mainly for the sentence "and sensing for the first time in my young life the genuine excitement of wrestling with big ideas, and the force of intellectual curiosity." I heart that excitement.
  • "The First Thanksgiving" by Sarah Vowell, p.256
  • "Fish Cheeks" by Amy Tan, p. 261, Amy Tan can break my heart with words.
  • Art Spiegalman, p. 300. He wears an upside down peace pin (p. 302), I wonder if he's turned around yet.
  • "Vivian, Fort Barnwell" by Ethan Canin, p. 323. My brother has a photo on me and him on his wall as kids and I think it's really sweet, (he's pretty separated from the family), that I didn't have the heart to tell him it wasn't us--or at the least not me. I think it was some family friends--also biracial asian kids.
There's a lot of good stuff in this chapter. Highlight: Savulich's portfolio, p. 274-278. I'm interested by the fact these images have captions. I'm not one for gruesome things or heartbreaking things (like watching a jumper on a hotel roof), so I'm wondering about his need to include captions. He says that he feels he's "recording something that's really happening." which I definitely understand. There is action and a story in those photos, so again, why use the captions? Is he just concerned that we interpret the "correct" story?

A new beginning in sight

The news that Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States is momentous. I am exhilarated (and grateful that devastation isn't the only emotion there is post-election poll results, I was starting to worry.) I think The New Yorker cover is stunning and sums up so much so simply. [Update 11.06.08: Brian Stauffer was the artist of this cover.]

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I like design because....

I teach creative writing girls to some high school girls on the weekends, and I was helping them with their college essays. And a girl remarked that in an interview they asked her why she liked theater, and she was completely unable to articulate her passion. I thought that was the root of why her essay wasn't effective. So we all took some to write about what we love/like. Here's what I wrote:

I like design because it combines art with emotion for an effective purpose. It makes you feel something through well crafted visuals and can make you have an "ah-ha" moment and usually all subconsciously. Design is thoughtful and enticing, always a mystery of details--why is that there in that way in that color in that font in that medium? Why do I want to look at it and touch it and interact with it? Design is the tangible creation of my curiosities.

I like this concept and feel like I articulated it well. I found a common theme in being able to speak about your passion: define--and not in a dictionary definition sort of way, and say how it relates to you specifically.

I'm curious what your interests are and how you would answer, "Why do you like...."

Spring 2009 Classes

I was checking out what classes are going to be available next spring and I was wondering if any of you knew anything about the following professors or classes:
Editorial Style - Arthur Magida
Typography - Dina Wasmer or Max Boam
Publications Management - Cathy Lips

Any insights would be greatly appreciated or any professors/classes you strongly recommend would be fantastic, thanks.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Show& Tell: Typography

For show & tell this week, I brought in Mark Danielewski's "House of Leaves." There's a lot going on in this story, and the different typefaces help distinguish between the three concurrent narrators.

In addition, the typography begins to get crazy as the events within the house become crazy. Sometimes words will run up and down a page to mimick movement along a staircase, or only a single word will be on a page so you feel the narrator's increasing isolation, or the type will be backwards to show his movement through a place. This treatment is always a thoughtful decision that reflects the story--it's never done as a decorative element, it's done because it adds to the story. In addition, there is a page of braille, there are crossed out lines in red, missing text, text overlap, etc.

It's very fascinating and even though it can get tedious to read a footnote that extends into a story on the following pages, and then turn back several pages to get to the original story that had the footnote; and to turn the book 360 degrees while reading, it's quite the experience that adds to the act of reading. I suggest reading and trying it to see how it effects you.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

REDESIGN, Project 3: Call to Action

I'm a strapped for time this week. But I had an epiphany and am now redesigning my phase 4 comps for Project 3. While I like where I'm going with this, I'm wondering if I've "been in the monkey house too long" and can't smell the stink.

So here are the before and afters. Please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions--if you don't like the new ones, please say so, considering the professors won't hesitate to point out everything wrong, I'd rather not walk into class disillusioned that I had a good idea, but then again, maybe you'll like them...? I'd greatly appreciate comments, although understand, again with the time budget, I don't know what changes, if any, I'll be able to get to. But thanks!

Magazine ad:

Post card: the redesign isn't quite finished, and I forgot to make a jpg of the old version--but it was horizontal and it had a picture of the movie poster and book cover and it said VISION.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Design Ethics: Shepard Fairey

I was meandering on the web, when I found myself in the art section of the Obama store. If you scroll down to the sold out, iconic red, white and blue image of Obama and CHANGE poster at the bottom, you'll see Shepard Fairey was the artist. What made me think twice about him was in his quote he wrote, "I know I have an audience of young art fans," which I think is an interesting statement and I wanted to know more about him.

Well, it turns out he's the designer behind my favorite fashion line (OBEY)! And let me clarify by "my favorite fashion line," I mean, my favorite shirt is an OBEY shirt, and it's the only one in the line own, but I do heart it a lot and as a result OBEY is probably one of the only fashion lines I can name. But to continue on...

I was super excited to find out more about Mr. Fairey's company, past, art skills etc. (a la Wikipedia), but then I came upon this page: Obey Plaigerist Shepard Fairey. Essentially, the article claims that Fairey has pilfered the majority of his works from dead and living artists. He reappropriates art and imagery into a new context, but usually changes very little or none of the art itself, and he mass markets it under the presumption that it is his own work--never giving credit to the original artist or piece. [The side by side comparisons in the article are quite incriminating. Some look like exact replicas.] And, as the article points out, not only does he do this--he profits from it. Essentially, the article claims, he is stealing both art integrity and money from the original artists.

I'm just curious where people stand on this. Is Fairey a hack who has crossed the ethical design line? Has he cut ethical corners like any other business man does? Can he claim it as his own because he has created it in a new context? If it's not copyrighted and in the public domain--either because it's too old or was never registered--is it fair game? Is Fairey taking advantage of the fact that is hard to patrol and penalize art/idea theft? Does the belief, that an artist has a moral obligation to other artists to respect their work, exist in other career fields or is special to the art field because our creations are personal?

I'd like to know what you all think on any of this. Also, if you read my previous post on Foundation for a Better Life, you'll see that a similar thing happened to me--I love something, google it, then find obscure article blasting it. And like in real life, I'm having trouble finding the final Truth on the subjects on the Web. Ahh, elusive Truth, where have you gone?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Week 6 Reading: Bang!

I really liked and really disliked this book. I thought it accomplished what it set out to do, but I had the occasional disagreement. (And what's with the cover? According to her writing, the way the white pops insinuates that she is the most important thing--I would have thought the title. And why the "mediation" configuration? I suppose the centered-ness makes the reader focus on it longer, but it feels much less dynamic.)

Her word choice/tone. Example: the word "innards," the story of her art prof. on p. 52, referring to "drunken blood shot eyes" in a kid's book (I'm going on the basis that this is intended for kids b/c that's where the library shelves it). I think she's trying to be casual (or un-intellectual), but she kind of comes off as a know-it-all. Her over explaining gets tedious. Her redemption was flipping the page and reading, "The wolf looks stupid now..." (p. 34). That was laugh out loud hilarious.

I thought her Little Red Riding Hood images were successful. Principle #9 was helpful, to paraphrase, we associate things of the same color as being together more than things of the same shape. I also enjoyed the image constructed by the 8th grader at the end of the book.

The images on page 82-83. To paraphrase again, some pictures are contained within their space and the viewer is left outside of it, but when our eyes notice an object within the picture, we move into the picture. I though the corresponding images to this idea were perfect. As a beginning designer, I see (and make) some really bad design, but am not sure what it is that's missing, why it feels so amateur, and now I realize that usually it's because the viewer wasn't brought into the design, the piece existed in its own space without the viewer. Being aware of this is going to be helpful.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Show & Tell: Classification

It's not super exciting, but my classification this week was from Real Simple. The article classified things that cause you to lose your focus: lack of sleep, stress and anger, age and genetics, and modern distractions. Then they tell you how to regain your focus in each of the categories. I liked that they weren't classifying objects, but more so, I really liked their photos that went with the spread. They're done by photographer, Nato Walton (the article is by Kristyn Krusek Lewis). I like these photos because they augment the article's concept. It's very subtle, but look what being distracted causes: mismatched shoes, pouring salt instead of sugar and burning your ironing. It's just that the placement of the pull quote makes you see the mismatched shoes. The circle on the coffee mug makes you see the salt stream, and you see the red dress first but then you see the burn mark pointing to it. So it's all very subtle but it works.

(Side note, man I dislike how the photos display/layout in this template blog.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Project 4: Classification

So, I want to classify humanitarian causes to make people realize that it's better to be more passionate about one unjust cause than to feel overwhelmed by them all and do nothing.

Classifying international humanitarian causes
The principle: Classify by cause/crisis
  • Genocide/mass murder - Darfur,
  • Famine/Hunger (would vegetarian/vegan issues fit under this?)
  • Disease - AIDS, bird flus, STDs, doctors without borders
  • Environmental - stopping climate change, government regulation, areas impacted by natural disasters
  • War - Iraq, Afhganistan (should this be under genocide?)
  • Domestic Issues - US-specific causes
  • Civil Liberties - slave trade/racism, sexual slave trade/sexism, rights to all people regardless of class, creed, age, sex etc.
The categories are fairly broad--which I think is ok?--but the "classes" aren't parallel exactly, does that matter? Wondering what you all think, if some might work better than others and if I left anything major out? I'd like to cover a wide spectrum.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Week 5 Reading

Here are a few gems from this week's reading in McQuade & McQuade, Chapter 5: Tip, don't skip the reading pieces this week.
  • "How to Live" by Annie Dillard, p. 426-428
  • "Coming into the Country" by Gish Jen, p. 434-436
  • "Cool like Me" by Donnell Alexander, p. 440-443. I really fell for this one, when I read, cool is "about making a dollar out of a 15 cents." I think this could be a starting point for a discussion on the connection between the current "hipster" cool that steals from low-class culture--trucker hats, flannel/plaid shirts and mohawks/mullets. Originally I thought an article on cool was going to be, well, lame. But Alexander really does understand cool. The synthesis of difference and living by it, not just wearing it or speaking it, but being it.
  • "24 People for whom I haven been mistaken" by Roger Shimomura, p.474-475
  • "National Museum of the Middle Class Opens in Schaumburg, Il." by The Onion. p. 488-89. What was greatest about this piece is their decsribing the middle class workers work week--eight hours a day, five days a week, and weekends off, and it makes it so clear that this is NOT the way we, people, have to live their lives. It's how we choose to or are made to choose to. The work week is just a construct and I think everyone's lives would be a lot better if the system would reevaluate what is best for the people and the economy regarding the balance of work and life. (I strongly support afternoon siestas and shutting down for the month of August. Ohhh France!)
Pick of the Week: Nikki Lee's collection from p. 407-419. The images were fairly intersting in their own right, but when I was reading her bio and realized that it was her in every image, that she had worked her way into each of the different subcultures, I was blown away. Mostly, I'm curious about how she infiltrated these cultures. She altered her "hair, makeup, clothing, body language, and even weight to fit in." It seems and makes me question the level of deception. Did her new friends know nothing about her project, did they know anything of her when the make-up and clothes were off? If so, how did they feel? If not, how did they feel when she was suddenly no longer a part of their lives? (I'm making the assumption that if she didn't tell them, she must have removed herself from them, because how could she maintain so many facades simultaneously.) The photos ask who are you and what makes you you? But they also seem to be answering that you are shaped wholly by your environment. Perhaps, if we were provided with her personal feelings regarding her experience, we could see the role that nature (ie genetics, ethnicity etc) played and/or intertwined with environment.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Show & Tell: Call to Action

My calls to action are from the Foundation for a Better Life.
I'm a huge fan of these billboards. They tend to hit home in the heart area.

The call to action is gentle. Pass it on. Be a better person. But I really like having this reminder amid the masses of McDonalds billboards and cheap motels along the highway. I don't think people are inherently good--well I do sort of--but I think people should still put the efforts into actually being good people as in, actually doing good things. And I feel like what the Foundation considers "good" is in line what I think is good.

However, recently, I found an article that said the FFABL was listed to some rich oil tycoon: article here. Thanks for crushing my hopes Portland Indymedia. I haven't fully read it yet, so I'm not sure how or if it will change how I view these billboards. Can bad people do good things? Is it deceptive that these ad campaign, perhaps comes from someone who does not represent them?

And interesting enough, I received this quote in my inbox today:

Journalism is publishing what someone doesn't want us to know, the rest is propaganda. -Horacio Verbitsky

which I thought was interesting/relevant, because Portland Indymedia calls the ads propaganda.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bad Ad

I wasn't sure what I was going to post for my second post this week, until I found this bad ad: 

I'm don't think it's my preference that I think this is bad. I understand that sex sells and some provocative ads sell well. But I think this doesn't work because the creators have misunderstood the audience. I found it in Rolling Stone magazine from a few months ago. I feel like Macy's was like, hmm, Rolling Stone, yeah, lets be edgy and racy and raw and we'll use the youthful, sex angle. But it still feels like a mall shopping store ad that happens to be using a naked person. They completely lost the fantasy world that usually emanates from a sexy ad--although, they try to incorporate it with that reflective mirror effect. which feels creepy and inauthentic. It's as if they thought, just throw in a naked woman, as if that makes something sexy or provocative or compelling. I just found it interesting because this is one of the first times where I've seen an ad and known why it was bad contextually rather than because I didn't care for the design. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I wrote a poem

Ever since I've switched gears to focus and learn graphic design, my writing has been nearly non-existent, which is unfortunate because I'm trained in and love writing (particularly poetry). Well, I was watching a film and had some inspiration and I wrote a poem. ::Pat on the back::

This poem directly references the movie, but I'm curious how it works for those who haven't seen or don't know what the movie is... Special bonus points to you if you can guess the movie. I have a series of poems that do this, reinterpret visual cues into written words. I'm very interested in the connection between the two mediums-film and language.

But it's obvious how excited I am to be writing again, because I'm being so upfront in sharing a draft, that I undoubtedly will think is junk in three months. But I'd appreciate any critiquing, what you get and what you don't get, what works and what doesn't. A fresh perspective is always helpful, thanks.

::Warning, may include disturbing images--it was a violent movie::

The Wolf
For Lou Ellen and Carla Jean

i. A cowboy kills with precision.
A sheriff kills with a conscious.
The lobo kills.

ii. Have you ever watched
a deputy struggle to death—
kicking up shoe scuffs as if it was a dance?
Have you ever watched a handcuffed man
take away the breath of a peace keeping man,
the chain on the handcuffs
ripping paper cuts
across the flesh of his neck?

Would you talk to death before you die?
Would you put out your life story?
You don’t even know what you’re saying,
the wolf mocks you. You stammer,
who are you, what is that; you
try to blot out his voice—
a voice that throws you to your knees
praying it’s not the last thing you hear on earth—; you
wonder why there is suddenly
a trembling fear in your voice.
Not knowing what hits you
is a courtesy he gives you.

iii. The cowboy escapes his tango
with the wolf, and oozing wounds
make him brave which means foolish
and he turns the tables desperately
and goes on the hunt with a fury in his eyes
and a fire in his heart, but our hero dies too.
The legends of cowboys are just stories.

He sits where the man
who he is hunting sat when watching TV,
The sheriff chasing him
sits where the hunter sat watching his reflection.
The milk jar is sweating, a beaded ring
on the table—are you
hoping to catch him, or glad
you just missed him?
Do you die, veins full
of piss and vinegar, or do you retire
and fill your nights with desert dreams
of your deceased father?

iv. Arriving home in mourning you
set down your keys and you
pause at the open window and you
sigh and you know. You
nudge the bedroom door ajar with your finger tips—
his presence permeates
like poison gas billowing—you already know
he sits in the wicker rocking chair, still,
in the corner, as if he’s been waiting all this time for you
to come to him.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's a Software Premier!

I watched this on It's cheesy funny, but I love that the reviews are from and ascender weekly, lol.

BraveFont from on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Week 4: Reading

This/Next week's reading had a lot of great stuff that focused on visual literacy. Some selections:
  • Amnesty International's "Imagine" series p. 600-602
  • Nick Hornby writing on Richard Billingham's photos p. 618-623
  • Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag p. 652-656, although I'm not sure if this excerpt does justice to the book which is very thought-provoking
  • p. 672, p. 673, John Kerry and Photo of the Year respectively
Standout: Frank Fournier's photograph of Omayra Sanchez, and corresponding essay by Isabel Allende and Interview with Fournier. I really appreciated the interview excerpt with Fournier, because like most other people, as he says, I wondered why the hell he wasn't helping her. Realizing that she was a goner by the time he got to her, mildly eases my discomfort regarding his judgement to photograph her.

I think it's interesting that the Chapter opens talking about Visual Literacy, and how in this age, "information, indeas and epistemology are given form by television, not by the printed word," according to Neil Postman. But I think the photo of Omayra relies on the words to tell the truth--I know that word is red flag. Really, I wasn't even sure what I was looking at when I first saw the photo, I knew something was wrong but had no real context. I gathered the information and ideas from the following texts. Although, we may be in an age of visual consumption, we can't assume that it wholly satisfying.

I'm also touched by the Fournier photo and interview and Allende's text because it makes me think of a plot point in the book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. For those who have read it, I'm thinking of Will Navidson and his photo of the girl (what is her name?!). For those of you haven't, read it, it is an amazing, chilling, challenging book, and should be of interest to any book designer purely because of it's form.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Week Off

Wow, it's a really great thing W&I isn't meeting this week.
With a slip of the hand, I deleted my entire "project 1: profile" folder. Ack. Sigh. So, I'll be spending a good few days redoing it. Thankfully, the project is already handed in. But I feel like I might still need it.

On another note... I'm also spending this week off from W&I figuring out what to do for project 3. I'm thinking on something about reading more/literacy. Or something from The Foundation for a Better Life, because I love this organization and their ads. They have about 30 different values to choose from, so I'm thinking about reading up and then choosing one... but I'm thinking that I might love them too much to redo it well. So, we'll see...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Show & Tell: Favorite Sentence

My favorite sentence comes from my favorite book, Nadja by Andre Breton.
She told me her name, the one she had chosen for herself: "Nadja, because in Russian it's the beginning of the word hope, and because it's only the beginning."
This is a great sentence because it has the same whimsical tone that the book does, that it is all just the beginning (Breton began the surrealist movement in writing.) He easily could have written, she told me her name was Nadja, she said it was the beginning of the word hope in Russian. Breton's sentence has rhythym. I heart this book. The premise is, a lot of rambling followed by about thirty pages of Breton meeting this woman Nadja in Paris (an actual account from his life) and the following few days they spend together going to cafes and such, again followed by more rambling. One of the major questions surrounding the book is, is Nadja real or did Breton make her up? Knowing this, makes this sentence doubly interesting because, is this the name she chose for herself or did Breton name her? I lean towards her being the subconscience of Breton.

Some runner ups:
Gradually, however, we are devoured by parents, gulped by schools, chewed up by peers, swallowed by social institutions, wolfed by bad habits, and gnawed by age; and by the time we have been digested, cow style, in those six stomachs, we emerge a single disgusting shade of brown. from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
Although, I don't care for Robbins' books, I'm not sure why I don't like them, I am very aware that that man knows how to turn a sentence.

She was only the dead-leaf echo of the nymphet from long ago - but I loved her, this Lolita, pale and polluted and big with another man's child. from Adrian Lyne's film, "Lolita" based on Nabokov's novel of the same name
This movie quote is derived from multiple, long sentences in the book. I prefer this succint version. I love the description of a "dead-leaf echo."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Design for Democracy

I went to go see Marcia Lausen's talk entitled "Design for Democracy: Ballot and Election Design" at Towson University tonight. Although it was fast-paced, she covered a lot of interesting things.

Basically, she aided in the redesign of ballots and election materials in, so far, Chicago and Oregon. Lausen, along with an undergraduate graphic design class, an undergraduate industrial design class and election officials and committees took on the challenges of several problem areas, created solutions, designed materials, tested materials and are dispersing this information for free (AIGA Design for Democracy gives away A LOT of free materials regarding voting and the election). They gained increasing national attention and were showcased in several countries in Europe.

What I strongly appreciated is that Marcia Lausen isn't using this platform to pat herself on the back. She's advocating for the design profession. Working with people (election officials, government officials) who don't understand what design is or don't see the need for it, and making them understand that poor design has consequences (e.g. Florida in 2000) and that good design makes for more voter retention (she actually had a great chart on this) which ultimately serves to better our democracy. Likewise, she told officials that the jargon on the election ballot needed to be rewritten, and when they said no (for fears of being sued and what not), she asked them, do you even care about the voters? Audience!

Other really great things: apparently, there are laws about ballot design such as all names of candidates must be entirely capitalized. She had to go to court (?) and have this overturned, she convinced them that correct capitalization with lowercase letters is more easily distinguished than straight caps. She didn't know at the time that she should have been arguing for the grey background in the prototype too, apparently, that is also legally defined.

Lausen and her class overcame a lot of heirarchy of information problems by simplifying text sizes, weights and fonts. In addition, they created an overall identity for the materials: "red for instruction, blue for information" was a solid component. When voters recieved something in the mail 3 months before the election, it looked like the information given to them on the day of election. (Previously, voters would recieve a how-to brochure in the mail with 4 steps, and then on election day be given a how-to (for the same procedure) that had blown up into 11 steps and a completely different design.)

All and all, it was an interesting talk on a subject that I wouldn't have thought could be interesting. And it really provided a real life example for anyone who thinks design doesn't matter or is easy (Lausen worked on this project, and subsequent book, for eight years).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week 2 Reading: Afterthoughts

So just a quick note on last week's readings:
In Sternfeld's series, p. 192-198, isn't it strange how there are no people? Particularly in a photograph of a tourist attraction (Mt. Rushmore) and in the middle of a thriving city (D.C.)? I wasn't sure what was making the images so effective in translating the tragedy, but I realize the omission of people feels very eerie. Surely, this was purposeful. Other things that enhance the images eeriness: the darkened windows in the grocery store that look like they're hiding something, the billboard that looks strangely heavenly amid rubble, and the way the bus stops glass reflects only slightly.

"Homeplace," page 210, was the story of a family whose house was blown over by a tornado multiple times and refused to leave. Sanders believes that they stayed because they "had invested so much of their lives in the land... it was a particular place, intimately known, worked on, dreamed over, cherished." I had lunch with a friend who just started law school and he set up a scenario that he was reading about on land-property-or-something-like-that-rights. If someone owns a piece of land, but does absolutely nothing with it for like twenty years, and some people come and squat on the land and build a house and take care of the property for like ten years... who rightfully owns the property? It turns out that laboring over the land (for some amount of time) actually gives you some rights to the property--he hadn't gotten to what those rights would be exactly, but it was interesting to know that the efforts of the "squatters" wouldn't be for nothing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Show & Tell: Description, Part II

Oh, and I absolutely have to share this too, because I realize how well it fits.

William Carlos Williams is this great poet known for brevity and density in his writing. (He's the guy who wrote the poem about the plum in the ice box, which most of us had to read in high school.) He's describes with great precision.
And then there's, the painter, Charles Demuth, who I don't know much about. But I do know, that he painted a picture of one of Williams' poems, and I absolutely love it and it was one of the first pieces of art that I really liked and understood and felt touched by, and wasn't just told to like by some authority figure.

Here they are:

The Great Figure
Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city

Williams' poem is a description of a moment (among the rain and lights) and an object (figure 5 in gold, red firetruck). The verbs do a lot of work too: clangs, howls, rumbling. I think Demuth captures this poem in an abstract but visually descriptive way--the sizing of the 5 creates movement, the shadows on the edges are the dark city. And something I find humorous about this piece, Demuth put Williams' name and initials all over the painting, as if paying homage.

Show & Tell: Description

Excerpt from Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World.

What I found so fantastic about this book is that, Scarry's main point is to prove an argument, but she can't do that (well) without filling the book with descriptions because of the subject matter.

Most readers, don't understand what torture is, but through her clear descriptions it becomes more accessible to the reader, and thus her argument becomes more accessible.

She uses a lot of concrete nouns, verbs and senses, and I think the Solzhenitsyn example also enhances the description.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Week 2 Reading

Once again, here's a recap of my reading highlights.
  • Eudora Welty excerpt from "Storekeeper, 1935" on page 161
  • "Turn Left or Get Shot" photograph by Kerry J. Marshall on page 171
  • Eric Lui's "The Chinatown Idea" on page 172
  • Scott R. Sander's "Homeplace" on page 210
  • Shawn Macomber's "The Chasm Between Grand and Great" on page 230
This week's gold star goes to Joel Sternfeld's "The Former Bryant's Grocery, Money, Mississippi." This is not the image I conjure up when I recall the tragedy of Emmit Till. If you don't know the history, I implore you to take a minute and read up on it. Although, I had read/learned the time and location of the murder, I obviously never pictured it right. In fact, when I thought about it, very little time was spent thinking about the place; instead, focusing on the events--"Bye, Baby," murder, acquittal. I never correctly imagined how rural it was, how very ordinary. It seems as if the place mattered very little, but in fact, this photograph makes me realize that it mattered so much. Because if Till was home in Chicago and had gone to a local corner store and said those doomed words, the consequences would have been different. Place can make all the difference.

On a different note, the chapter is called "coming to terms with place." I found a lot of the readings discussed what it means to occupy a space and what it means to occupy a place. Apparently, depending on the writer, the better situation can be place or space. But regardless of how they name it, it seems that they all agree that it is worse "to sightsee" (be mindless) and much better to do--canoe on a lake, build a home (again), or replenish the earth--in life. I happen to concur. I guess the "do" part--the work, action, creation, etc.--is what makes a house a home, makes wage into wealth, and makes life memorable.

Project 2: Hey, What's Up?

Project "Hey, What's up?" should really be called "Hey, What's Hot?" -- why, you ask? Because I'm doing infrared saunas! Haha. If you had asked me earlier today, I would have worked that joke into "confusing," "hard" and "stupid," depending on my then level of frustration, that perhaps some of you are still working through. Good luck.

As far as I can tell, there is news about infrared saunas in like the sauna-niche market, but so far no general/mainstream news articles (meaning, I googled it and the first 50 posts were not from the NYT, BBC, Cosmo, etc.). I found a magazine/blog article (it doesn't look like a very legit magazine), but it was posted this spring. So really, I feel like this constitutes new. And there's enough information that I'll be able to describe it, and a few pictures from companies selling them, so I'll be able to work with a graphic or two.

For those of you still killing yourselves over the topic, I think it's possible to get around the "new" part. If articles have been published about it--were they from an industry insider or a general news outlet? I feel like any articles on the inside are fair game. Because, like other people have suggested, how could we write about something new, if it was so new that nothing had been written on it. It's new to me, and it's going to be new to a large segment of the population--even those who keep abreast of the field that it's in, then I think that counts. Although, don't take my word for it, chances are I'll get a mysterious post from a professor stating that I am in fact, very wrong. Ha.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Show & Tell: Inspiration

I love wine. I love wine labels. Here are some samples of the variety of labels. From left to right: Spain, Australia, France (bottom). And here's a plug for Molly Dooker because I think all their designs for the different wines are fabulous (they have three "sets"), and there web site is great so check them out: Molly Dooker wines

What I like about wine labels so much is how important they are in the wine world and how they work on so many different levels. For some wine houses, they haven't changed their label in decades and it's how consumers distinguish their product from others. 90% of people walk into a wine shop and buy based on labels. They are works of art. They are government regulated to display certain information. A label can signify the location of origin, from Italy to Australia, or Burgundy to Cotes du Rhone. Labels compel the audience to feel a certain way about the wine--humorous, modest, elegant--regardless of reputation.

I think creating something that is so multifaceted in function is good design and that's inspiring.

Week 1 Reading: Afterthoughts

Two things from this week's readings that I didn't get to say in class that I thought were worth noting:

1. Sternfeld's photograph, "Warren Avenue," page 24-5. I realized that the more I spent looking at every detail and trying to place what exactly everything was, I realized that the layers of the photograph create a history for the place. First there was a building, that looks like some sort of store front (the way the windows are set up), or gathering place. Then something bad happened around that building (the building got boarded up). Then people created a memorial (flowers, mural). Then people had hope for change (the graffiti words, "Do the Right Thing"). I was very impressed that this linear time existed in the photograph. Suddenly, this place existed beyond just the moment in which the photograph was taken.

2. Pinkhassov, photos from Moment of Silence collection, page 74-84. I'm curious as to how/why the photographs were arranged in the order that they were--I'm assuming that because it's only a select few from the collection that it was the editors of the book who chose the order. I'm curious about it because I think the order was very effective in telling the story that Pinkhassov is attempting to tell. I saw the baseball players and connected with it because I play sports, I watch sports, I understand the photograph. But then I was jolted by the Muslim students in the library, because it's unfamiliar to me--not just personally, but the media and such, it's not how Muslims prayers are depicted when they seldom are. Likewise with the two brothers (?) on page 78. As a result of this jolt, I'm looking into these pictures and trying to get a read on them. I'm no longer passively scanning them. Now what's great about how these photographs were set up is that when I reach the image of the little girl and her parents praying on the bedside, I look at it and am still actively searching and reading it, even though it is a completely familiar image. I think that if that image of the girl and her family was placed after the baseball players, I would have skipped over this collection because I would have thought there was nothing new to be gained. But because of the chosen order, I found myself intrigued and spending a lot of time with the photographs. The context of the content carries equal weight in creating the desired impact.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Week 1 Reading

It's no lie. The chapters in Seeing &Writing 3 are long. I made it through a fair amount, and here are some of the pieces I really enjoyed (in case you haven't read it yet, and just want to skip to everything cool, because I am the final say on cool, ha).
  • Manipulations of Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" photograph, p. 23
  • "The Pencil" by Henry Petroski and corresponding photograph, p. 38
  • Richard Estes painting on p. 72
  • "Joyas Volardores" by Brian Doyle, p.87
  • Photographs: Wigan's "Man v. Ant" on p. 120 and his bio on p. 135; "Voyager 1" on p. 125, Harold Edgerton's apple on p. 126
  • Carl Sagan's excerpt "Reflections on a Mote of Dust"
Reading Highlight:
The multiple pieces on Pepon Osorio, p. 94-103

One of the over arching themes from Chapter 1: Observing the Ordinary seems to be that we will not be alive forever. "We come from a planet that is very good at promoting life but even better at extinguishing it." -Bill Bryson, p. 122. Why does this theme creep up? My guess is because in learning to appreciate the ordinary, every day, taken for granted things in life, we become better at our appreciating ourselves, because we have to admit, and sometimes choose to overlook, the fact that we, as individual human beings, are rather ordinary.

Also the piece entitled, "Re: Searching the Web" provoked a lot of questions that I have been asking myself recently. For my sanity, I hope I get around to responding to them. There's nothing worse than an idea that won't leave you alone.

If any of you have read the above and also found them interesting... please, discuss.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Project 1, Brainstorming

I'm planning on profiling a local jazz musician. Possibilities for the two extra pieces of information:
  • the CityPaper short list of calendar events
  • spotlight on a venue (The Windup Space?)
  • spotlight on a track/song/cd
  • review of a book on music (jazz/experimental theme)
  • special tidbit on jazz history
  • other artists to watch (same genre?)
Is the theme of the page, location--local, Baltimore, or the genre of music--jazz, experimental,?... The genre might be hard to work with since it's not easily defined... It might be easier to wrap everything together under a Baltimore spotlight, but if he's trying to move to the NYC scene, is writing about him in Baltimore, like false pretense...?

I haven't done the interview yet, so I don't know the story or angle. I'm framing the questions around this guy being up and coming... but what's special about that? The fact that he is a good musician is special, special enough to get a profile... but still, what's interesting about that? I'm going to have to think this through more. Will post again after the interview to brainstorm some more.

Found this link for jazz profiles that was helpful. I kept getting biographies that were long and boring. But this site profiles big-name, jazz musicians in a way that is brief and interesting.
Jazz Artist Profiles from

Another look at jazz interviews. Although these are written in Q&A format and are pretty lengthy and biography heavy.
Jazz Interviews from Screwgun Records.

Oh and a plug for him: Adam Hopkins Bass.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Looking Good

The Gray Suite is up and running. Ta da! Believe it or not, but I believe, it took far too long to get the look right. How do you like it? Suggestions? More and better posts to follow--This is a test.