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Does It Need To Be Designed?

I am breaking my accidental year long hiatus with a post about doing nothing, my favorite pastime.

The reason for my absence is almost exclusively due to the fact that I am in a two-year graphic design program at Seattle Central and am just about to start my second year. Many times my fellow classmates and I will go out to eat and drink at neighboring eateries and drinkeries and jokingly kid about the crappy logos or bad kerning that surround us. Being back in school makes one more aware about the visual communication around town. Though said comments are made in jest, I wonder, is it sometimes better if something is crappily designed or not purposely designed at all? Many times our job is to rebrand companies and websites but I think it is more important to distinguish when it is necessary and when it is arbitrary. For instance, when logos for corporations are redesigned.

hershey's logo
One commenter thought it looked like a literal steaming shit

moo logo

Transferwise logo

Sometimes I think, wait which one is the before again? Is that a really good use of their resources? Probably not, but maybe yes. But honestly, what the hell is the difference? (These were taken from the Brand New site that reviews logos.)

One of the UI/UX instructors at Seattle Central, Erik Fadiman, is the one who made me not only think about design but also the necessity of design. He often says that companies will approach him for what they think is the need of a website. But in some cases do they need a website? Sure he can take their $8,000 and make them a responsive website, but will it really benefit them? Will simply using social media suffice? In some cases like food trucks, yes. E Fad started out more concerned with design and slowly moved to the other side of the spectrum, focusing almost solely on functionality and leaving the appearance to visual designers. I feel myself doing to same sort of leaning, but don’t want to let go of design. Can’t I have both?

So I started thinking about the need (or rather un-need) for design more. But how far can you go with that? For instance, I noticed restaurant websites are always really shit-ily designed and have nothing on them. And you are usually only going on there for the hours, phone number, and/or menu. So isn’t yelp a much better way to access this information instead of being sent to an external website that probably is not responsive? I understand wanting to have cohesive branding so if you could personalize your restaurant’s yelp page a little more, that would be ideal.

My fantasies on how to redesign something has changed to excitement over what does not need to be redesigned. Instead of my first question being “what would I do to change this?” it is now “does this need to be changed?” For example, there is this super cheap taco truck near us:foodtruck2

Is this menu aesthetically pleasing? No. Does it need to be redesigned? No. It is functional. In fact, it’s lack of design is its design. Besides, is there anything more beautiful than four tacos for $5.49?

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Expecting: A Zine About Pregnancy

belly parade

Dear readers, fellow pregnant ladies and those who think pregnancy might be a hoot, I made a zine about my experience being pregnant. It’s not about the adventures and misadventures that led up to it, nor will it include the labor, delivery, or gory aftermath of childrearing. I will not broach the natural versus medicalized birth debate. Nor will I give any helpful tips or insights to alleviate physical or mental discomfort.

It is simply about what a strange time pregnancy is, how it changed my relationships with other people, with food, how it generally complicates social interactions, and all the bodily weirdness that no one tells you about. And you may identify with some of it. Or not. I’m writing it down now because I assume it will get wiped from my memory shortly after I give birth.

The physical paper zine is available on etsy and hopefully soon at Pegasus Books in Berkeley and Needles & Pens in SF! You should check out those locations anyway for their awesomeness. As well as San Francisco Zine Fest Aug 30-31 in Golden Gate Park.

Here are some of the illustrations in the zine as well as outtakes. Rest assured, there are no fewer than 32 nipple illustrations that appear in the zine. (I love painting nipples and bellies.)

first trimester floating

fetal fruit

about me

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Weird things people say when you’re pregnant

I’ve refrained from telling pregnancy stories until now because well, they’re pretty boring if you’re not pregnant. However, I think anyone can enjoy a good round of “weird things people say.” These weird things were said to me in the recent past.

Size Matters. Being pregnant sends the message that it is now OK to openly discuss your shape, size, and weight. Even strangers will engage in this behavior.

“You’re so big.”

“It’s so big.”

“You’re so small.”

“You’re carrying so low.”

“Can I touch it?”

“Oh. You don’t look pregnant.”

“Don’t worry, my friend gained 80 pounds when she was pregnant. She lost it all but now her skin sags.”

 

Vices. Be it their own or on your behalf, it’s now OK to comment on your personal choices.

“Are you supposed to be eating/drinking that?”

“It’s OK to drink a little.”

“I want to smoke, please leave.”

 

Funny product recommendations.

pillow

“You can’t have a baby without this….”

– crazy pillow for sleeping

– crazy pillow for breastfeeding

– nipple cream

– swinging musical chair

– giant jogging stroller

and on and on

 

Scary Stories. Something about seeing pregnant people triggers all the (often hearsay) tragedies others need to now share with you.

“I know this woman whose baby died right before she was supposed to deliver. Have a great day.” (-airport security officer)

“You think you’re safe after 3 months, but my friend miscarried at 6 months.”

“My wife’s water broke at 7 months.”

“When I went to this birth class, the instructor told us how this baby was born with listeria blisters all over its body.”

“This [insert messed up thing here, i.e. pooing blood, peeing blood, fainting] happened to me when I was pregnant…”

“…And she couldn’t look at fish again.”

 

Fun with Doctors. They can’t all be good with people.

“You had a big jump in weight this month, don’t do it again.”

“You have a marginal cord, that just means it could get compressed and the baby could be in trouble. Have a great day.”

“Oh that? That’s a zit. Hang on, I’ll get it.”

 

Then there’s all the comparisons people make between your pregnancy and theirs, be it regarding sleeping, eating, nausea, mood swings, labor, women like to compare themselves to other women. But I’ll stop here.

 

 

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3636 Project Opens at Paxton Gate’s Kids in SF Friday, February 21

3636_project

36 antique spoons rebirthed by 36 artists. 3636 Project opens at Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids February 21. Reception 6-8pm. 766 Valencia Street (between 18th & 19th Streets).

The curator of the show, Courtney Cerruti, is always making the world around her more beautiful. She calls herself a maker extraordinaire and that she is. Doesn’t matter the medium (although I believe her heart is happiest dripping in paint) she’ll turn it into something magical. Somehow I managed to sneak an invite to participate in the show. Lucky for me, someone who wouldn’t dare call herself an artist (at least not in front of other artists), Courtney can see creativity in most people. I think it’s because she teaches so many workshops around the Bay Area and can bring out artistic qualities in all her students.

So here I am, with a spoon in the show, alongside 35 extremely talented artists. Here’s a peek at my spoon. Come check out the rest! Some are already teasing us on Instagram #3636project

spoon

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Flocking v Differentiation aka why I’m uncomfortable in IKEA

(image from Flickr Creative Commons)

I have a lot of anxiety around IKEA. For starters, it’s always packed full of grubby kids and Noah’s ark styled couples, you know, the kinds that dress alike. Second, they trap you on certain floors and sections, by making you go up an escalator with no way down, urging you to follow the yellow brick road through the store. I’ve solved these problems by never going on a weekend and entering the store through the exit (and first getting a $1 ice cream cone as extra incentive). Seana has already written on IKEA as a sore subject.

My biggest beef with IKEA, however, is that I really like their stuff. I go happily along picking new sheets and pillows and crap and then it hits me that millions of people have all this same crap in their homes. The cool style reinforces your belief that you are a unique individual with good taste but in reality you are unique just like everyone else buying this mass-produced consumer good. This tension has pecked at me for years but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I was listening to an episode of the Planet Money podcast today, Episode 457: Why Pink. In the episode they discuss how fashion trends occur and why copying is so prevalent (embraced even) by the fashion industry. The reason there may be 50 different kinds of denim shirts for sale in 2013, is that we all want to be accepted and fit in (flocking), yet we want to feel unique and like we have our own style (differentiation). Designers offer so many different iterations of what’s in right now so that you fit in, but allow you to select one piece to stand out from everyone else.

(image from Flickr Creative Commons)

I think this tension is most profound in IKEA because of its lack of direct competitors. Really, who else is in the affordable furniture biz. Target maybe? There is no middle market for furniture. The next step up, we’re talking about Design Within Reach and Room & Board, where a couch may go for $5000. Besides antique, vintage, estate sale type situations, the only place to go for affordable designerly furniture is IKEA, and thus the conundrum. There aren’t enough iterations to make me forget that I’m like everyone else, and to fool me into believing I’m a unique snowflake. They definitely have fresh, youthful, clean styles with some variety, yet lots of people I know will have the same exact thing, not a variant, the same exact thing. I walk into a new client’s office. Oh, that’s my coffee table. At my friend’s house, oh I have that rug. It’s too much flocking folks. I haven’t solved the problem of furniture & home goods differentiation, but I’ve identified a new piece of my Ikea-discomfort puzzle. And thus, a win.

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Do We Have a Right to Ad-free Entertainment?

During my winter break from school, I have been taking advantage of a sedentary, carefree lifestyle. I am slightly addicted to watching clips of Conan’s tbs talk show on youtube. I love watching Conan flutter around as his coif bounces.

conan

The only thing is the ads are out of control. Between me and Conan entertainment often stands a 30 second non-skippable ad. And this is just for a 2 minute clip. And if you watch most of the ad but then want to watch a different clip, you have to re-watch the ad. It is just infuriating and wasn’t nearly this bad before.

Spotify is a bit ad-happy as well. It is especially annoying that the ad volume is jacked way up compared to the volume of your music.

Hulu seems to be the bane of Brian’s existence. He hates the fact that if you have hulu plus, you still have to watch ads. He doesn’t actually have hulu plus, he still doesn’t like it to a point where he has almost black-listed it. (Brian black-lists many companies. If there is an annoying ad from a particular company, he will never buy anything from them every again.)

It is something me and Brian often argue about. I would always say having ads are not so bad because they are giving you a free service. Plus, when you have to watch tv you have to watch commercials anyways and at least hulu will tell you how long the commercial will last. Who am I that I get to watch hours and hours of free content and not have to watch a couple ads? At the same time, how much is the reasonable amount?

Happy New Year, btw. Instead of making a resolution, join me in complaining more.

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What do you do? A printable booklet for applied anthropologists

I usually cringe slightly when people I just meet at a dinner party ask, “So, what do you do?” Not because it’s very complicated, just because it’s a little amorphous. I created this booklet so that I can simply hand it to the person who asks. You can print your own copy by clicking the PDF below.

Here’s what it looks like:

page1

page2-3

page4-5

page6-7

page8

If you’re an anthropologist and would like to use this – Download your booklet here. Simply print out the two sheets. Fold each in half with the images facing outward. And then fold in half again. Slip the middle pages inside the cover and staple. Voila, your very own business card booklet. Don’t forget to add your own contact info on the back page!

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Permission to Play

First, a plug. My lovely and talented friend Courtney Cerruti just released her first book, Playing With Image Transfers.

Image_transfers_cover

And it is wonderful. Beautiful artwork, creative projects with clear “how to” instructions, and delightful personal anecdotes that give the book warmth. It would make a wonderful holiday present for kids and adults. Just saying.

In the trailer for the book, Courtney tells us that art can be made anytime. Art making doesn’t need the perfect setup. Don’t be too precious about it. She says that image transfers in particular give you permission to play and experiment.

I really like this idea of giving ourselves permission to play. I want to figure out how to do more playing. Playing with purpose, playing to make stuff, playing just to play.

I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t playing until I visited some friends who have a three year old. She started to make believe that she was driving me to a restaurant for breakfast, and we acted out the whole scene. From parking the car to ordering to picking up the bill. It was one of those things that you just had to put your whole heart into, otherwise it would have been boring and lame. So I did. I have to say I improvised the hell out of that restaurant scene.

I stayed with those friends for a couple weeks, so there was a lot of playing, and make believe in particular. A lot of times what you end up saying is garbage, it’s not witty or doesn’t make complete sense. But the three year old is actually quite forgiving and will go along with you. And sometimes you say something that is completely out of the blue improvised and it is just magic. Just effin perfect, something I could never have thought of if I sat down to think about it.

I’m trying to bring this to my writing and sketching. With drawing I usually go for portraits. I start with the eyes and never quite know who is going to appear. Sometimes, they are really ugly or just bad. But sometimes they are so so good. Again, something I would never have made if I sat down and tried to do it.

lovetriangle

These are some improvised sketches.

If you draw a turd, just turn the page and move on. So I encourage you to try playing. Playing like you did when you were little, and to not care about looking like an ass in the process.

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Back to School in More Ways Than One

The first back to school was last month. My building had an Artists’ Open House, aptly named “Back to School,” since we live in a school and all. It is always a little scary opening your home up to random people off the street but it was a success for sure! I even sold a copy of our zine — “Growing Up Half Ass(yrian).” Brian showed off his woodworking skills, and I promoted this blog with spiked punch of course.

openhouse

spikedpunch

The second back to school is my graphic design program, of which we just finished the first half of the first quarter. Apparently, I didn’t get enough college the first time around. It dawned on me that has been almost 10 years since the last time I was a freshman in college but only now am I getting the college experience I always wanted. The program of course, is great. The people have cool stories and shoes to match, plus the faculty actually knows what they are doing! But my apartment building also has that collaborative, college vibe as well. Propped up doors with neighbors wandering in for a few beers is not unusual, especially you have a nostalgic record going and the Altered Beast plugged in. Since we are all artists, it gives us the chance to work on projects together.

In any case, better late then never.

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When the hipsters co-opt your lifestyle

klein

“Where did you get this?” Seana’s man-friend says to me, nervously pawing the Klein tools bag that I’m using as a purse. “You didn’t buy it at Urban Outfitters or something did you?”

“No. I stole it from S who bought it at the hardware store.”

He lets out a billowing sigh, “Well, that’s a relief.”

“It’s the hipsters,” Seana whispers, “they’ve taken over everything he’s into.”

It’s true. I look around their loft space, speckled by unintentional hipster goodness. The work boots, home-jarred peaches & pickles, and cans of PBR for starters. The wood working projects, shaggy curly hair (on head and face), and record player for seconds. And Seana isn’t helping, with her zeal for vintage clothing (which she posts on her shop GrandmaISH) and furniture that she has reupholstered with fabrics of teals and oranges harking back to the 60s and 70s.

“It’s bad enough. The shoes, food, drinks that are now all expensive…but not my Klein bags.” He launches into a story about his first Klein tools bag, which was white and glorious. He’ll send me a photo of it later. “They make really nice tools…and bags.” He looks wistful.

I’m not sure, but I think he’s mainly annoyed that his favorite things and areas of genuine interest are now trendy and expensive, meaning less available and accessible for himself. It must be annoying as hell, because he’s not spending his Saturday nights pickling and freezing homemade chicken stock because it’s cute and ironic. My guess is that he does it because that’s how he’s always done it. That’s how his papa did it, and his papa before him. Because hand-made, good quality things are just plain good. I keep thinking about what will happen when the hipsters move on. I mean, they won’t be wearing plano glasses and skinny jeans forever, right? What will happen to the folks whose interests and objects were taken over and then discarded? Will the originators of these trends then be seen as passé? Will the hipster items go back to being cheap or will they become obscure and difficult to find, even more expensive? Should we start hoarding Chucks now? I think they will move on. And when they do, watch out! The hipsters may be out for you and your lifestyle next.