Sunday, July 16, 2017

Gorillaz, Time Capsules & Brandless Shopping

Weekly Update 2017-29: The hypnotic new music from virtual band Gorillaz, pinpointing specific time periods in popular culture, and a new sustainable take on the grocery shopping experience.

Music: Gorillaz
How is it that a virtual band created in 1998 still has the ability to sell out huge stadiums for shows, and even create a whole music festival almost 20 years later? The secret sauce to the amazing success and catchy tunes of Gorillaz is, of course, Damon Albarn. Music genius that he is, Albarn has released the next instalment of Gorillaz' adventure through the universe called Humanz. Like the other albums before it, Humanz is star-studded with vocals to help Albarn bring his virtual band to life including Grace Jones, De La Soul, Popcaan, Kali Uchis, Vince Staples and so many more. The album takes a more soul/funk turn than past albums, and I am personally loving the journey. How difficult would it be to make a Halloween costume of Murdoc Niccals, I wonder?

My current favourites are Strobelite, Charger and She's My Collar.

I made a little timelapse of 30 minutes of logo creation for the Check In App project, which I thought might be a nice little piece of process work to include with the project. I love the way people use social media to display their process (no matter the work they do) like painting, cooking, or even editing music, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon myself.

I've also been working on a small redesign of my portfolio site, thinking about archiving some projects and adding new ones. I think 12 projects is probably too much so I'd like to whittle it down to six or so and treat them more as case studies with process. I'm also making a new splash's a teaser.
The face may look a little familiar to you. And I was thinking of playing around with dropdowns for my bio. Select a different option and be taken to a product page or blog post. (Right now all of the options for the last one take you to your email client...but maybe I could send people to my instagram or something too?

This week I want to start recoding the footer on my website. I can improve the grid and the responsiveness, so I'm going to start from scratch and do it right.

I also have a meeting for FriendCanoe on Tuesday, so I'll be working on that as well.

Random Thought:
I was watching Fargo (the television show) the other day, and thinking about how interesting it is that the third season is set in 2010, a time really not very long ago and yet distinctly different from the world we live in now. People were just starting to use Facebook in a widespread way to find out personal information about each other, and even use that to blackmail people and steal identities.

Dastardly stuff. To use such a recent and yet distant phenomenon as a plot device is something I find so whimsical. It's interesting to think about a show whose setting is only 7 short years ago, as a period piece. But that's what it feels like! And the clothing, like a pair of huge fur mukluk boots, seemingly so hideous now, made me remember that I also had a pair of those boots.

Perhaps it's interesting simply because it wasn't so long ago that I can't fathom it, or because I actually lived through it myself. But in any case, Fargo does it well.

Inspiration: Brandless
So it's 2017. Are you still shopping in a real store? I wrote a post a while ago about virtual stores, and it appears my prediction is correct. With the onset of Amazon Go, allowing shoppers to select their items and be charged automatically when they skip the checkout line and simply walk out the front door, why not push the idea even further and order all your food online?

Suddenly, a new competitor enters the ring: Brandless. Launched less than a week ago and based in San Francisco and Minneapolis, you can make all your grocery store purchases through this online store selling generic, high quality products with no brand. Think No Name or Great Value: cheaper prices by losing the brand, and even cheaper when removing the brick-and-mortar store from the equation.

Did I mention every single product is only $3? Affordable, accessible, and beautiful to boot. Someone knows the value of good design.

Pretty much every product is organic, recycled, environmentally conscious, all the good things in life. This way of shopping makes things much more sustainable.

Can I just take a moment to say that the lack of a brand; rendering a brand “brandless”, is inherenty a brand? Therefore this is one of the most interesting brands I have seen in a long time. Really makes you think.

Currently, Brandless is testing the waters with only packaged food and supplies, but has plans to break out into fresh food soon. Check out their website here.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Gonjasufi, Happy Cities & Christie Pits Film Festival

Weekly Update 2017-28: The hypnotic voice of psych-rapper Gonjasufi, what makes cities feel more personal, and the champion's struggle at the Christie Pits Film Festival.

Music: Gonjasufi
Otherwise known by his “real name” Sumach Ecks, Gonjasufi is an American vocalist, producer, disc jockey, actor and yoga teacher who has a hypnotic sound (beats produced by Flying Lotus), think lo-fi psychedelic beats with a low, croaky vocal tone. Ecks describes his vocal style as a product of his day job as a yoga instructor, learning to project from his belly.

It's weird, it's soulful, it's intriguing. Check out Duet and Ancestors.

I've been hard at work writing up case studies for some projects, figuring out what pieces I'm missing from other projects, and thinking about how to best present them on my website. Costing things and setting achievable weekly goals has been working well.

This week, I want to fix my portfolio's code - the layout of pieces, the pieces I display, and the footer. I've lost my grid and I need to put it back in place.

I also need to practice chanting my torah portion as we have another meeting with the cantor this week to check on progress! Fun.

Random Thought:
I keep saying I'm not using my hands enough to make crafts and do more analog processes - I wonder if I should start a stricter regimen where I set aside a day to do something with my hands, once per week. It feels good to make something and then see it in existence, which might actually be something I find missing from my job. I wonder if that's a normal thing to expect in a creative field, that you should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour (in my case, digital solutions making people happy). Or is it that it's harder to see people enjoying and using my work because it's digital, wherein if my work was real and physical, I could have that sort of feedback? Something to test, for sure.

What makes a happy city? Ask 100 people and you'll get 101 answers. In my own opinion, I think it's the way a city can be designed to encourage tiny happy social occurrences more often. Things like parks, benches, patios, outdoor events, things that bring people together to share in their community.

All the fun, weird, quirky free events that bring people together for no good reason and for every good reason; those are the things I like about a city. Portland especially has lots of outdoor patios so that people can interact with each other in more meaningful ways, and a special love for cycling that in itself allows people to interact more personally in their day to day lives. I guess I'm so inspired by the inclusiveness in all senses of the word that Portland offers, and that I am noticing more and more in Toronto as well.

Take for example the Christie Pits Film Festival. Open air, PWYC, in a wheelchair and TTC accessible location, and with movies that make a statement. Plus, the event showcases food from around the city with a couple of rotating food trucks. Not to mention, their branding is so nice.

This year's theme is "the champion".

The festival will run every Sunday at 6:00pm in Christie Pits Park. Check out the website here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Part Time, Design Slices & Glow

Weekly Update 2017-27: Grooving to 80s glam rock-inspired synth pop from Part Time, passionate slices of design, and GLOW, the 80s wrestling-inspired show that demands your attention.

Music: Part Time
What began as a side project alongside David Speck's many other musical gigs in Austin, soon picked up speed with its lo-fi synth pop vocals and cheap Casio beats. Its slightly off-kilter rhythms with a dash of 80s carried me on a cloud through the streets of Portland last week.

Check out Pussy of my Dreams, Night Drive, and Useless Information.

As promised last week, I have created somewhat of a long-term plan for landing a design job in Portland. I've outlined individual steps down to a matter of days each, which will hopefully be a small enough chunk-size to keep me motivated. I should reward myself with something small at the end of every completion as well.

This week I'll be focusing on creating a case study project out of my work on the EventMobi Check In app. Now that the project is in a completed state, including the Medium article reflection on the process, I thought it might be time to think of it as a part of my collection of work. Furthermore if I am really ambitious for the future, it might be a fun project to learn a coding language like React and see if I can build the app myself. I don't think it's too complicated from a logic perspective; its value is in its user experience.

In terms of costing, I'd like to set concrete, achievable goals for this week, taking into account activities that will take away from my free time to work. I foresee about three hours of free time this week, only because Sunday has the bulk of it and I need to devote that time to what I'll be doing for FriendCanoe. So in that three hours of time, I hope to write out an introduction and explanation of the problem, as well as refine the competitor research I did into something workable. If I get really ambitious, my stretch goal is to recode my website in a new orientation I've been thinking about.

Random Thought:
Now that I've reflected fully on all of the events that happened in Portland, I've been able to step back and do some proper thinking about my next steps (as mentioned above). One thing I know for sure is that I want to find the slice of design that I feel most passionate about. While I love user experience design, I am having a few doubts that product design is the right channel for my brain to expel its love of UX. I really like the idea of users being fully immersed in the work that I do, so much that they want to focus only on it, with no distraction. I haven't decided if that's a clue to the next direction to try, or just a vocalized emotion that everyone wishes for; to be taken notice of.

Inspiration: GLOW
In the world in which we now find ourselves, I feel more and more confused each day about people's different interpretations of feminism and the judgement that happens between women more often than it should. I know this sounds really strange but I feel like Netflix's new series GLOW actually helps in unpacking what it means to be a minority, cleverly drawing parallels between what it is to be a woman/person of colour/non-human spirit in the United States in the present day and the time in which the show is set, the early 1980s.

GLOW stands for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (no, I'm not joking) and the premise involves the making of a wrestling show featuring women in the 80s, which is actually based on a true story. Alison Brie of Mad Men and Community fame stars in a role both genuinely witty and profoundly sad, depending on the episode.

If not for the storyline, at least watch it for the beautiful costumes and hair styling. I love period pieces.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Keep Portland Weird vol.4

Volume 4: Last week I made my second pilgrimage to my home away from home, Portland OR. Land of the hipster, the weird, the accepting and the best artisanal/multicultural food in the United States, I hope to live there some day and took this trip to get a little more used to the place before making the jump.

Check out Volume 1Volume 2, and Volume 3 here.

Last episode, I ate the most delicious breakfast sandwich in the world, went back to N Mississippi area for some spiritual tea, tacos and the store that sells nothing but light bulbs, and saw an art exhibit involving collage and lasagna. Also, peanut butter poutine from the same place I got it in 2013!

My last full day in Portland was truly lovely. Today I didn't have a set timeframe for anything, so I could take my time and get in a full day of pretty much whatever I wanted. Since it was Saturday, I was excited to go to famous Saturday Market by the river, which I had been to last time and had really enjoyed. There was also the World Naked Bike Ride later that day, which was also going to be momentous.

I began with a stroll west on NE Alberta (though my timing was off again as nothing was open yet except some bakeries).

On someone's front yard stoop:

They left a piece of chalk out so I left a comment :)

There are so many murals on NE Alberta.

I stopped in a bakery to get an extremely delicious Blueberry Coffee Cake muffin, the likes of which I could have eaten seven more.

I had a chat with this guy about muffins. He let me take a picture of his beautiful shirt.

Blueberry coffee cake muffin. So good.

Pine State Biscuits (a restaurant I had loved last time we visited) was very close to where I was staying, and it already had a huge line at 9:30am. I made a note to come here the next day before my flight since it opened at 7am and I had to get up on the earlier side anyway.

Another weird ATM.

I grabbed a bus across the bridge to the Saturday Market. As soon as I entered, I knew I didn't have enough cash on me. Thankfully many places took credit. This was where the dreams of perfect presents for my family were MADE. I got something amazing and perfect for everyone in my family...except my dad. He's a toughie because he already has everything in terms of weird tchotchkes. Anyway more on that later.

A crazy storefront - I think this might have been an ad agency?

Some cool posters with beloved TV shows and quotes. Above - Gilmore Girls.


Fruit with that Mexican fruit spice I've seen some people put on everything.

Really extreme phone rings.

Crazy keychains.

A guy playing an accordion.

The most amazing thing - dice that allow you to select a random episode of a series to decide what to watch. Really cool idea.

And the guy who sells them!

An old machine that this guy uses to make custom jewelry.

Disney coffee sleeves! I bought Snow White for my sister.

It came with a macaron - I believe this was strawberry ginger.

The most frickin' amazing smelling soaps in the world. I literally stood there smelling the soaps for ten minutes.

This girl uses all kinds of interesting tools to make the ceramic shapes she has.

Rings made from coins!

A homemade realistic version of the game of life.

A wee sample of fruit salad cider!

This lady loves asparagus.

More cool soaps.

Bolo ties!

The guy who makes beautiful jewelry out of chain mail.

I got the most freaking amazing caprese sandwich from a lovely man named Vincent. He graciously made me a half-order sandwich (though he told me he won't do it for anyone else) which allowed me to eat my next meal only an hour later (hashtag blessed).

Cute little empanada truck <3

My next stop was Pine Street Market, which the lovely Stella Ichsan of Nucleus Portland recommended to me. The building in itself is a wonder. The building's history (from their website):
Pine Street Market, which opened in the spring of 2016, is located in downtown Portland in the historic Carriage & Baggage Building and features nine of Portland's best chefs and purveyors, in a casual, open layout. 
Built in 1886, the Carriage & Baggage Building was originally used as a livery and horse-drawn carriage storage facility until the early 1900s. With horse stalls on the second floor and four massive tanks on the roof that provided water to wash the stalls, the building was essentially a horse and carriage parking garage. 
When the automobile replaced the horse-drawn carriage, the building was used as storage and retail for Mallory Logging and Contractors Supplies for decades. From 1969 to 1981, the building was home to the original Portland’s Old Spaghetti Factory. Since the early 80’s, the ground floor housed a string of infamous Portland nightclubs. 
Listed on the National Register of Historic places, the Carriage & Baggage building is one of the few examples of a Portland livery. The massive Doug Fir timber frame structure has been retrofitted to modern seismic requirements and has retained the original skylight at the roof.
 Amongst other things, there is a Korean/Southern BBQ fusion restaurant, an experimental offshoot of Salt & Straw called Wiz Bang Bar (crazy soft serve flavours with fresh-baked pastry toppings only), a Mexican/Spanish Tapas bar, the list goes on.

But I was only there for one thing.

In my opinion, the gem of the whole place was a very, very special ramen bar. Marukin Ramen is one of Tokyo’s most distinct and popular mid-sized specialty ramen chains, open since 1994. Marukin has nine locations in Japan and brings one of its first stateside locations to Pine Street Market, that being the second in Portland, as well as the second outside Japan.

I met two lovely Japanese people, the woman visiting from Arizona and the man living in Portland. They told me they were both originally from Japan, and I asked if they'd ever been to a Marukin in Japan. They replied, “why would we? This one is so much closer.” I liked that answer. The man told me that when I moved to Portland, he would help me move. He is a pastor, and assured me he would bring lots of friends to help, too. That was nice :)

I got in the not-so-long line at Wiz Bang Bar to get a sample of their soft serve (I had learned from two days prior at the other location - they are not stingy on the samples!), which was totally worth it. Elderflower lemon soft serve ice cream. SO good. I also got a 50 cent chocolate pastry because I needed to break a bill for the bus the next day and it was small enough that I would still be hungry soonish. Yep, that was the name of the game on my trip.

From the market I decided I had enough time to go back to NW 23rd Avenue to see more of the shops around there. I bussed to the top of the street so I could mosey around and walk downhill as I went. I was on the hunt for a present for my father (though at this point I figured I would find him something at one of the cool vintage shops in SE Belmont before I visited Nucleus). I checked out a cool new-age sort of shop that carried the glass jellyfish I got for Erika for her birthday. Ideas!

I went into a store that was literally just choc-ful of stuff. Some new, some old, all kinda weird.

A most delicious pomegranate/peach iced tea with popping mango bobba. Delish.

A men's clothing store had Pin Bot in it!!!

Enamel pins.

On my way back to the bus to get to Nucleus in SE Belmont, I grabbed some Okonomiyaki Tater Tots at a ramen shop. It was really cute in there!

Probably a bit stinky for the bus, but I didn't care. So tasty.

I ate them on the bus to Nucleus, and found I had time to find my dad a good present in a vintage store...that kind of looked like his basement. It was nice. I guess if you have a good idea of what you want, the guys who work there can find it for you. Otherwise it's a mess.

I found this wonderful little wooden puzzle box that even the shopkeeper didn't know how to open. I haven't had a chance to give it to my dad yet but it's quite maddening. I actually had a dream that I opened it last night. Still no luck.

From there I walked across the street to my last design-related stop of the trip: Nucleus Portland. Stella Ichsan runs a gallery, shop, and bar out of a lovely space with a great backdrop mural by Brendan Monroe.

Apparently we were in the height of Pokemon Go fever when he painted the mural...

And they have sooooo many enamel pins for sale. I couldn't help myself about bought TWO. Stella runs weekly Drink & Draws out of the space, which is really cool because it's such a good way for creatives to hang out and network in a cool low-pressure setting. Plus, you can learn a lot about someone through the things they draw.

The lovely work on display by Maxwell McMaster.

The cute couple.

From there I continued on my bus adventure to Fernhill Park in NE to see the amazing World Naked Bike Ride. I had been hearing various opinions of the event all week during my time in Portland, ranging from “what a strange thing to do” to “have they no shame?!” to “I'll get my camera” along with all the generally positive commentary, but there seemed to be a general lack of understanding from the people who didn't want to participate. So much more than an excuse to get naked for the sake of being weird, the event is actually a deliciously wacky form of protest for real issues.

Bare As You Dare: Portland's World Naked Bike Ride from Ian McCluskey on Vimeo.

Basically, reason #1 is to rid ourselves of the horrible dependency on oil, and to create a space of acceptance of each other. The idea of this huge safe space for people to be as naked and free as they want is something I just can't resist.


A Maracatu! Like my drumming band in Toronto :)

Still clothed.

Not pictured: a man riding naked on a horse (yes the horse was also naked), a bunch of Mario Kart characters complete with three balloons each, and a man riding a bicycyle pulling a full tiki bar with a dj booth in it.

I didn't participate this year beyond taking lots of pictures and meeting lots of cool people, but the energy was magnetic enough to make me want to participate fully in years to come.

Bonus: the lost and found pile after the event was said and done:

Someone thought they'd be able to plug in a vibrator? Amazing!

After all the excitement, I walked home to pack for my flight home the next day. On the way, I grabbed a slice of pizza at a cool late-night pizza joint on NE Alberta. This was delicious.

Some guys chatting while one of them changes the marquee for the movie theater,

Aww cute sleepy pizza!

It was arugula, pecorino, some other deliciousness, crust.

The shop also had some great city culture magazines that I took home to learn more about the culture scene in Portland. And that pretty much concludes my trip in Portland! I ate at a rate of about three times my normal consumption, got the BEST gifts for my family (I am usually so crappy at that), and met so many wonderful people. I have made a pledge to myself that next time I travel to Portland, I'm staying.

Check out Volume 1Volume 2, and Volume 3 here.