Thursday, April 30, 2015

Designing for all the senses

As I transition from school into the working world, more and more people have been asking me "what do you do?" or "what sort of work are you pursuing?", at which point I attempt my explanation of design as a general topic and a lens through which we view our world. The eyes are certainly glazing over by the third or fourth sentence out of my mouth, which has led me to think of new ways to explain the importance of design to someone who may not understand its wide reaches.

Yesterday, I was record shopping with a friend in Rotate This on Queen, and he pointed out all of the band logos on the concert posters that graffiti the walls of the store. Some genres, especially metal, can be identified with a quick glance. Just take a look at the poster below and notice how all of the band logos not only look the same, but are all equally unintelligible. I mean, come on. The names of the bands had to be printed below their silly tree-branch logos in order for people to be able to identify who was playing the show.

Off of that tangent, this same friend (who is in a band himself – though they play math rock, not metal) asked me how I felt about band logos in general. Is it good to have a logo that adorns your merchandise and advertising, or should you let other artistic elements take the visual lead on an otherwise mainly olfactory experience? After thinking about this for a moment, I decided that while our five human senses are very different from each other, they are the same in other ways. Follow me down this rabbit hole:

Brand loyalty is what advertising runs on. If a company can snag you from your first visit (for whatever reason, whatever they sell), they'll have you forever. And every time you see their logo, you'll think about the pleasure they bestowed upon you and that feeling will become synonymous with the logo. The world's most classic example of this is those delicious little golden arches. 

That cute little yellow-and-red logo is the beacon of my late-night Saturday and the hero of my early morning road trip. I know their food is bad for me; I probably only eat it once or twice a month (see, not so bad!), but I feel comforted by the brand and whenever I see it, I get the taste of those addictive fries in my mouth. That's brand loyalty.

So, back to my rant about our five senses. If taste is strong enough to cause a logo to put the taste of fries in my mouth, why can't a band logo be strong enough to put the sound of my favourite band in my head? And, from this half-assed analysis, I conclude that a band logo is important for brand recognition and fan loyalty. That said, I find that album artwork is so varied these days that this logo doesn't really have to exist on every album cover, but I imagine it moreso on festival posters, merchandise, concert ticket stubs, that sort of thing. This is one area where, surprisingly or not, DJs have their bases covered.

This poster makes more sense to me...

...than this one.

You can find your favourite bands more easily when searching for the shape of a logo, and the DJ names are (mostly) clear and well-defined. Good job, dubstep! If only your music sounded as good as the music coming to Wayhome. (Sorry!)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weekly Update - Finito!

Music: Slow Magic - How To Run Away

This album is a wonderfully complete experience from start to end. With echoey rhythms, 8-bit anthems and the occasional breakbeat, there's a little bit of a lot of different electronic genres. Apparently, the complex sound of Slow Magic is comprised of a single DJ in a rainbow wolf mask. I feel like electronic music is as much about the image of performers as it is about the sound...but hey, that keeps it interesting, right?

I originally found this DJ on Starbucks radio, where I discover a surprising amount of bands these days! Someone once told me that the curators of Starbucks cafe music (at least the summer playlists) pick bands that are going to play the big festivals – and lo and behold – the band has just been announced to play Wayhome! Another win for me! I should also note at this point that they are the only one of the entire list of bands announced last week that I actually recognize (other than Neil Young of course!)

Can't wait to dance to this in...88 days! Give or take. Check out this diddy:

Oh, I don't know. Maybe the fact that I FINISHED SCHOOL!! Finally, finally, I am no longer chained by the shackles of York University. Saddeningly, neither am I chained by Sheridan College. I tore down my grad show display on Tuesday, had my wisdom teeth removed on Wednesday, and booked some interviews on Thursday. Now, to dazzle the masses with my newly honed design skills, and we'll call it a day. 

As I move out of 'homework' phase and into 'self-perpetuated projects' phase, I want to make sure I keep my goals clear. While I will be pursuing full-time work in a more 9-to-6 (yes, they've expanded the working day by an hour), I still want to find time to work on my own projects and aspirations outside of those hours. 

While I will still be posting updates on Sunday or Monday, I will now also be giving myself a specific task each week, and planning a day in which to complete that task. You know my love of rigidity. 

Now may also be a good time to declare that, yes, I did miss a week of updates, but we can chalk that up to finishing my projects and working on grad show like a madman, right? Great.

So this week's assignment is this: I want to update my portfolio site. The following things need to be done:
  • add text to Downfall By Numbers that matches the pdf I handed in
  • rework processing sketch to match branding of the poster (i.e. find a typeface with weights)
  • re-record gifs to match
  • upload sketch to
  • replace square link of CMHA
And when will I be doing this? Tomorrow night, of course! Gotta get my goals on the go, right? Let's pray I can get it all done in time for Tuesday morning, when I will be presenting it in a formal setting.

Random Thought:
With all the drugs I've been awarded in light of having my wisdom teeth removed, I had some pretty funky thoughts. Unfortunately, those thoughts are all lost to the winds now. But I did write one down that I thought was a true winner. I was watching Game of Thrones (no spoilers, I promise) and a character was contemplating their inevitable death. What sort of legacy would they leave when it was time to face their end? How would they be remembered? This character believed that to become truly memorable, in days I would compare akin to medieval times, their plights would be sung by minstrels for centuries to come. In songs. I had a brilliant thought – in those times, songs were the equivalent to our movies! How would your heroic actions be best remembered nowadays? In a movie! Everyone would go and see it, there'd be a huge buzz about who would play you, the whole deal. I know it isn't earth-shattering, but I thought it would make a pretty good Sudden Clarity Clarence, if I do say so myself.

Have you every heard of MyIdol? It's this weird craze from China – a mobile app that creates an almost-perfect, yet slightly off avatar of you, of which you can then take pictures or videos to send to your friends. As I said, the results are ever-so-slightly off, which can lead to terrifying results. But I have to say that many of my friends have created avatars that look exactly like them, as sort of 3D avatar-land versions, anyways. 

The beautiful Jon Snow from Game of Thrones

Jay-Z and Beyonce

And a very terrifying Bart Simpson.

And...mine. Not so good. I am still working on it, OK!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creativity in Spring

I love Spring for so many reasons! Other than the obvious stuff about flowers and rain and warmth (and my birthday), Spring seems to be when people's creative energy comes into full bloom. And with that comes art fairs and cultural happenings!

A long-standing tradition I uphold is to get my cultural fill of all that Toronto has to offer in April and May. So here's my shortlisted guide for things to check out in the sunny months ahead:

Holy Trinity Anglican Church Rummage Sale - April and October
Happening biannually just off Yonge and between Centre and Clark in Richmond Hill lies the best church sale I have ever been to. Every time I go, I find a bunch of hidden gems. Here's the deal: I line up sometime around 8:00 AM for the doors which open at 9:00. I am generally the youngest person at the sale by about 40 years. You've got your cute little old ladies with their sharp little elbows, your "American Pickers" looking for a lamp with a two-dollar label that they can flip for $200, and then there's me.

I get in there and go straight for the clothing. This is a godsend to anyone needing some smart office clothing for a new job (although I'm probably leading the horse before the cart on that front). Anything you can stuff into a medium-sized garbage bag - and close - is yours for a flat seven dollars. Still a great deal, but it used to be five dollars. Oh well, we can't live in the past. Not to mention, you can't hesitate, much less try anything on. If you spend even a single moment deciding whether to grab an item or not, odds are that it will get snatched up by someone else. So I stuff anything remotely good-looking into my garbage bag without a second thought.

This year, some winners were a DKNY dress, a MAX studio dress, and an authentic Danier leather jacket. In a bright yellow tone. Why not! My favourite part of the whole thing is when I get home and remember all of the treasures that I stuffed into the bag. There are so many and it happens so fast that you can really forget about a great item until you find it later. And I am always mesmerized at how well everything fits me. I guess it comes with practice.

That's a winner!

City of Craft - April and December
If you like tiny artisan-made items that are one-of-a-kind and overall awesome, check out the City of Craft sale. I always find something wonderful (which I have mentioned in a previous blog post!), and this year, I decided to blow $40 on a two-foot crocheted cactus to match my little one. Happy birthday to me! Other wonderful treasures to be found include greeting cards, vintage clothing and housewares, plants, edible sweets, jewellery and more. And for a one dollar entrance fee, you really can't go wrong.

Jane's Walk - May 1, 2 & 3
Do you love walking tours? I definitely do. Coming up in a couple of weekends is the annual Jane's Walk in Toronto (they are all over the world), which features a list of great walking tours. The leaders of the tours are self-described experts in whatever they choose to theme their walk on, and they're all free. You just meet at a specific spot, and you get some culture. It sort of goes hand-in-hand with the idea behind my Hear & Now app. Learn more about the city you live in through the eyes of another person. Everyone has their secret little corner of the city!

Some selections of mine include the Leslie Street Spitpublic art in the city, and art and parks hidden between buildings. It'll be fun! Even if it rains!

Doors Open Toronto - May 23 & 24
Another annual event that happens all over, but Toronto has its own dedicated weekend. Doors Open is exactly what it sounds like. Lots of different establishments around the city open their doors to the public to get a good look around. Certainly a must-see for the dangerously curious. The establishments can be anything from religious centres to factories to residences. Last year I visited a water pumping station, a jail, an architectural firm, and Corus key. This year, who knows! Not to mention, my record for places visited in one day is seven. See if you can top that!

My selections include Denegri Bessai StudioThe Aga Khan Museum, CJ Skateboard Park, Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, Gilda's Club, and High Park's Greenhouses.

And as a bonus, I have never been to Allan Gardens. It's open every day of the year and has no admission, so this is my year for that. I love greenhouses and looking at beautiful gardens (probably because I can't really grow anything myself!)

Lots to do!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Weekly Update - Bold Lines

Music: Metronomy
As a teenager, Joseph Mount began a music project from his bedroom in his parents' house that would later become Metronomy, a four-piece electronic and pop band. While their ratings do not reflect their somewhat underground fanbase, I am in love with their music. It's sort of like mixing a digitally-based, yet melodic collection of machine noises with syrupy vocals about love and loss. You've got the two opposite ends of the spectrum, and they fit together like a wrinkly hand in a velvety glove. My only regret is that I missed two of their shows last year, and I hear that their live stuff is amazing. In their beginnings, Mount once bought some small push-lights at a dollar store and taped them to the band's chests while they danced their choreographed dance. What a thing to miss!

Their music videos are also very stylized and beautiful. Check this one out, off 2011's The English Riviera.

I gave myself a lot to do last week, and by George it's almost finished!

Her motion work - finished! And a bonus credit to my social media standing. I handed it in on a recycled DVD my friend gave me when he was an 'internet pirate' for Halloween.

Causes of Death - finished! Also added to my website, complete with animated GIFs and promotional poster.

Upfront Magazine bound, and an extra Favourite Things just in case. You never know who might come in and man-handle your projects! I'd see it as a compliment, really.

Hear & Now updated for Marvel, and embedded on my website.

Expo 2025 transported to Marvel from DPS (because who even has access to that anyway), and embedded on my website.

And I'll be printing all of it on Thursday. I realized I will also need some illustration board to mount everything, and some sticky dots to get it all attached. Those will be acquired tomorrow. What an accomplishment!

I have quite a bit of freelance to catch up on after all of this grad show business is done. By next week, I need all of this done:

  • Encore invoice for website fixes and dashboard
  • Design Lattitudes map complete, with tooltips designed
  • Award competitions - ADAA early bird is due Friday, ADCC extended to April 24

Random Thought:
If you are in any way connected to a creative profession, odds are that you understand the fact that design touches literally everything man-made. From the way the toothbrush fits in your hand as you sleepily brush your teeth, to the bottle you squeeze the mayonnaise out of onto your sandwich, to the switch you reach for to turn off the lamp as you drift off to sleep. All of this is designed. Everything we interact with throughout our day has been thought of, iterated, and intentionally made to be used in exactly the way you're using it (hopefully). And if the designer did a good job, you probably didn't think about it at all. Good design is so natural that the measure of success comes from a lack of realization that an item was actually designed. I think that's why simple design is generally considered the best. Maybe I should start thinking about ways to simplify my life by design. Do I really need fifteen pairs of shoes? Well...options are good, too.

Inspiration: Meg Robichaud
Another Dribbble gem I found is the illustration of Meg Robichaud. Gotta love those bold lines! The main thing I love about what she does is the subtle shadow on an otherwise flat (yet lovely in its flatness) vectorized drawing style. A little gleam here or a small shadow there really makes her illustrations pop in a way I adore.

The one above is really special. She drew her father at different stages of his life. I love the progression of his facial hair and the hats and sunglasses he chose. I think my father would make an equally good candidate for this kind of thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Open Data & Traffic Congestion

If you live, work, or even occasionally visit Toronto's downtown core, you already know that traffic congestion is a constant problem. Driving is a hectic, scary mess and public transit is even worse, unless you have some sort of penchant for elbows in your face and an array of weird and equally repelling smells.

On March 31, TomTom (known for their GPS devices - one of which I used to get around Buffalo last week without a hitch) released its 5th annual Traffic Index, the most accurate barometer of traffic congestion in over 200 cities worldwide. As I looked at it, I noticed two things.

1) How interesting that a GPS manufacturer would take such lengths to create interactive data visualizations surrounding traffic conditions. I suppose traffic monitoring is an important feature to get right in a GPS device, among all the free options such as Google Maps for mobile and Waze. You might say that the whole project enforces TomTom's USP – using research and data to get you where you need to go. At least, that's how I see it.

2) Our lovely hometown, Toronto, ranks #47 in traffic congestion worldwide, and second in Canada after Vancouver at #20. The gap isn't that big, either.

After TomTom released this year's Index, Mayor John Tory released a plan he had been hatching that would attempt to fix the traffic problems we are having. He also referred to our position on TomTom's Index, stating that he was "embarrassed" about our standing.

But what I really want to talk about is the most interesting fact; that Tory's plan to fix these problems is largely based in open data. That's the spirit! I have always been a big proponent of open data, freely sharing research is imperative to the overall improvement of our world. This goes hand-in-hand with free healthcare and open-source application development. With complete and total access to all the research that everyone is doing, we can save time and effort by working together to solve those big pesky problems like traffic congestion. Even simple fixes like coordinating traffic lights to turn at the same time, and easing traffic flow by shortening or lengthening green lights in specific directions can only be done by analyzing trends in traffic flow as they stand today. And that can only happen if the data is openly available.

The plan, which you can find here, speaks of multiple actions that will be taken to attempt to solve the problems on our streets. The first actions will include:

  • partnering with McMaster University to analyze historical travel data on city expressways and streets 
  • working with the TTC to closely analyze surface transit data to identify operational improvements to further improve streetcar service 
  • releasing a report from the Cycling Unit of Transportation Services evaluating cycling travel patterns based on data collected from its cycling tracking app -- showing the impacts of Cycletracks 
  • developing a Big Travel Data strategy for Transportation Services to determine ways to make this type of information available, and 
  • vetting products and services that might be useful in assisting the city in better decision making and investments
In addition to those items, the city is seeking a data and transportation specialist to hire as their team lead, as well as proposals for products that can monitor traffic patterns. Vendors of these products will meet with city representatives at an event showcase on April 14 and 15.

What's most exciting to me is that the city is also planning an open data hackathon for September. I would love the chance to enter into another hackathon, especially relating to something so close to home. Everyone has their own opinion about what could improve traffic in the city, and with access to all of the data collected, this really sounds like something special.

But for now, I'll just have to wait and see what develops.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Weekly Update - Marimekko

Music: Com Truise
This is a fun one. First and foremost, if you were looking for more synths than you ever thought you would need, look no further. Seth Haley is the 80's revival musician of your dreams. There is so much electronic dance wonderment that I just don't know what to do. Not to mention that his stage name is a spoonerism of "Tom Cruise," which taught me something new and gave me something to work it out on the dancefloor to as well. And the most special-est thing about Com Truise is that he is the first in a long line of the bands I am beginning to discover in my almost-religious preparation for my pilgrimage to Wayhome Festival in July. I can't wait to force my 80's New Wave-loving mother to listen to this diddy.

I think I've narrowed down my projects and where they're going to be displayed. I think it'll be really important to get viewers to see more on their phones (thank god for smartphones and data), so I will be including a lot of (tidy) URLs to urge them to check more out on my portfolio site. And hey, once a URL is typed into a phone, it's in your browser history! Falling right into my clutches...haha.

Favourite Things - poster on board, book on table, website on MacBooks.
Causes of Death - poster on board.
Expo 2025 - poster on board, app prototype on my phone (let's chat about my app!), animation on iPad
    > I may remake the app prototype in Marvel or Invision
Hear & Now - poster on board, app prototype on my phone and screens on the iPad
    > Perhaps a link right to the shareable Marvel prototype
Upfront Magazine - book on table
Flora & Fauna - plant on table
Her Motion Work - on iPad and Macs

And what is the goal, you may ask?

I want to have all of the assets done and printed by next week. I may not make it by the next update, but I'm giving myself until Tuesday. I plan to print everything out by then so I can worry about the In-Show Workshop for the rest of the week. Oh, joy! So this includes:

  • Her motion work - Friday
  • Causes of Death
    • integrating into my portfolio site
    • short film explaining what it does
    • poster designed
  • Upfront Magazine bound
  • Hear & Now
    • Marvel 100%, find linkage
    • make screen design full resolution
  • Expo
    • rework app for Marvel
...And print it all!

Random Thought:
Once I get into the working world, I know I am going to shake my head shamelessly at this thought. But here it is anyway. As I have been working at 1,000% percent capacity for the past few weeks, it feels lovely to get down and dirty into some tedious work. For example, the Causes of Death project required a lot of dataset cleaning (and still more to do). For about four hours on Sunday, I almost went crosseyed with copying, pasting, merging and clearing Excel cells. But after exercising so much creative muscle, it can be really nice to relax into some tedium once in a while.

I must sound so spoiled. I know that the working design world will probably throw mostly tedious projects at me, and I will yearn for the days of making abstract patterns out of icons representing people's favourite possessions. But, you know, we always want what we don't have.

Inspiration: Marimekko
Never before have I fallen so deeply in love with a series of textile designs. Marimekko is a Finnish company specializing in beautiful, bright and bold patterns for clothing, housewares, shoes, you name it. I want to show you a simple google image search for the company and you'll immediately see the appeal:

As soon as I saw those strawberries, I remembered that my friend has a pair of platform Converse with the same pattern. I probably shouldn't tell you that she mentioned her undying love for them, but that she felt uneasy wearing them during her high school years for fear of being the subject of strawberry-related torment. A terrible thing, to be sure. You'll get nothing but love and devotion from me considering any of these patterns. Just check out the one of the finely-drawn little calf babes!

There's nothing quite like a good bright pattern in your home or wardrobe to make your day a sunny one. Imagine waking up and the first thing your feet hit is a soft rug with a pattern of colourful faberge eggs. How could you have a bad day after that?!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Kool A.D. Got Some Markers

Something wonderful happened. And I must share it with you.

You may remember my undying devotion to Das Racist, a now defunct rap duo featuring Heems and Kool A.D. from this post. A few months ago, Kool A.D. decided to try his hand at writing horoscopes (which were amazing and came true 100%), and now I've stumbled across another one of his internet gems.

I have to front this by stating that I am all about creative cross-pollenation. If you love to sculpt, try out some funky dance moves. If music is your thing, go and paint a pretty picture. See what happens. Creativity can flow in many channels, so why not take full advantage and really exercise the right side of your brain? It's all good in the creative...hood.

Kool A.D. has done just that. Okay, I'm ready to show you now. Through his instagram page, he is currently selling self-made art. And it's fantastic. I love the art itself, I love the forum, I love the titles of the work, I love the comments people leave and the overall aesthetic. It's wonderful.

Koolio posts around four pictures a day, all of different pieces of work. They run $100 each, or you can request a custom piece for double that.

Not to mention the fact that if you express interest, you'll get a personal message from the rapper/artist/whatever himself! Like, same day. He's on top of that art game now.

These pieces remind me of street art and freeform expression, which is really nice. They feel like he just sat down for a second with whatever markers he could find, and did some absent-minded scribbling. But honestly, what's wrong with that? There are quite a few that I would hang on my wall, even if just for the fact that they reveal more every time you look at them.

See more here.