Art, process and design blog of an aspiring industrial designer.

Archive for the ‘Empathy’ Category


“I have an incredible trust that things will work out. If I lose that, they won’t. I think that trust is one of the biggest, most important things you need when living a creative, courageous life, because at the end of the day, you have to believe that things will work out in some way. It might not be the way that you planned, but something else will come in its place.”

-Tina Roth Eisenberg found here (ps! tons of great creative-business quotes in the article – quick, thoughtful read!)

Hey guys! Sorry I’ve been incommunicado for so long! School has been so busy and inspiring and exciting, and I just couldn’t pull myself away. Anyway, here’s a great treat of a quote by Tina The Great (Tina the Magnificent is Tina Fey, so…). I hope you are all having a happy Christmas, where ever you are, whatever your diet, beliefs, jobs or hairstyles. :)

What I Learned In Undergrad

I learned a lot of things during my Undergraduate degree, and I am not going to list them all today. This is not going to be my ‘What I Have Learned So Far In My Life’ list (yep, I am that overbearing and keen that I keep a literal list like that (in the vein of Stefan Sagmeister, though, to be fair…) ). This week I officially convocate, so I thought I’d give a quick summary version of some important things that come to mind that I learned during my undergrad. You will go, or have gone, to Undergrad yourselves, you’ll learn the rest, whatever. I just wanted to give you a lil hint.

1. Here is proof that if you want to / have to learn something, you can actually find a way. You know where to look, you know who to ask, you’ve done it before.

2. Life is actually tough in the fast lane. Apply for things, hustle, don’t fall asleep.

3. (personal belief**) We must create our own meaning in our lives – our lives do not inherently have meaning.  We choose the meaning in our lives. Education is knowing that we can choose for something to mean something.

4. ‘Putting into action’ and ‘understanding’ are the values of study.

5. Most people don’t know what the eff they are talking about.  (in life, academically, etc.)  Take comfort in that.

6. Almost nothing is black and white. Pretty much nothing.

7.  Marks mostly don’t matter, but sometimes they do matter.  Invest your heart in the right place at the right time.

8. Consider the likelihood of returning home before midnight after a day of school.  Act accordingly.

9.  Become friends with really weird people, from different circles and walks of life, because they are just nice or cool or interesting.

10.  Think frequently and hard about what you actually want out of life: what you want your life to look and feel like, how much free time, how much family, how much money, and freedom, and work, long-term, and at each stage. You don’t have to know right now, but just think about it. Consider it and toy with it. And then try to make what you think is the best option happen. Do many, many multiples of iterations on this.

Note: I have chosen not to include any of the REAL life lessons you learn in college/uni (said drinking rules, social norms, how to sip 21 different liquids in the dining hall and then run to a different dining hall without vomiting… what? I never did that. Why would anyone try to do that?!) Have you ever seen the movie Meatballs? It is like that, except not at a fat camp and add all of the life lessons listed above. :)


“If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.”

David Foster Wallace, commencement speech 2005, Kenyon College

Consciousness in Everyday Life VIA David Wallace

“Education gives us awareness.”

This week I watched and listened to this video of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech for the graduating class at Kenyon College.  The speech was later published as a book, entitled “This is Water”, and a videos of the speech went viral days after its initial posting.  In the speech Wallace focuses on real life after college and what education really means to him: the freedom to be able to choose what has meaning and what doesn’t.  It is really worth a watch.  Its stuck in my head, and I can’t get it out, and its uncomfortable there for some reason, but I don’t want to get it out.

The original animation that I watched of this was recently deleted, but here’s a recording of the original audio:

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“‘Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise control over how and what you think.  It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from that experience.”

“If you really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options.  It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred.  On fire with the same force that lit the stars.”

“The only thing that’s capital-t True, is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.  This, I submit, is the freedom of real education.  Of learning how to be well-adjusted.  You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.”

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in a myriad of petty, unsexy ways every day.

The alternative is unconscious.”

Also, while on the subject, here’s an article about David Wallace, a great American writer, on my favorite brainpickings.

Reasons not to bring a small dog to set with you

Amazing interview with Lena Dunham, writer, director and actor in the new, insanely popular show “Girls“.

So much to relate to and so much wisdom. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Something that I hope is that its not just about the moment between college and real life.  It can be about a transitional moment in at any part in your life.  Nothing makes me happier than when someone comes up to me, and says that my kids just left home, I’m 60, I want to make a career change, this show speaks to me.  The idea that its for any moment of lostness, or sort of grappling with what you have to offer the world…”

“The parts I enjoy playing aren’t really available to me, so I have to write them.”

“… it was hard for me to acknowledge that acting was something that I wanted to do.  Both because there was a little of the perception that it wasn’t a sort of intellectual pursuit because of the fact that it didn’t necessarily feel like there was a place for someone who looked and acted like me to play anyone besides, like, sassy best friend who, like, can’t stay away from the buffet, and because I loved writing and directing, so why would I not hire the person who looks right and knows how to do this job.  But I always wanted to act…”

“Success is connecting with an audience that understands you and having a dialogue with them, I think success is continuing to push yourself forward creatively and not, sort of, becoming a caricature of yourself, I think success is figuring out a balance between a really rich, intense, fulfilling work life, and the kind of personal life that makes that work life possible and that makes that work life meaningful.  I think failure would be the opposite of those things – I think it would be becoming too involved with the traditional markers of success, …”

Theme: Adventurousness

So, today I have this feeling… this feeling that I’m gonna do something stupid just because I’m feeling adventurous. (But nothing THAT stupid, or that actually matters. (e.g. Cut all of my hair off and donate it to cancer.  “OMG! How could you do that! It’ll take, like, a year to grow back!”  FRESH NEWS: Hair grows back, and your odds are a big 50/50 that the short hair won’t look bad.  Those are good odds, so take a chill pill. ANOTHER EXAMPLE: Do/plan an art installation.  Money – blow it on something random that you love, that has no definite guarantee of turning out! Who needs it! Time – beh! It might be ‘evident’ in the piece that you spent months planning this!  => ADVENTURE-ing)

For normal people, I think when they need that exciting adventurous feeling they will do normal-er, more obvious adventure-things, like go explore a deserted building, or an area of town, or try a break dancing club, or go to a casino. (I had a friend who would always say, “Let’s go on an adventure!”, and I used to be like, “Yeah! Is this guy for real?! Awesome! I’m a person who loves adventures!” Turns out, I’m not.  I only like or itch for an adventure in art.  That sounds like Public Service announcement conclusion, but it is true.)  For me, all of my real risk-taking adventuring or crazy-things happens in art.  Otherwise, honestly, I think I’m kind of a more boring/safe person.  I could be wrong, but I think so. I am literally hungry for it.  I never understood what people meant when they said that about stuff other than food or love, but I AM.  I think art makes me a better person – at least, a cooler version of myself.

When you are knee-deep in a hat/head-piece made of forks and knives, you know that if someone came in partway through, they wouldn’t just think that you were cray cray.  They would think, “WTF?!”  Or, when you have some ridiculous plan about doing an art installation in the middle of the street, when someone drives by midway through the installing process, its another, “WTF?!”  Or when you are painting or staple-gunning plates to a 6″ radius tube to use as one of the turrets for St. Basil’s Cathedral of Moscow, obviously, a “WTF?!” comes.  The moments of “WTF” before “Genius!” – those are the adventures-in-process moments.  When you smile and say, “They are totally right, I am so crazy” to yourself.  A “this can go either way, let’s hope for the best and try really hard” moment.

What are you hungry for?  How do you guys act adventurous?  Is it in food, or while working the stock market?  Do people look at you like you are a crazy person, too?  Let me know in the comments.

Here is some adventurous stuff.


Okay, even though I have already talked about him a kajillion times on this blog, I cannot have the theme be Adventurousness and not talk about Stefan, with regards to adventurous graphic design.  He transcends the genre and incorporates it into the physical, kinetic, tactile, as well as the digital.  He makes pop up inflatable art installations.  He does projects that seem crazy – take a year off work to explore new ideas, even though business is FINALLY going well (Maybe my clients will just leave me?! Maybe I’ll have nothing to go back to!) – and that are not about money.  He talks about ideas and issues that stand in the way of his own personal development.  Obviously ‘WTF’ adventurous.

selfcon,APR2-2013 everybodthinkstheyareright,APR2-2013

IMAGES: here // here

Another person I wanted to talk about in Part 1, is the graphic designer and art director, Eiko Ishioka.  She is another incredibly adventurous, creative designer.  As I mentioned, she began as a graphic designer and worked for a long time in Japan doing graphic design, art direction and advertising work, and eventually established her own design firm.  Then, around the year 2000, she decided to apply her background to costume and clothing design.  Obviously she was amazing at it, and was recently nomintated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design for the film “Mirror Mirror“.  I watched that film exclusively to check out the costumes and was not disappointed in the least.


IMAGES: here // here  (via NewYorkTimes online; Great article and obit about Eiko here )

Eiko is an amazing graphic designer and costume designer who did not let her career or her background label or limit her.  She took on new and conceivably ‘unrealistic’ projects, and delved into a field in a way that might have seemed crazy to others.  And she rocked at it. Boom boom pow.


The first film I want to talk about is “The Artist“.  I really want to give my thoughts about the entire film here, but I will live it for the ‘MM (Movie Madness)’ page.  To come out with a silent film in this day and age, and have it win an Oscar for Best Picture is astounding to me.  Not to say that silent films can’t be great movies, but it is very difficult, I think, for a silent film to mass-reach a modern audience, who most likely hasn’t had very much connection with the medium possibly at all.  (AND also, there hasn’t been so much major development with silent films as a medium in the last long while. Therefore, further room for exploration.)  It really shows how well the film is made, and how much they used ‘being different’ and taking a chance to their advantage.  Not only did the film win 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, but it was nominated for a total of 10 Academy Awards.  And was the first silent film to win an Oscar since 1927.  I’m pretty sure that a lot of people that Michel Hazanavicius went to get money from for this film thought “WTF?!  This guy is crazy trying to make a major silent film.”  And it might stayed looking crazy until the ticket sales started to pour in and the awards committees came a-knockin.  Hazanavicius is someone who may not be traditionally adventurous in life, but is sure as all hell adventurous in art.

IMAGES: here // here

Say Anything“, which I have also mentioned on the blog in the past, also really embraces taking chances and doing something crazy (which isn’t actually crazy, but is still pretty crazy).  The film shows a really interesting social perspective; a perspective that embraces doing things because you want to do them, and not because you are supposed to (or not supposed to) do them.  For example, the main plot line of the film (spoiler) is that Lloyd, the main character, asks out Diane Court, a girl in his high school who does not hang out with his friends and whom he does not know very well.  This might seem obvious or normal to a mid-20-something year old, but I can say honestly, even as a young-20-something this is still so unusual!  In the film, Lloyd doesn’t even go against social convention, but just kind of ignores it even exists altogether.  I used to fantasize about this happening in my high school!  Not really about getting asked out by someone not in my group of friends (although that too), but just about ignoring pointless, stupid social conventions that we all follow for no reason.  Lloyd is a cool guy and Diane is a cool girl – why shouldn’t they go out?!??  Yet, at the start of the film people ask the couple how/why this came to happen over and over again! Because it is still so shocking!  Anyway, here is a great quote from the film that demonstrates my point.

Mike Cameron: I don’t know you very well, you know, but I wanted to ask you – how’d you get Diane Court to go out with you?
Lloyd Dobler: I called her up.
Mike Cameron: But how come it worked? I mean, like, what are you?
Lloyd Dobler: I’m Lloyd Dobler.
Mike Cameron: This is great. This gives me hope. Thanks.
(Quote from here)

And it does give hope.  And acts as an example of how we should all act.


IMAGE: here

When Mary Katrantzou entered the fashion scene in Spring/Summer 2009, she was a recent grad and an instant hit.  She has become so popular and such a sensation since then, with all of her lines afterward, if not recieving rave reviews (by the likes of Anna Dello Rosso), receiving generally positive ones, which is rare for any designer.  With a focus on textile and pattern design in school, a theme throughout her work is the screen printing of images of often very lush, rich items on very simple, clean, architectural dress shapes.  Not only did this technique make her commercially appealing when companies wanted to copy her work, or when she wanted to do more affordable versions of her clothing (i.e.: her collaboration with Topshop), but also applied an idea that Mies Van Der Rohe (famous modernist architect) was famous for in a fresh way.  She applied the idea of lush riches in a 2-dimensional, clean way to her simple structure, and used her expertise as a 2-D designer to direct her 3-D designs.  She tried something that could have looked cheap and tacky, and jumped into a field that she did not know or specialize in (fashion), to ridiculously great avail.  To have a textile designer jump to startdom in the fashion world is not only rare, but totally unheard of.  She was adventurous in art, and it payed off.



IMAGE: here

My mom recently told me this awesome story about the Brooklyn Bridge and its history.

In 1870 John Roebling, a civil engineer, had the idea of a way to creatively construct what we now know to be the Brooklyn Bridge.  Bridge building experts of the time could not understand or see his vision, and thought his ideas were, of course, impossible.  But after working with and explaining the concept to his son, Washington Roebling, also an engineer, his son was convinced that the bridge could be built.  Somehow the two were eventually able to find investors who believed in their project as well, and the project was commissioned.  Then, a few weeks into the construction, an on-site accident tragically killed John Roebling and severly injured Washington.  In the hospital bed, Washington found that he was able only to move one finger and, since he was the only other person who understood and believed in his father’s design, the structure could not be built without instructions from him.  He eventually developed a code with his wife, Emily Roebling, by tapping his finger and over the next 13 years tapped out the instructions to her on how the bridge should be built.  The bridge was successfully completed in 1883, and is still standing today, as symbol of New York.  Both John and Washington were adventurous in their art, civil engineering and architecture, and because of it they built one of the most iconic and used bridges, and one of the oldest suspension bridges, in American history.

Here, I could also talk about the engineers and architects who were the trailblazers and harbingers of changing styles, etc., but for today, I’m just going to say the point, and save those people for another day: be the one who does something so dumb and different that it seems crazy to people. That is how all of these people got started.  Just get used to the ‘WTF’, cause it probs means you are doing something right.

Standing up for the Right to Feel Pain

“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”
–Jim Morrison

Great Entrepreneurs

“If you look at the careers of great entrepreneurs and you look at the moment they took their plunge, the plunge is rarely a great financial or material risk, it’s a social risk. At the moment they started their new businesses, everyone around them said ‘you’re an idiot’.”
— Malcolm Gladwell (via swissmiss)

Rob Ryan’s Beautiful Paper Art

“We’re all the same people we were when we were children.  We’re just bigger and we pretend that we’re not.”

I’ve always been a big fan of this etsy artist, and by now he’s done some fairly high-profile stuff, but he still keeps his sweetness, and honesty and vulnerability in all of his work.


IMAGES: here // here // here // here

This video for the Etsy Handmade Portrait series is just uplifting.

“A big part of my work is about seeing and appreciating the beauty in the everyday, to make people see how beautiful the world is and how beautiful their lives are.”

“My work is about being alive and its about being being human and about being a person.  And then of course this this other thing, and its Love.  Its a funny thing, there’s something about art that Love is almost a taboo subject – its almost to obvious to make work about. And to me its the most natural thing.  The need to love, to be loved, and the connections and the relationships.”

For more info, check out this article on the Etsy blog, or check out Rob’s etsy page.

The Happy Show

Stefan Sagmeister (the graphic designer, who I’ve featured on the blog in the past…) brought his show, The Happy Show, to Toronto’s Design Exchange, and I am so freakin glad he did.  Stephan, if you are reading this, thanks dude.

Amazing, fun, fascinating, fresh, clean, branded, beauty. That’s it.  I wanted to bring my camera and take some pictures for the blog but I TOTALLY forgot. :(  BUT, here are some I’ve found around…


I love how he clearly just did it how he wanted to do it.  There were some parts that were totally unrelated to the exhibit, for example the little display he had giving patrons his most favorite candy in the world!, were I felt that a Suit would totally want to shoot down. It was unrelated, but totally added to the whole thing because it brought me into his world just a little bit more, and the giving, friendly spirit of the exhibit definitely aided in the message: What makes us happy? and make sure you leave this exhibit happy / inspired!

thehappyshow1,feb142013IMAGES: here // here

Here are some ‘Life Lessons’ from his book and exhibition:

“Trying to look good limits my life.”

“Having Guts always works out for me.”

“Assumptions are stifling.”

“Seek Discomfort.”

If you are in the Toronto area, I highly recommend you check it out! It will be running until March 3rd! Also, check out this article or the Design Exchange website to hear more. NOTE: They are defs not paying me to write this. I wish.)  I highly recommend you all check out his TED talks( here, here and here), AND his book.

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