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Tuesday
Dec022008

Coffee Achiever Interview at iNeedCoffee.com

cp-sketchtoon-calendar-2009.jpgI'm very honored to be interviewed and featured as Coffee Achiever for December 2008 issue of the iNeedCoffee newsletter.

I replied to questions from Alex Scofield, who crafted his article from my replies. It's fascinating to see how Alex's article compares with my interview replies. If you're curious, I've included my interview replies below.

Here's an excerpt from Alex's article:

"The coffee artwork in Rohde’s calendar is an outgrowth of his Sketchnotes. They’re a twist and a major upgrade on the margin doodles of a note-taking student – Sketchnotes capture an event utilizing visual elements and fonts that are as crucial as the text in the overall presentation."

You can read the entire interview and the other great articles at iNeedCoffee.com.

Original Questions & Answers

Here are Alex's questions and my detailed replies, the basis of the final article.

Q: Can you say a little bit about where you grew up, where you went to school, and how you developed as an artist?

I grew up in Chicago, an area called Rogers Park, right on the border with Evanston, Illinois near Northwestern University. I went to school in that area through my Freshman year in high school, when our family moved to the Milwaukee area, where I still live today.

My elementary and high school years were very formative as an artist, because I drew all the time. That early experience of constantly drawing has been key to drawing and illustrating now that I'm older.

Q: How were SketchNotes born, or how did they evolve toward their present form?

They were born back in 2007 in a form clearly defined as "sketchnotes". I was attending a UX Intensive event put on by Adaptive Path in Chicago when I created the first set:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/sets/72157600139569147/

I decided to try intentionally including drawings and fonts in my notes to see if it was possible and how well I would be able to capture the event. It worked out so well, I've continued to take sketchnotes at other events:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/collections/72157602798339521/

Lately, I've been invited by organizers of several events like SEED 3, and An Event Apart to be the official 'sketchnoter' at those events, which has worked out quite well:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/sets/72157605489759516/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/sets/72157608141993098/

I'm scheduled to attend Word of Mouth Crash Course on December 10th, and SXSW Interactive in March 2009 as the official sketchnoter. I'm very excited about these and other future sketchnoting opportunities.

http://events.gaspedal.com/
http://sxsw.com/interactive/

Q: Was there anything in particular that inspired the calendar’s coffee theme?

Our friend Kathy loves coffee and happens to have a coffee themed kitchen. We had a terrible time finding coffee calendars for her at Christmas, so we decided to create our own coffee calendar at Café Press.

A few years ago my wife and I created a coffee calendar with photography, which our friend loved. Then, as I had been sketching more in the past few years, I had the idea to do a calendar with an illustrated coffee theme.

So, I took my Moleskine pocket sketchbook to local cafes and began the illustration, which were scanned and colorized in the Mac and posted at Café Press as the calendar you can buy today:

http://www.cafepress.com/rohde.40227192

It's been very popular as a gift, I think because there are so few good coffee calendars out there. Turns out I'm the top organic hit in Google search results for 'coffee calendar' along with my friend Ricardo Levins Morales' wonderful illustrated coffee calendar:

http://www.thecoffeecalendar.com/

Q: Can you describe the “colorization” process used for the Sketchtoon calendars?

The art is all done in black and white in a pocket Moleskine sketchbook, scanned in and colorized in Photoshop.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/2059959887

I've found a few special brushes in Photoshop to created the mottled look for the dark brown, and the color for the coffee drinks was painted so it overprints the black artwork.

Q: The first time you colorized your art this way, was it a happy accident, or the expected result?

I've actually done similar colorizations in my career as a graphic designer, in particular some illustration work for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee years ago, with black and white art colorized in Photoshop.

I like this approach because I can easily change direction or colors by simply re-doing a layer of the Photoshop file.

Q: Do you ever do your coffee Sketchtoons while you’re drinking the beverage described?

Heh, great question! I've had most of these drinks, and a few while sketching the art at the local café.

Q: Do you remember when you first drank coffee?

When I was about 5 I spilled hot coffee on myself at my grandmother's house, but it hasn't deterred me! I recall starting to drink coffee regularly in college, when I worked as graphic editor for the Milwaukee Area Technical College Times. They had a coffee club I could afford, and during the cold winters, hot coffee was perfect.

Q: What is the café/coffee scene like around Brown Deer and Milwaukee? Any favorite places?

Of course we have the chains here, Starbucks and Caribou, but in Menomonee Falls where I live, we have an excellent local coffee shop called John Harbor's Main Street Coffee house. They feature great, locally roasted coffee, food, free WiFi, and live music:

http://johnharbors.com/

Another Milwaukee area roaster and coffee chain called Alterra Coffee, with cafes all over the city in interesting and often historical buildings:

http://alterracoffeepro.com/

And there are all sorts of small, independent cafes and coffee shops around the city, too numerous to list.

Q: How big a part of your life is coffee these days?

Coffee is very important. I brew coffee in the morning for my wife and I to
start the day. At Northwoods Software where I work, I often pull shots of
espresso or make cappuccinos on the office DeLonghi Magnifica — which I have
to say is great to have around.

I also have a Krups espresso maker at home which takes pods as well as ground coffee, a French press and a handy moka pot.

Every now and then I like getting away to my local café for coffee to read,
or do a little sketching or design work in a relaxed environment.

Q: What is your favorite kind of coffee, or your favorite coffee-based beverage?

I like darker roast coffees and given a choice, I'll take a cappuccino or a well-pulled shot of espresso. For me coffee is all about taste.

Q: From the ‘Diner Coffee’ entry, I get the feeling that you appreciate high-end coffee, yet are okay with drinking diner coffee, too, depending on the situation. Am I right?

Yes, exactly! I like exploring a wide variety of coffee and surprisingly, some diner coffees aren't so bad. I think in the US there's been a positive effect of Starbucks and other coffee establishments improving the quality of coffee overall, which benefits we coffee fans in the end.

But I will say that when I encounter truly bad coffee I won't drink it. Life is just too short to torture my taste buds. :-)

Alex, thanks for the opportunity to interview with iNeedCoffee!

Check out the full interview at iNeedCoffee.com

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