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Entries in Creativity (23)


Attending VizThink Workshop Chicago: May 7, 2008

vizthink-logo.gifThe decision to attend key events related to my career and design practice has really been paying off. Coming off of SXSW Interactive 2008, I'm seeing the events of the past few years have provided great opportunities to learn, get to know others, develop my Sketchnote practice and to share my notes with so many people.

I've signed up to attend the VizThink Workshop, on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in downtown Chicago. With a minimum of 15 and maximum 50 attendees, this event led by Dave Gray and Karl Gude will teach attendees how to exercise their visual thinking skills, and learn new techniques and approaches to visual thinking.

Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to visual language and visual literacy

  • Strategies of information design

  • Primary methods for organizing both qualitative and quantitative information

  • Professional tips and tricks

From the description of the VizThink Workshop:

Your presentations don't have to be dull and ridden with bullet points. After this workshop you will understand how to explore, organize and visually display information of all kinds, from complex data sets to visual instruction manuals.

Participants will learn how visual thinking can be used to explore complex information and present it more effectively. This workshop combines high-level design principles with practical applications — rules of thumb and "tricks of the trade" — that professional information designers use to quickly create clear representations from complex or potentially confusing information.

I'm very excited about meeting Dave Gray of XPLANE, who I've bumped into on the net for years, and his co-leader Karl Gude, a professor at Michigan State University's Journalism School and former Graphics Director at Newsweek magazine.

The opportunity to see both of these guys together was too cool and Chicago is too close, so I've decided to jump at the chance to attend this workshop and expand my knowledge of visual thinking.

The cost for the workshop? $400 and worth every cent. You can be sure I'll have a full report after attending and probably a truckload of sketchnotes to share. :-)

Sign Up Now
If you're interested in expanding your own visual thinking skills and being taught by the Jedi Masters of visual thinking, this is your chance: VizThink Chicago Workshop.


Lola & Foxy Pet Tag Design

Yesterday I received four very cool sample pet tags from MakaluMedia client Pam Trainer at Lola & Foxy. I was so impressed with how these tags turned out, I had to write a little something here to tell the story of their creation.

Lola & Foxy Pet Tags
Lola & Foxy Pet Tags: Love Me (Brown)Lola & Foxy Pet Tags: I'm a Rescue! (Blue)

Back in early 2007, Pam Trainer, the sister of Jon Trainer at Outer Level (another client) came to me to help her tune up, simplify and redraw the logo for Lola & Foxy, her startup business offering pet collars, leads and tags online.

The logo refresh project went very well, so when Pam needed several pet tags designed in a pinch for a trade show late in the year, she called me again for help.

I happened to be booked when she contacted me, but I'd been working in an art direction role with Milwaukee designer Jason Behlke on some other production and design projects, and thought this would be a perfect job to collaborate on with him.

Research & Analyis
I talked with Pam about technical specs, wording, look and feel ideas and overall goals of the project. Then I took all of the raw information and analyzed it, producing a design brief with Pam's specs and my own thoughts on style, fonts, colors and other directions so that Jason could start working on the design.

Jason produced black & white concepts in Illustrator, which I reviewed and presented to Pam with detailed thoughts, gathered her feedback and we continued until we had final 4 winning designs that were properly prepped for the tag production house.

Pam was able to get samples in time for her trade show, and the designs went over quite well. She's now selling all four of the tag designs on the Lola & Foxy site and reports they're very popular.

Project Observations
While this was a small, quick project, I think it provides valuable insight on how the process works, and how everyone benefits. Pam had a great experience and now has a popular set of tags to sell. Jason had a chance to do some very cool design work on something he'd never done before. I had the pleasure of helping Pam make an idea reality, while acting as a guide and mentor to Jason through the process.

I smile, knowing we've all benefited working on this fun project. Even better, these pet tags are benefitting pet owners who can enjoy the fruits of our collaboration.

Related Links
"Love Me" Charm and Tag holder (Brown)
"Love Me" Charm and Tag holder (Pink)
"I'm a Rescue" Charm and Tag holder (Pink)
"I'm a Rescue" Charm and Tag holder (Blue)


The MilwaukeeDevHouse Experience

2333772887_9473dfd861_m.jpgLast night, Nathan and I packed up the MacBook, Canon scanner, 27 of his "transportation" themed drawings and headed downtown.

We were off to take part in the first ever MilwaukeeDevHouse at Bucketworks — an opportunity to hang out with a bunch of local Milwaukee tech geeks, doing stuff together.

When we arrived, Bucketworks was already hopping! I counted 30 people, and I may have missed some attendees wandering around Bucketworks (not to mention those who came after we left at 9pm).

2334510917_cd798e2924_t.jpgWe found a spot at one of the tables and setup the MacBook and scanner, then Nathan and I worked together as a team to scan, tune and upload his drawings on Transportation to Flickr.

Today I asked Nathan his thoughts on the event, and he said:

"I liked the people and the noise and the food. I liked pushing the buttons to scan my drawings. I liked everything there!"

This was an excellent experience for us both on many levels:

  • We shared quality father and son time in a fun, shared environment
  • I was able to encourage Nathan in his creative work by scanning his art
  • Nathan met a variety of Web414 pals and learned how to interact with others
  • We were able to build a memorable experience with tangible results
What's MilwaukeeDevHouse?
In a nutshell, a DevHouse is a space where people can work on serious or fun projects, either by themselves or in a team. Here's the official description:

MilwaukeeDevHouse aims to be the premier regularly scheduled hackathon event that combines serious and not-so-serious productivity with a fun and exciting party atmosphere.

If you’re a coder, designer, or just someone who enjoys software and technology development, MilwaukeeDevHouse was made for you...

MilwaukeeDevHouse is intended for passionate and creative technical people that want to have some fun, learn new things, and meet new people.

If you have the chance to check out a DevHouse locally, do it! Our experience was wonderful. Even better, start a local DevHouse in your area.

Special thanks to Pete Prodoehl, one of the leaders of MilwaukeeDevHouse.

We're already looking forward to MilwaukeeDevHouse2! :-)

Related Links
MilwaukeeDevHouse1 Photos on Flickr
Nathan's Transportation Drawings:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Attending SXSW Interactive 2008!

ia-header.jpgFor the past few years, I've been very intentional about attending thought-provoking conferences and events, to learn, grow and meet new people.

In 2007, I attended BarCampMadison, UX Intensive, SOBCon07, BarCampMilwaukee2 the SEED Conference and excellent monthly Web414 meetings through the year.

For several years I've heard great things about SXSW (South by Southwest) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Many of the people I admire attend yearly, I've enjoyed podcasts from the event, but it's never worked out for me to attend.

That will change in 2008. On March 7th, I'll be heading down to Austin, with fellow Web414 members Ashe Dryden and David Overbeck. We're all excited to see first-hand, just what all the SXSW buzz is about.

Thanks MakaluMedia!
I've been given the opportunity to attend SXSW as art director and designer from MakaluMedia. I'm very thankful for this opportunity, and I plan to make the most of my time in Austin. I'll attend multiple sessions, take notes and capture sketchnotes similar to the ones I did at the SEED Conference and UX Intensive.

Advise the Newbie
Since this is my first time to SXSW Interactive, I welcome tips and ideas from seasoned veterans. I'm also open to Austin tips and suggestions from any Austin dwellers out there who would like to share. Just leave a comment below. :-)

Contact Me SXSW-Goers
I also want to meet old friends and new people while I'm at at SXSW. If you're attending SXSW Interactive 2008 and would like to meet for a coffee in Austin, drop me a line with the subject SXSW. I'd love to connect before I head down to Austin.

As I prepare for SXSW Interactive, I've compiled a selection of resources to share with other SXSW attendees, and those interested in the event:

SXSW Interactive 2008 — The official site.
SXSW Interactive 2008: Panels (Time) — SXSW Panels, time schedule.
SXSW Interactive 2008: Panels (Day) — SXSW Panels, by day.
SXSW Interactive 2008: Panels (Category) — SXSW Panels, by category.
SXSW Registrant's Guide — Registrant's guide.
SXSW Registrant's Mobile Guide — Mobile registrant's guide.
SXSW '08 Insider's Guide — Information and forums on
SXSW Baby — Un-official Weblog and forums for SXSW.
Ze Frank Explains SXSW Interactive In Under a Minute — Classic Ze Frank humor!
SXSW Core Conversations — Directory for informal conversations.
SXSW Past, Present, and Future — Great podcast interview with Hugh Forrest, Director of Events for SXSW Interactive on the history, culture and future of the event.
SXSW Geeks Love Bowling — Bowling with SXSWers, Sunday, March 9th.
Airbag: Hampton — Greg Storey's Guide to SXSW Newbies.
John Phillips — Beginner's Guide to SXSW.

Have a resource to share? Email me and let me know!


INeedCoffee: Creating the 2008 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar

Espresso SketchtoonMichael Allen Smith, the publisher of provided a great opportunity to share how I created my 2008 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar, in the February 2008 issue of INeedCoffee.

In the article, I share details of my inspiration, how I researched coffee drinks and the process of sketching, scanning and production to create the 2008 Sketchoon Coffee Calendar.

Here's a teaser:

A few years ago, my wife and I went looking for coffee-themed calendars to be used as gifts for coffee-loving friends. We were very surprised to find none in the calendar kiosks at the local malls or at coffee shops and very few to choose from online.

Being creative people, we decided to create our own calendar, using Cafe Press to print them. Our first calendar used black and white photos and was received very well by our 2 friends.

About the same time, I'd been working on a drawing style I had created called Sketchtoons where I mixed loose sketches with hand-written notes in my Moleskine sketchbook. I decided to do a new calendar, creating sketchtoons for 12 coffee drinks.

In this article, I'll document how I came up with the ideas, drew, scanned and colorized them for use in calendars and other items, and then marketed and sold the calendar with no budget.

I invite you to read the entire article: Creating the 2008 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar and check out the excellent coffee resources on

Even better: get in touch with Michael and submit your articles, reviews, and artwork for potential publication in a future monthly issue of the INeedCoffee Newsletter.