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Entries in Creativity (22)


Give a Kid a Camera...

Nathan Self Portrait: SmileThis is what happens when a 4 year old boy gets hold of your camera.

My wife and I were cracking up as we imported some of the images he made of himself and surrounding objects while we attended a Milwaukee Brewer's baseball game last Friday night.

I've been impressed with Nathan's eye with a camera. He's very serious when shooting, and often seems to deliberately frame shots, though many times his shows seem less than intentional.

Sky Blue TextureI quite liked his set of blurred and gradated background images, which I might come in handy for future design projects. I especially like the blue gradation background shown on the left. Those make me want to set him loose with a digital camera and a 2GB card just to see what he comes up with! :-)

I'm planning to work with Nathan on his camera skills, so he can better understand what he's doing. Whatever the case, I find a deep, unexplainable enjoyment as I watch him explore his world and express himself through a camera lens.


My Podcast Interview on The Micro ISV Show

ch9bot.gifA few weeks ago, I was invited by author, micro-business owner and new MakaluMedia logo design client Bob Walsh, to be interviewed on Microsoft's The MicroISV Show (a podcast for software developers) with co-host Michael Lehman:

It's a brave new world for MicroISVs in which it's no longer enough to drag some controls onto a form and simply make sure they're lined up and the tab order is right. The mantra "form follows function" is becoming more and more important for developers as advent of Windows Vista, WPF and Silverlight once again change the expectations of how customers perceive software. You've got to "put your best face forward" and think about design of the user experience right from the beginning.

In this episode, Michael Lehman and Bob Walsh talk to Mike Rohde, designer and art director for MakaluMedia, about the changing role of design in software development and how and why MicroISVs must incorporate design thinking into their development process.

Listen to The Micro ISV Show #22 podcast:

• Putting your best face forward - The growing importance of design for MicroISVs
• Direct Podcast MP3 Link (Size: 36MB, Runtime: 40:13)

We had a great time! I had an opportunity to talk a bit about my views on design being more than window-dressing on applications, the importance of starting early with a designer, how to choose a designer, vector-based development tools and how they may effect developers and designers, and more.

Bob worked in questions about my creative process, asked how I generate so many sketch ideas, and even slipped in a mention of my Moleskine Planner Hack project.

Have a listen and let me know what you think.


Weekend Sketches

This weekend I made a conscious effort to bring my Moleskine sketchbook with me everywhere, having been challenged by Tommy Kane's Push Yourself post last week.

Below are two pieces I sketched this weekend:

Sketch 1: My son Nathan and I went to his preschool on Saturday for an Easter egg hunt. Part of the afternoon included giving the kids helium-filled balloons to bounce and chase around the church fellowship hall. The kids had such a blast — I had to try and capture Nathan's joy at play. This one was pretty quick and loose, with my focus on capturing the feeling I had, rather than being perfectly proportional.

Sketch 2: The right page was done Saturday night, after seeing the the film Peaceful Warrior. The film was a little cheesy and full of platitudes for dialogue. Still, the phrase "There are no ordinary moments" seemed to bubble up in my mind just before bed. I grabbed my sketchbook and let the idea direct my sketch, trying not to think too much about the technical details. My approach was to look at this phrase as a challenge to sketch those "un-ordinary moments" rather than lose them.

As I prepared the scan today, I realized Nathan's balloon-jumping sketch was one of those "un-ordinary moments" I'd captured Saturday morning, before the words themselves were spoken in the film, later the same evening.

Thanks Tommy for the challenge to sketch, especially when it's hard. If you're reading this post and are thinking about sketching again, or for the first time — do it! :-)



Yesterday my good friend Armand from Moleskinerie and I launched a new weblog for lovers of analog pens, fine papers, journals and sketchbooks. It's called Journalisimo.

Our manifesto is short and sweet:

This weblog is an attempt to invite a return to analog. Many of us live very digital lives. We push pixels around screens. Our lives are stored as bits on shiny hard drives. Our words and images can be published online, available moments later, all around the world. But this digital life can often seem very shallow.

While we recognize the power of our digital existence, we long for the tactile feel of ink on paper. We celebrate the freedom from power supplies,  batteries, wireless networks and fragile electronics. We seek to elevate the written word and the freehand sketch on fine paper. We celebrate the  journal as the optimal analog device for expression and enjoyment.


The Journalisimo blog idea has brewing for many months, prior to our launch this week. It was the combination of my WSJ appearance, along with Marc Orchant and Merlin Mann, which set us both off, though we could both sense a trend toward Moleskines and other paper journals being adopted by bloggers and the digerati. It made sense to provide a resource for those people and focus it on journals generically, rather than one specific brand.

We've been in on the analog journaling and sketching trend in the tech/blog community for a bit over a year now and we only see it increasing. We both see digitally oriented folks getting frustrated with their computer tools, or just seeking a respite from their immersive digital lives. Analog journals and pens seem to fit the bill.

So, it only made sense to begin Journalisimo as our way to connect people searching for analog solutions to people generating analog solutions. Armand and I like to think of Journalisimo as the analog doppelganger to Engadget. :-)

I'm the design and creative director for the new blog, while Armand is the one posting the bulk of the daily posts. I intend to write up longer articles and reviews to post from time to time, while Armand hunts down daily doses of unique, unusual and interesting tidbits on the analog lifestyle.

We welcome your suggestions and notifications on analog blog posts and articles. if you have suggestions or links to share, please visit our little Blog, drop a line or leave a comment. :-)


Design Stagnation and Renaissance

Tonight's posting has been brewing for several days, but wasn't fully steeped until I came across Design In-Flight Magazine earlier today. Jason Santa Maria's excellent cover story, Fighting off design stagnation was the key to releasing these thoughts.

I found Design In-Flight magazine via Andy Clarke's excellent And All That Malarkey weblog. It was today's post, Fighting off design Stalinism which caught my eye, along with Andy's hearty recommendation of DIF magazine. I decided to buy the yearly subscription for $10 and boy what a great deal! DIF is an excellent magazine.

Jason's article is superb, both for its timing and ideas. Having been in the Shadow of the Valley of Creativity last May, I could immediately relate to Jason's thinking. Here's an excerpt from the opening paragraph:

I’ve only been out of school and working in the industry for a few years now, but I can already feel it. The feeling like my hands are getting tied. Like I am coming up with the same old ideas or dipping into my overused bag of tricks too often. I am left racking my brain for new directions and feeling like the design world will surely leave me behind to make way for today’s new design youth. You might laugh because it’s only been a few years, but this is where it begins.

That was pretty much how I felt in early 2004, feeling in need of a boost of creativity. I didn't doubt my skills as much as I knew I needed to kick-start my creative juices again — often easier said than done.

Lately I've been experiencing a serious creative renaissance, which I can now actually trace back to that very post on May 27th. It was the admission, not only to myself and my wife or friends, but to my weblog and its readers, which set me on this forward path.

I now see clearly that the very first step toward my coming to grips with this situation was admitting where I was. Once the cat was "out of the bag", so to speak, real changes could take place — like the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings I've seen portrayed on TV.

"Hi my name is Mike, and I'm a designer."

Since that May, I've taken several steps toward change. I've intentionally taken the time to sketch regularly, both for work projects and just for fun. I've furiously pursued XHTML & CSS design, becoming more fluent in those two languages in the process.

I've also found myself contemplating design much more often, seeking out good design like well-brewed espresso. Reviewing logos on trucks, in magazines and on websites. I even find myself trying to decipher why designs do or don't work. Design really has become a passion again, and I'm loving it.

There's been another change in these past months, my weight loss of 30 pounds on the South Beach diet. While not directly design related, this physical change has generated much more energy for pursuit of work and play. Feeling good has provided a positive burst, impacting all other parts of my life. Even more though, losing weight has provided proof to myself that I really could change, if I admitted where I was, believed it and did something about it. It was difficult at first, but wow, is it worth it now!

So, if you're finding yourself in a funk at the start of this new year, maybe the first step is to admit to yourself and maybe your family and friends, where you're at. Once you can realistically point out your position on the map, it's much easier to find the way home.