Verbal Cocktail


By May 26, 2011May 31st, 2011No Comments

“Do you believe in heaven above?
Do you believe in love?
Don’t tell a lie, don’t be false or untrue
It all comes back to you

Open fire!
On my burning heart
I’ve never been lucky in love
My defenses are down
A kiss or a frown
I can’t survive on my own


-Excerpt from Send Me an Angel by Real Life. Originally recorded in 1983.

There are some interesting lines in this song that I relate to in profound ways. Namely, “I can’t survive on my own.”

As a designer in the Portland community I’ve purposely have positioned myself as a guy on the outside of the fence looking in; as to avoid observational collapse. This is essentially meaning avoiding becoming part of the observation as to avoid altering the data being observed. I feel it gives me a more “pure” view on what I’m looking at. However, I do realize the paradoxical nature of the leading statement “as a designer in the Portland community” with that contingency stated…but I do my best. And by best I mean make myself the control. This is a dangerous way to look at it. If you’d like to read a great chapter on Behavioral Research the Sommers wrote a good book on the topic. You can read a chapter here.

Wafa R. Musitief has a very non-unique view of what the value is of networking. Simply put, do it. “…networking is worth your time and effort and can help you get ahead in the professional world.” But you already knew this.

For every cold call/e-mail that I make, I am about 3-4 times more likely to generate a work lead by calling someone I already know. Why? Because I’m putting the person I am calling into an experience. They will remember a phone call way quicker than one of the tens or even hundreds of emails that they may get in a day.

My promise to you today is that I’m going to spend 25% more of my time contacting the people I already know versus reaching out to strangers and craigslist ads.

I think this will yield more positive results in the arena of fun work. And no, I don’t think “fun work” is an oxymoron.  If you do, you’re in the wrong game or you’ve settled. Not to sound like a scorning parent. Finding inspiration and passion for what you do can be a slippery fish. I have found that by balancing my admirations and my applications carefully I am perpetually impassioned by the designers around me abroad. I’m constantly trying to seek out people that are better than me. The great thing is I don’t have to reach too far to do this.  With 6.7 billion people on the planet, there is a very large well of inspiration to draw from. I advise you to do the same. Whether you are a designer, artist, craftsman, technician, whatever…you can get inspired. I’ll give you 4 of my biggest inspirations (NOTE: “inspirations” doesn’t equal “muses“) , in no particular order, over the past 3 years:

  • Robert Hodgin
  • Feng Zhu
  • Robert Pirsig
  • Amelia Earhart

Robert Hodgin:

I won’t get into his long list of accomplishments here, but here is why I began following him. About 6 years or so ago, a friend of mine graduated from Ohio State in the glass blowing program. In that graduate show or maybe it was a show prior to, he had made a ferro-fluid sculpture. I loved it. I was convinced if I had searched for his name and/or “ferro-fluid” I’d come up with his sculpture on Google Image search. I came across Robert’s work. Namely, his Magnetosphere project:

I was awestruck. After doing some research, I learned that Robert and I shared eerily similar paths only I was about 5-6 years younger than him. His timeline in a very small nutshell goes something like this–Sculpture to industrial design to visual art via coding.

We starting thinking about allowing your passions dictate how you work…“-From an interview in 2010 referring to moving from Flash to Processing.

I hadn’t given much thought to who he was, nor did I care. I didn’t realize he was “kind of a big deal” in the realm of developers and coders, so naturally I sent him an email via Flickr. He was very patient with my ignorance and audacity and after a few exchanges gave me a few valuable pointers on how to get started with Processing. I, unfortunately, have the attention span of an infant and only gave Processing about 6 months of my life before I grew discouraged. I did, however, continue and still do watch Mr. Hodgin experiment with the world around him through the means of coding.

Feng Zhu:

When I was about six or seven years old, I had a box of junk that I liked to play with and build imaginary robots out of using a book all about robots and their use as a guide to build. For about 2-3 hours I’d play with the parts before resigning and putting them back into the box for another day. This love carried on probably a little longer than what would be considered as “healthy”. In 2007 I received Feng Zhu’s Gnomon Workshop DVDs that illustrate drawing concept robots. Through these discs I learned all sorts of things about new ways to ideate sketches and some great foundation skills for drawing. He reinforced my earlier love of robots and conceiving them.

Robert Pirsig:

Mr. Pirsig as inspiration is a very meta-topic. After reading his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, I was put into a very interesting place in my head. I had a night about 2 years ago in which I took a long walk and became incredibly distressed at the thought of how quickly humans have sequestered nature for more decoration and curiosity more than embracing it as our natural ecosystem. This made me really realize how much we like to control our own circumstances to give us a sense of certainty and predictability. This is normal. We need structure. We rely on it to help us find meaning behind existence. Be it religion, science, art or whatever. Pirsig had a lightning bolt in his story: “Now he began to see for the first time the unbelievable magnitude of what man, when he gained power to understand and rule the world in terms of dialectic truths, had lost. He had built empires of scientific capability to manipulate the phenomena of nature into enormous manifestations of his own dreams of power and wealth… but for this he had exchanged an empire of understanding of equal magnitude: an understanding of what it is to be a part of the world, and not an enemy of it.” Likewise, I had a similar lightning bolt. I could see what he saw, only I hadn’t had to go mad to see it. What I did with it, however, was quite a different story. I’m still mulling on that.

Amelia Earhart:

Without getting too much into her history, what matters most about her is the symbol she created for the feminist movement. Considering that women just didn’t fly in the 1920’s she pushed back against the normalcies of the day and urged us to think about the question of “who is capable of what”. This idea fascinates me and drives me when I am down. It makes me realize that the cliché of “You can do anything if you put your mind to it” is a little hokey but largely true…but with one caveat. You have to take action. Putting your mind to something is great. However there is a simpler term for that. Most people call it “thinking”. I can think about something all day long, but until I take action, all I’m doing is thinking.

With these people and countless muses, my ability to create and conceive is immense. I’m excited to see where I can take the rest of the year and I can’t wait to see what you do with your inspiration and muses as well!




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