Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Art of Alex Varanese - AV Series


20 Ways to be a Better Designer

Taken from the Design Mind series published on the GOOD magazine website. Written by Laura Seargeant Richardson.

Everyone has moments in their career when they look back and think, “If I had only known then what I know now….” After 15-plus years as a designer and design researcher at places like IBM, Trilogy, M3 Design, and now frog design, I know I certainly have. Which is why, now that I’m a veteran, I’d like to give share some advice with young designers just starting out. If I could be your mentor, this is what I would tell you:

1. Get the book

We all have a book that grabbed us by the throat and never let go, forever changing how we look at our profession. For me, that book was Sparks of Genius, The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People. The design process is, ultimately, the ability to creatively solve problems—and in our profession, we need to be better at it than most.

2. Get the obscure book you’ve never heard of

While it’s an older book, The All New Universal Traveler – A soft-systems guide to creativity, problem solving and the process of reaching goals is still juicy today. It was written by architecture professors from California Polytech and the School of Architecture and Environmental Design, and presents a ton of research condensed into a tightly packed form.

3. Choose a topic that fascinates you and learn it inside out

This is how you become an expert. Your topic might be as broad as sustainability, or as narrow as a specific method like body storming. Over the last 10 years, I took on three provocative topics—emotional design, design research, and participatory design—and I just recently look on another: synesthesia.

4. Write, blog, and speak on that topic

You’re an expert once you feel comfortable calling yourself an expert. Take Jakob Nielsen, who began blogging about usability back in the late 1990s. He became recognized as the source on usability because he was consistently churning out information on the topic. Were there other experts on usability? Sure. But Nielsen developed the early point of view, and wrote provocatively about the subject.

5. Learn Something New Every Day

Every designer should be on a quest to see the world with fresh eyes every day. This might be learning something—a bit of trivia, perhaps—that helps you see the world a little differently. For example, today I learned that cats can’t taste sugar. This may sound trivial, but it could lead to a whole host of ideas. And so could the fact that they have hooks on their tongue to lap up water.

6. Create a New Idea Every Day

At one point I was twittering a new idea every day. (Example: “Product Idea #1: Skin Pens > did you ever write notes on your hand? i still do. i want a pen for skin writing on the go.”) Now I file them manually. People will say that ideas are a dime a dozen, but I think they’re wrong: I think the first 10 might be worth a dime, but the last two could be worth their weight in gold. I would suggest that the designer without an idea isn’t a designer. Record them, capture them, and go back to them.

7. Experiment

Good designers experiment. One of my favorite examples is from fellow frog Michael McDaniel, who conceived of portable housing after Hurricane Katrina. When he didn’t get immediate interest from government agencies, he  built a full prototype in his backyard. I’ve experimented with measuring emotion through sound, and a scent alphabet, to name a few. When you do experiment, push the edges.

8. Learn as many frameworks as you can

In 2008, a design team at M3 (where I was working at the time) went through 400 design research methods, reduced the redundancy, and then sorted the remaining 250. This exercise, while daunting, was incredible: For the first time, a designer could see the research methods, or “frameworks,” that existed in the design space. The point is, you should get comfortable moving beyond just brainstorming and start structuring data in such a way that it drives insight and innovation. When you get comfortable with many frameworks, you’ll start creating your own. The only caveat is not to rely on them, because not everything can be modeled in a framework that already exists.

9. Choose variety over anything else

I turned down an offer that paid more to come work at frog. I’ve never regretted that decision. If anything, frog has made me crave variety in such a way that I doubt I’ll ever be able to commit to just one industry. I’ve done everything from cell phone interaction design to social networking strategy, and from the future of electric vehicles to emotional medical identification. I would recommend to anyone that when you stop learning, it’s time to move on.

10. Model or draw (all the f*@#ing time)

To be good at anything, you need to do it a lot. And to be really, really good, you need to do it all the time. I don’t care how great an idea is, if you can’t model it, prototype it, or draw it, then you’re screwed. If you learn nothing else from this blog post, please find a way to learn how to make your ideas tangible. This can be through graphic design, sketching and rendering in Alias, a flash prototype, photography, video, whatever. Just learn the tools of the tangible.

11. Never stop learning

While I use most of my projects as learning vehicles, I find that this isn’t enough.  You should never stop learning. What would you learn and how would your view change if you went to 1,000 meet ups? As designers, our minds need to be as flexible as possible. Learning something new helps us see more and more possibilities and make connections that previously weren’t there.

12. Be naïve (and believe in two-headed cows)

I was voted most naïve in highschool; as a designer, that means I believe anything is possible. That ability to suspend our disbelief is key to innovation and design. I remember a co-creation session with teenagers and their ideal group game. Somehow the topic of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory came up and the idea of lickable walls. Rather than discard that idea as ridiculous, the alternative is to use it is a catalyst for design possibilities. We use this type of thinking in our frogTHINK ideation as provocation. What do you believe is definitive and what would you gain from pretending it wasn’t? The only limits are in our minds.

13. Develop a personal brand

You may think this goes without saying, but I’m not talking about merely having a blog. Instead, you need to really understand who you are and what you bring as a designer. My favorite example of this is from an interview candidate we’ll call TC. TC knew what her abilities were, her best strengths, and her ideal roles not simply from knowing herself, but by asking 55 people the following questions, “What three adjectives would you use to describe me?” “Which of my skills provide the most value to an employer?” and “Finish this statement, ”TC, you should be…” The results were included in the back of her portfolio. Knowing yourself from others’ viewpoints will help you clarify your direction and help sell yourself to prospective employees.

15. Get incredibly comfortable speaking

Join Toastmasters if you must (one of our creative directors did). Designers must constantly be able to promote their ideas—whether on an internal team, to a client, or on the podium. When I run through a presentation, I generally visualize the entire presentation in my mind. You need to get incredibly comfortable with the articulation of, the presentation of and the defense of ideas. I would also recommend improv training because nothing ever goes as expected.

16. Learn the art of wabi sabi

The art of “wabi sabi” is knowing there is beauty in the imperfect. We learn through trial and error, through mistakes. There is no such thing as “perfect” in design. There are different viewpoints, more than one solution and opportunities everywhere. Let go of the word “perfect” and focus on what really matters – designing for people the best that you can and the ability to be easy on yourself. There are no SATs for design (or the presidency, for that matter). If there were, every answer would be “D., All of the Above.”

17. Know the designer’s paradox: Hurry up and think

Every year, I see the design cycle shrinking. As a discipline (of design) we have reached the inner limits of our creative gestation – in other words, the minimum time it takes to innovate. Creativity = Area of Focus (Existing Knowledge + New Discovery) * Time. The time in this equation is used to think. We are often expected to do more with less time. While you may have had the luxury of time in school and occasionally in the design industry, get ready for a much faster paced process. And to keep the insanity at bay, read Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slowness.

18. Grasp the idea of “sfumato”

Designers deal with lots of ambiguity. Not only in the actual process, but in allowing an answer to develop. Phrases like “creative juices” and “ideas percolating” describe the internalization we do to bring order and clarity to the chaos. When designing “the future of…” anything, you (and your team) need to be able to design comfortably in ambiguity—you may not have THE idea immediately or have a clear path or process to get there. The very act of design is the process of discovery. Allow yourself the time to discover. And yes, I realize this seems hypocritical to #17.

19. Try to find the most unusual or obscure angle. We call these outliers.

My path was set the day I received the “Anti-Coloring Book” for my fifth birthday. I started to really enjoy extremes and took creative risks in school. I’ve translated this into design, for example, by developing ideas for the WTC memorial through analyzing hundreds of photographs and the artifacts they contained. This obscure approach led to the idea of the largest blood bank in the world located at the WTC site. In research, we specifically look to outliers for unique thinking and things not considered. Here you’ll find your inspiration. Here you’ll find design.

20. Train Your Brain (to think like a designer)

In the last five years the concept of neuroplasticity (a malleable brain) has taken the medical field by storm. Experiments have revealed that playing the piano and imagining playing the piano have the same neurological effect. Additionally, rats in an “enriched environment” (toys and exercise wheels) have a substantially enlarged brain and more neural connections. We should strive to play the imagined piano, we should strive to be in an enriched environment. Buy Crayola’s 3D glasses (with chalk) and play.
P.S. One final, but important note: We are all designers. Without taking anything away from the design industry, we need more people in all industries to recognize the impact that comes from their “designs”—whether it’s a doctor’s diagnosis or a teacher’s curriculum or a government employee—every human is a designer. As a discipline, we are trained to creatively solve challenges, to consider the future implications, to consider those other than ourselves. Our world is by design and we need more designers than ever before to handle the evolving world. I ask one thing of you in closing—teach one child design thinking or empower an adult by telling them they are a designer. We can all make a difference.

THe Hundreds x Garfield

Pretty good collection I must say. Very well put together

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Keep it 100! Download DJ Buddy's 100th Mini mix FOR FREE at:


Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 18 at the Vive Lounge in Pasadena

It's gonna get crackin like no other.. Thursday November 18 at the Vive Lounge in Pasadena.. $20/4 shots of top shelf drink specials..good people.. good vibes.. and musical goodness for you earhole provided by DJ Trademarq, DJ M-Boogie, and the gorgeous DJ Astrea.

Thursday, November 18 at 9:00pm - November 19 at 2:00am!!!

Also come celebrate RuckusRedd's going away party!

OhFo Realz Radio will also be in the house!!!

Featuring FREE ADMISSION All Night Long! 4 shots for $20 (Patron, Goose, Jack), $3 Coronas and $5 Jack & Coke Until 10:30PM!

For More Information:
Call/Text 626.203.9116 (Redd)
Call/Text 626.415.7424 (Rich)
Email vive@bottlesintheclub.com

VIVE Lounge
61 North Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, CA





Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tron Controllers

Okay, first and foremost, I pretty much hate most video games. With exception of driving games and sports games, all others are really not my cup of tea. Sorry. BUT, these controllers are super sick. With the new Tron Legacy coming out, I'd really wanna cop some. Yah they're wired, wah wah, who cares. They look sick! Peep em below..




Thursday, November 4, 2010

MC: Digital Mixing Club or New Chapter in Turntablism? (via MIXCRATE.COM)

Here's an article I stumbled across on mixcrate.com that was very intriguing.. just thought i'd share. This video below is what really hit me the most. Don't get me wrong, I love vinyl, but the video made me realize, that opening up DMC to digital opens up so many more doors and possibilities. Also the quote at the very end is beyond sick. Read on..

For the past decade, the art of Turntablism in the US has been in decline, since its peak in the late 90’s into the early 2000’s.  Well known battles such as ITF, Guitar Center Spinoff, and many DMC regionals have been shut down.  Turntablism has even been more popular overseas than it has been on its hometurf. Even with the decline, there is still hope for the art of turntablism with the DMC US and World Championships still around.
On October 18, 2010 DMC announced that DJs will be able to utilize Serato in their battle routines starting in 2011.  This is great news that will open doors to more creativity and allow more DJs to enter in DMC.  In all it will help revive turntablism and shed light on talented DJs.
With Serato and DVS systems now the standard, vinyl no longer reflects the current state of DJing today.  In recent years, where DVS has been standard, the DMC limitation to vinyl has created a large gap between battle DJ’s and mix DJ’s.  You were either one or the other, but there’s no reason you can’t be both.
As most DJs have fully converted to Serato, it is a hassle to flip flop between vinyl and mp3’s.  If you invest your off nights downloading music, arranging playlists, setting cue points, and practicing sets, there’s no reason to use vinyl other than to battle.  While you’re practicing your mix sets in Serato, you may discover a cool break you want to juggle or scratch.  You can now transition that routine into DMC without having to search for vinyl doubles and practicing outside of Serato.  DMC now allowing the use of Serato, bridges the gap between battle DJ and party rocker.
With the introduction of Serato, more DJ’s can enter the battle scene.  Veteran DJs who have not purchased vinyl since converting to DVS can enter.  Also, DJs who started with Serato and don’t own any records can now enter and can prove themselves as worthy DJs on the biggest stage, amongst the best competitors.  Who knows?  There could be another wonder-kid World Champion on rise ready to stake his claim like Atrak in 97.
With scratching and beat juggling still defining aspects of the art, turntablism is not dying, but evolving and starting a new chapter.  To see the new possibilities of turntablism is very exciting.  This video by DMC Champion Craze (although done with Traktor) is just the tip of the iceberg on what can be achieved through technology and traditional turntablist techniques.
Turntablist legend DJ Craze Performs on Traktor Scratch Pro and Kontrol X1 from tono.com.ua on Vimeo.

I’m sure there will be more crazy, unpredictable, and mind blowing sets in years to come.  There will also be new crops of pioneering DJs, setting new standards and shedding light on real talent.  Maybe even some veterans like Craze, Atrak, and Enferno will come back to DMC to show their digital battle skills. The hardest part would be judging the battles but the unpredictability of what a DJ may pull off makes the competition much more exciting.
I know there’s animosity from OG turntablists and vinyl purists. but this decision by DMC will only spread turntablism and bring more respect to our skills as DJs.  But no need to fear for vinyl enthusiasts! DMC’s Battle For World Supremacy will still stick to the vinyl only format.  Turntablism is music, and music is art. Art should not be limited by traditions or the tools you use, but only by your own level of creativity.

The original article can be found here:

Monday, November 1, 2010


You can find me now on Mix Crate! Check it out!