Design as a Weapon

Design is a powerful tool for social change yet in today’s world that seems so forgotten. Designers used to make posters and protest the wrong, spread messages to awake the people and stir them to action. Now we just plug in our earbuds and with eyes glued to our phones, dote over articles that showcase ui trends and read self-help tips on how to make it big.

Today, posters are dead and along with them died the activist designer. 

This upcoming generation of designers seem so obsessed by the startup manifesto of fame and fortune that they forget the power they hold. It’s a shame that some the most brilliant present-day minds are being swept up in the clutches of silicon valley to become a mere tool for generating wealth. Designers today spend so much time using design thinking to solve niche consumer “problems” while so many national and global issues are going unnoticed.

With black lives matter, refugees spilling over boarders, racist politicians, and an entire planet off balance from our own fumes, there has never been a more crucial time in history for designers to build platforms and brands that can inspire the masses to take action, rather than simply spend more money on services they don’t really need. 

Don’t just build tools and then let the people do with them what they may, build with intent. Build to create change. Build to bring to light issues that remain in the dark. 

Wrap your website in beautiful ui, lace the top with a crisp logo and coat your app in the lacker of simplicity and you have yourself a machine, built and armed to entice the masses. It spreads like wildfire, starting conversations and igniting thousands of downloads. The people love it. 

But all for what? 

The world doesn’t need any more flappy birds, or social networks. The world doesn’t need another weather app to tell you if it’s foggy outside of your trendy office in San Francisco. 

You’ve been training your entire life to solve problems, now go solve a problem that matters. 

S E L F

Even though I dropped out of design school a few years ago, I've always had the desire to earn a BFA in design on my bucket-list so I've been taking classes through Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design now for a little over a year. 

I know that in today's world there is a big debate about the necessity of college when it comes to the arts and I strongly hold the opinion that you DON'T need to go to design/art school in order to get a job in the arts. No degree or outrageous amount of student debt can guarantee you a job. Employers are going to look at your portfolio. Good portfolio=good jobs. Bad portfolio=no jobs. It's pretty simple. (See, artists can do math too!)

 If you can do creative work at a top-notch level without a degree then you should never worry about going to school as a means to get a job. Because of the internet you have at your fingertips everything you will ever need in order to learn the necessary skills required in order to be super successful as a designer. We live in a time where one should seriously consider bypassing school and saving an abundance of time and money 

That being said, design and art school should be looked at as a time to explore creative directions that a job will never require, nor allow. Much can be learned while working that is far more valuable than what is taught in a classroom but the classroom offers and completely safe environment for students to explore and provides the potential for a level of creative depth that an employer will never ask for.

The reason I work late almost every night, wake up before my family, sometimes give up my weekends in order to earn a degree in design is not because I fear that I need a degree in order to get a job. It is because I love the creative process and school offers me a chance to continue to push myself in ways that I would otherwise neglect. 

Here is a project that I just completed. The task was to create a self portrait video that is under 2 minutes. I'll be the first to admit that the video came out super weird but I say that when you lack inspiration, just make it weird and then call it art. Those who don't like it obviously don't appreciate art ;) 

The video is an exploration of the self and the struggle with continuously reaching out for something more, while trying to remain grounded and centered. I hope you enjoy.



Now Just Memories

Here's a quick lookback at the past year or so. I was scrolling through files and files of videos that I've captured and decided to make a quick little edit. It's amazing how much this tiny little human has changed. Nothing has EVER brought me more happiness than being this little dude's daddy. 

Defining a "Good Brand Experience"

Designing the logo for a brand is one thing, but crafting an entire brand experience is entirely another. What is it that defines a good experience and how can strategically shaping experience move customers from merely using your brand to falling in love with it? 

Lately I've been thinking a lot of what it means to have a good "brand experience". Why is it that some brands leave you walking away feeling refreshed and rejuvenated while others cause irritation or stress? It would be ideal for ALL brands to achieve an Apple Store sort of user delight but so many fall short, and that goes for both online and offline. 

After some thought I've concluded that good brand experience occurs when I able to find exactly what I am looking for without much confusion, waiting in line, or digging through pages and pages of links. A good experience is when I don't even notice the brand rather it getting in my way it simply adds value to what I am seeking. It's almost defined by what it is NOT rather than what it is.

Google is a great example of this. When I need to find something online I simply go to Google.com where Google provides a clean, distraction free interface. I type in what I'm searching for, find exactly what I seek and move on.  Bing on the other hand is bold, distracting, and tries to pull me away from what I seek. 

The same goes for retail stores, restaurants, or any online website. The brand should elevate the customers desires, not distract from what they want. 

A good experience leaves you walking away not even realizing that you had "an experience". A bad experience leaves you grumbling about about how things weren't the way they should have been.

As we move further into the future brands need to become better and better at creating good experience for it's customers in both the physical world as well as the digital one. Brands are going to need to figure out ways to seamlessly integrate technology with it's customers lives. Double tapping an Instagram photo and liking a shirt on a shelf in the retail store are two completely different interactions but is there a way that each of these can become related and be used to create a delightful experience for users to find exactly what they seek?

Is it that hard to imagine a time when you step into a retail store and their system already knows which clothing items you've viewed online, which of their photos you liked and even what sort of styles you happen to be in to as this time? A store like this could then present you with exactly the items you like before you even go searching through the racks to find it. 

Now THAT would be a good brand experience.

Check out Rebecca Minkoff's new brick-and-mortar store than perfectly integrates a digital experience. Her store is truly revolutionary is opens up the potential for retail shopping everywhere. (Perhaps if the desire strikes to go drop a couple hundos on a shiny pink purse you could swing by and give it a try firsthand.) 

I expect to see more technology integrated into the retail shopping experience as we go further into the future. As designers and creatives we have a really unique role to play where we can define entire experiences for users and emotion to a brand. Stop looking at branding as a choice of colors and a swirly logo but instead as a whole experience that helps users easily find what they seek. 


 

Be Always Awake

Welcome To the Chaos

Our world is like a busy anthill with everyone, rushing around, climbing, pushing and fighting to the top. It's as if there is a great panic in the air that makes us all go crazy. We're like wild animals fighting for the last scrap of food. We must get "that" job, achieve "that" promotion, buy "that" house, and we must do it all before someone else does it first and takes that opportunity away. 

While we scurry around in a great fit of worry we fight for achievements, believing that somehow gaining one more rung in the ladder of success is equal to gaining more overall satisfaction, peace, and happiness in life. 

In today's world technology can ignite that fire of madness and now one busy anthill is connected virtually to a billion busy anthills and suddenly the whole inter-connected web of colonies go crazy. It becomes non stop comparing, judging, envying and idolizing as one person's achievements are constantly held in comparison to another's. 

The Flip-Side of the Coin

On the other hand, because of technology we live in a unique time when literally anything you can dream of becoming, is possible to achieve. The internet brings opportunity right into the palm of your and you now have the chance to live anywhere and do anything.

You could travel like Andrew Collin-Beck with your young family around the world, while maintaining a successful art career.  

You could be like BC Serna and inspire a young generation to live intentionally by making short films to showcase causes and non-profits that are doing amazing things.

You could work like Sam Larsen and draw everyday and then sell stickers and t-shirts of your quick doodles. 

The internet provides so many opportunities. If you want to be something, make something or build your life in a way that will make you unbelievably happy, you can. 

We don't have to fall victim to the rat race. We don't have to fall in line, join the madness, and fight for the last scrap of meat. We live in a world of plenty. If what you are doing right now doesn't work out, something else will. Don't worry. 

The key to happiness is to realize that you are alive, to recognize that you are awake, and to take a deep breath with full awareness that you have the power to shape your life to become anything you want it to be. 

Right now in my life I am choosing to work as a designer and live near San Francisco. I am choosing to raise a little boy and I am choosing to be in love with my best friend and beautiful bride. Even just typing those words and acknowledging my ability to choose feels empowering. It's healthy to take a moment and realize that you have made your life what it is, and that you have the power to shape it to become whatever you like. 

There is no joining of the anthill madness when you realize that you are in control, and you can become whatever you dream.


How are you choosing to live your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below and discover how empowering it feels to publicly state that you live your life consciously and by choice. Give it a try.

How to Improve in Design

There is no shortcut, there is no special tutorial, and there is no college or art school that will make you a good designer. There is only one thing that will do the trick. Read on to discover what that is. 

Now I'm no Michael Angelo of the designer world and I recognize that I am still very young on the scene but I do feel like I'm doing a pretty damn good job and that I know what it takes to be a great designer. (Humble brag moment right there.) 

Even though I'm only 25, a question I get asked a lot by upcoming designers and other creatives who are starting out is 'what free websites should I check out to learn design?' They want to know the fastest, and cheapest way possible to get really good.

I know that this question comes with sincere intent but it sometimes feels almost offensive. It's offensive because it projects the notion that somehow I've taken a shortcut. They want to know what sort of quick tips I learned or what magical pathway through the designer woods I found that got me to where I am today. That somehow I am where I am today, not because I consistently wake up at 5:30am to work on my side-projects before my baby wakes up, or because of the countless weekends I've skipped hanging out with friends and instead sat in my room doing photoshop tutorials. The question negates the two small business I've launched (and failed) and what I learned along the way regarding branding and digital marketing. The question overlooks the hundreds of hours I've spent reading about the industry and the best practices for coming up with beautiful designs, let alone the 5+ years I've worked full-time as a designer.

Yes the software is getting easier and easier to use and yes it can seem that a career in design is a quick and simple way to make a lot of money and to be highly valued in the business world. 

But NO, there is no shortcut and there is no website that will give you the answers. You just have to dig, and dig and dig and want it more than you want anything else.

If design is not your passion and your near obsession then you can't expect to get the same results as those who treat it as such

Check out this beautiful Video of Ira Glass describing how to get better at being creative. THIS IS THE KEY!

The only way to become great (and I feel like I am far from becoming such) is to do work. Do lots and lots of work until eventually your work will look and feel like those who you look up to. That's how they got where they are and that's the only way you'll get there too.

Then it will be your turn to answer the emails 'what free website did you learn design on?'


Seriously dudes and dudettes. I love getting your emails. If I just offended and mocked you because you were the one who last emailed me, I'm supes sars. Let's still be friends. Deal? Deal. 

How to Find Creative Success

We all have hopes, wants and dreams. We long to one day become truly successful and to finally "make it". We want to finally become noticed and recognized for doing something great. To stand on that world stage and take a bow while thinking, "Man I am freaking awesome".  Sometimes  success can become the only thing we think about, talk about, and focus on. I know I've been there. The reality is, obsessing over 'how to get that next job', 'whose style should I replicate', or 'how can I strategically build my career', can actually be the thing that keeps success from ever coming.

Success is like Happiness

Despite what overly energetic motivational speakers may tell you, you can't simply make yourself be happy. Your emotions come and go and sometimes you will feel happy and sometimes you will feel like ish. That's just a fact of life. You can't force happiness. It just doesn't work that way. If you seek happiness by trying to make yourself feel happy, you won't feel much, and in fact you will probably feel pretty miserable. (Go ask the drug addict a few blocks over how forced happiness is doing for him.) No es bueno homie. Happiness isn't a switch that can be turned on or off, it is a byproduct of something else, of something bigger than yourself. Success is the same.

Success can't be forced. The more you focus on it, dwell on it, seek it, and try and build it, the more you will discover that it is always out of reach and that you are consistently unsatisfied and unhappy with your achievements. The moment you let go of the illusion that you can force success if you only try hard enough, something amazing will start to happen. When people begin to live passionately and consciously and stop worrying about achieving something in the future, almost as if magic success starts to come their way. In the moments that you simply open yourself up to enjoying life's journey, embracing whatever comes your way, you will discover happiness. In these moments success becomes a gift, not an accomplishment. Are you feeling these zen vibes?

Don't Aim At Success

Victor Frankl, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, went through more heartache and pain than many of us can even imagine. He later wrote about his experiences and what he gained from facing such difficulty. He wrote,

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

It all boils down to a simple concept. You want to be more creative? Help others cultivate their creativity! You want love from people? Love people! You want more money? Help others make some freaking money! You want more opportunities in your career? Help others to become noticed and given opportunity. 

You want success? Help others become successful. Spend each day doing what you love and truly living a passionate and conscious life and the rest will work itself out. By finding a purpose or a cause greater than yourself you will also find success.

As creatives we have been given talents and abilities to make a HUGE difference in the world. When we dedicate ourselves to something big and use our talents for good success will become the unintended byproduct. It's karma fools.


Believe in a Better Way

This is another large-scale mural going up. For concept behind this was to create something that captured the vision of SolarCity and could inspire it's viewers to work hard and stay motivated. I used several phrases and mottos that are tossed around the company and arranged them based of how important to our values they are. The layout of the mural is set so that the big vision, "Believe in a Better Way" sort of wraps over this blissful scene, giving the viewer a taste of what a world powered by clean energy could be like. I intentionally make the mural carry a sort of retro feel to it so that the viewer could get a sense of nostalgia and a longing for our world to return back to the days of clean air and easy living. 

 

Litefeet Crew Dancing on Trains

Last week Garth Pratt and I were in NYC filming and photographing for work. As we made our way from place to place we crossed paths with bunch of African American teens who told us that they were "Litefeet" dancers and asked us if we would want to film them do their dances.

Being two naive white boys who grew up working on farms and having absolutely no idea what we "should" and "should not" do in New York City, we readily agreed to go with these kids to meet the rest of their crew and film their dance routine. 20 min later we found ourselves in the heart of Queens surrounded by a group of loud rambunctious African American teenagers who were covered in tattoos and spoke a language that is far from what they speak in Idaho.

As we stood on the subway platform they were jumping around and hollering at people but as soon as the train showed up they turned to us and said, "Let's go, let's go!" and they aggressively rushed us into the car. They doors slammed shut and the subway started to gain speed down the tracks and I suddenly felt nervous about what was going on. The boys began eyeing the other people on the train, looking them up and down. They approached a few people and asked, "Are you a cop?" Garth and I began exchanging nervous glances as they kept asking people if they were a cops. Once it was determined that there were no cops on the subway car they pulled out a small stereo and one of them loudly yelled out, "It's showtime everyone!" echoed by a unanimous "SHOWTIIIIIIIME!" from the rest of the crew. They cranked the volume up, rolled up their sleeves and with big grins on their faces started to dance, right there in the subway car! Check out the below video to get a glimpse at what unfolded next.

It was incredible! Their routine was so mesmerizing/ bizarre and looked like a thug version of pole-dancing. Most of the passengers on the subway really enjoyed it too and with smiles gave the kids some cash afterward. Even though these kids were loud, obnoxious and possibly offensive to some, they told Garth and I over and over that they were all about positivity. They didn't want cause any harm. They didn't want to get in any trouble. They simply wanted to perform for people and make the ride for the commuters of New York just a little more enjoyable. (And possibly make a little money while doing it.) 

One of the kids told us that they would rather dance than be in a gang. Dancing was their life and what they considered to be their future. It was their way to escape some hardships they faced from growing up in some of the hardest neighborhoods in New York. One kid told us,

"There was always gangs, but when Litefeet came around, people stopped their gangs to make dance teams."
This is Prince. He is a litefeet dancer from Queens who led to to film his dance crew.

This is Prince. He is a litefeet dancer from Queens who led to to film his dance crew.

We finally split ways with the the Litefeet crew after the cops showed up and the group scattered. As we were running fast through the subway tunnels away from the cops Prince (the main kid who was taking us around) turned to us and said, "You guys don't have to worry. You are white. They won't arrest you."  Prince, on the other hand was only 17 years old and had been arrested multiple times for making people smile as he danced on subway.


Here are a few more pictures that I took while in NYC. It was soooo cold while we were there and I didn't get to do much site-seeing because of work obligations (I know, riiiight???) but some of the experiences we had are unforgettable. If you want to learn more about these Litefeet dancers and why the NYPD is trying to make a big effort to stop and arrest these young dancers click here to watch a short documentary