Celebrating a fourth year of freelancing

Yesterday I marked four years as an independent design director. This past one has been a great one. Among the highlights were getting to define the logo for a cool new technology that allows 3D viewing on mobile devices without those silly glasses, creating the visual identity for a department within a famous university in California (work that hasn’t launched yet), and partnering with various design studios in the States. Beginning in January I’ve been helping the Brand Studio within Google on various initiatives, including contributing to the art direction of this microsite and its photography.

Travel was definitely an important aspect of this past year, with trips to Switzerland, Italy, Brazil, and NYC. The one to Europe involved fun workshops, one on creative coding and the other on ceramics.

And I also continued being involved with the MFA program at the Academy of Art, advising three students on their thesis projects. One has just graduated, and the others are well on their way. I’m looking forward to sharing their excellent work on my blog as soon as they let me.

The next twelve months will hopefully be just as exciting. For starters, my next trip is right around the corner, to an island with huge statues of heads.

Work featured on Dynamic Logo


The brand identity work I created for AgilOne has been recently featured in a wonderful design compendium titled Dynamic Logo, published by Dopress Books.

As the Chinese publishing house explains,

The exact opposite of static, the brands chosen as case studies for this new volume on logo design were handpicked for their adaptability to ever-changing conditions. This versatility allows a secret glimpse into the creative process by presenting every conceivable application from bus stop posters and billboards to temporary tattoos, street art stencils, mobile apps and more. Instead of diluting core brands, this dynamism creates a stronger more cohesive identity for the companies profiled by providing a path for long-term survival. New opportunities and platforms for branding are embraced, intersecting with the ever-changing ways in which an increasingly savvy public interacts with their environment. Case studies include: AOL, City of Melbourne, Dubai Airport, Futurebrand, Swisscom and the Van Gogh Museum.

It was very flattering to receive their invitation to appear among so many projects I admire. The book has over 250 pages, and the projects have been beautifully printed.

It is available for purchase here.

My first live drawing performance

Last week I had the pleasure of participating at my first Quiet Lightning. They describe it as a monthly series that features submission-based reading in San Francisco, and includes all forms of writing without introduction or banter. “Writing” may need an expanded definition from now on, because this particular one also included a drawing. Turns out that in all the years they’ve been having the events, no one had submitted an illustration before.

A few weeks ago they posted a call on their site to translate a beautiful short piece by Melissa Chandler called Considering They Lived. While the call suggested translations using literary techniques (“in poem form, in fiction, creative nonfiction, etc.”), it also said “anything you can imagine, basically, you can do.” One thing I like doing is drawing using texts as inspiration (Drawn Quijote, Visual Comment), so my translation turned out more visual than verbal.

It was very flattering receiving the email from the curators inviting me to participate. Katie Wheeler-Dubin, Lauren Traetto, and Evan Karp wanted my illustration included in sparkle + blink (the booklet they publish for the event), and asked I be part of the reading by doing a live drawing performance.

Which turned out to be a lot of fun. Considering They Lived was translated in so many creative ways, including short stories, poems, even back-and-forth-across-languages through Google Translate. The list of participants included Steven Westdahl, Kristina Ten, Emily Weinstein, Caroline Kessler, Amy K. Bell and Julie Morse.


And that was just the first half of the show. After a break, the Center for the Art of Translation had a group of translators share translations into English of the pun-ridden Pornografismos, from Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s famously difficult-to-translate book Exorcismos de esti(l)o. It was fascinating to listen to various takes on the same source, and even more so being a native Spanish speaker.

So all in all, a really great time. Made new friends, listened to cool readings, and was asked by the writer of the text if she could keep the drawing. Will definitely submit again next year!

Thank you to @quiet_lightning@vouchedbooks@disembodiedpoet, and Orie Alpern for the photos, as well as to Evan Karp for the video!

SUPSI Lugano Interaction Design Processing Workshop 2013, Video

You may remember from a few months ago a series of posts about my time at the The Island: A Primitive Multiplayer Game Processing Workshop, run by Andreas Gysin.

In his blog, Andreas has included his own recap of the workshop, as well as a very cool video of the game we programmed using Processing. Check it out!

Featured student work: Nicole Ryan


Earlier this year I mentored Nicole Ryan with her thesis project, as she embarked on her last semester at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. This post showcases the resulting work.

Nicole graduated as an MFA this past spring, complementing her previous BFA degree in photography. She was one of my students in 2011 at Nature of Identity class, and having won a Brand New Award for her work in it, expectations for her thesis project were high. She did a great job.

Worried about the diminishing role the arts are having in a typical high school curriculum these days, she set out to find ways graphic design could be deployed to help. She created a series of tools that could inspire both students and teachers. In her words:

This project focuses on the role the arts play in education. Love and appreciation for the arts in some capacity is unanimous among the people I know and interact with. People love the arts, even if they personally feel they lack the skills, because all forms of art can entertain, entice conversation, challenge ideas, alter our mood, and teach us something about ourselves and our culture.

This book is a curation of supporting information (both from my own field research and from published professionals and educators), case studies and potential methods for arts integration in and outside of the classroom. Educators, parents and advocates can utilize these resources as inspiration and as a starting point for projects of their own.

By the time we started the mentoring sessions, Nicole had already been working on her thesis for more than a year, and had a solid research foundation. She had gathered materials, conducted interviews, visited schools, and collected wonderful visual documentation along the way.






When it came to the developing a compelling design approach, I got a chance to mentor her along that journey. I tasked her with better defining her audiences, when and how she could motivate them. Equally important was exploring how the visual communication would look.





She was then able to develop and expand a look and feel system that required variety to engage those audiences. And we discussed each application’s purpose within her system, establishing strengths and weaknesses in each approach.

Within all the expected and unexpected applications worth designing, could there be one core application that embodies the thesis solution in its entirety? In Nicole’s case, it was an exercise kit containing booklets and flashcards that would help engage students and teachers with various art forms.





Teachers and parents who want to offer their kids creative activities, but feel they lack the resources and knowledge, can use exercises as a tool and a source of inspiration. The exercises were conceived following insights Nicole found in her research. For example, students prefer art activities that are group-based instead of individual endeavors, so the exercises encourage collaboration and sharing. Through beautiful typography, a fresh colour palette, and inviting illustrations, these pieces show it isn’t hard to make any learning experience interactive and more engaging.

And there’s more. To find out about other applications, read the thesis book, or visit Nicole’s portfolio entry on the project.

Participating at Quiet Lightning this Wednesday


Quiet Lightning is a submission-based reading series that takes place monthly in San Francisco, features all forms of writing without introduction or banter and publishes each show as a book. In their words, “the shows … are like literary mixtapes: works of art in their own right, seamless, coherent text.”

Why am I writing about Quiet Lightning on my blog? I’ll be participating this Wednesday! After attending and enjoying a couple of their shows, in which people walked up on stage and read out loud their short stories or poems, they recently posted a call to “translate” a piece by Melissa Chandler called Considering They Lived:

You can respond to this piece in any way you’d like. Examples: translate it into another language; answer the questions in the piece; take the form and apply it to a new set of questions; imagine the lives of the people in the piece; etc. You can do this in poem form, in fiction, creative nonfiction, etc. You can tell us a story using a series of lists. Anything you can imagine, basically, you can do.

My response was a visual reinterpretation, and it got picked! Now, wish me luck as I attempt to “read out loud” an illustration, or better yet come check it out! The show is at The Lab (located at 2948 16th Street), and doors open at 6.45pm. The first 100 people to arrive receive a free copy of sparkle + blink.

It will be my first time doing this kind of performance, and I’m looking forward to it. Hope you can make it!