Woodshedding

Published on Oct 30, 2014. comments.

When I was nine, I began learning how to play percussion. I started out studying in the school band program. By eleven, I was surprisingly still interested enough to seek additional instruction. Driven by a family that already produced two other musicians, I began taking private drum lessons from an older jazz player.

Beyond actually reading drum charts, improvising, practicing technique, and all the things a student might do one-on-one with an instructor, I learned how a professional musician goes about honing their craft. My teacher patiently explained that this is called woodshedding. I imagined a small shack in a snow covered valley where bad musicians were banished if they messed up during a performance. Despite his best efforts, my eleven year old mind couldn’t fully understand what he was trying to explain to me.

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Designing for Yourself

Published on Sep 11, 2014. comments.

Redesigning my personal website has historically been a stressful process riddled with self-doubt. Designing for yourself is hard. It’s hard for individuals, it’s hard for companies, and it’s usually the project that will lose out to more pressing priorities. In past iterations of my personal site, I primarily focused on just getting it to work so I could move on. Rather than spending the time to discover and enhance the details that might have elevated the experience, I raced through it to get something launched. For this version, I was very conscious of taking the time to allow these details to flourish through patience and iteration.

In other mediums that I work with, like recorded music, the time spent leading up to an idea often reveals itself to be one of the most active and rewarding parts of my creative process. There is no formula for it, the only constant is time. Time to think, time to re-think, time to create, time to destroy, and time to think again. I find the same is true when designing. Most designers, like musicians, develop stronger intuitions as they gain experience. This intuition not only shapes the work itself, but it also determines when a piece of work can be deemed finished. It’s easy to forget this when working on the web due to its nature of being such a flexible format. Where recordings have the constraint of being finite and unchangeable, websites do not. Is a website ever finished? It’s certainly easier to justify “fixing it later” in the absence of this constraint, but I’ve found this can become a crutch if not consciously kept in check.

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Prototyping Q&A

Published on Dec 11, 2013. comments.

A few months ago Happy Cog™ released The Happy Cog Way, an instructional video series highlighting our methods and best practices. As part of this series I created a course in HTML Prototyping, a beginners guide to using Zurb Foundation, Sass, and CodeKit to create responsive prototypes. Since its release, I’ve received some really great feedback about my video and the series, including this set of questions that a reader emailed me.

I’m a front end dev that’s been in the business for over 15 years. I’ve always hand coded my sites, and I’ve never really gotten into grid systems. (I was working online back int the table days).

Grid systems and “hand coding” are not mutually exclusive. For me, grid systems are just as much of a design tool as they are a development tool. Designers have been using proportional grids to layout designs on paper since the days before the printing press was invented.

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The Russian Joe

Published on Jun 26, 2013. comments.

I was looking at some old photos on Flickr and came across this. It’s from 2013’s SXSW Interactive, at Easy Tiger, just before a sizable group of people consumed the combination of beverages spread out on the table.

Ryan Jahn and I spent a day biking around Austin trying to eat lunch. After multiple unsuccessful attempts, we gave up and focused our collective energy on something that would get us through the rest of the day / night. The Russian Joe was born out of lack of energy, need for sustinance, and the desire to get in some day drinking.

Photo of 4 Russian Joes
4 Russian Joes ready for launch.

Shoot the vodka, then dump the espresso into the stout and enjoy it at a hefty pace.

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The Difference Between Money and Power

Published on Feb 27, 2013. comments.

Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power, in this town a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after ten years, power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I can not respect someone who does not see the difference

—Senator Francis Underwood, from Netflix's House of Cards.

The first season of House of Cards has ended for me. I tore through the thirteen episode season in about a week after having recently cancelled my cable. I miss watching House of Cards, I do not miss having cable television.

Building My Desk — Part One: The Frame

Published on Jan 14, 2013. comments.

Over the last week and a half, I designed and constructed a new desk for my home office. If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen some of the progress photos that I’ve been posting. I wanted to document my experience building this thing and what learned along the way. This was not only one of my favorite construction projects from a process perspective, but also my favorite finished product.

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