Learning Adventures

The last month has been a blur– living out of a suitcase, graduating with an MBA, and getting married in less than a month! It’s been a whirlwind, but there’s been a lot of fun, laughter, eating, and learning.

Creative Mornings: Oakland

During my last week in California, there was a Creative Mornings event at Impact HUB Oakland. Creative Mornings is an organization that puts together brief creative lecture/networking events during weekday mornings. Chapters generally have about one event a month, and I was lucky enough to catch Favianna Rodriguez, a Bay Area artist and activist.


She covered a variety of issues, but these were some of the most memorable moments:

  • The power of art is that it can ultimately transform what you see.
  • Don’t only fight against what you don’t want, but fight for the work you want.
  • Language matters. The word homosexual vs. gay made a difference.
  • Define your own story. If you don’t, someone else will.
  • Art and culture are human rights.
  • Dichotomies are limited narratives. We need multi-dimensional narratives.

AIUX Workshop at Stanford d.school

I’ve been wanting to check out Stanford’s renowned d.school since learning about it a few years ago, and got a fantastic opportunity to do so the day before heading back home to Minnesota.

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I attended a morning workshop session around designing user experience for artificial intelligence. The format was more workshop than lecture and the group split into small teams to try out various strategic design/planning/foresight tools. The tools were the same as can be found here: Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation

We used the context map, progression curve, and paper prototyping tools. The most interesting was the progression curve. My group examined the relationship of humans and AI, and included milestones going back to punch card systems and the first computer to fictional characters like Data in Star Trek TNG. Currently, we’re looking at systems like Google Now, which is a proactive AI rather than a reactive one. It was helpful to watch the progression over time and line it up with other curves, like the development of data gathering.

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Recap: Pentagram at AIGA SF

This morning, I had the opportunity to sit in on a design discussion/panel with Paula Scher and Natasha Jen, partners at Pentagram Design in New York. The program was put on by AIGA San Francisco as part of their 2013 Design Lecture Series.

While the discussion was primarily focused on graphic design, I found some key concepts that apply across the board. Two things struck me as especially insightful. First, Paula stressed the importance of finding something in each project that you believe in and can become passionate about. Secondly, finding constraints is key. A blank canvas does more to stifle creativity than a tiny broom closet.

These are not new ideas, but they ring true each time I hear them. Particularly during crunch time, I have a hard time holding on to my original passion and playfulness from the design phase in an effort to just get ‘er done. This is a good reminder to re-focus on my enthusiasm for each of my projects.


My full notes on the discussion below:

  • Pentagram seeks partners that self generate. Partners need to be able to find their own work and manage their own teams and clients. They ask “what are these designers doing on their own?”
  • When asked about less glamorous “pay the bills” projects, Paula emphasized the importance of approaching each project with enthusiasm, and elevating the mundane. Raise expectations.
  • There is a common perception that pro-bono work is always good and that corporate work is bad. This concept needs to be re-examined and dissolved.
  • Paula finds breakthroughs come from misbehaving. Take something and turn it on its head.
  • Natasha finds that each day there are moments of inspiration and moments of stuck. While she doesn’t have a specific practice of doing something to find inspiration, she looks at a lot of design online daily.
  • Stuck happens. Paula recommended not being afraid of being stuck, but capitalize on and rely on what you’ve learned and your moments of inspiration.
  • Finding design perimeters and getting initial client buy-in are key. Find yourself pushing against a narrow confine. Tackling something too broad will drive you crazy.