The Joy of Sketching

The other day I was sketching, as many of us Cricketeers like to do to visualize ideas quickly, when I made a mistake on what I was drawing. Command+Z, I thought, command+Z. But there was no edit-undoing what I had done to that sheet of paper. Unlike the realm computers, where you can endlessly revise, redo, copy, undo, re-undo, create-new-from-template and step backwards into the previous states of a document’s history, sketching on paper is much more of a here-and-now experience. This makes it both limiting and liberating at the same time—limiting in that each mark you make is permanent and cannot be continuously copied and altered indefinitely in a virtual dimension, but liberating in that the possibilities that arise when you put a pencil to paper are vastly more varied and interesting than what would come from going straight to the computer. And this is what makes sketching an essential, not to mention fun, part of the design process.

Idiosyncrasy and unexpectedness are things that help make good design good. This doesn’t mean sloppiness or carelessness. People enjoy and resonate with a piece of design more when it contains some human element of imperfection rather than looking like a robot produced it. Sketching helps designers reconnect with the playful and experimental side of image-making, improvising and exploring ideas before they’re “right” or “wrong” yet, when the marks we make can just exist on the page as what they are: undifferentiated, with multiple potential futures awaiting them. Even from a biomechanical standpoint, when you sit down with a pencil, your hand moves in directions and creates variations that don’t happen while piggy-backing a mouse or using the pen-tool in Illustrator software.

The iconic designer Milton Glaser said, “Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking.” At Cricket, we unquestionably practice this idea, and not even intentionally, but because that’s how we naturally enjoy designing. Just like a good meal requires fresh, quality ingredients and the skill to combine them in the right amounts and at the right time, good design also needs to start with the fresh, raw ingredients sketched out on paper. A microwave can always re-heat a good meal (unless it’s pizza or French fries, which is just gross), but it can’t enhance a meal that wasn’t good to begin with. Similarly, a computer is best used to refine and finalize what has first been given enough love and attention on paper. Otherwise you’ll be left with soggy pizza.

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Design Alchemy

Everything in moderation…including moderation – Julia Child

The holidays were upon us, and now they are passed, and after a brief January pause in which we took a little breath, we all move on into a new year of goals, challenges, and triumphs — we hope. As ever, last year was full of all of those things too, and in the midst of it the Cricketeers took a moment to collaborate on a duo of letterpressed posters featuring some of our favorite herbs and spices, printed beautifully by our friends at Studio on Fire. We think the process of design is a lot like working in a kitchen/cooking — it’s a careful blend of thought, science and inspiration, with a splash of alchemy and more than a little teamwork and passion, all of which results in something satisfying and delicious that feeds us on many levels. We also wanted to create something that was beautiful, but also a bit useful. Our intention was for this to be a holiday gift and a big thank you to our friends and clients for helping us succeed and do what we love to do over the past 10 years. We look forward to lots more strategic communication problems to find answers to this year.

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. – John Maeda

Download a spicy recipe for Saffron Panna Cotta from our friend and new Cricketeer, Chef Leah Caplan.

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Office Management

Miss Pants

Even if you know only one thing about Cricket Design Works, it’s probably that we’ve got an awesome office manager, Miss Annie Pants. She greets guests, breaks the ice at presentation meetings, accepts packages from delivery guys and treats from the postman. Most importantly, she is our morale steward, with her tail thumping hellos, occasional hand licks, and willingness to accept a little petting. She’s been holding this position steady for 9 years.

Recently however, Miss Pants has had an occasional Office Assistant, Billie Pickles. Miss Pickles only works Fridays, doesn’t answer phones, and has staked out a spot in the windowsill and the clear space behind one of our monitors. She mostly naps, but occasionally knocks stuff over and plays with art supplies. She’s still in training, but we’re confident that she’ll soon be helping us write press releases.

InBusiness magazine recently contacted us to include us in a story they were putting together on office pets. As Annie has been part of the team for years, and we know a handful of other businesses that have an animal, it seems completely unremarkable that any office would have a pet, however, when we thought more about it, we really don’t see it all that often. Having a good natured pet around who can get along well with strangers, be the occasional necessary distraction, and boost team spirit is all positive, and seems like a win-win. Annie and Billie bring good energy to the studio and really do make us better at what we do.

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A Symbol of Hospitality

Hospitality Pineapple
As we were embarking on brainstorming and inspiration gathering for an identity project, we touched on the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality, and wondered how this came to be. It is something that is more widely known on the east coast of America for some reason, but even though it’s known to more people there, it has still become a broad definition for this icon, and it doesn’t seem to be connected directly in a visual way. So, why? What we learned is this:

Christopher Columbus “discovered” the pineapple for the European world when he landed in the Caribbean. He returned to Europe with stories of this sweet fruit, and it became a legendary thing to people who had access to very little fresh fruit. It was a long time before horticulturalists were able to cultivate it, so apparently it was unattainable and highly coveted by peeps with money, like Kings. Thus, the symbol of receiving a pineapple became a symbol of royal privilege.

In Colonial America, as is still (possibly stereotypically) quite often the case on the east coast, hospitality was an important element to society. Hostesses would create elaborate centerpieces for formal visits, showing their creativity and means. Even then, the pineapple was a rare, expensive, and pretty item, so those who could afford and procure it would place it right at the top of their centerpiece, elevating it to a symbol of the best hospitality and welcome.

There is even a legend that says that New England sea captains returning from the Caribbean Islands would bring home pineapples and spear one on a fence post outside their home to let their friends know that they’d returned safely from sea, and inviting them for a visit to share food and drink and hear their stories.

Now, sculpted pineapples adorn fence posts, gates, tapestries, etc, and are frequently seen in hotels and restaurants as a sign of hospitality. It’s fascinating that something can become a symbol like this seemingly by accident.

We’d like to extend a little hospitality of our own in honor of our Junior Designer, Rachael’s, graduation and celebrate with some cocktails at the studio on Friday, May 18th. Let’s say 5ish. Click here for more info and to RSVP. Stop by if you’re around, we’d love to see you!

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All of the Cats are Cheetahs

We as designers know that there’s a vast history behind how symbols and logos are created and evolve, but we don’t always think about it in the day to day operations of creating a new icon.

Humans have been communicating with symbols for ages: hieroglyphs, cave paintings of buffalo, Phoenician letterforms. Essentially our entire language is made up of symbols that we mix around to form words and sounds. Before kids even have verbal language, many learn to begin to communicate with simple sign language, which is essentially applying a symbolic action to a word. Then as they begin to communicate verbally, at some point they learn that the golden “M” equals McDonalds, the script “D” means Disney,  the swoosh is Nike, etc.

Brand New posted a short video of famous logos analyzed by a 5 year old that is oddly interesting in terms of how a young mind interprets symbols and adds a different level of knowledge to them. All of these are well known and recognized icons, and many of them were immediately recognized by this kid, but he had some unexpected comments about a few of them. A couple of my favorites were that the McDonald’s logo looks like it’s made out of fries, and that all of the cats are cheetahs.

It’s good to be reminded that our work is often perceived differently by different minds and sets of experiences.

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Detox for the Creative Mind


As a studio we’re pretty open to new ideas and ways of doing things, especially if it helps us do our jobs better. I think one fear that many creatives have is that the flow of ideas might just stop for some reason. Rationally, I think we all know that our creativity is more like a muscle than a river and the more we use it the stronger it gets, but there are always those times when you’re not sure if that brilliant idea is going to come to you or not.

I’ve done a number of things to jog and stretch my creativity in and outside the studio. Most of them treat your brain like a bucket—dump in as much inspiration as possible and hope that a killer idea will float to the top. Think differently, think more, think harder. What we’ve been doing is much different.

It’s detox for your brain. It’s wringing out the sponge, dumping out the bucket, letting it all dry out for a bit. We turn off the phone, the music, shut the door and lock it. For 20 minutes, first thing in the morning, we sit still and train our brains to think of nothing. I call it letting my brain melt—it’s extremely difficult, but when you get into the zone of nothingness this is sort of what it feels like. Meditation is unlike sleep and unlike being awake—it’s somewhere in between and allows your brain a restorative rest.

As some artists get inspiration from staring at a clean substrate, I know I’ve done some of my best work when I’ve started my day with a “blank canvas.” It allows me to let go of all the unimportant noise in my brain, start fresh and get down to creating.

Here are some online resources about meditation for creativity:
What Daily Meditation Can Do For Your Creativity
How to boost creativity through meditation
David Lynch on meditation and creativity

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Sitting Still, Doing Nothing

Recently Alain De Botton (http://www.alaindebotton.com/) posted:

“One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.
….
The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.”

Enter meditation. Sitting for a period of even 20 minutes can feel like fasting for an extended period of time-especially when one considers that nerve transmissions occur at a rate from 1 to 120 meters per second – and that we each possess millions of neurons. That’s potentially a lot of stimuli to filter and process.

I don’t particularly like meditation. Or, I “like” it in the same way I “like” push-ups and sit-ups–it’s good for me, I like the results, but I don’t always enjoy the process.

S0 when Maria proposed an experiment to sit daily for eight weeks and record her progress and post about it (coming soon we promise!), and Annie joined in, I also made the commitment. Partly to see what effect it would have on our work as a creative team, and partly because I thought the extra structure and presence of others would help me practice meditation more regularly, something I’ve been trying to do anyway.

I’m not naturally good at sitting still and doing nothing—it flies in the face of my natural work ethic. If I’m lucky I can make it through a full half hour, constantly clearing away the intruding thoughts to make room for white space. As a designer I’m a big fan of whitespace on the page, but rarely do I find very much of it in my mind.  Occasionally when I sit I get glimmers of it. Sometimes the invading thoughts become design solutions or a new project—those are the gems I’ve held onto—but most thoughts get tossed and left behind. It can be surprisingly hard.

Our experimental period has ended, but we’ve kept on sitting. So really it’s still a work in progress, but here’s my take so far…

There have been days too busy to squeeze in 20 minutes of sitting. Lately we’ve sat less than we should. But I’ll say this—the days we sit together are better than the days we skip. Even the days we sit and get interrupted part way through, or the days where a veritable shit-storm of thoughts attack are easier and more productive than the days I keep my nose to the grindstone.

How is it better? It’s easier for me to make decisions. It’s easier to be patient with myself and my creative process (and with others).  The studio is just a tiny bit calmer, more productive and happier. Have I re-learned to concentrate?  Maybe a little bit.  I’ve definitely learned to filter.  And in design – that’s ultimately a big part of what we do – we filter through all the messages and prioritize the information we need to present and eliminate the distractions.

I’m a little bit embarrassed to share this thing that has a faint whiff of patchouli to it. Our studio is really nothing like a hippie commune. But this practice has been so productive and constructive for us and our work that it’s an experience worth sharing. Has it been a good business decision to invest this much (20 min X 3 people X our average billable rate X 40 days and couning) in “doing nothing”?  I have no doubt it’s been worthwhile. Look to see some of the results in our updated portfolio.

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Love, Retail & Smelling Good in the Digital Age

A couple of weeks ago I finally accepted that I wasn’t going to get one more squirt out of my three year old bottle of Armani Code and it was time to pick a new perfume. The entire experience has made me think a great deal about retail and customer service when it comes to the digital age. I’ve been paying more attention to what I buy online and what I prefer to buy at a store.

Now the last thing you’d think is that you can buy a new perfume online. But this is exactly what I thought I’d do after having a really hard time finding someone who knew about perfume to help me find a scent at the department store. So I smelled some things I thought I might like and then left irritated, having driven to the mall, a place I actually think I’m allergic to, for nothing.

Most of the online perfume retailers touted free shipping, lower prices and hard-to-find scents, which was nice to know, but not very helpful to me specifically. Sephora has a pretty nice Frangrance Finder for those, who know what they like in a scent, but want to try something new. They advertise free shipping as well as returns, so I guess they win. Their descriptions are rich, but they make every perfume sound like “the one.” The internet has come a long way, but can you honestly buy a scent based on a description? Maybe.

I could not. I decided to head to a competing department store where I finally found someone very knowledgeable who was able to help me find two new scents that I adore (Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline and Au Thé Blanc). She also sent me home with a slew of samples, small purse sizes of my new perfume as well as a pink luffa and travel sizes of the shower gel and lotion in my scent for an upcoming trip I had mentioned. So here I am, someone who detests the mall and department stores, now cheer captain for Margie at the Macy’s women’s fragrance counter, contemplating making her a “World’s Greatest Sales Associate” coffee cup and completely rethinking my relationship with brick and mortar.

Dear Internet,
I met someone else. You just aren’t who I thought you were.

In the past weeks I have broken down and purchased a few larger ticket items both online and off. The main difference in each situation prior to purchase was that sometimes I just needed one-on-one advice from an expert. Interestingly, the difference in each case after purchase was that the items I truly love and feel are worth every penny, were the ones I purchased in a physical store from someone who was more knowledgeable than me. Almost every in-store experience was worth the trip, though they weren’t always enjoyable. Three hours in the Apple store is probably the last way I ever want to spend an evening—even if I am getting the best computer in the world.

New watch: I decided to purchase my watch from tokyobay.com. All I cared about in this case was having a wide variety to choose from. But when I got the watch, there were surprises that I didn’t see online. It took me a couple of days to feel like it was really the watch I wanted.

iPhone: After going to through a lot of the work online to sign up with AT&T and get my new iPhone, I decided to go into the store and talk to someone. This is a great control situation because there was really no quantitative difference between either purchasing venue: I still had to wait for my phone to arrive by mail, I still paid by credit card, it still took about the same amount of time, I had to answer all of the same questions. But, online there was no gentleman who knew to answer questions I didn’t even know enough to ask. Also, when you are signing two years of your life away to AT&T, it just feels better to be able to put a friendly face with all that commitment.

Do you Annie take iPhone and AT&T to be your lawfully wedded provider of cellular service for the next two years?
Yes Sales Specialist Rob, with all my heart, I do.

Running shoes: This was by far one of the most enjoyable and rewarding retail experiences I think I’ve ever had. I might be a little biased because they are our client, but I went into Catalyst on opening day for a pair of running shoes. I’ll keep it very simple and just say that there is a huge difference between going online and reading a couple bullet points and having an expert video record your feet as you run on a treadmill and tell you where you need extra support and why a certain shoe is better for you. There really is no comparing the two. I know Zappo’s has amazing customer service, but they can’t do that.

iMac: I ended up having to get a new computer for work and spent a very long, arduous evening in a crowded Apple store where there were so many lines of communication being crossed even all that clean design couldn’t make it more tolerable. It was kind of a nightmare, but because I went into the actual store and talked to real people, I was able to get some stuff for free and get a discount off the entire purchase. So, as much as I was annoyed with the experience, it actually ended up being a good one. I do love my computer.

My conclusion? Brick and mortar can live happily and prosper in the same world with internet retail by giving better customer service and by being experts in their field.

Dear Internet,
I hope we can still be friends. There are so many things I like about you.

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Going Social: A well-designed Facebook campaign earns a small company a big following

ModCloth.com homepage on 7.8.2010.
I’ll be the first one to admit it. I’m a Facebook junkie. Every time I think of something funny or someone says something interesting I think, “That’s my new Facebook status!” Because I am such an avid user, I feel like I am somewhat of an expert and because I have a background in advertising, PR and graphic design, I notice and celebrate when commercial “friends” are using Facebook well.

I noticed ModCloth’s ads right away. They grabbed my attention with headlines like, “Indie Treasure Trove” and “Cover Yourself in Cuteness,” and a recognizable layout which almost always consists of a detailed view and then the full view of a piece of their season’s best vintage-inspired clothing. They could not have targeted me more effectively with those tiny little ads that show up in the right-hand column of my Facebook page. And even though I browsed for some months before purchasing, I was continually reminded in those months to revisit. When I finally needed some new rags, guess where I spent $250? You guess right, ModCloth.com.

After my initial order, ModCloth followed up with great customer service. A letter from the owner thanking me for my purchase and an easy, timely exchange. This is important because now when I see their ads, I think of that too. It inspired me to learn more about the company. Because it was such a personal success story of a husband and wife team, I do really feel a sort of friendly connection with this company. I know it’s run by good people, I know they will always have something cute for me to buy and I know they will always give great customer service. I am happy to give them my money.

It’s amazing that 165×240 pixels could begin such a strong connection between retailer and buyer. Those are some powerful pixels. I don’t know if a television commercial or a magazine ad could have facilitated the same relationship.

Now even when I am not looking to buy and I see that little ad for them on the right, I tend to browse anyhow just to see what’s new.

ModCloth.com is an e-retailer that sells affordable independent designer women’s fashion. They’ve attracted a large, devoted following through their unique selection of indie clothing and engaging promotions on the ModLife Blog and social networks. The company is founded by husband and wife team Eric Koger and Susan Gregg Koger.

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Education works.

Here’s this amazing trailer for an upcoming documentary entitled Waiting for Superman. The animated infographic was produced by Jorge R. Canedo Estrada of Buck. It’s incredible on two counts…creative storytelling and compelling content about the importance of improving education in our country.

The content is phenomenal and one of the reasons I think it is so powerful is because of the minimalism with which it was executed.  There is a lot of movement and the message is fast paced, but there is a definite rhythm to it. This rhythm is formed through a reduced color palette and a simplified suite of graphic elements used in new and surprising ways. This type of visual problem solving reminds me of American ingenuity.  It’s the same kind of surprising simplicity that if applied to educational policy might inform and yield some results.

I had a few great teachers along the way (including a Mrs. Robinson for first grade) and those teachers are with me every day. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. We also have a client whose sole purpose is focused on improving our education system by improving teachers and their professional development. Through our work with The New Teacher Project, I’ve learned a lot about the challenges our country’s education system faces.  We need to change policies to improve education and support teachers who are stretched too thin. The end of this trailer asks what we will we do to make a difference. I’m looking forward to seeing Waiting for Superman to learn more. Hopefully it will show up at Sundance in Madison this fall.

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Rightfully aQ’sed

all kinds of capital qs

Last summer I went to LA to meet up with my friend Beth. While I was there I met some really smart, cool people. Among them was an ex-designer and photographer working with Beth named Anna. We immediately hit it off when we discovered our mutual distaste for the font Papyrus—which is as prevalent as jade hedges in Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

We talked for a good while about fonts and letter forms. Anna told me about a project she had done in honor of capital Q. She told me her favorite letter was q because in any font, it’s the one letter that you can do pretty much anything with. No other letter has a tail, so capital Q’s can be very interesting and differ radically from one font to another, sort of in the same way ampersands do.

I can’t help wondering what Jessica Hische would say about this. I looked at a bunch of Q’s on her daily drop cap blog and they were all radically different and really fun to look at (like all of her work).

Here are some interesting capital Q’s. Also check out Anna’s project on Flickr.

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Design: the bridge between technology and human experience.

Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art spoke April 26th at Madison’s Museum of Contemporary Art to close out the Humanities without Borders Series put on by UW-Madison’s Center for Humanities.

“Designers take the revolutionary and bring it home”,  she said.

And she’s right. Designers are the folks who take new technological advances and along with the technologists work to find ways to make the technology useful at a human level.  Designers create the interface for the technologies and allowing them to make our lives richer, easier and more meaningful. She referenced many talented individuals and firms for their imaginative thinking including the work of Participle from London bringing design to promote social change through projects like Get Together.  She also showed sculptural works of leather tissue culture done by Symbiotica, a group that investigates the art of the biological sciences to promote learning and understanding of new technologies and their implications on our world.

Paola presented summaries of her work as curator and her process of pulling designed objects and designers together to reveal the world of design to a wider audience and to celebrate luminaries in our field. She also discussed the importance of design and called for a higher appreciation of the importance of design at a technical, social, political and cultural level. As part of that call she cited the lack of successful design criticism in the U.S. as a major gap in the appreciations for design (specifically the lack of a Design Critic on staff at our fair New York Times).

Of course I’m always hungry to see more good design coverage, but I also take issue with her on this point.  Does David Pogue not discuss design every time he reviews a new electronic device for Circuits?  Isn’t design also woven into Frank Bruni’s restauarant reviews–both the design of the dining environment and the design of the menus? And then there’s Thursday’s whole House and Home section–which feels like it’s own weekly homage to design with a capital D. Thursday’s pretty much my favorite morning of the week for that very reason.

Which brings me to this question: Isn’t design too broad a category for a single critic?  And isn’t almost every cultural critic at some level also a design critic? And isn’t the application of the design the important thing to be analyzed–its utility and the message that it sends to the users.

In other words: isn’t it all about how design shapes the human experience in context?

SIDENOTE: I need to give a great shout out to this year’s speaker series that included three of my heroes: Jonah Lehrer (often referenced here); David Eggers, founder of McSweeney’s, 826 Valencia’s writing program and the most awesome Pirate Store; and Michael Pollan, pragmatist, foodie and environmentalist. The whole series was thoughtfully curated and Paola’s talk about the process of curating design exhibits was a fantastic finale. Thanks so much Sara Guyer, the funders of the Humanities without Borders Series. I’m really grateful that these talks were available and free to the public.

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Creativity and Neverland

Peter PanThrough the power of imagination we allow ourselves to suspend disbelief and give ourselves the power to dream that almost anything is possible. This was so wonderfully illustrated in Finding Neverland: the story of J.M Barrie, author of Peter Pan. If we’re to believe the movie, Barrie’s success of Peter and Wendy on opening night depended upon planting children in the audience in order show adults in the audience the play through fresh young eyes.

Jonah Lehrer recently commented on an interesting study by psychologists Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson on the power of a phrase “You are seven years old” to completely shift the way subjects answered questions and the ability to create unique solutions to problems.

In their recent paper, “Child’s play: Facilitating the originality of creative output by a priming manipulation,” the scientists took a large group of undergraduates and randomly assigned them to two different groups. The first group was given the following instructions:

“You are 7 years old. School is canceled, and you have the entire day to yourself. What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you see?”

The second group was given the exact same instructions, except the first sentence was deleted. As a result, these students didn’t imagine themselves as 7 year olds. They were stuck in their present collegiate brains.

After writing for ten minutes, the subjects were then given various tests of creativity, such as trying to invent alternative uses for an old car tire, or completing incomplete sketches. (These are sample tasks from the Torrance test of creativity.) Interestingly, the students who imagined themselves as little kids scored far higher on the creative tasks, coming up with more ideas that were also more original. The effect was especially pronounced among “introverts,” who exert more mental energy suppressing their “spontaneous associations”.

As the brain develops, the prefrontal cortex grows and results in better restraint and more focused attention. But that restraint also means we allow  ourselves to have fewer ideas. What’s more of those fewer ideas we stick to the safer ones, the ones that are well inside the envelope.

He concludes that this study suggests the way to expand the scope of our imagination is through the process of thinking of ourselves as a child, so that we end up thinking in more child-like ways. “The end result is that we regain the creativity lost with time.”

So here’s what I think this means as a creative professional, one who’s called to find new solutions everyday. We have to believe.  We want to believe. Whether we are to believe in fairies or in our ability to create, stepping outside of our point of view and allowing ourselves to walk in a different pair of shoes (the smaller the better), might be the secret to success.

And this is especially important if we are to beat the ticking crocodile of a deadline while winning the sword fight.

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Teux Deux

Annie's Teux Deux list

Annie's Teux Deux list

I have, and always will be, a list-maker. It’s a necessity. My brain flips channels like a bored fifteen year-old on winter break at grandma’s cabin up north.

It took me years to perfect a system that could reign in my unruly mind. It required a self-constructed 7”x 8.5” spiral-bound day-planner with covers made from my favorite plastic pocket folders for storing unpaid bills and documents that need attention, sticky notes and flags, at least 10 paperclips one alligator clip and a built in perforated notebook. This book would almost always be paired with my set of Staedtler, multi-colored, triplus fineliners for color coding notes and events in my planner.

One thing that really stinks about this system is that if you forget it at home or loose it, your life falls apart. Or, with my luck, it ends up covered in cream from an exploded bottle of hand lotion or soaked with water from a leaky bottle of water. It can get messy. It also takes a fair amount of time to make sure the system stays in place and doesn’t get out of hand. At the end of every week, it would be bulging with unopened mail, deposit slips, receipts and your occasional candy wrapper.

within the last six months I graduated from school, moved four times, landed a new job, and have been living with 72.5% of my belongings in storage, and my system of color-coordinated list-making has really fallen apart. But like Rome, this personal empire of organization was destined to collapse under its own weight.

Until recently, I thought no technology or invention could ever replace my tried and true pencil and planner. Then I went to an AIGA event where Tina Roth Eisenberg was the speaker and she changed my life. My new, much simpler, electronic system, is working pretty well. Hooray!

If you haven’t tried Teux Deux, designed by Tina Roth Eisenberg’s (also known as Swiss designer and blogger gone NYC, Swiss Miss) I recommend it. It is a really simple way for anyone in any field to take charge of a complicated world one task at a time. Like all of Eisenberg’s user interfaces, the design is really clean and minimal, solves an important problem while remaining intuitive and user-friendly. She was born and raised in Switzerland surrounded by contemporary, clean design and her aesthetic and method of solving visual problems really reflects this.

Eisenberg is a design genius who lets the whole world reap the benefits of her brilliance in really intuitive and usable ways that cost little to no money. We’re not worthy! Stop by VisualThesaurus.com for a free test drive—it’s pretty amazing. Check out her inspirational blog as well. Eisenberg currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She owns a very cool little studio in Brooklyn, where other creatives, like the amazing Jessica Hische, can rent a chair and work by her side.

In her online list-making application, Teux Deux, the days of the week spread out across the page, starting with Monday and there is a list for each day. The user can simply enter a task into the text field and it will be added to the list. The user also has the ability to grab list items and prioritize them no matter what order he or she originally entered them in. When a user is done with a task, they can click on it to cross it off! If he or she decides it’s not actually completed yet, no problem, they can just reclick it and the task gets uncrossed and the program puts it back onto the current day’s list. Just like the good old notepad, or pile of scrap paper you love so well, only better. If tasks are left unfinished, the program will automatically move them to the next day. There is even a section for all of those “someday” projects people often don’t write down like “stop biting nails, write ‘you changed my life’ letter to Tina, read War and Peace.” They just stay at the bottom of the page all the time. Crossing those out makes you feel like a real worth-while person, let me tell you.

This new system, paired with my beloved Google Calendar, is paperless and accessible from anywhere with internet access. I’m predicting my next life-changing event will inevitably have something to do with a new iPhone.

Posted in Design geekery | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

What is it with that soap?

Ever since I saw it on FFFFOUND! and TheDieLine.com, I just can’t stop thinking about this image of Good Day soap bars. There is just something about this soap. It’s the cleanest soap I’ve ever seen. I have to just stop and praise all the choices that this designer made; the perfect proportions between the square shape and it’s rounded corners; the way that the type is recessed into the soap with hard right angles that allow the type to read through the dark shadow this creates; and the way the curve of the “GOOD” looks like a upside-down smile, but not a frown. It’s so well designed it puts me in a time and place that’s as vivid as a memory of something that actually happened, but never did.

I’m waking up in the most comfortable king sized bed, with the softest, white, Egyptian cotton sheets ever made. I’m covered by a fluffy down comforter—so soft it looks like a giant white cloud envelopes me. My head is supported by a super stuffed down pillow. I’m in this amazing beach house in New England and it’s a warm spring day. The breeze is balmy and salty and blowing through sheer white linen curtains in a doorway where two open french doors lead to a white, concrete balcony with a view of the water. The ocean surf plays hide and seek with me as the curtains move in and out of the doorway.

The funny thing is that I don’t ever see myself actually using this soap. It’s too perfect and beautiful. I think if I owned it, I would display it the way grandma did those rose shaped soaps that sat in a bowl gathering dust, but otherwise retaining their perfect, just-milled shape—a stark contrast to the thin sliver of Irish Spring that sat next to the sink for the purpose of hand-washing.

Posted in File Under Cool, Perception, Typography | Leave a comment
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