makerbot and the robohand

Check out that 3D printed hand
3D printing has been all over the news for the past year or so (see here and here.) It's been a source of media frenzy; this idea that some day soon every house on the block will have the capability to print small plastic parts on a whim. And I have been skeptical.

Industrial designers have had a head-start with this technology. I first encountered a Z-corp powder printer as a co-op at Fisher-Price in early 2007. It was (and still is) an incredibly efficient way to prototype parts that were digitally designed. When I returned for a second co-op quarter a few months later, the shop guys at Fisher-Price had already started using more SLA (closer to plastic) prototyping. Even in 07, the field was evolving rapidly.

It's an awesome process to watch—there's something magical to seeing an object appear where there wasn't one before. And it makes a lot of sense for product development. But what the heck is an average Joe going to do with it? And what's more, if the general public gets the hang of a process that has been the realm of designers up until this point, does that negate the role of designers?

Summer Hours

The job I moved to Boston for ended just about a year ago. And then the fall of 2012 was long and drawn out and, well, pretty light on the employment front. I was lucky to have a steady part time teaching job and enough small freelance projects to keep me afloat. Plus serving as a volunteer courier for Be the Match provided a welcome diversion. But there were plenty of long dark days spent applying for positions that I never ever heard back from.

Life started to change when I received a call at home (in Ohio) in late December. I had interviewed at a Boston brewery for a tour guide/bartender/server weekend position and they were calling to let me know that I got the job (!)

Brewery training started in early January, and coincided with the start of the spring semester (teaching 8 hours/week), a long-term contract design position (16-24 hours/week), and a long-term design project with friends (4 hours/week.) Suddenly my mellow schedule was packed to-the-gills. And it stayed that way straight through the spring.

Now that summer is really truly here (it takes awhile in New England), things are finally a little more under control. Commitments are slightly less and I finally feel OK asking for some time off.

Last weekend I took a Saturday off from my brewery job to go to Newport, RI with three dear friends. We had planned the trip since May and truly made a day of it. Pastries at Clear Flour lead to good tunes in the car and eventually the Newport Cliff Walk, lobster rolls at The Port, and swimming in the ocean. The night ended with an awesome bike-centric poster show back in Boston.

After getting used to the constant push of 60+ hour work weeks, it's easy to feel like not working is somehow wrong. But it also serves as great motivation to make the most of every single second of a day off. Plus anyone who lives in the Northeast will tell you that the warm weather comes and goes before you can even finish a small iced coffee. Best to take advantage of it while it's here!

My point? There's a definite ebb and flow to life, to freelance work, to the seasons. It can be hard if not impossible to balance, but it's important to temper the busy-ness with some quiet and the snow with some sunshine. And friends, I'm here to tell you that stacking a schedule with multiple part time jobs can be crazy. But it can also be a whole lot of fun.

here's to the dads

Today's the day that we recognize and celebrate the dads in our lives. I'm lucky to know a bunch of kind, warm, and loving men who cherish their children and work hard to provide for them. And my dad fully fell into that category. He taught me how to have an adventurous spirit, how to work really hard, and that it's OK to spend money when you want something. He showed me love and kindness and was the very definition of what it means to be generous. 

I've been luckier than lucky to have parents who support me in every part of my life. When I chose to go to a college with a co-op program, they were quick to plan visits to my intern housing in upstate New York and Southern California. These visits were SO fun—we played tourist in my temporary hometowns and it was the first time I got to host my folks.

When Mom and Dad visited me in Los Angeles, we all spent the weekend at their Huntington Beach hotel. On Saturday Dad decided we should rent bikes, and we proceeded on a fairly lengthy voyage down the boardwalk. Just as I was getting sort of worn out, Mom said, "Did you see that!?" She swore she had just caught glimpse of a bulldog skateboarding past. 

Not knowing what to think, Dad and I rode ahead to investigate. And what we found was exactly what Mom had seen: a skateboading bulldog riding beside his bike-riding owner. We slowed our pace to ride behind them for awhile, marveling all along at the novelty of California.

While relatively simple, it's a moment of wonder that we shared. And it's something I suspect I'll hold close for many years to come. 

Tonight, on Father's Day, I wish everyone many such moments of wonder, many many dad-sized bear hugs, and at least one opportunity to witness a skateboard riding bulldog.

Dad at race car school (aka kid in a candy shop :))

The Broadest Degree

Eight years ago I decided to study industrial design. It was a drawn-out decision that started with a dazzling sit-down with one Robert Probst, was tempered by lots of engineering school applications, and finalized with a small leap of faith. School was challenging, fun, and deliberately very broad. We designed chairs and power tools and reading lights because the design process is always the same anyway. ...right?

Getting a design education teaches you a lot of things: how to be creative in a business setting, how to communicate effectively, how to draw pretty darn well. But what has stuck with me the most is versatility. In school, you're expected to be the design researcher, product designer, packaging engineer, model maker, copywriter, and photographer (among other things.) And while some people will tell you that you're only ever one thing in the 'real world,' I would tell you quite the opposite.

Since graduating from school, I've assisted a design researcher, written for various blogs, designed products, packaging, events, and presentations, developed interfaces, created (and edited) videos, answered customer service emails, proofread instruction sheets, chosen colors, and now... shot photography.

Last week I had the honor and privilege to work with my friends Amy and Andrea (and Stefan too!) to photograph a line of toys for their website. It was a great experience assembling the set, laying out the shot, and snapping until things were just right. Can't wait to share some of the results with you here.

(Photo credits go to Stefan Becker. They show me & Andrea prepping the set for a shot.)


I went to my first concert when I was still in middle school. My dad got tickets to a Barenaked Ladies show through work, and it was totally life changing. The band was clearly having fun up on stage (it makes a big difference) and they were really talented. We left at the end of the night on a total high, with songs in our heads and smiles on our faces.

It was such a good experience, in fact, that I went to see them 10+ more times over the next few years. And through all those shows, I thought seeing a band at an arena was the way to go. Until, of course, I got to college.

My friend Sylvia was waaaaay hipper that me when it came to music. And she's the one who introduced me to small bands at small venues starting with an Architecture in Helsinki show in Buffalo, NY. Consider my life changed once more. Because there's really nothing like being right there, dancing your face off, with the band just a couple feet away.

But how to find these ever elusive good, small, touring bands? I've picked up a few tricks over the years...

There are a few local radio stations that regularly feature great artists. KEXP in Seattle is my #1 go-to. They have excellent in-studio performances and are always unearthing great new bands. WERS here in Boston is also very reliable, and one of the favorite presets on my car radio. Finally npr music, while a little more main-steam, always has 'first listen' features of excellent new CDs.

One of my top recent finds: The Uncluded

PS- Once you find a couple bands to check out, there are lots of good sites/tools to help you listen a bit more. Pandora, Grooveshark,, and Hype Machine are some of my favorites.