'Sketching Block'

As an industrial design student, you are required to do roughly eighty ga-million sketches over the course of 4-5 years. The prompts for those sketches vary widely; sometimes they're extremely specific and sometimes they're as vague as 'do ten pages of sketches.' So it's inevitable that every student (and professional designer, for that matter) will get to a point when they just don't know what to sketch next.

Over the years I've come up with a few ways to keep sketching, even when you're feeling supremely stuck. Fittingly, I put those tips together in a sketch in preparation for the evening class I'm teaching this semester. Do you have any tips for getting un-stuck?

Milk Bubbles

Can I tell you a secret? 

Photography is one of my primary responsibilities at work, and I never took a photo class in college. 

We had a brief introduction to the photo studio, but that was mostly so we could document our work using cheap point-and-shoot cameras. When I bought my DSLR (almost a year after graduation), I figured out how to use it through trial-and-error. But I've been shooting photos for my entire life, spotting potential compositions and interesting details everywhere I go (yes, I'm utterly smitten with Instagram.)

That being said, it seemed like it was time to get a little more technical when I added 'professional photographer' to my resume. So I signed up for Digital Camera I at the New England School of Photography. The night class met for two hours once a week, covering the basics (aperture, shutter speed, etc. etc.) and critiquing weekly assignments.

The final assignment was a series of photos. The subject could be anything, but the photos were meant to reflect what we had learned during the course. Here's my take on it, with a few extra alternate shots included for good measure.

 I like the proportions here and the fact that much of the photo is dark, but you can still see the sewer lid and the line on the pavement. It was lucky that someone was standing outside the liquor store because people always add interest to images.

 Ever stop to consider how many options there are in grocery stores? This photo is edited, but I kept the yellowy hue to hint at the florescent lights of the cooler.

More photos after the jump  

other people's places

A little more than a year ago I moved in with myself. After two years of living with outlandish roommates, I'd had enough. When a dear friend extended the opportunity to (temporarily) be the sole occupant of her city home, it was an easy thing to say yes to.

This, of course, is not your typical living arrangement. For the past year I have eaten my meals at her dining room table, watched movies on her couch, let my books live on her shelves. The space is very clearly not mine.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons I get so much enjoyment out of seeing other people's personalities shine through their living spaces.


In the span of time that I've been living alone, three good friends from college have moved within four hours of Boston. And we've spent two out of the last three weekends all together.

Like many rentals, their apartments have neutral walls. Instead of being bland, though, they serve as a canvas for bright pops of color that come through in stacks of book spines, succulent plants, secondhand rugs, and that beautiful green sofa. There are hints that the occupants are warming up to adulthood (you actually bought that coffee table?) while still holding tight to their 20's (hey PlayStation.)

All of which begs the question: how do you make a space your own? Is it entirely deliberate, or is part of it a delightful byproduct of living there?

Park Slope

every opportunity

I spent this past weekend working Harpoon Fest and the 5 Miler, slinging a camera through both events and documenting everything from beer pouring to beer drinking to road racing (and all the things that happen in-between.) Before the start of the race on Sunday, a security guard got my attention.

"I have a question for you," she said.

Anticipating an inquiry about how to get to the nearest bathroom or where to find a bottle of water, I walked over. And she caught me off guard.

"How do you get into your profession? ...into photography?"

My answer was far from straightforward because I never really considered shooting photos at a professional (really, semi-professional) level until it became part of my job description. That was a fortuitous collision of hobby (photography) and career (design), fueled by persistence. I took photos almost every day through college, before I owned either an SLR or iPhone. Over time, I started seeing the world as a series of potential photos, anticipating which ones might work better than others. And I got comfortable behind a camera.

So when my employer needed someone to take photos, it just... clicked.

The photos I'm sharing here were taken for the organizational chart at work. The standard for org chart photos is pretty crummy—the function of being able to recognize an employee wins over the form of making sure it's a beautiful portrait. But I saw this little series as an opportunity to show our new hires in their best light, and got lucky with an abundance of natural light.

more photos after the jump -->


Just about two weeks ago I wrapped up my third year of teaching Visualization III at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Every professor in the design department has their own style, their own unique take on teaching the numerous skills needed to succeed in the world of design. Mine has evolved into a combination of bad jokes and critiques—so many critiques.

The students in Viz III, as we call it, are second semester sophomores. I've come to love teaching this particular course because the students are almost universally at a pivotal point in their academic career. If they put the time in, the second semester of their sophomore year is when they can truly start becoming designers: sketching, thinking, and talking like professionals.

The talking, to me, is oh-so important. At their cores, designers have got to be masterful communicators. If a person can't talk about their work and why they made the decisions they made, the 'real world' quickly becomes a daunting, difficult place.

So we critique.

I push and pull answers out of my class with questions like, 'what's working here?' and 'what would you change?' They start with monosyllabic retorts, to which I always always volley back a resounding, 'why?'

When pushed even further, we, as a class, enter compelling territory. Drawing—typically highly subjective—gets broken down into bits and pieces and becomes ever more objective. Students get feedback from each other and learn how to learn, even when a designated 'teacher' isn't around.

brand board demo: bodum