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

makerbot and the robohand

Check out that 3D printed hand
credit: http://www.techadvisor.co.uk/
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.