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The World at Large inspiring the creative mind since 2006

inside: how tea inspires me < A design education manifesto < catologing in spir ation < creative mornings and tips >

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“A cup of herbs can have much meaning when it comes to being creative” WORDS BY HARPER DAVID

RESEARCH. CHECK EMAILS. SIP TEA. OPEN InDesign. Fix leading. Sip tea. Answer a text. Check email. Sip tea. Welcome to my world. The world of pantones, deadlines, lapses of creative block, and sleepless nights. “I work because I love this sh*t”. True story. But I believe that all passions require hardships and maybe that’s what proves our love for them. Well, this little passion of mine, known as graphic design, keeps me on my toes. Tippy, tippy toes. I’m finishing up my design degree this year, so depending on the project, deadline, and amount of other design problems, designing can make you ponder: is this really for me? Or even worse: Am I good enough Sometimes the lack of motivation when a design problem is a problem or your brain is out to lunch, is overwhelming. But I have a solution: tea. Tea you ask. Yes, tea. It obviuosly taste good but it’s more than that. My regular set up at my desk is the MacBook, my phone, magazines and clippings for inspiration, and my favorite mug with a chai tea latte. I’m not saying tea solves all problems, because it doesn’t, but when the nights turn into early mornings, and a pick me up is needed, tea is there for me. Love At First Sip. I first discovered chai tea last winter when a coworker and I made a Starbucks trip and he ordered a iced chai tea latte. The barista messed up his order so gave him that drink for free and fixed him another. He told me to try it and gave it to me. Boom. Hello new obsession. Being serious when I say this: from then on, have had me a chai tea latte a few times a week. While working on a project, a chai is my companion. It doesn’t solve design problems but it keeps me motivated and at ease. Reality. Working two design jobs at my university’s campus and coming home and continuing to work on designs is exhausting. Some days are better than others but sometimes coming home when the sun is down is not okay. Don’t get me wrong, I’m gratteful for the opportunities I have right now as a student because I know they won’t come around as often once I get my degree, but time management can become a true enemy. I’m also one of those designers who has to work at it and usually can’t miraculously come up with something for class in a moment’s notice. One of my favorite parts about the design process is researching and trying to come up with the best solution to the problem. This is also the hardest part. Insert tea by my side. Depending on how a project is going, usually one cup leads to two, even three. A Creative Outlet. Just like a quote, or a favorite movie or song, tea can be quite inspiring. A feeling of comfort takes place at each sip like the warmth of meeting with an old friend. Late at night, when it’s just you and your blank computer screen, as frightening as it can be, it’s also an opportunity for the blank canvas to become something wonderful. A cup of herbs can have significant meaning when it comes to being creative.

Drink You Under The Table. I don’t know if it’s a creative thing, but many of my schoolmates have the same passion for tea. My best friend, who is an English major finishing up her grad degree, can drink me under the table when it comes to tea. Like a graphic designer’s nights, hers are filled with writing papers and doing research so Tazo Calm tea is her choice. She has expressed a similar admiration about tea. Her tea inspired creativity triggers memories, young and old, which often have a serene effect on her Then There’s Coffee. I love coffee. I’d say that coffee is my starter drink. Every morning, especially early ones, it’s a requirement. The few mornings when I haven’t had a cup, it’s disastrous. True story. But the same feeling and fulfillment that I get from chai isn’t met with coffee. Again, it’s not the taste per se, just this feeling of even though stuff may hit the fan later, at least I have a moment or two of solitude. Back to Tea... Unless in need of a creative break from my work space, I rarely work somewhere other than my desk. So when I do venture out, it’s usually to my local Starbucks. Shocker right? As distracted as I can get at home, Starbucks is people watching central. It’s easy to get super distracted there. But what I get from my sporadic Starbucks visits, is people take their caffiene seriously. Whether it’s a student studying, or someone reading the latest Los Angeles Times, the essence of the envirnoment of a coffee house sparks inspiration. I always wonder what drinks people get and why they choose them. I’m sure taste has much to do with it but is it more meaningful than that. I wish I could work at coffe houses more often but my alone time, in my room, with background noise going, a hundred windows opened on my computer, and constant phone distractions is where it’s at. I often regret not meeting with classmates to do work sessions, but I feel the soul of my creative process would be lost. My tea time would have a different meaning and wouldn’t be “my” time. A Few More Words. Whatever motivates you designers, or inspires you, hold on to you. It’s nice to be inspired even when it doesn’t solve your current visual problem. The thing artists, especially graphic designers, have is the ability to be visually stimulated instantly. We’re so lucky because our craft is begs for us to have taste, and communicate your client’s message as well as make it look neat and maybe even great. This is much to keep in mind yet the fulifillment from my tea, sets up the scenario to create something worthwhile. I end this wrtiting, late at night, focused and motivated, sipping my cup of awesomeness.

For more motivation from Harper or for the best chai tea recipe, please visit us at: www.theworldatlarge/inspiration_to_a_tea or Harper at: THE WORLD AT LARGE 03

Much of design education is about learning some key techniques and then trying to apply them to your work in interesting ways.




SCHOOL IS HARD. DESIGN SCHOOL IS ESPECIALLY hard because so much of it exists within the abstract, the opinion. There are few, if any, absolutes as you go through design school. Much of design education is about learning some key techniques and then trying to apply them to your work in interesting ways. The following are some thoughts I have about how to go through a design program and get the most out of the experience, and beyond as a creative professional. Always Take Risks. It is easy to learn and then repeat exactly what you have learned. However, you will not grow that way. I can see value in the regurgitation of knowledge if you are a lawyer, but I have a hard time with it as a design student or a creative professional. You should be pushing yourself and you should be taking risks, especially in school. Big risks. Trying what may not work. Asking questions that may not have answers. Seeing if what you throw against the wall sticks. In my experience, taking risks in school has always paid off big time. Be Aggressive. There are many opportunities available while in design school. For example: collaborative projects, extracurricular activities, and freelance work. These opportunities will not always come to you, you must go get them. Every school has a publications department that designs and produces internal and external collateral. There is no reason that you should not be the person designing these projects. Make contacts and ask for work. If you are talented and a little lucky, you will get it. Be aggressive in terms of your academics as well. There are two kinds of design professors at school: pushers and pullers. Some professors will push their knowledge on you. Others will make you pull what you need from them. Ask questions of both. Challenge their statements. Ask for precedents. Beyond the curriculum of the class, ask your favorite faculty who they know that needs an intern (because they do know people, I assure you). Ask faculty if they need any assistance with their own work. Find out which exhibits they enjoyed at local museums. It is very important that as a design student you do not sit back and let things happen to you. Be aggressive and create your own luck and opportunities. Break The Rules. I lecture to my students that they should “fuck the rules” as long as they have a good reason. I have consistently found that the students who are conservative, stay inside the lines and try to appeal to the teacher, are the students who do the most predictable work. Not bad work, just predictable. Defying the rules forces you to stray from the path of least resistance and ultimately make work that is more interesting, more meaningful and more fun to create. But, that does not mean just be a contrarian for its own sake. It does not mean ignore any and all guidelines. It means take the requirements into consideration and break past them with good reasons and solid ideas. Breaking the rules just to be different is foolish, breaking the rules because you have a much better idea is smart. Look At Everything. Dismiss Nothing. Each designer is born from a unique experience. Classmates in the same program will have different educations depending on which teachers they have, what field trips they take, and what books they pick up. As a designer you need to always be looking at the world around you. You need to see everything—the kind of detailed seeing taught in freshman drawing classes—not just looking, but really seeing. You need to be an observer as well as a maker. You should rid yourself of any preconceptions of what is and is not worthy of your attention. Everything has potential to be interesting and influential. Not everything will be, but the more you see the better your chances are at seeing something that will be useful to you.

Be Obsessive. The saying goes that “necessity is the mother of invention.” I concur, but I think for designers the saying should be “obsession is the mother of invention.” Obsession is what drives you to explore and find out as much as possible about something that interests you. This obsession can move you past understanding and awareness into a translative process where you will start to make things. When it comes to how a designer looks at the world, obsession can provide an incredible explosion of ideas as you become so engrossed in something you start to reinvent it inside your head. You should never hold back your excitement about something that interests you, and by the same token, you should not hesitate to be obsessive about many things since you never know where your interests will lead. Be Uncomfortable. Comfort is tremendously overrated, especially as a designer. Truly great, interesting, inspiring design comes not from comfort but from discomfort. It comes from the fear that what you are doing might really suck, but it also might just be brilliant. Discomfort makes you reexamine what you think you know and how you think things should work. Being uncomfortable helps you make decisions from the gut, it makes you push harder and take more risks. Grabbing that fear, holding onto that uncomfortable, scary place lets you push past expectations and into the unknown—into a process of discovery as opposed to regurgitation. Be Opinionated. You should have opinions about design and the world around you. Preferably, you should have strong opinions. Ideally, you should have strong and informed opinions. Every great designer I have ever met has an active stance on design, they do not passively allow work to wash over them. Having opinions means engaging in some kind of internal analysis of the work you see and formulating a response to it. As an educator I do this constantly in the classroom, and I try to do it constantly in the professional world as well. Opinions about design force you to pick a side, and define what kind of designer you are. There are designers who casually ignore art and design while they look for the next reality show on TV. Then there are the other designers who make more design in their spare time. Their idea of a good time is to look at typography or experiment with painting or photography. These are designers who are fully immersed in working visually, designers who are actively engaged in becoming better at what they do every day. Be A Cop. They say that when you are a police officer you are on duty 24/7/365. Cops always look at their surroundings from a cop’s perspective. They notice things others do not. They act as a cop would in an emergency situation whether or not they are in uniform. Most cops I have met and read about always carry their firearms and badge, even while on vacation. It is not something they turn off at the end of their shift. A designer needs to act like a cop. When you are a designer, you are a designer 24/7/365. Always noticing, always observing, always designing, even if only in your head. Carrying a camera with you at all times is a good habit—capture interesting details you come across, not just because you have an assignment due, but because it is in your nature as a visual artist to observe and process the world around you. Inspiration comes from everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time. One of the greatest things about being a designer is that you do not finish your design education when you leave design school. You continue learning for the rest of you life, and you should carry these ideas with you as you develop and mature into a creative professional.


Cataloging inspiration: handmade vs. digital. What works for you? WORDS BY TOM OSBORNE

the final site design. They are solely to create an emotional impact and an environment in which to convey and relay information. In the end you have a visual toolkit or resource in which to build a foundation for a mockup in which you apply the elements to the framework created in the wireframes. Mood boards visually communicate where words fail, facilitate a faster design mockup delivery, & reinforce the client input and assist in their ultimate approval. DAVID PEREL, OBOX / FROM THE COUCH David and his colleagues from Obox went as far as screen casting a mood board process on their regularly updated From the Couch video blog. David also had this to say: “It saves you time and your client money. It also helps with your sanity when it comes to revisions because in the mood board phase your mental state is geared towards revising.” They’ve been an invaluable, saving me uncounted hours of design revisions and countless headaches. Mood boards are much easier to create and revise than full page compositions and really help the client to stay focused on the visual elements rather than being distracted by layout at that phase. In my experience, once the mood board has been approved, the client has some idea of what to expect in the next stage and the actual prototyping process goes much more smoothly with decidedly fewer revisions. My personal approach to mood boards for web projects is a little different than that of some designers. I prefer a more structured approach to presenting the information over the more loosely arranged collage style. I’ve found that the consistency in presentation helps avoid confusion when presenting the client with several different mood board options. While some designers like to include wireframes or page layouts in with their mood board presentation, I prefer to keep the structural portion separated completely and to focus solely on the visual elements and building blocks of the design. I do, on occasion like to take some of the proposed colors, typography and styling elements from the mood board and compose a “vignette” of sorts to illustrate how the elements could work together in a composition. This is usually just a small detail or two that doesn’t commit to any particular layout, but helps to make the whole concept a little less abstract for the client. I think that whatever approach you might take the key to success with mood boards is communication. Let the client know that your choices were deliberate and well thought out. Take the time to engage the client and explain the reasoning and psychology behind the colors and elements you’re proposing and how they relate to the project’s goals.”

inspiration n.- The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative. TO MOOD BOARD OR NOT TO MOOD BOARD. Is that the question? Yes. At least amongst those of us that have ever used them as a means to jump start the design process. Personally, I’ve come to love mood boards as a tool in the web designer’s design process tool kit. Are they always necessary? Not in my opinion. But I have found them to be quite useful when it comes to starting a project quickly and offering some stylistic options from which to pull from as goals and structure are being clarified. We use them quite often at Viget Labs and I’m seeing an increasing interest (or sometimes disgust) with their utility. With this post I wanted to share some thoughts on mood boards both for and against them. Here are some favorable perspectives on mood boards from some industry notables: JENNA MARINO, HUNT & GATHER The purpose of a mood board is to set the tone & style of a design effort, without the distraction of flow and architecture. Design mood boards include color, pattern, photography style, typography and illustrative & graphic design elements to inspire and to build on the brand and establish a vision for


MILISSA TARQUINI, AOL / MEDIAGLOW “I don’t use mood boards and I cringe when I see them. Why? Because they are static and are the complete opposite of what an interactive experience should be. You can’t clip out a beautiful interaction, an elegant transition, or animation that supports the user goals and business strategy of an experience. You can’t pin on a board how a kick-ass data set and a laser-focused search product will elevate a mundane task into the sublime. Which is fantastic if that is what your medium dictates. Interactive design demands more. The boards themselves should be interactive, and therefore no longer boards. What would make more sense for a design team to use would be a little multimedia piece that can show pictures and interactions, transitions, etc. Things cut out and pinned to a board cannot describe interaction. I’m not saying low-fi is wrong—low-fi is critical. For example, sketching is imperative to designing interactive experiences. But mood boards are meant to invoke “mood” and they don’t allow us to use the most powerful tools at our disposal to describe mood. Movement, sound, interaction clips, etc. Now I’m wondering—what would a mood board for Google look like? Twitter? Ugh.”

Facing page: Handmade collage from magazine pages.

In all fairness, mood boards aren’t for everyone. Here’s another viewpoint:

Virtual Pinning: Why Pinterest is rad for designers and creatives alike 08 THE WORLD AT LARGE


RECENTLY, I WAS INTRODUCED TO PINTEREST BY MY FRIEND and fellow design student Kat Smith. After dabbling with it for a few minutes, I quickly realised this site had huge potential to become an incredibly useful resource and tool, both for my graphic design career and my blogging efforts. So What Is Pinterest? Pinterest, quite simply is an image and video bookmarking site that looks and feels great, and is free to use. It’s more than just somewhere to save images, though. It’s a friendly, active community, made up from different people, from different backgrounds, with different interests, all submitting images meaning you’re incredibly likely to discover something you never would have found on your own. In fact, I’ve even started to check it as often as I check my Twitter and Google+! One of the first things I was taught at the start of my graphic design degree was the importance of looking in other ‘ponds’ for inspiration. Pinterest allows me to absorb fields that I’m not particularly interested in, such as fashion or interior design, in an easy to digest manner. And every so often something I wouldn’t have thought I’d like catches my eye. Sign up is currently invite only, but not exclusive so you simply request an invite from the sign up page or an existing member can invite you (get in touch with me via my contact form and I’ll sort you out). Why It’s Generally Awesome For Designers. Aside from being a great source of inspiration, it can also lead to the one thing all new creatives strive for. Exposure. There is always the the potential for your images to go viral. One person pins and tweets, 100 people view the tweet and take a look at your work, who may then decide to re-pin and retweet and so forth, until there’s a pandemic.

Obviously that’s all theory though. Still, there’s no need to be shy about pinning your own content. It all helps. Why It’s (Potentially) Awesome For Freelancers. When working on the research stage of a design project, trying to understand what it is your client wants, mood boards can come in handy. These are basically just images collected and collated that the client likes for whatever reason and help give an overall ‘feel’ to aim for. Pinterest actually allows selected members (that you select) to contribute to a board and pin their own images. You could create a separate Pinterest account for clients, giving them the log-in details when a project starts (password changed each time of course) and show them how to gather inspiration for you to look at. Ask them to pin the images to your ‘XY Project’ mood board, each with a brief description of why they like it, to hopefully help you to understand what they’re asking of you. This (hopefully) saves the awkward fumbling about online as they desperately try to find that logo they saw when they can’t remember where they saw it, or the stomach-turning moment when a client says they don’t like the idea you’ve shown them because your interpretation of “clean and jazzy” was vastly different to what they actually meant. Why It’s Awesome For Design Students. If you’re a design student (just like me), you should definitely sign up. More and more university creative degree courses are now asking students to start and constantly update a blog with insights into their working methods, things they find to be inspirational or interesting and views on their self-development. In order to prevent any issues of copyright infringement or plagiarism, we’re asked to include a link back to the original content and credit the author or copyright owner (which is good blogging etiquette anyway). Using Pinterest, you can collect images or videos that you like, complete with a link to the original location, and blog about them at a later date, without having to worry about finding the original page again .

“You could create a separate Pinterest account for clients, and show them how to gather inspiration for you to look at.”

“much oF what inspires me is found on the web and Pinterest is the only way I have found to corral that information in a meaningful and useful way.” WORDS BY DANA SIMPSON I LOVE INSPIRATION BOARDS. BASICALLY A collage of images, words, and objects (fabric, trims, clippings, images, paint chips, packaging, etc.), inspiration boards allow you to collect all the various bits and pieces that you want to organize and refer to as you lead a creative life. Sometimes these boards are made to drive you to reach a certain goal or finish a specific project. Other times, they can be a way to infuse your life with creative energy and remind you of things you love…inspiring things or simply stuff that makes you smile. As a designer, I find these boards are the only effective way to organize your references and create a framework for design. Yet with all this said, my “inspiration boards” often remain a pile of clippings and swatches waiting to be joined in some cohesive way. All that hopeful tearing out and creative consideration lost in the dark confines of a file folder. Just over a year ago I found Pinterest and it changed my life. Pinterest is the mother of all inspiration boards. A cyber-hub of inspiration. And while I still love to make more tangible inspiration boards when I have time (those thumbtacks will never get chucked), much of what inspires me is found on the web and Pinterest is the only way I have found to corral that information in a meaningful and useful way. More than just a way for you to organize your own inspirational links and images, Pinterest allows you to peruse other peoples boards. You can repin other pins you find and even “follow” certain people on Pinterest whose taste jives with your own. Perhaps the most useful part of Pinterest for me is its ability to link your “pin” to its original location on the web. I cannot tell you how many times I have lamented about seeing something amazing on the internet and not remembering where. Now, if I see something of interest online whether it be a specific product, a craft idea, a home decor solution or just about anything, I will pin to one of my boards. What’s more, there is an iPhone App that allows you to photograph inspiration you see in your daily life and pin direct from your phone. Really, need I say more. Start pinning and get inspired.


Mind still fogged?

Focus! We leave you with the brilliantness of Creative Mornings and some ending words to keep your mind motivated. 10 THE WORLD AT LARGE


SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO BE THANKFUL TO BE in the right place at the right. I consider myself lucky to have ended up working a block away from my dear friend, Tina (known to most as Swiss Miss). My old studio (now Something Massive’s NYC studio) was at 20 Jay and Tina has just moved into her space at 20 Jay in DUMBO. Somehow, I can’t really remember, we ended up having lunch at Superfine and talking about running our own studios, clients, work, our kids, typography, Tom Gauld, alphabet posters, bloggers, this new thing called twitter and how much I was dreading the humidity of NYC to kick in. Several years later, I am now running the Los Angeles chapter of Tina’s amazing Creative Mornings series. I am so honored to be a part of this fun, creative and important event. Tina started Creative Mornings about two years back and it’s grown to be one of the hottest tickets in NYC. The best part is, it’s free. A free and open forum about design and creativity which happens every month. The featured speaker talks for about 20 – 30 minutes and then there is time for questions. Attendees show up early for coffee and pastries – what could be better? Our first event in LA took place last October 8th and Zach Frechette, Co-Founder and Editor of GOOD Magazine, was our speaker. When Tina and I sat down to talk about me hosting Creative Mornings in LA I had (both literally and figuratively) “someone from good” at the top of my list. Tina, of course, knew Zach and he agreed to do it. I love that nowadays I can spend a few minutes online and view hundreds of inspiring design projects – logos, websites, editorial design, etc. However, the idea of process is somewhat absent from this immediate visual gratification. I feel that conferences, lectures and series like Creative Mornings offers that insight into process and is an inspiring way to start a morning. I hope anyone reading this in LA can come check out one of these events. I have a list of interesting speakers lined up, including Bobby Solomon from who will be our November speaker. I also wanted to thank everyone who helped out to make this event a big success. Willard and Andrea from Ford & Ching who hosted the event, Beth and Lauren who worked the door, Jacqueline who organized the chairs and breakfast, Grant and Stephen who shot and edited video, Cicilia who took the amazing pics you see above and John Moshay, Rebecca Coleman and Chris Gibbin from Something Massive who got on board to be the sponsor and were 110% behind my desire to bring this event to LA. Finally, Tina rules on every level. WHEN: December 16 in Los Angeles, Ca WHERE: To be announced 411:

“Creative Mornings offers that insight into process and is an inspiring way to start a morning.”

“Waking up is the riskiest part of the day.” Franz Kafka WORDS BY DENNY MCCORKLE

AN “EARLY BIRD,” I AM NOT. INSTEAD, I AM MORE of a “second mouse gets the cheese” kind of guy. I do get things done, with initiative; practice creative procrastination; and my internal clock needs not a snooze alarm. Here are some ideas to jump start your day more creatively. Some I do, regularly. 01. Plan Your Day The Night Before. Encourage your subconscious and dreaming self to get an early start on your creative needs. Write down your creative needs and first thoughts (list, outline, or mindmap) on a pad or notebook. Even better: reinforce and repeat these pre-bed time thoughts to yourself before falling asleep. The next morning your first thoughts are likely creative thoughts. 02. Make Time For Your Newfound Creative Mojo. Get up at least 30 minutes earlier than usual to have adequate time for your new good morning creative mojo rituals. 03. Dump The Snooze Alarm. Wake to soothing music. Buy a new alarm clock or smart phone dock that allows this. Arise slowly. Take some deep breathes. Stretch before getting out of bed. Air write with your toes. Stick your legs in the air and slowly pedal an imaginary bicycle. 04. Hush The Mind. Silence the CNN or Fox News as background noise. Instead, enjoy the empty air or fill it with comforting music. And, let your mind, body, and creative mojo synch with the rhythm. 05. Trade Headlines For Laugh Lines. Skip the doom and gloom, negative thinkfest newspaper headlines, and go directly to the comics. Laugh aloud as if milk could come out your nose. 06. Create Something Every Day. Begin this new behavior first thing in the morning. Create: art for the refrigerator; new words to a favorite song; a new breakfast dish for your stomach; an inspiring email to a friend; an insightful comment on a favorite blog; or the rough draft or outline of a new blog post. Just create. 07. Try Creative Cross Fertilization. This is where you create in an area or domain different from your primary domain. If a writer, then draw in the morning. If a painter, then write in the morning. Apply your creativity to something different. Sooner than later, you will shift back to your primary domain with a fresh insight. 08. Read Some Top Folder Inspiration. Using Google Reader, find a few minutes to inspire your thinking with the contents of a top folder of favorite bloggers on a subject(s) most interested. Review this folder each morning and “star” the best and most inspiring for later sharing. Important: slow down. Learn. Think. Record your thoughts. Very important: slow down. Learn. Think. Record your thoughts. Your ego and a retweet can wait.


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The World At Large  

Inspiring the creative mind.