A place where Minnesota's design community can blow its collective mind about creative expression in every medium from websites to landscapes, chocolate to bicycles.

3 Z's… as in Zebra

Posted: November 19th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: illustration, Interactive, local twin cities, opinion | Tags: | 1 Comment »


There’s something special about having a name that clings to the very last letter of the alphabet. Something daring about the idea that every other letter was somehow not quite a bold enough choice and that you caught hold of the “Z” just in the nick of time before you were forced to start your name with a number or a favorite piece of punctuation. Last in line. Always having to say “…as in Zebra” to the unimaginative drone working behind the counter with a name tag that reads “Anderson” as if proclaiming his compulsive surrender of vision at having jumped at the first letter available. Those of us who share the letter Z also share a sense of solidarity born of these experiences.

So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Zara Gonzalez. Three Z’s bolder than most, and fully aware that there is no “Z” in surrender. She has recently launched a bevy of websites in service of her varied creative exploits including interactive projects, illustrations, posters and and unending stream of mindless monsters on post-it notes. One of my favorite things is her recent post on her blog seven color days about how her efforts to share her work led her to greater insight about herself (something that is much harder than it sounds). Give it a read, check out all the fantastic work and links to inspirations and enjoy all the interesting stuff that happens at the end of the line.

Oh Hang Astronomy

Posted: November 19th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: artifacts, events, illustration, posters | Tags: | 2 Comments »


Prints of the International Year of Astronomy posters designed by Simon Page are now available on inPRNT – in two sizes no less. Spruce up your crib by ordering two and shipping is free. Original post.

Happy Birthday Bro!

Posted: November 13th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: illustration, output | Tags: , | 3 Comments »


I’ve only got one brother but he’s still the best. Enjoy the day Jeff.

I’ve Been Thinking…

Posted: November 12th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: illustration, opinion | Tags: | Comments Off


The difference between being humble and being humble (despite sounding the same) strikes me as a distinction of considerable substance.

Yet how can one be certain perception is in sync with reality? To illustrate – is this a plane that is humble who’s shadow none the less betrays its true qualities or is it simply a humble plane that wishes it were something more?

Illustrator James Jean Revealed

Posted: November 12th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: illustration, input, opinion | Tags: | 2 Comments »




Diego Rivera did some wonderful frescoes but I didn’t truly fall in love with his work until I had the opportunity to see a show of his amazing sketches at the San Francisco Art Institute (where he happens to have left one of his frescoes). There is something about a raw look at an artist’s creative process – before all the filtering for an audience happens – that is really marvelous to behold.

So it is with illustrator James Jean. Flipping through his online portfolio is like attending an extravagant concert listening to highly produced love songs. It’s breath taking work. Yet there is something about shuffling through his “SKETCH” section that is somehow more satisfying. Like sitting up close in a small acoustic setting where you can see the musician sweat and see that the heartache in the song is real.

Each of James’ sketch books is dated and described simply by its color or a letter. Immersion begins (as it should) with a handsome photo of the actual book showing the patina it acquired during its tenure. The experience proceeds with subject matter that is often less fanciful than his formal portfolio. Figure studies, people on the bus, writings… but I love the lose, gestural quality of the work and the thought. I imagine when he did these sketches he wasn’t thinking about me (in the abstract) at all. He was focused on the moment and how to represent it.

I am left to wonder why designers (so far as they differ from artists) are conditioned away from showing process in this way – favoring instead the polished end result. Limiting ourselves to a small number of samples even within that criteria. Shying away even from polished work that wasn’t actually produced. Not only do I have piles of sketch books but endless folders and files full of work that was never published, printed or launched. By keeping all this work hidden away we deny everyone the chance to be an archaeologist of our creative legacy. Even more troubling is the idea that perhaps we miss the opportunity to let others fall in love with our work.

Now You Too Can Be Cyclopathic

Posted: November 11th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: bikes, events, Interactive, local twin cities, resources | Comments Off



At last there is a tool that enables cyclists to map their route from point A to point B while preferentially factoring in bike paths and bike lanes – Cyclopath. Now I’ve been to point B quite a few times and know the way but I’ve never gotten there from point C. Cyclopath allows me to map the route, adjust it, get a sense of what I’ll be in for and print directions. You can use any address in the Twin Cities and surrounding region the map covers and even map to points of interest like parks.

Maps can be viewed as street layer or aerial photos and the system indicates distance, allows you to make and save changes to maps, share them and even lets you interpret your route using several filters of special interest to cyclists like “byway type”, rating and even by slope so you can embark on the pleasantly futile task of trying to plan a route that’s down hill both ways.

There are many more features and it seems like a pretty powerful new tool but one with a little bit of a learning curve. Fortunately the folks at Cyclopath have taken this into account as well and are offering a lecture about how to use the system. Not only are the tool and the lecture free they’ll feed you breakfast so stop by as you ride your bike in to work tomorrow (weather should be pretty nice). The lecture is Thursday, November 12 from 8:30 – 9:30 at the UofM. More info available here. Can’t make it to the breakfast? View it live online at 8:40 am.

Who would take on this heroic and altruistic effort you ask? Well that is the beauty of having a large land-grant, research oriented, university in your town. The University of Minnesota’s Institute for New Media Studies did all the heavy lifting. Now all you have to do is enjoy the ride.

Have You Voted Today?

Posted: November 9th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: architecture, opinion | Tags: | Comments Off


You may not have a house that is an architectural masterpiece but take heart – you have an opinion and that’s all you need to participate in The House Vote. Roughly every day a new bite sized bit of architectural creativity is posted and you get to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. If you are feeling particularly loquacious or lean more toward freestyle commentary you can do that too. It’s a fun way to get a dose of architecture and if you see something you like you can click on the picture to visit the website of the architectural office responsible.

If you are not confident about your opinion check here first to baseline (or possibly flat line) your appreciation for homes that are poorly designed, poorly crafted and basically out of touch with reality. Then check out some of the architecture posts on this site or jump right to The House Vote to look at some really nice homes that were designed to be built in a specific location and support the healthy, happy life of the occupants.

Clearly I have an opinion (grin)

Onward and Upward

Posted: November 6th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: artifacts, illustration, output | Tags: , | 2 Comments »
Click for enlargement

Click for enlargement

Thank you for your fun comment on the Re-bookmark-able post Ella. It sounds like you and Tim are having a great time drawing together. The bookmark collection sounds fantastic too. As a thank you and to celebrate Tim’s birthday I’ve sent you each this bookmark you inspired me to make. The sky is full of star signs and Tim can help you find them all. To get you started Cignus the swan is just above the turtle’s nose. Reading and drawing, two great life-long adventures. Keep it up.

Even Bambi Wound Up Twitterpated

Posted: November 6th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: Interactive | Comments Off


Look out – BrainstormOverload just invaded the airspace over at Twitter. Not sure what to do with it yet but watch for the bsoverload handle (no the irony is not lost on me) and the bsol seal of approval (pictured above). I’ll be working on my brevity for starters. I wonder if I can say anything intelligent in 140 characters (some days I wonder if I can say anything intelligent regardless of character count) but then my (imaginary) good friend and flash fiction master Ernest Hemingway told this famous and provocative story in 33: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” I recently saw Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest” on stage at the Guthrie Theater which as Dirk Gently would assert was no mere coincidence. I’d be surprised if he felt it was actually a call to be more ernest but surely a sign to be more amusing and more intriguing in less space.

Things Are Looking Up

Posted: November 6th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: artifacts, design, posters | Tags: , , | 8 Comments »


There’s something special about a great poster. It’s not exactly an illustration and yet it isn’t exactly a design either. Brilliant posters are a magical kind of hybrid that appeals to a wide swath of humanity. The truly brilliant ones communicate their intent even when the words on them are in a language that is foreign. So it is with a new series of posters that Simon Page designed for the simple pleasure of it. He chose the International Year of Astronomy (2009) as a foil for exploring his passion for geometric design and came up with eight posters reminiscent of the space race of the 60′s that none the less feel really fresh. My favorite part of the story is that response to his designs has been so overwhelmingly positive and so wide spread that representatives from the IYA2009 actually contacted him and the posters are in production now. Tell me that isn’t what you dream about happening to one of your side projects. Nice work Simon, kudos to the IYA2009 for recognizing a good thing and acting on it and thanks to my bro the indefatigable supplier of interesting links, coder-surfer-man-about-town and self-styled Emperor of the Universe for bringing them to my attention.