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.

Frontline On Our Digital Nation

Posted: February 1st, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: input, Interactive, opinion, video | Tags: , | Comments Off


PBS (which is arguably the only reason to own a television) hosts a plethora of quality programing including a fantastic, in depth, news program called Frontline. On Tuesday, February 2nd at 9:00 p.m. (In the Twin Cities) Frontline is airing “Digital Nation”. If you are reading this blog there is a good chance you work in a digital design field. But, whatever you do you are deeply immersed in the changes interactive media is having on our culture. Changes with far reaching consequences for everything from socialization to attention span, entertainment to warfare. Spending an hour pondering these consequences will likely be tremendously informing (and empowering if it is your job to create whatever comes next). You can see a preview on the pbs.org website.

Frontline has also been running a digital nation website about these issues where you can learn more, share your own story and take a quiz – while you email, txt, instant message and listen to music….

In a related vein NPR recently ran an interesting story about research that suggests many who think they are great at multitasking… aren’t.

Captcha-ing the Potential

Posted: January 7th, 2010 | Author: Todd | Filed under: input, Interactive, type | Tags: | Comments Off

I found this video on Twisted Sifter and while it may not be the most exciting eleven minutes you ever spend it’s a pretty cool example of the synergy that can happen when you think outside of the box. The basic story is how the time spent typing a captcha (the distorted type used as an online security device) has been turned to a productive purpose and will in less than twelve months completely digitize the analog archives (all isses between 1851 and the mid 1980′s) of the New York Times one word at a time. That’s 130 years worth of newspapers. Facebook, Ticketmaster, Craigslist, and Twitter are among the sites using the new re-captcha technology so you and 400 million other people have already helped.

Update: Thanks to Bill Skellenger I can share with you that if 11 minutes of insight into human computing was not enough Luis von Ahn is featured in a full 50 minute Google TechTalk that is full of all kinds of interesting stuff. Put on your thinking cap before pressing play.

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.

I've Been Objectified

Posted: October 20th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: artifacts, design, input, video | Tags: , , | Comments Off

The bright red envelope in my mailbox yesterday signaled the much anticipated arrival of Gary Hustwit’s new film Objectified and an evening spent on the couch, in rapt attention with hot cocoa in hand. Directed in a style very similar to his last film Helvetica this movie is a collection of interviews with a series of fascinating characters from the industrial design world. Some of them are practically caricatures of themselves which like cow hide on an Eames chair makes for a secondary dimension of entertainment layered over the primary theme -  a dive into a tremendously interesting, important, impactful and often overlooked design field. As the movie points out the sexy stuff from Apple or BMW gets noticed as design but in actuality everything is designed at some level even if that level is a pretty disheartening, single-minded drive to get one more piece of trash into our overflowing landfills via your living room. But take heart, design has exploded onto the radar of the mba set and become the primary business advantage for many products. Designers and manufactures are also coming to recognize that sustainability will be the next advantage. Together with consumers everyone involved is becoming more demanding and if the trend is toward more elegantly designed and more sustainably manufactured products that is a good thing.

Check out the trailer and then reserve a spot on your sofa and make extra hot cocoa so you’ve got enough to get you through the extra features – you’re going to want to soak up every minute of this film.

Rent Objectified from NetFlix before it gets all scratched up.
Or buy it from Amazon, directly from the Objectified store or from iTunes.

If you come away wanting to be even more objectified iTunes recently interviewed Gary Hustwit and posted the podcast.
(note this and the iTunes link will open in iTunes)

Travel (by bicycle) Photography

Posted: August 25th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: bikes, input, photography | 1 Comment »


Stop what you are doing and familiarize yourself with this really wonderful bicycle tour photography by Gregg Bleakney. Take a few extra minutes and look at his Adventure section too. They’re even better than the cycle shots but this is a bicycle photograph post. Oh, and while you’re at it the Portraits, People and Landscape categories are spectacular too.



Local Talent / Candice Leick

Posted: July 28th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: design, input, local twin cities | Tags: | Comments Off



Great design is at home in the Twin Cities. Top notch design and advertising agencies litter the warehouse districts like snow in January and being in the marketing business they are just as visible. However, each of those agencies is a success in no small part because of the talented and passionate labor of their designers. I think those designers deserve a little more visibility. So, for everyone’s enlightenment I’m going to feature some of them here. I hope you will take a moment to learn more about them, spread the word and even reach out – they probably like coffee and conversation as much as you do.

Educated at MCAD and having worked at Duffy & Partners, Candice Leick is an example of a great local talent who is striking out on her own. Having recently hung my own shingle (though I’m already considering redesigning it) I know first hand how challenging this can be. Paving her way is the  lovely work Candice has done for Thymes and Myndology. Check out her website to see more of her portfolio (or better yet to hire her for your project). If you are up for even more you can gain some insight into what inspires Candice by checking out what she’s ffffound!