It's not a blog, it's Gumbo


Skip Intro

Aug 22, 2023

In the beginning, the 'Skip Intro' button often goes unnoticed. But as binge-watching progresses, the urge to click intensifies. It's not a reflection on the title's artistry but the anticipation of what's next.

In spite of how much you love the main title, playing it repeatedly can dampen your excitement to get back into the story.

When you unbox the latest iPhone, you feel like you're experiencing something special in that moment. Unboxing experiences are powerful examples of amplifying anticipation, and the first time is always the most memorable.

But imagine if you unboxed your phone every time you received a notification, phone call, or text message. Binge tv sessions experience this with every main title. And that's why a simple button can have such a huge impact.

While a visually stunning intro is essential, it's the spark of anticipation that truly combats the 'Skip Intro' Goliath. And the secret weapon? Music.

It's not just about visuals; it's about crafting an auditory experience that grips viewers from the start.

Spend money, time and energy on the music.
There is a reason music players have a repeat button.

No, Less

Jul 2, 2023

The improvisational rule of "Yes, And" is a fine way to generate ideas. Sadly, "No, Less" is rarely given equal attention. It's distillation, not addition, that gives an idea meaning.

Imagine a bridge spanning across centuries, connecting the past and the present, the physical and the digital. At one end stands Frederick Law Olmsted, the 19th-century landscape architect. On the other, the modern marvel of Apple's Vision Pro. The bridge? The 'Genius of Place'.

Last week, while watching Apple's WWDC keynote, I saw an emerging landscape taking shape.

Instead of soil and stone, it's pixels and code. A place where the boundaries of our physical and digital lives are brought closer together. And as I watched Apple talk about its revolutionary spatial computing platform, I couldn't help but wonder if Frederick Law Olmsted's design spirit possessed those behind Apple's new vision.

As the mastermind behind the first planned community and the town I grew up in, Riverside, Illinois, with its winding paths and considered landscapes, Olmsted put his faith in the truth that every place was its own entity, with its own character and spirit. His design approach was revolutionary at the time with the intent to reveal, not impose. And his approach was simple - consult the uniquely spiritual quality of a place, and infuse it into every design decision possible.

In Apple's vision, the 'place' is not just a physical location but a merging of one's true world with an entirely reimagined computing paradigm. A radically different yet uncannily familiar type of place where the spatial experience is tailored to your unique needs and preferences. Vision Pro creates a digital landscape as varied and meaningful as an Olmsted park with all the spiritual qualities of you and your surroundings.

Olmsted's landscapes were designed to be immersive, draw the observer in, and offer a peaceful retreat from city life. With Vision Pro, you'll have an equally immersive experience, a digital journey that's as familiar as an unplanned stroll through one of Olmsted's parks. A slow roll of the digital crown on top of the headset replaces the winding Olmsted path. Around each turn, the landscape unfolds around you just like Olmsted intended.

I can't help but imagine a connection between Apple and Olmsted rooted in a shared vision, the belief that place has power. Whether it's a physical landscape or a space filled with rounded glass windows that you can move with a glance and a pinch. Each place, and now every spatial computer, has its own unique spirit, an evolving 'genius' that makes it unique.

It gives me a sense of curiosity and excitement as I consider what it might feel like to design for and fall into Vision Pro's digital landscape next year. The idea that 19th-century design principles remain relevant to present innovations reminds me that fundamental human needs haven't changed.

However, everything we interact with will change.

As we enter a new era, computers are no longer independent of us but present an unprecedented connection to how we define a place.

This transformation gives us a moment to reconsider our approach as designers, to shift from a "user experience" mindset to a "user belonging" mindset.

Only by designing for a sense of belonging can we create meaningful spatial computers that consider more than just virtual pixels in a space but center wholeheartedly on people in place

I think a refined version of UX, we might call it BX (Belonging Experience) will emerge over the next few years, not because I want to coin the term for a new product or industry, but to remind designers that if people don't feel like they belong... they will leave.

We must appreciate place's power and its genius in shaping our future digital interactions. From this point on, design will be about fostering a sense of belonging, where everyone feels connected and cared for in the digital realms we inhabit.

So here's to the genius of place in everyone's living room or office. Here's to Central Park's winding paths, my hometown of Riverside, Vision Pro's spatial computing landscapes, and all the places in between. Here's to the experience designers who dare to cross this bridge, linking the old and the new dimensions, the spatial and the digital.

And here's to us, the wide-eyed seekers, who are fortunate to live in a time when we can travel across this beautiful span.

Midjourney was a hell-of-a drug when it first hit the scene. I was pretty addicted the first few nights playing with it. But four months into experimenting with this new creative psychedelic, I don't feel the same feeling when prompting vs. creating. Is there a difference between the satisfaction you get from your "own" idea instead of the AI collaborative kind?

Engaging in a creative and fulfilling activity releases dopamine in the brain. This explains why we prefer the Poäng armchair we assembled from IKEA over the one we purchased from Target. As our creative process becomes easier, the feeling changes. The less effort we invest in our "own" ideas, the less joy we might experience.

This brings us to a significant question in this new era of AI: Is creativity less rewarding when the effort is optimized?

Do creative projects need to simmer and stew, nurtured by human hands and time, to be truly remarkable, or can they be fast, efficient, and still memorable?

I believe the amount of passion and effort put into something directly affects the positive feelings an audience experiences when engaging with it. It's the emotion you feel when you experience a musical performance whose life's work is poured into their creative passion. It's also the emotion you feel when a brilliant film keeps you on the edge of your seat. A lot of work went into making you feel that way.

Memory loves meaning.

Today's AI doesn't even have a memory — it simply predicts what comes next.

There's nothing like the incredible feeling we get from generating our own ideas. Collaborating with another person adds an emotional and empathetic dimension, leading to a richer and more meaningful experience. A generative moment with someone else may seem spontaneous, but it's the result of years of experience and life lived by both individuals. I really hope this kind of purposeful conspiracy is never abandoned.

But my god, stuff is moving fast ... and I have to ask myself, how many variations of the AI drug will it take to fire the dopamine in my brain to keep me addicted to tech-driven creativity?

Well beyond what's available today, but then again, four more months of advancement might convince me to take another hit.

Hot Pockets

Feb 24, 2023

Design sprints are like microwaving hot pockets. Creativity in a hurry sounds great, but you're almost certain to get burned.

Why will you die?

Feb 14, 2023

Why will you die?

This advertisement for a drug store may seem like clickbait from the turn of the century, but the headline is a chef's kiss.

The language is so expertly used, you can't help but think about your own mortality.

I don't know when I'll die, but why? Maybe I should look into that.

"Commercial rhymist" W.N. Bryant created these brilliant rhyming ads for Texas, Louisiana, and Indian Territory drugstores.

Whether or not they were effective is impossible to say. All I know is that W.N. Bryant's work has just been posted again in 2023. So there's that.

More can be found on the fantastic website Public Domain Review

Turn to Howlin'

Feb 11, 2023

Tone is everything. It's the voice, the emotion, and the feeling that makes something real.

When you're not there, your tone speaks for you. It exposes your work's core, purpose, and soul.

Blues legend Howlin' Wolf knew the potency of his tone. He filled each note, each word, each growl with his spirit and energy. And his tone? It was explosive. It struck a chord with those who experienced it. So intense was its resonance that all of rock and roll was built upon it.

Tone isn't just a set of knobs to tweak. It's not an on-and-off switch. It's a quest for authenticity, a pursuit of truth. It's born of raw emotions - sorrow, happiness, and everything in-between.

Once you've found it, don't let it slip away. And never settle for just one hue. Embrace the infinite shades of your feeling. Blues, after all, is an entire spectrum of sadness.

And most importantly, never compromise on authenticity. Don't adopt feelings that aren't rooted in the truth of your idea. As Wolf eloquently explained, "I couldn't do no yodelin', so I turned to howlin'. And it's done me just fine."

The right tone doesn't try to be something it isn't.

Bring out your inner howlin' self if you want your ideas to last long after being forgotten. Hit the right tone, and your ideas have a chance to be timeless and yes... even legendary.

My grandfather inspired this post, who, like Howlin' Wolf, brought his unique tone from Louisiana up north to Chicago and kicked off a wonderful inter-generational family bond through music.

I had a wonderful time with Filipe Carvalho talking about creativity, ecotones, belonging, and rolling down the hill of life.

Check it out here

As much as I enjoy using all these AI programs and image-generating tools, I still believe that observing Mother Nature is the best way to learn about the true nature of creativity.

An example is ecotones, the transition zones where different habitats overlap, which are incredibly rich in biodiversity. Nature's evolutionary experiments explode in these places where the desert meets a spring or the sea meets the shore.

It's evolution's version of "f*** around and find out", making them extremely effective for brainstorming biodiversity.

And just like Mother Nature, I love to blend, smash, and merge ideas to create something unexpected. The fact that it has worked for billions of years is enough to convince me that it is a creative process worth trying.

So, to get your divergent thinking flowing, don't rely solely on the artificial newness of ChatGPT or Midjourney to help you generate new ideas.

Instead, think like an ecotone, smash some unexpected ideas together, and while you're at it, get off your computer and go touch some grass.


VR, XR, MR, AR - what will be the next abbreviation of reality? It seems that we are constantly striving to add to reality. But is this why these technologies have not fully taken off?

Perhaps it's time to consider a different approach that focuses on enhancing the true nature of a place rather than augmenting the hell out of it.

Consider the ideas of 19th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. Olmstead believed in staying true to the character of a place's natural surroundings and accessing the "genius" of a location to inform every design decision he made.

It didn't matter what trends of the day were in vogue. Specimen planting and exotic flower beds did more harm than good.

He understood that the landscape has an unconscious influence on people and that the goal is to create a sense of presence and belonging. This requires more than a visual interface (or pretty flowers) - it involves understanding the experience of a place and its spiritual qualities.

In today's digital landscape, it's easy to get lost in tech and interfaces. But the most meaningful virtual experiences allow us to feel grounded and present. Like a walk through the winding paths of Central Park, it inspires us to have original ideas, and we never feel lost.

You've accessed the genius when you put on that headset and can experience a place more deeply without the superfluous stuff on top of it.

The company that can achieve this might win the experiential arms race by focusing simply on what makes reality... real.

Ever wonder why you can't stop listening to a song you love? You're addicted to anticipation.

Renowned musicologist Leonard Meyer, who wrote Emotion and Meaning in Music in the 1950s, pointed out that the emotion of music comes from the composer's choreography of expectations.

Meyer concluded that music's greatest power comes from its ability to toy with the expectations of the listener. Many artists can surprise us, delay our expectations, and sometimes deliver exactly what we want.

Next time you develop an idea, ensure you play with the feeling of anticipation and expectation. When an idea gives you goosebumps, it's like listening to your favorite song -- it plays with expectations so well, you never get sick of it.

Instead of adapting trends for new ideas, try reincarnating the forgotten. It's way more fun than doom-scrolling inspiration blogs.

Dive into the blue hyperlinks of Wikipedia, or wander the aisles of a used bookshop. Tell the shopkeeper about your idea and follow them down a rabbit hole.

Dig up those old Geocities links you saved in 2002. You may be surprised by the new connections you discover when the web is displayed in basic HTML.

Next time you're looking for creative ideas or inspiration, try looking behind rather than forward. You never know what buried treasure you'll find again.

Galaxy M87

Dec 9, 2022

Not every idea you come up with is a big bang.

Most of the time, they are black holes we keep getting sucked back into.

When you discover an idea that is so compelling that it draws people in like the supermassive force at the center of the galaxy M87, it's okay to keep returning to it.

After all, sometimes it's better to be pulled back and adapt a great idea than to float aimlessly in the vast unknown of the blank page.

Embrace the flaws of an idea, project or product.

Sometimes bringing attention to the clear negatives creates an unexpected positive feeling.

I saw this car in the Home Depot parking lot this morning and it’s the most inspiring piece of design I’ve seen all month.

Love the Unknown

Oct 20, 2022

Not knowing gets me going.

Yeah, it sounds cheesy as hell, but it's true. If HomeGoods put it on a pillow, I would buy it. Live, Laugh, & Love the unknown

People are born to explore,

the shiny-object-seeking,
just-around-a-corner-searching sort of exploring.

Great brands tap into our love for new experiences.
Others race to make the shiniest new thing.

It's tempting to think novel technology can replace a good story, or motivate people to give you their time and attention.

It can't.

People want more meaning in where they go.
It's our responsibility to give it to them.

A great idea is uncontrollable.

It might seem at odds with a so-called The Creative Process™, but you can't push a brilliant idea from where it naturally wants to go.

Do you have control over your own curiosity? Why would the trajectory of your own ideas be any different? Great ideas are often great because they are given the freedom to do what they want to do.

AI Gets Dirty

Sep 30, 2022

Design needs to get dirty again. It's why I think the mid-journey aesthetic is so alluring right now.

In a decade dominated by clean, polished UI and shiny 3D, it's inherently vague, messy, and not quite right, leaving much up to interpretation.

It feels good to play in the mud.

Edit Like Jazz

Feb 16, 2022

I love how it only takes one or two frames of an edit to make a cut go from horrible to perfect. Editing is so much about feeling.

It’s fun to lean into odd rhythms and timing - and more often than not, a great edit feels like jazz or funk no matter the music driving it.