IgniteOKC

Tonight I’ll be making the trip down the turnpike to give a talk at IgniteOKC. If you’re not familiar with the concept of Ignite, here’s a little info from the website:

Started by Brady Forrest, Technology Evangelist for O’Reilly Media, and Bre Pettis of Etsy.com, formerly of MAKE Magazine, Ignite […] speakers are given 20 slides, each shown for 15 seconds, giving each speaker 5 minutes of fame.

I’m giving a talk entitled “The Power of Visual Communication: Together, We Can Rid the World of Comic Sans” tonight at the Lyric Theater in OKC. I’ll be talking about how sloppy and thoughtless our communication has become in modern society, and giving some tips about what everyone can do to improve the quality of their own visual communication. Here’s a teaser:

The event sold out only hours after tickets were released, but there will be a live stream of the event and all talks will be posted to youtube later on. You can bet that, barring any really bad screw-ups, I’ll be posting said video here on the blog just as soon as it’s available.

Award-winning Filmmaker? Apparently.

This was my second annual submission to Living Arts Tulsa’s 24-hour Video Race back in February. We took the prize in the Experimental category.

Mostly did this one with Shane Hood of Tepera|Hood design (with additional help from a couple of Matts who don’t have websites) using a combination of Legos, Playskool people, found objects, fishing line, electric motors and stop-motion animation.

Check out my other video work here. Enjoy!

New Stuff All Around

I’ve moved the site onto a new WordPress installation so things might look a little odd while I iron out the details. I’m running WordPress 3.0, which means exciting new features and more stuff to learn. What you see here is my very first (and very much work-in-progress) theme for WP3. As it stands, it supports:

  • Custom header images
  • Custom background colors
  • Article Images
  • Custom Menus

with plans to add

  • Custom post types (in my case a custom portfolio display)
  • Custom post taxonomies (not so much because I need them as I want to learn how they work)

so yeah. That’s all good and quite geeky; just thought I’d get the technical stuff out of the way.

Practical Typography: Volume One

I started thinking about this concept over a year ago, writing disjointed thoughts on typography in my notebook instead of taking notes in my “Services Marketing” summer class. My realization was that since high school I’d been using Courier New for every academic paper I’d written (and after spending two years as an English major this was quite a lot indeed). The advice came from an insightful high school English teacher, and I’ll explain his reasoning a little later. What’s important to know is that despite constant skepticism from classmates when I tried to give them the same advice, I never received any negative feedback from a professor. Sure, there are those who state outright, often in the syllabus, that students are to use a certain font, usually Times New Roman, at a certain size. But these were generally the exception, not the rule. In probably 90% of my college classes, across several majors, professors had no objection to size 12 Courier (on a Mac I’d be Talking about American Typewriter Std). But why is this important? Well if you’re an upstanding, rule-abiding student who enjoys writing as many pages as possible in response to your required reading of Babbit in Business school, it might not be. If, like me, you’re always looking to do the most good with the least effort, then read on.

The fonts I’m talking about here were designed, essentially, to emulate typewriters. In this respect they are perfectly acceptable for the purposes of academic, or for that matter any serious, writing. The term monospaced refers to the uniform spacing of letters, numbers and punctuation. This is unique among monospaced fonts. Your standard serif such as Times New Roman has varying amounts of spacing dependent on the letter in question; for instance, the letter “i” gets less space in the horizontal direction than, say, a “w”. In this respect there is a sense of unpredictability with these fonts, as a word with more slender letters will take up less than a word with a lot of wider letters. But why does this matter? Because monospaced fonts are both consistent…and take up more space. Consider the following example:

Type

Courier New on the left, Times New Roman on the right. Both examples use the same 50-word sample set in 12pt type leaded at 15pt. Note the difference in length. And this is simply over the course of one (very short) paragraph. So we can see right away that using a monospaced font has serious advantages in situations where a certain page-length is required. Is it cheating? Maybe, but I don’t think so. But just in case, after using this method for more years than I care to divulge here, I formulated a succinct justification should the need arise (it never did). Essentially, and this is the bit I gleaned from that insightful high school teacher, this format (double-spaced, of course) is considered standard “Manuscript Format” when submitting any piece of writing for publication. This has a lot to do with cleanliness: If a publisher sees identical manuscripts, the emphasis is on the words rather than the fonts. You can say a lot with a font, but one could argue that with a typewriter font you’re simply saying “I’m writing something”. Additionally, the wide spacing allows for easy markup and proofreading.

This whole length-manipulation technique played well into a style of writing which served me quite well for the entirety of my college experience: say a lot with a little. “Trim the fat” as it were. So you need a ten page paper? Write a ten page paper with Times New Roman. Then set it to a monospaced font…suddenly you’re going to have fifteen. What now? Start trimming. What you’re left with afterward, in theory, is nicely distilled. Whoever reads it isn’t going to get the feeling you were drawing things out to take up space, they’re going to get the feeling you’re getting right to the point.

Inspiration

Sitting down to write this post, I asked myself where I go for inspiration. I guess my first inclination, as always, was to make some kind of list. But what would this list look like? Websites, photographers, designers…books? I arrived at the conclusion that inspiration necessarily comes from all around me. There’s no one place I go for inspiration. But that doesn’t really make for an interesting read, so I made a list anyway.

So, what’s inspired me lately?

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Crawford, Nickolas Muray for Vanity Fair 1929

Vanity Fair: The Portraits

I received this book as a birthday gift last month. It’s a truly amazing collection of images documenting a century of modern society, by many of its most iconic photographers (and a few of my personal heroes) including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibowitz and Edward Steichen. I love taking pictures of people, this is no secret. I haven’t had the chance to do a lot of that lately, but I’m working on it (see my previous post). It seems to me that if you want to do something well, you study the best. This book showcases some of the finest portraits from the last century, and thumbing through its massive pages is awe-inspiring.

500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer

This film has been praised as the anti-love story and dismissed as a hipster romantic comedy, but I think what I liked about 500 Days of Summer is how it defied categorization. It had moments of genuine emotion alongside lighthearted comedy (and even a dance number). The film didn’t claim to be something it wasn’t—I think the opening narration says it best:

“This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story.”

But I must confess: it takes more than an enduring story for a movie to truly inspire me. 500 Days took it to the next level with an interestingly jumbled chronology—which in some movies proves confusing or disorienting—and tied it all together with a very slick design. The feel of those interstitial spaces was more reminiscent of information graphics or user experience design than simple movie titles. The design of the movie is what made it work. And it worked out quite well, in my opinion.

Kansas City (on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art)

Travel

Though something tells me everyone already knows that. In addition to the epic (and previously blogged) trip to California this summer, we also took a summer-ending road trip to Kansas City over the Labor Day weekend. It was awesome. Just long enough to be relaxing and see the sights, short enough to keep things cheap and simple. The problem with me and travel, however, is that the more I do it…the more I want to do it. Not to mention the fact that every time I visit some place other than Tulsa, the less I like Tulsa. But that’s not inspiring, so it doesn’t belong on this list.

So tell me, where do you find inspiration?

My People Project

List

New Years Resolutions

I’ve never been a big fan of New Years Resolutions. They’re always seemed kind of cliche and commercialized,  and when I’ve made them they always seem to fall by the wayside, forgotten.

I am, however, rather fond of making lists. So this past January I made a list of things I wanted to achieve. Some items were short-term goals, to be completed in the year, and some were more long-term. Some were more practical (put $25 a paycheck in savings) and some were perhaps a little ambitious (work out 5 times a week? a nice concept, but I know myself better than that). The list can be viewed in full here (link).

One entry that falls squarely into the ambitious column: “Take a picture of everyone I know. Everyone.

See, it’s underlined. That means it’s important.

The People Project

Connor

So I realize the full magnitude of the statement. It’s everyone, underlined, after all. And that’s undoubtedly going to be a lot of people. If we’re speaking in broad everyone terms here, then I could probably say that I know people I had classes with, the guy who seats us at our favorite restaurant, and people who work with my wife. So where does one draw the line?

The short answer is that I’m not. I’m embracing the true scope of the undertaking. Sure, I may never photograph everyone I know. For starters, there’s not enough time in the day. Then of course we factor in that some people simply don’t want to be photographed, some people would be inappropriate to ask, and some people I simply don’t want to (I just can’t get excited about taking a picture of former coworkers and managers, let’s be realistic). Those caveats aside, I’m just looking at this as an opportunity. Maybe I don’t have to meticulously document every single person I know, but it encourages me to look for subjects in the people I see every day. And there are no rules here. Some will be formal portraits, some will be snapshots (I’ve already got some of both). I’d love as many of them as possible to be quality photographs, because that’s just the kind of person I am, but I’m also a big fan of the fortuitous snapshot (like this one, after which she asked “did you just take a picture of me? to which I simply grinned sheepishly).

So maybe it will never be a coffee table book, a major motion picture, or a PBS documentary. But even if nobody ever sees it but me and the people I photograph, I feel like I’ve done something worth doing. I’m pointing something I love to do more than just about anything (making photographs) at the people who matter most in my life. And if nothing else, someday I’ll be able to look at the pictures and remember all the people who have touched my life.

You probably saw this coming

If you’re reading this blog post, it probably means you belong to that not-so-exclusive group, everyone. Which means I’d probably be giddy to take some shots at you. This doesn’t have to be a formal get-dressed-up kind of affair. If you’d be interested in taking part in the project, shoot me an email (spam filter don’t fail me now), I’d love to hear from you.

California Trip Part Two: San Francisco

Golden Gate
I’ve been to some really touristy places in my life. Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Padre Island, Texas. And at the heart of all these places was something that really was worth seeing (thus the tourism) that was inevitably overstated by kitschy t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, and guided sightseeing tours. So when we set out for our first day in San Francisco, my inherent pessimism about overcrowded beaches, overpriced snack foods and streets lined with souvenir shops was always present: I was nervous. And in a lot of ways, it’s precisely what I expected: Little stands sold campy Alcatraz coffee mugs, Cokes cost $3, and our bay cruise was narrated by “Captain Nemo”; not to mention all the usual trappings of the travel destination, including overpriced parking and panhandlers (including this one, who was particularly entertaining).

Wharf

Yet with San Fransisco, I couldn’t help but feel that all the flashy tourism on the waterfront was something different. It wasn’t exaggerating or playing up the excitement of the place, and once you get through the kitsch there is beauty and life right under the surface. The city’s rich history, culture, diversity…it has a life of its own, which defies touristy boat rides and Golden Gate Bridge shot glasses. The city is a force to be reckoned with.

We started with the most visitor-friendly destinations at the first of the week, and worked our way out into the city for the remaining time. Day one was Pier 39 and our bay cruise, which was predictably cheesy though enjoyable. I took a mid-afternoon trip with Seth in a ZipCar (well truck, actually) to pick up a futon they’d purchased from a girl in the Richmond district (who was apparently some kind of Mick Jagger fangirl). The futon served as our sleeping quarters for the remainder of the trip. That night we had some great Italian food in North Beach a few blocks from where we stayed.

Chinatown

The rest of the trip consisted of us hitting the sights, including (though not limited to): SFMOMA, the Legion of Honor, the deYoung Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, Haight-Ashbury, and the Castro. We spent Friday in the Marina district, where I took photos with the Medium Format (the first two of which are included in this post) and Lisa sketched the bridge and fishing boats. That night, we had a little photo shoot with Seth and Laura, which you can see here.


Other interesting highlights included:

  • Joe’s Cable Car (featured on the food network show “Guy’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”, and apparently really proud of it) which was, honestly, a really tasty burger, ground fresh on site daily, horrendously, almost pretentiously overpriced. Ten dollars for a four ounce burger?
  • Rickshaw Bagworks which was so fantastically awesome I’ve decided to do an entire blog post about it. Suffice it to say I got myself a moleskine folio and the misses got herself a nice messenger bag. The items are made to order (you heard me right) on site. Some fabrics are even made from 100% recycled materials. I could go on and on, but I’ll save that for another post.
  • Chinatown where we dined on incredible, ridiculously inexpensive Dim Sum (we both got stuffed for about $2.50 a piece) and yes, bought a Golden Gate Bridge shot glass.
  • Midnight showing of Pulp Fiction at the historic Clay Theater in Pacific Heights, which was just all kinds of awesome.
  • City Lights Bookstore which just made me sad how few independent book stores exist anymore.

Basically, the trip was amazing. Being able to stay with friends instead of paying for a hotel allowed us to slow down and really get a feel for the city, instead of trying to cram in as much as possible (which is what we did while visiting Chicago, DC, New York, and most recently St. Louis) and the change of pace was really enjoyable. I can’t wait to visit again, and there are some awesome side-trips we didn’t have time for that I’m excited to check out (Napa, Monterrey Bay, and generally any areas north of the Bay Area. Not to mention that Yosemite and I have unfinished business). The city by the bay, as it were, was all I hoped it would be.

California Trip Part One: Yosemite

Half Dome

We officially began our summer this year with a trip to California, partly to celebrate my recent college graduation, partly to see our good friends Seth and Laura in San Francisco, and partly because we both needed a vacation. We spent the first part of our trip at Yosemite National Park, which has to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Being a fan of Ansel Adams et al, I’ve been looking at pictures of Yosemite for years…but pictures just don’t do the place justice. You can’t truly appreciate the place until you’re standing there.

Three Brothers

We spent two days at Yosemite, driving from San Francisco Friday night and returning Sunday evening. Our cabin in Coulterville was a scenic hour drive from the park itself, with plenty of great overlooks en route to keep us entertained. We drove through the Stanislaus National Forest (The Forest of Many Uses, or so the signs exclaimed), climbing from the Chaparral* of the foothills to the rich evergreen forests of the National Park itself, then back down again on Sunday. Much of the trip looked like something out of an old Western movie. I was really fascinated by the multitude of geography and climate we experienced, being accustomed to the rather predictable terrain and weather of Oklahoma. Nothing reminds me just how ugly Oklahoma can be like a trip to pretty much anywhere else. And speaking of things from Oklahoma, our good friends Seth and Laura were along for the ride, and graciously provided us with lodging for our week in San Francisco–and unlike many other things from Oklahoma, they’re not ugly at all! We couldn’t have asked for better travelling companions, and unless I’m mistaken, they had an awesome time (photographic proof on Laura’s flickr). They also love squirrels, as evidenced by the following photograph.

Laura and Seth (with critters)

All in all, our trip to Yosemite was an astounding success. We were able to see a lot in the two days we were there–Yosemite Valley, two amazing waterfalls (Yosemite Falls and Bridal Veil Falls), giant Sequoias, and Glacier Point (where both the scenic shots in this post were taken), not to mention bears, lizards, chipmunks, all sorts of birds, and of course squirrels. I think a person could spend a year in Yosemite without growing tired of it, so two days was hardly even enough to whet my appetite. Needless to say, we’ll be back someday.


Notes

Both scenic shots in this post were taken with a medium-format Mamiya RB67, which got me the special pat-down treatment at the airport when they saw it in my carry-on…but here I am. For more shots from our Yosemite trip, check out my Yosemite set on flickr, which will be continually updated as I get stuff edited.

* I had to do a lot of research to find the name for this type of terrain/ecosystem. It’s really captivating, and I wish I’d pulled off to get some pictures of it. As the wikipedia article states, it seems that without roads it would be almost impassible by humans. It’s a really interesting terrain.

This Looks Vaguely Familiar

Pen

I’m not much of a blogger, though it’s not for lack of trying. First it was Xanga, then Livejournal, WordPress, and even my own personal site (which was really more of a design experiment, and which still exists here, for  purely aesthetic and nostalgic purposes). I always started so well, with so many thought-out posts and big dreams of readership and editorial quality, but always ended the same: a slow fade-out which ended with a “sorry I haven’t put anything up in a while” post…and then obscurity. They’re all still out there, as far as I know, but I don’t want to dig them up. They’re dead for a reason: They didn’t work. But it’s never too late to try again, right? So I’m going to. I have always felt as though I’m the kind of person who has quite a lot to say once I get a mind to, so let’s just hang on and see how that goes.