Monday, April 30, 2012


IDEO is a design and innovation firm from Palo Alto, and they're doing fantastic things. 
Courtesy of IDEO
One of their designs that I've used is the Node Chair, which they designed for Steelcase.  Teaching styles and technologies in a classroom have changed dramatically in the past hundred years, but most classrooms look much as they would a century ago.  With the Node Chair, the classroom is updated and adjusted to work the way education works today.
Last week, David Kelley, IDEO's general manager, gave a talk with Design West Michigan at Steelcase headquarters. The talk was about design thinking. It seems like the term has been thrown around with increasing frequency, as people look to increase the competitive edge in their businesses, but at IDEO, it's the core of the company. 
In Kelley's view, the first pillar of design thinking is empathy. It's about understanding what the customer needs, and not assuming that you know what the customer needs. That's good advice, but fairly generic. It seems like anyone who makes things is going to tell people that they have to understand the needs that they're trying to fill.  It seems like the uncommon part of his advice is the fact that he refers to this as empathy, not as market research or another business term.  
The second pillar is treating life as an experiment.  The way he explained it, this principle is about viewing failures as experiments that didn't turn out the way you wanted.  It's about not being discouraged easily. I feel like this could be expressed in a more effective way than it was.  Treating life as an experiment is an ambiguous idea and means very little without further explanation.
The third pillar was the one that surprised me the most; leverage the power of storytelling. I appreciate storytelling, but I have rarely linked that to design. People have a very small ability to remember However, when you give something the context of a story, it becomes far easier for people to remember it. Kelley's guidelines for telling stories were as follows: Simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and in the form of a story. When I think of how he told a story about working with Bank of America, I notice that he followed essentially these guidelines. Clever, right?
From what I can see, it seems like IDEO has the kind of philosophy that I admire and would love to work with.
If you'd like to share your opinion about this post, or if there's anything I should write about, email me!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Emily Blocker and Brittney Drouillard

Art Downtown: Emily Blocker

I stopped in at the CODA gallery during Art Downtown and saw two of Emily's pieces. I'd seen this top one before in the Kendall Viewbook when I was applying last year, and I've seen her work a few times around school. I've always admired her intricate work with charcoal—something I've struggled with in past.  The above work is part of a series of drawings about growing up.  She did things she enjoyed as a child and photographed them, then drew them on a large scale.
Recently her work has drawn influence from a group of disabled people with whom she has developed a relationship, focusing on marginalized groups in society as seen in this lithograph below.

Art Downtown: Brittney Drouillard

I had a chance to talk to Brittney Drouillard, who made these vases.  She told me they were inspired by her experience with a genetic disease that runs in her family, which is part of what made her interested in art in the first place.  I appreciate how the vases are similar, yet different in how the color is applied and in some of the detail work as well .  She said that she screen printed on the vases.  I was puzzled by this, and she explained that she screen printed onto a piece of newsprint, then transfered that print to the vase.  I've never seen printing on ceramics before now, and I think that's awesome. I want to try it now. Right this minute.

So Art Downtown was fantastic and I'll be sure to go again next year, because it's great to see all the galleries open and full of local and student artists' work.  As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any feedback or suggestions for what I should write about, email me.

Monday, April 16, 2012


My Friday night was all about Art Downtown, a yearly event in Grand Rapids. All of the art galleries on South Division are open, and various art organizations in the community hold their own shows as well.

One of the main attractions of the event this year was Site:Lab, a mix of performance art and interactive drama. When I think of performance art, I usually think of people licking jam off a car. Site:Lab might have been that, or it might have been something else entirely.
I expected that there would be people acting out bits of a play in various rooms. Visitors entered the building and went directly to the second floor, where there were various pieces of installation art in the front of the building, and a large, open room in the back where there was music playing. The whole building had a feel of decay, it has been unoccupied for years. There were some men walking around wearing turbans, and others wearing helmets. The costumes felt like they lacked consideration, as though they were purchased from some party store earlier that day. I wish they had been more robust and less plastic. Random pieces of art on this floor was focused on the Knights of Pythias, which was a group that Pythagoras formed. It was false, obviously, but it seemed to be aware of the fact.
To gain entrance to the third floor, you had to get a piece of wax, which you could get stamped with a third of a triangle in three different spots. When you had a full triangle, you got in line to go to the third floor. If you were lucky, you spent part of your hour and a half wait watching the performance portion of the art. For everyone who visited Site:Lab at another point in the evening, they were wandering around the set of a play which they were never going to see. At 9:00, a man stepped onto the stage and, for five minutes, the crowded room was silent and watching him do a sort of Gregorian chant with the kind of sound in the background that I associate with Indian music. The man said that this was the first ever open house of the Knights of Pythias, and that they were seeking new members. The knights all marched out and formed a circle and did a ritual. Another man, who was the inspector from the central organization of the Knights of Pythias, criticized how the local chapter was being run. At some point in all of this, there were dancers and a man wearing a headdress to look like a horned beast.
I liked the idea of Site: Lab, but it could have been realized in a way that was more successful. Instead of being immersed in a fictional universe, I was aware that I was watching a strange spectacle. In the middle of the evening, the line to get in the building was long, but it moved fairly quickly. However, the line to get into the third floor was incredibly long and slow moving.  When I reached the third floor, I hoped that it would be a culmination to the story, but instead it was a series of separate exhibitions of art that were difficult to access and contextualize.
As always, if there's something that you think I should write about, feel free to email me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fredy Santiago

I saw Fredy Santiago's work in Trophy Room, a show at Kendall College of Art and Design, and I really liked it.  I think I was drawn to it because it stood out from other work I see around the school, using such bright colors and painting on wood panel.  I went to his website and saw more of his work.  

I liked this piece because of the whimsical and unexpected elements that he combines here.  All the doodle-type images combined with the car look really interesting.
Here's what Fredy has to say about his work.

How would you describe what you do? 
I describe what I do as bold, fun, bizarre, bright, weird, colorful, cultured and innocent. 

How did you end up pursuing art professionally? 
I started drawing since I was about five back in Mexico, I remember watching cartoons that would only come up on weekends, so I would draw and make up my own episodes. I didn't quite had many toys as a kid but I did have pens and color pencils. My mom would always provide me with some materials so I could entertain myself creating things. I was always driven to draw cartoons and always loved the murals on the walls, I feel pretty lucky that I grew with a supportive family, my mom would singed me up for this arty summer school so I could learn a bit of what art was about.  I came to America in 2003 and learned English from scratch... In high school I was surrounded with the coolest teachers and peers, as a result I ended up taking most the art courses and doing a few regional shows. I always knew that I wanted to be an artist but I didn't know exactly what kind. My teachers encouraged me to go to art school and I did. I also met with one of my great friends Adam Weiler who runs an after school art club named Ambrose where I learned and experience my hands getting dirty by doing what artist were doing, it was amazing just to see how the show behind the curtain in being run by different types of professionals. Adam and his ideas always inspired me to grow and I truly belief in his motto "Joy and Revolution" I feel like if there was no Ambrose a big chunk of me would not have born. In college I have made great relationships and I've come across people that care and people that are full of talent and energy, just by being close to those people I learn new things and sponge it all in. I think just being true to myself and showing what I am and sharing it with others as much as what I want to say on my artwork shows it thanks to people that believe in me, big thank you to everyone. 

What do you like the most about doing this kind of work? 
I love doing my work because I make it flexible, I try to make it fresh whether is digital or an actual traditional painting, I'm always curious of trying new stuff and let me tell you I fail a lot on the process but I always take something out of it. I avoid chaining myself and repeating drawing the same exact thing, I love working on a different variety of projects such as: paintings, inks, digitals, stickers, stencils, photos, t-shirts, cards etc. I tent to make my work fit under a certain theme and carry on the same style so it stays consistent. How do you go about starting a project? I get inspired by the things I see, I always carry my camera and take lots of pictures, I use my pictures as reference many times, I make color palettes and apply them on my artwork, besides using photography I also carry paper and a sketchbook. I doodle a lot everyday (ever since I can remember), sometimes I came up and finish with a nice little drawing or a really crappy one with a thousand scrubbily lines. Sometimes the original sketches of my finish art ended up starting in a restaurant's napkin, great ideas usually start with a pencil and some paper.

What is your workspace like? 
Is kinda funny when it comes about talking about my workspace, People would just assume I have an art studio in a secret industrial building with lots of magic and of course space. The truth is I always work in different areas from a cafe all the way to my uncle's basement. I can get lots done on the go since I always have a laptop on me (most of the time) I get my digitals done where ever I am. I usually get my paintings done in my bedroom (yes next to my bed). Currently my room has three tables lined up against the wall, where I keep my materials and get my work done. I tent to tape images on my wall that is always facing me.. I always enjoy looking at other artist work and it inspires me to do what I love. I have prints of some of my favorite artists, vinyl toys, vintage toys, art books, magazines, books, a set of four jones soda arty series, and a boba fett helmet from star wars. 

What is the most challenging project that you've done?
I think it was doing a logo for this company which involve a puppy and a Jacuzzi, which it was for this weird product of a carwash box for dogs... they ended up drooping it because they just decided not to like me. It is always a challenge when bad communication meets JUST MAKE IT PRETTY.

What do you think is the biggest influence on your work?
I have so many influences on my work, basically the kind of stuff I can appreciate and respect from my experiences. Some of my influences are: childhood, fun, vintage toys, street art, Mexico,unity, my family, colors, cultures, relationships, growing up, dangers that we face while growing up, change, simplicity, truth, limitless. But I guess the biggest influence that I brings my artwork together is the idea of honesty, plain simple but I believe that as long as there is honesty any sorts of things happen like joy or challenges in our everyday journey. 

Everyone tells people who want to be artists that they should carry around a sketchbook and use it all the time, but it's nice to hear that there are artists who actually do this.   It's also interesting how some of Fredy's teachers in high school encouraged him to go to art school.   I had a similar experiance, with my high school art teacher pointing me to go to art school.
I'd like to thank Fredy for talking to me.  You can see more of his work here.

Thanks for reading!  As always, if there's anything exciting that I should write about, tell me!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Siobhan Gallagher

Siobhan Gallagher is a graphic designer and illustrator, and she's pretty great. I first saw her work on Tumblr, with a set of playing cards.  I love the way each card has its own personality, instead of having all the kings, queens, and jacks look the same.  The colors are different from card to card, but they fit together like a traditional deck.  Instead of black and red, you have warm and cool color schemes, with different patterns combined on the cards.  I wish I had thought of these!  You can see the rest of them here.
I'm drawn to works that involve a lot of tiny details, and after poking around on her website a little, I found this piece that she did, called The Wicked City.  It is stunning.  When I look at these, I find myself wondering if I could reproduce these patterns by hand and am suddenly struck by visions of losing my mind with a Sharpie.
After a while spent in awe of her work, I decided to ask Siobhan some interview questions.  Here's what she had to say.
How would you describe your work?  I like to think of my work as playful, colorful, clean, and well-thought out.
How did you end up pursuing graphic design and illustration professionally? I always loved art when I was younger but what really drove me into graphic design specifically was in high school when I was the yearbook editor. This was when I first used InDesign and Photoshop and really got into it (like, "stay after school to work on it for hours" into it). After high school, I spent a year studying English Literature in Ottawa and realized that was not for me, so I applied to two art schools' design programs, got into both, and decided to head to NSCAD University to get my Bachelor of Design! I've always loved illustration and luckily both design and illustration goes hand-in-hand pretty easily for me and even luckier, people pay me to do so!
On your website, I read that you spent a semester at University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  What effect, if any, did that have on your work? Studying at University of the Arts in Philadelphia was an amazing, flew-by-so-quickly experience that has definitely effected how I work now. I was able to take both Graphic Design and Illustration classes. What I loved about the Graphic Design department was how strong their methods of typography instruction were, which helped improve my designs and how I worked. My illustration instructor at UArts helped me in strengthening my technique and in giving my illustrations more depth, which I hope to continue and develop throughout my career.
How do you go about starting a project?  Hmm! I guess I start with very basic sketches. In illustration work, I draw an outline of how I want the final piece to look, scan it, bring it into Illustrator and draw over it with the Pen tool, and keep playing around with it until it looks the way I'd hoped. With graphic design projects, a lot of my layout exploration is done digitally rather than in my notebook.  In editorial projects, this means a lot of playing around in InDesign, and in poster of book design, this means a lot of experimenting in Illustrator.
What is your workspace like?  Honestly, I try to keep my workspace clean. I really try. But it's always covered with books, prints, cards, calendars, etc. It's all about managing the madness I guess. I just like surrounding myself with what I love!
What is the most challenging project that you've done?I actually just completed it: my school's graduation catalogue. It's like the art school equivalent of a yearbook but it consists of the works of everyone who is graduating. I had to design a cover and theme that best represents my school and graduating class, pitch three different concepts to the university president, then establish the cover design, grid, layout, colour palette, and paper stock in a matter of weeks. What was challenging was knowing that what I was designing was going to represent my entire school so it couldn't just be a great showpiece for myself, it had to be something that everyone would like. I just sent off the final proofs to the printer yesterday so I'm really excited to see the final product printed on the specialty paper I ordered!
What do you think is the biggest influence on your work?  Oh, man. I'm not sure who THE biggest influence is, but I'm inspired by Stefan Sagmeister's versatility, Jessica Hische's drive, the illustrations of Ryan Brinkerhoff's, Andrew Kolb, Luke Bott! Ah! There are so, so many, these are the first few off the top of my head.
Here's a little more of Siobhan's work.  I like how she can do great things with a wide variety of colors, or with a very limited palette.
A huge thanks to Siobhan for letting me interview her and use her photos in today's post.