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Showing posts from 2010

It's A Wonderful Work Life

I'm struggling to write my holiday greetings this year. As I write I was hoping to announce a change of address and some good news that I've bought a house, but alas I am not immune to the insanity that has gripped the rest of the country. I am still functionally homeless as I wait to close on a foreclosure, hoping it happens before Christmas.

Despite domestic inconvenience, 2010 has been a wonderful year. Business has been growing steadily throughout the year as Gavin and I reinvent the very definition of the word "work" by incorporating it with things like "play" and "life". It just seems like we are always doing a lot of all of those three things at once, and it somehow works.

We are looking forward to settling into a new home/office in 2011, finally setting up the kind of creative environment I've been dreaming of having since college. I'll just be happy to be able to start making all the food and art I can stand, but the main benefit …

A Good Internet Contest Really Worth Entering! - Food Blog to Asia

I do some internet marketing, I see a lot more poor internet marketing. Here's a contest which I actually like! Blog to Asia with Pei Wei Asian Diner.



Why is this a well designed internet contest? It's collaborative and social and it all takes place online.  Even after the contest is over it carries on via the ongoing blog.  Picking blogging as the challenge is accessible for people and fun... who doesn't love to write about food? Because blogging is social media, each person who enters the contest is probably already sharing their blog with their personal network of friends - creating a viral marketing effect.

Clearly Pei-Wei has really thought this out. This IS the type of effort which utilizes thoughtful marketing teams with a plan that will carry forward well into 2012 - generating buzz and enthusiasm for their brand.  This is NOT one of these sloppy internet marketing contests that puts American's out of work.

There are so many food bloggers out there right now. T…

Turkey Confidential - I am Homeless but Thankful

Full mea culpa - I am homeless. That's right, I am a homeless graphic and interface designer.  I bet millions of other Americans are thinking, "How did this happen to me?" but I don't feel too bad about it because I have a lot to be grateful for. Like my four personal computers. I may be homeless but I have plenty of work! No time to be sad, got some feeds to read and emails to check! At least I have a lot of friends online...

I am listening to NPR. They are talking about car accidents, death and paralysis. I feel good! But kind of afraid to walk across the street. I sit in front of one of my computers - listening to other people sharing sadness. After a few minutes of sadness I need a break. I log into facebook seeking happiness... Nicole says she's in her Studio. Karmina is going on a holiday. Helen is posting more baby photos. I wish I had a studio, or could go on a holiday... I am glad I'm not posting baby photos though because where would my baby sleep? …

Robots in the Grocery Store, Marketers in Your Food

My local Giant Foods has been bugging me. It seems like the experience of shopping there keeps getting more ghetto (and it's not even in Baltimore). I go out of my way to shop at other stores because frankly I'm annoyed by all the new technology in my neighborhood  Giant. Technology that seems to be designed to police shoppers rather than to help them accomplish their actual mission of buying food.


7 Reasons Why Robots And Groceries Don't Work
Unemployment is at its highest in decades so why the heck are supermarkets replacing jobs with robots? By robots I mean, robo-cashiers. At the Giant Foods by my house when you walk in you can pick up this hand-held scanner. As you move around the super market you essentially ring yourself up while you shop. All this technology sounds handy, and this may be a boon to the anti-social or impatient, but there are fundamental problems with this;

#1 It's obviously very expensive to develop and deploy this type of technology. Couldn'…

Conservatives Know That Most Liberals Don't Vote

Although I'm fiscally conservative I am socially liberal. One thing I have observed with all my liberal friends, especially my friends in the Bay Area is that they tend to be totally apathetic to politics. I guess that's fair, it's so much better to just live your life and not worry about conservative agendas. And if you are a liberal that's kindof the whole point isn't it? Liberals, by their very definition, just don't spend their time thinking about ways to dominate and control other people. We're too busy just living our own lives, thanks!

I found this video which I think sums up the upcoming elsection for the liberals.... In the immortal words of South Park, "Vote or Die..." this means you my liberal comrades - yes YOU.

Breakaway Logo

I'm very excited about this new brand I'm working on. Breakaway. There will be more breakaway branding delight rolling out over the next 2 months. Here's a preview for now.

Want to update your brand? contact me, Stephanie and I'll hook you up.

Waxing Unvarished.com

I have been invited to try a new professional networking site called unvarnished.com. This site, in private beta let's people "review" each other, usually people already in your facebook network, anonymously. I thought this site could be really cool, now I can "review" that client or manager who really needs some critical feedback.

But as awesome as that may seem, I've struggled to enjoy the site because of the litany of bugs that I've experienced from the moment I first logged on. First of all, the onboarding process was complicated and strange. I have to disambiguate myself from a list of about a thousand other Stephanies - a list including a number of Silicon Valley Executives and their email addresses! How unvarnished can conceive of operating with this total privacy violation boggles my mind. I saved the source of this page and now I have an instant list of some good contacts which I'm tempted to SELL to some marketers (but I won't, I just …

Send Jonathan to NY Fashion Week Party! Saturday August 14th

If I were in San Francisco this weekend I would be going to the "The Fashion Aid" party at the Barber Lounge.  Jonathan Baker, already a rockstar stylist at the Barber Lounge is also San Francisco's up and coming fashion hero - AND WE NEED YOUR HELP TO SEND HIM TO NEW YORK FASHION WEEK IN SEPTEMBER!!! The Barber Lounge will be hosting a party that evening highlighting several San Francisco designers and a special music performance by Rachel Silva.


Come for the fashions and help Jonathan get to NYC

Finally a Home

We finally got our offer accepted on Friday for the forcosure we've been trying to buy. It's a bit of a fixer-upper but in Baltimore this can be pretty affordable. Total cost after remodeling should be under $180,000.

We start the really fun process of inspections and crap this week. So we'll see if there's a hole to Hell in the basement that might kill this whole deal. If not we have to build a huge list of all the stuff we need to do and find contractors ... basically a huge project is starting. We'll be able to move in around Thanksgiving. THANKS!

I guess I'm happy. I keep muttering the word "finally" over and over in my mind. Now I can FINALLY unpack from my move over two years ago! Now I can finally have the space to work on Art. Now I can finally start my culinary experiments (starting with beer making and then onto the wood burning outdoor oven). Now I can finally have my own yard to garden in - city farm coming soon!  Now I can finally…

The Bait and Switch Job (Why I Quit A.O.L.)

Back in 2006 I worked for AOL in Mountain View, CA. In one sense I felt like I was at the top of my game professionally, but the experience of working there made me feel like I had hit bottom. The work I was doing was good, I got to redesign a mission critical product, mail.aol.com. But all the external factors to work were horrible. Quite simply, I landed a bait & switch job. First I was hired to work on one project, a music player, that project got killed. I was also told I got to work from home twice a week (my commute was horrible), this "deal" also got thrown out with no explanation. OK so perhaps these are petty reasons to quit a company. Both my managers were experts at taking free vacation time as much as they could. It was really hard to get the product team at AOL to weigh-in on my design work, they wanted my boss' input on my work... but Mike & Bill were always MIA. I have never seen so much cronyism as I have at AOL. It was a very strange place to wor…

Where Do I Get my News?

Where do I get my news from? When I'm not too busy I'll scan the Washington Post (first, since it's the best US paper) and then I'll scan NYT. We are always scanning the BBC radio, or the BBC website. I have BBC, NPR, and Huffington Post apps on my iPad and I was scanning all the news from the apps during my commute. I am now totally convinced that smart phones and mobile devices like the iPad are MADE for commuters. For laughs I'll go to SFgate.com or Latimes.com. Just to see how Californians are screwing themselves.

I am not into TV news but I'll occasionally tune into Mad Money,  BBC, or Fox news (because CNN sucks right now). I'll watch 60 minutes if they have an interesting story (I do love Andy Rooney). Thinking more, I read magazines but not that much since I'm too cheap to actually buy magazines nowadays. I'd rather buy a latte than Time. I will start getting more magazines on my iPad though.

As far as I'm concerned…

Who Knew Baltimore is a Farm City?

Last Wednesday I made my first Veggie Trade of the year. I had sprouted  too many tomato plants and since I had no space in my garden for all of them I posted a listing on Veggie Trader, offering them up to anybody who wanted them. Within a couple of days of I had some responses, and on Wednesday Beth (the first responder) came to my home to swap. We had emailed already, Beth was picking up her CSA box and asked if I wanted to share some greens in exchange for my tomato plants. YES! I said, and Wednesday 6pm the tomato plants found a new home and I got dinner delivered to my door.

As soon as the trade was made I took off to the Baltimore City Public Library to see Author Novella Carpenter present her book "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer". I haven't read the book yet but had caught Novella speaking on NPR earlier in the day and was intrigued. I'm not really a farmer but a girl can dream, right? Novella Carpenter gave a wonderful presentati…

Do Not Buy the Gulf Oil Spill

Hi my name is Stephanie, and I'm a designer. I don't know anything about oil, or oil wells, and I don't know anything about politics really... but I do know how to solve problems.

This Gulf Oil Leak - the Great Leak - is depressing me. I keep saying to myself, "This should never have happened in the first place." In my world, the design world, you simply don't create anything that does not work. In my world, everything gets tested, and vetted, and discussed until everybody is sick of talking about it but they know for certain that it works. In my world, if some business type comes up with a scheme to get rich, but it's a bad or ill-conceived idea then then we (ethical) designers shut them down. Somehow when our love affair with oil started  back in the 50s nobody really thought this through. Nobody said, "How is this total commitment to oil going to play out 50 years from now?" Well, I'm certain there were business people thinking it throug…

Form Follows Function - iPad Edition

I got an iPad. So far I love it. I feel like the chains have been broken and I no longer have to log incredible hours in front of my office & desktop setup. Even as I write this post I'm sitting in a bar, enjoying a glass of Cabernet and chit chatting with people, other iPad owners who also love the pad. It's way more social, more touchy-shareable than the iPhone and iPod touch.

Before the pad was released I was working with chef author Eric Gower and I predicted that this device could empower kitchen cooks and be oh so more effective for reading recipes than the iPhone could ever be. Check out this post about a kitchen cabinet outfitted with an ipad cubby... Something I literally spoke of, just ask Eric!

Menus on My Mind
I have more ideas, and Nelson, the owner of Grand Cru, the bar I'm writing this from agrees. This thing is going to revolutionize all menus forever. Yes menus. Why kill trees when you can just update some website? Like that Sangiovese? Read all the bac…

Logo & Web Solutions For The Low Tech World of Massage

Studioroom is pleased to announce the launch of an all new website, with all new branding for The San Francisco School of Massage. At first this project was daunting, trying to create a new logo for a venerated massage school. The world of massage makes me think of crystals, lavender and "new age" music. Most of what we see that is massage related are spa brochures and websites showing some woman relaxing in a peaceful setting. None of these things honestly depict a massage school.

The task: Create a logo for a massage school that alludes to human anatomy without being too literal.  

Logo design is an iterative process. So I started out with an exhaustive typeface search, then explored ideas for artwork.
Through the process, clients and designer alike explore many logo variations and can determine what design works for the client's business...


...Winding up with a final logo design, and then translating that design into a website  - it's one of Studioroom's special…

How Your Facebook Gets Phished and Your Twitter Gets Taken

Last summer I felt like a rockstar on twitter. I had finally got into the groove, comfortable with "tweeting" and I was gaining followers like never before. Over ten a day follower emails were coming into my inbox, announcements like "Benjamin White is now following you on twitter" ... I was getting pretty good at this social media thing! By the end of one week, when I should have had a few hundred followers, I still only had 70. Something wasn't adding up but I was too busy to figure out why, so I assumed people were just rapidly following, then un-following me as some kind of retarded marketing tactic. Then it started getting out of control... 30, 40, 50 new followers a day. It was becoming a nuisance, cluttering up my Gmail, so I logged into twitter to turn off those annoying email alerts. When the alerts kept coming, that's when I knew. Nobody was following me. Twitter wasn't sending me those emails. It was phishing.

Phishing is simple. You get a ph…

A Day In The Life Conference - Next Weekend! April 24th, 2010

Hey Designers - Have you ever thought to yourself, if only I knew the right people then I could do "x"? Or if only I could find the right research about this problem I'm trying to solve? Or maybe you realize you need a fresh perspective on life in order to come up with some really creative solutions? Well, if you're in the DC/Baltimore area then here's your chance to get all that and more!

Check out A Day In The Life Conference


Some great speakers will be presenting some interesting sessions:
The Business of Design140 Characters or LessBranding YouThe Designer & The CommunityThe Green Movement & The Creative IndustryMaking the Transition from Print to WebNetworking 101: Make It Work For YouThe Client Is Always RightTypography: More Than WordsWill It Print?And more!Studioroom will be there, I hope to make some new friends and get lots of inspiration with you.

Friends Don't Let Friends Get Screwed by the Real Estate Market

Dear Friends,

I'm trying to buy a house here in the Baltimore City. I've been shopping here for over a year and since I'm new to Baltimore, and new to the house buying process, I'm really confused... I need advice and it occurs to me that many of my facebook friends have some good advice for me about Baltimore real estate, Maryland real estate, and home buying in general.

Most of what I'm looking at are small, older houses (or row houses). All of them need a bit of work, nothing is great. All homes I'm looking at are at least 60 years old. My budget is about $200k (would prefer to pay less) and so many places need so much work that when I tour a house I see tens of thousands of dollars, if not a hundred or more, in remodeling & repair work needed. It's a bit insane.

The only homes that have been selling over the past year have been either "very nice" homes or "bargain priced" fixer-upper homes. But 98% of the homes listed are neith…

Struever Bros. - Belvadere Square Does Not Need a Subway Sandwiches

I just learned that a Subway Sandwiches franchise will be the newest tenant at the Belvadere Square marketplace... a marketplace in my community filled with local gourmet food vendors. How a national fast food chain fits in to a unique and upscale place like the Belvadere Square is mystifying.

Hey Struever Bros., We all know commercial leases are down, but it's not fair to existing tenants or patrons to dump a Subway on us just because you want to get more rent. The Dunkin Donuts kinda sucks too. 

The landlord is Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse.  As a real estate developer who has been "creating communities in Baltimore for 30 years" - you would think they understand a thing or two about... um... creating communities. This is not fair to the neighboring residents, the patrons of Belvadere, who have been trying to improve the community. We are the ones who ultimately pay for the marketplace. Nobody is happy about this. There are other Subways close by, up York Road in m…

Hey ZipRealty.com - Please Fix Your User Experience

So I'm looking to buy a house finally. It's tricky. There are A LOT of places for sale but most of them are pretty dumpy. Now I understand why new construction is so appealing despite its boring style. Anyway, I'm using ZipRealty.com to help me find a home to buy because it's like the ebay of realestate websites. Sorting through hundreds of potential homes (yes hundreds) is really difficult. We all know that sellers like to exaggerate the appeal of their houses as much as possible. We all know that the whole house buying process seems rigged in favor of sellers and agents. The marketplace of real estate is really vague and I feel like this is intentional. I wish ziprealty.com was more like Google Finance - but it's not and I'm stuck with it for now.

So... there are a few things Zip should be doing from a User Experience perspective which would help me, and every other buyer, but they are not.... 

HEY ZIPREALTY, PLEASE FIX THESE THINGS ASAP!!!

#1 What is the deal w…

A Four Generation Diabetes Story

I was going to write a diabetes valentines post for my other blog, veggie trader. I was going to write something pithy about love equaling food, and try to relate that somehow to overloading yourself with love and getting diabetic. I was going to write this in the context of the Let's Move campaign started last week by first Lady Michelle Obama. And then I was going to tie all this together on a blog which is really about gardening... but this is too difficult.  I'm not doing that, I'm writing about my dad instead.

First let me say that the Let's Move website could be A LOT better, the design needs to be more engaging, useful with actionable information. Oh how I wish I could have been consulted to work on that site! A full review of some of these "government sponsored help campaigns" will be coming soon.

Last Saturday I was hanging out with my dad and we started talking about his diabetes. He developed type 2 about 15 years ago around age 60. My dad's mo…

Keep it Fresh - Search Engine Optimization

I am not a good writer. I know some amazing writers and I am not one of them. I'm a designer, a visual person, I'm all 'show' and not so great at telling. This is a problem on the web because it doesn't matter how beautiful my designs are or how amazing a photo might be, search engines are blind to images.

Lori Culwell's recent article in the Huffington Post reminded me of my SEO rule number 1 - a rule which for some reason I have a very difficult time getting people to comprehend - which is simplistically "SEO is all about content".  I guess that is very simplistic because here is Lori's take;

"There is not a week that goes by in my capacity as a Search Engine Optimization and Marketing Professional (a field I've been working in since the dotcom boom in San Francisco) where someone doesn't email me to say some combination of the words "Can you fix my metatags? My site has a really high bounce rate."

So, my answer this questi…

She Has A Blog?! - How I Began Blogging

I finally saw Julie & Julia last night. Loved it! The movie is a true story about a 'lowly cubicle worker' (Julie Powell) who decides to transform her reality by becoming a food blogger. Julie assigns herself a monumental project, a theme for her debut blog, cooking Julia Childs' Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

There were some funny parallels for me in this story. Like Julie, I love cooking. Like Julie, I was struggling with some career angst when I turned to blogging as affordable mental health therapy. But unlike Julie I was in Silicon Valley and my perspective on blogging was quite different. My workplace (AOL) encouraged blogging, and I remember my coworker Holly getting all the love in the office just for going to geeky after hours meet-ups (like Mobile Mondays) and writing about it. At the same time one of my friends was rocketing to the all-time blogging hall of fame, winning webby awards year after year, just for sourcing and posting thecutest photos of ba…

I Wish Google Still Suppoted Notebook

I think Google Notebook was the best all around research bookmarking tool-thing on the web, but Google recently stopped supporting it. I'm not sure why they did this but I think they want me to install the google toolbar instead. I tried that out and it just taxes my whole setup here too much, I don't like it.  Notebook was better.

What was especially awesome about Notebook was the way that I could gather and organize images and photos... conveniently remembering the URLs for me.  Letting me share that visual info with other people on the same project collaboratively. It was a great tool for visual professionals... sigh.

Putting My Foot Down on New Years Commitments

Resolutions are sooooo zero. You're not gonna resolve to do anything! How about a commitment? Now that's change I can believe in...

From now forward I am commiting to:

#1 Be positive in action, thought, and words ALL OF THE TIME
This means I wont watch murder shows on TV, nor will I entertain fighting, war, or horror movies. As far as I'm concerned the only violence I ever care to learn about is something affecting a direct relative.

#2 Eat to live a long healthy life
As much as I can control, I will only eat sustainably grown foods by local producers. Mostly fresh vegetables. Everything I consume must be labeled organic & local & fair trade or else I simply don't want it.

#3 Zero waste
I'm tired of leftovers and having too much leftover stuff lying around useless. This is an end to overbuying for the sake of making myself look like a hero to my family... The real heroism is CONSERVATION.