🔴Things I learned

Inspired by the book Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull; here are some adage and anecdotes I find compelling or neologized in my life.

The trick is to think of each statement as a starting point, as a prompt toward deeper inquiry, not as a conclusion — Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc, pg 315

Personal quotes

My creativity is one that is based on organizational, data, writing code, teaching.

It is not about "interesting", it is about "communication" and engaging your audience.

Excellence is not just a habit; it is a lifestyle. You have to embody it.

When you are young, you should aim for a breadth of experience before settling on a focus what you need to learn and develop is how to focus.

Doing good work is good but having people who recognize your talents and push you is even better. Being able to do that for yourself and others is the best.

You can't make people do something but you can raise their expectations and lead them to commit to it. You do so by asking 2 questions "what's stopping you from doing X" and "By when do you think you can do it?".

My father


zhī bǐ zhī jǐ , bǎi zhàn bù dài

know your enemy and yourself and you can win a hundred battles (every battle) — idiom, from Sunzi's Art of War

On uncertainty

  • "We can never be right, we can only prove we're wrong." — Richard Feynman

On failure

Failure is not an end, it's a new opportunity. If we never fail , we will never know which path is not meant for us. Every time you fall short , your true journey becomes more transparent.

The only thing you can control

The only constant in life is change. How you live your life depends on how you interpret and respond to those changes

Stop comparing yourself to her. She's been there longer than you and she's had different opportunities than you. The only thing you can control is what you can do for yourself and putting yourself in positions to succeed. Focus on that and you'll never feel like you're living under someones shadow.

Things we should get comfortable saying

  • Thanks for correcting me. I did not realize that

  • I had not thought of it like that. I understand now

  • I was wrong about that, and I have changed my mind

  • I should do some more research before I argue this point


Ever present / Never twice the same / Ever changing / Never less than whole.

You do not think your thoughts, you think your culture thoughts.

Craig Smith

"If I don't get it when I see it, it's not good"

"It's doesn't matter what I think or like — a reply to student asking which designs he likes"

"Use colors where there is function - eg. Braun calculator"

"Biggest technological motivation is pornography"

John Colette

"Your personal branding? I'm sorry, you are a nobody "

Free your process

Most of the work that you have done to date is “short cycle” - idea > sketch > execution > review. Which is great because it mimics the production cycle in a commercial context.

For longer works, the process can be….sticky. I want to outline a few general strategies to help you become “unstuck” as you progress.

Ideally - you will have a set of assets created at the end of this class that will take two forms - **a database** [project rushes to be edited] and in the other case a **shot list**.

Let me go through each.

A **shot list** is straightforward - it’s a detailed set of shots that are planned and describe a linear process. Let’s call it a “film” and the shot list is based on **storyboards**.

From the outset, this process will take the form of:

  • idea / theme

  • moods and visual feel

  • treatment [intention for realizing the theme]

  • script

  • storyboards

  • style frames

  • shot list

So this is a little different to the process that we would use in most MOME classes – where the starting point is an exploration of the idea and then the creation of mood boards to gather strong visual direction to the project before commencing.

You will notice here that the storyboards come after the script – that’s intentional – because understanding what you want to do should really inform how the storyboards work, style frames come even later because these are very much about realizing the script and what you want to say in the script, so the visual motifs will *support* the project not *lead* it. [But that's not a rule - you can start int he usual manner - it just doesn't work for a lot of the longer styles fo project]

If you have done your work properly the script should really indicate some fundamental choices about the shots, sequence, rhythm, camera choice and staging of each part of the piece - leading you into a more considered process with storyboards and style frames.

Once you have style frames in place - you will have a fairly good idea what is required to produce your particular visual style for the project, as workflow, and therefore, you can develop both a **vertical** list in a spreadsheet which outlines the shots required, and **horizontal** list of the various processes that are involved for your particular project. Each shot can be tracked through the processes for its completion.

Everyone’s approach will require a separate set of processes because some people work in illustration, some people work in 3D, some people work in composited scenes and more likely the work may be a composite of these processes.

So understanding the parameters of your work takes us to the last stage of the design process, which I break down into:

  • **scope** (theme/feel/treatment)

  • **specification** (script / storyboards / shotlist)…. and

  • **design** (styleframes).

After this point you should be ready to commence the **build** of your work which is fairly straightforward, and just means groaning away through the spreadsheet and making sure everything works after you’ve assembled it. This last phase of testing and revision is pretty familiar from anything you have already worked on – it’s an opportunity to refine and develop your piece.

With this said, please consider **sound** and whether this will drive the process as the primary motivation within the piece or whether it will support what is primarily a visual narrative. Many pieces that work with voice-over to drive the imagery we could consider audio dominant - and in this sense the audio should be recorded as early as possible, based on a script, to set specific terms for the production that follows. In the first instance this will give you an idea of the duration of the work, and also can assist with the development of an aromatic based on your storyboards.

So that’s the linear approach, and what should be try to aim for by the end of the class.

In the second example of process – the **database** – we’re looking at a more extensive editing process.

In this approach, you will work outwards from particular themes and assemble a range of material that you then consider refining through the editing process. In this sense there are strong similarities with documentary filmmaking where you need coverage, and then work out how to assemble a story from the material you have.

I will indicate where this is important with your individual projects but it’s a different approach and requires you to sit back in the thematic stage of the process and consider strategies for over creating media and then refining it in the edit.

One aspect of this approach should be an engagement with your theme at different levels. By this I mean not sitting with the idea all the time – as this can lead to confusion – but working between thinking, capturing, assembling and review as the idea develops.

One strategy I have suggested for this approach is the use of index cards, which can contain individual ideas, themes, images, whole quotes, single words or story points. You should be able to arrange these in different ways to consider how your ideas might come together.

Similarly, I would encourage you to use some visual ideation through assemblage – what I mean here is something like scrapbooking, or a journal that has both text, images, colors – even evocative things that seem tangential to the project but you feel somehow connect or influence the work. Taking your thinking out into a secondary form of assemblage – this kind of extended collage process is a way of remixing all of the discrete thinking tools that we use – mood boards, free writing and various visual planning tools. Think think of this as a sort of artist’s notebook but think of yourself as a filmmaker as you make it.

It may seem like a lot of trouble to go to but working in this way will help you put your thoughts outside of yourself and will give you a discrete process that can help reveal things about your project and your approach that just thinking or sketching or planning alone will not. So think of it as a kind of alternate edit in progress.

The main point of this approach is to incorporate some non-linear thinking in a recursive way into your approach to the material. We will all settle back into linear processes and inspiration is very often non-linear. So if you choose to do this you can think of this as a separate artwork that will in many ways complement the main work you’re doing :-)


  • Having diverse skillset allows you to be self-sustainable to take on projects; rather being good at say C4D and thrive only in NYC. If that is the case, you find that there is a lack of jobs or assignments when you leave NYC

  • Find a way to move from service to product - eg. Cindy Suen

  • Newsletter - a tool to make money for Graphic Designer - promote a product

  • As as student: Be a lion and eat everything in the hunting ground; don't be picky

  • Follow the money and see where it goes. See what an entity values by looking at their checkbook

  • sit down and think about what you want in the next five years and work towards it

  • Surveying the office

    • How much does rent cost for a squarefoot

    • How much is housing

  • What matters as I have one foot out of school

    • Finding your visual language or your gift is usually our primary goal

    • Rite of passage - you will ascend to seniority and skills

    • But think long-term self-sustainable career - can you turn your service into a product

Everybody speaks design, just differently - Matt Hryhorsky

Working with clients can be frustrating because they may not use the same jargons and terminology to communicate to us what they want. The truth is everyone used a different language when describing designs. We all have different standards and interpretations of the same word. To me, the word “beautiful” means nature, skies and books. To you and everyone else, it could mean something else entirely.

As a designer, it is our job to find out our client’s interpretation. We should not dismiss clients who don’t “get” it but rather ask ourselves, what are they looking at? Design is not an elite club, don’t assume clients know the terminology we used in design.

To close this gap in communication

Favor conversations over presentations. Your design should not be a a surprise to your clients. They should be with all the way in the beginning from concept to execution. Bring your client to the table. Be a service provider rather than a product-maker.

Client know what they want but they just use different words. Design is good conversation and understanding people.

Stop presenting multiple concepts

Though it may seem like a good idea to give your clients choices, you actually sounds like “I don’t know what is the best solution for your design, so you can choose it” instead.

It’s just a jpeg - Beeple

Mike Winkelmann AKA Beeple is famed for his everydays projects and incredible Cinema 4D designs that has spanned over ten years. Yet, he still calls them “crap” and do not have a strong attachment to much of his work. For Beeple, he sees his everydays as a way to grow as an artist and learn. He described about his works on his Instagram are just jpegs, nothing more.

Don’t take your art too seriously - Mateo Mounier

Mounier shared about his “enlightenment” in art school when a teacher asked the class to bring their best drawing or painting, and proceeded to destroy them in the most horrible way possible. The point was not to take your art too seriously no matter how much time and effort you put in, and that you can always make more. We are not our art but we are artist. Just keep moving forward and make good art.

If you love your design, then we love it too - Joshua Davis

In the first installment of No God No Heroes panel at FITC Toronto 2018, Davis shared about his experience of almost getting fired from a project with a band during his early days. He talked about how he sent his videos to the band for feedback. To which, the guitarist said “I play guitar. I’m in band. How am I supposed to know what is the best. If you love your design, then we love it too.”

PES: "I just wanted to make a film about chair having sex"

Find, make, steal time - Grant Skinner

In Skinner’s talk, he shared about the importance and the tangible benefits of “play” in our art and career. During his schooling days, his penchant websites, programs and application in his own time helped him get a job/

Kyle Cooper "Paul Rand impression"

"So you're still making that trash art" — Kyle Cooper's impression of his mentor Paul Rand after making the title sequence for 'S7ven'.

If you came here for a pat in the back, you came to the wrong place.

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