Tag Archives: career

What Am I Doing? (Aug 2008)

I had been away from work for 44 hours since the evening of 8/8/08. Of all those 44 hours (except for when I was sleeping), there was not one where I didn’t think about the Olympics: trying to find amazing images of the already amazing opening ceremony, checking the TV schedule for the next exciting sports event, channel-hopping among sister networks, and looking up Olympic facts of past and future (and present) Games.

But when I came into work yesterday, it was as if I had stepped into a different world. Most people would probably call it the normal world, or the real world. Other than the newspaper front page photo of the relatively less inspiring Olympic Cauldron (compared to the ceremony performances), there was no mention of the Olympics in the store whatsoever.

I was surprised for a moment. I was reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around an event that features the best of the world. Random stabbings still occur; political conflicts are still initiated; extramarital affairs are still exposed; and entertainers still pass away. Those credit card and home improvement store commercials about the country’s best athletes being ordinary people, or ordinary people being the country’s best athletes painted a rosy and emotional picture for me not about what life could be, but what life actually is, except that it’s not entirely true. Silly me for being fooled and tear-jerked by marketing and advertisers.

Watching the Games on TV, commentators tell brief stories about some of the athletes, about how they were not completely ready in their previous Olympic performances four years ago when they were just mid-teens, and then about how they would be too old four years from now when they are in their mid-twenties.

That got me thinking about my accomplishments in life and in the world so far. Since I had recently spent a birthday in my “early” twenties, I feel like I haven’t done much compared to those athletes. But it’s not like I haven’t done anything for my life and my future. In the past few months, I’ve tried to be more productive while holding a non-design job. I also had a chance to figure out what I really enjoy in design and in life.

In the past few days, for example, I was able to reaffirm that, for whatever reason, I am very passionate about the Olympics. For me as a designer, it goes beyond the logo design and the branding strategies. It’s not about medal count, and it’s not really about which country is hosting it. It’s about the simple ideals of siblinghood and global unity, of striving for the best of and improving ourselves, and of spreading humanity, love, peace, fairness, and hard work, etc. to as many people and minds in the world as possible.

These are some things that motivate and inspire me to do better and work harder in life. They keep my hopes up and make me believe that everything will be just fine in the end. This month, I am moving forward and writing my own dramatic profile story.


Dream Project of My Career

I just watched some On Demand programs promoting the Summer Olympics next month, and I was reminded of how much I am infatuated with the Olympics and the ideals and the visual branding campaigns that they’ve had (yes, including the London 2012 campaign by Wolff Olins).

I have long since dreamed to be a part of an Olympic Games visual branding team, preferably where the host city is in the States (although anywhere is totally fine with me; that way I get to take on the challenge and learn about other cultures). The Chicago 2016 campaign is too soon, and it seems like they’ve got it covered already, although they had to redesign their bid logo. So hopefully, 2024 or 2028, since 2020 is probably still too soon in my career.


Design: e²

Sometime last week, while surfing hulu.com for new shows I can watch, I stumbled upon a television series by PBS called Design: e2: The Economies of Being Environmentally Conscious. I thought it was a show about graphic design, but it turned out to be about architecture. It only had six episodes; I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a mini-series or if it was cancelled because topics like this could bore people (not me).

I noticed that every time I watch an episode, I get completely inspired, lifted, and motivated to do something green with my back-burnered design career. I imagine working for an environmentally conscious company as my first design job right off the bat, and continue to pursue a career of socially responsible design and to help solve this global climate crisis that seems to be very apparent lately.

It amazes me how the PBS program was released in 2006, because a lot of the projects and ideas mentioned on the program were unheard of (at least by me); it seems that the projects that were completed since then certainly would have been mentioned on some newspaper or blog, but they weren’t. Shows how much (little) awareness this has with the general public.

I feel that with all the “natural” disasters that have been happening lately, the issues of global warming, environmental consciousness, sustainability, etc. will not go away any time soon, and a career devoted to these issues certainly will not only be profitable, but will also have room for exciting discoveries and growth.

I don’t know why, how, or when I started becoming so passionate (though passively) about sustainability, but I like it. I gradually noticed within the last few years that, compared to my friends and family, I’ve become more and more concerned about the environment. It’s probably because of my gullible nature, having watched those TV shows and movies about global warming, convinced that we must act now to save ourselves.

In any case, I now drive a Prius, even though I would much rather not drive at all since it still uses gas, unless it’s one of those new concept hydrogen cars or whatever, which supposedly only farts out water and heat. I also bought those grocery-store-branded fabric bags so I could use them every time I buy groceries and get those three measly cents off my purchase.

But in the end, I wanted to do more, more than what I can do alone. I want to see sustainability principles applied beyond my circle and make a real, lasting impact on others and the community. That said, I believe a career in sustainable design may achieve just that.

Redos for Portfolio

So while I’m busy getting my portfolio and site together and not having much time researching for Flush entries, I might as well keep you all (all four or five of you, haha) updated on my progress.

For the past two or three weeks, I’ve been “redoing” pieces that I’m considering to put in my portfolio. I guess “redo” is not the right word, since I’m not completely doing these pieces from scratch; I’m actually doing a combination of refining and reworking, where I fix anything that I wanted to fix after the projects were due and the critiques were made but didn’t feel like looking at them anymore after they were done.

While reworking on these pieces, I realize that I definitely improved in terms of skills and knowledge about design over time, specifically from junior year to senior year. I don’t know if I would’ve had better pieces if I took the “junior year” classes later in college, but I feel that with my “senior year” pieces, I knew a lot more of what I was doing. Maybe that’s just growth which is inevitable at any stage.

So here are three examples of things that I “reworked,” from teeny tiny details to relatively medium details.

Form Poster

This was from my DES 155A (Form, Pattern, Surface) class, which I sometimes like to refer to as the personal exploratory class. I had to work with the word “pest” for the entire quarter, and this was my piece on the exploration in form.

 Before and After

Before: Just Univers tracing laid right on top of photograph with no editing. After: tracings reworked to include “frayed strands” to complement the photograph per the instructor’s suggestion.

The All-Nighter

This was from my DES 157 (Flash) class, and our first Flash project was to create an opening motion graphic sequence for a fictional movie about some aspect of our lives. I did it about me spending all-nighters working on design projects. This is actually my second rework because the instructor allows us to rework it for a better grade.

 Before and After

Before: The taskbar has somewhat flat shapes that didn’t really look like the real taskbar. Gradients and such were hard to deal with in pre-CS3 Flash. It still kinda is, but I know more Flash now. After: Dimensionality is added to look more like the real deal. You can see the old version on TP107.

Aerospace Museum of California Site Redesign

This was from my DES 153 (HTML/CSS) class, and we had to redesign an existing site. I really like this piece because it’s so clean-looking yet also functional. And as always, table-less layout with CSS, although my CSS back then was somewhat confusing and elaborate. It took me some time to figure out what I did.

 Before and After

Before: The sub-navigation color scheme is different from the main navigation and seems kinda confusing if you don’t know where you are (See TP107 for old version). After: Expanded the highlighted main nav tab one pixel so it connects with the sub-navigation, which makes the relationship between the two immediately stronger.

So last night I was pretty much done with all the redos that I’m going to do for this portfolio season. I had two or three more that I wanted to rework, but they’re going to take a lot more time and aren’t that worth putting into the portfolio.

So the next stage is to get my identity and such materials ready before I get to putting my portfolio pieces together with cohesiveness in design. I did a preliminary schedule a few days ago and it seems that I probably won’t be completely ready to look for a job until the end of January, because I want to get the portfolio, the portfolio site, and my general web site up so employers can have something to look at instead of an “under construction” page.


Communication, Visual, Design

As I constantly try to refine the definition of “graphic design” for myself and for my career—because the phrase is becoming more and more vague these days—I recently came up with a more specific phrase to describe what I (want to) do: Communication and Visual Design.

The Reasoning

Over the past few months, I’ve learned more about design by myself via the design blogosphere and podcastland and sans the individual biases and influences of my design friends, I realize that I’m really interested in information design. I mean, I kind of already knew that in school, when I saw and fell in love with Josef Müller-Brockmann’s work. He used only data (information) and turned them into pieces of design that emitted its own formal aesthetic radiance, which completely fascinates me and causes me to ecstasize in the multiplicative product of pure simplicity and beauty—it’s the ultimate, perfect design, at least where communication is concerned.

These days, information graphic design seems to have more exposure in the mainstream, especially online, where data visualization has grown beyond bar graphs and pie charts. The advances in programming and data analysis yields infographics that exhibit three-dimensional displays, millions-hue color gradation, viewer interaction, and/or continuous construction of visualization through live import of data from all over the world, all the while still presenting the original information collected.

That is very exciting. Pure and initially styleless data have a chance to shine now. I cringe when I see too much “pretty” design for the sake of audience attraction and for the sake of being “pretty.” However, I don’t want that part of design to completely disappear, because it’s part of aesthetics, and we need aesthetics. I don’t want to look at tables of black-ink data on bleach-white paper or screen for the rest of my life. Style is important in playing a role to enhance the experience of reading the data. Colors, shapes, photographs, and illustrations can fill that role.

So there originated my defense for coining “Communication and visual design.” I am aware that it’s similar to the emphasis of my major in Davis, “Visual Communication (and Presentation),” but that phrase is not specific enough. Also, it doesn’t say “design”; I don’t want people to get more confused when I tell them I’m a “visual communicator.” I want something that says that I (want to) do communication design, and I (want to) do visual design (which is the aesthetics).

Now, I looked up both terms on Wikipedia (I know it’s not completely a legitimate source, but it’s not about the exact definition), and “Communication design” came up, but “Visual design” didn’t. Communication design was basically said to be similar to graphic design, except it involves more of the message, or the information.

Since I want to participate in both areas of design, and that I value the communication and information part more, I put that term first: Communication and Visual Design. Of course, I’ll still tell people I’m a graphic designer because it’s easier to tell people, but on websites and identity stuff and what not, I want to use “Communication and Visual Design,” at least for this point in my career.

Topic Revisited

While thinking about this topic, I remember that I had two discussions (one on No Name Designers Guild and one on The Collablog) with my design friends earlier this year when Bruce Nussbaum wrote a Businessweek article bashing designers, and I reacted with a claim that maybe he misunderstood the word “design,” which was not surprising since the word’s being thrown around constantly these days. So I suggested calling ourselves something else, something other than “designers.” However, I ended up with a combination of both the clarification and the existing word: “visual communication designers.”

The controversy of this whole shabub (I know, I just made it up) probably won’t go anywhere beyond this blog, but I’m doing this for my own sanity so I know what I do for a living exactly. I know that “communication” and “visual” are just as confusing as “graphic,” so replacing one confusing word with two isn’t that economical and efficient. At least I’ve split up that one word into two manageable categories: data and style, allowing me to get a clearer picture of what I’m for (lots of data with appropriate style) and what I’m not for (lots of fluff and little substance), which ironically is probably the quality of this post.


100 Pieces and a Star

50 Books/50 Covers Program

Last night was probably the first time where I went to an AIGA event without any of my design friends. I went to the 50 Books/50 Covers Opening Reception at Chronicle Books in SF. I went with my friends from home because I don’t think I’m confident enough yet to go by myself to an event which I don’t know anyone. And besides, it’s always nice to just go to an event with someone you know.

The reception was nice; there weren’t any exceptionally great pieces on display. But there was this one children’s book called Art by Patrick McDonnell (who does the comic Mutts) that I really like. It was about a boy named Art and he does many different kinds of art. It was sweet and rhyme-y and I think it’s a good introduction into the arts for kids. And that made me realize that it’s really simple ideas like this that just gets the message across and touches people’s hearts. It’s nice sometimes, I think, to bring out the inner child of the designer and the audience when appropriate.

The reception last night made me realize that 1) there’s so much out there in the design community that I don’t know about and 2) I need to get out there and start learning about it and find out what being a designer means, socially. And the event gave me that chance to get a feel of what it’s like to be in the “design community.”

And I definitely felt that when I saw Eric Heiman from Volume Inc. at the reception. I learned/heard about Eric a year ago in Davis when he came to talk about his work and design in general. His suggestion for design students to work on non-class projects together sparked the formation of The Collab, started by my friend Milan, and a bunch of us Davis kids put together a week-long design/art show last May. So Eric’s probably the first “design stars” whom I’ve seen in person. (More about my wish to see/meet “design stars” in a later entry.) And while he may not be as well known as Michael Bierut or Paula Scher, he is special on my list as one of the people that was there as an influence from the beginning of my design career.