Tag Archives: podcast

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Always Keep Learning

Good Advice

By my senior year of college, I was beginning to keep up with the graphic design industry through blogs and podcasts. Occasionally, I would come across interviews of well-known designers talking about their design philosophies, including advice for new designers coming out of college. One advice that kept coming up from different designers was to always keep learning, even after school.

In their experience, sometimes newly graduated designers have the tendency to assume they know everything just because they completed their training at school and thought that they could take on any project and immediately excel at it. Even with just a few years of real-world experience myself, I would agree with the general sentiment as well. There is already so much I had discovered and experienced between graduation and now that I look at new grads the same way, sort of like how most adults feel about teenagers: foolish and naive. At the same time, I’m still relatively young (fortunately), so I’m sure more experienced professionals would probably feel similar about me (and rightly so).

So Many Things to Learn

Regardless of what stage you are in life, the important thing is to always have the appetite to learn. The subject matter could be an extension of what you studied or what your job needs, like new software and tools, or it could be a side passion of yours that you now have more time to explore, like cooking or new sports. It could even be as simple as consuming information, like following certain blogs, podcasts, or talks. Whatever it is, I believe that learning new things helps one become a more well-rounded member of society.

For me, since the last time I had been in school, I continued to teach myself programming languages, partly to set up my website for my career and partly for fun; I continued to work on improving my health by finding the right exercises and diet for my goals; I started learning new sports like surfing and snowboarding; I tried out different language learning programs in an attempt to be fluent in more foreign languages; and I explored my dancing abilities by joining local flash mob groups and performing in public spaces and planned events, including a wedding.

New Opportunities

The benefits of learning something new goes beyond just that thing you’re learning. It opens you up to opportunities to learn more things. Earlier in my college career, the teacher from one of my design classes shared with us a student discount for the subscription to the graphic design magazine Communication Arts. Subscribing to it led me to an article about the online personality Ze Frank. I became a fan of his creative, multimedia work, particularly his year-long vlog The Show. One of his episodes mentioned attending South by Southwest (SXSW), so I subscribed to the SXSW podcast and discovered a session covering the productivity methodology Getting Things Done (GTD). It revolutionized the way I work, and I now approach life with a better sense of purpose.

Also through Communication Arts, I encountered the article about Stefan Sagmeister’s class that focused on emotional connection through design. This helped shape the idea for the “thesis” project “Why Don’t We Care?” for one of my senior design classes. In the project, I also referenced Ze Frank and The Show.

At a higher level, I probably would have learned about some of these things in other ways, but it’s the progression of discoveries and the potential for serendipity that make this experience special and exciting. It also probably would have taken longer to discover.

Learning is Ongoing

It is worth noting that learning is always ongoing. New content may surface, existing information may become less important, and longstanding opinion may change. This is overall a good thing, because it usually means whatever you’re learning is improving itself, and by keeping up with it, you are improving as well.

This is important to me because 1) I often feel like I know the least out of everyone in most situation, and 2) I’m naturally curious and want to learn as much as I can about things that have the most of my attention. The fact that learning is ongoing sort of levels the playing field so those who are behind can try to catch up, and it helps satisfy my curiosity and feed my mind with more and newer content.

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2, 3, 7, 11.

Was Math Discovered or Invented?

I just listened to a podcast episode of the Design Matters with Debbie Millman, with guest Natalia Ilyin. This was a particularly interesting episode for me because of the amount of philosophical questions posed, like the time when Jonah Lehrer of Proust Was a Neuroscientist was the guest.

Mathematics

One of the topics they talked about in the beginning was whether humans discovered mathematics, or did they invent it? While there are arguments for both sides and the discussion would go on forever, they pointed out that humans point out relationships of things (such as seeing one planet next to another planet means that there are two planets, hence mathematics! But if you don’t see the relationships of those objects, no math occurs).

Symbols and Answers

Before they started talking about the mathematics topic, Debbie and Natalia discussed the theory that that are two types of people in the world, the kind that asks for meaning in everything in life through symbols and things, and the kind that are, I guess, more objective and follows a specific path and looks for the correct answer and that’s it.

This to me is sort of a left brain, right brain question, and it got me thinking, where do I fit? For a good chunk of my life, I’ve been dedicated to finding the right answer, because math, a favorite subject of mine, typically has one right answer. But at the same time, I’ve been told by some and have realized myself that I often have so many ideas in my head, and that’s where the creativity portion and the practice of graphic design come in.

So I often see myself as being in the middle: I enjoy the creative arts and graphic design, because of the enormous range of possibilities and opportunities, but I also get excited about math and programming, as I am comforted by the fact that following a particular set of direction gets me a particular answer or outcome.

So in situations where I am undecided, which happens often, I reach for the middle ground and ask, “Can’t I be both?” This is why I’m getting comfortable with where I stand right now: sort of one foot in the graphic arts, and the other in web programming. I’d love to do both at the same time, so let’s see how that works out.

Perfection=Completeness

Another topic that came up during the interview was the idea of perfection. Natalia believed that perfection is about completeness, and design is really good for people with OCD, because designers usually follow a grid created by modernists a hundred years ago dreaming of creating Utopian societies and no one has since figured out a better way to teach design. I just can’t help but agree and put myself within that group.

There are many other topics that they’ve covered that I do not have time to cover here, such as what “home” really means, and how semiotics affect us. So if you’re a neurotic, and/or math-loving, and/or philosophical type like me, this podcast is worth checking out. The Design Matters podcast is available on iTunes.

Flush.