Tag Archives: zefrank



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.


2, 3, 7, 11.

What Am I Doing? (Mar 2009)


Things are going well with my freelance project. We’re pretty much wrapping up with the foundation of the site, with a few more adjustments and fixes. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to present it here with some process work.


I finally had some time to revamp my GTD system, and it seems to be working better than before. I basically digitized my projects list and actions so that they’re easier to look through (and therefore, less intimidating for me to review and organize). There are still parts of the system that I need to streamline, but things are definitely more efficient already.


I recently started using a public Twitter account. My username is ivanwlam, and you’re welcome to follow me if you want. So far, some of the “famous” people I’ve followed include David Allen (the GTD Guy), Ze Frank, swissmiss, Armin and Bryony at Under Consideration, and TED.


Me. Me. Me. The fact that I forgot to mention that I went to watch my friend Sam Sellers talentedly compete at the SF stop of the Cut&Paste; Competition Tour is unacceptable. Long story short, Sam did a great job and was robbed of his first prize. I love the piece he did for the first round, which was (and will be again) my Facebook profile photo.


Something happened in the past week that retriggered and intensified my motivation to advance my career and my life as soon as possible. I can’t go into the details, but I now have a stronger desire to be independent and self-sufficient and to take control of my own life. So hopefully, in the coming months, I will have more exciting things to report.

Really Simple Designer Web Comic

Within the past month, I ended one blog and started another. Really Simple Designer Web Comic was an experiment to create a daily web comic starring Point, Line, and Plane. Every start of the day, I take about half an hour coming up with a concept and quickly draw a comic for the next day on my Wacom tablet. The idea of this project was to become more comfortable with my tablet, and I definitely am now. I ended it after two months because it was taking too much time of my day and the creative juices just weren’t flowing as fluidly as I’d like.

One Per Day

One Per Day is a much simpler project. Every day, I post about the day before, using only one word or phrase as the title of the post, and only one sentence describing the day. This keeps my post lengths short and to the point. It’s sort of a practice for me to pack as much content and meaning into one word and one sentence as I could, instead of dragging on and on about an incident (which I tend to do quite often… like right now).

The idea for One Per Day originated from a revisit to Ze Frank’s The Show, which indirectly kept a record of Ze’s personal life and experiences behind the scenes during its running. I have tried to keep a record of my life ever since I could write and had self-awareness. I used to write by hand with special notebooks and special pencils, and then switched to LiveJournals for a while, then to design blogs with monthly reviews (like this one).

But all these posts were taking too much time of my life to sustain, as I write really long posts, usually about now-apparently trivial things, and I wouldn’t want to return to them if I wanted to recall events of my life at the time.

One Per Day reaches a compromise between wanting to document every experience of my life and cutting down the number of words that I would have to read later on. One year from now, the individual events that happen every day will mean very little to me. In the end, a day is just a day, even on special occasions. What’s more important is the overall mood.

I just started blogging on One Per Day on WordPress (my new friend, perhaps my fortune cookie best friend?), and I haven’t gotten to redesigning it. But the presentation is going to be more streamlined and intuitive. Subscribe to the feed, and stay tuned.

Quotes I Go By Lately

“A day is a day. Every event, however trivial, will, by definition, influence and change the rest of my life.”

“Keep it simple (and easy), stupid.”