Blogging is not writing, it is graffiti with punctuation.
The way a lot of bloggers do it (particularly on Tumblr, though it’s not platform exclusive) definitely fall into this category, and further, into the subcategory of completely unartistic graffiti vandals: the lowly tagger. Nothing but initials, hastily drawn, always an afterthought, always done just to see how many they can put into the world. Boring.
But there are some Banksy equivalents. Liz Danzico’s Bobulate comes to mind. So does Jason Santa Maria. But I guess the question is: how to graduate from one to the other, and at what point does it cease to be blogging, but rather writing magazine articles without a magazine to publish in?
My "thesis" is now officially known as my "side project."
Side projects are important. They’re recognized especially in the software development world as being some of the most important, career building work you can do. Search Google for “importance of side projects,” and you’ll find a ton of articles explaining it in full detail. (I’ve included some of those reasons down below, with citation.) I think the most important thing about side project is that they are supposed to be fun. They are supposed to be something you can’t wait to work on, that you’re proud of, and that, ultimately, you want to share.
I’ve mentioned this before: I want to think of my thesis project as a side project. But, until today, I’ve been all talk and no work walk. I’m proud to say that all my to-dos, teux-deuxs, and files are now appropriately labeled “[sp]” instead of “[th].”
It’s symbolic, but the new labeling will be a reminder that this work I’m doing on handwriting is fascinating—a personal interest and belief. It’s fun, too, being given the time and freedom to follow a hunch to whatever appropriate endpoint is available. It may even contribute some new knowledge to the field.
Stanley Hainsworth is the Chair and Creative Director of Tether. He used to be the creative director of Nike, Lego, and Starbucks. I saw him speak in 2009, a few weeks after I was laid off. I was understandably down on being a designer, but Stanley’s talk was inspiring. Although I’m hard-pressed to remember a specific story that got to me, I remember his talking about a tool he’d come up with during his tenure at Starbucks: emotional filters.
In Stanley’s world, emotional filters are what guide and direct all things having to do with a particular project or client. These filters are emotional words that capture the identity and soul of a company. For example, for Starbucks, the emotional filters were: Handcrafted, Artistic, Sophisticated, Human and Enduring.
SVA’s given me a gigantic and sometimes overwhelming toolkit with which to approach projects, but this is one of my favorite. We’re approaching the mid-point for thesis, and it’s getting close to the time in a project when I might normally decide on the filter words.
Handcrafted and human will almost certainly be among them; the rest are still up for grabs.
“For me, what was interesting was trying to find the essences of things, what rules govern things. A lot of that involves setting the initial conditions, and then sort of letting things happen within a certain framework.”—Leo Villareal, a light artist working on The Bay Lights, which bears some similarity in execution (though not in intent) to a project Michael Yap and I are working on.
Harsh but deserved criticism, and where I go from here
Dr. Paul Pengaro held a plenary thesis session for our class last Friday. I expected a rough critique. Paul’s ability to get to the root of the idea is something that I envy, and he put it to good use throughout the session.
This is what Paul critiqued:
Elevator Pitch Statement
For anyone that uses handwriting in any way, who wants cloud access to their entire archive of handwritten or hand-drawn material, Handwritten.me is a searchable, sharable, infinite canvas. Unlike Tumblr, Wordpress, etc., Handwritten.me will encourage organic thought, expression, & sketching by allowing participants to directly post their thoughts as they’re written.
His feedback was that I haven’t said much of anything. That I’m thinking too generically at this point. Specifically:
My audience is far too broad;
I’m talking about technology instead of what I want to accomplish (i.e.: cloud technology what I mean is that I want to make handwritten accessible, no matter when or where you originally wrote it;
I’m a bit all over the place when I start referencing blogging platforms as my competition instead of pen and paper.
He was also very concerned that my idea is based around a technology that doesn’t exist yet. And that because it doesn’t exist the solutions that I would be able to work on (UI, storage, access, sharing) aren’t truly thesis worthy.
He told me I needed to go back to the original kernel of the idea. Not to start over, but to reconsider. Above all, he stressed to me (and my classmates), that we must be coherent. My idea of handwriting recognition is a blackbox that can’t be explained yet.
He made sure to say that his intention was not to derail me. I wouldn’t say that it did, but it did stop me on the tracks for a while.
The critique stung, I won’t lie. But, I agree with much of what’s been said. I have so far rejected the idea of getting more specific.
To do that, I need to circle back to the beginning. I need to go back through my initial research, and do a better job of documenting and cataloging. I need to write a very clear statement about why I am studying this area. I need to write a clear statement about why I think it is important. And I need to write a thesis statement about how I might accomplish that.
So, to get started:
My goal is to foster the use of handwriting in an age when its use in in decline.
I may still end up with a blogging platform that uses handwriting as its primary input method, but it will be much more specific and coherent.