Tag experience

Eyes Wide Open II.

Several years ago, I designed a sugar dispenser for an industrial design class.  I decided on this particular challenge after seeing just how quickly sugar poured out of a similar dispenser at a local restaurant.  Through the design process, I discovered that it was my various interests that played a key role in the final product.

Here are a few examples:

Model Railroading: Once I had a general idea for what the dispenser would look like along with the relative dimensions, I created “sketch models” which are basically rough prototypes made from various materials.  Thinking back to my model railroading days, I chose styrene plastic for later prototypes along with the final model.  Styrene is typically used for the construction of miniature buildings used on a model railroad, and I decided that the material would work well for this project.

Architecture (Core): I wanted the dispenser to be very modern looking and sleek; ultimately something much different from those you would normally see in a restaurant.  I ultimately decided to model the dispenser similar in structure to a modern skyscraper, and I chose a variation of styrene to match the building’s fascade (narrow vertical lines without horizontal equivalents).

Architecture (Supplemental): While I liked the skyscraper concept, I felt that another design element was needed.  In one of my visits to the Los Angeles area I noticed a building that had a protruding metal “screen” with large-scale letters inset within (negative space).  I decided that I would do the reverse and project letters outward (positive space).  But what letters?

Chemistry & Flight Training: Here I combined my original undergraduate goal (chemical engineering) with my flight training experience to come up with the “surface layer” that would rest on one of the dispenser “walls.”  The chemical formula for sugar contains the elements Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen.  Similarly, the airport code relative where I was living is CHO (Charlottesville-Albemarle).  Clearly, the gods had spoken.

The process of designing an object, vehicle, experience, etc. that has value in the real world takes not only solid design skills, it requires the ability to pull from multiple disciplines and incorporate those findings into something powerful.

Until perhaps now, I have always believed that my desire for knowledge was simply leading me astray from a specialization of some sort.  My experiences over the past several years have altered this belief; I now believe my innate curiosity enables versatility and a strong design sense, two things that I highly value.

While I believe that specialization in a given field and/or domain is in my future (that was my original goal all along), I envision staying “plugged in” to just about everything and anything that interests me.  It’s these interests that will continue to play a key role in my technical and creative development – the combination of which will continue to grow beyond what I’ve accomplished to date.


The End of Incubator.

After considerable thought I’ve decided to mark a completion to Incubator and embark on the next chapter in my journey – one that I call Territories:

It’s very clear now that what I have been going through can be best described as a “valley”, although the period (2007-2010) can be described in both the positive and negative:

The Bad relationship failure . shattered dreams . borderline personality disorder . abandonment . loss . depression . post-traumatic stress disorder . downsizing . monetary loss . depression . therapy . loneliness . isolation . breakup . negative feedback . extreme stress . panic attacks . internal conflict . analysis paralysis . miscommunication . poor decision-making skills . poor sense of self . lack of direction . life crisis . past self-realization

The Good design . values . industrial design school . sense of direction . renewed sense of self . peaks and valleys realization . education . graphic design . portfolio creation . advanced creative thinking . writing . photography . illustration . exercise . talent . strengths

As it relates to “peaks” and “valleys”, the following key points have been added to my personal “rulebook” (from the book with the same name):

  • The errors you make in today’s good times create tomorrow’s bad times.
  • The wise things you do in today’s bad times create tomorrow’s good times.

I may never forgive but I am ready to forget.

Out of Body Experience.

Earlier this month I was involved in a fairly serious accident while playing basketball at my local gym.  The player, who I actually do not know, went up for a shot and I was unfortunately too close – expecting a rebound opportunity.  Three days ago I had surgery to repair the two facial fractures that had resulted in that unfortunate collision.

In some strange way, time seemed to slow down just milliseconds before the impact occurred.  My mind told me that I was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The resulting impact was perhaps the most pain I’ve experienced to date – and it’s one limit that I would rather not exceed anytime soon.  Immediately following the collision I knew something was truly wrong.  My jaw – actually my entire face – felt like it had shifted.  Something inside my face had moved out of place.

Once I was able to walk off the court, my fears slowly creeped in and by the time I had left the gym I was in tears – not because I was in pain (amazingly), but because I was afraid and very much alone.  Those feelings quickly escalated once I made it to a local medical center to have my injuries looked after.  I was unable to speak to the receptionist and tried desperately to get my feelings stabilized.  Feelings of strength and confidence can be quickly erased when trauma occurs, and this was proof positive of that.

Soon after being looked after and an X-ray taken, I went to the emergency room for a CT scan (computed tomography).  It was here where my mind transitioned into another place – a place where my situation became less about my fears and more about the technologies that would help diagnose my condition.

As I was rolled into the CT unit I focused my attention at the multitude of red lights that scanned over my face and the mechanisms that resided within the clear circular frame.  I listened to the whirring of mechanical servos as the scan progressed and smelled the “magnetic” air that was a surprising byproduct of the procedure.  While others can feel claustrophobic in such a machine, I felt strangely at peace.  I was able to focus my attention outside of myself and into the overall experience.

When the day of surgery arrived, my anxiety was minimal to none.  While I had my family’s support available to me, my mind was again placed outside of myself.  My mind focused on the logistics of the pre-op room, the personalities of the nurses who interacted with me, the IV inserted into my arm, the layering of wavelengths that displayed on the screen above me, and the intermittent alarm when my respiration levels dropped below “normal.”

For some reason, I wanted (needed?) this medical team to remember me as someone who was thankful, cool under pressure and empathetic – qualities that I strive to possess but do not always achieve.  I wanted to build perhaps the most important self-fulfilling prophecy of them all – a prophecy where feelings of positivity and confidence allow for a speedy recovery.

By its very nature, trauma forces the inflicted to slow down and process thoughts with greater intensity and focus.  Slowing down allowed me to step outside of my current reality and find ways to stabilize my emotions in a way that was natural for me.  Being able to find and fabricate a temporal world where I was able to gain some emotional and physiological stability allowed me to gain the strength I needed to move beyond this accident and procedure in a positive and constructive way.

Advancement Pathways.

“On the other hand,” said Randa, “my uncle used to say, ‘All knowledge is one,’ and he may be right.  You may learn something from meteorology that will help you with your psychohistory.  Isn’t that possible?”  Seldon smiled weakly.  “A great many things are possible.”  And to himself he added: But not practical.

– Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov

One of the concepts that I’ve explored over the past several years is something called a development, or advancement model.  The purpose of such a model is to determine where you are in terms of an “ideal” state, and what changes you may have to employ in order to reach that state.

Since several of my recent posts have focused on digital illustration, it only makes sense to show an advancement model in this area.  On the left side of this model is a “starting” state while the right side shows an ideal “end” state – in this case a digital matter painter (who would be employed doing matte paintings for movies, for example).

(As you can see, I am pretty far from this particular end-state!)

This is a good start, but it’s not particularly useful other than showing where one is within the advancement “spectrum”.  For example, it doesn’t really tell us what we need to do to get to this ideal end-state.  Here is a potential improvement:

This version highlights at least five levels of advancement one needs to achieve in order to become a professional “digital matte painter”.  But this model is also rather limited in that it assumes an ideal growth path is linear – which, in many cases, it is not.  In fact, sometimes the best advancement path is anything but linear! (although it can take longer to get that ideal state)

Here is an advancement model that is more dynamic and perhaps more reflective of “real-world” development:

As you can see, we’re still intent on building the skills and aptitude necessary to become a “digital matte painter” but the path is less structured and more dynamic – potentially allowing one to become an even more advanced (rounded) matte painter at the end of this “journey”.  Some paths, as you can see in this visual, diverge completely from the originally defined end state.

Needless to say, this model is created partially in hindsight as one may not know all of the paths that she/he can take on this development journey.  Which begs the question: if the creation of this model is partially in hindsight, what is the relevance?

The relevance of this type of advancement model is that it forces one to look at the pathway they are on to assess whether their current direction will ultimately converge towards the end state.  If not, is this a temporary deviation or a permanent one?  Has the goal changed?  Does it make sense to reverse course and try another path?

As one gains greater knowledge about the “ideal” end state, they will have a greater ability to introduce new and alternative pathways that may help broaden their experience and understanding.  Having multiple pathways is a good thing as it can provide new advancement channels to explore.  The key is not to get “lost” in this “web” and ensure that the paths one follows is done with a true sense of purpose.

Advancement models are useful constructs for helping one improve in a given area, and can also help expand one’s understanding of the experiential and educational landscape associated with the core subject.  Start with your career – what does your advancement model look like?  What does the “ideal state” look like for you?  How will you get there?

Plane 9 | Phase 39

With education as the backbone to my personal and professional life, the beginning of September continues (even to this day) to symbolize a new beginning for me.  Having moved into the ninth Plane (“Exodus”) in May, September 1st signifies the start of Phase 39 and a set of revised objectives for the months ahead:

Painting – Having experience with both traditional and digital art, I’ve found that having a true understanding of the fundamentals can make a significant difference when that same process is carried over into the digital realm.  This, I think, is one major reason why I’ve found it easier to paint with the Cintiq than I had originally believed – having taken a foundations course several years ago using charcoal and graphite.  However, to further improve my digital painting abilities, I am considering taking an oil or acrylic painting course at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond this term.

Ink – As you have already seen, my brief exploration with the Cintiq has pushed me to think seriously about the design and launch of a new “microsite” under my parent domain.  While some may question the purpose of a site such as this (i.e. not all of my creations will be deemed “remarkable”), that’s ultimately the point – you have to start somewhere.  As a real-world example, I started experimenting with graphic design nearly seventeen years ago and my early attempts were less than great (“comical” is the word that actually comes to mind …). Fortunately, my enjoyment for the process and medium has allowed me to gain the necessary experience to launch a business which may open up additional doors in the future.

OpenIDEO – While I have not had a chance to explore this site in much depth, I think this is a unique opportunity to make a positive impact while continuing to push myself both intellectually and creatively.  (And the fact that is comes from a company that I greatly admire doesn’t hurt either!)

Version Two – Having launched my personal brand earlier this year, I would like to revise the site to ensure that it includes other aspects of my portfolio – not just “Ink” but other projects as well, including my work at Big Generator.

The Factory – This concept is the graphical equivalent to Incubator.  It’s a microsite that will develop new graphical concepts that can be incorporated into graphic designs and/or digital illustrations.  The origins of this idea came partially from Eric Hanson’s video (“Digital Sets 1 – Design, Modeling and Camera”) where he highlights the concept of creating virtual buildings that can be later incorporated into larger 3D environments.  This idea is still in its infancy, and may not become visible until 2011 or later but it is worth thinking about now.

GD – Now having a solid graphic design portfolio established, I can now take inventory of what the next generation of my designs will need to entail.  Most of my designs up until this point focus primarily on color and typography and are nearly absent of patterns or imagery.  GD (capital letters) is the next chapter of my graphic / information design exploration.


Now at the official end of 2009, I thought it best to provide an update on some of the things I’ve been working on and thinking about.  Given my experiences over the past two years and the end of an analysis cycle that spanned a similar timeframe, I am moving forward with a new sense of who I am and what I need to do to make my life better.

First let’s review what was accomplished in 2009:

2009 Accomplishments

– Successful completion of Design Drawing I, Academy of Art University

– Further expansion and development of graphic design portfolio

– Further expansion of photography portfolio and related education

– One-year anniversary of Big Generator blog

– Creation of “Generator” publication (Big Generator – Year One) – to be released in late January

– Creation of “Hierarchy of Needs” project management publication

– Creation of “Microcosms” blog (fictional exploration)

– Concept development of new novels – “Five” and “Citadel 9”

– Completion of various personality, strengths and interpersonal / communication tests

– Closure of “Spark” Plane and creation of “Genesis” Plane (Planescape Advancement System)

– In-depth exploration of information design and the initial stages of starting a related business venture

– Relationship counseling and meetings with life / business coach

– Extensive BPD research

– Read nine books and made considerable progress on three others

2010 Plans

Branding: In a desire to formalize my personal brand, I am moving forward with the design of a self-entitled web site – www.adriandaniels.com – and should have the first version ready for release in the next several weeks.  At this stage, the initial version of the site will be comprised of four main areas – “incubator” (concept exploration), “microcosms” (fiction), “pixeldust” (illustration) and “atomik” (sound).  The site is intended to centralize projects and concepts that I am working on so that I can review my creative and intellectual development over time.

Books: I made a conscious decision in 2007 to read more books.  Now having read approximately thirty-two books since that time, I feel that I have accomplished what I originally set out to do.  As many of you have noticed, my current reading list has been rather lengthy.  To increase focus in 2010, I have reduced the current reading list with approximately five books that I am actively reading.  I am also thinking about creating a new reading page which could be classified as a “holding pattern” or “abandoned” section for books that are on the radar or have been temporarily set aside.

I also decided to move entries originally found within an “interpersonal” section into the “What I Read in 2007 / 2008” pages.  These pages were originally password protected but I no longer see the need for this level of privacy.  Given the significant educational investment in this interpersonal / relationship subject area, I do not anticipate spending a significant amount of time in this area in 2010.

Creative Writing: When I created the Microcosms blog earlier this year, I started to work on a novel called “Five” which was to follow five characters on a remote planet with a desire to connect seemingly isolated worlds.  While the concepts were developing fairly well, I was concerned that the sheer magnitude of the plot would soon become unmanageable.  Thus, I decided to switch gears and take on a more concise storyline.  In 2010 I will continue down this new path with a planned successful conclusion by the end of the year.  The title of this new novel is called “Citadel 9”.

Illustration (Anatomy): The past three classes taken at the Academy of Art University have been primarily focused on industrial design drawing and sketching.  As I would like to expand my sketching ability towards people / animals / creatures, I need to spend more time understanding human anatomy and the techniques associated with drawing and sculpting the human body.  To this end, I recently purchased tutorial videos from AnatomyTools.com and am planning to attend a future workshop on human anatomy later this year.  I will also spend more time learning through existing tutorial videos purchased through the Gnomon Workshop.  The ultimate goal is to use this knowledge and illustration experience to supplement / complement the creative writing pursued via the Microcosms blog.

Information Design: The self-analysis that I went through over the past two years led me to the area of information design. “Information design “… draws on typography, graphic design, applied linguistics, applied psychology, applied ergonomics, computing and other fields.” (designcouncil.org.uk).  Fortunately, this area aligns very closely with my strengths and interests and thus, this is the area that I will likely spend the most time in 2010.  Fortunately, a great deal of the other creative pursuits just mentioned will serve as catalysts / contributors to the ID creative process.

I have other ideas that I am still thinking through, therefore this list could expand or contract.  However, I feel fairly confident that these areas represent the core of what I’ll be working on in 2010.  It will be an exciting journey!

Contrast Ratio.

While the year is not yet over, 2009 has ultimately been a lesson in contrast.  In 2006 I went into a relationship with unique optimism, hope and love (marriage) to end up with feelings of terminal loss, distrust and despair (death).  Fortunately this experience has served as a catalyst to help me advance to a new level of consciousness and awareness.

While the phrase “experience” leaves considerable room for any sort of time measurement, for reasons of simplicity let’s assume there is a measurable start and end to the experience at hand.  For those who go into a situation that turns out similar to their original expectations, one can leave the experience with a sense of increased confidence in her/his ability to predict an outcome.  If these experiences repeat themselves – i.e. one is able to repeatedly predict an outcome – their confidence can grow.  In essence, these “positive” experiences begin to build a self-fulfilling prophecy where predictability and success go hand in hand.  After all, if I can look into the future, by default I have greater “control” over that future and my own destiny.

If, however, the experiences in which I partake have a different outcome than originally foreseen, then I may find myself taking part in an alternative self-fulfilling prophecy where “failure” and “unpredictability” are the norm.  In essence, I am losing the ability to predict the future and thus my feeling of “control” over my own destiny can and will likely erode.

Of course, what I am describing here are macro views and do not address the numerous nuances that can affect either scenario.  For example, one “bad” (or “good”) outcome does not necessarily mean that all subsequent outcomes will share a similar fate.  In addition, my ability to learn and adjust after each situation can significantly affect future experiences and their eventual outcomes.  While a continuous string of failures will eventually have a negative impact on one’s self-confidence, failure of any frequency or magnitude can be a powerful catalyst for action and innovation.

The ultimate goal is to find a balance between predictability and unpredictability, the latter of which resulting in some form of “lesson” that maintains this equilibrium.

So, what does an experience entail and how does one build the skills to achieve positive and more predictable outcomes?

An experience has a beginning, a “core” and an end.  A determination of whether the experience is going as originally planned or is deviating “off course” can occur in any of the three phases.  At a fundamental level, the basis of an experience is time.

While one can argue that there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” path for a given experience, at a basic level you have a sense of where you want that experience to go.  For example, if a relationship is showing signs of erosion, not doing anything may eventually lead to its failure.  Thus, making corrections to the experience “course” to enable its long-term success may be right thing to do.

Whether to begin a new experience depends a lot upon your values and your goals.  While this decision is usually subconscious, if you don’t have a clear sense of either, your experience will be somewhat random. However, if your goal is to experience things with purpose, then your ability to choose experiences that provide a foundation for the “predictability/unpredictability balance” will become that much greater.

Let’s assume that you have chosen an experience with purpose – you are now operating within the experience “core”.  Your next logical goal is to participate in the most meaningful and positive way that you can – i.e. striving to reach a “self-actualization” phase of consciousness and operation.  In order to achieve this state of being, you need to pay close attention to the “hierarchy of needs” structure – not only in its original definition but one that is applicable to the experience at hand.

Focusing on the concept of self-actualization – and the supporting hierarchy – are both important because they can determine the quality and duration of the experience.

For example, in attempting to reach self-actualization, the mind becomes overly concerned with reaching that pinnacle, and virtually ignores everything else.  When layers of the hierarchy become eroded, and you no longer have the direction that your goals were providing, your reality crashes to the ground.  It’s similar to climbing a mountain, reaching the apex, and then realizing that you are out of oxygen (i.e. your support structure).  How are you going to get down?

The aspect that is central to avoiding this dilemma is time.  Time is the only thing that is constant through your journey across the hierarchy.  It’s the measurement that you need to be focused on to ensure your long-term “survival”.  What is happening in the “core” of the experience?  Is the hierarchy “intact”?  If it is not, what are you doing to ensure its overall stability?

If you are able to identify with these questions and answer them objectively, the quality of the experience for not only you, but others that may be involved in that experience, will be that much greater.  At a basic level, it’s synonymous with an individual vs. team mindset – focusing on the former is appropriate, but not focusing on the latter is not.

It’s worth noting that simply because you believe an experience is worth the investment doesn’t mean that the operating environment will work in your favor.  Forces can work with or against you in all phases of the experience.  Being able to clearly recognize these forces and how they impact your experience (and your hierarchy of needs) is another valuable skill.

Making a decision whether the experience needs to “end” depends a lot on the experience itself.  Taking inventory of whether the experience is obligatory or optional, and/or if it continues to align with your values and goals are both excellent barometers to appropriately close or abruptly terminate the experience.  Delaying a decision to bring closure to an experience can ultimately erode aspects of the hierarchy of needs without it being obvious that you are doing so.

What’s the lesson here?  In order to benefit from any experience, you need to have a clear understanding of what you value, what you want to achieve and what you desire.  Once you have this level of understanding, your ability to benefit from and self-actualize within the experience is dependent upon your awareness of the experience itself.  It is this level of awareness and the resulting decisions which will pave the way towards experiences that ultimately build self-confidence through a unique balance of predictable and unpredictable outcomes.

While you don’t have control over the future, you do have some level of control over your own destiny.

(While I’ve used my career and relationship as a basis for the “experience” definition, it’s important to recognize that the use of this phrase is applicable for all experiences regardless of classification.)