“Only after experimenting with that joke 25 more times, she said, would she know if it works.”

The Strategic Mind of Ali Wong:

So perhaps it’s no surprise that anxiety about success is also a theme of her new work. This is part of the reason she returned to the stage early this year, five weeks after giving birth, against the advice of her doctor. She’s terrified of becoming unfunny. “I’ve seen it happen to people who got famous and seduced by it,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s work ethic or if they’re delusional because the audience loves them so much.”

Two months after giving birth she slipped out of the house and drove to the Upright Citizens Brigade here to make an unannounced appearance, walking onstage in sweatpants and a puffy jacket to roaring applause. She told a new joke about #MeToo and got a laugh, though she wasn’t sure she could trust it. U.C.B. crowds are notoriously generous. Only after experimenting with that joke 25 more times, she said, would she know if it works.

I’m always interested to hear the creative habits of successful artists, because the successful ones always have creative habits. If you don’t know what creative habits are, they’re goals with work ethic applied to them.

If you’re into this topic check out The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.


Career, Process

Willie is keeping busy.

Texas Monthly asks Why Does Willie Nelson Still Do It?:

“I think I need to keep being creative, not to prove anything but because it makes me happy just to do it,” Willie says. He partially credits doing what he loves for keeping him animate into his eighties. “I think trying to be creative, keeping busy, has a lot to do with keeping you alive.”

It’s important to have something creative to work on, whether it’s part of your career or a side project. You have to keep the brain moving and thinking.


Humanity, Process

No, designers don’t *have* to code.

Over at Wired, Liz Stintson responds to John Maeda’s new Design in Tech Report:

But design’s role in this world is constantly shifting. In his 2017 report Maeda makes the case that the most successful designers will be those who can work with intangible materials—code, words, and voice. These are the designers who craft experiences for the chatbots and voice interfaces people are increasingly interacting with. Maeda cites a blog post from last spring, in which UX designer Susan Stuart makes the case that writing and UX design aren’t so different. “Here’s where I’d like to draw the parallel with writing — because a core skill of the interaction designer is imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, successes, and a complete set of ‘what if’ scenarios,” she said. “These are the skills of a writer.”

This year, Maeda goes deep on this idea of skills, focusing his own on the growing field of computational design (a field he’s pioneered since the mid-1990s). In the report Maeda makes the distinction between “classic” designer, the makers of finite objects for a select group of people (think graphic designer, industrial designer, furniture designer) and “computational” designers, who deal mostly in code and build constantly evolving products that impact millions of people’s lives.

This piece has a deliberately threatening and clickbait-y headline: ‘John Maeda: If You Want to Survive in Design, You Better Learn to Code.’

Maeda’s report doesn’t say designers have to learn to code in order to survive. What he focuses on is the importance of ‘computational design’ in the worlds of technology and business and about how we need to evolve the way we solve problems.

The never-ending question “should designers know how to code” is vague and moot because if you’re someone who makes money as a digital designer (website, mobile app, user interface), you already know something about code.

There’s a wide spectrum of ‘understanding code’ and a digital designer can lay at any point along that spectrum. You could be fluent in PHP and know how to hand code custom WordPress themes, or you might only have a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. Both scenarios can lead to you being a valuable designer.

The most important thing designers need to know is what technologies exist and are emerging, how those technologies work, so that they can apply that knowledge to their problem-solving.

Design Idea Generator

While I’m generally not down with doing pro bono design work (there are always exceptions), I’m also a firm believer in making up projects for your portfolio in the absence of paying clients/employment.

Sharpen.design is a great starting point for generating ideas.


Design, Process

Podcasting is Process

Over at AIGA’s Eye on Design blog, Jude Stewart solicited advice from podcasters on everything you need to know before starting a podcast:

Perhaps the most pungent advice comes from The Poster Boys’ Schaefer: “Fail. Screw up. Fall on your face, and embarrass yourself… Only you can figure out what you want your thing to be.” Podcasting is process. At its best, it should resemble every creative act: messy, iterative, dogged. For game talkers, mistakes-enthusiasts, learning-junkies, media-pioneers or some combination of the above, podcasting may be the ideal pursuit.

This rings true to me.

When I started my Weekly Exhaust podcast last year I didn’t know what I was doing. Technically, sure, I knew how to get it up and running, but the actually talking-and-making-it-interesting-to-listeners part? No clue. When I go back and listen to the first handful of episodes I hear how rookie I was.

Editing episodes at the beginning was tough too because I couldn’t stand the sound of my own voice (most people can’t), but with time I’ve grown more tolerant of my voice. I attribute this to repetition and getting better at talking, although I still have to work on my “ums” and “you knows”.

At the end of the day I do it because I enjoy doing it and I’ve discovered how to make it a great compliment to this blog. Posts from this site, combined with talking points I capture throughout the week in my Simplenote app, give me fuel for each week’s episode.


Podcast, Process

Just Wait

Michael Bierut reacts to the reactions to the new logo for The Met by providing an analogy to how it took time to appreciate the genius of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew:

But I can pinpoint the moment my mind was changed about what music was and what music could be. It was when I heard the first song, disc one, side one, on Bitches Brew. “Pharaoh’s Dance” didn’t sound anything like Chicago. It didn’t sound like anything. It didn’t seem to have any structure, no verses, no bridges. I hated it. But I listened to it again, and then again. I started absorbing its dense, subterranean patterns. And I realized, for the first time but not the last, that something truly new takes time to appreciate and understand.

As Beirut says, the social media we use to consume and create content encourages snap judgements.

This one of the reasons I choose to react to things on this site. I gives me time to sit with my thoughts and decide on the most accurate words to explain myself. This is also why I never use the comments section below articles I’ve read.

Sit with your thoughts. Let them marinate. Sometimes they’ll go sour like milk, and other times they’ll age like wine.

No One is Going to Steal Your Idea

Tony Larsson on why you shouldn’t worry about identity theft (via Life Hacker):

Bringing a product to market takes a huge investment of time, energy and money. This means that if a person wanted to capitalize on your idea, they would need to stop current endeavors and refocus their life on this new task.

It is highly unlikely that the person you are sharing your idea with would want to do that. Also the type of person that would completely change their life course on a whim, probably lacks the focus necessary for executing the idea in the first place.

Most people don’t execute their great ideas. Most of the time peoples’ ideas turn out to be shit anyway.

Actually, many of ideas of successful people start out crappy as well. The difference is the successful person has the grit and drive to iterate on an idea until it becomes something great.

While I generally agree with Larsson, I would be careful about who you share your great ideas with if you live in Silicon Valley or San Francisco. Don’t get what I call, “Zuckerberg’d”.


Process, Product, Pyschology

Hard Work First

Seth Godin:

The Wright Brothers decided to solve the hardest problem of flight first.

It’s so tempting to work on the fun, the urgent or even the controversial parts of a problem.

There are really good reasons to do the hard part first, though. In addition to not wasting time in meetings about logos, you’ll end up getting the rest of your design right if you do the easy parts last.

This is great advice for planning Kickstarter projects and avoiding the potential pitfalls associated with them.



Last Wednesday I watched Chappelle’s creative process on stage in Oakland

This past Wednesday night my wife and I went to see Dave Chappelle do standup at Yoshi’s in Oakland.

Tickets only became available two weeks ago, and as soon as I bought my two, I realized I should have bought more, but in the 5 minutes that had elapsed they had sold out.

It wasn’t Chappelle’s best performance, but it was still awesome and I still laughed a lot. This is the best part about true “professionals” in any trade: seeing a pro on a bad day is still 10 times better than seeing someone with mediocre talent on a great day.

No, Chappelle wasn’t slaying us with razor sharp jokes (no doubt some of them were sharp). This was a Chappelle figuring out a new act, testing out new jokes, swimming into uncharted territory where he might or might not be greeted with a hearty laugh. I was witnessing the comedic process. Yes, comedy has a process exactly like the processes found in music, writing, sports and graphic design.

At one point he straight up admitted some of his jokes were half-baked (no pun intended). One of his bits talked about how the next group of people he felt bad about besides black people was fat, black people. He gave examples like Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Yeah, Chappelle has some fucked up thoughts in his head and he’s not afraid of talking about sensitive issues. At the end of his act he revisited the fat black people bit and said (I’m paraphrasing), “Look, I know this fat, black people thing isn’t working great right now, but in a few months it’s going to be fucking comedy gold! Trust me!”

Seeing Chappelle having the courage to test out jokes he’s never done (or only done a few times) is a great lesson to to everyone who makes things. You need to create that first draft of your book, or first take of your song, or first design comp for your website before you can improve on it, refine it, hone it.

You have to embrace the process.

Perfect art doesn’t pop out of your head fully-formed.




Machining Porn

If you’re into manufacturing and machining porn, Greg Koenig has some details descriptions of the processes behind making the Apple Watch:

Apple is the world’s foremost manufacturer of goods. At one time, this statement had to be caged and qualified with modifiers such as “consumer goods” or “electronic goods,” but last quarter, Apple shipped a Boeing 787’s weight worth of iPhones every 24 hours. When we add the rest of the product line to the mix, it becomes clear that Apple’s supply chain is one of the largest scale production organizations in the world.

While Boeing is happy to provide tours of their Everett, WA facility, Apple continues to operate with Willy Wonka levels of secrecy. In the manufacturing world, we hear rumors of entire German CNC mill factories being built to supply Apple exclusively, or even occasionally hear that one of our supplier’s process experts has been “disappeared” to move to Cupertino or Shenzhen. While we all are massively impressed with the scale of Apple’s operations, there is constant intrigue as to exactly how they pull it all off with the level of fit, finish and precision obvious to anyone who has examined their hardware.

It’s attention like this which gives Apple the ability to charge a premium for their products.

Again, something I don’t thing Samsung as a company can do (or cares about).




Play It Again

Seth Godin’s post from this morning is all the more appropriate in light of Nokia’s new N1 tablet:

John Koenig calls it vemödalen. The fear that you’re doing something that’s already been done before, that everything that can be done has been done.

Just about every successful initiative and project starts from a place of replication. The chances of being fundamentally out of the box over the top omg original are close to being zero.

A better question to ask is, “have you ever done this before?” Or perhaps, “are the people you are seeking to serve going to be bored by this?”
Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan—they all imitated, and in some cases stole from folk and blues musicians, but at the end of the day, their music ended up being bigger than the sum of the parts.
Even in the realm of blogging, I used to worry about repeating myself. I don’t worry any more when I realize Daily Exhaust has been online since 2006 (almost 9 years). There’s new readers every day who have never seen my posts from this past spring, let alone posts from nine years ago.
If something is important to you, talk about it, write about it and make art about it again and again and again.