Prose

Where we speak from

When we move through our own constructs, when we speak from the heart and not our thought-ideologies, we create joy for each other. We present our true selves. It is from this space we can truly love one another. When you see or feel this, express it. Share it. Be it.

NY/SF: A Hypothesis

Throughout 2013, I’ve been spending a lot more time both in New York and in San Francisco, for personal and professional reasons. I’m a native New Yorker, born in Riverdale and raised in the burbs, and still consider NY “The City.” And even though I’ve regularly frequented SF over the past 10 years, averaging 3-5 extended trips per year, this year I’ve spent months at a time here, working as I am now from a friend’s desk with a view of the intersection of Haight & Laguna.

Proximity is one key to relationship development (among many others, like doing great work, being kind, networking, and having a little luck), and my increased time in SF has happily resulted in building business here (yay travel write-offs!). The more people I meet, the more fodder I have for developing a hypothesis about the vastly different cultures of both places.

At the root of this hypothesis is the influence that the physical & natural environment has on its culture:

New York has miles of concrete and verticality, and is vast in size, which informs a directness and solidity of communication; maybe its history or tradition influences this, too. It has volume, noise, individuals feel competitive even for sidewalk space, and there are extremes of weather.

San Francisco has little bedrock and crazy hills, and its 7x7 mile environment is ultraconcentrated with immense variety; things are subject to shift around every corner, and at any moment. There is an almost cosmic openness and tolerance for individuality and range of expression. Conversely, or for balance, there’s less of a variation in climate.

Having written this, I feel like I’m just beginning to learn a new language, or two.

On iOS 7

I like iOS7. I’m inspired by its Powers of Ten-like zooming, and there are neat little things packed in — like the Clock showing the accurate time even without launching the app. I love the single-Note sound alert, and the charging chime. The shake of entering in an incorrect passcode was integrated from the desktop, and the fade in & out of viewing the lock screen nicely mirrors the smoothness of launching into or zooming out of an app. Nice work, guys. While it does have a few clunky considerations in just a few places, over the course of one afternoon it has managed to make every other interface I interface with feel outdated.

So here’s what’s next to reconsider (a wish list):

  • The Voicemail icon is left over from the age of cassettes. What if it were a speech bubble with lines?
  • The Phone icon is reminiscent of old school bakelite or plastic hand-held receivers. How about an iPhone icon?
  • The Alarm clock is from back in the day when there were two bells atop a bedside clock. I can think of other ways to show alarm.
  • Folders inside of Mail have bothered me for years. How can we make the leap from a desktop — even using the word desktop! — to a more virtual world if we’re still thinking manila?

Arguably, cameras still have the same form factor, so Camera can stay; Mail is still a nice attempt at taking over the USPS and has happily lost its Windows-like clouds.

But there’s still work to do. Want to collaborate with me on them?

A to Z (but not X)

I spend so much of my life on the web, I was struck about the ease of getting to my most frequented sites by typing the first letter. Here’s what each letter is in my world. What’re yours?

A is for amtrak

B is for brown.edu/cis — we do a lot of work with their Web Services department

C is for calendar.google.com

D is for drive.google.com

E is for etsy

F is for facebook

G is for gmail

H is for hellomrmag.com

I is for ideo.org

J is for jri.org — one of our largest non-profit clients

K is for kayak

L is for linkedin

M is for maps.google.com

N is for nytimes.com — shame about the &gwh removal being turned off

O is for okcupid

P is for posterous — but not for long

Q is for quickbooks online

R is for rihumanities.org — a recent exciting prospect

S is for schwadesign.basecamphq.com — the classic version!

T is for teamgantt.com

U is for underconsideration.com

V is for vimeo

W is for webmail.schwadesign.com

X isn’t for anything.

Y is for youtube

Z is for zipcar

Thoughts on 4'33"

First: I was happy to hear the performance for the first time. It’s been a year of firsts. (I went to Mont St-Michel recently, too.) Second: I have loved Cage since I was in high school. Thanks to Mr. Brooks for the introduction to A Musical Circus. Changed my life. Or at least my approach to things.

Now to the heart of it: a lot of people were anticipating that the performers, holding their instruments and bringing out their scores, would do something. When slightly more than a dozen musicians take to the beautiful, vertical Calderwood Hall at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s stage, and stand, poised with their instruments, yet seemingly doing “nothing” …. There was tension. Anticipation. The weight of expectancy. An audible silence.

Bodies shifted in chairs. Bodies of the performers shifted from one standing foot to another.

And seemingly still nothing. The turning of a page of a score. Audience, still waiting.

The increasing mass of silence. A cough — finally, some noise.

The lesson was simple: everything is music.

I knew what to expect, yet I knew that every instance of the performance would be different. I was actually relieved that the guy on the second balcony opposite me coughed. I smiled when and beacuse did, knowing it was a contribution to the piece.

I knew it would make some people uncomfortable. I enjoyed that.

It was such a delight.

My time with Maurice

Maurice Sendak has died, and I am pondering temporality. In fact, it’s taken me all day to find the time to write this post…

On a ride to Philly only last Thursday, my friend Kevin and I were talking about the great creative thinkers we admire, who also just happen to be gay. “Maurice Sendak would be amazing to interview,” he said. I took out my phone, and started thumbing through the address book. “I’ll call him right now!” I threatened, but didn’t. I then told Kevin about the time Maurice and I shared together in the summer of 1995.

At that time, my Mom was dating Maurice’s driver, Peter, whom I liked and who took a liking to me. Peter connected me with Maurice since we were both, “you know… creative.” Looking back, I think Peter was suggesting Maurice and I had something else in common… something I was permitted to discover myself.

The afternoon I drove to Maurice’s house through the woods of Ridgefield, Connecticut, I was nervous about meeting one of my heroes, and thus, forced to be present. Maurice made me feel immediately comfortable by the twinkle in his eye, and by his gregarious, irreverent nature. He was both quietly confident and occasionally saucy as he (and Runge, his German Shephard) gave me a tour of the house, showed me his Mickey Mouse collection (Mickey and Maurice were born the same year), and introduced me to his slate of at least a dozen projects. There were in-progress book illustrations and galleys, cover sketches, set design doodles, and librettos. He first mentioned the initial plans to convert Wild Things into a movie with Dave Eggers’ assistance. I followed Eggers’ early work at Might magazine and so I was an immediate fan of the mash-up. Over our many hours together, I found Maurice to be a truly great and witty conversationalist, passionate and dedicated to his work, dismissive and impatient with idiocy and those who did not demand quality. We sat outside in the twilight and sipped white wine, surrounded by all the lilacs — his favorite flower — and talked about our careers, making me feel an equal, although at 24 years old mine was just beginning.

Maurice hired me to hand-letter the words for his Sendak in Philadelphia poster and invited me to attend the opening at the Rosenbach Museum and Library. It was thrilling to be part of his creative process, be in Philadelphia for the preview, be introduced to the people who made the exhibit happen, and attend the opening night. It was a lot of being present a lot of the time.

At the time I was working in a small, two-person design studio and was pleading for months prior to the opening for some time off; I knew that the miscalculation of value on the part of my boss meant that my time at her shop was limited.

I moved to Boston in the fall of 1995 and Maurice and I kept up a telephone and written correspondence for many years. I wrote, in longhand, about my observations in the then big-feeling city, about the difference in the slant of the nose of the New Englander compared to the New Yorker, and about my hesitations and conflicts around starting my own design studio. “Start it,” he advised. “You’ll never look back.”

He was mostly right — I’ve looked back only a few times in these 14 ½ years, when the doubt and fear seemed impenetrable, and when the idiocy outstank the lilacs. But what I learned from Maurice is that, despite it all, we are innately compelled to create. We make something that wasn’t there before, and in doing so bring light into the world. We keep moving.

It is a privilege to have been in his presence and to have created with him. And today I feel a renewed vigor to make.