Becoming a better Designer

Around this time last year I started blogging regularly and I wanted it to document my journey from here to there – there being IDEO.

I'm not there yet but a friend of mind posed a really great question. What if the industry still existed but ideo no longer exists? Then what?

This question was posed to ensure I wasn't putting ideo on a pedestal and for me to research and figure out other ways to do the work I'm interested in. It floored me. I had no responses and began to wonder," are there any other companies that do similar work?"

Regardless of the answer, I believe that I first have to become a better designer. I need to be designing for people in need, and to be solving real world problems. They can be small or big- but the best ones are within reach.

Most of design today is based on existing products that are slightly modified, but planned for obsolescence.

I keep debating if it's wise to return to school for a graduate degree or if I can continue in my field to gain additional experience. The field has grown exponentially and it's become competitive in a different playing field. But stands out to me as they focus on designing for people in poverty.

This hits home because my family knows what it means to grow up in poverty and struggling. Ever since I learned the power of design, I've wanted to use it to do good and to service people. It's what drew me deeper into the world of product design- designing products to improve people's lives.

So where does one start to improve themselves as an industrial designer? Especially when access to tools and understanding of engineering is limited- insert me and my scenario. Often you'll hear people say scratch your own itch. But for me, industrial design is all about scratching the itch for other people in need.

Clean Water in 2017

So this missions trip for me was all about experiencing Haiti from a service standpoint. Yet it’s becoming more than that. If there is one thing I hear over and over again, it’s “do not drink the water”.
Often you hear this from country to country – especially when traveling overseas and in poorer countries.
But why is it that in the 21-century clean water isn’t prevalent everywhere?
Since going to school and studying industrial design, accumulating debt because “it’s an investment” and having a belief that I can change the world through design, I figured I can start with figuring out the best way to get clean water.
I really want to design to improve people’s lives. I understand that having a business requires making a profit – even if its just to sustain the business.
So where does one start?
I can see where a missions trip can have good intentions but we have to bring bottles of water with us. What happens to the waste we’ve brought and accumulated? If there was a better way to help filter water locally – so that foreigners could drink, and not get sick – this would eliminate costs for the non-profit as well as waste added to Haiti’s landfill.

Taking Ownership

Take ownership of your circumstances.
Ever since the times of Adam and Eve, we seek to blame shift and not take ownership for the circumstances we are in. It hit me like a ton of bricks when my business coach told me I needed to acknowledge where I am and to accept it in order to move forward.

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Behind the scenes painting process

So as many people know – especially if you are following along my Facebook timeline and maybe even my twitter feed, I’ve been using my art and design to help raise funds for my missions trip in just a few short weeks.

I found out today that my campaign is trending. (Yay) But trending won’t get me to Haiti 🇭🇹 Donations will. As an incentive to encourage people to give more, if one donates $100 or more I’ll create a custom piece for them.

Today I’ll show you behind the scenes of painting number three. I can’t show you the completed painting of number two because well, it’s been shipped out and the recipient hasn’t gotten it just yet. I don’t want any spoilers and I have no clue if she reads my blog.

Where it Starts

After someone donates I follow up with them to see what they’d like me to create.

Each canvas is 18 by 24 inches long. This canvas is being prepped for a hand lettered quote. I use various brands of paint but DickBlick has really good acrylic paints. The colors are vibrant and they dry with a semi-gloss finish.

Painted canvas

Typically I use larger paint brushes to cover large canvas but since this is a painting with such detail and precision I’ll be using these fine brushes I purchased on Amazon. If I want an easy cleanup, I use this wax like sheets for a pallet. I can’t remember the brand and the cover has been torn off. I also have different containers to put my paints and mix in but since the colors on this next piece will be limited I’ll stick the the above paper like a pallet.

I’ll sketch out ideations for the hand lettering piece and work on the composition for the best way the quote can be read with impact.

(No previews because the canvas is still wet and I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for my donors).

After finding the right layout and sketch I will use tracing paper and carbon paper to get the image to the canvas. Since this canvas is black I’ll be scanning my sketch into the camera and projecting my image onto the canvas.

I can show you a finished piece that has been delivered – she made a video about it on Facebook.

What can I make for you? Remember to donate here:

What’s Your Super Power?

I came across this question through ConvertKit’s Product Creation Mater Class. Last week we started the ideation and process of creating a digital product – and this was among a few questions that were asked – this stood out to me greatly.

What’s Your Super Power? 

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openIDEO – Last Weeks Event

I went to last weeks event.

And it wasn’t what I thought it would be – but it was interesting to hear peoples ideas. I’m not even sure what I was really expecting!

I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was able to listen in on people’s ideas surrounding technology, medicine, virtual reality – I tried one of those headsets and it’s fun but still has a sense of creepy/paranoia to it. I’d hate to take the mask off and someone is watching me 😱👀👁.

The most difficult thing about event’s like this is going alone and not seeing anyone right off the bat you can connect with. I sat alone for about a good thirty minuets. However, soon after, I met someone who did e-commerce for RiteAid. We spoke for a while an learned about each others background. It was great to know I wasn’t the only one there that wasn’t a student. I assumed everyone else there was. I was wrong.

Some of the ideas that were presented were really good. One person was looking to deliver medication through a patch – similar to the way nicotine is delivered. Someone else was interested in Expanding the usage of Drones. Someone else was interested in developing virtual reality. I love these types of things because it shows just how far the mind can span in creativity.

After watching a handful of presentations a few things came to mind:

  • You’ve got to believe in your idea 💡 so others want to jump in.
  • Be willing to collaborate with others from different backgrounds – you never know their perspective or what they can bring.
  • Get comfortable speaking in public – you never know who’s watching.


I remember the maker space in the Newark Museum. We taught high school students how to use Arduino boards and how to make their own controls, they also learned how to use a 3d printer – the maker bot. They learned how to make stencils, screen printing and they were able to meet Cory Booker when he was still Mayor of Newark.

It would be really cool if there was a central hub like this for high school students. It seems that many students from NYU take this as a prerequisite course to learn design thinking. How great would it be to incorporate thinking like this into high schools!

Since I punked out last time, I figured I should go, and see what openIDEO was all about. There were some pretty sweet awards and it seems to be geared towards innovation, technology and the future.

I hope there’s a chapter that opens up in Jersey in the near future. Sorry but the trip to NYC is just too expensive for me.

Parking (if you want to find your car when you get back and not get towed: $25.00

Food: (was provided but I stopped to get something just in case) $10.00

Crossing the bridge:  (I’m guessing because ez-pass)… $15.00

I’d recommend checking out the openIDEO challenges if you are looking to network, jump onto a challenge or if your just curious.

How Badly Do You Want It?

This is a question of reflection for myself.

I’ve been thinking more and more about the things I’ve said I want out of this life. Its big, its ambitious. Yesterday in a meeting we talked about God’s provision and how our job is to have the dream and trust that he will provide.

I continuously revisit the question of what does it look like to be a Christian designer? I know I don’t need to boast about my faith, nor do I need to be literal with it in terms of drawing or sketching. The answer that I’ve concluded is that its my job to carry out the characteristics of Christ – to reflect Him and have other sense that something is different and become curious about us.

Often times we lose our identities in our work and forget that we are more than what we do. When we are introduced to people the conversation often starts out with Our name, where we are from, and our list of accomplishments. Yet Ultimately its more so about people and building relationships.

I think about what made me attracted to art and design and I’m not too certain of what exactly pulled me in. I’ve been surrounded and immersed in it since child hood  with my mom using me as her life size ever changing doll and mannequin. (Now I get to sketch something out and she creates it for me). Perhaps its the act of creating something out of nothing? Or being busy with my hands? The act of problem solving combined with critical thinking even? Maybe the process of design thinking – honestly I don’t know. While I am still very much a young spring chicken in my design career I know that I will end up far.

Today I read an article that struck a cord with me and lets just say it hurt my feelings. I know what its like to “know what good design is” yet it doesn’t seem that many people are willing to turn around and help the new and upcoming designers learn the ropes and avoid common mistakes. It seems that my peers have decided doing the work all their own is best and its too expensive to stop and teach other fellow newbies the ropes. Schools and universities are blamed instead and the competition remains fierce. Young designers scramble to make ends meet and fall into the struggling artist stereo type – scrapping for projects that cover maybe the price of a coffee.

When I was in college there was a piece of advice from a fellow peer that stuck out to me. Don’t become jaded. I understood what they meant, and after reading I questioned what was the goal of the article I just read? Sign up for my new course and you’ll learn what? The principles of design? The design process? How to gain clients? How to build an audience? 

What ever happened to the mentor and apprenticeship  relationships? Taking someone under your wings and really showing them the ropes?

After listening to a different podcast I asked myself the question, “How badly do you want it?” I am more than willing to put in the hard work and effort needed to get to my destination. I think finding the right tribe has been a difficult undertaking. You see, I studied industrial design in college and believe that design can change the world. Through out my years of study I learned how to research, draw inspiration from all types of sources and to always remain curious. I’ve learned about the design processes, the design principles, and even setting limits to my personal projects. I do believe that there will always be some form of learning curve or tension and that is where the magic begins to cultivate.

What would make it better though is to have someone guiding you or observing you – better yet challenging you to get better. Don’t be so far removed from your years of being a newbie that you turn around and give advice with hints of snarky bashful remarks.

My business coach would always tell me how important it is to tell your story – that someone else needs to hear it from me. That no one else has lived my full life, combined with all my experiences. I get it.

Within my context it teaching confidently with elements of grace and humility. Its providing resources, connections and actually living it out authentically. It is certainly something that will set me apart from other people.

What do you want? How badly do you want it?