Curating your Digital Life

curate

Simply put, I nerd out over new gadgets, digital tools and shiny pieces of tech news. I’m a designer so I make my living and spend an unnatural amount of time on a computer. I consider my devices extensions of my body and at the helm of these pieces of technology I am annoyingly efficient. I can type 100+ words-per-minute. I’m the type to have the Google results in front of me while everyone is still arguing like cavemen. Here’s the problem with being a hyper-productive digital nerdboy: your life can get cluttered, quickly.

My life doesn’t need clutter. I’m married and I enjoy my wife’s company. I have a two year old, who on top of being a skilled wielder of the iPad, is a shitload of fun to play with. I play hockey at least once a week. I run. I keep in touch with my out-of-town family and friends. I’m have a full-time job doing web, video and graphic design and I stay up late creating and building for myself and freelance clients. These are some of things that sum up my non-digital life.

It seems every week something new is released along with the feeling that I must integrate this new tool (assuming it does well what it sets out to do) into my life immediately. The problem is, this cannot be. This must not be, and this is not necessary. What is necessary is the pursuit of balance. I’m not advocating unplugging, as I run at a personal uptime of 99.95%, but I think we could all benefit from looking at our lives with an editorial eye. Addition by subtraction. Spend more quality, focused time in fewer places. I know this is difficult for people of my generation and especially the young ones (who are not reading this blog post), but this is what you must do.

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The Biggest Loser: Update #1

So our first weight-in (30 days in) was Monday, February 11th. I’ve had some success at this point and wanted to share some progress, stats and thoughts.

I believe I mentioned in my initial Biggest Loser post that I was planning to track my daily meals (using the desktop/mobile application MyPlate by Livestrong and my running activity using the Nike+ desktop/mobile app.) Looking at the numbers is a way to keep it interesting and of course, visual. I find I look forward to tracking my exercise every day to see how it affects my calorie count.

So as of this Monday morning, Februrary 11th I was down 18.6lbs. My starting weight was 222.2 and my 1-month weight was 203.6. Pretty drastic. Mind you, Sunday, the night before the weigh-in I played 2 hockey games in a row and I woke up early to run 5 miles and do a few minutes in the sauna. The morning following the weigh-in I had gained back 3.5-4lbs. of water weight. Winner of the 1st weigh-in won $50, recouping their entry money along with a $20 profit. Amazingly, I was bested by a guy who lost 21lbs. in the first month.

I began the competition with a goal of losing 20lbs, which would be a 3lb. improvement on my 2nd place finish in 2012. With two full months of the competition left, I think that goal is in sight. In realistic terms and considering the water weight loss that contributed to my 18.6lb. 1-month weight in, I’ve really lost about 14-15lbs so far. Still not too shabby.

With no further adieu, here are some of my numbers to this point. Nike+ isn’t quite as accurate when running on a treadmill, most days I ran 5 miles or just over/under.

Run Tracker

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Weight Numbers

weight

 

Minimalist vs. Superfluous

apple

Many people have made a case for minimalist design and their points are certainly not lost on me. There are several great examples of highly successful campaigns, identity systems, fashion and artwork based on a minimal approach. Apple Computer is the most obvious and arguably one of the most successful examples of minimalism from a corporation of all-time. From their product design to their packaging they employ the less-is-more strategy. It works. Their devices are sleek and get out of the users’ way. Their packaging is simple and sophisticated. Beautiful simplicity.

…Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. -William Strunk Jr. in Elements of Style

Simplicity, however, is not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to present a case for superfluous design. This probably sounds a little crazy. It sound’s crazy because since we began working as professionals in the design industry we’ve fought against the idea that the purpose of our work is to “make it look pretty.” In my experience these comments usually aren’t meant to be condescending, but when delivered by a suited executive of relative power, it carries the implication that design can and will only affect the surface.

Good design can and should affect the functionality and purpose of a document. Effective design brings order, hierarchy and clarity. I believe this to be irrefutable fact and yet, I believe you can achieve these goals while stepping out of the minimalist aesthetic. In the design industry, we refer to superfluous design as “design for design’s sake,” shaking our fingers at ourselves.

But let me ask the question outright-what is wrong with design for the sake of beauty? What is wrong with superfluous design in an effort to stand out. If everyone is doing simple and streamlined, why not break the mold and do something extravagant? One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove. -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Is it? I love this quote and keep it present in my mind when making video editing decisions. But removing all ornamentation is not always the path to perfection. What should we remove from the Sistine Chapel? How would you simplify Takashi Murakami’s work while preserving it’s essence? If simple is perfect why do celebrities and royalty pay a premium price for couture gowns? The true minimalist might say because they are filthy rich, unnecessary and ridiculous. I am not a true minimalist. There is beauty and perfection in detail, too.

murakami

Let us make one last distinction before I finish. There is a difference between superfluous design – or something that contains unessential parts – and an overworked piece of design. One’s definition of necessary is also important in sorting minimal from superfluous. I appreciate you reading my rant, and if nothing else, superfluous is a fun word to say.

The Biggest Loser: Part Deux

biggest-loser-logoThis Friday (January 11th) is the weigh-in and official start to my company’s annual “Biggest Loser” weight loss competition. This will be my second consecutive year of participation.

This year I’m defending a 2nd place finish and 17 total pounds lost. I know I can do better this time around and in an effort to keep myself accountable and honest, I am going to chronicle my progress here on my blog.

My friend Blueprint (Al Shepard) responded to a question I asked about mental/physical health in my Artistpreneur Series and his comment has been fluttering around in my brain this week as a I prepare for serious dietary changes:

Now I know that being in good health is a big factor in being able to do what I love at a high level. You can’t be good at anything if you’re hungover, or eating bad food, or physically a mess. You may have some successes but you won’t have the consistency until everything is in harmony.

I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting with how my body reacts to exercise and diet. I have found that for me, positive changes in diet makes a bigger impact than exercise. Even with intense exercise and no real change in diet, I have never seen a large amount of progress. With that in mind, I am planning to track my daily intake using Livestrong’s My Plate app.

It’s a 3 month (90 day) challenge, so my goal is to vary my approach to keep things fresh and to keep me motivated. Here are a few points from my plan of attack:
 

  1. Hard stop on all soda and high sugar beverages
  2. Cut down on/eliminate snacking after my last meal of the day
  3. Eat protein in the morning
  4. Limit arbohydrate intake (I generally eat pretty carb heavy)

Last year I ran about 15-20 miles a week during the competition. I am going to build up to that as I haven’t been running much at all lately. Lastly, I am considering a month-by-month gym membership in month two to up my efforts.

I am going to keep my starting weight under wraps until the end when I can share my progress, but I promise to share both numbers even if I fall short of my goal. I will share the data from MyPlate and RunKeeper a few times over the course of the competition because analyzing numbers can be fun (when it’s visual). That’s it. Tonight, it’s Fajitas and Margaritas, tomorrow chicken breast, salad, water and sweat.