Four Fifths Design

Inspiration for the Creative Mind

I’m Still Here

Though it’s been just over one year since I last distributed content here, I can assure you I have not disappeared. There are plenty of exciting things happening right now and I can tell you it won’t be long before content begins flowing here again. Stay tuned! Thanks to all of you for continuing to follow along :)

The Game of Golf and Its Influence On My Creative Mindset

May is my favorite month of the year. It consists of three things: my birthday, the beginning of summer weather in the northeast United States and the approximate start of my annual habit of traveling to places I haven’t yet visited (L.A. this year for example). However, thus far my May weekends have consisted of something different. I decided as birthday treat to myself, I would indulge in a brand new set of golf irons, some woods, some shoes…the whole nine yards. My weekends have consisted of hours of golfing. It’s the start of a journey that is at times unforgiving but more often quite rewarding, and not simply because I happen to be lucky enough to displace a small ball hundreds of yards successfully into a cup in the ground…

The truth is much of my family is made up of golfers. Recently my father has returned to golf as a primary hobby of his and my mother has periodically joined him by taking lessons and taking part in nine hole matches. Even more recently my younger brother has picked the sport up as a casual hobby as well. My dad’s side are all avid golfers. Considering my whole family now stands as an advocate of the game, I felt not only pressured to join but also as if I was missing out on some integral aspect of leisurely activity, some sort of alternate route to achieving life long happiness that I’ve been missing out on.

So I bit the bullet and quickly got “the itch” I’ve heard so much about. Within a matter of a month I hav visited the driving range plenty of times and already played have played over 72 holes of golf. I’m hooked. I must admit, when I was younger I played casually, learning the fundamentals by goofing around with my dad. I’ve found that this foundation has quickly returned. I’ve matched my memory with a new determination to actually take the game serious and now I find I’m well on my way to improving my game.

The results so far have been great. I’m hitting golf balls straight. I’m hitting golf balls far. And according to Bill Pennington, I’m already hitting the “average golfer’s average score” of 100. Not too shabby I suppose. But what I’ve found most impressive has nothing to do with my golf scores but has everything to do with my creative outlook.

The game of golf is filled with silence.

Silence is beautiful, calming, daunting and mysterious all at once. So many times in a round of golf you find yourself hearing no more than the thoughts in your head. The lack of audible emotion and the surrounding natural environment makes a round of golf more about appreciating the ruffling of leaves than the barking of humans. The silence that engulfs you allows you to focus on your thoughts. It forces you to pay attention to your habits, tendencies and thought processes. It makes you aware of your body and your mind and how they are in (or out of) sync. It allows for extra time to ponder planning, approach and decision making. This ability to take an extra moment to further your reasoning for a decision is partly a result of this silence and translates well to the creative environment.

Taking an extra moment to solidify reasoning in your creative decisions inevitably leads to better outcomes. Paying attention to your thought process and taking the time to critique your tendencies and habits certainly helps you refine yourself and your work. When you find yourself surrounded by the terrifying hovering of an art director, or the persistent flak aimed at you by critics, take some time and find silence. Take a moment to forget about the anticipated result of the task at hand. Reflect on the moment, and don’t try to anticipate the future. You’ll be surprised when you start finding yourself naturally at ease in circumstances you formally had a lot of difficulty with.

Golf provides clarity to me. In work and in life.

Building a Brand From Ground Up: Introducing Bafe

This idea started in 2005 when I was just a junior in high school. I was a skater, gamer and into art and design. I happen to still be the exact same way! I was taking an introduction to computers course, not that I needed it. I was certain it was going to be a breeze and I was correct in my assumption. But this class allotted me the time to doodle, sketch and begin fooling around in a program many of you are probably familiar with – Photoshop. I had no idea what the hell I was doing but I was loving it. I had recently gained the nickname “O’Flans” which grew on me and even more so on everyone around me. As I began to experiment further in “designing” in Photoshop, I began branding myself, the name O’Flans. Fast forward 6 months and I was making iron on t-shirts with designs that revolved around the name “O’Flans.” They were solid, or at least I thought. This was the very beginning of my conscious recognition of the idea that designing was fun. This was the very start of my creative career, I just didn’t know it yet! With a new found hobby, I was obsessed with logos, branding and graphic apparel.

Fast forward to 2010. I’m in class at the University at Buffalo listening to the brilliant Ben Van Dyke prep us on what we ought to expect in the coming senior thesis semester. Like many schools, we were to carry out a single senior thesis project that was to trump everything we’d ever done and blow our audience and professors away. While their were success stories, many of us failed. As Ben gave us the run down of what is expected in our projects it became clear simply creating t-shirts was not suggested, for it was an easy, unintelligent way to claim fame, wasting away the hundreds of hours of contemplation, theory and deep discussion on philosophy, art, design and its wonders. For a brief moment I fell back in love with the idea of creating a graphic apparel line. This was an awesome chance to devote myself to carrying that idea out! And shattering that moment was Ben, when he stated, “If you’re looking to create a poster series, or design t-shirts, or something stupid like that then just leave now.” He was right as he always is. It was bad timing. It was indeed an easy way out. The dream quickly dissipated from my mind once more. I thank Ben for destroying that little dream of mine. It was well worth it and it certainly paid off.

Here I am in 2013. I’ve been working as a professional designer both as a freelancer and as an art director and designer for a creative agency for almost three years now. I’ve absorbed more information and learned more through experience than I ever did in any of the years prior. I’m grateful for that. But agency life can, at times, become repetitive. I find there are small periods when you begin to question whether you’re progressing as a professional, becoming a better designer, expanding your mindset and so on. In late 2012 I hit one of these periods. But like every instance before, I found a way to creatively escape. Guess what my little side project was going to be? That’s right. A small little graphic apparel line.

There was no one to stop me this time! I had my nights free, a little bit of money saved and the ambition to just be doing something different outside of the digital realm – just to stay fresh in the imagination. I spent 6 months of long nights building this labor of love. I intertwined my passion for design and my love for electronic dance music into one. I found a small dislike in EDM culture and I decided to address it, really for myself, only hoping others might recognize and appreciate my suggested solution as well. I wanted to create graphic apparel that was inspired by dance music but could be comfortably and appropriately worn by both fans and those foreign to the genre, inside and outside the dance music environment. It’s a thin line to walk when your battling against a market that is saturated with bright colors, naked woman, images of headphones, stereotypes focused on drugs, sex and the party life of the young adult. But to hell with it all! I wanted something unique, something that satisfied me and something that I could call my own after all this time…

Just a few days ago I launched Bafe, a small graphic apparel line. As I mentioned, it is intended for everyone and inspired by electronic dance music. I built the brand from the ground up, starting with the identity. Continuously reminding myself of adjectives relevant to the dance community such as “togetherness,” “unity,” “euphoria,” “energy,” etc., I designed a mark that meshed the characteristics of the letterforms that make the word “Bafe.” The name itself is derived from the various ways I’ve heard the word “bass” pronounced by individuals from around the globe. The first four products are meant to be bold, retaining traditional dance music tendencies such as bright colors and abstraction, while approaching a modern, slightly elegant aesthetic that can be found appealing in any situation. I built the web presence and store with the help of so many including Adam Butterworth, Lawrence Basso and Laura Haas. I’m tackling the shipping, the legalities, the promotional material, everything you can think of and I’m loving every second of it!

Synapse by Bafe

If it fails, so be it. The happiness it has brought me through the whole process was well worth it. If it succeeds…well then I guess I can officially check off a bucket list item that’s been churning inside my imagination for almost 10 years. Above all, the process of starting something as simple as a graphic apparel line and seeing it from concept to fruition is overly gratifying. I recommend stepping outside the daily routine, engaging yourself in experimentation and discovery in order to keep the imagination moving. It helps refresh good habits and break bad ones. Because of this adventure I’ve escaped the repetitive mindset I fell victim to last year and once again I am starting my days with enthusiasm and ending them with a feeling of fulfillment. Though a graphic apparel line might not be overly impressive, it’s the effect that it has had on my creative outlook that will prove extremely beneficial both in my agency and freelance work in the future.

Stay fresh, mix things up, and if you happen to have a small little dream lurking inside you I’d suggest giving it a go.

Have a look.

You Are Your Portfolio

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I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a portfolio workshop hosted by AIGA  (Upstate New York chapter). The audience was a crowd of students and professionals alike, all with the intention of learning something new. Even I was quite excited to hear everyone speak their mind on various issues related to the transition from student life to the professional realm as an artist and designer. After all, I was a part of a student body, in a similar situation to many of these folks only three years ago. As I made my own transition from a student in design to a professional in design, I made sure to stay consciously aware of how my mind transformed, as well as remind myself to not take for granted that which I learned as a student from the many mentors I was lucky enough to work with. Since graduating I’ve made it a priority to give back any insight and advice I can to design students whenever I can, however I can. This was a perfect opportunity.

Many wouldn’t guess that I’m a shy individual. I don’t consider myself to be all that shy, but I will admit that I get extremely anxious, even nervous, when it comes to preparing for a presentation that doesn’t have to do specifically with a project. The build up kills me, yet as soon as I take the stand beside my presentation in front of an audience, I feel golden. It’s a weird habit…rather behavior…that has always stuck with me.

I was tasked with choosing a topic to present to students that would help them particularly with building a portfolio that would increase their chances of success. I’ve been to these sort of lectures before. I feel as though I expect to hear about specific issues and technicalities that come along with building a student portfolio. I had to do it myself. So instead of harping on that which I imagined many students were already at least decently aware of, I chose to speak on a topic that perhaps gets overlooked too frequently in my opinion. My topic was “creative confidence.” The title of this presentation would be “You Are Your Portfolio.”

I spent my fifteen minutes or so speaking briefly on a variety of notions that relate to building your confidence as a student and how self-confidence coincides with the work that is showcased in a portfolio.

Learn Yourself

It is important to define yourself not just as an artist, but as an individual. Knowing what you love is an asset. Knowing what you’re good at is an asset. Making it a routine to reflect on your values and finding ways to infuse these values into a creative industry that appeals to you is key. It’s important to be aware of the fact that you as an individual are your own canvas. You are the single canvas that will never be defined by another individual. Take advantage of that fact. Learn yourself and find out what you want to become. You’ll begin to gain a sense of control as you begin to prioritize your values. This will begin to build your creative confidence.

Write It Down

Writing things down sounds simple because it is simple. Writing is an organized method of legitimizing the insanity that is your creative mind. In other words, writing things down helps you make sense of what you’re subconsciously absorbing. It helps with forming predictions, conclusions and connections pertaining to your thoughts. These thoughts are ideas unique to you, so it’s important to expand on them! As you enforce these ideas, and write them down, you begin to see the lifecycle of an idea from concept to fruition. You begin to sense possibility as you log all that is important in relation to your ideas. As you build these logs and reflect on your writing you will begin to realize that your ideas are in fact more flushed out than you could have imagined, that in fact your ideas can be realized. That makes for creative confidence.

Give & Take

It is important to learn how to become vulnerable. Criticism helps you refine your creative process, so make it a point to give it as well as receive it. The more you do this, the more you’ll find yourself seeking criticism. You’ll begin to recognize constructive and destructive criticism. It builds character and intelligence as you begin to think of “thick skin” not so much as a barrier, but rather a membrane which captures and holds criticism for you to assess and contemplate. Don’t harp on changing a project that’s being criticized, rather apply that criticism to the next project or your future ventures when you can freshly incorporate that which you’ve learned into a new idea.

Reasoning

If you don’t already, start making decisions for reasons. Explaining and communicating thought will only help you grow as a creative. This ability will open doors for you, particularly when your portfolio is filled with reasons for creative decisions. Yes, reasoning helps express the fact that you are intelligent and know why you made the creative decisions you did that led to a specific portfolio piece. But more importantly, reasoning shows that you legitimately care about the work that you’re doing. This exudes a sense of trust to a potential employer, buyer or audience. Humans like to work with humans, they like to interact with personalities. So make sure to show some emotion, give some reason for people to care about what you’re doing. This will build a sense of accomplishment, and inevitably build creative confidence.

Sacrifice

Take time to sacrifice normality, comfort and routine. Say yes more often. Doing this will allow you to become comfortable in exploration and experimentation. This experimentation will reflect back in your work and make your work more dynamic, more engaging. This not only will build your creative confidence, but it will probably help in building recognition, for better or for worse – after all, we as creatives long for reaction. Experiment. Explore. Apply.

Goals

Believe in yourself by proving to yourself. If you don’t have a vision for five years from now, get one. If you want to learn something, learn it. If you you want to accomplish something, do what needs to be done to achieve success. Convincing yourself that you and your work is worth it will help. It sounds weird faking yourself into potentially thinking everything is dandy, that everything will work out. But the advantage to doing this is that you will loosen up mentally. You will banish worry and stress. You’ll build on your self-efficacy. This will lead you to not only have greater creative confidence, but certainly help increase your overall self-confidence.

Finally…

Remember that you always have two weapons: Your portfolio AND you, the individual.

Mother NY Creates Concept Store With Wired Magazine

I don’t take on too many requests now days having to do with specific projects or artist works. I’ve begun transforming Four Fifths into more of a portal into my personal thoughts as they relate to design and parallel areas. However when Krisana Jaritsat, Communications Manager at Mother NY, reached out to me to give me a look into a new project I felt a sense of nostalgia, as it is these kind of projects I longed to explore and post for readers in years past. I’ve also featured Mother NY before and enjoy the work they do. I felt it fitting to briefly return to an inspiration piece.

Recently the team at Mother NY worked on a tech driven collaboration with Wired magazine. The project was to become Wired magazine’s annual Wired concept store, which is a showcase of the year’s best technologies and products. Propelled by architectural and design elements, the team took inspiration from the work of photographer Todd McClellan (old-war technology products and what not) and the magazine’s “What’s Inside” features (where products are chemically dissected) to achieve an experience that reaches beyond the display case.

From an architected space to custom built furniture, the team created a cohesive experience of sight and store by generating wall-sized interactive elements, engaging visuals and uncommon physical materials. In the end, Mother NY helped bring to life what most viewers only read on pages in an elegant and enticing fashion.

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