check out Days!

Field Study

An Unedited view of design and thought process:

work, experimental and otherwise by Keenan Cummings


Rhythmically Challenged—
It’s 5:15 a.m. and my alarm goes off. This is the start of a new rhythm for me, a rhythm that starts with the vibration of my phone against the hard surface of a bedside dresser.
Over the next several hours the rest of New York will begin a drowsy procession as diligent runners and morning dog-walkers hit the park; early-shifters at neighborhood coffee shops retract corrugated steel doors to reveal vacant storefronts; and hordes of commuters emerge from high-rises and brownstones to disappear down subway station steps and head to work.
Everyday, everyone and everything moves with elegant, unspoken coordination. It’s a routine I watch with curiosity, awe and a bit of envy.
As a breathing, beating, slouching bit of biomass, I am terribly deficient of one thing: this song-like rhythm.
Walking, for me, is natural. Beyond that, running is a clumsy chore, coordinated athletics are ambitious, and dancing is just out of the question. The order of operations for my day is in constant flux. I suspect even my heart beats in frighteningly irregular spurts. My life as sheet music would be generously described as “avant-garde”.
But it reliably begins, everyday, at 5:15 a.m.
This meandering lifestyle is driven by a set a personal priorities and philosophies (variety over predictability, growth through discomfort, time with people I care about, etc.). It’s driven by creative energy and excitement (an idea or a solution that needs to be recorded, built, shared, etc.). It’s driven by needs, usually on an as-they-come basis (pay that bill, see a doctor, etc.). It’s driven by a genetic predisposition to chaos (read here for my thoughts on ADD as a learning style rather than a disability). I’ve attempted to establish routines, I’ve tried that dance, but it has always ended up feeling forced and awkward.
But I get up, every day, at 5:15 a.m.
Jack Cheng wrote a wonderful post about something he calls "habit fields". The idea is that objects and spaces can be triggers for behaviors. The recline of a chair, the arrangement of objects on a desk, the quality of the light in a room — all of these things act as triggers to our behaviors, and “the sum of these stored behaviors is an object’s habit field”.
5:15 a.m. is the first habit field of my day. But rather than designing a space around behaviors, I have built a block of time. I wake up early not to start a routine, but to create a field, a sacred space, that all of my philosophies, priorities, energies and ideas can exist within. It is a precise and intentional initiation, a turn of a key and single spark into a combustion chamber that then drives the rest of my day. At 5:15am, before that the rest of my world begins, I have a few undisturbed hours to answer to no other time table, no other rhythm but my own. It is by far the most productive time of my day.
The work itself is not a routine. There is very little repetition in my design process. Instead, habits have become a way to create protected spaces for me to work within. Morning is a special space for me. It is my studio. It is a place for focus and flow. It is my favorite space to work in.
It’s not my only space. I have spaces for working and spaces for thinking and spaces for not thinking.
When weather permits, I commute by bike (I’m determined to bike 90% of work days this year and got some gear to make that possible). Biking is thinking space, but not a quiet one. It’s loud with the sounds of traffic and chains and exertion. It’s a unique kind of meditation that I have come to rely on.
I’ve also found an unexpected quiet space on the roof of our building. I try to get up there every evening. I have lived in New York for almost 5 years and have never found a place as quiet as our roof. There is still plenty of ambient city noise that reaches our rooftop. It’s another kind of quiet. It’s empty and alone. It is above everything going on below. It is like surfacing for a few still moments before diving again into the sea of everyday concerns.
What I do in these spaces is still just as clumsy and non-routine as it always was. These spaces are big enough to allow for a lot of movement, and that is what I need. But I am diligent about making and being in these spaces. It’s a small amount of routine that even I can manage. It’s a rhythm in service of open, rhythmless, creative space.
After a good ride, and a few quiet minutes on the roof, I get to bed pretty early. And the next morning, without fail, but also without fanfare (except that of a few excited birds), I get up at my time, my sacred space, 5:15 a.m.

Rhythmically Challenged

It’s 5:15 a.m. and my alarm goes off. This is the start of a new rhythm for me, a rhythm that starts with the vibration of my phone against the hard surface of a bedside dresser.

Over the next several hours the rest of New York will begin a drowsy procession as diligent runners and morning dog-walkers hit the park; early-shifters at neighborhood coffee shops retract corrugated steel doors to reveal vacant storefronts; and hordes of commuters emerge from high-rises and brownstones to disappear down subway station steps and head to work.

Everyday, everyone and everything moves with elegant, unspoken coordination. It’s a routine I watch with curiosity, awe and a bit of envy.

As a breathing, beating, slouching bit of biomass, I am terribly deficient of one thing: this song-like rhythm.

Walking, for me, is natural. Beyond that, running is a clumsy chore, coordinated athletics are ambitious, and dancing is just out of the question. The order of operations for my day is in constant flux. I suspect even my heart beats in frighteningly irregular spurts. My life as sheet music would be generously described as “avant-garde”.

But it reliably begins, everyday, at 5:15 a.m.

This meandering lifestyle is driven by a set a personal priorities and philosophies (variety over predictability, growth through discomfort, time with people I care about, etc.). It’s driven by creative energy and excitement (an idea or a solution that needs to be recorded, built, shared, etc.). It’s driven by needs, usually on an as-they-come basis (pay that bill, see a doctor, etc.). It’s driven by a genetic predisposition to chaos (read here for my thoughts on ADD as a learning style rather than a disability). I’ve attempted to establish routines, I’ve tried that dance, but it has always ended up feeling forced and awkward.

But I get up, every day, at 5:15 a.m.

Jack Cheng wrote a wonderful post about something he calls "habit fields". The idea is that objects and spaces can be triggers for behaviors. The recline of a chair, the arrangement of objects on a desk, the quality of the light in a room — all of these things act as triggers to our behaviors, and “the sum of these stored behaviors is an object’s habit field”.

5:15 a.m. is the first habit field of my day. But rather than designing a space around behaviors, I have built a block of time. I wake up early not to start a routine, but to create a field, a sacred space, that all of my philosophies, priorities, energies and ideas can exist within. It is a precise and intentional initiation, a turn of a key and single spark into a combustion chamber that then drives the rest of my day. At 5:15am, before that the rest of my world begins, I have a few undisturbed hours to answer to no other time table, no other rhythm but my own. It is by far the most productive time of my day.

The work itself is not a routine. There is very little repetition in my design process. Instead, habits have become a way to create protected spaces for me to work within. Morning is a special space for me. It is my studio. It is a place for focus and flow. It is my favorite space to work in.

It’s not my only space. I have spaces for working and spaces for thinking and spaces for not thinking.

When weather permits, I commute by bike (I’m determined to bike 90% of work days this year and got some gear to make that possible). Biking is thinking space, but not a quiet one. It’s loud with the sounds of traffic and chains and exertion. It’s a unique kind of meditation that I have come to rely on.

I’ve also found an unexpected quiet space on the roof of our building. I try to get up there every evening. I have lived in New York for almost 5 years and have never found a place as quiet as our roof. There is still plenty of ambient city noise that reaches our rooftop. It’s another kind of quiet. It’s empty and alone. It is above everything going on below. It is like surfacing for a few still moments before diving again into the sea of everyday concerns.

What I do in these spaces is still just as clumsy and non-routine as it always was. These spaces are big enough to allow for a lot of movement, and that is what I need. But I am diligent about making and being in these spaces. It’s a small amount of routine that even I can manage. It’s a rhythm in service of open, rhythmless, creative space.

After a good ride, and a few quiet minutes on the roof, I get to bed pretty early. And the next morning, without fail, but also without fanfare (except that of a few excited birds), I get up at my time, my sacred space, 5:15 a.m.

To everyone that has generously offered me a bit of your time and attention; to anyone that has found use or meaning in this jumbled collection of thoughts, scraps, notes and ideas; and to someone that has endured many late nights while I pull things things together to share with all of you…
T-H-A-N-K  Y-O-U  !!!
Keep following, keep sharing, and I’ll keep trying to make things worth your time and attention.  
Tumblr friends 4 life! 

To everyone that has generously offered me a bit of your time and attention; to anyone that has found use or meaning in this jumbled collection of thoughts, scraps, notes and ideas; and to someone that has endured many late nights while I pull things things together to share with all of you…

T-H-A-N-K  Y-O-U  !!!

Keep following, keep sharing, and I’ll keep trying to make things worth your time and attention.  

Tumblr friends 4 life! 

Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.

This little bit of wisdom was written in Dokkōdō (The Path of Aloneness), a book of 21 maxims on how to live life, written by the 17th century japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi a week before he died. 

I also like “do not depend on a partial feelings” and “do not hold on to possessions you no longer need”.

(via stoweboyd)

(Source: heartbloodspirit, via stoweboyd)

Look deep into his hollow, wise eyes! I made this to put on the shelf of my digital reference library, where I collect articles, books, quotes, and videos.
This is the stuff I consider cream of the crop, top shelf, share-worthy; the stuff I want to return to, reread, and relearn from. Check out and follow Field Study Library here →

Look deep into his hollow, wise eyes! I made this to put on the shelf of my digital reference library, where I collect articles, books, quotes, and videos.

This is the stuff I consider cream of the crop, top shelf, share-worthy; the stuff I want to return to, reread, and relearn from. Check out and follow Field Study Library here →

This is pretty much how I’m feeling right now about Days. We have built a pretty rad app, have amazing users, and I am lucky enough to be on the team creating for those users. Here is wishing you all amazing SaturDAYS. Get the app and record your weekend →

This is pretty much how I’m feeling right now about Days. We have built a pretty rad app, have amazing users, and I am lucky enough to be on the team creating for those users. Here is wishing you all amazing SaturDAYS. Get the app and record your weekend →

just breath and pay attention.

I turned this illustration into an iPhone wallpaper and thought I’d share. Crossing my fingers that iOS7 will allow anyone to create animated wallpapers. For now, grab the static version through the links below.  (also thinking of creating different color options down the road. Stay tuned on that.)
Download iPhone 5 wallpaper
Download iPhone 4 wallpaper

I turned this illustration into an iPhone wallpaper and thought I’d share. Crossing my fingers that iOS7 will allow anyone to create animated wallpapers. For now, grab the static version through the links below.  (also thinking of creating different color options down the road. Stay tuned on that.)

Download iPhone 5 wallpaper

Download iPhone 4 wallpaper

Days posts now look 17000x better on Tumblr. So check that out (here) or JUST TRY IT

Days posts now look 17000x better on Tumblr. So check that out (here) or JUST TRY IT

(Source: days-app)

Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self. The experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.

Daniel Kahneman (via Jeremy Fisher, Photo Sharing and The Tyranny of the Remembering Self)

When things move fast there is no concept of mastery. In startups, lifelong learning is not a professional ideal; it’s a requirement of participation.

This idea used to frighten me. Now, I am much more frightened by the slow creep of comfort, complacency, and arrogance. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” (Wikipedia, Shoshin)

The human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world.

Cute lil’ faces on everything!
When using the Days App, you’ll occasionally see a message pop up to give you some tips and help you find your way. I did about a dozen little illustrations for these messages. Download the app to see them in action.

Cute lil’ faces on everything!

When using the Days App, you’ll occasionally see a message pop up to give you some tips and help you find your way. I did about a dozen little illustrations for these messages. Download the app to see them in action.

probably my best invention yet: The PB&PJ (Peanut Butter & Pre-Jelly). 

probably my best invention yet: The PB&PJ (Peanut Butter & Pre-Jelly)

I dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes — all the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms.

Michel Foucault, “The Masked Philosopher,” interview in Le Monde, 1980

via Frank Chimero

Against Critique

image

Part I : Challenging Assumptions

I’m working on developing a habit of challenging assumptions. It started with Designer’s Debate Club, a bi-monthly event I co-founded and have participated in as both organizer and debater. In selecting a topic, prepping the debate, recruiting debaters, and hosting the event, I have found myself digging into my own points of view on everything from formal education to the need for designers to learn code. It’s debate as sport, and the key is to dissect your own assumptions and anticipate the opponent’s attack. That habit has spilled over into my work and I plan on flexing that muscle further.

There are certain types of assumptions that now trigger this reflex. They are usually broad assumptions, things that have held true for a long time, and rarely been challenged. 

I recently joined a panel for a discussion/debate on the future of design education. The unchallenged assumption among that group was that the quality in-person discussion and critique that you get in institutions cannot be replicated online. But when you start to pick it apart, there seems to be little there that is fundamentally unique that can’t be — given enough time — broken up and provided by a series of specialized services. (Something I am slowly working on in my spare time).

Read More