Blog

Brief thoughts that jump between the internet, design, writing, music, film, self-development, and work culture.

Leave the Phone at Home

This post was originally written for Harvard’s Nieman Lab, as part of their yearly “Predictions for Journalism” feature, looking into what may happ...

Built-In Resistance

From Ted Hughes’ 1995 interview with the Paris Review, discussing the different yields of writing tools: I made an interesting discovery about ...

Better Words

I’m writing to share a link to the best blog post I’ve read in the last few months: You’re probably using the wrong dictionary by James Somers It...

When the Work Looks Back At You

A few weeks ago, the folks at Milanote asked to interview me and brought along an unexpected brief: “let’s sit down and talk through the process of...

A Few Bullet Points on Design Criticism

Criticism is placing yourself in an earnest, difficult, and awkward conversation. This is mostly unavoidable, but gets easier over time with the...

A Modest Guide to Productivity

Hello, zonked Frank! It’s me! That ideal Frank you wish you could more regularly be! I’ve taken a moment away from my self-actualized, perfect sta...

MVP Soundsystem

My ears are greedy; they always have been. When I was 4, I cried because I couldn’t listen to The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac at the same time. (Thir...

New Visual Essay: Back to the Cave

Frank Chimero in his most desperate state is Frank Chimero writing a talk. Each time I go through the process, I swear I will never do it again. Th...

SuperHi Foreword

I was commissioned to write the foreword to SuperHi’s first publication, Learn to Code Now. If you’re interested in boosting your HTML, CSS, and Ja...

Plainness and Sweetness

It’s human nature: I over-value where I have influence. Since I am a designer, this frequently means placing too much emphasis on how things look a...

Tarkovsky’s Flame

When the world is brash, fast, and stupid, we must seek out what is quiet, slow, and intelligent to brace ourselves against the world’s madness. I ...

Hi, I’d Like to Add Myself to the New Yorker

A few months ago, I stumbled into the little cottage industry of media manipulation. I weaseled my way into international publication, collected ac...

Other Halves

There are three ways to cut something in half: front and back, top and bottom, left and right. Front and Back My wrists have been aching. The pai...

The Second Trip-Up

Designers from my generation and before didn’t come directly to design. We started somewhere else (music, drawing, architecture) and tripped over t...

Jettison the Rest

A few weeks ago, I reread Joan Didion’s essay on self-respect. It smacked me on the back of the head at the right time: I was wringing my hands ove...

Boring Future, Vol. 1

Boring Future #1 The income gap continues to grow. Most white collar workers choose to work offsite, because incomes have stagnated, and the cost ...

There Go The Grown-Ups

Last weekend, M and I had a really nice chat about all of these articles on adulthood. Everyone wants to talk about it, because things are changing...

The Only Note to Self

You don’t get to decide the truth. Other people have their own experiences, just as valid. This is easy to forget. Your slice of life seems so larg...

Rules of Engagement

We used to have audiences, but the information age has transformed them into users who are no longer satisfied with the passive consumption of cont...

Reshape, Reprint

The point of this blog post is to announce The Shape of Design is being reprinted and you can preorder it today. Two years ago, I had an idea. May...

Refragmentation

Sometimes it’s worth reading the comments. For instance, take this comment on the web’s consolidation from Mike Caulfield. You look in 1993 and...

From the Porch to the Street

Dear J, To answer your question, I haven’t much felt like it. I’ve been quiet, because there hasn’t been much to say, and I haven’t been looking f...

I Can’t Read Walden

Time is already a tough customer, but it is torturous when you start measuring yourself to others by it. Henry David Thoreau was my age, thirty, wh...

Massimo and Me

I can pinpoint the moment where my grudge against Massimo Vignelli began. About halfway through Gary Hustwit’s documentary Helvetica, Vignelli is f...

Only Openings

On May 14, 2014 I spoke at the School of Visual Art’s Thesis Festival presented by the Masters in Interaction Design program. The day’s theme was “...

Three Things to Say

Communication in the city is so frought with bruskness, and words at work can be so soulless, so I’ve been searching for ways to eliminate pretense...

No New Tools

Being an early adopter is exhilarating in the same way that riding a rollercoaster can feel like travel. You’re moving, but you’re not actually goi...

Madness and Rowing

I was in a tough spot this past week. The Great Discontent magazine is consuming all of my working (waking) hours, and I’m grunting my way through ...

New Computer

Buying a PC, 2002 Open box, turn on computer, run updates, download third-party software to replace pre-installed software, then devise ways to di...

My Tattoo

I have many blueprints for tattoos: festina lente in a small roman italic on my right wrist, two crossed rings around the circumference of my left ...

This One’s For Me

Thirty isn’t that old, but I feel like I’ve aged two lifetimes in the past three years. Maybe aging like that makes you look back a bit more. You r...

Designer’s Poison

Earlier this week AIGA sponsored a round-table discussion with every designer on Twitter called One Day for Design. As expected, it was a cacophony...

Some Lessons I Learned in 2013

Life isn’t a story. A lot of things don’t need to be intellectualized: “because I want to” is often a good enough reason. Empathy is first an a...

Writing Advice

Just try. You’ll improve. Keep going. Enjoy it.

The Inferno of Independence

You’re not supposed to hear these sorts of things from these sorts of people. Things have gone well for those chosen to speak at conferences like X...

Portraits

Good art is pointable. Something complex occurs, and you can’t quite explain how you feel about it. Instead, you find the appropriate book, song, p...

Generosity of Perspective

Louis CK has a joke where he lambasts anyone who complains about the speed of their mobile phone by saying, “Give it a second! It’s going to space....

Woozy Walk

I was thinking about the city last night. It’s hard to remember the things outside of New York while you’re here—the city is your mental field of v...

Why vs. How

Goodbye, Reading Rainbow. From NPR’s article, emphasis mine: Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding t...

Waste Need Not Waste

When you don’t have someone to teach you, looking closely at good things and noticing their patterns becomes your education. I have no formal teach...

Let’s Talk About Timeless Design

I have a pet peeve when it comes to describing design (or any kind of creative work). The word “timeless” makes my skin crawl, like that scene in I...

The Cloud Is Heavy and Design Isn’t Invisible

Timo Arnall’s dismantling of the “invisible design” ethos is a rousing read. There’s too much I want to talk about in the essay, so I’ll settle and...

All Kinds of Awesome

A few days ago I got an email from a close friend. He wanted me to make an illustration for his home. The brief is: awesome things that exist i...

Digital Jubilee

As work slows for the holidays, I try to put the year to bed. I sweep out the dust clods in the corners of the closet, pack away the warm weather c...

Saimese Dream

I think far too much about how to best listen to my music. It’s a fun time to be a music fan, because it seems more consumer choices spring up each...

The Humble Pencil, The Mighty Computer

Creative people tend to romanticize their tools. We place them on pedestals as the conduits for our ideas and the enablers of our craft. Contrastin...

The Wall

It feels as if everyone is working in public these days. Public working leads to public criticism, and developing and articulating the etiquette ar...

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is wonderfully profound film. It takes effort and attention, but I think like most things, the more it hurts, the more it means. ...

The Particle

This talk was originally given at the Emerging Designers Symposium at the AIGA National Conference, 2011. This morning I crawled out of bed incr...

The Long, Hard, Stupid Way

What follows is an transcript of a talk I gave at the 2011 Do Lectures in Wales. The text may differ from the actual phrasing in the presentation, ...

Suggestions for Speakers

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I dread speaking, especially in light of how many talks I’ve given in the past three or four years. ...

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

A subway car is a sealed room between rooms, an inconsequential destination—the negative space between here and there. We are stuck in transit, so ...

On Baseball

I’ve been jonesing to go to a baseball game—must be the summer heat. It’s a beautiful sport: the one-on-one duel between the pitcher and batter, th...

Sorting a Mass

To prepare for an upcoming lecture, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between collecting and curating. This morning, I tweeted: Thinkin...

Reading Readiness

I always come back to the truisms of the classic kung fu instructor depicted in the movies. Not so much in regards to how classrooms should be run,...

Velocity

I’ve got one charge left. Only a few minutes of battery on this laptop, and a cacophony of thoughts to spew out before the screen goes black. I lef...

Making the Bed You Sleep In

If I had to describe my philosophy toward technology, I’d say I aim for the crux of whatever works the best with the least amount. You add things ...

The Setup

A few weeks ago I mentioned on Twitter that I’m using a top-of-the-line 13" MacBook Air as my primary machine. The 27" behemoth of an iMac is gone:...

On Content

You ever order soup at a restaurant and get a bowl that’s mostly broth? The problem is the register at the restaurant is four-hundred bucks under ...

Kid A

Kid A turns ten-years-old this month. Ten! That’s quite the anniversary, so I feel obliged to spend a few moments celebrating the album, since I th...

There Is A Horse In The Apple Store

There is a horse in the Apple Store and no one sees it but me. I think, “Why?” Am I nuts for thinking this is exceptional? Does anyone else see ...

What Advice Would You Give To A Graphic Design Student?

Design does not equal client work. It’s hard to make purple work in a design. The things your teachers tell you in class are not gospel. You will ...

There Is No Catching Up

It’s hard to hold it all in your head. All the different possible ways that you can enjoy life. Or not enjoy life. And all the things that are g...

You Are Here

In Stephen King’s On Writing, he talks about the concept of an ideal reader, the exemplary person for whom you’re specifically writing. There can b...

Big Ideas

Why is Greater Than How A complex world has made us over-emphasize How-based thinking and education. Once the tools are understood, grasping why t...

Anti-Pre-Pro

First, a quote from Eva Zeisel: To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse....

On Iteration

Two related quotes. First, Pixar president Ed Catmull on sharing work: In the process of making the film, we reviewed the material every day. N...

Ten Principles

I hate the word “tip.” It implies that there’s something that you don’t know. Some secret little gem that, when sprinkled on your work, your creati...