A month for creativity

Have you ever heard of Inktober? No? Well, Inktober is a challenge that has gained some traction over the years. It was started in 2009 by illustrator Jake Parker and it consists in making an ink drawing every day of the month of October. Participants share their work with the community – Twitter, Instagram, etc. – and interact with each other. Not only you can see amazing art, you can also see people encouraging their peers in what seems to be a pretty healthy environment.

The official Inktober account gives a daily prompt to keep the challenge interesting. It’s up to the artist to interpret the word and translate it into art.

The event has grown over time and it is now quite popular. And that has given birth to parallel challenges like Wordtober, in which I participated last year. In Wordtober the objective is to write a tweet-long story using the daily prompt as a starting point. It was a really fun and positive experience. The time, topic and length limitations boost your creativity. There’s no time for second guessing, you have to use your instincts. No place for unnecessary words either, you have to get to the point. Aneesha – who also participated – defined the process as word vomit. Writing without thinking it twice once. Maybe it is like that but I surely was doing a lot of thinking before everything “clicked”.

Based on my experience last year, I think anyone with some interest in any art form should find the Xtober that fits their interest. It’s not only a great training tool, it’s also a ton of fun.

The G word

The G Word

Hi! My name is Francisco and writing this post is probably a bad idea 🙂

In case you don’t know, I was born and raised in Spain. My country’s history is tightly entangled with the Catholic church. It’s a relationship that started many centuries ago but has been very important until recent times (and still is). When I was born my parents decided to not baptize me. At the time it was kind of a big deal in the family. I’ve been told that my grand parents on both sides weren’t happy about their decision. But my parents had a very clear idea. Let him grow up and decide by himself, don’t force anything on him.

I remember when I was like 10 or so, all my friends where going through the holy communion. I wasn’t and to be honest it made me feel weird. I still remember how I felt. I felt excluded. I wasn’t “part of the team”. I seriously thought of asking my parents of getting baptized and going through the process like everyone else. I don’t remember asking them so I’m just gonna say that somehow I was mature enough at that age to realize it was a silly reason to be baptized.

When I started high school at 12 my parents made me go to the optional (not for me) religion class. I went to that class for the following six years. We talked mainly about Christianity, Judaism, Islam. I think we scratched the surface on some others, but I don’t remember. The focus was on Catholicism,and we regularly read parts of the bible. But for me the stories of the bible were just that, stories. I think by the time I finished high school I was considering myself an atheist. The main reason is probably my aversion to organised religion.

Did I mention that even though my parents didn’t baptize me they took me to a million churches (approx.)? When I was a kid we traveled a lot and visiting churches was a big part of what we did. I came to hate it but now, with age – and wisdom, some at least – I truly appreciate it. Those churches and cathedrals are true art pieces. They are also a display of what the Catholic Church is and has been over the centuries. An organization that has done a lot of good – that is undeniable – but has done a lot of evil too. Wars and massacres in the name of good, the use of religion to attain power and riches, the hiding of horrible acts by members of the church – yes, I’m talking about pedophilia and others.

We find different cases outside of the Church. We have imams that have supported acts of terror, used their influence to radicalize young believer or even be active agents in terrorists organizations. In India there is a recent history of religious violences, mostly between Hindus and Muslims but it has also affected Christians and Sikh. There are many stories like these around the globe. None of them start with the faith of someone in God(s). They start with someone that is put in a position of power, a place where they can poison the minds of people that are looking for answers or the confort of faith.

Where was I? Oh, yes. So, after finishing high school I can’t say I thought much about God. But recently I’ve found myself thinking about It more. It’s gonna sound like a joke but I think what triggered it was flying. I’m clearly scared of flying and moving to a country that is 7,000 km away from my family has made me get on a few planes. I’ve seen myself asking God for a safe arrival a few times (damn turbulences). How do you ask for help to a being that technically you don’t believe in?

That made me think of the concept of God itself. I asked God because that’s the language tool that I have. But it’s not the religious god – the supernatural being that I was asking help. It’s more of an ethereal concept, a force that might or might not exist. There are things, there are questions I have that I can’t answer. And I don’t think anyone can. How did it all start? The universe is expanding? Cool, but expanding through where? There are many things that science can explain; but there are as many that can’t, at least for now.

I don’t like (and/or believe) in the idea of God that has been popularized by religion. The omnipotent “man-or-woman” that has created everything. It is too much of a human idea to be the truth. At the same time I can’t discard the idea that there is a force that gave origin to the universe we live in and that is a concept beyond our comprehension. It could be a force with a will or something closer to the idea of Mother Nature – something that balances itself but it doesn’t have a will. In the end I don’t have proof of anything, so I can’t discard anything. I guess that makes me an agnostic more than an atheist. To be honest I don’t care much for the title.

Photo by JAVI ARJI on Unsplash

Creative design and industry maturity

Some time back I wrote about what makes Doom II special and why it feels as good and fresh now as it did 25 years ago. In 2016 id Software, creators of the Doom franchise amongst others, launched what came to be a reboot of the series. DOOM or Doom 2016 is again an exceptional example of design. It probably has the best combat system ever designed for a video game, an epic soundtrack and it shines in many aspects. But while Doom II is brilliant in level design and the levels are a constant display of creativity, the reboot feels way more conventional and unsurprising.

I’ve been thinking about why this is the case and the answer seems now obvious to me. On the original game the creators went wild in the design of every stage. From one level to another there was little to no cohesion. Most of the levels are strange and don’t make much sense from an architectural point of view. Back then there were great technical limitations that pushed the designers creativity to new levels. At the same time the medium was still young and there wasn’t an expectation to be realistic or coherent within the game’s world.

Evolution of car designs

This applies to much more than video games. It’s something that extends throughout all the possible spectrum of design. If we look at the cars that were designed, 30, 40 or 50 years ago we will find crazy, extremely creative designs. Cars like the BMW Isseta are unthinkable today.

The car industry has reached a higher level of maturity and there are proven concepts that are common across brands. Shapes, lights, sizes… There is less space for creativity because the industry knows what works, knows what is practical and knows what is logic to do. That doesn’t mean there’s no space for innovation but there is less experimentation – at least when it comes to commercial cars – than a few decades ago.

Data-driven design for the web

The same applies to my field: the Internet. Looking back at when I was at University, the Internet was full of crazy, wild designs. Flash was the trend and people were constantly experimenting with layouts and navigation. You could see all types of things that could make – or not – sense. But the web industry has also reached a new stage of maturity. There is less space for creativity because we have data that tells us what works and what doesn’t. When users see a hamburger menu, they know what it is and how it works. Users will look for the search icon/bar on the right side of the header, because that has become a de facto standard. These and other conventions bring cohesion to the web as a whole and make for a better user experience.

Design systems like Material Design by Google help us have a cohesive experience, defining key aspects like navigation and component interaction

This can’t be criticized. If I have to design a website today I’m going to follow most – if not all – of the proven conventions. It just makes sense. Not only that, it also gives me the freedom to work on other design elements like animation that could bring a higher meaning to the user actions. Design systems and component oriented design have pushed the industry in that direction and I think everyone will agree that it’s been a very positive turn.

But I wonder if maybe we are losing on variety and innovation by limiting the creativity of our designers. Guidelines are great, but sometimes I feel that we take this guidelines as hard, unbreakable rules. And that will keep us from having a better, more creative and meaningful web experience.

Goals for Q1 2019

Hi there! As I explained on my previous post I’ve decided to set quarterly goals for myself. If you’ve been following my you’ll know that I did it in 2017 and even though I failed to accomplish all I wanted I found it to be a good practice. I have a very active mind, always thinking about new project. And that can be quite distracting. Having public goals helps me focus and keep working on what I want to accomplish instead of jumping constantly between new things without finishing anything.

I have a couple of things I want to accomplish this year. This first quarter I’m going to be quite busy so my goals are not too ambitious:

  • Write: I’m not going to be ambitious here. Publish 2 posts a month for the next three months. I prefer to post less and things that matter to me the most than just randomly write about anything. Let’s see how it goes next month because…
  • Get married: Aneesha and I are legally married already but we still have two more weddings to go. The first one will be in India in around 20 days. I have to survive to 3 days of events. Wish me luck 😂
  • Make and publish 3 Chai&Churro: recently I bought and iPad pro and I’m starting to get used to it. It’s an amazing tool and I hope it will help me be more productive. My goal is for Chai&Churro to become a bi-weekly thing but that is not going to happen now. I aim for 1 comic strip a month.
  • Lose some weight: I’ve changed my eating habits quite a bit over the last 4 or 5 months. It has worked out well and I’ve lost 6-7 kilos but my weight has been going up and down around the same number for the last couple of months. I want to make some progress, even if it is only a couple of kilos (down).

I’m going to be between India and Japan for a full month. I’m not sure of how much free time I will have. I’ll do my best to be on track and fulfil my goals. I’ll be doing the quarterly review at the beginning of April. Until then, peace, love & death metal ✌

Reflecting on the past and future of this space

I’m back. Last year was a complicated one. I had a crazy busy second half of the year, with lots of grown up things happening (remember? I’m a child with a grey-ish beard), and this had kept me from writing as I would liked to.

And yes, I also went through some kind of crisis regarding my blog. I had to “look myself in the mirror” and ask why am I doing this. What’s the purpose of my blog? Does it make sense? I was writing about a bunch of stuff, things that I like: games, movies, music… But in the end I realized I wasn’t getting anything back from it on any level and my time was better spent somewhere else.

As a result of this I’ve decided 2 things:

  • I won’t write anything for weeks (or months) if I don’t have anything to say. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a goal for this blog. It just means I won’t write about whatever just because I made myself a promise to write.
  • I don’t want to write anything review-like. There are professionals that do that and they do it way better than I do. If I write I want it to be related to what I do in my life, things that matter to me the most, like Chai&Churro, my drawings, coding or writing.

To start this new stage I’ll be looking at something I did in the past: set quarterly goals for myself. I did it throughout 2017 and I found it useful to keep an agenda and remind myself of what are my short term priorities.

I’ll be writing a post for my Q1 goals soon. Stay tuned 🙂