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July 16, 2015

Calvin Harris Song

I spent the better part of the summer on the road. It’s a lifestyle I’ve always admired, and in three short months I managed to put more than fifteen thousand miles on my car exploring the Western half of the United States and burning through a tidy amount of cash, besides.

I also had the opportunity to experiment with some lifestyle photography — hazy skyline, the open road, that sort of thing. The emphasis here is not on the car itself, but the feeling a car inspires, freedom, or something like that.

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A few more photos from this shoot can be found here.

 

timeline_featured
April 25, 2014

Lolita

It’s called Lolita because that’s the song I was listening to at the time, and it’s also my favorite book. Don’t make it weird.

This application is designed to pull interesting stats from your writing.  It requires Quip.

I am very fond of @Quip, which released their API while I was at @RailsConf Chicago.  If you don’t know what Quip is, it’s essentially a word processor, but better.  I use it for sharing design mocks with my teams, running a dog training company, sharing grocery lists, and my favorite past time, writing.  I write to myself, and I have a group folder where I collaborate with friends on stories.  It’s fun, if that’s your jam.

I started building at the conference, thinking, Quip is cool but you know what would be really cool?  Global word count.  Document counts.  Most popular adjective.  So, that’s what I’m building – an application that lets me check out some cool stats of my Quip projects.  (Step one: build Ruby API, check.  Step two: something, something, react.js???)

I’m really only building this for me, but you can fork it if you like!

This is the basic UI breakdown.

Writers_Timeline

The first thing you’ll notice if you’re a Quip user is the very “Quippy” timeline, a UI element borrowed directly from the application.  I wanted my app to be at least somewhat familiar.  The timeline shows updates as they are pushed, just like Quip.  Below, is a status bar, which (I think) is very Twitter-esque.  It gives an at-a-glance look at your overall stats.

You’re going to want to ignore that filler text.

Writers_Timeline_1

Up top, you have a book jacket carousel, which you can click to check out the stats on your different projects.  The first and last projects are owned by me (@jacamat) but maybe my friend, @delvec is sharing her story with me in a group folder, I can click and view stats on her story the same way I could mine — including my own contributions, if any.

I only did the art for the first book jacket (“Gypsy”) and the last one shows what a blank cover would look like.  Gray with text.  Also I’m not sure where I’m pulling images from yet, probably a drag-and-drop upload for now.  Suboptimal, but I’ll deal with it when I know more.

Writers_Timeline_2

Then, of course, you have the main content area where all of your books stats are displayed.  I would like to expand this content area to show graphs and more visual diagrams later, but for now the space only accommodates a brief description, and some stats about your word count, which Quip’s API currently supports…more or less.

Writers_Timeline_3

 

The colour palette was borrowed from Quip, sans the salmon pink color, which is a color I use on my blog and portfolio, because it’s pretty.

Here is a “Quip-Blue” style.

Writers_Timeline_Incurable

The user is not logged in.  This is my default salmon pink.  Instead of your Quip email I’ll probably just have you input your secret token, with directions on how to get it.  Might be able to make that process prettier later.

Writers_Timeline_BlankThis application is a work in progress.

 

View the Unofficial Quip Ruby API on Github.

View the public Lolita repo on Github.

 

 Built with: Ruby on Rails, React.js, Flexbox.
Logo for the fictitious tech startup, And Beyond.
April 1, 2014

Designing a Fictional Company

One of the plot devices in my current novel, @gypsy, is a startup company called And Beyond, Inc., which releases the fictitious software, Infinity.  The gist of the software is that it turns your smart phone into a social network, circumventing websites like Facebook, and expanding the possibilities of big data within the context of the novel.  But this isn’t a book about startups: the software was created to catch the attention of the local conglomerate of inner-city Wizards.

Whether you call this an exercise in design, or an exercise in insanity, creating an identity for the company was a useful writing tool, which helped me to define the visual narrative of the company, and therefore the direction of the story.

And Beyond, Inc.

 

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I knew I wanted a company based off of symbols — largely because I was too lazy to design a bunch of new logos.  In my head, the primary software is called Infinity (∞) with internal documentation managed by Pilcrow (¶.)  The software is written in a fictitious language called Tilde (~) which focuses largely on glyph representations of code (ala Brainfuck) but, not quite.  More on creating fictional programming languages later — that is an exercise in insanity.

ab3

 

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The company And Beyond, Inc. is acquired early in the novel for a paltry hundred million dollars, with a titular character and CEO of the company remaining on-board as a decision maker.  Shortly after the acquisition, the software is packaged into the core mobile OS of phones as they come onto the market.  Infinity enabled phones display a mark near the wifi indicator. Infinity cannot be turned off.

And Beyond T-Shirts Company clothes were sort of a no-brainer.  I wanted to continue the company’s minimal aesthetic and color palette through their attire.  Because several And Beyond employees are characters in the novel, this helped me to define what these characters might be wearing when they’re called into a scene.

If you’re wondering where the colour palette came from, I was thinking of the infinite vastness of space, and the interconnectedness of the stars in the night sky, which aligns with the symbolism of the company, and surreptitiously drives the story.

Learn more about @gypsy.

LVK9
February 27, 2014

LVK9, Redesign

Las Vegas K9 Training, informally referred to as @lvk9 is the dog training company that I started when I was fourteen, and formally incorporated in 2011.  Since inception, the company has struggled with its visual identity.  There are so many niches and specialties out there, I didn’t know which one I wanted the company to stand for.  I iterated until a path emerged, and when it did, I set aside a few weeks to put together a formal identity kit to go with the company’s new, grown-up set of professional services.

I knew that a strong visual identity would rely on good photography, so I arranged a pro-bono photoshoot with the German Shepherd Rescue of Las Vegas, and after a few days with my Canon Mark III and lots of wonderful dogs, I had thousands of pictures to choose from.  I curated images that showed a mix of happy, serious, and introspective dogs to use across the website, and applied a sophisticated black & white filter to keep the style consistent.

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These images were also provided to the German Shepherd Rescue for free, and resulted in the adoption of lots of dogs!  I think it’s very fitting to showcase rescue dogs on the website, and aligns perfectly with the company’s mission and vision.

Along with some other photographs from my morgue file, these images were reused for business cards and printed assets.  In an earlier point in the company’s history, I had identified with a yellow-orange color (#f9bf37) for accents, based loosely on the bronze hardware found in professional grade training equipment, and it worked exceptionally well against the black and white photographs.  It became a staple of the new design.

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The statement, A private dog training company, is evolving.  It’s not the tagline the company deserves, but it’s the one the company needed.  What started as a hobby has grown into a highly specialized, custom training solution for pet owners, with a focus on private, one-on-one training.  I wanted diction that was confident and vaguely exclusive: still, it’s a work in progress.  The dark formatting does make for good t-shirts, though.

lvk9_shirts

The company logo and mark are still in development, and their evolving shapes will appear on the website from time to time.  Using color and text in lieu of an official logotype is growing on me – transitional, and always evolving like training itself – but admittedly, I have been working on iterations of the company mark for too long to stop now.  Anything final is a long way away.

View the website here.

 

Built with: Sublime, quip, adobe photoshop, and wordpress.
barley
February 26, 2014

Barley

Barley is an iOS application for better managing your Equestrian facility.  The application allows horse owners to create profiles for their horses and connect those profiles to the facilities they use and love.  Facility owners and industry professionals, such as Barn Managers, Veterinarians, Farriers and Show Stewards can then communicate with horse owners by sending them alerts and notifications tailored to their services.  Everything from out of date vaccinations, upcoming show reminders and everyday barn updates can be managed through Barley!

Barley is currently in development, and is currently only available for a limited, private beta.

Follow the progress on @github.

Gary1
March 27, 2013

The Last Time

I woke up twenty minutes before the train left and ran across Grant – er, Millenium – Park, and then I bought the wrong train ticket. The machine dispensed change for my twenty dollar bill in the modern equivalent of gold doubloons. When the correct train arrived I had to pay for a new ticket, with my pirate money, before me and my mystery ticket could uneasily begin the journey back to Gary, Indiana.

I’ve done this before, but anytime I venture into a city where the median yearly wage is, on average, less the cost of my camera gear hidden in my backpack, I get anxious. I’m concerned that everyone on this train knows I’m secretly listening to Taylor Swift, that I look privileged and suburban. I even walk like someone who drinks sparkling water.

I can see the Methodist from the train station, the tower, overlooking the city. This is why I’m here. This place, this unconventional hobby. It’s a short walk, but the sight of the cathedral – so different, so stripped and barren – is jarring. This wont be like every other time. This is the last time.

The Methodist is under construction – ah, not construction – demolition. The Methodist is a popular building, yes, internet-famous in practice if not, in fact. It’s a beautiful old soul, but it comes to my attention as I cross construction lines, that, as a better writer has said: on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

“Hi,” I said, “My name is Carol, I’m with Six Magazine, from the West Coast, I was scheduled to shoot the cathedral today at three PM, sorry I’m late. Are you Ron?” It was all a lie. I’m good at lying, which probably isn’t a good thing, but alas, the construction supervisor passes me a look that says, I’m not sure who you are, but your camera looks pretty official. Still, he’s wary.

“What’s the story about?” asks, not-Ron.

“Gary,” I respond smoothly, “How the city started, and what it’s becoming. We are specifically focusing on it’s abandoned buildings and their renovation projects.”

This banter continues, a woman in a hard-hat joins us, and I reintroduce myself under the same alias of an amusing TV character. If the shoe fits.

As it turns out, it was the woman who let me in, not intentionally, of course. As I made up the fake news story about Gary, she asked about the history of this particular building, and I told her. The church cost over a million dollars to build in 1920, and in it’s height, had thousands of members. Much of the building was destroyed by a fire in the nineties, but at one time it was beautiful. Beautiful. She asks me if the building is dangerous and I shrug, “Sometimes.”

“All my life,” she says, as we walk into the theatre, “All my life, I’ve lived here, and I never been in this building. I never knew…” she trails off repeating, “Wow, wow, wow.”

That’s how everyone feels the first time here. Like I said, this isn’t my first go-round.

I’m playing tour guide, which is an interesting turn of events. Yes, this was once an auditorium, that’s why the floor is slanted. There used to be a piano here. The crucifix is gone. Do you think this is impressive? Follow me.

This is, of course, what the Methodist is famous for. This is where the camera phones come out, this is where everyone is silent, voices quavering whispers. I don’t know why, but it’s always this. It’s nice to see adults so curious, so enthralled. So fascinated by the things we create.

This is where I leave, slinking quietly off upstairs to do my fake magazine report (it does sound like an interesting job, admittedly.) I can hear other construction workers filtering in outside while I work, I hear the voices and then the silence. It’s nice, I think, that this building inspires people. I say, let it inspire. I’m not here for a magazine, after all. I’m just inspired. I just come here to think – past, present, and future.

My story with the Methodist is not unusual. I saw it on the internet, thought it was pretty, and showed up – again and again, and again. It started as an eclectic interest, and it’s since become my destination every time I come to Chicago. I’m not sure why. It’s voyeuristic, maybe, to watch something die slowly. Each time I’m here, it’s different. Some portion of the ceiling has collapsed, some floor has given way. Some new clothes, new toys, new furniture. People live here. Police crime scene tape indicates that people die here, too, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. I’m just here to take pictures.

It’s really not exploring anymore, it’s hello, how are you. The beaten path, with little left to uncover. I’ve touched all stories of this monolith, from the roof to the rafters, between the spaces in the wall, the air ducts hidden beneath the stairwell near the gymnasium, the mezzanine, the green room and the crawlspace beneath the stage. The school, however, was new. A recently collapsed ceiling gave me access to M’s last stronghold, and I went, eager and controlled all the same.

The school is not in terrible condition, surprisingly. The walls have suffered less graffiti, the floors are mostly intact. Of course, I can’t say that for the rooms leading there. The walk was daunting.

When I got off the train today, I had not known it would be my last time here at the Methodist. It wasn’t my intention, in any case, but I think…the cathedral will fall. Sooner than later, it will be destroyed. It’s being cleared now, construction crews are pulling it apart. It’s ending, and the uncovering of the school was the end of the road for me. I’ve exhausted the Methodist’s secrets, and, if I haven’t, then let them stay.

The mystery is what brought me here in the first place. It’s what brings a lot of people, and inconsequently, turns lots of others away.

I’m drawn to stories – it’s an old habit of mine. I like ideas, maybe’s, and what if’s. For some time, the Methodist was my go-to what if. What stories happened here? Who cried, who suffered, who rejoiced and who was misunderstood? What ghosts are here, I wonder, and where do they go when people stop asking? It’s that overprivileged drivel that we young students with overpriced tuitions and strict social expectations are taught not to think about, in any amount of words: what happens after us?

(Nothing.)

The shoot lasted several hours, in the unexpectedly bracing cold of a midwestern March. It’s a good place to think, even when the sounds of construction make it all but peaceful. I can hear the water dripping in between the jackhammers, and I think, it’s been a good run. Nearly a hundred years for M and a few years faithful visitation from myself. I hope a few other people will come to appreciate this place before it’s gone. Leave only footprints, take only pictures.

I’m late for my train again, and I pay the fare with the rest of my pirate money. The South Shore reels back to a Chicago sunset, and all I can think of is how empty that corner of Washington is going to look without the – in it’s own words – “imperfect house of God” watching over. Chicago closes in to the sound of T Swift – because that’s my jam.

Peace out, Methodist. Keep on inspiring.

Made Possible by:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
  • BorrowLenses.com