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A snippet of a talk and a post-mortem

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Almost a year ago, after Libre Graphics Meeting 2009, I started writing a blog post. It was meant to be a link to the video of my talk, as well as a post-mortem, detailing the thoughts provoked in me by LGM 2009. For some reason, I never finished the post. It's been sitting in my drafts folder for a year, waiting. Not knowing now exactly what I was thinking then, I can't finish it. But with LGM 2010 coming up quickly, I figured I should finally post this, before I try to write another post-mortem in a few weeks. So below, the post that was going to be called "A talk and a post-mortem."

I'm excited. I'm excited because exciting things are happening. I gave a talk last week at the Libre Graphics Meeting about the relationship between designers and Open Source (you can view a video of the talk here). What's really exciting is the response generated by that talk. As it turns out, developers are just as interested as I am in how their programs are used and why they aren't. With that in mind, I figured I'd do a rundown of my thoughts regarding some of the issues raised by the talk.

If we make it perfect, people will use it. This is a problematic assumption. It assumes that people can tell when they see a superior product. I wish this were the case. It also assumes that people will magically know that the superior product exists. Again, not a safe assumption. The analogy that I've been using to describe the issue is this: You've invented a zero emission water powered car. Instead of advertising, you park the car in front of your house and hope people driving past will see it. Even though you've created a product that is technically superior and could even solve a huge problem, very few people will find out, because you're not telling them loudly enough. This brings me to marketing.

In the minds of many, marketing is a very bad word. It connotes shifty, profit driven companies selling us things we don't need. But that doesn't need to be the case. As long as the Open Source world views marketing as something other people do, it will be. It doesn't need to be expensive, either. Open Source has done an amazing job of harnessing the power of programmers. If we could do the same with the creatives who make normal marketing work, we'd find ourselves with the resources we need to carry out beautiful, clever, cheap promotional initiatives. We just need to view it as a grassroots activity.

Grassroots is the third problem. In the same way that we view marketing as a bad word, we have a terrible idea of activism. We view it too much as a destructive, futile activity. As with marketing, it doesn't need to be that way. We know that adoption breeds adoption. And yes, the easiest way to get buzz for something is to get a big name talking about it. But we'll never get that break if we don't firs
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Smart but lazy

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Back when I was in grade eleven, I came close to failing French class. The teacher brought my mother and me in one morning before school and gave us a talking to. There was one thing that stuck: she called me smart but lazy. She wouldn't have minded, she said, if I were stupid and trying my best. It was the lack of effort that got to her. In the intervening years, I've thought a lot about her accusation. And I've not only come to terms with it, but embraced it.

Smart but lazy isn't a problem. Smart but lazy, if done right, is a kind of optimization. It's much like that old saw, "work smart, not hard." If applied properly, in conjunction with a little drive to actually get the job done, smart but lazy works. That's the trick to it, though. You have to actually want to get the job done. My younger application of smart but lazy wasn't actually smart. It was lazy and disinterested. I didn't care much for French and wasn't particularly interested in getting the job done. Today's incarnation of smart but lazy, on the other hand, relies on the assumption that I actually want to accomplish something. With that assumption in mind, smart but lazy can be good. It can lead to optimizing the amount of work that goes into a project. With an end goal, the ideal application of smart but lazy results in a shorter timeline and less stress. That's smart laziness.

Fountain pen

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It's a fountain pen. It's sketchy line art. It's a little late in the day for my increasingly wrongly named daily illustrations.

Apple core

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It's a daily illustration two-for-one day! Based on a discussion about various types of core (yarncore, hardcore and so on), the idea of corecore was brought up. So, an apple core.

Sewing needle

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It's a sewing needle. I was playing around with a logo, considering making letters out of sewing gear. The logo was a fail, but I kind of like this needle.

The Unicorn Tutorial

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I remember my first introduction to nodes and vector-based illustration. When I was about seven years old my father, who was a high school tech teacher at the time, sat me down in front of Corel Draw 3. Up until that day, I had seen the program as a repository of clip art, not knowing what I could actually do with it. He loaded a clip art horse. Everything changed when he showed me the node selection tool. The previously clean line drawing of a horse suddenly had a mass of dots all along its outline. He explained that these were nodes, the points defining the shape of the horse. And then the magical bit: he had me select the node at the apex of the horse's ear. When I clicked and dragged that node, the horse changed. The ear elongated, following my mouse. He instructed me to move the node a little distance and then drop it. The horse was no longer a horse. Elongating that ear had turned it into a unicorn.

Since then, I've learned more about how nodes really work and what can be done with them. But that lesson still sticks in my head. It was an incredibly powerful introduction. It started a (so far) life long love of vectors. A love of all their extensibility, elegance and possibility. So today, I've drawn a horse. It's not quite like how I usually draw. It's just an outline, no shading, nothing fancy. It's a horse with two pointy ears, one of which has a little node at the apex. I've uploaded the .svg file to the Open Clip Art Library (here). If you want, you can download it, open it up with Inkscape or whatever vector manipulation program you use, and turn it into a unicorn. I've put pictures below, so you can see my unicorn. And the next time I talk to anyone about the joys of drawing with vectors, I'm going to start with the unicorn tutorial.


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I've been slacking on my daily illustrations lately. So here's a goldfish.

Bow tie

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To go with all the previous illustrations of dresses (such as this, this, this and this), I've done something that nods towards male formal wear. Below, a bow tie.

OPEN, colour

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The title, I will admit, is slightly misleading. This post has nothing to do with Open Colour in the sense of the Open Colour Standard. This time, it's literal. Having come to the realization that everything I've posted in the last little while has been greyscale, I've decided to remedy the problem. With a neon sign that I drew a while back.

Making the TTC map classy

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I love a good subway map. And I find it interesting how different subway maps are from street maps. Below, an experiment in doing a subway map (the Toronto Transit Commission map, to be precise) in my own particular street map style.