The Honeymoon is Over

I haven't written about San Francisco in a while. Maybe that's because I haven't wanted to. My views of the City by the Bay, the Bay Area, and California have evolved significantly in my second year living here. Once the honeymoon period waned, I began seeing things more clearly.

My thoughts and views of this place are difficult to articulate, but many feel the same way. The general sentiment seems to be shifting from overall amazement to daily frustration. Life as most people know it is difficult here. The basic necessities are too often out–of–reach for most people.

The rental search engine HotPads recently published A Map of Displaced San Francisco Businesses along with this fact:

…according to US Census data, if the city of San Francisco continues on its current path, the population will soon be dominated by the upper five percent of all earners.

Whether it's ridiculously high rent or dealing with a mentally unstable landlord, all too often it feels as though the city, and even the state, doesn't want me here.

I think there has been a shift in the way people in San Francisco, and the Bay Area, view the city. People seem to agree that the city is changing, but not for the better. Much of the diversity of culture in the city is being forced out as the wealth, mostly from the tech industry, moves in. Many people who can't afford it are moving to Oakland or elsewhere in the Bay.

I have also noticed a shift in the way SF blogs are writing about the city. There seem to be more articles being written about how the struggles of living here are affects people's lives beyond the present. Many people move here every day for the opportunity that has largely come as a result of the tech industry, but people who have been here a while are realizing that this place is not conducive to building a life.

HotPads also recently posted Urban Renters Put Lives on Hold. The titles sums it up nicely, but the following quote from an SF renter in her mid-30s is poignant: 

Overall, the rent and housing situation makes living in San Francisco feel like a temporary home instead of a place I could settle down and make a life.

I could not agree more. I do not doubt that SF is the best place for me professionally to build my career, but there's more to life than a career. At least, I want there to be more to my life than my career. Aside from a career, I'm not sure how much else is here for me.

In many ways I moved to San Francisco to jump-start my career, but that was not the sole reason I moved here. I needed to take a leap, to get away from everything that was familiar, and to do something different. I needed adventure, opportunity, and healing, and this place definitely provided that.

Now that the healing has taken place, I am ready to move on the the next phase of my life and growth as a person. That sounds pretentious written down, but it's true and I'm not sure how else to put it.

The decision to move is still among the best things I've ever done with my life. I'm just trying to figure out my next step.

Support Net Neutrality

This article lays out good reasons why real conservatives should support net neutrality:

“But net neutrality isn't even a government-provided service like the highway system. It's just a set of rules that allows private companies to profit from providing essential services while protecting consumers and the vast majority of businesses from manipulative, anti-competitive behavior.

ISPs argue that they provide all of the innovation and investment in the internet, but they're not what makes the internet special. Businesses large and small, from Facebook to Airbnb, make the internet what it is. Net neutrality has allowed them to start, to compete, and to prosper — all because consumers can largely make decisions based on cost and merit rather than what Comcast or AT&T prefer.”

Corporate Culture

Google is 15 years old. Apple is 30 to 35 years old now. The cultures were created at very different times. Apple was created when we didn’t have networks, we didn’t have mobile phones. It had a much more hierarchical structure. At Google, it was born out of a network culture. Everyone could talk to to everyone, and there was much more transparency.
— Tony Fadell

Questions are key to learning

The first time you do something requires a lot of investment. Time, sweat, tears, sacrifice. Taking that leap is so difficult and, at times, painful. This is the learning process.

I have always had a passion for learning, but I never loved school. School restricted my creativity; it tried to fit me into a box and make me conform to specific, predetermined ways of thinking. I turned to art and design because it gave me an outlet for expression that no other subject could provide. It let me creatively solve problems and answer questions with more than just a pencil and paper.

I've always asked questions, in no small part because of my dad. He asked questions that he didn't know the answers to all the time. If there was no answer, most people would just accept it and move on. Not my dad. He always asked questions as a carpenter, and the next thing I knew he was solving the problem with his own creative solution. He also wrestled with big questions about the universe and Heaven that he didn't have answers for, inciting a flame in me to ask the same.

I recall being laughed at in classrooms when I would accidentally ask an obvious question. It was embarrassing, but my desire to understand was greater than my desire to appear a fool. Eventually I learned how to ask better, smarter questions to get the results I wanted.

I was amazed in college when my peers would not ask questions. Even when everyone in the classroom was thinking the same thing, wrought with confusion, few would speak up. The indifference and cowardice bored and sometimes angered me. I would ask not for them, but for myself because I wanted and even needed to know.

Since then, I've gotten better at asking the right questions to get the answers I want. Then again, sometimes I ask too many questions, as a friend recently informed me when we were planning on meeting up. "You ask too many questions," she said, so I asked more just to annoy her.

Admittedly, questions can be annoying, but, it might be the only way to grow and learn. The process is never easy, requiring investment and hard work. The initial breakthrough demands intense focus, often resulting in stressful days and sleepless nights. When you want to give up is exactly when you have to push through. You have to learn to manage the stress, as the influx of knowledge and processing of information changes your mind.

It has been scientifically proven that learning is addictive, and I can attest to that. I love enveloping myself in learning a new technology and putting it into practice. The more I've pursued learning, the more I want to learn. There is no feeling like the sense of accomplishment you feel after you've labored relentlessly to create something brand new.

While I am curious about most things, my interest is peaked at the intersection of design and technology. That is where I do most of my learning. Being targeted in my approach helps me learn more efficiently. I know that I cannot comprehend the entire world, or even the entire worlds of design and technology, but if I can learn bit by bit, it will add up.

My own experience has taught me that learning accumulates. You may not remember specifics, but the influence of what you learned is still there. It has shaped, even in a small way, who you are and what you know. The knowledge snowballs until it is a powerful mass that can be used to build things, including snowmen.

Therein lies the value of experience; it is the accumulation of knowledge over time. It cannot be taught because it has to be earned through experience. Experience does not happen overnight, but is a process that starts with a question.

Don't be afraid to ask.

Ello

The concept of an ad-free social network could really take off as a backlash against the current norm of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Business and advertisers have completely invaded our personal connections.

I would be surprised if Ello gains mass appeal. It feels more like a designer's portfolio site than a social media site. The design and UI (user interface) reminds me of Cargo Collective, a popular portfolio creation service. Ello feels too designer-y, like it's trying too hard to be cool. I think most people won't "get" it.

However, it definitely could find an audience and gain traction among a certain user-base, which might be the goal. The new trend in social networking is specialized niche networks that cater to connecting specific demographics based on interests or commonalities.

Seems to me that Ello is catering to anti-mainstream hipsters who want to share their artistic filtered photos and latest gluten-free, vegan-friendly restaurant find ;)

People Don't Read Anymore

I've noticed an alarming trend lately: people aren't reading. Friends have been commenting on articles that I share without actually reading them, and sometimes without even clicking through the link to see the entirety of what I've shared. I know this because their comments reveal that they don't know the contents of what I've shared.

This issue goes beyond just my Facebook friends. I have noticed many other indicators that people aren't reading anymore. Headlines have become punchier and more enticing to get people to click on them. Actual written articles have gotten so short and to the point that they are mere summaries with a link to the full article. There are even less and less substantial articles being written, in favor of the image or GIF-based lists that BuzzFeed popularized.

At work, we were discussing how to help users understand that we are collecting certain data to increase the legitimacy and safety of the site for the users' benefit. The setup we had was a paragraph of information, and it just wasn't getting the point across to the user. My answer was simply "people don't read anymore."

As a designer, the fact that people don't read is a problem I have to solve for constantly. How do I convey a large amount of information visually, with as few words as possible? More often than not, I have to assume that people will not read the details if I don't present them in an enticing, easy–to–digest format. Even that is usually not enough.

This is one reason catchy headlines have become the norm. Ridiculous headlines drive clicks, and clicks equal advertising dollars. Ridiculous headlines are also fun for people to share with each other. "Hey, did you hear about this crazy thing?!" The recipient usually doesn't have to read more than a few sentences, watch a video, and/or look at cute pictures of kittens.

I'm all for sharing cute, funny, exciting things with friends. My concern is how this behavior translates to more serious issues. The recent Israel–Gaza debacle has resulted in a multitude of online chatter in opposition to Israel's activities. It started as a slow trickle of articles that one or two friends had liked, and, within a matter of weeks, has quickly escalated to a large amount of my Facebook friends voicing their disapproval with posts about peace in the Middle East and calling for an end to the unfair killing.

This does not rest well with me. I do not trust that the people making the noise actually know the reality of the situation. The Internet empowers ordinary people with the extraordinary ability to influence large swaths of people. It can be an incredible tool for social change, but it can also reward the loudest voice, which isn't necessarily the smartest voice or the voice of reason.

As I've witnessed this chain of events unfold over the last few weeks, it has made me realize just how powerful the Internet can be as a means of spreading propaganda. The thing with propaganda is, if it is done well, people want to believe it. It is a lie that sounds like the truth. Misinformation can spread like wildfire without check; people overlook glaring inaccuracies to be the first to share the next big thing. Our appetite for instant information is insatiable.

My question is this: if people aren't actually reading and thinking critically about the information that is presented to them before sharing it with others, what implications does this have when there are serious issues at play? What about justice? I just hope it isn't too late for Israel.

Airbnb’s New Logo… Overthinking Simplicity

I don't like Airbnb's new logo. I find it to be disproportionate and unbalanced, and I don't think it pairs well with the type treatment. But the real problem is that it looks like genitalia or even a butt, as this article and Twitter points out. No, it is not explicit, but it is suggestive enough that most people seem to be raising an eyebrow. I, personally, have worked on designs in which I flipped a heart upside down in a similar fashion to this logo, and I did not go with that direction because I recognized that it was suggestive. A brand as big as Airbnb should never have released this logo, period. Good design clearly communicates what the designer intends it to, and something tells me the Airbnb is not trying to communicate something phallic through it's brand.

I understand the thinking behind the new logo, or, as Airbnb refers to it, the "Bélo." I think this is a classic case of overthinking something that should have been simple. Way too much thought went into this logo because they are trying to do too much with it. Airbnb's brand is an experience. A logo does not have to visually communicate a brand's experience because it will inherently communicate it by association with the brand. For example, Apple's logo communicates almost nothing about the experience Apple offers, but everyone knows what it stands for because of it's association with the brand.

Sometimes designers get caught up in their little design bubble and only see what they want to. There should have been more external influences on the new Airbnb logo before it was released. I guarantee Airbnb would not have released this version of the logo had they gotten proper feedback.

I find the video introducing the "Bélo" to be overly touchy–feely and emotional. It's like ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It feels as if the creators are doing everything they can to make the content this emotional sob-fest. It makes me sick. Just the fact that Airbnb felt the need to name their logo the "Bélo" is so pretentious.

Also, the Create Airbnb site on mobile is atrocious. The legibility of the text over the background images is poor. The flow of information is confusing. There are so many different layout elements that nothing is cohesive. And it's not much better on larger screens, either.

To summarize, the new Airbnb logo in on par with the 2012 London Olympics logo when it comes to bad design. Case and point.

Netflix Should Use a Dark UI

I don't think the redesign is as poor as this article claims, but I agree that it's lacking the nostalgic quality that the former logo possessed. I do like how sharp and highly legible it appears on-screen. However, as someone who uses Netflix primarily through the browser, I think the new website is too bright. Most people watch Netflix at night, when their eyes are tired, right? So the site should use a dark UI, not a light one that's hard on the eyes. Where was the UX designer on that one?

Netflix Has A Boring New Logo It Doesn't Want To Talk About

Your Agenda

Most people spend most of their time responding to someone else’s agenda than their own.

I think this is partially a result of how we are raised by society. In school, we are given assignments and told when to take our tests. At work, we are assigned due dates and given expectations from our superiors. At home, we have tasks or chores to perform to care for our kids and our partners. After a few decades of this, it can become very easy to spend your day reacting to the stimuli that surround you. We learn to take action as a reaction to the expectations, orders, or needs of someone else.

So naturally, when it comes time to start our day, it doesn’t seem strange to open our email inbox, check our phone, and look for our latest marching orders.

I think this is a mistake. The tasks assigned to us by others might seem urgent, but what is urgent is seldom important. The important tasks in our lives are the ones that move our hopes, our dreams, our creations, and our businesses forward.

Does that mean that we should ignore our responsibilities as parents or employees or citizens? Of course not. But we all need a time and space in our days to respond to our own agenda, not someone else’s.
— James Clear

Do Not Be Cynical

Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality, and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
— Conan O’Brien

My 1st San Franniversary

Last Wednesday, April 23rd marked exactly a year ago when I came to San Francisco. Coming out here was one of the best decisions I ever made, if not the best. In some ways it was a long time coming, and in other ways it was spontaneous. Either way, it was a huge leap of faith that has paid off in innumerable ways.

Despite all of the physical changes, the biggest change for me has been the acceleration of my learning. I've learned more about people, life, cultures, technology, and design, among other things, than I can express in a blog post. Some of these things are immediately useful, while others will no doubt yield fruits in the unforeseen future.

I had no idea what I wanted out of life when I moved here. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I have a much better idea than I did before. I've realized how blessed my life in Pennsylvania was. My childhood was a rare and special thing, which I will always hold close to my heart.

One year later, I miss the "comforts" of our beautiful home that my parents worked so hard to build. I've learned just how difficult it is to find a place like where I grew up. It truly was a haven to escape from the world; it was a safe, open place, full of love and laughter, frustrations and struggles. Everyone deserves a place like that.

That might sound nostalgic, and it is to a certain extent, but I do not long for the past. Rather, I am using my past to influence the future I am building. I believe in sobriety, meaning living in an active and conscious manner to experience, understand, and embrace the highs and lows. I am not living to forget.

It was not easy to get to this point. I had to consciously fight for it, and I still do. I had people in my life fighting for me when I was fighting against them. I blamed God for my pain, even though I didn't realize it for the longest time. But, He redeems all things for good. Now I wake up with zeal every single day. I possess joy that is unspeakable, and you can too.

Crashes

Crashes create opportunity and kings will be made during the next one.
— Josh Brown of The Reformed Broker

The Search

My search for affordable housing in one of the most expensive and desirable cities in the world rages on. I'm currently living in The Mission at a temporary sublet until the end of April. I feel like a broken record because I've been on the move since I got here nearly a year ago. However, I wasn't searching for a long–term place up until I got my full–time job a few short weeks ago.

I should mention that what I am looking for is essentially a room in a house or flat with housemates who have their own rooms, but we share a kitchen, bathroom, and other common areas. This type of living situation is ubiquitous in San Francisco. You can see why people would be highly selective when picking someone they will be sharing a house with for the foreseeable future. These people often become your friends and, in some cases, like family.

I think I've seen around five or six places over the past several weeks. The “interviews” always seem to go well, but I haven't gotten any offers for places I liked. It should also be known that I am searching for a more central location in the city, which only adds to the difficulty.

If there's one thing I learned from the job search, it's that persistence pays off. You have to be persistent not only to get what you want, but just to figure out what exactly it is you are looking for. As you understand more about what your target is, you can adjust your approach to increase your chance of success. There's a lot of strategy involved.

Many of us start out searching for something with a “shotgun–style” approach. We blindly shoot a spray of bullets, hoping some of them will hit the target, adjusting our stance as we find success. When we eventually learn how to aim, we upgrade to a rifle, which is a more precise weapon. We become more focused, accurate, and lethal in our hunt, giving us a higher rate of success.

I've come to realize just how much of life is about searching. Whether we are searching for jobs, housing, spouses, friends, or purpose, the same principles apply. It's ironic that by searching for these things, we find ourselves. It's a painstaking, yet beautiful phenomenon.

 

So Close

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
— Thomas Edison

Perspective

A big definition of who you are as a designer… it’s the way that you look at the world and, I guess it’s sort of one of the curses of what you do is that you’re constantly looking at something and thinking ‘Why is it like that? Why is it like that and not like this?’ And so in that sense you’re constantly designing.
— Jonathan Ive

Extremes

What we really need to do to design is look at the extremes… cause if we understand what the extremes are, the middle will take care of itself.
— Dan Formosa

Details

Details build brands, and details are what define customer experiences…
— Warby Parker cofounder Neil Blumenthal

Project Success

I have good news; I've found a full–time  job as a Junior Graphic Designer! I am working for BAM Software in downtown San Francisco. I am grateful to finally be putting my skills to good use and earning some monies in the process. I've already been working for a few weeks now and it's been going quite well. I am definitely still acclimating to my role and understanding my duties, but that's to be expected.

My coworkers are a productive, yet fun, bunch. Many of them are newer to the city than I am, so I plan on introducing them to some of my favorite places and people. I truly appreciate that they have been welcoming and understanding as I find my way. Maybe they understand because they were in my shoes not too long ago.

Having various jobs and internships, I've learned that it takes weeks, often months, to fully adjust to a new work environment. New workflows, forms of communication, file structures, personalities, and so on are all new things to learn. If you look at it the wrong way, it can be overwhelming. I see it as a challenge that I won't conquer overnight, but over a course of time. 

I have been places where intolerance and irrational demands are the norm, but I don't thrive in that type of environment. What those attitudes create is an environment of chaos. With chaos, only the person who caused it knows what is going on. You will find people will constantly try to pull you into their sphere of chaos, but don't be fooled by this. The want control, but they don't have it. They want you to sink to their level so they can control you. Stand your ground, take a deep breath, and look past the problems they are preaching.

If all you see are our problems, that is all you will have. If all you see is work, you won't see opportunities. Retrain yourself to see the world with a divine perspective. Project Success.