All posts by “amanda

UX design for the whole library

Useful Usable DesirableComing home to a box of multiple copies of a book you wrote will never stop feeling awesome! Aaron and I wrote this book about user experience design for libraries back in 2012 and it’s finally out in real, deadtree form, the kind you can hold in your hands. It’s pretty cool. It was neat to flip it open and read the intro again, words we wrote over a year ago, and realize, hey, I like this book. I’m kind of proud of it.

You can pick up a copy for yourself or for your library from the ALA store (I wish we had some control over pricing because, damn, that’s spendy). Spoiler alert: all this UX stuff is not just for your website.

All non-fiction, all the time

May readsNot a single word of fiction in all of May. And I’m okay with that. Oh, and hey! Instead of another lame composite image of all the book covers from this month, I thought I’d draw them in a stack instead! Yeah, that was fun.

The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, Twyla Tharp (audio)
Most of the titles I’ve read on creativity have been by writers and visual artists, so I was keen to hear the perspective of a performance artist. Good news: good creative habits are common across all the arts! There are some interesting perspectives here, as well as a bunch of useful exercises. The three-star rating comes down to the narrator, who way over-dramatised unfortunately.

The Creative Life: True Tales of Inspiration, Julia Cameron (audio)
This book was not at all what I expected. Cameron is the author of The Artist’s Way, that seminal text about creativity and the creative process, and I guess I expected something similar here. Instead, The Creative Life is a series of vignettes about Cameron’s life as an artist and a teacher. Once I got past my expectations and settled into the narrative, I enjoyed it.

Hello, New York: An Illustrated Love Letter to the Five Boroughs, Julia Rothman
Part memoir, part travel guide, this is a stunning look at the five boroughs of New York, told in gorgeous illustrations and lovely personal narratives by one of my illustrator-heroes. If you’ve ever wanted to explore NY’s little-known treasures and off-the-beaten-path highlights, this book is for you.

Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words, Wendy MacNaughton
MacNaughton is probably one of my favourite illustrators and San Francisco is easily one of my favourite cities, so this book was a total treat.

Daybook: The Journal of an Artist, Anne Truitt (audio)
Such a lovely book! One of Truitt’s main struggles is the struggle between the competing roles in her life: her role as mother and her role as artist. She is positively lyrical when talking about that tension and how she navigates it on a daily basis. I listened to the audio version of this, which was delightfully narrated by Truitt herself, but I’ve decided I need to get myself a print copy because this is a book I’ll read again for sure.

Do the Work, Steven Pressfield
A quick little read that was the perfect followup to Pressfield’s The War of Art. Do the Work is a manifesto about the challenges of resistance and all the forms it takes.  That self-doubt you have about your yourself and your abilities? That’s resistance! That thing that prevents you from starting whatever it is you really want to start (a piece of art, a company, weight loss, whatever)? Also resistance! That thing that seizes you right at the end of a project and prevents you from completing it? You guessed it, resistance! Resistance sucks and this book is all about how you can get through/over/past it to just do the work you want and need to do. I enjoyed it.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey
I dipped into this book over the course of the month and thoroughly enjoyed it every time. All sorts of habits, rituals, routines, and practices that I couldn’t help but think must have been super fun to research.

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, Edwidge Danticat (audio)
I wasn’t familiar with Danticat’s work prior to reading this series of essays but now I’m super stoked to dig into her fiction. This is a really wonderful collection of stories, most about Haiti or Danticat’s Haitian relatives, told with a lot of compassion.

#averbaday in May

Confession time: I missed six days in May. Still, I’m calling the effort a moderate success. This little video includes all 24 #averbaday sketches I drew in May.

Just last night I decided that for the month of June I’m going to draw all the people I meet everyday. I’ll probably interpret the term “meet” loosely. You should join me! Or follow along on Instagram.

Creativity + Habit

averbaday-smileOne of the books I recently finished was The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp. In it, Tharp taps into her own experience as a choreographer to share her creative process, as well as a bunch of exercises to help you get the most out of your own creativity and creative habit. One of those exercises is called “Do a Verb” where you choose a verb and apply movement to it in order to get your creative juices flowing (physically). Of course, given my current creative habit of choice, as soon as I read that, I immediately thought, “draw a verb!” So everyday, I’ve been picking a random verb and drawing some representation of it. Some verbs have been inspired by some other activity I’ve done that day, like last week, when we went to an event with great music and “listen” seemed to be the right verb for that day; or a couple of days ago, when I found a bunch of gorgeous blue jay feathers on a walk, and “find” became the only possible verb for the day. And other days, I won’t lie, I’ve picked what I wanted to draw first and then chose the appropriate verb to go with it. That’s cheating, right? Whatever, I’m drawing daily and that’s the point!

averbaday-pointSo, speaking of drawing daily being the point, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about creativity over the past few months is that it is fueled by habit. By routines. By choosing a time or theme or goal (or, best of all, all three) and cranking out work accordingly. Having a theme and a goal (a verb + one drawing a day) has really helped me put pen to paper everyday, which was the whole point of signing on to the 100 day project in the first place. But what I still struggle with is carving out the time to do it. Drawing over lunch has worked for the past couple of days, but I know I can’t always rely on lunch hour. So my next challenge is to pick a time of day and get to work, even for a few minutes, everyday at that time. Updates on that as progress warrants.

averbaday-findI’ve been posting these to Instagram almost daily (with the hashtag #averbaday) and will continue to do so until the end of May, so hop on over and follow me there for regular updates. (Note to self: pick a theme for June!)


Do a lot of work

Ira Glass didn’t make the point recently. It was actually five years ago that we first heard the words but they’re still words I think about frequently, maybe even more so now, what with my current obsession with the creative process. I’ve been compiling a list of things I’ve learned from all that reading and at the very top of that list is some incarnation of Glass’ advice to just do a lot of work.

Here’s the complete thought, beautifully presented, twice.

I pretty much loved everything I read in April

april readsIt’s true, I did. I was at the beach for the first week of the month so I got to lose myself in a few really good novels and I emerged from those novels (and that week) feeling both restored and a bit hungover from all those words. And most of the rest of my reading month was spent with books about art, design, and the creative process. Winners, all of them!

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
There isn’t much I can say about this novel that hasn’t already been said. It’s brilliant and clever and I loved every word of it.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My first Adichie and I’m thrilled there’s another one of her novels on my to-read shelf. I positively devoured this.

All New People, Anne Lamott
I just couldn’t shake these characters. I felt like I was surrounded by them the whole time I was reading this novel, which made me wish even more that this book was longer, so those thoroughly beloved, absorbing characters could stick around just a bit longer.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson (audio)
Funny and clever and heartwarming.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple
There I was, in an airport, facing a 5-hour flight with nothing to read and a fairly scant airport news stand that had maybe 12 novels on it. Turns out this is the perfect book for in-flight reading: light, funny, and completely absorbing.

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton (illustrations)
Cat owners/lovers, take note: you will love this book. You won’t be able to help yourself. It’s a really sweet story and the illustrations are delightful.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, David Bayles and Ted Orland (audio)
Another book about the creative process and probably one of my favourites of the lot. Lately I’ve been loving listening to non-fiction when I drive (it’s sort of like really good radio/a podcast) but with this one I found myself wishing I could mark an excerpt or scribble something in the margin. There was so much here that I wanted to make note of and revisit.

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, Debbie Millman (audio)
Interviews with all the great names in graphic design — Sagmeister! Beirut! Glaser! Scher! Vignelli! A total treat.