Snoozing Mavericks

During a BART ride on my way home from a long day at work, I was daydreaming for excuses where I could take some down time and escape from all the daily stress in my life. Away from all the stressful projects at work, away from these errands I have to do around the house, and most of all away from these minute things that I know I have to do but totally don’t want to. I wanted a quick break for myself before the holiday season arrives to steal the rest of the year away.

Then something dawned on me, something so ridiculously nerdy that it’s almost perfect. I’m going to start planning for an annual retreat based on the location named for each OS X release. First up: Mavericks, California.

Lone Man at Mavericks, CA
Lone Man at Mavericks, CA

I am fortunate enough to live in California with some of the most beautiful places located right around me, yet I never visit any of these places because I’m either too busy (like everyone else), or they’re places I never think of visiting.

One of the things I really miss from my college days is the yearly retreat hosted by The Women Center. It’s a weekend of relaxation but also it’s an incredible opportunity to reflect on where you are and where you want to be. Setting time aside away from everyday life to reflect and set goals is important and frankly, I haven’t done that in a while.

Continue reading “Snoozing Mavericks”

100w100d: Sneakers

The Sneaker

Day 77: My most worn pair of shoes is this pair of Adidas I got at a Nordstrom Rack years ago. There’s no interesting backstory nor does this pair of shoes hold any significance in my life, and I’ve wanted to replace them but never really gotten around to it.

The funny thing is, I’ve been wearing these kicks for so long that I’ve grown to really liking them. It’s not comfortable at all, there’s a hole at the top, and the glue is no longer intact on the sides. But they do cover my feet and sometimes that’s all that matters.

100w100d: Dave

The Camera

Day 76: I name all my gadgets, and Dave is my first dSLR — Nikon D70. I got him in 2004 after receiving my first paycheck from the first “real” job in Hong Kong. Every weekend, I would bring Dave along and spend the day getting lost in the massive city while take pictures.

Nowadays, I’m pretty much resorted to taking snapshots and Instagram for convenience. It wasn’t until I dusted off Dave the other day and began shooting around in my apartment did I realize just how much I miss photography.

It’s like having an actual meal after years of eating candy.

100w100d: Monochromatic Life

Black and White

Day 8:I still remember how for the first five years of my life, my family and I would huddle around our black and white television around dinner time. I still have fond memories of it, the sound the channel dial made while clicking and the angle of the bunny antenna ears were arranged.

Fast forward to 2013, I’ve arbitrarily decided to create a monochromatic presence to my online life, from my user picture on Twitter to the pictures I’ve uploaded onto Instagram.

It’s such a sophisticated, clean style while offering much greater flexibility creatively than typical color photos. Funny how that works.

Miguel Cardona, and on Talent & Creativity

“A painter paints, a writer writes.” is an analogy I often bring up whenever I talk about creativity.

What I really mean by that is that a painter will paint regardless of the situation. You don’t have to tell him when to paint and how often because that’s just something he does naturally. In fact, it’s probably harder to talk him out of doing something that connects so deeply to who he is as a person.

Meet Miguel A. Cardona Jr. He’s a designer, illustrator, sculptor, industrial designer, visiting assistant professor, and a good friend of mine.

Haven’t seen him in close to ten years, we met up at a local cafe in San Francisco, where the atmosphere is warm, casual, yet somehow still manage to sneak in a hint of hipster — something only San Francisco can pull off.

On the left side of the cafe wall lies a plethora of brochures and promotional postcards, as well as a collection of hand-drawn paper coffee cups, all illustrated by Miguel.

Coffee Cups as drawn by Miguel Cardona
Coffee Cups as drawn by Miguel Cardona

I asked him what gave him the idea of drawing on coffee cups. Did he just think of the idea one day, or was this something he began with a clear vision — something he planned to do from the very beginning?

“I was really stressed one day and started to doodle on a paper cup.” he replied nonchalantly, as he began laying down assorted markers besides a blank coffee cup. “It just started one day when I noticed how the napkin around the coffee cup looked like a scarf, so I drew a face on the cup.”

Winson Shuen as illustrated by Miguel Cardona in 2009
Me, illustrated by Miguel in 2009

It wasn’t long before he’s gotten the attention of the cafe owner, who invited Miguel to display his coffee cup art collection right in the cafe. (Note: Since our meeting he’s also been approached by the owner of Dolores Park Cafe to have his work featured there.) “Doing all of this relieves my stress, and it’s something I just do or else I’d go crazy.” Said Miguel, the coffee cup illustrator (not to mention designer, illustrator, sculptor, industrial designer, visiting assistant professor, and so on…).

And that’s classic Miguel. Every now and then he would have some sort of project, none of them started with a plan of any kind. In 2010, he started illustrating his friends’ profile pictures. He was just “practicing his Wacom tablet and Adobe Illustrator skills”, he said. “But people really liked the illustrations and a friend suggested posting them online.” And that’s how Sketchbooked.com started, something that’s since been featured on Design Instruct as an illustration tutorial, as well as on LBOI (Little Box of Ideas) in 11 Awesome 365 Projects to Watch Closely in 2010. Earlier this year, he had a very successful art show based on his Sketchbooked series at Pistachio Press Rochester.

(You can check out Miguel’s coffee cup art on Sketchbooked.com, or all his other work at his portfolio site at mc82.com.)

* * *

Too often when I talk about creativity to those around me, most will retort back with an “I’m not creative at all”, “I wish I can draw”, or something equally diminishing, as if it’s a pre-emptive strike from any chance of an incoming attack. Don’t you worry, I’m well aware how untalented I am, seems to be the core message in their responses.

But what most people don’t see is that creativity goes way beyond creating something that is aesthetically pleasing. In my eye, everything can be tied to creativity: how you cook, how you dress, or even how you fold your clothes after the laundry is done.

Miguel and I are day-and-night when it comes to pure talents in illustration and design, but deep down we are very similar in the way we think: we see ourselves as problem solvers, we see our work as ways to help others, and even in the realm of design, we put our emphasis and respect on rules and techniques more than what’s considered as popular and trendy at the time.

So while I can’t draw or illustrate nearly as well as Miguel does, what I can create is equally important. I’m a blogger. I write about the world in which I see. I write about videogames, technology, pop culture among other things, all in a voice that is uniquely my own.

I also think critically and creatively. Instead of focusing on what’s challenging or otherwise not possible, I excel at seeing and creating opportunities when others only see brick walls. Instead of designing something that simply “looks good”, I actually put math in my designs and polish them with countless minuscule design details, but only in a way that is also cohesive and highly functional.

But beneath it all I also connect people to each other. At IGN I create opportunities by connecting things that fans want to see with what the editorial / marketing / product team wants to do. And while most people see boundaries between race, gender, religion, and sexual orientations, my personality (as well as my diversity) allows me to play a key role in connecting everyone together. To me, this world we live in is nothing more than a real-life advert from United Colors of Benetton, and there is no way you can convince me otherwise.

So what can you create? What is the one thing that you do, you do it simply because it’s who you are? What is the one thing that no one can ever talk you out of doing? Do you doodle on paper cups? Do you put together killer outfits? Do you create lesson plans for your students? Do you bake cake popsicles? Do you create paper masks? Do you knit? Do you blog about cooking? Do you write poetry? Do you design computer databases? Do you vlog about celebrities? The point is, stop thinking about what you should and shouldn’t do; just do what you’re already doing and creativity will follow.

❤ wins


Winson Shuen works at IGN but is not an editor. All opinions expressed here are solely his own and do not represent his employer by any means. You can follow him on Twitter @vdot90.

How Denim Therapy saved my jeans

Damn Crotch Blowouttl;dr – Try Denim Therapy if you care enough about your damaged jeans.

I don’t know if it’s the way I sit or if it’s the recent trend to slim down jeans, but my jeans have torn more over the past few years than they ever had before. I’m not even talking about any sudden rips when picking things up or whatever, but just everyday wear and tear.

Just in March I bought a pair of Nudie Jeans at Bloomingdales and within six months it began to wear down around the crotch area. While this issue isn’t necessarily new for me, it definitely gets frustrating to see a perfectly wearable pair of jeans to render useless just because of an accidental tear in an unfortunate area. Seeing it happen in less than six months make it a consumer tragedy.

Crotch blowout within 6 months is a consumer tragedy
Crotch blowout within 6 months is a consumer tragedy

And this isn’t because of a certain brand or price point, either. I’ve had the same thing happened ranging from a $30 pair of Levi’s 514 Slim Straight to this latest pair of $200 Nudie Slim Jim. Crotch blowout seems to be the death of me, or at least my denim collection. Continue reading “How Denim Therapy saved my jeans”