An Evening with Makoto Fujimura

Last week I went to New York City for 99U Conference. While there, I had the opportunity to attend a private art show and book release for Makoto Fujimura. His new work, Silence and Beauty, was on display at the famed Waterfall Mansion located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The carriage-house turned residence, turned art gallery was five floors of contemporary exploration, including a 20-foot waterfall at the end of the main hall. Featured throughout was Makoto’s new collection as well as various sculptures, paintings, photography, mixed media, installations, ceramics and video arts. It was magnificent.

Great art doesn’t have to match your sofa.

 

Those words came to mind as I wandered from room to room taking it all in. That saying is one I heard a lot growing up as my mom took me through homes, shops and galleries in various towns on the east coast. She always made it a point to show me good art, fashion, literature, architecture and design. One day it might be furniture, the next a painting or novel. The following week it was a house under construction that we’d “sneak” into and critique the layout or fixtures.

Over the course of my childhood, we spent hours together developing my eye for line, shape, color, tone, form, pattern and texture. Because of this, I’ve relished the wonder of the world around me.

After the Makoto Fujimura show, I walked back through Central Park towards the apartment where I was staying. Even though it was exceptionally cold for May, I felt the warmth of gratitude.

I’m thankful my mom taught me about good taste. She showed me form and function, pushing me to experience the aesthetic outside what was comfortable. My mother gave me the gift of art and planted the seeds for a career I never knew I wanted.

It’s now my responsibility to pass this gift to my sons. My hope is they will never drive by a Phillip Johnson building without taking it in; or that they will never sit in an Eames chair without feeling its form; or that they will never walk by a Monet, Benson or Monderin without marvel; or that they will never listen to The Beatles or read Shakespeare without feeling it shift their mood.

Art adds to our quality of life. As we were made in the image of our Creator, a perfect work of art, we are drawn to it.

Art defines what makes us human; and fully human, we will be making things. – Makoto Fujimura

ThirtyEight

Last week I turned 38. A friend said I should write one of those “things I’ve learned in how old you are lists”. So here goes…

(disclaimer: I’m not proclaiming any major wisdom here, just a quick reflection)

In no particular order:

  • Relationships are living and have to be nourished.
  • Good taste can be developed.
  • Being selfish is at the root of most of my challenges.
  • I hope I never stop loving to learn.
  • Cherish the gap between starting and mastering.
  • Give yourself deadlines.
  • Learn to write well.
  • I love going to the movies by myself.
  • I used to be a morning person.
  • Living life is a collaboration.
  • Value your values.
  • You can only control your actions and attitudes.
  • Carry a notebook with you everywhere.
  • God then wife then kids then friends.
  • Staying curious is the greatest thing I’ve done for my career.
  • Success is a planned event.
  • Anyone can go stupid (at any time).
  • We can disagree and still be friends.
  • Discipline is a muscle. I feel like mine has atrophied.
  • Most decisions you make aren’t good or bad until later.
  • There is no heart bigger than a mother’s.
  • “Man mornings” with my boys are invaluable.
  • “Mini moons” with my wife are irreplaceable.
  • Create more. Consume less.
  • The healthcare system is laughable.
  • Sometimes owning your own business isn’t fun.
  • Whenever I slow down, I’m overcome with thankfulness.
  • I’m more aware that I don’t know what I don’t know. And that it’s a lot.
  • Learning to think for yourself on your own is one of the most important things to learn.
  • Gaining a love for math is essential.
  • My ego is the most expensive thing I own.
  • Aim small. miss small.
  • I’m convinced golf is more than a game.
  • Dealing with your parents getting older is hard.
  • I care less about the things I used to care for, and more about the things I used to care less about.
  • I’m pretty good at trivia.
  • I’m pretty horrible with cars, lawns and politics.
  • I forget that I’m almost 40 until I play soccer.

Until next time.

Honestly,

David

This letter originally appeared in my newsletter: Notes from the Field.

It’s Got to Be the Shoes

A few weeks ago I read this great article about how Nike lost Stephen Curry to Under Armor. The one observation that stood out to me more than anything was that an athlete’s association with their shoe brand long outlives the athlete’s association with their team.

Case in point, kids today know Michael Jordan because of his relationship with Nike, not because he was a Chicago Bull. Why is this? Because of benefits. Air Jordans made us “like Mike” in a way the Chicago Bulls never could.

People buy your product because of who it makes them become, not because of what it does.

Publish Everywhere?

It’s been over a decade since I first published on the web. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself early to it, but even then there were only a few places to create online.

Fast forward to a few years ago and things started to fragment. I even wrote about the race for online publishing dominance as platforms like Medium and Ghost came online.

Today there are dozens of places to produce content online for public consumption.

Not only have the aforementioned seen massive adoption, LinkedIn launched Pulse, Facebook revamped Notes and Twitter moved to increase character lengths of tweets. And this doesn’t begin to cover podcasting’s growth and live video platforms like Periscope and Blab.

Publishing is fragmented because audiences are fragmented. Even the most targeted content is bound to have portions of its intended reader, listener, viewer, etc. inhabiting 2-3 different content channels. Therefore it’s essential to publish not only on your own site, but everywhere else your audience is present.

Do you think this trend will continue to grow? Is there a growing need for tools that allow users to create content in one place but publish anywhere?

Food for thought.

The Biggest Challenge of Website Redesigns

A few weeks ago I wrapped up a significant user experience (UX) and wireframing effort for a large brand’s e-commerce site. My client was their agency, who was tasked with an overhaul of their website.

As most people know, overhauls aren’t necessary in most cases (In fact, John Peele and I launched a whole service around this premise called Re:work). However, in this instance, a teardown and redo was the right call. Here’s why:

  1. The business’ goals have changed dramatically
  2. The customer’s behaviors have changed
  3. The website’s content wasn’t consistent with the brand’s architecture and standards

These major buckets (plus a dozen subcategories) made the case for investing the immense amount of time and money it costs to do a redesign right.

My job was to work with the content strategist and account team to align the information architecture with the new brand strategy and build wireframes (desktop and mobile) to improve the user’s experience in using the new site. This means making the website easy to use and organized in a way that makes it painless for them to make a purchase or find a store.

The biggest challenges were making the customer’s complex buying journeys simple and keeping the retail channel partners happy.

Rebuilds at this scale are always difficult because so many stakeholders and customers have a vested interest in the website. You have the brand’s goals at stake (i.e. sales, leads, awareness). Inside the brand are business groups that have their own KPIs to reach. And let’s not forget about channel partners and customers, they have goals too.

Whew! That’s a lot of people to please.