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Stumbling Towards the Purpose Within

Orange Wild Flower

I’ve long accepted the fact that the job I go to everyday shouldn’t be the primary place to go searching for self-worth and fulfillment in my life. Don’t get me wrong. That’s in no way meant to disparage any circumstance or person in my career, past or present. I’ve enjoyed my gigs fondly enough. It’s just a philosophical truism I’ve taken to believing, which helps me categorize my day-to-day activities into a larger picture.

I don’t expect that I’ll be the most recognized customer experience designer this side of the Atlantic any time soon–but those cards could be in the picture one day. Nor am I particularly motivated by the thought of making enough money for a three-story house with a four-car garage overlooking the valley (technically, I’m halfway there anyway). And don’t get me wrong again; I fully expect to be rewarded for my talent and skills.

It’s just that what’s important to my life legacy and what gives me purpose, especially given the way the cards have been dealt to me so far, doesn’t have a lot to do with the clout I may or may not gain in the professional arena.

Rather, it’s the efforts I give daily to shape meaning into this abstract thing called fatherhood. I was reminded of the simplicity of this the other day as I was trying to brighten my son’s spirits, while he was in the midst of a 2-year-old mood swing from the outer-depths of toddler hell.

Somehow, in some magical way I can’t recall nor describe, I made him do a complete mood turn-around. This must have seemed like some kind of spiritual voodoo to him. I know it certainly did to me. But I remember paying attention to my own careful orchestration of his cognitive experience and how it elicited a desired effect – much like designers across different industries get paid to do.

(Okay, I was probably making fart noises with the side of my mouth, but that’s not really the point here.)

In a few short seconds, I affected his perception, transforming his willful defiance into an involuntary smile. Cool, I thought, if only I could accomplish this long term. And then, I thought, why couldn’t I? Why can’t my role as a parent emulate some of the things I do in my profession?

It occurred to me then that something of the opposite in my secret theory of life might also hold true. Perhaps the thing that’s intended to bring me the most joy may resemble certain aspects of my professional routine. And, yes, maybe even the two can occasionally even inform each other.

Surely, the commitment I’ve made to nurture, protect, and prepare a human being for a world full of uncertainty is not so unlike my job to provide a satisfying experience to the users of [insert product with hence-forth still fuzzy requirements here].

Discovering and creating values, trust, and loyalty–these are all things that I intend to master in my role as a father. And humbling to the academic state of user experience and product design as it may sound, I think these positive attributes may also be transferred into a more practical application.

I think they may also apply to life.

There’s no shortage of days to remind me that my industry, with all of its accompanying challenges and headaches, is that much removed from the work of an intelligent creator or benevolent watchmaker, if you will. But if even a minuscule fraction of the values I strive to build can be absorbed into the work I do to live, and the life I try to shape for my child as a father, I think fulfillment and true purpose may get a run for their money on two fronts.

Because to me, that’s what true purpose is all about. And in the grand scheme of things, that’s how a legacy should be defined.


culture, journal

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On Theory

Mike Schindler, Land of Idols (Detail), 1995,  Ink Wash on Sculptured Canvas

For no particular reason, here are a few of my favorite theories.

  • Capitalism – The free market idea has appealed to me ever since I could choose between Matchbox and Hot Wheels.
  • Socialism – Because nobody said Capitalism was perfect.
  • Postmodernism – This wasn’t really an option for me as an art student. Not to mention that linking to Michel Foucault makes anyone seem wicked smarter than they really are.
  • Color Theory – Good to know. Better to practice.
  • Evolution – Because it’s the one explanation for our species that makes any sense.
  • Intelligent Design – Because it doesn’t really make any sense but I choose to believe it anyway (and find it totally compatible with the aforementioned).
  • String Theory – I don’t know. Just sounds important. I think I’ll put it on the list.
  • Psychoanalysis – Can you imagine where we’d be without Sigmund? Friggin’ here, dude. That’s where.
  • Rational Emotive Therapy – Because I think the world would be better off if everyone went to therapy and used the word fuck on a semi-regular basis. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.
  • Attachment Theory – Because it all goes back to mom and dad.
  • User Experience Design – I think I might be getting the hang of this one.

So, what did I miss?


Goodbye, Max

Goodbye Max

Max was with us for a good 9 years. Unfortunately, after we learned that he’d been diagnosed with diabetes, which would have been entirely treatable, the doctors discovered cancer–unlikely to be treatable.

We’ll miss you, buddy.


art, politics

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Mask #5 Revisited

In the Fall of 1994 I did a series of ink wash drawings titled simply Masks. As I recall at the time, this particular part of the series had a lot to due with the Heisenberg principle, but it coud easily be applied to the recent presidental veto on federal stem cell research.

Mask #5

Mike Schindler
Mask #5 – Part of the series, Masks
Fall 1994
Ink Wash on Paper


Olympic Logo 2012

London 2012 OlympicsNow that the 2012 London Olympics logo has been released into wild, only to spread impromptu protests and full blown epileptic seizures, I’ve come to admire the level of controversy this simple design has appreciated with such short-lived exposure.

My knee-jerk reaction to it was probably very similar to the reaction of a lot of other people.

Yuck.

But, I have to admit, having investigated the designers’ intent and observing the public’s caustic reactions to it daily, my interest has been intellectually peaked. This happened in spite of the fact that in just about every visual sense, I’m appalled–particularly by the garish disorder of it all (I’ll also admit that it took me a full day to register that it reads “2012″).

In fact, the four fragmented planes may very well represent the four different ways I read the design.

  • The design nerd in me calls it as he sees it. Garbage. A total trainwreck of geometry. No fluidity or elegance.
  • The usability nerd in me has no appreciation for it, and for all intents and purposes, never will. Ick. Aesthetics. But he does wonder at what level it was developed to speak to a certain “persona” and if he (meaning me) is in fact a “statistical anomoly” outside of that segment. If only he and the brand nerd were on speaking terms.
  • The brand nerd in me may know a few more things than the others. Then again, maybe not. He knows it’s a risk, but a risk with a potentially good payoff. Yes, he knows that it was designed to appeal to a younger audience. And what could appeal to youth culture more than pissing off mom and dad? In any event, this is the first time in many years that brand nerd has paid any attention to an Olympic logo.
  • The art nerd in me remembers that people don’t always appreciate new ideas and new forms of expression. When someone tells him, “That can’t be art. I could do that!” he knows it’s a total tell for pedestrian thinking. And it makes him sad for a second, until he remembers that he can still create whatever the fuck he wants and elevate it to the level of art.

Wait a second… Nope. I just looked up. Still garbage.

Truthfully, I think there’s more to this argument. But I should probably wait and see if anybody else in there still has an opinion.


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