Birth of an App, Part 5

The Shaping Of Creatalyst

The app was starting to take shape – ideas for sequences, transitions, animations, colors, formats were shared and discussed and played with. Screen shots gave us a sense for how the app would look and initial animations were looked at first on the pc and then an iPad. An entire wall was covered in the architecture of the app, with navigation through the various sections. Where would this action take the user? How would they get back to where they had been? Was it intuitive? Would they get lost? Where there some surprises? Some interesting reveals? Did the experience serve to stimulate creativity? Was it an enjoyable experience? How true was it to the original vision? (more…)

Birth of an App, Part 4

The Brief

After playing with dozens of apps, I had a clear picture of what I thought would work and not work for my app. The brief I wrote ultimately communicated my vision to get the design going and outlined several key things the app needed to deliver. Based on my original thoughts of this being a creative catalyst using my photos and stories, I knew that:

This app needed to be cool without being obnoxious.
The user interface had to add to the experience, not detract from it.
If there was going to be music as part of the app, it would have to enhance the experience and not drive users crazy.
It needed – to the best extent possible given a two-dimensional tablet environment – to deliver a five-senses experience. (more…)

Is your “Evil Plan” ready?

I’ve been grappling with the seemingly odd mix of my professional life: strategy consulting, photography and creative workshops. How they fit together – or not. I find myself answering the question “So what are you doing these days?” with “A mix of marketing strategy and photography – two separate parts of my life.” But I’m learning that they’re not separate – they’re part of a whole and absolutely interrelated.

I credit a number of folks helping me sort through this recently: my good friends DK of Mediasnackers and Jay Liebenguth, designer Zoli Reczey, and, most recently, the book “Evil Plans” by Hugh MacLeod.
Each of these sources of inspiration has shown me that there is an umbrella to what I do: offer a new perspective to all of my projects. Stand on my desk (or your desk) and see things in a different light. Whether it’s marketing strategy, a creative thinking workshop or my photography the common link is that of my perspective. How I approach strategy for a business or conducting a workshop or composing an image is one and the same: to bring a unique and meaningful alternative perspective to the subject.

This sorting out is an evolutionary process with many “Ah-ha!” moments tossed in to keep the momentum going. It’s a journey and it’s not just about the destination but taking in the scenery (and lessons) along the way as well. My plan is coming together – it has been over the past few years – and within the span of the past couple of weeks the vision has become significantly clearer.

What is an Evil Plan? As MacLeod writes, it’s the determination to “make a good living doing what [you] love, doing something that matters [and] becoming the person [you] were born to be despite the odds.” (By the way, this is one of the few books in recent years that I could not put down until it was finished.)

We all have the capacity to develop an Evil Plan – it just takes determination, listening, learning and a lot of hard work.


Move your art forward every day

Patricia Moran once said, “Discipline is admired in opera
singers, engineers, dancers, pianists or brain surgeons but, for some peculiar
reason, when a painter is undisciplined, it is considered creative, new and
innovative, or even genius. Usually, it is just bad painting.”

The same applies to any visual art, including photography. I
try to move my art forward every single day. I don’t always make it, but five
out of seven days in the week I do something
to improve my art –
shoot, print, retouch, study, visit a gallery/exhibit, work on a portfolio,
write, take a class, read, visit with others, plan, organize – something
related to photography with the eternal goal of advancing my art. It sounds disciplined and it is, although it is pleasurable versus painful. Instead of being an obligation, it’s an aspiration – and inspiration.

I do not want to remain where I am with my photography. I
like what I’ve done in the past and I like what I’m doing presently, but I
continually want to learn something new – a new technique (maybe an old one,
but new to me), test a new perspective, learn something unique from another
artist from any visual or performing art – whatever is possible to push my
limits, push me out of my comfort zone, make me try something different in order to move me ahead in developing who I am
as an artist.

Ms Moran said discipline is admired
for many artistic areas and discipline must be a key part of a photographer’s
life. Constant study and focus (pun intended) are necessary
in order for a photographer to refine and grow his or her craft.

Gotta go. It’s late in the day and I still need to move my
art forward today…

Ralph Gibson

My mentor, Howard Stephens, introduced me to complete new worlds of photography. He took the basic building blocks my father had established and expanded my view of the craft. I’ll write more specifically about him in another Catalyst, but his teachings came more from conversation than from demonstration. He regularly challenged my thinking and perspective – not by critiquing my work per se but rather over a cup of coffee reflecting on something he had read or seen.

One such conversation focused around a quote by Ralph Gibson. I don’t recall exactly where the quote was taken from (some book) but given when Howard showed it to me, it had to come from the mid-1970s at the latest. For me, it sums up the challenge of photography better than any other I’ve seen:

The question these days is not how to photograph because we have automatic cameras and sophisticated materials and you can become a fairly accomplished photographer technically after a few months of real work. It’s not like painting. So I think the first question is what to photograph. And then the question is, once you know what to photograph, where do you put the camera? If you get these two right you’ve got yourself a strong work. If the what is strong and you put your camera in the right place, it’s very simple.

This is more relevant today than it was 30 years ago, no?

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