MSS Member Spotlight- Einat Argaman

Today’s MSS Member Spotlight features Einat Argaman, who runs the blog Design Break.

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How would you describe Design Break?

DesignBreak shines a spotlight on emerging designers as well as veteran and/or less well-known designers and brands, and helps them get discovered by the public and by the industry. DesignBreak is constantly inspired by new designers and trends of the scene, and while it has a strong personality of its own, it’s always evolving and growing with the times. In 2009 I started out as a blogger trying spread the word about the impressive design scene in Israel (that’s one of the reasons I decided to write it in English) and that’s how and why it all started. Today the blog is more international (and features designers from around the world (moving to San Francisco helped :).

Most of the designers (like I once used to be) like doing their own thing, designing from morning to evening in their studio without worrying about anything else. I guess that in a way, I’m helping them spread the word out. Some know what’s needed to be done but there are others who need to be pushed and be encouraged and that’s what I’m here for.

What made you want to start Design Break?

I studied Interaction & Digital Media Design (a long long time ago). At the beginning of my design career I worked as an e-learning designer and then switched to web design. At some point I decided that I needed to explore a different path. I found out that I love to design but not so much designing for someone other than myself. So, after much thought, and being encouraged by my partner, I quit my job and took some time to think about my next step in life.

I used to sit in front of my computer and gaze for hours at so many inspiring design blogs and I was really blown away by all of the variety. I wasn’t thinking about a blog of my own and actually it was my partner who came up with the idea (he knows me better than I do). After giving it some thought, I decided to give it a try. I always wanted to be some sort of an ambassador, so writing about the mad talent in Israel sounded like an obvious choice.

What does an average day look like for you?

You can say that for me design comes first and that is how I choose to live my life. I love being surrounded by white spaces, dashes of colors and lots of amazing designers. Oh and… most importantly, my coffee breaks are crucial for my everyday survival. I guess that being some sort of Instagram junky is also a big part of my daily life. Most days I start by scrolling down my Instagram and Pinterest feeds (actually that’s also how my night ends) while I have a big cup of latte in my hand. After eating a huge bowl of fresh fruits and drinking another cup of latte, I sit in front of my computer and go through my inbox (I must say that being approached by designers that otherwise I wouldn’t have known about, feels pretty special. I’m also lucky enough to establish a close bond with most of the top design schools in Israel and their PR department informs me about what’s going on during the school year). A few times a week, mid day I’ll schedule a couple of meetings with local designers or bloggers. I always make a point to combine it with a gallery or a design shop visit (and a yummy treat on the side). After a few hours away from my computer, I’ll go back home and to sitting in front of my beloved computer. Answer some emails and continue working on future posts and other projects. I love sitting in front of my computer and just sailing away to the unknown and that’s never going to change.

What are some of the tools that you use?

As far for apps and programs, I usually use Photoshop and wordpress as my right hand. I also try and keep up with my ever-floating bloglovin/feedly and Evernote.  Since Instagram came to my life, I began following a few design students and from their feeds I discover a whole new world of talented people. Pinterset and also my FaceBook feed is filled with lots of design related news that I go through each and every day to stay on to of things.

What is your workspace like?

To be honest, it’s still a work in progress.  I always need a bright and white space so my white table and white chair are a must. My iMac (a pretty new and exciting gift from the Mr.) makes everything looks a lot fancier. Other than that, you can find lots of patterned pans, few black and white notebooks (most of them will have a polka dot flare) and ceramic stamps on top of my table. Oh and recently I bought one of Courtney Cerruti’s illustrations and I’m so happy to look at it each and every day.

What type of role does Makeshift Society play in your work?

I moved to San Francisco from Israel about a year ago. I remember learning about Makeshift Society before knowing I would move, I didn’t even imagine ever visiting it in person. BUT the minute I knew that San Francisco is going to be my new home I had a feeling that Makeshift will play a big role in my new adventure. Coming to a new country with no friends or family, I had to find myself a home away from home and assembly a new creative net. And so, at the beginning I visited the clubhouse once a week and began learning the “American way of being” in small inspirational doses. I met some pretty special and inspiring girls that some of them became with time some of my favorite people in the city (hi there, Ashley and Kat!)  A while back I switched to being a supporting member and I can honestly say that the mailing list and the ability to read and be introduced to some of the bay area’s most talented and diverse people makes a big difference in the way I explore the creative side of the city. I learn about upcoming shows and events that I get to explore first hand and then write about or even discover new and exciting creators in so many disciplines. You can say that now it’s more of informative kind of role but it’s much more than that. It makes me feel like there are so many like minded people out there that I still want to get to know and learn about and Makeshift is right there by my side to guide me in the right direction. It must sounds a bit cheesy but that’s how I feel…

 

MSS Member Spotlight- Launch Sessions

Today we are featuring the dynamic duo behind Launch Sessions– Ariana Pritchett and Katrina McHugh.
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How would you describe Launch Sessions?

Launch Sessions is a micro-business support team. Created by a coach and designer duo, we work with creative entrepreneurs and change makers who are looking to start something new or mix up what they’ve already got going. By pairing thoughtful business strategy with quality custom design folks not only build a map to where they want to go, but also have a new identity to help them look good along the way.

What does an average day look like for you?

Both of us work primarily from home, Ariana in Oakland and Katrina in San Francisco, so our days often begin by throwing on a hoodie, grabbing a cup of coffee and parking it at the computer while we go through our work plan over the phone. The rest of the day varies, filled with client meetings, marketing, leads follow up, art direction prep, accounting, and other various projects that get thrown our way. We break up our day by taking our dogs for walks, having networking brunches with other fun creatives, pursuing our own creative projects, and trying to reap the benefits of being self-employed by making those daytime appointments or running errands without the crowds.

What are some of the tools that you use?

We love anything that helps simplify systems and daily tasks. Our business mainly runs on Google Apps but other favorites include: Harvest, Boomerang, Hootsuite and join.me for meetings and screen sharing. The design studio is up in the Adobe Creative Suite all day but getting off of the computer and into the physical world is important too. We can often been seeing getting our hands dirty with sketchbooks, colored markers and giant pads of paper for our meeting notes.

What is your workspace like?

Ariana has a studio in the lower level of her house where she can meet with clients, work in peace, and even rent out on airbnb for some extra income. It is homey with great natural light, but truth be told many days she stays upstairs working from her couch.

Katrina has an art studio in her SF apartment and perches in the top floor bay window behind her giant imac most days. She’s lucky to have plants, light, and little dog to keep her company but the best part is having two separate desks – one for business and one for purely creative endeavors. As a creative working from home it can be hard to switch gears between things like accounting and illustration. The defined spaces for each make a world of difference.

What type of role does Makeshift Society play in your work?

Makeshift has been such a huge player in growing our business. We have received referral clients through members, used their lending library in a pinch, found incredible resources like our photographer and lawyer, as well as utilized their space as a place to meet with clients from SF in person. We love Makeshift and wouldn’t be where we are today with out them!

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MSS Member Spotlight- Kent Hudson

Over the next couple of days/weeks we’ll be rolling out interviews done with MSS members conducted by Samantha Macy.

First up, independent video game developer Kent Hudson.

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How would you describe The Novelist?

The Novelist is a game about the struggle to follow your dreams without pushing away the people you love. It’s about a novelist named Dan Kaplan, his wife Linda, and their son Tommy, but you don’t play as any of them: you play as a spirit inhabiting the house they’ve rented for the summer. You can’t harm the Kaplans, and in fact your job is to stay out of sight so they don’t know you’re there. By doing that, you can explore their different career vs. family struggles and decide what they should do; despite the ghostly premise, the game is focused on real-life dilemmas.

For example, what should Dan do when his agent calls to tell him that he has an important book-signing event on the same day as Linda’s grandmother’s funeral? What about when Tommy’s doctor recommends that his parents tutor him for two hours a day to overcome a mild learning disability, even though their busy schedules make finding that time almost impossible?

Each dilemma has three possible outcomes, each of which is sympathetic to one of the characters, and you as the player have to decide what the family should do. There’s no winning or losing; you simply make the decisions you feel are best and take an active hand in shaping the Kaplans’ story.

The hook is that none of the situations have a right or wrong answer – or, more specifically, as the game designer I don’t specify what the right answer is. Questions about career dreams vs. family life are difficult, and I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. Making this game was in many ways an embodiment of my own struggle with that question, and as a game designer it’s exciting to me that I can make a question game, not a message game.

Since The Novelist doesn’t advocate one specific viewpoint, each player has to bring their own beliefs to the game, and many players have learned about their own values through the choices they’ve made. It may be surprising to hear this about a game, but I get emails from players who were deeply affected by The Novelist and were often moved to tears by what they learned about themselves. It’s really humbling to hear that the game is having that kind of impact for people.

What does an average day look like for you?

With independent game development there isn’t really an average day! Some days I focus solely on PR work and interviews, and on other days I focus on business and industry stuff, but on most days I just work on the game.

Though when you’re focusing a personal project, even working on the game brings something different every day. One day I might be writing character dialogue, the next day I could be tracking down a weird bug that only happens on one person’s computer, and the day after that I might be trying to get the game’s UI to line up a certain way.

I spent over a decade as a member of huge teams in the AAA industry, which means that I had a specialized skill set and was focused on specific areas of the games I worked on, so the switch to independent development was a huge eye-opener. I had to learn how to do tons of things that I’d never done before – audio, music, UI, writing, managing contractors, recording VO, etc. – while also running the business and publicity side, things which were also completely new to me.

So about the only thing I can say about an average day is that I’m working really hard on something, and it’s probably something I’ve never done before.

What are some of the tools that you use?

The main tool I use is a game engine called Unity. It’s become very popular with independent developers because it’s a low-cost alternative to traditional game engines, and it’s also very flexible in terms of the kinds of games you can make. I also use a variety of software that isn’t game-specific, like Scrivener and Evernote. I actually did a write-up of all my tools for a blog post last year, so if you want the full breakdown you can check it out here.

What is your work space like?

I have a pretty simple setup at home, just a desk with an external monitor for my laptop. Since I work on a computer each day I don’t have many requirements beyond a power outlet, which makes it easy to switch back and forth between home and Makeshift. At home I have a bigger screen, so some types of game work are a bit smoother, but it’s easy to bring my laptop to Makeshift a few days a week. I just grab an open spot (usually at one of the big tables by the front window), get to work, and take advantage of the easy access to great coffee in the neighborhood.

What makes video games important?

Wow, that’s a big question! I’m stealing a bit from my answer to the next question, but I think that games are important because they’ve opened up new ways for the audience to experience interesting worlds and interact with fascinating people. You can watch a great story in a movie or read about memorable characters in a book, but in a game you can be one of those characters. You can explore a fully-realized world at your own pace, in your own way.

That isn’t to say that games can or should replace other mediums; each art form has its own magical qualities and unique strengths. But the ability to create your own experience, to immerse yourself in an amazing setting, to make meaningful decisions that shape not only the story, but the world itself? That’s a wondrous thing, and game designers are still in the early stages of exploring the full possibilities of the medium.

How does a video game offer different storytelling potential than other mediums?
In a word: interactivity. Games are the only major medium where the audience can take an active role in shaping the story, and that’s the central focus of The Novelist. Many games sadly don’t allow the player to affect the story, which has always struck me as a missed opportunity, so when I got a chance to develop a game of my own I knew that I really wanted to tap into what was unique about our medium.

The possibilities are incredible when you embrace the fact that the audience can play a key role in the work itself and make it their own, especially now that games are finally taking on more mature, relatable subject matter. There’s nothing wrong with zombies or robots – there are books, movies, plays, and TV shows about those subjects, too – but for a long time games didn’t do much to move outside of that kind of genre work. The indie game movement has really changed that in the last 5 years, and I’m incredibly excited to see where the marriage of personal subject matter and an interactive medium can take us.

What type of role does Makeshift Society play in your work?

The main thing Makeshift does is keep me from losing my mind. For the first year of independent game development I worked out of my apartment. I’m married, so I’d of course see my wife every day and see my friends out and about, but sitting in a home office working without human contact day after day really started taking a toll on me. I started keeping open lines of communication with my friends via IM and video calls, but it was no replacement for actual human contact.

So I started looking for coworking spaces in order to get out of the house and be around other people three days a week, and I was immediately drawn to Makeshift because it was one of the few coworking spaces I found in San Francisco that wasn’t knee-deep in tech startup culture. I may work on a computer all day, but I don’t want to be surrounded by tech heads chasing venture capital deals. I really dug the DIY vibe of Makeshift and the super-diverse set of professions you learn about there.

Makeshift is my excuse to get out in this amazing city, be around people from completely different industries, and add a little structure (but not too much!) to my life as an independent developer.

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Member Mentions

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Oh, hello Spring! You crept upon us fast. With this new season comes many new projects, conferences, and all around busyness. Our members have been tinkering, making, and doing so we wanted to drop in and see just what they are up to for our Member Mentions.

Illustrator, artist, and member Arin Fishkin has made a series of fun, cheerful, and beautiful illustrations of San Francisco. The illustrations are of  favorite famous and some not so famous city icons that Arin pays tribute to. They are graphic and bold with a vintage feel. She uses custom patterns for accents for the landmarks like the big fog in her Sutro Tower illustration or the floral pattern on the 49 mile Scenic Drive sign. Her vibrant prints caught the eye of  Taxi and they did a nice write up featuring some of her SF icon prints.

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Karrie Myers Taylor was interviewed recently on Regain Focus. Karrie owns of Videokard, a video production and marketing crew,  who essential creat “movie trailers” for business (what a neat concept!) She spoke with Regain Focus on her business, clients, and being a small business owners. She also provided insightful advice for small business owners just starting out. Head on over to Regain Focus for her full interview!

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Heidi design studio GOLD has had some recent exciting mentions and award-winnings. GOLD is a two women design studio inspired by systems in nature, narrative of places and people, history and its ephemera, and the sciences and humanities. GOLDToday is the blog show casing the design duos bi-costal creativity. Their previous work was hands on, is now done via corresponding over the internet. Each day they are given a prompted to create some work. “It has something to do with that day and sharing something with each other beyond our digital back and forth and to flex their making methods and process.”

Their poster for the CCA 2013 MFA show won a typography award from Communication Arts. You can see the full poster here on Heidi’s site link to the poster/exhibition hereThey are also are currently the featured studio on HOW Design’s Designer’s Spotlight.

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Member Peggie Lee is a jewelry designer. Her pieces are described as simple, but sophisticated, “deceptively simple, featuring artisan craftsmanship mixed with contemporary approaches to contrast, color, texture and composition,” and have been garnering attention in television and in movies! Peggies jewelry has been spotted recently on shows like as The Vampire Diaries & Scandal. Her pieces were also spied in the most recent issues of Sports Illustrated. We will be looking for more appearances of your jewelry on the small screen, big screen, and beyond, Peggie!

We are excited for all of the Makeshifter’s and what they have been up to! Remember, if you are a member, please share with us all the fun and noteworthy ventures.