Initiate 2014

2014 x2

The first minute of 2014 came quietly, but in no way a bad entry to the new year. Reflective. Content.

And then Lunar New Year came with a gallop and a leap, befitting of the year’s sign, gallantly making its way into the world. Between the two New-Year-markers, much happened. The rush up to this minute was intense. Weeks prior involved many projects ending, new ones starting. You know, new year stuff. Last week I said I’d commit to writing more and putting my stuff out there.

So what better way to start than share a run-down of what I’ve been up to! Scroll on down to check it out, or jump to the update you wish to see!

PhillyCHI     |     Gung Fu     |     123&Co.     |     Dribbble     |     SBYF Project



I became the 2014 Chair of PhillyCHI! What is PhillyCHI you ask? From the source, PhillyCHI is the Philadelphia region’s chapter of the ACM SIGCHI, an interdisciplinary academic and professional group interested in Human-Computer Interaction, User Experience, Usability, and other related disciplines. PhillyCHI holds monthly meetings and socials to network and discuss current topics in HCI.

So we host cool events pertaining to user experience and usability. As for being Chair? I was apprehensive at first, but with great support and working with a phenomenal leadership team comprising our 2014’s board, well, it’s been pretty hectic, but also wholly satisfying. The greatest thing is learning to lead while being able to deliver. The curve is huge, but as I said, I’m working with a fantastically talented team with phenomenal support on the sidelines.

Some things PhillyCHI is looking to make happen this year:

Showcasing Philadelphia as a primier design & tech hub. Ever been to a PhillyCHI event? Heard our panels? Seen our sponsors? Engaged in the dialogue we’re having with the local universities? If you have, you will well know Philadelphia as a leading design city, one that creatively advances. If you haven’t, you can glean this from the many existing creative initiatives citywide. But PhillyCHI wants to push the focus further. We believe Philadelphia as a city of burgeoning opportunity for creative professionals. This year we want to hone in on the amount of opportunity for designers of all disciplines to embrace our city’s offerings.

Focus on stewarding Philadelphia’s design & tech talent. From recent grads, transitioning entry levels, aspiring experts and adept masters—this city has all shades and we want to help them blend in nurturing fashion. In a couple of week’s we have a coding marathon with Drexel. In the coming months, we’ll be partnering with even more organizations to make these relationships possible. So join our mailing list and tune in.



Why We Train: Three Generations of Cultural Study — my latest creative project was working with Arvil Prewitt to create this video short. It’s a reflection on the cultural relevance of gung fu, a piece I am extremely proud of. Please check it out by heading over here.

2014 marks my return to teaching gung fu. I taught for a little while at Philadelphia University as a part of their extracurricular physical education program. While the opportunity and exposure was great, it was hard to really nurture the art and the students: the turnaround was fast while the education really an introduction, a primer into the culture.

This year, I am fortunate in having a few private students request my teaching. Thus far I’ve worked with them for a little over a month, the relationships being fantastic. They are passionate, forcing me to become a better practitioner through their hard work. As pressure tests go, humble-yet-knowledgeable students, eager to learn, they are as good as they come.

This came at a coincidental moment to a project I was working on for a fellowship application I submitted. I chose to focus on the cultural relationship of my base martial art, Kwong Sai Jook Lum. As anyone who knows me knows, the passion I have for martial arts is multifaceted and you can glimpse another part of that by looking at this creative project I’ve had the opportunity to create with my colleague and gung fu brother, Arvil Prewitt. I’m proud of this piece, as it pays tribute to my teachers while also providing a synopsis of the cultural relevance to an otherwise obsolete art.



123&CO. is a side project my roommate and I started. It is comprised of friends and colleagues working closely with organizations in Philadelphia for social good. While we realize that our small efforts won’t save the whole world, we believe affecting change in any sphere of influence is a great start.

Our first gathering is an ice cream social to support Youth Emergency Services. You can learn more about this particular social here and learn about the thought process behind my logo design here.



I’ve promised myself to be more assertive with sharing my work, especially on Dribbble: it’s the only way I’ll get better and hold myself accountable. I thought I’d share my latest with you here!

My latest Dribbble post was inspired by something I read last autumn: that the ancient Chinese believed winters grew so cold due to the Earth, once a year, moving far away from the Sun. They embraced autumn as a time of finding beauty in change and sorrow, a time for courage in the face of increasing darkness, and a time of hope for the coming spring.

This sparked a little story in my head with Tàiyáng (太阳), the Sun, reaching out to her departing love, Di (地), the Earth, due to unseen forces (gravity) driving her towards the direction of autumn.

If you’d like to see any of my other Dribbble shots, please head over to my collection and leave a crit or two!

SBYF Project


SBYF Project rolled out with some updates during the last quarter of 2013. If you haven’t checked that out yet, we are continuing our workshops in storytelling and memory collecting! As a matter of fact, have a story to share? Have a memory you want to preserve? Head on over to our website and submit one!

While you’re at it, if you need some inspiration or simply feel like reliving tales from other members, direct your attention to the SBYF Online Memory Library. One of our objectives is to foster community and sharing through stories, so dive in and enjoy moments from a diverse pool of history!

There You Have It!

I hope you enjoyed some of the things I’ve been working on so far! This was a nice opportunity to take some stock in the excitement I have for the rest of 2014. Stay tuned and until next time, enjoy 2014!


I’ve Been Busy…

I’ve been busy. I know, I know, it’s something we hear from most folks. And busy rarely equates with “productive” or—what I’ve learned to matter more—”purposeful.” But I’ve been busy. A lot of it productive, a good chunk of it purposeful.

Hence not writing in a while. Sure, I’ve THOUGHT a lot about writing, The trouble is, I had a hard time committing to putting something down. Typing or writing out the words made it “real” and if it were real, it was vulnerable to criticsim. And to quote George McFly, “I don’t know if I can take that kind of rejection.”

Which, as I am sure you are well aware dear reader, is absolutely silly. I read a quote from Matt Fraction recently (of the esteemed Hawkeye series—I don’t care if you think comics are for luddites or not, read it) in response to someone asking him about his process of sitting down to write. He said something along the lines of writing as a physical act. We assume it’s some ethereal thing, but in reality, it requires physical effort. He then asks us to pick up a pencil (or open Byword on your Macbook) and then write “Something.” “Something” what?

” i don’t understand the feeling of, the way people speak of writing as though it were, like, some kind of djinn to be summoned or like it’s the loch ness monster or seeing a shooting star. it’s a physical act. it is a thing you do with your muscles and your body and your willpower. watch, i’ll show you: get a piece of paper. get a pencil. put the pencil on the paper and write the word “something” there. you did it. you wrote. you wrote ‘something.’ now put a word after something. Something what? Something… happened? creaked? died? flew? exploded? snapped? Tell me. With your hand, with the hand holding the pencil or pen or marker or crayon, it doesn’t matter, push your fingers and hand up and back and across and back until there is another word after “something”.

There. Now you’re writing a story.”

— Matt Fraction

This is my something. Something I’ve been working hard at, getting a lot of ducks lined up for 2014 and beyond.


2013 was a great year of change. Turning 30. Balancing out work and life. Changing careers to focus more on social services. Applying my interests in creative direction, storytelling and culture into servicing the social sector. Confidence. Exploring my values and behavior. It’s all in-progress. And for once, in-progress feels good. Not procrastination, but knowing these projects, even upon completion, are an in-progress iteration toward learning more, doing better, exploring, staying curious, being open.

It’s all been for the better. And as a part of that, I decided that it was also time for me to fear less, do better, share more. The doing part I’ve done, but I was never comfortable with sharing it. A part of that is the fear I was talking about. The fear of having your work ridiculed or dismissed. Of being called a hack or irrelevant. Of being an amateur.

Pressure Testing

It’s the age of information. And once we put something out there, it’s out there. That’s a lot of damn pressure. But you know what? If it’s not out there, no one gets to know about it either. And if no one knows about it, I won’t get feedback, I won’t get pressure tested. And if there’s anything that I’ve learned about myself it’s that life requires some pressure testing. Here’s to improving.

And so, I’m looking forward to posting up some of the work I’ve wrought into being from the past year, using this blog-space to explore some of my loftier speculations on life and wonder. It’s a place for process. To showcase how I think through my designs, to display some of the polished work I’ve executed. It’s a place for me to be accountable. To share ideas and share how they’re developing. A place to communicate to those interested in knowing how my mind works or what I’ve been up to. A place for my written word to do, you know, what humans do: relate.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned from this past year, it’s that you can do anything you want. But you can’t do everything. And with that lesson, I’m going to tell you of some of the things I have done and some of the things I will do. Because life is short, and if we’re unable to do everything, let’s pick and choose what’s worth doing.

So join me. Choose. Commit. And let’s do something.

Behind the Spaces

A year ago, I stepped out into Paris and felt at once wonder, awe and confusion. The buildings were so close to me as to feel confining, looming, tempting to fall atop one another, to fall on top of me.

As we wound our way towards the Seine, even larger, epic sculptures rose, the grandeur of it all was magnificent, but also overwhelming.

We continued walking, the space aired out a bit, the arteries of the city opened up to us. We stepped into throngs of cheery people weaving in and out of the streets, alleyways and each other. It was the Summer Solstice. Despite the joy that grew out of the shared festivities, when I think back to that night I remember looking behind towards the Notre Dame while noting:

“As beautiful as these spaces and structures are, someone—a lot of someones—built all of this.”

It’s easy to cascade over the spectacle of such monuments, to stare in amazement at the sheer dominance of human achievement. All it took was an idea, a genius, a king with a vision: these immense markers of civilization now sit to spell France’s glory.

But it wasn’t just one Louis’ vision and it wasn’t one Old Master’s persistence was it? It took many hands extending from overburdened backs to carry each piece of stone that made the historical monuments we see today. It clearly took a millennium of vision and certain genius for these to exist. But it also took the hard work of the unsung to manifest that idea.

The same is with any modern project, objective or goal. It’s easy to gloss over the machinations churning in the background as Matt and I travel the States. Yes, we do quite a bit of work ourselves, unnoticed by the general public. The grind of waking up early, following up with the professionals met days prior, mapping out a route for the new city we’re in, plotting the engagement of strangers and organizations alike, the continuous introduction of the project and the meeting of a new person to new person to new person for hours end over. It’s not a stagnant nine-to-five desk trap, but it is work. We’re lucky enough to have the opportunity: we enjoy it.

Behind it All

There is more to SBYF than just Matt and myself, however. The pictures and stories come from our point of view, but a very integral team sits behind us, behind the spaces, no less important to the project. They helped make SBYF what it is today, are helping make what it will become.

They all give their time willingly, donating extraordinary amounts of effort to create the digital storybook that carries the project’s parable, to test postcard prompts, to create copious amounts of logos, images and designs. These professionals shoot hours of video, edit hours of video, sound engineer music, record voice overs, hand sketch/draw/paint illustrations, execute well-planned photographs, design the experience (of three iterations) of websites and build physical exhibit structures. These are the folks helping make the idea happen. They are the ones Matt sits with to plan the direction of our mission, to discuss how to best preserve the beautiful postcards you send back and how best to showcase them. When the logistical weight of growing an intergenerational community looms over top, they are the helping hands that guide things forward.

Amidst the project’s mission to bring intergenerational connectedness, to foster relationships and to bring about the awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s easy to forget the team that is helping in every way they can, bringing together their creative and logistic energies to achieve the SBYF Project’s goals. The value of work they bring to the table is staggering.

If there is one thing I’ve learned while working with a talented pool of hardworking individuals, it’s to value the people you work with and to value their creative efforts—especially when it’s donated. Sometimes it’s easy to dimiss their creation as simply a means to an end, but they’ve dedicated a part of themselves in making that tool. It only does these folks justice to mention them by name:

Whitney Krape
Steve Schaller
Robert Tontaro
Jason Finau
Ian Leibovici
Georgia Castellano
Dan Waldron
Arvil Prewitt
Andrew Christiano

And of course, you. Thank you for supporting our project (all of you who were once strangers and now no longer are!) and for submitting your memories. Without your page in the story, our book would be incomplete.

Entrenched in the day-to-day of the operational side of things, I wanted to take a moment and thank you, those that sit behind the spaces.


Day 7. It’s been quick bursts from city to city, stranger to stranger, creative to creative, and I’m not sure I can recollect specific moments quite yet.

It’s all spontaneous improv, an exercise in engagement and extraversion. The creative cultural centers are all amazing, bringing together writers, musicians, dancers, martial artists, painters, illustrators, designers, photographers, and… puppet makers.

Puppet Heap in Hoboken, NJ were some of the finest people we met along the way. They gave us a tour of their facilities and allowed me this snapshot of their work.

Puppet Heap • • @puppetheap

Check out their business cards.

We were given sneak peaks at their latest work, met with each director there and saw all the stages of puppet-making-production. And this all happened on Day 2!

Creative Directing

The experience as a creative support member for the SBYF Project is an interesting one. I’ve never quite enjoyed being behind the camera while traveling—the experience becomes filtered. It’s you, the lens and then the world. And some people communicate this way effectively and passionately. I’ve never been able to find a balance with it, rather mulling over my interactions through writing, sketching or editing (the footage) later.

When I’m the man and machine, I’m looking in at Matt and his interaction. And with technology today, I’m able to whip up graphics, designs, and quick video edits on the road, in the car at 65mph with Matt behind the wheel. When I’m not behind the camera, I’m handing out postcards and meeting strangers, just like Matt and Drew did on previous trips. And this is the most exciting. There’s a joy to connect with someone you didn’t think you could connect with, a sense of personal fulfillment even as you’re sharing a project that isn’t your own. And when the stranger gets it, that bubble that was ever-s- thin to begin with, pops. And now you’re two people shaking hands, swapping names and sharing stories.

Whether it’s the creatively cultured or the random city dweller, the process is a large part of the delight in personal exchange.