Some Thoughts on Time Management

Some Thoughts on Time Management: Baby Daddy Edition

I am hoping to address something that is asked of me often with this blog entry.

“How do you manage your time so well? I mean, you have a wife and a baby and you still manage to stay well ahead of schedule”

This conversation (or some variation of it) happens more than I care to admit. The answer is simple really: Priority. Time management is an ongoing game of re-prioritization and impact mitigation. I have refined my interpersonal value scale such that my decision making is a reflex. This value scale is a complex system of logical and emotional statements designed to quantify the tasks I face in a given day such that I can assess importance and calibrate my priorities appropriately. A good example of one of this ingrained philosophical statements would be:

“I owe it to my family to make the most of the time I spend apart from them in order to make the most of the time we are together (free of distraction).”

That statement in many cases initiates proactivity and deters procrastination. Opting not to “make hay while the sun shines” has a negative impact on my ability to spend quality time with my family and is thus irresponsible and selfish. I maintain deeply rooted convictions such as this to govern my decision making. That is an example of a very emotional (but logical) personal statement. The more logical statements start with questions such as:

“How much time is required to complete?”

“When is the deadline?”

and most importantly

“What conditions are required to optimize success and reduce the required time for completion?”

The mistake many people make is in allowing themselves to perform tasks in sub optimal conditions. This will cost you time! The conditions will not always be perfect, but it is up to you to be aware of the factors that will contribute toward diminished returns. Free yourself of hindrance and distraction. Work with opportunity AND environment in mind. What I mean to say is be a right place, right time type and you will already be leagues ahead of your peers. Calibrating this mechanism effectively takes time and experience, so start working on it now. Understanding the compromise it takes to make conditions right for productivity with the understanding that the right time is NOW (9 times out of 10) and that LATER is typically just that, late.

Subdivide your time and keep regular “productivity hours.” I jokingly refer to my productivity time as office hours, but this established routine keeps me in check and forces me to respect that time. When that time is not specifically allocated I use it to do personal productivity work of skill building. This can be something like sketching or perhaps a hobby that is intellectually engaging or physically gratifying. The important thing is to leave time budgeted for personal productivity beyond work and school tasks. By maintaining this block of time it is easier to measure your ability to perform tasks and begin to subdivide (budget smaller blocks of time within the large block) appropriately. This is the hardest part, but this is a skill that will allow you to more accurately quote people for your services and understand the investment required on your part.

I am going to wrap this up by talking about deadlines. The biggest mistake I see being made is related to the understanding of deadlines for deliverables. If you have a presentation due for a 1:00pm class on a Wednesday, 1:00pm Wednesday IS NOT THE DEADLINE. Think through all of the other things that must happen after finishing the deliverable: proofing, revision, rehearsing, etc. All of those tasks take time and require a completed deliverable to begin. Back up your deadlines appropriately to factor in the intangibles and the unknowns. If you are “over-prepared” you are flexible. Trust me when I say you want to be flexible. If someone throws you a curveball it will not phase you and you will knock it out of the park. Give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Start developing your personal value scale and take back as much time as you can get, then finish strong and celebrate! Fun is fun-er when you don’t have an assortment of soul sucking tasks looming about like death eaters. I can’t believe I am finding an appropriate opportunity for this, but go forth and “git er done.”

IDSA Southern Conference ORLANDO 2015

IDSA Southern Conference ORLANDO 2015: “The future is plastics!” 

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I would like to use this weeks blog to give a huge shout out to the Souther District Planning Committee for the brilliant coordination of the IDSA conference with NPE. In addition to getting the privilege to hear from great speakers, gain inspiration from my talented peers, and generally top of my ID fuel tank I was able to explore the entirely magical and delightfully nerdy world of plastics. Believe me when I say that this experience was incredible. Plastics manufacturers from across the globe came out to show out. They were all excited to share their innovative processes and show off their capabilities.

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NPE 2015 Orlando WEST CONCOURSE Exhibit Floor

I was given plenty of free swag, but not just any old swag. swag that was made right before my eyes! I brought home an injection molded, Disney-esque, robot figurine (with moveable libs!) that was molded and assembled by machine in a matter of minutes. It was still warm to the touch when it was handed to me. I gave away a charming blow molded shoe-horn/walking stick that was a prize possession around the exhibit hall. I know all of this is making you jealous, but in all seriousness it was an impressive showing for an industry that is changing not only how we manufacture, but how we recycle. I was pleased to see that the plastics industry was developing so many technologies geared toward completing the plastics life-cycle in a more eco-friendly manner. In summary NPE was impressive, educational, entertaining, and memorable. It provided the perfect backdrop to our Southern District IDSA conference.

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Orange County Convention Center, Orlando FL

As for the rest of the IDSA conference…

This was my first, so I did not really know what to expect. It was pleasantly low-key and I found myself enjoying the people. Being in the company of like-minded passion was very gratifying. Industrial Designers care about people. I have been at many acting and entertainment design conferences and there is a distinctly different vibe. I am pleased to be part of a community that cares. Every interaction, every introduction, and every exchange had value. I have developed a further appreciation for my classmates and appropriated a vision for my personal development as well as the growth and development of the GA Tech industrial design program. I believe that we can make GA Tech Number one for BOTH Graduate and Undergraduate studies. There is no reason, with our available resources, that we can’t come together to set a precedent for greatness that can/ will live on for generations to come. When I become a teaching assistant next fall, for the sophomore design studio, I will carry this attitude of success with me. I want every interaction I have with my graduate classmates as well as each and every undergraduate I come in contact with to be one of encouragement, motivation, and inspiration. Together we can achieve greatness. I look forward to my remaining years as a graduate student and all of the opportunities I have to impact others and more importably be impacted.

Theft, Moving, and Spring Break?

I’ll return to the regularly scheduled lighting talk next post. I wanted to seize this opportunity to talk about the latest happenings in my world. I hope that everyone enjoyed their Spring Break (those of you who have such a thing). I for one did not get to enjoy a break in the traditional sense. Sure I did not have scheduled classes to attend, but I spent the first 3 days of my “break” moving our living space 2 blocks away to a better unit for our growing family. It is clear to me that I am no longer in my twenties. I got it done, but ouch that hurt. If you are in the Atlanta area and need to move give a shout to Mark the Mover. They were incredible. No I didn’t actually get moved by Mark himself, but the guys he sent to do his work for him were more than adequate. I packed for about 36 hours straight, slept for 4, moved for 8, unpacked for 6, slept for 3 and then unpacked for 16 straight before passing out comfortably in my new bedroom. Following?

'Just taking a moment to rest before we finish loading the truck. 4 hours of sleep and a 36 hour moving marathon. I'll sleep when I'm dead. #rockingchairbreak'

This is at about the halfway mark of the move. The old apartment is about 20 minutes away from empty.

After that it was all about getting my new office set up and situated. The next day was about kitchen and the day after that was about laundry. Somewhere around Friday I actually got to sit down at my new drawing table and have some fun, but sadly I could only have so much fun as my favorite pens had been stolen a week prior. Stolen you say? Well here’s what happened:

“And then sometimes you are out with colleagues and your window gets busted out and they steal your laptop (and computer bag). Practice safe computing friends. Password protect your computer and important files. Back up your system regularly. I promise it is worth it. I didn’t really lose anything but hardware. They took a lot of “stuff” from me with my bag. I am more upset about my sketchbook and pens being taken. “Stuff” will come and go. Just make sure you are taking measures to protect what is truly important to you. I am sad that we live in a world where this sort activity persists and even more sad at how dismissive our local law enforcement seems to be about its prevalence. We can do better. I am sad for the individuals who have performed this terrible act. Can a brother just get his pens back?”

Bradley Bergeron's photo.
Bradley Bergeron's photo.
It stinks that there are people out there who would do such a terrible and invasive thing. I lost the pens and 3/4 of all of my sketches for my current studio project. Knowing that I had a lot of drawing to do I had a “treat yo self” moment and got this:
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Thanks Sam Flax! Anyway back to my non-break spring break. Between insurance handling, moving logistics, and basic survival activities (such as eating and sleeping) my week had all but disappeared. It was finally time to get to work (well other work anyway)! I took a trip out into thaw world to gather supplies. After a stop at the Home Depot, Target, and of course Sam Flax (to get pens of course) I was stocked up and ready to create. So I may be a bit unhinged (mentally) at the moment, but I wanted to say that it was all worth it. Sure I did not get the relaxing vacation I desperately needed, and I was now down a MacBook Pro and 60 or so sketches (and pens), and I had to pay a lot of money to various service providers for various services provided BUT my new apartment is incredible, I have an amazing new drawing table, and I managed to do more sketching and modeling in 3 days than I have ever been able to do in an entire week before. Every event in your life is an opportunity. It is up to you to decide what the opportunity will be. I will save you all from any further nonsensical ramblings by pulling the plug on this thing right now and going to bed. This will be the first time since 2014 that I have been in bed before 10:00pm. That is all for now. Go forth this week and be a force for good. Make a difference in the world. Decide what your opportunities will be.

Establishing a Process: Lighting Design PART 2

LIGHTING DESIGN PROCESS PART 2: Hang and Focus

SMART-WATER

Smart Water on the stage w/strong side light and cast shadow

Focus is everything. I’m generally addressing those of you who are entirely unfamiliar with this process. Focus is exactly what you think it is. I am talking about how the light is “pointed” and affected by the provisioned features of specific lighting implements. There are various types of light that produces a range of light quality (and quantity). I could spend several posts on that topic alone, so for the purpose of the entry I will “focus” on the essentials (see what I did there… yeah sorry I couldn’t help myself). In order to point the light where and how you desire you must first hang the light in the appropriate location (physically attach and plug in). So this is really where the fun comes in. Most performance spaces have some variation of the same types of hanging positions, meaning if you were to set a point of origin at the center of the stage most venues have physical attachment points relative to each other on the X,Y,Z coordinate plane relative to the origin. I am using a lot of words to describe an established set of conventions allowing designers to point light from appropriate angles and vantages such as front, back, or side light. The composition is entirely based on the lights interaction with an object in the space and the relationship that has with the audience. Sometimes it is necessary to supplement the infrastructure to accomplish a design. I encourage this! Be inventive. Explore beyond established convention. Challenge the way the audience views the world you are building out of darkness. Put the light where you need it in order to tell the story. You must respect the responsibility you have as a storyteller and artist.

OUT-OF-DARK_BIG

Lighting only what is important. I focus on the critical scenic components and acting area

And so we build out of darkness. Not because we have harnessed the power of the day star, because the sun would not allow us to control it so. We use a multitude of lights that will be uniquely purposed to feature specific elements as if each lights presence was a brush stroke on the canvas of each scene. You control what is seen and more importantly what is not seen. Live production is all about slight of hand and misdirection. A successful lighting designer knows how to support the magic without calling attention to it. So we activate the magic using color and pattern, sculpting form from nothingness enabling the audience to willfully suspend the disbelief and fully engage in fantastic, imaginary worlds. Every light counts. It is with that in mind that we designers spend countless hours pouring over because we are often limited in our tools (equipment inventory, infrastructure limitations, limits of time, limited finical resources). We do not ever have the luxury of unlimited means in acting our vision, so we compromise and horse trade, ensuring that the integrity of the story remains intact. We advocate for a thing that has no voice until we are able to do our part to breathe life into it. It is up to the design team to give the director and performers a fighting chance of being heard.

BDF01

BDF: Bring It On 2013 lighting design by Bradley Bergeron

So tell the story and where appropriate make it pop! This is the wow factor we talk a great deal about in graphic design. The more specificity and nuance you can employ, the more engaging the story will be. Generally, good lighting design is not noticed, but when it is being featured, by god make a statement. Rock concerts are an exception to this rule, as generally the lights become extensions of both music and performer, expressing an emotional layer that otherwise has no voice. The lights sing, dance, and transport the audience into another realm. This is obvious transparency exemplified. The audience is immersed and while the “light show” is an obvious component of the experience, it subordinates itself appropriately to the music (which is the real star of the show). Its transparency is “in your face.” We no longer focus our entire attention on it, but instead we experience the music in a new way, a way that engages our peripheral senses. We not only hear the music, but we see it as well. I say this simply to illustrate the wide verity of applications for lighting design with “rock show” at one end the spectrum and “theatre show” on the other. We pick the appropriate strategy and map it all out, but in the end we hang the light and point the light where we think it should go. Did I put that in the best location? Could I have focused it differently? These questions will persist regardless of how successful we are at “placing and pointing.”

Academy at the Aurora Theatre lighting design by Bradley Bergeron

Academy at the Aurora Theatre lighting design by Bradley Bergeron

We document our successes and failures so that next time can be better. The plot is updated to reflect our discovery (what works and what does not) in the space as often we are confronted with previously unknown obstructions and limitations. Sometimes we discover things that are simply out of our control, while on the contrary we often make discoveries about things we never realized we could control before. The interaction of light and object can be very complex if you want it to be, but the best design makes it look simple and easy. What adds to the believability? What heightens fantasy, creates whimsey, or engages the subconscious? These are all questions to be explored in the design. Sometimes a single shaft of “colorless” light tells the story more clearly than 100 representing all the colors of the rainbow. It is important to know when to exercise restraint. I design with texture in mind. Often times I will use atmospheric effects such as haze so that the light has substance and and can seemingly be touched. I use color, as Van Gogh did, to express mood and not always the reality through a seemingly arbitrary palate of bold colors meant to evoke a deep emotional response. When I was young I was a painter. I used pigmented color on a literal canvas to express myself. Nowadays I paint with light. My deep respect for the masters (painters) informs a great deal of my composition methodology. To me, this (lighting design) has importance. I experience it all around me. Color, color temperature, intensity, and pattern all inform my world view and ultimately how I perceive the world. To me “focus” is truly everything. When done well it shows me what I need to see, communicates what needs to be conveyed, hides what needs to be hidden, evokes an otherwise intangible response from deep within me.

Programming the show

Programming the show

I realize I went off on a bit of a tangent, but I feel it is necessary to understand my sense of universe. I will return to topic with the next entry, where I will discuss the wiring and programming. It will likely be an exploration of the science behind what otherwise appears to be purely an artistic endeavor. The complexities will astound. I leave you with this: Next time you are sketching a form or designing a poster think about what I have written. “Focus is everything.” Allow the simplicity of that philosophy to refine and declutter your composition, pick a light source/direction that tells a story, and have an opinion.

Establishing a Process: Lighting Design PART 1

LIGHTING DESIGN PROCESS PART 1: Script to Plot

Smokey Joe's Cafe, Atlanta Lyric 2009 des. Bradley Bergeron

Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Atlanta Lyric 2009 lighting design by Bradley Bergeron

My first love as a designer was production lighting. I logged many hours working with extremely talented designers as an unknowing apprentice. I loved the work, but I never thought that I would ever have the desire to design on my own. There was something very gratifying about the process of putting it all together for the designer. It was always a puzzle filled with obstacles and complications. Working around equipment failures, infrastructure limitations, and physical obstacles gave me a very unique set of skills and experiences that I was able to take with me to ensure the optimization and success of my own designs. THE SCRIPT The design process starts with the script. Before you can have a meaningful interaction with the director, producers, and design team, it is critical that you become familiar with the world of the text. The writers words will define parameters that you must respect in order to be successful with your design. Typically at this stage I will just mark up the script OR make a preliminary cue list that outlines the moment within the script (usually by page number, line, etc) that each cue will occur. I will make additional notes about time of day, location, and timing. These notes will inform other variables such as color and pattern interactions with the light beams. Once I have established a set of basic requirements using one of these methods I know what my minimum viable components are. Next I need to have a better understanding of the performance space.

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Working cue list for Thoroughly Modern Millie designer Bradley Bergeron

THE VENUE AND THE PRODUCTION TEAM The venue will dictate my infrastructure elements such as power and data distribution, physical attachment locations, accessibility, and equipment inventory. The other designers will make use of the same physical dimensions of the space to create their own design contributions. The most critical design collaboration will involve the scenic design. The scenic design will set the other physical parameters that I am going to be concerned with to establish the locations of my lighting implements (based on my basic needs assessment).I will continue to collaborate with other designers. For example I will need to finalize color choices based on ideal interactions with the costumers work. This type of design is highly collaborative and there are many stakeholders and influencers that must remain happy. Make it through that minefield and hopefully you have something that is honest and serving to the story that the audience is able to enjoy.

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Rough Preliminary Plot for Thoroughly Modern Millie based on venue information

THE PLOT Armed with all of this information we can now formalize a design by creating a light plot. This shows how many of which type of light will be located where and controlled how. It is truly a lot of information and so much in fact that the plot is usually accompanied by support documents so that the exacting details can be accounted for. The plot certainly serves as a wiring schematic at the very least. In contemporary lighting design there is typically a high voltage power distribution (dimmable) and control data distribution for lighting fixtures that have control protocal. An LED fixture, for example, always has power running at “full” and intensity is managed by a data communication protocal that controls independent diodes using a micro controller that is built into the fixture. Words, words SCIENCE (and magic)… The bottom line is that this lighting plot is the key to the implementation of the design. It will factor in all of the appropriate parameters and ensure the success of the design if those parameters are obeyed. The plot is a build schematic for the implementation of an essential story telling component. At this stage it is import and that the designer establish color (gels in most cases) and pattern (gobos – see picture below). Congrats we are almost halfway there 🙂

Lighting Plot for BDF @ The Perelman (Kimmel Center)Philadelphia, PA designed and drafted by Bradley Bergeron

Partial Plot for BDF @ The Perelman (Kimmel Center) Philadelphia, PA designed and drafted by Bradley Bergeron

The science of color selection

The science of color selection

The Science behind a "gobo"

The Science behind a “gobo”

Stay tuned till next weeks entry for part 2 of the design process which will take us into the “hang and focus.” This is the first step of the implementation. Positioning the lighting fixture is only half the battle. After the light is positioned and appropriately powered, the designer must focus the light to satisfy the intended use. The designer uses the palate they have created to sculpt the space and breath life into the world of the show. This is a VERY broad overview of process and is by no means comprehensive, but it is intended to provide context for a specific design process/methodology that may otherwise be unknown or unfamiliar.

Time To Re-Fuel

empty-fuel-gauge

There is a significant difference between an empty fuel tank (bone dry) and the fuel tank that your car tells you is empty (good for another 25 miles). Your car is doing you a solid by saying, “hey you should think about filling me up anytime between now and 25(ish) miles from now.” This is a place where technology can teach us a valuable lesson in resource management. ALWAYS LEAVE SOME IN RESERVE! You never know when you are going to need it. If you always run yourself to “bone dry” by burning the candle at both ends, it will have a negative impact on your ability to be responsive when opportunity presents itself. I recommend finding where your safety zone lies and then safeguarding it with everything that you have. You can not count on others around you to regulate this. As long as the people around you see that there is fuel to burn, they will encourage you to burn it! It is important to shut down, unplug, and recharge, so do it regularly and you will find a greater quality of life. Give yourself the same courtesy that your car would. As soon as that little light flashes on your console, seek out the nearest fueling station and get what you need to keep on doing what you were made to do. On that note… time to fill back up for the long journey ahead for this week.

Until Next week,

B

Modern Man Inspiration Destination #03

Modern Man Inspiration Destination #03: The Mall

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Mall = Rich cultural mecca of commerce and general shenanigans. While the mall as we gen-xers know it is a dying breed, this could generally be applied to any commercial center for shopping and yes shenanigans (bonus for using one of my favorite words twice in 2 sentences). I will preface the rest of this by saying ALWAYS HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY. What am I talking about? This well meaning exercise in observation can and will quickly become your own private nightmare if you get swallowed up by the traffic and congestion the Mall will so graciously supply. It will start with a rush on the food court, then a sale at the Gap, followed by a bum rush on Starbucks and of course the fond farewell of parking lot gridlock as hundreds of cars try to squeeze out of one exit where everyone seems to be attempting a left hand turn without a light. This is real people. And that is just a normal Saturday. You really have to up your game for holidays and sales. People have been trampled to death during Black Friday sales. Consider yourself warned.

Back on topic…

The Mall (AKA Terrordome) is a magical and terrible place. One thing is certain, it will give you plenty of inspiration so keep your eyes and ears open. For the purposes of this discussion I want to talk about people watching, as that is typically my primary objective in this destination. I encourage making a game of it! This sort of exercise will get your creative juices flowing and really help you improve your ability to develop personas. Design is so connected to story telling that it becomes a necessity for designers to become story tellers. In order to a compelling story we must first understand the who component. Picking somebody out of the crowd does not satisfy this criteria. It is only after you dig deeper through observation of minute details that you will have your “who” that you seek. What are they wearing? What does that indicate about their social or professional status. Are they confident? Shy? Where have they shopped? What is the cadence of their movement? Are they on a mission or simply strolling about? Your observations will provide you with some rules or basic criteria for the world of your persona. Once you have established those rules and exhausted all your visual cues begin to fill in the blanks. THIS IS STORYTELLING. YOU ARE NOT PASSING JUDGEMENT. ASSUMPTIONS ARE A NECESSITY. I say all of that in caps because we are constantly told not to judge a book by its cover. Again I say you are not judging these people, so free yourself of inhibition! After I compile my observational data I like to start developing the rest of the story starting with why they are here and what they are shopping for. Hint – time of day can inform this even further. For example you have to have flexible or no employment to be shopping at 10am or 2pm on a Tuesday. The more you observe, the more you learn, the more this reflex is developed. Next time you develop a product / use case your persona will start to materialize in an eerily true to life manner (you may actually even see a clear face for this person/persona). We will talk more about character and story development in a later blog, but I want to ensure that I leave you with a few parting words of advice. Don’t stare –  That’s just creepy and weird. Just keep it to casual observations and not so much on the stalking. Start by looking for patterns – Patterns will strengthen your insights. Is that man too old to be shopping at Hollister? (trick question, if it is a MAN then the answer is of course YES) Play by the rules – The only rules you have are those set by your observational data. Stay true to these and you will be able to create a “real” person. People create parameters for themselves to govern their decision making. Respect this and you will be fine. Have fun – This is important. If you are not having fun you are doing it wrong.

What makes me an expert on this topic? I logged my time in the Terrordome (the one they call the Mall of Georgia) as a retail manager (in several establishments that I will not name to protect the innocent). This experience left me with very useful scarring. I’ve seen things (he said with widened eyes and a twitch of insanity) but I’m alive to tell the story, so I will leave it at that.

Go forth and people watch!

Shoppers Visit The Westfield Shopping Centre In Stratford As Traders Are Boosted By The Increased Olympic Footfall