April 16, 2014

Typographic detail: Considering type size and line spacing for BROKEN


After selecting the fonts for my latest book BROKEN—Recovery for headers, Harriet for body copy—one of the next typographic steps was to determine their sizes and line spacing, or leading(1). There was the temptation to rely on how paragraphs looked on screen, since the book was planned to be only made available as a digital publication (PDF, eBook). But not applying fonts and line spacing to prose, on a printed page, would be dismissive.

From his seminal book The Elements of Typographic Style, in a section called “Vertical Motion,” Robert Bringhurst advised, “Choose a basic leading that suits the typeface, text and measure [line length].” With this guidance in mind, a portion of text was taken from the manuscript and inserted into an InDesign document. Variations of type sizes and line spacing were arranged and printed:
  • 13-point type size on 18-point line spacing
  • 12-point type size on 17-point line spacing
  • 11.5-point type size on 15.5-point line spacing
  • 11-point type size on 14-point line spacing
Each variation of font size and leading was evaluated. I asked others to do the same and give their impressions about which one was preferred reading. What may be viewed as minuscule adjustments in type size and line spacing, are not trivial. I needed to be comfortable with the arrangement of type size and line spacing, and how it embraced the prose. I decided to present the body copy at 11.5-point type size on 16-point line spacing. Right amount of scale and breathing room, to me, for words primarily set in the font of Harriet. My co-writer Stephanie, a graphic designer, commented that the selected type size and vertical spacing felt “readable.”



To physically see the relationship of type size and line spacing, even for a book only offered digitally, is another opportunity to be sensitive toward how your book looks. It’s also a way to be sensitive toward curious readers of your book, because the aspiring relationship with a potential audience is never to be dismissed.


(1) From Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style: “Lead [rhymes with red] 1) A strip of soft metal used for vertical spacing between lines of type, or its digital equivalent. 2) To space type vertically by inserting leads or their digital equivalent.” / “Leading [rhymes with sledding] In digital typography, this usually means the total vertical increment, baseline to baseline, in a block of text. Ten-point type leaded 2 pt is set to 10/12. We now usually say the leading is 12 pt, not 2 pt.”


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April 12, 2014

Tweeted March 2014: Food for thought


Tweet icon designed by Adame Dahmani from The Noun Project collection

“The main thing in an interview is to think you have nothing to lose.”
—Norman Rush, Author
Tweeted by @parisreview on 3-30-2014

“And in the end, we were all just humans...drunk on the idea that love, only love, could heal our brokenness.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Author
Tweeted by @anapischl on 3-30-2014

“I’ve always believed a book functions best when it leaves a person more capable of living in the world.”
—Richard Powers, Author
Tweeted by @parisreview on 3-28-2014

“Data doesn’t replace creativity.”
Tweeted by @wendywoowho on 3-28-2014

“I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down.”
—Truman Capote, Author
Tweeted by @parisreview on 3-27-2014

“Best way to creative success (in any field): do the work. Duh.”
Tweeted by @tannerc on 3-27-2014

“If your sentence contains the word ‘Hope’ then you’ve confessed no control over the outcome you’re hoping for.”
Tweeted by @neiltyson on 3-26-2014

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it, we go nowhere.”
—Carl Sagan, Astronomer
Tweeted by @tannerc on 3-26-2014

“The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.”
—Maureen Dowd, Columnist
Tweeted by @marciamarcia on 3-26-2014

“Whenever anyone says ‘groundbreaking’ ask: what ground? how was it broken? Is the old ground really no longer good for any purpose?”
Tweeted by @berkun on 3-25-2014

“Art and design are not luxuries, nor somehow incompatible with science and engineering.”
—Bran Ferren, Technology Designer
Tweeted by @TEDTalks on 3-25-2014

“A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.”
—Alain de Botton, Philosopher
Tweeted by @TEDTalks on 3-25-2014

“Let’s make sure our ideas of success are our own, that we are truly the authors of our own ambitions.”
—Alain de Botton, Philosopher
Tweeted by @TEDTalks on 3-25-2014

“Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.”
—Anonymous
Tweeted by @swissmiss on 3-25-2014

“Wonder is our sixth sense.”
—D. H. Lawrence, Author
Tweeted by @marciamarcia on 3-24-2014

“Moms are for remembering the things that no one else can.”
Tweeted by @marciamarcia on 3-22-2014

“Admire those who admire others!”
—Simon Sinek, Educator
Tweeted by @swissmiss on 3-20-2014

“I just thought that I’m going to try to make as many things as I can that I want to before I die.”
—Charles Forman, Founder of OMGPOP
Tweeted by @zenmatt on 3-19-2014

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
—Thomas Edison, Inventor
Tweeted by @MakersRow on 3-19-2014

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on, I can’t believe you.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosopher
Tweeted by @swissmiss on 3-18-2014

“Office hours always make get me fired up and thinking. I recommend to everyone to offer them, even if it’s once a month.”
Tweeted by @rena_tom on 3-18-2014

“A people-centered organization should work to increasingly empower everyone to defeat negative sides of both formal and informal hierarchies of power.”
Tweeted by @adambrault on 3-17-2014

“Living in that childish wonder is a most beautiful feeling—I can so well remember it. There was always something more—behind and beyond everything—to me, the golden spectacles were very, very big.”
—Kate Greenaway, Children’s Book Illustrator and Author
Tweeted by @goodreads on 3-17-2014

“Gratitude is letting the power of knowing what you have, overpower the thinking of what you don’t.”
Tweeted by @johnmaeda on 3-17-2014

“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.”
—Ben Okri, Author
Tweeted by @goodreads on 3-15-2014

“It’s harder to find someone who cares than it is to find someone who codes.”
Tweeted by @carlsmith on 3-14-2014

“I see a curator as a catalyst, a generator and motivator—a sparring partner accompanying the artist while they build a show.”
—Hans Ulrich Obrist
Tweeted by @designindaba on 3-14-2014

“What we want is not authenticity; it is credibility.”
—John le CarrĂ©, Author
Tweeted by @parisreview on 3-12-2014

“It’s like invisible ink what a good editor does.”
—Anna Quindlen, Author
Tweeted by @emelliazamani on 3-11-2014

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
—Scott Adams, Comic Strip Artist
Tweeted by @collabfund on 3-10-2014

“The present is always unsettled, no one has had time to contemplate it in tranquillity.”
—Isak Dinesen, Author
Tweeted by @parisreview on 3-9-2014

“If you substitute metrics for product vision, you will not get what you want.”
—Ben Horowitz, Partner of Andreessen Horowitz
Tweeted by @giffco on 3-8-2014

“Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.”
—Jeffrey Eugenides, Author
Tweeted by @goodreads on 3-8-2014

“Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.”
—Woody Guthrie, Singer-Songwriter
Tweeted by @collabfund on 3-7-2014

“As a creator, you can indeed value reach and impact over money. But be honest about it. Much of what we celebrate as a culture is crass cash.”
Tweeted by @danctheduck on 3-4-2014

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”
—John Lennon, Singer-Songwriter
Tweeted by @50000feet on 3-3-2014

“Take a walk. It will make you more productive.”
—Dan Pallotta, Founder of Pallotta TeamWorks
Tweeted by @collabfund on 3-3-2014

“Proximity is not a stand in for expertise.”
—Seth Godin, Author
Tweeted by @swissmiss on 3-2-2014

“The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”
—John Steinbeck, Author
Tweeted by @jurgenappelo on 3-1-2014

• • •

See Patronage series of duly discovered.


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April 8, 2014

Erase, Reconcile, Make


Eraser icon designed by Tommy Lau from The Noun Project collection

A fact I’ve only gradually come to realize (and desperately revisit) is that although the act of making is inherently labored, it’s the also the act of making that gives the nudge to continue.

Erasure through making

Whether you’re blogging, drawing, painting, filmmaking, photographing, or engaging another creative outlet, the process demands a lot of work. Hard work is a given—and it’s this experience that makers willingly submit themselves to. It’s the experience of initiating a creative project, working it toward completion, and achieving a sense of satisfaction.

Though I feel satisfied when I complete an interview, a Designer’s Quest(oinnaire), or blog post, the satisfaction of getting my work into the world (visible proof of something accomplished) quickly fades. My need to do the next thing—the next interview, the next Designer’s Quest(ionnaire), the next blog post—instantly reappears.

I try to keep making what I like to make. I want to keep reaching that satisfaction from completing something. This kind of satisfaction is a thin and finite feeling, but I desire to reach it again.

What interferes with the act of making are the thoughts that fiercely crawl into my head: Why do I keep working on Design Feast (including this blog), Do people appreciate my work, How can I be better and faster in publishing? The latter is a litany of wishes that increase whenever I discover a newly made thing—book, song, article, object—and especially when I compare myself to people whom I respect (and affectionately envy) for their tremendous capacity to make a lot of things—wonderful things (see my Patronage series).

Matching my pattern of perceiving (inflated with nagging feelings) that I am not making enough, not working fast enough, and not succeeding enough, is the instinct to keep making. When things get done, the instinct to keep making—and acting on it—erases all of those times when I felt insufficient, and facilitates it in a couple of ways:

Making reveals ideas. When making is done over time, a personal timeline of creation assembles in visibility, though what’s exclusively seen is reduced to the foreground. If the collapsed view of this timeline was turned into an accordion fold, you’ll be able to see all of the things you made—when one thing was made after another in succession. This is personal proof of the demonstrated need to create.

Making serves initiative. When something is made, it extends the pavement supporting another envisioned project to start (and finish). One painted composition paves the way for another. One written article paves the way for another. One photograph paves the way for another. A body of work gradually starts to build (with the potential for evolution).

Reconciliation through making

Where reconciliation plays a role in the act of making is in making’s quenching of creativity and the evidence of output, after all is said and done. Making reconciles those previous occasions when ideas and emotions were left flat.

Making something is an achievement. When repeated, making supports the wonder of what more to pursue.

Making through making

So keep writing, keep photographing, keep filming, keep drawing—keep making. I feel better when I’ve made something, like this blog post. I’ve reconciled myself for all of those times I lacked initiative. Here’s to the next creative pursuit.

• • •

Read related post: Never stop making


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April 7, 2014

Why you want to write


Write icon designed by Joshua Hutchins from The Noun Project collection

You write because you want to.

There is something satisfactory about putting words together to form thoughts into sentences that turn into statements, which, in turn, become passages.

There is something profound about witnessing characters come together to form a composition.

There is something challenging about doing something whose primary objective is to make you struggle with every pause and press.

There is something rhythmic about making sentences, one after another, and discovering an arc along the way.

There is something therapeutic about feeling your way through words toward a destination whose world is being composed with one word at a time.

There is something personal about a mass of words made by you for you, toward, at first, an audience of one.

There is something powerful about dictating the length of a line of thought.

There is something satisfying about finishing a written work, which, like truth, has versions.

There is something accomplished about writing and having at it again.

There is something compelling about an activity that only exists with your input, like a rocket that must consume massive amounts of fuel for liftoff.

There is something thrilling about writing to disobey gravity.

• • •

This post was originally published on April 3, 2013, at Acme Pride, a discontinued blog of mine that was primarily dedicated to the making of my latest book BROKEN: Navigating the Ups and Downs of the Circus called Work.

Topics related to self-publishing BROKEN and reflections about writing are striven to be a part of this blog’s focus.


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April 4, 2014

Patronage Package 3 of Duly Discovered



Apps

Cyber Dust by Mark Cuban: “communicate through instant messaging without leaving a permanent record of messages sent”
Discovered via Kerry Gorgone

Books

“Designed by: Lella Vignelli” reported by Dan Wagstaff of The Casual Optimist

“The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben horowitz
Discovered via @jacobyryan

Design

Website designed by Knoed Creative and built by This Is Static for Skyline Furniture

Exhibitions

“Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment” reported by Jacki Lyden

Films

“The Missing Picture” by Rithy Panh
Discovered via NPR News

“The Unknown Known” by Errol Morris
Discovered via National Public Radio News

“Mister Rogers & Me” by Benjamin Wagner

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” by Wes Anderson
Discovered via NPR News

“May it remind me and every little child, that no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” Actor Lupita Nyong’s Academy Award speech for her performance in “12 Years a Slave”

“Thank you, Mom, for teaching me to dream…” Actor Jared Leto’s Academy Award speech for her performance in “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

Interviews

Interviewly: “Interviews with interesting people, pulled from reddit, organized, and made prettier.”
Discovered via @gruber

“There were a lot of green screens, because you actually can’t visit the sun.” Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson [34.52] interviewed by LondonRealTV on new TV show “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”

Memoriam

John Heskett, who taught at the Illinois Insititute of Design, Illinois Insitute of Technology, and wrote books like “Toothpicks and Logos: Design in Everyday Life”, passed away

Music

New album “Saudade” by Thievery Corporation

New album “This Is What I Do” by Boy George

New album “Out Among The Stars” by Johnny Cash

“From Preacher to Grass Cutter to Earth-Shaking Soul Singer” by NPR Music

“SXSW 2014 Wrap-Up: Our Favorite Discoveries And Memorable Moments” reported by All Things Considered

“Seasons (Waiting On You)” performed by Future Islands on the Late Show with David Letterman

Sarah Dooley’s debut album “Stupid Things”

“…never my ambition to be a rock star… But it was my ambition to compose music that would pour through me…” Linda Perhacs

“Goodnight Songs” is a compilation of unpublished lullabies and poems by Margaret Wise Brown, Author of children’s book “Goodnight Moon”

Stories

“Stop Stifling Entrepreneurs in Your Company” by Will Yakowicz
Discovered via @bmaldonado

“Thoreau on Not Finding a Publisher and What Success Really Means” by Maria Popova

“A Scientific Breakthrough Lets Us See to the Beginning of Time” by Theoretical Physicist Lawrence Krauss

“The Spirograph and kinematic models: Making math touchable (and pretty)” by Dr. Amy Shell-Gellasch of Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

“Finding female pioneers in mathematics” by Dr. Judy Green of Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

Physicist Andrei Linde receiving news of evidence indicating “first tremors of the Big Bang”

“Doctors Use 3-D Printing to Help a Baby Breathe” reported by Rob Stein

“Taking A Second Look At Free Fonts” by Jeremiah Shoaf
Discovered via @CommArts

“Everybody in Almost Every Language Says ‘Huh’? HUH?! What makes this utterance the ‘universal word’?” by Arika Okrent
Discovered via @parisreview

Designer and Publisher William Drenttel’s business lessons
Discovered via Daring Fireball

“Now, new high-tech ways to nudge you to tip more generously and more often.” Dan Bobkoff

“Boy Meets Painting” by Robert Krulwich
Note: Reminded of Cary Wood’s writing at “In the Space Between”

Television

New series: Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is a sequel to Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”

Quotes

“It’s like invisible ink what a good editor does.” Author Anna Quindlen on her Editor
Discovered via @emelliazamani

“I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.” Fred Rogers, Creator and Host of TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (1968–2001)
Discovered via @mtvitamin

“If you’re not hiring for your culture, you are inviting issues that create problems…” Customer Experience Leader/Student Jeannie Walters

“There’s a good amount of grace given to me by my family and friends…” Singer-Songwriter Mark Foster of Foster The People

“Work is a family affair. It’s important to shelter, support and share with a larger community.” Singer-Songwriter Jerry Garcia in “The Grateful Dead School of Business” by Scott McDowell

“We are—each of us—a little universe.” Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Host of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”, on DNA


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April 3, 2014

Speaking tips gleaned from CreativeMornings


Stephanie Brown preparing to talk at 27th CreativeMornings/Chicago gathering

As I prepared for my talk about my latest book BROKEN at the Illinois Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, I recalled the people who gave terrific talks at the monthly gatherings of Chicago CreativeMornings. Following are some things I found useful as I reflected back on these presentations.

Say thanks

Being invited to speak to a group of potentially like-minded people is a prime opportunity to give thanks. Thanksgiving is a charming way to qualify the tempo of your talk. Thank the audience for attendance, for their interest, and for their time.

Present with or without slides

Slides primarily serve as visual representation and cue for the speaker to elaborate. With the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings, the speakers’ slides mostly display a spare layout with minimal copy. Good Studio’s slides (like this) were concise visual statements, consisting of a representative image tied to a bold headline.

Slides are not a requirement. Animator and photographer Nick Campbell gave an amazing presentation without slides. But know that speaking without visual aids is a risk. You can either rely on a script, memorized, or an outline of points, memorized and stitched together.

Present with or without notes

If they were using a script, most speakers appeared to speak without it. Even when taking cues from a script, it was obvious that the speaker’s familiarity, with their topic and their focus, naturally flowed. This familiarity is not a guarantee of a coherent talk. This possibility reinforces the fact that it takes effort to sound effortless.

Express character

When designer and illustrator Mike McQuade talked about how hard he works on his craft, it showed. When photographer Paul Octavious spoke about his enthusiasm for the digital image, it showed. When Stephanie Brown talked about her vision for the art of tattooing, it showed. These speakers expressed their personality and a unique tone in sharing their work and attitude. These factors form character.

Tell stories

Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover, of design and fabrications firm INDO, shared the bumps and thrills of making site-specific architectural installations. Designer and producer Eric Siegel, of Tree Hopper Toys, shared his observations about his kids and how these positively provoke his next product. Creative director Chris Eichenseer, of Someoddpilot, gave a telling glimpse of our place on the miniscule timeline of human existence, compared to the age of the universe. These speakers, and more, offered narrative that made their presentations feel down-to-earth.

Leave time for Q&A

The perk of attendance is the opportunity to interact with the speaker. Speakers, invited to CreativeMornings, manage to not exceed their allotted time to talk. This acknowledges both the event’s organizers and audience.

Give the gift of presentation

Above was a very short list of patterns found among speakers at CreativeMornings’ gatherings. Based on what each said and how it was said, the ultimate pattern was that each respected the attention given to them to deliver the gift of presentation. In return, what is (capable to be) received is the gift of perspective.

• • •

Photo by Nate Burgos. View more.


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March 31, 2014

Making iPad adventure “Doggins” by independent game developers Brain&Brain


I discovered the game-design-and-production duo of Brain&Brain via its art/animation half, Brooke Condolora (left), whom I interviewed, concerning her handmade products, which constitute a part of her project called Idle Mouse. The other—software development—half of Brain&Brain is her husband, David (right). Here, they talk about the immersed creation and launch of their first game, Doggins, for iPad.

On realizing iPad game Doggins:

Congratulations on the launch of your iPad game Doggins! On top of this, congratulations on being a “Gamer’s Voice Nominee” at SXSW Gaming Awards (2014)! How did you two arrive at the idea of Doggins?
Brooke: Thank you! We had decided to make an adventure game together and, in discussing what the story would be, were joking about what kind of bizarre adventures our crazy dog, Oliver (below), dreams about. Something about the idea of him on the moon (below) made us smile and start writing.





What was the first thing you did when you embarked on making “a quiet iPad adventure game”?
David: Aside from brainstorming the concept and story, I immediately began researching game-development tools. I have some programming experience, but I knew that there was no way I would have time to learn Objective-C (the native language for developing iOS apps). Fortunately, in the past few years, there has been a surge of tools that make game development much faster. One of those is Corona SDK, which I was able to learn the basics of in a few weeks, and then used to create Doggins. Though I’m not a game designer, I do realize that a game contains a lot of moving parts, in regards to storytelling, interaction, sound design, et al.

In game-design lingo, what were the most important parts to address? How did you manage the organization and work of the game’s moving parts?

Brooke: For Doggins, game play, story, and puzzle design were central. We didn’t want to stray too far from classic adventure game mechanics (explore, pick up items, solve puzzles), but we spent a lot of time working out how to translate that experience to iPad. And we took a different route than most adventure games by solely relying on visual storytelling. It was an experiment, and we had no idea if people would be able to follow the story. But it worked!

As for organization, we both sort of settled into roles naturally as they came up. The obvious ones were David as programmer/sound guy and myself as artist/animator, but the rest fell to whoever was best equipped to do them. David works a full-time job during the day, so we also had to be mindful of his time. I did a lot of writing in the mornings when we were stuck on a particular plot point or puzzle, we’d discuss it in the evenings, and I’d continue on it the next day.



Were there ground rules or overarching guidelines that were followed to ensure that the design and programming were done in a way that you two wanted them to be?
Brooke: I guess our primary rule was always to respect the player. When designing the game, we tried to keep the puzzles fresh, but logical, and to keep things moving at a comfortable pace. We could’ve squeezed in more obstacles to make it last longer, but as players, we find that sort of thing obvious and annoying. In the end, we applied the same principles everywhere: nothing of excess, nothing wasted.

In the two years in took to complete Doggins, what was your collective schedule in working on the game? How did you manage the time for work on the game?
David: This was probably the most difficult part of making the game for me, as I have a full-time job. For the first year or so, I would work on it whenever I felt like it, or when it was convenient, which as you can imagine, was not terribly often. After a while, I realized that this was really holding up the game, and decided to start putting an hour of work in every morning from 6:00 a.m.–7:00 a.m., before heading out to my job. It was hard, but eventually became a habit, and I still work that way today.

Brooke: For a while, I split my time between the game and other projects, but around the same point as David, I realized I’d need to start putting in full-time hours on it. Toward the end, we were both also working nights and weekends to finish in time for SXSW, and I think we’d like to never do that again.



Having seen artwork before the launch, I quickly found the visual restraint appealing. How was the uncluttered look determined?
Brooke: It’s partially a reflection of our own philosophy and aesthetic, but we also intentionally kept things simple to create visual clarity for the player. Adventure games traditionally use some sort of highlight to point the player toward usable objects. We tried to strike a balance that allowed for discovery without driving the player to frustration.

How are you spreading the word about Doggins?
David: The traditional way to get the word out is to send copies of your game to as many review websites as you can, and hope that they’ll review you. We’ve garnered a number of positive reviews that way, and we’ve also used social media to get people interested. Being at SXSW was obviously a huge help as well, but the biggest boost to our discoverability was being featured by Apple on the front page of the App Store. We were very grateful for that.



Are there games that both of you admire? What are they?
Brooke: We’re both in awe of Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer and the experience they’ve built around it. Brilliant in every way. I love all of Amanita Design’s games, especially Machinarium. And lastly, Zelda is an absolute lifetime favorite of mine, in every iteration.

David: My favorite game growing up was MYST, and it still has almost everything I love about games: discovery, thought, story, and a huge amount of atmosphere. Jonathan Blow’s Braid is one of my favorite experiences, and all of the LucasArts adventures are huge inspirations, particularly LOOM. Of the more recent games, Ephemerid and Broken Age both fill me with joy.



Concerning the storytelling in game design, are there influences that you appreciate?
Brooke: Again, Kentucky Route Zero. I love their non-linear approach and the way the story starts to cross over into reality with The Entertainment (an interactive play that can also be bought in print). Simogo has also done some really interesting things with Year Walk and Device 6.

David: Double Fine’s Broken Age, while traditional, has very strong settings and characterizations, and it’s a good showcase for how games can forge new structures for storytelling.

Are there more games in the works?
Brooke: Yes! We’re each starting to develop a couple of ideas we thought up during Doggins, and we’ll go into production on mine first. We hope to release a game every year, going forward. For the moment, though, we’re working on localizing and porting Doggins to other platforms.

On creativity, design, working:

Design writer Alissa Walker wrote an article called “Women in Industrial Design: Where My Ladies At?” Where are the Ladies in Design/Development/Strategy at?
Brooke: Everywhere! The indie game space, especially, is full of super-talented women doing what they love. We met so many at SXSW, like Claudia of We Are Muesli, who is currently doing beautiful work on Cave! Cave! Deus Videt.

How do you handle disagreements while you’re working?
Brooke: Not entirely gracefully, but the majority of our disagreements lead to a compromise that we both agree is better. In rare cases where we can’t reach an agreement, the decision usually falls to whomever is leading that part of the project.

What part of your work is particularly trying,
and how do you deal with it?
David: The hardest part about designing and programming games is that you never know what the player is going to do. Often when I implement a new piece of the game and test it, it works perfectly. But when I hand it to a player, or even Brooke, they start doing things I never would have imagined, which inevitably causes the game to break. As a programmer, I need to always be asking myself “What if” questions, and making sure I account for every possibility I can think of—and recognize that I can’t think of everything, and that’s okay. The iterative process will work the kinks out.

Brooke: I found it difficult to be confined to the same style of work for such a long period of time, but it did allow me to focus and refine my skill set. At times when I felt burned out and we weren’t on a deadline, I’d take a week or so off to experiment with other styles or media, and spend time outside.

What is your workspace like? How does it contribute
to doing the quality of work you want to do?
Brooke: We work from our home studio during the week, though not usually at the same time, because of David’s other job. It’s an open, creative space, with a shared desk, giant board for pinning things like storyboards and concept art, tons of books, and all the tools we use to make things. If we have to work on the weekend, we prefer to go to a coffee shop and sit outside. Since we don’t get to work together as much as we’d like, spending a quiet Sunday afternoon that way is actually kind of nice.

What tools do you use and recommend to work on ideas and make them grow, to collaborate and get things done?
David: We use Asana for task management and bug-tracking, and really like its simplicity. We’ve tried several options for document and notes sharing, but haven’t really found “the one” just yet. Google Chat keeps us connected during the day when I’m off at my other job, and we tend to talk out ideas and problems while walking our dog at night. Being married helps make collaboration easy!

Brooke: My favorite tool is easily my sketchbook, and I actually worry more about losing it than my phone. I just filled up a Leuchtturm1917, which I love, but I thought I’d give the Baron Fig Confidant a try next. In fact, it just showed up in my mailbox!



How do you stay creative? What are some
of your sources of motivation/inspiration?
David: We started our first game after I saw a screening of Indie Game: The Movie at work, and we continue to be inspired by other game developers. There’s so much exploration, innovation, and sharing among independent developers, that motivation and inspiration is always around the corner. We also like to get out into nature, going on hikes or walks, and try to travel as much as we can. We always return with refreshed spirits and renewed energy to press on.

Brooke: I find a lot of inspiration in new experiences. Being human is about change and growth, and I’ve found that it’s usually when I stand still for too long that my creativity runs dry. At Christmas, I made notebooks for friends and family with the words “All Things New,” and that has sort of become my credo lately. I love Jack London’s words: “I would rather be ashes than dust!”

What is your definition of bad design?
Brooke: Creating an experience that doesn’t hold respect for the user. In games, that tends to result in hand-holding, which also says you’re not confident you’ve done your job properly.

If you were asked, “Brooke, I want to be a game designer?” What’s your response?
Brooke: Design a game! This is potentially the most exciting and most open time to be here. So much has yet to be explored. There’s a lot to learn, but some really interesting projects, like Pixel Press, are making game creation more accessible than ever before.

Any other aspects of your work that would be interesting to creative practitioners and aspiring product/business makers?
David: Having a partner is extremely helpful. There’s no way I would have finished Doggins as quickly as I did, or perhaps ever, if I was working alone. If you are working alone, find ways to be around other people doing similar work. There are meet-ups and coworking spaces everywhere. Not only will you stay motivated, you’ll learn a lot, making your work better than it otherwise would have been.

How does the San Francisco Bay Area
contribute to your work? And what makes it special for startups/business/creativity-at-large?
David: The Bay Area is a double-edged sword: it’s full of creative, curious people who are experimenting in every field imaginable, but it’s also prohibitively expensive to live here. While the cost makes it a bit more difficult to sustain your business or project, the people you meet and beauty of the place make it worth it.

• • •

In addition to being a “Gamer’s Voice Nominee” at the SXSW Gaming Awards (2014), Doggins was also selected to exhibit in the Indie MEGABOOTH showcase at PAX East!

• • •

All images courtesy of Brain&Brain.

• • •

Typeface of quotes is Hero designed by Fontfabric in 2010.

• • •

Read more from Design Feast Series of Interviews
with people who love making things.


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