It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


After some 15-odd years in the tech industry doing everything from programming parallel supercomputers to developing secure applications for consumer electronics I decided to go back to school for a BFA in Industrial Design. This journal, “ALL ART BURNS”, is as a public design journal and sketchbook. It might turn into my pro designer blog after I graduate or it might continue to be a journal and sketchbook. Either way, I hope this will be of use to other people interested in design or who are also on the path to becoming a designer. The name comes from one of the fire/art themed stickers I made back in 2002 for Burning Man.

The long version of how this came about is in the earlier journal entries. The short version is that I miss what got me sucked into computers and technology in the first place: making tools people can use to improve their lives. When I started developing software eons ago, I often did every phase of delivering a product: determine requirements, design both the architecture and what we now call the user interface, procure hardware, develop the software, build and run tests, write end-user documentation, and install and maintain the product.

Somewhere in the mid-90s, the technology world went through a sea-change. My IT projects turned into installing vendor-provided solutions so I moved into engineering. Engineering in the dot-com boom in the valley was not terribly fun: I had a choice of being either a minor cog in a machine or an ego-driven uber-geek. Neither suits me well and I’ve been a mediocre engineer as a result, with only my passions for hacking, security and privacy keeping me motivated (and employable).

A few years ago I started going to Burning Man and quickly adopted their philosophy of “no spectators”. I started making art for the playa; that quickly evolved into learning to work metal; and soon after the discovery that I really enjoy making physical things that people can interact with. Working over the summer on a project for Burning Man wasn’t enough, I wanted to make physical things year around. I considered going back to school for a degree in mechanical engineering or robotics but both of those felt rather sterile. One day I discovered what it is that industrial designers do, and realized that industrial design was what I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time.

I still like technology and I’ll always be a hacker of some sort but I have little desire to write software as a full-time job for the rest of my life. I want to make physical things that people manipulate and understand how people interact with those physical things. It’s one thing to develop a new authentication mechanism, it’s another for that mechanism to be usable. Odds are that anything I make will contain some sort of technology and it’s likely that I’ll help design and implement some of that technology.

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posted by jet at 18:29  


  1. “following your Bliss” – joseph campbell
    i aspire as well some day!

    Comment by barry f burns — 2006/12/23 @ 20:34

  2. Where are you located? Curious if you’re in the SF Bay Area.

    Comment by GlynEll — 2007/12/13 @ 20:28

  3. I used to be in the SF Bay Area, I’m living in Pittsburgh, PA for the time being.

    Comment by jet — 2007/12/13 @ 21:16

  4. Eric, interesting comentary…inspiring, even for a an old dog with more ID experience than your old. There are many good if not great designers that quietly do their work. I can understand how you feel about programing…and some of it like design is out there and not very good…your ethics and asperations could be worse!

    Good luck

    Comment by horst kretschmer — 2009/07/20 @ 13:13

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