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.