Third big collection of posts from this year’s Instagram series (the first one is here, the second one here), which will exist on this blog after I delete it from socials at the end of this year.

Canon Fodder Week 26: Band reunions! In early 2010 my bandmates and I reconvened the original 1996 Mojo Wire lineup (renamed as “Radblaster”) for the first time in about a dozen years, in Orange County. Later that year, Honey White also reassembled in Santa Barbara for their first rehearsals in over 3 years. Both reunions were small-scale, but amazingly, both bands picked up right where we’d left off. I recorded everything, and in April 2011 released the best bits as digital-only EPs: “Corridan” for Honey White (named for the art gallery where we rehearsed), and “Hecho En Naranjastan” for Radblaster (nodding to our rehearsal time in San Clemente and Anaheim). Audio and full details about both projects are in a corresponding @mybandrockspod episode.

We’d all long since accepted the rarity of playing together, so reviving both bands’ old classics was cool, but even better was writing and recording new songs (and for me, writing some of my best lyrics). The recordings are curious souvenirs because neither reunion lasted long, with everyone eventually going our separate ways back to our separate lives. It wasn’t permanent, but it was still playing. How many ex-bandmates get to do that while creeping toward middle age? I know I hype my music-related stuff the way some people hype their high school sports careers, but it validates much of my other work, shows me that I’ve learned a lot, and that many of my originally-untrained instincts about creativity and creative teamwork were good ones. Thanks again for the indulgence.

Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: This time that distinction goes to both quickie cover-art images, created in 2011 but revamped substantially circa 2019. I bashed out passable artwork using the only existing visual documentation: low-res smartphone snapshots. It worked, sort of, thanks to a few tastefully-applied Photoshop effects and my tendency to fall back on grid layouts.

Canon Fodder Week 27: Ojai Art Days. BBM&D didn’t do the usual office-holiday-party thing. Instead, at year’s end we were treated to either museum trips (like the Getty) or (more often) a half-day in artist Amy Schneider’s Ojai studio, so we could “get our hands dirty” after all that screen time. These four mixed-media pieces of mine are from those art parties in 2007, 2008, 2010, & 2011. I’m under no illusions about their actual quality—meaningful abstraction they ain’t—but they were fun to make, because I (respectfully) ignored what Amy instructed us to do. Taking direction in design is fine, but I’m less interested in that for other types of creativity, where I’ve learned to trust my instincts.

I had very few formal art classes but no lack of confidence, because making art doesn’t have instructions unless you want it to. Maybe that makes this glorified finger-painting, but whatever. Snobs can sob. I used paint, ink, newsprint, magazines, maps, rubber bands, string, and lots of other flotsam to create one-dominant-color pieces that probably work better as base images; indeed I used the blue one for my book soundtrack CD cover in 2008. The others haven’t found a use yet, and after a decade-plus they probably won’t, but one was enough, considering it worked so well.

Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: 1) My wife went to one of these parties and the one piece she made is better than all four of mine, but you’ll only see it if she wants to show it. 2) In September 2019, I created a fifth piece during an abstract painting workshop with artist Drew Davis and the local AIGA chapter. It kinda resembles an apocalyptic asteroid, which (considering what I did to the local AIGA chapter in 2018) is morbidly funny—but that’s another story I’ll get to soon enough.

Canon Fodder Week 28: “The Weapon of Young Gods” novel. In July 2012 I self-published my one and only fiction novel, blessed with a title of characteristically epic pretension and cursed with a vanity-pulp “write what you know” process. For various reasons back then, I needed to unload something, and wanted to see if I could do that like this. Perhaps improbably, I did it. While I won’t say I regret it, I usually have no problem revisiting old projects, but I haven’t read a word of this book since publication. Why? I guess I was just glad to get it out of my system. WOYG took about five years to do: outlining, writing, editing (helped by beta-readers), designing (I did the cover and layout), recording (I created my own ambient music to write to), and even video (I made a teaser reel with the cover and setting snapshots), which I jumped into head-first in mid-2007.

Finishing was hard, but I made it happen. It felt like a Big Thing, but that didn’t guarantee it was a Good Thing. It’s kinda problematic—its gonzo-edgelord influences are easy to spot, it likely fails the Bechdel test, it’s full of tropey clichés, and it’s sprinkled with cultural appropriation. It reads like it was written by a young man in a hurry, except I was 35 and it took 5 years. Even so, I wrote and self-published a book. I should be proud of that, right? It helps that several people whose opinions matter to me were super-stoked to read it, and afterward said really nice things about it, and I’m still really proud of that instrumental ambient soundtrack, so maybe overall it’s a good notch in the belt.

Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: This project is probably the closest I’ve ever come to living one part of Hunter S. Thompson’s quote about “seven simple rules of going into hiding,” namely “Never create anything. It will be misinterpreted; it will chain you and follow you for the rest of your life.” In my case that mostly meant receiving mildly humiliating gag gifts, as well as patiently and repeatedly explaining the substantial difference between literal and figurative writing. It could have been worse. Res ipsa loquitur.

Canon Fodder Week 29: AIGA Santa Barbara. The American Institute of Graphic Arts is the USA’s professional association for design. I joined the all-volunteer board of AIGA SB as Communications Director for 3 terms (2012-2014), then served 2 terms as chapter President (2015-2018) before helping the chapter transform into AIGA Central Coast (now based in SLO) for 2019. Not a full-blown union, but not just a club, AIGA helped me (as a non-design-school-attending pro) keep up with (and learn more about) the design biz via (at first) a professional network of creative designers from 3 Central Coast counties and (soon after) a vast national group of those folks, who were all fantastic. I developed the confidence to take control of my creative career (I changed jobs within 18 months of joining) and learned how to produce community events (which were a bit like band gigs). I also came up with my best-ever brand tagline.

As Comm Director I revamped the SB chapter website, where (as President) I recapped events and posted about our activities. As Prez I also oversaw 41 design events in 4 years. I designed event branding and indulged in a few chapter-related map projects. I represented the 805 at national leadership retreats and design conferences (more on AIGA National stuff later). I led the board in rewriting our chapter’s bylaws and the next chapter’s articles of incorporation. I did all of that for free, and on balance it was almost worth it. I may or may not be a “design leader,” but by the end I certainly soured on “leadership” and I had to let AIGA go. All explanations involve way more than 2200 characters.

But on a positive note, instead of Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia here’s an Honor Roll: Thanks to Jennie Jacobs, Eva Gutierrez, and Claire Krohmer for getting me into it, David Cowan, Irene Hoffman, Gen Matsui, Nicki Gauthier, Danielle Fox, Melanie Bélanger, Rachell Smith, Kelli Willcoxson, and Amaranthe Wolff for help getting me through it, and Alex Kim and Charmaine Farber for helping me get out of it. Thanks also to Norman Clayton and Joya Groves for their patience with me when producing their respective events.

Canon Fodder Week 30: Keir By Bike! 2013 was a difficult but pivotal year for me professionally: I learned how to take control of my career and plugged into a huge network of designers all over America. But perhaps more importantly it was a big year for my health, because that January I began biking in earnest for exercise. I nicknamed it “Keir By Bike” and it literally helped put me on a better path both physically and mentally. I’d owned a bicycle since childhood, and through high school I often rode short distances around Dana Point for years. I also biked all over UCSB for school and work as an undergrad and post-grad, but I wasn’t ever doing that to stay healthy. By age 36 it was high time to start for real, so I made a rare New Year’s resolution that stuck, and is still sticking, despite two minor crashes, a (probably) unrelated health scare, and many nickel-and-dime repairs to my trusty red Rincon Giant, which is still kicking at 18 years old.

I saw gradual but good results: I lost 25 pounds in 5 years, kept my blood pressure down, and muscle mass up. I got time alone to think and decompress from work-related stress, I saw sides of my city (and several other cities; more on that later) which I’d never known before, and I gained (or perhaps regained) the cerebral fortitude to reinforce my personal and professional breakthroughs later that year and decade. I even made several faux-dataviz designs of my cumulative accomplishments. So I very much appreciate everyone indulging my basic biking snapshots. They will keep coming.

Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: I got really good at fixing flats, but for anything more complicated I still need help, so my undying thanks goes to Ian Crawford and his colleagues at Open Air in midtown Ventura. As for metrics, mileage is the only one I track, and at the end of 2020 I finally broke 10,000 total miles after 8 years. In 2021 I logged a personal-best 2103 miles per year, but since then (for various reasons) the totals have been trending down, so I need to find something novel to do for correcting or reversing that. Stay tuned.

Canon Fodder Week 31 is for my second creative agency job, at Oniracom (2013-2017). I returned to working in Santa Barbara (while still on the AIGA SB board) as a web developer (2013), content strategist (2015), and senior designer (2016). I helped make “solutions for dreamers,” designing for Oniracom’s entertainment, lifestyle, and hospitality brands. I had a frequently-rough daily commute, but worked with good folks on fun stuff. Shoutouts in particular to Jacob Tell, Tad Wagner, Haaris Ahmed, Justin Davis, and John Lucchetti. Like BBM&D, Oniracom was fine on balance, and in some ways was its polar opposite: younger ownership with a digital-oriented, startup-ish philosophy instead of older ownership and traditional design biz protocols. I did (for me) less-stressful work, but it was also (for me) rarely equal to the quality of what I’d done previously—with perhaps one powerfully pachydermic exception (more on that later).

That may sound harsher than it was; I was still un-learning snobbery and imposing hyper-rigorous standards on my design work. I was definitely over my head, code-wise; I hit a wall working with Javascript and never learned it well. Sometimes the (again, for me) subpar results were also my fault when I wasn’t excited to work on a given project or for a given client (neither of which I was usually able to choose). So when I got the opportunity to take more professional risks but also gain more control of my creativity (by starting a business partnership; more on that later too), I took it. Someone else’s dream may be a good one, but if it’s not your dream you’ll always be in the supporting cast. By age 40, it was time for my dreams.

Honorable Mention: Thanks to Jacob for understanding what commutes do to people and accommodating mine, as well as directly supporting my AIGA SB presidential tenure in several huge ways. Thanks to Tad for subtly paving the way in and classily demonstrating the right way out. Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: When Jack Johnson and the Santa Barbara Bowl are clients, you and your colleagues get backstage access for a Jack show at the Bowl.

Canon Fodder Week 32: “Design a Song.” A bit of filler this week, and kinda timely; the slog is starting to set in on these posts, which reminds me of the yearly social-art series I made back between April 2014 and May 2015. At the time I was doing more web development and strategic/project management stuff at work, plus commiting more time volunteering with AIGA SB, all of which atrophied my creativity in design and illustration. So, inspired by friends and colleagues who’d been doing their own “project of the week”-style posts (like Tad Wagner’s “Tadvent” holiday series and “Project 52” by Liz King’s CSUCI design students) I decided to try it myself. I was writing song lyrics again for the first time in many years, so each week I chose a pop or rock song and quickly designed a first-thought-best-thought visual for one of its lyrics.

The series began well and has some pieces I’m still proud of, but most were mid and several were downright bad. It quickly became a chore and reminded me that I don’t work well doing quantity over quality. I stuck with it though, combining all the pieces together in a (still un-printed) poster and PDF booklet, compiled a Spotify playlist (listen here) and called it a day. “Design A Song” felt like a sunk-cost dead end at the time, but its relative failure made me want to try again for better results, so over the next few years I thought up other, better quickie-art series—but based on maps (two monthly and one yearly; more on them later).

Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: Eagle-eyed observers may notice several posts where I recycled/repurposed my older work, but one post appropriated a new piece—two bass guitars positioned in a yin-yang—which ended up as an album cover design for recordings I was working on. I’ll get into that one next week!

Canon Fodder Week 33: The “Rotten Miracles” EP. After almost 20 years of amateur musicianship with bands and side projects, I finally released seven songs under my own name in fall 2015. These self-produced, home-made demos were ambient, bass-heavy, and deliberately minimalist. For some reason I chose gravelly, whispered vocals to deliver their lyrics, about absorbing and interpreting my previous decade or so of being a “creative professional.” Absolutely not chart-busting or accessible material, but absolutely necessary for me to make. Full details about the project and tunes themselves are in a corresponding @mybandrockspod episode. The TL;DR is that, lyrically, I was finally able to move beyond the hazy nostalgia that had overwhelmed most of my post-Honey White stuff (and had driven me to write a novel and make music for it) to exorcize more contemporary day-to-day stress: marketing-job malaise and design biz melodrama.

I built on the book-soundtrack sonic template and lashed it to verses, choruses, and bridges—several with irregular arrangements and sparse percussion (shakers, sleigh bells, tambourine), and all awash in effects like echo and reverb. It was a great lesson in simplicity for the sake of execution; recording happened in summer 2015 and finished before my AIGA SB volunteer obligations ramped up again later in the year. For the artwork, I created a series of fun, simple, three-color digital images primarily starring my two Fender bass guitars (a brown/black Modern Player and a gray/black Jaguar), which I posted on socials each day during release week. It felt like a one-off, but also an amateur-music hobby capstone that fueled re-issues of all my other band stuff within the next 3 years.

Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: This was, to date, the last of my music projects to see physical release. “Rotten Miracles” enjoyed, in the age of digital music, an anachronistically defiant pressing of five (5) actual compact discs, which of course are collecting dust on a shelf with all my other CDs. I would make additional solo tunes (more on those later), but they’d only ever be bits and bytes on Bandcamp and Spotify.

Canon Fodder Week 34: AIGA National projects. It’s impossible to reduce my entire 2013-2019 national-level AIGA experience (6 leadership retreats, 2 design conferences, scores of creative collaborations, a few mentorships, and much more) to 2200 characters. I will say it was extremely valuable, I definitely needed it, I connected with many folks I still greatly respect, and my AIGA SB volunteer presidency was my ticket to all that. So I’ll just cover the general vibe of some projects I worked on. During the 2015 Design Conference in New Orleans, I helped pal Julia Sevin (then-AIGA NOLA president) make a Print History Tour map for one of the auxiliary events. It was fun, and Julia and I would work together again (more on that later), but I couldn’t attend. Out of pure FOMO I created the “Cartogram of Chapters” map, which other chapters and National HQ used to show the reach of various organizational initiatives.

One of those initiatives was “Get Out The Vote” in 2016, for which I made two posters that I still really like. They were displayed with many others in Cleveland and Philadelphia galleries as well as that year’s conference in Vegas. Sadly my overall enthusiasm for the org was tough to sustain and tougher to impart locally. I got the creative community I needed, but I also got a bit of wider renown that I’d craved since my band days, which was kinda addicting. I felt pressure to perform the morally correct take on every issue that convulsed the design biz, which was no fun. Design is about what a user or society needs, but honestly my creativity is mostly about what I want to do, so after the better part of a decade juggling volunteering with hobbies and a career, I attended one last conference in Pasadena and then it was time to retreat for real.

Honor Roll: if you’re an AIGAer reading this, you’re probably on it. Thanks for humoring my ego and helping me be a better creative person and professional. Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: Performing “leadership” has consequences. It was time to stop when I became exactly what I deserved: a half-drunk middle-aged clown on a pool table seduced by the adulation of my peers.

Canon Fodder Week 35: Oniracom branding. My final big project (and maybe my best project) at this Santa Barbara creative agency was a slight revision of their visual identity. Not a redesign, just a bit of a retouch. After 15 years, Oniracom’s white elephant logo felt a bit tired, so when the company pivoted to new clientele and operations, their mascot needed a refresh to appear more active and assertive. I haven’t subjected you all to most of the logos I’ve made (I might later, but there have been *many*), and I don’t do much logo design these days, but when I was on I was good, and this is one of the better examples.

I illustrated a new pachyderm that kept much of the previous look (including the distinctive wordmark, which I had not created), adjusted the overall color palette, and then expanded that new identity to a brand style guide, stationery, merchandise, apparel, and anywhere the logo appeared online. By the end of 2016 I was deep into planning my next professional move (more on that later), but I wanted to leave Oniracom with something special because I’d had an overall good experience working there. For me, this project hit all the right notes to do that, and my logo work survives to this day on Oniracom’s current mark (which uses my elephant’s head, but not the typeface).

Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: Oniracom founder Jacob Tell put my new logo on t-shirts right away, and his father Darryl wore the white elephant while traveling in Iceland and Greenland in 2018. This was an interesting echo of my Honey White “My Band Rocks” shirts appearing all over the globe as worn by UCSB college pals, first Sean Blaschke and then Jon Neal.

Canon Fodder Week 36: The DuBois Baseball Tour! Perhaps it should be plural “tours” because between the major, minor, and little leagues of America, Em and I have seen tons of baseball games in the past 20+ years. We were inspired circa 2005 by two little old ladies at a Padre game who’d adorned vests with patches from each MLB team they’d visited. We chose pins instead, so I scrawled a perma-ink USA on a bulletin board, and we got going, catching all 5 California teams plus Seattle and Phoenix by 2011, many with family and friends. The “creativity” bit maybe comes in when we planned where to go next, sometimes combining games with work or volunteer conferences: DC/Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago/Milwaukee, Denver (with 2 Red Rocks concerts), and Minneapolis from 2012-2016.

The tour appears here in the timeline because 2016 was both when we hit the halfway point (stadium 15 of 30), then stalled as I launched a business in 2017 (more on that next week), and stopped when Covid canceled a planned 2020 revival in Dallas. We were thus confined to SoCal for 2021-22 but the (simultaneously amazing and demoralizing) 2020s Padres and copious cups of soft-serve helped us through that, and then this year we finally revived the Big Tour with an April jaunt to Kansas City for stadium 16. What’s left? Every pin on the map: Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Toronto, New York, and Boston. Now that interleague play is all season, it’ll be fun to follow our Padres or Cubs if they play in places we’re going!

Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: We’re a bit of a curse on MLB home teams, who are 7W-9L on our tour visits. Post-Covid we’re 5-5 (for the 2021-23 Padres we’re 5-3). We’ve also caught several minor- and collegiate-league games over the decades, including the SB Foresters, the San Jose Giants, the Portland Pickles, and the local Conejo Oaks in TO. For details on everything, see the posts via my profile link. Last but certainly not least are the Santa Cruz little league and Santa Paula little league/fall-ball/travel-ball games of this decade—which might be our true 2020s highlights.

Canon Fodder Week 37 is one of two for my first business, Tight Ship Design, which I co-owned with fellow designer and AIGA chapter prez Julia Sevin. Julia and I had collaborated on several projects for AIGA SB and AIGA NOLA, and we were both looking for off-ramps from agency jobs, so in fall 2016 we began building Tight Ship together, and launched it in March 2017. Tight Ship specialized in brand design for events—from small gatherings to corporate conferences—and we sailed from 2017-2020. I’ll get to our specific client work later, because as any business owner knows, that’s only about a third of what we actually did. Our own branding and promotion took up tons of time (see some via profile link); we created a website, logo suite, stationery, biz cards—the works. We promoted via blogging, newsletters, freebie giveaways, and a short-lived podcast interviewing other small-biz partnerships.

The rest was administering the business (finances, regulations, and other LLC stuff), which I mostly did while Julia tackled sales and lead-gen. We met yearly in New Orleans (which I’d never visited before) for in-person summits during entrepreneurial or event-planner conferences, and even did some public speaking (more about my gigs next week). We ran a shoestring operation that ultimately didn’t survive several stressors, some unforeseeable but others baked-in. However, it was also a huge professional leap for me, and since Julia had entrepreneured before, we struck a good balance for 3+ years.

Honor Roll: Julia will always have my undying gratitude for being a great friend and creative professional who helped me be less terrified of the many failures that come with running a business. Thanks also to Lianna Patch and Sam Barnes for their advice and encouragement to both of us during those ups and downs. Weird Flexes and Wild Trivia: After 20 years of making music with bands and other projects, my first bonafide rock star photo shoot was actually for Tight Ship in 2018, done by Julia’s pal Tomas Raul at a NOLA park.

Canon Fodder Week 38: Public Speaking. I have never joined the family business of education, but I did dabble in student mentorship for the second half of the 2010s. That included several public speaking gigs, beginning with many AIGA SB-hosted student portfolio reviews. I might have otherwise never done it, but playing in bands helped me conquer stage fright and gain confidence with audiences, and I was also struck by how fulfilling it felt to help both students and new graduates allay their fears about creativity as a career. After running a nonprofit and launching a business I feared nothing, and had (perhaps predictably) become way too comfortable talking about myself and my work, but it was an interesting challenge.

I distilled my alleged wisdom into two topics: “The Five Ws of Getting A Design Job” and “Design for Storytelling”, both of which I presented (sometimes with my Tight Ship co-captain) to design and/or journalism students at SBCC (2015-16), CSUN (2017), Cal Poly SLO (2018), Loyola (2018), Tulane (2019), and UCSB (2019). During quarantine this morphed into appearances on virtual panels and not one, but two podcasts hosted by fellow ex-AIGA chapter presidents. Check out all of it via my profile link. I haven’t done much presenting lately, though. As someone currently without a “real job”, my previous topics don’t really feel worthy, and I wouldn’t want to bore/patronize students or waste their teachers’ time. However I have been considering subjecting the NACIS cartography crowd to some mappy side-hustle stuff in 2024. Maybe.

So I’ll leave it at that for now, and forego “weird flexes and wild trivia” in favor of another Honor Roll. Thanks to these fine folks for inviting me to speak to their students, or to appear on their panels and podcasts: Jennie Jacobs, Gretchen Macchiarella, Charmaine Farber, Alvaro Bootello, Sam Barnes, Sanya Kamidi, Amy Cesal, Esther Ogbu, Jody Collins, and Taylor Kinser.