and how one thought leads to another…

The other day I was listening to one of my favorite podcast shows (Design Matters with Debbie Millman) and was introduced to Tina Roth Eisenberg. She’s a Swiss designer, blogger at SwissMiss, who helped design the award-winning Visual Thesaurus among many other things. She also founded CreativeMornings, a global monthly lecture series (or free coffee-presentation-meetup to connect people).

And so last week I went to my first CreativeMorningsVancouver where actress Shauna Johannesen gave an engaging, heartfelt, funny, and emotional presentation on August’s theme of weird. The neat thing about CreativeMornings is that not only is it a lecture from an interesting creative, it is also a conduit to connecting with others as you break off into small groups to discuss the topic and your impressions of the presentation.

Afterwords, it got me to thinking about the ‘rush‘ i felt by meeting strangers, chatting face-to-face and connecting…and how I could harness all of that to not only help me overcome my fear of strangers or being more social (because by doing over and over something we fear, we become less anxious), but this connecting with others might just be a small step, my small step, in the direction of understanding others, empathizing, learning about differences and creating a better, more positive world.

And so, to use author and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields’ definition of The Good Life as being a “lens through which you see and create” and his drive to turn fear into fuel I have decided to make talking to strangers a habit, a ritual, a daily practice…starting TODAY!

PS I know this is not a new concept (eg. Brandon Stanton of Humans of NY fame) yet I feel that if more and more of us took on this daily connecting to others it can only lead to a better world! You can follow my meetings on Twitter with #tok2strangers.

So what are you going to do about it??!


Inspiring creative women

Today I want to introduce you to three inspiring women who have touched me, made me think, and awed me in their accomplishments, their naturalness, and their eloquence.

Monday I met Maira Kalman.  Illustrator and writer, designer of handbags, clothes and sets,  a woman of depth and quirkiness, a mother, born in Tel Aviv, who grew up in the Bronx and is of late a dog-lover! Here is how I met her in discussion with Debbie Millman and here she is chatting about her recent AIGA 2016 medal.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 6.04.35 AM

Tuesday was Tiffany Shlain. Tiffany is an award-winning documentary film-maker, the founder of the Webby awards, honoring the best of the internet, a writer, and the mother of two who strongly believes that family and grounding in the moment is so important she has been “performing” a weekly tech shabbat for 7 years, where the whole family disconnects from any technology for 24 hours.

One of Tiffany’s movies, Adaptable Mind, expounds on the importance of practicing the five skills of curiosity, creativity, initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking, and empathy in order to navigate and expand with the internet. Here she is being interviewed by Debbie Millman on Design Matters.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 6.19.05 AM


And Wednesday I met Ayse Birsel, a Turkish-born designer and writer, who brings new solutions to old problems by thinking differently, using her user-centered, humanistic design approach. Aside from the interesting projects and products she has worked on, including the very comfortable Toto Japanese toilet seat, she also does workshops on her four-step process to Design the life you love through Deconstruction, Point of View, Reconstruction and Expression. This is how I met her, in conversation with Debbie Millman.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 6.04.54 AM Who did you meet this week who impressed, moved and intrigued you? Please share!



Looking forward (on the web)

On my weekly hike up the Grouse Grind, I’ve been listening to podcasts about anything related to web design and this past week I encountered yet another new term: Responsive Design! Ahhh yess!

Karen McGrane on The Web Ahead talked about responsive design as being the process whereby one website is created for all screen sizes, all devices.  On this podcast with Jen Simmons, Karen explains this wave of the future, while addressing the difficulties of convincing large corporations to change the way they have done things in the past.

Here, Ethan Marcotte, describes how “rather than tailoring disconnected designs to each of an ever-increasing number of web devices, we can treat them as facets of the same experience. We can design for an optimal viewing experience, but embed standards-based technologies into our designs to make them not only more flexible, but more adaptive to the media that renders them.”

Together Karen and Ethan co-host another podcast called Responsive Web Design, of which I am now hooked! Last week I listened to them talk about:

  1. the Renovation of WBUR, a public radio station‘s website,
  2. the Responsive redesign of Cincinnati Art Museum site, and
  3. the primarily desktop to mobile responsive redesign of SONOS.

Fascinating and so helpful in understanding the scope and nuts and bolts of approaching this type of web design! Next on my list are the re-designs of America’s Test Kitchen and BC Transit! Close to my heart and my home!


Helpful design sites (and blogs)

Which which is which…my learning curve keeps escalating, an ever invigorating ride up!

So, along with the books I’m reading and the podcasts I’m listening to, here are some of the sites and blogs i’ve become hooked on as they offer so much information in this rapidly changing and growing field of interaction design.

The first I’d like to mention is the InVision blog. Somehow I happened upon this incredible source of information and quickly signed up for the newsletter. I eagerly await each new email which invariably has several interesting posts and even links to freebies! AND I love how you can tweet a pre-designed tweet by clicking on it right from the blog!!

Another equally informative blog is Shopify. These articles are in-depth, more lengthy than InVision’s posts, and re-iterate (in a good way!) what I’ve read on other sites and in books, giving me a review and more detail if I want it. Loads of how-tos, tutorials, freebies and much more!

Then the other day I found this page with a concise checklist. I’m sure it will come in handy when I start designing🙂

Next are two sites I haven’t had time to use or browse much, however they look very promising…AIGA and Envatotuts+.

Like I said, there is so much information on the net which is helpful…please share if you know of other sites or blogs you follow!

Learning while hiking

My 21-year-old son told me recently that on his 30-minute walk to work/school each day he now listens to books or podcasts. Learning while commuting…great idea! So now instead of just listening to music as I hike my beloved Grouse Grind or busing to class…I listen to podcasts and have found a great one called Design Matters with Debbie Millman.

Debbie Millman began Design Matters as a radio show in 2005 and now 257 podcasts are available for free on iTunes. She interviews artists, designers, innovators, writers…basically anyone she finds interesting and with whom she wants to dig deeper into what made them who they are in their field. A bit like my STUDIO VISITS posts from a few years back. She’s a great interviewer…here are some of the little nuggets I’ve discovered so far:

In Debbie’s recent interview with TED’s curator Chris Anderson he emphasized the importance of working for something bigger than you. He also pointed out how curiosity, being curious, is such a wonderful thing because it can excite us to realize how little we know and therefore pushes us to want to learn. Thirdly, he emphasized the importance about using the “audience’s language”, not necessarily your own fancy words, when trying to teach or explain something.

Another interesting podcast was with graphic designer, illustrator, teacher Bob Gill in 2014. One thing that stood out for me in this interview was that Bob Gill found that a lot of design these days is wrapped up in “looking beautiful”, when what he thinks is important is that there is meaning behind the design, that it’s interesting and possibly not beautiful, but that it makes us think!

And during yesterday’s hike up the mountain I had the great pleasure of listening to Debbie talk with NPR’s creative director and interaction designer Liz Danzico🙂 Her insightful words gave me strength as she believes one shouldn’t be afraid to embark on something new just because it’s unknown…the wise ones jump in and “fake it” until they gain more understanding! Thank you Liz!

I hope you enjoy Design Matters as much as I do and let me know of any other great podcasts!




Storytelling, typography and typesetting

On this steep learning curve of understanding my new world of Interaction Design, I signed up for what proved to be a challenging 4-day Basics of Communication Design course at Emily Carr University. With the guidance of an intelligent and quirky instructor named Thomas, we tackled storytelling, typography, and typesetting, and had a lot of fun doing it!


We explored the CommDesign theme of storytelling through two exercises that Thomas called the A4 project where we were to tell the class something about ourselves with simply a white sheet of (A4/letter) paper. No pens, no scissors! We had an hour to create/design something and five minutes to reveal…and all this before anything else!

My work centered around process by aging the paper, ‘life-experiencing’ it and cycling through several iterations of possible endpoints only to refold, unfold and begin again, all the while meditating on who I am, what I know of design and what I wanted to “say” about myself. I finally settled on a harmonious peaceful balanced sunset that made me happy, as a good design should!

In the afternoon we re-did the project in teams of 3 so we could work on collaboration, iterations of design, leadership, and group presentations, all essential elements of communication design.

commdesign day1
Day 1 A4 project: Storytelling with a blank page

Day 2

The next day Thomas introduced us to the Helvetica Project using Adobe’s InDesign program in order to create a Watermark, which is like a basic logo. We used the Helvetica type because of it’s enduring quality and simple beauty and then subtly played with the structure of the letters and the spacing to create something new and meaningful.

Using the room number of our class (sb350) as the starting point for my project I tried to infuse in the lettering the notions of the course ‘opening my mind’ to create, ‘making me think outside the box’ by forcing an irregularity of the kerning/spacing to show contrast of the usual regularity of the font, and stretching the tails of the 5 to exemplify how this course was ‘telescoping me into the future’.

commdesign day 2
Day 2 Helvetica Watermark project

Day 3

Wednesday we were introduced to a ‘giant’ in the field of design Edward Tufte.  In order to practice the fine art of typesetting, Thomas assigned us the task of distilling Tufte’s extensive curriculum vitae into a snapshot of his life using InDesign, thereby addressing the aspects of research, information architecture, legibility and readability of typesize and letting, and presentation, all crucial to CommDesign. It amazed me how each of us created such vastly different one-page documents to highlight how and who we perceived Tufte to be.

tufte day3
Day 3: Typesetting Tufte’s CV

Day 4

On the final day Thomas wanted us to work on typography using Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style and Megg’s The History of Graphic Design to create our own type! With large sheets of craft paper and a 2B pencil we practiced lettering large and small to really feel a connection to the shapes of letters, the negative spaces, the curves and serifs. And then from that starting point design a new font, and of course as with the other days we ended the session with presentations and critiques.

Day 4: Creating new typography

All in all it was a challenging experience, mentally-exhausting, and a great eye-opener that has made me realize just how little I know in this field, yet it just makes me want to keep at it because it fascinates me!

The more I read the more I want to know!

As I embark on this new “interaction-design” journey I realize how much information is out there, not only on the web but also in books and there is so much to learn!

One of the first things i did was sign-up for a few blogs and InVision is so far my favorite…it is very helpful, informative and user-friendly.

From the comprehensive reading list compiled by Margaret Kelsey at InVision, so far I’ve tackled these three, which have given me true insight into the ways we think, how to design so the product is understandable, usable and enjoyable, and how in the digital world we must design in such a way that the user shouldn’t need to question or worry in order to ‘get it’!


And to get an overview of the history of the World Wide Web I read this fascinating book by Walter Isaacson about the central characters, the cooperative and competitive nature of some of these innovators and how science and art intermingled.

Screenshot 2016-05-30 09.59.45

Next on my book shelf are Site Seeing and About Face .

I would really appreciate any suggestions or comments, so please don’t hesitate to leave them here!


Time for something new!

@saramorison Florence June 2016

I very recently realized that, as a mother of two young men off to university in my hometown of Montreal, I want to do something new, something that will put a new energy and exhilaration into my life…because I’m still young and want to be fired up and excited about my life as they are about theirs!

Interaction Design…hadn’t heard of it until last week, but I think it’s not only THE future, it’s MY future! It’s the interaction between what people want for their online sites and for their client (the psychology part) and how to display it on the web (the design creative part) so the client engages!! There is so much to learn from a design and behind-the-scenes point of view, and it seems that the more i learn and read, the more i need to read more and learn more (this is SO EXCITING TO ME!!). I’m hoping that the exploration I/we will do on this blog will help educate me on what WORKS, what DOESN’T, what FRUSTRATES and what EXCITES!

Please join me as I embark on a journey of discovery of web sites that keep us engaged, teach us and amaze us, and help me understand how to make disappointing annoying sites better!


The fine art of letting go!
The fine art of letting go!

IN February I had the opportunity to try something new that has ignited a spark…teach the Fine Art of Letting GO! I had taught psychology courses during my graduate work, i had led elementary school classes in the fine art of understanding human emotions and empathy, but I had never taught an art course. AND I loved it! During the course I led this past winter, I took 7 students of various ages and experience on a journey of discovery similar to the one I took a few years ago with Steven Aimone. ab course aimone

It was an exploration of letting the charcoal and the brush do the work, without too much worry or thinking…quick expressive strokes, challenges to help release anxiety about right and wrong…LETTING GO! They used a minimal color palette, several different drawing tools and worked on forgiving paper🙂

It was a great way to try new things, express feelings, build confidence with drawing and painting. NEXT I’ve been asked to teach a weekend workshop through the West Vancouver Community Centre…so if you’ve ever wanted to paint but didn’t know how to start or if you’ve been creating for years from images or real life and want to see where abstract art can take you…SIGN UP for my weekend of fun and exploration!

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