I like to check the comedy blog Splitsider for updates on various media, such as their news on SNL cast changes, The Daily Show recaps and what’s happening in late-night. It’s not only informative but funny, as one would hope. During lunch I caught this great quote from comedian Patton Oswalt, as featured in Time Magazine, on, as Splitsider explains, “why he took a break from all social media this summer and plans to do it again next year.” I know Oswalt’s work only passingly, but have seen him on many roundtable and pundit shows, too. He’s a smart guy, as you can see in this little nugget of smarts:
"Maybe it’s because this younger generation doesn’t have the demarcation we have—of a world before cell phones and then after. It was always there for them. So it’s not a novelty. And thus has less power. They don’t remember the endorphin rush of sudden connectivity, like when people my age first logged onto dial-up Internet and, after 10 minutes, sheepishly searched for their own name. Or the first time we received an email. And when those things happened on our phones? It was like the apes touching the monolith at the beginning of 2001."
-Ben
Image courtesy Boston.com.

I like to check the comedy blog Splitsider for updates on various media, such as their news on SNL cast changes, The Daily Show recaps and what’s happening in late-night. It’s not only informative but funny, as one would hope. During lunch I caught this great quote from comedian Patton Oswalt, as featured in Time Magazine, on, as Splitsider explains, “why he took a break from all social media this summer and plans to do it again next year.” I know Oswalt’s work only passingly, but have seen him on many roundtable and pundit shows, too. He’s a smart guy, as you can see in this little nugget of smarts:

"Maybe it’s because this younger generation doesn’t have the demarcation we have—of a world before cell phones and then after. It was always there for them. So it’s not a novelty. And thus has less power. They don’t remember the endorphin rush of sudden connectivity, like when people my age first logged onto dial-up Internet and, after 10 minutes, sheepishly searched for their own name. Or the first time we received an email. And when those things happened on our phones? It was like the apes touching the monolith at the beginning of 2001."

-Ben

Image courtesy Boston.com.

You, Your Operating System and Porn

Browsing through Fast Company, I stumbled upon a post all about your operating system and porn. Turns out, the device you’re (getting off) on says a lot about your stamina. Who would have thought Black Berry users have the best stamina? They spend an average of 11 minutes and 53 seconds per visit checking out their favorite videos. Fascinating! 

-Patrick

Image courtesy Pornhub.
You, Your Operating System and Porn
Browsing through Fast Company, I stumbled upon a post all about your operating system and porn. Turns out, the device you’re (getting off) on says a lot about your stamina. Who would have thought Black Berry users have the best stamina? They spend an average of 11 minutes and 53 seconds per visit checking out their favorite videos. Fascinating! 
-Patrick
Image courtesy Pornhub.
What? Hello Kitty isn’t a cat?!

So it turns out Hello Kitty isn’t a cat. Confused? You should be.

The multi-billion dollar industry that surrounds this cat animated character has had us fooled all along. Hello Kitty’s feline appearance is a “kind of abstraction,” according to its official curator at the company that owns the character. 

I’m heading to Japan, the land of Hello Kitty, this November and I’ll report back with my findings. 

-Patrick

Image courtesy Cute Overload.
What? Hello Kitty isn’t a cat?!
So it turns out Hello Kitty isn’t a cat. Confused? You should be.
The multi-billion dollar industry that surrounds this cat animated character has had us fooled all along. Hello Kitty’s feline appearance is a “kind of abstraction,” according to its official curator at the company that owns the character. 
I’m heading to Japan, the land of Hello Kitty, this November and I’ll report back with my findings. 
-Patrick
Image courtesy Cute Overload.
Block Club was just mentioned in New York Magazine and we couldn’t be more excited! 

From writer Edna Ishayik: “Get into the nouveau–Rust Belt psyche by checking out the latest issue of Block Club’s beautifully designed magazine. The branding and marketing firm employs pretty much the coolest kids in town, and its quarterly publications take on issues both weighty and fun-loving.”
 
Thanks New York Magazine! We love you, too!
 
Read the full story and all of their tips for enjoying a great getaway and summer in Buffalo.

-Block Club
Block Club was just mentioned in New York Magazine and we couldn’t be more excited! 
From writer Edna Ishayik: Get into the nouveau–Rust Belt psyche by checking out the latest issue of Block Club’s beautifully designed magazine. The branding and marketing firm employs pretty much the coolest kids in town, and its quarterly publications take on issues both weighty and fun-loving.”
 
Thanks New York Magazine! We love you, too!
 
Read the full story and all of their tips for enjoying a great getaway and summer in Buffalo.
-Block Club
As the weekend approaches, my mind—and I suspect many people’s minds—begins to wander towards thoughts of the myriad delicious adult refreshments that I could be enjoying in the coming evenings.
As a designer, beer drinker and full-time hell-raiser, the marketing of these products has always fascinated me, now more so than ever with the craft beer revolution in full swing. This explosion of micro-breweries has created an unfathomably competitive market with thousands of major players where the look of your product is somehow even more paramount than it always is in any other market. Your bottle label now has to tell a complete narrative about where your beer came from, how it was made, what kind of values your brewery holds et cetera in order to inform would-be consumers awash in a ocean of craft beer to choose from and inspire them to pick your sixer over the others on the shelf. That sure sounds like the perfect recipe for some really cool packaging design and marketing to me. 

In my opinion, one company who is really championing this idea and successfully executing it with the utmost in taste and elegance is the Spoetzl Brewery, the Texan producers of Shiner Beer. They are a long-standing player in the craft beer game with roots dating back to the turn of the century (and I mean the 20th century) but they recently had a bit of an identity crisis following some big expansion which caused them to fall out of favor with the modern beer drinker and his obsession with small craft microbrews.
In a stroke of brilliance, they hired the amazing Austin-based agency McGarrah Jessee to completely refresh their brand and rethink everything from their logo to product development and put together a fully integrated advertising campaign—totally a dream job for me (I can think of a few Buffalo breweries I’d love to have a crack at). The results they came up with are beautiful, elegant, successful and, most importantly, delicious (the Wild Hare IPA is a personal favorite). One look at any of their beers or the marketing collateral built around them and you instantly get the following facts about Shiner loud and clear: a) It’s definitely from Texas; b) It’s also somehow German (think Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz); c) It’s been around for a really long time and has a rich, proud history, d) It’s clearly not made by a corporate giant; and e) It’s super cool/hip/modern/exciting/and probably a really great beer. All that in a beer label. Now that’s good design!  

You can see McGarrah Jessee’s complete campaign for Shiner here, or you can dive right into the awesome web experience they designed for them, complete with full-frame video, gorgeous environmental product photography, and all the things that really get us hot & bothered here at Block Club. 
Prost!

-Ryan
When Tim and I give our How to Launch Your Design Career Clubtalk for students I spend a huge part of it blathering on and on about the importance of having designy side projects and then presenting those side projects to your prospective boss with the same care as your professional work to show off the above and beyond, most passionate side of your designer self. So often overlooked by students who are too busy just getting through school, or who don’t see their personal work as worthy, thoughtful and beautifully executed personal projects are one of the most effective ways to stand out in the sea of other design students vying for the job. This is especially true in a smaller city like Buffalo where everyone is from the same schools and all the same projects are being churned out one after the other.

But what about once you’re working full-time? Freelancing full-time? Suddenly creative side projects take on a whole new importance when you have a brain full of deadlines and checklists. It’s all too easy to become so drawn into the day-to-day that you lose the creative energy to make something else after the workday ends, and I’m certainly guilty of falling into that trap at times. But I’ve found that devoting the time to cultivating my personal creative pursuits and blurring that line between work and play, even on those days that it can be tough to motivate myself to pick up the pencil again at home, is one of the biggest keys to success. Not only does it sharpen my skills, it also helps to recharge my right brain, enriching the ultra-creative projects I am lucky to do at my job with new ideas and making those unavoidable days of text formatting or data merging a little easier. It’s also fun to test yourself and see just where your brain will go on its own, without feedback or deadlines.

In my creative spare time, I tend to do illustration work, which is not my strongest skill, so in doing more of it, I build confidence to try new things at work. Most importantly, it makes me feel happy, so that’s awesome.

Many of my fellow Block Clubbers have exciting and fruitful side projects that bring them happiness and help to make them even more amazing team members. And City Dining Cards basically started as a side project of Block Club, proving that you never know when a great idea for a project might take off.

So what’s your next project?

-Julie
When Tim and I give our How to Launch Your Design Career Clubtalk for students I spend a huge part of it blathering on and on about the importance of having designy side projects and then presenting those side projects to your prospective boss with the same care as your professional work to show off the above and beyond, most passionate side of your designer self. So often overlooked by students who are too busy just getting through school, or who don’t see their personal work as worthy, thoughtful and beautifully executed personal projects are one of the most effective ways to stand out in the sea of other design students vying for the job. This is especially true in a smaller city like Buffalo where everyone is from the same schools and all the same projects are being churned out one after the other.
But what about once you’re working full-time? Freelancing full-time? Suddenly creative side projects take on a whole new importance when you have a brain full of deadlines and checklists. It’s all too easy to become so drawn into the day-to-day that you lose the creative energy to make something else after the workday ends, and I’m certainly guilty of falling into that trap at times. But I’ve found that devoting the time to cultivating my personal creative pursuits and blurring that line between work and play, even on those days that it can be tough to motivate myself to pick up the pencil again at home, is one of the biggest keys to success. Not only does it sharpen my skills, it also helps to recharge my right brain, enriching the ultra-creative projects I am lucky to do at my job with new ideas and making those unavoidable days of text formatting or data merging a little easier. It’s also fun to test yourself and see just where your brain will go on its own, without feedback or deadlines.
In my creative spare time, I tend to do illustration work, which is not my strongest skill, so in doing more of it, I build confidence to try new things at work. Most importantly, it makes me feel happy, so that’s awesome.
Many of my fellow Block Clubbers have exciting and fruitful side projects that bring them happiness and help to make them even more amazing team members. And City Dining Cards basically started as a side project of Block Club, proving that you never know when a great idea for a project might take off.
So what’s your next project?
-Julie
I have a great business idea and you can have it.
We’ve all heard about the high cost of cheap clothing. Factories around the world spin out millions of dollars of cheaply made clothing to feed America’s shopping habits, which we buy, wear once and store in a closet until we stuff them in a bag and haul them away to Salvation Army. The good stuff often hangs around in the same closet but it can be worn just as infrequently (if ever). I have so much clothing that I never wear but I’ll never throw it away. It’s good stuff; I just don’t have a piece that ties it all together.
Websites like RentTheRunway.com already exist, but what if we built a website that crowdsourced the same idea and gave users access to a library of clothing and accessories that are nestled in their neighbor’s closets? Think of it as Airbnb for clothing. For the sake of a clear explanation, let’s call it LendLuxe. Here’s how it works:
I have a beautiful purple suit (probably made by Bureau).
I build a profile on LendLuxe using Facebook.
That profile includes all of my measurements: weight, height, waist size, etc.
I photograph the clothes I’d like to loan out (including my beautiful purple suit) with a brief stat-sheet: how many times have I worn this, current condition and so forth.
Other LendLuxemembers are automatically matched to my profile based on their qualifying measurements, so my suit shows up whenever “suit” is entered into a query bar.
A LendLuxe member rents my suit for $50.
I drop the suit off at a participating dry cleaner who preps the suit for rental.
When the renter is finished using it, they return my suit to the same dry cleaner who cleans and preps it for return.
The dry cleaner and LendLuxetake their portion from the sale and I get an automatic deposit into my bank account when I pick the suit up from the dry cleaner.
I review the renter, the renter reviews me and those reviews are visible to all other users.

I’d use LendLuxe, especially if it picked up and delivered for free. Would you?
-Dave
Photo courtesy Fashion Beans.

I have a great business idea and you can have it.

We’ve all heard about the high cost of cheap clothing. Factories around the world spin out millions of dollars of cheaply made clothing to feed America’s shopping habits, which we buy, wear once and store in a closet until we stuff them in a bag and haul them away to Salvation Army. The good stuff often hangs around in the same closet but it can be worn just as infrequently (if ever). I have so much clothing that I never wear but I’ll never throw it away. It’s good stuff; I just don’t have a piece that ties it all together.

Websites like RentTheRunway.com already exist, but what if we built a website that crowdsourced the same idea and gave users access to a library of clothing and accessories that are nestled in their neighbor’s closets? Think of it as Airbnb for clothing. For the sake of a clear explanation, let’s call it LendLuxe. Here’s how it works:

  1. I have a beautiful purple suit (probably made by Bureau).
  2. I build a profile on LendLuxe using Facebook.
  3. That profile includes all of my measurements: weight, height, waist size, etc.
  4. I photograph the clothes I’d like to loan out (including my beautiful purple suit) with a brief stat-sheet: how many times have I worn this, current condition and so forth.
  5. Other LendLuxemembers are automatically matched to my profile based on their qualifying measurements, so my suit shows up whenever “suit” is entered into a query bar.
  6. A LendLuxe member rents my suit for $50.
  7. I drop the suit off at a participating dry cleaner who preps the suit for rental.
  8. When the renter is finished using it, they return my suit to the same dry cleaner who cleans and preps it for return.
  9. The dry cleaner and LendLuxetake their portion from the sale and I get an automatic deposit into my bank account when I pick the suit up from the dry cleaner.
  10. I review the renter, the renter reviews me and those reviews are visible to all other users.

I’d use LendLuxe, especially if it picked up and delivered for free. Would you?

-Dave

Photo courtesy Fashion Beans.

We were not able to illustrate all of the submissions we received for this latest issue of Block Club magazine, but I did want to revisit a few and give them a quick visual treatment to match the message. The result is a different style than the illustrations featured in the magazine, but that have some range to match the variety of Shhh submissions.

-Tim

Last year today I posted about the writer Elmore Leonard, who had just died. His famous 10 Rules of Great Writing had made an impact on me and my peers. His list is direct and arbitrary-sounding, though, of course, he makes a lot of sense. (No. 6 is my favorite: “Never use the words ‘suddenly or ‘all hell broke loose.’” Okaaay. Got it.)
Until we’ve made our own lists, which, come to think of it (I bet he’d love that phrase), all writers should be curating as they go, I’m going to listen to those who have been doing this for longer than I have. Folks like Stephen King. Ever hear of him? Here’s his list of 20—20!—which I find to be more welcoming than Mr. Leonard’s, though no more correct. To each his own (another phrase the late Leonard would kill me for; and that sentence-ending preposition….I need a copy editor. Here we go.):
1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that arenot the story.”
2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”
3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”
4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”
5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”
6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”
10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”


11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”
12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”
13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”
14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”
15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”
16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”
17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”
18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”
19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”
20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
-Ben
Image courtesy DishMag.

Last year today I posted about the writer Elmore Leonard, who had just died. His famous 10 Rules of Great Writing had made an impact on me and my peers. His list is direct and arbitrary-sounding, though, of course, he makes a lot of sense. (No. 6 is my favorite: “Never use the words ‘suddenly or ‘all hell broke loose.’” Okaaay. Got it.)

Until we’ve made our own lists, which, come to think of it (I bet he’d love that phrase), all writers should be curating as they go, I’m going to listen to those who have been doing this for longer than I have. Folks like Stephen King. Ever hear of him? Here’s his list of 20—20!—which I find to be more welcoming than Mr. Leonard’s, though no more correct. To each his own (another phrase the late Leonard would kill me for; and that sentence-ending preposition….I need a copy editor. Here we go.):

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that arenot the story.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

-Ben

Image courtesy DishMag.

In June, I wrote about how we come up with our magazine’s themes. I wrote that in each year’s four issues, we look to cover a variety of themes under an umbrella arc—something that connects these vague, abstract concepts from issue to issue. Sometimes those themes bleed into each other. Now is such a time.
Our current issue, Shhh, looks at secrets, lies and other silence, about how those barriers can build walls of seclusion and emotional imprisonment. Our next issue, Borders, looks at the boundaries that keep us within some imaginary or physical limit. As you see, they both address confinement, among other ideas, as it relates to self-identity.
I’m finding such excitement in traversing these two issues at the same time. As with almost every theme we’ve explored in the last two years, there’s an inverse reaction to the title: Stop implies Start; Comfort implies Discomfort or Fear; The Fight implies Passivity, or something to that effect. With both Shhh and Borders, we’re looking at how definition can hold us to a standard, or keep us labeled, or in order, in check, or accessible. But, of course, we also see that there are walls that these definitions build, some of which we ought to tear down, and some of which we ought to keep.
I hope that—and know that—our readers take time on our pages, to delve into the layers we’re trying to swim, even the lighter, shallower ones. I know that there are strong connections to be drawn from one issue to the next, in one story format or another, but I trust that there are many, many, infinitely many more that we can’t possibly convey in 64 pages. The goal with the bleeding of these themes under a four-issue arc is to marinate in this idea for a while, and enjoy it slowly. If your time spent with an issue of Block Club is like a warm bath or cup of tea, then we’ll have done our part. The rest is up to you. :-)
Stay tuned for more on Issue 37, Borders, in the coming weeks, and enjoy Issue 36, Shhh, currently available on free newsstands around WNY and online. Thanks for reading!
-Ben
Image of Crafterall's paper lakes courtesy Colossal.

In June, I wrote about how we come up with our magazine’s themes. I wrote that in each year’s four issues, we look to cover a variety of themes under an umbrella arc—something that connects these vague, abstract concepts from issue to issue. Sometimes those themes bleed into each other. Now is such a time.

Our current issue, Shhh, looks at secrets, lies and other silence, about how those barriers can build walls of seclusion and emotional imprisonment. Our next issue, Borders, looks at the boundaries that keep us within some imaginary or physical limit. As you see, they both address confinement, among other ideas, as it relates to self-identity.

I’m finding such excitement in traversing these two issues at the same time. As with almost every theme we’ve explored in the last two years, there’s an inverse reaction to the title: Stop implies Start; Comfort implies Discomfort or Fear; The Fight implies Passivity, or something to that effect. With both Shhh and Borders, we’re looking at how definition can hold us to a standard, or keep us labeled, or in order, in check, or accessible. But, of course, we also see that there are walls that these definitions build, some of which we ought to tear down, and some of which we ought to keep.

I hope that—and know that—our readers take time on our pages, to delve into the layers we’re trying to swim, even the lighter, shallower ones. I know that there are strong connections to be drawn from one issue to the next, in one story format or another, but I trust that there are many, many, infinitely many more that we can’t possibly convey in 64 pages. The goal with the bleeding of these themes under a four-issue arc is to marinate in this idea for a while, and enjoy it slowly. If your time spent with an issue of Block Club is like a warm bath or cup of tea, then we’ll have done our part. The rest is up to you. :-)

Stay tuned for more on Issue 37, Borders, in the coming weeks, and enjoy Issue 36, Shhh, currently available on free newsstands around WNY and online. Thanks for reading!

-Ben

Image of Crafterall's paper lakes courtesy Colossal.

New Last Names

Surnames are an interesting thing. For many of us, they give a clear indication of our roots and family origin. At a glance, you could look at the names Nick Van Der Kolk, Conan O’Brien and Anthony Bourdain and have a pretty clear idea of what country their ancestors came from. More interesting, to me, are names in which it’s clear what profession our families were involved in when someone came to them and told them that it’s time to select a last name. For example, Fowler means “Bird catcher” in English, Sherman means “Shear-man” in German (one who uses shears) and Bookbinder means, um, book binder.

We’re lucky that our names are set by the crafty occupations, nicknames and places of our long-deceased ancestors. Imagine if surnames came into style in 2014? What would we be called? Here’s a (Dave-created) list of Block Club’s new last names based on our day-to-day doings around the office:

Patrick Finan: Patrick Van Der Commander

Brandon Davis: Brandon Doodletamer

Steve Soroka: Steven O’MacBookFixer

Taylor Schupp: Taylor deProofread

Ben Siegel: Benjamin Gigglesmith

Ryan McMullen: Ryan Snackfetcher

Julie Molloy: Julie Fancylunchovich

Dave Horesh: David Spræchensmüch

Tim Staszak: Timothy Fixedgearsson

What’s your 2014 Surname?

Arunas Kacinskas
http://cargocollective.com/Yellowcardas Pixeden
http://www.pixeden.com/ Pixeden
http://www.pixeden.com/ Mike / Creative Mints
http://creativemints.com/

The world is flat. (almost).

Flat has been a buzzword in the design world for several years now since we all collectively became nauseated by the shiny, glossy, web 2.0 aesthetic that had been so pervasive since the early days of the iPhone. Even Apple embraced a fully flat UI about one year ago for their iOS 7 which officially decreed extreme simplicity as the new name of the game. However, now that we’ve all been rocking in the flat world for a while, it seems the knee-jerk snap to monochrome starkness has rubberbanded back a bit towards the fun 3D effects of the old days while maintaining the clean flat look that still dominates the digital world. This is the dawning of the age of ALMOST flatness.

While searching for inspiration for an icon set we were designing here at Block Club, I came across these great examples that illustrate these shifting trends (literally). For this project, we knew that these icons would have to be simple and clean in order to fit in with the client’s brand and the web site that we were starting to shape around it. At the same time though, one of the goals of the project was to create more of a warm fuzzy feeling for the end user so we found our Goldilocks answer inspired by some of these “flat but fun” illustrations.

-Ryan

Hip-hop is my go-to, get-in-the-zone music to throw on at work, especially when I’m trying to power through a slow spot in a project. It blocks miscellaneous office noise out and helps remind me that if Kendrick can put in work and overcome the rough streets of Compton, I can certainly find the right adjective to plug in and finish this article.

One of my favorite things is the collaborative nature of this genre, down to the construction of the music itself. Producers often pull from the most unexpected sources in constructing a beat, and this meeting of contrasting generations and cultures is fascinating.

I was recently drawn to the beat behind a J. Cole song, which sampled a 1960s dance-music orchestra from Guinea. This led me into a black hole of Guinean folk music—a whole new genre of music that I never would have been exposed to otherwise.

Tracking down samples is the best way to find new (often old) music, and is a good reminder to never take anything, especially popular music, at face value. Always question, always dig to find the source, because this process of discovery can provide you with a more complex, layered understanding. Or at the very least, it will give you some new music to get lost in at work.

-Taylor