Monday, February 27, 2017


Chapter 1 - Sometimes you just want to chill. 

Where else can you take bored, hungry children on a Sunday - and still ensure that they get some exercise? IKEA, of course. 

It was a ZOO. There was absolutely no way that you could produce efficient, satisfactory results on the IKEA kitchen planner. If you watched my video - on how to use the planner efficiently - you would have known that. 

But sometimes being productive is not always the goal. Sometimes you just want to chill and watch your children be successful - just playing around other kids. I think IKEA makes some amazing children's toys - I think their offering creates for a very open ended, positive, inclusive game play. 
I can honestly say that we spent at least 2 hr at IKEA. I laid on a bed watching hundreds of people pour by me - exploring, touching, evaluating products - potential consumers right there. I read some stats and apparently IKEA Canada is doing really well - a leader - they are THE destination for home furnishings and decor. IKEA's success is directly tied to its ability to mass produce objects that people need [that is something that is completely opposite of what I do, total and complete customization; I am a furniture designer]. I wondered, for the hundreds of people that walked by me - how many of them cared about the amount of smart, forward thinking design and cutting edge technology that went into each product?

A pregnant couple [yea, I know, just the lady is pregnant] with a young daughter walks by me and looks at the next bed, that I am on. It's handsome dark lines, some curves add flair - the design details mimic some other fancy era design. They speak a foreign language, but I can read the body language and the positive nods - they are interested. Their little girl gets up onto the bed. 'Look,' I say, pointing out the flexibility of this design, 'this beds extends, it can be made larger. All you have to to do is buy a larger mattress.'. 'Ah...thank you,' they nod in approval. I think this makes the sale, as they write down the product number. 'Yes, a successful sale!' I think to myself. No wonder IKEA is doing so well. 

People just want functionality - not everyone wants or cares about high fashion design. 

Chapter 2 - OK, so what's next for me.

A] I want to do even more, now that the show shone a bright spotlight on my practice. I will focus more on designing and hacking. I want show what is possible - and how to take the best advantage of what IKEA has to offer - IT IS A LOT!

B] I am currently looking for a maker space to start hosting meet-ups  - IKEA Hacking. I am also looking to offer workshops - some free, and some for a fee. What are you interested in doing? Fire off an e-mail and let me know!

C] I am gonna up my social media game - I will still write - cause I am a writer first! - but I will also start producing videos. I reviewed all the traffic to my site and identified most popular requests and search queries - will be doing one shortly - may even today!

D] I will stay creative - remember you should always have a 10 year horizon - creative, professional. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
NOTE: 5 year horizon is still acceptable. lol.

Stay creative! 


Friday, February 24, 2017

Alright! Alright! Updating blog!

Yeezus! People hating because I don't update the blog! Here, update! 

They love me! They really, really love me. 
Yes, I do good work. 

There, now back to work. Check my Instagram - I just got it and started posting to it - mind you, there is some personal stuff there too. 


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Toronto Design Week - ToDo Symposium - Reflection & Review - American Perspective

here he is! Mr. American, Ivan McCuistion

Chapter 1TODO 2017 Reflection: Work Culture, Well-being and Seeing the unseen

Red cup in tow, a half-flight of white steps led up into my momentary heaven at the DO Festival 2017 in Toronto.

“Remember Tomorrow?” a brand poster asked, before cascading deeper into eloquent paradoxes. Marrs Brand Future, even the name rang true! Hasn’t the planet Mars long been an icon of the future, yet riddled with uncertainties and failures?

Looking deeper into the white-walled gallery, the divergent handcrafted housewares furthered my perception of the thesis: question our implicit promise of the future. What do we assume and is it so? The Marrs Brand Future exhibit acted as a portal for inquiry into the Unknown-unknowns(1), as Jamer Hunt would present two days later at the DO Symposium Talks.

I promptly insisted two friends arrive at the Marrs exhibit for discussion. They did, and we quickly found ourselves debating the unprecedented personal security that individuals in developed countries enjoy—a gift born of the future. Yet are we suffering with self-inflicted isolation? Going deeper, we wiki’ed national suicide rates and asked ourselves, at what threshold of discomfort is suicide warranted? What is the mark of a greater civilization, lower indexes of violence or lower indexes of self harm?

As a society we need more space for this, as Erika Bailey spoke of it, we need more real-talk. I agree wholeheartedly with Jamer Hunt’s concluding keynote at the Do Symposium. In design, and more broadly in all creation we need to adapt tools and culture for more discourse in our work. Perhaps our capacities for creation have grown far larger than our collective bandwidth for discourse. But Hunt probed the audience to think of this as an integral part of the design process. It isn’t enough to be retrospectively critical, as was done in his Design and Violence collaboration(2). Designers must leave space for unforeseen consequences to arise in their process and actively address them. Yet my personal experiences with intense focus and isolation leave me wondering if there is a conflict between corrosive cultures and the state of mind necessary to see the unforeseen.

I could not have marveled at the Marrs Brand Future exhibit if I were under the pressure that some organizations still praise or demand. Fortunately work culture is evolving, and Erika Bailey of The Moment provided clues on influencing these cultures in her talk. She cautioned us of the complexity and challenge of changing culture, yet offered striking quantitative results. “Invite the unusual suspects!” Bailey proclaimed, and Jamer Hunt too reinforced the value of the unexpected perspective in design discourse.

Bailey described culture like an iceberg, with our customs and artifacts seen above water but supported by dense histories of behaviours and belief systems below. She emphasized it isn’t only the elements of culture that are key, but being aware of the language that is used around those elements.

Rejecting the notion of a work-life balance, Bailey offers a holistic approach where the whole person is welcomed into the workplace. Rather than balancing a scale, she advocates for respectful and meaningful integrations of work and life. “You must care,” Bailey implored us. At every step proposed towards changing culture, Erika Bailey challenged us to get real in our conversations, intentions and reflections on progress. Throughout the process we need to give time and persevere, 12-18 months in her workplace examples.

This is a challenge I want to continue to develop, let’s get real about our well-being, our workplace culture and our culture of creation. Bring yourself, your whole self—known and striving towards wellness—into conversation. Let’s ask each other if we are creating recklessly, let’s define that, and even dare to ponder broader impacts. Let’s ask what did the future promise and what it will promise. We need to ask not only if our civilization is great, but what have been our unintended consequences. We’ll be discussing our iceberg, but let’s develop an awareness of our language in process. In doing so we may prime ourselves for cultural changes and possibly see a bit deeper into the unforeseen—the unknown unknowns.

Respectful, honest and challenging conversations are a necessary tool in evolving culture, whether in the workplace or in creation. To recapitulate Jamer Hunt, where do designers go for philosophical criticism of our work and process? Who is helping us see the unseen, and how do we see it sooner, before a product is launched? Are we leaving space for this discovery in our working process, in our culture?

Yet this isn’t enough either, as Bailey points we’ll need to address multiple points in the culture to affect change. While this is reaching beyond my present knowledge, it seems obvious that our creative capacities have outstripped our ability to educate each other, share and conviene. Do we need more regulatory control or broader—likely competing—design tribes that share insights. Maybe these tribes function like competing academic networks, and put the person first, not the brand or marketing.
Together we need to be more open to criticism of our discipline, our process, even ourselves. Beyond continuing to raise these ideas, I believe Erika Bailey’s talk offered insight into improving our own well-being, and thus primes us to reach higher, and look deeper.

1 – Derived from a Donald Rumesfeld quote

referencing Johari Window heuristics

2 –

TO DO Talks Symposium –

Jamer Hunt –
Erika Bailey –

Ivan McCuistion –
Ivan is an American new to Toronto. He studied Industrial Design at the University of Cincinnati–DAAP and is currently freelancing at The Station, while seeking contract and full-time design opportunities in the area.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Toronto Design Week 2017 - Reflections - a Wall of Text [Part A]

Chapter 1 - Toronto Design Offsite Festival - I did it!

Usually in the past, as a side actor - I remember having my written pieces published by ToDo before; helping a friend with an install and a takedown for Come Up To My Room, or even with a build, it's all good times - this year I actually did something. 

I put on a symposium - first one ever - IKEA Hackers Symposium. It was a huge success! I initially feared the worse - low turn out. Believe me - it sucks when nobody shows up to your opening - there were offers of 'fillers', but I kindly declined. The option of RSVP kept me aware of how much demand there was for my offering. 

Instead, on the day of, the venue was packed. We were at capacity - people were standing outside! Few days earlier I was interviewed by CBC Metro Morning host Matt Galloway [prime spot too! 8:20am! - on air I said, 'I know that it sounds ambitious, but we will make Design history'. Mr. Gallowy said he liked that - influencing design history. The phone calls started immediately - old clients texted and emailed - loved the interview. Then the requests for quotes poured in - people completely disregarded my system - yea, that's right, I have a system - a quick way to generate quotes. 

Than that night, CBC Television did a segment - including a 2 min clip of 'me in action' - those 2 minutes were a result of a 2 hr shoot! Yea - an hour per minute! Not including the awesome editing and putting it all together - it was good. 

Blog is exploding. YouTube channel - ppl are subscribing - it's bare bones there - so I definitely have to improve my media game. 

Yep. Things are exciting. 

But amongst all that excitement there has been deep reflection. I find it curious - everything that happens around the globe - political, environmental, social events - I always frame within the 'IKEA ecosystem' - how will it affect IKEA's** global sourcing.  So for starters  - the election of Donald Trump and his radical views - and now actions too! - on issues such as trade, human rights or monetary policy - they are frighting. And then I thought about Canada and that dark Conservative veil that was just recently lifted with the election of Justin Trudeau - a promising young - handsome too - leader. Canada it seems to be in stark contrast to the United States - with its open, accepting and tolerant policies. Whereas I considered 'moving to Canada' before the election of Trump, a bit of a joke - now it seems that we - us as a society - Canada - may become a destination - a mecca of sort* - for those seeking higher liberties. 

Can we help out our American brothers and sisters who are in need? What can we offer them? Can we offer them shelter from uncertainty about their future? Can we offer them opportunities that they are getting denied in their own country? Can we offer them real, meaningful, personally fulfilling work?

You know what? Talk is cheap - a direct action is better. I met a young industrial designer at the opening party for ToDo. I am sitting on a bench in a church, giant install in front of me, quiet spot - and I meet this guy! What?! Trying to escape Trump?!

I think the install worked; it created nice individual zones; I did not feel like having music blasted at me and so I just chilled on a bench in the 'private area'. 



Hailing from the States, Ivan McCuistion is a new designer in Toronto. While admitting recent political developments are reinforcing, when I met him he was quick to point out he fell in-love with Toronto last February on a visit. “There are happy, healthy people here. Toronto is thriving and functional in many ways! It’s liberating, it’s how I work and feel. It felt like home.” Crashing with a good friend, Ivan made the move in October.

After getting settled, he joined the designer coworking space The Station. Ivan’s been investing in his own work and portfolio heavily as he’s looking to launch his design career in the city. He’s created ‘living’ mood lamps, minimalist bags, and loves to take his work into functional prototypes.

“I’m really keen on experience.” he says “There’s so much I want fix, and when I create, I know I get into subtleties that are beyond some. But I believe—cognisant or not—great experiences can be intuitively appreciated.”

Ivan was out at many Design Offsite Festival events, and they offered a range of subtle to lurid experiences. This was his first design festival in Toronto or beyond. After attending the symposium talks, Ivan has written about his most provocative experiences from #TODO17.

Cool guy. Easy to talk to. Smart. Yeezus, these are the types of American imports we want to have here in Canada - a brain drain in reverse!


*whoa! see what I did there!

**IKEA will hire about 200 refugee women to create a textile line - for distribution within immediate geographic area - meaning we can't purchase those here, in Canada, for example.