Fear of Forgetting

During my teens and twenties, I knew without a doubt how photographic my memory was. In high school and college, I can clearly recall what I wrote in my notebook page by page. During exams, I would try to focus as if turning the pages of my notes in my mind looking for the answer to a question. At night before going to sleep, I can recall my day’s events in crisp clarity.

Two epidurals, stress and more than 10 years later, I find myself forgetting a lot of things. I used to be good with names. Now I can’t easily remember them. I misplace things. I forget events.

I have to keep a list of to-dos, a list of reminders, a list of passwords and a whole lot more.

But with this deteriorating memory, what I fear most is that I might forget the good times with my family, most especially with my spouse and my kids as they grow up. There are a lot of funny, warm, loving moments that I want to keep fresh in my mind until the day I die. Moments that I wish I can just easily open from my memory bank and relive in clear detail when I’m old and gray and I want to feel the joy, the love that this life has given.

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Never Grow Up

Earlier tonight while telling my daughters to sleep, I suddenly received an imessage on my phone. When I checked, it was from my youngest daughter. It then became an exchange of messages for a few minutes (note we were in the same room, only a few feet apart. She was in her bed beside ours).

I wish I could tangibly capture moments like this with my kids and preserve it forever. I wish they will always be this sweet. I wish they won’t grow up so fast.

Here goes our high-tech way of saying good night…

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Sad Realization

It’s so sad how sometimes it’s the people you love who kills your passions – whether consciously or unconsciously….

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Sketched

It felt like forever since I last held a pencil and a sketch pad and drew. I had a number of attempts in the past years only to find myself staring at a blank page and finally giving up, or suddenly remembering some other task to do and leaving behind the sketch pad.

Tonight was different. I badly needed some escape… mentally that is. I got my daughter’s mongol 2 pencil and a recently bought sketch pad, started surfing for images in my iphone to kickstart some inspiration (while listenin to Yiruma’s Kiss the Rain)… and started drawing. Hope I can do this again. I miss this!

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Chef Mode: Squid with Oyster Sauce

Tried a new recipe earlier during lunch. Was surfing for squid recipes and found this easy one (and also one which I have available ingredients to use).

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This is the recipe I followed…

Ingredients:
• squid, sliced
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1 small onion
• 2 tomatoes (though I think more would be better)
• 3 tbsp oyster sauce
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp sugar (I used less cause I was afraid it might be too sweet ü)

Saute garlic, onions, and tomatoes.

Add squid, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes (I think this should be in high heat).

Add sugar, and cook for another minute.

And you’re done!

Next time I think i’ll try adding more tomatoes and putting in salt and a little ginger… experiment… experiment!

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Dream of You

Cleaning up my data files, photos and websites on my hdd tonight, I found this old blog entry of mine dated January 27, 2005. I can’t seem to reconcile that I wrote this though I do remember the dream I had of her years after her death.

“Dream of You…”

i walk on a long narrow pathway filled with gravel and sand as though time couldn’t care, vaguely noticing the vibrant green bushes along side that mark my way. everything else is a blur.

she was only twenty one when she died, and she was one of my college friends. she was frank, quiet around others but not with
friends, and seemingly cold and aloof to those who don’t know her well. she was also outgoing yet in a reserved kind of way.

even my destination is obscured, the path just seems to stretch on and on and on, with a bright almost-blinding white light ahead of me.

we were alphabetically seated one chair apart on our first term in freshman year in college. i guess you could say convenience in
seat plan and our last names begot our friendship as we often would be groupmates.

i hear a faint voice eventually becoming discernible, and incoherent words i can hardly fathom, now getting clearer.

she lived only with her mother in a slightly above-average apartment somewhere in buendia. her father, not of filipino descent,
died of a ruptured aneurism in the brain when she was just a little girl. her older, much older, and only brother has been living
in the united states for years now as a military man.

i look to my right, and realized she was in stride with me all along. she was wearing her favorite pink collared shirt and faded blue jeans folded at the ends.

i graduated one term ahead of her. she got delayed because of their thesis. with our busy schedules, we seldom see each other
though our ‘barkada’ do make it a point to get together once in a while especially on special occassions. few months after her
graduation, i heard she got into one of the top i.t. companies in makati.

“how are you?”, i asked. “fine. don’t worry, i’m happy.” was her reply, with a serene smile.

during our latter years in college, she often complained of head-splitting migraines. stubborn as she is, she would dismiss our
constant nagging for her to see a doctor.

we talked some more, of things i vaguely remember, for what seemed like hours, the scenery unchanging, the walk growing tedious.

one uneventful day, another friend of ours, who is also her officemate, called me at my office with the news…
A: have you heard?
me: heard of what?
A: of mitch.
me: what of mitch?
A: she’s at st. luke’s. clinically dead…

suddenly everything started to blur… the pathway, the light, her face, her voice…

my body went limp, my world spinning, hearing the news yet disbelieving, unaccepting. i have to see her. we all do. i forced
myself to move, to stand, to walk, to drive…

an aneurism in the brain that ruptured took her life. just like her father. but she at twenty one.

i had just enough time to bid her goodbye before all disappeared and i was left standing… alone. in the darkness. but with content and light-heartedness.

i suddenly awaken. i was in my own bed. with a heavy heart, the bare truth hit me. hard. very hard.

but i remembered.

i know that she is happy now…

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Why Doodling Is Important

A nice article about Doodling. I used to do this a lot when I was younger especially in elementary and high school. During my college years, it gradually disappeared. After reading this, I want to bring that practice back. 🙂

(Taken from SmashingMagazine.com)

Why Doodling Is Important : “I Draw Pictures All Day”

By Alma Hoffmann

“So, you do nothing all day.”

That’s how many people would respond to someone who says they spend the day with a pen or pencil in their hand. It’s often considered an empty practice, a waste of time. They’re seen as an empty mind puttering along with the busy work of scribbling.

But for us designers and artists, drawing pictures all day is integral to our process and to who we are as creative people, and despite the idea that those who doodle waste time, we still get our work done. So, then, why are those of us who draw pictures all day even tempted to think that someone who is doodling or drawing pictures in a meeting or lecture is not paying attention?

What does it mean to be a doodler, to draw pictures all day? Why do we doodle? Most of all, what does it mean to our work? It turns out that the simple act of scribbling on a page helps us think, remember and learn.

What Does It Mean To Doodle?

The dictionary defines “doodle” as a verb (“scribble absentmindedly”) and as a noun (“a rough drawing made absentmindedly”). It also offers the origins of the word “doodler” as “a noun denoting a fool, later as a verb in the sense ‘make a fool of, cheat.’”

But the author Sunni Brown offers my favorite definition of “doodle” in her TED talk, “Doodlers, unite!”:

“In the 17th century, a doodle was a simpleton or a fool, as in “Yankee Doodle.” In the 18th century, it became a verb, and it meant to swindle or ridicule or to make fun of someone. In the 19th century, it was a corrupt politician. And today, we have what is perhaps our most offensive definition, at least to me, which is the following: “To doodle officially means to dawdle, to dilly dally, to monkey around, to make meaningless marks, to do something of little value, substance or import and,” my personal favorite, “to do nothing.” No wonder people are averse to doodling at work. Doing nothing at work is akin to masturbating at work. It’s totally inappropriate.”

It is no wonder, then, why most people do not have great expectations of those who “draw pictures all day.” Or perhaps they are inclined to think that those who draw pictures all day are not highly intellectual and are tempted to say to them condescendingly, “Go and draw some of your pictures.” As designers, many of us have heard such comments, or at least felt them implied, simply because we think, express or do things differently.

Why Do We Doodle?

Consider that even before a child can speak, they can draw pictures. It is part of their process of understanding what’s around them. They draw not just what they see, but how they view the world. The drawing or doodle of a child is not necessarily an attempt to reflect reality, but rather an attempt to communicate their understanding of it. This is no surprise because playing, trial and error, is a child’s primary method of learning. A child is not concerned with the impressions that others get based on their drawings or mistakes.

An Example of a doodle
An example of a doodle.

Their constant drawing, picture-making and doodling is a child’s way of expressing their ideas and showing their perceptions in visual form. It comes from a need to give physical form to one’s thoughts. Similarly, an adult doodles in order to visualize the ideas in their head so that they can interact with those ideas.

Visual Learners

According to Linda Silverman, director of both the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and the Gifted Development Center and author of Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, 37% of the population are visual learners. If so many people learn better visually, we can expect, then, that some of them learn better by putting a speech, lecture or meeting into visual and tangible form through pictures or doodles, rather than by being provided with pictures or doodles (which would be the product of another person’s mind).

37% of the population are visual learners

Humans have always had a desire to visually represent what’s in their minds and memory and to communicate those ideas with others. Early cave paintings were a means of interacting with others, allowing an idea or mental image to move from one person’s mind to another’s. The purpose of visual language has always been to communicate ideas to others.

Secondly, we doodle because our brain is designed to empathize with the world around us. According to Carol Jeffers, professor at California State University, our brains are wired to respond to, interact with, imitate and mirror behavior. In an article she wrote, she explains the recent research into “mirror neurons” which help us understand and empathize with the world around us.

A cave painting
Cave paintings were our first means of communicating ideas to others.

Think of it this way. When you’re at an art gallery and find a painting that intrigues you, what is your first reaction? You want to touch it, don’t you? I thought so.

When I was a ballroom dancer, I used to sit and watch those who I considered to be great dancers, tracing their forms in space with my index finger as a way to commit them to memory. I used to go to galleries and museums and, at a distance, trace the lines and forms that I saw in the paintings and designs. I did this out of curiosity and a desire to physically record what I saw to memory.

Nearly 100 years ago, Maria Montessori discovered the link between physical touch and movement and learning in children. Montessori education teaches children to trace the letters of the alphabet with their index finger as a way to commit their shapes to memory. My son used to trace forms that he found interesting in space. It’s safe to say, then, that we doodle to visually commit to memory a concept that we want to both empathize and interact with.

An experiment conducted by Jackie Andrade, professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth in England, demonstrated the positive effect that doodling has on memory retention. In the experiment, 40 people were given a simple set of instructions to take RSVP information over the phone from people going to a party. The group of 40 was divided in two. One group of 20 was told to doodle (limited to shading in order not to emphasize the quality of the doodles), and the other 20 would not doodle.

The doodlers recalled 29% more information.

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Doodling helps us retain information.

The study showed that doodling helps the brain to focus. It keeps the mind from wandering away from whatever is happening, whether it’s a lecture, reading or conference talk.

Still, we have become bored with learning.

Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, Joseph D. Novak argues that this is because we have been taught to memorize but not to evaluate the information being given to us. In many traditional settings, the pattern is simple and dull: sit, receive and memorize. Many traditional educational systems do not encourage active engagement with the material. Doodling, drawing and even making diagrams helps us not only engage with the material, but also identify the underlying structure of the argument, while also connecting concepts in a tactile and visual way. Jesse Berg, president of The Visual Leap, pointed out to me in a conversation that doodling is a multisensory activity. While our hand is creating what might seem to be random pictures, our brain is processing the stimuli that’s running through it.

Many of us are the product of traditional schooling, in which we were made to numbingly memorize dates and facts, and many of us continue this pattern later in life. While some of us were avid doodlers (I used to fill the backs of my notebooks with pictures and draw on desks with a pencil during class), some of us stopped at high school, others in college and others once we settled into a job. At some point during the education process, doodling was discouraged. Teachers most likely viewed it as a sign of inattentiveness and disrespect. After hard preparation, educators want nothing more than unwavering attention to their lectures. The irony is that, according to Andrade’s study, doodlers pay more attention to the words of educators than we think.

In her TED talk, Sunny Brown goes on to explain the benefits of doodling and even offers an alternative to the definition found in the Oxford Dictionary:

“Doodling is really to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think. That is why millions of people doodle. Here’s another interesting truth about the doodle: People who doodle when they’re exposed to verbal information retain more of that information than their non-doodling counterparts. We think doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but in reality, it is a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus. Additionally, it has a profound effect on creative problem-solving and deep information processing.”

How Can Designers Use This To Their Benefit?

As designers, we have a unique advantage when it comes to doodling. We don’t just doodle to keep our minds focused — we also deliberately sketch ideas in order to problem solve and to get immediate feedback from clients and peers. Designers such as Craighton Berman and Eva-Lotta Lamm are two of the biggest proponents of the “sketchnotating” movement. Berman states that sketchnotating “forces you to listen to the lecture, synthesize what’s being expressed, and visualize a composition that captures the idea — all in real time.”

In 2009, I came across a book titled The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam. Roam is a business strategist and founder of Digital Roam, a management-consulting firm that uses visual thinking to solve complex problems. He uses a simple approach to solving problems visually. Every idea is run through five basic questions to encourage engaged thinking and to ensure a meaningful meeting. The process takes the acronym SQVI^. S is for simple or elaborate, Q is for qualitative or quantitative, V is for vision or execution, I is for individual or comparison, and ^ is for change or status quo. These simple choices are worked through with simple doodles in order to better understand the problem and find a solution. In his book, Roam says:

“What if there was a way to more quickly look at problems, more intuitively understand them, more confidently address them, and more rapidly convey to others what we’ve discovered? What if there was a way to make business problem solving more efficient, more effective, and — as much as I hate to say it — perhaps even more fun? There is. It’s called visual thinking, and it’s what this book is all about: solving problems with pictures.”

After discovering Roam’s book, I decided to doodle again. Once a prolific doodler and drawer, I had become inactive in lectures and similar settings, often forgetting what was said. Taking notes felt too cumbersome, and I often missed words and ideas. I decided to give doodling another shot. Instead of focusing on specifics, I would focus on concepts, key words and ideas.

Since 2011, I have been actively promoting doodling in my design classes, making a deal with my students, saying to them, “Doodle to your heart’s content, but in return I want you to doodle the content of my lectures.” They are skeptical at first, but they soon realize that doodling is better than having a quiz. I reap the benefits of doodling, and by allowing them to doodle — with the requirement that it be based on the class’ content — they become more informed of the topic and they engage in more meaningful conversations about design.

A sketchbook
A designer’s best friend: a sketchpad.

The typographic novices in my classes naturally start to apply the principles of visual hierarchy and organization, grouping ideas either by importance or by category. They will group ideas with lines, boxes, marks and more. Headings and lecture titles might be made larger, more ornate or bolder, and key concepts might be visually punctuated. It is fascinating how natural and almost second-nature the idea of visual hierarchy is to all of us. The learning curve of typography is steep for some of us, but doodling and sketchnotating really makes it easier to grasp. Below are some doodles by students in my classes.

Introduction to Typography lecture doodle by Alisa Roberts
Doodle by Alisa Roberts from my “Introduction to Typography” course.

By picking out concepts, ideas and topics, the students start to establish a hierarchy by making visual groupings and start to use visual punctuation. By the time I assign work on typographic hierarchy, the sketches tend to show more astuteness. Transferring these sketches to the computer is a challenge for those new to typography, but once they naturally understand the relationships in what they are doing, they start to make smarter design decisions.

Identity and Branding class lecture doodle by Aubrie Lamb
Doodle by Aubrie Lamb from my “Identity and Branding” course.

Identity and Branding class lecture doodle by Aubrie Lamb
Another by Aubrie Lamb from the same course.

As we have seen, doodling has many benefits, beyond what designers as visual communicators and problem solvers use it for. Doodling also helps our brain function and process data. Those of us who doodle should do so without feeling guilty or ashamed. We are in good company. Historically, doodlers have included presidents, business moguls and accomplished writers. Designer, educator and speaker Jason Santa Maria says this:

“Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist. They’re about being a good thinker.”

Doodling, drawing pictures and sketchnotating are about using visual skills to solve problems, to understand our world and to respond effectively. So, what are you waiting for? Doodle!

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