Archives For Carnegie Mellon

It has always fascinated me how seemingly trivial things can trigger one’s memory on a dime and transport you to another time or place in an instant– hidden snapshots of one’s life peppered throughout our daily comings and goings.

This morning, paying bills at my desk and watching the rain pour down, iTunes surprised me with a memory jolt– a musical time machine back to college:

This song always propels me back in time to a rainy night in Pittsburgh— biblical rain, soaking you to the bone and waiting on Carson Street for the 54C back to Oakland. The experience or night holds no significance to my present life, no new characters came into my life that night, no profound observations were made on that day, the rain did not catalyze anything other than hailing a taxi and yet it remains as a warm and vivid memory: Crumpled up in an old leather jacket, waiting beneath a street light flipping through sketchbooks with the other regular from my coffeeshop (who was also waiting for the overdue bus), wet licorice streets, headlights exaggerated by raindrops…

It seems strange to me that such an insignificant moment in my life remains so firmly imprinted upon my memory and yet it does.

What random moments are firmly implanted in your memory, dear readers?

When I was an undergrad in design school , I was one of the weakest drawing students among my peers our freshman year. My professors, patient and inspiring though they were, seemed to remain concerned about my weaknesses in the fields of drawing and craft; it was the final pin-up discussions at which I shone.

When the second semester of my freshman year came along and my drawing skills still fell short of my peers, one of my professors, who held a master’s in drawing, pulled me aside and gave me some advice. He gave me a few tips on how to improve the quality of my work, but above all advocated simply for practice. One of the exercises he recommended was to draw simple shapes over and over again– to draw until they were coming out of my ears. By so doing, I would be training my hands to be more skilled at quality of line and form. So for weeks I drew obsessively– circles, squares, cones, pyramids, triangles, lines, lines, lines; it was the mad hatter’s geometry and it was exploding inside my sketchbooks.

By the time I graduated with my BFA, I was selected as the designer of the year, so something must have clicked along the way; the mad hatter’s geometry had pushed me further. Today, simple forms like those from my professor’s exercise tend to creep into the margins of my sketchbooks and meeting notes– an unconscious habit, it now seems.

When I came across the above video from the Design Council, one of the first things that came to mind was that exercise of drawing simple shapes over and over and over.

Why be good when you can be better? What do you wish you could do better, dear readers? And how do you plan on getting there?

Building on an earlier theme of friends and former classmates, today I thought I’d share the fabulous work of another buddy from my college days at Carnegie Mellon. When I think about it, the CMU connection theme could easily become a feature unto itself on AmandaMuses, but we’ll just see, I guess…

Anyway, Josh Urso, another product of the Carnegie Mellon Design program, produces stunning furniture in his New Jersey studio. Since the opening of his design studio in 2002, Josh continues to produce items that explore the limitations of material and structure. His work, inspired by mechanical processes and new materials, inspires curiosity and a playful enjoyment of daily life.

I love his Ant Farm lights and Knoop tables, and of course the incredible Specter chair– I remember Josh’s prototype senior year in college watching the evolution of this amazing object come to life. He took limp cloth and made it live with resin and sheer inventive brilliance.

It has been many years since I have been in touch with Josh, but from the look of his Web site, he is doing splendidly.

Images: Josh Urso Design

Randy Pausch

Today we lost another brilliant mind and creator…

More about Randy

The Last Lecture