DIY Gets Digital

I'm happy to see interesting uses of digital media that make it easier to capture inspiration from wherever you are.

One I have been testing out on the iPhone is the ben® Color Capture™ iPhone app. Based on photos you take or pull from your existing library, the app suggests Benjamin Moore color palettes. You can get even more specific color suggestions by tapping on areas within the photo. Shake the phone and you get a corresponding harmony palette. It's quite elegant and intuitive.

Here's a shot of the bay I took yesterday with a palette suggestion (left). It also provides a specific color suggestion from a spot on the sky that I tapped (right):

The only caveat with any digital form of color representation is that it is only a close suggestion. You must rely on actual paint swatches in daylight for accurate paint selection. The same is true for the fairly recent apps that Pantone has created. Unless those colors are specifically for screen end-use, nothing beats the accuracy of an actual color chip with real Pantone inks (or, paint)—and even then, light and the material being printed or painted impacts the color result.

Along with strategically utilizing technology, companies that establish smart partnerships that ultimately help consumers envision use of their products are adding tremendous value to their brands. This partnership between Cambria and Benjamin Moore proves that in this excellent online tool that guides customers in choosing Benjamin Moore paint palettes that compliment your Cambria stone counter tops:

Usually, I have not been a fan of applications or sites that simulate the decor of a room. They tend to be limited in style and not always completely applicable to your own rooms. The end result always tends to be a little "rough". But this one by Sherwin Williams is one of the better that I have seen. It allows you to upload photos or get started right away with their provided gallery. The color palette is vast and adding color to the images happens fairly quickly. Like mentioned above, color accuracy will always be an issue and I found this to especially be the case with the palette of white tones on the site. There are a lot of very slight variations in choosing a shade of white and the computer screen just cannot display these fine color differences. But overall, this site shows promise for consumer-based interior design tools.

In looking at many of these tools, I found there is a lot of room and opportunity to create relevant, useful guides for DIY home improvement. It certainly inspired me to think about interior design inspiration in the interactive design realm in my own work.

Home Sweet Home Office

I now have the ideal, blissful and fortunate opportunity to freelance from my home office. I quit full-time life in interactive design (within advertising=burnout) in the Spring to freelance and build a new design studio company. I have always believed that environment is everything. It has everything to do with your mood, productivity and state of mind toward your work. To that end, ever since we moved into our home 2 years ago, I've been setting up my ideal office up in our loft space.

I wanted to keep things pretty clean and white with just small accents of color to allow the work on the walls (and screen) be the focus. My office was completely inspired by the mid-century palettes exemplified by the George Nelson Swag Desk:

So, my first rule of thumb is: Love where you work. Set up a space where you really want to be. I mean this both in terms of the physical office space and your workplace. Honestly, we spend at least 10 hours of our days working and to be miserable in that is just uncalled for. We really owe it to ourselves to be happy in what we pursue in life. So, either create an exit plan (right now), or, if you like your job, simply make your workstation more of a place you want to be 10 hours a day. Personally, I can't wait to get up to my office everyday:

tip: Head to your local farmer's market during lunch and pick up some fresh flowers. Sunflowers are beautiful and inexpensive.

— tip: if you don't work from home, office coffee usually, well, sucks. And trips to Starbucks can really add up. Bring your own coffee & nifty French press by Bodum and serve in these cheery design-nerd mugs from Pantone:

Second rule of thumb is: Be Organized. It will save you time, heartache AND money.
Luckily, organization and neatness is an obsession of mine, but for those less inclined, these tips and products may help. You've heard this before, but "everything in its place". Very simply, if there is a place for everything, being organized isn't as tough. It's about having systems in place, whether it be storage, or a way to get things done, such as with the offline and online versions of Behance's Action Method:

There are some really excellent time tracker apps for the Mac that act as stop watches that can be labeled per client, project, etc. Check out Timepost: (which plugs in with Basecamp, activcollab, Harvest, and other project management tools). Time is money!

Other apps:
Toggl, Tick, Harvest, Billings, iBiz, Slife.

— File it away: I covered an awkward step against the back wall of the office with these modular credenzas from the EFFECTIV line at IKEA. You can choose the base, cabinet doors and interior to create customized storage. They're stackable, too:

Clutter looks a lot neater when you use multiples of the same desktop storage boxes. I chose a clean white so that it blended in with the walls. I try to get sturdy yet inexpensive ones because they can really add up. These are metal-reinforced paperboard KASSET from IKEA:

(The Container Store has some great ones, too).

For storing more hanging folders or smaller office items, I also found these ERIK file cabinets at IKEA in a great punchy lime color (which they don't seem to have in that color anymore.)

You'll also be more inclined to take part in your hobbies after hours if your supplies are sorted and easy to get to: Cart on the left from The Container Store. Cart on right, no longer available, from Crate & Barrel. TRIPP Stacking patterned boxes from IKEA:

Use inspiration binders: Finding myself lost in a sea of inspiration clippings, I went through the labor-intensive task of filing everything in 8.5 x 11 plastic sleeves (that you can get at any office supply store) and placing them in 3-ring binders. It was totally worth it.

People tease me about my "OCD" binders, but they have made my life so much more organized. I have binders for my graphic design work, home decor work, holidays, paper craft, recipes, entertaining, fashion, you name it. And because I wanted the binders quickly at hand, and therefore exposed, I invested in some really great-looking ones from Russell and Hazel:

— Clear your mind with a pinup board:

I think this is one of my all-time favorite solutions in my office. It is the simplest thing in the world, but what it does, and symbolizes, is enormous. Often times when I am trying to focus on getting a task done, my mind is racing all over the place with side ideas that have absolutely nothing to do with the DEADLINE I should be focusing on. So, I "throw it up on the wall".

That intriguing postcard, seasonal inspirations, a new idea for my work with AIGA Boston, an idea for yet another side business, the charity I want to start "someday": it all goes up in some form on the wall. It gets it out of my head at the moment, but it is not forgotten. When I can take a breather, I simply go peruse the wall and get inspired by something on it.

So, if you've ever made a move at one time in your life to take things into your own hands, or were laid off, but decided to make the most of it, here's to you. And to fulfilling your life long dreams, professionally and personally, one file folder and inspiration binder at a time.