Books Writing

The joy of publishing

I published a book. It’s called “Train to Nowhere” and it collects the first 100 tales from my podcast, “Two Minute Stories.”

What a strange paragraph!

Publishing a book has long been on my bucket list – it’s incredibly satisfying that I can say I’m a published author. Having said that, the bar for entry is quite low. In the same way podcasting doesn’t require much more than an internet connection and an idea, publishing a book doesn’t require much more than an internet connection, formatting, and an idea.

That’s one of two things I found most interesting during the process of publishing: the time required to properly format. Since I was aiming for speed, I published “Train to Nowhere” exclusively to Amazon’s Kindle platform. My two big learnings:

  1. Since all of the text for my book was previously written for “Two Minute Stories,” my time was invested in both understanding how to publish to Kindle and formatting for Kindle. There are several ways to do this, but I chose to use HTML. I’m fortunate to feel comfortable coding (and yes, you could argue I coded a book).
  2. Again, the bar for entry is quite low. Amazon makes it easy to publish to Kindle. More importantly, I learned that the idea of a “book” is quite light. There are plenty of examples on Kindle that don’t fit nicely into the traditional definition of a book.

Similarly, the term “publish” is quite light. Thanks to many new technology platforms, I can publish a post, article, podcast, book, and more with minimal effort. But although publishing is relatively easy when compared to its history, the satisfaction of doing so still feels great.

Podcast Sports

What time is it?

Gametime, hoo! I’m happy to share a new show with you. My former The Design Game cohost Dave Merriell and I have launched Gametime, a show that discusses ESPN’s The Last Dance. As I mentioned last week, our world’s current constraints make for excellent opportunities to scratch that creative itch.

Gametime is a limited series that will release episodes 1-2 days after each of ESPN’s Sunday night airings of their documentary series. Dave and I are big fans of hoops and are nostalgic for all things ‘90s NBA. We’ll take a look at everything the documentary series covers in addition to remembering the state of the game.

Dave and I had a blast making The Design Game years ago and are excited to do the same with Gametime.

Listen to all episodes here.

Books Design Podcast Self


Our current world – one of quarantine – has constrained our living space, access, and brain power. But it is within these constraints that creativity can flourish, all because we must focus. In times like these, it’s great to think like designers, folks that “thrive on constraints, but hate compromise.” (Erik Spiekermann)

With constraints that limit our thinking, the likelihood of success increases. I’m reminded of this during quarantine as we must find new ways to parent. How can I entertain my child within the confines of my yard? I’m now responsible for designing a solution for significantly more time than I was while school remained in session. This is a new – and incredibly challenging – restraint.

A designer solves a problem within a set of constraints.

“Design is a Job” by Mike Monteiro

Some activities we’ve considered for our child within this new set of constraints:

  • imitating parts of the school day, to varying affect (math, recess, art, independent reading, comprehension),
  • as many walks or bike rides around the neighborhood as possible,
  • backyard scavenger hunts, and
  • encouraging creating: coloring, Legos, and even reviewing movies on Instagram Live!

…and that’s just the constraints for our child! Let’s not forget the constraints as a full-time employee. But again, this is where creativity flourishes. In the short time of our quarantine, I’ve also created new routines and outputs, including:

  • a redesigned web site, which you’re currently reading!
  • documenting life at home via Instagram Stories,
  • and soon launching two new podcasts.

Chances are good that little to none of these activities would have occurred without our current set of constraints. Designers thrive on them… and it turns out parents can, too.

Interested in learning more about constraints? Check out Jay Acunzo’s episode of Unthinkable.

Design Sports

Contrast, color theory, and the Milwaukee Bucks

Much has been said when it comes to color theory: certain colors emote specific feelings; never use purple; green means go.

Coming from a communications school (shouts out to Newhouse!), we didn’t focus much on color theory – we focused on communication and legibility. To this day, communication grounds me in my best practices color: it’s about contrast and nothing else. Showing depth? Lean on contrast. Pairing complementary colors? Lean on contrast. Increasing the legibility of type? Lean on contrast.

Which brings me to another love of mine: NBA uniforms (my Evernote app just auto-corrected “uniforms” to “undies” — that’s an entirely different blog post which is likely behind a paywall). My beloved Boston Celtics recently eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs with the Bucks in their second full year of a new uniform system. Simply put, they look like nothing else in the league… and that’s a good thing. It’s a unique color scheme with modern type and lots of flexibility. I see only one issue — and that’s contrast.

The Bucks' road uniforms are green.
Matthew Dellavedova wears the new Milwaukee Bucks icon uniform set.

Let’s take a look at their green “icon” uniform set, my favorite of the bunch. That custom font is fantastic! Note the way that “Milwaukee” sits on the jersey. It’s white type with a cream outline (Milwaukee is known as the Cream City, a reason for one of the team’s tertiary colors and an entire separate alternate uniform).

In this case, I prefer my uniform without cream. The cream is too similar to the white in the word mark, creating a blurry effect on what should be bold, sharp letter forms. Even worse, it crowds the letters, creating a jumbled word mark.

Here, I believe some contrast would help. Perhaps “Milwaukee” would be better served in cream without an outline. This creates sharper letters, a smoother word, and significantly better legibility. Alternatively, “Milwaukee” could be set in white, but that’s a lost opportunity to use a unique supporting brand color.

The Bucks’ uni set is one of the strongest in the league and is unique across the sporting world. I’m thoroughly impressed with the design work from Doubleday & Cartwright… and with more contrast, these unis could be all-timers.

Podcast Speaking Writing

Brevity is the soul of wit

It’s funny how new ideas aren’t so new. They are the product of time, energy, and seemingly unrelated events. This is how my new writing project, Two Minute Stories, came to be. To sum up, I write and recite short tales of fiction in less than two minutes. How did I get here?

It all started with my junior year of high school where I met Mr. Dunphy, my English teacher. Before his class, I had little to no interest in writing and literature… but I quickly learned to appreciate the creative arts through stories like Heart of Darkness and Frankenstein. He pushed me to write across many disciplines: poetry, short stories, and essays. I had the bug.

102416-2msFrom there, I focused my college minor on creative writing. We practiced writing a lot. I continued developing my skills and devouring great modern fiction like The Intuitionist (shout out to Colson Whitehead!), Snow Crash, The Shipping News, and Native Speaker. This was fun.

After college, I kept at it. Even in my design roles, I gravitated towards the writing, looking for interesting ways to pair language with typography and layout. As if that weren’t enough, I met Nicolas Boillot and was introduced to the world of scriptwriting. He pushed my then co-worker Matt Gustavsen and I to better understand the medium, concept of story, and the power of simplicity. We worked together on a screenplay and made each other better. During my time with Nicolas and Matt, I kept an Evernote notebook full of “story ideas.” They ranged from simple two-sentence summaries to fully developed narratives. I continue this practice today.

More recently, I’ve had the pleasure of co-hosting The Design Game with David Merriell. Our podcast on the role of design in sports introduced me to yet another medium, one that required the power of audio and voice. We continue to investigate this vast world of podcasts.

Earlier this year, I caught wind of a new app called Anchor. It encouraged users to share short audio clips with the world (never more than two minutes). Followers could then reply with their own voice. I was intrigued by the constraints from a storytelling perspective.

All of that history brings us to today. After years in the making, I’m ecstatic to formally launch Two Minute Stories. I’ve been sharing some early stories on Anchor over the past few weeks… but now it’s time to share with other folks. Starting today, you can here Two Minute Stories on Anchor, SoundCloud, and as a podcast through iTunes. I’ll share 1-2 stories every week and look forward to hearing your thoughts. At a minimum, I would love for you to leave a review on iTunes as it will greatly help the visibility of the podcast early in its life.

Admittedly, this missive was neither brief nor witty… but hopefully you can find some of both in Two Minute Stories. Happy listening!