Thinking of design ideas

I tend to have difficulty trying to create something just for the sake of creating something. For example, if there’s a contest or a class assignment that just says “make a magazine spread about anything,” it takes me a really long time to figure out what “anything” will be. It’s a lot easier for me to be told to make a spread about a specific topic.

I know this probably has to do with creativity, and maybe this means I’m less creative than I’d like to say I am. But I think the root of the problem isn’t just creativity, it’s just that I need some sort of direction to narrow down the possibilities from an infinite number of choices. Infinity is a daunting concept, and I’d much rather avoid it. Besides, when I work for a client I [hopefully] won’t be told to “just make anything,” as the client would at least tell me what the design should be about.

I think this difference can possibly defined as “art” and “communication,” two concepts that divide graphic design and graphic design schools. Many schools put design in their art department, and if I were at one of those I may be better at designing “anything.” But I’m at a school where graphic design is in the communication department, and so I need to have concepts given to me first so I can convey them through design. That’s not to say that art has nothing to communicate, because it certainly does, but the abstract concepts they come from are entirely different.

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Turkey, Spinach, and Cheese-filled Biscuits

While at school & cooking for myself, sometimes I’ve gotten inventive. Today was one of those days, equipped with turkey burgers and the ever-popular pop & bake biscuits. What did I make? Well, I’m not sure what to call it other than Turkey, Spinach, and Cheese-filled Biscuits. (I suppose descriptive titles are satisfactory.)

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To accomplish this, I cooked the turkey burger with some spices (I use Morton’s Nature Seasons a lot, so I used this today) until it was almost done and chopped it up. While that was cooking I preheated the oven to 350° F (like the biscuit tin says) and opened a tube of Pillsbury biscuits (this time they were the flakey kind) and split them each in half so they were essentially shorter (the flakey kind makes this easier to do). I greased my muffin tins and put one half of a biscuit in each place, and subsequently divided the meat into each. (I found one turkey burger is enough for 6 “muffins.”) I then added a few leaves of spinach and some grated mozzarella, careful not to go over the edge of each piece of dough. Once everything was in, I put another half-biscuit on top, doing my best to push the edges of the top and bottom biscuits together. After 14 minutes (the biscuit tin said 14–17 minutes so I went by that) the stuffed biscuits were ready. After a minute or so they were cool enough to pick up and eat—which, of course, I did.

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This recipe is pretty limitless, as there are so many different ingredients that can go with these biscuits. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to comment below—I’d be interested in discovering new possibilities.

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Synesthesia and me

Some of you may have heard of synesthesia before. While it is of course not exactly how The Onion depicts it, there are many forms of synesthesia and people who have it (about 3.7% of the population) can have one or many of the 60+ forms.

Synesthesia is a neurological occurrence in which the stimulation of one sensory or cognitive input leads to another automatic and involuntary sensory or cognitive output. The classic example, which I still remember from the first time I heard about synesthesia, is a child asking her classmate, “Isn’t the letter A the prettiest pink?” In this case, the cognitive input is the child reading the letter ‘A’ on the page, and every time she does so, she sees it as a particular color pink, which is her cognitive output.

As I said before, there are at least 60 types of synesthesia, as there are so many sensory inputs to experience—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch being just a few of the basics—and just as many sensory outputs as a result. In all of the cases, synesthesia results in an addition of senses, not a replacement. Therefore seeing the letter ‘A’ (also known as a grapheme) did not mean the child saw a splotch of pink in her book; rather, she saw the letter ‘A’ as the rest of us do, but she additionally saw the color pink. According to one source, this grapheme-color synesthesia is present for 62.51% of all synesthetes, making it the most common form of all synesthesia.

Now that I’ve given you a brief understanding of this as a whole, it’s time to bring it back home. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I do have synesthesia; however I do not have this most common form, and although I’ve known about the condition for years, I never realized until this past year that I was one of the 3.7%.

Realization

For years upon hearing of synesthesia, I generally thought there was only the grapheme-color, grapheme-personification, and music-color. Being a musically and artistically inclined person, I was naturally drawn to the music-color one, as I didn’t see many downfalls of it. Besides the general idea of “wow, seeing colors while listening to music would be cool!,” I thought it would make things easier in singing and music theory as it would probably give me perfect pitch (That note sounds green—must be a C# then!). Beyond this however, my knowledge of synesthesia was slim and since I didn’t have these types, I assumed I didn’t have any of it.

But then one night as I lay awake in my dorm room attempting to fall asleep, I felt my leg jerk as it sometimes does while I try to fall asleep. Instead of putting it out of my mind, I picked up my phone and scoured the Internet for a reason why this happened. I then came along this page which explains all the things the brain and body does during the transitional stage from wakefulness to sleep, also known as hypnagogia. I learned that what I was looking for is called the hypnagogic jerk, and also learned about the Tetris effect that I have experienced many times after being at the ocean for hours.

The most notable thing I found tucked away in this article was one particular sentence: “Sometimes there is synesthesia [when falling asleep]; many people report seeing a flash of light or some other visual image in response to a real sound.” As I read this, I realized I experience this all the time while trying to fall asleep in a dorm room—someone slams their door, I see a flash of white light. If the radiator makes a surprising click, I see another flash of white light.

I then understood that there were many more types of synesthesia than I thought, and not to self-diagnose, but I probably had at least one of them. Since that day I have periodically researched synesthesia on my own and found that I definitely have four types, and possibly even six or more, though these two extra are questionable. Since I didn’t want to diagnose myself (I am definitely not a doctor), I did talk to my neurologist that I see for migraines and asked her what she thought of what I experienced, and she did agree with me that I have it based on what I told her.

My types

The first type I have is general sounds to colors, which makes up about 14.72% of the synesthete population. This includes hearing someone slam a door or hearing the radiator click and simultaneously seeing a flash of white light as I already mentioned. Sometimes I’ve also noticed that when the radiator makes a more metallic click I see cyan. Once, when my teeth were hurting, the radiator clicked and I saw wavy lines instead of a flash of light. Unfortunately, these sounds happen so quickly that it’s difficult for me to tell what I am seeing. I haven’t seen fireworks since I realized I have synesthesia, but I think this is perhaps why I never liked them as a child as I remember complaining that they were too loud and bright.

The second type I have is kinetics to sounds. The list I have says this is about 1.07% of the synesthete population, however there may be a lot more people who have this than scientists thought. The main result of this is when I see something move I hear accompanying sound effects, even if the object isn’t supposed to make sound. For example, if I see a computer screensaver moving, I may hear a whooshing sound. Sometimes I leave a webpage open on my computer that has movement such as .gifs and when I see it moving out of the corner of my eye for a while, I find myself having to take it off the screen because the sound is too annoying.

Opposite of this, sometimes when I hear sounds I see movement in my mind’s eye. This sound to kinetics type is present in about 1.05% of synesthetes. This tends to happen when sounds change from pitch to pitch; for example, if the faucet is dripping and it makes two distinct drip sounds, I will see an up-to-down movement, with the lower-pitched sound correlating with “down” and the higher-pitched sound correlating with “up.” This also translates to another type, musical sounds to spatial coordinates, which occurs for an unknown percentage of synesthetes. When I am listening to music, particularly with music that I know fairly well, it is almost like I’m seeing a miniature roller coaster in front of me in my mind’s eye, but there is no visible track, just the movement of an intangible object moving in various infinite directions.

The last definite type of synesthesia I have is called “ticker-tape,” which occurs in about 21.91% of the synesthete population. When I speak or hear someone else speak, it is almost as if I have captions running across my vision. Because of this, the spelling of names are important to me. Somehow “Kaitlin” and “Katelyn” sound different from one another. I’ve also realized that my want for captions while watching television or movies is for good reason—if I have captions made for me by a computer, my mind doesn’t have to think as much to create its own captions, as the ones on the screen replace the ones in my mind.

Then there are types that I’m still not sure if I have them, but they crop up every once in a while. Once or twice I’ve felt pain and seen a pulsing light in my vision, which would be part of pain to colors, making up 5.26% of synesthetes. I am also still trying to determine whether or not I have sound to touch synesthesia (the percentage of which is unknown), since sometimes I feel something towards the back of my head when the radiator clicks. Sometimes I do hear a musical chord and think “that’s brown, like my boots,” or look at a color and think “that’s a French Horn sound.” Once I ate a piece of dark chocolate and thought, “that tastes blue,” and sometimes I’ll be sitting in bed and I feel like I’m tasting a cube. Additionally, sometimes I wonder if I’m having synesthetic hallucinations as result of the air conditioner’s constant white noise sound at night or if it’s the ringing I already have in my ears.

Partly because the types I have are less common and partly because it’s unnecessary to do so, it’s difficult to test myself to know I have this. At the same time, it’s a difficult thing to fake, as faking it would result in different effects each time. It’s also hard to fake something that can sometimes be an annoyance to myself, like seeing the radiator click annoyingly every night when I’m trying to fall asleep.

This is an ongoing learning process for me, and this will probably be the case for the rest of my life. Though research about this is pretty minimal and for the most part amounts to “we’ve researched this and it exists,” I hope at some point in my lifetime scientists will learn exactly how and why it exists, as so far I believe they have not found a conclusion. If anyone has any information on the subject that I may not know about, please let me know, even though I still have yet to read the copy of Wednesday is Indigo Blue that’s waiting for me at home. Until then, I will continue to lament the fact that the slamming of the door across the hall is increasingly and annoyingly bright.

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Winter on campus

Today was a snow day here, even though I wouldn’t have had classes anyway. On my way to work I decided to take some photos of the wintery campus. I didn’t realize until afterwards that the entire right side of my phone lens was smudged, but I think the photos look pretty great all the same.

I enjoyed walking in the snow, so much so that I didn’t like walking on the already-shoveled walkways. This was mostly because the plowed surfaces felt slipperier than the soft snow itself. I wouldn’t want to drive in this weather, especially with plenty of people without four wheel drive all around me, but walking was pretty calming and—let’s face it—beautiful.

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Marketing Female Bands in the Sixties

As I have said before, I was in a music history course last semester. As I am also in an honors program here at college, I was required to create an honors-worthy project that had to do with the course. As I am also a graphic design major, I was interested in studying how bands were marketed with their album covers. I am also interested in gender differences and therefore looked at how female bands were marketed. The timeframe I chose—the 1960s—is due to the class’ studied timeframe. I do not claim to be an expert in gender studies, as I’ve only taken one course in the matter, so please don’t take my essay as proof of anything.

So far I have posted two other essays, “Country Music’s Northern Redemption” and “Technology and Music in the Early Twentieth Century.” If you liked this essay, you may like those as well.

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How I listen to music

Being a musically-inclined person, one would think I would be and should be listening to music whenever possible. Of course I love listening to music and hear music in many things at any point in time. I even heard a “symphony”—albeit a very odd one—in the MRI machine two summers ago. I also often hear music just by looking at movement.

But of course there are times when I listen to music by my favorite artists. The majority of the time that I play music occurs in the car, as I’m usually by myself and I need something to help pass the time as I travel. This always involves singing and/or moving my head in the direction of the music. Other times I listen to music are, rarely, at home with music playing on my computer while I read or do something else.

But then there is one other form of listening to music that occurs most frequently—and by “listening” I probably mean “hearing.” This requires no electronics, as the music is played in my head. This happens almost constantly; if you were to ask me if I had music playing in my head at a certain moment in time, I may have to think for a few seconds before responding but I would most likely say yes. Music plays in my head so much that I tend to tune it out the majority of time, just like my headaches and the occasional ringing in my ears. However, when this occurs, the music tends to repeat over and over without much of a change. Having the same thing playing on a loop can get tiresome, but I tend to be either too lazy or uncaring to do anything about it.

For the most part, then, unless I’m in the car I don’t remember to just listen to music for the sake of listening—if music is such a constant, why bother seeking it out? Sometimes I do think to myself, “I should put some music on,” but I don’t usually act on the thought. Again, listening in the car is mostly just for something to do. When I do actively listen to music, it tends to be for the purpose of seeking out more of a variety of songs or for a music class. But I’m mostly content with the constant stream of music unless I accidentally get an annoying song in my head, so for now I’ll save some power, keeping the radio “off” and my head “on.”

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Technology and Music in the Early Twentieth Century

Due to the nature of my majors in college—Graphic Design and Music Studies—I tend to not write many papers. However, if I am to write any papers it is most likely for them to be about music. My last paper I added to this blog, “Country Music’s Northern Redemption,” was written as a midterm paper for my music of pop & rock class. The following paper, “Technology and Music in the Early Twentieth Century,” was the final paper for the same class. In the paper I discuss how music and the technology behind its recording changed in relation to one another, sort of like “form follows function.” In some cases, function follows the form when it comes to music technology.

Soon I will be uploading another essay relating to popular music history, so check back soon!

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