Fail Your Way to Success

Most of the readers of this blog share a common goal: To utilize their engineering mind and their creative mind to produce something awesome for the world. And hopefully get paid for it. Of course, the world isn’t necessarily beating a path to your door just because you want them to.  To carve your own path you will have to get out there and try different things.  But where to start? What if you choose the wrong path? What about all that wasted time, which you don’t have? But, but, but….

This is where Scott’s philosophy is really powerful. He believes that you should have a system, rather than a goal, in order to reach your destination. From there, you try different things until skill and luck coincide. Every failure you have is an opportunity to learn something new, to find a new contact, to get introduced to another project, etc. So each failure is really building up to that final success(s).

So how does this look in the real world? Let’s use Scott’s story. He gets an engineering degree and starts working as an engineer. He is good at it, but really wants to do something unrelated to the cube farm. He has always enjoyed drawing cartoons, but is actually pretty terrible at it. He didn’t one day say “I want to be a rich, famous cartoonist!” because that would be absurd. Instead, his thought process was more along the lines of “I would like to not be in this cube farm anymore” and starts to put a system in place (he uses the goal of “Lose Weight” versus the system of “Eat Healthier” to show what he means by goal versus system. It is a little confusing). His system is straight forward: Try different things until something sticks, learning from each failure. He invents products, writes books, starts up businesses, and starts drawings a little thing called “Dilbert”.  He leverages all that he learned during all of the failed ventures to help push Dilbert toward success. If Dilbert had not happened some other success would have come his way because he was ready to capitalize when luck ventured his way.

Anyway, the book is worth the quick read that it is. Have any of you found success using this method?

The Art of the Engineer

I wrote earlier about my fascination with cut-away art. Well, I stumbled upon this book shopping earlier this week and was immediately taken in by the detailed engineering art/prints that this books contains.  This is a  perfect coffee table or office lobby book….just make sure no one walks off with it!

Is Math Beautiful?

I get a lot of questions about “math being too difficult” (answer: the passion for a subject often overwhelms the difficulty, usually influencing those studying advanced mathematics; at the lower levels you sometimes have to just grin-and-bear it) or whether or not math skills are innate or learned (answer: a little of both). Rarely, however, does some reach the level of mathematical understanding that the difficulty gives way to beauty. That why I love the work of the Enginarts’s featured in this article. Even if you don’t understand the math behind the structures, I believe you can see how complicated (yet oddly calming) the final product is.

Lenticular Lens

Here’s an artist using a little-known technological gem to create something extremely creative and beautiful. Meet Rufus Butler Seder, founder and CEO of Eye Think Inc.

Years ago, a fascination with antique optical toys led Rufus Butler Seder to wonder if he could create motion pictures on a grand scale using no electricity, moving parts or special lighting. After some experiment he developed a 3-pound, 8-inch square, lens-ribbed glass tile that was to form the building block for his dream come true. He called it a Lifetile.

By combining hundreds of Lifetiles, Rufus is able to create large-scale “Movies for the Wall”: optical murals that appear to come to life, move, and change when the observer travels by them. Lifetiles murals contain no moving parts. The motion is in the eye of the beholder.

Since 1990 Rufus has designed, fabricated and installed dozens of Lifetiles work in museums, aquariums, and other public places around the world. The medium is maintenance-free and lends itself to almost any subject or location, outdoors or in. No special lighting is required.

Every Lifetile is hand-crafted from start to finish. To create a Lifetiles mural, Rufus first designs each individual phase of movement by referring to original or archival motion picture footage, filming the subject in motion himself, or by drawing from scratch. Once he has created the final visuals, he combines analog and digital techniques to compress them into “coded images” that he indelibly fuses into each glass tile. When the casual observer strolls by a completed Lifetiles mural , the ribbed tile lenses optically unscramble the coded images “frame by frame,” and the observer’s brain links this rapid succession of images together, creating the illusion of movement.

The process/method he is using is known as a lenticular lens. According to Wiki, this is an array of magnifying lenses that magnifies different images when viewed from different angles. The process has been around for a while and has been used in other art projects (look at the album cover to Tool’s Aenima), but not on this scale.  Hail to the Enginart!

Cutaway Art

npca_posters2Take a moment to check out Beau and Alan Daniels, of They are producing truly incredible “technical” illustrations.  Though all of their work is worth reviewing, I particularly love their PSA ads for the park services. The idea of joining technical information with an exciting illustration relates directly to my blog from last week. Used more as a marketing tool by the Daniels, the concept works equally well whether you are pitching a product idea or teaching kids about the wonderful world of learning.

The Art of the Brick

LegoIf you haven’t stumbled across Lego artist Nathan Sawaya yet, then take a moment to check him out. He doesn’t have an engineering background, but he is playing with Legos. In my mind, that makes him an honorary Enginart. I love his creative use of simple building blocks to construct these massively complex structures. When you think about the amount of planning Nathan has to put into each piece in order to ensure the final product looks right, you can begin to appreciate how both the left and right brain must work together seamlessly. In many ways, this is a metaphor for all of engineering: Simple, well understood concepts (bricks) coming together to create a whole that is greater than the some of its parts. What a fun medium to create with. I only wish I had thought of it!

Singing the Praises of GLAD Press’n Seal

prodshot_pressnseal1I don’t normally shill for a product, but this GLAD Press’n Seal is proving to be a great addition to my art tool chest. This stuff doesn’t have the irritating tendency to cling to itself that some other plastic wraps exhibit, but it holds on to containers just as well. Per GLAD’s website “While other wraps cling, Press’n Seal® wrap actually seals…” In the shop, I’m mainly using it to temporarily cover paint cans, rollers, and brushes, but I’m sure I’ll find other uses as life goes on. Its usefulness aside, I’d like to point out how the good people at GLAD went beyond their popular (and profitable) Cling Wrap to create this whole new storage solution. The creativity required to push beyond their comfort zone shouldn’t be understated. Though it’s not much too look at, the simplistic appearance belies the complexity of the product. Thus, I believe this product is a fine example of an Enginart design: Innovative, efficient, useful, and an aesthetic that’s only as complicated as it needs to be.

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