Typhoon x Typography

The howling wind brought by Typhoon Glenda woke me up 5am on Wednesday. It shut down the power supply for the whole Metro Manila, hence I was left digitally handicapped.

I chose that time to practice some typography instead.

Game of Thrones references are a must! 🙂

I’m thinking of continuing a series of this for the rainy season, adding to the collection every typhoon/storm day until I exhaust all the GoT house words into something rain oriented.

Yay or nay?

Cross-posted from my Tumblr.


La Luz Beach and the Environment

Went to La Luz Beach at San Juan, Batangas yesterday.

Here are some thoughts:

There are some plastic sachets and packaging material floating around the beach. It’s either Filipinos still lack environmental awareness or any human activity near the coastline should be considered hazardous to nature.

Its annoying to see trash in the beach. Matthew and I spent a few minutes picking up plastic what-nots floating around. Despite La Luz having a no-plastic policy, stuff still find their way into the great blue ocean.

Majority of the beaches are privately owned. Good money is needed to access well-maintained beaches.

Its sad to see the original inhabitants of the land get displaced by landowners. Its also saddening that they can’t enjoy the sea. I would sort of understand this if it meant environmental protection (thinking of the Pasig River and the slew of riverside settlements).

Some beaches should be turned into national parks, maintained by the government, and enjoyed by the public.

Metro Manila, Spaces and Interaction

People living in the settlements are more in touch with the city than the people living in enclosed walls. What does it mean to be a citizen of San Juan? How do you embrace being a citizen of San Juan?

San Juan day is one of those days that the urban poor celebrate fiercely and with much enthusiasm. Running around the streets, dousing people with water and getting showered yourself in return is a mark of of celebrating your city. This activity, among others like the Sta Elena Fiesta, forges a stronger sense of belonging.


When I pass by neighbourhoods I’ve always remarked at how there are no government-built infrastructures that elevates quality of life for its citizens: public sports centres, public markets, community centre and city sponsored events.

But these things do exist, in a hodgepodge incarnation of what the community has built for itself. The busiest street intersections evolve into a market area, spacious roads with little traffic become defacto basketball courts, abandoned trailers become barangay halls that double as day cares and sometime funeral parlours, and what little open space remain in the cities become entertainment grounds when city hall decides to hold events. This is the barangay community and it has structured itself to become liveable in their own terms, and in them I see the city as a living thing, constantly growing, evolving.

Examine the city on a macro scale though, and the community have less and less of a role in the city’s growth.

City Hall has washed its hand of being its own quality of life director and handed over these rights to the mall system.The mall mandate is to develop properties into mix-use facilities that elevate art and culture, sports and entertainment, essentially anything that makes city life vibrant. This would have been okay in theory, but it has become not just a one-stop solution, but the one and only solution.


Signage and Designing for Extreme Users

This was originally meant to be an appreciation post for the signage at UST’s Quadricentennial Pavillion. But after hearing Smart Design’s philosophy of designing for extreme users, I had to revisit my good impression.

What we really need to do to design, is look at the extremes, the weakest, or the person with arthritis, or the athlete, or the strongest or the fastest person. Because if we understand what the extremes are, the middle will take care of itself. 

– Dan Formosa, Smart Design

The signage at UST’s Quadricentennial Pavilion anticipates its average users’ needs. Its placed such that a person can get to his next point as efficiently as possible. And in such a large building, efficient is better.

Two things I really like: when you walk out the main hall doors, big signs point you to the nearest toilet, and building directions are labeled after area landmarks such as España and Carpark instead of North, South, East, West.

IMG_20140404_115245-sq QPav signage - toilets

But how well did they place signage to answer for extreme scenarios?

They deviated from standard fire extinguisher signs (see upper right picture for the QPav sign) and didn’t add visual clues to indicate it as to the new one. And its dangerous to assume that people would equate the new one to standard. People are also lazy to read, chances are it won’t be noticed until its too late.

fire01 fire3 F

There was no sign pointing you to the nearest infirmary. One will have to depend on the guards to tell you where the nearest one is. In a place where you expect injuries to happen, this seems to be more than negligent.

Even though there were especially assigned toilets for PWD, there seems to be little thought on how they might use the building. I didn’t notice any signs pointing to areas for people in wheelchairs to park and watch events, but it could also be that there is no such area. There’s also no sign pointing to the nearest elevator to move PWDs up and down.

That’s it. My two cents on signage. I’m not an architect so take it easy on me.


Sakura patterns

Japan has inspired me tremendously on graphic design. Tokyo is just such an energetic and youthful and creative city, it made me want to make things. Kyoto is so steep with culture and tradition, it drew me to the aesthetics of Japanese art. Everywhere is just so full of sakura and sakura patterns.

Now that I’m back home, I want to revisit my graphic design side. I haven’t produced any personal projects for some time, and this is the time to do it.

My first foray into patterns and sakura yielded this:


The colors are just so pretty, and I’m very happy with the results. I think I’ll be doing more of this for exploration.

By the way, the sakura vectors are not mine, I got them here at Xooplate. I just changed the color and made the pattern arrangements. Hope you guys enjoyed this.

If anyone wants this pattern, (I’m not sure if I can distribute this), feel free to download at behance.

HCD For Social Innovation Class 1 Reflections

This post is about my insights on Class One of the Human Centred Design for Social Innovation class I’m currently taking by IDEO and +Acumen.

The mini design thinking challenge for this class is about “Designing a Better Commute.”

To summarise, here are my key takeaways for Class 1:

  1. Interview outside your circle, and interview a variety of people. Interviewing your friends might lead to the same insights as yourself. Listen to differing ideas, it is where you can gain insights. What seems normal for you would be an insight to another person.
  2. Always leave time for fun. Follow your scripts to have a direction in the interview process, but always leave time for adhoc conversations outside the scope.
  3. Never forget to ask: Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Five times.
  4. If you can’t always disengage yourself from your assumptions, then you can always tell yourself to remain silent and just listen. It can surprise you.


Dropping All Assumptions To Truly Ideate

The four of us in the group, Sam, Felix, JB and me, are all motorists from Metro Manila. Recently traffic in the Metro has turned from bad to worse due to road projects happening simultaneously all over the city. This, coupled with a poor public transportation system, inefficient road planning, and accidents happening due to regulators’ negligence, have inspired a slew of articles from thought leaders on what needs to be changed. This is the perspective by which we as individuals are approaching the challenge.

It was hard to separate from this mind set. Majority of the questions asked by the group looked at the problem from a big picture standpoint. The focus was to move the situation from its current version to an ideal version. This was bad because the solutions we came up with were not within our capability to execute. In retrospect, we could have worked with the real situation, and identified pain points the interviewee’s/motorists encountered daily aside from the traffic and address them.

One way we can mitigate having only one viewpoint in this situation is to interview again, and interview more people, and iterate on the interview questions, especially if there were only two people in the group. Of course, this could be offset by having group members with differing backgrounds asking different questions.  But since this was a practice session within our group, this limitation is expected to occur.

Listening and Remaining Silent

On my part, because this is a topic where everyone can be considered experts in the field (everyone drove a car, the group also unanimously agreed that the solution we are aiming for cater to people who drive),  I found it challenging not to add personal insights and experiences while interviewing Sam.

I was able to hold back in colouring the interview with my opinions, but when we were sharing prototypes and Sam was explaining how she came up with her prototype, I was not able to hold back in cutting through her explanation and adding on top of what she said.

There are two ways to look at it: it was bad because I pushed my agenda ahead the person speaking, but it was also good in that context because that’s how I arrived at my Aha moment.


Balancing Interview and Casual Conversations Leads to Insights

Having to follow the guide did not necessitate free-flowing dialogue. Working within the guidelines, the group’s atmosphere was professional. Although everyone tried to be helpful and offer a lot of ideas, it was hard not to feel a bit awkward talking about something as trivial as a daily commute in a very detailed manner. When we moved to having fun and joking around, and having a dialogue, a lot of the things that were omitted because it was too trivial came out. That also led to many insights.

One point to ponder is do we have to strictly follow the process? Or maybe we can follow it but always leave some time for deviation and just relaxed off-the-record sharing. After going through the second reading, the awkwardness probably also stemmed out from the interviewers not warming the interviewees enough.


Aha Moment

If you’re wondering, my Aha moment insight is: for people who are in a hurry, and eat food in the car, they need a way to keep food in place when two hands are needed on the wheel. Below is a rough drawing of the idea I came up with: a food holder clamped to the steering wheel.

HCD Class 1 Prototype

For anyone who wishes to take the class too, here are the links: 

  • About HCD for Social Innovation: http://plusacumen.org/courses/hcd-for-social-innovation/
  • Course Materials: http://plusacumen.org/human-centered-design-for-social-innovation-course-materials/

Inverse Color QR Codes

QR codes bridge the gap between the everyday objects and the online.

A lot of designers have been playing around with the QR code and take it out of its default black and white and give it more life.

Shadow QR Codes:


Image from QRcartist

(project from Behance: Am I Collective)

QR Code wooden sculpture

(Image lifted from Whudat.de)

Given this slew of artwork, it surprised me that QR codes are not as flexible as I thought they were.

Today I found out that some barcode scanner can’t process negative image QR codes. Meaning not all QR codes with a light foreground and a dark background can be read.

This is a surprise as logically, making the colours of the QR code high contrast should enable scanner apps to read them quickly. To check if your design is high contrast, change your colour settings to grayscale. If its still clear and readable in that mode, then its high contrast.

I tried to do a white-over-red colour scheme and tested it with my barcode scanner: Barcode Scanner (50-100M downloads) and it won’t work. I tested it in the original black and white and it reads smoothly.

QR-save22-bnw QR-white-on-black

Intrigued, I downloaded two more apps that are specifically geared to QR code scanning, QR Droid (10-50M) and QR Code Reader (10-50M). They both work perfectly reading the inverse colour version.

Implication on design: Designers have to limit colour choices to dark over light background or risk their assets not fulfilling their desired purpose.

Provided, I had not used a scanner specifically designed for QR code scanning, but as it is, it is one of the most used barcode scanning app in the Android ecosystem. That said, while it is not yet barcode scanner industry standard to be able to scan negative images, it is better to err on the safe side when your main design goal is functionality.

I bought a domain from Namecheap, now what?

I find it a bit silly how hard to find a step-by-step tutorial on this on the web. Unless, you know what you’re looking for, you’re pretty much on your own to do research and do it by trial and error. But anyway.

I bought a domain name from Namecheap, now what?

  1. Sign up for hosting.
  2. Transfer your Domain Name Server (DNS) to a hosting service by changing the nameservers.
  3. Add the Domain to your hosting.
  4. Create the A Records.

How to transfer your DNS to the hosting 

  1. Sign up for a hosting service. I use hawkhost.com. Hosting plans start at around $3.29/month, and you can save up to 40% by looking for promo codes online.
  2. Log-in to Namecheap.com, go to Manage Domains (left column).
  3. Click on the domain name you want to use.
  4.  Click Transfer DNS to Webshost,
  5. Select Specify Custom DNS Servers ( Your own DNS Servers ).
  6. Input the domain DNS servers. Hawkhosts’ DNS servers are:
  7. Save changes.
  8. If you need a video tutorial, Namecheap has one here.

Add the Domain to Your Hosting

  1. Log-in to your cPanel.
  2. Go to Addon Domains. Or search for it in the Finder.
  3. Input your Domain name domainname.com, username, pawssword, root folder.
  4. Click Add Domain.
  5. Go to your root folder, and you will see a new folder for your new domain.

Create the A Records

  1. Hawkhost does this automatically for you. You can check this by going to cPanel, search for Simple DNS Zone Editor in the Finder. And it’s there!

There you go! I hope that helps.


One of my resolutions this year is to write about and commentate on an interest piece I’ve read at least once a week.

I’m trying to follow an article I read before that to become better at something, or to at least write 100,000 words a year, I must do it consistently in smaller bites. Make it a routine and I would never notice how much work it actually is. Make it a routine and I will accomplish much, much more than just writing down anything in one sitting.

So here I am.

I want to be a better writer, practice my critical thinking skills, and develop a voice on matters. This is also my way of studying and making myself grow without the help of homework nor school.

First off, a bit of reaction on Dan Brown’s Inferno, my first book of the year. And then let’s see how that goes.

Next book on my plate: Day of Empire by Amy Chua.