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The other night after work I had attended an event with a few colleagues that was hosted by a design agency called Cibo that used to work with us. Besides having drinks and networking, the main topic of the night was about brand experience. So when I had arrived to check in, while I write my name down on the name tag, you had to choose a word from the provided list as to what you feel/think about a brand experience. I chose gratifying and my colleague chose genuine. As we walked further into Cibo’s office space I already felt really inspired as corny as it may sound. I’m a sucker for beautiful interior spaces and architecture. The one photo I have of their space doesn’t do its justice. The main interior elements of this space was this industrial, brick and glass along with a pop of red throughout. It was really nice.

I gradually made way to get myself a drink and continued to mingle and get my networking on. It was kinda hard to really maneuver around since there was a good amount of people clustered in a corner sipping on their drinks and chatting away. I got to meet a couple designers that had worked with my colleague prior to me joining my company. I also got to meet the CEO of Cibo, who was absolutely friendly and welcoming. At the top of the first hour of the event the CEO had gathered us around so we can get started on listening to the 3 presentations that were lined up for the night. I got to talk to one of the founders that were presenting which was the company the Vault. The Vault had also collaborated with Cibo in developing their current office space due to some mishap.

The first presenters was by founders of Kinda Fancy, Lauren and Colin. The brand is basically a swim wear line that is gearing towards any average woman that’s looking for swim wear that won’t come undone when they’re swimming, surfing or do any water activities. Also, the swim suit has a pocket where you can store your keys and money. What made them come up with their brand was comparing themselves to companies like Billabong or PacSun which advertises their swim wear towards the more athletic type of woman rather than your average everyday “I don’t know how to surf” kinda gal. It was interesting to hear how they tested their swim suit, which was obviously tested on all body types. Even Colin, one of the co-founders modeled in the swim suit as seen in the photo above lol.

The second presenter was by Meg who is the Managing Director of the Vault. The Vault is essentially a company that creates a collaborative and supportive workspace as well as a community. Not only will the layout of the office space make a difference, but even the smallest things can impact an office space. Meg had mentioned having provided snacks is important to have. They’re going to be expanding to Brooklyn, NY this summer if any East Coast folks are interested in checking them out.

The last presenter was by Ben who is the founder of Odang Udon. It is a food truck that serves fresh udon noodles in SF. Ben has an ad agency background of 8 years and produces music as well. He left the agency world and wasn’t fulfilled with only producing music. After dining out to various Japanese restaurants in SF with a friend who became his business partner, they had realized at the time that nowhere in SF serves fresh udon noodles. They had invested in an udon making machine, which could mass produce how many bowls they’re trying to serve on a daily basis. Eventually they purchased a food truck and have been around SF. They will also be making their debut nearby my office at the SoMA Streat Food Truck Park, which is awesome. After Ben felt like he accomplished a lot with this new business venture and continues to grow his company, he was inspired to push himself with his music. He had mentioned that he would have these $2K paying DJ gigs, whereas amongst his other DJ friends weren’t making anything. He wanted to really make himself different and stand out from the many predominantly male dj’s that are out there. After discussing with his girlfriend if this particular DJ name change was okay, he went worth with it. Hence, DJ Julia Lewis LOL. Best name ever lol. It was hilarious. Long story short, he was able to get a spot on the stage at Coachella 2015 and got to DJ. I thought that was just awesome.

Despite how different each company were in their own way, they were all sincere and authentic in how they believed their brand can create this community and provide a valuable experience for their customers. I had taken some notes during the presentations because there were a lot of great points that were made. If you want your brand to succeed, you have to be consistent, authentic and true to your brand. With your brand, how will you give value through experiences? What are your competencies? It all comes down to the content, brand and strategy. I thought it was really interesting that Kinda Fancy and Odang Udon uses Instagram to gain exposure and to advertise themselves on that social media platform instead of Facebook.

After the great presentations, I felt so inspired and the passion that I’ve always had for design grew stronger. I was chatting with my colleagues afterwards and we all felt the same way. I literally wanted to go home and design something and just be purely creative. I had more fuel and drive to want to kick more ass in my career. It was very uplifting. I’ve always been about doing work the fulfills me, but has the work I’ve been doing made an impact on others? Yes, it has. My job is to create a better user experience not only to simply being able to navigate a website properly, but to create this experience for you to want to continue using this product. Whether or not you’re a designer, it was really good to be a part of that kinda of discussion. I wish all these companies for continuous success and growth because what they’re doing has truly impacted myself. Their story is just very powerful. I was happy to hear that this was Cibo’s first event in hosting something like this and will continue another one in the next quarter. I am definitely looking forward to their next event. 🙂

Here’s the links to Cibo and the 3 companies that presented:

Cibo SF

Kinda Fancy

The Vault

Odang Udon

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From time to time my UX team and I host happy hour events and with these events we’re mainly targeting the business analysts, engineers, and developers, but all is always welcomed to join. It’s a much more informal and laid back setting where we can have some drinks and collaborate. So far each session we’ve had has been pretty productive despite that it’s only 30 minutes collaborating and the remaining time is just pure socializing. We’ve been itching to do some usability testing on any of our current projects and it was about time we hosted another UX happy hour since it has been awhile. My boss had me make a poster for this event, which I thought was funny because the last time I had to make a poster was for our UX holiday happy hour. If you’re wondering what the hell that character is on the poster, it’s a tardigrade. It’s pretty much an indestructible water bear. Google it if you want more info on it haha.

Anyways, as a team we were discussing what we were going to test for this usability session. We settled on testing these redesigned icons that I’ve been busting my ass on. It’s a part of a project that I’m on where one of our classic products is getting a total redesign. It’s a 19 year old product that’s never been redesigned, so it’s about time it gets a facelift. Throughout the process of designing these icons, it’s been A LOT of work and some tough ones as well. It’s not like you’re designing simple functions such as “Save” or “Print”. I had some crazy one’s named “Quick Allocate” or “Valuations”. One of my colleagues that is also on the project picked 25 icons and made multiple choice options for it. I quickly blew up the 16 pixel icons into 200 pixel icons along with their designated multiple choice options since we had to get it printed and pinned to these large black boards. After we were done setting up, the team and I were getting pretty excited especially seeing people slowly trickling in. Myself and my colleague that chose the icons weren’t allowed to participate in the event so we acted as moderators and observed the way people were engaging in this usability session.

Whenever someone new came in, I just told them to grab a drink and start going through the boards with a marker and decide which icon matches what label is correct. Throughout the event we had people coming in to either engage with the usability testing or to drink and sing some karaoke. It was a good time. After moderating and mingling, I decided to join in on some karaoke action with my colleagues. At this point they’ve sang a bunch of songs already except for YMCA haha. One of my other colleagues gathered my team and we sang YMCA together. It was hilarious. That moment was captured on video and I’m still waiting for it to be sent to me. After drinking, karaoke and a bit of ping pong playing, I heard some loud discussions happening where we were testing so I went to check it out.

Basically went through each board with a few other people from my company as they were debating what each icon meant or what the icon should look like to fit it’s title. We received some tremendously helpful feedback. For me being the sole designer of the iconography that I’ve created and redesigned for this product made me so proud. There was lots of positive along with negative feedback, but those negatives created great debates and I just see it as constructive criticism. I felt really happy not only for myself, but for my team. We did an awesome job hosting the event, received great data from the usability session and of course socializing and having a great time with other folks within the company. There’s definitely some things we could’ve improved during this usability testing, but not too bad for throwing it together so quickly. It’s moments like this where I feel like despite being so consumed by my work, it truly paid off to get that positive recognition. I got home so late last night from work and was exhausted from driving, but I went to bed extremely happy. It’s truly a very rewarding feeling.

This year was my first time attending the Treasure Island Music Festival, which is a 2 day music festival on Treasure Island in San Francisco. I’ve only gone to Treasure Island mainly for the monthly flea markets, which I enjoy going to. But when I heard about the music festival and the lineup I knew I had to go. There were a few people in the lineup that I recognized and liked, but there was a lot more that I’ve never heard of. Well there was some bands I heard of their songs, but never knew their name. I was very open to checking out this festival so I can broaden my musical interests. Luckily the “concert friends” that I hang out once in awhile were planning on going so it was nice that I wasn’t going to have to go by myself. After I found out they’re going, I figured the bands that I didn’t know and that they loved couldn’t be bad. I’ve heard the music that my concert friends love and I enjoy it as well. It was just a good way to expose myself to more music since I’m not as active with keeping up with trendy music and whatnot. One of the concert friends has gone to this event for the past 5 years and he shared his stories of his experience with this event, which made me really excited for it. So there’s 3 stages set up, well mainly 2. The Bridge Stage was the main stage, the Tunnel Stage was the secondary stage, and the sudo third stage was in “the Cove” called Silent Disco. Silent Disco is where you can listen to DJs playing with headphones. They had these huge headphones that you can wear and just chill or dance around in that area. I didn’t bother with it, but perhaps next year I’ll check it out.

Here’s the lineup for both days:

During day 1, I honestly didn’t know what to expect when we first got there. Surprisingly no crazy traffic when we arrived onto the island, which was a relief. It was oddly super hot in SF that day, so wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a jacket didn’t cut it. Usually it’s super windy and cold on the island, but not that day. We pretty much got to see a lot of people perform minus maybe 3 bands. I was really excited to see Janelle Monáe, Zedd and Outkast perform. I got to see Janelle Monáe perform my favorite song called “Prime Time”. I was singing along so loud to it and was dancing around. Concert friends laughed at me but I didn’t care lol. I was kidding when I told them that was my jam! Haha. I felt bad for when she first came on because she had some technical difficulties. So I didn’t hear the first two songs she sang. Zedd had really cool visuals. Highlight of the night was Outkast. They were awesome!! They played a lot of their classic old songs. Even though at this point I was extremely exhausted from standing up and walking around, I got so hyped up when they performed. I would love to see them perform again!

The next day when I woke up to get ready for day 2 of this festival, I was dreading it. I was extremely exhausted and just wanted to sleep. My whole body especially my feet was aching. I felt like such a grandma. Luckily the music lineup for day 2 was much more chill and laid back. I don’t think I could handle another day of dancing around all day long haha. I noticed some people brought their DSLRs the day before so I brought mines. I got crap for it at the entrance, but I didn’t give a fuck and kept walking into the festival because I thought it was bullshit that I couldn’t have mines since there was probably 200 other people with theirs. Hence the pictures I have posted in this entry. We first went up the art car which was a ship that’s usually at Burning Man to chill and listen to music. It was such a perfect spot to enjoy the view that afternoon and listen to music. It was really cool to see the massive crowd of people migrate from one stage to another after a band was done performing. I really wanted to stay up there all day but there was a line of people waiting to come up and I couldn’t be greedy.

I hung out with concert friends during a few bands playing then I wandered off to wait in line for the ferris wheel, take photos and to get some food. I didn’t really care for a couple of bands that were playing after the Growlers. I waited in line for an hour for that ferris wheel by myself. I didn’t want to drag concert friends away from the performances and I thought maybe I should man up and get over my fear of heights and go alone. That kinda failed because the couple in front of me that I was chatting with was really nice and invited me to join them on the ride. I felt like such a third wheel lol. In return I took a photo for them and handed the woman my business card to contact me for the photo. Fair trade off. The view of the festival and the skyline was so beautiful. They need to place a permanent ferris wheel on that island lol.

After I got off I lingered around some more to take photos. At one point I sat on the grass eating my food, going through my camera of the photos I took and made a new friend doing all of this haha. This girl sitting next to me started talking to me and we got into this really great conversation. Turns out she lives in SJ and is also an East Coast transplant like myself. Well Toronto if that kinda counts haha. She was really nice and also we’re both techie people so we got into discussing about tech stuff and whatnot. Concert friends texted me to meet up with them for the major performances before the night ended. I handed her my business card and told her to hit me up to chill some time. It was refreshing to talk to someone from the East Coast and for her to understand yet poke fun at Californians like how I do haha.

As exhausting as this event was, it was an amazing time. I’m glad I went. It was nice to just dance around and not give a fuck. It was a great stress reliever and I felt happy again just enjoying myself. It felt great to be able to temporarily put aside my sadness. I really needed this. Would I go again next year? Maybe depending on the lineup. Would I go both days again? Maybe lol. It was just so tiring. I’m such a grandma now ever since I moved to Cali. I really can’t hang like I used to and I’ve grown accustomed to extremely low key weekends. But if you’ve never gone before, it’s definitely an event to check out. It was such a great experience with such awesome music and beautiful art all over. I’d love to go with my friends from Boston next year though!

Here were my favorites from the festival:

  • Painted Palms
  • Tobacco
  • Ratking
  • XXYYXX
  • Jungle – absolutely love them!
  • Ryan Hemsworth
  • Janelle Monáe
  • Ryan Hemsworth
  • Classixx – absolutely love them!
  • Zedd
  • Outkast
  • Ásgeir
  • Banks
  • The Growlers
  • Chet Faker
  • Alt-J – love him too
  • Washed Out – awesome!
  • Massive Attack – love them too!

Hope that list of my favorite bands is helpful if you’re looking for new music to listen and is openminded about music like myself. Enjoy the photos! 🙂

http://treasureislandfestival.com/2014/

After our cruising along Highway 1 adventure with my friends that were in town visiting, we did even more touristy stuff in SF the next day haha. Once again I was glad to have done all of this with friends that’s never gone to these places before. These places were on my list for quite some time, but like I mentioned it’s more enjoyable with company especially if they have a DSLR, too. I’ve heard great things about a lot of these places and one I’ve been to quite often which is Treasure Island. Here’s a list of the places we stopped for our photo adventure:

– Japantown

– Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies aka Full House

– Drove down the Divisadero which is one really steep street in SF haha

– Drove down Lombard. Unfortunately weren’t able to get out of the car to take pics of it and was only to take pics from driving down the curvy street.

– Treasure Island: it happened to be Fleet Week in SF so it was the perfect spot to catch the Blue Angels air show!

– Twin Peaks

– Marin Headlands for a better view of the Golden Gate Bridge and to see the sunset

Back in January 25, 2014 I wrote an entry that had some pictures of San Francisco when I had some close friends from home visiting. We did a photo adventure, but it definitely can’t match up to the one I went on with other friends visiting last weekend. It almost makes me want to go back to retake some of these photos but also I think in some way my photography skills has improved. I was rusty earlier in the year since I wasn’t as active with my camera.

Here’s the link to that old entry if you want to view the photos of where I went during that time: click here

 

Hope you enjoyed the photos! That should be all of the touristy things for now! Wish I had my friends here so we can go on photo adventures often. For now I’m stuck on these adventures alone until any of my friends decides to visit Cali. I still have yet gone to a few museums and certain tourist attractions, but that shall be saved for anyone else that decides to visit me. 🙂

Last Friday I got to be a part of something so beautiful and sweet. A friend of mines from middle school who now resides in Socal contacted me that she was going to go to San Francisco City Hall to get her marriage certificate. She was in need of a photographer so I took up that task. I didn’t charge her anything since I’m not a professional nor am I a freelance photographer. I’ve mainly done product shoots and some photography for my own design work. But I primarily do it as a hobby than as a business. I was excited yet nervous about taking on this task. I wanted it to be perfect since this was a very important day to her and her fiancé.

I picked them up and off to city hall we went. Luckily the weather was pretty nice in SF that day because the day before it had rained. As soon as we arrived inside of city hall I was amazed at how beautiful the interior of it was. Now I really understood why she came up to Norcal to get this done here. I’ve only taken one shot of the exterior before and never been inside. It’s definitely a place you have to visit. There were lots of other couples waiting to get married, checking in and getting their photos taken. I didn’t realize the people working there were all volunteers. I thought that was a really great thing to do on their end.

While we were waiting during the whole check in process, I took some photos for them. L (the bride to be) was pretty much directing me, which was fine by me. I had no idea what to tell her to do so I told her to just do whatever she wants. After taking a few photos L and I got to chat for a bit and it was great catching up with her. It was really refreshing to see a friend from home. I think the last time I had seen her was on her birthday back in Boston 2 years ago. To see her again on her wedding day was so crazy, but I am extremely happy for her. It was my first time meeting her fiancé and they were so cute and sweet together. Finally it was their turn for the ceremony. During this whole process, I tried so hard not to cry as I’m taking the photos. It was one of the sweetest moments I got to witness in my life. You just see how their relationship is so sweet and genuine. I told her she was the luckiest girl in the world to have such a good man in her life.

We took some more photos before we left. Luckily a lot of people were leaving city hall so there weren’t as many people in the photos I took. I got done editing her photos last night and e-mailed them to her. I felt extremely relieved that she loved the photos. I was scared I didn’t take enough or they weren’t up to par. Glad they exceeded her expectations for the most part. I got kinda teary eyed when I was editing the photos of them exchanging their vows and what not. It was so sweet.

Anyways, I came to a realization I need a better lens since I just have the standard 18-135mm lens for my Canon 60D. Going to start browsing for a better lens whenever I have the chance. Suggestions are welcomed!

Hope you enjoy a few of the photos I posted! 🙂

This past Sunday I went to SF to check out this event my coworker told me about. It was the 1st Annual Haight Street Music & Merchants Street Festival. It was pretty much a block party in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in SF. The headliners of this free event was Erykah Badu (DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown) and Talib Kweli. There were various performers as well, but not sure of their names since I didn’t see an online flyer with their names. I was all for checking out this event since I didn’t get to see Erykah Badu back in February/March when I went to a concert in SF. She had changed line ups with someone else and came on last and that concert went on until 3AM and I was exhausted. I was always bummed out that I never got to see her. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity again. I decided to bring my DSLR with me and just check out the event by myself. I know my friends back at home would’ve loved this event since they like hip hop.

I got really lucky with parking when I got into SF. I parked down the street from the second stage that was being set up. I walked around since it was the other end of Haight St. that I’ve never been on. I’ve mainly been around Lower Haight before. The event was from 12-6PM, so after I parked it was 1PM. I decided to just go into this one restaurant that I was in front of to get some food and a few beers before it got crowded. I got a perfect window seat where I could see the stage. The windows at the restaurant were opened so I was just chillen there with a beer and enjoying the good music. Had my legs rested on the ledge of the window and it was very relaxing. Got to do a lot of people watching, which was pretty entertaining haha.

Talked to a few random people while waiting around for Erykah Badu. Eventually I got up and went outside to dance around to the music. It was fun dancing around with strangers. I felt so care free and pretty much everyone there didn’t give a fuck about anything. It was really awesome to be around that since it reminded me of the fun I used to have back at home with friends or even meeting strangers whenever I was out. Everyone was really nice and we all came to this event just to enjoy ourselves. Finally Erykah Badu came on and I stayed til almost the end. Too bad I didn’t get to see Talib Kweli. I’m only assuming he was at the other stage at the other end of the block. I was not going to try to even talk through that crowd to see him haha. I wasn’t even too far from the end of the block I was at and it took me forever to just walk a few steps to get out so I can walk back to my car. Overall, it was a really fun event and hopefully they have it again next year. It definitely would’ve been more fun to have some company, but nonetheless it was still a ton of fun! The whole purpose of this event is to supposedly bring the neighborhood together, which is really great thing. I really wouldn’t even mind living in that neighborhood, but SF is too damn expensive for my bank account haha.

Here’s a link to much better photos than what I took: click here and here

The other day after I wrote my “Farewell JB” post, later that day there was even more great news! My boss usually schedules these one on one’s with each person on my team. Pretty much a quick catch up session on what’s going on and that everything is okay. This was my first one with him. We stepped into the conference room and he asked how I was doing and to pretty much share my feedback on how things  are going. I told him I felt like I’m growing and learning a lot. Just giving him lots of great feedback. In return he gave me awesome feedback as well. Turns out he offered to extend my contract and I’m getting a raise! WOO HOO!!! I was so close to crying because I was so surprised and happy. All my hard work has finally paid off. I was really flattered when he told me how happy he was to have me on the team and if they consider hiring again, he hopes they find someone just like me. That really hit me hard. I was so overwhelmed with all this awesome news. As soon as our meeting was over I texted close friends and made an announcement. I told them what with this promotion, it means I can finally fly home to see my family and friends. They were excited to know I’ll be back this Thanksgiving. I was honestly really scared and sad that I was going to have to spend another holiday alone. Really glad I’m not.

After I moved to Cali, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to fly back home until I got to where I needed to be in my career. I was very firm about that and at moments I broke down because I wanted to go home so badly since it is very lonely here. It was easy for me to have packed my things and drive across the country to be here. I told myself I had to work hard to earn that plane ticket home. I wouldn’t want to come back to visit often since I was still adjusting to a new lifestyle and I would just return to Cali being more homesick. Plus I really had nothing to show for at the time and I wouldn’t want to visit home being unemployed and whatnot. It would be a total blow to my pride and I’m just stubborn like that. My family and friends has seen me struggle and grow since I’ve been out here. They’ve always been very supportive and caring from afar because they knew how hard things were for me. My family and friends were always at the other line of the phone and have heard me crying and the frustration I’ve dealt with. It definitely is a different ball game out here for my career. I never realized designers were primarily contractors whereas in Boston there were more permanent, full time positions. I took that gamble that I wasn’t going to have that stability, but at least I got exposed to different companies and have met smart and talented people during this journey.

To gain the respect and appreciation that I’ve recently received from my colleague especially my boss truly means everything to me. I’ve fought so hard before and during the start of my career. I remember all the negative feedback I got and how people kept trying to persuade me to pursue another career path. This is my moment where I feel like I’ve really proved people wrong and giving that middle finger to everyone that doubted me. I know I’m a great designer and I definitely feel like I’ve reached “ah-ha” moment in my career that I’ve always been wanting so badly. I feel as if this moment has erased all the bad things that has occurred in my life especially during my time living here in Cali. It has all been subsided by this abundance of success in my life. I forgot about how horrible people were mean to me, the struggle of finding a job, being homesick, etc. It still makes me want to cry for what I’ve accomplished, but that hasn’t happened haha. I’m all about setting goals and achieving them, but this is the best one yet. Going to continue working harder and staying humble like I’ve always done in the beginning. I am really looking forward to visiting home and celebrating with the people that has always stood by me. 🙂