I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

You should follow me on Twitter here.

For more, check out the archives.

You haven’t heard a peep from me in awhile, but I’ve got some major news to share.

After 4.5 awesome years at Dubberly Design Office, I’ve decided to leave my job. In two weeks, I’m headed down to a little internet start-up called Google. I’ll be working on the visual and interaction design of a little application called Gmail. Whoa.

It was a terribly difficult decision to make. I’ve been quite happy at DDO. I didn’t like the idea of commuting to Mountain View. I also wasn’t sure about Google’s relationship with design. In the end, the folks at Google really impressed me and I decided to join.

I’m thrilled. I’m excited. And, I’m a little nervous—going from a 12-person company to a 26,316-person company will take getting used to. Let’s hope I can make an impact!

If you’re curious, here’s the portfolio that helped me land the job: http://chanpory.com

If you want to follow what’s going on with me, circle me on Google+!

I’ll also try to find time post on here again. Perhaps, on the Google shuttle bus. ;-)

Cheers for now!

I just got done with day four of Rails Bootcamp, and I’m exhausted. But Rails is so cool, it makes up for the drain and pain. Sarah Allen also continues to impress with her teaching acumen.

In today’s class, we learned about Controllers, the C in an M-V-C application model. In short, Controllers are like traffic cops. They take requests from a user and then work with the Model and View to bring information back to the user.

We also learned about “associations” or how to make separate database tables relate to each other. For example, if you’re making a contacts application, you’d probably want a People table to relate to an Addresses table. Dealing with tables and associations were traditionally a huge pain in technologies like PHP, but Rails makes it so easy.

What works

In my previous diaries, I focused a lot on the class rather than the content. Today, I’ll spend a little more time talking about Rails itself.

Less typing

The beauty of Ruby on Rails is its conciseness. It’s as if Rails read The Elements of Style as a pimply teenager in high school and took it to heart while growing up. The resulting D-R-Y philosophy is so apparent in Rails, I found myself asking, “Really? That’s all I have to type?” The answer was, “Yes!”. I even heard a classmate say, “In Java, this would have taken ten times more code to write.” For lazy and dumb programmers like me, this is awesome.

Getting real

The best part of learning Rails is making applications that do real things. After years of faking things in Photoshop and Illustrator, it’s so much fun to make something work in a short period of time. I just feel like I’m really creating, not just imagining. It’s also great to gain insight into how web applications are put together. It’s like getting to look under the hood of a BMW, and knowing how all the parts fit together and why.

What doesn’t work

Lack of good documentation for beginners and designers

Sarah recommends Agile Web Development with Rails and Rails Pocket Reference as resources for more on Rails, but admits she hasn’t found a good guide for absolute beginners yet. (Open-sourced software is notorious for poor documentation.) I suppose you’ll have to take her bootcamp class.

Yellow Cab fiasco

Two students had to wait two hours for a cab to get to class. What is up with taxicabs in San Francisco!?

The bottom line

Rails is fun to learn and to use. For designers who are serious about designing for the web, a class like this is a must. Even if it’s just to know how applications are built.

All Bootcamp Diary Entries

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 1

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 2

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 3

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 4

Today, my furrowed brows relaxed into “ah ha” smiles. After two days of challenging Ruby concepts, we’re now in the wonderful world of Rails. Our instructor for this section, Sarah Allen, is also really bringing it on.

What works

Context and the big picture

For me, it’s vital to understand the big picture when learning a new technology. So kudos to Sarah for explaining the history and rationale for Rails: to let programmers worry about real application features rather than common development tasks. This means less typing, less configuration, and easier debugging. And more time to design and test.

Hands-on fun

After the quick intro, we created our first skeleton app with just one line of code. It’s really satisfying to create an app and begin interacting with a database within minutes. Amazing. For the rest of the day, we edited View templates and Model files (the M and V of the M-V-C application mode). Since we haven’t covered Controllers, I’m still not totally sure how it all works together. But, I know it’ll make much more sense by the end of the week.

Clear explanations

Sarah did a great job explaining each step as we tried them out. I particularly loved the walk-thru of every directory and file types within a standard rails app. She also did a good job of pointing out common pitfalls and best practices.

Q & A

The last hour of the class was reserved for questions and answers. This gave us the chance to get clarification on any confusing points from the day.

What doesn’t work

Location still sucks

Even with the cab stipend, it’s still a pain to get to Marakana. The facility is set between the projects and industrial barrenness, so we have few options for walking around during lunch. Thankfully, food is provided. Though, we have little common area to sit, eat, and talk.

Set up could be smoother

We spent about 30 minutes at the beginning of the class just making sure we had the right version of Rails, Heroku accounts, and the required dependencies. We did get some instructions by email before the class, but not every step was included.

The bottom line

Today’s class was inspiring, well-structured, and clear. All the pain from the previous two days prepped us, but it was also Sarah’s ability to communicate the material that really helped in understanding. A great class, but please move Marakana fast.

All Bootcamp Diary Entries

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 1

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 2

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 3

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 4

Ok, I get why this class is called a “bootcamp”. I just finished day two of my Ruby on Rails class, and I’m officially mindfrakked. Today’s class moved at a rapid pace and covered a wealth of topics including:

  • Blocks and yielding
  • Procs and Lambdas
  • Enumerators
  • method_missing
  • Regular expressions
  • File input/output

I absorbed only about two-thirds of the material. Ideally, we’d have more time to explore each concept. But I guess that’s why I have Google and foggy San Francisco nights. Yes, Ruby’s gonna keep me warm, baby.

Despite the frustration of cramming everything into two days, I’m falling in love with the Ruby. It’s intuitive, easy-to-read, and a lot of fun. I wonder how I ever mucked around in PHP, Perl, and Javascript. Most of my classmates seemed to enjoy Ruby as well. Although, those familiar with Java and ActionScript 3 found the concept of “dynamic typing” a bit odd. Don’t even ask me to explain what that means right now.

I’m excited for the rest of the week where we”ll dive right into Rails. This is where I’m hoping the fun will explode.

Oh, an aside comment: San Francisco cab companies are horribly slow to arrive. So call early, if you want to get anywhere on time.

All Bootcamp Diary Entries

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 1

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 2

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 3

Rails Bootcamp Diary: Day 4

I’ve just completed my first day of an intensive Ruby on Rails bootcamp. No, I didn’t get to wear a uniform, don macho combat boots, or get yelled at by angry drill sergeants. But I do get to fumble around in a shell terminal, which is just about as painful (and I suppose kinda sexy, too).

Here’s a recap of the first day:

Let’s start with some pictures

Click to continue

Need examples of witty writing with few words?

Check out The Listings in The New York Times’ Weekend Arts section. You’ll find some succinctly superb snippets under Long-Running Shows. Here are my favorites from last Friday:

Billy Elliot The Musical
Ballet dreams in coal country

Mamma Mia
The jukebox musical set to the disco throb of Abba

Jazz Age sex, murder, and razzle-dazzle

West Side Story
Romeo on Juliet’s fire scape, once again

Oz rivisited

Mary Poppins

What are your favorite examples of ultra-short writing that packs a punch? Share away.

I’ve been trying to order an iPhone 4 since 1am this morning. But AT&T’s crappy networks and Safari’s session expirations were preventing me from getting closer to My Precious. Thankfully, the new Apple Store app on the iPhone worked like a breeze. It took me two minutes to pre-order. Give it a try.

After you make the reservation, the app might give you an error if try to reserve another one. So I guess it’s one per customer.

On June 5th, I’m reviewing portfolios for AIGA SF Portfolio Day. While I love talking to students, I’m already dreading one thing: the “fancy” portfolio. By fancy, I mean a hardbound book with embossed lettering, ultra expensive paper, and precious unreadable typography. Or maybe it’ll be encased in a large metal box with tricky clasps and handles. Or better, it’s a wooden box with a special key to unlock it. Nauseating.

Your portfolio doesn’t need extra doodads, tassels, sequins. If your design work and writing is awful, it’s still awful no matter how much you dress it up. And since student work almost always is terrible, I’m much more interested in your enthusiasm, how well you think, and the quality of your writing.

Good portfolios are simple, unassuming, and relatively cheap to make. Even a humble wire-o bound portfolio works. Big images, lots of process work, readable type, and good writing is all you need.

So if you’re a student, don’t shell out $400 dollars to make a precious museum-piece portfolio. Instead pay down your student loans, or spend the money on an HTML/CSS class.

It’s old, but here’s my portfolio from ages ago.

Four years ago, I started forwarding my work email to my personal email account. The reason? One inbox for all email is easier to manage. It’ll my make life simpler, right?


Turns out, all it did was stress me out at home and on the weekends. There’s always an annoying email about a problem I can’t do anything about since I’m not in the office. And usually, the sender finds another way to solve the problem.

More emails just meant more worry.

So, this weekend I’m completely separating my work email from my personal email. If there’s a real urgent need to get a hold of me, then call me. ;-)

When you’ve stopped learning on the job, it’s time to quit.

After looking at all the jobs I’ve had, I realized one thing: when I stopped learning, I became much more keenly aware of other job factors like salary, office space, and vacation time. Boredom makes it way easier to obsess about money and perks.

The jobs where I learned the most were the ones I stayed the longest. I’ve been at DDO for over three years and expect to be here for a long time.


Because the office has a culture of learning, sharing, and mentoring. We even get an education budget every year. Free classes? Hell yeah.

A job that teaches you keeps you interested. It also makes you nimble and adaptable when major changes happen—like a downfall in the economy or a shift in technology standards. This versatility makes you more employable now and in the future.

Of course, money and perks matter too. But they’re not permanent. The skills and knowledge you learn on a job stick with you for a lifetime. The education you gain can’t be taken away from you.

I’m home sick today. So I thought I’d end my sabbatical and return to LifeClever with an iPad post:

Like a lot of folks, I pre-ordered the iPad for an April 3rd launch-day delivery. Big mistake. UPS didn’t deliver until 3pm. And by then, my friends had picked up their magical iPads from the Apple Store and were making mad love to them.

But delivery had a bonus.

The iPad box is shipped inside a larger box. To keep it from moving around inside the bigger box, the smaller box is bookended by two nifty cardboard brackets.

The brackets happen to hold condoms perfectly. Just what this single man in San Francisco needed. It’s exactly what Apple intended.

Thank you, Steve and Jonathan.

Badump badump badump… …Do I sense a heartbeat here on LifeClever. ;-)

I haven’t posted new articles in quite awhile, but I want to let you know I’m still alive. I don’t delve much into my personal life here on LifeClever, but here’s the short story:

My partner and I broke up.

After five years, it feels like getting a divorce. I’ve had a rough year. And the past few months have been especially emotional, intense, and extremely complicated.

Good news: I have a new place of my own and slowly getting settled in. I’m feeling happier. I’m moving forward. And I have Internet and TV again. Thank god for Mad Men and True Blood.

Expect more from me soon.

Thank you everyone for the great comments. I’ve selected a winner and it’s Jimmy Vu Nguyen. We’re looking forward to that mind map!

Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight

I’m running a little contest for my friends at Art House Films to promote their new documentary, Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight.

Yes design nerds, that’s the Milton Glaser“the designer who created the famous I heart NY logo.

The prize is Milton Glaser’s latest book, Drawing is Thinking.

The film will be playing on June 19th in San Francisco at the Roxie. Here’s the official synopsis:

For many, Milton Glaser is the personification of American graphic design. Best known for co-founding New York Magazine and the enduring I ? NY campaign, the full breadth of Glaser’s remarkable artistic output is revealed in this documentary portrait, Milton: To Inform and Delight. From newspapers and magazine designs, to interior spaces, logos, and brand identities, to his celebrated prints, drawings, posters and paintings, the documentary offers audiences a much richer appreciation for one of the great modern renaissance men.

Artfully directed by first time filmmaker Wendy Keys, the film glances into everyday moments of Glaser’s personal life and captures his immense warmth and humanity, and the boundless depth of his intelligence and creativity.

How to enter

Simply, post a comment below about why you heart Milton Glaser.

Comments should be substantive. I’ve got a little clever robot who will kill anything shorter than 12 words.

Be sure to include your email address when filling out the comment form. I need this so I can let you know if you win. Don’t worry, the address will remain private.

On June 19th, I will pick a winner and contact the user via email about the prize.

I’ll be reviewing portfolios for the AIGA San Francisco chapter on Saturday, May 30, 2009.

It’s an all day event, and it’ll be my sixth year as a reviewer. I enjoy it every time, and I’ve yet to make someone cry. Am I too nice? Perhaps, this will be my lucky year. ;-)

It looks like reservations are still available. So sign up if you’re looking for a job in this terrible economy or if you simply want portfolio feedback from Bay Area design studios.

Space is limited, so register soon:

AIGA SF Portfolio Day Registration

Can’t find greeting cards that live up to your design standards?

Check out Paper Culture, a new greeting card company co-founded by my friend and former MetaDesign colleague, Hui-ling Chen. The cards are modern, cute, and delightful. Best part, you can even personalize them with your own photos or text.

Right now, a majority of the cards are baby-oriented. But I expect to see a larger variety of different event cards once the business gets going.

Here are some more sample images:

Don’t forget to check out my previous post on other cool greeting card companies:

Where to Find Greeting Cards that Don’t Suck

Here’s a little something I wrote ages ago
which I should have shared with you. Never too late:

Simple problems (problems which are already defined)
are easy to solve,
because defining a problem
inherently defines a solution.

The definition of a problem is subjective;
it comes from a point of view.
Thus, when defining problems,
all stake-holders, experts, and designers
are equally knowledgeable
(or unknowledgeable).

Some problems cannot be solved,
because stake-holders cannot agree on the definition.
These problems are called wicked,
but sometimes they can be tamed.

Click to continue