Autodesk Design Night


Full disclosure: I currently work as a part-time consultant for Autodesk and I worked as a full-time regular employee for many years before that. So yes, I’m a bit biased toward what I believe is a fantastic company, both to work for and for what they are contributing to the world. Biased or not, you should check out Design Night at least once and make your own decision about it.

One of the events I look forward to each month is Design Night, an event sponsored by Autodesk and hosted in the incredible Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco, which is a treat in and of itself. Design Night dives into various aspects of how creativity and design are impacting our world in the areas of art, engineering, fashion, architecture, you name it. Autodesk is not a household name, but its products our used to create much of what we see around us everyday: buildings, cars, household objects and even the special effects for movies, TV and video games. So it makes a lot of sense that Autodesk would host Design Night, given they have customers working in almost every conceivable field of the design world.

Design Nights are organized around a theme, from fields of technology, science and recently, even fashion. A well-known celebrity from that particular field presents on their work. One of the more popular speakers recently was Leo Villareal, the artist who created the beautiful Bay Lights artwork using the western span of the Bay Bridge. But Design Night is about interaction, so there are a few tables set up around the Gallery where participants can make something: LED jewelry, a clock made from recycled LP records or tree trunks, even homegrown oyster mushrooms!

Of course, no party would be complete without food and entertainment. There’s an open bar all evening, serving standard drinks and usually a special creation chosen based on the theme of the night. Catered food has ranged from Thai to Mexican to California fusion and is also complementary (until it runs out). A DJ spins theme related beats to set the mood.

And then, of course, there is the company of participants. Many of the Bay Area’s most brilliant and creative minded folk attend Design Night regularly. On nights I have attended or worked at Design Night (as a photographer or table volunteer), I have met authors, architects, fashion designers, and even a guy who worked in Information Technology at the Federal Reserve across the street (“Stressful work I bet.” I asked him. He just shrugged.).

Tickets to Design Night tend to sell out fast, sometimes within days of the event being advertised, so you’ll have to make a quick decision if you intend to go. Don’t forget the ticket includes food, drink, and anything you can make on that evening, so it’s actually quite a bargain if you fully participate. To receive information about future Design Nights, get on the Design Night mailing list.


Making a clock out of recycled wood at Autodesk Design Night.

A model from Melange at the Designista! Design Night.

Playing with the body controlled ball maze in the Autodesk Gallery.



Road Trippin’ – Petersen Automotive Museum

Road Trippin' - Petersen Automotive Museum

If you love cars, classic or modern, you have to check out the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. This museum has an eclectic mix of old and new, very rare cars and custom made cars. Visiting this museum reminds you that every once in a while, a work of art is created on four wheels.


Road Trippin’ – Getty Center

Road Trip - Getty Center

Took a short road trip with my dad to Los Angeles and we decided to check out the highly recommended Getty Center. We only had an hour or two which is definitely not enough time to take this place in properly, but if you’re visiting LA, plan to spend some time at this gorgeous place.

All Things Japanese – Tenugui 手拭い

Tenugui - how Japanese make everyday things beautiful

Tenugui – how Japanese make everyday things beautiful.

One thing I admire most about Japanese culture is how it celebrates beauty in everyday things. Modern Tokyo, and I daresay modern Japan, is not beautiful. Japan has traded the beauty of wood and paper buildings for the time and disaster enduring qualities of concrete and steel. Old Japan was expected to fall to destruction regularly, by fire, earthquake or other disaster. Modern Japan is built to withstand these disasters but at the cost of the elegance of eras gone by.

Yet the beauty of Japan remains in the little things, such as the humble tenugui. The tenugui is simply a thin strip of cloth, much longer than it is wide. It is generally made of a thin cotton with unfinished edges that are often already fringing. It can be used for a variety of things, though it has commonly been used as a hand towel for the lack of napkins and paper towels in Japanese establishments, a scarf, a headband on stifling hot Japanese summer days, or to wrap and carry small objects.

Based on that description, a tenugui could be any cheap strip of cotton, sold in quantity at the 100 yen shop and thrown away once it was soiled. But to the Japanese, the tenugui has become something of an art form. Almost every tenugui has some sort of print on it. Because Japan loves its four seasons, there are often prints depicting symbols or activities of each season, like tonbo (dragonflies) in the  Summer, or hana no sakura (cherry blossoms) for Spring.

Recently, I received a gift of a tenugui that went beyond delightful into the category of “work of art”. The company that made it is called Hamamonyo and they are located in Yokohama. This particular tenugui was called a “book tenugui” because as you unfold it, it reveals different pictures of familiar objects. Hamamonyo apparently garnered a Good Design award, a national design award in Japan for objects and buildings that display exceptional aesthetic qualities.

The object in question in Mount Fuji, the universal symbol of Japan. As you carefully unfold the tenugui, it reveals different views of Mt. Fuji that are easily recognizable to those who have seen the great mountain at different times of the year or from different locations around it. The bottom half of the tenugui, once fully opened, reveals a large Mt. Fuji passing through the seasons.

In some sense, it is almost too beautiful to use. Yet, that’s the point of Japanese design, that beautiful things are designed to be seen and used. I know when the time comes, I’m going to have a hard time wiping my face with this tenugui, but when I receive my first compliment on it, I know it will be worth it.

Here are a few more photos of the tenugui “book” as I paged through the different frames.

Red Fuji

Red Fuji

Upside down Fuji

Upside down Fuji

Cap Cloud

Cap Cloud

Diamond Fuji

Diamond Fuji


Tenugui with card and instructions (in English!)

Tenugui with card and instructions (in English!)