9/52: We become what we consume

The internet is shaping who we are.

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Each week for a year, I’m going to be designing a shirt and releasing it on my Threadless store. This is the ninth design of fifty-two.

 

The first reference to “You are what you eat” was in the 1860s. But today, I think it’s more accurate to say that in the age of the internet, we become what we consume. Our attitudes, our temperament and even our well-being is significantly influenced by what media we consume online.

I watched last weekend as the events in Charlottesville unfolded. And there were Nazis — Nazis! — marching with torches on a college campus. And then followed by more violence the next day and the death of a counter protester.

Look, I’m not going to blame the internet for Nazis. They existed long before the internet. But I think many of the young adults that showed up in Charlottesville were fueled and amplified by what they saw online. Or more precisely, what they chose to seek out online.

The Nazis are an extreme example of this though. Today, I feel like all of us are shaped by the media we consume. If you only watch Fox News… CNN… conspiracy websites… Twitter… cat videos… hate-filled rhetoric… you slowly become what you consume.

…having a well-rounded media diet makes us all better, happier and healthier people.

The internet is full of content. Funny and serious. Factual and false. Some articles and videos are thoughtful and well reasoned. Some content is shallow and inflammatory. I’m not saying you need to only watch serious, long form content from reputable sources. But I am saying that having a well-rounded media diet makes us all better, happier and healthier people.

This week’s shirt is “We become what we consume.” And yes, the lettering is reversed and upside down on purpose. Our eye flips everything it sees.The brain then corrects it for us.

"We become what we consume" is available at Threadless in a variety of colors and styles.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on TwitterInstagram and Micro.Blog.

Another one goes subscription

My favorite writing app, Ulysses, switches to a subscription model.

 

Last week, an email landed in my inbox. The subject line was pretty straightforward: “Ulysses Switches to Subscription.” I scanned the email for the only thing I cared about in that moment… “How much?” Of course, it wasn’t listed on the email, so I followed the link to their blog post. The site was completely overwhelmed with traffic and wouldn’t load.

So in that moment, while I was waiting for the massive surge of traffic to subside, I thought “How much Ulysses was worth to me?” It’s not an exaggeration when I say that Ulysses is my favorite writing app. I write blog posts, strategy document, notes, books… virtually everything in Ulysses. It’s on my Macs, iPhone and iPad and it keeps everything I write in sync across all platforms. 

Ulysses isn’t some ad-supported free app. It’s a professional writing app. I’ve invested I lot of money in Ulysses, owning both the $45 Mac version and the $15 iOS version. I landed on Ulysses after trying a range of other apps. I liked lots of them, but Ulysses did everything I wanted it to do and more. It was worth the investment.

Eventually, the blog post did load. Ulysses is now $39.99 a year or $4.99 a month. As an existing user, I qualify for the 50% discount on the annual plan for the lifetime of the product. So I’d be paying $19.99 per year. This price includes both the macOS app and the iOS app, which were previously sold separately.

How much is Ulysses really worth to me? Does the new subscription offer for Ulysses offer enough value to justify paying them a monthly or annual fee?

It’s easily worth $20 a year to me. It’s my favorite writing app and at the center of my writing workflow. $20 a year is a small price to pay for an app that is as outstanding as Ulysses. I'll subscribe at the discounted annual rate. 

Would it be worth $40 a year? I don’t know. I’d probably try out some of the other options before I committed. People have been raving about Bear lately. I purchased a copy of Scrivner that I really like and should use more often. Byword was really awesome and I enjoy using it. But Ulysses is perfect for what I need right now, and I think I’d still subscribe at $40/year.

But the reality is that this is a very individual decision. Whether it’s worth it to you will depend on your usage and your budget.

But the reality is that this is a very individual decision. Whether it’s worth it to you will depend on your usage and your budget. If you don’t write much, Ulysses is overkill. There are cheaper alternatives and many free options. Some people won’t pay for apps at all and Ulysses obviously isn’t for them. Make the decision that is right for your situation. 

I’ve dropped many apps and services over the years as my needs change or the product changes. I’ve changed to-do list apps several times over the years because of changes in products, pricing, ownership and more. (Backpack* > Flow > Wunderlist > ToDoist) Every single time I made a change, I asked the same question, what’s the product worth to me? And I'll ask that same question every time a new subscription model pops up.

Consumer buying psychology changed with the introduction of the App Store. Today, most people — even some professional users — don’t want to spend significant money up front on premium apps. Developers are still trying to find a way to build quality products and still turn a profit. For many pro products, subscription pricing will be a popular pricing option. And if it means that apps I love and use will continue to evolve and improve, I’m willing to pay for that.


* Backpack from 37 Signals was awesome. It wasn't really an online to-do list app. It was closer to something like Evernote. But I loved it and was really disappointed when they discontinued it.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on TwitterInstagram and Micro.Blog.

08/52: Rogue Teacher

Every great teacher is a bit of a renegade.

Each week for a year, I’m going to be designing a shirt and releasing it on my Threadless store. This is the eighth design of fifty-two.

 

School is starting back. 

I’ve been lucky to have some amazing teachers through the years in a wide range of subjects and at pretty much every level from elementary school through college. Without exception, every impactful teacher I’ve had was a little unconventional in their teaching methods. They looked for the most powerful way to reach their students, even it meant pouring an absurd amount of time and energy into kids who — let’s be honest — probably didn’t appreciate it at that time.

That was a simpler time. Before constant testing and obsessive parents.* It occurs to me that those great teachers — the ones who were just a little unconventional when I was in school — would be downright renegades in today’s education world.

So to salute those great teachers, this week’s shirt is all about being a renegade in the classroom. A pirate flag for teachers that aren’t afraid to do whatever it takes to teach their students.

You can purchase “Rogue Teacher” from my Threadless store in a wide variety of colors and styles. (You can even buy some Rogue Teacher lounge pants if you want them.)


* Yes, I know parents have always been obsessive, but today's parents seem worse by historic standards.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on TwitterInstagram and Micro.Blog.

07/52: Paper Airplane

Getting the most out of a sheet of paper

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Each week for a year, I’m going to be designing a shirt and releasing it on my Threadless store. This is the seventh design of fifty-two.

 

Sometime in late elementary school, browsing through a Waldenbooks* at the Fox Valley Mall, I stumbled upon a book about paper airplane design. 30 Designs for the Paper Pilot taught you how to build some (absurdly) complex paper airplanes.

The author, Peter Vollheim, was a pilot and created airplanes using regular paper, card stock, index cards, business cards, straws and other common materials. He tested his designs with wind tunnels and then provided detailed instructions for how to build them at home. He got the most out of his materials and the paper airplanes he designed flew far and straight. I eventually purchased Vollheim’s two other books, 30 More Planes for the Paper Pilot and The Paper Ace.

And while these books helped me build some wicked paper airplanes, I think they heavily influenced my design style, too. Most people who are interested in paper folding start with origami — the art of paper folding. But while I played around with some simple origami, I was much more intrigued by the functionally of paper airplanes.

Early in my design career, many of my creations contained interesting paper folding. Looking back, I can see the influence that Vollheim’s books had on my thought process. Even though they didn’t fly, my folded paper designs were absolutely intended to get the most possible out of a sheet of paper, just like Vollheim’s airplanes. ( I don’t fold paper as much as I used to… maybe it’s time to get back to my roots.)

I was disappointed — but not surprised — to find that Vollheim’s three books were out of print. And while you can still get used copies of the books on Amazon, I was delighted to discover Vollheim has a web site were you can still purchase all three books as a PDF. If you are interested in the aerodynamics of paper airplanes, you’ll love these books.

This week’s shirt, Paper Airplane, is a symbol of my love for paper airplanes and a salute to the books that influenced me at a young age. You can purchase the shirt in a wide range of colors and styles from my Threadless shop.**


* Or maybe it was a B. Daltons. I miss mall book stores.

** Pretty much every color but white and orange.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on TwitterInstagram and Micro.Blog.

52 Shirts: Commonly asked questions

Yes, you can purchase the shirts.

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Each week for a year, I’m designing a shirt and releasing it on my Threadless store.

 

I’m six weeks into my new shirt-a-week project. I wanted to answer a few common questions…

You can purchase the shirts. I’m using Threadless to produce the shirts. Each shirt is produced on-demand, which means that you can get any design in a range of colors and shirt types. It’s easy to get confused by all the shirt types. I’m working on a post to explain all the options that are available.

Read the accompanying blog post. Yes, I’m designing a shirt a week, but I’m also writing a blog post about the meaning behind each design. Some weeks, the shirt designs are straightforward. But other designs, like this week’s Copyright 1975, require a little more explanation. And that’s where the blog post comes in. I enjoy writing the blog post as much as I love designing the shirts.

I release new designs on Sundays. At some point on Sunday, I make the new shirt available on Threadless and publish the blog post. I use Buffer to schedule the social media during the week.

Save some money. For the week after I launch a new shirt, all of the shirts are discounted. The discount starts Sunday afternoon and ends when the new shirt launches the next Sunday.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on TwitterInstagram and Micro.Blog.