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action station: josh nguyen of imagist labs

Joshua Nguyen, Founder of Imagist Labs

I’m very happy that our next Action Station is none other than Joshua Nguyen, an old and dear friend who has inspired me often with his unflinching sense of adventure and his curiously creative spirit. Over the years, I’ve seen Josh dream up all kinds of ideas and pull all the pieces together with what seems like great ease. A seasoned world traveler / photographer / designer with a mind for business, Josh consistently creates delightful experiences for people everywhere. It is a joy to know him.

And with that, I’ll hand the mic over to Josh…

Who are you and what do you do?
I just founded Imagist Labs, a mobile application company. Before this, I was Head of Product at Tumblr. I’ve also dabbled in travel writing and photography a bit. I’m a bit of a mongrel, but mainly, I work with digital media and design.

a bird's eye view of the Joshua Nguyen's action station

a bird’s eye view of the Joshua Nguyen’s action station

What do you create?
I love building communities so people can express themselves creatively and freely. There’s so much exploration to be had in the world, and if you can somehow encourage people to take inspiration from the things they experience, change it up, and come back and make their own ways of looking at the world to pass on to the next person — I just love that. More aspirational, I’m always halfway done with a novella of some kind. One of these days, I just need to finish!

What inspires your daily work?
My current work tries to get people to see photos as composed stories, so I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration from the work of Sebastião Salgado, a documentary photographer based out of Paris. Each of his photographs has such a compelling narrative – you see that there’s a great sense of empathy for the people and landscape in his images.

The other part of my work deals with communities: how people behave, assign status and share things online. Since 1997, I’ve been a member of this sports BBS called Clutchfans. The forum has grown from just basketball talk to include different sections where members can talk about anything. It’s a great place to hang out and observe online interactions.  It’s kind of silly to say, but most of what I learned — the tribes, customs, evolutions and personalities that we migrate to online — I’ve learned from this BBS.

As far as design, I really love Olafur Eliasson’s creativity around light and space and colors.  He’s best known for his large scale installations that force you to think about nature in some way. Lighting, in particular, are both practical and emotional points for our interactions with the world, and we’re starting to see digital designers think more about lighting in their work.

How would you describe your creative workspace?
It’s pretty basic. Basic laptop for me to get on email and Photoshop. Basic Samsung monitor. A notebook for quick thoughts I need to jot down. I don’t like a lot of clutter around my work area. I get a bit obsessive — one of the biggest annoyances for me is having to clean up my apartment before I can sit down to work. Also big windows. Just being able to look outside resets my brain a bit to be more relaxed and sensitive to incoming ideas.

Josh's action station is saturated with natural light

Josh’s action station is saturated with natural light

What are you favorite creative distractions?
Can I say ice cream? I’m a few steps away from my fridge when working at home!

Well, I’ve recently gotten back into taking photos again. I switched up my gear to only rely on fixed lenses — I find that I get better shots when I have to go up to people and ask for their permission instead of shooting with a zoom lens from afar.

What creative adventures do you have away from your action station?
I’m incredibly fortunate to live in San Francisco, with nature so close. I love getting on my bike when I have serious anxiety — and riding across the bridge and up Conzelman Road — there’s this one part where the road just drops like 45 degrees into the Pacific. It’s gorgeous and terrifying and liberating.

More often, I take walks through the busy parts of the city and try to relax my mind from thinking about a problem. I just try to observe everything. Walks are free! I’ve recently started to use Twitter as short form notes for my walks through the city. Last week, I walked through a dodgy neighborhood and tweeted: “Tenderloin stroll: flock of pigeons, feces, girl strumming ukelele, fedora guy, fist bumps, wheelchairs.” Kind of resets me a bit and makes me think about other things instead of my immediate work.

What do you think that every action station should have?
Ready and available water. Hydration is important! Also, music is really important to me. I have this little iBomb speaker that gives me great sounds. Oh, and good lighting. Hmmm.. I think as long as you’re comfortable in your space and establish a pattern of some kind, you really can get lots done anywhere.

... a Rubik's cube is also a fun creative distraction

… a Rubik’s cube is also a fun creative distraction

Keep up to date with Josh’s adventures by following him on twitter at @joshuanguyen and visiting his website at For all you #selfie addicts out there, download Josh’s latest app, aptly titled Selfie!

Posted on August 23, 2013 in action station 0

action station: e bond of roughdraft books

It’s been far too long since I’ve featured an Action Station on this blog. I’m so very happy to introduce the 2nd Action Station in the series: one of my favorite people on this earth, Ms. e bond. e (yes, e, just e) is a bookmaker and writer and has spent years honing (and folding and stitching) her craft.

e in the classroom

e in the classroom (photo by Corey Tester of Southern Illinois University)

e and I met years ago while working together at a very creative fashion retailer. I was always mesmerized by her ability to make something digital feel so very handmade. I once had the great honor (and joy!) of being a helper on one of her biggest custom book orders. I helped fold stacks of pages as we gabbed about life and creativity. It was so nice to be in a maker’s studio, using tools that have been around for decades, or longer. It was a day I’ll always remember fondly.

And so with that, I’ll hand the mic over to the artist with a giant heart and humble soul…

just one of the many places where the work gets done

just one of the many places where e gets her work done

Tell us about who you are and what you do.
My name is e and I am basically a maker. I make all sorts of things: books, poems, digital experiences…A year ago I was a binder and designer of handmade books and art objects, a freelance graphic designer and a professor at moore college of art. Currently I have traded in the teaching for being a student again at Mills College in Oakland, Ca. I just finished the first year of a dual Creative Writing / Book Art MFA program.

Where do you find inspiration?
Lately, trees, lots of trees, and water. Now that I am living around water on almost every side, I am enjoying being inspired by it every day. I also live around groves of eucalyptus and huge forests of my absolute favorite, the redwoods.

I am soaking it all in because I am so in love with them and have come a long way to experience them. Even though I am in school, I am trying to see as much of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest which really is kind of indescribable. There are days I still don’t quite believe what I am seeing is real. It’s inspiration for a lifetime.

What are you feeling when you are making / creating?
I am usually just feeling the most like myself, which is why I have to do it everyday. It’s a complete feeling of understanding and knowing I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, like a still, deep calm. It doesn’t have to be all day but it does have to be every day in some way, shape or form. When I am not making something I tend not to be the best me.

How would you describe each space? Does each have a name? How are they different from one another?
These spaces are all very new to me still, having just moved west in August of 2012. I really miss my old studio space back in Philly so I am still acclimating to working in a new way. Although most of the work tends to get done in the studios at school, the wooden coffee table area tends to be where most gets done at home: list-making, organizing, small models being built, bad tv watching.

the coffee table

the coffee table

The yellow table is actually my kitchen table which basically just stands there to hold the projects I really want to be doing but don’t have time for yet. I am the out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of person, so i usually have ideas, specimens, sketches, etc.. out to remind me of what to work on when I have a spare moment.

the yellow table

the yellow table

How do you bring the inspiration to each space?
Is hoarding an answer, lol? I collect things all the time. That’s why my kitchen table looks like a science experiment. I carry these small plastic bags around with me all the time so I have spaces to fill with sand, or rocks, or bark, or anything I can find. I find it’s easier than stuffing my pockets. I guess I bring the inspiration to me.

What are your favorite tools?
My sketchbook, bonefolder (the one with the #3 on it) my really sharp scalpel, and my favorite metal triangle, I’ve had it since freshman year of college (over 20 years)

some of e's favorite tools

some of e’s favorite tools

What is the most unexpected thing you ever discovered in your creative process?
Hmm, I guess I learned many years ago that I enjoy the process much more than the outcome, so that was extremely unexpected at the time. Now I understand that about myself so I try to really be in the moment of the making, and not worry so much about what comes from it in the end.

Such a special person, that e. If you’ve enjoyed this post, you can keep up with e’s adventures (and see her incredible work!) on her blog: and on twitter at @eisroughdraft.

If you’d like to share your creative workspace, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Posted on July 14, 2013 in action station 0

what’s on your action station?

During the winter of 2010-2011, after a very big creative project, I hunkered down and watched all five seasons of Battlestar Galactica. It took some time, but believe me, it was totally worth it. This isn’t a post about Battlestar Galactica though (I’m sure you’re disappointed). It’s a post about … Action Stations! If you watched the show, and if you watched it in rapid succession, you became familiar with the alarm sounding the pilots to get to their jets for battle.

Its sounds a little like this: [click to listen]. Hear that enough and it starts to play in your head at random times of the day!

Years later, it has stuck with me, but I’ve adopted a new meaning for it. To me, an Action Station is your work area — where all of your creative goodness comes to life. It’s where you take action! My Action Station has an assortment of the following: an orange mug of colored felt tip pens & highlighters, a zippered pouch for when I take my favorite pens & markers on the road, a stapler, a pad of graph paper, post-it notes, a glass of water, a box of tissues, a manila folder or two, a binder with whatever the latest creativity worksheets I am experimenting with, at least one book, headphones, speakers, whiteboard markers & a whiteboard (complete with sketches and / or words of intention).

action station!

What’s on your Action Station! Tell me in the comments and please link to a picture if you can!

Posted on June 27, 2012 in action station 1