#DesignThyself – Week 5

I got myself a Korean tutor. We are meeting next Monday! I’ll keep everyone posted, but I think I should have enlisted help much sooner.

I’ve made it halfway through Level 2 of Talk to Me in Korean. I’m continuing my Gangnam Style infinite repeat loops on my commutes to and from Staten Island. I think it’s starting to gel and enter my brain through my subconsciousness.

Two more awesome renditions of Gangnam Style:

#DesignThyself Korean Challenge Week 3

We are now almost a month into our #DesignThyself Challenges in my Designing Change class at SVA Design for Social Innovation. I feel both good and a little behind. I need to both continue my momentum and develop a new learning strategy for the Gangnam

The Good
I am progressing along slowly but surely in my self study of basic Korean conversation. I have established a strong routine of DAILY exposure to Korean. This could mean listening to a Talk to Me in Korean podcast, going over a lesson in my Colloquial Korean book and recordings, or learning the Korean Word of the Day on my WordPower app. I have established first thing in the morning and just before bed as good learning times. Subway and ferry commutes are also a good time for listening to audio lessons.

The Not-So-Good
I have hardly progressed past learning the first verse of Gangnam Style. Despite listening to the song on repeat for many of my subway commutes, everything is just a blur of rapid fire syllables. I’m going to try a new audio-visual strategy of referring to the lyrics sheet while listening to the song, to see if I can follow along. I have only been listening right now. I’m going to have to be able to “read” the lyrics in karaoke anyway. Let’s see how this goes. I just PDF’ed the lyrics and loaded them on my iPad mini, so I can now listen and review lyrics visually on the go.

#DesignThyself – Korean Challenge Week 2

Week two of my #DesignThyself challenge to learn Korean through Gangnam Style. This week I have learned the first verse of Gangnam Style basically phonetically through rote repetition and memorization. I’ve also been trying to learn the grammar and decode the lyrics word by word, phrase by phrase as well. I’m going to have to pick up my pace and figure out a better way to learn these lyrics.

In the meantime, I’m trying pick up more general Korean language vocabulary and grammar to make learning the song easier and to fulfill the “basic restaurant and karaoke bar” proficiency required by my challenge. I get bored with textbooks and learning materials pretty quickly, so I kind of have a multiple resources that I can refer to and study in a few spare moments, either as a break from other work, or I have also found it to be a nice new ritual to listen to a Korean podcast from Talk to Me in Korean before bed (almost) every night. I find studying a language before bed and then “sleeping on it” helps me remember better. So far, I’ve made it through the first level of lessons from Talk to Me in Korean, so now starting level 2.

Other resources: I have a copy of the Lonely Planet Korean phrasebook on my nightstand as well. I sometimes flip through and learn a new phrase before bed and when I wake up. I just downloaded WordPower Learn Korean vocabulary for my iPad. This might replace my paper phrasebook since it has helpful audio pronunciation files. I also have a copy of Routledge’s Colloquial Korean (books and CDs). I have found it a useful reference for grammar, but it’s a little bit too boring and business-oriented for my needs right now.

Lots of great insights about language learning hacks in this conversation between Tim Ferris and Benny from Fluent in 3 Months.

The Power of a Brand to Transform A City

Meu Rio Members

From my latest article in GOOD:

How can we use the power of branding to strengthen a shared identity and spark positive change in the neighborhoods and cities where we live? An effective visual identity references the culture and history of a place’s people and reflects their hopes and aspirations. Logos, fonts, or color schemes, the most tangible parts of a brand identity, are not magical cure-alls for the financial, social, and cultural ills of a city, but they can be powerful symbols and rallying cries that galvanize people to action. Here are some stories and insights on how you can create a brand identity for change in your community:

Read more on GOOD.is


This semester, I am co-teaching a class called Designing Change with Lina Srivastava at Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts. Students will be working in groups to collaborate with local non-profits, start-ups and community groups to design communications, conversations, and interactions that change people’s attitudes, habits, and/or behaviors. More on those projects later, but in this post, I want to talk about the personal assignments that everyone in the class will be doing individually along with their group projects.

In the spirit of heeding Gandhi’s challenge to “be the change you wish to see in the world,” #DesignThyself is a project where we will each design and document intentional and proactive personal change in our lives. Think of it as part new year’s resolution as art school project and part reality show. The personal change could be learning a new skill, picking up a new habit (or quitting an old one), or acquiring a new behavior response to certain triggers or stress. Possible themes include health, sport, language, cooking, reading, emotional life, meditation, or creative practice. We will document the before, during, and after of our personal transformations online and mark our posts with the hash tag #DesignThyself. (Another pedagogical aim of this assignment is to get the students familiar with blogging and social media.) The projects should be related to personal growth and self-mastery, but also light-hearted and fun.

My #DesignThyself challenge for spring 2013?

Gangnam Style!

From now until the end of April 2013:

  • I promise to study Korean at least 5 minutes a day, every day.
  • I will post about my process and progress at least once a week.
  • Before the end of the semester, I will go to Koreatown, where I will be able to practice my new Korean skills by ordering dinner in Korean, and…
  • Perform Gangnam Style at karaoke (or noraebang if you want to be culturally/linguistically accurate).

References and Readings
I have suggested that my students check out lifehacking blogs to get some ideas and inspiration for their projects. Here are some links that I shared in last night’s class:




We will also be reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit over the course of the semester. Progress report and more insights next week!