011 Make it until you can’t fake it

I have been doing a lot of email HTML Newsletters lately.

1. Emails are complicated.

2. TL;DR: Mainly for security reasons, email clients preprocess emails in a way that does not support a lot of the same code you would use when building a website. So most of the nice, progressive, interactive stuff is stripped away, hence we are stuck making newsletters the way we built websites 10 years ago.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, email should never be bloated. But sometimes we want to try a different layout, something that doesn’t look like a spreadsheet, push things a little.

So what do we do? Same thing we did back then: We fake it.
No full support for background images? Slice one up into 8 and put them back together (jigsaw puzzles FTW!).
No padding support? Use a transparent image and change it in size.

I enjoy making these newsletters because the limitations keep reminding me of the most important thing about my profession: Make it. Make it. Just Make it.

Can’t figure out how something was built? Fake it. Reverse engineer it, Run over to Stack Overflow and copy paste it. JUST MAKE IT. Understand how something works, then you can make it leaner, more accessible. It might be you who ends up improving the code for everyone else, but for that you need to make it. Make it until you can’t fake it.

010 #OneDayIWill

Today is International Women’s Day so I wanted to take a second to recognize all of the women in my life.

But.. but.. “everyday should be Women’s Day” you say.

Yes, it should. It hasn’t been, and we’ve done a very shitty job through out the years.

Almost equal does not equal equal

Today is as good day as any to remember:

– That grandma grew up not being allowed to vote.
– That Mom grew up being trained on how to be a good housewife.
– That today, many women doing the same exact work I do are likely to earn around 80 cents per dollar.
– That right now, somewhere in twitter, there is a man refuting an accomplishment by a woman. Best case scenario it has “only a touch” of sarcasm. Worst case it is someone hiding under anonymity throwing insults and threats.

I used to think I should just ignore the misogynist, the sexist, and the racist of the world. The seemingly harmless stereotypes and people with answers like “actually, all lives matter” or “God created Adam and Eve”.

I don’t think that anymore, it is not fair to hide under any privileges I get. In this case just for being a man.

So Happy International Women’s Day!
To that badass partner I get to call my wife.
To all of the women in my big Mexicovenezuecuadorisalvadoperuvipuertorican family.
To all of my colleagues and friends.
And to all of the women out there.

Everyday SHOULD be Women’s Day.
It is not.
Let’s make it.

Title credit to Google’s awesome doodle campaign

009 A tiny milestone is delayed

Last week I wrote about an upcoming case study I’m working on. I (sort of) cheated and since updated the post to read next week instead of this weekend.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to balance as a freelancer. Stay accountable while setting real expectations. My current plan is to put as much time as I can from any extra hours I get to my portfolio. But I also got a couple of awesome new project going that are taking a lot of my time so that leaves me with little to no extra time.

So it comes down to either:
a) Set a date when I’m 100% sure I’ll keep my word.
b) Don’t set a date dude, just put it out there when it’s done.
c) Set your date, it at least puts some pressure to deliver even if late.

I’m leaning towards C for now, just give myself more leeway.
At the end of the day actions > words.

008 A tiny milestone

Next week will mark a small milestone in my professional career.

I’ve scheduled my first case study. The very first one since I started getting paid to do this around 8 years ago (56 in web years).

I’ve posted some content in past versions of portfolio or quickly put together a list when trying to send a proposal but haven’t really showed any work I do to anyone.

a) I’m not ready to say it’s complete (learning to let it go is one of those things you only get with experience.. and Idina Menzel).
b) My website is never ready.
c) As it happened with my funky flash websites; the work just “expired”.

What’s kept most of the work coming have been word-of-mouth referrals that have led to similar projects and brand new I-dont-know-what-I-got-into ones. It is amazing how much weight personal recommendations carry. If you have been my client in the past. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

One of my main goals for case studies is to start describing my process. Not really about how I added the golden ratio to everything and made it look pretty; but mostly about mistakes and thought processes and lessons learned.

About how I achieved (or didn’t) the most important design question: Did I solve my clients’ problem

007 One Thousand Four Hundred and Forty

A few days ago I decided to do a little experiment
(It was more of an exercise, but you know.. science!)

The Question:

How much time do I waste in a day?

The Background Research:

Basic stuff here:
We all have different resources, cultures, issues and advantages. But there is one thing we all have in common: one thousand four hundred and forty minutes in a day. No one gets to cheat (Slow motion videos don’t count).

The Hypothesis:

The brain is wired to go on auto mode, that’s how habits work, they save us a lot of energy. So we tend to fill time with whatever is most accessible at that moment.

The Experiment.

1. Downloaded Jay Rendon’s awesome Great Day Mac App.
You add a project and the time it will take you to complete. Hit the play button whenever you start working. Hit the stop button when you stop.

2. Scheduled a list of things I was going to accomplish the next day. Calculated the time it would take me for a total of 10 hours of just work.

So if I started at 10:00am:

10 hrs work + 1hr lunch + 1.5 (3 x 30min) breaks = Watching Colbert at 11:35pm sharp.

Data and Conclusion.

February 11: Start working at 10-ish.. play some Nate Ruess.. back to work.. wondering if I should add another jump around pic to my instagram.. back to work.. change playlist.. lunch.. back to work.. wait, Madrid plays Saturday, research time!.. back to work.. music off.. break.. back to work.. oh you silly Kanye and your tweets.. back to work.. break.. back to work.. does uploading wait time count as working?.. Second coffee yay or nay.. break.. back to work.. 145 whatsapp messages? I must check… back to work… Yay! Colbert time!


1. The hours on the screenshot don’t add up because I did overtime on some projects but still didn’t hit my time goals on other projects.

2. It is hard to work on exact numbers. Servers can be a bit temperamental. Also hard to cut off working when you’ve automated something and want to see it through.

3. Would love to see how many times I hit the pause/play button.

4. Against my own advice. Went for the 2 coffees.

The Results

In total I wasted 2 hours and 9 minutes


The best takeaway from this exercise is not finding out how much time I wasted, is finding out why and how I’m wasting it. It is more about making a plan that will make you accountable.

In this case I was already conditioned to work a bit harder because I knew I would write about it, but I tend to spend hours on Netflix, on youtube, on.. whatever is showing on TV. On “research”, on “multitasking”, on “unwinding”, on “catching up”. Just filling time with what many times is just noise.

And filling vs planning might just be the main difference between being good, or being great.

006 My Backup Plan

It is generally a good idea to have a backup plan.

• All my computer files are up to date.
• All my websites have scheduled backups (Database crashes are no fun).
• My wife and I make all kinds of plans; from where we’ll meet up if lost while traveling to where we’ll meet up in the likelihood of a Walking Dead apocalypse (It involves finding Daryl ASAP).

When it comes to a professional backup plan though…

I’ve come to find that I don’t have one.

I used to.

“What if the freelance thing doesn’t work out”.
“What if I find out I suck”.
“What if I go back to getting steady easy money at college job”.
“What if I fail at X”.

Then I got a healthy dose of experience—that pesky word we tend to think we can skip but always need more of—and a mindset adjustment that has helped me grow a ton over the last 2 years; I realized a backup plan is not always compatible with experience because you just can’t unlearn stuff. (Not the same as wishing you hadn’t watched another Adam Sandler movie).

I do have a plan. A structure of what I want to learn and what I want to accomplish. But I’m learning so much everyday and making something new every week, that I cannot know for sure where I’m going to be in 3 months.

What I know is that right now I’m working on projects I want to work on and I’m having a ton of fun. There are a few tools I need to learn, new technologies & updates coming out (CSS Grids FTW!) that I’m sure I will continue to adjust the way I work, learn, read, and make things.

<OK Google: Insert Journey vs Destination quote>

005 The Craig Ferguson Rule

There is a wonderful thing we get to have when we have an internet connection:
An audience.

There is a horrible thing we get to have when we have an internet connection:
An audience.

There are instances where standing up for what’s right is our responsibility.
Sexism, racism, misogyny are not OK. It doesn’t matter if you are a huuuuuuuge presidential candidate or hiding behind a cartoon avatar.

For the other instances. The ones where we get into silly, troll-ish, arguments. The ones where we must let everyone know on facebook how we feel about certain gossip. The ones where we are so sure every one is dying to know our opinion, and it is not mansplaining because we say so. For those, I have a simple rule I have been using for years, courtesy of the great Craig Ferguson:

ANYTIME you feel like saying (or writing) anything online, follow these three simple steps:

1 Does this need to be said?

*If answer is yes, proceed to the next step. If answer is no, probably not a good idea.

2 Does this need to be said by me?

*If answer is yes, proceed to the next step. If answer is no, probably not a good idea.

3 Does this need to be said by me now?

*If answer is yes, proceed to post. If answer is no, probably not a good idea.

It doesn’t matter if you have an audience of 1, 10, 50, 1000, or 1 million.
Follow these three steps and I can guarantee it will be a better day for everyone, and, in the words of Craig, a great day for America.

004 Bonjour!

Remember that post last week about overcommitment?

Started making a list of the things I’ve yet to complete and started arranging them by length, category (personal or professional), and whether they are worth completing or discarding.

One item on that list I’ve had for the longest is: Learn French.

<inner voice>
Why French dude! Italian is easier for you! It is similar to Spanish but with a lot more hand movement!.. Or Portuguese! Or go for something non-romance like Japanese or Mandarin!
</inner voice>

It all started back when I was working at a french chocolatier a few years back (Learning key words was part of my job, but following a conversation was always tough), and continued once we visited France. One of those things you feel like you can do if you apply yourself but can never get past the greetings section.


I’m giving myself 8 months to learn it.

That’s about 32 weeks, so post #36 will be an update and if possible should be partially in French.

This is a personal project so I need to find ways to do it on my free time. So far I’ve got some options:
Subway rides, Can get a solid 2 hours a week if I mix in some podcast lessons between RadioLab, This American Life, The Big Web Show, and Shoptalk Show.
Unwinding, Probably less social thing, less checking on how Real Madrid is doing, and maybe sneak in a lesson between the time I stop working at night and Colbert.

Ok, so now that it is out there, there is NO WAY I can not complete it.

<inner voice>
Oh yes there are. Many
</inner voice>

A bientot!

003 Meet my worst enemy

Once upon a time, I was a young kid with a ton of free time…

In the late 80’s committed to finish Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros with only 1 life.
✓ Nailed it

In the late 90’s committed to drinking half-a-bottle of tequila to prove to my best friend that tequila’s big deal is that adults only liked it because of its weird taste.
✓ Nailed it.. I think, barely remember

In the early 00’s Committed to covering my whole room with chalk. Pretty sure I still have chalk in my lungs but..
✓ Nailed it

Ignore the broom. The robot in the middle was drawn by my good friend Victor Salas.

In the early 10’s committed to travel with Betty for 60 days straight.
✓ Nailed it… twice!!

Seeing something through (including those things that end up being a waste of time) tends to give me a huge morale boost, so I’ve naturally overcommitted many, many times.

In the late 00’s Overcommitted to organizing my photos, by name, by date, by people in the photo..several years later..
Thousands of photos to go still

In 2008 I was going to do the best wedding album ever.
Didn’t get past page 4 yet.

In 2014 committed to have my website done and it was going to be epic.
Making up 2 years later.

The list goes on and on and on, side projects, requests, personal projects, memberships..

At some point you get to learn the weight words carry and realize that keeping your word is an asset. An essential one.

You learn that you can’t blame clients for not taking you seriously, or your bosses for being unfair, or your friends for cancelling on you. It is all you. Be professional, be accountable, keep your principles, and keep your word. Everything else should fall right into place.

002 What am I?

1982 Born

New title: A kinda ugly, sorta cute baby

1988 Singing lessons from dad

New title: Choir Kid

1995 Want to draw like dad

New title: Saint Seiya drawing expert

1996 Learn MS-DOS

New title: Duke Nukem amateur, Gorillas Master (Angle:✓ Velocity:✓)

1999 New home

New title: New Yorker

1999 First Job: Pharmacy

New title: Stock-Boy

2000 Parents buy first computer

New title: Proud owner of a Compaq Desktop

2002 Windows rules, Macs are for weird people

New title: Proud owner of a new Sony Vaio laptop from the Wiz

2003 Start College at CCNY

New title: Confused

2003 Second job: Hotel

New title: In-room dining server

2004 Switch majors

New title: Former Microsoft paint user, Future Adobe Illustrator evangelist

2004 Learn HTML+CSS

New title: Hooked

2005 Macs are the best thing in the whole world

New title: Owner of an iBook G4

2006 Third job: French Chocolatier

New title: Sales Associate

2006 2-time Champion!

New title Conference Soccer Player of the Year

2007 Graduate College

New title: Bachelor in Electronic Design and Multimedia

2007 iBook Dies. Zero backups. Lose everything

New title: Depressed

2008 Asked to build a Flash site

New title: Web Designer with a job

2008 Wedding Day!

New title: Partner

2009 Asked to build 2 more Flash sites

New title: Copy-paste expert. Reverse engineer breaker of things.

2010 Referrals coming from all sides

New title: Graphic Designer, Flash expert, SEO master, Joomla developer, Microsoft Word specialist, Powerpoint 4 out of 5 stars user, Excel formulas connoisseur. HTML ace, CSS ninja, Photoshop power user, Prestashop developer, After Effects Tinkerer, InDesign CMYK-er. MySQL modifier, Domain Name purchaser, Dreamweaver-er, Incredible Googler

2010 First big website crash

New title: Impostor

2011 First freelance gig at Pure+Applied

New title: Thankful

2012 First WordPress Site from a template

New title: PHP Web Developer

2012 First Full custom template

New title: UX Designer

2013 Attend first Web Conference

New title: Inspired

2013 Start working with databases

New title: Web Designer | Front-End Developer

2014 Design more identities and print items

New title: Designer | Developer

2015 Multiple projects at once.

New title: Hybrid

2016 Published this post

Current Title: Designer who codes

Update log

New Plugins:
Jetpack. Have never used it and “supposedly” slows sites but I really liked what I saw from them at WordCamp US last December. If it doesn’t work for me at least I get to learn how it might work for client work.

Added new Fonts!
Two weights of the gorgeous Antenna Family for my headers hosted on Webtype, and FF Dagny Pro for body font hosted on Typekit. (Probably not the best for my performance budget down the line).

– Messed a bit with my stylesheets and margins. No contact photo yet. It is winter in NY and I’m set on doing an outdoor shoot.

Cool Facts
Antenna is the first font I used as a web font. First converted it (probably not best practice) then hosted it with font-face on clients’ shared server (super slow).. but hey! It worked and it looked amaaazing!

Screenshot of update:
Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 9.04.19 PM