Difference Between Giving and Taking? NYPL’s 187,000 Images

Dinner by Food and Cookery Magazine“DINNER [held by] FOOD AND COOKERY (MAGAZINE) [at] “THE MONICO, LONDON, [ENGLAND]”

Generally, professional designers don’t like crowdsourcing. We hold little enthusiasm for so-called “opportunities” offered by profitable companies to submit work—for free, of course—in hopes of winning their approval (like when Dog é Style Restaurant announced its logo contest). In most cases, crowdsourcing results in companies taking a lot for themselves and giving very little to designers.

That’s one side of the issue. Here’s another, more positive side:

The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library (NYPL) is “chronically underfunded,” as PCMag says in this article. Yet, the 105-year-old public institution initiates brilliant crowdsourcing programs that benefit the givers (doers) and much as the receiver (NYPL). Take, for example, What’s On the Menu?. Launched in 2011, this epicurean’s delight crowdsources the transcription of 45,000 historical restaurant menus, which, by virtue of their type and design, are indiscernible to optical character recognition when digitalized. To date, online volunteers have transcribed more than 1,331,929 dishes from 17,545 menus.

In return? We, the people, whether we volunteer or not, are given viewing access to NYPL’s magnificent collections.

Just last week, NYPL thrilled the world once again with this news release:

“Today we are proud to announce that out-of-copyright materials in NYPL Digital Collections are now available as high-resolution downloads. No permission required, no hoops to jump through: just go forth and reuse!”

That’s right, 187,000 public domain images for digital download. For free! For artists, historians, educators, scientists, well, for everyone, this is an unimaginable treasure trove. Oh, the glory of it all!

In celebration of this release, NYPL invites us to participate in its Labs Remix Residency. Yes, this is crowdsourcing of sorts (the PR will certainly generate donations). And yes, it’s a contest. But once again, NYPL puts the people back in public and offers us something in return—creative use of 187,000 images!

So here’s the dish:

NYPL invites us to brainstorm “transformative, interesting, beautiful new uses” of its digital collections. They’re looking for projects that use pre-existing works to create new things (you know, a remix). Maybe a menu? Maybe a quilt? Maybe a board game? They encourage us to surprise them!

Here’s another way NYPL is unique in its crowdsourcing: Participants are only required to submit a proposal of their project. From there, NYPL will choose two proposals and award them each a $2000 stipend for completing their project. How cool is that?

Start brainstorming! Proposals are due February 19, 2016.

Looking for ideas? Here’s a good article. In fact, any one of the NYPL blogs is a good article!

Want to show your appreciation for 187,000 free images? Consider donating to NYPL or your own local library. Libraries offer us so much!

Creative Minds Need Persistence Too

Adunate is celebrating 10 Years of being a creative business!

As Adunate wraps up its momentous 10th anniversary year, perhaps one thing most satisfying (amazing, actually) is that I’ve stuck with this creative business of mine for ten whole years! 

Yes, there’s the statistics factor: According to Business Journal, 50% of businesses fail in their first five years. But mostly it’s the focus factor, or lack thereof. Lest you think me flighty and irresponsible (I’m neither), let me explain the short attention span under which I and so many other creatives operate. We jokingly refer to it as a creative attention deficit disorder. Basically, our ever-curious minds impulsively dance us from one interesting thing to another (and everything is interesting!) and it’s often hard to stay on task.

Some people consider creatives hard to live with (what, who me?). Others relate creative personality traits with ADHD. I like to focus on the positive aspects of creativity—things like independent thinking, openness to new ideas, versatility and adaptability, traits that Leslie Owen Wilson, Ed. D., lists in his article “Characteristics of Highly Creative Individuals.”

Hang in there!

Wilson also stresses the importance of persistency. Here he says, “One thing I would like to stress about thinking and creativity is that in order for creative ideas to become realities there is the necessary component of persistence.”

This, my dears, is what’s hard for us creative types. Sometimes Adunate gets boring. Many times it’s hard. Other times I feel like it’s going nowhere. But if I’ve learned anything in ten years, it’s to take pause for a breath and a prayer. I realize if I just hang in there, the flicker of enthusiasm will once again catch into an ongoing flame.

Hey, I’m hoping to hang in there for Adunate’s 20th!


Wednesday Webs: Things I’m Learning in January

The books I'm reading right now

I just came home from a morning yoga class. Ah, there’s nothing like an hour of sun salutations with friends to chase away the winter blahs. I’m energized. I’m motivated. I’m itching to do something constructive with January instead of watching it blow by from under my quilt.

In yoga we’re reminded to ground our feet deeply before rising our arms toward the sky. As my teacher Sunshine says, we must set our roots before we can grow. How applicable that is, especially while our New Year’s sense of renewal still lingers. Even if nothing’s growing outside, I’m using this month for personal growth, as in learning new things. And I’m using online education as roots for that growth.

Here’s what I’ve been clicking into this month for some great coaching and tutorials. They’re free. I listen to them while I work. There are no excuses!


Wednesday Webs: Invigorating the Creative Mind


So, four months ago I started swimming laps at the local Park & Rec. At 6:30 in the morning. In the middle of winter. With my 50+ year-old, not-so-in-shape body exposed in a lap-appropriate Speedo swimming suit.


To top it off, I really can’t swim so I enrolled in adult lessons, which happen to be at the same time all the young parents bring their 5-year-olds to learn the same things I’m learning. In terms of giving up on all manner of dignity and looking cool, this rates right up there with attending college in my 40s (maybe even higher).

Nonetheless, I’ve gotta say the swimming is grrrrreat! I love coming back to my office feeling strong, healthy and excited to start the day!

Here are a few more things to invigorate a creative mind:

  • Yes, exercise does increase creativity—an interesting article about shutting out the chatter and moving into a creative state of mind.
  • Does Facebook make us miserable? Time to put it away and get moving!
  • Your desk is making you stupid! (I’ve posted this before, but the picture makes me laugh.)
  • A great TED Talk: Our minds shape our body. Our body shapes our minds.
  • And then there’s always the diver in a red speedo, thanks to the talented James Lancett and his skilled collaborator Sean Weston


Wednesday Webs 8-31-11

Minds are like parachutes -  they only function when open. - Thomas Dewar


“Minds are like parachutes—they only function when open.”
—Thomas Dewar

“Creativity is like a muscle. You have to exercise it to develop it,
and you have to flex it to maintain it.”
—Common Knowledge 

I agree with both of the above. That’s why I’m curious how creatives stretch their thinking? How do they stay motivated and inspired?

Some establish a daily regiment that evolves into highly acclaimed art forms, as did Jessica Hische with her Daily Drop Cap. Others quietly step away from their normal working medium and pick up another, like, say, photography.

I’m interested in the quiet photography. I’d like to improve my skills so I’ve been contemplating a 365 Photo Challenge for 2012. Not only is this an opportunity for practice, but also an exercise in discipline—something many creatives are often lacking (especially me).

Here are some interesting links on Photo Challenges:

  • Photojojo: I remember reading this years ago when 365 Challenges first became popular. I thought people’s projects were fascinating then. Still do now.
  • Digital Photography School: I subscribe to this e-newsletter and always learn something new. Here, they’re offering weekly themes, which maybe they’ll update soon for 2012.
  • FLICKR Group—100 Strangers, 100 Personalities, 100 Stories: This one will force you away from the computer and back in touch with real people!
  • ITunes 365 Remember Your Year: This is actually an app for your iPhone. Makes for easy posting and, goodness, we always have our phones with us, don’t we?
  • The Arrow of Time: This one isn’t a 365 Challenge, but a photographer’s site I’ve been fascinated with for the past 6-7 years. Simply beautiful.

So what do you think?

Projects like this are more fun (and motivational) when done together with someone else. Anyone care to join me? Go ahead, get that camera or phone out. Plan now for 2012!

And if you’re already doing a photo challenge, please share. We’d love to see!