Dear Eanes ISD Community

Be the Model for Learning and for All Learners.

I am writing to encourage voters to approve the bond proposal for EISD. I believe I come to this from two unique points of view. First, I’m a parent of three at Eanes Elementary School; and secondly, I have had the good fortune to lead strategic transformations and design of major corporations and educational institutions around the country.

Our oldest is in the Gifted and Talented Program. Our second child has Special Needs. And the third is a peer model in the District’s Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD). Needless to say, we have broad and distinct academic challenges, and yet, our story isn’t that unique. There are several families with both Special Needs and GT kids in our community.

But what is unique, is the District’s unwavering commitment to individual learning styles and abilities, and their commitment to bring the best of all technologies, environments, curriculum and staff to ALL learners.

Our two oldest have been provided extraordinary opportunities, guidance, and teachers which most in our state are not afforded. This is not two ends of a bell curve but two voices of 8,000 unique student voices in our community.

And yet we can do far more to amplify and unlock all of their imaginations.

We recently asked several of our clients who lead major corporations and institutions on the forefront of our economy what they are looking for, and hoping for, of their future staff. They said success will come to those who are curious, creative, courageous, self-reliant, empathetic, collaborative and synthesizers to mention a few.

By the way these are attributes of most of our kids and how they learn and work already. Watch them outside of their concrete block classroom filled with rows of tablet-armed desks and see how they flourish, and what they create.

We must help guide our students to be creative thinkers, to be collaborative and critical problem solvers, to be even more tech savvy than they are, to have the ability to synthesize vast amounts of information and DO SOMETHING of value with it.

Our facilities, furniture and technology must support this type of work and learning, not hinder it. Agile and flexible spaces and technologies, nimble to adapt to all needs is where success lies. Every business is searching for the same.

Our kids work and learn in a very different way than their parents. Dad’s old Buick, the old model of rows of desks and being talked to doesn’t work anymore. Fear doesn’t lead the future, hope does…along with a lot of unimaginable skills. Our buildings, technologies, furniture, curriculum and staff must all work together to create contemporary learning environments that will propel our students well into the future.

To do this it takes a commitment to that future, one that supports a new model of learning. A path that EISD is already on. We cannot afford to take a step back.

I encourage you to vote YES on Proposal 1.


Information regarding the Bond Proposal can be found here. (


The Making of TedxAustin 2013

The Making of TEDxAustin 2013 was released by Michael Baldwin and MediaMode last week.

@AMichaelBaldwin +

Great to see the energy and creativity captured in one moment.

Thanks to Michael and his team, including our own John Cook, for all of their time during the making of the film.

New Video Cube by Uplink Industries

Inspired by our conceptual art piece for the 2013 TEDxAustin Event, my friend and comrade, Bill Burgess, and I have completed the newest prototype of the video projection device.

The Cube has been designed with a componentized, light-weight, machined aluminum frame, theatrical projection surfaces, and state-of-the-art visual technologies supporting dynamic video, light + data manipulation and content.  The device is installed through simple plug + play construction and by easy-to-use instructions. It is shipped completely in two custom flight cases allowing for ease of use, shipping and installation.

Attached are a few photos and a video of the final testing. New images and video are being produced now and will be available soon. The device is available for events and installations and is presently being booked for future events.

Bill Burgess: 818.249.2363

Jeff Sharpe: 313.506.2258

Cube Test 001

Cube test 002

Cube test 003


Few have crafted deeply sensory experiences like Stanley Kubrick.

Systemic. Intentional. Visceral. 

It is the congruence of a mindset to look systemically and to work intentionally and viscerally that creates clarity of foundation for us as individuals, organizations, and communities.

Acropolis Church A few years before Stanley, as an ancient Greek walking through the Acropolis you were immersed in a time and place that connected you directly to culture, community, and your place in the world. The shape of the Greek temple columns, entasis, reinforced an absolute clarity of purpose and belief. The Medieval Church continued the same purposeful experience. Reinforcing intent, purpose, and story.

Everything was intentional. Everything was designed. 

As children, we innately know our inherent need to connect to the environment and design.

And yet…

Cube Classroom We work here, and we learn here.

Rivera Metropolis We know the root of this. Trapped in old models of perceived efficiencies, low-risk, maximization, and being right. We sleepwalk through our environments and have been short-circuited of our fundamental need for creativity. A need never more important than today.

We continue to invite people to do their very best in these old systems with old metrics, old language, and environments reflective of those models – cube farms and concrete block painted in the school colors. Asking them to work smarter. How many of us have said it? Or been told, just work smarter? Not possible handcuffed by old models.

We build ideation rooms instead of building cultures of ideas. The challenges of today require systemic thinking. As organizations, we struggle to understand our purpose, Our Why, and moreover, we struggle to craft experiences that reinforce our stories and give others the tools to tell their own stories. Understanding our purpose and experience are essential to foster deep human connections and are foundational to our creativity, curiosity, discovery, and compassion. The monumental changes in communities, the workplace, and school demand us to be systemic, intentional, and visceral.

Number 23 THE Bauhaus It wasn’t that long ago that we did work systemically and experientially. Everything designed around a sense of purpose, being, and community. The Bauhaus and the Eames did it by being Systemic, Intentional, and Visceral.

Congruence System Systemic. It is the congruence of purpose and experience that is fundamental to a systemic view. Everything is rooting in and springs from this purpose, the why. Product, metrics, organization, curriculum, storytelling, communications and environments.

Interactions Space Intentional. By having a broader view of design one driven by the crafting interactions and behaviors, beyond the object, and considering every touch reinforcing purpose, experience and story.

Danny Visceral. Qualitative. Answering how does each touch feel? Cinema provides the clues with deeply sensory experiences that are purposeful and reinforce story. It uses color, light, texture, movement, structure, sound, technology, all to reinforce a clarity of purpose and experience.  Something that is many times missing from design and architecture and when we consider our businesses and stakeholder experiences.

Danny and the Overlook Hotel. At its time, the Overlook Hotel was the largest set ever constructed. The sheen of the plastered walls, the light, carpet, the development of the Stedicam, all reinforcing story. All to immerse you into the labyrinth, the emptiness, of the hotel. And to scare your pants off.

When it works.

You have a visionary person that recognizes the ecology of an organization, its work, and its stakeholders. GS, call him GS, was brought into a legacy design firm whose CEO at the time saw a market struggling with the ambiguity of the changing times and demanded more thought leadership and a deeper contribution from its design partners. GS brought a systemic mindset to the organization. Not ‘fixing’ the work, but designed the whole. Metrics, organization, processes, work environments, language, behaviors, all driven by a clarity of purpose and intentional. The result was a highly collaborative, trans-disciplinary practice that began generating award-winning and recognized work, increased revenues and client base, exceptional recruiting, and a culture that reflected a clarity of purpose.

Logos Herman Miller and Patagonia reflect this same purposeful, systemic and intentional view. We know when it hasn’t worked too. GS left his firm and almost every advancement was undone resulting in significant loss in the market, recruiting, leadership and creativity. You must see it through, its not easy but the benefits have proven to be extraordinary.

Bacon Desk We all do it already. Francis Bacon surrounded by his inspiration, the tools we use. Whether we are designing a theater set, a production, a learning environment each one is rooted in a systemic view, intentional in the design of each engagement, and visceral in each experience.

Saltire D school

Beta HM These learning and work environments are begin to blur because are beginning to look in a much broader view considering purpose and experience. Asking what does it mean to nurture critical problem solving, to be truly collaborative, and to be a community. What happens when we consider design and the environment as an agile, dynamic tool unlocking our creativity as individuals and organizations.

We are covered in the shrouds and layers of old models, old language and behaviors, old metrics, thinking and acting in silos. When we grab hold and release these shrouds, shaping this congruence, we can craft a fundamental difference.

SIV + Unshrouded Systemic. Intentional. Visceral.

We are unshrouded. We are truly creative.

Translation: intentional and visceral

From concept to execution.

In each instance sound, light, texture, material, movement, proportion, scent, image, and audience contribution were crafted to sculpt a spatial and narrative experience. An experience that was both invitation and provocation, as well as, installation and architecture. It is the translation of the idea that is critical to its success, to it living beyond the sketch. Answering how does it touch you? What is the intended experience?

Included below is a series of conceptual sketches and images of the 2013 TEDxAustin set which illustrate the work from concept to execution.

It took an incredible team of dedicated designers to bring these ideas to fruition. Throughout these images you see the work of Chris Czichos, Eric Standridge, Bill Burgess, John Cook, Clay Odom, Brent Dixon, Justin Fields, Rachel Guest, and a host of volunteers.

Unstaged opposite    8474220658_be7bb1d143_b


IMG_4029 (1)    Passage Cube with blue frame 8462179215_7e0f3ac384_b-1

Act 2 - Confessional  Act 2 - Peek


TEDx_IMG_9432_small  TEDx_IMG_9478-crop_Small TEDx_IMG_9466_small  TEDx_IMG_9325-small TEDx_IMG_9375-small

ACT 2 - First Love  Clip #18

8463275458_79abff56a0_b  Clip #16

Clip #21 Clip #7





A Participatory Theater

The Theater of FearLess was intentionally designed – purposeful and deeply experiential.

Everything was intentional. Everything was designed.

Nothing is more purposeful than a design that shapes behaviors and interactions. Every decision around the making of the TEDxAustin set was to propel the audience from passive observer to a full participant – an actor in a play. Moving from a place of business as usual – just one more conference, albeit a special conference – to a place of being unveiled, vulnerable, and playful.

A Participatory Theater.

The moment the audience arrived they were unknowingly immersed into the story. A story sculpted with space, sound, light, texture, image, invitation and provocation to elicit ambiguity and uneasiness, surprise and delight, and play and joy.

A 3-Act Play

Questions abound.

Would you as the audience engage, would you share, tell a secret, a fear, remember a love…or play? This is part experience, part installation, part social experiment. Could space and design encourage someone to be vulnerable, vulnerable in public? Could it provoke sharing a confidence with a stranger? Or could it provide a safe place to express the innocence of childhood? Would it challenge our beliefs about sacred space?

Each question was answered resoundingly.

The audience jumped in. Some did fully. Others walked along the edge not willing to be exposed; this was expected. [Can we ever get out of our own way to find our creative voice? To release from our own certainties.  This is the challenge we all face as individuals and as organizations. Hopefully these experiences triggered something in each of us.]

The interactions of those who did engage constantly shifted the narrative as they built, contributed, shared, and ultimately changed the set and the experience for each of their fellow actors.

Doors opened, released into the Passage, the sound of rain washing over the space, light glistening, moving with wonder and curiosity the first group came to the Park, The Stage, and stopped in their tracks. How do we get there? [to our seats], ‘We can’t go on the stage…can we?’ Groups of people moved up onto the stage lawn passing through the set and stopping center stage. The stage is for everyone, far from sacred. Manipulated and delighted.


Lines of people wait to write their moments of love, memories past and future hopes. Some danced with machines. Many walked along touching and smelling a wall of landscape. Others shared the deepest of secrets and confidences across space to complete strangers. Some peeked through the walls of cotton as others played on a swing.

Letters of Love  Swing Upstage

It is when space has clarity of purpose, story, and it is fully visceral, atmospheric, that we can truly impact behaviors and drive interactions. This temporary set built with the simplest of materials and the intense thoughtfulness of experience clearly illustrated that design and the environment can connect us to our most fundamental needs of discovery, invention, play, and compassion – our sense of self and community.

This work could only be done by the commitment and unrelenting creativity of the design team. I want to acknowledge and thank each of them for all that they brought to the stage and what they continue to bring each day.

Bill Burgess

John Cook

Chris Czichos

Brent Dixon

Justin Field

Clay Odom

Graham Reynolds

Eric Standridge

Design is a verb. 2012 Annual Conference NAIS

Honored to have been part of the team to host the design workshop, Design Thinking: Unlocking the Key to Innovation at the 2012 Annual Conference for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Together with Laura Deisley, founder of Reimagine:ED and Director of 21st Century Learning at the The Lovett School, and Christian Long, VP of Cannon Design and Third Teacher Plus, we introduced Design Thinking as a mindset and systemic approach to critical problem-solving from the classroom to organizational strategic planning to an extraordinary group of participants. Through a series of exercises beginning with a 90 second collaborative design challenge to tell a story through a 12-frame storyboard, the teams inspired and brought vision and ingenuity to an incredible session.

Thank you to all who joined us.