The Workspace Series: Pokilani’s Setup

The Workspace Interview Series: Pokilani's Setup

Welcome to the Workspace Series—glimpses into the offices, desks, and other work and play environments of our Forum members and the TOM BIHN crew.

Forum name: Pokilani

What do you do? (If it’s your professional workspace, what’s your job; if it’s your hobby workspace, what’s your hobby?)

I work at a large university where I mostly advise undergraduate students. I also get to teach a few classes here and there (large lectures, seminars, classes targeted to first-year students) and sometimes engage in research around teaching and learning.


What sorts of things went into the planning of your workspace?

Since I see students all day long about 4 days a week, I like my office to be a calming and welcoming space. Our building is very old and ugly. It also doesn’t smell particularly nice. In other words, it’s not particularly welcoming.

When I started working here in 2007 I had an old steel desk from the 1950s-60s, which was neither conducive to using a computer, nor a good set-up for interacting with students. There were many times  I’d struggle to open one of the desk drawers and slam it into my knees, or worse, the legs of my students.

A student I knew well sat in my office one day and said, “Your office is a dump…. This office is so not you.” She was right. I decided I needed to do something about it.

Fortunately, my department had promised me a new desk and filing cabinet when I first started so took action. I didn’t want any old desk, though. I really wanted to make sure that it was a good space for working with students, while still functional for all the computer work I do. I didn’t want a barrier between me and my students so I opted for an L-shape desk that bubbled out and was open at one end, giving a nice space for my students and me to have a conversation, review things on a computer, and still have space to write up notes from our meeting.

My family has strong ties to Hawaii, where my mother was born and raised, so I wanted the rest of my office to reflect that spirit with lots of botanical art and crafts. I chose colors that remind me of the sand, ocean, lush plant life, and mountains.


I’m also lucky to have some students contribute little things like dragonflies (which remind me of my mom), artwork created by their kids, a few magnets of prominent psychologists whose work we covered in one of the classes I teach (this student knew me well enough to leave out Freud!), and an orchid plant that endures just like the student who gifted it—seriously, it keeps blooming!

What are some of the important items/tools in or aspects of your workspace?

As I mentioned previously, my desk is really critical to the work I do. Even with my recently added Varidesk (that big white thing one of my computers sits on), my desk is spacious. I like to spread out, but I also want to make sure students know there is room at the table for them.

I have two computers set up in my office. My main computer connects me to all the systems I need to do my work. I use it to access confidential student information, do email, check my calendar, do my administrative work, and keep everything related to my teaching. My second computer is one I share with my students. This is where we get to work together without my worrying about students having access to confidential information. You might call it being a little possessive, but it works for me.

Challenging conversations are not uncommon in my office. Boxes of tissues are always on hand. Sometimes eyes need to wander away from me, or students need to warm up to tackle a tough conversation. That’s where art on the walls, silly items on my desk and bookshelf (like trophies won by my now-defunct bowling team, “Advice to Spare”), pictures of my dog (some cute, some funny), or stress toys can be helpful in getting students into a more comfortable state. I also have a wind chime that hangs from the ceiling in front of my window for a bit of background noise. Air circulates from a venting system just below it, allowing it to give off the slightest tinkling of the delicate shells, while drowning out a bit of the traffic noise outside my window.

For the most part, students just want to feel welcomed. In my mind, that involves both wanting to be known, as well as wanting to know others. I like to think I reveal a little of myself in my office. In that respect, I try to make my office feel a little like home.


Forum Spotlight: Five Questions for Mausermama

Forum Spotlight: Five Questions for Mausermama

This interview is part of a series featuring members of the TOM BIHN Forum.

Forum Name: Mausermama

Profession: Homeschool mom, Barton Reading Tutor for Dyslexia, Writing Coach, English Lit teacher, and occasional knitting and spinning instructor.

Location: Near St. Augustine, Florida

Forum member since: 6/16/2012

Favorite TOM BIHN bag: The Maker’s Bag currently. It’s shiny, new, and lined in Ultraviolet! It hauls my knitting and EDC [everyday carry] things in high style, and its cross body orientation earns it major bonus points! Additionally, I’ve found the Freudian Slip to be the perfect accessory to keep me organized, both in my knitting and in my classroom work!



Q: What role does reading and writing play in your life?

A: Reading—and by extension writing—have always from my furthest memories been immensely important to me.

I was a bit of an “odd duck” growing up in the small farm town of Lindsborg, Kansas. As a result, my closest friends became the characters I found in my local library. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of her early life, the Hardy Boys’ escapades of solving crimes, and later, Judy Blume’s narratives of other “odd duck” teenage girls were my companions. I’d write about what I was reading in my daily diary.

Later, as a first generation college student, I earned my B.A. in English from the University of Kansas and moved out and into the world. Unable to find work directly related to my degree, I entered the insurance world as an underwriter.

Eventually I happily found my way back to my reading and writing roots when I began to homeschool my first born in kindergarten. He’s now in his senior year of high school and will be following in his mother’s footsteps as he prepares to attend university and double major in English and Business in the fall.

I now continue homeschooling while simultaneously teaching literature and composition classes to local homeschooled students and tutoring students in reading and writing. While my journey has been a long and circuitous one to grasp ahold of my interests, I feel I am finally there at the ripe old age of “middling something.”

Q: Is there anything on your to-read list that you’re particularly excited about?

A: My to-read list extends beyond my life span, I’m afraid. Right now I’m focusing on enjoying all the classics that I never had the opportunity to read back in university.

Currently I’m reading Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady, as well as Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo very soon as well. I rarely read just one book at a time. I’m also navigating the novels I’m teaching in my classes now, currently The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Perhaps the book I’m most excited to start on, though, is To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. I’ve never read it, only her essays like A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas. To keep me accountable for all these masterpieces, I’ve joined a classic book club in my community. When it’s my turn to host, I’m planning on assigning the Woolf book to all the participants.


Q: As a teacher, can you describe your philosophy about education/learning?

A: From my earliest days as a homeschool mom to little ones, I was very conscious to never talk down to my children. I really did see them as creative, complete human beings who were instilled with great potential. That means that I listened and paused (or at least tried to) before I imposed my thoughts over theirs.

Rather than use textbooks, I incorporated a “living books” approach. We read books, lots of books about all different topics. We ordered our study of history using a classical approach, and studied it as a four year cycle, repeated three times over the course of their collective compulsory education. We focused on texts that reflected the period by reading ones that were either written during the period we studied, or were at least novels that featured the periods we were studying. We talked about books all the time. We went to museums. We performed experiments. We asked questions. We played.

I think the secret to raising my own kiddos, outside of prayer, was using the Socratic Method, the art of the question, to underscore almost everything we did. And being willing to jump off the planned scope and sequence didn’t hurt, either.

Today I have three teenagers who have chosen individually to study the art of politics by reading Machiavelli and paying attention to current political campaigning, to learn how to identify logical fallacies, to code apps in Java, to study everything related to the lives of wolves, and to read the Poetic Edda while learning how to write Norse runes. None of these excepting the logical fallacies were planned or instigated by me. Instead, it was a self-directed desire to explore an interest that drove each of them to study these topics. They have embraced this way of life because they’ve never found learning to be rote, redundant, or ridiculous. I believe it will be a life-long habit for them.

Q: Has anything you’ve read inspired travels you’ve taken?

A: In my freshman year at college I enrolled in a poetry survey course. It was the first time I discovered John Keats’ poems, and I fell in love.

When my senior year arrived, I decided to apply to study abroad and was accepted. Once in London, I determined to take myself to visit Keats’ home. It was a somewhat daunting adventure for this small town gal (this was well before the Internet and Google Maps), but I gamely hopped the Tube, and I think there was a bus jaunt in there as well, to Hampstead Heath.

I wandered around for quite a bit until I finally stumbled upon the house. I remember; I was newly nineteen. When I saw the tree where he was inspired to write “Ode to a Nightingale,” I was hushed, reverent. I felt goosebumps. What can I say? I was a silly, romantic teenager, but it left a lasting impression on me.

On my walk back I found a small alley garage that had been set up as a tea shop, plopped down, and savored a lovely cuppa while I read from the tiny volume of poems I’d purchased at the museum gift shop.


Q: What fiber arts projects do you have going, and what’s the most complicated thing you’ve ever made?

A: While I learned to crochet first, I started knitting almost fifteen years ago and never looked back. Of all the possible knitting projects, lace shawls are my favorite. When I work from a complicated knit chart, it releases tension that I don’t even realize I am holding on to. Knitting is very centering to me. My ideal project is one that uses an interesting yarn, either by color or fiber composition and a complicated chart.

Currently I’m working on a mystery knit-along (MKAL) to commemorate the final season of Downton Abbey. It’s eventually going to turn into a lace shawl of some variety, but I have no inkling of what that may be. There are eight clues to be released, each one coinciding with an episode. I’m five clues in so far, and it’s been a lot of fun to knit.

My other projects running right now include a lace scarf knitted from yarn that I picked up when my hubby and I traveled to Scotland. The yarn comes from an heirloom breed of sheep found only on the island of St. Kilda’s. And lastly, I’ve got a funky scarf/shawl-like thing I’m knitting from ancient stash yarn. It’s mindless, easy work and I will work on it as I read, since it’s easy to do without looking at my hands.

In addition to knitting, I also spin. I enjoy teaching occasional spinning classes at a local yarn shop. While I have two wheels (one for travel and one to stay home), I find I actually prefer to spin on spindles. They are very portable, and I love tucking them into a Size 2 Travel Stuff Sack along with some fiber. I’m always amazed by how much spinning I can accomplish when I’m out and about. Spinning in this manner makes me feel connected to the thread of humanity stretching back into prehistory.

The most complicated knitting project I’ve done to date is write a pattern for a lace shawl. I’m not frequently designing patterns for the general public, so this one, Hester’s Hope Shawl, which is found in the book What (Else) Would Madame Defarge Knit?, really stretched my skills a little bit. I’m very pleased with the result.

It was fascinating to me to learn the process involved in designing a shawl pattern for publication. On top of that, I needed to write a literary essay to accompany the pattern, which made it even more challenging. I would love to have the opportunity to design again, but I’m afraid I’m just a little too busy for that to happen just at the moment.

Bonus question: road trip, flight, or cruise?

A: Easy! Road trip! When I’m a passenger, I have tons of extra knitting time, and if I’m driving, I get to see America slide past me! Win/win!


The Workspaces Series: sujo’s Setup

Welcome to the Workspace Series—glimpses into the offices, desks, and other work and play environments of our Forum members and the TOM BIHN crew.

Forum name: sujo

What do you do? (If it’s your professional workspace, what’s your job; if it’s your hobby workspace, what’s your hobby?)

I am a proposal specialist for a government contractor. I manage small proposals and provide support to larger proposals, such as writing and coordinating. In October, my office space closed, so I now work remotely. I travel several times a year for work, mainly to my company’s offices in Virginia and Maryland. Those trips can be from a week to two months, depending on the proposal.

What sorts of things went into the planning of your workspace?

I live in a small one-bedroom apartment with my husband, which makes space for an office difficult. We had to decide on a location that would not be high-traffic and would be comfortable enough to work all day. We found a small desk at World Market that fit nicely in a corner of the living room and with enough surface space to hold my 17-inch Apple Cinema Display, Dell laptop on a docking station, full-size Apple keyboard, and Logitech wireless mouse. It’s a two-tier set up with monitor and docking station on the top level and keyboard and mouse on the bottom. Brian, my Tom Bihn Brain Bag, sits beside me, holding pens, notebooks and other work necessities. We recently added a four-drawer cabinet to help keep my work surface clean.

The chair is wood. I sit on a cushion with another cushion for a backrest. It doesn’t roll well on carpet, but once I get it at a comfortable distance from the desk, I need only turn left or right to get in/out of the space. I use my portable travel stool to rest my feet and keep them at a comfortable height (because I’m short).

To some, the space may look cramped but it is actually very comfortable. The area is well lit with natural light, out of the way, and easy to access. The keyboard/desktop surface is on rails, so I can push it in when not in use and pull it out to work. The desktop comes to me. I was very glad the docking station fit because it is a great use of space as it gives me a small area to store notepads and such underneath the laptop. It also allows me to open the laptop for use as a second monitor, if needed.

Because I mainly write, read, and edit, working remotely was not a difficult transition. I very seldom print anything anymore, so a small desk space works fine. I also seem to get more work done now than I did in the office. Less distractions, I guess.


What are some of the important items/tools in or aspects of your workspace? 

My most important tool is Brian, my trusty Brain Bag companion. Brian sits beside me throughout each work day, holding all my work-related items (stored in the back compartment). The main item I use is an Olive Small Double Organizer Pouch, attached to the o-ring with a Solar 8-inch Key Strap. This holds two USB drives to store work documents and such, my iPhone 4S charger, and cleaning clothes for my glasses and phone. I use this pouch the most. Next comes the Freudian Slip. It holds my small Moleskine notebook, assorted colors of G-2 pens and highlighters, the few paper documents I need, an optical drive (as my laptop does not write CDs), lip balm, gum, spare glasses, and my Cisco softphone headphones. I use a Wasabi 3D Fabric Organizer Cube to hold my computer charger and spare wireless mouse. The item I use least is a Conifer Small Cordura Organizer Pouch holding a Cayenne Mini Organizer Pouch for first aid, mirror, screen wipes, magnifying glass, and other items. This is attached to the same o-ring with an Iberian 8-inch Key Strap. A Vertical 4Z Cache is in the back of the same compartment.

The front compartment holds my Black/Ultraviolet Side Effect and non-work items. There’s room for a packing cube of clothes when I use Brian as my only bag on work trips less than a week.

On my desk, I have items to help with morale. My screen saver is photo of someone kayaking in a crystal-clear rock garden. Under my monitor, Wilson (from Castaway) and Dory (from Finding Nemo) stand ever vigilant, ready to make me smile when I need it. Dory also reminds me to “Just keep swimming.” There’s also a VW microbus, in case I need to make a quick escape!


The Workspaces Series: Rocks’ Setup

Welcome to the Workspace Series—glimpses into the offices, desks, and other work and play environments of our Forum members and the TOM BIHN crew.

Forum name: Rocks

My work space is backstage in a renowned theater in Minneapolis. My tools are light (headlamp to see in the dark), safety pins, black gaff tape for repairs when there’s no time for needle and thread, and my hands.

The blue light and black painted stairway will be familiar to anyone who works backstage. It’s kind of a shadowy world.


The Workspaces Series: adalangdon’s Setup

Welcome to the Workspace Series—glimpses into the offices, desks, and other work and play environments of our Forum members and the TOM BIHN crew.

Forum name: adalangdon

What do you do? (If it’s your professional workspace, what’s your job; if it’s your hobby workspace, what’s your hobby?)

I’m currently a student. By the time this gets published, I’ll be working as a trainee lawyer. This area, which is part of my bedroom, serves as both a hobby and professional workspace for myself and my partner. My hobbies are drawing and fountain pen collecting (plus a bit of amateur nib fixing on the side); neither need a dedicated work space at the moment so I’m happy to do both at the same desk.

What sorts of things went into the planning of your workspace?

Minimal planning, actually! My partner and I have a “dorm room” mentality when it comes to work—we like working in our room, mainly out of habit. We decided that the desks should be located near the sliding door to our balcony (located on the right hand side in the photo), but everything else was added when the need or desire arose; e.g., the IKEA bookshelf was only added 6 months ago. (Neither of us enjoy planning anything related to interior … so we have a pretty relaxed approach.)


What are some of the important items/tools in or aspects of your workspace? 

Desk: My teak desk (the one on the left) was purchased by my mother in the 1970s and has a nice vintage look. It does a lot of organizing for me, though it could definitely do with a tiny spring-cleaning—I have a few books shelved there since college that I no longer read. I love the fact that it has slots for books, a small central drawer for important items like bank tokens, and lots of space to put various organizers. And everything is within easy reach!

IKEA bookshelf: This no-frills shelf holds all the law reference books currently in use, and some books on drawing. It’s a god-send because our room doesn’t have dedicated book storage space, and without it my partner would have a moat of books around his desk.

My blue cloth bucket: At the extreme right of this picture is a blue cloth bucket with a collapsible metal frame containing all my art supplies—charcoal, pencils, drawing paper, markers. It’s a great replacement for the old cardboard box that I used to use for supplies, as it’s easy to transport and extremely sturdy.

Organizers: I have a set of white lidded containers that I use to store hair accessories and other stuff that’s not used as often, so that dust is kept out. I also repurpose containers as storage. There’s a Crabtree & Evelyn biscuit tin that holds pen refills and the black box is an old and very sturdy gift box that now holds ink bottles. You can also see a TOM BIHN Deluxe Spiff Kit hanging on the right. It’s used exclusively for fountain pen fixing stuff (loupes, grit paper, bulb syringe, forceps, etc.) and it’s been perfect for that purpose.


The Workspaces Series: Ilkyway’s Setup

Welcome to the Workspace Series—glimpses into the offices, desks, and other work and play environments of our Forum members and the TOM BIHN crew.

Forum name: Ilkyway

Okay, here comes my scary messy workspace.

I am in the office part (the professional side) of my husband’s farm. For that, my laptop, the scanner, a planner and a pen are most essential. (Oh, and a printer of course…)


This is my desk at home—I worked the last three quarters of the year from home. My desk at work looks similar on the tech side: two screens, two keyboards, one scanner—but no personal pictures or drawings whatsoever. It looks a bit on the boring side, but since it is where customers come… it is supposed to be so.

Oh, forgot: one hobby of mine is taking pictures. Here it only “shows” as all the photographs on that wall are by me—except the black and white one that has me in it 😉



Introducing the Workspace Series: tebnewyork’s Setup

What’s in your bag right now? What about inside your fridge? Or how about on your desk?

If you do an internet search using any of those questions, you’ll come up with hundreds—if not thousands—of lists, photos, videos. There are probably lots of reasons why this sort of thing is so popular, but what it comes down to is that  looking into someone’s everyday spaces allows you to see a glimpse of their lives.

Members of the TOM BIHN Crew and Forum inhabit a multitude of work—and play—spaces, and over the next few weeks we’ll showcase some of them. See where we work, what we do, and the items and designs we find indispensable in our professional, personal, and creative lives.

Kicking things off: tebnewyork’s setup

Forum name: tebnewyork

What do you do? (If it’s your professional workspace, what’s your job; if it’s your hobby workspace, what’s your hobby?)

I’m Chief Investment Officer at an internet startup that does Investment Management (Robo Advisor if you’ve heard the term).

What sorts of things went into the planning of your workspace?

Screen real estate but not just for work; I’m an avid photographer.

What are some important tools in your workspace? 

With the internet and nature of my work being online with my team all day (I work remotely), it is really just having good connectivity and again—screen real estate. The scanner comes in handy sometimes. I also like to keep up on news and markets during the day so TV is important. My desk right how is super clean because I’m moving and was selling the apartment. I won’t have my new setup until mid January.


Forum Spotlight: Five Questions for nukediver

This is part of a series of short interviews with individual members of the Forum.

Forum name: nukediver
Profession: Government Health Physicist
Location: Metuchen, New Jersey
Forum member since: 4/23/11
Favorite Tom Bihn bag: This is easy—the Synapse 19. I love it so much I have, um, a few in different colors. It is so versatile that it meets my needs almost every day. It’s small enough that I can carry it in New York City museums without being asked to check it. It’s big enough to function as my EDC [Everyday Carry], even if I’m carrying my laptop (an 11” MacBook Air). It’s great to use as a personal item when I travel with my Aeronaut 45. It’s perfect for the beach. It works really well for short hikes. Need I go on?

Q: Can you tell us the story behind your forum name?
A: I’ve spent my whole career making sure people don’t do stupid things with radioactive materials, and  making sure problems get cleaned up if things do go wrong, hence the “nuke” part. I’ve also been a scuba diver for the same amount of time, ergo the “diver” part. Just so we’re clear, I have never combined the two activities, and have no desire to do so. Ever. Although that didn’t stop the Tom Bihn staff from creating some of the most awesome box art ever!TB Box-2

Q: Not that it would likely matter that much, but in the event of a nuclear crisis, do you have a bug-out bag?  What’s in it?
A: That would depend on how you define “nuclear crisis.” I suppose that for most people that would mean something horrific, like an atomic bomb. I have no bug-out bag for that because what would be the point? But then again, the odds of that happening are pretty slim.

Now, there are other mini “nuclear crises” that could happen, and for that I am prepared. I often have my Black/Iberian Synapse 25 completely set up for work since I’m always on call. I’ll usually carry the following:

  • a set of procedures (and forms, always with the forms) for responding to an event involving radioactive materials
  • emergency contact number who’s who list for New Jersey government (a paper backup for my electronic versions)
  • personal radiation monitor
  • handheld radiation detector
  • personal dosimetry (to measure any radiation dose I might receive)
  • toiletries in a Size 2 Iberian Travel Stuff Sack (toothbrush, deodorant, etc.)
  • flashlight
  • chargers and battery backup for personal and work phones
  • pens, binder clips, post-it notes in a Small Double Organizer Pouch
  • clipboard
  • 2 protein bars and some beef jerky
  • a 1-litre bottle of water

I also have a separate duffle bag that has my work boots (steel-toed, of course), work jacket, hard hat, safety vest, safety glasses, several types of gloves, and a change of clothes in it.

Q: Besides TB bags, do you have any collections? Can you talk about one or two of them?
A: It’s not a true curated collection, but my house looks like a library because I have so many books. The “collection” isn’t limited to just a few genres, either. You’ll find books on everything from opera to baseball to sharks to physics. I cannot walk past a bookstore without going inside. And maybe making a purchase. For me, there is something very soothing about a physical book—its heft, its smell, the sensation of movement through time as the pages are turned while I read…all of it together evokes such a visceral response in me.

Q: What are some of the dive trips you would most like to take?
A: Although a little earlier I said I’d never mix work with diving, I would like to dive Bikini Atoll. Bikini was one of the many sites of US atomic bomb testing in the 1940s and 1950s. It boasts the only place in the world where you can dive on an aircraft carrier (it was intentionally sunk during a bomb blast). Because the atoll has remained undisturbed, it now hosts a plethora of sharks, game fish, and beautiful coral. Diving there is offered sporadically due to its location, and in a very limited fashion (~10 divers per week).

A more realistically achievable destination would have to be the Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. This place is known for its weird, tiny creatures in the muck. It’s really a special interest kind of place, and attracts loads of macro photographers.

Last but not least would have to be a cage dive off the coast of South Africa to see a great white shark. No one has ever accused me of being completely sane.

Q: What is a moment that was life-changing for you?
A: The space race during the 1960s was life-changing for me. As a young girl, I became obsessed with all things space-related. I wanted to be an astronaut in the worst way. Unfortunately for me, it being the late ‘60s – early ‘70s, that couldn’t happen. In the early days, astronauts were almost always Air Force pilots. I had two strikes against me—I was (still am) very nearsighted, and I was (and still am) a girl. The Air Force wanted nothing to do with either one. Instead, I focused on reading every science fiction book I could get my hands on and I ended up studying science in college and graduate school.

My other minor obsession was the TV show The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. We know how that turned out for me.

SA on dock

Interviews with Tom

Interviews with Tom | TOM BIHN

Collected here are links to interviews with Tom Bihn.

From The Setup:

“One of the things I appreciate most about our company is that a lot of the design process is happening in the factory — there’s a beautiful co-evolution between design and manufacturing that you don’t get when the design process is physically removed from the build process.”

Read the full interview.

From Modestics’ Meet the Maker series:

“We listen carefully for what resonates or inspires us: I’ve got more design ideas than I have time to make real. And I like that.”

Read the full interview.

From Haute Americana:

“My father was an airline pilot, so I have almost no early memories that do not involve travel.”

Read the full interview.

Forum Spotlight: Five Questions for Jeff A


This is part of a series of short interviews with individual members of the Forum.

Forum name: Jeff A
Profession: Corporate User Interface Designer, Graphic/Web Design Freelancer
Location: Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Forum member since: October, 2013
Favorite TB bag: Synapse 25, my jack-of-all-trades bag

Q: What are your design philosophies?

A: I’m a big fan of creating a simple canvas to direct the eye towards what is needed on a website, logo, or poster.

As far as styles go, I like the current flat design look but with a few tweaks, like adding subtle shadows and shading to create some depth, which I feel is very important. I’m a huge fan of white space because the content of a website or printed design has to be given the chance to breathe somewhat, and not feel all crammed together. The use of large photos these days is great but the photo must tie back to the overall message or call to action that the designer is trying to convey; otherwise, it creates a visual disconnect with the message.

Two more things: I love the use of custom icons and natural textures for backgrounds. Adding textures to an element or subject that does not normally have textures can be very cool in my opinion.

Q: You’re currently involved with a start-up company, McCaffrey Audio. How did you get involved, and what has it been like to watch the company grow from the ground up?

A: McCaffrey Audio creates and manufactures high-end/boutique guitar pedals, and is based out of Wausau, Wisconsin. Ryan McCaffrey started building guitar pedals about three years ago in his basement as a hobby while he worked his main job as a firefighter.

Back in July of 2014, he came across me on LinkedIn when he was looking for a designer to help with some new guitar pedal layouts. When he saw my name he remembered that he sold me a guitar about 5 years ago through an online guitar forum called The Gear Page. I live about an hour from him so we met halfway, exchanged money and a guitar, and then went about our lives. Every so often we’d say hi because we both played in rock cover bands and were always buying or trying new guitar gear. Anyway, this past summer he noticed that I’m a graphic and web designer so he gave me a call to discuss the new guitar pedal. I was immediately interested at the thought of combining two of my favorite things: guitars and graphics!

By the fall I was firmly entrenched as Ryan’s right-hand man at McCaffrey Audio. We went through a company rebranding in November, as well as redesigning and re-releasing our three flagship pedals. We currently have around twelve guitar pedals in various stages of prototyping, manufacturing, and design—and we hope to release the next one this spring. Along with all things graphic and web-related, I also take on some of our artist endorsement deals, as well as product development. Ryan will come up with a new guitar pedal idea, create and ship the prototype to our testers, who provide feedback on the next prototype. Let me tell you, as a guitar gear junkie this is pure gold, haha! It’s so amazing to create something and see it come to fruition, plugged into a guitar amp and played by some of the biggest guitar names in music, both in live bands and studio session work.

We now have manufacturing set up in three different states with many U.S. and international dealers coming on board. We attended the annual winter NAMM show in Anaheim a few weeks ago and really made an impression on dealers/retailers and new artists.

The experience has been pure exhilaration, going from designing one pedal back in the summer to full production, attending trade shows and really getting the company off the ground. Late last year Ryan went all in on his company so he’s doing it full-time, which is very impressive! He believes in his product and his business plan, and it’s great to see everything happen so fast.


Q: What are some of your other professional and leisure interests? Do you see points of intersection amongst them?

A: My professional interests will probably come as no shock: I love all things graphic/web-related, new design trends, color schemes, and web technologies. Along with that, I’m involved in user interface/user experience, project management and organization—branding and business social media all tie into those things as well.

My love of organizing graphical interfaces and project management has led me to organize the clutter around me when it comes to everyday household items and my travel needs. Of course, this led me to Tom Bihn. I love Tom’s clean and simple but elegant design patterns and thought process, as well as the great color choices and amazing fabrics that are used in his bags and accessories. Everything has its place—the organization in my Synapse 25 is bar none, as well as my Co-Pilot and Western Flyer. I’ve had my Synapse 25 for two years this coming May and I’m still finding new ways to pack it. Feels like a new bag every time. The ability to keep adding on to our Tom Bihn bags is so important to me, whether through the various accessories or the expansive color options and coordination. I’m hoping someday to pick up an Aeronaut 45 for extended travel and longer trips, along with the suite of packing cubes!

Playing guitar is still fun for me, though recently it’s mostly a business thing, haha! I also love baking desserts: everything from cheesecakes to cream puffs, and pies to crepes. The more complicated the better! I love camping and have been doing that my whole life so I’m getting my girlfriend, Julie, into it, which is a lot of fun! Wisconsin is a beautiful state and my TOM BIHN bags love being outdoors. Of course family is a huge part of my life, as well.

Q: Speaking of family, between you and Julie, you have six kids. How do you balance the competing demands of work, your other hobbies, and family?

A: Honestly, it’s truly amazing! We have two sixth graders, a high school freshman, a sophomore, a senior, and a college freshman. Needless to say, we’re pretty busy with their school schedules and extracurricular activities, haha! As far as balance goes, it all comes down to a simple concept for me: passion. Everything that I’ve mentioned above I have a deep passion for so whatever needs focus at any given time gets elevated to my number one thing to work on or help out with. Be it running kids around for their activities, designing a new logo or planning a getaway weekend, passion creates my focus which I find is very instrumental to how I structure my life.

Q: What are your top three must-go travel destinations?

A: The first one is easy as I’ll be going there in early March: Cozumel, Mexico. There’s a big group of us going there for my parents’ 50th anniversary celebration! My parents have been going to Mexico for years so we figured it was time for us to enjoy it with them.

The second destination is a tourist thing: some type of European tour to see the various countries, figure out our likes and dislikes, then go back to our favorite cities and countries at a later date to really immerse ourselves. I have strong family ties to a bunch of European countries so I just need to go there and experience part of my heritage.

Third on my list would be a 2+ week adventure in New Zealand and Australia. That may overtake number two on the list!

I’m adding a fourth and that would be Hawaii. I’ve known many people who’ve spent considerable time there so once again I would love to experience what they love about Hawaii.


News Briefs

Early reviews of the Luminary 12 / 15 from the Forum community are in. See L15 reviews by logan_g, G42, Lia, anna2222, Quiltmama, and L12 reviews by marbenais, awurrlu and L12/L15 comparison reviews by Cristina, aedifica, bartleby.

The new Luminary 12 and Luminary 15 backpacks + bags in 210d ballistic nylon will be up for pre-order on 02/26. Details here.

We posted a very early heads-up on our March 5th, 2019 (roughly 6%) price increase in the Forums along with news of Shop Bags in 210d ballistic nylon.

Subscribe: Blog Posts

You’ll receive an email every time we publish a new blog post. That’s about 3-4 times a week.

Recommended Posts