The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

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Jennifer Brook

Jennifer Brook

Interaction designer, book artist

Posted

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jennifer Brook, an interaction designer, book artist, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. My current work includes research, strategy, and design for media companies and startups. I lecture about design internationally at conferences like Webstock, Úll, UX London, and teach in the school of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons The New School of Design and in SVA's MFA in Interaction Design.

Since last summer I've been structuring my client work to allow time for slow travel and personal projects between engagements. I'm currently in Laos, traveling with my husband by motorbike around SE Asia.

What hardware do you use?

My passport, along with a debit card, is the minimum required hardware needed to make an adventure.

For this journey, we purchased a pair of used Taiwanese 110cc motorbikes in Hanoi for $350 each. Our bags attach to the bikes with a few bungee cords and rain covers. We keep an extra set of inner tubes, fuel filters, and a small toolkit under the seats.

My gear fits inside a 30-liter backpack, currently a black Mariposa Summit Pack from Rivendell Mountain Works. I bought it last summer and am still smitten with its simplicity and elegance. Everything inside my pack is organized inside its own bag; my clothes in a 6L dry compression sack, my toiletries and electronics in separate dry sacks of varying sizes, and everything else in MUJI zipper pouches or mesh sacks. I like to have different color bags so I can memorize by sight where everything is.

Traveling light means I do laundry every 2-3 days. As much as I love wearing cotton, wool, and linen, quick dry fabrics are ideal for traveling in places with humid climates and no clothing dryers. ExOfficio makes smart durable travel clothing that won't make you look like you are about to safari. Their Kizmet shirt is rocking my world. When laundry services aren't available, I wash my own clothes.

I always carry a headphone splitter for music sharing opportunities with strangers and a deck cards for roadside Gin Rummy tournaments.

I have a stash of Tender Bens and keep one in my daypack for mosquito-control emergencies. A pack of wet wipes is always in my pocket for everything from roadside peeing to pre-meal hand washing. Wet wipes top the list, after my passport, of items I can't travel without. I keep earplugs and an eye mask for overnight flights and midnight karaoke weddings happening outside the guesthouse. When confronted with an overstuffed or insufficient pillow, I'm grateful to have this inflatable one. Love GoToobs for leak-free shampoo containment.

I carry a pair of straps for attaching my sleeping bag to the outside of my pack and for impromptu laundry lines and curtain ties. This lock with cable is great for securing my pack to furniture, luggage racks, or my motorbike. I have a few gear ties for organizing cords, closing road snacks, and attaching things to other things and tiny s-clips for holding keys and hanging items from my bag or motorbike. I keep a travel thread kit for clothing repairs and foldable TSA-approved scissors for miscellaneous snipping, both from the lovely Kiosk. I carry Sugru mini packs for repairs, improvements, and augmentations of my kit.

I've been writing in urban gridded notebooks for the past three years, they're brilliant, perfectly sized, and feed my wanderlust when I'm not traveling. I usually hand-bind my own sketchbooks from several large sheets of BFK Rives. My mobile sketching unit consists of sixteen Winsor & Newton watercolor half pans I've rigged together, travel paint brushes, Staedtler sketch pens, Derwent watercolor pencils, and a roll of gold japanese masking tape.

In my electronics bag I have a Kindle Paperwhite, an old iPhone 5, a new 11" Macbook Air, a universal converter, the Mophie Juice Pack Plus, a NEX-7 camera with a 16mm lens, and an awkward pair of Sony noise-canceling ear buds purchased from an airport vending machine.

And what software?

Global Entry is magic. It not only speeds up getting back into the country, but allows you to zip through a special security line via TSA Pre, without subjecting yourself to the naked scanner, taking your shoes off, or opening your bags. Global Entry is currently vying with wet wipes for the #2 position on my necessary list.

My travel medical insurance is through Seven Corners.

When I'm working, I live in Keynote. It's where I organize and annotate hand sketches, build wireframes and prototypes, make demos, and present research findings. I love Keynotopia templates and their apps for making rapid on-device prototypes.

While traveling, Mailbox, Simplenote, 1Password, and Rdio sit in my dock. I use the XE app for calculating difficult conversions. The offline language apps on iPhone are incredible, I've been using Learn Vietnamese, Pleco, and a few others to learn basic phrases and navigate the daily activities of negotiating meals, guesthouses, and driving directions. TurboScan is great for making PDFs of visas, entry stamps, passports, and insurance documents for safe keeping in Dropbox.

I use Twitter less when I'm traveling and Instagram more. I love Foursquare for remembering places when I'm in cities and have access to wifi. It's not so great for documenting nameless (albeit delicious) street food vendors or during the multi-day wifi droughts we encounter while traveling through rural areas. I love finding new music while traveling and use SoundHound to tag and identify songs and artists; its instant Karaoke feature has untapped potential.

What would be your dream setup?

We bought our motorcycles on a whim so we picked up whatever gear we could find in Hanoi, which is no small feat, considering full-face helmets and protective gear are almost unheard of in Vietnam. So I'm looking forward to upgrading the style and fit of my riding gear when I'm back in the States.

I'd also like a small Trans-Pacific subterranean pneumatic tube that would speedily deliver a friend and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup when I'm feeling a bit homesick.