Behind the Blog: Jack Cheng

Behind the Blog: Jack Cheng

Anthony Nguyen
Apr 20, 2009

He makes us look. We've been avid readers of the inspiring blog of Jack Cheng, the guru of marketing creative process, art, and ideas, for quite some time. He's continued to write inspirational pieces that've stuck with us, driving us to follow in the pursuit of something more. His pieces have pushed us to deliver content that's different from every gadget blog out there. And similar to how we sought to make this magic happen since our establishment in 2007, Jack had done the same - dropping everything he had in pursuit of his own hopes and dreams. So, without further adieu, we proudly present to you the life behind the blog of Jack Cheng.

Tell us about your company/blog's focus, goals, aesthetic.
I write a blog at about turning ideas into productive output. I hope that by sharing observations and experiences about the creative process, I can give readers a new way of thinking about how to approach their life and work. I believe that with the world getting faster, more-connected and more distracted, simplicity and clarity are absolutely essential.

I used to work in advertising, as an art director/designer at one point and then a writer. I left my job almost 6 months ago to do freelance work and devote time to my own projects. It's been going remarkably well - a couple friends and I just launched Steepster, an idea born out of my own love for tea.

How would you describe your company/blog studio?
I mostly work out of my apartment, which is on the 4th floor of an old tenement building in Chinatown (Manhattan). The apartment itself was renovated before I moved in, but you can still sense the bones of the place. I have quite a bit of space for one person, albeit everything's divided into tiny rooms. My toilet's in a separate room from the shower, and although I have no closets, there are two 10' by 10' bedrooms, so I use one as a walk-in closet/office. I also spend a lot of time in cafes and sometimes a friend will have an extra desk in his office that I can use. One of my favorite places to work is Subtle Tea on 30th and Madison. They have this one long worktable, wi-fi and plenty of outlets, and not to mention a nice selection of teas.

In terms of layout and organization of your work space, what are specific details that you're particularly proud of?
I'm proud of what I've been able to eliminate -- the combination not having closets and not liking to work in cluttered environments has really forced me to cut down excess 'stuff'. I try to make sure the things I do keep around carries personal meaning. I have a framed Charley Harper print in my living room of a hummingbird chasing the tail of a fighter plane. It reminds me to stay nimble and determined, and that you don't need tons of high-tech equipment to fly with the big boys.

Even though the end product of most of my work lives on the computer screen, I spend a lot of time away from the computer -- sometimes I'll grab a notebook and sit down with a fresh pot of tea in my living room and do some sketching and writing. That way, when I'm back at my desk, I have a plan for what I need to do, instead of just surfing and wasting time.

What's on your desk at this moment?
Right now, three books I've been meaning to read. One about the history of the shipping cargo container, one about how Sesame Street was started, and another about the skunkworks team that built the stealth fighter. I'm the type who's always trying to find the patterns in things, and I have a hunch there's some common thread between the books, other than the fact that they came in the same Amazon box :)

Any tips or advice about office d├ęcor, layout or organization?
My personal take is that spaces shouldn't get in the way of whatever you're doing or making. First and foremost it's about finding creative, challenging, fulfilling work. Everything else should melt away, disappear when you're engaged in your work. Some of the people and companies I most admire started out in garages and basements. They were too focused on making something wonderful to be concerned with the space they were in. As long as it gave them room and the necessary tools to do what they set out to accomplish, it was perfect.

I'm a big fan of MUJI, especially for their notebooks. Other than that, I try to use interesting stories or people I look up to as a starting point. For instance, there's definitely a Luxo lamp in my future, not just because it's a stunning piece of design, but also because the that Pixar gave it. I also read a story recently about how the original team that built the Macintosh thought of themselves as a band of pirates, so a few days before they moved into a new building, they sewed together a skull-and-crossbones pirate flag and put a rainbow-colored Apple logo on it as the eyepatch. It'd be rad to have something like that hanging on the wall.

[Thank you so much, Jack!]

Other Behind the Blog features:

Curious about where your favorite blogger works? Send us your ideas for Behind the Blog and we'll hunt them down for you, and beg them to share.

Created with Sketch.