Samuel Stubblefield – Digital Technology Architect

[quote style=”boxed”]I take off several months per year to make art. That time off (I call these months “divergent”) makes the remainder of the year (I call these months “convergent”) outrageously productive, not to mention inspired and informed.[/quote]

Samuel Stubblefield is an artist known for installations and inventions that connect people. His work has often revolved around architecture, digital technology and human factors. Stubblefield is often working side-by-side with partners focused in music, film tech and sciences. Allies include organizations like Amazon, Google, Microsoft Research, MIT, Centre Pompidou, and Vitra Design Museum. Stubblefield’s work is on every continent except Antarctica, where a piece is currently in the works.

Where did the idea for Place Lamp come from?

One of the founders of Google was wondering how to better connect with people in the office. The idea was created in response to his interest. Also, all of the lighting fixtures out there seem insanely disappointing. I thought I’d take a long weekend and fix that. : )

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Coffee, plan the day (I use Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Schedule), a few hours of work at home before I head to the studio. Studio time is mainly for connecting with people face-to-face (remarkably on-topic). Most of my real creative work is done afterhours, with good wine, good food, good music. I avoid email, Facebook and text message like The Plague –they’re basically kryptonite to productivity.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Just build them in their earliest iteration. Get some sort of MVP (Minimal Viable Product) out the door. Keep iterating on it.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

IoT (Internet of Things) is seen as gadgety. I don’t agree. I think that the digital-physical space is on course to change the world in ways that we can’t imagine… safe and clean transportation, affordable healthcare, massive changes in education and knowledge sharing, support for people with physical disabilities. I’m super excited about solving these problems.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I take off several months per year to make art. That time off (I call these months “divergent”) makes the remainder of the year (I call these months “convergent”) outrageously productive, not to mention inspired and informed.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Ha! Excellent question. As a kid I had to work for my family business, painting signs. I hated it. In retrospect, it was amazingly great for me. While other kids were watching cartoons and eating Fruit Loops, I was outside, working, learning about typography, color, form, construction and all sorts of things.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have dropped out of high school and left for a more interesting city sooner than I did.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Have more fun. Sex, friends, travel and art, in that order.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Please explain how. Get good mentors and love everyone. Okay, that is two. Getting good mentors has allowed me to adopt facets of people that I like. I recently had breakfast with a mentor who happens to take off one year in every seven. His example has lead me to have the courage to take off several months per year. Genuinely loving people isn’t something to do in order to make money, but it makes projects super fun. I mention it because it is a way to be a mentor. It is a two-way street.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I was way too wrapped up in my business a few years ago. I met someone that changed that. Find people that love and support you.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I hate to beat this drum too hard, but IoT has so much potential. It is going to make the smartphone movement look silly.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I only work about 4 hours per day. If you work in knowledge creation, so do you.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Much of my work involves sound. I love making music and sound in Ableton Live and Max/MSP. Ableton and Max help people make sound in new ways. The outcomes are unusual. I don’t like Apple products because everyone has them. I’d rather be incompatible than predictable. Needing to find work-arounds leads to interesting solutions that are often better. Don’t be boring!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m in the thick of Trickster Makes This World, but Lewis Hyde. I recommend it because it helps naturally disruptive people understand how to be disruptive with intentionality.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Stefan Sagmeister:
Brian Eno:
Gabe Newell and Valve (I don’t play video games, but their handbook is insane):
Jesus: Turns out he doesn’t have a website. He’s so Portland.


Samuel Stubblefield on Twitter: @samstubblefield
Email to Samuel Stubblefield: [email protected]