Matt Lumpkin, Product Designer at Tidepool.org


Cool Tools Show 230: Matt Lumpkin

Our guest this week is Matt Lumpkin. Matt is a restlessly creative person. His career has been focused on User Experience design and digital product strategy. But three years ago, his daughter’s diagnosis with type 1 diabetes sent him down the path of questioning why med tech design was so poor. (Hint: it’s designed for the wrong stakeholders with the wrong incentives). Matt maintains an art practice in photography, painting and wood sculpture. He’s slowly solving all the design problems in the home he shares with his wife and three daughters by crafting wooden furniture with hand tools on his back patio. He’s a also product designer at Tidepool.org. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @mattlumpkin.

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Show notes:

Pocket Piano (from Critter & Guitari)
This is a synthesizer. It’s called a Pocket Piano from this little boutique shop called Critter & Guitari. They make all kinds of very simple, you might say quirky, I would say deceptively simple, instruments that often get mistaken for toys. Of all the synths I own, this one feels most like an acoustic instrument that I have muscle memory with, that I can play without thinking. It is about eight inches by three inches by one-and-a-half inches. So about half the size of a computer keyboard. It’s just this handheld little box that can make all these lovely sounds. You can put it on the couch. Whenever you’re bored, you can grab it and just fiddle with it. For years, I was so busy with kids and work and everything that I was trying to find places for music to fit in my life. I would bring it into the bath time, when I would give my kids a bath and I would play these crazy synth tunes with them while I was there to their either enjoyment or frustration, depending on the child. Get the one with midi and get the newest one you can, because the newest one’s have a latch feature which lets you set the arpeggiator running while you tweak knobs with both hands. You can hear it making most of the sounds on this song from my 2014 electronic album. https://open.spotify.com/track/0LCmkAHQSxh7VmneugfVBY?si=9nBnssZATUeQm-DJwIF79w

Leather Strop
I live in Pasadena. I have a back patio space that I can work in. So I don’t have a lot of room for a lot of power tools. Pragmatically, I got started with woodworking in hand tools and the thing that you find with hand tools is that they are only as fun to use as you can keep them sharp. This is where a lot of folks get stuck with hand tool woodworking. It’s the practice of sharpening chisels and plain blades and that kind of thing, it really is a practice and it takes a little bit of time to get better at it. So if you’re always using dull tools and they just get duller as you use them, it’s a pretty miserable experience. So the leather strop is a tool that I got clued into about two years into woodworking. You can make your own or order it from Amazon. This is just a piece of leather with aluminum oxide compound rubbed into it. It makes hand tool woodworking with razor sharp tools much much less burdensome. For touching up knife and hand tool edges between sharpening — you can strop 10-15 times before going back to sharpening stones. What that means is that you can actually keep your tools really, really sharp without having to do nearly as much work to do so.

Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 (Manual focus lenses adapted to digital Cameras)
I’m shooting a Fujifilm X Pro-1, but I can use an adapter to put almost any lens that I want onto that camera. I just got a manual focus lens for the first time ever. It’s a Voigtlander 40mm f1.4. I had always thought shooting manual sounds like you’re stepping backwards, like “We have auto focus why should we shouldn’t we use it?” But once you start shooting this way, you notice all these advantages. Like shooting kids, for example, I often am trying to get a shot with my kids when we’re out walking. If you’re shooting auto focus, you have to press the button down halfway, wait for it the auto-focus, check, take the shot. You have to keep doing that focus dance and then recomposing. Whereas with this, I focus once, I get it right and then I just work on waiting for the right moment. So it really has changed the way that I shoot. The ergonomics on these lenses actually make manual shooting fun and possible. This recent purchase has opened up a whole new pallette for my street shooting.

LOOP — An open source, DIY Artificial Pancreas System for people with Type 1 Diabetes.
My youngest of three daughters was diagnosed with Type 1 about three years ago. To understand why this is a significant tool, you’d understand how what living with Type 1 is like. You’re essentially playing a slow motion game of pong with your blood sugar and in that light, if you eat carbs, your blood sugar goes up. In a normally functioning person’s body, their pancreas will make insulin and push that blood sugar down and it’ll keep it in a nice range. Well, that doesn’t work for people with Type 1 because their pancreas just don’t make insulin in the same way. So you have to sort of do that manually and people have all kinds of tools they use to do that. This is an iPhone app that receives data from a body-worn Continuous Glucose Monitor, receives carbs you input as you eat them and wirelessly tracks insulin delivered via your insulin pump. With those three elements it then makes a prediction of how your glucose will change over the next 6 hours and adjusts your insulin up and down to steer you into a healthy range. It runs that prediction every 5 minutes 24/7 effectively automating a huge amount of the cognitive load of this burdensome disease. This app literally changed my life and career after my daughter was diagnosed. As a designer it floored me how powerful it was to see such an amazing tool come from the community of people with the lived experience of living with the disease.

About Dads Review Kid Shows
I make a podcast with a group of friends and lately, my oldest daughter has joined in and kind of taken it on as partly her project as well. It’s called Dads Review Kid Shows where a bunch of dads sort of get together. It really started as just us complaining about the sort of really terrible shows that our kids were watching. Some friends that I got together and were just sort of riffing on what we thought was poorly constructed about these shows, but it’s really turned into something deeper than that. Now that the kids have pushed their way in, it’s a really interesting dialogue between our take on what we find good or bad about the show and then the kids’ counter-argument. So it’s evolved.


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