Welcome to the first installment of a new, soon-to-be-regular feature on our blog, Behind the Things.

One of the greatest ways to get to know someone is by looking at their stuff. What do we cart from between dorms, storage units, and houses? Stuff that we love. Stuff that represents important life events. Stuff that changed our lives.

Each Mad Genius is represented in a tableau of objects from their life. They’re intriguing and delightful. The stories behind them are funny and moving. What do these objects mean to us geniuses? We’ll tell you.

Blake Watson is an Interactive Designer at Mad Genius.

Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set

I discovered D&D in 2013 and purchased the starter set so I could learn how to play. Little did I know I was buying fourth edition instead of the latest (5e). Little did I know that it would be hard to find people to play with. Little did I know I was soon to start a year-long stint as a Dungeon Master. I’ve always enjoyed imaginative games and D&D turned out to be a lot of fun. Now I am just waiting for the Mad Genius office campaign to start up.

National Novel Writing Month

Several of my items have to do with my seven years as a National Novel Writing Month participant. NaNoWriMo (NEH-no-RY-mo), as they call it, is a writing challenge where you and everyone else doing it attempts to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun. I first started in 2010. Several years later, I was a local volunteer (Municipal Liaison), getting Jackson area folks together for write-ins at coffee shops and such. I did that for two years.

Ms. Archer’s Reasons (Rough Draft)

50,200 words

Wesley leaves everything behind, hitchhiking to nowhere in particular, when he finds a large house off a rural highway. The lady of the house, Ms. Archer, will give you a room under one condition: you have to have a good reason for being there. Wesley comes to realize how important that stated reason is—you can’t leave the house until your reason is fulfilled, no matter if that takes days or decades.


In my tableau, I have two of my rough draft manuscripts (one of them is two bound volumes), including the first manuscript I ever completed. I will forever treasure that heap of desperate prose hobbled together to form something reminiscent of a mediocre story arc. To me, they represent creativity, imagination, and finishing something one sets out to do.

Typewriter decoration

This replica of an old typewriter sits on my bookshelf, reminding me that I should be writing. I really love the whole typewriter aesthetic and may or may not have actually purchased at least three typewriter-inspired fonts (full disclosure: I’m writing this with one of them now).

Writer Emergency Pack

I backed this project on Kickstarter. It’s a wonderfully designed deck of writing tips and tricks that you can lean on when the creative juices aren’t flowing and you find yourself faced with that merciless monsterocity known as writer’s block. This little deck of cards is an intersection of two things I love—storycraft and design.

Troy & Abed coffee mug

Community fans will instantly get this—and reminisce about the good old days before Donald Glover left the show and broke up the greatest bromance in the history of time.


Forget model names, this will forever be the white Casio to me. It’s the oldest thing in my tableau, from sometime in the mid-Eighties. As a kid, I used to pick out my favorite melodies as well as classics like Mary Had a Little Lamb and The Star-Spangled Banner. This introduction to music in my impressionable years really made an, um, impression on me. Years later I would go on to write really bad songs in GarageBand.

NES controller

Runner-up for oldest thing in my tableau, this NES controller represents my video game-riddled past. I don’t play as much now, but for years, I would salivate over the new and shiny games and consoles that came out. I even had a Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast! But the Mario franchise will always be my favorite because the game with the mushroom-eating, coin-hoarding plumber is the first video game I ever played.

Helvetica is everywhere

No matter if you’ve heard of it or not, you’ve seen the ubiquitous, Swiss typeface that is Helvetica. From signage to websites, from logos to labels, and everything in between. Many designers say it’s overused and has run its course. That’s fine, nobody is perfect… like Helvetica.


An entire documentary dedicated to a typeface. The most boring typeface in history or the most perfect typeface in history? It depends on who you ask, but I, for one, believe it is a masterpiece. This film nurtured my interest in typography and transformed it into a full-blown obsession.

LOVE tee

This is a story about a man and his sister who both had my disability (spinal muscular atrophy type 2). The sister created the lovely wheelchair heart symbol. She passed away from health complications, but her brother formed a t-shirt printing business and brought her message of love and acceptance to a worldwide audience.

Red watch

The popularity of the smart watch reminded me that watches exist. And I like Helvetica, remember? And I like red things. So buying a red Swatch was inevitable.

Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition

Not as cool as owning the original trilogy, but still. This collection of fine VHS tapes isn’t just for show. I had the opportunity to watch these again in 2015 over the course of a few days—though we had to ransack the house in order to find a functioning VCR. Sci-fi is my favorite genre and Star Wars is the quintessential sci-fi fantasy film.

Hours by Falling Up

If you like art, fantastical stories, and Christian allegory, you will probably love this band, as I do.


By Falling Up

This whimsical rock album and corresponding audiobook tells the story of a group of kids at a secluded orphanage, the hidden world they find, and the secrets their keepers don’t want them to know.

CSS: The Definitive Guide

You haven’t experienced pain and anguish until you have designed a pixel perfect website only to open it in Internet Explorer and see that it’s completely broken. I have this book for sentimental reasons—every web developer knows a printed reference is obsolete after a few months.


I know how to play. A fifth grader could destroy me. The pieces look awesome.

Cross necklace

This was given to me by my mother and I will cherish it forever.

Mac mini

I switched to the Mac in 2006 (and wrote about my decade of using Macs). I fell in love with what it empowered me to do. I wouldn’t be a Genius and you wouldn’t be reading this if it weren’t for Apple and the Mac.

Blake Watson is an Interactive Designer at Mad Genius. With a BBA and an MBA from Mississippi State, he deftly balances a brain for web development and an eye for web design. Beyond Mad Genius, Blake is a board member for Stop SMA and involved in raising awareness about SMA. Read his Mad Genius profile or more of his writing at BlakeWatson.com.