Last year, nine of us shared our New Year’s resolutions. Naturally, we had to do one better for 2008. So ten brave souls offered up what they’ve resolved to do differently this year. The declarations were diverse, honest, and inspired—promising to amp up, dial it down, or altogether reframe.
Escape the Flatland
This year, I resolve to finally take advantage of the many tools that are already at my disposal for quick and easy prototyping.
As an experience designer, probably 80% of what I produce is two dimensional in nature: sketches, diagrams, or wireframes. Most of the time, these documents never make it out of the flatland of print or PDFs. In the past, when it has been crucial to convey how the interaction builds and flows, we’ve implemented prototype development, which, as you can imagine, takes a lot of time and money. And there will always be a place for these bigger, functionally rich prototypes, but there are many discrete interactions and simplified flows that we can and should be bringing to life for our clients every day.
Fortunately, prototype-worthy features have been added to many of the tools already within our arsenal. So basic prototyping has become a lot cheaper and easier. Here’s my plan:
- I’ll start by practicing Alexa’s excellent tutorial on prototyping with Flash, (which you can read in a soon-to-be-released article on Boxes and Arrows).
- Next, I’ll spend some time familiarizing myself with the new UI elements and pages features in Fireworks that claim to make prototyping from existing Adobe CS files faster and virtually painless.
- Finally, I’m going to get comfortable with the action and animation capabilities of (gulp) PowerPoint, which, rumor has it, can be used for more than just bullets!
No more excuses. In 2008, I’m busting out!
Embody the Spirit of Practitioner-ness
I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions in years. I was in my early double-digits when I realized that we beat ourselves up enough over the silly minutiae of life (things like the parachute pants of the 80s). And me failing to get in shape or to stop giving the “stink eye” to people on the subway would only give me more to feel bad about.
However, this year I’m inspired by my colleagues. I’ve observed them doing their work in ways I’ve never experienced in my twenty-some years of bringing home a paycheck. They collaborate instead of jockeying for position. They support one another instead of throwing each other under the bus. They bring creative thinking to their projects and play around with methods and ideas instead of sticking to what’s safe because it worked last time. They seem fearless about saying, “I don’t know or I’m having trouble solving this problem.”
A lot of the methods our practitioners use aren’t applicable to my role as Events Manager. Likewise, a Hotel Catering Manager wouldn’t hold a sticky session about how to keep food and beverage costs in line. But, even still, I will try to embody the spirit of Adaptive Path practitioner-ness whenever and wherever I can.
Identify Why I’m in Such a Hurry
I tend to approach every task (or even huge personal projects like digitizing all of my family’s home videos) as something to get out of the way as quickly as possible. Although I do enjoy the process, I find myself always intensely working towards an end.
While this tendency results in great productivity, (I digitized 30 videos in one week), it means that seemingly unproductive activities—leisure time pursuits where getting it out of the way isn’t the point—takes back burner for me. Such activities range from resting, reading books, and hanging out after work, to investing in people or activities I perceive to be hindering progress or productivity.
My resolution is not simply to perhaps, relish my leisure time, but rather to delve into the root of the problem. Why am I not more patient? Why am I so results-oriented? What would I do with myself if I ever got all the things on my to-do list out of the way?
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that identifying the root of the problem will be the key to long-term change.
Share with Others
I love tasks that have a clear start and stop. Everyday I have a nice list of tasks that I want to get done. My desk always has a checklist on it. Sometimes at the end of the day I even make a checklist for the next day, so when I come in I know exactly what my top priorities are. You would probably agree if you saw one, my lists are very rational and justified. My tasks are so well defined that I could even estimate the amount of time each task would likely take. Often times, I include things like “get email inbox to 20 emails” or “meet with Dan about Charmr video.” (I can rattle these things off because I have two checklists next to me right now.)
This year I want to let go of some of the tactical, and instead embrace and explore ambiguity. What does that look like? It looks like inspiring new things, even strange things, by sharing my own ideas. It looks like risking being wrong or completely off task, in the spirit of sharing. I resolve to share more ideas, even if they aren’t totally great and I know it. I resolve to be free-form, step out of my boundaries, and ignore my own rules to see what might happen.
In the end, I will probably still have my lists. But I will also have new ideas—sometimes strange and maybe not always good—but promising to put it out there on the table, hopefully to inspire others and myself
Due to personal beliefs, I do not make new years resolutions. Instead, I prefer to live each day with new personal resolutions for myself. At the end of each day I look back to see what I could have done differently, and if there are things that I didn’t handle well.
I think about: 1) Why didn’t I handle it in the way I should have, or would have preferred? And 2) How will I handle a similar situation in the future? This helps me to be aware of my actions and how they not only affect my life, but the lives of others. In this way, I constantly strive to create a positive environment for both me and for those in my life. I think this is an important approach, not only for the big events in my life, but also the small, mundane things that are often overlooked.
Stop Buying New Things
Last year my resolution was to not buy anything new. I made it six months. Not too bad, but maybe this year I can do better. Some folks who try this get all hard core and make their own soap and shoes. I’m going the less ascetic route and sticking to a basic formula of no flagrantly brand-new lifestyle purchases (such as clothes, accessories or household objects). My version allows unrestricted trips to the grocery and drug store for food and fundamental toiletries. Essentially it’s about remembering that I don’t usually need what I am buying—I want it. And if I do need it there is probably a perfectly good used one out there somewhere I can get my hands on. The flea market, consignment shops, Goodwill, eBay, my mom’s house—are all fun options. It’s about being resourceful. Do I already have one (or several!) shoved in a drawer and forgotten? Most likely. Do I have something that can easily be substituted? Perhaps. Can I borrow one? Probably. Can I make do without? Surely. Can I find one from the seventies? I hope so. I actually found that instead of feeling denied those six months I felt a certain relief. By taking away the option in such a straightforward way the shopping impulse began to fade, which also created space and time for other things.
Develop “Outsight” (aka Get Out Of The Office)
The Adaptive Path offices are great creative spaces, but nothing can equal the sheer expanse of getting out into the world. There’s so much more opportunity to see things, feel things, observe things. This year I resolve be out in the world more… watching, interacting, asking, pushing, drawing, tracking, making. Brilliant insights are great, but I’m lured by the opportunity of making “outsights” that rely on kismet, happenstance, space, place and the human interactions that weave it all together.
Bring Humanity to Product Design
One of my favorite books is Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, a pocket-sized guide to finding and achieving your dreams. Author Kevin Carrol’s seven simple rules are as follows:
- Commit to it
- Seek out encouragers
- Work out your creative muscle
- Prepare to shine
- Speak up
- Expect the unexpected
- Maximize the day
I love the story, look, feel and tone of this book, and the way it communicates emotionally inspires me. In 2008, I would like to further explore the idea of bringing humanity to product design and creating meaningful brand experiences that communicate emotionally with people.
#1: Start Writing
In 2008, I will stop simply observing the world around me and I will start commenting on it. I’ll write to my personal blog every day and write to the Adaptive Path blog every week. I will take all of this writing and work it into two or three essays for the year. I want my voice to be a larger (though still comparatively tiny) part of the online community. I also want to develop a stronger writing style and the act of writing is the best way to accomplish this. Sometimes my writing will have humor, often it will be tedious, and if I am lucky, every now and then it’ll be clever, perhaps even poignant.
#2: Join an Open-source Project
I’ve been a consumer of open-source software for years. When I need to solve some problem, I first turn to free and often open-sourced software. Sometimes it’s a web application. Sometimes it’s server software. Sometimes it’s a desktop application. Often the software is quite simply: AWESOME. Yet despite frequently using many open-source tools I have yet to contribute my time back into the community. For 2008, I will find an open-source project and participate in improving the software. I will not just visit the forums, filing feature-and-bug requests, but I will strive to really add value through code, documentation and/or design.
Stop Being So Binary…
People seem to perceive the world in two different modes:
- Binary mode
- Gradual mode
In binary mode, everything is perceived in opposites, there is no in-between. It is either: good or bad, big or small, on or off. For example, an application is perceived as either switched on or off. Or it has focus or not.
In gradual mode, the world becomes a place where things co-exist. An application might be perceived as switched on, but doesn’t need 100% complete attention. It co-exists in the context of the operating system where many applications might be running.
As with so many things, I think it is about maintaining balance, balance between both modes when you design applications and services for people. Sometimes you want the application that you design to be perceived in binary mode. You want your application to be the center of attention—it should just be “on.” On other occasions, you want your application to have about 20% of the users’ attention, in order to have the capacity to interact with other applications.
I feel, as designers, we still think too much in binary mode. A lot of times applications fail the user because they interrupt. And become the center of attention, which they don’t necessarily need to be.
We tend to forget that our designs exist and interact within a context of other elements. It is not always about being on or off. My New Year’s resolution for when I design my next application or service is to focus more on what’s in between “on” and “off.”