Behind the “See”
What you see are moments of brilliance in a fast-break, behind-the back alley-oop. What you don’t see are hours of free throws, shooting drills, missed shots.
What you see is a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone. What you don’t see are the bench press reps, hundreds of dropped balls, two-a-days in the summer heat.
What you see is a split second victory, an outstretched arm reaching slightly further. What you don’t see is thousands of meters swum until your shoulders scream for mercy.
A friend once told me “practice makes permanent”. It’s a true story. Often it’s not the starting that’s the challenge; it’s the sticking to it. Weaknesses are opportunities to get stronger. Work at them; practice; get better.
Curation vs. Consumption
We consume so much. On the news this morning, there was an actual segment called “Information Overload”…as if an overload of information is a good thing.
Excessive consumption in anything is unhealthy. Information is no different. We consume information via the “feed” in so many places—Facebook, Twitter, RSS readers, email, Instagram, Pinterest, text messaging…
This begs the question: are we healthier because of the information we consume, or are we becoming technologically obese? As individuals we should be curating rather than consuming. As designers we should be building systems that encourage curation over consumption.
In Saying No
Growth is not always equivalent to success. More is not always better. By saying ‘yes’ you’re saying ‘no’ to something else. Sometimes, in saying no, you’re actually saying yes to more important things. Often, there is wisdom in saying no.
My Coach’s Board
There are a million-and-one ways to build an effective process. I’ve always been of the opinion that there isn’t a right way; what matters is finding a process that works for you. A process that optimizes your efficiency, happiness, and ability to ship.
When I’m wireframing, I prefer to use a whiteboard. But I’m usually moving around a lot (in various meetings and such), so proximity to a whiteboard isn’t always guaranteed. I’ve started using what I’ve dubbed my “Coach’s Board”, which is a small 10x17 portable whiteboard that I can carry anywhere.
Once I’ve sketched out an idea, I’ll snap a quick picture, run it through TurboScan (converts virtually anything into a ‘sketch’), import it with Dropbox, and I’ve got a wireframe I can present, send out, or further edit.
It’s quick and dirty, but then again so are most of my wireframes. You can do the same thing with a pen-and-paper sketch in a notebook (which I did for a while), but I prefer the size and quick “editability” that a whiteboard provides.
Also, my “Coach’s Board” gives me mad swag cred.
PRO TIP: if you like to create complex, detailed wireframes, get some fine-tip markers. The standard tips are too fat and make it difficult to produce refined sketches.
Solve (the right) Problems
I was listening to the radio on my commute and I heard an advert for a product that claimed to solve the problems their competitors missed. My first thought was, “great…but are those the problems that matter to their customers?”
I’ve argued before that design is about solving problems. But it’s not just about solving problems. You have to solve the right problems; the problems that are relevant, and matter to your users.
The problems you perceive are not always your users’ problems. It’s our job to listen to them, to know them, and to provide solutions that make their experience better.
Don’t Give Up
At the beginning of each year it’s important for me to take a bit of a retrospective, and introspective. I recently gave a talk at Design Orlando called 7 in 7. Essentially, the seven things I’ve learned in seven years as a designer. Over the next several days, I’ll post each individually and expand the thought a bit more.
1. Don’t Give Up
We’ve all been there at some point in our personal or professional lives. That place where it seems easier to give up than it does to keep trying. The common mantra is to just will yourself to push through—if you can just get to the other side, then things will be better. And that may be true; but having gone through some rough stuff in the past two years, I can attest that this mentality isn’t always the most helpful.
“Perseverance isn’t always just a strong will…it’s also a strong won’t.”
The reality is, life often sucks. If I’ve learned anything in the past two years it’s that sometimes you endure and persevere most effectively by simply refusing to give up. It’s not as much willing yourself to do something, it’s willing yourself not to do something. Be the one who won’t quit. Be the one where giving up isn’t even an option.
And remember, things take time. We live in a culture where instant gratification is expected. Our culture says sow, and reap immediately. And when that feedback is not instant, we question, we second guess, and we consider giving up. When I was young my parents used to read me a Goofy picture book with the allegory of the Tortoise and the Hare. One of the lines read: “slow and steady, steady and slow, that’s the way we always go.” I think it’s an application we can take to life.
Back in my competitive swimming days I was never the strongest guy, or the biggest guy. Those were things I couldn’t control. But what I could control was how much I perfected my technique, and how much I was willing to work. If, at the end of the day, I knew I worked as hard as I could in the water, I would be content regardless of the outcome. If you beat me, you beat me. But it wasn’t going to be because I didn’t give all my effort. The same applies to design. I can’t control a lot of things; but I can control how much I perfect my skills, and how hard I work.
In design, and in life, be the one who won’t quit. Be the one who is patient, and is content to go slow and steady. And be the one who focuses on the things you can control: your skill/technique, and your work ethic.
The Year 2012
Some of the highlights from the last year:
- Started a new treatment for my Crohn’s Disease which requires me to go in every 8 weeks for an IV infusion. So far, seeing a significant reduction in symptoms and pain.
- Took a trip to Austin to visit my brother and sister in law, and to nonference SXSW.
- My daughter Caroline turned 2 years old. My son Cade turned 6.
- I had the privilege to do a lot of speaking at various conferences: Windy City Go in Chicago, ConvergeSE in Columbia, Front End Design Conf in St. Pete, the inaugural Creative Mornings Orlando, RailsWayCon in Berlin, and re:build 2012 in Indianapolis.
- Published Branding Matters, a book on branding for small business.
- Celebrated 7 years of marriage with a trip to Paris and Berlin.
- Shipped a new Code School redesign and Envy Labs redesign with the Envy Design team.
- Marked 2 years as the Design Lead at Envy Labs. We also welcomed Justin Mezzell, Dan Denney, and Jordan Wade to the design team.
- Published Journey Into Mobile, a Code School course on responsive design.
- Was on The East Wing podcast.
- Herniated two discs in my lumbar spine, requiring back surgery and ongoing physical therapy.
- Worked with several clients who I deeply respect, that I never thought I’d have to the opportunity to work with.
- Found a few gluten-free beers that aren’t terrible.
- Started delving more into photography.
- Got a tattoo designed, hopefully to be inked in 2013.
- Favorite books of the year include the Game of Thrones series, The Great Divorce (Lewis), several of Tim Keller’s works, Designing for People (Dreyfuss).
- Learned we’ll be welcoming our third child (another girl) in March, 2013.
The last two years have been the most physically and emotionally challenging years I’ve experienced, but it’s strengthened my faith, and allowed me to grow closer to my wife and family. I’ve also been blessed beyond what I deserve.
At the end of the year I’m encouraged to love God, love others, work hard, work hard for others, listen more than you talk, be strong, have courage, and enjoy the time to its fullest.
A few pics from the year:
“We may all benefit from having a lot of licensed people carrying guns, if only because of the heightened state of awareness in which they live. It’s a scandal, though, that people can get a license to carry on the basis of a three-hour “course” given at a gun show. State requirements vary, but some don’t even ask students to fire a weapon before getting a carry permit. We should enforce high standards for instruction, including extensive live firing, role playing, and serious examination of the legal issues. Since people can carry guns state to state, standards should be uniform. States should require a refresher course, the way Texas does, before renewing a carry permit. To their credit, most gun carriers I’ve talked to agree that training should improve, even if some of them get twitchy at the idea of mandates. The Second Amendment confers a right to keep and bear arms. It does not confer a right to instant gratification.”
Source: Happiness is a Worn Gun
Go To Bat
Go to bat for people and they’ll go to bat for you. Instead of telling people what to do, show them. Go where they are. Cross over. Show them you care, involve them, meet them where they are. Work with them and they’ll be more inclined to work with you.