How do you get better as a designer?

Have you heard the quote “some people work one year twenty times”? It means that you haven’t really grown in that time; your skills have gotten stale and your career hasn’t grown.

There’s a couple things you can tackle right away like learning more technical knowledge and growing relationships

But beyond that, it’s about solving problems that aren’t just yours. Instead of having the mindset of “that’s not my job/role/position,” think about it as an opportunity. If you were working at a startup, you would never say. You would just do it.

Another part of growing a career is continuing to innovate on yourself. Fax machine companies were doing pretty well for a long time and saw no reason to switch their business because they were basing what they were doing on what works “today” (or in their case, what worked twenty years ago.) Today doesn’t last forever. That’s why we need to develop new skills that will be relevant for the future. Can you foresee your job being replaced by something that’s more automated, smart and easy to use?

The way to not become obsolete is to become an active participator in the next generation of your industry. Don’t just be a subject matter expert on a product that exists today. Proactively develop the next wave of that product or idea or thinking. Be the advisor, the coach, the creator. 

Lastly, what are the things you’re telling yourself that are holding you back from doing these things? Is it “I don’t have time?” Nobody has time. You have to make it happen. Or “I’ve always hated group work, therefore I’m not good at it?” Be aware of the words you’re telling yourself.

Happy Monday 🙂

 

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HOW Live Conference

Earlier this month, I attended the HOW Live Conference in Boston, MA. It was full of interesting talks. Here are some highlights:

Sagi Haviv: Partner & Designer, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

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The old State Farm logo was difficult to read and was in need of a modern take on it. However, when the firm proposed simplifying the pictogram, they received significant pushback from the CEO. Haviv was told that they needed to keep the rounded square border.

In order to convince State Farm to ditch the rounded square border altogether, they put together a number of logos that had been redesigned recently. Then, they showed what the halfway point of those logos would be.

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.15.40 AM.pngThis convinced State Farm to go with the simplified three-oval approach.


 

Stephen Gates: Head of Design Transformation, LinkedIn; Creator of The Crazy One Podcast

Stephen talked about the importance of design in large companies and how to build trust and confidence in design.

He asked us:

  1. Can you express the value of your team beyond your work?
  2. What is your team’s identity outside of the company.
  3. Create a scalable ecosystem for design: As a design team, what are your set of beliefs?

He also talked about his framework for thinking about design environments inside a company:Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.18.02 AM.pngScreen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.18.35 AM.png

This helped to visualize an idea that I’d been personally trying to capture for a long time. It’s a handy tool to help you think about where your design team is and where it can go.


 

Daniel Pink: #1 New York Times Bestselling author

Daniel Pink spoke about the science of perfect timing. Using big data, he has developed principles for everyone to use for when to accomplish certain kinds of tasks.

Pink talks about how everyone has a chronotype.

15% are early birds, 20% are night owls and the rest are “third birds.” Most people see a peak, a trough and then a recovery in their day to day work performance.  
= People tend to perform better at the beginning of the day.

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He talked about using timing to work better and smarter. If you know that you have more energy at the beginning of the day, use it to do analytical work. Set time aside in the afternoon when you’re more sluggish to do administrative work.

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Itsuko Zenitani Ceramics

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Today, I visited the Arts and Crafts Cooperative in Berkeley, CA. Towards the back, I noticed a set of bowls that had really interesting glaze on it. The top was a glossy blue while the bottom had been textured to look like wood. It was one of those rare moments where I immediately felt that I had to tell the artist how awesome I thought this was. So, Itsuko Zenitani – map props. Your ceramics work is stunning.

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5 fun places for artists in SF

SF Art Institute

  • What: Free figure drawing every Friday. 5:30–8:30 pm | Studio 13
  • Why: Most spots in the city will charge you for figure drawing, so this is a pretty great deal. The room is also well-lit and atmospheric, and you get a nice view of Coit Tower if you walk around the SFAI buildings.
  • More info

23rd street studio

  • What: Also figure drawing ($18)
  • Why: Because the guy who owns this is really, really charming. He’ll invite everyone to the dining table during the long break in the middle of a session AND  bakes treats and makes everyone tea AND we’ll talk about our favorite movies from the week. On top of that, the poses that the models do here tend to be more dynamic than what I’ve seen elsewhere.
  • More info

Clay by the bay

  • What: Ceramics!
  • Why: Because their classes are great (says my friends – I haven’t been). I keep missing their classes, because of work trips
  • More info

Case for Making

  • What: Well-curated art supplies
  • Why: Because it’s really pretty, because it’s next to Trouble Coffee, because the owner has workshops during the week, because she got a commercial license like a decade ago and decided at some point that she would sell all of her favorite supplies there.
  • More info

3 fish studios

  • What: Print-making studio/store
  • Why: Because they made the print with the bear hugging the state of California piece that’s now on every other tote bag in Valencia. This is another place I haven’t been to. It’s hella far, but close to Case for Making – so recommendation would be to check them out together.
  • More info

Bent/Curved Wooden Staircases

These stairs are my Thursday morning inspiration. I love the thought that went into these designs; the architects didn’t just think about the utility of stairs but how they would shape the space around them. There’s something that feels lightweight and carefree about stairs that bend. They look sculpted rather than assembled.

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A thought about art museums

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While admiring the many works of Rembrandt and Vermeer today at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I thought to myself “this is so great, being able to see the original works of art from these masters of painting.” Rembrandt is able to light portraits up by focusing on a few focal points with a painting and layering light paint on dark. Vermeer’s subjects are so peculiar and interesting that I can stare at them for hours.

My personal experience of wandering around art galleries and museums is great – if I’m wandering around by myself. I went to art school and learned about many of the artists whose name I read on plaques. I was also personally trained for a few years under a master oil painter, from whom I learned about temperature, color, light and shadow. When I visit museums with friends who want to rush through all the exhibits, I try to explain as much as I can about a piece if I previously learned about its context, history and ideas.

I do this, because most museums will tell you about the piece and what it is (rather literally, sometimes metaphorically), but they won’t necessarily tell you about the evolution of that artist, unless the entire exhibition is specifically about that. They won’t tell you what makes the painting incredibly special.

They’ll tell you that it’s a lady with a child, painted in a style that mimics 18th-century London art. When they show a one-off painting that Picasso created late in his cubism phase, museums will tell you about the style, but they won’t always explain the progression of his work that led to this piece. Have you been to a modern art museum lately? How many people end up taking a photo of something that looks cool but is entirely meaningless to them?

Art museums have a tendency to reflect history and movements. They document thoughts, ideas and views from many centuries and artistic periods. I wish, however, that they would help the average person understand art more clearly. More than the “what,” we need the “why” and the “how” of art.

Science museums often have interactive components that help you understand the concepts behind each exhibition. What if you had an art museum with a section that allowed you to paint in the style of an artist or a design museum that lets you actually sit on different Eames or Jacobsen chairs or try out different types of tea kettles instead of displaying them?

Rather than making art an exclusive thing that we stare at on museum walls, we should make it more accessible. Then perhaps, more people will understand its value and purpose in everyday life.