Taking time to think

Easter is a wonderful time to take a break from everything and think about life, regardless of your religious persuasion. I’m taking the opportunity to gaze out the window, admire the garden and take a deep breath. I hope that you get some time to relax and take your foot off the accelerator as well.

Work has been hectic since I went back after Christmas and this blog has been sadly neglected as result. Today I’ve been catching up on my emails and came across this quote from the School of Life about Career Effectiveness.

Fortune favours the quiet thinkers who may, for a long time, have very little to show for their work. Effective people think a lot.

The Emotionally Intelligent Office

I think this is a lovely idea, but not necessarily true. At my workplace I often see quite the opposite. Fortune favours those who can produce results quickly. And although we are often told that staring out the window has value, in reality, it’s not something that you can really get away with at work on a daily basis. We need to be seen to be producing, rather than thinking about what needs to be produced.

And yet having time to think really does have value. It can help us solve problems and ensure that we are focussing our efforts on activities that are useful and productive, rather than just doing “busy work”.

I’m struggling with this a bit because we’ve just got a new system at work that we are using to track the time we spend on various tasks. It’s called a work flow tool (WFT) but I keep accidentally calling it WTF. Every time I do that it makes me laugh.

We are supposed to account for our time (don’t get me wrong, I think this is a good thing) but I sometimes spend quite a lot of time thinking things through and I’m never sure if it’s acceptable to record this as “thinking time” or just hide it under the category of research. Thinking is a kind of research I suppose, because it’s often about discovering what’s in your brain and getting your ideas in some kind of order.

I agree with this final quote from The School of Life article.

Real work often doesn’t look like work. The point of staring out of a window is, paradoxically, not to find out what is going on outside. It is rather, an exercise in discovering the contents of our own minds.

Happy Easter everyone. I hope you get time to read, relax and look after yourself.

What does this image mean to you?

I have just finished doing an assignment on digital imaging where I had to produce a photomontage with a ‘message’. 

The instructions were to create an image which would make a strong visual statement about an issue, for example a political or social issue. This was difficult for me, not because I don’t feel strongly about a lot of things (because I do), but because it’s really hard to visualize some concepts, especially when you’re a bit hazy about your message.

The other criteria was that we could only use the photographs of certain (famous) photographers, so finding suitable source photos entailed hours of trawling the internet in a search for images which would inspire me. When I tried to rope in some friends and relatives to help me with my assignment, they all seemed to think that it would be a much easier task if I just knew what it was that I wanted to say. As a person who advocates for people to know what it is that they are trying to say before they start writing or creating presentations it struck me as hilariously funny that I had clearly failed to take my own advice. There was no way that I could find images that suited my theme when I didn’t have a clear idea of what it was I was trying to say.

I tried to get away with making some vague statements about the way the privileged classes monopolise culture, but it was hard to disguise the fact that I was just plain confused. I also tried to suggest that the finished image would express my idea better than any words ever could. Does an artist need to be able articulate the ideas behind their art? Shouldn’t the work speak for itself? Another ploy was to suggest that the viewer should be able to ‘read’ the image in any way they chose. Clearly, I was desperate and the due date was looming ever closer.

In the end I came up with the image below. It’s called ‘A visit to the gallery’.

What, if anything, does it mean to you? I would love to know if it says anything at all, or if you also struggle with pinning down your ideas?

Let’s get started…

So here we are at the first post. As I said in the introduction, learning about design involves thinking, observing and just having a play around with ideas.

The first idea to ponder is what is ‘good’ design and why is it important? I strongly believe that everyone has a little bit of a design mind and that’s why we like gardening, cooking, art and maybe even having a tidy desk. In my book, good design is a combination of functionality and beauty. In other words, well designed things are both useful and attractive. I’ll have a lot more to say later about why it matters that things are attractive and why it doesn’t have much to do with decoration, but that’s a conversation for another session. If you are interested in the connection between functionality and beauty you should read Donald Norman’s book on why we like things to look nice.

What do you need to do?

Start by carefully observing the world around you. Do you have favourite objects, tools or websites? What makes them useful? Name three things that are well designed and say what’s good about them. You can post examples here if you would like to.

Then find three things that are badly designed – post some examples as well. Alternatively, get yourself a work book and write down your thoughts, ideas and examples.

Is this an example of good design?

Welcome to my blog

This blog has been designed to introduce you to some basic ideas about design. You can use these ideas if you are developing presentations, documents or any other kind of work where you need to make your ideas clear.

Improving your skills involves thinking and practicing. Your skills will not improve by just reading through the material, you need to apply the ideas.

Feel free to comment on any of the information, or ask any questions.

Happy learning!