Now I’m just waiting for the actual offer to come through. Guess I didn’t bomb the interview like I thought I did. Mind you – there were 7 interviews plus a group portfolio review, so maybe, even though I forgot to say those things (look at previous post), it still must have shined through. Now fingers crossed that the offer comes swiftly and is a good one. 🙂
So what have you all been up to lately? Any cool projects you’re working on (either professionally or on the side)?
I had a neat opportunity yesterday to be a guest speaker/guest teacher for a design college here in Seattle. Had a blast, as I typically do when I get the opportunity to work with students. But it led me to think about a few things. So specifically – this class was on mobile design and development. The students had been given an assignment of planning, designing and building a mobile app. They could choose whatever platform best suited them. They’ve been working on it for about 7 weeks, and there are approximately 3 weeks left of class. They showed me what they were working on and I saw some really good things. I also saw some not so good things – but we’ll get to that.
These students were still mostly in wireframe stage. I was really surprised by that. As they are getting close to deadline and many had no idea what their visuals were even going to be. I met one very nice girl who had a really good idea for an app. Very solid. Her wires were pretty good. But she was obviously stuck. When I stepped up to her desk, asking her to show me her app – she was embarrassed and stated that she was starting over – again. I asked her how many times she’d started and restarted.
“A few… no, more than a few.”, she said, looking down.
So I sat down next her and had her walk me through the idea, her process, and probed a bit on why/where she was getting stuck. She pulled out her phone, apparently while trying to find inspiration through the many pages of apps she had downloaded on her phone – she’d managed to get a serious problem – all the apps she looked at were clouding her vision of what she wanted. She described how she’d start the design – and start throwing everything but the kitchen sink into – and eventually her app had no consistency and just didn’t look at all like what she’d had in her head. I gave her some suggestions on how to break it down into small chunks. Pick a page – design it up – exactly how you want it. Then pick a second page and design it to match. Don’t stop until you have all the key screens to the app designed and consistent. Now step back and look at it -you might hate it – but at least you’ve got a really solid starting point. once you have a more complete look at the design – even if it’s one you’re not 100% happy with – you can start to analyse what’s not working for you – and carry those changes across the app design as a whole. She looked at me as if i’d handed her the key to the city. She’d just managed to overwhelm herself.
So what’s my point? Well – all of this interaction with students led me to start questioning what specific practices we are or are not teaching our students. We teach them to design, we teach them theories (or at least I hope they’re still teaching those), we teach them programs and code… but do we teach them how to get unstuck? Or how to break down a design to find whether or not tehre are holes? That seemed to be people’s biggest problem, they couldn’t look at their apps and break down the problems. Whether they were interaction problems, pieces missing from the overall experience or visual design problems. It was almost as if they couldn’t bare to break their own work. It is fundamental that we teach this to students. This is a skill I see slowly going missing from the design industry…well – ok I suppose i can’t completely generalize here – but in the 3 companies I’ve worked for in the last 6 years – I’ve maybe met 2 others who can break down a design well. I suppose maybe it’s an ego thing? Lets say you spent 100 hours building a robot. You pour your heart and sweat and tears into this thing and it works. Sorta.
“But it works!”, you say.
Yes – but if you want it to improve – let someone break it. Seriously – let someone use it as a power user would – or as a new user would – or as a kid would – does it break down? If it does – you’ve got your work cut out for you – and if it doesn’t – then you’ve validated your design.