Move to a Maker’s Schedule and Get More Done!

Designing Designers
May 24, 2011

I’m pretty conscious about my work rhythm these days. There is a lot to do in running a business and I welcome any way to do it more efficiently. Therefore, I found Y-Combinator advisor Paul Graham’s blog post about a Manager’s schedule vs. a Maker’s schedule very interesting.

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

I can fully relate with this. I struggle during the day with meetings, chasing prospects, visiting clients etc. One meeting at 10.30am pretty much kills my morning and as a result I started to batch book as many meetings as I can in one day to save as much time as possible.

In line with this article, I found out that a maker’s schedule is something I already use to get creative and do my design work, I’m basically running an hourly schedule during the day and at night, a free flowing schedule that is equivalent to a half (or ¾) day.

Furthermore, if I am lucky or block book my meetings well, I might get a free day to just focus on getting stuff created and done. I’ve yet to decide how well this type of schedule works in the long term, but so far it seems to get things done! Anyways I hope you enjoy the article.

Quote from Paul Graham.

What Designers can Learn from Stand Up Comics

Designing Designers
May 18, 2011

Michael Bierut, of Pentagram fame, has shared on his Design Observer blog 7 things designers can learn stand up comics. I’ve extracted and summarized it here for our discussion and reflection. I’ve added my summaries below, but the 7 points are by Michael. Nice analogies Michael and thanks for sharing.

1. It’s all about the basics.
No matter what, you still need good design skills and a strong foundation.


2. Once you’ve mastered the basics, make your work your own.

Design is about problem solving. Good design is about bringing your own perspective to the problem solving process that results in a unique proposition.


3. Respect your audience.
Create designs that respect your audience. Understand them, know what makes them tick; then create a solution that resonates with them.


4. Know your tools.
One man’s food is another another man’s poison. A unique style, and favorite process or CAD software can be a boon or a “crutch”, use it sparingly and in the right situations.


5. Honor your craft.
Designers should push themselves to constantly do their best. Honor your craft by creating the most exceptional work there can be.


6. Don’t be afraid of failure.
To do your best, you must not be afraid to fail. This is because, to be the best you need to constantly surprise and be different from the competition. What is important is that you tried; it does not matter if it sucked.


7. Finally, never forget you have a special gift.
This is probably the best point of all. There is a big difference between a professional and amateur. Professionals are all the six points above, plus they have that talent or extra edge to take Design to the next level. Most designers actually forget that they have this amazing “gift”.

If you want the un-abridged version that is probably much better written than mine, check it out Michael’s full write up at Design Observer Blog.

(Hat tip to my friend Jackson for the link.)

No Need to be Shy if you can Validate your Design Work!

Designing Designers
May 11, 2011

In dreaded job interviews or in portfolio documents, many designers under sell themselves. It’s a tough world and if we want the job or the project, we will need to go for it, hustle, if you like.

Strangely, many creative people are too polite or uncomfortable to talk about their achievements. I know, I’m one of them. Not only that, many designers get turned off by marketing engines like Phillip Starck, or don’t want to be in a position to get challenged.

Let’s look at this in another way.

Designers have been always taught in school to justify our work, and as a result we tend to over compensate and justify everything, sometimes in an almost defensive manner. You know what? I’ve learnt that there is really no need to justify everything.

Even Paul Rand told Steve Jobs, “I will give you one design and you will pay me”. Not only did Mr. Rand not bother with multiple concept options, he was probably not willing to waste his time justifying his designs. This might be an extreme example, but we could learn from him. Knowing when to justify and when not to, helps your credibility as a designer.

So let’s turn things around, grit your teeth, and say that you designed that thing for a change. Tell them how you won that award or resolved that detail. Don’t be shy! It can be a nice boost to your confidence as well.

Do sell, but don’t oversell. Selling is about stating facts, which means if you can validate that you designed that detail, were responsible for managing that design, or even attributed to that award, then there is really no need to be shy, defend or even justify it.

So say it like it is!

What Happens when Professional and Personal Projects Collide?

Designing Designers
Apr 29, 2011

Awesome things happen! This is why designers need to run their own personal projects, where they are their own clients.

This nice little graphic was created by Ji Lee, the creative director at Facebook. He famously became creative director at his previous employer, Google, through his awesome range of personal projects.

I can attest to this phenomenon. This website, and all the personal projects on it such as my Spaces for Ideas: Expandable Sketchbook, has been a huge positive influence in my own professional career in Design.

Via: Swiss Miss.

How to Get your Designs into MoMa?

Paula Antonelli indirectly answers the question “What makes good design?” by sharing some of MoMa’s selection criteria.

Here is the written transcript of the video:

Antonelli: You know what makes good design is one of the biggest questions and one of the hardest questions to answer. Sometimes people ask us, “How do you decide to put an object in the collection of MOMA?” because you know it’s a small collection. It’s not huge. It’s about 4,000 objects. You can talk about anything you want – form, function, all of these different equations that have been usually . . . you know that have been given the world as possible definitions. But the truth is this. It’s a very complex recipe. The world has become more complex, and you can’t anymore have an equation with just two variables. There’s like, you know, it’s a differential equation with many variables. What I can tell you as one of the litmus tests is think if this object were not on earth. Would it be a pity? Would you miss it? I tell you that’s really interesting because it really helps. Sometimes objects are not immediately functional. They’re not to be sat upon, or to be used to eat, or to be used to turn on the volume. Sometimes objects just deliver emotions or are just part of your life. That’s also enough. You know the moment an object seems necessary, then you can move on to judge if it’s beautiful, if it works well, if it wastes energy. Those are all considerations. But the idea of necessity or good addition to the world really usually works.

So the answer to our question, posed in the title of this post, is that our designs should make the world a better place and will likely be missed if it did not exist. Don’t you think that this is a great frame of mind to start your next design project?

Via: SwissMiss.

Back to Designing and Sketching on Traditional Mediums

Designing Designers
Mar 08, 2011

Feng Zhu, Entertainment Design Guru and friend of Design Sojourn, recently released a really cool video filled with tips and techniques on designing with traditional mediums, i.e. pens, paper and sketchbooks. Remember those? Just kidding!

With many designers now working with digital sketching tools such as Wacom tablets as well as considering that the iPad is fast becoming the next a sketchbook, it is nice to see a designer as established and experienced as Feng, looking back and focusing on the basics.

In the video above, you will get to see a range of drawing techniques, including how to hold a pen, drawing straight lines and ellipses from the elbow, and how to maintain the energy and looseness in a sketch. You also get a lot of tips in selecting sketchbooks, using sketchpads, and how designers should treat these sketchbooks.

Feng’s thoughts on how designers should treat their sketchbooks echoes my philosophy behind keeping the Spaces for Ideas Sketchbooks as minimal as possible. (He was one of my early product testers after all!) In other words, a sketchbook that is designed for use rather than for show, as it is the content that matters.

This video is a really nice refresher for all of us and I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did!

Design Truisms to Ponder About

Designing Designers
Mar 01, 2011


Image by Anthony Dickens on Twitpic. Click for a larger view.

Anthony Dickens recently shared, on a Linkedin discussion, a list of Design Truisms written by Tim Parsons. Tim is an Associate Professor in Designed Objects in the AIADO Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was written in 2004 for a Design Mart exhibition at the London Museum. I’ve reproduced it in text form below for our easy discussion and dissection.

A product may be a word in an essay.
Adding another object is not always the answer.
Advertising is design’s spin doctor.
Branding camouflages substance.
Change is good for the soul.
Creativity cannot be taught.
Design education is a life skill.
Every design has a political undertone.
Form without content is waste.
Freedom is slavery, especially within design.
In the mind, a design is never finished.
Independence encourages audacity.
It is a luxury to have time to create.
Marketing is design’s pimp.

Movements decay into styles.
Patenting allows ideas to be imprisoned.
Perfection creates waste.
Post-Modernism was a necessary evil.
Preoccupation with objects is unhealthy.
Pride in ideas obstructs progress.
Providing more choice is a smoke screen.
Real value doesn’t evaporate after purchase.
Resistance to trend is commendable.
Signature styles reveal vacant minds.
Solving artificial problems is cowardly.
There is humanity in mis-use.
Utopia is the only honest starting point.
With volume comes responsibility.

A really well thought out and comprehensive list that has a makings of a manifesto. Unfortunately I do think some of the Truisms take a rather extreme view such as “Marketing is design’s pimp.” I also disagree with “Creativity cannot be taught.”

Regardless, I enjoy such lists as they reflect a growing thought leadership in our design procession. As you can see, this list compliments very nicely with the form focused Dieter’s Rams 10 Principles of Good Design and my business angled “What are your principles of good design?

Tim’s Design Truisms takes on the angle of what it takes to be a good designer in today’s context. Also notice that the list above focuses very little on form or aesthetic, but covers a lot about the design ecosystem instead.

What do you think of this list of Design Truisms? I look forward to reading your feedback and thoughts.

Should Designers Work for Free?

Designing Designers
Jan 13, 2011

Jessica Hische has created a nice little flow chart to help designers decide if we should work for free. Jessica has helpfully incorporated into her flow chart many of common scenarios that are used to bait unsuspecting designers. While this sort of thing is often common sense, this flow chart serves as a nice reminder to all of us.

This would make a great desktop wallpaper, no? Thanks Jessica.

Don’t Keep Calm and Carry On, Get Excited and Make Things!

Designing Designers
Dec 28, 2010

As designer Matt Jones says, “don’t keep calm and carry on”, we should instead:

I’m sure many of you would have already seen this, but it is too good to not share it here. Inspired by old British wartime propaganda back in 1939, Matt Jones’ poster is a nice reminder for us to get off our behinds and into a flying start for 2011!

Via: Matt Jones’ Flickr Page
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How We Hate or Love Design

Designing Designers
Nov 10, 2010

Hate/Love from CRUSH on Vimeo.

It’s all up to your and your work.

The film taps into an insight we think every creative feels – love for the business when things are going well, and hate, when things aren’t.

Well said. The highs and lows in Design can really make us schizophrenic at times. However, it is how we handle the situation that counts. A glass half full or empty is merely a point of view and this ad portrays this point well. Leo Burnett was commission to create this ad campaign for the 2010 Advertising & Design Club of Canada (ADCC) Awards. Enjoy!

Hat tip to @drewkora and via: Jonathan Moore.