Posts tagged ‘Multiple Personalities’

Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School

So as I was cleaning out and starting a New Year,  I came across this piece written several years ago by Michael McDonough and published by Design Observer. I have to confess, I pull this out periodically and reread it because it is timeless advice for designers.  Each time I read the list something different hits me. Lately, its number 9 -Show me the outputand I’ll show you the money. What ones strike you?

Enjoy and Happy New Year.

From Michael Bierut, Design Observer Blog  03.24.04:

The Architect’s Newspaper is my new favorite design publication. It’s a 16-page tabloid that comes out about twice a month. It’s literate and timely, a fast-paced collection of news, reviews and opinion from voices as various as Michael Sorkin, Peter Slatin and Craig Konyk, all beautifully designed (in two ruthlessly efficient colors) by Martin Perrin. And, best of all, it has a gossip column.

Last month, they published a piece by Michael McDonough, the accomplished New York-based architect, writer and teacher, called “The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School.” I read lots of these kinds of things (and even written a few myself), but I found McDonough’s not just entertaining but actually quite useful, and valid for nearly any kind of design discipline. He has graciously given us permission to reprint it here at Design Observer.

The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School by Michael McDonough

1. Talent is one-third of the success equation.

Talent is important in any profession, but it is no guarantee of success. Hard work and luck are equally important. Hard work means self-discipline and sacrifice. Luck means, among other things, access to power, whether it is social contacts or money or timing. In fact, if you are not very talented, you can still succeed by emphasizing the other two. If you think I am wrong, just look around.

2. 95 percent of any creative profession is shit work.

Only 5 percent is actually, in some simplistic way, fun. In school that is what you focus on; it is 100 percent fun. Tick-tock. In real life, most of the time there is paper work, drafting boring stuff, fact-checking, negotiating, selling, collecting money, paying taxes, and so forth. If you don’t learn to love the boring, aggravating, and stupid parts of your profession and perform them with diligence and care, you will never succeed.

3. If everything is equally important, then nothing is very important.

You hear a lot about details, from “Don’t sweat the details” to “God is in the details.” Both are true, but with a very important explanation: hierarchy. You must decide what is important, and then attend to it first and foremost. Everything is important, yes. But not everything is equally important. A very successful real estate person taught me this. He told me, “Watch King Rat. You’ll get it.”

4. Don’t over-think a problem.

One time when I was in graduate school, the late, great Steven Izenour said to me, after only a week or so into a ten-week problem, “OK, you solved it. Now draw it up.” Every other critic I ever had always tried to complicate and prolong a problem when, in fact, it had already been solved. Designers are obsessive by nature. This was a revelation. Sometimes you just hit it. The thing is done. Move on.

5. Start with what you know; then remove the unknowns.

In design this means “draw what you know.” Start by putting down what you already know and already understand. If you are designing a chair, for example, you know that humans are of predictable height. The seat height, the angle of repose, and the loading requirements can at least be approximated. So draw them. Most students panic when faced with something they do not know and cannot control. Forget about it. Begin at the beginning. Then work on each unknown, solving and removing them one at a time. It is the most important rule of design. In Zen it is expressed as “Be where you are.” It works.

6. Don’t forget your goal.

Definition of a fanatic: Someone who redoubles his effort after forgetting his goal. Students and young designers often approach a problem with insight and brilliance, and subsequently let it slip away in confusion, fear and wasted effort. They forget their goals, and make up new ones as they go along. Original thought is a kind of gift from the gods. Artists know this. “Hold the moment,” they say. “Honor it.” Get your idea down on a slip of paper and tape it up in front of you.

7. When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance.

Overconfidence is as bad as no confidence. Be humble in approaching problems. Realize and accept your ignorance, then work diligently to educate yourself out of it. Ask questions. Power – the power to create things and impose them on the world – is a privilege. Do not abuse it, do not underestimate its difficulty, or it will come around and bite you on the ass. The great Karmic wheel, however slowly, turns.

8. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; or, no good deed goes unpunished.

The world is not set up to facilitate the best any more than it is set up to facilitate the worst. It doesn’t depend on brilliance or innovation because if it did, the system would be unpredictable. It requires averages and predictables. So, good deeds and brilliant ideas go against the grain of the social contract almost by definition. They will be challenged and will require enormous effort to succeed. Most fail. Expect to work hard, expect to fail a few times, and expect to be rejected. Our work is like martial arts or military strategy: Never underestimate your opponent. If you believe in excellence, your opponent will pretty much be everything.

9. It all comes down to output.

No matter how cool your computer rendering is, no matter how brilliant your essay is, no matter how fabulous your whatever is, if you can’t output it, distribute it, and make it known, it basically doesn’t exist. Orient yourself to output. Schedule output. Output, output, output. Show Me The Output.

10. The rest of the world counts.

If you hope to accomplish anything, you will inevitably need all of the people you hated in high school. I once attended a very prestigious design school where the idea was “If you are here, you are so important, the rest of the world doesn’t count.” Not a single person from that school that I know of has ever been really successful outside of school. In fact, most are the kind of mid-level management drones and hacks they so despised as students. A suit does not make you a genius. No matter how good your design is, somebody has to construct or manufacture it. Somebody has to insure it. Somebody has to buy it. Respect those people. You need them. Big time.

1 January 2009 at 12:51 pm 1 comment

The Paradox of Choice

 In August Susan discussed Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Choice that Shapes our Decisions touching upon client’s indecisiveness because of too many options. Mark Hurst,a marketer, that I follow recently talked about the same subject with Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice , another  outstanding book on the subject. As can be the case, I am in a different business place today than in August and after rereading Mark’s blog; it all came together for me and I am on board.

Schwartz says, “Everyone agrees that having choice is better than not having choice. It seems evident that if choice is good, then more choice is better. The paradox is that this “obvious” truth isn’t true. It turns out that a point can be reached where, with more choice, people are worse off.”

People can’t ignore options. There’s more effort put into making decisions, and less in enjoying them. What’s nagging is the possibility that, if they had chosen differently, they could have gotten something better. Some social science research says that one consequence of leaving your options open is that people are less satisfied with their decisions; if a decision is non-reversible, you’ll make yourself feel better about the choice you made. If it’s a reversible choice, you don’t do that. He refers to it as accepting choices that are “good enough”.

Transfer that thought to your retail business. If you provide sales options in your retail store, SAH or website, you might think the way to attract people is to provide as many alternatives as possible. But that’s wrong. You’ll attract people, but they won’t buy as much as they would with fewer choices.

 Schwartz goes on to outline how we should do that:

“There’s no general answer except “restrict options” – though in what way depends on what you’re selling. For example, e-commerce sites and store or your SAH client presentation should be designed so that the complexity is hidden, so that people who really care, or know a lot, can find their way to the complexity, and the rest of us who can’t be bothered to find it, won’t have to.

He cites an example of home furnishing stores -stores that sell things that don’t go naturally together – like clothing and furniture. They’re selling a certain aesthetic. How does a small store sell furniture? It puts a couple of things on display, and then offers a million items in the catalog. You’re not overwhelmed when you walk in; instead, you are in an environment where that’s manageable. If you like a couch, and tell the salesperson you’re interested, and ask if it comes in different colors or fabrics, the salesperson can trot out the catalog and then you can see the infinite number of couches you can get. First you’ve been seduced into wanting a couch by what appears to be the simplicity of the decision. That’s the right way to design things in the modern world, where everything is too complex.

He goes on to discuss Amazon.com’s If you like this.. popup. I have to say that I find it annoying. I don’t find myself buying from those popups and if I do start surfing, I end up losing focus and leaving the site without buying what I intended. So maybe he has a point. Schwartz suggests somewhere in the range of six to twelve options is what most people would be comfortable with, most of the time.

The lesson here is to arbitrarily limit the number of options you’ll consider. My husband I just bought a new TV and it took us over 1 year to decide because of all the options, new models and upgrades coming on the market. I was about to throw in the towel. I should have promised myself that I would go to only two stores and then stop my research and make a decision.

That brings me to a retail trend I have been noticing lately- the limited edition, curated site or store. While this concept plays into several consumer behaviors right now it also is based on the paradox of choice. Gaby Basora, the genius behind coveted line Tucker, just launched e-commerce with a twist. Here’s how it works: Each month, there will be a limited-edition (100-150) classic blouse in a unique print that is available only on the site. That print will not be sold again, which means that if you score one, you will be the proud owner of a Tucker collector’s item, so to speak. Consider Gaby’s take. Cut back on the number of samples books you’re bringing into the house or consider a limited edition window fashion website,

For a “more is better” person like I am; I have resolved to start to editing my options in both my personal life and in working with my clients. If they came to me because I am the so –called expert: then here are the choices I recommend and I can back up. If she needs to see every fabric in every sample book, she’s not the client for me.

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14 December 2008 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Style Definitions

So somewhere in the blogosphere I came across a link to a style definition quiz and it turned out to be a fine way to spend a sticky summer afternoon. My problem is I don’t have one “style” I like, but many different looks, and I’m in a constant struggle between the “mom” in me who wants everything spic, span and in order and the “boho soul” who enjoys the visual adventure of found treasures, piles of books, etc.

So, on my first go-around with the style quiz, I was dubbed a “Home-Coming Queen” with the following general definition:

“Nothing – budgets included – stops you from putting your all into creating a dream home. Your look is quintessentially feminine: cool, pretty colours; layered patterns and textures; and flawless attention to every detail. You like to spend every spare moment on home improvements and making your fantasy become reality. Your home is as pretty as a chocolate box and almost good enough to eat.”

And here’s one of the key photos I choose in the process, a modern classic living room by Fox Nahem Design. I definitely love it, but it’s not totally me.

 

Fox Nahem Design

Fox Nahem Design

So I went in search of other photos that perhaps represent other other facets of my style and this is what I came up with.

 

Bedroom from an older copy of Marie Claire Maison

Bedroom from an older copy of Marie Claire Maison

 

 

By designer Matthew Smyth

By designer Matthew Smyth

 

From Inside Out magazine, date unknown

From Inside Out magazine, date unknown

 

 

 

A luminous bedroom by Lucinda Symons

A luminous bedroom by Lucinda Symons

All of these bedrooms speak to me, each appealing to a slightly different aspect of my style personality. I went back and took the test a second time and ended up with a different result…I might just drop by on a regular basis!

Take the test and let us know your results.

6 August 2008 at 9:07 am 2 comments


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