Comorbidity

Working as a designer in the health care device industry, we deal with the issue of comorbidity—the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic diseases or conditions in a patient. This makes solving disease problems very complex as diseases are sometimes the result of multiple conditions and/or pre-existing conditions that can become increasingly dependent on each. This can lead to death.

These multiple conditions also exist in our increasingly complex design lives. Not only are comorbidities present in diseases, they are present in our continuous striving of design perfection. These conditions and dependencies can lead to the death of our design solutions.

In the case of the human version of comorbidity, the elimination or cure of one can lead to the elimination or cure of another because of the dependencies. This holds true with design work as well, if we can dissect and understand why a visual solution may not work, it’s usually a simple adjustment that can lead to a more harmonious design solution.

A cure for any disease or design solution can be complex or quite easy. Because of dependencies, a simple adjustment can be the cure for what ails you or your designs.

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Doors

We are defined by many things. We are multifaceted creatures—we have opinions; we have views; we react to various stimuli; we belong to many cultures; etc…

Another way we can be defined is by our daily behaviors—one of which, is the doors and doorways that we go in and out of everyday. If we can observe these patterns, we can get incredible insight into demographics.

What are the chronological sequences of doors that we go through? What type of doors do we go through? How much time we spend in entered spaces?… and what are the spaces that we enter and exit from? From doors and doorways in our homes to our cars… shopping, work, restaurants, etc… these transitions from one space to another can give us tremendous amounts of information?

As a researcher, at times, the information we find from transitions are more important than the actual data we glean from traditional methods.

Pay attention to the doorways you use, figuratively and metaphorically, you could get some incredible insight about yourself and others.

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Permission

I have students that keep in touch with me even years after they’ve graduated from UCLAx’ Design Communication Arts Program. Being proud of their accomplishments is an understatement–they’re acheivements send me beaming with pride knowing that they’re bringing into reality what they’ve been visualizing for years.

These students are now my associates, my peers, my co-workers, and my children of design. Like I am a child of design of my teachers and instructors, these students will carry on a legacy that has been passed down through me.

What makes these students great is their confidence in themselves and their abilities as well as being part of a network, a village of designers–because we care about what we create, our worth is enhanced.

We help each other, teach each other, and counsel when needed. But, one thing we never do is ask for permission to achieve our greatness.

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Tension and Compression

In my day-to-day duties, I often illustrate parts of the human body for the medical device industry. Hold here, place there, tug here, press, pull, etc… An interesting observation about illustrating the human body is that the most telling information about its form is where parts stretch (tension) and where parts come together (compression).

When things are in tension, there are no extra lines to indicate more information–details aren’t conveyed and what we need to know is masked–muscles are pulled in opposite directions. This parallel with our experiences in life seem to be rather interesting. When we experience tension, there’s so much that we hide from ourselves and our loved ones. We often feel pulled in opposite directions–painful.

An interesting phenomenon happens, though. Where there is tension, there is compression (usually opposite from where tension is located). This is where the most information can be seen–muscles come together and create lines of information that indicates information about form. The same thing happens within ourselves. There is a source of compression when we experience tension that we can start to understand more about ourselves. We just have to look at the other side.

It’s only when we lead a balanced life that tension and compression don’t exist–a state of relaxation–a state peace.

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Adopt, Adapt, Improve

Don’t be scared to adopt new ideas, new ways of thinking, and working. Adapt them or yourself to get the best results, then improve these techniques until they become new tools and methodologies unique to yourself.

Far too often designers rest on their laurels assuming their skills will carry them through their respective design career. Some have even attained celebrity status in the design world. The truth of the matter is we have to adopt new ideas, processes, and skills. The world is in constant flux and the skills needed years ago are no longer needed today (e.g. Flash, Quark, Director, etc…).

The design community is often forced to adapt to new tools given to us by the digital world. As an educator, I find myself being a student at almost every software and hardware cycle. Is it frustrating?… YES. Are the results faster and better?… an astounding YES!!!

Every year we find ourselves kicking and screaming into the newer world of digital tools and skills and mourning the loss of some of the skills and tools we spent hours perfecting. That seems to be the new normal.

Nevertheless, I still keep a trusty pen (Muji pens) and notebook (Field Notes) in my bag of digital tools. I still love thinking on paper. This is part of what makes me unique and foolish.

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Flexibility

Designers have processes–a formula to see a job from start to finish. Some have purely linear processes, others employ a more agile type of process and others still use a hybrid of both. But, to be successful in the world of design, your processes must be flexible.

One inevitable fact of any design project is that you can count on the rules to change as you go further into the project–especially the larger more complex ones. Any designer knows their process has to be flexible.

We can sometimes view these projects as our children. And, like children, they will have good days and bad days. We have to be in tune with them and know when we have to follow the rules, bend the rules, and when to break the rules–we have to pay attention. If you’re not in tune with your project(s), your children, we stand to lose control of them–a situation we see too often in the real world.

This understanding of being flexible is paramount to seeing our projects be delivered into the world and trust it will be successful–the exact same thing we hope for our offspring.

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Lessons From a Bonsai Tree

Months ago I was given the honor of planting and caring for a bonsai tree. After working the soil and trimming the leaves and unnecessary branches, I took it home and found a place for it to flourish.

Each day, I watered it; talked to it; touching and caring for its leaves. Days and weeks went by before I found a little sign of growth after the initial shock of planting and trimming. This was a glorious day for it had been months in the making.

This little tree has taught me an incredible lesson in patience, cultivation, and perseverance. I saw myself differently in my role as a teacher. I’ve learned to understand the correlation between teaching and caring for a bonsai tree.

With new design students, I must immerse them into the soil of the world of design and trim away anything unnecessary to their true design growth. Each week of lecturing is similar to the watering and caring for their growth–it’s this perseverance and trust that you hope to see leaves of design growth.

Additionally, as a student, you have to trust you find the nurturing you need in order to cultivate your skills. Until you start having that growth can you reach out and find your direction. Until those leaves of skills grow, let the process happen and concepts will make sense and one day you may find yourself cultivating your own bonsai trees.

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