Work it Out

All too often in my observations of the working habits of design students, I see too much of a reliance on technology. They will give up because the software can’t do what they envisioned. They give up on a concept and relinquish their vision to a software algorithm. This is what makes the difference between pedestrian designers and incredible designers. Incredible designers push their own limits and knowledge with their tools. Pedestrian designers give up and let their tools dictate their design. Designers have to find their own breakthroughs—they have to work it out.

In cases like this, I often remember a quote from the great John Wooden (legendary UCLA basketball coach), “Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.”

By making the best of how things work out doesn’t mean you let things just happen. You must put in the work. You have to work it out. By putting in the work, you have more of a chance of creating something incredible. Draw the extra sketches. Explore more colors combos and type combos. Create more concepts. Only then will you be rewarded with incredible design solutions.

Elegant solutions only come from working out the problem.

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More Glasses

As a continuation of my previous post on glasses. There’s another aspect of my design life that seems I have to adjust to as I get older—the need to utilize multiple glasses. I have to utilize one for everyday activities and one for computer work. The one for everyday activities is also a progressive pair, which I could never get used to. This basically means I have to adjust my head tilt relative to my sight view in order to see varying distances.

Basically I have to plan ahead of time for what I’m about to task. I no longer have to buy one pair of glasses. I have to purchase multiple. I need eyeglasses for every location I plan to work in.

When I start the initial phases of any design work, I have to mentally put on a different set of glasses. Even at different phases of design work, I need to see things differently. Sometimes we need to see more into the future. Other times we need to see things in a microscopic sense. As a design community, we have to be ready to see everything at any given phase of a project. We can’t be so myopic in our views that we can’t move forward. We need to put on another pair of glasses to go beyond and push through any obstacles.

It’s those times when we have to be a mindreader with our client’s thoughts that I still haven’t found the right glasses for.

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Relationships

For a period of time, I once studied relational database design. It is a fascinating field and I learned many things about my own chosen field of design. Relational database design is based on the premise of “one-to-one” and “one-to-many”.

We need this relational data premise to enjoy our modern day life of the Internet of Things. But we can take that concept further as we look into our understanding of the roles in our life—our real relationships.

We are sons, daughters, friends, siblings, workers, managers, teachers, etc… When issues happen in our relationships, we have to look into how that relationship is structured. As an example, a parent of many children has a one-to-many relationship. But, a child to a parent, is a one-to-one relationship. A teacher to students is one-to-many. But a student to a teacher is a one-to-one relationship. In order for total harmony to occur, the aspects and rules of the relationship (link) have to be followed. One piece of data affects other piece or pieces of data.

When we understand that our link to another person may not be the same the other way, we tend to understand behaviors a bit more. We are social creatures and we need those connections, whether it’s real or artifical. Those connections and links are important to our survival. But how we affect those links is determined by our understanding of said relationship.

Be mindful of your relational design in your own life.

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Glasses

Every couple of years, I notice my vision starts to bother me and I have to make an appointment to see an eye doctor—mainly because my eyeglass prescription has changed. I can’t see things the way I normally do. I can’t focus and the world becomes a struggle to visually understand and the world stops making sense. The main tool I use as a visual designer has become my greatest weakness—my eyes. The tools of my trade become useless without them.

Design is the same way, we have to refocus every couple of years or else you’ll lose focus and your design world will stop making sense. By refocusing, I mean taking an inventory of what we understood to be good design and what tools we have to learn or relearn.

Design understanding and education does not end when we leave art/design school. We need to refill our visual prescription every couple of years in order to stay relevant in our chosen profession. It would be nice to have some kind of certification or license to practice design, where we have to renew our license just like our fellow health practitioners.

For those of us who are losing our design focus, it’s time to get the help you need—refocus, reeducate, and retool. That’s what the doctor ordered!!!

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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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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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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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