Fortune Cookie

If you’ve ever had Chinese-American food, no doubt you’ve come across the iconic fortune cookie. When broken open you come across a printed strip of paper that states a wonderful message of good will–your fortune. It makes us feel good for a moment in time and we either keep it or toss out that strip of paper. It’s also true that the message stays or is thrown away from our psyche.

Our human brain works in ways similar to our reaction to a fortune cookie’s message. The message creates a thought in our heads that could make a neural connection if we want it to. If that neural connection happens, it becomes an intention. If you believe the cookie’s message, your intentions will make it happen. After all, the body follows the brain. For example, if your brain says the body is hungry, the brain will direct the body to find something to eat. If your brain believes, your body will follow. It’s a learning response–response, stimulus, reinforced behavior. I will elaborate more on learning in a future post.

Design is like a fortune cookie. It carries a message that we hope will connect with its viewer. The struggles are there in hopes that it will leave a neural connection that a viewer will hopefully create an action (call, connect, visit, purchase, inspire, etc…). Beginning designers tend to be more ego driven and not thinking of the so-called fortune cookie effect. Remember that ego never inspired anyone.

When designing, think of how wonderful the experience is from the fortune cookie. And, just maybe, you will leave a lifelong connection with your message.

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Habits

We have our habits—good or bad. As humans we are pattern seekers as well as pattern behaving creatures. We are slaves to our habits. After all, we need predictability in our lives in order to survive as a species. We need to know that certain actions cause certain results—when we are hungry, we find something to eat. It’s all about patterns and habits. These are hardwired into our brains from repeated actions and results from child to adult.

Hardwiring consists of physical neural connections. Because of this hardwiring aspect of habits, it becomes very hard to break those habits. The more we do a habit, the more our body reacts in the same way. This is why addictions are so hard to break.

When I look for new forms to keep my design solutions fresh, I’m constantly drawing the same things—my own hardwiring at work. It’s my addiction I strive to break every day of my design life.

To overcome this, I have to create a new neural connection—a new addiction. Maybe I use a new pencil, pen (or stylus), or paper (or iPad). I can’t break an old habit, so I have to replace it with a new one. I have to create a new neural connection. Maybe I’ll start drawing with my off hand. Or, to really go conceptual, maybe we redefine what drawing is. That’s another topic.

That old adage, you can’t teach an old dog a new trick has some physiological truth. Old habits do die hard. But, we can create new ones. It’s time we trick our brains and “Think Different.”

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