This week Clemantine shared a video on a topic that many creatives grapple with, the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Of course the message can apply to those in any industry, but from my perspective it’s particularly pertinent for those in the creative industries.
Ira Glass makes the point that creatives are often in a place where their skills or output don’t match up to their ‘taste’ or desired outcomes. That it can take years to refine your practice, and the best way to do this is to create, create, create, make mistakes and learn. Don’t get too attached to the end result.
The creative gap
Glass cites this as one of the reasons that so many creatives give up, as they’re more often than not left dissatisfied with their work. This takes me back to a piece I wrote in module 1 titled Creativity: Nature or Nurture? This piece challenges the myth that creativity is a mysterious gift that some blessed people possess and other’s do not. I referenced Lesley Hirst the author of ‘The Art of Critical Making’ who states that “Creativity manifests differently depending on one’s motivation and opportunities.” (HIRST, Leslie. 2013)
Both Hirst and Glass are realists about creativity. That it takes time, dedication and opportunity to develop a creative practice. That we may create things for years that don’t match up to our ‘taste’, because we often set high expectations of ourselves. I can relate to all of the above. I believe that my cross-disciplinary career path has been a series of moving from one modality to see if I can meet my own expectations in the next. From painting to fashion to graphic design, marketing and now UX, I’ve expressed my creativity through several mediums over the past 10 years. The more I reflect, the more satisfied I am with this path.
I’ve learnt different design processes and philosophies along the way, all of which have enriched my current practice. My experience as a graphic designer helps me to make decisions regarding the hierarchy of visual information, whereas as a marketer I honed in my skills creating big-picture strategies for stakeholders. However it’s my personal values and desire for change that drives the direction of my work.
My practice as a designer has been purposefully anti-capitalist from the beginning. I started my branding agency to raise the profile of small businesses in the social enterprise space, with a focus on woman-led projects and accessibility for clients in the Global South. As I’ve begun my journey to UX Design I’ve continued working on projects that prioritise the well-being of people and the planet. So it’s important for me to connect with peers and stakeholders who are working to make more ethical design choices.
How am I doing this?
– Continued connection with communities of practice ‘Climate Designers’ and ‘Humane Technologists’. I plan to work with an architect from Climate Designers on a live project which is in development. Watch this space!
– Offering my time as a volunteer or at reduced rates to non-profit organisations. Currently in talks with a sustainable education project regarding potential collaboration.
– Focusing my UX design study on human centred design methodologies. Using this module to refine my own design philosophy and processes.
Challenge Activity: Desk Design
This week we were encouraged to link up with one of our peers to complete a problem-solving design brief. We were asked to re-design our partner’s desk space, based on their current needs and uses.
I collaborated with Lydia, who happens to have recently moved house, and so is using a temporary desk. This gave us the opportunity to discuss the performance issues with her current setup and what an ideal desk would look like. I used a semi-structured interview style, ideal for investigating people’s experiences, views and perceptions (Braun & Clarke 2013).
I recently signed up for Miro, an online whiteboard tool. So I decided to use this project as an opportunity to get familiar with the app, using it to organise my user needs, moodboard and design annotations.
Straight after our call I summed up Lydia’s interview answers in a succinct problem definition:
Lydia’s current desk is too small for her iMac, there isn’t enough space for anything else. She’s missing a space to take notes and to store her work materials and wires.
Lydia’s style is minimalist, clean & tidy, and she likes to have plants around her to relieve the mind. Empty space is necessary for her to move her mouse around, and to create a calm, comfortable space. Lydia’s back issues require her to have a comfortable, ergonomic chair so that she can spend her office hours in comfort.
Lydia works mostly during the day, so doesn’t need artificial lighting, she prefers the daylight, so it’s important to maintain access to natural light.
The current desk:
The proposed design:
Learnings & Reflections
When designing the desk space I started to notice gaps in my knowledge regarding Lydia’s current space. She mentioned natural light, yet I wasn’t sure where her windows were located. In fact I didn’t get a picture for the wider space, the room in which Lydia’s desk is situated. From the light in the photo she sent of her current desk I guessed that the windows were behind her, although I know it’s not good practice to design from a place of assumption. If I had a longer time-scale I could have reached out and asked further questions.
This was a great exercise in taking UX away from the screen, and considering the user experience of our everyday lives and objects. It’s made me consider how I can make my own workspace more efficient and tailored to my everyday behaviors and tasks.
I’m yet to receive feedback from Lydia, but I’m looking forward to hearing what she likes and how I could improve the design.
CLARKE, Victoria and Virginia BRAUN. 2013. ‘Successful Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide for Beginners’ [online]. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256089360_Successful_Qualitative_Research_A_Practical_Guide_for_Beginners [accessed 18 Nov 2021].
SAX, Daniel. (2014) ‘The Gap by Ira Glass’. [online video]. Available at: https://vimeo.com/85040589 [accessed 28th Jan 2022)
Fig 1 (featured image): Screenshot of video. SAX, Daniel. (2014) ‘The Gap by Ira Glass’. [online video]. Available at: https://vimeo.com/85040589 [accessed 28th Jan 2022)
Fig 2: Video: SAX, Daniel. (2014) ‘The Gap by Ira Glass’. [online video]. Available at: https://vimeo.com/85040589 [accessed 28th Jan 2022)
Fig 3: Online whiteboard notes. Created by author using Miro.
Fig 4: Photo of desk. By Lydia Habbib for university collaboration.
Fig 5: Annotated illustration. Created by author using Miro.