What it means to be a designer
Reflections from a week deep in thought
I. Welcome back & follow up
Good Morning ☀️
No follow up this week. I did get a few questions on the last couple newsletters on additional examples of putting Diversity and Inclusion into action. I could have done a better job providing examples and stories last time. Apologies for that, and I’ll work to share more in the future.
This week, I decided to share a series of internal posts I wrote that only made sense as I connected the dots backwards. I realised I was writing and sharing my thoughts on what it meant to be a designer - to really see the details in the world, explore all we can, and challenge the norms we have, to create something superior and spectacular.
With that, let’s get to it…
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II. What it means to be a designer - from seeing the details to challenging the norms.
Each morning I try to go for a walk. In the summers in particularly pleasant to watch the sunrise at 5:00am while no one is around and become lost in thought. During my walks I might listen to an audio book, podcast, music, or the sound of my surroundings and cargo ships leaving in the morning light.
This is when I start to plan my day and think deeply about design, technology, culture, social challenges, and anything else that comes to mind. I sometimes spend the walk mentally composing thoughts to share with argodesign globally in hopes to inspire, drive discourse, and provide different viewpoints on the changing landscape of our discipline.
Over the last week, the days flowed together causing a series of connected thoughts I shared over various internal Slack channels. As I wrote each one, I noticed how it connected to the previous. At the end, I realised I was exploring what I thought being a designer meant. Not about screens, patterns, personas, or user scenarios. It’s about exploring, challenging, creating, building, and providing something in the world that leaves it better than the previous state.
I hope this makes sense, and I hope this inspires.
PART 1 - June 3rd
Good Morning!! ☀️
It’s a beautiful evening in Amsterdam, and as normal, I thought I’d share a bit!
As vaccines roll out and we have our slow return to normal lives, I’ve been thinking about the last year. While we tend to view it negatively, I like to think what we can take away that’s positive. What we can be inspired by. From the speed of medical treatments (vaccine), to community support, to logistics, to a great deal of personal reflection…. and of course, building a little more spirit of one argo across all of our studios!
I don’t want to downplay the very real trauma, but in all situations I think it’s great to explore the nuance and different viewpoints to get a richer retrospective.
To that end, I recently started reading The Hidden Life of Trees which is an unbelievably fascinating book on how trees learn, grow, taste, smell, build communities, and more. It has really provided a beautiful view on forrest details I never knew existed. It made me think how I sometimes view so much of life around me without much thought and miss moments to be inspired. And if anything, we need to find our inspiration again after this last year. 🌳🌱🍂🍃🌿🌰
It’s one of the pieces that made me look at the last year different.
It’s easy to accept what is around us, or get swept up on summarising complexities to Tweets, but as designers, it should be engrained that we dig deeper, view nuance, change viewpoints, and uncover those parts other people miss - the hidden parts of people, places, objects, and experiences.
Thanks for letting me ramble!
Rock people 🔥
PART 2 - June 8th
For the first time this year, I took a true sunrise walk around 5:00am. For those unfamiliar, in the summer time it gets light before 5:00am in Netherlands. It’s always nice to walk before anyone else is out.
The quiet of the walk made me reflect on a longer conversation I’ve been having with Amelie, who shared an article with me around the drive to remain in a quiet and calm world, as the post-vaccine world gets moving. I also crossed paths with this article about NYC social life, FOMO, and how rushing back to a glut of social interaction may not be as fulfilling as we hoped.
Over the last weekend I grabbed three (3) new books - Ego is the Enemy, Stillness is the Key, and The Power of Giving Away Power. I got these to continue to improve how I think about studio management through focus, delegation of decisions, and strengthening of my listening skills. But they also felt like they were great to reflect on our lives as the world opens. Do we want to rush everywhere? Do we want to have the same priorities? Do we want the same careers and live in the same cities? How can we really see the last year - what focus did it bring us? What inspiration? What reflection?
For many people I’m talking with, they are realising that their priorities in life may have changed and are rethinking what is important to them. Family, friends, community, finding meaning, and continued exploration.
We’re so quick to rush back into our lives because we can, but I’m not sure if we’re asking enough if we should - what should change? What have we learned? What became important? I think this also perfectly applies to our programs - how we focus on the right problems, how we delegate decisions to become more effective, and how we continue to put aside seniority to listen to the best ideas and different perspectives.
Rock on Tuesday! 🔥
PART 3 - June 10th
The last week has been time spent deep in thought on the direction, approach, style, and working habits of the AMS studio, under the larger argo umbrella.
First there was the post on the Hidden Life of Trees. This reflected how we should explore our surroundings (Part 1) and challenge what we see as the default around us, in favour of understanding and finding something better.
Then the reflective post (Part 2) on how the last year has given us pause in thinking how we want to live. How we are reconsidering what we are doing, how we work, and even who we are. How we see the world through different lenses.
Building on all of that, for this week Not Boring put out a great podcast on the Cooperation Economy with how the strongest employees are reshaping the working landscape for companies post-Covid. Essentially what happens when people want more from their lives and work environments, and are forcing companies to change. Packy pulls a great analogy to changes in Basketball that allowed the stronger players to join each others teams forming supergroups. It reminded me of the recent town hall discussions, and so many great follow-up conversations after those. That we are engaged in making argo stronger for everyone!
As designers, and as a studio, I’ve maintained we should always be exploring new ways of working and seeing the world around us. How teams are run, how studios are run, how spaces are created, and how communication is done. This is partially to find the improvements and reject that we know “what’s best”, and partially because it’s our f*cking job to explore! 🔥
If we’re not doing it, someone else will, and we’re already behind.
And why think on all of this for hours each week? I fully believe my best contribution is looking at the larger way the studio here is crafted and built. To the points in Stillness is the Key (finished it! Starting on The Power of Giving Away Power now), we have tons of information around us and we’ve become nothing but reactionary. If we step back and think about what our true areas of focus are, and let the other noise go, how much more can we accomplish? What would that mean for each of us?
How can we become the dreamers and dreams?
Hopefully my contribution is creating a fun environment for people to learn, grow careers, and produce great work, but I guess that’s up to everyone in AMS 😊🇳🇱
I’m done for this week! Sorry for taking up so much space - love to share / love the discussion! 🍺
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That’s all for this week.
Thank you for reading!