Lifestyle

Design-tervention

Have you ever had a friend-tervention? When your friends stage an intervention regarding something in your life because they know you need it?

I've had several done by those who love me and I've also been part of a few acts of the kind towards the people in my life I care about. At times, it is quite necessary but sometimes, looking back, I think that some of them could have been constructed better in its delivery. A few of them, when evaluating with a bigger picture in mind, most definitely could have just used patience in knowing that the loved one will get there eventually and absolutely needs to get there on their own. Hurt feelings aren't the best way to pursue interventions and during my college and early 20's, my naivety rushed critical understandings that perhaps one was not ready for - I also feel the same way about several things that were thrown in my direction when I wasn't ready for it.

Human Centered Design isn't any different. A lot of times, it is actually, in fact, an intervention. When you're reconsidering a project, putting it on hold to perhaps insert a HCD process, or even when you're reevaluating something that has been done from an HCD lens, you are intervening on behalf of humans. This is a good thing, in theory, but delivery is key. What that delivery consists of is perhaps the greatest piece of the puzzle when designing anything. Designers must know this criticality within the process. 

I'd like to share an intervention that is happening to me during this design residency I am taking part of for two weeks.

  A Civilla class that begins and ends with a circle of community and expression of thoughts.

A Civilla class that begins and ends with a circle of community and expression of thoughts.

In my past work environment, I will share that it was a bit toxic in the context of management personalities, as well as general advocacy for design as a professional skill. I won't go into detail about specific stories and people, but just know this - it was not healthy for me to be in that environment anymore and I had to pull myself out of it. (This is a great reason to take a sabbatical if you are kicking around the idea. Take a step back and reevaluate who you are in your work environment. If you don't like it, maybe it's time for you to take a step back and recalibrate your compass.)

What I will share, though, are the behaviors that were drawn out of me by putting myself through an environment in which I thought I could handle. To name a few, the following are things that came to surface: Actions that were opposite from 'Shine Theory' with my fellow women workers; Political insecurity which manifested itself by speaking downward towards those who I felt threatened by; Insecurity in the credit and value of my work; and a wretched habit of name dropping just to level up to those in the room.

It was terrible. I was terrible. 

Another goal that I added to my list during this sabbatical is to regain who I am as I despised who I was becoming in a work setting. I am not perfect and I will be the first to say that I am absolutely responsible for these actions because they are mine, but I do know myself and I know that within my beliefs regarding what is right and what is good, it doesn't include any of the above actions. It hurt my heart to know that I had evolved into a person I promised I wouldn't be. So, I put an end to it.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't be smart in how you navigate work culture. You must learn the way the machine works and move through it in your most sincere, truthful, and kindest manner. You must know and master the system so that you don't let it push you around.

Environments and their surrounding cultures are critical to the kinds of people organizations will produce if constructed a certain way. We are always growing as people and when you're young, you're kind of a flaring firework that is just waiting to explode into the air to be recognized as a shining, talented creature. If you deny this, you are lying to yourself. Work culture in America is constructed this way and if you are trying to survive for the many reasons you have on your priority list, all humans behave in this way. Darwin is absolutely right in this context - it is the survival of the fittest.

But, what happens when the ones who make it to the top are monsters? Well, they produce fellow monsters, of course. And what happens when the ones at the top are gentle, kind but firm leaders? They produce fellow gentle, kind but firm people.

I share these thoughts because I have met wonderful leaders during this design residency and I have experienced, again, what it means to be led in a thoughtful manner. It has given me hope for myself that I am actually not this way in work groups when respect and encouragement are foundations for a working culture. I am relieved to know that I am not a monster in the working world and have more confidence in myself and my work than I ever did in the past. This all happened in 1 week.

I'm proud to be a member of Civilla's family. 

I sit in my temporary home in Detroit and think about how miraculous this experience is. The story of how I got here and who I have met is nothing short of a miracle. What I am learning right now, I will never give up for the world. Never have I ever met such beautiful souls with whom I have immediately connected with and wondered, "Why am I meeting these people now? What took so long? What is happening right now?!" 

For starters, Civilla is a social impact/innovation startup that began in Detroit at the beginning of September 2015 (that's last month). This little group has one of the biggest hearts within the range of startups I have consulted with, and the projects they are pursuing are a testament to that fact. Passion is the project. Social intervention is the evolving experiment. 

  Civilla has taken a repurposed storage closet as their first home. A great transformation indeed.

Civilla has taken a repurposed storage closet as their first home. A great transformation indeed.

Although Civilla is intervening on behalf of the people of Detroit using the HCD method, I am proud to say that they have intervened in my life as a beacon for knowing what exact environment and culture makes me feel safe and confident when it comes to work. I can only attempt to describe the joy I feel of knowing this truth. Perhaps using a food analogy will help. I feel as though I have tasted the simple, yet delightfully thoughtful bowl of porridge that is ever so slight in its first impression but immersed with enriching ingredients that slowly expose themselves bite by bite - teaching you the roots of what food and taste should be while humble in its packaging and delivery. Better? I hope so. I need you to understand this.

  From left to right: Lena Selzer, Adam Selzer, and Michael Brennan

From left to right: Lena Selzer, Adam Selzer, and Michael Brennan

There is nothing about this experience that I expected in my lifetime, but I will wholeheartedly accept it and appreciate, in utter awe, the fact that it is happening. The universe is beautifully mysterious like that - I often wondered what would actually come out of my sabbatical but this journey has proved to be filled with more than just rest and goal seeking. Or could it be that through the pursuance of rest and goal seeking that the things that must open our eyes actually come to fruition? At this point, however way you want to look at it, I'm just glad it's happening. 

UX Notes: We are what we experience and our experiences will guide our future decisions and paths. If you are enjoying your current experience in your workplace, bravo. Continue with that experience but don't forget to challenge yourself so that you will grow. If you aren't enjoying your experience in your workplace, I challenge to seek out why that is. Was it the 'Login' process with HR that exhausted you right from the beginning? Or was it the enticing interactions you fell in love with during your interview and when the curtain was unveiled, you saw the reality of what you signed up for? Think about it.


Tidying

On the flight from Copenhagen to Chicago, I read Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I couldn't sleep at all during the flight so I plowed through the entire thing - and I'm so glad I did. 

I started my sabbatical by cleaning out my apartment but after reading this book, it seems as though I had only just dusted my shelves. Lady Marie is hilarious in the way she goes about talking about one's home and belongings, so for the pure joy of reading someone else's thoughts about belongings, this book is a must read.
 

"But when she pulled open her sock drawer, I could not suppress a gasp. It was full of potato-like lumps that rolled about. She had folded back the tops to form balls and tied her stockings tightly in the middle.[...] I pointed to the balled-up socks. 'Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?'"
Excerpt From: Marie Kondo. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”


Beyond the great representation of your belongings having a life of their own, Kondo does a great job of allowing you to follow through with her advice and thought process by encouraging you to ask yourself, "Does this bring me joy?" 

I documented some of my process but the biggest eye-opener for me was the realization of the sheer amount of things I possess in my little apartment.

All of the books I own in my apartment were laid out on my dining table. I love books with all my heart and this was the category that was the hardest for me. (Do you see my dining table bending a little? Ha.)

There were joyful + painful moments as well as lots of memories flooding through my thoughts while completing the process of tidying my apartment but after I completed it, I felt new, refreshed, and cleansed.

Total bags tossed into the trash? 15. I know. I couldn't believe it either.

One of the things that Lady Marie advises to do is to "[visualize] the ideal lifestyle you dream of." The one thing I had always wanted to do was to reorganize my bookshelf as a color gradient - because, why not?! Being a visual person, sometimes I won't remember the name of a book that I'm thinking of but I know the color and can see the cover in my mind. So, naturally, this way of organizing my books makes sense for me.

This process of tidying was probably one of the best experiences I've ever had. Kondo states in her book that it would also teach you to edit out other things in your life and I think that this is a true statement. 

As a UX designer, it already gives me a new perspective when it comes to choosing hierarchy of information, process flow, and editing material out. If you're in the industry, ask yourself, "Will it bring my user joy?"
 

UX Notes: Designing experiences should be done with the user in mind but what happens when you have multiple kinds of brain processes accessing the same material? Filters can be a point of contention with content managers and designers but having visual filters may be a feature that many have not yet experimented with but could provide another way for others to naturally find what they need. Hey Amazon - what if you had book cover color filters in your search process? I'll bet that your sales would go up (even if it's a little margin) and that you would have die hard, loyal fans.

 

Solfinn + Family

Remember when I went to that pop-up dinner from Rødder? And then they invited me to their wine shop the day after? I went and had a wonderful hang with them. 

One of the things that Rødder prides itself on is their knack for finding natural wine that is oh so delicious and wonderful. I bought a bottle to gift the Airbnb that I was staying at but felt tempted to bring it back home to the states with me instead.

Inside the store there are rad posters of bands and just a quaint space where you can tell most of the finances and emailing takes place for this small business. 

The sweetest treat of the day, other than the amazing rosé they opened and shared, was the arrival of Solfinn's daughter who was dressed oh so french and chic. 

I also met Solfinn's wife who had apparently designed some of the posters that were inside the wine shop. She is an architect by trade and told me that she will be returning to work in a few months.

She was so social and playful the entire time and was also very curious when it came to my camera. (Photographed here is also the international phenomenon, Sophie la Girafe)

Solfinn and his beautiful family. They had just spend 3 weeks in Paris for their holiday and were back in Denmark to cook up a storm.

I was so pleased to be able to hang out with just awesome people and I really felt all the kindness ooze out of everyone. Maybe it was the weather that day or it could've been the wine but it was just so chill. 

I love good people.

Rødder: Pop-up Dinner

I mentioned several times that I did some research into my tribes that exist in Copenhagen. During this quest I found a blog that belonged to one of the main Service Design groups in Denmark. I reached out in hopes of meeting like-minded people but sadly, it was summer, and they weren't holding any events during my stay. However, I continued to read their blog and looked at some of their past events.

One of their events looked so festive that I searched a bit more to find who had hosted such a lovely looking event. Turns out that it was hosted by a group called Rødder: Two chefs holding pop-up dining experiences filled with thoughtful, locally grown produce that were transformed with creativity onto a plate. I crossed my fingers and sent them an email to see if they would be hosting an event during my stay. Lo and behold, they were. So, I bought a ticket. 

I arrived a little late to the dinner but was met with smiling chefs who directed me to a spot in a long dinner table setting. I talked to them about this set up and they described to me that it was very intentional on how they wanted everyone to feel united as well as cozy enough to spark conversation during communal dining. Remember - Danes don't just party with anyone. 

I sat down and was met with two groups to the left and right of me. I must've looked timid (and I'll admit I was - I was horrified that I was late and also that it seemed to be a very family oriented event) so they were kind enough to spark conversation. Again, to me, Danes are so friendly and kind. What is this nonsense of them being cold and unapproachable? Someone please correct this misunderstanding.

We talked about many things and eventually, many of them asked me how I got a ticket to this event. I told them my story and they were sort of amazed. I then found out that Rødder was the first group to ever host pop-up dinners and spearheaded this notion of celebratory communal dining with local food. Here I was, sitting at a lovely pop-up dinner, with a ticket that was coveted by many who were met with 'sold out' notifications during an online check-out process. #jelly?

Needless to say, the meal was fantastic. 

Chef Esben

Chef Solfinn

Aren't these lily pad looking things gorgeous? I still have yet to find the names of them. If you know what they are, please share!

Lovely plant centerpieces

This dessert was amazing. Vanilla mouse with fennel, gooseberries, and lemon ice.

At the end of the meal, I talked with some of the chefs and they asked if I was the girl from Chicago who had emailed them about their event. Such great memory, right? We chatted a bit and I thanked them for the meal. We ended the conversation with them inviting me to their wine shop to chill and hang out the next day. Umm... yes. I will be there.

Service Design Notes: There were no technology components involved in this dinner experience except for the ticket purchasing which wasn't even checked upon arriving. What do you think about honor systems? I think that the better we get at service design, the more honor systems we will see in the industry. I believe this to be true because as we design better experiences, we connect with humans better and create mini-relationships even if it's for the designed moment. When we connect and develop these mini-relationships, we don't need to play police because cooperation, respect, and the golden rule is part of the transaction of receiving a service.

UX Notes: These long tables that were quite narrow were consciously selected and designed for these events by Rødder. When creating an experience, it is important to consider the physical space of where you are constructing your experience because this is where the unconscious mind and emotions creep in and can determine which direction your experience will go towards. I believe this set up is successful for Rødder because the physical space forced naturally reserved Danes to get close and enjoy food in good company.

Thoughts on Clothing + Shops in Copenhagen

I haven't written much about shopping in Copenhagen but if you meet anyone who knows me, I am pretty infatuated with clothes. Having sewn some clothes for myself, I have learned to appreciate fabric, patterns, stitching, and just pure craftsmanship from designers who specialize in this field. I'm always looking for interesting cuts and I love finding material that consists of thoughtful quality while backed with intention.

I work in the technology field and there are moments where I think about digital product design as clothes making/design. Let me explain.

Parallels to clothes-making and technology:

1) Pattern makers are your back-end architects and developers. 
"What are you talking about?" you might ask. But have you ever met a pattern maker? These people are geniuses. Material is their data and they think about multiple things as they architect their plan to create various sizing for one style of clothing. Our human body is their ultimate goal but the production process is really what they are designing for and if they do it right, everyone else has what they need to finish the product. "Will this die cut be durable for the amount of production requested?" That question is not so different from, "Will this system be able to handle multiple queries and modular data flow?"

2) Sewers are your front-end developers. 
Sewing can get really technical. The type of stitch needed can make or break how something drapes onto your body (a component of interaction design). Some clothing designers have a fit over whether or not they should start on a half-stitch or a whole stitch - no joke. You pixel perfect people out there are not alone and your tribe extends far beyond the digital community. Our body sizes are the devices you code responsive design for and it matters how you organize your bootstrap logic in order to get the product to surface correctly. Coincidence? I think not. 

3) Clothing designers are your UX/UI folks. 
I have a fundamental belief that UX should not be separated from UI but I won't have enough space here to comment on that. I'll save that for later. Regardless, here is where the questions and design decisions get really tricky and again, not at all different from the fashion world. Is this relevant to what is currently out there on the market? Has this already been made? If not, what is out there that we can benchmark off of to make this product/dress better? Tell me more about how your foot feels while walking in this shoe. Do you feel confident that wearing this will keep you warm when walking outside during winter? Is this color palette configured to your personality/industry? And the list goes on.

I could keep going with this but an important point to make here is that it is imperative that clothing designers work with pattern makers and sewers constantly so that the end design is actually what was intended. This helps production flow to meet its potential and sewers know why starting at a half-stitch will actually change the product as well as influence how people interact with it when they put it on. So, the real question is, why do we separate these people in tech? Ideal teams all work together but I have seen many a time where back-end architects and developers don't even get to talk to UX/UI folks when assigned to a product. Or, front-end developers get left in the dark when handed screens to produce and have no idea how the product is suppose to behave and why.

I challenge technology teams to really explore other mediums to see how craftsmen are working to produce whatever thing that they are tasked with. There is much to learn from physical product making and I think that more teams should learn collaborative processes in other mediums. I'm pretty confident that if they do experience this, our digital products will be that much better. 


Enough of this though - take a look at some shops I visited. 


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