T
Author
Dennis Hambeukers
Design Leadership Evangelist
more about me

Time To Design A New Blog

published on 2018-10-03 by Dennis Hambeukers

Today I had the afternoon off of work so I had some time to design a new WordPress theme for my new blog.

I had the idea to focus on the article and add some drawers to the left and right. Drawers you could pull out and push back in that would contain contextual information, calls to action and navigation. So big type in the center and three drawers, three beams with icons. In the background, I wanted to recreate a typographic experiment I did some years ago with big, cut-off typography.

Each of the drawers can be opened separately. When the black drawer is opened, the yellow one is also pushed out. The black drawer contains information about the author with a link to more information.

The yellow drawer can also be pulled out. The yellow drawer contains the call to action: connect.

The grey drawer contains navigation elements. It’s the traditional WordPress sidebar.

All drawers can be opened in any combination, creating interesting cut-offs.

So the design is a new take on the traditional elements of a website: header, footer and sidebar. Like all good design this is inspired by other great design. In this case I already had the idea to do these drawers for years. Ever since I designed my previous WordPress blog:

I still like this minimal design, but always thought it needed it a little bit more, a little menu hidden somewhere. So yesterday I saw this image from the new branding of Netflix:

In this new design, they use what they call The Stack, which is basically layers of Material Design sheets on top of each other. So I decided to use this as inspiration for my new blog design.

You can preview the design here.

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Business As Usual Eats Change For Breakfast

published on 2018-10-02 by Dennis Hambeukers

Today I came across this great quote that is a variation on Peter Drucker’s famous quote:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Peter Drucker

The variation was:

“Business as usual eats change for breakfast.”

Eik Brandsgård

When we are talking about design leadership, we are talking about changing things. Design is currently not in the lead when it comes to business problem-solving. So if we want to use the powers of design to enhance creativity, engagement, clarity in business processes, we have to change things up. And sometimes this goes well. We apply design thinking, make prototypes, collect user feedback, do a design sprint. But how successful these interventions might be, if you’re not careful things will be back to the old ways before you know it. I have seen this in projects where I was evangelizing design thinking for years. People revert back to their old ways for numerous reasons. Even if they are totally convinced that the new ways design introduces are better, they will go back to business as usual. You have to keep working on it all the time. Reminding, educating, doing interventions.

Reasons to fall back

It’s not that people are not willing to adopt the designer’s way. I find that a lot of people do, but there can be many reasons to go back:

Radical interventions

Business as usual is a powerful force that works against change. Even if you have the intention and the will to change, you will have fall-backs. So sometimes you have to do something drastic, do an intervention, put your foot down, say no, pull the emergency breaks. You can only get so far by explaining the benefits, pointing to how things go wrong and could go better. Sometimes you cannot explain or convince your way out of old habits and current structures. I got the quote from a great article about how LEGO applied Design Sprints on a massive scale to invent the future of play. One of the things management did was pull the emergency brake: they stopped everything for two months and did Design Sprints for two months straight. Pretty radical. But sometimes you have to do something to break free from a decade of habit. You can try to create evolutions step by step, but sometimes you don’t have the time and you need a revolution. You are bound to run into some resistance, ruffle some feathers and get into some disagreements. But that’s part of the game.

The follow up

Creating change is not easy, but sustaining it is even harder. You have to stay alert, keep the big picture in mind, improvise, explain, educate, pivot a little now and then. Most stories I read, and have experienced myself, about failing interventions like Design Sprints are about the follow-up. Methods like the Design Sprint are pretty well engineered en tested and if you follow all the rules, tips and methods, they will produce results. But what you do with those results is quintessential. This will make or break your intervention. If you go back to the old ways after the Sprint has finished, you are not getting the most out of the experience. It can be a kick start to more Lean Startup / Design Thinking / Agile ways of working, doing, thinking. It can be a boot camp for a new way or an incident.

Think like a painter

This week I had this discussion in two different projects. Thinking about how to get from kickstarting change to sustaining it. Thinking about what the obstacles are and what you can do to get over them. Doing a radical intervention seems a good path. This is one of the things I learned while I was studying painting in art school. Sometimes you can make small changes to a painting to get it moving in another direction. But sometimes this is not enough and you have to do something radical like throwing paint at it, painting over a whole area, adding a totally unlogical color. Painters do that all the time. If you look precisely at paintings and understand a little about how they are made, you can see the changes, the interventions. Sometimes these interventions created a whole new school of painting. Sometimes mistakes lead to new innovations. Good painters are not afraid to do something radical, risk something when they are stuck. Business as usual is killing to art. But also for business.

Gerelateerde afbeelding
Jackson Pollock was not afraid to do something radical.

The day my Medium account was restored

published on 2018-10-01 by Dennis Hambeukers

Because my Medium account was suspended, I wrote an email to my friends at Medium. I asked them about the reason behind the suspension of  my Medium account. After a day, I received an email back from them explaining my account was mistakenly caught in their spam filter.

“It looks like your Medium account was mistakenly caught in our spam filter. I have now restored your account and all your posts. We apologize for this inconvenience.”

Reply from Medium

Something must have triggered the spam filter. I’ll probably never know. But the good news is that everything is back in order and my account and all my posts are visible again. Hooray. All my posts, followers, claps, highlights are not lost.

The writing workflow

In the meantime, I concluded that even if my account would be restored, that I would switch back to a self-hosted WordPress blog as my foundation. Years ago I switched from WordPress blogging to Medium because the User Experience was much better at Medium. Today, the writing workflow with the new Gutenberg plugin is similar to Medium. Plus WordPress offers more control. It’s easier to create more context for my blogs. I also have the feeling that a post on Medium, an article has to be more than a blog, some short, periodic thoughts.

It’s good to do a little coding

Plus I feel it’s good to get into coding a little bit more. My work has evolved from interaction design and development into strategic design consultancy. This means I don’t code a lot. A prototype now and then in HTML/CSS/JS. But I think it’s good to get my hands dirty from time to time. I used to develop sites in WordPress, but haven’t done so in a long time. And it’s good to be back 🙂 Next to the Gutenberg plugin, I installed the Askimet and Jetpack plugin from WordPress.

A new world

I like the feeling of exploring a new world, see what the options are, see to what new ideas and initiatives this environment leads to. Systems create behaviors. I’m curious to see what new behaviors this system creates. Today I bought a diary of René Redzepi, the chef and co-owner of the most creative restaurant in the world: Noma. The book is actually three books: a recipe book, a photo book, and a diary. It reflects the day to day life at Noma. I started my journey at Medium two years ago with a series of notebooks (Service Design Notebook and Design Leadership Notebook) with the idea of creating a travel-journal-notebook of my journey in service design and design thinking. It resulted in a series of articles. But maybe I have to add in some more blogging, day-to-day thoughts, in addition to more finished articles? René Redzepi kept a daily journal to document his journey. Maybe I should do the same? What would that create? What would that lead to? A year of daily journaling? When to start? Any day is as good as the other. If not today, then when?

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor noma book a work in progress

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The Day My Medium Account Got Suspended

published on 2018-09-29 by Dennis Hambeukers

Yesterday was a strange day. It was the day my Medium account was suspended. For reasons unknown, Medium decided to block all my posts from the outside world. I could see my own posts when I was logged in, but the rest of the world saw a 404 page.

My suspended Medium account: 404s for all my posts

Medium account suspended

I immediately googled “Medium account suspended” and landed on a post on Medium by Medium titled “Medium Rules”. There I found all kinds of reasons for suspending accounts ranging from violence to hate, harassment, spam, pornographic content, exploitation of minors and privacy violation. Needless to say, I did not recognize any of these points in relation to any article I have ever posted on Medium. I am a positive, unhateful, non-spamming type of person.

No warnings

I did not receive any warning from Medium. No email. No notification. Nothing. I found out that my account was suspended because I posted a link to an article on LinkedIn. The link did not work. I looked into it and found that none of my articles were available on the Medium platform. There was no way to find out what caused the suspension. There was no way to remove the content that caused the suspension. Googling “Suspended Medium Account” also didn’t give me any useful leads. The only thing I found were articles on banned alt-right trolls. Needless to say, I am neither alt-right nor a troll.

In their rules, they state that they will send you an email if they found a violation of their rules.

If it looks like you’ve violated our rules, we may send you an email and ask you to explain what you’re up to and why.

Medium Rules

They didn’t. They suspended all my articles without warning. So I sent them an email asking what’s up. I am waiting for a respons.

Censorship

Although Medium welcomes views from the broad spectrum of viewpoints, my account was suspended for reasons unknown. I immediately started thinking about what I could have done to break the rules of Medium, how I could have offended anyone in any way with any part of the articles I posted. The suspension started on the day I posted an article with the title “Conservatism And Progressivism In Design Today”. In the article, I was thinking about progress, technological developments, alternatives for following all the trends and how this applies to design. Could the excessive use of the word Conservatism have caused a red flag to pop up?

We welcome discussion from the broad spectrum of viewpoints. Nevertheless, to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for a wide range of people to engage in meaningful conversations, we prohibit certain conduct.

Medium Rules

Illegal calls for action

Another thing I started experimenting with is a call to action at the end of my articles. I like writing articles for the sake of writing. But I also like to get in contact with like-minded people. So at some point, I included a call to action on my posts. At the end of the post, I thanked the reader for reading my article and invited him to connect on LinkedIn with me. This worked. Reminding people of the possibility to connect on LinkedIn generates more invitations. In my last two articles, I tried to up the ante. I also reminded people of the fact that they can express their opinion of the article they just read by pressing the clap button. YouTubers do it all the time. And I decided to give it a try. I don’t have a lot of data yet. But limited data seems to suggest that reminding people to clap leads to a higher percentage of people clapping articles. Maybe this was a bridge too far for Medium? There is something in the rules about that:

Do not ask for claps or include other calls to action, including gifs of clapping, requests for donations, email list sign-ups, or other links or embeds for the purpose of capturing user information or soliciting money.

Medium Rules

I did not include the clap call to action to capture user information or money. I did it because more claps means more visibility on the platform, which means more people can benefit from my insights, which makes the world a better place 🙂

Creative freedom

I’ll have to wait for a reaction from Medium to find out the exact reason for the suspension of my account. I believe that we can come to an agreement. I believe my account has been restricted in error.

If you believe your content or account have been restricted or disabled in error, or believe there is relevant context we were not aware of in reaching our determination, you can write to us at yourfriends@medium.com. We will consider all good faith efforts to appeal.

Medium Rules

But this suspension got me thinking about freedom of speech, creative freedom, filter bubbles and the power of large publications like Medium, Twitter and Facebook. We all know about the effects of Facebook algorithms on the recent Presidential Elections in the US. The algorithm of Facebook favors negativity. Posts from and about Trump were more negative than those of Clinton. Ergo more attention for Trump on Facebook. This is business. More interaction on the platform means more money so Facebook program algorithms to stimulate discussions and sharing. The effects of this on other systems like elections are logical but unwanted.

The case of the suspension of my Medium account will not have that much effect on the world at large, but this type of suspension has effects. The fact alone that your account can get suspended if you break any rule or interpretation of rule creates behavior.

The rules are not like laws. They are very high-level. The rules of Medium are communicated in less than 2000 words. So there is a lot of room for interpretation. Laws tend to use more words to explain what the rules are. The room for interpretation that 2000 words give Medium gives them power. Power to interpret their own rules. You can only appeal to Medium. There is no separation of powers. If you publish on Medium, you submit to their power.

The behavior that this creates is fear. Fear to offend anyone, fear to break some interpretation of some rule, fear that not humans, but robots and algorithms uphold the rules, fear that these algorithms count certain flagged words and don’t understand the context, the point, the story, the context. So every time somebody writes something on Medium, he is afraid of offending. Offending means suspension. A suspension means the loss of all content, followers, claps, interactions, highlights. If you have built up a following with years of work, it’s lost. The audience you built up is gone. Medium owns your audience and they can take it away.

Do I want to live in this type of world?

If you write on Medium, you become dependent on Medium. You are subjected to the power of the platform. They can set and change the rules. They determine what is offensive and what not. They own the audience. And every time you wander into a grey area, where you want to explore thoughts around lets say conservatism, you are limited by the fear of offending someone, of suspension of your account, of losing the audience you built. Medium doesn’t just suspend the article that is offensive, but your entire account, all your posts. This kind of censorship is killing creativity, freedom of speech, freedom of thought. This is what’s wrong with all the social platforms. They ban people because they don’t want to be the platform for people to spread hate and violence, but the censorship they create limits the freedom of speech and thought of thinkers that want to go into grey areas once in a while or that want to use certain words to put them in a different light. Whatever the reason for my suspension might be, the possibility of suspension in itself is killing creativity. We are not only living in a filter bubble but also in a censorship bubble.

The answer is no. I don’t want to live in an environment where I have to fear suspension and loss of content and audience. I have no bad intentions and I don’t want to hurt people. But I want to be able to offend people a little bit from time to time. I want to be able to take an extreme standpoint from time to time. Because this helps critical thinking and the world ahead.

Back to WordPress

So I went back to WordPress. A couple of years ago I left WordPress for Medium because my WordPress blog was hacked and Medium offered a better User Experience. Now WordPress has developed a plugin called Gutenberg that will be the standard interface in the next generation of WordPress. This interface is similar to that of Medium. The User Experience is not totally the same and I liked to be in the cloud without the hassle of installing and updating and hosting a WordPress. But the creative freedom is worth the extra hassle. So I’m back.

The second thing I want to do on this WordPress blog is to post the article that probably got my Medium account suspended: http://dennishambeukers.com/2018/09/29/conservatism-and-progressivism-in-design-today/

The third thing I have to do is enhance this theme. I now used the Gutenberg theme, but it misses a couple of things I need. So back to the drawing board and to the code editor.

Conservatism And Progressivism In Design Today

published on 2018-09-28 by Dennis Hambeukers

Conservatism or progressivism is about choosing what new inventions, ideas, and concepts to follow and what not to follow. It’s about understanding the systems and making educated choices. People invent all kinds of things all the time. Some catch on with large groups of people and some don’t. But only using the fact that something is widely popular as a measuring stick to decide whether to follow that new invention or not is not a sign of critical thinking. Not following a trend could be thought of as conservatism, but there are more forms of conservatism. If you don’t follow a trend out of fear for change and you desperately hold on to the status quo, that is conservatism. If you analyze the systems operating underneath the new trend and come to the conclusion that this new trend creates a system that is not in line with how you want to live your life, with your core values, that is also conservatism.

Conservatism kənˈsəːvətɪz(ə)m/: attitudes or opinions tending to favor established ideas, conditions, or institutions

The tendency to hold on

Holding on to things that are good in favor of new inventions is not necessarily conservatism if we use the common definition of conservatism above. The common definition of conservatism is about a tendency, a default of holding on to things of the past. It’s about a mindset. It’s about not usually liking or trusting change.

I like change. I change things all the time. I get bored if things stay the same for too long. But I don’t follow each trend. I:

Systems analysis

Recently I switched back to a dumb phone after years of using a smartphone. I used this new invention, found that it added some positive things to my life but concluded that it created more damage than it did good, so I returned to a life without a smartphone. That is a different form of conservatism. It’s not fueled by a tendency to hold on to things of the past. It’s driven by systems analysis, critical thinking, and experimenting. There are many things in which I stick to good things of the past: I use LPs over MP3s, I cook food from scratch over microwave ready-to-eat meals etc. I see the advantages of new inventions but selectively chose. I don’t judge people who make other choices and hold no absolute values whether one , is better than the other. I recognize that there is room for all analyze.

Conservatism comes from Latin conservatus, past participle of conservare: to keep, preserve, keep intact, guard.

Some things are worth keeping, are worth protecting, even from popularity. Being popular is a big force in systems. But the fact that something is popular, doesn’t mean it is suitable for all. You could even argue that, if you leave judgment to all people, the quality of things doesn’t necessarily get better.

Populism ˈpɒpjʊlɪz(ə)m/: the quality of appealing to or being aimed at ordinary people.

Conservatism can be populism. Conservatism can be about closed-mindedness or about open-mindedness. The same goes for progressivism. Mindlessly following innovations is also a form of close-mindedness. It’s about challenging assumptions like “progress is good”.

Progressivism prəˈɡrɛsɪvɪz(ə)m/: the support for or advocacy of improvement of society.

Improvement

Improvement is good. The questions is whether all new things are improvements or not. Sometimes it is better to keep things the way they are, and sometimes it is better to change things. Some things that might seem improvements are actually steps in the wrong direction. All new things come with benefits and downsides. If you want to change things, you first look at the upsides of new things. At some point, maybe some downsides come to the surface that you couldn’t predict in advance. Systems are complex and unpredictable. With all new things, some values of the old ways are lost. Sometimes this is not bad, sometimes it is. The best way would be to do things in a new way without loosing the values of the old ways. Not discarding the old ways, but let them co-exist with the new ways. Have a Spotify account, but also a record player. Read blogs and books.

Improving design

If we take this train of though to design, we see two tendencies in the design world. There are some new thoughts about design that are getting some traction. These new ideas position design as a way to solve fundamental business problems by opening up the process becoming part of the business process. Some call it Design Thinking, others Service Design, Strategic Design or Business Design. And there are the old ideas about design that see design as making beautiful things in a closed studio setting. You could view this in terms of conservatism and progressivism, but that is not really productive. These are both views that can co-exist and even help each other. The beauty of design can benefit from a more open process and Design Thinking processes can benefit from the beauty of design.

Beauty

Some things are worth keeping, worth defending. And in design this is the function of beauty, the craft of adding emotion to objects. In a business world that values performance, tasks and usability, the Design Thinking process is incredibly valuable. But it runs the risk of losing the beauty. The beauty is what powers design, what makes it truly powerful.

Business value

Some things are worth changing. And in design this is the value design can add to business. If business just sees design as beautifying interactions, it cannot tap into the true power of design. Design can dramatically improve the performance and creativity of business problem solving. But that requires the design process to be opened up and the connection of design to fundamental business elements. If designers stick to the idea of beauty from the studio, they have to way to access this power of design. If designers go the business problem solving way and trow away the beauty, they will be less powerful and not make a sustainable impact.

Hybrids

The most power resides in the combination, in the hybrids. If you take a look at robots. Robots can do things humans can’t. Humans can do things robots can’t. The most potent mix if humans can work together with robots. If we can keep the powers that make humans unique and add the powers that make robots unique, we can achieve the greatest wins. This is conservatism and progressivism in one. Keep things and let them co-exist with new things. get the best of both worlds. Do not mindlessly follow the new thing and discard the old. Do not fearfully hold on to the old and dismiss the new. Live boldly at the intersection of opposing forces.

How The Design World Is Being Ripped Apart Right Now

published on 2018-09-18 by Dennis Hambeukers

Now that Design is on the move from the marketing & communication departments to the boardrooms, designers are faced with a huge dilemma. The Design world is changing and designers have to make a move. Consultancy agencies are moving into the new space that is opening up between business strategy, IT development and creative design. The complex, fast-paced challenges clients are facing require a new kind of integrated approach that combines the best of business, technology, and design. In this new flaying field, designers have to position themselves. They have to respond. They have to come up with an answer or get pushed out of the game.

The value dilemma

On the one hand, designers see the huge opportunities opening up to move into a more strategic position. On the other hand, the (business) capabilities that are required for this leap are far removed from the reason why they started with design in the first place, why they get up in the morning. This week I saw two interviews with two different people that occupy the exact opposite of this spectrum: Stefan Sagmeisterand Stephen Gates. One is arguing for a restoration of the value we place on beauty. The other argues that, if designers let go of the idea of beauty as the goal and focus more on opening up their creative process, design can move into the most valuable value proposition ever. This is a question about value:

Or,

Noun or verb, that is the question

The dilemma circles around the idea of what design is:

The case of Stefan Sagmeister

Stefan Sagmeister is a well-known designer from New York. In the discussion about beauty versus functionality, Sagmeister pushes the idea of the function of beauty. He argues that making an object more beautiful is adding to its functionality. He talks about adding emotion, delight, love, and care to make objects more human, more sustainable. He also argues for keeping the process closed. He says that great designs are always made by one person, never a group. The resultof his ideology is that he is able to produce designs that are stunning and make people happy.

The downside of his approach is that it takes more time to create things of true beauty, the type of beauty that really adds a sustainable delight function to objects. The last 10 percent to get it perfect typically take as long as getting from 0 to 90 percent. In software development, they call this the 90–90 rule, but it is the same in design. In a commercial world, the question is: who is going to pay for that? Culturally aware clients with deep pockets? Or the designer himself? Sagmeister is known for creating an environment that gives him the freedom to do low paying jobs. But this space and independence come at a price. You have to be able to work with very little overhead, be creative with finances and be able to deliver super high-quality work that justifies all the effort and sacrifices you make. In the design donut, he is way over on the side of the artist. In his interview, he states making money is the only disadvantage of his approach. Design can have a sustainable functional value, but the price is high. Either the designer or the client has to pay the price.

Sagmeister uses the following value system for designers:

The case of Stephen Gates

Stephen Gates is the newly appointed Head of Design Transformation at InVision. He takes a totally different approach. He sees design as a set of capabilities that can be applied to more processes than the traditional design process that produces beautiful objects. He believes that creativity is going to be the stock-in-trade of designers. Complexity, pace and need to connect to the user creates a huge need for creativity, visualization, and making things in business today. And Design is in an excellent position to meet those needs and have a huge impact on the performance of companies. He argues for opening up the process to others, become more empathetic to the needs and input of stakeholders and users, and being willing to fail publicly. The result is that if designers take this approach they can move to more strategic tables, have more impact, add more value to a business and charge higher fees.

The downside of this approach is that all people involved have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This approach works if you can take the client on a journey to a place that is unknown at the start. It also requires an open attitude from designers. They have to open up their process to others. Designers also need to up their business game. They have to understand how businesses work, what challenges businesses face and how design can help. And business thinking and business language is not something most designers like. Business people are a totally different breed and most designers don’t want or are not able to cross that bridge.

Gates uses the following value system for designers:

Choose your battles

Both approaches need clients that are willing to pay and are willing to participate in a specific process. You either pay for beauty or for creativity. You either hand over a briefing or co-create.

Both approaches ask a lot of designers. You either have to be able to produce very high-quality beautiful work or be able to walk and talk business. You either value beauty or creativity.

One is moving against and the other with the grain. With the rise of Design Thinking, Service Design, Business Design and however you call it, the momentum seems to be towards design as a process. Fighting for beauty is going against conventional wisdom. Both positions are valid. Both positions require certain skills and talents one needs to possess. It’s a matter of choosing your battles and assessing your skillset.

Faustian Bargain

Can’t designers just add creativity to business processes and create high-quality beauty at the same time? This dilemma might seem like a Faustian Bargain to some in which the designer abandons his or her spiritual values or moral principles in order to obtain knowledge, wealth or other benefits.

Sell your Design-soul if you open up the process

If you listen to Sagmeister, one could think you are betraying Design, or even the human race if you open up your process and deliver creativity instead of beauty. He sees an opportunity for digital designers. If they can create beauty online as he creates it in offline products, the riches will be immense. What he doesn’t realize is that it takes more than a nice User Interface to create beauty online. The service you are using also has to work properly and deliver value. And that means working with the technology department, the organizational processes, business cases, project management, corporate strategy etc. It’s useless to act as the sole genius designer in this context. Stakeholder engagement is far more important than expressing your personal idea about beauty. If the designs get too outspoken, they get in the way. That doesn’t mean there is no room and need for delight. When everything becomes more uniform, the small details in the interaction can build a connection, add personality. But in a world of Agile development, it’s tough to prioritize quirky interactions over functional features. It’s one thing to design something, it’s another to get it built. Extraordinary design not only takes more time to design, but it also takes more time to get built. You have to make a business case for the additional effort, you have to show the added value or pay for it yourself.

Sell your Design-soul if you stick to beauty

If you listen to Gates, you might think you are doing Design a disservice if you care about beauty. He sees an opportunity for designers that want to open up their process and use creativity as their service. The problem with this approach is that if you neglect beauty, the creativity of the designer becomes less powerful. Beauty gives the designer his power. Beauty creates the engagement, the inspiration, the energy that enhances the performance of projects. If you can incorporate the function and value of beauty in the creative process, your process becomes more powerful.

The synergy model

I believe the true power of the designer lies in the combination of the two value systems for the designer mentioned above. If the designer can provide both beauty and creativity, he can meet both the needs of the business: happiness and performance, the soft and the hard. And he can use both parts of his skill set: creating objects and the creative process.

This way the designer can have his cake and eat it. Some designers might operate more on the process side, but they can deliver more value if they also use the beauty value systems a bit. Other designers will want to work on the object side. But their designs will also benefit from focussing more on an open process and co-creation. This way you have access to better questions, and deeper insights.

“Design Leadership is about embracing this ambiguity, about standing at the intersection of these seemingly contradictory truths.”


You can find both interviews right here:

Stephen Gates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k1gGNbJP00
Stefan Sagmeister: https://soundcloud.com/tobiasvanschneider/ntmy-episode-11-stefan-sagmeister


Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, don’t forget to share it with your friends. I will dive deeper into the topics of Design Leadership in upcoming articles. If you connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter, you will see when I post new articles. 

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Design And Creativity Is Top-Class Sport

published on 2018-09-15 by Dennis Hambeukers


What separates a designer from other people? All the design-thinking-two-day-boot-camps, visualization-in-a-day-workshops and design-sprint-weeks might lead to the impression that everyone can design. Everybody can design and that is cool. I’m all for co-creation, drawing, and reawakening our inner children to become more creative. But I like to compare this to sports. Anyone can go and sit in a race car, but you cannot compare this to the level of Max Verstappen — someone who has trained for this his whole life. Apart from talent, the difference comes down to training. Design and creativity use all kinds of muscles you can train. And what separates designers from other people is that they have been training their design and creativity muscles for a long time.

Muscle power

So what muscles did designers train?

The hands: visualization muscles

This is an obvious one. Designing, creating something, usually involves making something. Whether it is sketching or building a prototype, you have to make your ideas real. In order to communicate them to others, but also for yourself. Designing things, solving problems in creative ways, typically happens in iterations and this means: getting an idea onto paper, looking at it and getting ideas about the next iteration. If you make things visual, you can start to think visually, which is a great step forward in your creative capacity. This means you are adding a part of your brain to your problem-solving process other than your lingual brain. This radically increases your creative problem-solving capacity.

The eyes: seeing muscles

One muscle that is connected to the visualization muscle is the seeing muscle. Our brains filter out a lot of information about the world around us. That is a good thing because, without those filters, we would go crazy from the information overload. The downside of those filters is that we miss a lot of information. Creative problem solving is about seeing the solutions that other people have missed, seeing that crucial piece of information others don’t. Apart from their visualization muscles, designers have strong seeing muscles. They see the world differently, they see things other people miss. These things are in the visual-design realm: signs, forms, colors. But also in the functional domain: interactions, flows, information. Typically designers look at the world and see what’s wrong and they typically think about how to fix those wrongs all the time. Seeing, getting past the filters, is something you have to train. If you spend your time making things, you are also training yourself in seeing.

The brain: connecting muscles

This brings us to the next muscle: the brain. The brain works on the basis of connections. Every time you learn something new, new connections are built. Designers spent their time coming up with new things. To design something is to create something that wasn’t there before, to create a new reality. This activity has its impact on the connections in your brain. Constantly feeding your brain with inspiration and constantly trying to come up with new, creative ideas, trains the brain, creates more and different connections. These patterns and connections in the designer’s brain helps him to create faster, to become more and more creative as he gets more experiences. His brain is trained for creativity, for new connections.

Flexibility

But it’s not just about muscle power. Creativity is also about flexibility. Just like an athlete, performance is not only determined by muscle power, but also by flexibility. Coming up with new ideas involves taking risks. Designers know that that is part of their job. Without risks, no creativity. You have to make connections that were previously not there and that is risky because it might turn out to be a stupid connection. Designers are unafraid of failure. In fact, they fail so much every day that they don’t even see it as failure but as experimentation, sketching. Designing something new involves failing many times. So designers are unafraid of trying something new. This makes their brain very flexible. It keeps them young. Flexibility, agility, play, is key to creativity. And making your brain flexible takes time, energy and focus. Designers train their minds every day to be more flexible. They can adopt multiple views and mental models.

The connection to the subconscious

These are all things you can train in your conscious brain. And if you train them every day for years, you will get better. But that is not where designers get their superpower when it comes to creativity. The biggest secret to creativity lies in the subconscious brain. The subconscious brain is the most powerful part of your brain. Bursts of inspiration, lightning flashes of insight, creative genius, all come from the subconscious brain. The problem is access. You cannot control the subconscious brain directly. What you can do is become better friends with your subconscious brain. If you start listening to it more, give it interesting things to work on, you can start to build a better connection. The subconscious brain speaks in a different language that you’ll have to master. The subconscious brain speaks a more emotional language, a language of feeling. Every time you have the feeling something is not right or you should try something else, it’s your subconscious brain talking to you. The eyes are also a good way to talk to your subconscious brain. Visual thinking is also something the subconscious brain likes. Designers are better at visual thinking and emotional thinking so they typically have a better connection to their subconscious brain. They speak the same language.

Designers trained using the emotions in their work and how to think with their eyes. I think practicing design is an excellent gateway to intuition.

“That’s what separates a designer from other people: every day training for many years.”


Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, don’t forget to hit the like button below and share it with your friends. I will dive deeper into the topics of Design Leadership in upcoming articles. If you subscribe to me here on WordPress, you will get email notifications of new articles. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

[originally published on Canonical link]

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