Weeknotes 10

Posted Week #17, 2015

Another week, another $5 if my maths are correct. Monday and Tuesday I was in Shanghai starting to wrap up a project we have been doing over there for almost two years now. It’s gratifying to see it almost finished. When you look back at the journey we have all been on it’s all the more satisfying that we are where we are. It’s a bit abstract to discuss as it’s totally top secret, so I’ll move on.

I spent Wednesday on a plane. Which was ok. I introduced myself to Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison which I feel stupid that I never listened to before. Also Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. A few weeks ago I was on the podcast at work and Liv was talking about Don McLean’s American Pie, and how it’s a storytelling song. I never really appreciated that kind of perspective before. Of course I know songs can be used to tell stories, blah blah, but I never really THOUGHT about that. Does that make sense? Whenever Bob Dylan came on the radio I just thought, ‘Oh, this old song’, but never actually LISTENED to it. Not properly. And it struck me at that moment that I had;t given these songs the time of day. So I asked her to make me a playlist of other songs that tell amazing stories. I’m hooked. Those two albums, Blood on the Tracks and Folsom Prison are absolutely amazing examples of telling short stories through song. There’s something here about the difference between a narrative or theme being implicit vs. explicit, or abstract vs. representative, but I haven’t ironed that out yet. Fascinating. ZzZzZzzz.

Also on that plane ride I got knee deep into John Kolko’s book Exposing the Magic of Design. Sounds shit, but it’s not. The title reminds me of an old client that kept banging on about design being the combination of logic and magic. Which always made me barf a little bit. But anyway. Basically he makes the point that we can all do a fuck load of research, build personas, user journeys etc, but unless we (and this is his word) SYNTHESISE that all properly, then it’s still just meaningless data. So you have to somehow plot that data against what it is you’re trying to do, or search for patterns that can generate some kind of insight to build on. He reckons that we just don’t build enough time into project process to wrestle with all this information and make it meaningful. It matches my experiences. When you look at our current (but out-of-date) process doc, then you’ll see that we lump analysis in with research. When actually we should probably pull it out and bill it as a separate thing. And it probably takes much longer than the research itself. Anyway I’m still reading it, enjoying it, and so maybe i have the wrong end of the stick at the moment. I do sometimes wonder about how much process you can script before you just have to get knee-deep in the shit and start making stuff though.

So Thursday I was in a workshop all day with Alice and Julian, and I tried to put theory into practise today by SYNTHESISING some of the data from that workshop. It’s been eye-opening so far, and a new way for me to work. But all I can think is whether I’m making things more complicated than they need to be. We’ll see.