Cufflinks - Edition 2 - 23rd October
A busy spring/summer indeed
Welcome back to Cufflinks
Hello again! Truth be told I was not expecting a 6-month hiatus between blog posts. I have had so many thoughts, ideas, and experiences that I have wanted to blog about but lacked the time to do so. What have I been doing all this time? Well I’ll provide you with an overview below, but first I will share my favourite articles over the past few months.
Headline: embracing a level of discomfort means that your are actively learning and growing. A very wise friend once told to me that we often do the thing that we are second best at. That is because the thing that we are best at is often deeply uncomfortable. I feel this way when I am working in the solution space in design, especially when there is a lot of ambiguity. I also felt like this when I worked as an artist and curator. In short if I didn’t feel uncomfortable I knew I wasn’t really doing to work. As humans we tend to like the path of least resistance. So keeping your sights on the longer term benefits is essential if you want to stay the course.
Mei Zhang’s post is a wonderful gift to all designer-kinds. It provides a helpful article and an essential mind map for navigating the many methods and tools approaches available during each phase.
This article provides a very fun and accessible explanation of Design Thinking and how it works. Using a high stakes dinner party as an analogy!
This article is pure brilliance and I keep coming back to it over and over. It has become a permanent fixture in my personal playbook.
This article include excellent time and communications flow management tips. Many I had already implemented, some I had not and now do. On this topic, I am really looking forward to the Schedule Send feature which is finally coming to MS Teams. That has been a great feature in Slack and is a good way to respect folks’ time and control your own communications hours.
Even those of us who have been writing alt text for years can improve our practice (so many that I would tweak with hindsight). This guide is going into my #LX #UX toolkit for safekeeping and frequent reference. Thank you @scope #a11y #accessibility https://t.co/LwEXLBdl4i pic.twitter.com/OsvecKhRk3— Fiona MacNeill (@fmacneill) June 11, 2022
Some things I did and things that I am doing
Here is a whistle stop tour of my person highlights over Spring/Summer 2022.
I was a guest on the UX Coach Podcast
One of the highlights for me during the discussion was talking about the difference that coaching made for me in my career…
…I had to make a change…having that coaching experience and being able to look inside myself and go “what are the skills I have to solve this problem?” Oh, I actually know a bit about data analysis. I know a bit about algorithms and what are recruitment processes based on? Algorithms, LinkedIn keywords. Okay. Let’s go and have a look at what all of the keywords are on the favorite jobs I would really like on LinkedIn. And then let’s think about how those apply to me and do I have them? And I thought, yeah, I actually do. I can genuinely cover all of those keywords. Those are all things that I know about and have applied. So then I added those to my profile. And within a week I got a recruiter contacting me.
And it was like, if I just thought of about it in the way that I think about solving problems in my job, then I could have been onto this much earlier…
For more on this you can check out my coach, Suse Bentley’s case study on her site.
So what I have learned is if I approach solving my own problems with the same level of interest and tenacity that I apply to those of my clients, I will find solutions. This is rut kyptonite!
I completed some career firsts
My first Sprint
I devised my first design Sprint (Knapp, Zeratsky and Kowitz, 2016) in August for an internal client group. It was both intense and invigorating to consider inputs, outputs, flexibility and outcomes. The process was successful and thanks to the ingenuity of my collaborators we only used 4 sheets of paper across the event. We avoided the usual pile of sad and used-up post-it notes by using Rocketbook products which allowed us to write, wipe off, and reuse. My particular favourites were the cloud cards (index cards) which have now become a mainstay in my design studio.
Learning campaign based on user research
I have designed and run outreach campaigns before. However, this was the first time that in-depth user research and interview transcript analysis had pointed towards the approach as the most effective solution. Discovery to truly understand the underlying problem made all the difference. The campaign itself is multi-channel across intranet, internal communications tools, and email. It also includes a three-week challenge via the LMS as a mini-course with a limited-edition badge. The campaign has resulted in the creation of valuable job aids which can persist beyond, helping colleagues in their work.
I have been volunteering for Ladies that UX Brighton
Now this is the venture which has been taking up time when I might have been blogging, but it is totally worth it! Ladies that UX (LTUX) is a magnificent organisation holding meetups in 85 places around the world and supporting women and people of underrepresented genders in UX. LTUX Brighton chapter has been on hiatus since March 2020 due to the pandemic. So, myself and co-organisers now have the task of rebuilding it from the ground up. After several months of meetings and concerted networking we are getting ready to re-launch in 2023. A highlight for me has been getting to give a talk to students on my former MSc UX program. It was such a heartening experience to share my enthusiasm for UX and the Brighton UX community with a group of interested people. If you would like to learn more or get involved (we are seeking more volunteers and speakers) visit the LTUX Brighton site.
My favourite image from the new branding from Ladies that UX. Can you guess where this is in Brighton? - Answer at the end of the post.
I am feeding my mind, moving my body, and curating my space
I am cultivating creative and curious encounters on a daily basis. This is a lifelong pursuit for me, but I have to admit that I had let it lapse a bit due to busyness.
In a similar vein I can recommend the work of Stefaan van Hooyd, author of The Workplace Curiosity Manifesto who I saw give a talk at the Learning Technologies Autumn Forum (13th October, ExCel Centre, London).
Activities to feed my mind
- Applying for my alumni library membership and reading books outside my current area of knowledge. Currently I am reading a book on linguistics.
Okay I have to admit that I let out a high pitched exclamation of delight when I received my approval for alumni library membership today. Thank you @brightonalumni for making this possible! pic.twitter.com/Y2KrmoUnup— Fiona MacNeill (@fmacneill) August 3, 2022
Going to the theatre more. The show that caused to me to think, learn and reflect this week was Ifrah Mansour’s one-woman show, “How to have fun in a Civil War”. Which effectively and poignantly retold her own experiences as a young child in Somalia.
I have been drawing again and will be trying to attend life drawing sessions at least once every couple of months. It is clear to me that the intense observation required in drawing supports my practice as a designer. It is a muscle I definitely need to continue flexing.
Finding any excuse to see art both locally and when I am working in London. Sticking around after work to visit the Tate Modern for an hour where I saw the work of Cecilia Vicuña in the Turbine Hall, as shown in the featured image for this post. I loved the way that the former oil tanks at Tate remind me of the former industrial smell and tranquility of the nooks and crannies in The Soap Factory (an art gallery and former workplace of mine).
Another unexpected delight was getting to go up The Shard last week and gaining a whole new appreciation of London. Seeing the space where the Roman settlement of Londinium was founded from the vantage point of their gods and wondering what life must have been like 2,000 years ago.
Moving my body
I took part in two runs in September. One with work colleagues through City of London for SolarAid. It was amazing to run freely without cars amongst the towering buildings and neons reflecting off the rain-sprinkled tarmac in the evening light. I also ran my first half-marathon in September as part of the Great North Run. I raised nearly £400 for Mind charity and spent a wonderful long weekend in Newcastle with my mum. I also continue to kickbox and have taken up a bit of Thai boxing when I can fit it in.
Curating my space
I found some signed cards by one of my heroes, the artist Marina Abramović at the Baltic art gallery in Newcastle. The cards suggest ways to essentially hack your perception and are based on techniques Abramović uses prior to her performance art pieces. I decided that these are great for my studio and give me inspiration alongside some psychology cards and the odd cloud notecard! You’ll also note some fairy lights to cheer me up as we enter the long-dark of Winter.
You may not find a skull in the grand tradition of momento mori to be tranquil. For some reason I do!
Something I made or fixed
I have also been knitting these socks for my dad. Pretty jazzy huh?
The answer to my question about the building in Brighton: it is the top of the Dr Marten’s shoe shop (take a look on Google Maps).
Knapp, J, Zeratsky, J., Kowitz, B. (2016) Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days. New York: Bantam Press.
on the topic of referencing…
A thread 🧵: As a #Dyslexic person who struggles with reading-at-speed, screen readers are a gateway to knowledge. I like to stay up-to-date by reading academic papers and industry reports. However, I want to talk about academic referencing styles and why they are a problem...— Fiona MacNeill (@fmacneill) May 14, 2022