Redesign in the open s01e02
Knock knock... Anybody home? Already four months passed since I started writing about this website's redesign. No one can praise my diligence. Let me tell you, it's for the best. Sometimes, ideas need time so we can grasp all their depth. Let's go cave diving once more...
During these 4 months, I have clearly let ideas run randomly. I felt guilty at first, facing the promise I made to come back here every month to tell you about my progress. Then I saw so many daily changes happening that I just let go. You gotta learn to listen to things, but first you gotta learn to let them emerge.
There has been emergences indeed. Between April and August, I fell head first into a bottomless pit: collapsology and the narrative of our society's potential collapse. This new way of seeing every aspect of the world acted like a bomb. I eventually woke up and it was awaited. When I had grasped enough data, I felt viscerally pulled and compelled by this idea of an imminent collapse. A real calling. I even wrote an article relating these particular emotions.
The shockwave reached all aspects of my existence. It reached my personal life, the way I buy things, eat, read, interact with my friends. And of course, it hit hard in my professional design practice. I soon felt a call to explore these changes. And what best to do so than give a talk about it? I had literally no idea of what I was going to say when I submitted "What if it all goes wrong? Design for an unknown future" to the TakeOff team. Writing a conference forces you to do a sufficient amount of research, to reformulate and wrap it in some storytelling. Here's the transcript of it all as well as a 30mn video.
Thank to this exercise, I could absorb enough critical data brilliantly articulated by a lot of my fellow designers. They helped me cristallise four big design principles (all references to my peers can be found at the bottom of the above link, help yourselves!). Now that I've resumed the path to this redesign, I feel like they may be suitable to be applied in my everyday practice to explain the reach of my work to future clients...
I quickly started to discuss with other "collapsologists" and people convinced by this narrative. With a few fellow designers, we felt the urge to identify the relevant tools that could be used through our design community to help tackle the challenges of a soon-to-be collapse. Common Future[s] was born and gathered around thirty persons on its first gathering day in Lyon. Everything was wrapped in a nice spontaneous spirit, from the formalisation of our first principles to the gathering itself.
I did not get out of it untouched. A whole new universe had opened before me. Data, writings, each person with a peculiar point of view on the vast world of collapsology. I have read the instrumental book written by Pablo Servigne and Raphael Stevens, "Comment tout peut s'effondrer" (How might everything collapse), renewed my library card and tripled the size of my reading list. The narrative of a collapse offered a brand new perspective on my job and renewed my motivation, gave me new reasons to find purpose and meaning in what I was doing. It is truly wonderful but exhausting, for I am mobilizing a lot of energy around this to understand and communicate these changes.
I have a close group of friends with whom I am in close, daily contact. Among them, my fellow code designer Goulven Champenois and my childhood friend and artistic director Sara Thom. Goulven is the author of all the frontend code and backend CMS implementation you are using right now. Beyond being the technical key keeper, he is an instrumental sparring partner and also interested in collapsology. As for Sara, she's been supporting me for years on our shared path towards being independents. She gave a massive input of energy two weeks ago when she helped me put who I am into a photo. Her talent and her delicate graphic eye gave a few great shots which will be the foundations of this future interface.
It is hard to have the right portrait taken. Of course you want clients to see you, but it goes way beyond. A picture carries so many non-verbal hints that are barely impossible to express with words. It also sets a tone for everything you're about to say. If you try to shoot it by yourself, it's hard to not be biased about the result. Sara helped me and guided me along the shooting and I am thrilled by the result.
My whole thinking process had gone astray. A3 sheets and sticky notes were long asleep under my desk. I could not really say why, but "it" came back today. I felt the urge to resume my research. These four months have been so fruitful with thinking and discoveries that the first thing I did was to make a new iteration of the "Who am I" sheet. I also tried to pin down three values, along with intentions and principles. If I try to sum up essential things when it comes to my practice, I come down to truth, ethics and legacy.
Truth is honesty, transparency and openness necessary to any relationship. Without honesty, without authorising oneself to be who one is in all their truth, there is no trust. Not in oneself, not in others. Truth is also authorising oneself to be vulnerable. We are far from being perfect beings, that's precisely what makes us rich and interesting.
Ethics is how we dictate rules by which we live by. It should be the result of reflection and an effort into expressing it. My personal ethics promote equity (which produces equality), respect, fairness and justice. Without ethics, Twitter became a platform for promoting far-right ideas. Without ethics, design wanders in the meanders of clients requests and market laws.
Legacy takes into account what we do in the present but also in the future through its impact, its long-term existence, externalities it produces and its life expectancy. Digital offered a lively platform where many wonderful things could happen. But with no concept of legacy, we create more externalities than benefits and feed the problems that will harm our resilience in a near future.
While I was toying with these three values, I created a Venn diagram to try to link them together. This first iteration is far from being anything I can put on the front-page of this website but at least it's a solid iteration that I can work on from now on. I have no idea if these 3 values are sufficient to express all that I want to communicate, but I will play with them during the next few weeks to see if my current aspirations fit them and if they make a good decision making support tool.
On the first version of the "Who am I" sheet, I highlighted what still matches my reality and transferred it onto a new sheet. Of course I am still a designer and facilitator — even if these two facets will need to be confronted), mentor and speaker. These 4 activities still allow me to find meaning and a sense of accomplishment. Collapsology indeed gave them a new dimension to look through and I left behind whatever did not match my new need to make the world a little more ready for what's about to happen.
Profitability is still a strong pillar of our current culture and surrounds how we make things and create value. It's hard for a freelance not to be "profitable" today. I had a couple of hard conversations with myself about that, and about the concept of prosperity. During the two weeks I spent with my husband in the French and Swiss Alps, in a tiny cabin with just enough equipments to live comfortably, but less than our ultramodern urban homes, we could challenge our perception of time and how we use it in a space that limits the ways to spend it. In a natural environment where you can hear birds and lots of living animals that you never see in urban areas, where you can enjoy silent walks with just the sound of a nearby stream, we could take a little distance from our modern way of living. I did put into question the deepest motivations that push me towards practicing design and the harsh reality that comes with it. This reality is not always ethical, true, creative or doesn't always give birth to a genuine legacy. "Earn one's bread" is everyone's obsession, fed by the fear of having money issues. This fear often forced me to accept nice collaborations, but further than I wanted from my values and not fit to nurture my aim for a better world.
My financial targets and the way I consider money have drastically changed now that I'm not an employee anymore. Today, I consider time as the most precious resource. I can't reload my time counter. What I can do is "buy" myself free time through the money I make from my work, then decide what to do with this earned time. After I burned out, a huge part of this time was dedicated to self care and mental health, as well as exercise, rest and social activities. Today, I dedicate the rest of the "free" time I have to reading about topics I'm interested in, keeping local communities alive, help fellow designers or invest time in a prospect or a proposal. But I would like to do more of it, really.
I would like to contribute to open and free projects, support communities that try to build offgrid spaces or resilient projects. I would like to give courses for free, to invest some of my time and my skills for people who can't afford to hire a designer. In the past I already gave a little help to some friends or projects but I feel I could go further and give a new dimension to volunteering or using my skills differently. This brings me to expressing my financial goal as follows:
Fund my support to projects / ecosystems / people who vibrate with my values and beliefs through an occupation which produces purpose, dignity, prosperity, resilience and circularity for me and the ecosystem in which it occurs.
To do so, I must find the right balance between paid and unpaid time (ready to be given), the right hourly rate and the right appreciation for my work. This balance will also come from the energy I will be able to draw from my design practice. The latter is multi-faceted. Even if I was trained as a "simple" graphic designer, I acknowledge daily that most of my work is to capture complexity. Sometimes it's a brand identity, sometimes a teaching program or a local ecosystem. Capture complexity, understand it and make it understandable, accessible to everyone... That's a job I do through five facets:
- designer (UX designer, interaction designer, interface designer and all the usual jazz :P)
- facilitator (cristallise ideas, facilitate collaboration, design thinking...)
- projects and ecosystems enabler (entertaining groups locally, federating people, defining values of a group...)
- mentor (teaching, writing...)
- speaker (passing on information, creating entertaining content...)
Right now, I'm trying to sort them out through different filters: which ones I like the most, which ones offer a good profitability to reach a desired prosperity level and which ones match my values.
If I had to sort them out right now, facilitation comes first. Even if I spent almost 15 years creating logos and interfaces, it will never surpass this unique and thrilling sensation: being part of a group and help the people in this group to converge towards a goal. After each fundamental workshop, it takes me at least one day to come down of my cloud (and to rest because facilitation is exhausting). If I had to choose one of these 5 facets, I'd choose that: giving birth to ideas, facilitate thinking and solving problems. Sometimes design and facilitation meet, in the way design is a tool for identifying ands solving problems. So design comes between first and second position. Maybe I should dig into that and break my design practice down and focus on the bits I like the most. Speaker almost came second because I just love to give talks. I just find it so captivating to dive into a topic during a limited time and express it to an audience in 30-40mn through a stage performance. But since I identified that I liked to be an ecosystem enabler, speaking made a step backwards. In the future, I would not only like to participate to the local initiatives I'm already a part of (IxDA and Common Future(s) among others) but also boost other less organised initiatives, more local, to offer my services through facilitation, values definition, structuration and so on. That's why speaker and mentor end up in third place. It is still very important for me to convey the values of design and a certain point of view on our world. I am deeply convinced that education is one of the keys to changing mentalities and behaviours. But those two activities are the less profitable of the five. Giving a talk is a void investment sometimes, you create content for an event that you did not initiate, even if it will give you a little visibility in return. Visibility still doesn't pay the bills :P Teaching suffers from the same issues. Few schools offer good compensation for masterclasses or courses and don't fund the hours spent preparing your lectures. I am not someone who likes to repeat herself so most of my content is updated or rewritten, which jeopardises the return on investment of it.
Even if I did the effort of listing what I do today and classifying it, I'm riding along a bumpy path these days and still question what I really want to do and how to pursue a dignified, resilient life. The shadow of a collapse pushes me very hard towards more material aspirations, connected to the living and less detached from Earth and its modalities. These are not easy questions I'm going through. Finding accomplishment is as important as finding profitability. I will let this thread unroll for now and come back to it in a few to see if I see clearer.
Here are today's thoughts and their progress. I slowly walk towards a more precise and crisp way of expressing who I am and what I want to pass on through my digital platforms. The thought process is far from being over! I still have to examine this website's technical requirements. I need a proper text publication space, a RSS feed (back to basics!) and tools to ease booking a mentorship session. I have no idea how to structure the homepage for now, even after the thinking done above, I still want to put everything in first priority. Yup, I will have to make tough choices in the future!
So see you, well see you soon, I'd rather not disclose a date when next post will be up. Whatever happens happens, things need time to unfold.