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Establish Interactions

I have been in a rush, a whirlwind so far this week. Starting a new consulting project and going back to my regular teaching schedule so close to returning from the IA Summit was not the easiest transition to make but I returned with a drive in me. A focus on finishing is coursing through me.

The focus of my class at SVA this week was “Establishing Interactions”. We broke down their thesis projects into the nouns and verbs that would come together to deliver their final vision across channels, contexts and users. With less than a month left till the final delivery of their thesis projects, the clock is starting to tick pretty loudly. At this point, a list of interactions that can be worked through, prioritized and tracked is a necessity to make sure important things don’t fall through the cracks.

To aid in their emotional journey, I also introduced some techniques for avoiding procrastination and the dreaded senioritis. My full lecture slides are available for download, and below are some additional thoughts in reflecting post class.

How you do anything is how you do everything

In yesterday’s class I offered up a strange twist. Since they were working in groups of two, one student would be left without a partner. I asked the class to vote on who should work with me. I said I would help map that person’s interactions  for the full class time. I left the room for them to make their decision.

After they picked who I would work with, we headed to the park with a yellow legal pad and a marker to work on her project. After sitting on a park bench for maybe 15 minutes, her talking, me mapping what I heard, we had a good start to a map of the mess that was her project.

A man approached and apologized for interrupting us, adding quickly “Are you a project manager?” I responded “No, I’m an Information Architect” to which he replied “Well whatever you call that thing you’re doing for her. Do you want a job doing that? I have a project and we need that” I took his business card, and gave him my email address. Then after assuring my student that I did not pay this man to do this, I told her that to be honest this happens to me all the time. In cafes, on the subway, at the library, in bars, wherever I and my moleskin happen to be.

Because I am the sort of person who projects confidence in dealing with messes, people now look to me for that guidance.

The lesson is never give up on striving for the world that you want to see. I used to live in a world where maps like the ones I doodle were made in cubicles or at home. I once got in trouble for “doodling” in a meeting only to prove to my boss later on that I was indeed sketch noting the conversational research we were doing.

Now I live in a world where those diagrams and that swiftness of process documentation are critical parts of conversations with business owners and teams I work with. I helped make that world by not giving up on who I am and what I wanted to see. I want each of my students and each of you to know how important it is to create the world that you want to live in.

Remember that how you do one thing deeply reflects on the way you do all other things. Realize the importance of the decisions you make about how you present yourself and how you use your time.

Try to not get any on you

I also warned my students this week about the wear and tear of group-think and close-quarters. These 15 people have worked, eaten, breathed (and in some cases slept) in the studio for more than a year and a half now. It is time to start to get away. Relocate to the library or go work at a cafe. We tend to forget how much other people’s rhythms, body language and productivity touch our own when we work in the same space.

The word “just” lies

Stop using the word. JUST do it. Seriously.

  • Your life will be better if you never use the word “just” to describe anything you do. Because waking up each day and tackling what we love is not something to “just” through. Its something to stand for, something to be when you grow up. Stop using “just” to diminish the unique things you provide to this world. Own those things, and give them the weight that they deserve.
  • Other people will like you more for never saying “just” about their work. Think about it. The word “just” hides complexity and fosters a perceived fundamental disrespect for what something takes to do, whether it be labor, resources or experience level.

Next week we will be talking about Choreography. The one in which they learn that the dance always changes when it gets into the feet of the dancers and the eyes of the viewers.

Thanks for reading.