I have been reading the book “Glimmer: How design can transform your business, your life, and maybe even the world” by Warren Berger. I have mentioned elsewhere how this is possibly the most important book I have read this year. It has sparked off thoughts, ideas and helped clarify the next few steps I will take in my life and how that will eventually culminate.
In 2007 I used Adobe Photoshop for the first time, and since then I have been steadily teaching myself the software, and then graphic design as a whole. The unexpected but very welcome side effect of this pursuit is the understanding of design as a whole I have gained from direct experience. I studied architecture for a while at varsity, but for some reason it never really clicked for me until I was out of school and focused solely on graphic design. One of the things that began to fascinate me was the idea of extrapolating the design process, tools, mindset and ideas and applying it across design disciplines then across other fields. Warren Berger has articulated that perfectly.
The designer is obsessed with making things better. She would ask questions, investigate, create and reiterate until she has found the perfect solution to the existing problem. A good designer is never satisfied with the status quo. In the face of impossible odds, he will press on until he gets the answer. A designer follows a few steps implicitly. They ask stupid questions, they jump fences, they communicate hope, they go deep, and they work metaphors, face consequences, embrace constraints and create for the unknown. The designer by virtue of his work is very attuned to his environment, noticing things that most people don’t. Because they are so aware, they can manipulate things and make them better.
I find the idea of approaching life as a design problem fascinating. Because, with the tools implicit in the design process (which anyone can learn really), one can effectively tackle any problem regardless of how insurmountable it seems.
I have been obsessed with my life for years. I have a stack of notebooks in my wardrobe with notes, ideas, thoughts and descriptions of what I desire from my stay on earth. I have been refining, asking over and over again, what I want from life, what I want to do, what I want to have, and perhaps most important, who I want to be. I’ve been doing this since I was 13. I have essentially been recreating myself over and over again since then. There is nothing special about this. Almost all of us do this in some form or the other. What I do find interesting though, is the use of design process to facilitate the articulation and eventually the manifestation of the dream life I desire.
We are all familiar with things not working. If we sat down and took stock of our lives, we would be able to point out areas of our lives where things are not going as there should. We can spot problems. Sometimes things may have gone on so long this way that we are resigned to the idea that it is unchangeable. However, every problem can be solved, or at least dramatically lessened. We can redesign our lives and take massive action to move ourselves from where we are to where we need to be.
Have the courage to ask stupid questions. Interrogate every one of your beliefs. Interrogate the status quo, the norms and customs of the times. Consider alternative approaches, resources and solutions. You do not have to live your life the way you were told to. The power is yours, you can recreate it. Know what your end actual goals are and be creative about which paths to take to get there. Absorb ideas from everywhere, process them, use them, evaluate them, discard if need be.
The concept of approaching life as a design problem is a metaphor, a mental construct, a framework which can help simplify a lot of issues and release great power in other aspects. It resonates with me because well…I am a designer, and the thought of making my life a grand project is all too exciting for me. I have a clear idea of what I would like to do work-wise and the kind of life I want to live. I’ve always known that the traditional life/career path was not going to work for me. It caused a lot of confusion and questioning for me, but now I see my path fairly clear. This metaphor comes at a great time because I can actually begin to utilise it and share my understanding and experiences with it.
The coolest thing about being a designer for me, is the ability to hold multiple seemingly contradictory ideas in mind, and make them work together. For instance, the question on my mind for sometime has been how to create a life that is focused and purposeful, remarkable, healthy, financially sustainable without excessive time or effort spent in work, engaged in study using efficient techniques and methods, engaged in multiple real world projects with long term personal and professional significance, exploratory and experimental, and full of fun and excitement. This is what I want for my life. It’s not going to be easy, but it will definitely be interesting.