Thinking without doing
As the designer of my life, I find myself lacking the tools, experience, and people to help me take on the brief I made for my future, now adjusted to the Covid19 restrictions. I take a step back and look at the mind maps of my journeys that now, took an unexpected turn; I try to redefine the “How might we questions” that highlight my ongoing struggles and goals; I attempt to reassess which problem needs solving first, or what new challenges have crossed my path uninvited; I start to endlessly brainstorm on new feasible solutions that will make my new normal more bearable; I negotiate with the stakeholders of my life and struggle to reconnect with my now separated team of people that have joined me along the way. I feel left with unfinished sprints and unclosed double diamonds in the brief I constructed for my future: my brief description, its goals, and with their background, deliverables, target audience and methods faced an unanticipated and unwanted pause. the Global reset gave me a collection of unsure ideas, unfinished applications and portfolios, empty plans, and dreams put on hold.
In Design Management, when a design process gets struck by “uncontrollable” circumstances a designer’s solution is to rework the brief’s key elements to accommodate the new limitations: Something might have to be added to the project’s description; the target audience is perhaps not the most relevant anymore; your tone of voice has probably been affected by my unstable situation; Maybe, the deliverables are maybe outdated and my skills not fit for this new challenging world. I think about ways to make my brief’s goals more agile to survive future obstacles. Temporary numbed by a head full of questions and worries, I find myself unable to move forward without digesting all this new information.
Inspiration and strength were in the past found on the outside. Events, people I met, and the random happening in the streets always fed me with material and energy to work with. Now, with most events closed, people confined at home, and empty streets I realised that perhaps meaning had to be explored inside: redigesting and recycling past processed thought and ideas. I was surprised to discover that I had sufficient recourses to stay motivated and I gained some confidence in my capacities. In retrospect, I now understand that only relying on external elements made me a very dependent designer.
Doing without thinking
Between thinking a doing there is a small space where ideas start to shape themselves, applications and portfolios get finalised, plans become visible and dreams more concrete. The double diamond slowly finds closure and the design Sprints find their completions. I start to mentally prepare for the next ones and I anticipate the moment I become ready to press play again.
Then comes the first opportunity that aligns only slightly with my evolving brief. Tired of thinking and thirsty to get rid of my monotonous days I accept any chance that comes my way without thinking. The circumstances make opportunities scarce and I make myself believe that I can mould my next position to my still unsure goals. Surprisingly, having to work on something and feeling useful on a project was already a first step in the direction of my plans. My background describes that there are only three Design Management related courses worldwide. Its unknown aspect makes it easy to be quite agile across tasks: From designing campaigns, strategy, and marketing to UX design and copywriting. This resulted in me taking on every piece of work that was remotely connected to those skills. If for some task I did not have any relevant experience, I felt lucky enough that my remote internship allowed me to learn the additional requirements hidden behind my screen. Finally, I could stop thinking and just do stuff. Everything I had collected internally during my thought process was put into practice, and until then nothing was telling me I was doing anything wrong.
Through the completion of task after task, I felt happy that for once my mind was peaceful after long days of nine-to-five work: There is no room to stop and reflect in the flow of busy-ness. As an intern for a corporate firm, you swallow sprint after sprint in an extensive network of stakeholders. Your team is replaced by Teams and among all the ad hoc requests and messages there is a small, social fulfilling interaction. But picking on tasks here and there without thinking, does not give you a meaningful understanding of the project and the role you fulfill. You feel like a tiny useful hand on the desktop background, and after a while, you cannot discern the purpose of your work. You forgot to mould what you were doing to your brief’s goals. Before I knew it, my investment in my internship had driven me away from the subject that mattered to me. For a while I had kept my fundamental interest for later, staying focused on only one specific element of my mind-map without moving forward in my journey.
Doing and thinking
Too much thinking numbs doing and too much doing numbs thinking. Managing to combine action and reflection has been my challenge in the search for a new agency during this global reset. It helped me to get to know myself better and It has brought me closer to my designing style: continuous work and thought in progress. It is in the consecutive experience of both extremes that I concluded that I am neither thinker nor doer but that the healthiest place I can find myself in is the grey-space between the two.
Lola De Coster, Design Management & Cultures