May the force of DESIGN be with you

Some say design is about problem-solving, but it’s much more. Design is like the Force.

WTF! Has this writer lost his (obvious) Star Wars loving mind. Well, young Jedi Knights, hear me out.

In Star Wars mythology, the Force is an energy field created by all living things, that surrounds us and penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. I believe design is very much like the Force. It too drives the world around us and encompasses so much of our lives in ways we may not realize.

Think about your morning shower. Consider the bar of soap or shower gel container in your hand. That tangible item once existed in the mind of a designer who thought about the experience of using soap and the interaction with it. The designer wondered, “How should the soap be carved? Will it be easy to hold? How should its texture feel? How will the scent affect me?” The designer also considered the size and shape of the shower gel bottle and if the product is easy to squeeze from it.

Now, think about other items in your bathroom. Observe the curvature and smoothness of the sink, the patterns within the tiles, and the flooring beneath your feet. In fact, if you think of items throughout your home, such as furniture, appliances, and artwork, they too began in the mind of a designer. The things surrounding you are part of your personal outer space – your universe – bound together by design.

You, as the Jedi Knight, have collected experiences represented by these particular items which are styled, colored, scented, and shaped for your environment. The packaging and products you use, utensils, drinking cups, and plates, are extensions of someone else’s influences, training, emotions, and thoughts. Everything you interact with that contributes to your life is design.

Design holds our world together, but good design gives your world greater potential. Writer and Designer Debbie Millman, host of the Design Observer podcast, Design Matters, recently gave a talk for Creative Mornings. She spoke about The Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated College. Some things she said resonated with me, including:

Design is not about Design.
Design is about a whole bunch of things that ultimately results in design.

We need to have an understanding of anthropology, psychology, economics.
We need to be able to understand, from a cultural anthropological view, why we in the world we are in right now.

If you agree with Ms. Millman, then you believe that, as designers, we have to be part behaviorist, data analyst, and anthropologist. So, if design is about the study of people, then we must connect with each other and be a part of the Force which binds all living things together. Only then can we truly understand others’ needs and desires. Only then can we design for each other.

Think about the people with whom you come in contact – their faith, values, and beliefs. Reflect upon the friendships and acquaintances you form. We influence each other. We connect with each other because we consume similar experiences – the taste of a juicy burger, the sight of brilliant green street signs and flashing amber traffic lights. These are all from designers, engineers, and architects. At the core is creation. Design is all around us.
We can learn about design principles and fundamentals, but when we open our minds, immerse ourselves, interact with people, discover their thoughts and inspirations, and apply those ideas to our own designs, we elevate ourselves and others to a greater creative potential, the Force in the universe.

And…may the Force be with you.


Unanticipated First Year Business Costs

Recently, Praxis Creative has marked its first year in business. Although Year One has had trying moments,  it also has had great moments.

What have I learned this year?

Being a business owner and entrepreneur is hard work. There are so many things you THINK you know and understand, but you don’t. You encounter the unexpected: unanticipated costs and situations, personality issues, and odd team dynamics.

Unanticipated Costs and Situations:

Liability insurance. If you’re bidding on a contract, liability insurance is most likely a necessity. How much coverage should you get? Will you need both professional and general liability insurance? Well, if you’re leasing an office space, you’ll have to cover not only your business but your landlord’s too.

The high price of data plans for your business is another unexpected cost. Internet data and phone plans can be expensive. You’ll need routers and network security. These are business items that you more likely take for granted if you used to work for another corporation.

A fax number. Who the hell still uses fax machines? Well, plenty of people and companies do. If you want to conduct business with local, state, or federal governments, it’s required that you have the capability to fax documents.

Keeping your business cards in stock is a necessity too. You never know when or where you’ll meet a potential client. As long as you’re in business, you’ll continuously have this cost.

Networking. You’ll have to network as if your life depends upon it. It’s so important to interact with other business owners and entrepreneurs. You never know who is in a position to help you or if you can provide a service to them. In addition, you’ll need to develop a networking budget that includes costs for events, conferences, travel, and promotional items such as brochures and post cards.

Having a lawyer on retainer requires money and more money. It’s smart business to have a lawyer on call, especially if you need advice when drawing up contracts with your customers and business partners. Plus, other issues may arise. For instance, if some partners decide to leave (as in our situation), you’ll need to reallocate shares and update the company’s articles. So, even if you’re not looking forward to paying the monthly legal fee, it’s a relief to have a professional on call.

Personality Issues and Odd Team Dynamics:

In our situation, losing partners meant missing out on affordable (or free) skilled labor, that now becomes costly. Of course, freelance contractors need to be paid for their production, and remaining partners bear an increased financial responsibility when it comes to investor contributions toward other costs, such as the rent and data plan.

When it comes to networking, you may find that some team members may not be so outgoing and sociable while interacting with other business owners. Or, you may discover that others are not as enthused when it comes to tackling tasks such as proposal development and admin work. As a result, you could find yourself shouldering a bit more of the responsibility than originally anticipated.

Regardless of these unexpected situations, it’s necessary to remain focused on the BIG PICTURE. One of the most important things that I learned during this first year is to remain committed and dedicated. Success will not come easily or quickly. As a new business owner and entrepreneur, you have to do EVERYTHING! Answering phones, social media postings, blog updates, production, marketing, promotions, documentation, and research. You have to stay focused because things will seem difficult at first and, sometimes, you’ll feel so discouraged you’ll want to scream.

Instead, you have to buckle down and focus. Believe in yourself. Even when some people around you lose faith and give up. You choose to stay the course.