Sunday, September 25, 2005

Talking about Design

As a design worker, I'm figuring out its kind of hard to talk about the work you do, without talking about the work you're doing.

The work you're doing must be kept proprietary until your client (or your company, if you're not a consultant) chooses the right time and place to announce it. If you blow that, you've just undercut a large part of your work's value. Some companies are known to be quite serious about this.

So while I really would like to jabber on about projects I'm doing, I can really only talk about projects I've done, mostly a long while ago. The problem is, in between then and now, the world changes. We get better at what we do. We learn things. Conversations about projects done years ago suffer from being immediately obsolete. So, it's tempting to sneak up on that timeline, to talk obliquely about things that interest you NOW, because like good pop music, that's kind of what blogging is about, the NOW of it.

I've had some short conversations about this with W in marcom. It's hard enough for W juggling real media, without having to worry about wannabe anarchists like me popping the wrong seams loose. To her immense credit, our conversations have been about learning what the right path should be, not about closing all paths until one is proven correct. We're prototyping the experience, which is what our corporate culture is all about.

Not that I'm the only case study. W's reminded me that people like Diego at metacool are dealing with this dilemma quite well. But even IDEO itself deals with the effects of time-lag: how to explain to potential clients and recruits we're no longer the same company that you've seen on video, because we've evolved in critical ways since then.

Speaking of evolution, I ran into AP, one of the forces behind Freddy&Ma among other contemporary entreprenurial adventures, talking about the joys and perils of striking out on one's own, such as creating trade show booths based on the requirement that all parts must fit into his Honda Element. Ah, youth.


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