Bringing Design Inspiration to Everyday Work

I have to start by saying that I typically don't make New Year resolutions; when I see something that I want to change, I go ahead and do it.

But this week, while traveling, I did something that I often do while away but rarely do at home: I went to a design exhibit. In this case, the subject was Norman Bel Geddes, the great mid-century designer/architect/futurist. I gleaned lots of little nuggets of inspiration:

  • an advertisement for a stove, touting how Geddes designed it based on the needs of actual consumers (gasp!)
  • a memo that might mark one of the first recognitions in America of the business value of good design
  • a remark on a wall placard that his early interest in magic influenced his ability to sell his ideas
  • a color rendering of a hotel concept for a client who was unused to reading schematics
  • a model of a raked stage set that allowed the audience to see more of the action than a traditional one would

This glimpse into the designer's process was fun and inspirational, and it added a few grounds to my ever-percolating-coffee-pot brain.

So my resolution is a recommitment to work more of that ongoing development and inspiration into my everyday life. Here are a few ways I'm acting upon it:

  • Visiting exhibits/galleries in person. It's not the easiest thing for my schedule, but I am going to work it in once a month. Even if an exhibit doesn't cover anything I care about, I'm often educated by how the information is presented, how the interactivity is designed, and how the emotional experience is created.
  • Meeting and talking with designers outside of my field. While I love my L&D peeps, I also love getting shaken up with different perspectives. Sometimes I learn a new idea and adopt it; sometimes I'm reminded of things I really like about our field.
  • Reading. It was my first love, and it has gone by the wayside in the last couple of years. Of the items on this list, though, reading is by far the easiest to work into my everyday life... no car - or even pants! - required. Earlier this year I started exchanging suggestions with other bloggers, and as I get back into my habit, I'm posting summaries on my blog.

Truthfully, rather than making resolutions, the best way for me to actually start a new habit is to - well - just do it. I already have a list of books I want to read and some community events I'm planning on going to in the next couple of months. I went to the Portland Art Museum's website and found an upcoming exhibit I want to go to, on bicycle design. I signed up for their newsletter to be notified of when it launches. It's a baby step, but a right-sized one from the road.

Got more suggestions? I'd love to hear them. Let me know at @jkunrein, and I'll let you know how my resolution pans out at onehundredfortywords.