Hi, there. 👋 I’m writing my first book, which will be released early 2021.

Getting better at anything requires us to be more creative. Fortunately, the creative process is reasonably simple: it doesn’t need to end because we can adapt and tweak what suits us as we evolve and grow. Through practice, consistency, and a desire to be better, we can get around existing barriers to what we can achieve. My new book, which will be released early next year, will share stories around different aspects of getting good. Follow me through the book process on Twitter!

Here is a sample chapter from the book.

👂 Listen to this chapter

Chapter 4

Design better, better design

Become better by focusing on the individual parts

Why should we design better?

It’s summer here when the vision of this book was conceived: peak of fruit season. Picture us at the store, armed with hope and old wives tales: multiple steps in an intricate process of choosing the best tasting melon of the season. We look for a symmetrical fruit: firm and free from bruises. We lift to weigh it: looking for a melon that is heavy for its size. Sometimes, we tap it gently, as we have been told a hollow sounding melon is a ripe one. We aren’t sure why but our fingers dance across the melon anyway.

The steps that make up this elaborate guessing game, are creative parts of a process designed to help us figure out the best pick. When we break it down, the parts that make up the process are decided by facts which help us assess and decide with ease. For example, we look for a heavy melon as it is a sign that it is ripe and full of juice. In a similar way, the scoring process in examinations are designed to help gauge where we stand and whether we are suitable for the opportunity ahead.

Identifying component parts

It may sound simple, but identifying the individual parts of a process can sometimes be a puzzle. For a puzzle that others have completed before, we can reference, and gain tips from our predecessors. What about for situations where we are either the first to experience, or don’t know anyone who can guide us?

We can come up with creative ways of seeking out and obtaining the information we need; and we can look at the parts of our own whole to better understand what to focus on, where we should start and what information we need.

Many people desire to be “better,” but defining what better is, is much harder than just knowing you want to improve. It is at this point, that being specific helps us move along. Improving is a process which takes time; it is not possible to become better at anything overnight. We are a constant work in progress; our expanding values shaped by experiences unique to our life, are as colorful as our personalities. As we’ve identified, setting an intention for an improved version of ourselves, is the first step in identifying weaker components parts, that helps in figuring out where to focus our efforts for improvement.

Rebecca

Rebecca, a junior User Experience Designer was applying for jobs and wasn’t hearing back from companies. Thinking this was related to not standing out enough, she started focusing on getting attention through creating videos and hand-written letters. While being reasonably good at the research aspect of User Experience, Rebecca was not yet very skilled at making visual designs. Still, she was applying for jobs that required these skills. She was, however, very adept at communicating research through hand-sketched storyboards. Through conversation with a more seasoned designer that she asked for help from, it was brought to light that attention might be the wrong part to focus on as part of her job search. Getting attention wouldn’t help Rebecca if she’s not a good match for the job based on her skills and strengths. It wasn’t so much about getting attention as it was about better framing and communicating the skills she had and improving the skills she needed for some of the jobs she was applying for. Going through the job search experience made Rebecca realise what component parts she needed to focus on to get the future job she wanted.

There are component parts related to the work that all of us do. It’s unrealistic to expect to be good at everything; different work requires different components, skills and tools, in order to excel. Being aware of the component parts, that make us unique, helps us in our life and work by guiding us towards where we should focus our efforts.

Why identifying component parts helps us design better

We can understand the component parts, of our own situations, by being more attentive. Through breaking down the pieces that make the whole, we can draw a map and design our approach. By pinpointing what we enjoy most, or areas we are naturally talented in, it becomes clear which parts require more of our attention especially if they are skills or tools that support our strengths.

To design better, we need to understand the individual parts that make up the whole.

There are many aspects to being a good athlete. In the case of a basketball player, talent comprises of components including dribbling, shooting, and passing. If we break those component parts down even further as part of shooting, there are free throws, three-point shots, and jump shots. A basketball player may select different aspects of their game to improve upon at any given time. They may decide improving on their free throw will make them a better player overall and thus spend the next few weeks focused on that one component even if there is no specific situation that calls for it. This is what dedication looks like.

Flair is important, but sustaining long term betterment of ourselves requires identifying where we should focus our effort and time. Designing our own lives helps us become better, for ourselves and others.

Looking at your own component parts, alongside consideration of where you currently are and where you want to go; helps you determine what to improve on to continue expanding and eventually reach your goals.

This is a process, and it takes time, but if we utilise and build upon continuous small wins, we will have the motivation and momentum needed to create our path and develop each and every day.

Brett

Brett joined his company as the first designer. He slowly then quickly became the face of design for the company, and worked with external clients on design projects. A few years ago, Brett started to hire more designers and subsequently started managing a small team. He became aware that he didn’t know how to handle all the different management and job responsibilities all at once. Brett knew he was having trouble organising and prioritising. Knowing that no one directly around him could help, Brett set out to find a mentor to help guide him.

Sometimes putting a spotlight on our own work and processes allows us to understand if and when we need help or guidance from others.

How designing better is the pathway to better design

Acknowledging component parts of our own process, challenges, selves or situation, takes a bit of work. Once we start painting the picture, we can better gauge how much effort to put in and where; and as a result feel less overwhelmed. When we recognise parts of our challenge, be it within ourselves or a situation, we can design for better futures.

A good place to start is to pick a specific area, either a challenge or situation, and ask yourself if you can identify the component parts that when improved, changes the outcome for the better.

Think of a work or life situation where there is tension; it is not going as smoothly as it needs to. What and which part doesn’t feel good? Why is there friction, ambiguity and discomfort in the unknown? What parts can you improve upon by yourself and where might you need help from the outside or someone else?

When we have, find or create systems that help us become better, we design better as we pave the way for repetitive wins. Even when we experience failures along the way, we accumulate knowledge for bigger future wins. Our will to better ourselves, and our future, is assisted by continuously improving the creative processes that help us design better, for better design.