Be ever curious and find joy in the work that you do. This video featuring the great Alan Watts captures a beautiful philosophy on how we should approach our work. Whether you are a designer, illustrator, developer, author or uber driver. Find the joy and beauty in the nuances of your craft. It is with this mindset that I have not only practiced as a designer over the years but also as a person.
1. Illustrating books when I was 10
When I was a kid I was always interested in drawing and doodling. My imagination ran rampant and I remember creating 2 children's books. This was never seen as homework or anything I just did it in my spare time - I wrote stories and illustrated them. My friends, classmates and teachers loved it. One was called ‘SUPER PIG’ and the other ‘Uh-Oh glasses’. And as an adult it is that joy and carefreeness that I try to find when I am designing. And whenever I'm stressed I try to remember not to take things too seriously.
2. Finding the play in an otherwise mundane job
Being a Creative Director for a digital agency is a lot of fun most of the time but it also means responsibility, meetings and sometimes the big corporate jobs that take a few months to complete. Rather than dreading it I find the fun side in some of these jobs. If you've ever played rpg games where you start out with a character and try to build their stats ie. strength, stamina and intelligence etc. I try to think of my career in this regard, when I first did public speaking and going to meetings I was terrible and hated it. But eventually I saw it as a challenge and opportunity that for every successful meeting I was gaining +EXP. Eventually my stats built and I become very proficient. I also found that the more restrictions there are in a project - it is often when you have to be the most creative, to dig deeper and find a solution that is not always the most obvious. It's easy to make things feel cool and epic for Nike but how do you make toll roads sexy? By finding the little nuances in the interaction design that will delight the user and solve the clients problems.
3. Taking on stupid challenges
I started posting on Dribbble as joke. A junior designer told me I should join and see how many followers I could get. I first searched twitter for an invite as none of us had one and managed to get drafted. Eventually what started as joke was the catalyst to me leaving my full time job. Dribbble has been a great community and it's always fun connecting with like minded designers. Also many job leads have come through because of this platform and this stupid challenge that I decided to take on. So sometimes it's ok to do silly things as they take you to unexpected places.
4. Creating non commercial projects (Zombie game auto generator)
I have designed and coded many experiments that have had no commercial value at all. I built them just for the heck of it, for some laughs and just to try something new. But out of all of them one of the funniest experiments was when we used to play “Left for Dead” at the office during lunch break. For those unfamiliar with it, it is essentially a zombie shoot em game with zombies vs survivors. There were 2 teams and it was always hard to decide who would be on which team. As obviously there were stronger and weaker players in the office. Also who would be the zombies and who would be the survivors. So I designed and built a fun little team auto generator that would randomise players 1 at a time and place them in the zombie and survivor teams. It worked like slot machines where the names would keep randomising and then slowly slow down and stop on a player. Watching it was exciting and there was a lot of hype to see who would get paired with who. In the end it was a little program that everyone in the office could enjoy and that was super rewarding as a designer to offer users this sense of joy and excitement.
5. Starting Verse and finding the joy in continual re-invention and the learning experience
Leaving a lucrative position as a Creative Director, refocusing my attention from good freelancing jobs to building more products and starting my own brand. I find this continual change to feel fun and exciting - but it's not without its obstacles. It's hard to pass on a $20k job for a months work and instead write articles for others and work on products that may not sell (And even offer some for free). Well I've been working on my business model and trying to not trade time for money anymore, it's an investment but in the long run I think it’ll work out. Building this brand and creating products for sale is uncertain but it's this sense of the unknown that is exciting. I believe if I offer enough value and help as many people as possible, by laws of internet karma they will return the favour. In the end I chose to learn and keep trying new things.
Thanks for reading guys. And let's all work as play.