These drawings are from a few years ago when I got promoted from being a designer to a design manager. I worked as part of a large inhouse design team at Adobe, and my responsibilities included only the experience design of one or two software applications.
So up until then I was a shy quiet type content to be left alone and then, suddenly I found that I was not going to be left alone at all! Meetings, emails, decisions – my presence was requested.
I had to be prepared for scrutiny and judgment, and every situation felt like it was a test. But over time I figured out a strategy for myself.
If you’re going through a similar experience, my advice would be to keep at it – eventually it will sort itself out.
A couple of years ago we used to live in a house with lovely flowering shrubs all around. This is one spring Sunday morning when my mother-in-law and I were drinking tea in the front garden.
[We stood and admired nature in all it’s wonderful forms and breathtaking palettes. Breathed deeo the sweet smell of the madhabilata hedge in all its flowering spring. And later remembered Bridget Riley, whose birthday it is, and who said,
“I work with nature, although in completely new terms. For me, nature is not landscape but the dynamism of visual forces.”]
In the early days of being a mother I hardly had time or energy to draw. I went back to working full time when Orin was four months, and we had a nanny in the day time to look after him. Both the brown boy and I were lucky to have the choice to work flexible hours which is so important when you’re a new parent.
I started drawing again when Orin was about seven or eight months old and my drawing had of course suffered. Not only was my skill rusty but also lack of sleep had nearly killed my imagination – but I kept on drawing. The journals from those years were quite terrible, but I still needed to draw, to make sense of life unfolding. Here are a few scattered drawings from those years.
From the journal Brain cut wild, 2016
Sometimes it’s important to just to get out of the daily grind and recharge my soul by looking at some art. Way back in 2017, this was one of those days.
Just the ability to do this, which I’ve also done while living in Bombay and Malmö, is a pleasure and a blessing.
The last few years has been a lot of late nights working, and in the lows of those hours between midnight and dawn I always end up questioning the larger purpose of my life. This is a poem for those times.
From the sketchbook Captivity (Feb 2017)
As I wrote the other day, The Only Story was thought-provoking, not least in the social mores that it strove to question, but also about the very banal nature of love.
I often draw in my sketchbook about the books I read, fodder for the drawing in a way. These pages were made while reading The Only Story.
Who can control how much they love? If you can control it, then it isn’t love. I don’t know what you call it instead, but it isn’t love.The Only Story by Julian Barnes
[Finished The Only Story the new book by Julian Barnes. A tale of such unequal love, and so much pain.]
Some time last year I read The only story by Julian Barnes. Like all other books by Julian Barnes, I found it thought-provoking and it stayed with me long after I was done. Here’s a drawing from while I was reading the book.
When I graduated from design school, I didn’t feel equipped to be a designer in the real world. I remember that I even googled for “core skills of a designer” and found that empathy was an important skill to have, so I started to teach myself to be a more empathetic designer.
The hardest skill that I tried to teach myself for a decade but finally this is the book that helped, Dare to Lead by author Brene Brown. She clearly breaks down empathy into skills.
For me though the number 1 skill is to Listen. I’m so uncomfortable with silence I keep talking and forget to listen. How to listen:
1 – Hear what is being said
2 – Absorb and try to understand
3 – Respond not react
Brene Brown says the top empathy skill is Perspective taking.
“Honour people’s perspectives as truth even when they’re different from us.Brene Brown
Become the learner not the knower. I think this is the biggest breakthrough for me — the shift in mindset from “knowing” to “learning”.
And coming to why empathy is a core skill for designers: It starts with Curiosity, Learning, Empathy, which is used throughout the design process: To understand users better, to create inclusive product experiences, to stay problem-focused, not solution-focused, to grow and learn from feedback, and to be the best coworker and collaborator you can be.
And the true test of empathy is in practising it daily until it becomes second nature. So best foot forward towards being a more empathetic designer!]