Forgetfulness and Your Productivity

I've LOST my keys. —You

How many times do you say this a month? Week? Day?

Take a second to reflect on the patterns associated with the times you have lost your keys. Do friends and family comment on your forgetfulness? Are you noticing your memory slacking lately?

If you're nodding your head with me, I can almost guarantee you are over stimulated, or (barely) functioning with "cognitive overload". You probably have a hundred thoughts spinning through your head, tripping over kids or pets, or both, at your feet, trying to keep track of your bills this month, hitting your year end goals, making notes to schedule appointments to utilize benefits before the new year, and don't get me started with how many notifications are waiting on your smartphone.

I’m raising my hand here with ya. I found myself so overloaded I was distracted and circling the drain. So recently I have been looking into how cognitive science fits into STRESS and PRODUCTIVITY. Who doesn’t want to be more productive. I think we ALL do. Work smarter not harder, right?

There are countless tools and resources to help with being more organized and less forgetful, but from a holistic view, I highly recommend self-awareness and discipline to keep your flow momentum progressing forward. Simple enough, right? I keep my keys in two places, in my purse or on a hook in the kitchen. Having this repetition keeps me on track. If that’s not helping me, it’s time for me to work through what stimuli I have coming at me.

So what do we do? Where do we start? Afterall, we are in this together, right?

Have you thought about you attention as a resource? I hadn’t until I read this article on cognitive science. Mel DeStefano thoroughly describes this incredible study in relation to design. I highly recommend it for it’s rich references. The gist of it is: you have short term and long term memory, but the part where you remember where you put your keys is SHORT term. Research shows we have a limited capacity, duration, and encoding to allow us to function without frying into zombie mush. When you have too much stimuli, your brain starts misfiring and drops random, lesser-important tasks, thoughts, ideas, etc, like where you left your keys.

To prevent this from happening so often, we start by dividing and conquering. Let’s not take everything on at once. First, make a list, preferably written down on a whiteboard, post-it, or note in your phone. Sort your tasks into priority. Time block your tasks through the day and actually schedule time to take a break. It is fundamentally the way your body was created to operate, so take it seriously! Self care doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Here are some quick ideas for you to start trying out, but feel free to get creative.

I also recommend reflecting through your surroundings. Cut some of the noises, or if it’s too quiet, add some white noise in to help create a cocktail party effect (Side note: this is why coffee shops work so well for me to focus on a task). Is the trash stinking up the kitchen, an overbearing candle or flower arrangement pulling at your senses?

Finally, my favorite: BRAIN DUMP. Mentally, check in with yourself. Are you frustrated or lacking confidence? Just get rid of the thoughts burning through your mind. You don’t have to work through these thoughts right now, but write them down so you’re identifying something you do need to address. Make a strategy to address these things and free up the energy that is weighing you down in the moment. Sometimes this means going back and adjusting your task list, or your entire calendar! BUT getting all of this off your shoulders will make your load feel so much lighter.

If that doesn’t help, I sure hope there is a bottle of a decent white chilled in your fridge. OR book a mental health day and take some YOU time for once.

So this is me, HEY FRIEND, checking in on you. How are you? Are you over stimulated? How can we help you get you back on track and out of that burn-out mode?

Inclusive Design Principles

Inclusive design has an objective to create a product that meets the needs of users. The key principles of inclusive design should be intentionally utilized through the development of a project. According to The Paciello Group, there are seven principles to inclusive design:

  1. Provide comparable experience - users should be able to interact with product in a manner that allows a task to be completed without diminishing the quality of the content.
  2. Consider situation - the interface should provide a rich experience regardless of the user's circumstance.
  3. Be consistent - usability flow should be intuitive behaviorally throughout the platform.
  4. Give control - the design should allow users to interact with the product as they wish without changing the content.
  5. Offer choice - providing alternative routes to complete a task as articulated by the needs of your users.
  6. Prioritize content - the content and layout should be organized in a way that keeps the user on task.
  7. Add value - the user experience should be efficient and provide diverse interaction with content features.

These principles are best when aligned with understanding of standard usability principles and project focused perspectives used with personas. Those involved in the design process will create a more robust product for all users when keeping these principles in mind.

Resources & Tools:

Graduate Application: Statement of Purpose (2016)

At the age of 21, after truly discovering my passion for design, I applied to the highly selective visual communication program at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.  Thrilled at my acceptance, I continued to work hard and research religiously. As I progressed through the program, I realized the drive behind our field was being applied through each assignment, but the concept of problem solving was consistently overlooked. Though “pretty” projects earned passing grades, the ideology of our field was consistently disregarded. I believe, as a bachelor’s of fine arts, the visual communication program is flawed because the most valuable aspect in the process of design is creating a piece that is more efficient. This frustration has become a source of motivation for me, a reason to continue to pursue a resolution.

One unique aspect Ball State offers is the immersive learning experience. Professors write proposals for grants on their choice of a research project and assemble a team of selected students. Dr. Paul Gestwicki, my advisor for an immersive learning project, described it as “A sabbatical with the benefit of choosing students for assistance.” The goal of this immersive learning experience was to create a game for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, but at first everything else was to be determined by the team he assembled.

Gestwicki, a professor in the School of Computer Science, operated the entire semester by the fundamentals of Scrum methodology of agile software development.  Scrum focused on product management for a task of little direction, which benefits from consistently providing feedback for the structure of organization of process as well as productivity on the final goal. Ultimately, our thirteen member team had not one, but roughly a hundred games created, three formal proposals and digital prototypes for games, and one fully generated game consisting of several levels, digitally produced and included playful sound effects. Our final game teaches children the principles of building a valuable collection through the perspective of a museum curator. Our play testers loved it and so did the curators of Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Communication between different “languages” of fields is no longer unfamiliar, but growing increasingly comfortable. Beyond a real world simulation of teamwork, the immersive learning experience taught me how to critically analyze a process from an outside perspective.

Helping others in shaping products or services to resolve dysfunction and maximize organization would be my ideal professional future. Branding and digital media are imperative in generating a social presence. However, the fluidity of conceptual inspirations to creation through post-production must be seamless and maximize efficiency. My vision is to network to build a team. This team, forming a studio, would assist companies, organizations, and institutions in streamlining productivity by focusing on design systems. As a visual communicator, it is my goal to assist my client in resolving the unknown complications as well as minimize unforeseen impediments. Focusing on the research process through my graduate study will prepare me to perform at my best in all my future endeavors, but ultimately assist others in becoming more efficient in sustainable social design.

"What do you LOVE about Design?"

Rick Poyer said in the documentary Helvetica: "Graphic Design is the communication framework through which these messages about what the world is now, and what we should aspire to. It's the way they reach us. The designer has an enormous responsibility. Those are the people, you know, putting their wires into our heads." As a visual designer and an end-user advocate, I understand the "responsibility" of which Poyer is speaking. I respect the impact design has on our lives, our community, and our footprint. Design dictates our habits and shapes our character individually, our routine, how we consume everything from the news to a cup of coffee. 

Successful products have a subconscious, emotion-evoking draw balanced with a cognitive interest of some thing simultaneously unique, eccentric, and distinctive, yet relative, efficient, purposeful, identifiable, and relatable to a wide audience. Design is deeper than aesthetic, artisanal craft; it is a foundation of principles and heuristics creating little moments that guide product users through their lives in confidence, connecting them to their interests and exploring and experiencing life in authentic, meaningful, smooth interactions. I LOVE the challenge of finding a flow of functionality, shaping the notoriety of a brand, and value the messages we communicate to a user when cultivating design.

Designer Statement

I recently was asked "what do you LOVE about design?" and I was reminded of a designer statement I wrote 4 years ago.  I find myself continually modifying this, year to year, as I get deeper into the industry, grow as a designer, and have my perspective widened through conversations with other designers.  If anything has been steadfast in my career, it has been my hunger to better myself as a designer through the study of the art of design, research the cognitive physiology of consumer behavioralism and human-computer interaction. My best learned lesson is that all things designed can be simultaneously resolved and incomplete for design is a organic, fluid, and ever changing.


Designer Statement

“Every object tells a story if you know how to read it.”

-Henry Ford

Creating art has allowed me to develop my values in life. It has shaped my character. Studying the works of others has allowed me to discover my means of meditation. Through creating and studying art, my peace, joy, hope, encouragement, anger, frustration, and fears are embraced and energized into a source of productivity and motivation. Without creating art for myself, friends, family, commissioners and clients, my mind grows distracted. Art keeps me grounded and pushes me to enhance my knowledge and skill in my field.

As a designer I utilize my skills of the fine arts to create a design with which companies or individuals can identify and appreciate. I value the principles and theories presented by fine art. I believe the knowledge and appreciation of the arts is vital to creating good designs. Throughout my undergraduate study I have worked with a variety of mediums. In two dimensional art I have most enjoyed drawing, painting, print, and watercolor. Three dimensionally I have worked with glass, plaster, and wood. I work digitally by utilizing After Effects, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

I am a firm believer in creating a design more elegant and functional for the consumer. A world without designers would be confused and unproductive. When I am confident a piece is strong in composition, contrast, repetition, harmony, and unity, I believe it follows my core beliefs and I consider in each design align my personal style.

As a designer, I enjoy creating work that has a clean appearance. My designs focus on utilizing solid positive and negative space; design should live in a powerful matrix. My work appears strong independently and fit the other elements within my portfolio. It includes the fundamental principles of fine art. All of my design work clearly projects the theories of my personal design practice. Because of my love for design research, I feel it best to quote the documentary Objectified, which has guided my design direction:

Good design should be innovative.

Good design should make a product useful.

Good design should make a product understandable.

Good design should be aesthetically pleasing.

Good design should be honest.

Good design should be unobstructive.

Good design should be consistent in every detail.

Good design should be environmentally friendly.

Good design should be as little design as possible.

Hustwit, Gary, Objectified, Film, Geissbühler, Luke (2009; Detroit: Plexifilm, 2009.) DVD.