Consumer vs Maker

Shameful admission: I have three Google Reader accounts that I check regularly.

  • My everyday account has 100+ subscriptions covering UX, DIY, foodie topics, etc… and I play the inbox zero game with it obsessively.
  • My writing persona account has 72 subscriptions that only have to do with the writing, reading, and publishing worlds. I play inbox zero there, too.
  • My family account is where I keep my web comic subscriptions, of which I have a reasonable 20 subscriptions. I play inbox zero there as well, but it’s easier because web comics take time and they don’t update on the same days.

I haven’t included Facebook, email, and Twitter. I’ve gone overboard. Lost my balance. I’m a glutton. An information junkie. But it wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, when I didn’t have a smart phone, a laptop, easy access to the internet…

That is, when I was ten…

I’d also like to note this was before puberty struck…

I was a happy kid. Joyful. Ebullient. I spent my evenings reading classical fiction by Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, LM Montgomery, and the like. I went through the entire shelf of how-to books at my library learning all the different ways one can make a doll by hand. In middle school, my parents, sister, and I built a desk out of the old kitchen table. Each Saturday night I camped out at that desk with my painting supplies and would create  while listening to A Prairie Home Companion. I was a maker. I had results that showed how I spent my time.

At some point in undergrad, I became a consumer. I didn’t have time to create things, not like I was used to. I created little computer programs, wrote papers, built balsa wood bridges, and connected electrical circuits. I became obsessed with my Google Reader, and it only got worse in grad school.

Thing is, I am not in grad school anymore. I have more free time now than I’ve had in seven years, yet I cling to my habits of those seven years. I am creating; glance at my Flickr and you’ll see I’m making things again. Yet I still feel unbalanced.

Which means I can do one of three things:

  1. Cut back on the amount I consume,
  2. Up my level of making, or
  3. Own the fact that I’m a consumer and leave it at that.

Honestly, number three makes me throw up in my mouth a little, so I’m going to try a combination of numbers one and two. Wish me luck.

This is Binaebi ‘Taking it Easy’

It’s been four months since I last wrote in this blog, which is a travesty. I promised I would post images from my sketch diary of my trip to Nigeria, which I will do, but after I give you a quick run-down about what has happened in the last four months.

  1. I got a job. It’s full-time. Pretty sweet.
  2. I finally founded my micro-publishing company.
  3. I re-released my first fiction book with the new micro-publishing branding.
  4. I wrote my second book/novel, which I had put on hold for seven years so I could get my undergraduate and graduate degrees.
  5. I hired an editor, printed, and published said book. I write fiction under a different name to keep things easy for me to distinguish.
  6. I had my first book launch party, and it was pretty successful.
  7. I received my first positive review. Cue spontaneous dance party!
  8. I went to the alumni day this past weekend in Bloomington and re-energized myself for work. I’ll admit I was getting a bit low about the validation test after validation test as a usability analyst.
  9. They are transitioning me to take over this particular subset of test moderation, which means changes are a-comin’ because I have big plans.
  10. I made two websites for Ava Misseldine of Sugar Inc, a local gourmet tea and cupcake salon. You can check them out here and here.

I’m not sure I had announced this, but after graduation, I told myself I was going to “take it easy.” Yeah right. Those of you who know me knew this was going to happen, I’m sure.

Anyway, onto the photos of my sketch diary from Nigeria!

So sad. So true.

When we showed up at Ukpe, 26 years of relatives descended upon us. Our arrival is something they will talk about until… well, they’ll probably talk about us forever.

I have never slept so little in my life. We were eight hours, I think, off of our normal schedules. And the local villages were so excited that we were there, they were dancing, singing, and playing their drums at all hours. All. Hours.

My primary concern was to not get sick while on this trip, because I was scheduled to begin my first day of work the Monday after we returned. I had no time for disease of any kind, and I didn’t try very hard to fit the time shift from traveling to Nigeria. With the ridiculous amount of bug bites I received with no relief because I kept sweating the anti-itch ointments off, I was in a benadryl-induced haze for about 75% of my time in Ukpe.

My relatives, my younger siblings told me, gave me the nickname “Sleeping Beauty.”

Nigerians are self-governing. They don’t take bullshit from anyone, and tend to live by Hammurabi’s Law. You know, an eye for an eye? Normally that would have worried me a little. But knowing that if anyone had attempted to harm me, my family would swarm like a pack of hungry sharks made sleeping much easier for me.

There really are no words for the torment I felt. Those bugs thought I was a delicacy. They hardly touched the rest of my family. And why would they, when I was there for the tasting??

And then there’s my motion sickness, back with a vengeance. You see, I made it the entire trip without getting physically ill. Until the last leg of the trip. Where I lost what little I had in my stomach because I can’t handle a manual transmission without drugs that put me to sleep. I felt really pathetic. And I was fairly terrified, because after I vomited (into a towel, thank god, so I didn’t ruin my cousin’s car), I shoved my mother out of the way. I fell out of the car because my legs felt like jelly. I sobbed air and tears were streaming down my face while my hands seized. I couldn’t get my fingers to straighten out and I couldn’t breathe… and then I felt hands patting water onto the back of my neck, my face, forcing me to drink water. That’s when I caught my breath to whisper, “My hands, my hands!” My mother couldn’t understand me, but the strangers by the side of the road began pouring cold water on my hands. For whatever reason, that helped me gain control.

I don’t care what Americans think of Nigerians. When complete strangers stop what they are doing to help a woman who has puked all over herself and seems to be seizing, they have my gratitude.

Every time I saw this child, I smiled. I couldn’t help it. When he walked, he walked like a man. He couldn’t have been more than three years old, at most. But he strutted around quietly, seriously, observing the world around him for it was his domain.

He was king of the Ukpe babies.

You can see the entire set at Flickr.

Design Rationale behind the “Thought Box”

Jay Steele was interested to know my idea behind the bowls + box. After getting an excellent response from the in-class critique, I figured it was a good idea to post my (very informal) design rationale.

The interesting thing about the in-class critique was how my design sparked an animated conversation. Without knowing details, the class was able to abstract meaning by rearranging the bowls with the box, finding interpretations I hadn’t thought were explicit.

My favorite interpretation was the metaphor that each of the bowls had a spout of sorts, so you could, potentially, pour your thoughts from the bowls into the box. Eventually, the box would leak out the thoughts through that side hole… but never overflow the box.

I love it when someone “gets” the design.

Whistle While You Work

It seems to me that once you get into the thick of design philosophy, you can never escape designing.  However, I’m beginning to realize that while this graduate program certainly encourages and incites the designer in me to be a bit more active, Interaction-Designer!Binaebi was by no means silent in the first place.

In the Kitchen

Whenever my roommate leaves town she returns with the expectation that I’ve moved something. This is a semi-nervous tick of mine, completely intentional, but not malicious. I don’t like clutter, especially on kitchen counter tops. So when I open the kitchen cabinets and find empty spaces, I move the items from the counter top to the cabinet so the kitchen looks cleaner.

The thing is, I don’t remember to tell my roommate I’ve done this… and half the time it’s with her food in the first place. Thank goodness it’s something of a game to her. “Hmm… I wonder where Binaebi put the [fill in the blank] this time?” is a question she utters frequently, she admitted just the other day.

Now, this information concerned me. Was my shifting redesign of the kitchen’s organizational structure making her interaction with the kitchen frustrating due to my need for bare counter tops? Worse yet, was it hurting our interactions as roommates?

No, actually, because it turns out my shifting redesign has a pattern to it. I place all the baking items together on one shelf, the chips on another. All the Tupperware is in that bottom drawer. Unopened juice is placed in the fridge so the first glass will be cold. In the long run, it seems to work out for us, because my reorganization has an intuitive bent to it.

Which is good. The act of me rearranging items may not be time-efficient, but it is intuitively-efficient for when we need to find said items later.

Side note: This is an interesting concept I recently thought of… “time-efficient” vs “intuitively-efficient.” I should come back to this, see if it’s worth pursuing.

In the Arts

When I have any sort of emotional upheaval, I turn to my artistic roots and let the muses fly. I have, in the last month, upcycled two chairs that my roommate and I found by our dumpster. Solid wooden chairs with a screw or two missing, left for me to play with in the evenings after work.

The process is what makes these chairs amazing, not the end result. Though, I will admit, the chairs turned out pretty sweet. I sanded the chairs by hand, getting to know their shape, their feel, their character.

Argyle Chair: Finis!

“Argyle,” the first one screamed at me, “you must reupholster me in argyle.” When I bought the fabric, it was the end of the bolt, so I got three yards instead of one. Which was perfect, because the next day we found the second chair, and it was just as eager to have an argyle redressing.

I have also sculpted a little android, a paranoid little android who, despite his best intentions and careful planning, lost his heart and is absolutely befuddled by the realization. This project was a true design experiment, as I had no plans when I began to work the Sculpey clay. I simply rolled the clay into a ball, broke off a piece here and there while watching the movie Dogma, and by the end of the movie, I had a mini-Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Marvin the Paranoid Android loses his heart

But I’m never one to simply mimic. My Marvin needed something special, something which made him especially down. So I poked out his heart. For artistic purposes, of course.

Side note: I don’t know why Marvin lost his heart. He’s much too sad to go into the details with me.

I have turned to my music, listening to new and old favorites constantly, while psyching myself up to play the violin again after a three-month absence.

I have, for the first time in ten years, painted my toe nails. This may not be a big deal to you, but to me, every little bit of artistic expression counts. Like my Hot Topic earrings, which are currently little gray skulls. It’s the little things that make me laugh.

In Me

What am I trying to get at here? The fact is that all these little things…

  • Rearranging the kitchen
  • Reflecting on the interactions between my roommate and me
  • Upcycling a couple of discarded chairs
  • Sculpting a hilariously depressed robot
  • Preparing to practice violin again
  • Painting my toe nails
  • Buying and wearing goofy earrings

…these are things that point to me redesigning myself. Everything we do affects us positively, negatively, neutrally. When I began these projects, my motivation was lackluster at best. But as with anything, the more time I invested into the project, the more I cared about it. The more I cared, the more motivated I became. The higher my motivation, the more I poured my creativity into the project, the more I pushed myself to try something new.

The Moral of the Story

Interaction Design isn’t always just about man vs technology. Sometimes it’s about man vs man, or man vs self .*

How do we design and redesign ourselves? What goes into that decision-making process? And what can we learn from that process to help inform our design process, professionally?

I don’t know yet. It’s a work-in-progress.

*Borrowed from creative writing theory