A Plea to All Creatives: Stop Going to Work

BY Joe DuffyMon Oct 26, 2009 at 10:01 AM

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We are living in interesting times. Never before have we been so connected. Our ability to interact is nearly unlimited. Technology is a most formidable tool, the driver, a catalyst in the laboratory of life.
Designers thrive on the information available to us through this newly heightened era of connectivity. That said, information is not enough. We need inspiration to continue to stretch and truly reach our creative potential. I don’t believe that inspiration is sufficiently served up in even the most compelling office environments, nor among the most creative cultures. So we need to get out of the office. Design how you’re going to work. Dial it into the rest of your life and vice versa. Be purposeful about what you do, where you are, where you really need to be in order to be happy and productive.

What makes you happy? When do you feel most inspired? What is it that generates new ideas and fruitful energy in your life? Find those things. Nurture them. Respect them. Being someplace, like in the office, for appearances sake is futile.

When I am happy, I am more creative and more productive.

When I am productive, I feel accomplished and happy. When I’m happy, I am most creative. It’s a good, not a vicious, cycle.

Fresh ideas come from fresh minds. Fresh minds need constant and new stimulus. Sometimes it’s about escape–seeing a performance or experiencing fine art. We’re lucky in Minneapolis, I can walk down the street and take in live theater at The Guthrie or hike over to The Walker and view their latest show of contemporary art.

It could be about forcing yourself to see anew, with an open mind, like spending time with kids and remembering how to look at creative problem-solving from a more innocent perspective (my granddaughter Mia taught me how to loosen up the grip on my paintbrush).


It may be about finding the beauty and design inspiration in the constantly changing and renewing cycles of nature–get out and ride a bike.

go outside

We live in a world where burnout is rampant. No wonder why, when we now have the ability to be connected, 24/7. We have to ask ourselves what we want to be connected to. There have always been workaholics but today we see many of those behaviors shunned by a new generation of people seeking greater balance in their lives. We now have the ability to blend what we do for a living, what we’re passionate about and every other facet of our lives into a much healthier/happier life, a designed life. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a bright new idea while sitting at a desk.

Now that we have the ability to dial up, to log in, to upload notes, and download drafts from almost anywhere, we also need to learn the power of powering off and shutting down to charge up, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a few weeks.

The business of design is about collaboration at its core. At times this is best accomplished face to face in an office setting. At times it will require working outside of normal office hours as we cross time zones and latitudes. It also will require the occasional all-nighter or the work-thru-weekend–it’s the rollercoaster way the business of design works. But these are all more palatable and have the potential to even be energizing if we realize the opportunities that being connected really affords us as creative business people. You shouldn’t try to achieve the normal 9-to-5 routine in an endeavor that is not conducive to it.

I look forward to going to the office now that I don’t consider it „going to work.“ For me it’s actually the more social aspect of creating design. Because I’m not going there out of habit or for the sake of appearances, it’s just another interesting facet of everyday life and it helps keep things in balance.

Balance = happy = creative = productive. Repeat.

[Feel the Music and Go Outside by Erin Hanson]

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Principal and chairman of Duffy & Partners, Joe Duffy is one of the most respected and sought after creative directors and thought leaders on branding and design in the world. Joe’s work includes brand and corporate identity development for some of the world’s most admired brands, from Aveda to Coca-Cola to Sony to Jack in the Box to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. His work is regularly featured in leading marketing and design publications and exhibited around the world. In 2004 he founded Duffy & Partners as a new kind of branding and creativity company, partnering with clients and other firms in all communication disciplines. Also in 2004, he received the Medal from the AIGA for a lifetime of achievement in the field of visual communications. His first book–Brand Apart–was released in July 2005 and in 2006, he was recognized as one of the „Fast 50“ most influential people in the future of business by Fast Company.

Posted using ShareThis The Six "Wow" Features of Windows 7

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By Kate Rockwood

„We set out to ask: What’s the Windows way to do something?“ says Sam Moreau, Microsoft’s head of user-experience design for Windows 7. „We had to make sure that we took care of Windows as having an authentic soul.“ He knows you may be snickering, especially if you use Vista. „Vista tried to do a lot of things, and the places where we didn’t finish the job are the places people feel,“ he says.

The early positive reviews suggest that Moreau has helped make Windows 7 much more satisfying to use. Engadget called it „fast, painless, and complication free,“ and as Gizmodo charmingly notes, „Even the Mactards will have to tone down their nasal David Spadian snide, at least a little bit.“

Silencing Mac snobs is merely a side benefit of Moreau’s official goal: Quiet desktop clutter and shave seconds off of daily tasks. „Windows‘ point of view is about adding value and solving distractions,“ he says.

A career Web designer, Moreau was an unlikely choice to pull this off. „I was told that was the point,“ he says. In turn, he amassed his own band of architects, artists, and writers who could bring fresh perspectives to Windows 7. We asked Moreau and his team to tell the tales behind six buzzed-about Windows 7 features.

Vista opened with a series of blinks and beeps that reflected the under-the-hood technical operations. With Windows 7, Moreau wanted to mask the mechanics with stirring cinema. Writer Rolf Ebeling led the design of the 105-frame sequence. „It was nerve-wracking when Sam leaned into my doorway and asked, ‚How good is your animation?‘ “ says Ebeling. He used swirling fireflies that coalesce into the Windows icon to foreshadow the operating system’s use of light. „As a journalist, I knew I needed to make the point quickly, but how do you get the tone just right and make it something people want to come back to again and again?“

Windows Vista used a sheet-of-glass effect on the task bar, but Moreau and company made it more realistic. Industrial designer Stephan Hoefnagels studied physical properties of everything from Audi taillights to bioluminescent sea creatures to lava lamps, and then crafted more than 90 prototypes to make the task bar’s light look „energetic and alive“ and the refraction realistic. „As you hover over an application, the tile glows, but as you move, the light trails and follows you,“ he says. Rather than cast a monochromatic aura, Windows 7 pulls color from the application (Firefox, for example, burns orange). „The task bar is the face of Windows, but the icons are the stars of the show.“

Windows 7’s wallpapers eschew placid landscapes for psychedelic anime turtles and slick Seattle streetscapes. „Choosing the safest options would have been the Microsoft default, but we wanted to provoke a strong emotional connection,“ says Denise Trabona, a former design director for MSNBC. She also broadened the range of photographers and illustrators, to reflect Microsoft’s global reach, and added architectural pics into the mix for the first time. She says, „Our guidance to the artists was straightforward: Give us light and energy.“

A pop-up menu of application-related shortcuts, Jump Lists is a powerful feature hidden behind a right click. In one prototype, the design team indicated the feature with a button and an arrow next to each icon, but a few players balked. „There’s a tremendous amount of functionality hidden behind a kitchen’s cabinets and drawers,“ says Joey Pitt, who worked as an architect before joining Microsoft. „Rather than an immediate cacophony of labels and flashing signs on every drawer, it’s better for users if the experience unfolds over time.“

Aero Shake’s back-and-forth mouse motion has its roots in a feature called Aladdin, which allowed users to „rub“ a window to keep it hovering temporarily in the foreground. „Aladdin was fun,“ designer Hoefnagels says, „but at some point, the rubbing got tiresome and it was like, Okay, let’s just click over.“ Aladdin’s on the cutting-room floor, but the gesture’s whimsy became the Aero Shake. Use your mouse to vigorously „shake“ an open window and watch the others fly closed. A gimmick? Maybe, but users rave about its ability to quickly declutter desktops.

Lisa Cherian, an industrial designer and design teacher, raised more than a few eyebrows when she first joined the Windows 7 team and asked nondesigners to diagram how they’d train an alien to brush his teeth. „What we need in a software environment is the concept sketch,“ she says. „In industrial design, you return to it again and again: ‚This is what I’m making. This is what it feels like.‘ It’s essential to your focus.“ Employing that industrial-design discipline, Cherian created a concept sketch for Libraries, a feature that lets users easily access and sort their pictures, music, and video no matter whether they’re buried deep in a file folder or stashed on an external hard drive. Returning often to the sketch helped rein in the feature creep that threatened to choke the project.

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