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precious design studio

precious design studio — strategic design & visual language across devices.

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Updates and articles around our design studio, work, ideas and things we like.

Weeknote 378 – 379

February 18th to March 3rd

Yesterday we had a little company outing to the work-in-progress congress. Richard Sennett opened the day with a keynote about collaboration, the topic of his new book “Together”. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m currently half-way through his previous book “The Craftsman”. Although Sennett writes a lot about the history of craftsmanship, there are always passages that resonate with what we do – or try to achieve – at precious. I took a lot of notes that are worth pointing out, but there’s one quote I’d like to share, because it’s probably the most beautiful description I’ve read so far about how we understand design processes:
“… the work process has do do something distasteful to the tidy mind, which is to dwell temporarily in mess-wrong moves, false starts, dead ends. Indeed, in technology, as in art, the probing craftsman does more than encounter mess; he or she creates it as a means of understanding working procedures.”

Our job offers have brought about quite a few applications. We are still reviewing them, but there are already some promising ones (if you could imagine working with us, it’s never to late to send your application).

As usual we worked on our two long-term projects we are currently involved. Actually there’s not much I could say about it, so I rather talk about Issaquah. It’s the first project for a bigger client where David took over the responsibility for the visual design and presented his drafts to the client directly. I only had a look at it once a week and gave a little feedback when requested, but other than that, Christophe and I had nothing to do with it. To say it turned out better than expected may sound like we had our doubts about David handling the job well. That’s not the case, we were quite certain that he was able to do it. But now that the project is almost done on our part, I’m very happy with the result. And so is the client. Thinking about that I just counted how long David has been with us, since he started as an intern. Only 15 months!

While Christophe is on a well-deserved vacation in Mexico (some impressions here), the rest of us is still waiting for the first signs of spring. Maybe week 380 will bring some warmer air and a little bit of sun.

Weeknote 377

February 11th to 17th

We had two new business meetings this week. Both projects sound interesting. One is – again – in digital publishing, but different to what we already did in this field. The other is about photography, which is also a pet subject of ours. We’ll see what happens with those, nothing is decided yet.

David and Michael worked together on Issaquah. David has skipped Photoshop for this project and gives Sketch a real-life test-drive, at least for the chrome elements (header, navigation, etc) of this hybrid app. Most of the design however is about displaying text contents, which will be rendered with HTML/CSS in the final product. So Michael and David do the whole design for these parts with with web technologies and its original material. No deceiving simulation in graphics software with fake content – let’s get real!

Christophe and I spent the first half of week doing layout specifications for Puichon. The process of developing the design foundations over the course of the last 6 months was pretty agile (sometimes it even felt erratic to us). And because of the enormous scale and the fast pace of the project, it got a bit messy – since the visual language and the layouts developed constantly across three different devices (tablet, mobile, web), it was about time to take a few days to consolidate and homogenize the design, as well as establish rules for its implementation.

As usual Christophe spent the rest of the week on Conuma. He promised to demo the status quo in our next weekly all hands meeting.

We also launched a little thingy called “Design Position Generator” on Friday. If you need a fancy title for your business card, take this short and fun survey. If you could imagine that this business card has our logo and address on it, have a look at this.

“Design Studio” with Todd Zaki Warfel

Save the date for an event around the Design Studio Methodology and Prototyping.

Todd Zaki Warfel

We’re very happy and excited to announce that in April, Todd Zaki Warfel from San Francisco will be visiting precious design studio. In an all-day workshop, he’ll train our team and some friends in the Design Studio Methodology.

Todd is the author of the Rosenfeld Media book Prototyping: A Practitioner’s Guide. You might have heard of him in a great article series about Design Studio on UX Magazine – if not, make sure to read it.

A day before our workshop, Todd will give a talk and will be available for Q&A. Here’s the date and location for now, we’ll publish more details soon:

11. April 2013
precious design studio, Völckersstrasse 14-20, 22765 Hamburg

We’re looking forward to meet you! Please follow @preciousforever on Twitter for updates or get in touch if you have any questions. This event will be presented by IxDA.

Weeknote 376

February 4th to 10th

After the lengthy post from last week, I keep it short this time.

We took a little time out from Puichon, the project that kept most of us quite busy in the last months and especially in the week before. A lot of different things had been filling up our backlogs and it was about time to tackle some of them. From boring, but inevitable duties like accounting, to the important tasks of talent scouting or new challenges like organizing a workshop and lecture (more on that soon).

Conuma continued in the usual rhythm. Christophe had a lot of meetings (3 in a day) with the client, its team members and contractors.

David started working on a new project, Issaquah. It’s a tablet/mobile app and it has something to do with the news.

That was week 376.

Weeknote 374 – 375

January 21st to February 3rd

I was kind of surprised, touched even, that some people actually wrote encouraging emails because of the previous weeknote. Thank you!

Actually, there’s no reason to be worried. What we experienced this month and what made me so unhappy was nothing dramatic. I guess most people in similar situations would consider it business as usual (which doesn’t make it any better though).

Were the last two weeks more enjoyable? Not really… but I’m in a better mood, since I have a more precise idea now about how to deal with the things that bugged me.

Being uncomfortable led to some thinking, not just about the specific cause of my recent dissatisfaction, but also about the bigger picture. Actually, the more I thought about it, the bigger the picture became. It started with ‘how can we deal with this situation?’ to ‘how do I really want to live my life?’ and back to ‘how can precious help me to achieve that?’.

I read quite a few business books over the last years. Not the standard MBA fare, but books on how to be more innovative, about leading teams, or promoting and selling your product. Most of these books claimed to have a different approach on how to run a business – and some really had. But while the methods sometimes were unorthodox and unusual, they all had the same objective: grow your business and make more profit.

The pursuit of economic growth is so engrained in our society that it’s rarely questioned. It has been facing more and more opponents recently, but most of them are motivated by ecological concerns. Questioning growth because we run out of fossil fuels is certainly legitimate and important. But the main problem I have with our striving for growth is that it is the wrong objective. Growth is a means to and end, but as a society – and especially in the world of business – we rarely ask what the end is.

I have been repeatedly asking myself this question during the last days. I was introduced to the economic theories of Keynes and the thoughts of Aristotle and other philosophers. Have I found the answer? No, not yet. But in my mind a clearer picture of what I want precious to be like is slowly emerging.

One issue we have been focussing this week is finding new talent. We prepared some job postings and an associated gimmick, that we will release next week.

But while we had a lot of discussions in the last months about what kind of people we are looking for, we never really asked why. Growing your business seems so obvious, almost like natural law, that you don’t have to ask why you want to do it – you only have to have an argument for not doing it.

So, why do we want to add new team members? If someone had asked me this strange question, I would have replied: Because we have more interesting project enquiries than we can fulfill.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Few would challenge this answer, because that’s how businesses are suppose to work: If your services are in higher demand, you scale to accommodate.

But a five-year old and Sakichi Toyoda would probably not leave it at that – and neither should we. “But why do you want to take on more or bigger projects?”“Because that way we can make more profit.”“Why do you want to make more profit?”“Because…”

Here’s the point where the chain of argument breaks. Do we want to add new people to make more money? We constantly make enough to keep the business afloat, save some cash for rainy days and invest a little in good office chairs, faster computers and a sandwich maker. And with the salaries we pay ourselves, we all can maintain a comfortable lifestyle. So do we really need to be more profitable?

There have to be other, better reasons for growing the team. I think they were always there, but I hadn’t been aware of them enough, let alone communicate them. But now that we are actively searching for new employees, we should be crystal-clear about our motives.

Rewind… “Why do you want to add new team members?”“Because I want to surround myself with more inspiring people. Women and men I can learn from, who challenge my ideas, who are fun to be around with.” That’s a deeply personal need I have. I want to spend my precious time with people I like, respect, admire.

Another answer: “I want to be able to focus on tasks other than client work.” Writing, teaching, developing our own products… these are some of the things that Michael, Christophe and I really would love to explore more. Can we achieve that with a bigger team? Or is it even counterproductive?

And finally, a consequence of the former: “I want to work less.” Saying this is almost a taboo in our society, even more so among entrepreneurs. But while I really like working as a designer, I would love to have more time for leisure activities. So by increasing the staff I hope to reduce the amount of work we have to do in the long run. Obviously there is also the risk of the opposite happening. That’s why we need to be very careful when we hire.

OK, so much for that. Here’s what happened in the last two weeks, outside of my head:

There was a important demo presentation for the investors of Puichon on Monday, so Christophe, David and I worked hard to get some last minute designs ready to implement. We even worked a weekend shift, which we usually try to avoid like the plague. But it was worth it, the product benefits greatly from these additions. The prototype was always a collection of bits and pieces. Some of the apps had a properly designed interface, other didn’t, and the connection between those different applications wasn’t there. Now, because people outside of the team had to understand it, we had to think in a bigger context. It’s still far from being finished, but now it feels much more like a real product.

Christophe and Michael worked on Conuma. I must admit that I don’t know too much about the current status of the project, as we missed our weekly review on Friday.

Michael also build the above mentioned “gimmick” for our quest for fresh blood. I think it turned out really cool. There is much more going on under the hood than you might imagine, but it’s not obvious. In my book, that’s a good thing.

On Monday the whole crew, including our lost brother Sean, went to the Tocotronic concert at the Thalia Theatre to celebrate the release of their latest album. There’s one quote from this new record that makes a perfect ending for this weeknote (sorry if you don’t speak German, but the beauty of these lines would be lost in translation):

Das ist keine Erzählung,
das ist nur ein Protokoll,
doch wir können davon lernen,
wie wir leben wollen.

Weeknote 372 – 373

January 7th to 20th

Sometimes I’m just glad it is weekend, happy if I can forget about work for a day or two. When this happens, I’m not in the mood to write a weeknote. And then I skip it, like I did last week.

I can’t say this week was any less exhausting. But maybe writing this weeknote has some therapeutic effect.

It’s not that we worked crazy hours. There haven’t been any deadlines looming over our heads. Still I feel drained, tired, stressed. It’s coming from a latent discontentment that is brewing inside of me for quite some time. A feeling that I’m not as much in control as I would like to be.

Right now I’m missing the freedom to just skip an afternoon at the office, when I feel more like reading a book or going for a run. I would probably not do this often anyway, but the feeling that it’s OK to not work on a Wednesday afternoon is what I’m missing.

The good thing is that I know what causes this. I’m not sure about the solution though. That’s something we have to figure out soon.

In the end it has something to do with setting boundaries and making sure that we keep the breathing room we need. The opportunities to experiment, the time to learn new skills, the quiet to think (and write*). We briefly discussed blocking Fridays for activities like this. I think that’s something we should try, although it’s just a piece of the puzzle to “the good (working) life”.

Sorry for this moody rant. Here’s what happened in the last two week, telegram style: Lots of work on Puichon. Another full-day workshop with the Conuma team (Michael cooked for everybody, delicious). First drafts for Conuma (follow-up to Wasatch). Meeting with a new client. Christophe and Michael went to the south for a workshop with students.

*) Actually I’m not really satisfied with this post. There is so much more in my head, but I can’t put it in words right now. I just don’t have the inner peace to form precise thoughts and communicate them.