Heading home

I’m on my way home from California today.  It winds up being a long trip.  I left SFO around noon, and I won’t be home and in my own bed until almost midnight.  It’s not an ideal set of circumstances.

Yet I’m so grateful to my boss and my school for making time for me to go and see — really see — what this kind of teaching is about.  A lot of things I’ve been reading about suddenly gelled while I was racing around, and I think I have a better sense of how to move the process forward as a result.

I’m also grateful to my hosts, and the places where I barged in.  The folks at 826 Valencia run one of the most innovative programs I’ve ever seen, and the Tech Museum down in San Jose showed me that my friend Scott B’s advice is correct:

A picture is worth a thousand words. Everyone knows that.  Describing complex solutions exhausts short-term memory.  You can’t imagine what something looks like NOW, much less how it will look once the suggested change is made.  Pick up a pen or pencil and draw current circumstances, and then sketch in the change.  You’ll be surprised at how much more you understand as a result.   BUT… and this is where engineers and other folks differ… if you really want to manifest change, remember: a part is worth a thousand pictures.  Looking at something in three dimensions is way better than looking at it in two.  All sorts of things you missed in two dimensions become real in three.

If you really want to be a designer, a serious designer, remember that designers think in terms of machines.  A picture is worth a thousand words, a part is worth a thousand pictures.  But a working machine is worth a thousand parts.  And THAT’s the real power of iterative design.

It’s this model of thinking — in teams, with constant collaboration, with camaraderie and glee at the joy of failures that lead toward success — that has led to the such astounding results I saw over the last few days. And it’s that model I am carrying home in my luggage: drawings, photographs, images, ideas, mindmaps, and most of all, a new optimism.

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