History is here

I’m a lover of historical tales. In recent weeks I’ve been devouring countless historical podcasts. Listening to adventures of travellers lost (Amelia Earhart) or the epic journey of highwaywoman Mary Bryant from Sydney to West Timor in only a 6-foot boat in the late 1700s is the stuff of magic, bewilderment and enlightenment. References to these podcasts are at the end of this post.


Advertisement for The Silk Store, 1933. Brisbane Courier. Newspapers.com

Did Amelia and Mary consider they would make the history books at the time of their adventure? Or expect that their letters, diaries or journals of associates or friends become public record for any one to view. Or inspire countless novelists, playwrights or screenwriters? No, probably not.

History I’ve realised is not only in the distant or recent past. It’s right now, and we all play a part.

The State Library of Queensland recently put a call out for digital materials from businesses, organisations and membership bodies that detail how they are adapting to the momentous change brought about by COVID-19. The British Library is also collecting stories from the public on how the pandemic has affected them. Records likes these become a public record of social change, mobilisation and psyche on a massive scale – a goldmine to researchers and social scientists in decades or centuries to come.


The Evening Post, New York, 1809. Newspapers.com

As a new manager, I find myself contributing to history in my own small way every day. As is normal with UX designers, my team members come from different backgrounds – one being an ex-engineer and toy designer; the other, an ex-creative director from print. Over my 20-some years of experience in digital and web, it’s difficult to accurately place where I was or what I was doing when I acquired a little nugget of information that I now take for granted – how a front end developer thinks, or those universal design patterns that have grown and evolved right alongside the web.

A little nugget that makes me stop to realise, that my team has not had the same journey as me. A little nugget, that can now be paid forward to help them widen their field of reference.

And isn’t that what history gives us; a wealth of lessons of study to expand one’s perspective or to suggest that there are different alternatives to any challenge.

Podcast references

Luminary – Amelia Earhart
ABC Conversations – Mary Bryant

TGIF: If a novel was written about UX …

Late last year I took the Creative Live class, Between the Lines. A series of talks with published writers on what inspires them, what makes them do what they do, and how do they do it. I enjoyed all of them – I can’t pick a favourite. But Chip Kidd’s interview made me think about user experience.

Kidd’s training in graphic design and his love for the discipline inspired him to craft a novel seen through the lens of a designer. He asked himself, what would a novel about graphic design be like? He asked his friends and fellow alumni, if they knew of a book written in this fashion. He stumbled upon a concept which had not been attempted before.

It became the best seller.

It was a logical progression that I should substitute user experience design for graphic design and wonder…if a novel was written about UX what would it be about….

Scenario 1: Action Drama

A prize fighter climbs into the ring, the floor filled with onlookers – but on first sight, his opponent appears in a haze. He moves forward to take a closer look, his muscles flexed by the adrenaline he feels, that at any moment, the vision will take hold of him and knock him for a six. He begins to speak, hoping the words will rebound off something to prove that the opponent is actually there. Suddenly, a brush of air blows across his face. The bell rings. He steps back and begins to throw his arms about – words coming more quickly, loudly. But his words fall to hit a mark. No one wants to listen. The bell ring heralds the end of round 1. The fighter leans on the ropes but they fall away. The second round bell tolls, and now the onlookers are entering the ring. They circle the prize fighter, yelling at him, trying to displace his focus and energy. They talk him down, telling him his technique is old hat and how to win. He now can’t make out who the opponent is – the boxer or the onlookers. How many rounds will it take before he gains a foothold?


Scenario 2: Romantic comedy

A senior cop on the beat, facing extinction. Any day now, the Sarg is going to draw up the new list of promotions and recruits. Which means an imaginary line drawn threw the rest. Age and seniority are no exceptions. The cop hopes he can stick around long enough to befriend one particular recruit – a shiny and beautiful addition that speaks the cop’s language. Not handcuffs and mug shots – but microinteractions and hero images. The cop knows that together they could turn this rusty organisation around to work with the people and not against them. Cop’s interest is not only professional. Cop can see the two of them walking hand-in-hand in the sunset, drawing them closer and closer, until ….. But first, organisational transformation. Recruit’s skills and nous will surely turn some of the older leadership around. Will these old rust buckets see through Cop’s motives as being just career survival or a strategic push into a new age?

To be continued…