On design

Red leaf

Hi and Happy New Year to anyone who still reads this! New logo derived from one of my flickr photos:

This morning, on the Tube, I was reading a book on Gaia, in preparation for my course at Schumacher College that starts at the end of this month; the lady on my left was writing in a beautiful notebook with a patterned silk cover and a gold buckle. But she wasn’t writing, she was sketching: a diagram of a plot of land, possibly a garden. I watched out of the corner of my eye. The diagram was not in itself beautiful, but the procecss by which she put it onto paper was. She was left handed; I could see clearly what was under the tip of her pencil. She moved it tentatively over the page like an insect searching for flowers, then let it dart down and add a line. Then she would take her hand away and look once more at the garden before letting the pencil-bee visit again, with some curves to smooth that line into an existing one. I could only guess what those lines represented: grass, borders, fencecs…? But they spoke clearly to her and in her imagination she was constructingn a garden in alignment with the principles of horticulture laid out in the textbook that was open on her lap under the notebook. Sometimes she added labels: “Wall”, “Shed”, and a compass rose that enabled her to imagine the play of sunlight and shadow. She added more labels “morning sun”, “afternoon sun”.

I was thrilled to see this creative process in action, it reminded me of watching accomplished swing dancers playing with the music. I was struck by the importance of tihs playful creative process. Yesterday two of my colleagues here at work allowed themselves the time to sketch a diagram — an abstract one whose lines represent interactions among elements of an information system — that depicted the operation of the solution we are preparing for our client. Then they struggled to find a drawingn tool that enabled them to capture it as they had envisioned it. To my mind, the most valuable contribution to our project will have been the interaction between them while they were co-creating a vision of the future system, not the Visio diagram.

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