Creativity and Ambiguity

DressAgainstTreesCongratulations to the City of Frisco for supporting the Arts and infrastructure to ensure a great community continues amid all the growth.

For those who opposed the commitment toward a performing arts center because in their words, “There was no plan” I will tell you what I tell my colleagues in the IT business – And it is this:

“You can be included in the creative process to shape a plan or you can have only finished plans presented to you for approval, but you cannot have both”. – belveal

Everything starts with an idea and a sketch.  A sketch is a representation of an idea, but not everything in detail.  A sketch by its nature contains immense ambiguity.  That ambiguity inspires creative minds to fill in the rest with possibilities.

It is often the same people who complain about being left out of the process that,  when you include them, choke on the unanswered questions. Design is about  solving problems and working hard over a period of time to find and develop answers to all those questions.

Anyone who has ever been successful at creating anything fully understands that there is ambiguity in the early stages. If you cannot handle that, you cannot be successful yourself and you will be in the way of others. The creative process is what converts great ideas filled with questions into finished viable plans with every detail worked out. I suppose this explains why some people perceive new innovations as magic. They just really have no idea what creativity is or how to do it.

For those creatives that do get it, thank you for your vision. There is a lot of work to do to do to make this dream a reality.  Let’s build something awesome!

– roger

More about Unicorns and Why More Designers Don’t Code

The conversation continues in all the UX forums about unicorns and why don’t more designers write code.   I’ve  posted on this topic a couple of times here before as well as weighing in in various forums. This was just posted to Quora.  See my previous posts on this topic.

Besides the market demand for designers to code, there are two trends that are changing the landscape.  They are: 1 -Less variation in the type of cope that is required; and 2 – Maturing evolution of coding tools that are more visual in nature.  Both of these reduce the variety of code that one needs to learn in order to be proficient.  Both of these have been the holy grail for decades and now seem to be finally coming true.

The promise that a single code language would emerge to rule them all, relieving everyone of needing to relearn how to code has been happening forever.  The identify of the super final code style changes every year two, forcing coders to relearn over and over, repeatedly.  Reality is that it has exacerbated the problem was is supposed to solve.  Some promise.   Those unaware of this phenomenon have lived a sheltered life, probably fairly new to IT or spent their whole careerer within a single organization or industry segment.

As one starting out as an industrial designer, turned systems analyst / UX designer / IA / business process engineer, i have learned to use a great many tools, digital and physical.  It stands out that most physical power tools still work the same way to today that they did twenty years ago.  Being away for a while, or dividing my attention with other tasks carries no penalty.  I can pick up a torch after ten years and weld steel same as ever.  So not true with software.  So not true.

And if you are in enterprise IT, it is even worse.  Most large organizations have a variety of new and desperately old systems written at different times when different languages were popular. This can make instant beginners out of seasoned experts.  They will be at any given moment working on migrating the menagerie to the latest architecture.  It is a huge task, taking months to years and sometimes feels almost impossible as the target continues to move, sometimes faster than they can change. Anyone changing organizations frequently, or consulting, as many do these days, will see a somewhat different variety of this in each location.  But it is common across all large enterprises.

The good news is that much of this finally getting better.  As apps move to the cloud, the browser-based UI is clearly dominant.  More of the variation these days are therefore subsets, plug-ins, rather than entirely new disparate sets of tools.  Even so, there is plenty to keep up on if one is to try to be a good code jockey.  Do you do Drupal? Or Ruby? or dot.Net?  Just wondering.

There is also more fulfillment lately on the long-standing promise of visual tools. Actually being able to define the look and behavior visually and have the tool create the necessary code is closer to reality than ever before.  it is worth noting that the process of building a visual prototype to be coded offshore can have a similar practical impact on the design task.   Whether the code is generated, by in-house developers, off-shore, or by an app, having an accurate visual method in which to articulate the design (as in NOT PhotoShop!) will enable the UX designer to focus more attention on the user experience while being assured of feasibility.

Meanwhile UX research and design methods and patterns are changing faster than ever.  Lean start-up, customer experience, and product management is hot, like Six Sigma and Process engineering were a few years back.  All of these demand focused attention.  The answer is of course is quite simple.  One must simply maintain a laser sharp focus on everything. 😉


TechXpressionst Sculptor, belveal, Bio

TechXpressionist artist, Roger Belveal
Our love of technology is evident everywhere. Our mobile devices are as ubiquitous as the cloud they connect us to. Yet, ironically, as we spend more of our lives in the world behind the glass, we have become somewhat sensory deprived.  Amid all the digital interaction, a craving grows for renewed real world tangibility.  This is what inspires the work by Frisco TechXpressionist sculptor, Roger Belveal.
TechXpressionism  is both a celebration of the digital experience and an open rebellion against the slick virtual aesthetic of it. Familiar images come out from behind the glass and ruggedly into our space.  TechXpressionism acknowledges that we are physical beings and answers that emotional need, reuniting our virtual and physical experiences again.  
Roger Belveal grew up in the foothills of the Cascades of Oregon.  His love for molten metal happened very early, hanging around his father’s welding shop.  He studied fine art at the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in Industrial design.  His unique sketch-in-space style is a three dimensional interpretation of a form of gestural figure drawing he learned from mentor, Robert Edward Graves.  He describes it in human factors terms as a sort of “cognitive minimalism”, giving the eye just enough to inspire the mind to see the remainder. This engages the audience as more of a co-creator in the work rather than merely a spectator.  The transparency enables perception of the whole space not just the surface because, as he explains, “it is more interesting looking into something than looking at it”.  This style began with classic figures in steel and was later adapted to digital themes in TechXpressionism. 
Roger has made a career designing software user experiences for fortune companies. His art work is a culmination of human factors design and his love for figures and forms in metal.  “Whatever the medium, it’s all about creating a great experience.”   He is active in the DFW tech startup scene and his art is very popular in the tech design community.  His TechXpressionist works are showcased at technology offices and were the centerpiece for the BIG(D)ESIGN conference two years in a row.  
Roger resides in Frisco with his wife, Mary. They have four wonderful children and three granddaughters. 
His  website  includes  a blog about art and design along with a gallery of his work.

Inciting Experiences