Ed Kelly
Written by Ed Kelly on 03 January 2019

I hope you all enjoyed your festive season. For those of us working in the design field it can be a difficult time of year: Bauhaus inspired Christmas cards are surprisingly thin on the ground and the aesthetic level of some of more ostentatious outdoor lighting displays leaves something to be desired. Worse again, there are only so many black t-shirts one can own, but it would be simply impossible to wear anything else, so we are inevitably disappointed when Santa comes a calling.

What we can look forward to, however, is the New Year. it is a time for starting over, discovering the new, and putting old prejudices or lazy habits to bed. In that spirit, I present my four (design specific) New Year’s resolutions for 2019. I hope they provide some food for thought.

1. Make Time For Learning (And Sharing)

It is extraordinarily easy to get into a groove and stay there. Individuals do it, and in extreme cases entire organisations can do it - which is when you’ve got a real problem. It takes an active effort of will to ensure that as designers we are open to the new, and aware of new possibilities and approaches.

Part of this involves learning from colleagues. It is a little observed fact of life that in many studios it is that the more ‘seasoned’ industry veterans frequently have more to learn from the young than the other way around. This is particularly true when it comes to new techniques, approaches, technical possibilities and (when appropriate) new fashions. As I’m in the former category, I’ll do more to encourage 2-way communication and education.

That can take many forms of course. At Kooba we’re looking to formalise knowledge sharing so that when any member of our team learns, we all do. Some of the results will hopefully appear on this blog over the coming year.

2. Accept Science Into My Life

Every designer worth their salt has probably paid lip service to this idea in the past. However, it’s time for design to lead the charge on this front rather than be dragged kicking and screaming onto the battlefield.

That doesn’t mean no more creativity. Quite the opposite: it is only when we bring data to the table that truly innovative work can get the recognition and reward it deserves. From my perspective, our job is to constantly push the envelope whilst measuring the results against some sort of objective reality. Specifically, how effectively what we design and build ‘works’ for the audiences we build it for.

We’re continuing to make major investments in more sophisticated usability work throughout 2019 and I am looking forward to taking a leading role in that process.

3. Do Less Paperwork

It happens to us all, and we have to make a conscious effort to push back. As we become more ‘seasoned’ (see above), our job consists more and more of management, pen pushing, spreadsheets and sales calls. Now I happen to enjoy working with younger designers, particularly those as talented as we are lucky to have at Kooba. I also have a sneaky fondness for new business meetings. But it remains important to spend as much time in the areas each of us adds the most value.

For myself, that is creative work and helping deliver a creative direction for the organisation. Fortunately, that does mean working with the team and helping us improve together. But I hope in 2019 it means getting closer to client work and hands-on design. That doesn’t mean the paperwork doesn’t get done of course - I just have to find someone to pass it on to!

4. Maintain An Open Mind

There are two aspects to this particular resolution. The first is to arrive at an acceptance that sometimes I might be wrong (very rarely of course, but sometimes. I’m saying there’s a chance). Designers are not necessarily fantastically good at this, and most of us could almost certainly do better. That’s certainly the case when creative conflict and entrenched opinion can introduce challenges.

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that - joking aside - Kooba are about as good as it gets on this front. Hence the word “maintain” in the headline above. In some cases the default setting in creative industries is that client feedback is something to be tactfully argued away - an inconvenience by definition. The thought that we might learn something, that in fact that perhaps the client is right, almost never occurs.

The second aspect relates to remaining open to new inspiration from wherever it might come. Most professionals can end up with a narrow focus on their area of expertise rather than a more holistic understanding of how the world works. So in 2019, I’ll be finding (more) time to visit galleries, watch films, read outside my comfort zone - and figure out how what I learn can be put into practice for the benefit of our clients.

 

Enjoy 2019. Hopefully I will despite all the self-improvement I have ahead of me!

Ed Kelly

Author: Ed’s office mug says ‘I’d rather be in Sligo’ but no one really believes he’s from there, even though he is. He's also Creative Director at Kooba and in charge of colours, shapes and floating behind the designers screens offering annoying but impressive advice.