I watched a TedTalk a month or so ago that has kept me thinking all this time: Great design is serious, not solemn. I watched it twice, sent it to a client and a few friends, and have been coming back to Paula Scher's message- which lead me to more great content from the Serious Play conference this talk was presented at in 2008. Ideo's Tim Brown is another delightful human being you should be aware of. (You are most welcome.)
Paula has four decades of honing her craft, leaving her at the forefront of design and branding. I'm in awe of her passion and influence that has had a very clear and profound impact on modern art and business alike. And it all started with her hatred for Helvetica- a true act of rebellion in the 1970's as a graphic designer- and attributes her initially successes to "really [being] a brat, and then accomplish things". Because she relentlessly sought out a different way.
She begins her talk with "my work is play" and immediately caught my attention: "engaging in a childlike activity or endeavor" and "gambling". She quoted from an old essay: "Being solemn is easy. Being serious is hard. Children almost always begin by being serious, which is what makes them so entertaining when compared with adults as a class. Adults, on the whole, are solemn. That's because it is hard for most people to recognize seriousness, which is rare, but more comfortable to endorse solemnity, which is commonplace."
I always imagined being in the service industry at my age to be hell on earth. I've learned to be extraordinarily happy in my reality and have enjoyed the best year of my life yet, all the while fighting complacency. Being solemn is easy, but not as fulfilling as being serious about what you're doing. Not to say being a barista is easy by any means (it's not), but nothing about my workload, even new drinks or procedures or customers, is serious to me anymore. I also wouldn't say I'm always surly (because I'm generally not) or I'm the conventional "burned out", but the work doesn't make me come alive the way it used to and I'm so hungry to be challenged continuously the way my current freelance project challenges me. The way it makes me feel absoultely stupid and then brilliant and victorious and alive in a cycle that leads to so much new knowledge I barely know what to do with it.
In Tim Brown's "Tales of Creativity and Play" talk, he discusses the brainstorming practices at IDEO and even demonstrates a few with the audience. In the first experiment, he points out the embarassment the room full of professional adults felt about their 30-second drawings of the people around them; they were ashamed of their ideas.
"And one of the things we tend to do as adults, again, is we edit things. We stop ourselves from doing things. We self-edit as we’re having ideas."
In case you haven't noticed, I spend weeks coming back to the same blog post until I'm ready to share it with the world, so concerned with it being silly, too enthusiastic, etc. As a result, my 8 month long project here is spare and subdued. My ideas stay buried inside, unvisualized and divergent. Playing it safe leads to stagnance and doesn't allow for the leaps and bounds necessary to become a serious professional. Failure is preferable to such solemn complacency.
"...we need trust to play, and we need trust to be creative. So, there’s a connection. And there are a series of behaviors that we’ve learnt as kids... They include exploration, which is about going for quantity; building, and thinking with your hands; and role-play, where acting it out helps us both to have more empathy for the situations in which we’re designing, and to create services and experiences that are seamless and authentic."
(formerly "Bare Barista Threads" and "Memoirs of a Pizza Girl")
With a year of delivering pizza, two and a half years as a barista, and some more time in the trenches, I have plenty of stories, thoughts, and musings. The days that threatened to break me all the while built me. I want to help others in my profession view their work as an opportunity, too. This is my soap box.