Lessons Learned from 2014 Resolutions


On January 1, 2014, Carl Sednaoui shared his New Years resolutions with me. His list was very impressive, but I was most inspired by his decision to write down the resolutions. The idea of recording resolutions seemed like a brilliant way to remember and work towards them throughout the year. As someone who loves to-do lists and dreaming big, I wondered, why did I never write down my resolutions? A few hours later, I opened Evernote and for the first time in my life, I wrote my own resolutions list.

Throughout 2014, I found myself revisiting the resolutions list. On occasion, the list served as a healthy reminder of my goals and helped me kickstart initiatives.

Now that 2014 is coming to an end, I’ve re-opened the list, and am evaluating how I did. All in all, I’m happy to say I did pretty well. In particular, I checked off 2 of my biggest resolutions; blog about design and learn to code. It’s been a journey with lessons learned along the way. Figured it would be fun to share the stories with you today.

Blog About Design

Going into 2014, my top resolution was to blog about design. Although I wasn’t much of a reader or writer as a child, I’ve become more interested in blogging as I’ve developed a deeper interest in reading about design and startups.

The interest in reading really began in 2009 when I pivoted from architecture to startups and product design. Throughout the transition, I turned to books and blogs to learn. In the early days, I remember learning so much from books such as Scott Belsky’s, Making Ideas Happen or Simon Sinek’s, Start with Why, as well as blogs such as Khoi Vinh’s Subtraction.com. Looking back, I am so thankful for these books and blogs because they really helped me to get where I am today.

Over the years, I’ve continued to read about design and startups on a daily basis. Some of my favorites books include Steve Jobs, Creativity Inc and Zero to One. Favorite bloggers include Julie Zhou, Cap Watkins and Luke Wroblewski. These books and bloggers, among many others, always manage to open my eyes, and put a smile on my face.

I’ve often thought it would be wonderful to give back to the design and startup community via writing but it was difficult for me to publish something. At times I felt I was too young, needed more experience, or didn’t know what I would write about. In 2014 I knew it was time for this to change.

At the start of 2014, I joined Percolate as a Product Designer. When interviewing, I presented a keynote of my portfolio on lessons I learned in architecture school, and how I apply them to product design. Much thanks to Khoi for his help on the initial version of this presentation.

Mid-way through the year, Dom Goodrum (Percolate’s Design Director) suggested I blog about my portfolio presentation. He thought the idea of applying architecture to product design was worth sharing. This topic was certainly something I was very passionate about, and along the lines of one of my favorite books, 101 Things I learned in Architecture School. With the support of Dom and Jason Shen, we made it happen.

In the second half of 2014, we published 3 blog posts about applying architecture to product design on the topics of Circulation, Program and Sketch Tools.

Circulation

The writing was challenging, but it’s been really fun to publish the ideas and watch the reactions. Most interestingly, the posts have led me to many other architects turned product designers. So fun and totally fascinating.

Looking ahead, I’m planning to continue the series in 2015. Who knows, maybe one day it will turn into a book. Why not dream big.

In publishing these posts, I’ve learned blogging is really a wonderful way to give back and connect with a community of like-minded people. I urge everyone to try it. You never know who you’re going to meet or influence. We live in amazing times — it’s never been easier to share your thoughts with the world. I wish I had started blogging sooner. As Liberio App recently posted on Twitter,

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour

Last but not least, I learned it’s really wonderful to write with the support of others. I am so thankful for Dom and Jason who provided valuable feedback and editing on all of the posts. If you decide to blog, I encourage you ask your friends / colleagues to review posts before publishing. It’s so important to have someone you trust gut check the work. They will always point you in the right direction.

Learn to Code

My 2nd most important 2014 resolution was learning to code. As a product designer, I was specifically interested in front-end. Although many product designers are interested in coding to be able to bring their designs to life, my reasons for learning to code were rooted in my architecture schooling.

During school, I was required to take structures classes every semester for 2 key reasons;

  • Improves Design: Knowledge of how something is made leads to stronger designs.
  • Structural Language: Understanding architectural engineering terms and concepts helps architects more easily converse with engineers in the field.

When I moved from architecture to product design, I knew this design — engineering relationship continued to hold true. Although I moved into product design, I knew someday it would be valuable for me to learn to code.

A few years ago, I tried learning to code with Treehouse, but nothing really stuck. I knew I needed an in-person, structured course. The classroom setting is where I learn best. Towards the end of this year, I signed up for General Assembly’s Front-End immersive course.

4 weeks into the 10 week class, it’s so awesome to feel the concepts are starting to click. I’m already seeing improvements in the way I think about design, as well as how I talk to engineers at Percolate.

The act of designing and constructing architecture has always felt daunting to me. Although architecture school once taught me to assemble a brick wall, I’ve never been able to picture myself assembling an entire building. Tasks such as laying foundations or moving beams and girders are difficult, expensive and time consuming.

Unlike architecture, the idea of designing and building a website is very approachable. With a computer, a comfy chair and some good music (yay SoundCloud), I can bring products to life. It’s amazing, and empowering.

Although I think it’s okay to practice product design without knowing how to code, I see there are real benefits for designers who know how to code. If a designer knows how something is built, the design improves and it’s easier to work with engineers.

Conclusion

Looking back on the year, I’m really happy to see I’ve accomplished my top resolutions. Thank you to Carl for inspiring me to write down my resolutions. Looking forward to writing a new list for 2015.

What are your resolutions for 2015? Share it with me on twitter @lissalauren

Thanks for reading!

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