UNLOCKING CREATIVITY

Quit giving it what it wants.

a misty dark scene with a fantasy spirit hovering over the silhouette of a man
a misty dark scene with a fantasy spirit hovering over the silhouette of a man

If there’s one thing our attachment to perfectionism will cause, without question, is a backlog of creative work we’ll never ship. Perfectionism convinces us of a narrative that we can’t put our work out there until it’s “just right”. Unfortunately, perfectionism is always hungry and we’re notoriously good at keeping food on perfectionism’s plate.

When we give perfectionism what it wants, which is typically a heaping pile of junk food, it strips us of the vital nutrients we need to get our work out to the world. The press of the “Publish” button is halted by thoughts such as, “no one will read this.” We never post that helpful content video because we say to ourselves, “I look stupid on camera.” …


A SUCCESSFUL YOU

When other solutions don’t work, design your own way out of rock bottom

image of a woman sitting outside with her hands clasped on her lap
image of a woman sitting outside with her hands clasped on her lap

When my wife and I were first married, I remember her showing me how she kept track of her budget. It was on a large, printed spreadsheet. No, it wasn’t digital, it was plotted out on graph paper. It confused me. Certainly, she could be more efficient with technology, I thought. Over the years, I kept pushing my agenda that there were phones, apps, and desktop software that could make her life infinitely better if she would simply embrace them.

Sure, she tried them, but they never worked for her.

We’re 15 years into our marriage and she still would rather have a printed, tangible day planner in her hands than use the Calendar app on her iPhone. She’d rather write in her journal with a pen than use a journaling app. And, she’d much rather go over our finances on paper than get caught up in the nuances of budgeting software. …


Experiences from your past hold the key.

If you could place your current creativity level on a scale from “in the dumps” to “exhilarating”, where would you put it? How excited are you about your craft? Often when we’re trying to break out of a creative slump, we’re either battling the fear of what others will think or we’re truly searching for inspiration to get us going.

If it’s the latter for you, you might try looking into your past at the experiences that got you excited about design in the first place.

Image for post
Image for post

It was 1997 and I signed up for my first graphic design class in high school. It was in that class where I remember feeling the exhilaration and insatiable drive to be creative that would go on to fuel my future design career. And it all happened when I took a plain white t-shirt, created a design, and printed it on the shirt. …


7 areas to consider to make searching a delightful experience.

someone holding a phone with the Amazon app open on it
someone holding a phone with the Amazon app open on it

If you’ve been tasked to design, test, or improve the search feature for your company’s shopping app, this short guide will give you a list of common patterns, UI elements, and considerations you should make. On the surface, the search feature seems so universal it almost goes unnoticed. But, dissect it through competitive analysis, and you’ll soon see how powerful and unique this powerhouse feature can be.

Not every shopping app is going to need every search feature — that’s for the team of design, development, product management, and stakeholders to hash out and decide on. …


You’re spending too much time caring about what others think.

a phone and 3 notification icons floating above it
a phone and 3 notification icons floating above it

Janine is my friend.

She’s an exceptionally talented product designer and a powerhouse of grit and tenacity. 2020, the year of COVID, proved to be the most challenging year in her professional life. She was fortunate enough to keep her job, didn’t lose anyone close to her to the pandemic, and is in relatively good health despite the stress and difficulties in her personal life. Nonetheless, it was a year that obliterated her motivation and creativity.

Why, Mike?”, she asked me.

Why do I have zero drive and zero energy to be creative when that’s all I felt like I was doing?


UX RESEARCH

A little inspiration if you’re drawing a blank on questions to ask your research participants.

a woman wearing glasses looking at her laptop
a woman wearing glasses looking at her laptop

I find that even though I’m quite familiar with and comfortable conducting research during the UX process, I still draw a blank somedays. This is a list (and definitely not a complete one) of questions I’ve asked participants in the past. These go a little beyond the “yes” or “no” questions, although there’s a time and place for those too when gathering data.

I’ve created this list first to serve as a reference to all of you, and second for when my mind goes blank and I need a refresher! 🤣

Closed-ended questions

Closed-ended questions can be a good, objective place to start when gathering information from a participant. Because these types of questions are typically easier and quicker to answer, it can help commit the participant to the survey. But, they can be sprinkled throughout the research as well. If none of your options in a closed-ended question reflect a participant’s opinion, make sure you account for that. …


CAREER ADVICE

Work has changed for many — the keys to success haven’t.

woman sitting on the ground with her arms in the air and a laptop in her lap
woman sitting on the ground with her arms in the air and a laptop in her lap

This is Part 1 in a two-part series that explores the skills you can apply on yourself now to set you up for a successful future in your career.

Our ability to adapt is phenomenal.

We are working in a world vastly different from the one we were familiar with just a year ago. We’re adapting to virtual meetings, working from home, juggling school with our kids, and social distancing ourselves — some to the point of social deprivation. Despite these challenging times, most of us have been really good at learning the hard skills needed to perform in our jobs. It is these hard skills that qualify us to do our jobs. …


MANAGEMENT 101

A 5-step, easy-to-follow guide any manager can use, with indicators to measure progress. Read to the end.

In a world of self-help listicles and how-to life manuals, very few touch on how we can effectively & systematically cripple our direct reports at an emotional level. If you’re a manager who’d like to sap creativity from your employees and dismantle their self-esteem, welcome aboard.

while there is satire in this story, it is not my intention to encourage the practice of domoralizing employees and destorying their self-esteem. This story does, however, contain real-life experiences as told to me by my colleagues. …


5 powerful lessons taken from a World War II survival guide.

December 7, 1941 — what an extraordinary day in history. My dad was seven when the U.S. Pacific military fleet was decimated by a surprise Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. On that Sunday morning, thousands of lives were lost. Not long after these events, the United States formally entered World War II.

black and white image of a sinking battleship
black and white image of a sinking battleship

Before his passing in 2017, I recall many occasions when my dad would share the events and feelings that came over him when he learned of the tragedy at Pearl Harbor. My dad, even at that young age, was an expert at looking up into the sky and being able to identify the U.S. fighter planes soaring overhead. He knew their sounds, where they were heading, and at the tender age of seven, was fully engulfed in this World War from his little town. My dad later went on to serve in the U.S. …


A holiday classic reminds us to lead where we stand, challenge what we know, and bring others along for the journey.

a train approaching in a wintery setting and a girl waiting by the side holding a lantern
a train approaching in a wintery setting and a girl waiting by the side holding a lantern

When December rolls into town, it’s a tradition in our family to grab some hot chocolate, turn on the projector, and watch the majestic Berkshire steam locomotive arrive and blow its whistle in front of the Hero Boy’s home in The Polar Express.

In the beginning, the children on the train each carry with them a special golden ticket — a boarding pass of sorts. The conductor punches holes in each ticket revealing some letters, but with seemingly no meaning. The story progresses and we learn a great deal more about each child.

Toward the end of the film, each child boards the train again after seeing Santa Claus at the North Pole. The conductor proceeds to finish punching the remaining holes in their tickets. …

About

Mike Curtis

Helping businesses & individuals apply their UX skills to how they’re experienced by other people. 20 years experience in design, UX, e-com, marketing & sales.

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