What Ettore Sottsass taught me about dealing with new challenges

Somewhen in my first semesters as a bachelor student @Hochschule RheinMain, I was confronted with a for me new challenge:

Your task: Develop an autobiographical website (author’s note: Flash based)of a historically important designer

One of the many designers to choose was Ettore Sottsass. I have to admit: I haven’t heard of him before. After googling his bio and searching for some of his work — his famous typewriter I remembered seeing before — I knew at least a few of his significance as being one of the first “anti designers”.

Besides of dealing with his bio, there was a second challenge: How to build the website in Flash? We had some introductions to Flash — the goal of this small project was to showcase our learnings in a case study. But nevertheless, I had to deal with something new.

After some struggling with Adobe Flash (why was and still is this tool and Flash in general so widespread and famous? There are still blogs collecting the “Top 10 Best Flash Sites of ‘15”), finding the right content to show and thinking about how to represent the spirit of Ettore Sottsass’ work in my small project, I managed to build a (5 years ago) pretty cool Flash site. The grade I get for this was not the best I ever get, that’s what I have to admit — but this was neither what I learned nor achieved with it.

What did I learn?

What I really learned and achieved — and what taught me the most I still can use in my daily work — was finding answers to these questions:

  • How do you deal with tough challenges?
  • How do you find new and manage information in an efficient way?
  • And, most important: How can curiosity evolve?

How do you deal with tough challenges?

Just do it. Start scribbling, thinking, brainstorming. At least for me this works. Even when I don’t know exactly what the result will look like, I now have a path to walk.

How do you find new and manage information in an efficient way?

For me, I learned that it is more important to find the information you need when you need them — you can’t and never will know everything all the time. What today is working the best for me, is to save interesting information (those categorized with “might be interesting in the future/in different contexts” or “might be interesting to share with others”) as soon as I stumble over them — and not only trying to search for them when I need them. I write myself to do’s and reminders in Todoist, I save interesting articles in feedly and Pocket or just follow interesting people on Twitter. I used Evernote for some time, but was never satisfied with it — when saving something is more than just a tap or touch away, you won’t use it on the long run. I always synchronize them between all my devices — you never know when and where you need them.

How can curiosity evolve?

If you manage to take on tough challenges and know how to organize yourself, there comes the point where you want to learn new things not only ‘cause you have to do it — may it be to get a grade at university or because a client/boss wants you to. All information gathered and organized can be used, edited, rearranged. Combine info A and info B and you get the answer for X. Some creatives launch side projects or start a successful online course, I prefer learning by myself and digging into interesting topics (recently I started this course on Udacity: HTML5 Web Development — there is even a list with 36 other ressources).

As stated above: Just do it.