Learning How To Make Lightning
I don’t know how to make lightning. Hell, I don’t even really know how to spell it. Is it lightning or lightening? Both?
Lucky for me, I don’t think anyone knows how to make lightning, so I can get away with the obnoxious (and slightly misleading) title of this blog.
Regardless, I think lightning is interesting. Assuming we could make it; can we control it? What would we do it with? What is its purpose? Why would one want to make it?
I make things. These are questions I ask a lot.
So, what is the purpose of this blog? I’ll get back to that in a bit, but first let me tackle a more pertinent question: What am I going to be writing about here? Well, lots of things, but let me start by giving you a little backgrounder on me and how as it relates to my writing here.
Danger is my first name.
(Ok, no, it isn’t, but that would be cool, wouldn’t it?)
I’m a designer and product manager working in the realm of digital product design. Most of my focus is user experience and user interface, but I’ve got a lot (17-ish years? has it been so long?) of experience, a fairly broad skill set and a diverse background. I’ve worked in all kinds of teams on all sorts of products. I’ve made games, web apps, mobile apps, apparel, publications, educational courseware and more. I’ve also written about all these things in a variety of formats and publications. (You can find a whole bunch of archives at dkeithrobinson.com.) Writing and speaking used to be a big part of my life, but recently I’ve turned my focus towards the work itself; design, process and learning all I can about creating products that people love.
Here are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about lately. This list will probably change a bit by next week, I may even flip-flop a bit, as I reserve the right to do, but, hopefully, it’ll give you an idea of what’s on my mind.
great products put design and user experience first, but that true quality is a result of great teamwork across disciplines.
designers need to understand, on some level, the entirety of their craft and the medium they’re working in.
product design should start with (and continue throughout a product’s life cycle) understanding the user and their problems and that this is best done by taking with and listening to people. Preferably face-to-face.
research, experimentation, learning and iteration are key to successful product design.
writing (not code or “small d” design) is the most important hard skill a product or interface designer can develop. Soft skills (particularly listening) might be even more important.
knowing your audience, being able to defend your ideas and communicate them accurately to a wide variety of people is more important than mastering the tools you use to do design work. If you want to level up as a designer, work on writing and listening before you learn how to code.
the best things in life are done with intent and with care, but making the most out of happy accidents is a great skill to have.
passion, process, focus and hard work are more important then raw talent.
people can learn how to do anything if they’re engaged and motivated enough.
a great idea is nothing without better execution, and with the proper framework and a lot of hard work, anyone can do great things.
the more people we have in our lives doing great work they enjoy, the better our lives, and our world, will be.
I think a whole lot about process and the hows and whys that go into what we do. I’ve noticed a lot of patterns in my career and have been keeping track of what is going on when success (and failure) happen. Most of the time it’s nothing to do with lack of good ideas, expertise, skill set or anything like that.
Great work is enabled by: clear vision and direction, an organized and focused work environment, having the proper resources, a good work/life balance and ownership of your work. These are things that can help anyone be successful. And it’s the absence of theses things that cause projects to fall apart. In essence, in order to do great work, you need to enable yourself (and those you work with) to do that work first.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to hone my process and to provide myself with a framework that enables quality, meaningful (and hopefully enjoyable) work. I’m still working at it and will probably continue to do so forever. I’ve still got a lot to learn.
I’m going to be writing about all of these beliefs and a lot more, but for those who prefer lists, here you go: product design, process, productivity, creativity, work/life balance, technology and the occasional music or entertainment post. At the end of the day this is a personal blog and, like me, it might be a bit all over the place. I hope you enjoy it. If there is something you’d like to see me write about, feel free to hit me up via the usual channels (see the sidebar.)
Back to lightning.
Before I sign this one off, let’s quickly go back to lightning and how it relates to the title of this blog.
Lightning represents energy, transformation, opportunity, creativity, ideas, change and more. As well, it’s symbolic of a spark and a catalyst.
If you think about it symbolically, lightning seems like something worth making, doesn’t it?
Writing has always been a catalyst for me. It’s pushed me to learn new things, to connect with new people, and explore new experiences. It has provided me with a lot of opportunity and a fair share of happy accidents. I’m hoping that starting this new writing project will spark something new. I hoping to create an environment for myself (and for my readers) that allows for experimentation, sharing, fun and adventure. And in that way, this is my small, metaphorical attempt at learning how to make lightning.
Wish me luck!