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September 23, 2009

Reconnected //

It seems for many friends, 2009 has been a year of change. Some expected, some perhaps not, but in the end — all good. I certainly didn’t expect the year to play out as it has so far.

It’s been several months now since I shook things up and, to a large extent, I’ve stayed quiet since. But it’s time to drop the cone of silence. If nothing else, a chance to write a bit wouldn’t hurt me since I haven’t done much of that lately. Even my Twittering has (mostly) been kept to a minimum.

Like Brand New

Although the decision I made back in March was difficult (hello, understatement!), my state of mind and attitude since solidifies that it was the right decision for me. My stress levels are manageable and daily routines are starting to feel “routine” again.

A break along with taking some of my own medicine has allowed me to assess and reconnect with the things I love to do, find out what’s truly important to me, and identify how to balance my working life with my “real” life based on those findings. In effect — a second chance; a clean slate.

The summer — what I’ve been affectionately referring to as my own Summer of George has found me reading, thinking, exploring, planning, and trying harder to live more in the moment. The things outside of “work” are fun again and the parts that have been largely absent are starting to trickle back in. I’ve also been cautiously getting back into the rhythm of project work.

The last two months have found me contributing design work to a few projects (none of which have gone live yet) and I’m beginning to schedule and prioritize others — with a clearer focus on “design”, not development. I’ve said before that I’m not a developer despite appearances to the contrary and now I really mean it.

Looking Sideways

One of the things taking a break has allowed me the flexibility to do is examine how I was doing things in the past from a new angle. What was working? Where was I making mistakes? What could I do better? Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

What I unearthed, aside from the need to spend more time evaluating projects for suitability and more strictly enforcing my own rules of engagement with clients, has been the opportunity to adapt or aport methodologies that have since proven to keep me focused, avoid falling into old traps and prioritize the work so that it contributes to a stable work-life balance instead of running ramshackle. The frustrating part being why I wasn’t able to crack that particular nut sooner…

It’s (almost) annoying how smoothly the latest projects have gone (compared to how prior projects on occasion went off the rails in their own ways) but I hope it continues — I’ll certainly do my part to ensure it does.

What’s Next?

The next obvious question of course is — what’s next?

For starters I’m taking on new design projects in a freelance capacity again. Specifically, I’m interested in projects where there’s the opportunity to develop mutually beneficial relationships and take a more strategic approach to design and producing great user experiences; not “cake decorating” projects as I like to call them. Please don’t waste my time with those.

The internet is nothing without people (users, visitors, customers — they’re all still “people”). The job of a designer focused on the web is more than just making something “pretty”. It’s about “doing the right thing” for people; to somehow bring a degree of humanity to something that’s inherently inhumane. To make things usable universally; to surprise and delight. To pay attention to the parts that most people will never notice. That’s where I fit in.

Of course I’m also still interested in front-end code — HTML, CSS and Javascript (primarily jQuery) which I consider part of wearing my designer hat and to ensure the best possible experiences are delivered. If past project work has taught me anything it’s that far too often when I’m not involved in the markup and styling of something I designed, the end result suffers. That might just be the perfectionist in me talking though.

Aside from being back in the design saddle, I’ll be in Chicago in October for An Event Apart and am bringing the family along for the ride. We’re taking the opportunity for a mini-vacation and will be arriving the Saturday before the conference starts to explore and enjoy some deep-dish pizza and Cheezborgers.

Lastly, there’s the cache of long-ignored pet projects that I finally feel ready to tackle and which I expect will start to trickle out before the end of the year along with maybe a surprise or two along the way.

Summer’s over and it’s time to get back to business.

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