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Do you remember that guy who got caught doing that thing to that wolf and the best thing was… oh wait a moment I just got a message… oh yeah, the time when Chris… 2 secs, gotta take this, it’s really important, so sorry… Anyway, the police told me that… shit, I have to go, let’s catch up soon… sorry, when? I’ll pm you on Instagram…
Being able to concentrate for prolonged periods really makes a difference to the outcome of your tasks. Shallow and fragmented thinking is the enemy to good work. I’m going to share with you some of the things that help me get shit done. Some things might be obvious but in any case I hope at least some are helpful.
De-cluttering helps remove distractions. This should be considered in the physical and emotional sense. Let’s start with the mind. Before going to bed I find journalling about the day helps empty my mind of all the nagging clutter. I list all the major events that happened that day, this is a bit like backing up files from your hard-drive before cleaning it. It also helps you remember things to act on the next day.
De-clutter your work space. There has a been a lot said on this already so I won’t go into much detail. You’ll have more space to move and be less stressed. A messy work place is also really distracting, oh look there’s that note I wrote about that wolf a month ago…
2 Block out distractions
Open plan offices are cool but can be really noisy and distracting. Even though my office in Madrid is pretty small it can get quite noisy. Yes, I know how noisy Spanish designers can be…
One way of blocking unwanted p̵e̵o̵p̵l̵e̵ noise is putting on your headphones and selecting your favourite playlist. However, I find it hard to concentrate while listening to music, especially when writing. On www.noisli.com you can create custom background noise. It surprisingly filters out any unwanted noise. If you really want to listen to music there are plenty of playlists on Spotify that have unobtrusive tracks. I find repetitive deep electronic music the best. It makes me feel like a design robot from the year 2000.
You already know this but social media is a rabbit hole of distraction. Of course you just had to check that thing but now your looking at a video of that guy, the wolf and the Tory MP, how did it get to this? (I mean you looking at the video, not the Tory MP and wolf, we kinda already know what they do in their spare time.)
I use the Chrome extension Stay Focused, to stop me laughing all day at dodgy politicians.
It’s easy to get distracted when you have no plan. I use a combination of Trello, Pomello and Google Calendar.
I organise Trello in the following columns. On Hold, This week, Today, Sent for feedback, Approved, Invoice sent, and Paid. I then time block the projects for this week in my Google Calendar. It helps to leave some buffer time as not everything goes to plan. Pomello is a timer that syncs with Trello. It gives you 25 minutes blocks to work on projects then 5 minutes rest. I feel a lot more productive when I know I should be working on something and not wasting my clients time on social media.
It also helps to block in time to read mails as this can really break your working rhythm. I try to keep my inbox down to only mails that need to be acted upon. The rest get filed away.
We all know how meditation helps you focus. For me it’s helped me be more conscious of my thoughts and their origins. Meditating everyday will help you focus on your task by quieting your chattering brain.
“Compared to non-meditators, meditators had more stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex (vPMC). The vPMC, a region linked to spontaneous thoughts and mind-wandering, lies on the underside of the brain, in the middle of your head.” Psychology Today
If you’re sat down all day you’ll probably need to compensate by having a good workout routine. Exercise can help impulse control by triggering endorphins, which improve the prioritising functions of the brain and in the long term it can help starve off brain ageing and Alzheimer’s.
If these tips above don’t seem to be working try working in a different location. I find my productivity is boosted by spending a few hours working in a cafe or different part of the office.
7. The Drugs
The short term advantages of drinking coffee can be considerable but in the long term you’re just robbing yourself of future energy. Look at it as a kind of nitro boost in a computer game that uses up your fuel faster than normal. Alternatively, tea can give you a more subtle boost without the crash associated with drinking coffee.
If none of the above are working it’s probably Friday afternoon, in which case you should consider swapping the mouse for a pint of some kind of intoxicating liquid, if not the hand of someone close.
Here’s the summary:
Journal at night
Keep a clean working space
4. Calmness & De-stress
6. Change your environment
Work in a different room or go to a cafe
7. The drugs
Use coffee sparingly and try tea
She can be found away from the main party hostels where the negative energy of coked up Ozzies detracts from her inner peace. Or more likely it just awkwardly reminds her of her past wild days before the mental breakdown and her ex wannabe DJ boyfriend. She dresses in sustainable soya yoga pants that cost more than the GDP of the Guatemalan village she is staying in. The highlight of her day was buying some authentic hand-made tribal cloth she managed to haggle down from 75 cents to 50 cents. Its feels good to buy from the local economy she proudly thinks to herself. She secretly hates girls that are more flexible than her then feels guilty about hating them and in turn hates herself, but only until she can down the next fair-trade seaweed latte, then the pain goes away and the world is ok again. Ommmmmm.
Hostelworld, as the name cunningly suggests, is an online hostel booking site. Since it started way back in 1999 the company has gone from strength to strength and is now the leading hostel booking provider.
When backpacking around Latin America, the Hostel World app became my favourite means of booking a bed for the night. Far superior than dubious recommendations from the Lonely Planet, plus with the space saved by not carrying a guide book, I could fit another bottle of tequila into my already bulging rucksack. However, their brand seemed to blend into the noise of their competitors and felt detached from the people using it. The rebrand aims to combat these issues.
The new look focuses on how people's experiences of hostels and traveling are very much determined by who they meet. This is reflected in the strapline ‘Meet the world’, hand rendered in a paint brush script, conveying the spontaneous nature of its customers. This fluid, rough-and-ready style sits well with the experience I had while backpacking.
The new photography features ‘real’ people - yes, you can even see their bellies are a bit wobbly as they jump into lakes with the new best mates they met in a hostel last night. I can almost hear them scream, "YOLO!" The photos are still pretty polished but that does reflect how many modern hostels are actually quite stylish these days. The photography on their website is described as ‘gritty’, although I’d have to disagree with this. I couldn’t see any photos of backpackers being chased out of town by a Colombian drug dealers or photos of couples having sex in a hostel toilet while someone throws up in the cubical next to them. But perhaps that would be a little too real.
The H logo is made up of two arrows facing each other that symbolises the idea of two people meeting each other or a starting point for an adventure. The concept is pretty simple and effective, although the actual icon feels a little rigid and corporate, which is a contrast to the headline typography. The icon also feels very static, where as meeting people while backpacking is far more coincidental, more bumping into people by chance than a set place and time that it suggests. So the logo feels a bit too Heinrich from Dusseldorf who gets immensely pissed off when your 5 minutes late, when it should be more Juan José from Bogotá who is just so chilled he didn’t notice you were late.
The new orange featured throughout the site feels a lot more youthful and spontaneous compared to the dominant blue used by many accommodation booking sites. It’s good to see a brand take a step away from the norm.
Overall the rebrand is a big improvement on the old version. Although on the website when you get away from the header image the site feels bit generic. Sites like AirBnB go the extra mile with details like custom designed icons giving their look and feel a strong presence throughout the site. So a step in the right direction but the application and follow through of the idea could be better.
6 minute read.
One thing I’d like to share with you on this blog are experiences outside of design. It’s important to look outside the field of design for new influences. Travelling and learning about other cultures can give you invaluable experiences that help you grow as a person and in turn give you a fresh perspective on design.
Iván Pisarenko is an Argentine photographer and film-maker who traveled the length of the Americas from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina on a motorbike. The journey that he thought would take 9 months grew in an amazing 5 year adventure. I met with Iván for coffee in Buenos Aires to ask him some questions about his experiences while travelling.
Q. What was the craziest thing you saw or experienced while travelling?
A. There were 2 things. The first was sailing in the Caribbean during hurricane season. While in Nicaragua I met a guy with whom I became really good friends. It’s a bit of a long story but he decided to buy a boat then we taught ourselves how to sail it. At one point in a storm the boat was badly damaged and nearly sunk.
The second was when I was run-over in Ecuador and broke my pelvis. The difference between the two events was that while I was in danger in the boat I had time to reflect on my life, in Ecuador it just happened so quickly there was no time to be afraid.
Now when I have a difficult day I remember the time on the boat and whatever is causing me trouble doesn’t seem so big anymore.
Q. How has travelling changed you and what have you learnt?
A. Sometimes I don’t feel all that different to before I traveled. Perhaps travelling just planted the seed of change in me. I do feel a lot more connected than before. Like when you connect up the wires to a set of speakers, you know? As a result of being more connected, when I feel down I stop and think why I am feeling this way then try to find out a way to resolve the problem.
I have also learnt to enjoy the experience of travelling, rather than just racing to get to the next destination.
Q. How did your opinion on your home country of Argentina change after travelling?
A. When I returned I rejected the local society to some extent. Perhaps I was a bit arrogant. I felt that there was a bit of bad energy here but then I saw this as a challenge, to stay positive and instill this in others. You can become a bit lazy in your own country. Now I try to put as much energy into my everyday relationships as to those I had when I was travelling.
Q. What advice would you give to others thinking of travelling?
A. Don’t be afraid of travelling alone. People are afraid of this their whole lives. When I was in Mexico some guys approached me intending to rob me but when they saw I was alone and found out I was travelling the whole length of the Americas they actually ended up buying me a beer.
My other bit of advice would be to get rid of the ego. You may get more attention from the locals for being foreign, especially if you’re a travelling through somewhere like Central America. Try to use this to get to know people rather than using it to sleep with as many girls as possible.
Q. Did you miss having a normal routine?
A. No. I liked the routine of finding something to eat, a place to shower and somewhere to sleep every day. This made me feel alive.
Q. What was the best and worst experience of the trip?
A. I can’t really say any experience was bad. Every experience I had helped me in someway to grow, so even what some people would call a negative experience actually really turned out to be positive because of what I learned from it.
You can read more about Iván’s adventure here.
Lectura de 6 minutos.
Una cosa que me gustaría compartir con ustedes en este blog son las experiencias fuera del diseño. Es importante mirar fuera del campo del diseño por nuevas influencias. Viajar y conocer otras culturas les puede dar experiencias invaluables que les ayuda a crecer como persona y a su vez les da una nueva perspectiva sobre el diseño.
Iván Pisarenko es un fotógrafo y cineasta argentino que viajó a lo largo de las Américas, desde Alaska hasta Tierra del Fuego en Argentina en una moto. El viaje que pensaba que tendría 9 meses creció en una increíble aventura de 5 años. Me reuní con Iván por un café en Buenos Aires para hacerle algunas preguntas acerca de sus experiencias durante el viaje.
P. ¿Cuál fue la cosa más loca que viste o experimentaste durante el viaje?
R. Hay 2 cosas. La primera fue navegar en el Caribe durante la temporada de huracanes. Mientras estaba en Nicaragua conocí a un chico con quien nos hicimos muy buenos amigos. Es una historia un poco larga, pero él decidió comprar un barco y que aprendiéramos nosotros mismos cómo navegarlo. En un momento el barco estaba en muy mal estado y casi se hunde.
La segunda fue cuando me atropellaron en Ecuador y me rompí la pelvis. La diferencia entre los dos hechos es que, mientras que en el barco tuve tiempo para reflexionar sobre mi vida mientras yo estaba en peligro, en Ecuador solo sucedió tan rápidamente que no hubo tiempo para tener miedo.
Ahora, cuando tengo un día difícil me recuerdo del momento en el barco y lo que me está causando problemas ya no parecen tan grande.
P. ¿Cómo te ha cambiado el viajar y lo que has aprendido?
R. A veces no me siento tan diferente que antes de viajar. Tal vez viajaba solo plantando la semilla del cambio en mí cabeza. Me siento mucho más conectado que antes. Al igual que cuando conectás cables a un conjunto de altavoces, ¿sabes? Como resultado de estar más conectado, cuando me siento mal me detengo y pienso ¿por qué me siento así? y trato de encontrar una manera de resolver el problema.
También he aprendido a disfrutar de la experiencia de viajar, en lugar de sólo correr para llegar al siguiente destino.
P. ¿Cómo ha cambiado tu opinión de tu país natal, Argentina, después de viajar?
A. Cuando volví rechacé la sociedad local, en cierta medida. Tal vez yo era un poco arrogante. Sentí que había un poco de mala energía aquí, pero entonces vi esto como un desafío para mantener una actitud positiva e inculcar esto en los demás. Podes ser un poco perezoso en tu país propio. Ahora trato de poner tanta energía en mis relaciones cotidianas como a los que tuve cuando estaba viajando.
P. ¿Qué consejos les daría a otros pensando de viajar?
A. No tener miedo de viajar solo. La gente tiene miedo de esto toda su vida. Cuando estuve en México algunos chicos se acercaron a mí con la intención de robarme, pero cuando vieron que estaba solo y se enteraron de que estaba viajando a lo largo de las Américas, en realidad terminaron comprándome una cerveza.
Mi otro pequeño consejo sería deshacerse del ego. Podes obtener más atención de los lugareños por ser extranjero, especialmente si viajas por lugares como América Central. Trata de usar esto para conocer a la gente en vez de usarlo para dormir con tantas chicas como sea posible.
P. ¿Extrañaste a tener una rutina normal?
R. No. Me gusta la rutina de encontrar algo que comer, un lugar para ducharse y un lugar para dormir todos los días. Esto me hizo sentir vivo.
P. ¿Cuál fue la mejor y la peor experiencia del viaje?
R: No puedo realmente decir que cualquier experiencia fue mala. Cada experiencia que tuve me ayudó de alguna manera a crecer, por lo que incluso lo que algunas personas llamarían una experiencia negativa en realidad realmente resultó ser positivo, por lo que aprendí.
P. ¿Qué te hizo feliz esta semana?
R. Pasé mucho tiempo tratando de averiguar las cosas que me hacían feliz, pero luego, después de un montón de investigación sobre el tema llegué a la conclusión de que trato de no dejar que factores externos determinen mi felicidad. Las malas experiencias pueden ser realmente útiles por lo que se puede aprender de ellas.
Podes leer más sobre la aventura de Iván aquí:
1. Side projects
Is it enough just to turn up to class and get a good grade? In these hyper competitive times it helps to set yourself apart.
Perhaps a friend of a friend is running a club night for which you could design some flyers, or perhaps you could design something for a local cafe, there are lots of opportunities to take advantage of while helping others.
While I was studying I started working for a record label, the money was a joke but it gave me valuable experience that played a major part in landing my first job as a designer in London.
2. Start with a pencil not Google
Computers have a tendency to suck out creativity plus its very easy to get distracted by the internet. It's much quicker to jot down rough ideas on paper than to endlessly wander the internet looking for inspiration among the 20 browser tabs you have open. What was that thing that... oh look, that video of a man crashing his motorbike at 97mph looks like a laugh...
3. Share your work with other students and get critical feedback
Don't ask things like, "do you like it?" to which the answer will probably be "yeah sure man, now do you wanna grab a beer?". It's far better to ask "what would you improve or change?" (And then grab a beer)
4. Simplify your concepts. No one is there to explain things to the viewer
Can you explain your idea in one line? One problem I had at university was that I tried to cram every idea I had and into one project which in turn diluted the end result. James Cameron famously summed up Aliens in one line, he described it as Jaws in space.
5. Experiment, make mistakes, learn
University is a great time to experiment without the burden of clients, budgets or a hovering art director.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes but when you do listen to the feedback and learn. It took my slightly arrogant 19 year old self a while to realise this. I still feel a bit of inner rage when someone criticises my work but after a few minutes I realise that sometimes they are actually right. The trick is knowing when to progress with something that you believe in, even though you're being told it's a bad idea.
6. Give a shit
Put your own personal twist on your work, turn up on time, ask questions and be positive. I've interviewed quite a few recent graduates for design jobs and without fail I have always employed the most enthusiastic over the ones that are technically good but who thinks they are doing you a favour by turning up.
More tips from other industry professionals
Jonathan Bowen, Jones & Bowen, London
"Being creative is hard work. There are no shortcuts. Do your ten thousand hours of practice. Inspiration is the product of hard work searching and learning. It's not magical. It's a solution to a problem that you have been thinking hard about."
Jonathan is the co-founder of Jones & Bowen whose clients include Hyundai, Jaguar and Maitres du Temps. www.jonesbowen.com
Victoria Weill, Click Clap, Buenos Aires
"Seek alternative references and immerse yourself in the world outside of design. Go beyond reading design blogs. Build a greater in-depth knowledge of typography, look further than the obvious fonts like Helvetica, even though they have their merits.”
Victoria is a partner at Click Clap and has worked for Coca Cola, EMI Music, Sony, MTV and VH1. www.clickclap.tv
A few years ago I took a trip Valparaiso, a colourful town perched on the hills of the Pacific coast of Chile. It has many hidden corners, dogs and cats, quirky wooden houses and of course, fantastic street art. Its one of the main capitals of street art in South America.