So we’re done with the year, Keela’s off to fly all around the world. Tom, our crazy contractor has left the building for colder weather. Damien is hush hush about his plans. Maria, the intern, is off to warmer weather and sandy beaches. And me, I’m going to bounce around locally and reflect on all the great events that made 2011 spectacular. As a relative newcomer to Central I don’t have a lot of Central history to reflect on. Instead here are my predictions for 2012.
- First and foremost I’m declaring the Cute Kitten Project Management system un-Central-tutional and therefore a project tool that we can no longer utilize.
- The Toolkit will be completed and ready for public consumption.
- Damien will announce he is quitting espresso once every quarter.
- 67% of the office will be getting married in 2012.
- Central will have projects that result in solving problems in the areas of…well… everything.
- The Squiggle T’s next color combo will be a teal shirt with a lime green squiggle.
- My new commute vehicle will be a 1974 Vespa Rally.
- Germany will win every match in the 2012 Euro Cup Tournament and lose the only one that matters. Random but true.
- The HVAC unit will work whenever I want it to.
- We’ll have an office cat named Squiggle. I love him already.
Happy Holidays and a safe, happy, joyful start to 2012!
My Autumn decorations are out so where’s my Fall weather?
The last few days included copious amounts of spread sheeting, making sure our contractor doesn’t melt, ordering supplies, errand running, furniture moving, assembly, and repair. The plants that needed it have larger pots and one in particular is much happier now that I know it needs more watering. On Tuesday there was a scheduled fire in the Marin Headlands. We didn’t hear about this so naturally Keela and I went into emergency evacuation mode, we didn’t evacuate far, just to the front door. It brought up the question of whether or not we should have a Central boat. I think we should. It took awhile but the office no longer smells like a campfire.
Everyone is heads down, busy mousing and typing away on projects. At my desk, I am once again diving into the world of twitter. It’s been over 2 years since I’ve logged into my account and apparently I have forgotten how to speak the language. At times it’s exciting but it’s similar to driving a race car one can’t get too comfortable or the car can get away from you, you have stay alert. I’m sure my other half will enjoy me staying plugged in more than normal.
I’m also excited to be ordering more squiggle tees. We’re ordering a limited amount in navy blue with an orange squiggle. Hopefully I can figure out how to add them to the website next week. In the meantime check out the store, we still have a few sizes available.
This weekend is the Hoe’s Down festival in Capay Valley. There will be camping, a farmer’s market, a giant hay maze, farm animals, tours of the farm and much more. I’ll be camping for the weekend in their walnut orchard and sneaking a few giant heirloom tomatoes before I go! If you love local food I highly recommend visiting the farm. Farmers from the Capay Valley will be in attendance not just Full Belly, it’s a great opportunity to see exactly where your food comes from and personally say thank you.
Yes, its true, Keela and Jonathan are working about a hundred and sixty weeks behind me. Hopefully I can bring them up to speed in time for week 188.
Week 188 is likely to be written by a new member of Central: Linda Hoecker. I’m really pleased to be able to welcome Linda to the team. We were previously colleagues at IDEO, which is where for the first time, as Daniel Kushner recently put it, under Linda’s reign the San Francisco office actually ran smoothly. So now Linda is here. At first, to help sort out our studios, and then help prepare us for growth and see where that takes things. We’re lucky to have her, and even within a couple weeks, things have been running better and overall there’s been a lighter step to how we work.
We’re in one of those unenviable situations where there’s only two weeks left to a several year long project. There’s so much to do. 336 photos have to be selected, uploaded and then written about online. All the text and details have to be written. An entire 350 page (and growing) toolkit is being shaped and drafted as we speak. Plans, strategy, business models and launch projects are being hatched. All for our incubated client. Which, now in a couple of weeks, we get to pull the wrappers off of and start speaking publicly about our work with them.
What is exciting about the work with our client is how it will shift into a new kind of relationship where we’re no longer being hired as consultants to help achieve the goals of the client’s organization, but now we’re helping to define the goals as well as develop the opportunities for the client. For us, we get to build an organization of people, infrastructure and parts in order to creatively tackle their goals. It’s really quite a luxury.
As I write this, the BERG fellas are staring at me. From the cover of the latest ICON magazine. On the cover it says, BERG invents the near future. If you don’t already stalk them online, it’s a great piece on them and the three principals (Matts, and Jack). In the article there’s a line I like:
The trouble with the modern world, the guys agree, is that designers are used by business to achieve the goals of business– not the other way around.
Firms like BERG, of which there are but a few, fall into this category of being incredibly smart not just about the process of design, but also business and the system that built stuff falls into. It’s great to see. Inspiring too.
In the near future, which we’ve not yet invented for ourselves, we’re to be dipping our toes into conservation and the complex systems existing there. In the mean time, I must get back to the moving parts of one machine, and contribute to our own, now smoothly running machine.
It’s one of those amazing Bank Holiday weekends here, where it reminds you why it is so special to live in the Bay Area. 67 degrees when waking up, and slowly getting warmer. Here at the office, people have been piling into the parking lot getting ready to sail, canoe or hang out on the small beach right here. Le Garage Bistro is going to be slammed. And while everyone is out there, I can get some serious work done.
I just read this in a paper my father wrote:
Dumb ideas have to die first. That’s why progress takes time. First, new ideas have to evolve, then the bad ideas that stop progress have to die.
(Lammers, 1986) by Charles Simonyi. The pioneer of the first word-processor.
It’s now Thursday morning. There hasn’t been a moment to stop moving. Sometimes that’s a good thing but I’ve learnt that it is quite important to have frequent small moments to take a break. So I have two minutes here before the next activity. We’ve been trying this new thing of making meetings and working sessions fit inside 45 minute slots. It works. For some time now I’ve started most of my meetings at quarter past the hour. For me, I did it mostly to increase the likelihood the meeting started on time as if the earlier meeting ran the full hour then it was hard to move straight into another one on time. But the effect has been that the meetings are shorter, easier to manage and I tend to use the fifteen minutes before it begins to make notes and think about what I want from it. My next meeting, which begins about now, is all about Efficiency. How we as humans develop strategies in density to be efficient and what are the evidences of that. This morning, my strategy for efficiency is coffee and many small breaks.
So you must by now know I’m a big fan of Berg in London. And of course, I’m eagerly awaiting my shipment of their latest publication SVK, which is a new comic.
Here are some quotes I’ve recently come across, which all have a common theme to the work we’ve been focused on lately.
Ideally our cities become exciting, sexy, and profitable places to live, play, and work – that’s the most important part. When people have no investment in the places they play or work or live, they act accordingly.
– David Byrne
“Place matters. The kind of environment you create for yourself makes a real and tangible difference in your level of happiness, health, and satisfaction.”
– Malcolm Gladwell
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
- Jane Jacobs
I just had one of those conference calls where, as one of the people said it best, “The conference call Gods were not with us today”. We kept stumbling over each other, interrupting and talking over the other person inadvertently. In spite of that, we ended the 50 minute call with an inspiring combination of Prototyping in the field + SOCAP ’11 and COMMON. I look forward to sharing more about that soon.
I just saw this tweet from Jason Fried, quoting someone:
“As a designer, there are no “dream projects” handed to you. It’s up to you to make shit great.”
Which I disagree with. In part. We get plenty of dream projects handed to us. Which is incredible. Though – yes, it is up to us to make shit great. It is in our hands to mess it up completely. Or to create something better. I wonder what type of designer Mig Reyes is? Oh, a Graphic designer… that might make sense now. Wouldn’t a dream project be any project that was handed to you, that asked of you to do something great?
Thursday is wrapping up now. The studio has a silence to it at 6.26pm that smacks of people trying to wrap up things before leaving with a clean conscious of having achieved everything they wanted to do today. Some of the things that I saw happening today were, Emma built a table. Jonathan spent the day reading research and academic papers on things such as value driven design, or the design of educational materials. Keela ran two working sessions with the client. I need to go an summarize the Future of Fish project now, so that I can kick-start a new “Future of…” project.
Earlier this week we decided on the office Christmas break. Yes, I might be the first person online to have mentioned Christmas 2011. Sorry. It is strange to have to do these kinds of things so far in advance, but then retailers who manufacture goods for Christmas or national holidays often have to plan much further in advance, so I don’t feel that alone. We’ve decided to close the studio for three weeks and one day this year. Which is a tough thing to swallow when your business largely runs on billable time, seeing all those potential billable hours slipping away. But I have to say, I’ve found that personally, if you don’t find a way to close the business for a considerable amount of time, then it can be incredibly difficult to pry yourself away for any decent length of time. The Christmas and New Year’s Eve period seems to be a perfect time to shut up shop, rest and restore for a considerable time, and come back in the New Year (on Friday the 13th) ready for anything. Because typically, it’s almost impossible to take off two or more weeks at any other time of the year. This way everyone has a forced, mandatory, real vacation. We don’t have any vacation policy here – you take the time off you need – but knowing it is so hard to do so throughout the year, perhaps this 3 week closure is our policy. Back up policy. I’m looking forward to my 3 weeks off already.
Finally, a photo of Keela and Emma taking a fancy car out for a spin. Emma, the further away in the photo, is an intern from Harvard, who is working for our incubated client. We’re sad that she’s only with us for another two weeks, and so we’ve begun a campaign of trying to keep her with us, which includes fancy cars, and trying to convince her to quit school.