Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever


the structure of everything

drops 1
drops 1 by Tim Caynes

we seek to make sense. we want to understand the structure of everything.

to deconstruct is to reconstruct. one creates the now in the reinvention of the was. so we intentionally destabilise and disrupt to explore the meaning of reality and question the order of the universe. because without question, we can’t and shouldn’t believe the reality we inhabit and experience. we’re driven, hopelessly and unapologetically to invent our own realities in order to give structure and meaning to the place we find ourselves, in terms we can own, reference and communicate. for within those realities, we define the context within which things exist. we determine viability of domains, entities, objects. we describe relationships, dependencies and maps. we define rules, hierarchies and constructs. we decide what makes sense, because we create the meaning through structures that we can confidently articulate. we become the arbiters of sense-making. and we determine outcomes through the definition of experiences. because ultimately, we’re deciding for others how the universe is arranged to provide the context within which others experience an experience. and in the decisions we make about the structures we define to make sense and provide meaning we pretend that we transcend the personal politic, but we can’t help but hope to reflect the beauty and artistry of everything in the universe as we know it, and create structure as a manifestation of all that we aspire to, to know what it is to be who we are.

and maybe a site map.

I’m an information architect. I choose to be that because of all the things I need to make sense of. my need is part visionary, part vocational. but mostly it’s because I have to make sense of things in relation to other things and describe meaning to others. I need to express what I mean in order to communicate what I think I need to do. I inhabit the dark, lonely places between discovery and definition. between understanding and articulating. between insight and design. I dig my nails into my palms, close my eyes and try not to repeat history. try to find something new.

I start with a blank canvas and a whole universe of information. which is, in reality, a piece of A4, a pentel r50 and a state of mind. paper and pen are my constraints in the physical world. context is my constraint in the metaphysical world. budgets are my constraint in the business world. and as these worlds collide I scratch meaning onto the whiteness of the page in two dimensions. boxes and arrows. unintelligible labels. epiphanies. entire back catalogues of things. enter shikari lyrics. dots. the universe. the most basic rendition of meaning that can be distilled from the constellations of all experiences that guide me. an exploration of space and time, the history of all existences, the subconscious self, why my pen has stopped working, investment products, life. but all I’m doing is reconstructing all that has been deconstructed. sometimes it’s useless. sometimes it’s Ulysses. beautiful, unique and impossible to deconstruct again. it only makes sense when experienced. but the relentless, maniacal pursuit of structure is, in of itself, the definition of the universe within with meaning can be derived by others.

consideration of the structure of everything could be described as the search for a framework for the the human condition. it could also be defined as making sense of every mess. it’s often just information dogmatecture. a way to establish credentials for thought leadership and a reason to use praxis and periphery in conference submissions. but it’s innate. when we consider the parts of information architecture we can’t help but consider the sums of the parts of information architecture. and because the universe is a perplexing subconscious constant, it influences every decision we make about how to describe who we are and how we are. we use that which is infinitely unstructured to frame our conversation about that which is uniquely structured.

which is why the structure of everything drifts further away from us as the boundaries of the information space expand. it’s information architecture redshift.

the articulation of design

196/365 by Tim Caynes

had a lovely long conversation today about what design is and why we do it. I paraphrase

in order to explain the progression from what we understand to the things we make we undertake a deliberately unstructured approach to divining meaning and distilling insights such that we might evolve and create structures and make sense of that which we’re analysing in order that we can confidently develop evidence-based hypotheses that describe the behaviours we want to effect and the human outcomes we want to see

but also sometimes we just make things up because nothing makes sense and it’s not really that bad if you just have a good idea and see if it works because if I really only created things with a direct, methodical, causal relationship to the user intents and behaviours I need to support then I would actually be pretty bored because the act of creation must be the sum of all knowledge and that means that since I know lots of stuff I probably know many of the outcomes and I have a pretty good idea of what might work but omg that’s just designing for yourself how dare you that’s not what we do call yourself an experience designer actually no

but in the end the design we do is only as good as our ability to articulate its value. value to users. value to stakeholders. value to the universe. and most importantly the value to us, the creators. for if I invest in the creative endeavour with disregard to the impact it has on me then I deny myself the opportunity to explore my capabilities, weaknesses, inspirations and, fundamentally, my ability to communicate new ideas

it’s the articulation of design that gives design meaning and value. it’s an acquired skill. you have to practice and get good at it. but once you’ve got it, design makes sense. not just in the way you describe it to others, but how you describe it to yourself. and that’s where you begin to understand the real value of what you do

and yes, italic

update: much talk regarding articulating the value of design at this week’s Leading Design conference which had many heads nodding including my own but in an agreeable way not a falling asleep way and while I suggest that the value of articulation can be most readily appreciated in the way it enables you to understand and evolve your own work the gaping void between doing design and expressing the value of design is still largely being quacked into, leaving stakeholders and business leaders to cup their ears at the silence. the need to describe value has never been greater and the Leading Design conference connected some lovely people to share their experiences and advocate some effective methods for doing just that so thank you to Andy Budd and Clearleft for making it happen.

10 years of meetings

globalisation strategy
globalisation strategy by Tim Caynes

I wrote this ten years ago. nothing ever really changes.

You just click on your name and then go to that menu on the left. no, the top. Hang on… So, I select my name, right and what? Go to the menu and select ‘make me great’. I don’t have that option. Oh. No. Wait. I need to make you great so you can share your greatness. Wait a minute here…Ok, you should be great now. Well, I have a circle next to my name, does that make me great? Erm, I think so. Try to do something great. Ok, what like? Try sharing your greatness with the rest of us. Ok, hang on, share…um…greatness! Right. Do you see my greatness. Oh, no, wait. I’ve got a popup. It says I can’t be great because its not my meeting. You need to make it my meeting before I can share my greatness. Is yours still there? No, its downloading an update of itself. Oh, right, so what about you? It rebooted my computer. Oh. Do you own the meeting yet? Um…well…I have a square next to my name now. Not a circle? No, a square, with a circle in it. What colour is the circle? Its blue. And the square? That’s blue as well. What? And the circle is inside the square? Yeah. Never mind. Do you see greatness on the menu now. Hello? Are you there? I think they’ve gone. Hell…Hello? Sorry, I was on mute hahaha. Ok, it says I now own the meeting and so I’m going to share…greatness! Ok. Go! Right. And now I see your desktop, is that right? No, we should see yours. Well, I can see mine. Yes, but that’s your desktop. That’s behind the share app. What share app? The one you’re trying to share your greatness with. OOHH. I SEE! Right, wait, I get it now. Hang on…

click. click click click. taptaptap tappy tap tap. click….

click. tap tap tap tap tap tapapapapa tap tap tap. click……

Oh. Um. Its asking me to download version I can’t share my greatness with this version. It says it will only take 30 seconds. Wait a sec…

click. click. 7 minutes life vacuum.

Ok. I have to reboot to finish the installation. Is there another agenda item that we can go to while I get this working? I’m really sorry. I’m not really very familiar with this application. Ok, well, we’ll move on to the next item and come back to you when you have th — BEEP BEEP BEEP. What? Hello? Oh. I think we lost her. Right. Ok. Never mind. Let’s move on to the next item in the agenda, which iiis.let’s see…yes. Video conference with Singapore and the UK. Let’s see, we’ve got 5 minutes left, so let’s go ahead and try the video. Does everyone know where the video conference room is? Right, its in building 7. You just go out the lobby, get in your car and drive to building 94 and it’s on the second floor. The room’s called ‘Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ or something.


changing titles

if I’m honest it’s because I can’t be arsed with the pause and reconsideration that accompanies every utterance of a title that’s prescriptive and divisive notwithstanding the gravitas and apparent stakeholder appeasmentism that the very combination of words appear to solicit albeit with the delivery of a stifled yawn from the wrong side of a curtain twitching like the very drawing of morning across the pale insipid sky of delusion that speaks of much grandeur and most excellent credentials while all the time saying not so much as a pithy whine unto the duck void of experience whereupon the weight of expectation times the burden of truth equals the reality of a glass never actually filled at all.

it doesn’t matter. it never really has. at least not to me. but oh how the machine readers of the mind have been wired to construct the meaning and motive from the syntax and the semantics of the short sweet evolution of the industry we call home. all operators are overloaded. all exceptions have been thrown. all we have that has been taken from us is in the irony that the definition of self now belongs so very much to others.

I am a user experience designer and I done a wireframe.

listening post: pink floyd – sheep

send your children to conferences

here is a revelation for anyone who has never been to a conference that’s relevant to their profession: it’s a great way to validate that you actually know what you’re talking about. I mean, honestly, we mostly operate within the duck quack void of self-appreciation and we’re only really interrogated and challenged when we’re required to present, with authority, our opinion on what our interpretation of ‘good’ is in the narrow context of our own practice. but spending a day or two listening to people just like you, presenting their own ideas, propositions and theories, is a day or two where you quickly come to the realisation that you’re not, in fact, the imposter you thought you might be. you’re actually reasonably good. fuck it. you’re very good.

a colleague of mine is out in san francisco this week, at a conference where there are some very clever, very smart people talking about design practice. I say they’re very clever and very smart, but really, I’ve no idea. at least I’ve heard of them. they’ve mostly written a book about something or other that’s relevant. but, you know, I’ve never worked with them, so I can’t personally say whether they’re any good at what they do. but they tell a good story. and that’s what we’ve got to go on. and this colleague reflected on her first day at the conference with a telling phrase: I am getting the feeling we actually are doing stuff so right! and she means that as a company and as the individuals that make that company what it is. and I’m not surprised. because that’s the feeling I get when I attend similar events.

when you find yourself in a safe environment, and there’s not much safer than conferences, especially those with a significant proportion of first-time speakers, then that’s when you give yourself permission to evaluate your own position. my first speaking engagement was at the IA summit. I’d never done any public speaking before, least of all about my own practice. but that environment was as perfect a place as any to evaluate, compare, contrast and make your own conclusions about how you’re placed on the weird global/parochial peer spectrum. and really, it’s not a question of relativity. it’s much more about reassurance and a sense of acknowledgement.

which is all a rather roundabout way of saying that there is much to be gained from attending a conference of like-minded individuals to understand your own position within that community. I advocate conference attendance as a learning experience. bluntly put, I recommend conference attendance as the place where training budget is invested, because I believe that proactive conference attendance adds value as a career development opportunity by a factor of at least ten over traditional training or courseware. it’s definitely where I spend all my training budget. and if that runs out, especially where the IA summit is concerned, I’ll pay for it myself. it’s a no-brainer.

listening post: xtc – towers of london



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