Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

speaking words at dare conference 2013

I think I did a good thing™ at the dare conference in London this month. I was asked to do a 5 minute lightning talk on overcoming a fear. I chose to speak on the fear of becoming an artist which is really the fear of calling yourself an artist without adding ‘a bit of a wanker’ in the same sentence.

I was very happy to do this. I like lightning talks. I like the format, the excitement, the tension, the clarity, the medium, the message, the constraint, the openness, the execution, the delivery, the focus, the rigour, the directness, the fear. the wit. the mischief.

I had a particular vision for how this talk could be delivered. I’d harboured a fantasy for the last year or so about curating a event about design delivered entirely in spoken word format. like, you know, poetry. words. with structure and meaning and context and life and narrative and darkness and cadence and rhyme and passion and space and pace and pathos and pain and light and heat. and wit. and mischief.

I knew the dare conference would be the right place to try this out. and it very much was. taking a risk was all part of the deal. so many thanks to the dare conference team and particularly to jonathan kahn for his efforts in making the thing happen.

most of these words came together in about 90 minutes on a train to somewhere in a haze of impulse I’ll never forget. if you’re interested in playing along, lightning style, they don’t actually start until slide 2. you’ll get the idea.

in addition, the event was recorded, which means you have the dubious pleasure of witnessing me reading the words out loud on a stage and everything. I included dramatic pauses, because I know you like those. many thanks to the folks at dare for the recording, and to Michael Adcock for extracting and hosting the 5 minutes that you can find here (note, the official version now included – thanks Dare Conf).

if you feel like taking part in a spoken word event with a focus on design, let me know. it would be awesome. find me at tim at timcaynes dot com. or on the twitter. or here. or anywhere.

I said it’s art, it don’t look like much, but it’s the way that I see and I think about stuff
I said it’s art, and it don’t look like much, but it’s the way that I see and I think about stuff

and you said, I don’t get it, what’s that meant to be? what’s that thing right there? it that supposed to be trees? if this is your art then I ain’t buying. it’s just a bit shit mate, you’re not even trying.

I said that’s not the point. it’s a manifestation. not some allegory on deforestation. just a representation. an approximation. the way that I deal with life’s complications. it’s the way that I see things, life through my lens. I put it on paper to see how it ends.

and you said all I’m saying is don’t give up the day job. I said I’m 8 years old. I don’t have a day job. but the words they cut through me, I took them to heart. and I put away childish things I called art.

and this is music, it don’t sound like much, but it’s the way that I wish I could speak about stuff.
and this is music, and it don’t sound like much, but it’s the way that I wish I could speak about stuff.

just listen a minute, I wish I could say, cos these notes and these lyrics I arranged in this way are the sounds of my fears slowly drifting away, if only today I could make you press play. if only today I could make you press play.

but I’m being a idiot. who’d want to listen? who’d want to put themselves through the embarrassment? it’s just miserable teenage artistic pretensions when narcissism is the mother of all your inventions. don’t worry, it’s nothing, I’ll put it away. I’ll keep to myself the things I want to say.

and what is an artist anyway? cos I think I might be one, but I just couldn’t say. could I take this one line, just six seconds of time, to define in a rhyme my perception of artist as somebody who, just believes what they do. would that work for you?

and the thing I feel most, much stronger than fear, is the desire to confront it, the very idea, that being an artist will somehow expose the things about me that nobody knows. there’s things about me that nobody knows.

and since I’ve started, the artist: creative catharsis, the role that we play to frame what we say art is, the channel, the filter, the lightning conductor, the creator, the canvas, the wilful disruptor. protagonist, lover.

the artist. it’s just a label. don’t worry. it doesn’t matter.

I said it’s me. I don’t look like much, but let’s start with that and move on a touch.
I said it’s me. I don’t look like much, but let’s start with that and move on a touch.

and wait, before you say, yes it is supposed to look that way. you don’t like it? that’s fine, I’m learning to deal with the things you might say and the way that I feel, because taking the risk is all part of the deal. taking the risk is all part of the deal.

and thanks for coming, this exhibition was hard. three hundred and sixty-five days have gone past but of this thing I’ve created, I’m immensely proud. it’s lifted a burden. it’s lifted a cloud.

see the thing that I’ve learned, the one thing that’s true, is noone can tell you what might get you through because art is in everything, the words that you say, the pictures you make or the music you play, the simple and beautiful you do every day

in the pieces of you in the trail that you leave as you touch and you see and you feel and believe, as you pass through this world seeking meaning and wonder, at times you’ll feel desperate, at times you’ll go under, but fuck it if this isn’t why we try harder, fuck it if this isn’t why we try harder

an apology. no, not for the language, but for using this book like some kind of appendage.
but I’m not really reading, it could just be blank. it’s an act, it’s my art, since we’re on the south bank.

see, art is expression, it just needs some arrangement. it needs curation as a personal statement and when I thought to do that, I was over the fear. when I thought to do that, it all became clear.

art is in all of the things that you do. and being an artist is just knowing that’s true.
art is in all of the things that you do. and being an artist is just knowing that’s true.

the terrible and horrible realisation that you don’t know what somebody is talking about when you think that you probably should

it’s alright. you probably don’t need to know.

but it’s true, if that person is saying it, then omg omg omg you probably really should know it so you can at least acknowledge it and talk about it and update your slides to reference it and then explain how you’ve always been doing it but actually when you were doing it before people had a name for it it was just something you did as part of what everybody now calls holistic interaction experiential lean mapping or something omg omg omg I don’t even believe anything I say any more I’m a terrible imposter and I’m going to be found out why do I bother clearly I should just go back to compulsively rearranging the bookshelf in my bedroom I hate myself and want to die in a professionally self destructive kind of way.

but it’s alright. you probably don’t need to know.

but it’s true, if everybody you follow on twitter is making reference to it, then omg it’s even worse and now they’re all actually making it more obscure by making oblique references to some historical precedence which is clearly the foundation for the thing this person is talking about but omg omg since this is like THE CORE PRINCIPLE AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT THEN WHAT HOPE IS THERE FOR ME and this person over here is already saying that the thing is already not a thing anymore and I was going to say something funny about the thing sounding a bit like a fruit or something but now I might as well just not say anything because I have no idea what I’m doing in this industry and everybody knows it and dammit it does sound like a fruit why can’t I just say that omg hang on the person who said it in the first place has now said what they meant was something a bit different to what everybody is saying and they’re all wrong and there’s a bit of an argument going on I wish I could say the fruit thing why don’t I know what’s going on.

but it’s alright. you probably don’t need to know.

but it’s true, if you’re sat in the half-darkness of a meetup in the basement of the faculty of brain hurt sciences or the half-brightness of a design agency eyebrow in a soho loft listening to that person you’ve always wanted to listen to and then they casually throw out reference to the thing and everybody in the room laughs and you don’t know why so you laugh along but you’re thinking to yourself omg I only just managed to get to grips with ironic self-referential unicorn bon-mots what is this that I’m now supposed to knowingly acknowledge without actually anybody actually ever telling me to my satisfaction WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS AND INCIDENTALLY I’M BEGINNING TO GET AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO DOESN’T ACTUALLY KNOW RAGE ACTUALLY then, surely, I’m not the only person who doesn’t get it.

it’s alright. you’re not. imposter syndrome hits everyone. it’s always been there. except now it’s accelerated and amplified by the immediacy of the broadcast and disseminate model of social sharing. the discoverability of knowing what you apparently don’t know is optimised to a point that it almost happens in negative time. it’s over before it emerges. you’re already too late. you missed the fruit joke.

but it’s alright. I’m so far behind I’m actually way ahead. at least, that’s how I deal with it.

listening post: bring me the horizon – shadow moses

Your design resume is awesome but I don’t care

I’ve spoken a lot in the last few days about what user experience is. My best descriptions don’t include those words any more. I’m finding that I can only express the qualities I look for when I’m hiring UX professionals in terms of life experiences. Meaning that I tend to prioritise specific academic qualification or checklists of skills much lower than I prioritise the things that make you the person that you are. And I have to acknowledge that that makes it almost impossible for potential candidates to formally structure an approach that I might respond positively to. My assessment of what makes an engaging resume or portfolio does seem to be at odds to the majority of hiring managers in the field or, more specifically, recruiters. I’m grateful to my UXPA mentees for pointing that out, since otherwise I may just consider that everyone is writing terrible resumes which is why they’re finding it difficult to penetrate into the first level of human interaction with me – an interview.

I’ll be honest. A lot of resumes I see are terrible. But worse than that, a lot of them are just not very compelling. I don’t find anything in them that makes me want to invest the effort I really should. There’s nothing in there that makes me interested in who that person is. I try, and fail, to respond positively to a checklist of application software, when, frankly, it’s meaningless to me. I have an expectation that anyone who is applying for a design role can manage application software. If you can’t, I’ll teach you how. That’s not the thing that makes you a designer. What makes you a designer is your ability to think, articulate, challenge, interrogate, evolve, be bold, be different, be confident, be accountable and have the courage of your conviction. I really need to see something of that in your approach to me, since that’s really what differentiates you. It might just be how you word a personal statement or whatever you call it. It might be in the narrative that forms the basis of your portfolio. It might be that you’ve got an interest in garden furniture. Really, I can’t tell you what it looks like, but I have to respond to you at a level more significant than simply a well-structured document. I have to work with you. I have to like you. So give me a sense of what that might be like, rather than letting me know how good you are at using Axure.

In the end, I can only offer a personal opinion. I’m the least professional professional I know. But since I’m hiring designers, it might be useful, or at least interesting. I’m willing to accept it might actually just be more confusing. But if you were considering working with me, at least you now know something about the things that make me the person that I am.

listening post: ryan adams – so alive


whereupon the twentieth century withered to its unceremonious and overinflated end and so began the shift from simply doing to understanding for as the question of needs and behaviours was seen to encompass a new empathetic aesthetic in reality we were simply questioning why the plans were neither best laid or with foundation since we couldn’t adequately express those plans in terms of the context by which end users were to be expected to interact engage and consume far less for us to imagine that we might somehow manage a longer term expectation through a better understanding of the psychology of human behaviours specifically related to the interface of interactions between ourselves and the pixels and patterns on the viewing planes of the computer display in this regard we were learning to manage the subtle increments to our references for human computer interactions and how we applied those increments to our clumsy manifestations of engineering design those crude responses to the predominantly functional definition of a problem boundary sufficed for our early renditions of solutions as experiences but fell some way short of a necessary incorporation of a significantly broader set of methods and practices borrowed and repurposed for a new set of inputs for a new set of outputs in that crossover from a popularisation of web design based on an abstract representation of basic human and computer interaction points to a deeper understanding of the cognitive primitives that in turn become the patterns of behaviour that model an interaction was nothing short of revelatory in a few short years at the very end of a century the principals of design shifted from physical to experiential in a way that few might have been in a position to really articulate moreover it was more closely aligned to the visions of the near future we were living expressed fifty years previously by the likes of clarke and asimov in their explorations of a developing sentience and self awareness in the objects and interfaces that we humans create to satisfy the craving to objectify ourselves perhaps at the beginning of the new century designing for a new set of experiences was a reaction to a search for a new set of meanings as a new millennium forced us to collectively appraise our progress against that imagined future and seek new way to express meaning through the design of the world around us based on a closer focus on our own position within it what this was really bound by was the extent to which our ability to reinvent ourselves was limited by our need to attach meaning to our roles by association with and extension of a discrete collection of principles seemingly snatched from the grip of a decaying academia half buried by the weight of its own expectation

listening post: genesis – the musical box


dirty crowdsourced topicality in the face of wantonly and abject dereliction of the idea factory presents unique opportunities for the playful construction of words in an order such that once spake might elucidate some retrospective meaning like some backward journey through time that begins at the end with the ripped out pages of the book yet to be written and ends with the realisation that many this way tread upon the atrophied pathways that for a generation as yet unaware of the passage of themselves are the very trails of their own existence mapping the life stories of the millennium across a landscape of indifference which in its own way is a bit like facebook innit.

for we render our own paths across this landscape leaving the tiniest most significant pieces of ourselves as dust upon the earth that dances and dies with every footstep that disturbs the peaceful equilibrium while the future self declines linkedin invitations from our own reflection in the broken windows of house parties in clapham where we drift into a haze of tomorrows as the bongos of iniquity are drummed in our ears by the flat palms of forever.

looking forward is much the same as looking back. except its the other way around. but that depends on how you’ve described yourself and whether your description is meaningful to me, because, after all, here I am, right beside you. as far as I can see, we’re both as entropied as each other. it’s just that I’m a bit taller, so I have further to go. if we leave together, we might just make it.

listening post: m83 – reunion

That’s how I knew this hypothesis would break my flow

it is a comfortable complacency that makes a problem easy to solve. even worse when you’ve developed that complacency over a considerable number of years which by the virtue of time passed assumes some authority by experience. it’s not even authority that’s the problem. I can do authority. authority is really just gravity. it’s the sense that one is somehow innately qualified to pontificate and elaborate because they might use very long sentences without much punctuation which means its really quite difficult to know whether its puerile conjecture or learned missive.

I’m experienced. I’ve been around for ages. I know what a problem looks like and I know what a solution looks like. very often it’s very easy to use the very solution that probably solved a very similar problem when I came across it, ooh, a coupe of years ago or something. and generally that’s alright. it’s an adequate response to a challenge that while intellectually does not stretch the rubber of the mind can serve to define success within a constraint borne of utter fucking laziness.

and the commoditisation of the mind is a curious and debilitating thing. off-the-cortex solutions are a shortcut to banality. ready-to-think is the antithesis of brain couture. the synaptic pathways trodden through the infinite green pastures of the mind are the ruts in which our freedom of thought gets stuck, guiding it irrevocably to the cliff edge of reason where, like pathetic idea bison, it simply throws itself off the edge, crashing into the dry river bed of missed opportunity.

I mean, just because something worked before, it doesn’t mean it’ll simply work again. have a proper think.