Weeknotes #6: 9th June 2019

This post was originally posted on Medium.

I migrated a bunch of content over and this post was probably written a lot earlier than the published date. As such it might contain out-of-date content, shit opinions, Dunning-Kruger levels of overconfidence and less creative swearwords than usual.

These words are from my actual real-life book

The following is an excerpt from my book ‘Mindful Design: How and Why to Make Design Decisions for the Good of Those Using Your Product’ (Mindful Design will do, like). This excerpt is around 25% of the final chapter. If you like what you read then you should totally buy it.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Apple released a one thousand dollar monitor stand lmao fuck that.

Work Shit

I’ve been hammering away at turning Mindful Design into something a bit more than a book that nearly drove me mental. Part of that has been thinking about ways to bring the educational underpinnings into different media; blog posts, one off videos, and full video courses (more on the latter soon-ish!). Another part has been thinking about ways to turn the procedural and technical aspects of the book into a bunch of workshops and/or sessions that companies can hire me out to conduct.

I’ve always been somewhat experimental with my pricing structures and project management for design. While my dev projects generally revolve around day rates (with the occasional grossly underestimated project fee here and there to keep me on my toes and remind me I actually know fuck all), my design projects usually involve either long-term contracts, or smaller sprints. Being decent at either of those areas is cool, and equips me to take on large-scope projects where I get to do a whole bunch of system work and service design style shit as well as the faster, more experimental sprint work that I love.

Where I think this process/preference is lacking—and where a lot of freelancers I chat with tend to struggle—is in the early-stage/explorative areas of a process. The kind of input design can have early on in a project is super valuable, usually my favourite part of a process, and can massively help founders and teams understand their problem spaces. However, it’s also the strangest area to try and price up, scope out, and brief. Research is usually ’done when it’s done’. Finding relevant studies can take anywhere from a day to multiple months. Documenting a system is an ongoing and constantly-shifting process. Early stage deliverables like storyboards, mental models, wireframes and prototypes can often come in disjointed and unpredictable spurts. Onboarding new designers, especially as a bootstrapped startup, can often be impractically expensive.

My answer to all the above is to take my process and chunk it up. This is nothing new, and I’ve been offering various ‘chunks’ of a design stack to clients for years now. Sometimes people just want the early research documentation, Personas, Empathy Maps, the like. Others already have that and want to jump in at wireframes. Others already have a whole bunch of stuff and need help turning it into a design system. What’s different is that I’m essentially going to be timeboxing these things, and offering smaller, sprint-like chunks of time devoted to specific tasks. Two weeks to turn research findings into UX documentation. Four weeks to produce wireframes and prototypes based on feature lists. And so on.

These would be fixed-price, fixed-time sessions, with the option of building out a startup design project that works alongside an existing team and/or technical founders’ own skills. When I chat with clients, their problems almost always revolve around the often-fluid scope of design work. They want something that falls between a long-term contract and a short-term sprint.

Now, design processes are ideally kept fluid. Ask any designer their ideal time to spend on a project and their answer will likely be some pretentious synonym for ‘it depends’ or ‘as long as it takes’. And, yeah, that’s right; but it doesn’t tackle the problem that many clients have: limited budget, limited time, and no idea of their own scope.

With these sessions, I hope to offer some fixed-price, fixed-time sessions that create a bunch of value for clients who want to take this approach. Bring the scope of work to the client rather than the other way around.

This is unlikely to work for agencies, larger clients or heavily-funded startups; but they’re not really my client-base anyway. I work with smaller clients, usually in their early stages of idea incubation, and usually with tight budgets. I self-select out of the £1,000+ per-day, giant projects because they’re not my thing, usually come attached to problematic clients, and almost always involve weeks or months spent in either San Francisco or London. No thanks.

So; I want to work with clients of a specific type. Those clients almost always have tight budgets. I want to offer them the peace of mind that comes with fixed budgets and fixed time, without fucking myself over royally by taking on a fluid-scope project.

Some of the downsides or caveats to this would be the danger of ‘commoditising’ design (or, at least, ‘commoditising’ my own work). My answer to that one is late-stage capitalism is doing a fucking fine job of that on my behalf. So yeah. Secondly, projects rarely have the same scope. Trying to force projects into a specific process could be far from ideal for either myself, my client, or both. My answer to that one is I’ve been doing this shit for years, and I’d never recommend a process that doesn’t fit a project.

Anyway, this is all bullshit free-writing while I try and validate/discuss/justify an idea that’s been rattling around my brain for a good while. If you have any thoughts on the subject (especially if you’re an early-stage startup looking to splash some cash and want a lovely discount to be the first to try it) then grab me on Twitter.

Studio Lyf

Studio is coming together a little more now. I’m setting up a cozy reading/conversation area in one end of the room, but it just looks empty as fuck cause I’m waiting for a couch that’s gonna be the main focal point.

I did grab a Peace Lily called Divock Fuckin Origi though, so there’s that.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Okay just project a couch on the back edge of that rug while I wait til my real one gets delivered in August and we&#39;re good. <a href="https://t.co/HtWQQtqa6v">pic.twitter.com/HtWQQtqa6v</a></p>&mdash; Scott 🐙 (@scott_riley) <a href="https://twitter.com/scott_riley/status/1138111412683907073?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 10, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Reading Shit

I started Good Omens and, as predicted last week, gave up on Vandermeer’s Annihilation for now.

I’ve been reading a bunch of peripheral studies to a bunch of the content in my book for a new client project and found a really awesome refresher on Self Determination Theory—my favourite motivation theory around, because it wasn’t devised by animal-abusing dickheads and it doesn’t revolve around manipulating dopamine like a rabid Jack Dorsey (bad dickhead, btw). The Positive Psychology Program as a whole is a really great site, by the way, so if you’re looking for studies and inspiration to bring into your design discussions that aren’t the usual ‘Persuasive Design’ fuckin dross, give it a skim.

I published a big chunk of Chapter 1 of my book, all about Attention and Distraction, so you should deffo give that a read too.

Music Shit

To close, here’s a playlist of some of the bangers I’ve been enjoying this week. Cause music matters x

<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/scottriley/playlist/35tzPKVk357acmzisZYvJr" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe>

These words are from my actual real-life book

The following is an excerpt from my book ‘Mindful Design: How and Why to Make Design Decisions for the Good of Those Using Your Product’ (Mindful Design will do, like). This excerpt is around 25% of the final chapter. If you like what you read then you should totally buy it.

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