New Series: Constructive steps towards living consciously (aka, getting what you want)

I’m going to change directions here for a bit. Like many of you, I’ve been exploring the nature of consciousness – what it means, how it works, and all the other standard queries. I’ve been reading up on brain physiology, Buddhism, philosophy, history, and art for about three years now. This is, of course, just scratching the surface, but I thought I’d start to slowly share what I’ve learned.

I recognize that this might at first blush seem at odds with my usual business and design drivel. But in fact, it’s not. I’m exploring conscious living as a means by which I can achieve my goals. And I’ve got to tell you, it works really well.

I’ve titled this a “New Series”. That would imply that I have a structured plan to write a limited series of posts over a given period. That’s perhaps a tad misleading. I have no specific intentions other than to share those thoughts and experiences that have helped me in my work and my home life.

So, without further ado I give you: Constructive steps towards living consciously (aka, getting what you want)

There are certain patterns of thought that lead to distraction and variation from a chosen path. Those patterns can be realized, and subsequently broken by simple observation.

The challenge is to develop the perspective to be able to recognize the patterns, and to get used to the escape routes – to break the loop.

In my case, this means that I’ve got to practice the behaviors that make consciousness easier. These include writing, meditation, and exercise.

It’s interesting to note that after one work week into the new year, I’m falling back in to old modes of behavior. This is not surprising – lifelong habits don’t break easily. The very act of writing this though, is to be celebrated as significant step towards developing a new mode of conscious living.

To me, conscious living requires the ability to separate from the mundane trivia of the moment so I can see ‘reality’ for what it truly is. That’s the goal – to see and experience the truth, free from biases or blinders.

Just a minor little goal.

Still, one within our reach. At least to some degree.

So being here, being in this moment of time, of experience, free from the burden of worry and fret, is the vehicle by which we can achieve our goals.

The behaviors required to achieve those goals then, become the paramount priorities, not secondary (or tertiary) activities to be completed as time and mood allow. These behaviors become the gateway by which other functions flow. Not the other way around.

That’s it for now. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Value of emotional design on the web

This post is a continuation of a thought started in the comments at “Jonathan Snook’s”: site. Jonathan quotes an article written last November by Gerry McGovern titled “Graphic Design Plays a Minor Role on the Web”:

Mr McGovern has made a decision about what does and doesn’t belong on the web. He has decided that emotional connection has no place online – that the web is a tool to be used for the display and collection of data. He says, in effect, that branding, trust, expression, and individuality have no place online. I call bullshit.

The role of design on the web varies with the intented purpose of the site. While Google and Skype’s designs are exemplary for their purposes, they would not stand out if their purpose was to elicit an emotional response.

Design (whether on the screen or the page) can play a number of roles. One of those roles is, as Mr McGoverm mentions, as facilitator. Another, equally important role, is to act as an emotional catalyst.

Or to think of it another way, one of the roles of design is to add the non-verbal cues (facial expression, intonation, volume, physical presence, etc) that are lost in the translation from personal communication to straight text.

Recently, I watched Hero with my 4 year old. The movie is subtitled. Yet my daughter followed the story line with shocking accuracy. She cried when it was touching, laughed when it was funny, and was scared at the appropriate times. All without understanding a word of dialogue.

On the screen and on the page, design plays the role of scenery, music, movement, pace, costume, expression, and even intention.

To deny this is to short change one’s clients and one’s self.

Of course, usability comes first. But it doesn’t stop there, unless the purpose of the site dictates it.

My monkey-sense is telling me…

I’m getting serious 97th monkey vibes. (Read “this”:/about if you have no idea what I mean). It’s prediction time:

I think 2006 is going to be the year that standards based designers take a quantum leap forward and embrace the third and fourth presentation layers. As a group, we’ve become very comfortable with structure and presentation. I sense a growing movement towards manipulating data (the third layer) and adding interactivity through manipulating the DOM (the fourth layer).

Till now, this has been the purview of developers. But designers have been growing increasingly savvy in their use of css, and are ready to make the leap to conditionals, variables, and loops.

My strength is being relatively typical – meaning what’s important to me is _usually_ important to my peer group. In this case, I’ve been devouring books on php, the DOM, and Ruby on Rails. The freedom this new knowledge has brought to my designs is incredibly refreshing. I know I’m not alone in this. I’m not the first to jump aboard this good ship. My position as the 97th monkey suggests that a whole bunch of designers are about to make this leap.

I expect that the first half of 2006 will see a rebirth of the tutorials that ruled our little web design community 12 months or so ago. I expect that we’ll see some stretching of current UI conventions as we stretch our fledgling wings and push back against the limits of xhtml/css. I expect there will be lots of misuse of our new knowledge. But I think we all learned from our flash obsession, and will be quick to pull back from excess (once the new-toy smell has faded).

Should developers be concerned? Nope. I think we’ll actually increase their business (and not just by fixing our mistakes!). The more we learn to do, the more we want to do, and the more we butt up against the limits of our time and abilities. Our knowledge will be mostly limited to a better understanding of what *can* be done, and a greater respect for what developers do. Think of it like this: having raced road bikes, I have a better appreciation for just how good Lance Armstrong is than had I never ridden a 2 wheeler. Same thing with code.

What do you think? What is your monkey sense telling you?