The Big Design Website Push

SUMMARY: I haven’t been blogging as frequently as I’d like, but there’s a good reason: I have had to spend more time building infrastructure of a technical nature. However, I’ve also realized that this is a form of procrastination, and I’m acting like a Ph.D. student dragging his feet on his dissertation. I outline a few of the things that are helping me through, and share two new insights that are helping me push through on my new design website.I’ve been pretty quiet lately as my available energies have funneled into the hard work of being anti-socially productive: I’ve had to spend a lot more hours focused on technical work that requires the solitude, and so I have limited the number of non-producing hours I’ve spent driving to visit people or write on the blog. However, I do make the exception when I’m figuring out what the next immediate step is. It’s the age-old problem of maintaining context so I know the step I take today is built solidly on the step I took yesterday. I think this is as good a time as any for sharing where I am in the process.

To maintain the big picture, I am now using a portable report folder that has several places for sheets of paper within it:

Management Folder This folder contains several things:

Speaking of that last item, I was having coffee with Gary yesterday for our first two-week review of what the heck we have going on. I started sketching out my own bubbles:

Bubble Chart The idea of the bubble chart is to isolate the core areas of focus in one’s life. Some of them share areas of overlap; in my draft version of the bubble chart I haven’t yet identified what the overlapping areas are, but they break down as follows:

  • Design Income
  • Passive Income
  • Community
  • Other People’s Projects
  • Sanity-maintaining Overhead
  • Areas of Interest

Last week, I spent quite a bit of time forcing myself to launch new websites to serve as the placeholder for several of these bubbles. For example, I put up a skeleton framework for an Enhanced Printable CEO Website, where all of my productivity-inducing forms will live, in a more commercially-friendly format. I created an unrelated “world of spoons” content website, finally, to create an alternate outlet for writing unrelated to my main lines of inquiry here on the blog. Lastly, I forced myself to create a David Seah Design website where I will, at long last, formalize the kind of design work I’m seeking. I’ve been putting it off for years as I’ve weighed the pros and cons of the projects that have come across my desk, but now I am realizing I have been putting the website off out of habit like a Ph.D. student grown used to the academic life and dreading the actual writing of the dissertation. It’s time to step it up and graduate! For me, that’s really getting serious about putting my “design shingle” out there to build an entire new business entity.

In a way I’ve come full-circle. When I first started blogging in 2004, it was to avoid making a design website with the standard “who I am / what I do / clients / contact me” elements. The reason was I was sick and tired of the fake-it-till-you-make-it aspect of business, and sought what I now think of as “transparency” in my professional relationships. Blogging was my way of documenting what seemed to be catching my attention, which theoretically was to help me decide what kind of design work I would do. I also wasn’t quite sure if I even qualified as a designer, and hesitated at using the label on myself. Now it is 2010, and I’m finding that my path has been well-defined. Now I think I can make that simple website and know that it is built on five years of insight building and experience.

To maintain momentum, I’ve made a simple shell on design.davidseah.com which I will now populate with the standard elements:

  • What I do
  • How I do it
  • What I’ve done
  • How to contact me

I’m purposefully keeping myself from dwelling too much on the aesthetics and gee-whiz factor of the underlying website, as that’s a distraction from the tedious work of collecting and formatting old content.

I plan on focusing the rest of the week on content gathering. At minimum, I need to have enough of a statement so prospective clients know what they can hire me for. That would be maybe 5 recent projects and a list of services, so that is what I will restrict myself to in pass one.

Secondly, I’m still not exactly sure what my ultimate value proposition statement is, but one thing I’ve recently learned is that complete mastery is not a prerequisite for offering a service. The only prerequisite is a willingness to impart what I know to people who want to benefit from my experience. And, as new buddy Tammy commented to me recently, I don’t have to be entirely responsible for ensuring that the product is perfect; I can trust that my clients are willing to take what I have and adapt it to their own needs. Both these insights represent a change in my mental model of clients; I had been used to working where the vendor-client interaction was presumed to be adversarial. I’d broken free of this mentality in some respects by applying more “human” values in relating to clients, but my production mentality had not gotten a similar upgrade; the assumption that I had to deliver as perfectly and trouble-free as possible had never relaxed.

That said, it’s going to be a week of framing my past work in today’s new understanding. And although I know it’s going to be tedious and I don’t know how I’m going to solve the problem, I know it’s not going to be all that bad once I get going. Still, it doesn’t hurt to write a blog post to solidify my thoughts on the matter :-)