I haven’t been the greatest at keeping the blog up, but I wanted to give a bit of an update of where things are at!
So, last time I posted here (5 months ago! 😳) , I was working on fixing my issues around sleep. They aren’t completely fixed, but I’ve made significant strides, and I’ve definitely improved that area of my life! 🙌The biggest thing for me was taking my phone out of the bedroom on weeknights, and also trying to be as consistent as possible with my sleep times. I’d resisted for a long time, telling myself that I have the willpower to not let having my phone in the bedroom affect my behaviour, but that just isn’t true (or at least it wasn’t at first).
Bedtime routines aren’t purely a question of force of will. We head to bed when we’re at our sleepiest, and when we wake up it takes time to become fully alert. The choices that we make in those moments are mostly dictated by habit, and sometimes breaking/making habits under those conditions is no trivial task. The difference it’s made in my life, having more quality time in my day, is huge!
Next order of business is project related. I’m redesigning my design system name generator so that it looks and feels a lot more polished than the original version. It’s a cool project as is and it’s functional, but it doesn’t represent where I’m at design-wise.
Here’s a sneak-peak of some of the very-much-in-progress design:
It’s obviously not done, but I’m happy with how the aesthetic is coming along! I was hoping for a mid-June release, but I needed a break and now July looks more likely.
Finally, I’m starting something called the Spotlight Series, a 3 month accountability program put together by Michelle Akin. The goal of the program is to focus on building an audience online, getting clarity on what you want to be known for, and overcoming the things that are getting in the way of sharing with the masses.
You’ll be seeing more activity, either here on Twitter, as a direct result of that! 😄
I’ve never been that consistent when it comes to sleep, so it’s no surprise that the topic came up quite a few times during the daily creative challenge I took part in last week. The challenge that Michelle Akin put together is called “Break Up With Your Bullshit,” the BS being all of the excuses people make for themselves. After taking some time to think about it some more, I’m pretty sure my relationship with sleep is actually a bullshit factory 🏭. It’s not one of those trendy brick ones with loads of greenery and skylights; it’s a big, hulking, coal-fired thing and it needs to be shut down.
See, lack of sleep is an amazing excuse. Not focusing well at work? Blame sleep! Not losing weight or making gains? Blame sleep! “Don’t have time” for that cool project? Blame sleep! It’s the perfect scapegoat for literally everything.
I’m no therapist, but I have a theory that this is just a defence mechanism to avoid responsibility for failure, and that I’ve become extremely comfortable having it in place. I have no underlying medical conditions or good reasons not to be sleeping well. I stay up too late because I want to do as many things with my day as possible. I feel like I didn’t do enough things with my day because I wake up too late.
I don’t have daily opportunities to catch up on a lot of lost sleep either, so if for whatever reason I stayed up late Sunday night, or just didn’t sleep well because of bad luck, I can look forward to a pretty subpar week. At its worst, it means essentially running on one cylinder, and not being able to complete complex tasks that require parallelized thought.
I’ve tried to dismantle this thing a few times (I made a blog post about this in 2017!) , but for whatever reason I never stuck to it. I’m really tired of this dynamic, so my next major project is going to be to try to fix this.
I’ve been actively trying to convince myself not to do it this week, telling myself things like: “blog posts about your sleep? Why would anyone read that? 🧐” or “You’ve tried to fix this for years, what makes you think this time will be different?” Bullshit sticks up for bullshit I guess. 🤷♂️ Anyway, I don’t particularly care if it’s good content or not, and past failures don’t guarantee future ones. I used to be someone who couldn’t stand most types of physical activity, and now I’m someone can’t stand missing a workout, so that excuse also doesn’t stick.
I’m convinced that fixing my relationship with sleep is the single biggest positive change I could make in my life, and whatever it is that I was going to do with those perpetually borrowed late night hours is a lot less interesting that what I could be doing with some well-rested ones.
I’ll be tracking my sleep daily here (at least until I can figure out how to make an embed that isn’t terrible). My goal is to be in bed by 11:00, and to get about 7.5 hours of sleep on average, at least until a habit is built.
For now, I’m off to bed! 😴 Can’t wait to see how much of a change this makes!
The daily creative accountability challenge is nearly over, and it’s been quite an experience! I just wanted to take some time to do a little wrap-up, talk about what went well and what was difficult, and propose something for the next chapter.
I consider that I’ve reached the initial goal that I’ve set out to achieve (1 post a day on average during the challenge period) but the results were not evenly distributed. Some days I didn’t post anything. Some days 2 posts came out. Some posts were incredibly long and content-rich. And some were sparsely furnished.
So what went well?
The blog is running again, and I intend to keep it that way.
I got a bit of drawing into the mix.
The project forced me to get more organized and audit everything that had been left unfinished.
I definitely cut through a lot of bullshit excuses that I had (the challenge is called Break Up With Your Bullshit after all)
It was inspiring to see what others were doing during the challenge (mostly through the private Facebook group)
In the to be improved upon department:
The production rate (1 post a day) was not sustainable. Not even close. In order for a daily challenge to succeed you need to be able to arrange your life to set enough time aside every day, and also have some sort of back-up plan or pressure-release in place for the days that aren’t so easy. I was already going through some major life changes before the challenge started, so from the get-go I wouldn’t say my tank was full, energy wise.
Related to the above point: I can be really stubborn about achieving some of the goals I set, to the point of sacrificing a lot of sleep to “make it work”. I’m seriously considering doing a temporary pivot with the blog just to address this issue, that’s how important I think it is.
The daily format was not conducive to the core intent. Posting something daily is a lot of overhead, and doesn’t leave a lot of space for actually advancing my projects. There is value to doing regular check-ins for accountability, but the ratio has to be just right.
By the end of it (and right now 😭) I was squeaking out posts at like, 1:00am, and not posting about it on Twitter because everyone’s asleep. Just… Why?????
Coming soon, to a blog near you (this one!):
I think it’s obvious that I won’t be maintaining the daily blog format. Going forward I’m going to commit to a weekly one, with some extra content that might show up if I’m in the mood for it. The next major post will be on Nov. 28, because I am rewarding myself with a break. I’ll also need to think about how I’ll bake accountability structures into the mix, and what changes that might mean for the blog. The fact that it’s just one giant stream of linear content just reinforces the need for a redesign.
So yeah, that’s it for this very intensive chapter of the blog, and I’m looking forward to sharing the next one with everyone who’s reading ☺️
(If you see any typos in this it’s because I published without proofreading in order to get to bed sooner 😬)
The initial goal with the blog reboot was to make an average of 1 post a day, for the first 2 weeks, and adjust the rhythm afterwards. This was supposed to be an inputgoal, meaning that the end result isn’t what’s important.
A blog post, at least in a daily format, is not a very good input goal. It’s an iceberg; you don’t know exactly how big it’s going to be until you start writing, and the things I’m writing about are also icebergs. As a result, some posts took well over 4 hours, which anyone working full-time can’t sustain daily without cutting corners somewhere.
And that somewhere has been sleep.
Uh oh. 😳
I didn’t move any of my personal projects forward today, and that’s ok. It would be disingenuous to paint a rosy picture where every day is perfect, and I don’t think that kind of content helps anyone. Anyway, off to bed! 😴
Today wasn’t the greatest; I didn’t sleep enough last night and had a headache as a result. I still wanted to do something though, so I made the mini mood board for Tungsten. I’m going to head to bed early tonight 😴
Today I spent some time on steel! 🏗 First off, I made a mini-moodboard to set the tone of what I’m going for.
Next, I started drawing rectangles, then adding shadows/highlights using gradients and masks, and eventually making the different parts into components. Usually when I design something I also end up creating a bunch of discarded ideas and dead-ends in my wake, but today was fairly straightforward.
I made a quick diagram to show the relationships between the different components I made in Figma. This might seem overly complicated, but if I want to change the shape of the bolts and/or make some new plates with more or less bolts, it would be easy. It’s also closer to how I’ll be writing my CSS.
I’m pretty proud of the end result! I might add some very subtle textures for realism, but It’ll really depend on how prominent I end up making steel in my final layout.
Side note: STOP WHINING, WordPress! 😫 PNGs weren’t born yesterday 🙄
A while back, at work, I had a meeting with the rest of the design team about the design system that we were trying to put in place. Without going into details about what a design system is right now, in that meeting we touched on the idea of naming our system. Most of the really cool systems also have cool names. For instance, Bulb, a British electrical company, has an amazing one called Solar, and Shopify’s system is called Polaris.
A good name is one that’s aligned with your system’s (and by extension your designers’) values. Polaris is the north star, which sailors and explorers used to guide them when they were lost, and this is likely something that resonated with Shopify’s design team. When I got out of that work meeting, I started to think of what values our team held, and what words might be associated with those values. It wasn’t long before my devsigner brain kicked in and came up with THIS sketch:
If you associate values to random words, you can theoretically generate a good design system name based on those values. “ice cream” would register higher under the “fun” value than, say, “broccoli.” So if your design team valued “fun”, ice cream would come out the winner, but if they valued “health” or something like that, broccoli would win. This is a pretty simple example, but it can also work with multiple values, or even ranked values!
I don’t know why, but my brain just imagined a big hulking steam-powered machine that took in values on one end and spit out words on the other! After sketching this, I immediately bought a good domain name, and in the following weeks I set to work making the drawing a reality. I set up a database in Firebase, and hosted all of the frontend on Github pages, and eventually ended up with this:
I also ended up tagging over 500 different words by hand using the Tagging Machine:
I actually came very close to publishing this! I just had another 200 or so words left to tag before I felt ready to put this wacky contraption into the world, and I’d even written a whole (unpublished) blog post detailing everything about the project. For some reason I never did that.
If you want, you can try it out, at designsystem.name , but taking a step back now, I’d like to take the design of this silly idea just a little bit further before doing an official launch. In terms of complexity, this is definitely in the top 3 of all the projects I’ve programmed, but I also want it to look good since it’s made for an audience of designers. I kind of just styled everything on the fly, directly in the code editor, and that’s not a very good way to design something.
So I made a new Figma project where I’m really starting from scratch with the design process. I made a mood board with a bunch of stolen pictures, I turned that into a colour palette, and I’ve been doing a materials study. I’m particularly proud of my polished-concrete texture. One of the great things about designing in Figma is that I know that everything I do can be translated into code, as long as I’m willing to put in the time to push those pixels with CSS and sweat the details.
I also found my dream loft, and later discovered that it was actually just a 3d render, and doesn’t exist in the real world 🙃 But like, #goals amirite?
I have a few more material studies left (tungsten, steel, and refining the aluminium and brick studies I started), then I’ll move on to components (all the buttons and levers) and then finally a responsive layout. It’s a lot of fun figuring out how to paint somewhat realistic materials with what will eventually be code.
This post is just a status update, but the next ones will be real, fresh design (and likely much shorter! 😉). Steel beams, here I come! 🏗
Ok, so I wrote a few posts, and drew a few things, but I havent programmed or designed anything 😱! All I’ve been doing is talking about things I’ve done or that I plan on doing, and that sort of goes against the whole purpose of this blog reboot. Anyway, I feel like I need to make a plan, even if it’s a simple one.
So for the next week, it’s going to be all about the Design System Name Generator. I’ll start with a deep dive about where I’m at with the project, then spend a fixed amount of time daily (about an hour) moving some of the design forward, and journal my progress. If I make it to the programming part, great, but I’m not going to rush the process.
Last winter, I was a tech mentor for Technovation, a non-profit that teaches girls to code and build apps. Being a mentor got me thinking a lot about motivation and learning, and how we can better adapt resources to a given audience.
So, One of the classic front-end projects used in workshops is a to-do list app. It can work with kids. Most of them will follow along, and enjoy what they’re building, especially if coding is new to them and they can experience the wow factor of pushing pixels on the screen. That being said, you’ll still lose some of them along the way. Kids usually don’t make to-do lists for fun.
When my group was learning HTML and CSS, I ended up making some fun practice projects that they could put together without feeling constrained creatively. One of the projects was to make their favourite Pokémon using CSS! It made coding feel more like drawing or painting (which it kind of is), so it was a lot more engaging. If you look up Pikachu on Codepen, you’ll find a ton of variety. Some people are trying to be as close to the original as possible, while others made adorable works in their own style, like this floating Pikachu!
I’m a big proponent of creative coding, and I don’t think fun projects should be reserved only for kids. I personally find it a lot more engaging to learn in this way. Yes, I might have a goal to improve some of my technical skills, but why not have some fun while I’m at it?
I ended up making Hoothoot in CSS, because I like the cute and round Pokémon ☺️It was challenging getting all the positioning right, but I’m pretty happy with the results. The gears around it’s eyes can be rotated too, so I might also turn this into a clock at some point 😄