Tag development

Immersion: Challenges & Opportunities

Portfolio Development: My portfolio has evolved fairly well over the past several years – particularly in the graphic design arena.  The evolution from where I began and where I am today shows a clear positive trajectory.  Recent digital illustration work using the Cintiq and Photoshop also show tremendous potential.  The opportunity here is two-fold.  First, when solid progress is being made, I tend to move on to another challenge without spending additional time to further develop / refine my existing skills.  In some strange way, the possibility for greater success deters me from moving forward.  Second, while the portfolio is looking increasingly professional, it is heavily weighted in graphic design and less so in other disciplines (e.g. 3D modeling, rendering).

Community Engagement: The past several years have focused heavily on portfolio development and the creation of my personal brand.  While there has been significant success in both fronts, the communication and level of engagement has been unidirectional.  My original belief of “build it and they will come” places heavy responsibility on external parties to not only learn about me, but to engage in further discussion.  There is an opportunity to change this unidirectional approach through increased engagement / participation on my end.

Process of Elimination: One of the challenges that I’ve faced with Big Generator is that it has lacked clear direction.  While it started out as a pure information design firm, it quickly expanded to become involved in brand strategy and other related offerings.  The opportunity is to refocus the company and establish a clear business strategy so that it can truly be successful over the long-term.

Out of Balance: One of my biggest challenges that I’ve been working to correct over the past two years involves a clear imbalance between my professional career thus far and the skills that are required to move beyond this realm of expertise.  While my efforts have shown true promise in correcting this “right brain / left brain” imbalance, there is still more work to be done.  The opportunity here is to take greater and more strategic steps to bridge this gap and clearly convey my strengths and potential as a design leader.

Emphasis on Innovation: Being creative for creative’s sake is beneficial, but leveraging creativity to solve real-world problems can be extremely powerful.  While my thoughts and designs are truly “mine”, the bulk of my efforts has been focused inward (self-development, strength building, creative exploration).  The opportunity is to shift gears and transfer more energy towards addressing real-world challenges and designing and creating with true purpose.

Mental Barriers: One of the keys to one’s success is the ability to maintain a high-level of optimism independent of the challenge faced.  With a realization that my optimism level is classified as “average”, there is a clear opportunity to employ constructive techniques to quickly move past barriers that would have normally impeded progress.  With the world moving at a faster pace, there is no better time to find ways to accelerate my ability to navigate through these challenges.

Mental Evolution III (“Lessons”)

January 1, 2011 marks the beginning of the tenth chapter (“Plane”) in the Planescape saga – a chapter I call “Immersion.”  While the details are still being mapped out, I am becoming enthusiastic about what this new framework entails.

In advance of sharing more details about Immersion, I think it’s worth sharing a few things that I’ve learned over the past year – particularly over the past sixty days – all of which will be incorporated into my larger advancement strategy.

  1. In the workplace, team chemistry is perhaps the most important thing to me.
  2. I have a much clearer sense for what I should ultimately strive for, and what I can leave behind.
  3. I have a better understanding of my strengths and skills, and also have the confidence to let some of those skills lay dormant as I develop new skills and further improve my strengths.
  4. I believe that if I am not happy, moving somewhere else will not necessarily change this.
  5. I am uncomfortable with a significant amount of uncertainty, but I have learned ways to accommodate where extreme uncertainty exists.
  6. I have learned what it feels like to be unemployed and the psychological effects of the job search.
  7. I have a better understanding of the types of companies that interest me – and those that do not.
  8. I know I need to centralize my development around design, technology and business.
  9. I need to be more careful and conscious of future decisions to increase my life satisfaction.
  10. The past several years of effort have ultimately paid off in terms of being able to tell a more accurate story of who I am and where I’m going.
  11. I am interested in leading design efforts with proper experience / education.
  12. I have learned that a continuous bombardment of failures can result in a sense of “learned helplessness” which can be corrected.
  13. I have a better sense of who to trust and when trust should be given.
  14. I have learned better decision-making skills given past failures.
  15. I do not wish to work at home or alone because it is psychologically very draining / alienating for me.
  16. I have a better understanding of what I want and do not want in my life.
  17. I have learned that I can become blocked when facing too many significant (life) decisions at once; thus, employing some type of partitioning strategy is necessary to make these decisions in confident, thoughtful and expedient manner.
  18. I may never be completely satisfied with my life, and maybe that is okay.
  19. My graphic design portfolio is fairly strong, but I need to spend more time developing the other sections of my portfolio (e.g. 3D).
  20. I would like to expend more time on entertainment design, but realize that it may always be a passion but not necessarily a career.
  21. A robust ID portfolio and MFA degree could open a lot of doors for me in the long-run.

Mental Evolution I (“Realization”)

[This is part one of multi-part series related to my experiences in searching for a new career opportunity.]

I read an article on CNN today which really hit home with me.  The article was about the rescue of two boys who were lost at sea for nearly two months – having recently been found by a tuna ship off the coast of Fiji.  The story is nothing short of a miracle.  While the concept of faith is perhaps an underlying factor in their survival, the final sentence of the article is a very powerful one:

“They’ve got a lot of gusto, a lot of strong mental spirit,” Fredricsen told the Morning Herald. “Physically they are very [distraught] but mentally they are very strong.”

When I attempted the summit of Mt.Rainier in 2007, the main reason I was unable to accomplish this goal had everything to do with a lack of mental toughness and very little to do with physical capability.  This was very surprising to me.  The fact that these boys’ survival was based primarily on their mental strength says a lot – not only about them but about me as well.

I am physically very strong.  Mentally, however, I think there is opportunity for improvement.  Of course, the degree of “weakness” depends upon a number of factors – and there are certain circumstances where I can be quite resilient when many others cannot.  In any event, this ability to adapt can be strengthened – and this identification is the first step towards a stronger “mental infrastructure.”

Using my personality type (INFP) as the basis for this journey is key.  Without going into elaborate detail about the aspects of this personality type, I was able to locate ten INFP-specific “rules” to achieve greater success and become mentally stronger.

In scanning this list, and looking back over the past year, it’s safe to say that my ability to “follow” these rules has varied depending upon the situation.  Fortunately, given the degree of personal introspection I’ve invested over the past two years (e.g. this blog), nearly all of these rules are ones that I employ on a daily basis.  But, there are two major exceptions:

  1. Express Your Feelings. Don’t let unexpressed emotions build up inside of you. If you have strong feelings, sort them out and express them, don’t let them build up inside you to the point where they become unmanageable!
  2. Assume the Best. Don’t distress yourself by assuming the worst. Remember that a positive attitude often creates positive situations.

The first one has been the most difficult for me – primarily because I tend to internalize everything I’m feeling before expressing those feelings.  In certain circumstances, this can be a positive but in many cases it causes me significant stress – particularly if those same feelings remain “hidden.”

The second is another area for improvement.  While my ability and desire to help others can be seen as having an optimistic outlook, I’ve found that this level of optimism is in contrast to what I sometimes feel in my personal and professional lives.  I need to take steps to employ a similar perspective independent of the situation.

While this CNN article prompted me to share these thoughts, they have been there for some time.  Given my experiences over the past several weeks, I’ve felt this lack of mental toughness to be something that I really need to pay close attention to.  When you strive for success on a daily basis, any and all barriers need to be managed accordingly – and increasing my mental strength is my primary barrier right now.

Construct to Create

Game development can be divided into two main activities – logistics and mechanics.  Logistics is about the “look and feel” and the pieces / parts that are used within the experience.  Mechanics is all about how the game works.

When I was younger, I was completely intrigued with a game by Electronic Arts called “Adventure Construction Set” for the Apple IIe.  The game must have had an effect on me because I recall it vividly to this day – I even remember the store where I purchased it!

The Adventure Construction Set facilitates one’s ability to drive the logistics of the game, and provides a suitable platform in which to layer in the mechanics.

This “construction set” concept has value outside of the computer gaming realm.

A simple, but useful construction set is one that focuses on the “logistics” of iPhone and iPad development.  This product is called UI Stencils.  It’s a unique collection of stencils and related materials designed to help designers and developers formulate an effective user experience without the need for a computer.

A more advanced construction set is a hardware and software product suite called Maschine made by a company called Native Instruments.  Maschine is essentially a construction set for creating music.

The hardware controller allows one to enter beats using natural motions and also allows for hands-on adjustments of sound, tempo and effects.  While the hardware relies upon the software to run, the hardware can be used almost independently of the former.  This is a unique aspect of this construction set in that it’s design goes beyond the “construction set” concept and introduces powerful “user experience” layers which further accelerates music creation.

Not surprisingly, the key to developing a successful construction set is to first identify what the set needs to create! With the objective in mind, see if you can divide the task into discrete categories of work.  Each of these categories may become its own “micro” construction set.  When combined, this holistic construction set becomes a powerful tool that enables you to focus on the end objective and less on the mechanics of getting you there.  This is the key to true creativity.

Can you think of opportunities where a “construction set” would be beneficial?  If so, take the time to build one!  You may find that your ability to “create” becomes that much easier and enjoyable.

Next.

Now at the official end of 2009, I thought it best to provide an update on some of the things I’ve been working on and thinking about.  Given my experiences over the past two years and the end of an analysis cycle that spanned a similar timeframe, I am moving forward with a new sense of who I am and what I need to do to make my life better.

First let’s review what was accomplished in 2009:

2009 Accomplishments

– Successful completion of Design Drawing I, Academy of Art University

– Further expansion and development of graphic design portfolio

– Further expansion of photography portfolio and related education

– One-year anniversary of Big Generator blog

– Creation of “Generator” publication (Big Generator – Year One) – to be released in late January

– Creation of “Hierarchy of Needs” project management publication

– Creation of “Microcosms” blog (fictional exploration)

– Concept development of new novels – “Five” and “Citadel 9”

– Completion of various personality, strengths and interpersonal / communication tests

– Closure of “Spark” Plane and creation of “Genesis” Plane (Planescape Advancement System)

– In-depth exploration of information design and the initial stages of starting a related business venture

– Relationship counseling and meetings with life / business coach

– Extensive BPD research

– Read nine books and made considerable progress on three others

2010 Plans

Branding: In a desire to formalize my personal brand, I am moving forward with the design of a self-entitled web site – www.adriandaniels.com – and should have the first version ready for release in the next several weeks.  At this stage, the initial version of the site will be comprised of four main areas – “incubator” (concept exploration), “microcosms” (fiction), “pixeldust” (illustration) and “atomik” (sound).  The site is intended to centralize projects and concepts that I am working on so that I can review my creative and intellectual development over time.

Books: I made a conscious decision in 2007 to read more books.  Now having read approximately thirty-two books since that time, I feel that I have accomplished what I originally set out to do.  As many of you have noticed, my current reading list has been rather lengthy.  To increase focus in 2010, I have reduced the current reading list with approximately five books that I am actively reading.  I am also thinking about creating a new reading page which could be classified as a “holding pattern” or “abandoned” section for books that are on the radar or have been temporarily set aside.

I also decided to move entries originally found within an “interpersonal” section into the “What I Read in 2007 / 2008” pages.  These pages were originally password protected but I no longer see the need for this level of privacy.  Given the significant educational investment in this interpersonal / relationship subject area, I do not anticipate spending a significant amount of time in this area in 2010.

Creative Writing: When I created the Microcosms blog earlier this year, I started to work on a novel called “Five” which was to follow five characters on a remote planet with a desire to connect seemingly isolated worlds.  While the concepts were developing fairly well, I was concerned that the sheer magnitude of the plot would soon become unmanageable.  Thus, I decided to switch gears and take on a more concise storyline.  In 2010 I will continue down this new path with a planned successful conclusion by the end of the year.  The title of this new novel is called “Citadel 9”.

Illustration (Anatomy): The past three classes taken at the Academy of Art University have been primarily focused on industrial design drawing and sketching.  As I would like to expand my sketching ability towards people / animals / creatures, I need to spend more time understanding human anatomy and the techniques associated with drawing and sculpting the human body.  To this end, I recently purchased tutorial videos from AnatomyTools.com and am planning to attend a future workshop on human anatomy later this year.  I will also spend more time learning through existing tutorial videos purchased through the Gnomon Workshop.  The ultimate goal is to use this knowledge and illustration experience to supplement / complement the creative writing pursued via the Microcosms blog.

Information Design: The self-analysis that I went through over the past two years led me to the area of information design. “Information design “… draws on typography, graphic design, applied linguistics, applied psychology, applied ergonomics, computing and other fields.” (designcouncil.org.uk).  Fortunately, this area aligns very closely with my strengths and interests and thus, this is the area that I will likely spend the most time in 2010.  Fortunately, a great deal of the other creative pursuits just mentioned will serve as catalysts / contributors to the ID creative process.

I have other ideas that I am still thinking through, therefore this list could expand or contract.  However, I feel fairly confident that these areas represent the core of what I’ll be working on in 2010.  It will be an exciting journey!

PsG3 Regen: “Advancement Subsystems”

By defining PLANESCAPE as a “system”, it seems natural to think of it’s underlying components as “subsystems”.

Subsystems are a way to “logically encapsulate” core themes essential for growth.  By aligning subsystems with my core value system, I think the Planescape “superstructure” can remain somewhat constant while still allowing for change / growth.

Regen introduces the following four (advancement) subsystems:

1. Mental
2. Creation
3. Bionic
4. Core

The “mental” subsystem exists to further accelerate development and expansion of the mind.  This aligns with my fifth and sixth values – “Learning” and “Challenge”.  The concept of brain plasticity is one of the main drivers behind this subsystem

The “creation” subsystem complements the mental subsystem in that it focuses exclusively on the creative (right) side of the brain.  This aligns with my eighth value “Creativity”.  While this encapsulates all of my traditional creative pursuits – industrial design, illustration, photography, etc. – it is actually much more than this.  It’s ultimately about idea generation.

The “bionic” subsystem focuses on improving the physical component (i.e. my physical self).  Bionic aligns with my third value – “Health and Wellness”.  Bionic is a new mindset and strategy that will take me into the next dimension of physical performance.

The “core” subsystem serves as the “foundation” to the other subsystems – it’s the engine that runs everything else.  Because of this, it ultimately aligns with the entire core value set.  All aspects of interpersonal relationships – building and strengthening – are at the heart of this subsystem.

The introduction of the “subsystem” will ultimately streamline planning efforts and will enable me to focus on the underlying activities.  This will, in turn, allow for more rapid growth and development in all areas.

Using Tag Clouds to Increase Awareness

In an effort to accelerate real progress across the board, I’ve listed twelve activities that can encapsulate where I spend most of my time and energy: (I realize that some activities naturally overlap)

  1. Drawing
  2. Reading
  3. Playing
  4. Thinking / Reflecting
  5. Creating
  6. Learning
  7. Writing
  8. Training
  9. Resting
  10. Communicating
  11. Cleaning / Organizing
  12. Recording / Documenting

By periodically recording what I am doing at a given moment, I can gain a better understanding of where I am spending most of my time and energy.  While this may seem somewhat laborious, I think there is benefit in recording activity in this manner.

For example, if you were to associate tags to each activity when it is recorded, you can ultimately employ the use of a “tag cloud” to easily see where you are spending your time.  You can see an example of a tag cloud for this site on the left sidebar.  Words that are used more frequently appear larger, thus giving the viewer an immediate understanding of the prevalent themes in each post / page.  (A full explanation and supporting examples of tag clouds can be found at IBM’s alphaWorks “Many Eyes” site here.)

You could also append the amount of time you are spending on each activity to gain even more awareness.  For example, let’s say that you read between 1 and 3 hours per day.  You could “tag” your activity entry as follows:

  • Reading-1 (i.e. I read for 1 hour)
  • Reading-2
  • Reading-3
  • Reading-2
  • Reading-2
  • Reading-2

In this example, the tag “Reading-2” would stand out from the others because it’s the average time that you spend reading at any given moment.  This is important because some activities can take longer to “get in the flow” than others.  I know from experience, certain activities – especially drawing – can take longer to achieve any sense of “flow” than say, reading.

The key is to leverage what the “tag cloud” is telling you in order to plan your development (activities) more effectively.

Why total “professional transparency” doesn’t work – yet.

“Being transparent” is a phrase most commonly discussed in interpersonal relationships. Let me share an excerpt from a book entitled “Getting Real” which describes this concept:

“Self-disclosure, synonymous with being transparent, is the ability to reveal to another person what you have done or what you are sensing, feeling, thinking, or saying to yourself at the moment. When you share your thoughts, sensations, feelings, even your judgments “in the interest of transparency,” you are less apt to get caught up in the illusion of control. […] Letting yourself be seen by others is also an important aid to seeing yourself more honestly. It is harder to fool yourself when you are going public about who you are.”

The theory behind total professional transparency is essentially to share information about one’s professional life to allow them to grow even faster.

One major goal of being professionally transparent is to allow colleagues and future colleagues access to information they wouldn’t normally have. For example, performance reviews are not shared with large audiences because of their confidential nature. If I was allowed to share this information, however, colleagues can gain a glimpse into my professional work experience, how my performance was summarized for each time period, and how my performance changes over time.

In theory, my relationship with my colleagues can improve through a common understanding of my professional history, strengths and development opportunities. In addition, future employers can benefit from having greater insight into my past experience. In either case, my professional development can increase that much more rapidly through this common understanding. This is the ultimate goal in sharing this information and being completely professionally transparent.

One major problem with being completely transparent in one’s professional life is that there is a risk that people will misinterpret what is being shared.

This, of course, is understandable and grounded in reality. Having enough context to understand another person’s professional life and experience is extremely difficult. Because of this, the reader is left to form their own opinions about what is being conveyed. Depending upon the objectivity of the reader, feedback can be interpreted as negative or positive.

Perceptions aside, companies are torn between sharing confidential information and allowing associates to be professionally transparent.

For better or worse, companies are forced to protect themselves when it comes to managing their labor pool. That being said, more and more companies are working to expand their transparency efforts by encouraging open dialogue and communication among associates and management, particularly with a goal of improving associate performance. However, they are indeed torn between providing unrestricted sharing of information and protecting their own interests.

In addition, not all companies are equipped to provide useful and grounded feedback for employees.

Each company is different, and many do not follow a formal review process. I am fortunate in that my experiences over the past several years have offered me the opportunity to be involved with such a process.

Having complete transparency in one’s professional life, therefore, may not be realistic at this stage. But, one can still employ useful constructs to become closer to this goal.

Being transparent means that one does not have to worry about presenting a front that masks their development opportunities. Masking / hiding development opportunities can work for a period of time, but they will ultimately surface. By not sharing this information in advance, time that could have been spent further improving is unfortunately wasted.