Monday, March 4, 2019

Saje, Mighty Metaphors & Tiny Toy Co.

Weekly Update 2019-09: Catchy slow jams from Saje, using metaphors to simplify complex processes for design thinking and the magic of upcycling old toys with Tiny Toy Co.

Old memories...become new learning tools!

Music: Saje
One of my old SoundCloud favourites resurfaced recently with new music, which is always fun. All I could really find about Saje is that they're a duo from Paris. What they lack in online informational presence, they surely make up for in catchy slow jams for late nights. Their music sort of feels like the moment you turn on a neon lamp and it takes a second to brighten. Take a listen to my favourites Raspberry and Who I Am (especially if it's a gloomy day):

My Product team at Vena had a very fruitful offsite this past couple days in Niagara. It was great to get away and focus in on some of the meta team skills work we'd not gotten a chance to focus on in the hustle and bustle of daily work. I presented two topics:
  1. Jackie and I facilitated a discussion and exercise on the ways designers and PMs can work better together by defining the lines (blurry and solid) between roles and responsibilities.
  2. Mel and I led the team through an exercise called the Leadership Wheel, which helps us to identify each member's leadership style and how they work most effectively with others.
  3. (Bonus) I cooked a french toast breakfast for everyone (I'm a pro from having done the same last weekend at Blue Mountain).
My boss Andrew has given me the thumbs up for buying a ticket for Strive: The 2019 UX Research Conference at Roy Thomson Hall in June, and I've bought a ticket. I'm pretty excited to see how we can bring more UX research practices into our work at Vena, as well as sharpening that set of skills for my personal work and BrainStation presentations.

And a final work celebration: tomorrow marks the end of the "E" Release of the Vena Engineering and Product Departments. We produce an alphabet-animal-named release of features into our platform every quarter, and this quarter is special for me in a few ways. It marks the end of my first full quarter of work for two product teams, as well as being named the Emu Release, for which I drew an illustration that ended up on a pair of huge cakes.

It me.

We celebrate our releases with full force: a half day of retrospectives and team building, yummy lunch, and a team activity. This time it will be axe throwing and escape rooms...I feel pretty darn lucky to work at this company, let me tell you. The company may not fully understand the value of design and I may be extremely, extremely overworked, but I really love my job and face new, exciting challenges literally every day. Not to mention, my team is some of the best collection of people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. And I've worked with some awesome teams.

My beautiful team (minus Mat who took the photo).
Friday night will be a drumming night, I can't wait to rock it out to some more drumming songs I've added to my practice playlist, including some Cherry Glazerr since their show last Wednesday was so outstanding. I also want to finally visit the Really, Really Free Market for the first time and donate some toys to Tiny Toy Co. (see Inspiration section below for more).

Sunday I will be treating Emilia to a day out for her birthday. The plan at the moment is to go to a drop-in dance class and eat some fattening food to balance it all out, then some thrifting at Value Village (my specialty).

Random Thought: Mighty Metaphors
This new job at Vena has been a huge level up in my craft. I've been mouthwatering for a real user experience challenge to sink my teeth into, and this one surely takes the cake. Working with complex finance calculations and the people who do the calculating on a national or even global scale has been quite a five-month journey so far.

I've found that metaphors and similes work very well in relating these technical processes, which happens to be a skill I've wanted to sharpen in my design toolkit. Describing complex processes in a simple way is actually the first (and arguably most important) step in a proper design sprint. And it's often overlooked.

One of the more complex processes for which I design involves the connection of data from various external sources into the Vena "cube", streamed repeatedly from the correct sources and into the right spots in the Vena cube so everything can flow into templates for spreadsheets and everyone gets the numbers they need.

I've described this process using several cooking metaphors because I love food. The data must be fresh like bread so it has to be baked in the oven (that processes the data) at least once a day or it's garbage. Retrieving the data inside spreadsheets is like following a recipe to create the proper situation for the food to taste (or the data look) how you want it. If you need a different outcome, you get a different recipe and manipulate the steps and ingredients in a different way.

My coworker is working on a solution to the problem that some of our custom solutions take too long to implement for clients and become too costly to them. This will involve pre-built packages that can be migrated and lightly manipulated to fit the same use cases of custom needs in a fraction of the time. So instead of having a costume custom-made, you can buy it at Zara – fewer choices, sizes and colours, but still enough selection to get you 80% there, and then there's a tailor for alterations.

Design is like writing a story to communicate an idea, which I really like to do.

Inspiration: Tiny Toy Co.
It has been a personal plight of mine to try and get rid of all the clutter and unnecessary possessions I've accumulated over my short life. The challenge hasn't really been the act of deciding to detach myself from the clutter, but finding proper channels for ethical and ecological recycling/reuse. Bunz Trading Zone has been a great forum for a lot of my clothes, books and accessories, but I haven't been so lucky with little trinkets and toys and such. I used to collect them in the hopes that I'd become a famous mixed-media collage artist among the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, but alas it may be too late for that dream.

What to do with all this stuff? I have had exactly 0 Bunz offers on this lot.

About a month ago, something wonderful popped into my Facebook News Feed.
Tiny Toy Co. is the brainchild of teacher-librarian Rebecca Saha. We collect, corral, and curate tiny toy "debris" to give it a second life as part of upcycled early learning activities, literacy lessons, and educational games for young children.
Upcycling, charity, learning AND fun?! This is probably the best thing I have seen in a long while. Saha's idea is amazing, and she's even been featured on CityNews for the good she brings into society.

I bet lots of people have these little mismatched toy remnants lying around; a barbie shoe here, a lego piece there. Especially for these little toy pieces that don't really work on their own as a true toy, they're given a new lease on life in the hands of Saha. 

I'll be dropping off my toys for donation to this wonderful charity at the Really Really Free Market in Campbell Park this Saturday. For more info about Tiny Toy Co, check out their website.

Before and after.

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