The First Penguine Award

The hardest lesson I had to learn early on  in my career as UX designer is to be willing to take risks and start all over again.  I think this is baggage from my days of working with the waterfall process and designing products that will be “set in stone” (products that ran on Playstation and CD-ROM).  You get the sense that once they are done, that’s it. You have no chance of ever changing them again, so it’s too risky to veer off in a new direction.

I spent my evening at Barnes & Noble yesterday, reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. It is a dying man’s guide on how to live your life. Randy Pausch  was a computer science professor, and in his Building Virtual Worlds class, he gave out “The First Penguine Award.” The  title of the award came from the notion that although the water is cold and there might be predators in it, someone’s got to to be the first penguine  to jump in. The award  celebrated “glorious failures” and encouraged “out-of-the-box” thinking.

I think every designer has that moment when you know that something is not quite right in the design, but  you can’t put  quite put your  finger on it. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust this instinct as a sign that better ideas congealing in the back of my mind and I must be willing to scrap everything and just start over. Sometimes the risk pays off and I would come up with a completely new design paradigm. Other times, the excersise would provide additional insight and new  strategies  for tackling the design problem. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m not an egomaniac designer who ignores budgets, so sometimes I would eat the extra hours just to produce something great.

I am always about learning and process first, and money second. Besides, there’s always something about being the first penguine that energizes you. And THAT is priceless.

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