Studying again...

In a very recent twist of fate I've found myself back to school again. Over the last few months I've been looking for something that ties all my professional interests together in one easily identifiable umbrella and I'm super excited because I think I've found it! It's ironic because a friend of mine has been telling me for two years that she thought I'd love and be great at this "thing". And this "thing" ladies and gentlemen, is User Experience Design (UX).

I guess that, as with anything in life, you have to realise and learn things for yourself. I was investigating roles that combined technology, psychology, design and storytelling and UX kept coming up. So I took a mini leap and started doing a couple on online courses on Lynda. The more I learnt about it, the more I thought, "this is exactly what I want to be doing!". Of course I then had to tell my friend that I'd come to see the light regarding me working in UX. She was very smug and deservedly so. We both grinned a lot that day!

So here I am now enrolled on the General Assembly (GA) User Experience Design Immersive. This has been a big leap where the Lynda courses were a little leap. The GA course is a super intensive 10 week course, 9-5, five days a week. Plus homework. Lots of homework. I can say this because I've just completed week 2. I am utterly shattered. But I'm so happy! We learn by doing so, in the first week, we were immediately applying principles and techniques to a project. The week 1 project was to design a mobile app for a classmate that would solve an issue in their lives. In that week we had to do all our preliminary research, designing, prototyping, and refining. We then had to present all our findings back to the class at the end of the week. Did I say it was an intensive course? :)

As the course has literally taken over my life, I thought I'd share with you all the case study report that I wrote up for Project 1. No doubt my next few posts will also be about User Experience Design and all the exciting stuff I've been up to on my course. Enjoy!

“UX Design Immersive: Project 1 Case Study” 

Tipis, bees and high fives

My life, recently, appears seemingly ideal.

I say “seemingly,” because while it might look impressive at first glance (what with all my big bold career choices, exercising, designing and to-do list-making), I assure you things feel somewhat questionable on the inside.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very enthusiastic and very motivated. If I could make money off my motivation and enthusiasm alone I wouldn’t be buying lottery tickets! I’d be cycling across Africa and building houses in Cambodia and then relaxing in a Tipi Eco Lodge in the Algarve. That’s how good I am at being enthusiastic.

However, recognising that people don’t actually get paid (in money or adventure holidays) for their enthusiasm, I decided I should do things that successful, active people do. Basically, I should pretend to be successful and active and hopefully that will help the universe align to make things automagically materialise. So, that’s what I’m doing. Specifically, I’ve been exercising at least 5 days a week (going to all sorts of crazy gym classes), I’ve been learning a new language, I’ve been working really really hard on some design projects that I’m actually really into. So far, so good. This all makes me sound pretty awesome. “What’s dodgy about any of that?” I hear you ask.

Well, there’s a catch.

See, I knew from the get-go that it would be hard to try set up on my own. I expected things to be wobbly and maybe even unproductive at first, but then I’d start seeing changes. It’d get easier. I wouldn’t curse the alarm or get creative block… I’d be loving the freedom. I expected to put in the hard work and then slowly evolve into a new version of myself that can do all these amazing and productive things without every fibre of my being screaming to lie down and watch “Tattoo Fixers”. But no. That’s not what’s happening.

The freedom and space I’ve created for myself now means that my mind often feels like it’s full of bees. I have ideas and concerns and plans and junk bouncing around in there all the time! It’s confusing! And it doesn’t help with the productivity because I can’t decide on what to do! I’m not evolving, I’m revolving!

So, to combat the chaos, I’ve enlisted my husband and together we have undertaken:






It is a room-by-room, cupboard-by-cupboard, inch-by-inch tidying fest. It is exhausting. But I am LOVING it because here, at last, I am seeing results! The hard work is paying off. I can see change and it smells of pine and clean linen. Heck I even cleaned up my computer this morning and de-fragged the disk and everything! The local charity shop and freecyclers are loving me right now. Gosh it feels so good and I feel like I live in a new flat. Amazing all round.

But what has this to do with my work? Well, I think it’s helped me realise the following: I like working; I am a social creature; and I like results. In order then, I can say that I think working is great, especially with other people, and especially if you thrive off interactions with others. We are an inherently social species but, in the context of work, I find it so much better to be able to hang out with other people. To be able to talk about those bees in your head, about the weather and things you like. You get to do things together that, hopefully, work out really great and then you all feel even better about yourselves and everyone gives high fives and feels appreciated. Which brings me onto results. I like them. I know I’ve said that already but I think that being able to see the fruit of your labour is so so important. It makes your time feel meaningful. There is a value created that makes the effort worthwhile.

Without those things, I think it’s all too easy to be a crazy person doodling away talking to the bees in their head. And I for one, am unhappy with this arrangement!

"All change please. All change!"

Earlier this week I experienced one of those events that momentarily makes your heart stop. My mouth felt dry, my palms began to sweat and I started frantically looking around for a solution to my predicament. I had boarded the wrong train!

Thankfully, in my case, the consequences of getting on the wrong train were not serious but the experience did get me thinking: Isn't it interesting that we can experience such a dramatic physiological expression of fear, panic and dread at something we know to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things? Isn't it funny how our bodies respond when we know something is wrong? Doesn't it make it so much easier to resolve the situation when you're in a hurry to make it right? And wouldn't it be amazing if we could have the same clarity of vision when it came to our working lives?

Please excuse the pun but we all really do want to be on the right track. And countless articles and reports based on professional satisfaction surveys seem to suggest that perhaps, we're not. What's going on? Is it that perhaps we're all living with a "tomorrow" mindset, and so feel no sense of urgency in making a change? We're thinking about the destination and enduring the present because it will "be worth the wait". If that's the case, I think that's nonsense. Like Warren Buffet said, that's like "saving up sex for your old age"! Who would do that?! We don't have endless amounts of time and yet, we behave as though we do.

I do understand that changing trains is much, much easier than making life changes though. It is low risk. And sure, I understand that though we may be experiencing stress (the physiological response to the current situation) it's not SO bad. We are strong and resilient and can handle it. Can't we? But is it perhaps a case that we're toughening ourselves up on the wrong side? We're growing a thick skin doing something we may not want to do because maybe we're afraid to expose our soft, vulnerable dream? We're all afraid of revealing our achilles heel and making it easy for our foes to crush us. But in the process, are we therefore denying ourselves the chance to do something we'd love?

None of us know where we'll end up in the end. Thankfully, life is too chaotic, messy and beautifully unpredictable. So much is out of our control that often times we just find ourselves going with the flow. But what we aim to do with "today" can be in our control. We do still have a choice. And we don't have to jump off the train and be all dramatic about it (though we totally can if we want to)! I think we just need to be honest with ourselves and give ourselves the time and opportunities to explore those vulnerable dreams. 

Some people call their dream their "purpose" and I can relate to that. I'm all for purpose! But I want to be multi-purpose. AND I want to be able to evolve. Some people say that your purpose is something that you remember – the activities you did as a child that made time fly. The things that really matter to you or that satisfy you when no-one is there to judge you. It's confusing to try find your way. If you open yourself up to choice it's very easy to feel overwhelmed, and then you get analysis paralysis and end up doing nothing! There are bills to pay after all! But just imaging feeling lucky and radiant and happy every day at work. Wouldn't that just be SO good?! And if you did love your work, wouldn't you feel great to really get into the problems and try to solve them? To dig a little deeper and try a little harder... Because it would be fun!

The rise of the "life coach" and "happiness coach", mindfulness and positive thinking are all indicators of a movement towards reclaiming our lives for ourselves. I feel lucky to live in a time where so many people are making changes, designing their lives and trying to help others do the same. From amazing individuals like Caroline K Winegeart and Violeta Nedkova to organisations like Escape the City, and OpenIDEO, inspiration and support to take a step sideways has never been so abundant! It will still be scary, and it will still be difficult, but it could also blow your mind. You could live your whole life without risking anything and never hate it, but you could also take a small risk and find that you LOVE it! Taking a decision for yourself can be terrifying but I for one, think it's worth it...


On hybrids and hurdles

Over the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of being described as both a “renaissance person” and a “hybrid”. I really do mean pleasure because both terms carry positive meaning to me. A hybrid is a “thing” made by combining two different elements. On its own, this doesn’t necessarily make it a better “thing”, but in my opinion, it does perhaps make it a more interesting. “Renaissance people” are defined as people with many talents or areas of knowledge, with perhaps the most widely known example being Leonardo Da Vinci (an absolute hero of mine). 

Both labels bought me joy because I have always wanted to be those things; I have always wanted both sides of the coin. Why should I have to choose just one? I love both art and science, song and silence, night and day, inside and out. Of course it isn’t possible to do all things and be all people at once, but I believe we all have the right to be our fullest selves. And that includes changing our hats from time to time.

The truth however, is that many people feel they don’t have a choice, or that, once they’ve made a choice, they cannot stray from that. Globally, societal pressures and stereotypes still have a strong hold. Just think about the caste system that still exists in several countries, think about gender stereotypes, think about professional stereotypes. The labels used to define a person create the parameters for the way that person is perceived and treated. Those labels could be facilitators, but they could just as easily be blockers. In my case, I embrace my new labels because they celebrate my varied story to date, but at the same time I am wary.

Labels can be incredibly powerful and can result in people seeing only the label and not the living, breathing human being beneath. The media in particular craves clear definitions, identities that can be communicated quickly and easily. Stereotypes proliferate and infiltrate the workplace and home. People make important decisions based on their associations with the label, and not necessarily, the person. 

Do not fear though, it isn’t all doom and gloom! The world is changing, and I for one am all for it! The research I’ve been doing for a D&AD brief has been a really positive affirmation: From Facebook’s 58+ gender definitions, to Charli Howard’s open letter to the fashion industry, to the ideological battlegrounds of “New Media”. Ideas are being discussed, exposed and skilfully debated by millions of people all around the world. “Millennials” (that’s another label for you) are leading the way in challenging stereotypes and labels. Which brings me to my final thought for today, and that is on hypocrisy.

According to Forbes, “Millenials” want balance and democracy, they don’t want to waste time, and they want to grow professionally (even if it means moving to a different company). They are a fast moving generation of critical thinkers and their average tenure at any one company is two years. I can’t tell you the number of articles I’ve read on creating “Millenial friendly workplaces” – I’m sure you’ve read a fair few yourselves. But the trouble is, that, whilst most people are happy to accept these characteristics from a twenty something year old, and older person displaying these characteristics is a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. In the professional context, an older person who has displayed immense flexibility, resourcefulness and intelligence is dismissed as not being “serious enough”. Why is this acceptable? I find the hypocrisy incredibly frustrating! 

Autonomy, mastery and purpose are the necessary ingredients to happiness and success in the workplace. Happier workforces are more creative, and more productive. I'd much sooner hire someone who is still enthusiastic about the work I'd asked them to do than someone who's bored. It’s just good business! And in this day and age, with information at everyone's fingertips, a long term occupancy doesn't necessarily mean better skills. Regardless of labels, people should be able to be themselves and do what is right by them, without prejudice.

Feeling the potential

You know that feeling you get when you see something that has HUGE potential?

It's really exciting, making your pulse quicken and inviting you to get involved; but it's also disconcerting, worrying even, because you really really don't want to see it ruined. I was fortunate enough to spend my winter holidays in Oman, a country that to me, represents that situation. I love Oman, it is a spectacular country physically, with a very rich cultural heritage, and an honest and friendly people. There are locations and experiences to be had in Oman that really do feel genuinely magical. It's not every day that you go somewhere that has that. However, I worry about the future of this special nation...

My concern for Oman's future is tied to my concern for Oman's environment. Despite large areas still being relatively rural, and an intense pride in the Omani people of their country, attitudes towards environmental preservation are less than ideal. To some, even the notion of going out of one's way to do something about waste is simply too boring to contemplate. This is obviously worse in cities where the rise in consumerism and throwaway culture is most acute. But these attitudes are percolating into the rural communities too. In remote corners and villages it is now not uncommon to see heaps of plastic and other litter. Fences have become the rubbish filters for some landscapes. There is an invasion of litter, but we all know that litter doesn't just "appear", people leave it there...

Why are people littering? "It's not difficult to take your litter with you" I hear you say. I would agree, and I'm not an expert, but I think that there are multiple reasons why litter is on the increase globally. It could be down to a lack of infrastructure to appropriately deal with the demands of a changing population. This in turn could be because environmental awareness is not, and has not been given high enough priority in educational curricula. Perhaps culturally things have changed, and people have forgotten to feel shame about rubbish. I know that I say this as someone who lives in the UK, and that there are places that are far better and more advanced in their waste awareness and practices than the UK... Germany for example!  

Littering is just one facet of a much larger and more complex environmental situation and I think that I see Oman as a metaphor for the world at large this coming year. It is on a the verge of much larger changes. Over the last year, millions of people worldwide have been affected by some 150 major environmental disasters. Chennai, in India, has seen the worst floods in over 100 years. Catastrophic flooding, tornados, and typhoons hit the Philippines, Myanmar, Mozambique, Malawi and the United States. Heatwaves claimed thousands of lives in India and Pakistan, while in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan a severe drought continues to crush the livelihood of farmers. Brazil made the headlines when toxic mining waste spilled into the main river in the city of Mariana, in Minas Gerais state, devastated a nearby village. Similarly,  Argentina was in the spotlight with the spill of thousands of gallons of toxic cyanide into Potrerillos River. The list of disasters is frightening, and I've not even gone into the effects of the mass migration crisis.

You may say that the picture looks bleak, and in some respects it really does, but there are changes afoot that give me reason to be hopeful. There is a lot of potential for positive change, and the story isn't over yet! The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris was a definite step in the right direction for world leaders. Naysayers argue that the promises made will all be too little too late, but I for one feel that at least environmental issues are on the agenda! It is time to make a change and, in an age where more information is available to more people than ever before – and when the boundaries to technology, innovation and enterprise are also at record lows – people are making a change.  

Last year, category winners for some of London Design museum's prestigious "Designs of the Year" awards went to candidates who were tackling environmental issues head on. From food wastage highlighted by Intermarché's campaign, to Boyan Slat's "The Ocean Cleanup" project, to Google's self driving car. In the Philippines, some groups are taking up legal action against fossil fuel companies accused of driving climate change. Change is definitely afoot and Oman, like the rest of the world, needs to learn from the collective experience of all other nations, and needs to plan carefully for its future. 

With the dawn of the new year comes another chance to renew hopes for a better life and a better world. My trip to Oman has helped me define one of my resolutions for the new year: to be more mindful of our planet. There are no excuses, we are all in this together and everyone needs to try to do their part as best they can. We must remember that we are the drivers of that positive potential, so let's make it count.


I was born in the summer time in Brazil.

I grew up speaking many languages and travelling around the world with my family. Maybe that’s why I think and behave the way I do… I’ve always been positive and adventurous! I’ve also always held nature and human culture in very high esteem. Both are infinitely fascinating and the source of so much inspiration for me! In addition to the collective, I believe in the individual; and I think that we each have the potential and the responsibility to do great things, and to try to improve the people, knowledge and environment we encounter.

Welcome to my blog, or rather, my platform for musings – where I hope to share with you some of my observations, thoughts, learning and experiences on working with design that makes a difference. Perhaps you will find some of the content motivational? Maybe you will take up the gauntlet in your own way. That would be fantastic! 

This may be a small beginning, but great ideas and powerful storytelling can be great motivators and catalysts for change. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my posts, get in touch via email.