Time To Get Alone

slopesOut of all the songs that Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys have produced, it’s odd that this one particular song has always struck such a chord with me.

Why? I’m not all together sure. The wintry sentiment coupled with the charmingly personal lyrics are all very endearing. And, if you pay attention, the production will blow you away.

Dig deeper and you’ll find classic Brian innocence and heartfelt yearning for escape, with more nods to that earth-mother-goddess character we’ve spoken about before.

The lyrics may be idealised escapism, but the story around the production of the song is somewhat tragic, starting with hope and ending in emotional manipulation.

The song was eventually released on 1969’s 20/20 Album, where it was sandwiched among a rag bag of left overs to fulfil a recording contract. All very “Beach Boys”.

Listen, listen, listen

But let’s start with the song.

Brian has said (in the Friends / 20/20 Liner Notes)

“Time To Get Alone” was another waltz. The intimacy of the lyrics, such as “I looked in your eyes and what did I see, I saw love in your eyes,” coupled with the moving instrumental track and Carl’s voice and our voices made for a spectacular record.

And it is a spectacular, shining record. Listen to how the waltz background is constructed. Instead of a single instrument playing a straight 3 hits of the chord we find a staccato pattern created by different instruments merged and intertwined with each other. Piano, Harpsichord, Harmonium. Fantastic stuff and classic Brian.

Out of the two Beach Boys versions available, you really must seek out the the alternate version on the “Hawthorne CA” collection. This adds something very special to the middle eight. (More of which, later).

The harmonies and production are all glorious, but something doesn’t quite sound right in the 1969 context. Something is wrong. What can it be?

Waiting for the day

The initial track for “Time to Get Alone” was actually created in 1967. There then followed various attempts at overdubbed backing vocals (instigated mainly by Carl) before the record was rolled out to the world in 1969.

The details form the Hawthorne Liner notes state this:

Basic Track 10/14, 10/15/67; Lead vocals 11/67, Backing vocals 10/68 
Lead: Carl and Brian

This timing falls slap bang in the middle of a very interesting time for Brian and the Beach Boys. Scholars of Beach Boys history will know that SMiLE was abandoned in April ’67. The consensus seems to have Brian as a burned out drug casualty overcome by the magnum opus that was Sgt Pepper. Or Capitol playing funny games with the nascent Brother Records. Or Mike just being a penis.

“Smiley Smile” was sent out as the proverbial “bunt instead of a home run” (as Carl said at the time). A rag bag SMiLE replacement of “acid casualty doo wop” that is used to prove the point of an ailing Brian. Yet “Time to Get Alone” (along with other pop bombshells) was being recorded at this very time, between SMiLE and Wild Honey. Huh?

Now to the first shock of the day.

Not Meant for You

See my friends (no Beach Boys need apply)“Time to Get Alone” is NOT a Beach Boys song.

Nope, it was not originally for the Mike-ster and company. For the original recording of “Time to Get Alone” Brian teamed up with his good friend Danny Hutton (far left of this photo from early 1967 when Brian called up all his friends to greet him at LA Airport in an effort to rally the troops for an ailing SMiLE project).

The group was called “Redwood” and Brian spent a great deal of time and energy recording this and other tracks in the summer of ’67. (Redwood would become Three Dog Night, the very popular late sixties pop-rock-blue-eyed-soul outfit).

Redwood recorded two or more tracks with Brian in mid-1967. Darlin’ (the eventual Beach Boys hit) and Time to Get Alone. The original Redwood multi-track tapes were recorded in Summer 1967, with drums, bass, strings and trumpets and Redwood’s vocals. Audio experts have all but confirmed that the Beach Boys track (as released and the alternate version) have the exact same basic track as this Redwood version.

Hmm. So the Beach Boys version is not a re-recording but a re-using of the original Redwood tapes with a convoluted set of overdubs added first by Brian and then by Carl. (Oddly, a 1968/9 Beach Boys re-record does actually exist, but is unreleased. Also, do you want to see more on the recording, mixing? Oh, not that much. Oh well.)

Listening to the production and musical interplay you can really see how Time to Get Alone is the “natural artistic descendant” of Heroes and Villains. So what happened?

The Beginnings of a SMiLE

“Time to Get Alone” has always mysteriously and intriguingly been linked with SMiLE. How so? It was recorded much later (well a couple of months, which is like 20 years in 60s popular culture time) and never appears on any of the bootlegs or final released version of SMiLE, so why? To explain this we are probably best starting with the beginnings of the SMiLE idea itself.

Many people have argued long and hard about the SMiLE sessions. But let’s skip all the conjecture, ignore the baggage and go with the gut feeling you get from the music itself. What you have is an expansive, light, breathy, almost rustic sound that is juxtaposed with an instrumental deftness of touch and, of course, the fantastical lyrical meanderings.

So why did a twenty-something from LA suddenly grasp on to the idea of this rustic, layered, natural setting for SMiLE?

Lake Arrowhead Home

11981808Brian was in the Lake Arrowhead area of California in early 1966 to record the Pet Sounds promo videos. Bill Tobelman presents a fascinating theory about how this led to the idea of SMiLE. And it’s one that resonates with me more than any of the “they took lots of drugs and did crazy stuff” tales (repeated ad-nauseam by that curious band of Mike Love apologists ever since).

Tobelman points out all the fascinating details that would come to form the ideas and visions of SMiLE. He explains how Brian’s “trip” at Lake Arrowhead was an “enlightening spiritual experience in the conceiving of the Beach Boys’ next album and single.”

And all the ideas are there. Lamps, halls, towers, dams, railways, Indians. Take your pick!

It’s no coincidence that Brian moved back to live at Lake Arrowhead circa 2000… just as he set about completing SMiLE.

Lets go away for a while

It seems to me that “Time to Get Alone” encapsulates that personal escape that lake Arrowhead provided to Brian. The big ideas were for the grand spiritual and historic journey that became the SMiLE adventure… but “Time to Get Alone” is the personal side of that escape.

The middle eight in the alternate version (and the Redwood version) of Time To Get Alone clearly alludes to what we knew as the “Look” buy non generic levitra segment of SMiLE (what became “Song for Children” in the new SMiLE).  The suddenly expansive horns and joyful whistling echo a half forgotten melody that the protagonist may remember from earlier times. Perhaps it is a child like wish to escape, or perhaps a knowing nod to previous loftier ambitions. Or both.

To me, “Time to Get Alone” feels like an idealised adventure in the pine scented, snow clad hills around Lake Arrowhead, without the artistic weight of SMiLE and the beast it would become.

It is also interesting to note that in 2004 when Brian finished SMiLE and played it live, he chose to open the first set (after the acapella section) with “Time to Get Alone”. Nice.

But back to 1967…

Time to Get Alone

No PressureImagine for a moment an increasingly exasperated, but still very creatively active Brian in 1967. (I mean, cripes, he released Smiley, Wild Honey and had his Redwood experiment all in a matter of months). Imagine a Brian who is fed up of the baggage and manipulation that comes with the Beach Boys. Imagine the frustration with all the second guessing of his creative leanings. Imagine what a miserable place the studio would be when the boys show up.

This quote from Brian in 1968 (found in Look, Listen, Vibrate, SMiLE) kind of sums up the confused situation in Brian’s mind.

“Early 1967, I had planned to make an album entitled SMILE. I was working with a guy named Van Dyke Parks, who was collaborating with me on the tunes, and in the process we came up with a song called ‘Surf’s Up,’ and I performed that with just a piano on a documentary show made on rock music.

The song ‘Surf’s Up’ that I sang for that documentary never came out on an album, and it was supposed to come out on the SMILE album, and that and a couple of other songs were junked … because I didn’t feel that they … I don’t know why, I just didn’t, for some reason, didn’t want to put them on the album … and the group nearly broke up, actually split up for good over that, that one … the decision of mine not to put a lot of the things that we’d cut for the album SMILEY SMILE on the album, and so for like almost a year, we’re just now kind of getting back together … because I didn’t think that the songs really were right for the public at the time, and I didn’t have a feeling, a commercial feeling, about some of these songs that we’ve never released, and … maybe I … some people like to hang onto certain things and … just as their own little songs that they’ve written almost for themselves.

And a lot of times, you know, a person will write and will realize later that they’re … it’s not commercial, you know, but what they’ve written is nice for them, but a lot of people just don’t like it.” -Brian Wilson, 1968

I’ve always found it almost too obvious… “I’ll give you SMiLE then. Here you go: Smiley Smile…” (then blowing a raspberry… mainly to his band-mates, maybe to himself, maybe to the world in general?). Brian didn’t WANT to give SMiLE to “some” people. That’s the crux. At the same time Brian is recording a song about escaping the city and all the “people”. Time to Get Alone indeed.

Now this passive aggressive behaviour may not be all together adult and civilised but we ARE talking about the Beach Boys. What do we expect? The tragic thing is that it didn’t work. Chuck Negron (from Redwood/Three Dog Night) puts it like this:

“It all came to a head…when Mike Love, Carl Wilson and Al Jardine came to the studio and heard our version of ‘Time To Get Alone’…They manoeuvred Brian into the control booth and reduced him to tears. It was a cruel and pathetic scene. Danny, Cory and I were in the studio and could see it all happening through the control-booth window. It was as if Brian had turned into a little boy. The conversation appeared quiet and calm, but we could tell it was emotional and intense.

The others were doing most of the talking, like overbearing, controlling parents. Brian would move away, and they would block his escape. We couldn’t hear what was being said, but I think a good lip-reader would have picked up something like, ‘We don’t give a shit about these guys, and we want those songs for us.’

We could actually feel Brian crumbling, and when he came out of the booth, a tear dropped down his cheek. His head was lowered and his shoulders sagged. It was the body language of a child who had just been scolded and punished. And this brilliant musical icon – whose songs defined one generation and influenced another – weepingly told us, ‘We can’t do this. I have to give the songs to them. They’re family and I have to take care of my family. They want the songs. I’ll give you any amount of money you want to finish an album, but I can’t produce it. They won’t let me.”

(Priore, Domenic (2007). Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece. p. 129)

This says it all. It is the tragedy of the Beach Boys and Brian. A mentally fragile Brian can’t escape this extended family of people grown so use to living off his talent.

No Break Away

Brian’s uplifting, personal, escapist statement is appropriated by the commercial wing of the family as they see a vague opportunity for a hit song. “You can give away your money, but your songs belong to us…”

All very healthy.

Can you then imagine this controlling “family” deciding to move a studio in to your own house so they can make it easy for the creative force behind the group to spend all their time providing the family with more songs? All he has to do is come downstairs and start recording with the Mike-ster.

You’d stay in bed too, wouldn’t you? (and it must have contributed to the full scale breakdown that happened in the following months). Very sad.

But that doesn’t detract from the song itself. It bristles with hope and joy and escape and I love it despite the sadness… or maybe because of it.

Call me crazy, but I have always somehow linked “Time to Get Alone” with the Beatles’ “Hello, Goodbye”.

That too was a heady pop swan-song to the creativity of 1967. One last shot at the stars before the back-to-basics movement took hold in 1968… A movement almost accidentally started by Brian in a sort of passive aggressive way in 1967. Ha! 

 

Keep on keeping on

StoogedStooged

I can’t be alone in finding myself in a dull, mundane, corporate stooge job. It’s that kind of job where you realise that your skills, knowledge and training count for nothing (as no one actually understands or cares for your field of expertise).

It didn’t start out that way. You likely had masses of ambition, ideas and enthusiasm when you started, but in a series of corporate twists and personnel shifts, you have ended up at a dead-end without any influence on the things you actually know about.

If you are particularly unlucky, you will find your skills and knowledge rubbed in your face daily by corporate ladder climbers and bull merchants (who usually know little beyond how to have an opinion). They will subtly enlarge their area of influence and make damn sure they are the only ones involved in future decision making.

If they annexe your creative area, you’ll find your communication wires are cut, leaving you powerless at the coal face (with an eternity of poorly thought through “shit-work” tasks to keep you busy).

Fear and Loathing

Obviously, the first thing to do is head for that exit door as fast as your shoes can move…

But we are talking about the post financial crisis, double-triple-dipping, jobless hell that is modern Britain. So you have to be an awful lot braver than I am to put yourself out there alongside a few million other job-seekers to fight over a handful of jobs and risk doing workfare for £1.88 an hour.

So what do you do to stop yourself dwindling to a gibbering, creative mush?

Back in the day

When I was first entering the job market of the 90’s, skills and knowledge TERRIFIED me. (even after 4 years of College).You didn’t have any skills and you couldn’t possibly learn them quickly enough… so you were DOOMED!

Back then, it looked to me like skills and knowledge were set in stone once you got them. There were all these legacy industries and workflows in all sorts of areas of print, design, computing, whatever… And all the jobs seemed to be full of people who had somehow gained these skills by magic and would go on to use the same skills forever.

I desperately blagged some role involving AutoCAD and Illustrator and jumped in… while trying to work out what design was in a unfolding digital age.

As my design time went on, things did change. CD-Roms, DVDs, the web and even flash brought opportunities… but it should have been more obvious to me that buy generic viagra cialis levitra many of these technologies were really only tweaks to the same old skill set. It was print with a coating of Web 1.0 type badness. Or it was just Web 1.0 badness – where everything was a nightmare excel table with flashing gifs and page counters.

It is only know that I think the design and layout of the web and mobile has become something we can actually be proud of. Things are less hindered by technology and display constraints. The end result is more of a true representation of the actual design and coding ideas. Suddenly, design or writing is about design and writing again! And all those dull old tools can be used in exciting ways to create things you care about.

And therein lies the secret.

More questions and answers

The answer lies in challenging yourself as much as you possibly can with projects (both within the stooge job and beyond) and adapting and extending your old skills (that you thought you didn’t need or have time to use).

I set about adding sub-tasks to any project so it involved different programs (I wanted to test how they can be used together to create new and exciting work flows – just for the thrill of it!). I started to use the hell out of smart objects and other features in my old familiar tools (features that my corporate job never required for its run-of-the-mill doings). Because of my “otherness”, nobody would even understand the workflow tweaks if I told them… They didn’t even know what I used, or how I used it – opportunity!

My goal was this… Get ahead of the game by making all my assets scalable vectors. Try out new things on the web. Learn some CSS and then build and customise some test sites.

Suddenly, all sorts of things seemed possible.

And you know what. It almost seemed like fun again! I realised that the modern world of design, web and mobile is really a wonderful mix of stuff you know and stuff you can discover. You can develop new skills and services on top of your old programs that make you feel like you are back at the cusp of what’s happening in your field.

It doesn’t make up for your corporate stooge existence, (and you will still die a little inside when you overhear design misrepresentation and bull…) But if no one knows what or how you do things, why not try stuff out when you can? And when you get home, you can do anything! Even, eventually, escape from corporate stooge-dom.

An Artist and A Machine

So, The Beach Boys. 2012. Reunion.

Problematic, cynical and shrink wrapped with a patchy album.

Many have compared the new album to Today or Summer Days… But it’s not really close. either in artistic endeavour or the charm of (most) of the filler fluff.

It’s very much of its time (hello autotune) and out of time (welcome back to the Mike-Love-good-time-automatic-lyrical-memory-generator). Mike seems to be continuing to try to write or put his stamp on the songs or presentation so they “connect” with people in some over-generalised way. As always, the results are just odd.

Yet somehow, as with so many albums that contain elements of Brian Wilson, the album digs in and elicits an emotional response.

The ending suite is a strange beast. It’s perhaps comparable (well if you squint a bit!) with “Curtain” (the last case of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot). That book was written 30 years before her death and placed in a safe, to publish when she was (nearly) gone. Most of Brian’s closing suite was written a while ago for the (supposed) purpose of ending the last ever Beach Boys album. It is a lovely section of music and seems to be a decent point to end things. Goodbye…

But then you find that it’s not an ending. More albums could follow. More songs, more LOVE. You realise what a strange bag the Beach Boys are. They’re full of long-standing creative contradictions and often lumbered with lowest-level common denominator Mike Love-isms and bullshit. But yet they still have that heart of pure elegiac magic.

Love me do

The Mike-a-tola has won (and lost) innumerable Beach Boy law suits over the years. The upshot being that very many Beach Boys songs now have “Mike Love” added to the credits (like a garish “price reduced” sticker slapped over the Brian Wilson full price original).

Without spending too much time on all the ins-and-outs of this, it is obvious from the majority of cases that Mike considers small arrangement suggestions and lyrical tweaking to deserve a full co-credit. Hmmm. Think about all the bands you know and look at their song writing credits. There are very few democratic credits out there for the entire band. That drum pattern has to be written and affects the song. That guitar lick and that harmony. Whose idea was that? Everyone must surely sue? (And yes, Mike WAS diddled out of the co-authorship of California Girls and other hits back in the day (by Murry, Brian’s father, if you believe the stories) which has doubtless festered and created the monster that we have seen practically ever since).

All you need is Love

Over the years, it’s obvious that Mike has regarded commercial success as the “only” success. It’s been his biggest bragging right as well as his biggest fear (when artistic endeavour might put the hits in jeopardy). Imagine being an artist dealing with anyone who spouts that you should not “**** with the formula” while being bullied to give up your outside productions. You’d get all passive aggressive too. Smiley-smile indeed. If you were unfortunate enough to discover cocaine AND have a mental illness then you’re way out of luck.

More than anything, the mid 60’s Beach Boys (sans Brian) were touring musicians making a living from Brian’s ideas and productions. They had provided the amazing vocals (once they learned the arrangements) and even got to add to the backing tracks. They would certainly add ideas too, but listen to most of those prime-time sessions and they are not really helping with the writing, production or arrangement. They are just trying to hit the notes. Or goofing cheapest generic levitra around. (If I had really “written” a song, I would at least want to have some opinions at the recording?)

But the touring Beach Boys would fly around the world as the public face (the marketing department, if you will) getting all the screaming girls, meeting all the hip new bands and doing important press interviews. It seemed like a good trade off.

It was only years later that the Mike-ster seemingly wanted to be retrospectively recognised for writing the success. “Look at me. I’m the one who added that “x” factor to make them hits. I’m the leader on the road. Look at me.” (also, give me some money).

Carry That Weight

Remember too (particularly when you see all the ridiculous “drug casualty” post SMiLE stories), that Brian first had a nervous breakdown in 1964 and was eventually checked in (possibly at his own volition) to a psychiatric hospital in 1968 to treat his mental illness. He was self-medicating to cope with his illness, the obvious stress within the band and possibly to help deal with long standing problems relating to his childhood abuse.

This is a mental illness that is pretty much referred to directly in the hit single “Break Away” and was brought to a head by the thought of caring for and disciplining his own recently born first child. (Ironically, Break Away was written WITH his father, showing how complex the Wilson family relationships were if you scratch the surface. Everything is nuanced and conflicted).

Carl may have been relieved that the “problem” was been treated, but do you think deep down some of the band were relieved that they may still get some more hit songs? Were they relieved that THEY had a future, rather than actually treating the illness over the long term?  I’m sure that the stigma that many people had relating to mental illness back then (people like Mike Love?) would really muddy the waters. Very sad.

Love is all around

For many years it seemed that record companies prevented the Mike-a-doobie-doo from realising his true vision for the Beach Boys (by demanding Brian be involved in this-or-that album). He finally managed to reach his goal when various political and social shit-fits allowed him to create the Beach Boys as “America’s band” and they embraced a warped return to some hellish lyrical mid-teen netherworld for the rest of time. Where Brian’s music has often inhabited this uncertain realm of near adulthood and emotional fragility, Mike, as always, takes that teenage lyrical and presentational sledgehammer… and keeps on hitting.

You get the feeling that eventually, Love may try for a new craze of Corpse Surfin’… one last chance to cruise the “chicks” and drive the “scene” in his open top Coffin, lying in state while his rotting body spits out auto tuned lines guaranteed to manipulate, I mean “connect” with his audience.

Mike’s algorithms for finding and singing about stuff that people “want” were way ahead of their time. If Google search wrote lyrics about having “a nice time on a beach (and leering at girls)” or “driving my nice car (and leering at girls)”, it’s likely the results would be the same as the guff that Mike Love has always “written”.

In fact, if Mike Love had actually thought about it, he could have invented a lyrical location based Google search and AdWords sevice in 1964 and got paid for his fantastically accurate tailored results. Maybe he did. Sue Google, Mike…

And this is why the new album is so utterly bizarre. It’s like the entire history (good, bad and indifferent) of the Beach Boys played all at once.

“America’s band” alongside, Love-you and Summer Days. 

 

Firewalled

It’s 2012, going on 2013, and there are STILL companies running (and even introducing) big dumb firewalls that cut off half the internet to their employees.

Like a song with a bizarre filter that cuts out half the band or a book with 60% of the pages randomly pulled out… the firewalled proletariat are unable to gain access to knowledge and information they need (particularly if a topic spans multiple sites or social networks, like, erm, everything!) To research a subject they are forced into sending begging letters to IT for a particular blog or forum to be un-blocked.

Fine you may say. Employees should be hard at work and not browsing the internet. Serves them right.

But wait. We know perfectly well that the modern web is full of distractions. But it is also full of information, full of discussion and full of inspiration. It is also the place to build up business relationships with customers and potential partners; and spy on what everyone else is doing!

So why do some businesses continue to be terrified of employees “wasting” the precious company time on seemingly frivolous web browsing activities?

I doubt companies blocked books, manuals or dictionaries because they feared employees might use them on company time. You can make anything a distraction from work IF an employer is not doing their bit to give workers an interesting or challenging set of tasks or a good workplace environment. That’s when people drift away. Why would anyone think that blocking the internet would make an unhappy worker hunker down and spend 100% of their energy doing a thankless task demanded by some misguided corporate stooge? (And, cough, everyone has the mobile web these days, cough).

The web is (still) a wonderfully chaotic place that makes it difficult for even someone with the analytical power of Google to correctly clarify and pigeon hole all the information. So why would any sane adult make a half-arsed decision to block half the web from other responsible adults… who are using the web to solve problems, gain knowledge and yes, sometimes distract themselves to build up the energy to carry out whatever other tasks they need to do.

Web 0.1a

As a designer, it also pains me to see the blunt generic levitra online knife approach some firewalls take with their filtering and blocking. They will block images, fonts and other elements from a site but leave the basic code; making it look like a design severed from the internet in 1999.

What earthly good does destroying the carefully crafted layout of some sites do?

Why would you willingly stop teams from accessing the vast knowledge bases of forums or social networks that may just have the answer to why that file won’t output properly?

Why are millions of images from Google or Bing image search now unavailable for trying quick ideas? Now they just tantalise in the search results, but are forever unobtainable.  Do designers have to go out and take all the images for quick ideas themselves? That’ll save time. Ughh.

Firewalls should protect the company from intrusion, viruses, hacking and information leakage.  That’s it. Why block half the web from employees to satisfy the perceptions of a deluded set of managerial idiots? You are only hurting yourselves in the long run.

Side note.

I once worked in a company circa 2006 (well into web 2.0 and beyond…) that had a single “internet computer” for the use of the design team on a stairwell landing jammed next to a photocopier. Yep, just a randomly placed PC on the stairs with a painfully slow ISDN line! Maybe it was thought that this would make it too difficult to use (or perhaps it would shame the machine out of use).

The PC was about 50 yards from the studio and involved a complex set of sign off sheets and copying of information and images to zip disks (yes, probably the last remaining zip disks on earth!) to get information back and forth. What fun!

For projects that involved testing web designs or searching for stock images, you can just imagine the seamless workflow we had. When more than one project required some “funky” web based assets, we had to literally beg to use some other PCs to download the final images and meet the deadlines. Christ!

This is the level of knob-wankery that actually exists at some peculiar British companies. I get jittery just thinking about it!

Beware the Vanity Designer

We’ve all seen the Dilbert-esque jokes about how a presentation or a logo could be put together in Word by the boss’s 10 year old nephew… but the problem for designers in small or medium sized enterprises is actually far worse.

Unlike programmers (who work in mostly inscrutable “code”) or artists (who probably exhibit a creative ability that is daunting to a casual observer), designers inhabit an office cubicle of skills, ability and taste that looks like it could be duplicated (given the tools, an hour or two of training and a modicum of ability).

That visible part of the design process that involves laying-out and creating things on screen just seems oh-so-easy, and so tempting to copy.

See no easel

The difficult part, the back-end is never seen (thus never valued) by an interested onlooker.

Developing workflows; researching tools, technologies and techniques; understanding file formats; resolving output problems and dealing with all the issues that affect digital, web and print design…

none of this counts for anything to the onlookers, who live in a perceived world of wizards, templates and word-art. Hmmm.

The concept of a structured design process also gets little understanding or appreciation by this wave of casual design watchers.

The ability to research, identify and work up ideas and final designs, while collaborating and communicating the thought process and design possibilities to all interested parties…

…is an unseen bit of voodoo. Not seen means it’s not there. It must be very simple. It must just… happen. No thinking involved. Just some check boxes and a sign off meeting.

Design It Yourself

Without knowledge of this creative underpinning, there’s a growing perception that it is possible for non-designers to just do it themselves.

To a certain degree this is true. Modern tools, along with good templates and strict branding guidelines make it possible. But the branding guidelines and templates have to be impeccably produced by designers, and they should lay down the law so they can be followed by… well, not the most design-blind accountant, but a reasonably competent person, let’s say.

But that’s not the big problem. The big problem is when certain parties who are clambering up that corporate ladder of management perceptions think that they could do this whole design thing themselves. They can then leverage their position and influence to appear to be the brains behind the whole damn design operation.

A designer working in-house (or contracted to work on-site), may come across several of these frustrated designer-wannabees.  And they seem to act benignly… at first. But you need to watch out. Basically, they are stalking you for all your visible design skills that they’ll steal and use to further their own career machinations. Nice!

The Road to Dell

Look out for the signs from a seemingly innocent observer who is secretly on the road to a design takeover…

  • They will start to show an interest in what you are designing for no apparent reason.
  • They will be very intrigued by how you are using buy viagra levitra and cialis your design related programs.
  • They will crowd around your screen, watching you work.
  • They will quiz you about why you are doing certain things.
  • They will start a design before giving it to you to work up or “have a play.” Those words are a red flag: they suggest that the actual designer is just a simple soul, following instructions and playing about having fun doing the work… while the real design is done by that vocal person who has a STRONG OPINION.
  • They will start to take nearly finished designs and do the last bits themselves (and start to take the credit…)
  • They will inject their opinions more and more into any design discussion. (Remember, management perception that this person has design knowledge is the name of the game. They have to vocally give the impression of knowing this design game)
  • They will take all the available templates and use previous designs to create their own simple layouts (if they are lucky, choosing and changing a pantone colour will suffice and garner a design reputation.)
  • They could also point out how they chose their living room paint colour and their kitchen layout. (Design GURU!)
  • They will start to present themselves as a design spokesperson in meetings with senior management (where the designer, as a rude mechanical, will not be present to interject and object at the ridiculousness)
  • They will very visibly show off some self-published vanity design projects to maintain their design guru status.
  • They will use their power and influence to manoeuvre themselves up the greasy corporate pole towards a role as a bona fide Design Manager. (This only works if the board or senior management team is un-schooled enough to be taken in by this design bluster; or if the designer-to-be is actually already part of the senior management team…)

The fool on the hill

And there you have it. A pretty substantial company now has someone in charge of all design thinking who has zero experience of actual design outside of their narrow corporate manoeuvrings.

All they have is a few months of designer-stalking under their belt and enough hours of flight time on a Dell grot box with CS4 to understand the difference between the InDesign and Photoshop icons. Excellent!

They have no design schooling or training. No qualifications. No portfolio. No skills or experience in communicating a design idea or ethos. No experience in working in or managing a creative team. No experience of giving or receiving genuine design criticism. No interest in the history of design. No knowledge of the development of design and technology.

Nada. Nothing. But they are somehow the manager of design in a modern enterprise.

A thousand designers bang their heads against the desk.

But we will carry on because there are good companies and good projects out there. If you love design and want to succeed in design, you have to ignore the distractions of difficult clients, manoeuvring colleagues and vanity designers.

Apple Watching

applelogo_x4wzp6i3Apple prides itself on the elegance and simplicity of its designs and user interfaces.

Most of its products from the last 15 years have defined both the industries they compete in and the chapters on iconic design in weighty coffee table literature.

Compared to the majority of their obsessively feature-check-box driven competitors, Apple is a beacon of technological minimalism and beauty.  If Apple references various modernist checkpoints in their design, other companies (and I’m REALLY looking at you Motorola) base their entire catalogue on the grotesque interior of a teenage boy’s bedroom.

This is one of the reasons why so many obsess about Apples design choices and interface decisions. There really is no one else in technology that seems to take so much care and attention with their top-of the-range but still mass-market consumer orientated products. So many companies seem to simply blind buyers with faux-science and marketing; or even attempt to blatantly scam them to part with their cash. Nice.

Even today, in 2012, Apple buyers are accused of stupidity and blind devotion by choosing to buy a particular product with their own money. “You could have saved at least £2.50 if you had bought a build-your-own cheap arsed plastic netbook” or something. Thanks for that, internet!

So it’s particularly ironic that most Apple watchers are actually highly critical of Apples design decisions. If they do something stupid or unfathomable, boy will we point it out.

And the weird thing is that most of the time no one pays a blind bit of attention to these glaring blotches on Apples design copybook. Unless a shit-fit has anything to do with Google services or Samsung knock-offs, no one notices. Odd.

And yet there are so many things that Apple watchers see that are wrong or bizarre about Apples choices. Let’ take a whistle buy levitra in india stop tour of the things currently bugging me:

The iPad Music App

This is a frustrating and obtuse way to play your music. It seems handicapped with having to load all the artwork in to every view… so it just hangs and stutters pretty much all the time (on iPads old and new). You are constantly moving back and forth through menus and playlists in the single viewing pane while waiting for the artwork to populate each view. Testing.

And then, if you have the iOS6 Podcast App, all podcasts and podcast playlists simple disappear from the Music App. So no podcast playlists for you if you want to download podcasts on the go! Hmmm.

It is even more unfathomable if you remember the highly optimised Music app in iOS3.2. It was clear, fast and simple; with list views and a sidebar to make navigation quick and easy.

 

The iOS Podcast App

Talking of the pod-cast App, this is a stark example of the sort of design some fear Apple is turning to more and more. The fake reels and pretend tape-player could just be OK (perhaps) if they actually served a purpose.

If you pressed or swiped the moving tape to go forward and back, this design conceit would be more like an enjoyable Easter egg.  It would be something you discovered and thought, “wow, that’s cool”. You would probably still use the buttons, but it would be an innovative use of the touch interface.

But no. The tape just spins with no purpose, and worse, the graphics make it hard to navigate and see how you get the pod-cast information tab back. But with the information showing, selecting a time point in the pod-cast becomes impossible. Stupid-headed and a skeuomorphic step too far! (to use the suddenly hipster discovered annoying word of the year) .

More annoyances to come…

 

The Data Trap

Data is, they say, fast becoming the currency of the future. We’re not talking about those old fashioned spreadsheets of information collected and combined in various very basic and excruciatingly dull ways. We’re talking about masses and masses of global information with layers and layers of data abstraction that takes browsing, location, shopping, financial and search data to build complete pictures of the entire world.

“Well, duh! Obviously…” you may say. And it may sound pretty obvious that data will be vitally important in the future, but have we really stopped to think about the implications of having hugely complex and abstracted layers of information used for (or against) us? What are the problems with having a small number of global data gatekeepers?  Who is going to win the hearts and minds of future consumers and businesses and keep providing the data-keepers with their precious life blood of information?

Young, free and gullible.

For so many years businesses were able to survive and thrive by collecting the most basic information (like the sale of product, address of a customer or a visit to a website) and that outlandishly basic data was obsessively analysed and obfuscated by accountants the world over to appear to be the pinnacle of business forecasting and planning.

But that information is at the starting blocks of the data race. The global roll out and reach of the web has seen the rapid rise of big data players who specialise in grabbing armfuls of independent information gatherers (us!) with the provision of temptingly free services.

Like ships in uncharted waters, some data players didn’t realise what they were doing and floundered.

My Space was saddled with a bizarre sub-set of users all creating pages for their indie band; and suddenly found that they were irrelevant.

Friends Reunited found that they had aimed far too low with their entire concept …and they were soon irrelevant in the grand scheme of data collection.

Last FM made the fatal mistake of complaining about the quality of the MP3 tag data they were collecting (with an automated message demanding users correct their own data). They were soon overtaken by competing services and were irrelevant in the data race.

An important rule of modern data collection is that you should NEVER appear to be collecting data for yourself and you should never appear needy or pedantic about the data you collect. That is sooo last century.

Your Teddy Bear

Today is all about the dominance of the successful data companies. The near future will be about the manoeuvring of these big data players as they gouge on the masses of data needed to keep them relevant.

To increase their user-base the data companies behave like a visiting relative dishing out candy to your kids; or a gossipy aunt who knows everything about everyone. It is all about appearing to be your friend and confident with no evil deeds and lots and lots of presents. The cuddlier or more intriguing they appear to the user, the better.

The data hoarders use every device they can think of to make the user feel all warm and fuzzy about giving them more data.

Pronouncements of openness and web freedoms? Check.
Infantile robot logos, toys and devices? Check.
Distracting pie in the sky projects and features to keep the media benignly interested? Check.
Plinky plonky adverts, bright colours and a friendly picture or doodle on your homepage? Check.
Conduits for gossip and tittle tattle? Check.
Picture repositories of people you want to stalk? Check!

All these “features” will help grow the number of misty eyed evangelists; all ready to fight for the perceived cause of their beloved corporate data keeper. The new believers will then actively recruit and persuade the next billion users to give the data keeper all their information. And on it goes.

Late to the party…

Businesses that use data to plan and target their resources probably see the data companies as relatively benign. After all, as we are constantly told by anyone with the tiniest bit of business schooling, the user is the product. And that product is sold to other businesses at prices far lower than it would be to actually get the users and data themselves. It’s all good, surely?

But as the data-players get better at collecting and using their data, other businesses will start to find they don’t have the bargaining power to get access to the data that they once had. It will cost more – or they will demand YOUR data is added to theirs. If a business refuses to join the data party, they are suddenly at a massive competitive disadvantage.

As data extraction, storage and analysis becomes ever more levitra generic prices complex, it will become practically impossible for competitors to provide a service that matches the incumbent’s data set. You just can’t get enough information without those billions of existing users.

And this should start to scare us.

Just look at the Google / Apple Maps kerfuffle. This involved a big (nay HUGE) company attempting to move in to a small slice of the data game. Apple felt they could only do this by promising an improved application (so we saw flawless demos and some hyperbolic marketing).

The product they provided was still free; had new features; delivered a more elegant interface; brought better compression and map delivery; and generally looked and behaved better than before.

But they didn’t have the data. They didn’t have 7 years of user collected, crowd sourced and brute forced information that would underpin their service.

And it was no contest. In the age of data, the design and behaviour of the application didn’t matter at all. It was just about the data sets.

Pivot point

This leaves me to think that we’re already approaching a tipping point in consumer data expectations.

Web citizens have grown to be an impatient and entitled bunch and they expect new players to be perfect “straight out of the door”.

The more time they invest in a service, the better they expect a new rival service to be; but a new service can’t possibly have the amount of data that makes the incumbent service so powerful. And so they sleep walk towards (or vocally encourage) a data monopoly.

Do people not make the connection between a “free” service and the data they willingly hand over? Or do they see absolutely no down side to the agreement?

The only visible annoyance may be the constant stream of ads; but ads are just a profitable distraction from the main business model. That model is the eventual total and utter control of the worlds largest data sets. These repositories of information can be used to provide costly services (to increasingly desperate lower tiers of businesses) or to influence policy, infrastructure and legislation (where weakened or naive governments provide an environment where the incumbent can never die).

I Believe

The modern-day preachers in the church-of-the-data-keepers have a warped view of other belief systems.

It is bizarre to see people who are simply exchanging money for goods or services (in that most ancient and straightforward method of trading) being accused of acting like deluded zealots. Millions of consumers are said to have a warped devotion to a cult that is somehow changing how they perceive reality in order to make them buy something. Just look at the forums and meeting places of the web and see how distracted and angry so many have become by basic commerce in action.

Apple is basically a straightforward, old-fashioned company. It lives and dies according to the quality of the goods it produces,  its marketing ability, its supply lines and their customer support. If consumers don’t like their products, they WILL stop buying them.

All the while, the data-evangelists try to ensnare ever more people to a trap that actually DOES have the power to distort their future reality. Remember: The Data-keeper has the power to pre-select the information provided to a user that will effect what they decide to buy or visit; how and where they travel; and what they actually believe or support. Troubling.

This starts to pose uncomfortable questions about the relevance of the mainstream media, governments (and perhaps democracy itself) in the near future.

So many Questions

If a private company has more data than entire countries, what then?

Will it eventually be down to countries to provide and protect the data of their citizens? Will we expand on the French system of providing each town with a fully featured website and information portal? How much data should countries allow companies to gather about their citizens? (Don’t forget how a country has to provide that nicely available pool of citizens along with the transport and data infrastructure that allows the data-keeper to become all powerful).

Will we eventually see a schism in data handling with the ring-fencing or socialisation of vital data in the coming decades? Will we see data wars?

…or is data just a nebulous concept that we won’t care about? Will we all just drift along thanking our lucky stars that we’ve got some access to these vital data sets?

Like the early oil companies, phone companies and PC OS Makers of the past, soon we will see data companies that are just too big and powerful. But with the modern global economy and the interlinked governmental and corporate self-interests, what will we do with these monopolies this time?

A song a year: The Beach Boys (pt2)

It’s an up-tempo duo of songs with “Little” in the title!

1963: Little Deuce Coupe

More than any other Beach Boys song, “Little Deuce Coupe” encapsulates that joyous Brian Wilson boogie-woogie beat. From the swinging opening drum fill to the quintessential counterpoint harmonies, this is the Boys polishing their early sound to near perfection. (“Fun Fun Fun” may be the better, more iconic car song, but I just love the swinging boogie woogie piano-and-drum rolls in this song. Love ’em!)

Also, if I was going to give Mike just one annoying, nasal whine of a vocal, then this is probably it… well this and the next song. Generally I’ve never been able to make peace with his vocal style, but I can stand one or two of his less grating efforts if the songs are good enough.

Roger Christian penned some mystifying (to British ears, at least,) lyrics about pimping a 1932 Ford Coupe (the result being not dissimilar to the yellow hot-rod that the cowboy drove in the film “American Graffiti”) and Brian added what seemed to be some sort of code referencing a pink slip! (a term used for the vehicle registration documents – means the guy owns his car and isn’t borrowing it from parents.)

Although known and imitated for their soaring harmonies, it is also worth noting how understated Brian was when he wrote and arranged these early Beach Boy vocal parts. He never overplayed his hand. This is something so blatantly lacking from some of the knock-off-groups that try to mimic, misunderstand or deliberately bastardise versions of Brian’s original sound for that Mike-Love-inspired-oldies-circuit-from-hell. Shame on them!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sv4kSGsgbDw

1964: Little Honda

Yes, yes, yes… “Don’t Worry Baby” is possibly the finest song to grace a B-Side. And “I Get Around” on the flip A-side of that monumental 45 is THE perfect pop bombshell (complete with an early appearance of the infamous and eventually ubiquitous LA Harpsichord that signalled a musical and lyrical desire to move to pastures new)

But I’m going with another song from that astoundingly well buy generic levitra formed 1964 “All Summer Long” album.

“Little Honda” is a gem that adds more subtle but essential elements to the Wilson cannon. (And it just may be the finest unprompted product placement of all time!)

The raucous backing track uses every single trick that you can muster in 1964 to shout POWER, like some sort of proto-Jeremy-Clarkson-set-to-music. There’s an early appearance from a driving fuzz bass that is complimented by some sustained harmonic hums from the vocals that mimic the engine drone. It’s all a bit avant garde really, but the song never wears its experimental and artistic credentials as an overblown badge of honour. Any experimenting is done purely to further the cause of the musical idea itself.

The chorus then takes off with enough power and gear changes to achieve near Earth orbit. Go Little Honda indeed. But the whole time we are talking about the tiny Honda Cub motorcycle and its minuscule 50cc engine. Wonderfully ridiculous.

“Little Honda”, more than almost any other song, shows Brian’s mix of epic sweeping production ideas mixed with a slightly silly sense of humour. What could be more Brian Wilson? The thing is that the joke or idea never actually overpowers the joy of the song. It not too knowing; it doesn’t try too hard. The whole song comes across as an affectionate and sincere tale about youthful exuberance and freedom. If it’s ridiculing anyone, it’s poking fun at the Beach Boys themselves (who were recording engine sounds and singing po-faced songs about massive engined cars only a year before).

Brian has an ability to tread this fine line between parody, joy and art like very few others (which must have scared the shit out of certain other band members). My good friend badhedgehog calls it “emotional honesty”, and that’s exactly what it is.

Note: They didn’t get a penny from Honda to write the song, making what must have been the best advertising jingle never written as an advertising jingle!

A song a year: The Beach Boys (pt1)

A couple of other folks have chosen their favourite songs by an artist during a particular set of years. Thought I’d hop on and give it a go. No surprise that I’m doing the Beach Boys.

1962:  The Lonely Sea

Rare EP with Lonely Sea, from FranceI’ll start with Brian’s first collaboration with Gary Usher.

“The Lonely Sea” is a ridiculously early indicator of all the things that Brian would come to master.

It may have been released in 1963 (on the “Surfin’ USA” album), but this was an outtake from 1962’s “Surfin’ Safari”. So 1962 it is! This also leads one to question: Who in the name of Mike-Loves-Receding-Hairline chose that début LP line-up? I mean… Who? Out of the 12 songs on that patchiest of patchy albums, precisely 12 of them aren’t fit to polish the fret board of this melancholy masterpiece. Early groupe politique?

The song itself is an intense, emotional and sonically interesting composition with an added touch of sincere imitation conjured up from Brian’s musical upbringing.

The sound is practically a melodic “Music Concrete” (if you can actually have such a thing?) with the sounds vividly mimicking the waves and endless undulations of the ocean. This idea that music could sound like, make you feel like, and talk about a particular subject already points to the multiple-meanings and textured sonic layers of SMiLE. In 1962!

The lyrics are an example of how Brian (with help from his collaborators) wrote about a comforting female presence (almost an earth-mother-goddess low cost generic levitra character) which the protagonist felt he could never live up to. This is a subject that would appear many more times in Brain’s writing (and had already being displayed in the earlier “Surfer Girl”, often documented as the first song Wilson wrote).

The spoken section in the middle is a typically Wilsonian non-ironic pastiche of music that Brian grew up with (remember that Elvis’ “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” was only 2 years old!). The imitation is so close (in time) to its doo-wop and crooning origins, and is delivered without a hint of a knowing nod or wink, that we don’t know if it’s a serious take or an early homage. And that makes it brilliant!

You can compare Brian’s hesitant yet sincere spoken section to how McCartney uses the same device seven years later with “Oh Darling” on Abbey Road. McCartney may be a melodic genius, but he does tend towards the “LOOK AT ME I’M DOING A PASTICHE” school of song writing. Something Brian (and Lennon) tended to avoid. (see also “Honey Pie”, “When I’m 64” and even “Yesterday” for other examples of the sledgehammer McCartney pastiche, but that’s another story!)

To sum up, I can’t state enough how amazing it is to see all the ingredients of Brian’s craft in place on such an early song.

Blimey – all that for one song? I’d better get to the point a bit better for the next ones! 

Don’t Call Us Busy Idiots

(Or “The Lonesome Cubicle Of Excel”)

Have you ever worked in, visited or generally hung around a bustling design studio? They are wonderful places. Full of activity; full of possibilities; full of people firing ideas off of each other.

You see that beautifully sculptured car over there? That was designed in a place like this. See that advert and that packaging you like? That was put together in a place full of trained creativity. Obviously that iPhone was designed in a place like this (although I think some smartphones may be copied in places that are far from these studio idylls!) and countless websites, magazines, products and clothes were grasped from thin air and made real in a studio full of designers, engineers and coders.

To any designer, the “studio” is the place of dreams; the place where ideas become reality. Sparks of imagination go from nothing to taking actual physical form and shape that are tested and perfected for the real world. It surely is a wonder to behold.

A good studio ebbs and flows as the workload and deadlines wash over the participants. A good studio also has places where you can be utterly quiet (to code, proof or think). And places where it appears all hell is breaking loose as people utterly confident in their own vision and abilities work towards another goal.

To the untrained eye the design studio may look like a feverish and chaotic place; but to all but the most soulless of individuals they are simply wonderful creative environments.

Now, I mentioned soulless individuals there, and you may be wondering who on earth could find a busy non generic levitra online design studio a little scary and disturbing?

Guess who?

Yep, it’s our friend the accountant. Emancipated from pure accountancy, and roaming free among non-accountants.

As a designer, I’ve never being so insulted or angry than when a particular egotistical financial director (and trained accountant, obviously) walked in to a room full of designers all racing towards meeting another deadline.

“You look like busy idiots” he said.

Yep, he said that.

To that accountant brain, a room full of creativity, feedback and deadline-meeting was all too much. A brain trained in the lonesome cubicle of Excel could not come to terms with people actually talking to each other, giving advice, asking questions and creating mock-ups on the fly (and all done outside of a 3 hour corporate meeting – impossible!)

“They must be messing about”. “How can you be working if you are not sat silently contemplating yesterday’s sales data?”

It was all too much for our fact-focussed friend from the academy of csv.

I found out later that this lovely little studio was all but disbanded a little after this event. The designers were forced to sit in silent cubicles (alongside the rest of this moribund and miserable sect of sales, marketing and production prisoners). Mid-level accountants and their apologists were parachuted in to micro-manage even the most mundane of creative tasks… and nothing of consequence was ever produced again. Tragic.

It is also a good life lesson for the creatives among us.

NEVER forget that there are groups of people who are unwilling to believe that you can work in an environment that isn’t a miserable, silent temple to Microsoft Office.

You have been warned!

No Guides, No Vision

(or Climbing Aboard the Corporate Abacus)

Design is, what you might call, “a funny old game“. Designers are full of ideas and influences and bursting to try them out on projects large and small. But what projects are actually suitable for these cutting edge creative endeavours? And which projects are simply the perpetual grinding of the machine to produce the most expected of expected designs?

How you approach each project is absolutely down to the client (or the Manager, or the MD, or whatever controlling entity sits atop the sign-off process). If you’re lucky, you may be a designer working in a large studio where you are given very specific creative briefs where you can go and “fill your boots”. The big decision making bits have been done by account managers and creative directors and the scope of the project has been handed over to the “creatives” with a guiding (but perhaps not suffocating) brief.

Riders of the storm

Alas, most designers are probably working for themselves as freelancers, or struggling along in-house among an art-less mid-size enterprise at that terrifying junction between design, commerce, accounting and bullshit.

In-house is a place that often remains relatively un-described in the design world. It’s an incredibly stable environment (compared to the wider world of design shenanigans), but it allows for very little room for manoeuvre, and worse, you may be working for people that do not understand the design process.

Many years ago I was told by a few veteran, battle scarred designers that you should never work for a company that doesn’t understand (or indeed value) designers or the creative process. At the time, being young and naive, I thought that anyone MUST be able to understand at least a smidgen of how design and creative thinking happens.

My belief was that any intelligent individual would ALWAYS work out how to get the best from a creative team (in which they had obviously invested time and money to put together and have available “on tap”). The person that wanted the design will SURELY have an idea for what they want to achieve? They must have a very general look and feel that they are thinking about? They must be capable of taking all the influences that surround them every day and distil that in to the most basic of briefs; “I want it to look like that, but better”? Designers can at least run with that!

The thing is, I wasn’t accounting for accountants (cough!) and their thought processes and pernicious influence throughout a modern day enterprise.

We are The Dead

There are a LOT of trained “mid-level” accountants these days.

Some of the more adventurous ones have escaped from the leather bound desks in that accountancy firm or finance department to be trusted with the direction of non-finance departments; or perhaps, given a lazy board or bored chairmen, the entire company.

Accountants posses some very powerful weapons in the modern enterprise that usher generic levitra picture them rapidly up the corporate promotion pole: They appear incredibly organised; They are used to presenting figures to men in suits; And they will never knowingly throw your money away. Allegedly. Perhaps. (They are also a lot cheaper than the real gold dust of enterprise; and politics; the trained Lawyers).

They have databases, spreadsheets and 3-5-10 year plans to execute, and they protect and shepherd the business for the owner, shareholders or themselves. Unfortunately what many of these new-age number crunchers do not have is any capacity for creative thought or the ability to appreciate any non-measurable “arty” input into a process. They don’t have any real desire to take creative risks or disrupt their own systems or other markets and businesses.

If a designer is particularly unlucky, you will find that your stable in-house position is in a company that has accountants in EVERY senior position. Given this opportunity they will direct like only accountants can; conservatively, frugally, and without any discernible vision.

And that is the killer.

Sounds like Vision

There is no, erm, accounting for the accountant brain once it moves beyond numbers and pound signs.

In so many cases they just cannot creatively visualise or conceptually imagine the broad look and feel they want for a project. Meetings where you try and pin down some design foundations will only end in obfuscated numbers and confusion. Project designs are only really understood when they are actually fully realised, so the ONLY time you may get some actual guidance is when a project is complete! Unfortunately they may well have thoughts that involve changing the entire project. Timely!

And don’t think that this is the same as setting aside the design and project time to prototype several ideas to near-final designs so you can choose the best possible solution. Nope. This sort of late decision making will STILL be about hitting that same deadline (with a project you thought was nearly finished but has just completely changed!). Chaos and rushed, mangled design thinking ensues. Yuck!

All this means that you will battle constantly to second guess what senior management MIGHT want from a project. You’ll never know when it is right to take creative risks and when you need to stick ABSOLUTELY to the template without ANY variation. Tricky!

And there is more bad news.

Follow the Sums

The accountant brain is contagious and can infect many others that are unfortunate stray to close to its sphere of influence.  (watch out for the poor misguided graduates that are too eager to climb aboard the corporate abacus).

Before you know it, senior managers in operations, HR and even marketing will start to sound like accounting robots sent from the planet Book-Keeping to bring sound-but-dull fiscal reasoning to the greater universe of ALL business processes. Their simple goal is to apply acount-think with unthinking gay abandon!

So that’s the story. If you are a young designer, just be aware of the mid-size enterprise and the dangers that lurk from an emancipated accountant brain.