August 17, 2008

[Connecting Bits] Noticing Power

Inspiration can really come from anywhere. One constant piece of advice: Be armed with a camera and/or journal to capture those made-me-look scenes. Any place can compel compositional view finding, and any scene of which can help stimulate and structure thoughts and ideas. Design researchers Steve Portigal and Dan Soltzberg emphasize noticing in which you “…peel back those layers of preconception, culture and habit. When you do that you get to something fundamental and then you’ve got a really solid platform for developing new concepts,” said Stoltzberg.

Being aware helps condition the impulse to take notice through whatever the means at hand. Portigal recommends his students “routinely maintain a noticing log, either a blog (words with pictures) or a Flickr account (pictures with words). The exercise helps sharpen noticing skills by giving people permission to simply observe and document. There’s never any requirement to suggest a fix; indeed what they observe may not be broken in any way. It just has to arouse their interest, and in documenting it make the details of that interest explicit. Establishing some discipline for this behavior can be very helpful.”

This is like the advice from Nicolas Roope, creative director and founder of Poke, who recommended “Write a blog, fill your Flickr albums with things that interest you, make a film of something odd that you find really interesting and make sense of it somehow.” Two applications that resonate with noticing power is creative scrape, described as an “inspiration utility,” and PicoCool, a community-driven site dedicated to seeking and sharing “obscure content from the world of peer media, social networks and subcultures.”

Proactive noticing may reveal a vision. Though not apparent at first, it may manifest a storyline of meaningful points—a composition—that could serve a purpose. Noticing is the power to connect cues from our surroundings. As Stoltzberg expresses, “…at the heart of it, you have to genuinely be interested in the world around you and in other people.”

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Update, August 30, 2008: Steve Portigal’s Bathroom Observations, “uncovering examples of bad design and its consequences.”

Update, August 17, 2008: LifeDev offers good recommendations for tools to help capture what you’re noticing.