It was very interesting that we were just recently talking about what it would take to make documentation actually useful, and a couple of weeks later I heard about a new book by the GuiMags guys (creators of a magnet-based prototyping tool for interface design) titled “The Unplugged.”
What I find very interesting about it is that as part of being a UI designer, I’ve always had a passion for creativity in general — tools, techniques, case studies, etc. — and one of the common themes that comes up in relation to Creativity and Design is that sometimes, the only way to design something right is to go analog.
Analog? Let me clarify. What I mean by that is that before you write your first line of code, before you create the first page of that design document, before you draw that first block in your call flow, you need to turn the computer off, step away from it (yes, laptops too), grab a pad of paper and a pencil, and start drafting your ideas.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes all those software tools we’re so used to in fact hinder our creativity because they force us to adapt our way of thinking to the inherent rules and restrictions of each individual software package. We’re visual creatures: anyone can take a napkin and a pen and quickly sketch a new idea or a solution to a problem (this is my favorite book on this subject), yet those same individuals often remain quiet during design meetings and let the “creative” members take the lead role since they can create breathtaking digital images and amazing presentations with digital effects.
Next time you’re faced with a new design challenge, give it a try, unplug yourself, go analog for a little bit and let your brain and hand take control. Great things will emerge, believe me.