Weeknote 29

I kind of liked my structureless weeknote last week so I’m going to carry on with it until the next time I change my mind. Are new weeknote formats going to become my new biennial fringe?

Workshopping a multi-brand design system

As I’ve mentioned once or twice perhaps, my main focus with the team I’m working with right now is how to build a design system that supports multiple brands.

On Friday morning, Joe ran part 2 of a hypothesis workshop to explore a couple of architectural models.

We talked about how we might handle the multi-brand challenge at 3 levels: the architecture of the underlying codebase, the component delivery architecture, and the presentation layer. It’s a discussion we need to continue, but a takeaway for me was that the solution could be different at each level which introduces more complexity, but more opportunity.

We had some complex, mentally-challenging conversations, but Joe did a great job of getting us to think critically about our priorities. And aside from the content of our discussion, it was really good to spend some focused time as a whole team—something we probably don’t do enough while working remotely.

Perhaps my favourite moment from the workshop was when one of our frontend devs, Scott, suggested that “maybe we’ll realise that the real brand alignment was the friends we made along the way”—a bit of niche design system comedy to conclude the week.

I spoke at Content Teatime

On Thursday I finished work a little early to attend and speak at Content Teatime: a content strategy event that’s usually based up in Manchester but was run virtually this time, for coronavirus reasons.

The theme of the event was “responsible design” and each of the talks focused on a different aspect of it, with a nice amount of overlap. I spoke about the risk of making assumptions when designing content, and the impact it has when we serve up those assumptions to our users. I’m pretty happy with how it went and I got nice feedback afterwards, which is always encouraging.

I also really enjoyed seeing the other talks. Simon Bramble gave a really interesting talk about asking uncomfortable questions—something he’s learned a thing or 2 about in his time working at DWP.

Karin Mochan and Kirsty Brown gave a fascinating talk about designing for users with low health literacy at the NHS, and now all I can think about is how badly I want to go and work as a content designer in healthcare.

And I got to see David Dylan Thomas’s excellent talk on cognitive bias again (the first time was at the Design and Content conference last month). David’s just about to release his book on designing for cognitive bias which—as a now avid listener of his podcast—I’m really excited for.

I have to say, I think one of the positives I’ve noticed from the past few months is the world of online events. I’ve been able to attend more than I would if the meetups were in person and—since geography is less of a constraint—it’s meant I’ve been able to hear about more work outside of my usual bubble. More of those, please.

Trialling the Forest app to reduce screen time

My screen time has been atrocious of late. I must be subconsciously anxious about something because I’ve been constantly reaching for my phone out of nervous habit, which turns into mindless doom-scrolling, and it’s not working for me.

This week I’ve been trialling out the Forest app to try and increase my productivity and focus, and cut my screen time. It works like this: everytime you want to focus and ignore your phone, you plant a virtual tree. You set the time you want the tree to grow (I’ve set mine to 25 minutes). If you leave the app, the tree dies and you have to start again.

And I’m not sure if it’s the novelty, but it’s working. It’s making me more aware of when I’m picking my phone up for no good reason. And my screen time is down 24% compared with last week.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome update

Since I wrote about developing synkinesis a couple of weeknotes ago, this week it’s definitely cranked up a notch.

Synkinesis is a complication of facial palsy, where damaged nerve fibres regrow to the wrong part of your face. In my case, one of the nerve fibres that’s meant to control my eye closure now runs to the corner of my mouth, so when I blink, the corner of my mouth turns up and my cheek tightens.

It’s weird and uncomfortable and it makes me feel like I can’t control my face properly, and self-conscious about what it looks like to others. It’s been compounded this week by a lot of twitching in my face, pain and fatigue (usually signs of nerve regrowth).

At the moment it’s a waiting game, but I’m hoping it will start to level-off soon, so that I can consider treatment options.

On the plus side, off the back of me tweeting about it earlier this week, I had a couple of people reach out to me privately because they’ve recently been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, or were worried they might get it. It was nice to feel like I could offer some support and reassurance, and to point them to some of the information I’d found helpful.

Things I read, watched and listened to