April 16, 2016

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Välkommen till Stockholm

We’ve been living in Stockholm for three months.

When my husband and I boarded the plane from New York back in January we weren’t sure what to expect. We were anxious for plenty of reasons: Will we find a place to live? Will it be difficult to make friends? Will we be lost as English speakers in a world of Swedish?

The last few months have been a blur. It’s been both wildly fast and dramatically slow at times. Now is a unique point in our lives, where each day is filled with a hundred new experiences, new inputs, new learnings, and tiny observations added to the mental folder called “Life Experience.”

What have we been up to since January? We’ve:
– Lived in two apartments
– Lived without a paycheck for almost two months
Lived without furniture or a place to sit down for a week
Made three trips to IKEA
Lit a fire in our fireplace only to learn the hard way it isn’t open
Translated and successfully paid our bills in Swedish
Expanded our vocabulary in Swedish to pre-school level
Walked across a frozen lake!
Met hundreds of new people at work and through networks
Traveled across the Nordics to Oslo
Hiked on a fjord island and in our own backyard
Learned how to properly slice Swedish cheese and butter a knäckebröd

So far we love Sweden. It’s clean and friendly, and the city feels accessible, even as a newcomer. I’m excited to keep exploring and building the structure of our lives here, though I have mixed feelings about getting settled. In some ways it will be nice to have some stability, but in other ways it will be sad to lose that brief moment of exciting newness. Will the city be as delightful when it becomes predictable? Time and experience will tell.

January 18, 2016

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See you soon, New York

My husband and I are ex pats. Last week we broke our lease, sold our stuff, and got on a plane for my new job in Stockholm, Sweden.

We’ve been talking about moving away from New York for quite some time. Right after our honeymoon we came home and realized we weren’t loving our lives in Brooklyn. And we needed a new project. So we agreed that in a year we’d start to look at new places to live. Nine months later (instead of announcing a post-marriage baby, as many of our friends had) I started my job search with the intent to leave New York.

When you decide to leave a place, you’d better be already finished with it. Once you make up your mind and say it out loud that you’re going to leave suddenly every experience transitions into the potential “last one.” Going for a slice becomes “this could by my last time going for pizza EVER!” And sitting in a stalled train you proclaim “this could be the last time I sit in train traffic on the subway EVER!” You start counting down, narrowing out mediocre restaurants and experiences and people because you have a limited time left to enjoy everything. The kicker is that you don’t get to enjoy anything. The logistics of moving to another city (and country) fill all those moments you’d rather spend doing things for the ceremonial “last” time. You sacrifice a great meal with friends in exchange for a Seamless order on the couch because that’s all you have energy left to do.

In the end, the entire process of leaving is a blur. The “last” times don’t matter. What matters is the hundreds of times I rode the L train and stood crowded in with my neighbors, hot and angry as we collectively endured a signal malfunction. All the times we hiked up to the MoMA for a superb afternoon of art. The memories we shared at our local ramen spot. The years I spent crammed into my first apartment and the shenanigans I shared with my roommates. I won’t remember the first time or the last time for many things, but instead everything in between that made life in the city wonderful and terrible at the same time.

I read a book – Goodbye to All That – as part of my self-help between our early talks of leaving and actually convincing myself we would go. I can’t help but love New York, and I’m happy to finally have a story about leaving it.

July 24, 2015

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How to review design work

Our team has transitioned into a fairly lean UX process, and that means we’re often having quick design reviews and impromptu shares of our projects.

For some of our designers, they’re happy to shoot from the hip and explain their work freely. For others, it’s a flustering experience to have to stop in the middle of their thinking and explain where they’re at.

I wanted to put together a simple framework for sharing our work so we can effectively communicate with one another and receive good feedback at the right moments in the design process. Even if it’s a short, 15-minute review we all go through the same steps of communicating a design. The framework below can be helpful for short conversations and longer critiques with big groups of stakeholders.

1. Context: Set up the conversation
What is the problem you’re solving?
What work have you done so far?
What fidelity of work will we see today?
Recap any major past decisions for attendees who may have missed them.

2. Content: Show the work
Walk us through a flow and tell a story to illustrate how it works.
Tell us how the design solution is solving the problem or meeting a business goal.

3. Critique: Collect feedback
Come prepared with a few key questions you want to discuss.
If you’re looking to reach a decision about a design direction or detail, say so!
Ask questions about the feedback if you don’t understand it.

4. Continue: Share next steps
Tell us what you’re going to do next.

I’d love to hear other approaches to design critique, especially if you’re team has a totally different way of sharing their work!

March 15, 2015

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The Fast Route to Meaning

I just found out we can take our emoji addiction to another level by adding a keyboard of animated GIFs to our phones.

Check out Riffsy, an extension that adds GIFs to your phone’s keyboard: https://www.riffsy.com/

At first glance, my pragmatic brain was baffled. “Why on earth would we need to send a GIF over text? How lazy are we?!” But then I saw their home page demo and it all clicked.

GIF: The internet’s gift to humanity

GIFs came to life in the days of the nascent web. They were a hack-y solution for a medium that could only hold images and text, before Flash and HTML5 made all our motion-tastic dreams come true. Even though the animated GIF’s original function is obsolete, GIFs are alive and well today. It has been repurposed as a form of art, where artists use its known constraints as a unique advantage. Read the history of GIFs here if you’re interested. There are a million sites devoted to the GIF as the kitschiest of kitsch art forms.

The more common and mass usage for GIFs is as a meme: use a sequence of images plus a non-sequitur phrase to equal new, instant meaning.

srsly guise

In fact GIFs have evolved into a complex form of language. Image + image + image + text = lol meaning. Though the intent of communication is arguably different, these GIFs remind me of Chinese characters. Each character is a complex combination of strokes that represent a bigger idea than one word or one letter alone. Because they’re so graphic, GIFs may have an even stronger relationship to hieroglyphics, the ancient Egyptian language that told stories and described ideas through a series of encoded images placed together.

From Image and Language to Text

Just like the internet has advanced in its technical capacity for moving images, our communications sphere has also evolved. SMS and email (and Facebook messaging, tweets, Snapchat, GroupMe, and anything else digital) are our primary mode of communication with everyone from friends and coworkers to family. This shift has been a source of discussion for many linguists, who’ve observed the rise in emoticon usage in our written communications. The basic premise of each analysis is that this new medium for communication removed much of our emotion, and the formality (and sometimes terseness) of writing causes us to move away from a friendly, colloquial tone. People started compensating for these qualities by inserting a smiley face to make it clear they were excited or happy about the message they were sending.

:)

But why were our messages losing emotion in the first place? Is it the sloppiness of our thumbs on a tiny device? Is it our general laziness to slog through using a digital keyboard? Though I’m a grammar snob myself I have many contacts who prefer to communicate in proper SMS language. “R U coming tonight” “Cant wait 4 dinner with U” “<3 U”

Lately, the use of emoticons has been trumped by emoji, a keyboard of complex tiny images that each communicate a single idea. Avid texters get clever and combine emoji to tell a more complicated story.

emoji phrase

This is the new visual emotional language of the text.

Make it Count

The diversity of digital communications that we have available to us creates a rich landscape for communication. We’re all becoming more adept at talking quickly through the written word, and we’re doing it more frequently than ever before. In response, our language becomes more sophisticated and our tools for communicating become even more complex.

In his book Damn Good Advice, George Lois proclaims “All creativity should communicate in a nanosecond.” This fact is even more true in a 2015 text message, where your piece of creative language has only a half moment for your recipient to glance at it before moving on to the next micro message.

Even though it seems totally excessive to me, the animated GIF keyboard is a masterful execution of image + image + text = meaning. It enables more sophisticated communication that reaches the pinnacle of emotional connection and speed of communication.

February 22, 2015

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From Startup to Stable

I recently had the opportunity to speak at Interaction15 about my team at Amex.

My slides are up on slideshare, video coming soon!

January 10, 2015

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That Unique Pattern That Will Be Your Life

This stood out in an opinion over at the Times:

Gardner goes on in this wise way. And then, at the end, he goes into a peroration about leading a meaningful life. “Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you. … You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life.”

– The Problem with Meaning

January 8, 2015

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Ramen Tour

It’s 10 degrees in New York City, and that’s after it warmed up today.

Ramen

The holidays are over, the first couple weeks’ cleanse is almost complete, and it’s time to begin the Ramen Tour. When it’s this cold, there’s nothing better than a hot, steamy bowl of brothy, spicy noodle soup.

My plan is to hit one ramen spot each week while it’s cold. Through January? February? March?!

Here’s the list.

Ippudo
Seems to be everyone’s favorite

Mu Ramen
Ramen in Long Island City? Yes, please.

Totto Ramen
Seared meats and beautiful noodles

Ivan Ramen
I’ve heard this may be better than Ippudo

Suzume
Our local ramen favorite, obviously

Momofuku
I’ve been in NYC eight years and still haven’t been

What are some other great spots?

December 27, 2014

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New Year, New Intentions

I dislike New Year’s resolutions. I always think if you’ve got an idea to change something or do something new, why not start now?

It seems silly to wait until January 1. However, I must admit the end of the year is ripe for reflection and opening up new ideas in oneself, which naturally feed into resolutions. Instead of resolving to do something, I like to set intentions for the year, believing that how we spend the first few days of the year and where we point our new compass can set the tone for the 12 months that lie ahead.

This year my husband and I will spend New Year’s Eve with my brother, his wife and their nine month old daughter. We’re going to be less party-party and more family-family. We’re hoping to make an epic mealtime for the family on New Year’s Day, suggesting that our year may be full of stability, coziness and comfort ahead. I like the odds there.

For my year’s intentions I’ve so far only planned one: improve my culture. Lately I’ve been very lazy about reading and watching culture. I have a long list of unread saved articles on Instapaper, an unpruned Feedly feed full of food, culture and thoughts, and a trim Instagram feed that can be entirely scrolled through in under a few minutes. My intention will be to curate and add to the collection of stuff that feeds my eyes and brain this year, in digital form and beyond.

December 15, 2014

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Design team and playdoh mix well.

For our end of year offsite the team headed over to the Brooklyn Brainery for a day of reflection and fun.

My colleague and I assembled a (massive!) gallery of projects the team completed this year and came up with silly superlatives for each. “Best Use of Spreadsheets!” or “Most Drawings of Bears Made in Project” were top prizes, and everyone walked away with a few tiny trophies, made in Hong Kong style.

And there was Playdoh.

December 14, 2014

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Grocery shopping on Grand Street