Have you ever walked into a room and immediately knew you made a mistake? If you haven’t, here is how that situation might go. You open the door and step in, starting to utter an apology for being a little late. The conversation inside stopped, heads could turn to look at you, and the overall energy is just tense. You weren’t supposed to be there. Feeling suffocated and slightly embarrassed, you’d back out of the room while mumbling a quick apology. After shutting the door you release a breath and try to shake off the experience, but that scene is burned into the inside of your eyeballs.
As children, we try to make sense of the world as we are learning it. During that process, we use advanced mediums of communication like linguistics, written words, movement, and exaggerated emotion in order to share exactly what we may be thinking or feeling. If you were like me as a child, you used a combination of those – plus the addition of hand-drawn scribbles – to make EXTRA SURE that people understood. Through the collective power of drawing, writing, and too much imagination, I was able to create stories. Throughout elementary school, we were handed blank books and tasked to create our own fantastical saga, complete with novice illustrations. Nearly twenty years later, I still have these sentimental novelettes tucked away in the bottom left drawer of my white oak desk.
As a society, we are always looking to learn things faster and simpler. Exerting the least amount of energy as possible is a MUST. When presented with a wall of information, I admit that even I cringe and then proceed to Google various sources in order to find somewhere that will tell me exactly what that novel of an article was trying to say in bite-sized chunks. It is arguable that I might have gotten my answers quicker had I just sat there and read through the entire article – but does that mean I would have understood it?
When I think about America, my head flurries with images, feelings, and history. As these blips of culture phase in and out of focus, I begin to realize that there is simply too much information. From regional delicacies to tourist traps, America itself is unique, everchanging, and yet, somehow still rooted in the past. There’s just something about the “Land of the Free” that many deem to be special. Unlike many of my peers and fellow American citizens, I’ve never made a trip abroad. No summer vacations in the islands, no spring break trip to Mexico, and no semesters spent in Europe. While I do lament the fact that I’ve been somewhat deprived, I can consider myself to be an expert in “USA today.” This week, I worked to simplify my home country into a singular concept: Regional Stereotypes.
For the past six weeks, I have been honing my ideation and prototyping skills in order to create an app for my hometown of Hillsborough, NJ. Why would a township need an app? Good question. I believe that a township app could help maximize their communication efforts for a fraction of the cost of what they are currently doing. Although the project would require budget, the township throws away so much money by creating paper flyers, posters, sandwich boards, and other forms of advertising that just doesn’t reach the intended audiences.
When we create projects within a team – especially those that take months to complete – we fall victim to the worst thing imaginable if we don’t user test: failing to actually solve the problem we were supposed to. But how could that be? You’ve worked for hundreds of hours to solve that PARTICULAR issue for your target audience. Your team has gone back and forth with revisions, and leadership approved of the final product. How could you actually fail to produce something that doesn’t yield success?
If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that paper rules. Paper houses the scribed words of history, brings joy through art, and helps us document our life experiences. While many people believe that paper is falling to the wayside due to the digital revolution, paper is still as relevant now as it was centuries ago. Think about it. The physical presence of one piece of paper is enough to qualify a human being. A birth certificate, a diploma, a resume, a marriage license, a letter of recommendation. The list goes on. It’s amazing how this material can stimulate creativity or rigidity – just by how we envision its purpose.