Crazy Glasses

I was thinking about silos today. Not silos of the grain storage variety but of the business variety whereby people in large companies wall themselves off according to team, hierarchical structure, or systems they support. I've personally experienced siloed thinking along my journey toward becoming a designer. Prior to graduating, I was required to participate in a review in which a panel of practicing designers provided feedback on my design portfolio and resumé. When they saw that I was an older graduate whose primary experience was in technology at a large corporation, they immediately put their walls up. They didn't know what to make of my background and spent no time trying to understand where I was coming from. Instead they spent a lot of time talking at me. I was uncomfortable more with their suggestion to be careful about my personal "branding". One reviewer told me, "You need to loosen up and look more designer-y. Maybe go out an buy a crazy pair of glasses or something." I was even more uncomfortable with the implied age-ism in their advice to make sure I capable of fresh thinking. When I tried to explain why I thought a background in technology and large corporate experience would be beneficial in my new career, particularly if I was going to be designing workplaces, the reviewers downplayed my experience as if a technologist couldn't possibly design anything. Particularly a technologist who was 25-years into her career.

So how does this relate to silos? Last evening I participated in a committee brainstorming session through an association focused on workplace design. I was the only committee member who doesn't work for a large architectural or design firm. We discussed the current state of the workplace. Ostensibly the conversation was about workplace design. What was most interesting to me is that the conversation revolved primarily around large corporate environments with a multi-generational workforce that are considering how to seamlessly incorporate technology into the daily flow. I might as well have been at a meeting in my day job. The discussion was almost exactly the same.

Silos exist within companies, within industries, within politics, or different religions. The value I hope to provide as I grow my own business is to break down those silos for my clients. Designers cannot effectively design if they don't seek to understand and respect the people they're designing for. Conversely, people can't improve their work or living spaces if they don't seek to understand and respect the perspective and value of a designer.

Now, off to buy a crazy pair of glasses! (not)

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