#42 The Drawing Designer

I met Laura Boardman when she volunteered to visualise an #upfront workshop I was running as part of the Service Design Fringe Festival. I appreciated her generosity and loved the visuals she created for us. Laura is at the start of a new journey of building something and she's asking herself important questions. Here's what she's got to say...

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What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the last year?

I’ve been working for myself under Outdraw for a year and half so I’ve learnt a lot about service design, managing collaborative teams and how best to draw out the right information from people to do the best job, but the thing that’s had the biggest impact is something very simple. 

My boyfriend and I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc this summer (it was amazing! I recommend it to everyone) and not taking my laptop afforded me time to think. I realised that I had been working on whatever came my way and wasn't looking at the bigger picture. I decided to ask myself a few questions to make sure I don’t drift; 

  • Will I learn from this? 
  • Do I want to work with this person/people? 
  • Is it a step toward my overall ambition?
  • Will this pay the bills? 

Not every project ticks all of these. I’ve started saying no to some people where my time and effort far outweighed what I was learning in return. I redoubled my efforts to seek out companies and people I really wanted to work with and things have definitely improved.

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What’s your burning question of the moment?

On a personal level, it’s the same one that I’ve been wrestling with for my whole working life. I expend a certain amount of energy doing something every day, and I want that something to matter, the friction being much of my life I’ve not felt that it did. So the question is: How can I use my natural abilities, skills, interests and experience to improve the lives of others (while earning enough to live in London)?

My twenties were spent zigzagging between jobs that satisfied perhaps one of the above at a time and none that were particularly successful, but the sum of my experience and its breadth proves to be valuable with each project that comes my way.

On a project basis, I’m conducting some design research for a childcare service so I’m often wondering whether more flexible quality childcare could help equalise the gender gap while empowering flexible workers to work with professionalism and efficiency.  

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What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, heard and read in the last year?

SEEN: A month or so ago I met Rachita, Jade and Rebecca. We worked at an event with Swarm & Girl Effect together for two days illustrating initiatives designed to create positive change for girls across the world.  Seeing us all working together was so good that by the end of the second day we agreed to form a company focusing on scribing, idea illustration and rapid prototyping/wireframes for meetings, workshops and events.  They are smart, ambitions and finding an enthusiastic group of new friends has been really inspiring, We’re called Think Ink and you can find us at wethinkwithink.co.uk in the not too distant future …

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HEARD: Something Lauren said at her #upfront workshop during The Service Design Festival  really resonated with me, I want it embossed in gold leaf on my studio wall:

“Do things the way you want the world to be”

On a personal note, when I was working at an event in Canary Wharf at one of the big 4 I was in the ladies’ loos and a woman walked in not knowing I was there and complimented me saying to a colleague “That girl drawing has the best job in the room”. In my early career having never displayed much academic prowess I got rejected frequently from large organisations, so to hear this made my heart do a flip in my chest. 

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READING: The title is bit buzzfeed but I really enjoyed reading The Misfit Economy lessons in creativity from pirates, hackers, gangsters and other entrepreneurs. The reason I moved jobs so frequently in my twenties was because when I looked up the hierarchy and didn’t see a role I wanted, didn’t like the culture or didn’t see the organisation allowing space for new ideas, I left.

At the time the overwhelming advice was to stick with something, anything for the sake of your CV. Thanks to my much more successful peers around the world starting their own ventures, quitting education and getting filthy rich, society has jumped on the themes of failing fast, pivoting and our business books are praising the ingenuity of criminals and pirates -  If not perfect, it is very refreshing.    

What would be your one piece of advice to students out there?

Be introspective. Ignore the limitations of thinking in school subjects, further education topics and job titles and listen to instinct.

  • Do you like working with people, alone, or both?
  • What matters to you about the world you live in?
  • Notice when you find it easy to focus? What are you doing at the time?
  • What motivates you to do things?
  • What are you interested in?

List people who you think have dream jobs, ask to meet them, find out about their day to day, understand the bits you think you could do and find out how you can learn them. Understand the bits that feel impossible and research ways of getting around them.

Seek a independent career coach if you can afford to, but ultimately don’t be shy to contact people you’d like to emulate and ask to learn more about what they do. It’s never been easier than it is today and people are generous, you’ll learn a lot and it might only cost you a coffee.

I think it’s tough for students.  I know what my friends do for a living but even so, I wouldn’t know anything about how they spend their days at work and detail of the responsibilities they have unless I spent a day with them. I believe if this were available to the young workforce it would save a lot of unsuccessful hires.

Because I believe in this, it’s something the Think Ink team and I are looking at integrating into what we do. The issue Lauren addresses with #upfront on stage is true of even mid-level internal meetings in many organisations. We would like to have the ability to allow anyone to come along for the day and observe what we do and see first-hand what businesses are discussing and doing.

Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction to chime with something else Lauren mentioned ‘you can't be what you can't see.’    

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