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Letting Things Go

June 4, 2013

During the last year I spent a great deal of time reading, thinking, talking and creating things about one single topic. The topic was personal financial information and more specifically the visualization thereof. My personal interest for this topic stems from the striking imbalance of knowledge in this area between experts and laymen and the even more striking imbalance of the distribution of risk. Believe me when I say, the situation does not look good for people like you and me. I want to do something about this. In 2012 I enrolled in the Master of Arts in Design program and explored potential solutions over the course of the past 18 months.

I did this beside working full time as managing director and designer at Interactive Things. With only 24 hours available per day, this turned out to be a bigger challenge than I was ready to admit. At times I struggled hard to balance between my responsibilities at Interactive Things and the work on my research project at ZHdK. The daily work with my team mates for our clients did win most battles for my attention, energy and time. This environment is far from ideal to bring a nimble project idea to full blooming.

Today is marked in my calendar as the date of my thesis defense. Well, it didn't take place. I did't hand in my thesis nor did I exhibit my work (don't worry, I informed my school and my mentors early enough in advance). I decided to prolong my stay at the University and to extend my research project. I also decided to throw away a large portion of my written work and actually all of my design and development work. Visualizations never seen, interfaces never used, words never read. That's sad on one hand, but liberating on the other. Although I believe in the conclusions from my work, I am not satisfied with the final results. I don't see them proving my hypothesis nor aiding understanding to the degree I believe to be necessary. Therefore I made the decision to let things go to make room for others to come.

Going back to square one helped me to refocus my work. Together with my mentor Gerhard Buurman, I have defined what's important and meaningful about my past work and redefined the priority of my future work. I have also rescheduled the plan to work on my master's project and thesis. I force myself to a rigorous schedule with clearly defined milestones for activities and deliverables. Well, this isn't precisely new to me, because I do this all the time for our client's projects. Following the gospel that I preach, I guess. Beside my own time, I can rely on the people that have supported me during the first year and I will make sure not to waste anyone's precious time. It means a lot that you spend time to listen to my ideas, review my work and articulate your thoughts. I am committed to make best use of our time and energy in my second round and to deliver the results that I strived for in my first.

Acknowledgement

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