Design Management Lessons from Carlo’s Bakery

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Cakes and Design, a winning combo? Yes! I found out recently that my favorite TV shows are reality shows where there’s some form of creation and/or competition like Cake Boss and Next Great Baker. At first it was all about passing time, entertainment and cakes, then I noticed the design process was similar to what we do on projects in the digital space.

There were a few points I picked up in the process which will be helpful on any design project. Enjoy.

Have Client Conversations

You will get all kinds of clients, aim to have a relaxed friendly conversation no matter how ‘corporate’ they seem. Very often this turns into some sort of battle where you have to get on the defensive but clients go to you because they trust your abilities or want to trust you, show them they are before the right person.

Meet in a comfortable place, ask about their vision, feedback on the spot with ideas. Your expertise should be what takes the conversation forward.

Share the Vision

For leaders, be honest. If it’s going to be a gigantic cake, if it’s something you have never handled before, tell them. Let your people buy into it and push themselves to achieve it.

For those who are led, if you still don’t get it, ask questions.

Sketch or Prototype the Ideas

When I saw the lo-fi sketches and 3D animations, I smiled because this is a no brainer. A good designer thinks visually and a part of that is being able to communicate the ideas in mind. It also enhances collaboration and helps one figure out what could or isn’t working. Paper and pen is all you need.

Building the Idea starts with Building the right team

After the high level vision and ideas have been shared, it is important to break up the goal in chunks that can be handled by every member of team, depending on the scale of the project. In the Bakery, everyone is known to be excellent in particular areas, and they are called to handle that area especially where there’s a large piece of work to be done.

Again, it is very important that everyone sticks to their strengths – a live client project with constraints is not the place to start learning, let the tasks be assigned according to what the individuals are good at.

Call in the Experts

“Sometimes you have to go outside your field of study to find the right people.” - Temple Grandin

You might be a design or baking expert, but it’s important to acknowledge you don’t know all things. The bakery has a number of relationships with experts in other fields outside bakery that help them achieve their goals. One time they even had to bake the cake in the FX expert’s workshop! Designers must form such relationships with others. Collaboration outside of the team is very important for excellent work.

Have Some Fun

“No matter what the recipe, any baker can do wonders in the kitchen with some good ingredients and an upbeat attitude!” – Buddy Valastro

Yes it’s work, but like Temple Grandin said, “my work is fun”. Remember to remember that design is fun, you are creating things into the world that never existed before, c’mon, have a laugh! :D

Panic be Gone!

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Ewww. Every now and then, there’s a disaster at the bakery. Someone might have done some shoddy work or the cake melts faster than they can deliver. The number one thing they do is curb panic. The leader, Buddy makes them understand it’s not about ‘you’ Think of the work, think of what can be done to rectify the situation. No time for blame games or hysterics.

It’s a bad thing to do work that is below par, it becomes disastrous when you can’t see what is wrong. Leave ego at home.

Details & Delivery

Details in design cannot be overemphasised, it is what separates brands, products and services, though they might be offering the same things. Everyone on the team needs to know how important this is. Sloppy fondant work for example, can destroy a well baked cake.

Delivery is very important, what happens if attention is not paid to this and the beautiful cake is damaged right before the client’s eyes? Let the details in your work be end to end. Have no rest until the cake is firmly lodged in your client’s stomach.

Leaders Lead by Example

Buddy is the clear leader of Carlo’s Bakery, but he is the type of leader who is hands-on which I like. Because design is a practical thing, It’s great to know you have a leader who can fold up their sleeve and get to work.

Stay Challenged

Carlo’s Bakery constantly tries to push the boundaries, baking bigger and more complex cakes. They take on these challenges from clients because it is important for imagination, to build skill and the team. It also exposes the cracks and helps you make provision for training etc.

Eat Cake.

Everyone I know likes cake, so why not get some to celebrate the end of project. Your team will like you, I promise.

“Cakes are special. Every birthday, every celebration ends with something sweet, a cake, and people remember. It’s all about the memories”

- Buddy Valastro

The Value in Diversity of Minds

“Different Not Less”

Temple Grandin is an Inventor, Innovator, all round amazing person who is on the Autistic spectrum. Probably the best person in the world to tell you about Autism. You just have to read more, and listen to her talk. Claire Danes acted in a movie called Temple Grandin which you have to see.

As someone who knows autistic children, this really drives me to tears, the way we treat others without trying to understand them.. Listen to her.



 

“Boys who cry can work for Google. Boys who trash computers cannot. I once was at a science conference, and I saw a NASA scientist who had just found out that his project was canceled—a project he’d worked on for years. He was maybe sixty-five years old, and you know what? He was crying. And I thought, Good for him. That’s why he was able to reach retirement age working in a job he loved.”
Temple Grandin, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

On Design

Every design problem I’ve ever solved started with my ability to visualize and see the world in pictures. I started designing things as a child, when I was always experimenting with new kinds of kites and model airplanes. In elementary school I made a helicopter out of a broken balsa-wood airplane. When I wound up the propeller, the helicopter flew straight up about a hundred feet. I also made bird-shaped paper kites, which I flew behind my bike. The kites were cut out from a single sheet of heavy drawing paper and flown with thread. I experimented with different ways of bending the wings to increase flying performance. Bending the tips of the wings up made the kite fly higher. Thirty years later, this same design started appearing on commercial aircraft

“Now, in my work, before I attempt any construction, I test-run the equipment in my imagination. I visualize my designs being used in every possible situation”

“My first step in designing a better system was collecting all the published information on existing ‘wheels’. Before doing anything else, I always check out what is considered state-of-the-art so I don’t waste time reinventing the wheel.”

“That idea, like many of my best designs, came to me very clearly just before I drifted off to sleep at night.”

Don’t talk about Immigration on the tube

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Once upon a train

Generally, I don’t talk on the tube. It’s one of those unwritten London rules so I read. However, when you haven’t seen a friend, an ex-colleague in months it’s easy to throw conventions out the window. Due to our busy schedule this was the only time we could catch-up during the week, after work. So there we were on one of the fastest trains, hurtling north and we were talking much.

We talked about the past few months, our present and the future. We talked about the changes we had been subjected to. Being both ‘Expatriates’ or Immigrants as those of us from developing countries are usually called, we talked about our immigration status, and being away from family. Perhaps we were talking too loud, enough for someone to get angry and they did.

I had only heard of such things in the news or read them on blogs, So when this man, standing close to me, said “You are not even British” I could not believe it was happening. Looking at me, his face already turning a certain shade of red, he addressed the both of us. My friend was shocked speechless, (she’s European, so I wasn’t sure this was racism).

“You have better jobs than me” he continued, my heart started to beat so fast, my legs began to fade away, scared of where this might escalate to. “How do you know that” I asked, (my extroverted feeling at work). “We are in this country because we’ve got useful skill” I tried.  “You are not even British” he continued. “You come here and you take the better jobs”. I looked at this man, and knew that a rational conversation was not possible. Luckily the train stopped at the next station shortly so we scrambled to get a seat while others got out. “I’m sorry I couldn’t say anything”, my friend said, “I was shocked”. I told her it was ok, but I was so shocked I had to say something, we deal with things differently.

Please, be kind

The life of immigrants is not an easy one by any measure, especially those of us who have left family behind. We constantly have to weigh our current status and all we had to give up to be here. I’ve been in the UK for 5 years and non-EU migrants like me for the most part depend on companies to sponsor our visas, we cannot collect government benefits. So it can be difficult especially when out of work.

We also get discriminated against when it comes to employment. I’ve been rejected immediately I brought up the fact that I’m Nigerian and would need a visa. It is understandable in some cases, but when it takes at the least, 2 days to get a visa you wonder why recruitment doesn’t take the chance. Is it even legal to discriminate this way?

I feel lucky to be in London, which is currently the most desired place to work in the world, and grateful that companies have agreed to sponsor me, and though I’ve never been denied a UK visa, I know people who have and it is one of the worst feelings in the world. Rejection is one thing, but to have a whole country reject you, horrendous.

Please be kind when you encounter an immigrant, you don’t know their story, give us a chance. The UK visa is actually very straightforward, don’t be afraid of sponsoring and employing one of us.

Thank You.

How to Create an Owl in Omnigraffle

How to draw

Omnigraffle is a tool used by designers and UX professionals primarily for wireframing. The tool also allows one to make the wireframes interactive. Now, Omnigraffle can be utilized for much more than that. I was inspired to explore this when a conversation on tools came up in Spring UX Camp People wanted to know if tools made the designer.

My argument continues to be that tools should be employed depending on what’s available, necessary for the time, audience and purpose. If all you have at a point is Microsoft Word, you should be able to create a useful wireframe in it. That’s a major attribute of a real designer.


A good article on Omnigraffle by UX Matters


Why I like Omnigraffle

Omnigraffle has been a steady tool of mine for the past 3 years. I started using it because it was the main tool at work and I found it comfortable. I like the stencil system which makes one create things faster. Most of what I do begins on paper, while Omnigraffle helps me bring it to life in a myriad of ways.

How You can Illustrate in Omnigraffle

The Basics

It is important to know shapes, and most people who know how to draw naturally know this.

Every object is based on these; The Circle, Triangle and Square.

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Any tool that gives you the ability to create these or by way of stencils can be stretched to far much more, it just depends on your time, level of comfort and imagination.

Understanding the Simple-Complex relationship

When I look at an object I almost instantaneously break it down into pieces, I’m sure it holds true for a lot of designers. This translates into other areas, where you look at a complex problem or argument and you’re able to quickly see the pieces. The most interesting part is that these pieces can be put together in many more ways. This is one reason I like voltron projects.

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Limitations

Omnigraffle is not Adobe Illustrator, so don’t expect advanced work here but you will be able to draw objects, add color to them, modify objects (subtract, union, intersect etc). I haven’t been able to warm to Illustrator, so I can’t tell you what the main differences are, only that there is certainly an advantage to using Illustrator (professionals use it!). But if you are ok with the simple things, Omnigraffle (if you already own it) will work out just fine.

So, I decided to try my hand at a bit of illustration and I’ve enjoyed the whole process immensely. A few things below I’ve created recently, used them in my portfolio, created logos for people, and basically just had fun!

Above all…

It really does start in the mind, don’t ever neglect your pen and paper.

If you cannot see, you cannot do.

Stay Bright.