The Wicked Cheap Design Thinker

They don’t make them like this anymore — and if they did, I’d be much less inclined to worry.

Doing dishes this afternoon after my wife rocked the heck out of our new food processor and slow cooked some mightily delicious chicken in our new dutch oven, it occurred to me just how inept I am in the kitchen.

I have to YouTube scrambled eggs.

Now, this isn’t a case of fixed mindset.  I most certainly could become a tremendous home cook because I love local food, I love good food, and I watch a lot of Master Chef.

However, I hate throwing away food.  We have two young children.  I love them dearly.  I have put on ten pounds since the boy came along because it pains me to dump the remains of their plates.  The possibility of having to throw out that which I attempted to prepare — no matter how noble the effort — derails me.  It isn’t the ego on the ropes. It is the wallet.

This is why I have yet to build coffee tables and bookshelves, play with electronics and wiring, or truly fix anything on my own around my house.  I dare not run the risk of wasting the resources necessary to the task or, shudder to think, making the situation worse and costing yet more money.

I build piles of stuff for the theater on the cheap.  Impermanent notions crafted with impermanent materials — often leftovers.  Diners and parlors, storefronts and sitting rooms look good from the audience.  They serve the purpose and then poof, gone, ethereal, a Matthew McConaughey monologue away from repurposing.   I’m proud of those sets that are more style than substance, more casting an impression than asserting a presence.

Yet, I’m a fail upper.  I’m a design thinker.  I see mistakes as part of a journey.  I encourage my students to screw up early and often.  Revise.  Reiterate.  Give it another go.  Talk it out.  Map out another strategy.  Talk to your user.  Bust out some markers. Colored pencils.  Freebie sticky notes and wholesale Sharpies. Grab some paper.  Cardboard.  LEGO.  Old board games.  Card stock.  Manila folders.  Doodlethink it.  Sketchnote it.  Cut it up. Tape it.  Staple it. Toss it it out.  Try something new.  It’s all about the process.  Trust in the process and the product will come in time. Patience and passion.

How to reconcile the two?

For now, I create things that cost me little to nothing to try and try again.  I write.  I perform. I direct.  I improvise.  I design instruction.  I tweet and I blog.  I 3D print.  (PLA Filament? Shockingly affordable.)  I work on committees and plan events.

And the more ambitious ideas?  Those that require feats of engineering and confidence with a frying pan?   Those that might mean a single unmeasured slice of the chop saw or misapplication of the solder gun could mean certain doom?

I’m thinking about starting a GoFundMe.


About Dan Ryder

Dan Ryder & Jeff Bailey, co-founders of Wicked Decent Learning, a blog, podcast, Twitter feed and who-knows-what-all-else devoted to teaching and learning in Vacationland and beyond. Teachers, dads, actors, writers, geeks, buds.

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