This February, I had the esteemed opportunity to join the interaction design community at Interaction 11 in Boulder, Colorado. While there, I got to attend my first Local Leaders Workshop as a representative from NYC. Needless to say, I loved talking with other Local Leaders from around the world about what their interaction design communities are doing. One of the ideas that has taken hold in several areas is Design for Good. Several chapters have taken the stance of helping a local non profit/charity by designing interactive solutions for them… basically using our talents in our free time to help those that can’t afford it, a dream that we all have. So, I was wondering how NYC might get onboard, and if there was 1. a desire to do this in our community, 2. ideas around what types of groups to help, and 3. ideas on getting started? So, what do you think??
For those of you that don’t know, I am a huge foodie and am always on the hunt for new food adventures. That’s why when I first moved to NYC a couple of years I found myself on an adventure to Avenue J in Brooklyn to visit and try Di Fara’s, a New York institution. During my 2 hour wait for what was probably the best pizza I’ve ever had, I took notice of what was going on around me. Here is what I saw.
First Di Fara’s is not a fancy place, it is a hole in the wall as a matter of fact. There are about 5 tables squished into the dining area. The place is packed with people pretty much the entire time so that decreases the available space even more! But another thing I noticed was how the workers at Di Fara’s worked as a team. They worked quickly, but at their own pace. Meaning, it didn’t feel like a chaotic environment at all, which is personally something I hate about popular food spots. The last thing I took into account, and was really surprised about, was that DeMarco, the owner who has lived many many more years than I, himself makes each and every pizza. He takes care to make sure each one is perfect, like each pie is the best one he’s ever made.
Imagine my delight when Kottke posted a link to a short Di Fara’s documentary a few weeks back! I absolutely loved this film, and it opened my eyes to the behind the scenes of the business, as well as confirmed my thoughts and observations. Everyone that works at Di Fara’s is part of the family. They support DeMarco and are basically his assistants, making sure everything is in place for him to make his pizzas. This is a big reason why your experience there doesn’t feel chaotic and rushed, because it’s not. There is one guy making every pizza, and yes it takes 2 hours before you get it, but honestly you don’t really care because you feel taken care of and safe. Plus, he’s just so passionate about making your pizza… you actually feel special, like your’s really might be the best one ever.
Perhaps my favorite part of the film is around minute 13:50 when they are talking to one of the customers. He says “It would be nice if alot of other businesses operated in that fashion. That it wasn’t just a product.” If that isn’t the tagline that we’ve been working with since this industry existed, I don’t know what is! The idea that it’s not the product, but the emotion behind it that makes something successful, well that is what we are all about.
Dom DeMarco has turned having pizza into an experience of a lifetime. Honestly who really knows if the pizza tastes any better or worse than other pies. It’s good… it’s damn good, but did I love the pizza so much because of the dough, cheese, and sauce? Or did I love the pizza so much because of the experience. If you’re a NYer go on down to Avenue J and see for yourself (be sure to tell me all about it). I think we can all learn from the Di Fara’s example the huge impact that being passionate about the end product and ensuring a positive experience can have… even on something as simple as dough, sauce and cheese. So go forth and preach the Di Fara’s example in your work! Who knows, it could help, afterall, everyone has to respect an example that features pizza… just sayin.
As the end of the year approaches we see more and more “year end” posts and articles come through. At first, my cynical, sarcastic self thinks “gah I hate all these wrap up, year end articles!”. Then reason takes over and I realize it would probably be a good exercise to reflect on what I’ve done this year. So, here is my year in review.
Sitting back and thinking I realize that 2009 has been a HUGE year for me.
1) I went independent, which meant deciding to do UX on my own. Working for myself has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, and this year I brought that dream to life.
2) I began volunteering with the NYC IxDA. Due to this I’ve not only learned a ton, but I’ve met a slue of awesome, intellegent and talented people. IxDA has helped me to get myself out there and become part of the UX Community here in NY.
3) I spoke on my first panel (you can see me here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2600736) at this November’s New York Entrepreneur week. This was an invaluable experience that I absolutely loved doing and hope I get the chance to do again.
4) I’ve interviewed, met with, talked to, gotten advice from a LOT of awesome people. All of these pieces of advice have allowed me to start to see success as an independent worker and also as a UX Designer as a whole. A HUGE HUGE HUGE Thank You to everyone who took even a few minutes of their time to talk with me and answer my many questions. Hopefully I will get the chance to repay the favor one day.
5) I found one of my niches in the UX Community with my current UX Therapy group. These talented folks meet every week to begin to sort through the issues and good times that we find in our jobs, as well as to exchange ideas and help each other grow. I owe you guys a lot!
6) There is a ton more that I’ve accomplished this year (found the NY Tech community, attended more meetups and events that I ever thought possible, managed to function on almost 0 sleep and still made it to the gym to work out and destress) but I think the most important is that I started to believe in and have confidence in myself. I believe that everything I mention above and everything I’ve done this year has contributed to this accomplishment. All the people that have encouraged me and all of the experiences have meant and continue to mean so much to me.
2009 will go down in history as one of the best, most stressful, and crazy years of my life. Knowing that everything has been preparing me for even bigger and better things, I can’t WAIT to see what 2010 has in store. Stay tuned here to find out :-).