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Brain Buzz

It's 4am.
"What's wrong, can't sleep?", Faith asks.
"For the first time in a long time, I'm lying here, wide awake, thinking about work", I reply.
"Wow, that's great". She heads back to slumberland.
I am so blessed to have a wife who understands <strong>exactly</strong> what I mean, what I feel and loves me knowing exactly the person I am.
It has been a long time. Since the redesign of the <a href="http://www.moe.gov.sg/">MOE Corporate website</a> half a year ago, we've shifted into the necessary maintenance mode, quashing small bugs and ironing out processes to keep the website stocked with up-to-date information.
The initial days of the redesign were an amazing high for us. We had a ton of feedback, both external and internal, from colleagues in other departments who had problems finding information that sat on an entirely new information architecture framework to journalists who couldn't navigate the new site. It was an amazing experience to be able to address all their feedback in real time as we morphed the homepage, tweaked navigation and made important information more accessible within minutes of receiving emails. The response time in which we were able to react turned many frowns upside down (hate the clich&eacute;) and shocked many users who weren't expecting immediate response from government web team.
It was also a high because we received numerous emails thanking us for bringing a Singapore government site into the 21st century. The geekier ones (some of them are you guys reading my blog) loved the underlying code and gave us suggestions with which we used to improve the online experience.
We were designing something collaboratively with our audience and it was amazing.
That was then.
Maintenance mode is an iterative process that goes on perpetually. As we comb the website for possible improvements, our audience had also gotten used to our design and adapted to our flaws. Innovation was exercised in the publishing of new content, like the insertion of flickr photographs and online video into speeches and press releases.
There were ideas I could offer, but for the most part the audience seemed happy with the information they were getting. There was very little impetus for change, and it would was hard to expect colleagues to put in extra work to cut information a dozen new ways simply because I thought it would serve our audience better.
We missed you.
I missed you.Over the last month or so, it had been a difficult journey of searching for my self-identity. I was toying with a number of options:
* a career move
* getting into graduate school
* starting up the business again
While looking through graduate programmes I realised that I needed to understand who I was and what it was I did for a living. The programmes that intrigued me were,
* <a href="http://cms.mit.edu/">Comparative Media Studies at MIT</a>
* <a href="http://www.design.cmu.edu/show_program.php?s=2&t=2">Communication Planning and Information Design at Carnegie Mellon</a>
* <a href="http://www.design.cmu.edu/show_program.php?s=2&t=3">Interaction Design at Carnegie Mellon</a>
* <a href="http://hci.stanford.edu/">Human-Computer Interaction at Stanford via Journalism</a>
* <a href="http://www.ischool.berkeley.edu/">Information Studies at Berkeley</a>
* <a href="http://interactiondesign.sva.edu/">Interaction Design at School of Visual Arts</a> (It's a new programme, but Liz Danzico, Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Santa Maria and Khoi Vinh are teaching!)
I don't cleanly fit into any of the above categories. At the day job I do everything from strategising the way MOE disseminates information via online channels, which technology platforms we ought to be running on and all the way down to the actual crafting of each individual page.
I love all the aspects of communicating meaning, whether in words, or <a href="http://photolog.org/">photographs</a>, or audio or graphic art. Ok, I still don't quite get opera, but it's probably because I've never been to one. Oh, add interpretive dance too…don't get that one either.
I love crafting user experiences. Making something a joy, rather than a burden to use. Creating tools to help with decision-making. I love them all.
It took me a while to realise my identity as a designer. Mainly because it required a departure from the commonly understood definition of who and what a designer is. I don't dress flashy or have 5 pairs of shoes. I don't understand avant-garde. I don't use mascara.
But I'm a designer the same way a carpenter is. I love the nuts and bolts stuff – making information fit, figuring out how parents can pick all the information they need to get the best education for their children while keeping in stride with their busy lives.
Everyone is a designer. Some more intentional than others.
So what's keeping me up? Realising that I'm part of a much, much larger team at MOE. And if I could help some of the folks there get into the groove of communicating via social media, they could do a lot more than what I could do as an individual.

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