I spent my Saturday frantically trying to get everything done so that I could have Sunday to do whatever I wanted. What I chose to do was read.
I got up somewhere between 6 and 7 and by 7:30 had built a camp on my sofa. My balcony door was wide open allowing a fresh breeze through, mingled with the sounds of the birds in the trees.
I’d bought plenty of milk so until 10:30 PM (yep! That long.) I only left the sofa for tea. It was heaven.
I read a mixture of things. I try to limit myself to one story, one non-fiction book at a time but somehow I’d ended up with three books on the go (David Copperfield, Jodie Moule’s Killer UX Design and a book about the psychology of addiction—that last one sounds strange if you don’t know how much I love psychology). I also had a stack of magazines to go through and my Instapaper was ridiculously stuffed with things I’d never got round to looking at.
Me being me and a fan of systems started a cycle of reading a chapter from each book, 30 mins of Instapaper or one magazine. I’ll say again, it was heaven.
The point of writing this is to say that from my perspective, reading stories is of paramount importance. Above all things it exercises our “imagination muscle”.
In design, it’s so easy to get lost in the sea of inspiration that is available on the net. We spend a lot of time consuming “good design” and it can be easy forget that there’s a whole world out there.
There are also a lot of worlds in your head.
A good story guides you and lets your mind do the rest. A recent example for me is Stephen King. I’ve discovered just how capable he can be at saying very little about a particular thing but still planting a seed of terror. This seed continues growing long after you’ve put the book in the freezer.
Our imaginations are important because at the end of the day those are what helps us problem solve, they help us create. It’s would be easy to dismiss the idea that there could be a link between me reading some Dickens and doing good work this week, but it’s like anything. You have to keep exercising and challenging it to help it grow stronger.
Reading books (good and bad) also helps you write better, and all designers should write. It helps you formalise your thinking, it can help you to see things you might have missed, it helps you remember things and it helps you learn.
It’s still important to read all those articles and fact based books, but don’t forget that the humble story has something to offer you too.
* I finished Killer UX Design yesterday, it’s a really good case study showing how UX can and should be included at different stages of a project. Buy it here.
If you want to see what I’m reading, check out my Goodreads account. Yes there are some weird ones in there 😉