March 28, 2011
A year ago Suzanne Rico lost her job as morning co-anchor on KCBS-TV (Channel 2). The reason? She was a victim of a major restructuring. “I went from news anchor to news nobody in the three minutes it took for new News Director Scott Diener to fire me.” Suzanne has been reinventing herself ever since that fateful day. She and her husband jettisoned their comfortable life in Los Angeles and began a long, worldwide journey in search of a slower, simpler life. Where will it end? ”With two little kids and a 15 year old Labrador in tow, I’m either headed for enlightenment or an expedited check-in to the looney bin,” Suzanne says. She is documenting their travels on a blog aptly titled Walking Papers. Here she talks about her new mobile office.
You recently went through a big change in your work life. Can you tell us about that? I went from working on deadline ALL the time to working on no deadline at all. This, I would say, is the best thing that came with getting fired. The worst is having no paycheck. The second best thing about getting fired is not having to put on make-up, fancy clothes and heels in the pre-dawn hours–especially if I had been up with a sick kid all night and felt like the living dead. The best lighting a major news network can provide will not make you look or feel good in these circumstances–not to mention allow you to form a cohesive sentence. Now if I have a bad night, I can work in my pajamas and eat grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup (did I mention I no longer have a paycheck?). The journey from well-paid anchor to un-paid blogger feels like a re-birth. I am in the process of discovering who I am when I no longer have to squeeze myself into the confines dictated by a news job. I have total choice. I am my own boss. When my children need me, I can put the computer to sleep. This is liberating, fulfilling, exhilarating and scary as hell to a lifelong workaholic career woman.
With all the travel you are doing right now how do you keep yourself organized? When do you find time to write? And where do you do it? I write in the car, train or airplane as much as possible, but I take my computer anywhere that I think I will have five minutes to write. I work between stints as referee, waitress, circus clown, Lego-builder, teacher, healer, and story-teller because my husband and I are all things to our children right now. All the help I had back when I had a paying job is gone–and I don’t miss it. I work late after the kids are asleep in whatever random room we are staying in, comforted that my family is there but relieved that, for the moment, I have the night to myself. These stolen moments are enough.
Chaos has always made me jumpy. This is likely because I lived such a structured life for so long (be one minute late to the set, and you miss a live broadcast). I stay organized by being a minimalist. I clean as I go, throw away everything that isn’t crucial to my work (and often find that I need that “trash” later), and every few days I empty the contents of my black back pack onto the floor and repack it, organizing snacks and sunscreen, power cords and Tylenol, home school supplies and vitamins. Being on the road has its advantages, as you are limited in what you can bring by space. I am forced to travel lean and when my work area gets messy (as it often did in the “micro-car” we rented for a three week road trip down Argentina’s rough Ruta 40) I stop down and clean up. With my computer, camera, power cord, adapter and a good power source (sometimes difficult to find!), I have all I need.
What piece of technology besides your laptop are you most attached to? My husband is my second favorite technological tool. He’s like Rain-Man in that he can learn anything and has this vast ability to retain information. I am technologically challenged, so he is my go-to guy when something goes haywire with my computer or iPhone. He says he has to stop enabling me so that I learn for myself, but I figure it’s easier just to make sure we never get divorced. If I had to pick a real thing, I would say my iPhone. I haven’t made one call on it in months, but I use it to jot down thoughts and often take it with me on my runs, so that when an idea hits, I can record it in a voice memo. Plus, it holds my favorite photos. Do I sound like a commercial for Apple?
What inspires you? My children make me laugh and cry–two emotions that always provide inspiration. When my three year old looks at the vast African sky and sighs, “Look at all the colors!”, I see the world through his eyes and my problems seem small and solvable. When that same exhausted kid has a melt down as we are being questioned by a stern customs agent (a long line of annoyed travelers staring as I wrestle him off the ground) I try to breathe and know that parents everywhere have walked in my shoes. Bad or good, my children provide my best material.
Lately, a beautifully constructed sentence also inspires me. A well-written sentence is like a house design that blows you away with its perfection, functionality and originality. Ever since I changed my life a year ago, I have been learning the art of writing. I now read much more slowly, inspired by each lovely line. It is also inspiring to have something suddenly click in my own writing–the invigorating moment that my thoughts take form and the story comes together. I don’t know where this new love of travel and writing will take me, but the ride has been awesome so far. I know I am incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to walk new paths and try not to take it for granted.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
July 13, 2010
“We’ve been on the go for what seems like ages and haven’t been using our traditional home office. Although we miss our usual double desk set up with all the bells and whistles, we’ve done just fine without it — here‘s a few items that have helped out along the way.
1. Backup Laptop Battery: Even though most places have a spot to plug in or someone with an extension cord willing to lend a hand, we’re more of a lone wolf and would prefer to be 100% independent of everything else. To date, it’s been one of the best eBay purchases we’ve ever made.
2. Privacy Screen Shield: When you have to work on the go, it means the to-do list has to get done right then and there. There’s no waiting to transfer funds in your bank account until you get home and not wanting to share information with strangers next to us (even if we’re just reading other blogs) led us in this direction. It’s simple to apply and keeps spying eyes in all directions off your screen. You can also apply it to your cell phone if you are wanting to cover all bases. We found this one online for just under $50 (on sale), though we’ve seen them in stores for less.
3. Wireless Mouse: Even though some have no desire to own a wireless mouse, we found ours to be particularly awesome when it came to doing more work than just typing out a few emails. When Photoshop or other larger programs are involved, it can save you time and multiple headaches for sure.
4. Proper Cell Phone Applications: It might seem silly to include cell phone applications in this list, but knowing we can do anything on our Blackberry that we can do on our laptop provides sincere peace of mind. If you have a phone with such abilities, make sure to research applications that help control email, internet, passwords and credit card numbers.
5. Converter Plug: For those who might be headed overseas, taking a universal adapter or plug for your electronics is always a good thing. If you’re unsure of which one to purchase, you can wait until you arrive (check the airport gift shop before you leave) or read through reviews on Amazon, but a backup battery doesn’t do you any good if you can’t charge it when everything is drained of it’s power.
6. Concealed Carriers: Though laptop bags are universal these days and many folks are toting their equipment back and forth to work, that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who aren’t looking for an easy score. Before purchasing a laptop bag (or even camera bag) make sure the outside doesn’t look like what is going inside. We use a laptop sleeve inside a typical Jansport backpack that doesn’t look triple padded or even that it’s carrying more than our lunch. Although carrying cases are becoming more sophisticated and able to carry more with extra pockets and zippers, sometimes it’s best to find something more traditional that’s a bit more flexible rather than something made specifically for the task (when it comes to safety).
7. Paper File: It doesn’t have to be much more than an envelope with a strong clasp, but a secure place to put papers is key to keeping track of bills that might not be paid online or important check stubs or receipts that need to be used later on down the line when it comes to taxes. If you’re away from home it’s easy to start putting things in random pockets to keep them safe, but never putting anything in the same spot to be able to find them easily later on.
8. Silicone Pot Holders: This one seems a bit out of left field, but what is a girl to do when her lap board gets packed along with her other belongings and she needs to cool down her laptop while still holding it… well… on her lap. She uses a pot holder, that’s what! We now keep two in our backpack at all times. They help wick away heat and keep things in place when we’re on the go without the bulk of added products.
9. A Dropbox Account: So what if you don’t have a home computer, or it’s in transit with other items (if you’re say moving?). When utilizing computers from your local library, it can be handy to have an account with Dropbox.com to stash all your files in without the hassle of a flash drive or other plug in storage device. It can hold everything from music to photos to files or important documents you might have scanned in.
Are you constantly on the go? What helps you out the most when working away from home? Share a link to your favorite product in the comments below!
(Images: Flickr member MikeCogh licensed for use by Creative Commons)
By Sarah Rae Trover”
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.
Balance, Design, Products
June 11, 2010
Designer and collaborator Patty Johnson will make you rethink your office or the way you define the idea of a workspace. While technology allows us to be more and more mobile, working from the kitchen table or our beds, Patty takes that a step further and is working all over the globe in remote communities. Her home office moves with her from the Jamaica to Guyana (pictured above) and back to her house in Toronto (pictured below). Read on to find out more about her mobile studio.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? Home is Toronto, Canada and I’ve worked from home since my son was born 15 years ago. I am a designer who is interested in the interchange between research and design and commerce and culture. I operate worldwide with partners, enterprises, manufacturers, communities, governments, and designers creating new kinds of design programs and product collections. My mobile studio network looks to combine the strengths of complimentary groups to build new linkages, new cultures and new ideas. Below is a shot of my studio in Guadeloupe.
“ Love, Freedom, Flow” at ICFF this year was the international debut of the
New Caribbean Design initiative (her Jamaica workspace is below). The developing world is one of the next design frontiers, producing goods that fuse quality with creativity beyond just low cost. For a long time, design in these places has been relegated to handicrafts and regional products. There is no point in artisans and craft production factories in the Caribbean competing with mass-produced goods. They can instead compete on the strengths of the product, by focusing on the upper end of the market through high quality materials, detailing, production and design.
A focus on producing unique regional hybrids that combine craft tradition and contemporary design process is the aim of New Caribbean Design. Through the push and pull of cross-cultural collaboration the group has balanced traditional cultural practice in the Caribbean and forward-looking design solutions. In contrast with the familiar presentations of Caribbean culture – souvenirs and resort experience – this collection presents something much more dynamic: a living breathing culture with a critical role in the global design marketplace. The pots below are part of the collection we launched at ICFF. They are designed by Stella Hackett for Hamilton’s Pottery in St Thomas, Barbados.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? Well, I would say that when I was a young designer I was inspired by and had a distinctly modernist aesthetic. Over time though, the real, messy world pushed its way into my pure and untouchable world. And I’m happier for it. I work collaboratively and inclusively with other designers, manufacturers both craft and otherwise, and, sometimes even with government agencies and development banks. Trying to answer all these diverse needs while creating products with integrity is sometimes a messy and uncertain business but I’ve found that this process produces very rich results. And, my austere and reduced aesthetic still manages to sneak in there too!
As a designer and curator of a mobile design studio how do you keep your office organized? I’m thinking here of the physical space but also your computer. Are there any particular programs you find really useful? Hmm. Good question. Frankly, I rely heavily on the search function on both my computers. It does seem that computers are not equipped to organize files in the traditional office sense and I have long given up trying to rationally organize things. And like most people now my computer files are a mash of the personal, the creative and the commercial.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet? Well I am already very happy with my Eames Aluminum Group Chair. I do covet the Aeron Chair though!
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? Konstanin Grcic’s May Day Lamp and Sharpie Fine Line Pens.
What would you change about your own workspace? I’m quite happy with the current set up both at home and away. I like the flexibility of it – I’m available for both work and family – which is a juggling act at the best of times. If I could change anything I think it would be to build permanent design spaces in the places I work as a resource for the people that I work with.
What do you most love about your space? I love the mobility of my studio and I love that I can work in many spaces with many different people. Although difficult at times it has enriched my work and had a profound impact on how I think about design. I learned that people-centred design has a middle component, living between ethnography and interface. Hand manufacturing is the reality in much of the world, and designers, sitting at their desks sending off PDFs to unknown destinations, may be a modern paradigm, but ultimately a hollow one. I encourage designers to go and visit where their products are made, and, especially, with the people who make them!
What inspires you? Oh, just about everything. I love that the collisions of culture that are the basis of my work can strike a new balance between redundancy and relevance and explore the friction between the “preservationist” view of the handmade as intangible heritage and its real status as living tradition, and therefore, inherently and constantly innovating and adapting. And, I love the resourcefulness that you find in the most difficult and poorest of places and circumstances, and, that creativity still flourishes there.