After a technology-filled day at work, one of my favorite ways to relax is to sit with my dog and knit something. I love the tactile qualities of fiber. I can create something both appealing and functional (much like the interfaces at work), but without hunching over my laptop.
My dog helping me knit
For as much as I appreciate this hobby for the things it doesn’t have in common with my job, I have noticed that there are some similarities too. Here are a few I think help me with both activities:
1. Tracking Progress
Most projects aren't completed in one day. The more complex a project is, the more risk you run of wasting time figuring out where you were last time. That can lead to messing up your progress with confusion, duplication, or skipping ahead.
I usually print out the pattern I’m following. Then I can mark the bits I’ve completed with a pen as I go. This leaves a clear roadmap of what I’ve done and where I’m going, even if I’ve been interrupted. It also simplifies having to turn an electronic device on, just to make a tally mark.
I either use the Notes app to write notes about what I was working on, or leave comments to myself in the code. Whichever is the lowest friction for the task. Just like with knitting, this gives me a reminder of what I’ve done and where I’m going. This is especially helpful on Monday mornings.
Both these habits are informal, and save me a lot of time wondering what I was doing. I can jump straight back into making progress with confidence.
Knitting notes vs UX Notes
2. Balancing Many Needs
Both knitting and UI design require taking many things into consideration to achieve a polished product. Keeping everything in mind as you make decisions is key to success. You could even say that both knitting and UI need knowledge of material design.
Considering the use cases and needs of your knitted garment can affect what kinds of yarn(s) you use. I knit dog clothes with acrylic yarn because it’s durable, cheap, comes in loads of colors, and can be machine washed. I knit clothes for people in animal fibers (like sheep or alpaca wool) because it's warmer, softer, and produces a higher quality garment.
Two kinds of animal wool yarns
When it comes to user interfaces, the tone of the application and types of users make all the difference. An application for the general public may have bright colors and fewer actions to keep users focused. An application for internal use at a big company may be muted in appearance, and have complex flows for specialized tasks.
In both cases, considering the context for your product is important to make the best decisions.
3. Using Community Resources
A great asset of both web and knitting is the rich, knowledgeable communities you can find online. Remembering you’re not an island can help you reach new heights, solve current problems, and see what incredible things are possible.
I often visit Ravelry.com when I want to start a new project. It’s a great place to find patterns (both for sale and for free). But you can also converse with other knitters about problems, achievements, and ideas. It’s all about getting support, and giving it back.
In The End
If I had just holed up on my own, I wouldn’t be half the knitter or half the designer I am today. Whether carefully knitting, or quickly iterating through web designs, there are many skills I’ve built at work and in my free time that I can use all the time.