Blue haired crazy person: present

So, I had originally planned to dye my hair blue right after vacation in September… bought the dye right before we left, figuring the stuff would be there when I arrived home.

Except it wasn’t. One of the packages was shipping a lot slower than expected.

But that turned out to be OK, because by the time everything arrived, I learned of a posting for a UI Designer position at work. So if I had gotten my stuff on time, there’s a good chance I would have been in the uncomfortable position of interviewing for the job with freshly-dyed blue hair. (In many jobs this wouldn’t be an issue. I’m not sure it would have been one in this situation either. I work for a very conservative financial company, but they’re a very conservative company that’s well aware they can’t do a thing to you for hair color. On the other hand, this was an interview, and one does like to make one’s first impression as an individual of relatively sane tastes… even if one is a bit looney.) So the hair dye got put off a few weeks… and as soon as they said you got the job, I started making plans for the bottles of blue dye in my cabinets.

I learned a few important things this time that I hadn’t learned last time, such as:

  • Everyone who said the hair is brighter when you bleach it first is correct.
  • The blue hair dye itself really doesn’t damage your hair (in fact, in a sense it strengthens it because it fills in cracks in the hair cuticle) but boy the bleach beats the crap out of your hair
  • It takes a damned long time to bleach one’s hair properly, and it’s not easy — so much so that if I do this again, I’ll pay someone else to do the bleaching bit.
  • I really really REALLY REALLY don’t like the way I look as a blonde.
  • My hair is naturally mouse-brown. When I look in the mirror as a brunette, I think “meh, I could do better”. When I dye it red, I’m usually grinning before it’s even dry. There’s something about red hair that, when I see it in the mirror, makes me recognize myself. I’m that girl with the red hair. Only sometimes, maybe once every year or two, when the red has been fading for a while and I’m frustrated with life in general, I need more than just red to pick my spirits up.And when I’m in that frame of mind, blue suits quite nicely.

    (Why blue? Dunno. But I can tell you this – I’ve been writing short stories and novels all set in the same universe since I was 13. And in every one of them, since I was 13, the protagonist’s hair was blue.)

    Strangely, when I bleached my hair, which resulted in a relatively natural color that most people would have accepted, I HATED it. Hated hated HATED it. Even when I got compliments from the neighbors, who thought it looked great on me. HATED. Every time I looked in the mirror there was this freak staring back. So when I dyed my hair blue this evening, watching my hair go from blonde to purple (the color of the dye) was extremely relieving.

    Yes, that’s right, I’m more comfortable with blue hair than blonde. Extremely more. I can live with that.

    Anyway, for all y’all who have been harassing me for pictures, here you go:

    Friday’s faded-out half-brown red hair
    red hair front red hair back
    Friday night I bleached it, took the pics Saturday
    blonde hair front blonde hair back
    Saturday night was time to go blue
    blue hair front blue hair back

    It’s worth noting that all the pictures were taken with a light directly above me, AND the flash on. The blue is much closer to black when it’s not sunlit. (It’s 1000% awesome either way.)

    We are 7-days-and-change from National Novel Writing Month, when I’ll be spending a month in the same universe as the blue-haired characters I started developing when I was 13. I, for one, feel prepared.

A new path & a new geeky job

I’m changing jobs again (she says, as if this happens every few weeks instead of every 3+ years). I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to get into prototyping for a while, so when a position opened up 3 weeks ago, I applied. Interviews were last week, and I got the call late Friday, which I accepted.

For those of you who don’t live in the day-to-day of web design, the difference between my new role as a UI Designer and what I do today as an Information Architect can be summed up this way:

Information architecture: heavy on strategy (user research, experience design, balancing user needs and business needs, personas, scenarios) heavy on wireframing the “happy path” and providing design strategy descriptions, very light on visual design, component specifications, and almost no HTML/CSS/Javascript work.

UI Design: lighter on strategy (hopefully it’s been decided before it gets there), heavy on prototyping (the aforementioned code elements) and the prototyping includes ALL the paths.

In other words, the UI Designer takes the output of the Information Architect (and the rest of the visioning team) and turns it into a detailed design with a working prototype.

(Note: this is specific to where I work – other organizations have very different definitions of what their information architects and Ui Desisgners are expected to do.)

In my head, I’ve always identified myself as a software engineer specializing in UI, even though I’ve only ever been paid to do the job in bits and pieces of contract work. Information architecture is a critical piece of designing great systems, but (in my current situation) it tends to be more strategy-centered than I really love.

Or to put it a different way, if you asked me to choose between a conference session on the three mental models primarily used by people searching a website, and a session on implementing drop shadows on layers using CSS, my role as an IA would suggest I belong at the search session, but my heart would be in the CSS session.

On the other hand, I can’t think of a better way to start a career as a UI Designer than spending almost 3 years studying the “whys” of user interface design. I’ve had the pleasure of working with brilliant, and very patient, Information Architects and Information Designers, who have given me a host of skills in facilitation, user research, and design heuristics that couldn’t be matched through any educational program anywhere. I’m profoundly grateful.

I am really really excited, very sad to leave my current team, and a bit terrified. The last time I changed careers, I did it through a 6-month internship in our most excellent User Experience Group, so I had time to get my head around the transition and hand off all my projects with room to spare. In this case, it hasn’t even been a week since my interviews and I’m already moving projects off my plate in preparation for a move in less than 2 weeks. If there was such this as “career whiplash” this would be it.

So November is going to be very interesting. I’m writing a novel, starting a new job, moving to a new building, making new friends, and getting into some very geeky things that they’re going to pay me to do. There are definitely worse ways to start the winter.

older stuff »