My guest in this episode is the wonderful Abby Covert, an author, teacher and community leader in the field of information architecture who aims to make information architecture and sensemaking skills accessible to everyone.
Abby’s first book, How to Make Sense of Any Mess, demystified information architecture into a practical skillset that anyone can apply to any context where sense might need to be made. She recently published her second book, Stuck? Diagrams Help a field guide for the trek from diagram novice to diagram nerd.
- Abby’s website
- Stuck? Diagrams Help
- How to Make Sense of Any Mess
- Abby’s Etsy shop
- Abby on LinkedIn
- Abby on Twitter
Note: This transcript is machine-generated and may contain some errors.
[00:00:00] Andy Polaine: Welcome to Power of Ten, a podcast about design operating at many levels zooming out from thoughtful detail through to organisational transformation, head on to changes in society and the world. My name is Andy Polaine. I’m a service design and innovation consultant, coach, trainer and writer.
My guest today is the wonderful Abby Covert, an author, teacher, and community leader in the field of information architecture who aims to make information architecture and sense making skills accessible to everyone. Abbey’s first book, How to Make Sense of Any Mess, demystified information architecture, into a practical skillset that anyone can apply to, any context where sense might be needed to be.
She recently published her second book, stuck Diagrams Help a Field Guide for the Trek from Diagram, novice to diagram. Abby, welcome to Power of 10. Much for having me. Andy, sir, last time we spoke actually was when I was still at Fjord and, and we spoke, um, for the Fjord Feco podcast about, uh, how to make sense of any mess, which is a fantastic book.
I think, um, everyone should read it. I’m hoping one day you’ll be president so that you can actually just kind of make, uh, Make sense of the mess of the world. No, thank you. . Happy for president of the world. But you know, I’m always interested when people do a second book, because usually it’s in response to some stuff that came up when talking about or teaching their first book, and there was a sort of moment you go, oh, there’s a thing here that people still struggle with or don’t get.
Is, is that the kind of story behind this? Or why, why did you, or how did you come to this second book?
[00:01:37] Abby Covert: Yeah, yeah. The, so, um, the impetus for my first book was that I was teaching information architecture in undergrad. and, uh, you just couldn’t give an undergraduate art student the textbooks that were available.
So I had to write something that was a lower grade level, which meant that I had to take a lot of the academic part out of information architecture to really like truly demystify it. With my second book though, I, I found that in the eight years between the books, readers would often come to me with like, I love those pizza diagram.
I love them . I don’t know how to make one though. Like I, I see a journey map and I, I think that I could figure that out, but like, what are the steps that you take and like, how do you know if it’s any good? Like what are you supposed to be comparing it to? And so it was just years and years of, of me needing to answer these questions in the classroom and in q and as in my workshops and things of that nature.
And then ultimately, It ended up being a section in a graduate class that I was teaching at the School of Visual Arts, and it was just like a one day studio kind of workshop, but it was about the craft of diagrams. And I really challenged myself to kind of go back to my graphic design education and think through that lens, but then also through my information architecture lens, um, and through the lens of technology and communicating.
Corporations in sort of this newfangled techno world that we’re in. So yeah, I, I kind of had this opportunity to kind of boil all that into a stew for my students. And I ultimately had them use this thing called a bingo card, which had 25 diagrammatic. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, and I, I developed that for my students.
We ran an actual bingo game where we do critique using the bingo card, and they would try to get the most bingo squares across, you know, all of the diagrams that we critiqued. And it was super fun. So when I was looking for my newest writing project, that Bingo card came to mind. And I initially was just gonna write what I called a short book about diagrams based on.
I was just gonna write like a pamphlet, like a, like a little, a little pamphlet with the bingo card to explain each of the squares. And so I did that. Um, I made a hundred page treatment for a book that’s roughly just that, and I sent it to readers and I had eight readers that round, and more than half of them were like, Yeah, more
And I was like, oh no. Okay. We need to, we need to do more. So then I got into the process part and I was just like, this is so similar to my first book in the fact that like process is at the heart of that book, but in. It’s also instilling that like information architecture exists at all the levels. Like Yeah, it exists in the diagrams, it exists in the meeting room.
It exists in the product that you’re creating. It exists in the water cooler conversation, and so yeah, ultimately this. Idea of writing an entire book about diagrams kind of bubbled up and became an 18 month project that I didn’t know I was starting , but I’m really glad to have finished. So
[00:04:33] Andy Polaine: there is the, but it is you, I mean, in the introduction you do talk about it of like, there’s kind of three levels of, you know, people who might access this.
You know, there’s, if you’re completely new and then well, you can tell the rest, I guess.
[00:04:45] Abby Covert: Yeah, so one of the things that came, uh, later in the feedback round that I did, so I did three distinct rounds of feedback with test readers and peer reviewers, and that was super important to my process. Ultimately, the structure between those three versions is completely different, and in the very last test, one of my advisors, Alan Schooff.
Hello Alan, if you’re listen to this. Hi. Hi. He challenged me about whether or not this was just one book. . Like he was just like, this is so much like how are you going to, how are you going to introduce this in a way that isn’t gonna be overwhelming to a reader? And ultimately the concept that came out of that is this idea of a field guide and to really identify early in the book that like you might have been making diagrams for your whole dang life and never had a single human being.
anything about how to do that. Mm-hmm. , and I’m completely respectful of that cuz I’m also one of those people, like I’ve bits and pieces here and there have been stitching this together. But you might also be a person who’s never made a diagram because you’re really like, Unsure about where to start and like what it’s even for and what the different types are.
And that’s a really overwhelming amount of information to get through without a guide. Yeah. So I set up early in the book this kind of choose your own adventure diagram where I lay out the entire structure of the book and I make a recommendation based on where you are in that journey. So if you are brand new to diagrams, like you’re gonna wanna read the whole thing.
but ultimately, like after the first four chapters, I really want you to take a break and practice for some time before you get into like, yeah, the academia of it. That’s towards the back half of the book. I also warn really early to beginners that if they’re like on a crash course and they’re about to inflict their diagrams on other people, like, yeah, you should probably go through that fifth chapter before you inflicted on them.
Um, but if not, like, take some time, take, take some practice. And then also I’m very much aware. . I would’ve bought this book if it came out and I diagram every day. Yeah. So I wanted to make sure that there was also kind of a call out to people who have been diagramming for their whole career to say like, this is just my trek.
This is how I am teaching people to do this thing. But ultimately, the thing that I think they’ll get out of it, Is what Jenny Benevento my co-author, was able to accomplish in the very last part of the book, which is a very thorough literature review on just how diagrams emerged and how old they are and how little we really know about their effectiveness as an actual medium, but also how like, Pervasive they’ve become.
And so I think between her literature review and the resources that we put into the back of the book, and also, if I may say so myself, it’s a very well indexed book. Um, I think that a, a practitioner can actually get a lot of use out of like the last half.
[00:07:24] Andy Polaine: I have a, uh, a note here that says 50 pages of IA crafted resources. I, it was, it’s, uh, You can tell that information Architect has, uh, has done that part of the book or you’ve tackled this.
[00:07:37] Abby Covert: We designed that experience. Uh, we had this joke, so through the whole book we talk about our, our Road to Diagram town. Yeah. And many, and I designed that. Let’s, the last 50 pages is as if you walked into the library at the center of Diagram town and walked up to the information desk.
Yeah. And I think we accomplished that.
[00:07:53] Andy Polaine: Yeah, no, it’s very good. It’s very good indeed. I feel like Alan has been very crafty in sort of throwing down the gaunt. By saying to you to by saying, well, look, there’s a whole load of information here. How are you possibly gonna make any sense of that ? No.
[00:08:06] Abby Covert: He did this for my first book as well.
I was teaching at s v a, um, in his program when I wrote my first book. And I used my first semester teaching graduate school students to kind of test my own process by writing this book while I was teaching them this thing that I was also writing about. And he was the one that actually encouraged me to really dig deep into the information architecture of the book.
Like I. Much more focused on the words, and I was really concerned about the language and getting the, the lexicon right? Mm-hmm. And making sure that every sentence was, was crystal clear and at the right grade level. But he was the one that was like, This thing needs wayfinding. This thing needs indexing.
This thing needs, it needs like a structure that you can rely on. And ultimately that’s the, the way that the book came together. I mean, those would be the things that people highlight as the strength.
[00:08:56] Andy Polaine: You should hire an information architect
[00:08:57] Abby Covert: for your book. I have, do I have done, uh, hiring an information architect is always a good idea.
[00:09:03] Andy Polaine: So you start, you start with vuca, you start with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. And I’m gonna come to the next bit, then add to it. I struggle slightly with vuca. I tend to kind of, I think back through kind of history and I think, well, you know, when wasn’t that the case? Right? And it’s often seen as we are now in a VUCA world and we weren’t before.
But actually you talk about it in your sort of personal vuca, right? You talk about this moment, well hence being stuck. That’s it. Uh, of, you know, this moment where you sort of don’t really know what’s going on. You don’t really, you are, you are kind of faced either by the mess. Or you are faced by being just overwhelmed and you tell this really nice story, which leads you to this idea of adding kindness, diagramming for kindness, cuz you sort of go through saying diagramming for stability and so forth.
You know, the responses I guess to, you know, VUCA, can you tell that story? Cuz I think it’s a kind of, it’s quite compelling.
[00:09:54] Abby Covert: Uh, I assume that you, you mean the, the story that opens the book about my Yeah, I do mean the story that I’m saying. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, while I was writing this book, kind of in between drafts two and three, I took a break mostly because a family member of mine was really struggling, uh, with a health event, and I needed to go there and help to take care of them.
And one of the tasks that I was given on the family plan was I was the closest relative to the hospital, and so I was gonna pick them. And get all their stuff from the hospital and bring them back to the house. And that seemed like a fairly simple task. You know, I, I, I can handle that. What I didn’t expect was to just be.
Piled on by the staff and in a really kind way, like every person that came through had something really important that they wanted to instill in our care plan, and they wanted to give us a resource or tell us about a really important thing we needed to remember. But when you’ve had, you know, five or six staff members within an hour doing that with a lot of information and, you know, pamphlets and photocopies on photocopies, on photocopies, you know, the, the ones we’ve all seen, we ended up with this pile of, of kind of an o.
And on top of it, I had my family member who was pretty doped up. Like this person was in a lot of pain and I needed to just get them to their bed. So when we got to the house, I had this just. Sinking feeling, just this feeling like I, I actually don’t know what I’m supposed to do, like this family member.
I have never seen them this week and this needing of attention like this is a very strong person in my life, always has been, and she really needed me at this moment. and I had this car full of crap from the hospital , and we had to stop at this pharmacy and get more crap. And it was like medical supplies, not just pills.
It was like there was something we needed to clean really well and there was like a special kind of water we needed to find before we ran out of the kind. They gave us a sample of like, it was just all of this stuff. And so she went down for a nap and I came out and got all the stuff out of the car, had a little cry, and just realized.
I feel really freaking stuck right now. And I, I wrote a book about how to make sense of any mess, and this freaking mess, like, I have to be able to make sense of this. Yeah. So I immediately was just like, , break the pile down, make it into smaller piles. That’s, that always works. That always calms me down.
So I did that and it didn’t work. Like the pile wasn’t that much smaller. The distinguishing factor was just like whether or not I needed it in the next two weeks, which was like super unhelpful. And so I kind of un unconnected to my book about diagrams, which I had was currently writing. I just took out a piece of paper and drew a line and I was like, okay, this is.
This is the day. What of these things relates to today? Let’s just start there. And I just started to add things to the line. I identified that like the beginning of the line was in the morning and the end of the line was the afternoon or the evening when she goes to bed again. And so I just started putting things on the line and then I realized, okay, I actually can make sense of this.
I, I can unstick myself if I just take it one step at a time and really am gentle with myself on like the emotional part of this. Mm-hmm. . This is not just a website . This is not just a taxonomy for an e-commerce company. This is. , you know, this is a life or death circumstance of like, my care of this person will result in whether or not they end up back in the hospital with an infection or something.
Yeah. Um, and so ultimately, yeah, a diagram really stepped in. Um, and then it wasn’t just me that it ended up helping because, you know, the very next day, another family member came to overlap with me for a little while to then take over for the next shift. And when she arrived, I mean, she had just flown all day to get there.
I think about whether or not she would’ve been completely overwhelmed to the point of tears like I had been. If I had just pointed at the pile and gone, here you go, . Have fun. Try to figure this out. But instead, I had this diagram and I, and it was messy. It was, honestly, it’s so funny cause I didn’t even take like a picture of it.
I don’t have it. It just didn’t feel like important until it was all over. And I think that, that, that ultimately was a lesson too, and like how transient the, the diagram can actually be in this process, which also means that it’s hard to come to as a. If you’re not used to like thinking of it as a tool that you would use in a certain problem set, it’s something we can come to accidentally, but with not a lot of guidance.
So, yeah. Yeah. Uh, that diagram really. It saved me that day for sure.
[00:14:13] Andy Polaine: There’s so much in there. I mean, there’s so much in what you’ve just said where I think that you can relate to so many other areas, that feeling of, and it’s not usually life or death, but you know, I have plenty of coachee who are near or in burnout to, and that feeling of being overwhelmed by, I’ve got so much staff and I dunno what to do with that.
I dunno where to start. And all that kind of stuff is, is very true in people’s work lives. I can imagine. You know, I have this thing I talk about sometimes where I, I’ve walked into a room of. Who are doing synthesis. They’ve got all the post-it notes on the wall and everything, and there’s a kind of body language with them slightly kind of hunched and sitting and looking up like a kind of fullon dog at the Post-It notes on the wall.
And I just know, okay, you are, you guys are stuck, right? You’re just in that this is all too much information. But at the same time, what you’re talking about, if I think of. , you know, our customers of products and services who the, where the onboarding is, a fire hose always is so overwhelming. And particularly as sort of employee onboarding and those kinds of things where, you know, if you join a large company, Your first couple of days feel like here’s a thousand ways you can get fired.
Right. And, and as part of the onboarding and, and, and it, it can be hugely overwhelming. The same as, you know, I’m at this point in my life and I’m not really sure what to go off, but these options and this, there’s this job offer and there’s this possibility and, and you know, and you get all over the place and there’s this great bit where you just say, you know, I ask people or friends, I dish out this advice quite often.
Have you made that diagram yet?
[00:15:40] Abby Covert: Yeah. Yeah. You have a map. I mean, if you’re, like, if you’re wandering around in the wilderness without a map, we all know that’s not a good idea. , nobody does that on purpose, you know? But we do that in the wilderness of our corporations. We do that in the wilderness of like our goals for ourself.
I mean, I, I truly believe that diagrams are in our heads. . It’s just whether or not we express them. Yeah. And I think that that’s something that, uh, once, once people get the vernacular and the grammar to do that expression out of their heads, it’s so much less scary. Yeah. Like, you see, oh, there’s only really three things.
Huh? It felt like 13 in my head. Oh my gosh. That really is the same as that. Those felt so different in my head. These are all things that I’ve heard over and over and over again from people that have this. Yeah. Just this feeling of like, I’m so stuck. I don’t know what to do. And the thing I identified in writing this book is that.
that is actually at like the center of the process. Yeah. Like you, you are in the messy middle by the time you get to the stuck part, because often you’ve, you’ve already identified an audience. You already know what you intend to do. You might even have a really good sense of like the scope that you’re after, but you’re not quite sure yet how you’re gonna make it into a thing that the people you intend to make sense to will actually understand.
Yeah. And that’s a really lonely.
[00:17:00] Andy Polaine: Yeah, it is. So this is one of the things where I think it was one of the tensions between what I’m gonna loosely call sort of corporate culture and kind of design culture is that designers are probably self-select into people who are generally comfortable with that ambiguity of the messy middle and.
Uh, a lot of various sub linear corporate cultures are very adverse to that, and, and I think that’s one of the kind of fundamental bits that feels scary in the fundamental tensions. I feel like though we’ve jumped to the middle, so I want to go kind of just go back because. You said a thing before about sort of diagrams are in the world and they kind of just happen quite often.
You know, it’s certainly in, you know, I used to work for a company, you know, Fjord and they Fjord belongs to Accenture and our Accenture’s song, and I have seen the most heinous diagram crimes management consultants is, are, are the, probably the, you know, they’re in the biggest hall of shame where, you know, there’s diagrams where there’s a load of boxes and then arrows pointing from every box to every other box.
I’m like, in what way? Clarify anything for me. What you’re saying is everything relates to everything else here. If I read that visually. So I want to go back though and ask you what is a diagram and why is it important to define it?
[00:18:08] Abby Covert: Yeah, so on the, on the cover of the book, I define diagrams using a diagram,
So there’s, there’s two overlapping circles and we’re on a podcast, so you, you’re not gonna have to Yeah. And, and now we’re gonna describe it on a podcast. We’ll go meta, meta, meta. Um, so a diagram is something that is visually represented that also helps someone. , and I keep it pretty simple at that. I think that there’s a lot of things that are parading around pretending to be diagrams.
I think that there are a lot of. Diagrams that end up not being diagrams to certain audiences, but are shown to them as if they should be. And I think what you just described is actually the perfect example of that, the, the heinous technical diagram that you see in an Accenture type corporation. I have seen, um, hundreds of those and maybe thousand architecture.
Yeah. And I think that it’s interesting because. I think if you had asked me 10 years ago, is that a bad diagram? I would’ve said yes. I would’ve said, it doesn’t make, it doesn’t make sense to me and therefore it’s a bad diagram. I now truly believe that that is flawed in in thinking because I think that that diagram I want to believe if I’m giving the best intention to that maker.
I think that that diagram did help them. Okay, but they didn’t stop at them as defining the someone that they were trying to reach, and that’s where they made a mistake. Now the funny thing is I see designers make that mistake too all the time. Yeah, yeah. I often is the theater of diagramming that the client or the boss or the executive team or the other team, where we kind of like make a really complex diagram that helped us, that helped our team or our specialty to make a decision or understand something fully.
But then, , take a picture of that thing and wave it at other people to prove that we’ve done the work. . If we expect them to understand those diagrams, we are maybe not making great diagrams. . If we expect them to just go, oh cool, they’ve got diagrams, and those make sense to them and that’s great for them because they’re not blocked by that and they can make decisions that add up to our business getting what we need.
Like Ben, the diagram is really strong. So I think like the thing that I’ve really learned in teaching diagrams is the importance of the audience in it. It you really have to be dogged about who are you making this particular expression for, which also admits that. There might be several diagrams for the same thing.
In order to reach all of the people that you need to reach, you might need a really ugly, deep technical diagram that you made with the technical team in the room with messy arrows and so many boxes and duplicative language and all this stuff. You might have needed that to get through that conversation.
That doesn’t make it not a diagram because it’s. Pretty or perfect at the end because it was visually represented and it did help someone. It also had a timeframe that it was meant to help someone. When we take that and we put it on a file server and then we give it to a consultant three years later and say, here, don’t make sense of that.
Now, it’s no longer a diagram. Now it’s just like a relic of the past.
[00:21:05] Andy Polaine: Uh, yeah. An old artifact that’s been dug. So you, you talk about, um, intent and scope and audience quite a lot. And for me, you know, the thing that I am, so, you know, I, I teach and I coach around sort of storytelling and pitching and, you know, the argument being, and I, I think there’s a relationship here.
There’s a Venn diagram to be had here, at least of you. Anytime you are talking to people or presenting something to, to people or stake, or you are, you are kind of pitching, right? You are, you are, you’re trying to get them to, if not buy, like as in, you know, with money to buy into something or, and, and it’s an act of telepathy that you’re really trying to achieve, right?
And the, the fundamental bit of that is, well, what’s your intent, right? So, uh, what’s your intent and what’s the audience and. The whole thing seems to be about getting those two to kind of meet up together, hence telepathy.
[00:21:52] Abby Covert: yeah. It’s, I think that that’s, that’s something that people get wrong so often, I think because, okay, so let’s say that we’re building a product for farmers, okay?
Mm-hmm. , but our audience internally is executives. And technologists. And designers. Okay. When we make a diagram, who are we making the diagram? . If we think about audience as being our user, we can make the mistake of making diagrams for farmers in this particular circumstance when really what we need to do is make diagrams for our coworkers and interfaces for farmers, and those interfaces are better because of the decisions that we made making all these diagrams and looking behind the scenes at the thing that we’re making for the farmers.
But what I often see is people kind of conflating them and saying like, well, the audience for my project is. as in the user is this and therefore everything is that. And they lose sight of the fact that their stakeholders are users of the things that they’re making. Mm-hmm. a long the way to the interface.
And so I think that diagrams are often kind of this like murky space of like, are we supposed to make sense to this person or are we supposed to make sense to this person? And if we have to make sense to both, can it even be one diagram anymore? Yeah. Yeah. Um, and I’m often the person that has to tell my students, There are three diagrams all fighting to get out of this one diagram right now because you have three very different audiences that you’re trying to serve and you’re trying to explain everything to everyone when like, we would never do that if we were designing an interface.
we know that about interfaces. So now let’s apply what we know about interfaces, uh, and user experiences. Let’s apply that to diagrams because it, it applies all the way down.
[00:23:30] Andy Polaine: You make a kind of illusion to the magret painting of a pipe where it says in French, this is not a pipe. Um, and you say, this is, you know, this is not a diagram, it’s a kind of.
Diagram. It’s, it’s not a, what is it? A sort of, it’s not even a, I think you call it schematic, but I, I don’t even know if you say it. I don’t think you call it that. It’s, it’s a thing that kind of looks like a pipe that’s been done with kind of boxes basically. And, uh, sort of make the difference here between.
a diagram and a sort of representation of the thing. And I feel like, like particularly in, in sort of, you know, service design, we have journey maps and, and blueprints and stuff. Journey maps in particular seem to be a thing where people forget two things. One that I is. Framework for synthesis, right? I, we’ve got lots and lots of people’s journeys and experiences and we are using a journey map to kind of make a distillation of that or synthesis of that.
And the second thing is it’s an abstraction, right? That you have to then leave stuff out. I had a client that had, like I, they had done, they had designed, they’d created rather than sort of extracted a large amount, something like 50 or even 80 journey maps. And then, then they said when we tested them, None of our users took one of those pathways.
And I, I was thinking, well that’s, cuz that’s not, that’s not how that works. Right? But you know, this idea that, oh, we’ll design the journey map, which is a diagram, you know, and, and therefore that’s the thing. I think this idea of, you know, how much do you abstract feels like a really important part. So you talk a lot in the book about, you know, what to put in and how, how to do it and what about.
This feels to me like this is one, one of the things that’s kind of probably, if not intuitive, it’s certainly practiced or part of your craft of what to leave out of a diagram. Um, can you, talk to that a little bit cuz I, how do you address what to leave out? So
[00:25:15] Abby Covert: in, in my first book, I talk about the three dilemmas of an information architecture, which is too much, too little, or not the right information.
And I, I identify in this book that the same applies to diagrams. Yeah. So the first step I think is identifying which one of those you are. Are you in the, the too much information, the too little information or the not the right information and testing is the best way to figure that out. Cuz your users will absolutely tell you which one of the camps you’re in by how they react to the thing that you’re, that you’re testing.
But that kind of means that you already have a thing to show them, right? Like asking them about the things is harder than showing them a thing to react to. So how do you deal with that? I think about it like giving each piece of content a job. I. And it’s like you, you have to have, you have to have your intention and your audience so square that when you get to scope, you’re literally just asking job interview type questions of every piece of content you might add.
You’re asking, does this equal something that’s actually important for this intent, and is this actually framed for this? And that is, that comes down to whether or not to include it, but it also comes down to what level to include it in terms of how you manipulate it, how you simplify it, how you, um, you know, extrapolate more confusion on it, potentially on purpose.
which people do like unnecessary exactitude and such. So yeah, I think, I feel like the scoping is, um, it’s the part of the diagramming process where most people give up. It’s the part where you have a diagram in your head. That is so clear to you, but you can’t get it out of your hands because it’s too complex in terms of how to actually express it in scope and words and boxes and arrows.
And I think that that’s the, that’s the part that most people get stuck on is that once we talk, we talked about the messy middle already. Yeah, that’s exactly where it happens emotionally and mechanically, which I think is um, kind of, why does it hurt so bad? Cuz it happens right then. Yeah. Scope is a bitch.
[00:27:12] Andy Polaine: Yeah. Uh, there’s a, there’s a great bit in Danella Meadow’s work around systems where she sort of talks about, uh, systems diagramming. And this is one of those things where, you know, of course you can go on forever. The, the classic thing where of the cartographers who made the map that’s so detailed. It’s the same size as the landscape, you know, and there’s a nice bit, which is quite early on, says, you know, we have these, Kind of cloud symbols at either end of systems diagrams to kind of express the fact that we know there’s a world out there, but it’s just not in the scope of what we’re trying to understand, simply because otherwise it’s never ending.
Right? You, you just end, end up with that. Everything’s connected to everything else, and, and it’s overwhelming.
[00:27:47] Abby Covert: It’s similar in, uh, in nature to. You know, as, as humans, we need boundaries. . Yeah. I think like in diagramming, we need boundaries too.
[00:27:55] Andy Polaine: I, I was really pleased that you, you talked about the emotional bit of it as sort, the mechanical parts are very clear, but the emotional, there’s a bit I made a note of where you say, you know, if you’re feeling out, you’re getting overwhelmed.
It’s all too much. Just sort of go out and take a break.
[00:28:08] Abby Covert: Yeah. I heard that from so many people. Yeah. That, that’s just, that’s the only way.
[00:28:12] Andy Polaine: Yeah. And I think that messy middle is under. It’s not talked about enough. Right. I think in, in, you know, synthesis and analysis and stuff, you know, of research, it’s talked about sometimes, uh, sometimes it’s talked about in kind of writing, but it kind of exists in almost everything I’ve ever sort a project or anything.
I’ve attempted, well, you’ll know this from writing a book. There’s a bit, when we wrote our book about services and there was a bit where we had sort of written everything. and it, you know, the structurally we just kind of couldn’t work it out. And we did the thing of, we printed out the chapters, we put them on the wall and the floor and, and then had discussions around how about if we do it this way, how better if we do it that way?
And you know, from writing the few odd trends and stuff, there was always a messy middle where we’re like, ah, I can kind of feel. The shape of this thing, it was like, you know, you know those, you know those things where someone’s got a blindfold on and they have to kind of touch something and guess what it is, and, oh, that’s fairy.
I’m not sure you know what that is. It’s, it’s like this, you can kind of feel the shape of an idea and you kind of know it’s there and it’s this soup in your head, but every time you try and write it’s like, no, that’s not quite right. No, it’s not quite right until at some point it goes, oh yeah, okay.
That’s it. And it was a repeated telling of it. Of pitching of it, actually, this is the way we used to do it. We would pitch it and we’d go, okay, I think it’s this, and you know, try and tell the story of it. And then, you know, it’d get critiqued and you’d go, ah, yeah, no, no, that doesn’t work. And the thing that I found is diagrams are fantastic.
but the conversations in front of the diagrams that you are having, that’s the work, right? That’s the sort of most important thing.
[00:29:43] Abby Covert: Absolutely. The, the di the diagram can be the place that you’re making the diagram with people and it becomes this, this place that you actually are going to Yeah. To make decisions together, to decide to go deeper on something, to have an argument.
I mean, I can’t tell you how many times people are just like arguing over a single do. On a white , you know what I mean? Where you’re just like, I had this really, really hard, uh, prioritization meeting at one point for one of my clients, and it was literally like one person on one side of the room, one person on the other side of the room and me with a marker just going, Ugh, this here, like Paul Peter.
And they’re just like going at it in terms of trying to really break through a hard human dilemma. And I feel like that’s, that’s really what I think you’re, you’re alluding to is like, there’s this humanity part that you can’t take out of the process of, of making things for other people because we’re human beings making things for other human beings.
So, you know, to think that we’re gonna follow this. Crystal path where all the deliverables are always gonna work, right. And we’re always gonna get it done in two revisions and, and all this nonsense. Like it’s just not setting us up for success. Yeah. For working with other people. What will set us up for success is admitting this is hard.
It can be frustrating and if you’re doing it correctly, you probably are gonna need to take a break and have a walk at some point because it means that you are asking the right questions. And I think that that’s something that people need to be given permission for. Cause I think I should be strong enough to just do this thing and get this diagram out of my head and I should be talented enough to make it make sense to people first time.
Right? Yeah. But that’s not how things are actually made, and we know. if we’re talking to somebody where we’re selling our research process, right? Yeah. Yeah. We know that if we’re trying to sell a delivery of, um, a, you know, upfront discovery thing where we have lots of collaborative work sessions, we know this about our work, but when it comes to the most personal parts of our work, which is often the diagrams we’re making for ourselves or for our team to get through these really tough moments, we kind of forget that part and we’re like, oh, this should be.
If this isn’t easy, then it shouldn’t be a diagram. It’s like that is the opposite of what is true . It’s like, it looks like it should be easy, it’s just boxes and arrows. But in reality, getting to the place where those boxes and arrows are doing the thing that you wanted to do for the people you wanted it to do it for that is freaking hard work.
Yeah. And it takes a lot. So…
[00:32:02] Andy Polaine: and there is that storytelling part of it as well, that of of, you know, there’s a, it kept coming back to me in this cuz of this idea, you know, there’s a thing that happens when you, you are sort of presenting or telling a story, which is. Do people understand? Did you start in the right place?
Right? Do people understand the sequencing of this or did you jump, you know, did you do one of two things? Either laboriously go through something in many, many steps where everyone’s like, yeah, no, I get it. Get it. You know, move on. Which designers often do when they’re presenting a look at how much work we’ve done, or did you take a kind of leap that is self-evident to you and then you know, you’ve lost your audience.
Cuz they’re like, hang on a second. I, I, I don’t. . I’m like this when someone’s explaining spreadsheets, you know, to me, and I’m, I’m like, and they’re like, so I think they’ll amortize over the next five years. And I’m like, why is this in brackets here in, in, on, in Row E? You know? And you know that where.
Because of all that sort of, um, tacit knowledge that you have and, and then have you kind of built up the story. And it feels very much like that also with diagrams cuz you’re kind of trying, telling the story and hence this idea that this sort of talking someone through a diagram, and I guess this what you’re.
You know, there’s, there’s testing, which is, I’m, you’re actually kind of quite clear about. So I’m, I’m, you’re not saying, Hey, I’m doing this thing. What do you think of it? You say, you know, here’s, here’s where I’m trying to make, uh, this is a diagram that makes sense. Nasha, can you say it cuz you phrased it really nicely in your book.
The, the difference between.
[00:33:26] Abby Covert: Those two things. Yeah. So I think in a lot of cases when we wanna get feedback on our diagrams, what we jump to is like setting a meeting with somebody that we wanna reach and then showing it to them in front of us and saying, Hey, I made this diagram and I wanna know what you think about it, so let me show it to you.
And then they look at it for about 30 seconds and then you go, so what I I’m doing here is I’m using the blue to mean this, and I’m using the green and mean this. And I, and I, I was gonna put this in, but I didn’t and what do you think about this? And you just start kind of. explaining the diagram and then maybe catching some feedback on what your explanation was.
Yeah, what I think is much more effective, especially when you’re kind of trying to get to that, through that messy process of, of delivering a diagram, when you’re trying to decide what is actually gonna work. I think it’s much more effective to give somebody a diagram and have them look at it and say something like, Hey, so I’m making this thing.
I’d love you to look at it. Let me know when you’ve had enough time, and then I wanna ask you some question. . Yeah. And you treat it more like we treat interfaces. Like if I was testing an interface, I would. , you know, I’m, I’m here to watch and not to talk too much and I would love to see you complete this task using the thing in front of you.
And you know, remember that it’s the computer’s problem, not your problem. Yeah. Um, and we would be simple as, as that, but there’s some kind of like methodological difference in how we look at diagrams so often. So yeah, I think that’s a really important learning.
[00:34:44] Andy Polaine: I mean, there’s a nice thing which is to get someone to explain the diagram you’ve made back to you, right?
[00:34:48] Abby Covert: Yes. That’s also a great, great exercise
[00:34:51] Andy Polaine: because that tells you whether the act of telepathy worked or not. Right? Uh, of, of, uh, you know, I’ve put this, I’ve put my, my idea in this diagram and, you know, what’s the kind of degradation that happens when it, when it gets kind of written back? And I think it’s,
[00:35:04] Abby Covert: well once went through that, uh, that setup of the test.
Yeah. Like that is the, the first question to ask. Yeah. It’s like, okay, you’ve given them the time. They’ve actually looked at it, they’ve had the time to look at it, and they’re ready to talk to you again. What is the first. The first question should be, could you give me a tour of this diagram as if I’ve never seen it before?
Yeah, that’s nice. That’s nice. And, and then you don’t, don’t interrupt them until they’re done because they’re gonna get to places. Where’re gonna, they’re gonna go, I don’t know what that is, and you’re gonna wanna go, oh, that means blah, blah, blah. Don’t. You gotta let them give you the full tour and then at the end still don’t explain it to them because the minute that you do, they’re just gonna start agreeing with you about what might need to change.
And that’s not actually, in my experience, useful feedback anymore. So
[00:35:46] Andy Polaine: I’ve got a question for you, which is, I was just thinking about this, you know, sometimes the, the, the thing of getting someone to explain it back to you is really useful because diagrams kind of go on and you talked before about, you know, you’ve given an engineer this diagram from, you know, six years later and they should make sense of it.
Diagrams go on to sometimes have a life of their own. And then gradually get misinterpreted and misinterpreted because different people kind of present the misinterpreted version of it and, and so forth. And I, I, I think back to, well, this isn’t the diagram, but Christina Wagar has now sort of talked, OKRs have sort of, her, her talks have gone from talking about OKRs to talking about how they’ve got out of control and become this kind of other thing.
And, and I think she must kind of have people coming back to her saying, oh, look at these, what OKRs are aren’t. She’s like, uh, rolling her eyes. So here’s the question. . Are there two different types? Well, I mean there’s obviously many, but is, are there diagrams that should be able to, to stand on their own?
Should all diagrams be able to stand on their own or are there diagrams which are perhaps incomplete deliberately because you are presenting to them and they, they are a visual aid? Are those two different things?
[00:36:49] Abby Covert: I think that the determination of your intention and your audience and your scope answers that question.
That question. Yeah. Because if you’re, sometimes your intention is to get through this. . You know, like think about the intention of me with my family member at their home with that big pile of medical crap, like mm-hmm. . My intention was to get through that day. My intention was to get through that day and my audience was me.
Right. Now. Did that diagram go on to help other people? Yes, it absolutely did. It helped a family member the next day. It helped this home health nurse stop by. She, I think, was very happy to see that we already knew what we were doing and she didn’t need to explain it to us because we were like, oh, we have this diagram, but I didn’t intend for that.
So I think like there is this thing about diagrams kind of like getting out of the lab, like when they start traveling around, like, first of all, know that that’s a really good sign. Like the diagram helped you so much or helped the audience you define so much that new audience has found it. I think that.
that’s a testament to the potential in the message that’s behind the diagram. I do think that like if you think that your thing is gonna get out of the lab, it, you do owe it to yourself as the creator to give the framing that assumes it is traveling. And often that framing is not all that heavy lifting.
It’s, it’s a title and a little paragraph and a date and some contact information. It’s a note about where the data came from. It’s, it’s simple little things that you can. as a nod towards, hey, this might get out. And I think if you’re making diagrams that are meant to be, you know, aiding in strategy work, aiding in, uh, technical execution, you know, that are driving a huge team, that’s towards a big goal.
Like, if you’re doing your job correctly, that diagram’s probably going to get out , and that’s good. So do the extra work when you’ve, when you’ve gotten through your intention and your audience, if you feel like there’s potential there. Double back and, and do that extra look from that wider audience’s perspective and look, try to look back on it from two years from now.
How is this gonna be confusing? I mean, I see people all the time that put months no year on their diagrams. Well, that’s not gonna be helpful in a couple years. Like, gosh, hopefully no one’s opened the file and, and ruined the modified by days. You know, things like that I think are really missed often. And, and that is why the game of telephone affects the diagram so much.
Yeah. The resolution of them goes down as people are taking less and less resolution, screenshots of them and including them, index. I mean, all sorts of things happen. So, yeah, I think it’s, it’s really important from first viewing that you’re thinking about the ultimate. Life if you’re doing it for a professional context.
[00:39:22] Andy Polaine: Yeah, it’s, it’s basic rigor actually, that stuff, at least with my academic head on, a hat on, I’m kind of, you know, ticking my, ticking my students off for not doing, citing, citing their data sources and, you know, all that kind of stuff.
[00:39:34] Abby Covert: Yeah, well that’s, and you shouldn’t need a teacher to remind you of that.
And often us teachers do have to remind them of that, even cuz they have it in their head and they’re like, well, I don’t wanna overwhelm people. It’s like, well you do want them to know how you got to. The work, and I think that’s important.
[00:39:46] Andy Polaine: It’s like not commenting your code or something like that as well, you know, or I mean, I, I, I, it’s amazingly boring to do, but I say it over and over again to people.
And even in coaching, I say, you need to tell your teams about this of, uh, naming conventions and things like that so you don’t have kind of layer copy, copy, copy. One final version. Really finally and all of that sort of stuff. And I see it, I see it over and over again. I think, come on, this is, this is like kind of undergrad stuff, but then I see it kind of years later with really experienced people and it’s cuz you know, people are working hard and, and late.
And on the time..
[00:40:16] Abby Covert: I do it, I’m, I’m an information architect. You should see my file system. It’s a mess. I have it on my, on my to-do list for my like holiday break. It’s like clean up my digital files. Cause this book project just. Crushed me in digital file organization. Mm-hmm. , I really ran up against my, like, I want to work faster than I am able to organize this.
And that’s happened to me every time that I’ve taken on a big project. And you know, I think admitting who you are and how you work is, is really important. Like the opposite side of the, like not preparing the diagram for traveling and like people see it and then they misinterpret it. The opposite side of that is like the diagrams that are just for us that we agonize on the form of way too long.
After they’ve already helped us, but now we’re using it as an analysis paralysis. Now we’re using it as a, a place that we can go to massage our ego about how much we understand the problem as opposed to enacting the change that was meant from making the diagram. And I, I see that a lot where it’s like, yeah, you’re making this diagram for you, but you’re assuming that it’s like going up on the.
you know, the big screen at an opera house or something, and like, it’s not, it’s just for you. So get outta the diagram and go live your life. Make some decisions that were, the reason you made that diagram.
[00:41:22] Andy Polaine: That’s like fiddling with the typeface and, and font size instead of actually writing the, the paper, right?
So, um, you have in the book, um, You have a whole section around collaboration. You’ve got kind of different sort of examples, sort of example case studies, um, which I am assuming are kind of drawn from real life ish things, you know, or actually are, um, I dunno how kind of one-to-one they are or not, or they’re there.
[00:41:44] Abby Covert: None of them are one-to-one with an actual story. I would say that of synthesis of the eight that I would say six of them have my own experience in them. But are influenced by other people. Yeah. I did this really fun exercise kinda in the middle of the process of writing the book, where I interviewed people that signed up off my mailing list and said that they had stories of diagrams they had wrestled with, and I just was really fascinated in hearing.
When I say diagram, I don’t even know what you think I mean. Mm-hmm. , but I would love to see some examples and I saw so much. Diversity of, of thought and form and the background of the sense maker that was doing the diagram. That it just, it became this thing where I was like, I had intended to do that work.
Not to write stories, but to just kind of like get better examples to pepper throughout the book as I was talking about craft and collaboration, but, The stories became the way to teach collaboration, which I think really was very effective. Like, yeah, walking through somebody’s experience of making a diagram, especially somebody who doesn’t actually know they’re making one.
In many cases in the book, there’s people aren’t quite sure they’re making diagrams at first and then all of a sudden they are. I think that that really. Took all of the lessons of the book and put them into the frame of exactly what we’ve been talking about, like the human part of like, yeah, it’s gonna be messy and it’s gonna get weird, and you’re gonna feel strange and you’re gonna feel exuberant and then disappointed and all of the things.
[00:43:15] Andy Polaine: my favorite, and that’s what I was just looking at, was the Danny asking obvious questions. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from. Working in, in the, especially in the consulting world, which is so laced with jargon, is to ask the obvious questions. And sometimes about terminology, right? You know, when you say strategic roadmap, I’ve heard that a lot.
What, what do you actually mean by that? You know, because people kind of say these things cuz well, that’s what everyone else says, but, uh, you’ve had moments in the room where, Kind of, nobody really knows what that thing is, and yet everyone’s been talking about it for half an hour, you know?
[00:43:44] Abby Covert: Yeah. Like Danny, Danny finds themselves in a, in like a room with literally the entire company.
And after they present their diagram, one of the people that absolutely should know what the heck the company does is like, Uh, I’m gonna admit, I didn’t actually know what the company did until now, and, and like Danny’s brand new to this company. But, you know, they asked the, the right questions of the right person and, and also they form partnership and like, that’s really, I think that the, the beauty of the relationship between Danny and Kai in that story is that, yeah.
they’re doing that messy, yucky work that no one wants to do, and they’re shielding their entire company from having to deal with all of that cognitive load as a result of that effort. And I describe it in the book as like they’re, they’re playing tennis. It’s like Danny’s like serving up these really long labeled things, or really complex and Kai’s just like hitting it back with like, no.
We’re gonna call it this, and it’s just simple, you know? Yeah. I really enjoyed the, the person that that story is, is very much based on is, uh, yes. They know who they are. I’m guessing after reading that
[00:44:45] Andy Polaine: well, well, thank you. You know, there’s a thing there though, which is, you know, you know that classic thing.
I don’t know, maybe. I can’t remember who, you know, someone said this to me as a, as a kid when I was at school, it was probably my par one of my parents or something. You know, that thing of if you have a question for your teacher in class is something you don’t understand, ask it. Cuz it’s bound to be someone else in the class who doesn’t understand it too.
That you really do everyone a service by kind of by saying, I mean you don’t have to say sorry, I might be stupid, but, you know, and especially, uh, you know, that can often be a very kinda gendered thing, but I think it’s very useful to say, listen, you know, just. Clarify this. Can I ask the obvious question?
Cuz you are doing such a service to everyone else, you know?
[00:45:25] Abby Covert: Yeah. I actually, I start the, every workshop that I teach, I start with exactly that, especially while I was writing this book, because it was like, I’m very selfish about this. This is a service to me as a writer. Yes. I haven’t hit print on this thing yet, so please.
As a service, like ask the question. And I don’t get as much, I will say from an instructor point of view, if any instructors are out there, if you give that kind of permission at the beginning of your class, you get much fewer of the, I might be stupid, but Yeah. So it is a, it is an invitation that evens out a room really well.
Yeah. Um, and even a remote one. So that’s something that I would, I’ve definitely say I’ve, I’ve learned to always make space for that thought early in what you’re teaching, because otherwise they, they will assume that it’s just them and everybody. ,
[00:46:04] Andy Polaine: I’ve always felt that you do, uh, everyone a service by eating the last piece of cake too, because everyone’s sitting there thinking, well, I don’t wanna leave it.
That’s a waste. But I also don’t want to be the selfish one to take it. So, so, you know, I always eat the last piece of cake. I have to admit, there’s a bit, and the reason why I say I have to admit there’s a is because I’m, I’m nervous about saying it cuz you even talk about it, which is the bit of the book, which I can imagine coming back to quite often is the recipe section.
So you have this whole kind of cooking met. In it, and I love metaphors. Metaphors are diagrams for the ears, right? They, that they kind of help you understand things. And, um, you talk about how when you learned to cook properly and it, you, you, you talk about, you learned about preparing ingredients and so forth before you get onto actually doing recipes and things.
And also of not. just following one recipe, slavishly. Uh, but actually to looking at two or three and then kind of going, okay. Yeah. While I’m, you talk about cooking between recipes, I think that’s how you explain it. Yeah. Um, so you sort of understand that by doing that you understand the principle of making whatever it is you’re going to make and then kind of do your own version.
But nevertheless, the recipes are a great library of, you know, if you’re trying to do this, then this kind of diagram can help, or this kind of diagram is good for this kind of thing with a nice set of kind of what to expect in there. I kind of wanted to, I wanted to mention it cause I think it’s a really good bit of the book and I can kind of imagine that’s what everyone thought the entire book was going to be.
I dunno if that’s how that first pamphlet started or whether the first pamphlet started with the Bit at the beginning
[00:47:32] Abby Covert: did have recipes. Yeah. Yeah. The first pamphlet did have recipes. It’s interesting cuz I’ve gotten the, I’ve gotten feedback on the recipes, but the only feedback I’ve gotten on them is from more advanced practitioners saying that they don’t know if.
Advanced enough for them to use. And so that’s something that I’m, I’m not concerned about. I mean, those, those recipes were absolutely meant for that first audience. Yeah. Which is the novice that, that has to have enough tools in the tool belt to feel confident mashing up the tools and doing their own thing.
Yeah. And, and so the, the recipes were very much written from that audience’s perspective. Yeah. Um, but yeah, I, I think that. , the idea that we didn’t jump right into a type of, of diagram. I mentioned types of diagrams very early, and I, I try to give the reader a framework to understand kind of like the, the center of different types of diagrams and how they are similar more than they are different.
They are all just boxes and arrows. Mm-hmm. It really is that simple. But I also think that by the time you get to the recipe section in the book, it’s fairly late in the game on purpose because I, I really wanted to make sure that, really walk people through the process of diagramming from the standpoint of kind of like that mechanical versus that emotional process and how hard that can be regardless of the form that this thing is taking and then getting into craft, like while you’re doing this process, like what are you even using as the markers to know if you’re doing it well.
And like there has to be some rules, right? There has to be something that always works. So I try to really set them up where by the time they get to a recipe, They’re not gonna run into anything in that recipe that’s new. Like everything in that recipe is something they’ve already run into in the book before.
It’s just putting all of the pieces together, and I do it on purpose before the collaboration chapter because the different types of diagrams are very important to understand in order to really get the most out of the collaboration story.
[00:49:23] Andy Polaine: Yeah, no, I think it’s good. It’s, otherwise, it’s like one of those recipes where you’re going and it goes So julienne your potatoes and, and blanche them and you are like, what?
What’s a, who’s Julian exactly?
[00:49:31] Abby Covert: What’s a Julian ? Who’s Blanche? ,
[00:49:34] Andy Polaine: yeah. Yeah. No, it’s, um, I, I have to cook in, uh, I quite often cook. I have to cook. I, I, I’m in a kind of group of people who we cook at tomorrow. In fact, we do, uh, five course meal every, every once a month. But in there, you know, they’re all German. So I have to.
Have to take a German, um, recipe and kind of go through and go all and and understand the terminology. And it’s funny because you have all things, you know, adjective, verbs are the things that kind of nouns are pretty easy between languages. Cuz you can obviously point at a thing, go That’s that, that’s one of those.
But adjectives, uh, uh, you, you know, when something is finished or, you know, do this to this thing until it is like this in another language is, is, I don’t really know the nuance of what that means. And it’s, it’s fascinating to have, you know, switch between languages cuz you realize how much, I guess words or diagrams of thoughts.
Right? You know, how, how are you kind of. You think you’re all talking the same thing and you’re not, and then you, and having learned and been in a kind of dual language relationship, I am not been in, I am in a, you know, my wife’s German. How much you realize, oh, hang on, this must happen in my own language all the time.
You know, and, and culturally between a group of particularly sort of international group of people all speaking quite often English as the middle language, how we frequently just get that wrong. So diagrams can. So, as you know, the podcast is named after the famous grandchild, Eames Powers of 10 film, which I, I love as a, you know, I guess it’s an information architecture thing.
It’s also just a kind of making sense, making thing, and it’s really fascinating this idea of, you know, just that simple mental trick of what if you zoom in and out by, you know, one pair of 10 and, and how that, you know, exponentially, uh, goes so, The last question for all my guests is what? One small thing, either you know, it’s overlooked or should be redesigned has or would have an outsized impact on the world?
[00:51:26] Abby Covert: Take a break. Take a break. Everybody having the ability to take a break, which feels impossible. Like I feel like, you know, most people are not in the privileged position to be able to take a break, but if we had magic wands, yeah, I would say everybody needs to take a break when it gets too. .
[00:51:45] Andy Polaine: That’s such a fine answer.
I’m, I’m with you there. Um, I strive to be pretty lazy actually these days. That’s one of the things I, it’s, it’s, I , you know, to make, to make space. Actually, I think, you know, um, I have a whole talk about the four seasons of design. One of the things is this idea that in winter, especially in kind of northern hemisphere in winter, you’re forced to stop, right?
You’re forced to go inwards and just, Talking about what you’re talking about with your writing the book, you know, you make this big mess in summer and everything grows in autumn. You kind of pair everything back, organize everything, you know, trim everything back, sort out the compost, you know, repair the fences and stuff.
And then in winter you have that take a break. Yeah,
[00:52:26] Abby Covert: it’s interesting cause you’re talking about Powers of 10. So like let’s go down a level from season, which is what you described, the moon does the same. Right. There’s, there’s some wisdom in the four quarters of the moon transit being attached to sort of like opening things up and then getting really yucky in the middle of all of it, and then closing it back up so that before it gets dark, we’re safe again.
And it, it probably goes down a level from there too, right? In terms of like, what a day look. Like, or what a moment is and all that.
[00:52:53] Andy Polaine: Well, it is, and I think it’s important to think of your day like that too, as well. Like what part of the day beyond, you know, I just, I can’t see people eating lunch at their desks and that kind of stuff.
Or what part of the day did you, you just be, you know, and, and even if it’s a very short amount of time, I think it’s really, really important.
[00:53:08] Abby Covert: Yeah. I mean, as a writer, I think that like understanding my creative rhythm has been a. Process for me. Cause I, I used to think that I needed to put the writing into a business schedule, and now I realize like, I’m actually really the best writer at like six in the morning.
Mm-hmm. just am. And, and that actually means that, like my business day can be a little bit like, less traditional. I’m putting things in my business day that would make me uncomfortable as a recovering workaholic, but ultimately, like taking those breaks and taking care of myself are how I can show up for when I’m my creative best.
[00:53:41] Andy Polaine: it’s, it’s fascinating reading about kind, famous, you know, well known writers, because quite often their day is, you know, I st I do some stuff in the morning and then I, I write for three hours from, you know, nine until lunch. And that’s it. You know, ,
[00:53:57] Abby Covert: oh gosh. If anybody, if anybody out there can write for more than three hours a day, like, gosh, I’m, I, I’m gonna call bullshit on that.
Like, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard. Cuz honestly, like if you can, if you can get three hours solid of writing a day, that’s,
[00:54:08] Andy Polaine: that’s good. And that’s very good to see that. That’s very good . Yeah. Well, on that note, where can people find you on the, on the interwebs? Where, where do you hang out?
[00:54:17] Abby Covert: I, I don’t, I don’t hang out online.
I try really hard, dip in and dip out, but I, I do have a website that has everything I’ve ever done basically is to abbycovert.com. Also, howtomakesenseofanymess.com is my first book in its entirety for free for the world. So if anybody out there is, uh, is thinking, oh, that, that price, maybe not. Go check it out for free, see if it’s worth buying.
Um, it’s so generous. Yeah. And then the, um, best way to kind of keep up with me and support my work would be to sign up for my mailing list. I also have an Etsy shop where I sell some posters. I sell signed books there, um, which are really fun for me to send out to readers every week. So, yeah. Um, nice. Some ideas
[00:54:56] Andy Polaine: I did not know about the Etsy shop.
[00:54:58] Abby Covert: Uh oh. That’s been like, so fun. Yeah. Um, so I worked at Etsy, uh, for four years. And so I’m very, I’m in familiar with the systems there, and so when I left I was like, I really wanna be a seller now. And so I started my own shop and it started with me just sending, signed books out to readers. Mm-hmm. . And then it grew into posters that I get printed on.
So my heuristics has been turned into a poster. I have a new poster that came out with the, the diagram that helps you decide which type of diagram you’re making is now a poster on there. And then workbooks, I, I have a bunch of digital workbooks that I’ve made as like, smaller bodies of work that, that have a follow on connection to, to both the books.
[00:55:36] Andy Polaine: Nice. Yeah. Great. Well, I, I should pull the links in, in the show notes. Um, thank you so much for being my guest on Power of. This was awesome.
[00:55:44] Abby Covert: Thank you, Andy.
[00:55:46] Andy Polaine: As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve been listening to Power of Ten. My name is Andy Polaine. You can find me at @apolaine on Twitter, or polaine.com where you can find more episodes and sign up for my newsletter Doctor’s Note. If you like the show, please take a moment to give it a rating on iTunes. It really helps others find us. And as always get in touch. If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions for guests. All the links are in the show notes. Thanks for listening and see you next time.