My name is Pauly Ting and I consider myself more than just an experience designer. In my 30-something years, I’ve founded and sold two design firms, worked with Fortune 500 brands and budding startups, been a contributor for well-known design publications, and lectured at leading universities.
I cut my teeth in my family’s pre-press and desktop publishing business from 14 years old, before eventually evolving into web design, digital marketing, branding, mobile design, behavioral design, and user experience.
Born and bred on the Gold Coast in Australia, I sold up my life in early 2011 and moved away from golden beaches, for the Golden Gate of San Francisco.
There have been plenty of ‘trial-by-fire learning moments’ in my career, but perhaps nothing brighter than the day I realised that I saw the world differently. I had long considered that what was obvious to me, was/should have been obvious to everyone else. As simple as it sounds, accepting there was a responsibility to bridge that gap, was a life-changing moment.
I had just left another job that didn’t work out, and I was considering the recurring feedback I had received: “You think too much and ask too many questions”, “Why can’t you just go along to get along?”, “We need answers, not more questions.”
At first, I was dejected and deeply considered what might have been ‘wrong’ with me. On one hand, I had spent my entire life constantly asking ‘why’, and was raised in a family that encouraged challenging dogma, exploring new ways of doing things, and having the personal integrity and courage to do so. I enjoyed what my brain could do, and I had developed a knack for having insights that usually came true.
On the other hand, I was struggling to succeed in my professional relationships and career because my approach, thinking, and communication style wasn’t compatible with those I interacted with. “We like your enthusiasm, but you just need to change x about you” was a phrase I heard all too often, and it made me further depressed, and sick to my stomach. I liked me, but perhaps they were right? Was I being egotistical? Or was I being asked to change for someone else’s agenda?
Being a musician, YouTube is one of my favourite retreats. Watching some Lady Gaga and other peculiar (yet brilliantly talented) artists one night, I pondered how we all yearn to be unique, to have the courage to be who we are, and to rise above the heavy weight of mediocrity, beige, and standard.
I took a week off at Lake Tahoe, deep in thought. I hiked the trails, sat by the water, and photographed wildlife to give my head and heart the room to breathe. I had no plan – no ‘find your passion’ type bullshit – but I did want to stop, write down exactly what I liked and loved from the inane to the bold, and what I didn’t like and love. The point was to find what made me feel strong, powerful, and alive, and what I just simply didn’t have the time and energy for. Hopefully, there would be a picture in the ball of words that would provide some insight.
I got stumped a few times and had to peel more layers off the onion to work things out, because many of my likes/dislikes were contradictory. For example, I realised that I loved to help people, but also hated helping people. Digging deeper and providing more detail, I would eventually articulate that I loved to help people who would do it anyway but by my involvement, it could be even better. And I didn’t wish to save people from themselves who would continue to actively sabotage themselves.
Six months after my trip to Tahoe, I was still refining my thinking. I was working with a company on a rebranding exercise trying to work out their essence. A brand essence is one word that is the most important driver. For example, Toyota would be reliability, Volvo would be safety, and BMW would be driving. It doesn’t mean they don’t all value these qualities, but when they build their products, they have a clear and distinct primary focus in mind.
Jim Carrey recently quoted at a graduation speech:
“I learned many, many lessons from my father, but not least of which is that you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.”
I realized that I had become adept at surviving in a model of the world that I didn’t belong in, rather than thriving in the world I did belong in. I was not only investing my time with the wrong people, but was causing my own pain because I was presenting myself as being something that I wasn’t. Furthermore, I’m a shitty liar and my actions always speak louder than my words, so it was only a matter of time before my frustration caught up with me, and everyone would suffer.
Despite having done brand essence exercises countless times, on this particular occasion, something shone through and my essence came to me: Reframing. The craft of shifting perception through hypothetical and inquisitive thinking.
So here it is – an ongoing treasury of thoughts, perspective, and enquiry all with the intention to reframe how we understand ourselves and the world we live in.