Attention, designers
September 18, 2012 10:21 PM   Subscribe

One does wonder how attention to detail has been rebranded as attention deficit.
posted by michaelh at 11:10 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

One does wonder how attention to detail has been rebranded as attention deficit.

Have you ever met a sufferer of clinically significant inattentive ADHD?
posted by Nomyte at 11:25 PM on September 18, 2012

Have you ever met a sufferer of clinically significant inattentive ADHD?

Yes, of course I have.
posted by michaelh at 11:36 PM on September 18, 2012

posted by joelf at 2:08 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Being ADD means you see things other people miss. When you see a peach you see a piece of fruit. I see the color, the texture and the field where it grew."
This is... not how I understand ADD to work. Unless by "being ADD" he means "staring at fruit after having taken large quantities of amphetamines".
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:13 AM on September 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

posted by scruss at 4:34 AM on September 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

Too long, looked at the color of the page and the lazy mind from which the essay grew.
posted by michaelh at 4:45 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

As someone with ADD (inattentive type with some hyperactivity, and best described as a life full of parentheses), I disagree with his thesis. I'd go into detail but:

- I only really tend to hyperfocus on code, so
- I've already been distracted by the Esquire article in the next tab.
posted by subbes at 4:51 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

The fact that my two points are unrelated but presented as if they are related is not a symptom of my ADD. It's a symptom of lack of caffeine.

Honestly sometimes the way my mind works it's like Candlejack is in there messing wi
posted by subbes at 4:53 AM on September 19, 2012

I thought you made that joke on purpose, subbes.
posted by subdee at 5:18 AM on September 19, 2012

Life long ADHD sufferer here, though only officially diagnosed about a decade ago. I've seen this before. It's common for people who have recently figured out that they've got ADHD to make sweeping generalizations about what it means to have ADHD even though they've got very little experience on the subject. It's a self-realization process, and it's perfectly normal.
posted by atbash at 6:17 AM on September 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

Another way to say what makes ADD different is the degree to which those things we all struggle with - like misplaced car keys - impedes your ability to function in society. It's not the symptom, but the severity of those symptoms, and the impact that severe ADD symptoms have on your life that really defines the person's struggle. I'm 36, an economist, in a tenure track job at a university. I went my entire life undiagnosed. I worked frantically, erratically, feeling like a complete idiot and lazy all the time. I would either be failing my classes or in the top of my class -- everything in my life was bimodal like that. I was very nearly about to lose my job because I had too many projects going, couldn't get my revisions for articles resubmitted, couldn't get organized with classes. I practically had a nervous breakdown -- which there is technically no such thing as the DSM-IV doesn't really use that language, but I was definitely cracking.

Eventually, while meeting with my son's teacher during a parent-teacher meeting, and listening to the behavioral problems my son was having, I kept saying to myself "those are exactly my problems". I then found a couple of books, one of which was on marriage and ADHD, where I saw the exact problems in my marriage spelled out in detail. The book was by Suzy Orman I think is the name, who works with Ed Hallowell -- another book I read and found myself in. Then I did a ton of research -- typical for me -- and became convinced that there was something more going on with me than just the lazy accusations I'd made towards me for years. I got on treatment -- I am not on Vyvanse, which has been the most effective -- changed my diet, started exercising more, and tried to work on dealing directly with many problems I had as I understood them. Like time inconsistency problems. And in fact, one of the best things that I found that helped me was something I found on metafilter -- judo habits. I use that religiously, and it helps.

I know that the things the author is talking about is correct. ADD is a double edged sword. Because it is associated with tremendous creativity, energy and optimism, it can be the source of great strides and personal breakthroughs. I like to think that that is the case for my research in economics, as well as with my teaching. But there are huge downsides, and they are unfortunately directly due to the very things that create one's potential. It's a tremendous fight to keep from sinking. Even when I make progress, I slip back into the old things regularly. I ran my first (and only) marathon while I was working through the emotions of the ADD diagnosis -- which for me was very hard news for some reason (it's hard to learn that you aren't the fuck up you thought you were sometimes, as that means working through all the relationships which made that self-definition nearly unavoidable, plus as an adult, you're just having to rewire your self conception, which isn't easy, and can cause you to lose some things you simply took to be without question the way you were). I thought that the marathon was going to be a great metaphor for what life would be like now that I was on treatment, finding new ways of dealing with my problems, and so on. And in a way it was. But it became more of a metaphor for just the hard work that life seems to be, whether you have ADD or not. I'm training for my second marathon now, making much less progress, much less consistent, and far harder to get up every morning and run than it once was. In that sense, the marathon was a useful marathon for post-ADD. I am more organized -- which is the Vyvanse. Most of the help is from the medical treatment for me. But that doesn't give me a new brain. I can't just take a pill and become someone whose able to connect my actions to their outcomes, or not over-estimate the amount of space in my schedule or under-estimate the time it will take. I still do those. And as I get better, all I seem to do is take on new projects, as my mind is constantly churning, and I'm always wanting to do more research. So I piss off coauthors and colleagues, and bring more stress on myself, and then I'm working through those stressful feelings and thoughts.

I appreciate what the guy is saying. I suspect he is right -- it's in all the literature that the ADD attributes are directly related to real potential. IT's getting that potential untapped in a productive, healthy way that is the hard part. Some are more successful than others at it, which for someone with ADD who always worries I will be one of the unsuccessful ones, feels tragic.
posted by scunning at 6:44 AM on September 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

The rise of the Magical Pixie Boy.
posted by bpm140 at 7:56 AM on September 19, 2012

I found the comments enlightening. How the medication that helps the ADD is the one that damps the ability to be a designer.

I haven't enjoyed all the snark here in this thread though. This may mean nothing to all of you but this is a powerful sharing on Core77, both in terms of the subject matter as well as the personal dealing with a double edged sword that might render your entire career or skillset useless via the treatment.

I've brainstormed with so many designers and if this post offers some a new way to look at "failings" or "challenges" thus being able to transform them into strengths in their work, then more power to them. As some who used to head the department responsible for all things students of design, offering this perspective might make the difference between someone flunking out or leaving in tears of frustration and someone finding ways to navigate the program and the problem to successful completion.

I'll just leave it at this. Thank you for stepping forward with this and for publishing it.
posted by infini at 8:04 AM on September 19, 2012

Is this significant for Core77? I mean, is it a topic that hasn't been broached before in the community? While the comments may get in to more of a conversation (I only skimmed the top few), the article itself didn't seem like it addressed the double-edged sword aspect of ADD/ADHD very well to me. He sort of starts to mention the frequency and impact of ADHD, but doesn't follow through as much as I'd like on how that helps/hurts design. I keep having to refer back to the article because it left no lasting impression with me, aside from the quote about the peach which doesn't really align with my personal experiences.

Actually, some of what the author describes in the article, the designers that "run fast and hot, hugging the corners with a jaw-dropping ability to win the race with awesome speed. Ideas for these designers come fast and furious. As capable as they are of the exhilarating win, they can hit the wall and explode into a gazillion little pieces." - to me, that sounds more like bipolar disorder that ADD.
posted by maryr at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2012

I mean, is it a topic that hasn't been broached before in the community?

Afaik, no. At least not on the main front page/blog.

And you're right, I was thinking more of the information in the comments than the actual article itself, which does feel unfinished.
posted by infini at 9:59 AM on September 19, 2012

Let me share why I was struck by seeing the topic in this context of the practice of design. There's a school of thought (on the West Coast, very well known) that trends towards the design process having a stage of "wild brainstorming" before going on to prototyping and testing. I've experienced that "wild brainstorming" with the designer behind the process itself. The challenge had been sorting out all the "wild and crazy ideas" into some coherent patterns or directions. Now it kind of starts to make sense to me, why there might be a divergence in approaches taught - one, which is the one described above, and two, where constraints or filters for ideation are set prior to prototyping or testing, so that 3 to 5 key directions are tested and the energies are far more focused to end user needs identified or contextual solution space, than simply the "crazy designers with their creativity" kind of thing.
posted by infini at 10:05 AM on September 19, 2012

I was actually hoping this would be an article about designing websites such that they are more easily compatible by people with ADD. Because I think the way that ADD people interact with websites is probably a lot like the way neurotypical people do, just a bit more extreme.

Over the years I have moved towards designs that have as little extra "stuff" as possible, fewer things to distract you from the 3-4 things that truly need to be clicked on. Images in place of words whenever possible, that sort of thing.

I feel like this kind of design makes a website easier, more navigable, and less trying to the patience of all visitors. But I don't really know.
posted by ErikaB at 11:13 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Being ADD means you see things other people miss."

Very true.

Alas, it is also true that being ADD means missing lots of things other people see.
posted by space_cookie at 11:16 AM on September 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

Over the years I have moved towards designs that have as little extra "stuff" as possible, fewer things to distract you from the 3-4 things that truly need to be clicked on. Images in place of words whenever possible, that sort of thing.

This (and ergonomic issues) is why I run an extensively customized computing environment, dedicated to reducing visual noise, things gratuitously in motion, pop-ups of all sorts. A reseller's version of Windows with a ton of bloatware popping things up at every opportunity is a kind of hell. I'm an ADHD-boy and don't like interruptions when I'm trying to pay attention to something else (especially if I've actually succeeded...)
posted by Zed at 11:55 AM on September 19, 2012

As someone with ADD (inattentive type with some hyperactivity, and best described as a life full of parentheses), I disagree with his thesis. I'd go into detail but:

- I only really tend to hyperfocus on code

I have attentive type ADHD diagnosed a few years ago. I do agree with his thesis. Hyperfocus doesn't mean you can easily use it however you want, but it does mean that something which really holds your interest can really hold your focus- to the exclusion of everything else. It's the whole reason I'm changing careers. I can use hyperfocus in goldsmithing to great advantage. I'd estimate about half the people I've met who are professional bench jewelers, or any type of smith (silver, black, etc.), are ADHD. The founder of the jewelry arts school I'm attending has been diagnosed as inattentive ADHD - he often brags about how he can hyperfocus and do really fine detailed work. I could tell a lot of similar stories...
posted by krinklyfig at 7:16 PM on September 19, 2012

I already think there is a continuum of creativity where if you're constantly connecting (somewhat unconnected) things enough - but not too much - you're creative and functional, but as you had further down that axis, you end up at schizophrenia and paranoia of too many connections being made to remain functional.

I already think there is a continuum of abstract thinking, where if you're too far along that axis, you end up at aspergers and autism, but when it's not so strong as to be problematic, it's still an asset granting a mental capacity for great complexity and skill in many fields.

I'll just add this axis of "continuum of focus" to this list, another valuable mental trait where being too far along starts to bite.

Now I'm most of the way to a kind of meyers-briggs simple/trite quantization of human mental prowess and illness. Careers can be made on this! :)
posted by anonymisc at 10:33 PM on September 19, 2012

ADHD hyperfocus makes me a goddamn creative juggernaut; I can concentrate for 20 hours in one stretch without leaving my chair, and routinely do things in one all-nighter that would take other people weeks. What does this earn me? A horrifying immune condition, angry emails from people I've neglected, collection notices (even though I make enough to pay the bills), friends and family who act as though I've risen from the dead when I finally make contact. I refer to my phone as Mjolnir, because I simply cannot pick it up.

I'm writing this after having worked until three in the morning, having forgotten to eat all day. I don't even have a deadline, I just ..couldn't stop! I was supposed to make a doctor's appointment today, talk to my wife about planning a get-together with friends, and return a pretty important email, and I did NONE of those things. Fuck!! What kind of idiot actually feels this is a gift to be leveraged, and not a curse?

Probably this is just hypoglycemia talking, and I'll feel better after eating these Jack in the Box churros. (OH GOD DON'T NO NO NO NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING)
posted by jake at 3:16 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

What kind of idiot actually feels this is a gift to be leveraged, and not a curse?

Well, it is what it is. I could be frustrated and angry about it, but I wasted far too much of my life feeling like that, and it's exhausting - I don't have the energy to do that anymore. I can control my symptoms to a certain degree but it's not like I have a choice about being ADHD. I do the best I can to manage and work around my symptoms, and regardless still have a lot of the problems you do, but mostly don't carry around a lot of guilt about it anymore. Mostly, because it's impossible to ignore, and some self-doubt is always lingering.

I may be an idiot, but I gave up feeling like shit about that too.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:24 AM on September 20, 2012

No, you're totally right. The churros and some sleep did the trick, it was just low blood sugar.

We're cool, carry on!
(sits down at desk, puts headphones on, mutes phone)
posted by jake at 2:32 PM on September 20, 2012

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