Deciding to leave my full-time position was not a light decision. I had been there a long time and felt quite comfortable. I started at Sereno Group as an associate designer, but quickly rose to become the lead of the design department, which I ran for 7 years. I’ve come to realize that 7 years at one job is not common this day and age, certainly not amongst my immediate peers. Being somewhere that long had its rewards though: a solid accrual of vacation days, familiarity with all aspects of your job, and other people’s reverence for the knowledge you have amassed. I became an information super center, able to answer seemingly random questions in half a second since I was either there when it happened, or was the person who put the system in place. I thoroughly enjoyed when we hired new designers to the team and they would wonder why things were the way we were and I could provide solid evidence and anecdotes to back up the decisions I had made (though, always eager to see a fresh perspective in case there was something I had been missing in my own view of the way things were). It was gratifying to be working in a system where you understood the ins and outs, and knew where to find things, and knew the reason behind why things were being done, versus the usual mantra of “I dunno, that’s what I was told.”
But I also found that being steeped with such knowledge and know-how had the simultaneously adverse effect of feeling like nothing was new. Over the years I became increasingly lazy about note-taking and recording my processes since I was the only one involved in each step. When I decided it was time to start my own venture, the reality of how many things I needed to pass along to my replacement was a bit daunting. Being mostly proactive about upcoming deadlines and projects, I had a decent mental map of what was coming on the horizon and when things would need to be started, and how they would need to be accomplished, but lived in a sort of reactionary world where the time of year, for example, would trigger the memory of needing to tackle the task, more so than any calendar of events I had inscribed somewhere.
So when my replacement asked me for instructions on how to take over the projects I’d been doing solo for 7 years, I felt overwhelmed with all the things I had not taken good notes on that I needed to pass on. On top of it, she asked me to make them pretty (yeah, designers, I know). I wondered how I could relay the detail, caveats and nuances of all the projects into simplified graphic instructions. I ended up making a set of “pretty” instructions, and then also bombarded her with loads of emails full of more detailed instructions for certain projects that I hope will be more useful when the time comes for to actually need them.
So, for the “pretty” instructions, I made a brain dump, describing with each page of the packet the process involved with each task, distilling it as much as possible into illustrations and flow charts. It actually made the task of relaying all this knowledge rather delightful, as I was challenged to be concise and informative. There really isn’t anything I love more than making cute illustrations, anyway.