The photo wall – lessons about plans, changes, risk mitigation and results

Categories Fun, My life, Working smart

I live my life following a simple set of rules:

  • Measure twice, cut once
  • Change is normal, expect and embrace it
  • Hope for the best but expect the worst
  • The quality of the end result is never an accident, it is always the result of intelligent choices and hard work

I apply these rules to everything I can, starting with preparing and following a simple shopping list, small home projects and ending with my day to day job.

Here’s the simplest and most intuitive example: my new photo wall, which I had to build in the week that my wife was on a business trip.

The process

  1. Define the outcome – I wanted a photo wall built with happy colored frames and pictures of my family that would fit in the hallway between my bedrooms – this took about five minutes;
  2. Analyze the location and identify the materials – I knew what I wanted so I searched for photo frames of different proportional sizes and happy colors and I selected the pictures from my photo collection (pictures chosen out of roughly 34GB of previously filtered photos). I also measured the hallway and calculated my constraints – this took about three days;
  3. Design the product – I built an Excel simulation of my photo wall where I laid out different frames of different sizes and colors and placed different pictures until I got the mix right;
  4. Test the design – I placed the photos in the photo frames and laid them out on the floor in the exact pattern. I isolated the ones that I did not like (color combination was wrong, photo did not fit in the overall picture, etc.)
  5. Modify design based on test feedback;
  6. Implement the design.

Risk mitigation

  • I knew that I will surely select pictures that I won’t like – so instead of choosing only the 10 pictures I used in the simulation, printing them and getting it wrong (which would have made me miss my deadline) I selected and printed about 20 pictures of various sizes;
  • I knew that I will surely change my mind about what will the color placing will be when I tested the design – so I bought 50% more photo frames of various colors;
  • I knew I would mess up the positioning of the photos, even if I used rulers and drew lines on the wall – so I bought double adhesive tape that would only dry after 5 minutes, leaving me a change to unglue the pictures and straighten them

Change is good

Why expecting change and embracing it is a good thing:

Design – this is how my simulation looked like:

While I worked on it I really liked the feel and loved the layout and coloring.

I went on to testing.

The test and implementing the feedback – this is how my layout changed after the test:

As you can see, I changed two pictures (both content and frame color) – that’s a 20% change from the original design but an overall improvement in the color balance and the overall aspect.

The result – this is how the final setup looks like:

Now isn’t that nice?

I actually finished an hour and a half before my deadline and had time to prepare and place 4 more photo frames around the house – nothing is lost, everything is used J

I try to learn from everything I do and my lessons here were once again:

  • Measure, analyze, prepare – then prepare some more;
  • Expect and embrace change – change is good for you, actively look for it;
  • Expect the unexpected – prepare for it;
  • Effort and determination pay off in the quality of the end result.

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