Proudest moment: The work we’ve done with crown prosecutors (service design and interface design) this year has been really fun because they’re articulate, engaged and passionate about what they do. Overall though, what I’m most proud of is having a great team that’s capable of tackling ambitious research and design projects. I guess that’s the kind of thing the boss should say, but it’s also true.
Favourite book of 2014: Flash Boys, Michael Lewis. Runners up: The Martian, Andy Weir and The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Favourite Album that came out in 2014: Meghan Trainor’s Title wins by default because it’s the only album I listened to this year that was released this year. (And it’s really good too.) Enjoyed this year but released in 2013: Arctic Monkeys AM, Chvrches The Bones of What You Believe, Volcano Choir Repave.
Something I tried in 2014: I buy magazines when I travel–it’s kind of a pre-flight ritual–and they usually end up stacked in my recycling bin. But this year I started cutting them up and making collages. I haven’t made art intentionally since high school, so the whole process was new and surprising.
Favourite app that you started using in 2014: Moves, the fitness tracking app that was acquired by Facebook. This is one of the most elegantly designed apps I’ve seen.
Personal goal achieved in 2014: I wanted to get to Europe this year, and in the fall I went to Iceland for a short holiday and Sweden for the Service Design Global Conference.
Every trip seems to bring an unexpected lesson and this time, in Sweden, that lesson was about the pervasiveness of our global culture. It started with my phone. The tattooed girl who sold me a data plan looked just like the tattooed barista on Jasper Avenue who used to get my latte, and spoke the same flawless English. In downtown Stockholm people hustled silently, their charcoal coats etched with the white loops of iPhone earbuds, no different than New York or Sydney or half a dozen other cities I’ve been. In the grand irony that is modern travel, I crowded into museums with other foreign tourists to experience Swedish culture and then strolled back to my hotel through streets teeming with homogeneous global brands. Subways, 7-11s, H&Ms, T.G.I. Fridays, Pradas, and on and on. A head-spinning environmental deja vu ensued–why does this all seem so familiar? And had I travelled this far to experience (many of) the same things I could at home?
Even the ABBA Museum–my favourite museum of the trip–subtly reinforced this feeling of familiar displacement by focusing on the foursome’s rise to international fame. Next door, the Swedish Music Hall of Fame told a similar tale. Did you know Max Martin (Swede) co-wrote Nicki Minaj’s “Starships”? And almost every Katy Perry song you’ve ever heard? It was like that. (Maybe I identified with these exhibits because they had a Canadian sensibility, a just-under-the-surface insecurity about their place in world.)
Anyway, a change of hotels brought me what I wanted: a few days immersed in something approximating local life. While running one morning I watched a group of kindergarteners out for a walk–all of them wearing bright orange toques for identification. I stopped at one of the 30 outdoor gyms in Stockholm and shared the equipment with moms and seniors and other runners. One night, in a phone-booth sized sushi joint, I listened to the chef theorize about why the Swedes don’t like sushi. This was what I needed–different and a little weird.
And then, coincidentally, the opening keynote at the Service Design Global Conference was a guy from AirBnB talking about authentic travel experiences. It was an unexpectedly apt way to end my trip.
So if you travel to Stockholm, I have two tips. First, rent a flat or stay in a boutique hotel somewhere outside of the city core. I spent the last few days in Sodermalm and it was quite nice. Second, definitely go to the ABBA Museum.