An action repeated often enough becomes automatic, like “muscle memory”. When one pursues mastery of a craft, there are many foundational behaviors to be automated this way. These practiced actions are known as kata.1

We work at The Artificial to keep ourselves “in shape” by using the gaps between client projects for kata. You can see some output from that in projects like to [icon] and FTFY, but the most meaningful result is more effortless mastery of design basics. The effectiveness of designers who have been practicing is discernibly improved. Simple things become routine and their conscious attention can turn to larger perspectives without letting details suffer.

Personally, I worry that my ability to present publicly has atrophied, since Shannon does most of the presenting to clients which was my kata for keeping my shy tendencies at bay. So I recently jumped at a last-minute chance to present on stage at ThingsCon, hastily preparing a presentation on the challenges of designing a connected product for the home. It went well enough despite a cold, but 5 minutes in I noticed I was speaking too quickly and skipping points I wanted to make. More practice is necessary.

  1. Kata is a loanword, meaning “form” in Japanese. It was originally borrowed for martial arts and has become popular in some software fields.