On the 1st of June 2011 I will be departing these shores on an extended honeymoon with my husband of almost 3 months!

I am taking what I believe is officially called ‘a career break’.

We will be traveling from the top to the bottom of the world on a motorbike. (Yes, one motorbike. No, I don’t ride.) From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

My 2 years and 3 months at Canonical have been amazing. Amazingly hard, amazingly rewarding, amazingly productive, amazingly challenging and amazingly enjoyable. Everything in extremes. No time for moderation. I don’t mind admitting that a break is very welcome.

I accepted the role of Creative Strategy Lead 3 weeks after I joined having been initially hired to set up a user-centred design practice. I began hiring even before I joined when I introduced Marcus Haslam – our Brand Lead – to my predecessor and, since then, I have been on an almost constant quest to hire outstanding talent.

Bringing design in terms of branding and user experience to any technology-driven organisation is always a challenge. When that organisation has such ambitious goals and the core product effectively ‘belongs’ to a community of contributors the challenges are greater.

I remember hearing of the CEO of Marks and Spencer saying that the best and worst thing about the brand was that everyone *feels* they own it. In the case of Ubuntu, everyone does own it!

I have been very lucky to work so closely with a visionary stakeholder and have had a unique opportunity to work with him to refine and deliver his vision.

Mark Shuttleworth sets high goals and Canonical Design aims to attain the very highest standards.

Thanks to a most wonderful and talented team we have created a visual identity for Ubuntu and Canonical that supports the brand vision, we have continued to evolve ubuntu.com and set solid foundations for canonical.com. Ubuntu tested extremely well in our recent round of market research and the results of our latest usability benchmarking were excellent. Ubuntu is no longer the smart geeky kid sitting quietly at the back of the class; now it can strut through the playground with its head held high and it can be noticed.

As a team we speak in terms of user experience which combines usability, branding and effective design that can deliver on the vision for the product. While there is such a thing as a design gut feel – for some people based purely in talent, for others in experience – it is a dangerous modus operandi when resources are scarce and the job is vast. Good design thinking and data transform gut feel into a credible direction. There is more work to be done but the direction is firm.

My whole experience at Canonical has been supported and challenged by a very active and engaged community of contributors. I am not going to pretend that doing anything design-related in an open-source community is anything other than a challenge. Thankfully, for the most part, the right sort of challenge – the type that helps you progress.

Imagine walking into a room where a few hundred people are talking to you at the same time. You can’t hear, you don’t know where to start, the noise is overwhelming and you are just about to put your hands over your ears and scream when you notice someone catch your eye and smile; you notice another person pick up something you have dropped and put it where you can see it, a cup of tea appears in your hand and someone else starts quietly answering one person, then another. The desire to scream will come again, but the support is invaluable. What starts as a feeling that everyone is telling you what to do evolves into the sure knowledge that there are people who will help you catch a dropped ball. A massive thank you to all those people.

My return date is not fixed but I know I am leaving the design effort at Canonical in the hands of people who care deeply about the project and the company, and who have the talent and the sheer force of will to deliver.

To life, love, and experience. Cheers!