Design, CSS, and Content: Another packed day at SXSW

Today kicks off discussing out print design is the future of interaction. I love both print and web design, so I’m curious what Mike Kruzeniski from Microsoft has to say. Especially since it is Microsoft talking about the future of print. Interesting.

The first day had a ton of information and I hope to build on that today. Yesterday, Chrissie Brodigan urged designers to design with the future in mind. I appreciated this long range way of looking at our work, but what do you think that means to you in a corporate setting? I believe it must have something to do with setting up standards & guidelines globally for a website, but Chrissie also talked about a design’s forkability, how others will take and add to or otherwise change your work. Please share your thoughts below.

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Try subscribing to my feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/bakoind

There may have been some issues with the old one and I’ve now updated it on the site, too.

Also, catch the SXSW live sessions starting at 12:30 pm today here: http://bit.ly/foDxXt

Now back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

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Collected Photographs: SXSW Day 1

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Designers vs. Developers, a solution?

Today was packed. I was happy to have flown in last night as the line for registration seemed to stretch for miles as early as 11 am. I met up with my friend Adam Burt, a talented designer/developer who works for TCU (go Team Halperin!). I enjoyed seeing a bit of Austin before settling into the first session of the day, How Not to Design Like a Developer.

Session 1: How Not to Design Like a Developer

Chrissie Brodigan • @tenaciouscbhttp://blog.chrissiebrodigan.com/

Chrissie Brodigan is the Engagement Lead for Mozilla. She has a passion for Open Source projects and seeing designers get involved to make them better. Her talk centered on designing for Open Source but the principles are applicable to a corporate setting as well.

She outlined the divide that often exists between Designers and Developers—both are prideful and protective of their work, but often approach problems very differently. For instance, Developers will often use logical problems as a way to bypass Design altogether. Often their arguments can be quite convincing.

Developers often utilize workarounds as a way to get more done quickly while Designers attempt to cut out the need for workarounds altogether. Developers are quite good at version control and documentation whereas Designers aren’t. Designers design for the moment, Developers write for the future.

The solution she posits is to give a little on things like doing better version control as these will actually help everyone in the long run. I especially liked her take on forkability. As a designer, I do not often think about what comes next for the design, how it might be adapted and changed, grow and move. Thinking for the future like this can only help us to be better thinkers and more efficient at the same time.

This is why a Standards & Guidelines document is so important. It saves time to think about design problems as if they will be implemented elsewhere for different, but related purposes. It allows us to pay more attention to the overall picture rather than burying ourselves in loads of detail.

She describes this as designing for localization meaning that what we do now is a local version of a much larger picture (even if that larger picture has yet to be created). Fascinating! I hadn’t thought about web design in those terms before.

All in all, a fine first session with great content.

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SXSW Expectations

Living in Omaha has its benefits. One of those has got to be the airport. We’re large enough to attract larger activities, like the Mutual of Omaha Swim Trials, yet small enough that we don’t have to get to the airport 3 hours ahead of time to barely sneak onto the airplane. OMA is one of those places that you might run in to someone you know, which happened to me today waiting to board the plane to Houston. Some family friends of ours happened to be at the same gate awaiting their own flight out and I love how things like that can happen when your home airport is OMA.

SXSW is a massive event. Much larger than any other conference I’ve been to—some estimates are at 12,000. A bevy of gadget makers and online services pin their hopes on persuading this mass of technorati to adopt their product. Twitter famously got its start here in 2007 and Foursquare after them. But any new interesting service will be a side benefit for me. I’m here to visit the sessions, and all the thought leaders in our industry are here. Jeffery Zeldman, Jason Santa Maria, Frank Chimero, Dan Mall, Matt Cutts, Tantek Celik and Steve Krug among others are all taking part this year. With so many top-notch speakers, you can imagine the number of sessions is overwhelming. Sorting through them all to find the very best proves to be a tremendous task, but thankfully, there is no shortage of lists of SXSW sessions to go to. UX Mag clues you in on all the best UX design sessions, the BBC has a list of apps to make the most of it, the Marketing Leadership Council chimes in with their own list to cut through the clutter. In the end, I’m not sure I feel any more prepared for the onslaught. In the end, I’m hoping to take back to our team a sense of how to do our jobs better and quicker. Stay tuned for the best.

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Good vs. Great Design – Cameron Moll

As stated before, I was excited to hear Cameron Moll speak. I’d heard good things about it and was anxious to experience it for myself.

He began by saying that there is no magic formula for great design.He used a quote from Bryan Lawson’s book, How Designer’s Think that sums the idea nicely: “Do we really need a simple definition of design or should we accept that design is too complex a matter to be summarised in less than a book?” In other words, it is something that requires real work—it isn’t something that just looks cool or is cobbled together.

I was excited to hear this as it seems many design magazines, books and websites these days seem to suggest, usually subtly, that there is.

Cameron Moll broke his presentation into sections organized around two opposites: Necessity vs. Passion, Starter vs. Finisher, Reduction vs. organization, Influence vs. Inspiration and Creative Drive vs. Creative Pause. They are simply opposites, not necessarily in conflict.

The first section concerned Necessity vs. Passion. He used his Authentic Jobs website as an example. It was very bare-bones at first, created to fill a need he saw. As time went by, his passion for it grew and it has become a far better site today. “Create passion about your work, satisfy your passions on the clock or off,” he suggests.

 

Creating Five Alarm Concepts (Take 2) – Von Glitschka

Download Slides.

Von Glitschka’s presentation, Creating 5 Alarm Concepts, is one of the better sessions of the HOW Conference. His talk was well organized and well thought out.

He started by stating that not all design problems require a “homerun” that sometimes the answer really is as simple as a sign saying “2 hotdogs for 99¢.” A hit is a hit, the point is whether or not your  solution works.

But when we are called upon to come up with a complex concept, a 5 alarm concept, what do we do to generate those ideas?

Loading the Chamber

First, according to Von, it is important to load the chamber by which he means to fill your head with ideas gleaned from outside the design field. He was careful to mention that we must also look outside of the world of design as it will deepen our well of inspiration. Instead of just one source of inspiration, we will have many. It takes dedicated and purposeful focus and as designers, we should be great thinkers. It is very easy as designers to concentrate on the look rather than the project as a whole.

One area this manifests itself is in the eternal battle between Marketing and Graphic Design. Many times each side is looking at something different while assuming the other should see things their way. He offered 4 points that we designers should keep in mind when talking with Marketing:

  1. Reaching the audience appropriately. Concentrate on solving their problems, not the company’s.
  2. If someone’s comments sound negative, step into their shoes. Don’t take the criticism personally, rather try to see where they are coming from.
  3. Understand the realities of investment and return of investment for your client. Realize that there are real business goals behind this project that must be met. If the design doesn’t bring in business, there probably won’t be business for the designer.
  4. Educate the client, help them understand. Sometimes, you must help them realize that they are not the final audience. Move them from thinking about what they like to what the audience likes.

He continued to say that we should dig deep into the client’s head to help develop a solution. He spoke of research as an ongoing process throughout the life cycle of the project rather than a stage near the beginning.

Gathering Conceptual Triggers

Research involves many facets, but the point of all of it is to collect “conceptual triggers” which he equated to matches. The more matches you have, the more concepts you can illuminate.

He lists 2 types of conceptual triggers:

  1. Reading
  2. Travel

You can collect these “matches” anywhere if you look for them.

Reading

Reading, Von says, is equivalent to thinking with someone else’s head. Through careful reading of a wide variety of sources, we can expand our knowledge across many disciplines (be a good thinker). Great design is not an island unto itself. Sources include books, magazines, blogs, etc.

Travel

You collect matches just by traveling. When you are someplace new, you tend to notice things more clearly. Von Glitschka collects textures by photographing interesting textures he sees. You also meet new people and see things you never have before such as animals, art, nature, architecture, history, food and festivals.

He uses the example of Petra, Jordan which was created by Bedouins who were on the move much of their lives. When the created Petra, they incorporated design elements from the areas they had traveled through to create something entirely new and different. His exhortation to “be a Bedouin” means to source your various experiences into your design making something new and interesting.

Travel can be done where you are as well. Visit places you haven’t before, make a habit of noticing things around you.

Harvest your inspiration

We are often inspired by thoughts, visuals, and words. To capture these, we must have a plan. He suggests always keeping a pad of paper or some other way of recording the ideas.

When doing this, keep these things in mind: Embrace the rabbit trails, work with simple tools like pen and paper, and find an environment that is conducive to this type of thinking.

Here are some techniques to begin:

Word associations
Not just a simple list of words, but words that relate to the subject in different ways. Look at the diagrams pdf in Von’s presentation to get a better idea of what he’s talking about. Basically, though, it contains 8 categories: metaphors, facts, historical, slang, emotional, personification, hyperbole, idioms, and puns. Thinking of your subject, fill in words or phrases in each of these categories and then select ones that seem to have some type of connection or suggest a creative solution.

Mind Mapping
Everywhere I went at the conference, it seemed the speakers were talking about mind mapping. The process basically goes the same way you may have learned pre-writing in school. You begin with your subject in the middle, and then write down everything you can think of that has to do with it. Branch off of those ideas to new ideas and so forth. Peter Samis has some examples on his website. You don’t necessarily have to draw images with it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Although the above were the two ideas I liked best, he also listed others that may be of value to you and your workflow. Again, download the presentation to get the whole story.

My take

This was one of my favorite presentations. Von Glitschka is both entertaining and knowledgeable and shares that in a comfortable, easy-to-digest way. I see these ideas fitting into our culture here at Mutual by using his brainstorming ideas in creative team meetings. I think that we use these techniques on both personal and team levels to produce more ideas faster. I especially like his ideas concerning finding an environment that stimulates creative thinking and humbly suggest we create some type of Brand library where we could house books, magazines and other appropriate materials in a warm and inviting area that would lend itself to creative thinking.

Finally, I would encourage everyone to spend time reading and traveling, gaining new experiences or “matches” to utilize when creating new concepts.

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Creating Five Alarm Concepts – Von Glitschka

Von Glitschka is a illustrator, designer, author and owner of Glitschka studios (vonglitschka.com) based in Salem Oregon.

5 Alarm Concepts was one of the first sessions I decided on, and it did not disapoint. The Five-Alarm Concepts session was all about learning how to establish conceptual triggers that help you think through problems and formulate new ideas.

Von talked about “Loading our mental chambers” with everything around us. It helps our creativity and mental process if were able to look outside our areas of expertise to find new and intriguing information.

Conceptual Triggers
Anything you experience or see, and store in your mind is a “match”. Matches have the ability to spark creative solutions at anytime. Some of the ways to collect matches are:

Reading
Reading is a great tool, and allows you to think with someone else’s brain. It also improves your communication skills, verbally and linguistically.

Two Books I’m reading now

“Change by Design” by Tim Brown from IDEO

“A Fine Line” by Hartmut Esslinger from Frog Design

Travel
Traveling exposes you to new and exciting environments and forces you to collect matches whether you know it or not. Experiencing other cultures, foods, people, art, architecture and history will provide you with the ammunition you need to creatively solve your next problem.

Leave Your Comfort Zone
Experience things you would have never dreamed about and put yourself in unfamiliar situations. Von referenced a recent trip to the slums of Africa that had a profound impact on his life. He collected matches and saw the amount of creativity kids can have when making their own toys with no money.

In order to put all these matches to good use you have a system in place to capture your thoughts and inspirations at a moments notice. Inspiration can come in many forms, thoughts, visuals, words ect.

Work by Von Glitschka

 

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Lunch with a Speaker – Christopher Chapman

Christopher Chapman

Tuesday I was supposed to take part in a roundtable lunch with a speaker. I signed up to dine with illustrator Eleanor Grosch. After meeting with the other six designers at the table (including the infamous “other Kelly Anderson” from Sports Authority) we started to eat our sandwiches, then our side dishes, then our desserts. Over 20 minutes in and Eleanor Grosch still hadn’t showed up. Finally, one of the event organizers came over and apologized that our speaker hadn’t showed up and invited us to go to another table. I decided to head two tables over to a speaker who had one guest and an assortment of TOYS! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I sat down, soon followed by the rest of my former table.

Our new speaker was Christopher Chapman, an in-house designer who worked for the company in charge of making merchandise for the Disney Store and the theme park gift shops. He was speaking at the In-Howse conference, which was why I hadn’t heard of the session he was having later in the day.

Despite working for a company like Disney, Chris’s challenges were similar to most other in-house designers: designers not being involved as early in the process as they should be; clients trying to design for them; trying to defend and expand the brand.

Chris’s solutions to his problems were very proactive. He recommended always involving the client, so they feel as so they are a part of the process, and they will be more likely to support and defend the final design. This also allows you to make changes earlier in the process, which saves significant time and effort on the designer’s part.

His next big idea was to educate your client. You can do so in a very straight-forward manner, or, my favorite option, give your clients design books for Christmas presents. He recommended Orbiting the Giant Hairball as a great gift for a new marketing manager or other business person who doesn’t understand the value of design and the design process.

Finally, he also pointed out that sometimes your client is right. It hurts the pride, but take a step back, look at the suggestion as if it had come form another designer and then decide if it’s a valid point. Just because your client didn’t go to art school doesn’t mean they can’t recognize a flaw in the design.

Overall, it was a great lunch, and I found myself actually happy that Eleanor hadn’t shown up. Chris gave everyone at the table a Vinylmation Micky toy (I got the Godzilla Micky) and some great recommendations for further reading on in-house design.

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