It just seems to get better each year! The VMA Design Conference was held on June 14, as part of the opening day of AIGA’s SF Design Week. This year the conference was moved to Bespoke, an amazing new hi-tech venue conveniently located in the center of town, in the Westfield Shopping Center.
The event began as our high energy hostess-with-the-mostest, Lauren Elliot of Wicked Good Print Partners (WGPP) kicked off the sessions, introducing the “Large Man” and creative visionary Aaron Draplin of The Draplin Design Co., who shocked the audience with his unconventional delivery along with creative approaches to earning a living in design.
Dava Guthmiller from Noise 13 facilitated the recovery, discussing a sane yet creative approach to achieving meaning in a new brand identity. It was a perfect segue to Brian Dougherty who filled us in with stories of his quests for environmental and social impact design. Who would have through that packaging light bulbs could be both fun and environmentally sound?
David Hogue from Google presented some thought provoking ponderings as he asked us to consider what’s next? Where is all this going? And what should we really expect from our connected world in the future?
Corey Lewis of Black Flag Creative set his pirate ship afloat as he reviewed his methods of smooth sailing when dealing with design that would span many different channels.
Among the many highlights was IDEO’s Neil Stevenson. Stevenson’s mission is to understand creativity and find new ways to enable and encourage creativity in others. He shared some of his own stories, about stories to help us learn to apply storytelling in the service of creativity.
The founder of Social Media Trackers, Mark Schwartz opened the eyes of many of us as he shared real life experiences of how amazing Facebook can be for not only personal (how he met his wife) but business success. And he has the data to prove it.
When Neal Haussel followed, he shared what he believes to be the future of packaging, considering the rise of e-commerce. His Unboxing videos were both amusing and convincing.
Barbara Stephenson from 300FEETOUT offered us a lighthearted look into the workings of a functioning design studio and how to keep the creativity flowing. It was the perfect segue for Michael Osborne of Michael Osborne and one of our regulars, who challenged us to find our creativity and keep it flowing. Perhaps that is easy for Michael but it’s not always that easy for many of us and we certainly appreciated his insights.
We had a fascinating discussion about AR and print by Erica Aiken of Rods and Cones and Cindy Walas of Walas Younger, LTD. They proved that amazing possibilities are now within reach with their own magazine “Out of Chaos” where attendees got to experience AR first hand.
Zooka Creative’s Director of Strategy, Santiago Sinisterra provided an overview of what a brand really is and then went on to share a fascinating case study of the rebranding of Union City. He was swamped with questions in the panel discussion that followed.
Peleg Top closed the day by enrapturing us all with his own story. We were almost there with him as he shared his history that led to a 2-year sabbatical from our overly connected world and then the wisdom he acquired from it. He focused on how we can get more out of life by having less.
Among the bonuses of this conference were the breaks! Along with visits to the wonderful exhibitors, attendees had ample opportunity to mingle and learn from each other.
It was quite a day. Word on the street is that this event was clearly one of great inspiration and education and a perfect kick-off to SF Design Week!
See ya next year!
Barbara Silverman is the Director of Education at VMA (email@example.com).
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Michael Ventura, founder of the creative agency Sub Rosa, is sitting in a conference room, a deck of eggplant-colored cards stacked in front of him. He lifts the top card and turns towards me. “What questions make you the most uncomfortable?” he says.
It’s an odd question for a friend—let alone an acquaintance—to ask. But that’s kind of the point. Ventura is showing me how to play a game called Questions and Empathy. “It’s like a highbrow Cards Against Humanity,” he explains. “It escalates you from small talk to big talk ultra fast.”
He’s right about the big talk thing. I grab the next card: “How do you stay grounded when the world becomes overwhelming?” And then another. “What motivates you to progress?” The questions are broad and deep, designed specifically to accelerate feelings of trust between a group of people. “How do we get people to share the big stuff fast and get comfortable in the exposure that creates?” Ventura asks. He’s betting that a games of cards will help. For Ventura, the cards are way to facilitate empathy, a trait that’s become something of an industry buzz word, but that Sub Rosa says is a bonafide strategy for its business.
Similar to what IDEO did with design thinking, Ventura is attempting to do with empathy—he wants to create a methodology for encouraging creativity and problem solving.
Sub Rosa began working on Questions and Empathy a few years back, during a time when the creative agency was trying to figure out how to distinguish itself from other marketing and design businesses. “If you look at the way one agency versus another talks about themselves, it’s all kind of same, same but different,” he says. “It’s all innovation, strategic, design-minded.”
Ventura believes Sub Rosa is all those things, but he also feels that innovation and good design are table stakes. Empathy, he realized, was a differentiating factor. “Understanding people and their desires, where they want to go in their life, and how they can get there, who they’re trying to reach and who those people are, that’s what makes good go-to great in terms of the work we do,” he says. “If we just sat in a room and shut this door and said, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ it wouldn’t be that fucking cool.”
And so Sub Rosa set out to craft something akin to a curriculum around strengthening empathetic skills. The designers came up with seven archetypes that comprise a wholly empathic person—everything from the inquisitive prober who asks the hard questions, to the sage, who is adept at being present in the moment. No one is wholly empathic, Ventura says, but everyone over and under indexes in at least one archetype. Using that as the baseline, the team came up with seven questions for each archetype with the idea being to answer the questions of the archetype you relate to the least, as a way to stretch your brain into new ways of thinking.
In a lot of ways, Sub Rosa’s cards are an extension of design thinking’s mantra of “human-centered design,” which has recently come under a more critical eye. We’ve heard stories about the death of design thinking for years, and during a recent talk at the How Design Live conference, Pentagram partner Natasha Jen dismantled the current fervor over the term. “Design thinking packages a designer’s way of working for a non-designer audience by codifying their processes into a prescriptive, step-by-step approach to creative problem solving—claiming that it can be applied by anyone to any problem,” she says. “This is bullshit.” Creativity is messier than that, she argues.
She’s right, of course. As big consultancies like McKinsey and Accenture snatch up design firms, and corporations like IBM pour money into design-led business initiatives, it’s hard not to be skeptical of companies who dress up design and creativity in a natty little suit. Reducing creativity to a workflow and Post-it notes has both solidified its place in the business world (and turned design into big business) while simultaneously draining it of the inventiveness that made it interesting in the first place.
In the same way, it’s easy to look at Questions and Empathy as an attempt to manufacture empathy for the sake of business. As design thinking purportedly dies out, it will inevitably be replaced with a better, or at least buzzier methodology. But framing Questions and Empathy solely as a business practice undersells what the cards can accomplish, which is to nudge you deeper—and faster—into intimacy. The cards ultimately act as permission slips, giving you the opportunity to ask questions that you might otherwise shy away from. The game can be uncomfortable, sure. And at times it can feel a little forced. Then again, no one said understanding another human was easy.
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Thank you Scott Design for this very relevanr article.
There’s a difficult truth that many creative people have a hard time accepting about websites and emails: you do not have full control over your designs.
Print designers are trained to kern letters until they are perfectly spaced, and align layouts to within 1/64 of an inch. Images are corrected until they are pixel-perfect. Designers choose colors for the subtle changes they lend to the overall feel of a design. And, they select fonts for the ways the character shapes give a certain voice to the words.
With digital design, much of that is out the window. The appearance of a design on a website or in an email is in large part controlled by the hardware and software used by the viewer, as well as their individual preferences. Monitors display colors differently, machines use different fonts, users widen or narrow their browser windows to any number of sizes, and viewers visit sites and read emails on devices from tiny phones to desktop computers. Images have to be compressed enough so that they don’t bog down your viewers’ device or internet connection. This may mean your photos may not look as sharp or colorful as you’d wish.
In short, website and email design is no place for control freaks.
While it’s still important to make sure that all information is viewable and accessible on any device, the design is pleasing and easy to navigate, and general design rules and best practices are being followed, web browsers and email clients are productivity tools, not design tools. They are engineered to deliver content to the viewer in an efficient manner. For example, just like you wouldn’t use Word to create a beautiful print layout, you shouldn’t rely on Outlook to deliver a pixel-perfect email or Chrome to deliver a website where everything lines up perfectly. Too much is left up to the viewer’s software, settings, and screen size. Web and email designs should further reinforce your brand, not create it.
Digital Design Checklist
You can’t force a design, but you can make choices to influence how it looks. Create a layout that looks good and reinforces your brand on all screen sizes:
Specify your preferred fonts, including the perfect web font and then close approximations as alternates for devices that can’t display your font.
Select colors you’d like to have, but understand that all devices display the colors differently so you shouldn’t depend on subtle color differences in your design.
Create images that are as good as possible within size and bandwidth limitations. Save them in the best format for your particular graphic types, and use an image optimizer to shrink them as small as possible without losing legibility.
Use responsive design to adjust the layout of your website and emails depending on screen size, browser, and device.
Test your designs and measure performance in as many popular browsers, clients, apps and devices as you can. Adjust your code to ensure they look great in all viewing conditions. At the very least, adjust the width of your browser window to approximate how it will appear on a mobile device.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Losing control of your digital design rarely leads to dire circumstances. If you have done the work in the Digital Design Checklist, the worst that will happen is that certain parts of the design will not look exactly like you saw them on your computer. This is the worst-case scenario:
The viewer doesn’t have your preferred font installed and they see a close substitute.
Their monitor renders colors a little darker or lighter than you saw on your device.
Images aren’t “photo” quality.
Spacing isn’t exactly as it was on your screen.
Ask yourself why you need to control a particular design so closely and you may realize you actually don’t. If a viewer can access, navigate, and read all the parts of the website or email on their device, your design is a success.
Instead of worrying about pixel pushing, use your energy to create great content
Focusing on things out of your control take energy away from the most important goal: to create content and deliver it in a way your audience can consume it. We can control the input, but we can only influence the output. If you have completed all the steps in the Digital Design Checklist, focus on creating content that:
conveys the most important messages;
targets your audience;
extends your brand;
is search-engine optimized; and
is valuable, unique, fresh, and remarkable.
A good web and email marketing team can make sure your design looks great, you can let go of trying to make digital layouts look perfect, and you can focus on creating the content that will ultimately engage your audience.
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Despite being the greatest and most influential mind in human history, Isaac Newton, by all accounts, was a bit of a headcase,1 as well as a total dick. Newton was famously petty and vindictive. He would go through manic episodes where he would work furiously for days at a time without eating or sleeping. Afterward, he would fall into deep depressions, refuse to see or speak to anyone, and often contemplated suicide. During these darkest episodes, Newton would often have hallucinations and speak to imaginary people. Kind of like a four year old.
Newton wasn’t the only troubled scientific genius, of course. Nikola Tesla churned out over 200 inventions in his lifetime, including the first prototype of an electric motor, the first remote control, and helped to invent X-ray photography. He invented a more efficient form of electricity than Edison, which prompted Edison to go full-asshole and attempt to destroy Tesla’s career.
What’s lesser known is that Tesla had an intense phobia of dirt and germs and a curious obsession with doing everything in multiples of three. He would compulsively calculate everything in his immediate environment, like how many cubic centimeters of food he was about to eat or how many meters he was going to walk to the toilet. He spent years living in hotels without ever paying his bills. He, like Newton, also reported blinding visions and hallucinations in some of his most intense creative periods.
Why does it seem that a disproportionate amount of the artistic and scientific geniuses in the world are a bit loony tunes? Many of the greatest literary figures of the past 300 years either drank themselves to death or put a bullet in their mouth.2 The heroin-overdosed musician is almost a cliche at this point, it’s so common. Hell, you’re almost not even considered a real rock star unless you OD’d at some point.
The Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “There is no great genius without a tincture of madness.”3 We’ve all intuitively understood that people who are geniuses are often a little bit crazy. We accept it, even if we don’t know exactly why it’s so.
Yes, authors are actually more likely to be depressed than the general population. Similarly, scientists are more likely to be schizophrenic and visual artists are more likely to be bipolar.4
But while mental illness may push some people to the extremes of creativity or discovery, for the majority of people, it sucks. Compared to “normal” people (as if “normal” even exists), people with mental illnesses have more chronic physical health problems,5 have difficulty forming and maintaining relationships,6 earn less money,7 and live shorter lives.8
And for every quirky genius like Newton, who, in between re-inventing mathematics and formulating the fundamental laws of physics, probably had varied and interesting conversations with his mother’s sofa, you get people with mental health issues that do extraordinarily awful things as well — think The Unabomber, or crazed cult leaders, or school shooters, or even worse, a guy like Alex Jones:
Mental health is a tricky subject though. And my guess is I’ve already offended about 8,000 people with just these opening paragraphs.10 But the truth is that a lot of what we consider to be healthy and unhealthy, normal and abnormal, depends on the culture and time we live in.
In fact, among psychiatrists, notions of health and disease change from generation to generation. They argue all the time over the definitions of diseases like ADHD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Centuries ago, when depression was known as “melancholia,” it was believed to be caused by an imbalance of bodily fluids called “humors.” Homosexuality was once considered a formal mental disorder all the way up until 1986.11
Even in the Seneca quote I mentioned above, the Latin word for “madness” was used very differently from what it has been translated to today. For ancient Romans, it meant something more like inspiration or illumination, and so it was something to aspire to.
One of the reasons mental disorders are often difficult to define is that many of their characteristics are, in one sense, extreme versions of “normal” traits seen in all of us.
For instance, we can all be a little obsessive from time to time and do stupid stuff we wouldn’t normally do. Maybe your kitchen utensils have to be arranged just so or else you start freaking out thinking the whole house is about to explode. You don’t have OCD, as many people joke, but you do have a particular fixation on some things being “in order” so that you feel comfortable and secure. I think most people have something like that in their lives, it’s just a question of to what degree.12
Being anxious can be a good thing. It means we should probably pay attention to whatever it is we’re anxious about and take some sort of action. But most of us have areas of our lives where we ruminate and worry too much. I had a friend in college who used to vomit before every class presentation she had to give. For years, I struggled with a crippling social anxiety in particular social settings. These things are surprisingly normal.
Or have you ever sworn that someone said your name, only to look up and no one else is even in the same room? Or you thought you saw something move out of the corner of your eye, but then you turn to look and nothing is there? Yeah, we all have. Humans have an incredible ability to imagine things that aren’t real. It’s such a staple of the human brain that sometimes we do it without realizing we’re doing it.
But for the vast majority of us, it’s easy to figure out when our minds went on their own little picnic and we can quickly rejoin reality. People with certain types of schizophrenia, on the other hand, have trouble distinguishing the “real world” from their imagination.13People with general anxiety disorders are so overcome by their anxiety that they cannot lead a functional life. People with extreme OCD similarly live in a constant state of not feeling in control of their own minds or actions.
So the point is, we’re all a little bit crazy, in our own ways. There’s just a spectrum of human behavior, and those with “mental illness” (quotes intended, because this shit is all subjective and is always changing) often lie on the extremes of certain human behaviors.
Our psychological faculties are like athletic ability or height. Most of us cluster around a stable average height, but there are people at the extremes—some are dwarfs and some are giants. And just as the dwarfs and the giants experience the world much differently than the majority in the middle, the people at the extremes who see the world differently from the majority in the middle also have a very different experience.
And those extremes, while usually negative, are the same extremes that result in bursts of creativity and genius. And it’s not a question of getting rid of them, but rather how we manage them.
Kurt Cobain was often described by close friends and family as a person who was absolutely terrified of being humiliated. He may have conveyed this apathetic rockstar personality, keeping up appearances that he didn’t give a fuck, but actually, he gave a huge fuck about what everyone thought to the point of having severe anxiety and depressive episodes.14
But these same people will tell you that he was a machine during rehearsals and in the studio. Cobain was obsessed with honing his craft as an artist. Nirvana had rehearsal sessions that lasted upwards of 15 hours before recording Nevermind. This led him to become rock’s biggest pioneer since The Beatles. It also eventually led him to eat the end of a shotgun barrel.
Temple Grandin revolutionized the cattle industry in North America and is credited today with providing one of the greatest leaps forward in the humane yet practical treatment of livestock. If you eat meat, there’s probably a good chance that Temple Grandin had something to do with how that meat arrived on your plate at some point.
She also happens to be autistic. Her autism makes her “think in pictures,” and ultimately, that’s her gift—or at least that’s what everyone thinks is her gift.
People assume that even though she was disabled, she overcame her disability and turned it into some great advantage. They believed Grandin’s gift was to disregard other people’s objections when they got in the way of her principles. But—and this is important—it wasn’t that she didn’t care about what other people thought, it’s that she didn’t know how to care about what other people thought. Her handicap was also her greatest asset.
Grandin didn’t overcome her disability, she drags it with her, like a mule pulling a plow through a field, each lumbering step tearing up what’s behind her in order to build what only she can see in front of her. And she has no choice but do it this way.
If we consider that the nature of being extreme translates into both big risks and big rewards, then perhaps “mental illness” is one of nature’s ways of making a risky bet and hoping it will pay off.
It’s like Mother Nature waltzes into the casino every now and then and bellies up to the roulette table to lay all of her money down on double-zero. If she hits it, the payout is big (with someone like an Isaac Newton, who ironically, never married or had kids, but increased the reproductive fitness of humanity for centuries after he lived). But if she comes up with nothing, then she ends up broke and looking to sneak into the all-you-can-eat buffet without being noticed.
But there’s another evolutionary angle to this: and that is that some tendencies of mental illness, in certain situations, may have been beneficial in the roving tribes of our ancestors.
A psychopath obviously poses a big risk, particularly to those who get close to him, but his psychopathic qualities might make him a shrewd leader, even if he’s a ruthless one. If it just so happens that a tribe needs a shrewd, ruthless leader to guide them through an unpredictable and unstable environment, the psychopath might be their best option.15
A schizotypal member of the tribe might have been delusional, but he could also be a source of a few hair-brained ideas that ended up paying off in a big way for everyone. Maybe he hallucinates a burning bush telling him to round people up and mass-migrate them to more fertile land. Maybe he hallucinates 10 commandments and carves them in stone and declares him and his friends God’s chosen people. Maybe this ends up being the beginning of all Abrahamic religions and most of Western civilization.
Paradoxically, the same things that should cause these disorders to fall out of the gene pool are the ones that keep them in it. Their biggest handicap is also their biggest advantage. And the same extremes that hinder individuals could be what provides the “tincture of madness” for their genius and creativity. And, in many ways, we all benefit from it.16
Modern society is no different. We need stable, “boring” people to create the stable and boring industries we depend on every day, like the water and electric companies and the grocery store. And we need a lot of these people. They create the backbone of civilization.
But like our tribal ancestors, modern society needs wildcards and weirdos too. Humanity needs some source of innovation in order to take a gamble just as much as we need the stability that runs our everyday lives.
Maybe the hypersensitive anxiety that gives panic attacks to the girl at your office is the same hypersensitive anxiety that will inspire her to write a brilliant novel or poem.
Maybe the psychopathic asshole CEO of your company is good at making business decisions precisely because he’s a psychopathic asshole. He only sees the numbers, not people. And strangely, you all benefit financially from his lack of empathy.
Maybe that autistic kid in your calc class will go on to produce major advances in quantum physics and win a Nobel prize one day. So stop stealing his lunch money, asshole.
The inherent risk of living at the edges of the human endeavor is what drives new ideas and, ultimately, progress. We need people who are not only creative enough to see the world in new ways, but also delusional and crazy enough to believe their ideas are neither delusional nor crazy. As the famous Apple ad used to say, “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
Well, I think that’s probably true with people too. I’ve learned over the years that my brain’s tendency towards quick boredom and constant need for novel stimulation is likely what drives my creativity as a writer.17 My wife’s obsessiveness about detail (and her scary degree of cleanliness) is also the thing that makes her such a talented designer and artist. She sees the tiny errata that make all the difference. My friend’s almost psychopathic willingness to question everything people do and believe is what makes him such a good psychologist. Another friend’s quirkiness and social awkwardness is what makes him willing to take on huge entrepreneurial risks that have sometimes paid off big.
The examples could go on forever. But the point here is that a certain degree of insanity seems to be beneficial sometimes. It’s just a matter of directing that insanity in the right direction.
And since we’re all a little bit insane, then our awareness of our own eccentricities and tendencies has very real consequences for our own lives. Learn your brain. Learn its quirks. How is it different than others’? How is it the same?
Mental health, in the vast majority of cases, is therefore not a question of “curing” or “fixing” people, but recognizing where the strengths of an extreme brain may lie, while simultaneously learning to cope with its weaknesses.
Many people have some degree of shame around the way their brain works. They’re too sensitive, they’re told. Or they’re too brooding and introspective. Or they spend way too much time screwing around with fantasy novels and drawing pictures. Or they’re too fastidious and obsessive about their appearance, or too hyper and manic, or whatever.
My response is this: Own it. Like any other part of your body, your mind comes pre-packaged with its own advantages and disadvantages. Learn them and use them well. And the way to do that is not through blind conformity or through hiding your idiosyncrasies. It’s through accepting them and then expressing them.
http://designconf.vma.bz/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/CrazyFB.png428800http://www.metalatitude.com/designconf/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/logo2_white-1.png2017-06-15 16:02:532017-06-15 16:02:53The Surprising Benefits of Being (Slightly) Crazy
Alphagraphics designer Megan Fontana shares advice on how to do well in a competitive job market.
by Holly Quinn
Alphagraphics could be thought of as a design company that has embraced tech while focusing on the foundations of the graphic design industry.
Founded in 1970, the Utah-based company with presence in Newark, Del. built a strong business model and went into franchising in 1979. By 1984, Alphagraphics became the first desktop publishing retailer, at a time when most people didn’t know what the words meant (and why would they? Both the Apple MacIntosh and the first desktop publishing program came out that very year).
At the same time, the company didn’t lose sight of its origins as a printing company and, to date, it remains one of its key offerings. According to Alphagraphics designer Megan Fontana, while many young designers know how to create most don’t necessarily have the skills to set those designs up for print. We spoke to Fontana on what it takes to make it in the industry.
“I went to Millersville University,” said Fontana. “My major was Industrial Technology with a concentration in Graphic Communications, which actually helped me out because I learned about the printing process as well.”
After college, a valuable connection helped her get her first break. “I started out doing freelance; but I got in with the first company because I knew the marketing manager. I still work with them to this day.” Having the right connections is always helpful, as any freelancer or entrepreneur will tell you, but skill development is vital, too: “After doing two years of freelance, I applied to Alphagraphics and was hired the next day.”
Fontana has a hot tip for graphic designers just starting out in their careers: “Develop an understanding of the print industry,” said the designer and account manager. “In my experience, about 50 percent of the designers I come across do not know how to set up files for printing purposes. To me, graphic designer is a broad title.”
Holly QuinnHolly Quinn is a Delaware-based freelance journalist who has written for the News Journal as well as national publications.
This article was originally published on Technically Delaware.
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A new Core NFC function which forms part of iOS 11 will add support for NFC tag reading to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple has revealed. Support for NFC tag reading is also being added to the Apple Watch with the release of watchOS 4.
With Core NFC, iPhones will be able to “detect NFC tags and read messages that contain NDEF data,” Apple says.
“Using Core NFC, you can read Near Field Communication (NFC) tags of types 1 through 5 that contain data in the NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF). To read a tag, your app creates an NFC NDEF reader session and provides a delegate.
“A running reader session polls for NFC tags and calls the delegate when it finds tags that contain NDEF messages, passing the messages to the delegate. The delegate can read the messages and handle conditions that can cause a session to become invalid.”
iOS 11 was unveiled on June 5 at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, is now available in beta and is due to roll out to consumers “in the fall”. The addition of support for NFC tag reading for Apple Watch devices was revealed during the opening keynote at the event using an example of an Apple Watch being used to connect with gym equipment.
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As an Executive Portfolio Director at IDEO Chicago, Neil Stevenson is passionate about advancing IDEO’s design thinking methodologies. Neil studied the human brain and behavior at Oxford University where he received a master’s degree in Psychology and Social Anthropology. He was a magazine editor for Mixmag and The Face in London before joining the IDEO team in 2005.
Neil is currently exploring new creative methods and connecting with thought leaders in creativity to instigate the next phase of design thinking. He frequently speaks on storytelling, human-centered design, and forecasting future trends, and is fascinated by the slow evolution of the human brain in relation to our expanding tech environment.
Neil shared with us the journey of establishing storytelling as part of IDEO’s culture and why IDEO now embraces storytelling as an essential element of design thinking.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you’re doing at this point in your career.
I’ve been at IDEO for 10 years. Before IDEO, I was a magazine journalist, covering music and fashion and things like that. I was briefly an IDEO client, and I loved the free post-it notes so much I jumped over the divide and became an employee. I’m now working on storytelling at IDEO. I’m looking at new ways to tell stories, new ways to talk to people about the principles of design thinking and how to bring creativity into their world in various ways.
How does storytelling fit in with IDEO?
Storytelling wasn’t always a huge product for IDEO. People like David and Tom Kelley have always had a natural ability to tell great stories, but there wasn’t much conscious dialogue around storytelling. As we started designing things that were more abstract and systemic, or harder to demonstrate, we gradually realized that we needed to find compelling ways to talk about these things. So, we’ve had this rise of interest around storytelling.
Tell us a story about a creative team you were a part of where storytelling played an integral role.
IDEO STORIES POSTER
A team of us started a program called IDEO Stories, and we were looking at how to essentially coach storytelling at IDEO. There were various people trying to codify things and put them into decks, but it didn’t seem to be getting traction. We wanted to do something experiential, to give people the experience of developing and presenting a story in hopes they would become advocates of storytelling. We started doing events in Chicago, and then Boston, New York, the Bay Area, and Shanghai.
We initially got people to tell stories from their own lives. We wanted to take people away from the professional mode of storytelling. We had this concern that people in IDEO projects felt the work was so important they had to tell the stories a formal way. We deliberately got people telling stories about their lives, but coached them through a structured process on how to tell those stories. The idea was there would be a transference effect going back to their working life; they’d have this experience of how to develop a compelling story.
“People now recognize storytelling as a design discipline in its own right.”2
It was a rewarding process because we had these events where people surprised themselves with how good a story they could tell, and we had this unforeseen effect that IDEO people telling their life stories brought everyone together in a new way. It was like, I’ve been working with you this whole time and I never knew that about you. It worked as a cultural bonding and was really gratifying.
We were trying to do education in disguise; it was kind of sneaky. What seemed really fun and human, actually had an education component. The surprise was the effect of the stories, it was like an exercise in people bringing their whole self to work, and everyone responded in a terrifically positive way.
How and why is storytelling a part of the design process?
I’ll give you an example. There’s a team in IDEO Chicago that’s been working with an automobile manufacturer. When the team was initially dealing with the company, the organization was very siloed. We’d deal with one particular group, and it was hard to get ideas through the entire organization. For the last project, the client and the IDEO team created a fully immersive story-based experience. They prototyped a truck, had projections on the walls, actors reading a script, and audio effects generating a sense of weather.
This experience brought together a disparate client group of designers, engineers, and marketers and the previously siloed departments started communicating in a new way. By telling this immersive story, the team found a way to elevate the work above what was initially perceived as affecting only certain groups within the company. People would say, that’s a piece of engineering and applies to my department, or, that’s a piece of marketing and applies to their department. The story managed to raise everybody up to have a conversation about the overall experience.
The focus was on designing for people and storytelling highlighted their needs?
Exactly. What it did was help elevate the project deliverable into something everyone could relate to on a human level. Stories can help activate a sense of purpose by really connecting you to the person you’re creating the product for.1
Storytelling is fundamentally a subtractive medium. A good story is about reducing down to the essence.5 We can use the analogy of the stars. If you look at a sky full of stars, you can’t make sense of it. If you take a few stars, link them together and make a constellation, now you’ve got a cool picture of a bear and that’s memorable. It’s the same with storytelling, you need to reduce it down to something essential that people can engage with.
At IDEO we have this “yes and” culture, where everybody’s encouraged to come up with loads of ideas and insights. It’s a culture of abundance, and that’s a beautiful thing, but the subtraction necessary in storytelling is the opposite mindset. There was a cultural difficulty in getting storytelling to take root, because it’s hard to get people to edit. The culture of IDEO is, everybody’s stuff is wonderful and we don’t want to edit. This is why storytelling has taken time to develop as part of the company’s culture.
Why creativity now more than ever?
I’m personally interested by gaps, and there’s a huge gap around creativity. Everybody’s talking about it and saying they want it, and yet it seems to be poorly understood. When people try to define it they really struggle; it actually turns out to be a whole bundle of different processes under one banner. It’s one of those things where there’s a gap between the desire for creativity and the understanding of it, which is an interesting opportunity.
Within society and organizations there’s this rising tide of people saying, I need to be creative because the robots and AIs are coming and all the boring jobs will be done by computers. It’s like the flood is coming and the high ground is going to be creative work, because it’s harder to automate. Creativity is a way we can add value and do well as people, while staying relevant and not being replaced by a computer.
“A good story is about reducing down to the essence.”
If you had a magic wand, what would you do to design a world where anyone could build creative confidence to solve real world challenge?
There’s something really interesting happening in education. We tell ourselves a myth about beating creativity out of kids—that kids are really creative and by the time we become adults, we stop being creative. I don’t think we beat it out of kids. I think it’s more subtle, that kids abandon creativity because it doesn’t give the quick reward other behaviors do. In the same way they abandon carrots because Cheetos are more fun, or they abandon wooden toys because Call of Duty is more fun. If you look at how the brain works, we’re wired for rewards. Extrinsic rewards are attractive to kids, and creativity falls by the wayside because it’s actually an intrinsic reward.
It would be great if we could design the experience differently, to encourage and support creativity. Being creative is kind of a deviant act; standing out from the norm, by definition, is being creative. I’d love to introduce a reward mechanism to make people feel more supported to do creative things, especially in those vulnerable teenage years.
Any last thoughts on storytelling?
One way we’ve talked about storytelling at IDEO Chicago is to reframe it as a form of design—design for influence. You’re trying to create something that influences others in a positive way so they go and share it—storytelling as a viral influencing tool.
Often when people do a presentation they simply state everything they did, but when you reframe it as a story it becomes a tool that other people can use to create impact as well. When you say the word storytelling, it sounds fluffy or romantic, but it’s a human sense—a way to achieve positive influence around an idea.
Learn how to create a great brief, better understand your audience, prototype your story, and hone your narrative—learn the craft of storytelling. Check out our Storytelling for Influence online course.
http://designconf.vma.bz/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/storytelling2.png428800http://www.metalatitude.com/designconf/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/logo2_white-1.png2017-06-06 14:55:552017-06-06 14:55:55Neil Stevenson on Establishing a Culture of Storytelling
This article was originally posted by Steve in his Daily Heller Newsletter – Imprint-The Online Community for Graphic Designers
When I Was a Designer, Life Was Nice
I stopped actually making graphic design 20 or more years ago. Being an art director meant that I could keep my hand in but did not have to do it. The film Graphic Means,the wonderful new documentary by Briar Levitt now showing around the United States, reminded me of the blood, sweat and tears of designing when the technology was slow and cantankerous. It also inspired me to look up a few of the hundreds of things I did between the age of 17 and 21, some of which are below.
For ROCK magazine, where I was art director, I designed The Original Rock ‘n’ Roll concert programs-cheap little two-colors-plus-black items on 50-pound newsprint stock. We would gather as many of the old doo-wop groups as we could into a photo studio and try, if they’d let us, to do now-and-then photos. Brad Holland did one of the covers, Don Lewis did the other.
Every quarter we’d produce a Media Report for ROCK. I had a thing for Busarama type. I also drew the number 4 with my own tools. Since I never learned drafting in school, the results were oddly proportioned. The photographs were made on a Stat King and printed with a continuous line screen for high-contrast results. The color was made with ruby overlays.
We had a Phototypositor. It was the greatest typographic invention since moveable type. I could optically play with the scale inside the machine and if necessary cut and paste elements that would further quirkify the type. I loved making advertisements for ROCK. Aside from the poor wordspacing in the body copy, these ads still look kind of cool.
I was co-publisher and art director for MOBSTER TIMES. My greatest joy was extending the ‘R.’ Other than looking like a malformed leg, it had no purpose other than to line up with the word Times. Nonetheless, why not? It was my magazine. This was a promotion for the magazine that mixed crime, politics and scandal … you know, everyday life.
For a number of years I designed the original Video Documentary Festival catalogs. Global Village was a pioneer in video journalism, and its director, John Reilly, was a good friend. This cover was illustrated by the surrealist Phillipe Weisbecker, who was well-known for his New York Times Op-Ed illustrations. The rest of the pages were based on some image that represented each video; whether or not they were taken from the actual video did not matter. Everything was a paste-up using veloxes (halftones) that I carefully cut with an X-Acto knife and waxed on the page.
is the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts. He writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review and the Graphic Content blog for T-Style. He is the author, coauthor, and/or editor of more than 120 books on design and popular culture, including the recent book Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig (Chronicle).
Join us for more tips and inspiration on June 14 at the VMA Design Conference, part of Sf design Week at Bespoke in San Francisco.
http://designconf.vma.bz/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/RockandRoll.jpg16241246http://www.metalatitude.com/designconf/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/logo2_white-1.png2017-05-30 12:05:052017-05-30 12:05:05Steve Heller takes some of us down memory lane.
When I was in high school I watched a ton of Total Training video tutorials and quickly picked up an impressive knowledge of and competency with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (then later, InDesign).
This solid understanding of some of the most important modern design tools was a critical step on my road to becoming a professional designer, but the first thing I learned when I started designing ads is that knowing how to use a few pieces of software and knowing how to really design something are two very different things.
Design isn’t about software or computers, it’s about visual communication. Every project has a set of goals that it seeks to accomplish. These goals might include anything from persuading someone to buy a candy bar to organizing a large amount of information in a meaningful way. We use design in conjunction with copywriting to accomplish these goals.
Being a professional designer is about making the boring interesting. You must possess a strong sense of aesthetics and be able to turn something ugly into something beautiful. Being a designer is also about learning to simplify. You must be able to clarify a complex message and break it down into manageable chunks while placing visual emphasis on the most important parts. Finally, being a designer is about understanding people (often very specific groups of them). You must intuitively or explicitly know a thing or two about human psychology. What motivates people to act? How will people respond to certain visual styles? How can you leverage design to help people understand whatever it is you want to tell them?
In a Nutshell
The gist of this lesson is that it’s easy to confuse teaching Photoshop with teaching design. In reality, they’re two distinct but potentially interwoven disciplines.
If you’re going to teach someone to be a designer, stopping at a few software lessons is like teaching someone to write letters and numbers but neglecting basic grammar. They wouldn’t make it far as a professional writer! Which brings me to my next lesson.
Lesson Two: Cover The Basics Thoroughly
Some people have this amazing innate sense of design and visual communication and take minutes to figure out what takes others years. Even if you’re working with one of these extremely gifted individuals, don’t be tempted to skip basic design principles.
I’m constantly preaching the benefits of explicit knowledge vs. implicit knowledge. Having “a feel” for something will earn you a few successes, really understanding that same thing will allow you to do it for 40+ hours per week and consistently repeat that success.
CRAP Filled Designs
No matter who your student is, he/she will benefit from a solid explanation of the most basic principles. A great place to start is the “Non-Designer’s Design Book” by Robin Williams, which serves as a solid primer and teaches new designers how to properly wield Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity (CRAP) to create successful layouts. No matter which area of graphic design someone wants to get into, this knowledge will prove invaluable throughout the course of a career.
That same book serves as a basic introduction to typographic principles, which is another key area where building a strong foundation pays off. Learning how to properly mix typefaces and apply selective kerning are just a few of the skills that every design student should pick up. Designers who don’t understand terms like serif, baseline, ascender, x-height and tracking really lack a fundamental understanding of type and their designs likely suffer for it.
The Meaningful Rule-breaker
Design is a very subjective art and it’s often the case that something is interesting and effective because of how much it goes against traditional practices.
Understanding the basic rules and principles of design will empower new designers to create strong designs and help more experienced designers know when and how to break the rules to create something unconventional. There’s a big difference between sloppy design and a skillful departure from the norm.
Lesson Three: Fix The Broken
One of the best ways to learn how to design something is to learn how not to design something. Critiquing design work isn’t something reserved only for the experienced, it should be done frequently by design students as they learn.
Just about everyone has some basic design instincts and a big step in turning those into real knowledge is meaningful analysis. Show the person you’re teaching a bad page layout, headline arrangement, logo, color scheme or all of the above and ask them to explain what’s wrong with the design.
Fixing a poor design is an easier starting point than designing from scratch. It gives the student something to work with and really pushes them to think critically about what works and what doesn’t.
Self-Criticism is Difficult
It’s easier to critique the work of others than our own. If someone creates a poor design, their biases get in the way of a proper analysis. For this reason it’s much better to look elsewhere for examples of poor design practices.
Fortunately, both the web and the real world are overflowing with examples of truly horrid design! Find some and start discussions about them. You don’t have to pretend to be a professor in a classroom, there’s no reason you should have someone submit their answers in the form of an essay. Just talk with the person about why the design seems inadequate.
This exercise will bring to light loads of knowledge that the learner can then apply to his/her own work. Learning to spot faults elsewhere helps you then turn around and look for the same mistakes in your own work.
Lesson Four: Give Encouraging Feedback
Design can be a very technical process, but it’s ultimately a creative venture, which makes things difficult when it comes to feedback. For whatever reason, many people link creative skill very closely to self-esteem. We’re not embarrassed about not being able to work out complex astrophysics but when someone points out that we suck at Pictionary, it hits deep.
No one likes being told that they’re a bad designer, even if they’ve only just started. It’s really easy to get frustrated and intimidated while someone is trying to teach you a creative skill and the result of those feelings is often a full-on surrender. People tell me all the time that they could never do what I do, that they’re not creative enough, etc. In truth, being a graphic designer doesn’t mean that you have to be some uber-talented Michelangelo. Sure it helps to have advanced artistic skill, but it’s not requisite.
Always remember this when it comes time to tell someone what you think of their design. Creativity is so deeply personal that it’s almost as if you’re not simply critiquing their work, but are actually critiquing them personally!
Don’t mistake this direction as a suggestion to baby the person and not point out mistakes, criticism is critical to learning. However, any feedback should be given with an encouraging attitude, not a deprecating one.
Tell whoever it is that you’re teaching that they’re off to a great start and constantly remind them that you were horrible when you first began. This is all of course wrapped around suggestions for how to improve and clear analysis of what went wrong vs. what went right. An old teacher’s trick is to sandwich a criticism between two compliments to help lessen the blow.
The Keys to Becoming a Good Designer
Both you and your design pupil need to remember the two key ingredients in the recipe for creating a good designer: time and practice. Design principles take a few minutes to understand and years to master. No horrible designer is going to turn into a professional in an afternoon!
Each project is unique and therefore presents a unique set of challenges. The more projects you have under your belt, the more challenges you’ve successfully overcome and will be better prepared to face in the future.
I’ve been doing this for a long time and I still find things to struggle with on every single project.
I strongly encourage every successful graphic designer out there who loves what they do to help others learn to do the same. The experience is very fulfilling and I know from experience that it can literally change lives. Learning to make a living doing something fun is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
When teaching someone to be a graphic designer, remember that it goes far beyond showing them how to use a few pieces of software. Design is both a highly creative and technical skill and those who attempt to skip either of these steps really fall short. A solid foundation in basic design principles is an absolute must and will stay with a person for their entire career. A great way to teach good design practices is by showcasing bad ones and discussing why they’re bad.
Finally, the road from layman to designer is long and hard for both student and teacher, being overly strict or harsh in your feedback can scar a person for life. Instead of cold insults, try wrapping constructive feedback in encouragement.
Join us for more tips and inspiration on June 14 at the VMA Design Conference, part of Sf design Week at Bespoke in San Francisco.
http://designconf.vma.bz/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/design.jpg310510http://www.metalatitude.com/designconf/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/logo2_white-1.png2017-05-30 12:00:022017-05-30 12:00:02How do you train a graphic designer?
Christoph Schell is the president of the Americas Region for HP Inc.
Marketers have used printed materials to spread their messages for decades and although consumers now spend hours each day staring at multiple screens, print still has a huge role to play.
When most people think about printing, it’s in the context of the home or office. However, it is graphics printing where the vast majority of pages are produced — by some estimates, about 46 trillion pages compared to about 5 billion in home and office printing combined. And within the graphics printing segment, digital printing, as opposed to traditional offset printing, has the biggest growth opportunity.
Color digitally-printed pages in North America are poised to grow at double-digit percent across most application segments leading up to 2020. Clearly something big is happening.
Digital printing is benefiting from improved data analytics, a better understanding of market segmentation and remarkable new printing technologies to small print batches on demand. By using demographically targeted data to personalize their messages down to an audience of one, marketers are producing powerful pieces that garner better response rates.
A Print Run of One
Marketers have gathered mountains of information about sales cycles and consumers, but they’ve struggled in customizing that data for specific business objectives. For example, it’s relatively easy for a supermarket to print 1,000 flyers advertising a sale, but in the past, it was much more expensive and difficult to print 1,000 tailored flyers specific to multiple locations.
Digital printing solves this challenge by allowing businesses of all sizes to customize print jobs simply and affordably while also reducing waste. A microbrewery, for instance, no longer needs to print 50,000 bottle labels only to have thousands go unused if sales don’t materialize. Instead, it can print 1,000 labels — exactly what it needs — without incurring additional cost. And those 675 limited-edition Oktoberfest labels? No problem. Such flexible print runs are changing how businesses package and market their products and services.
Better Customer Engagement
Digital printing is also inspiring ad agencies and marketers to engage with customers in more creative and cost effective ways. Instead of spending thousands to produce large runs of identical, slick-stock brochures, auto dealers are now directing customers to go online, plug in vehicle preferences and receive customized materials by mail shortly afterward.
Digital printing is also breathing new life into direct mail. Five years ago, with postal rates rising and mobile advertising all the rage, the prospects for direct mail looked fairly bleak. But oddly enough, research shows that people — even millennials — still appreciate holding paper in their hands. In one July 2016 study of American consumers, 70% of respondents, including 69% of 18- to 24-year-olds, said they prefer print and paper communications over reading from a screen.
And a 2015 Direct Marketing Association study found that response rates from letter-sized direct mail to existing customers average 3.7%, compared to 0.1% for e-mail. Print may be more expensive on a per-piece basis, but the cost per lead and the cost per sale are similar to those of other channels. So, there is value in printing mailers. And the personalization capabilities that come with digital printing enable companies to connect with customers in fresh and engaging ways.
Today’s digital printing technology can do so much more than print thousands of identical packaging labels. It doesn’t always have to be new and improved to get customers interested in a product again — it just needs to be more personal. That’s what Nutella found. When the hazelnut spread stopped flying off grocery store shelves in Hong Kong, the brand turned to pop-up stores in the U.K. that offered consumers a personalized touch by printing custom labels.
The “Share a Coke and a Song” campaign is another shining example of rising interest in product packaging personalization. Launched last spring, the campaign featured more than 70 song lyrics printed on various Coca-Cola brand sodas.
Major brands can also do some unprecedented things with digital printing. For example, they can embed invisible microcode onto a pharmacological product label to reduce theft and counterfeiting. They can create raised dimensional effects, producing the look and feel of an object, such as a basketball on a fundraising promotion for a sports team. Marketers can also design shiny metallic effects to advertise jewelry in catalogs or magazines.
In addition to its marketing benefits, digital printing can also contribute to environmental sustainability efforts, considering the full product lifecycle, supply chain and end of life. Digital presses can also reduce waste and decrease power consumption as compared to analog technologies. Digital printing also offers increased recyclability of supplies, press/printer parts and media. In fact, according to the EPA, paper is recycled more than any other commodity in North America.
At this point we all know that anything that can go digital will go digital. Print is no exception. Customization, personalization, micro-segmentation and SKU proliferation are all pushing digital printing to the forefront, and the desire for brands to better connect with consumers will only push it further. As mass-produced printed products continue to decline, high-impact, environmentally-conscious printed materials are headed for a display, package or mailbox near you.
Join us for more tips and inspiration on June 14 at the VMA Design Conference, part of Sf design Week at Bespoke in San Francisco.
http://designconf.vma.bz/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/digital.jpg10671600http://www.metalatitude.com/designconf/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/logo2_white-1.png2017-05-30 11:56:412017-05-30 11:56:41Reinventing Graphics Printing: A New Age of Custom Content
Here are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)