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Lauren Kalette, of Lauren Kalette Design, has won the $100 Amazon Gift card for completing the VMA Design Conference Survey. Thank you Lauren! Your contribution will help us immensely in planning future events like this one.

5 Steps to Finding Your Next Big Idea from Spanx’s Sara Blakely

There’s a myth amongst entrepreneurs of the “lightning strike” — the “aha” moment when an idea just comes to you. In reality, it’s rare to find a successful scale entrepreneur whose big idea landed on their lap. It’s more likely they were already on the hunt.

If you want to find your big business idea, you have to surround yourself with the human equivalent of a pack of bloodhounds. And when you find yourself on its trail, follow the scent relentlessly. And be ready to act when you think you’ve found it.

I wanted to talk to Spanx founder Sara Blakely about my theory:

I believe there’s only one way to find your big idea: Look for it. Look for it. Look for it. And then act.

Her story of spotting, pursuing, and realizing her big idea is as legendary as it is unlikely. She came up with the idea for Spanx at the age 26 by cutting the feet off a pair of pantyhose. With no background in fashion, fabrication, or business, she grew it to a billion-dollar company that reinvented underwear — without ever taking outside investment.

Her story is the perfect parable for any entrepreneur looking for their first — or their next — big idea. Here are 5 key steps from Blakely from our conversation on Masters of Scale. If you’re not yet a listener, subscribe on Apple podcasts or find all of the episodes here.

Step #1: Clearly Define Your Purpose

“At 26, I was selling fax machines door to door for a living. I literally had a moment where I pulled off the side of the road and was like, ‘I’m in the wrong movie. This is not my life. Call the director or the producer. I’m not supposed to be being escorted out of buildings and having business cards ripped up in my face all day.’

And so I went home that night and I wrote down in my journal ‘I want to invent a product that I can sell to millions of people that will make them feel good.’ This was something that I set intention for. I had really asked the universe to give me an idea that I could bring to the world.

The Bigger Picture

Different people have different ways of expressing how ideas came to them. Sara will tell you that she asked the universe, and the universe answered. I would interpret it a bit differently. I’d say Sara kept asking the same set of interesting questions, starting with “Is this my big idea?” And one day, inevitably, the answer was going to be “Yes.”

Step #2: Always Be On the Hunt for Your Big Idea

I wanted to wear my cream pants to a party, and I was a frustrated consumer that had no undergarment to wear under them that wouldn’t show. So I cut the feet out of my own control top pantyhose so I could throw them on under my pants and wear any kind of great strappy heel. And it worked beautifully, except for they rolled up my leg all night at the party.I came home that night and I was like ‘This should exist for women.’

I meet women all the time that have been cutting the feet out of their pantyhose for years trying to solve undergarment issues for themselves. And they’re always like, ‘Why didn’t I do Spanx?’ And I really just think it’s because I had been looking for this and was prepared in my mind to go for whatever idea presented itself.”

The Bigger Picture

First, notice the words Sara used: “This should exist.” Those three words flicker like a neon flashing light over a truly big idea. They’re your clue that you’ve stumbled on something with real potential.

Sara had spent years scanning the horizon for that neon sign, and she was prepared to go for whatever idea presented itself. All the other women who had the same thought simply went to their party and back to work the next morning, leaving the neon sign “This should exist” behind them in the night.

And this gets to the heart of a major misconception around entrepreneurship. There is a myth that big ideas drop out of the sky, land in your lap, and transform you into a billionaire the next day. This almost never happens.

Yes, Sara did have a key moment of inspiration, in her bedroom getting ready for a party, and that matters. But you have to look at what happened before that moment. Sara had already oriented herself squarely in the direction of a big idea; she’d been on the hunt for the last 10 years. Whatever kind of idea you’re staking out, you have to be intentional about looking for it.

Step #3: Put Yourself in Situations Where Inspiration Is Most Likely to Strike

“I’ve identified where my best thinking happens, and it’s in the car. I live really close to Spanx so I’ve created what my friends call my ‘fake commute.’ I get up an hour early before I’m supposed to go to Spanx and I drive around aimlessly in Atlanta with my commute so that I can have my thoughts come to me. And I thought of the name Spanx in the car.”

The Bigger Picture

Sara knows that she does her best thinking in the car. So she intentionally creates the time and space — first thing every day — to open herself up to new ideas. This may seem like an interesting bit of trivia. But it’s more important than it seems. As an entrepreneur, you have to put yourself in situations where YOUR great ideas are likely to strike.

Step #4: Once You Find Your Big Idea, Pursue It

“I went to Neiman and Saks and asked: ‘You know, what do women wear under these white pants?’ And the sales ladies would always say, ‘Well, we don’t really know!’ or they’d point me in the direction of the shapewear that did exist and it was really thick and dreadful and too much control or not what I was looking for. And then there was like regular underwear, which left a panty line that was visible so there was this big gap.

So I was doing two things: I was trying to determine if there was a marketplace beyond just my own thought and what I wanted. And at the same time, I was iterating the product. I tried to make the prototypes myself. I went to fabric stores and bought elastic and tried to paper clip it to the end, and then I tried to sew it. It was through the iteration of the prototype that I really started to love it and love what it could do for my wardrobe.

I like to tell people that what you don’t know can be your greatest asset if you let it. If you have the courage. You know, a lot of us second guess ourselves and think ‘Well, I didn’t go to school for this’ or ‘I’m not an expert’ so we don’t ask the questions or we don’t pursue it.”

The Bigger Picture

You can’t scale an idea that only lives in your head. You have to act on it — because that’s the only way to find out if it has legs.

And great entrepreneurs know: Not every idea is going to succeed. But every idea should be treated like it could. You can only know in retrospect which ideas go the distance. But even if your first idea doesn’t take flight, it may land you at the doorstep of your next big idea.

Spanx may have started as normal pantyhose with the feet cut off, but that isn’t where it ended. The classic Spanx, which women by the millions now rely on, are the length and shape of bicycle shorts. They look great under pants and dresses, never creating seams or lines.

You could compare them to old-fashioned corsets, except that Spanx are breathable, flexible, and invisible under clothes. They’re architectural marvels. The waist lines have an incredible non-sticky grip that keeps them in place. The legs don’t roll up or show through clothes. But none of this existed yet when Sara first had the idea. She saw a gap in the market, and started building toward it.

Step #5: Find Help in the Right Places

“I didn’t tell anybody my idea for one year. I didn’t want to tell friends and family because I didn’t want to invite ego into the process too soon, and so I kept it a secret from everybody in my life and didn’t seek validation. But I did share it with manufacturers, patent lawyers, or people who could help me move it along. And by doing that, I didn’t spend my first year explaining it and defending it. I just spent it pursuing it.

An idea is its most vulnerable in its infancy, and that’s also the moment in human nature we want to immediately turn to our right or left and tell our coworker or friend or boyfriend or boss, you know, ‘I have this idea.’ And out of love and concern we hear a lot of things that stop us right in our tracks.

‘Well, sweetie, if it’s such a good idea why doesn’t it already exist?’ And ‘Well, you know, even if this idea does take off, Sara, you’re going to spend your savings, and the big guys will knock you out of the water in six months.’”

The Bigger Picture

It’s so important — for entrepreneurs and anyone with an outlier idea — to remember that not everyone has the entrepreneurial mindset. Many people will tell you, “That’s crazy. That’s risky. You’ll never succeed. Lots of people have tried this and failed. What makes you different? Why don’t you just take a nice safe 9-to-5 job?”

So if you’re the kind of person who gets discouraged or bullied out of your idea, you might want to do what Sara did — and keep it to yourself.

But there’s also a real advantage to feedback. I do my best thinking when I’m around people who challenge me, who poke holes in my ideas, and who can tell me where the landmines are.

It’s not that Sara didn’t have any input. She just figured out where to get the most useful input, from people who knew the ins and outs of the business. And she shielded herself from the kind of criticism that might have crippled her.

Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman Influencer

Find the original publication of this article on LinkedIn.

Join us on June 15th at the VMA Design Conference, part of AIGA’s SF Design Week for more inspiration.

Apple proposes new emojis to represent people with disabilities

Apple has requested the addition of 13 inclusive emojis, including prosthetic limbs, guide dogs and a hearing aid, to better represent people with disabilities.
The company submitted the series of emojis on 23 March to the Unicode Consortium, the organisation that reviews requests for new emoji characters.If approved by the Unicode Consortium the new characters will be included in the Emoji 12.0 update in 2019, according to Emojipedia.

Apple proposes new emojis to represent people with disabilities
This emoji represents the “deaf sign” in sign language

Designed to create an “inclusive experience” for its users, Apple has designed symbols depicting wheelchair-users, and visually impaired people using support canes.

Other planned icons include two different types of guide dog, a prosthetic arm and leg, and an ear with a hearing aid.

A prosthetic arm and leg are included in the proposal from Apple

The company worked with international organisations such as the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the National Association of the Deaf to develop the designs.

“One in seven people around the world has some form of disability,” said Apple in the submission.

“The current selection of emoji provides a wide array of representations of people, activities, and objects meaningful to the general public, but very few speak to the life experiences of those with disabilities.”

“At Apple, we believe that technology should be accessible to everyone and should provide an experience that serves individual needs. Adding emoji emblematic to users’ life experiences helps foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability,” it added.

A guide dog with a harness is one of the 13 new emojis proposed by Apple

The firm believes that these new icons will provide more options to represent people with disabilities, but states that the emojis are not meant as a comprehensive list.

“Every individual’s experience with their disability is unique and, therefore, the representations have unlimited possibilities. It would be impossible to cover every possible use case with a limited set of characters,” Apple explained.

Apple proposes new emojis to represent people with disabilities
Apple proposes adding two types of emoji wheelchair

Unicode, whose other members include the likes of FacebookMicrosoft and Netflix, decides what emojis should be used and what they should represent, with members deciding what the design looks like on each of their operating systems.

Apple’s last update, in July 2017, saw the company release 52 new icons, including a zombie, sandwich, elf and a woman wearing a headscarf.

Images courtesy of Apple and Unicode Consortium.This article originally appeared in Dezeen.

Seems like there is lots of discussion about emojis these days. Come to the VMA Design Conference on June 15 in San Francisco for even more!

An Introduction to Emotive UI

Written by Sherine Kazim

DESIGNERS NOW HAVE TO GRAPPLE WITH THE WHOLE MESSY SCOPE OF HUMAN EMOTIONS
Historically, emotion has been thought of as a byproduct of design — not something that drives the user experience. But emotion is actually a critical new dimension in UI, and one for which designers are ultimately responsible.

There are certain things designers want you to feel when you use their products, and you can hear it in the way they talk. Designers often say: “We want to surprise and delight our users.” But really, that’s just scratching the surface. Humans are a mess of emotions — and designers are going to have to learn to engage with all of them.

Robert Plutchik, an academic psychologist who (literally) wrote the textbook on emotions, in 1980 introduced the concept of eight basic emotions — joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. His “wheel of emotions” shows the interplay of those emotions, and their varying levels of intensity.

The form of UI that most accurately reflects our emotional spectrum today is emojis. Here’s an emoji-based version of the wheel I created for a recent presentation on Emotive UI:

You can see in the chart that there is a dissipation of intensity that happens as you move further out on the wheel, and in design, nobody is talking yet about that. We currently design things that make people feel basic emotions — maybe joy or sadness — but we don’t talk about how we should adjust the UI according to how the user’s emotions may be intensifying or dissipating.

We tend to create products that aim for the center-wheel emotions, because it’s the easiest thing to convey. We rarely think about the full spectrum, and we don’t think about the dissipation. Currently, most designers think about the design intention and the user reaction: “I want to make you happy,” and the user is happy.

But here’s what a user interaction might look like in the real world:

When someone designed this particular object (a mailbox flag), they weren’t thinking about emotion. They were thinking about an object. Then along comes a user — Ralph Wiggum — and he clearly thinks, “Hey, this looks like a really fun thing to do.” Once the flag is down and the fun is over, you watch that emotion dissipate. In Ralph’s case, he even transitions to another emotion: sadness. That whole spectrum happens in a three-second GIF: Ralph is feeling joy — but from a design point of view, we never got around to addressing the more intense ecstasy, or less intense serenity, even though Ralph went through all those emotions, and more. We need to start intentionally designing for every single emotion that Ralph is going through.

What that forces us to do is fine-tune communication between people and products — to design for a primary emotion as well as its dissipation — and the relationship we have there. Ultimately, we’re trying to make deeper, more meaningful connections with the user and the best way to do that is to fully understand and manage their emotional spectrum.

 

DESIGNING FOR FEAR, JOY, AND ANTICIPATION.
Designing for emotion can be subjective, but here’s one example of something that gave me joy:

 Things bounce around, there’s bright color and movement and music that brings back amazing memories from when I was a kid. I even get to make something that’s a direct reflection of myself. The design intention is pure ecstasy, and the user reaction, pure ecstasy.

 

Or what about designing for fear — what does that look like? It’s difficult to come up with examples, but I found one instance when I was in a Seoul train station — and it’s an example of designing for fear, gone wrong.

I remember sitting there looking at this piece and thinking, “OK, I don’t speak Korean but clearly I am supposed to run away from a bomb, run away from an explosion. Not sure why I’m running toward the trees.” I’m not entirely sure what I should do, and it seems the intention was to deliver the information in a neutral way. But my reaction to it was “Holy shit, I’m not getting on that train, because I don’t want to be anywhere near where these things can happen.” Absolute terror. You start to feel the responsibility of the designer in considering the emotions of the user — in this case, the person viewing the sign.

Or, think about designing for anticipation. Look at the Japan Quake Map. It’s relatively old, but it’s still very powerful. The UI of the quake map shows the quake depth. You see the clock running, but beyond that, there’s nothing else going on — until you’ve waited for a couple of minutes:

 

That first day is the day Fukushima hit, five years ago. Without even realizing it, the data itself is managing to not just create anticipation, but also elicit an emotion — grief. All that with very few UI cues. That wasn’t intentional, but it illustrates why we need to take responsibility when we create something to put in front of a user.

Surprise is a tricky one because I rarely agree with surprising a user in the interface, with one exception: games. When it comes to games, surprise can be paramount to their success.

 

Who would think to put an apple in front of a sleepwalker to stop him from hurting himself? It’s gorgeous, interesting, and wonderfully surprising.

What’s interesting is I could hit on only 50% of the basic emotions — not to mention all the others on the rest of the wheel. There’s no clean way to capture that stuff in UI currently — at least, not visually. That’s because, as designers, we’ve done such an excellent job simplifying visual UI. But soon, products will become more multidimensional, so they have their own personalities, just like users do.

“We have a finite set of emotions, and there will never be another sadness 2.0.”

As AI becomes more prevalent in our lives, it’s only going to get more complex, because we’ll need to focus on the personality of the user and how it interacts with the personality of the AI. We can no longer solely rely on just the visual representation of the UI.

This is good because it will ultimately allow us to form a more reciprocal relationship between the user and the brain behind the interface as we move away from screens.

It’s challenging, but know this: Products and platforms will change, but our spectrum of emotion will not change. This is the key takeaway — that we have a finite set of emotions, and there will never be a sadness 2.0. It’s actually great that we have that constraint to work within because it’s going to help us design better product relationships for the future. It’s not just about designing for intention and reaction — it’s about understanding the full spectrum of emotion and the dissipation of each one, so we can start to develop true product personalities.

The minute we design for all the variations of basic emotions, we know we’re heading toward solid territory for future design.

This article originally appeared on Sherine Kazim’s Website. You can hear more of her muses at the VMA Design Conference on June 15th in San Francisco. Join us.

http://www.sherinekazim.com/perspectives/

Jessica Bellamy – Adobe Creative Residency Recipient Tells Her Story

Winning an Adobe Creative Residency is no small feat. This year, Adobe increased the program to six residents, including two from Germany, but it is still highly competitive. Because the perks are pretty incredible: The software company provides a salary with health benefits, full access to its Creative Suite, relevant hardware, travel to Adobe MAX and other conferences and mentorship from established creatives in your field. You get to stay where you already live, you get creative freedom … it’s kind of like having a Medici on your side for a year.

So what does it take to earn one of these coveted spots? As the 2017 group of residents have settled into their year, I asked three of them, Aundre Larrow, Jessica Bellamy and Natalie Lew, to describe their work, how the residency has enabled them to lengthen their creative reach and what advice they have for future residency applicants.

Here is the interview with Jessica Bellamy who will be speaking on June 15 at the VMA Design Conference in San Francisco as part of San Francisco Design Week.

Jessica Bellamy, Graphic Designer

Courtesy of Adobe

Adobe’s Description: Graphic designer Jessica Bellamyof Louisville, Kentucky, is a translator of ideas. Her work tackles the challenge of communicating complex service and policy information from non-profits, to the general public. During her residency, Bellamy plans to work towards design-focused social change. Her plan is to create a toolkit for non-profits to tell their stories and help designers learn how to work with the non-profits in new ways.

1) What was the first thing you did when you heard you got the residency?

I was with my friend Angela when it happened. We were on our way to Zanzibar to play pinball to peel some of the stress off of the day. My phone rang. I was very professionally excited on the phone and then promptly screamed once the call was over. I felt like I was in a movie. The sun was setting, the air was warm, and a playful 90s hip-hop song was in the background. We weren’t allowed to talk publicly about being selected for the residency until the official announcement, so this instantly became the most thrilling secret I’ve ever had.

2) Tell me about some projects that you plan to work on this year?

One of my focuses is hackathons, and I’ve been leading Graphic Ally Hackathons across the country this year. The hackathons are a collaboration among creatives, a nonprofit/community group that needs an infographic, and myself. As a professional infographic designer for social change initiatives, I’ve been teaching designers how to make hand-drawn infographics, as well as how to embed principles of conscious and responsible design and data equity into design work. 

Already, I’ve completed three Graphic Ally Hackathons. I’ve done one in Detroit, MI, at the Allied Media Conference; one in Louisville, KY, for AIGA Louisville’s Design Week; and one in San Francisco, CA, at Chronicle Books. I’ll be facilitating more sessions in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Los Angeles before the end of my residency, and I may schedule two more in 2018.

In regards to motion graphics, I’m also making a shareable social media video series that teaches people how to replicate successful social change projects. These videos feature “Bubble,” a living and breathing infographic that morphs into maps, icons, charts and more. I’ve worked within communities for years now as a community organizer and as an equity-focused designer. It has been my dream to consolidate suggestions for policy change and addressing local problems into short, digestible tutorials. This Creative Residency is me living my dream.

3) How much of that plan was made possible (or at least a lot easier) because of this residency?

All of it. If it wasn’t for this residency, I would never have had the opportunity to create the motion graphics series nor share my skills on such a national level. Adobe gives me a generous amount of financial support as I work on my project, and connects me to software experts and esteemed designers when I have questions, need feedback or if there is an opportunity for collaboration. I also have an array of advisors and mentors with a variety of different skill sets that check in with me regularly. This has been an amazing experience and a huge opportunity for creative growth and development.

4) Thinking from the perspective of your own work, or any other inspiration, what does being “creative” mean to you?

Being creative means being ingenuitive and brave. Creatives are resourceful and inventive people who see possibilities in their failures. 

5) Why do you think Adobe does this program? What’s in it for them?

Adobe created this program because it fosters informal feedback cycles and shares skills between creatives internationally. The Creative Residency also creates a personalized method of showcasing new ways to use their design software. 

6) If you were to give advice to creators who are going to apply for next year’s residency, what would you say?

Your proposal should be and do four things. It should 1) be ambitious but realistic, 2) build off of your unique skills and point of view, 3) challenge your creative process, and 4) be about something that you’re passionate. If you get the outstanding opportunity to be a Creative Resident, be excited to work your butt off. 

Writing about the creators and data behind digital entertainment. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors, where this article originally appeared, are their own.
Jessica Bellamy who will be speaking on June 15 at the VMA Design Conference in San Francisco as part of San Francisco Design Week.

Double or Nothing Movement Champions Women Design Leaders

DOUBLEORNOTHINGHEAD

As demands for female empowerment and gender equity rise to the fore in the broader society, AIGA has launched “Double or Nothing,” a movement that seeks to double the number of women leaders in design. Time to coincide with Women’s History Month, The initiative launches with a website that will continually expand and evolve with resources such as a corporate pledge for gender equity, practical toolkits, career advice and insights, and inspiring stories about female designers. The sponsors assert that this is more than an awareness campaign but, rather, a movement to create tangible impact and forge partnerships between women who want to lead and those committed to helping them do so.

Spearheaded by AIGA’s Women Lead Initiative and a coalition that includes Blue State Digital, Decker Design, IBM, Lippincott, Pentagram, and Quartz, Double or Nothing intends to catalyze massive change by confronting the biases that exist within the design industry. Female leadership reportedly ranges from only 4% to 11% depending upon business sector and particular survey, despite graphic design being a primarily female profession (53.5% of designers are women, according to a recent study by AIGA and Google). The AIGA Women Lead Initiative was founded in 2014 by Su Mathews Hale and Deborah Adler to address persistent biases and inequities in the design industry.

“Once in the workplace, particularly after five to 10 years, there is a lack of mentorship, celebration of female work, support for mothers, and equal pay,” said Lynda Decker of Decker Design and Co-Chair Women Lead Committee of the AIGA. “At this state of their career, women often do not feel empowered to negotiate pay and the position they deserve or are reluctant to ask for guidance. We want that to end.”

Pentagram, a lead partner, developed the Double or Nothing creative strategy including the name, brand identity, voice and website design. “We’re working to empower women to have a stronger path toward getting what they want and deserve,” said Emily Oberman, who led the team at Pentagram. “To that end, we’re looking for companies to make a public pledge of commitment and to be held accountable for meeting goals. You can bet that savvy designers will be drawn to those companies working to ensure inclusivity and balance.”

“This is not just a campaign — it’s a movement to promote continuous and much-needed progress,” adds  Heather Stern of Lippincott and Co-Chair Women Lead Committee, AIGA. “‘Double or Nothing’ alludes to the ‘duos’ required to achieve our goal:  pay and promotion, men and women, design and business, aspiring leaders and those who want to support them.”

Blue State Digital, also a lead partner, built the website and lent its proprietary tools to serve as a foundation for communications and engagement. “The awareness and momentum are there — it’s time for our community to design a solution to achieve parity,” said Laura Kunkel, Creative Director at Blue State Digital.

As part of the Double or Nothing initiative, AIGA national partner IBM will help develop a series of tangible commitments and best practices for companies to adopt in order to accelerate progress for female designers. “IBM has a commitment to diversity and equality in all of our practices and we’re thrilled to be a launch partner with AIGA in this important initiative,” said Doug Powell, Distinguished Designer at IBM and former AIGA national president. IBM was recently recognized as 2018 Catalyst Award winner for its efforts in supporting women in the workplace.

To expand reach and influence, AIGA is also partnering with Quartz’s How We’ll Win project, a year-long exploration of the fight for gender equality. How We’ll Win highlights strategies for supporting inclusivity, women in power, and the next generation of leaders, including insights from some of the world’s most powerful and influential women across every industry.

Concluded AIGA executive director Julie Anixter, “Our pledge is to continue to champion women’s leadership, as well as women and men who support diversity and inclusion. Double of Nothing is a great example of not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.”

Last year, the group introduced the Gender Equity Toolkit, an interactive game for surfacing implicit bias in the workplace conceived in collaboration with Disrupt Design, and the Mathews Hale Women Lead Award, a scholarship that helps support talented, high potential female designers starting out in their careers.

This post originally appeared in GDUSA. Hear from women leaders in design at the VMA Design Conference during AIGA’s SF Design Week on June 14 in San Francisco.