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5 posts from July 2010

Protecting Deadlines for Interactive Projects

the great escape // throw the door away

A common mistake that marketers and executives make is in assuming that deadlines for interactive application design and development can be flexed in a similar manner to traditional marketing, advertising, branding, and visual design deliverables.

In particular, I am referring to two common scenarios that can compromise the integrity of your final deliverable—functional, stable, and bug-free code that renders properly across multiple browsers or app platforms.

Scenario 1: Heel-dragging at the initiation of a project—either in receiving a signature, payment, or critical information to start work—with the assumption that there is enough "give" in the first few weeks of the schedule to reach the provisionally agreed-upon deadline.

Scenario 2: A request is made by the client during the first few weeks of the project for the agreed-upon deadline for project delivery to be made earlier, often to accommodate a critical internal meeting or public milestone that wasn't on your direct client's radar while the scope was set.

Allowing negotiation about the boundaries of the project after you've entered into a signed contract should be a last resort for you and your team.

Here's why.

Continue reading "Protecting Deadlines for Interactive Projects" »

A Recipe for Great Design Case Studies

Sassy Web Layout Sauce

Everything I've ever learned about writing case studies for design projects, I've gleaned from Cook's Illustrated.

Every recipe that magazine/show produces is 100% food porn, following an explicit formula that yields not only deliciously readable prose, but also an understanding of what working process the chef/recipe optimizer went through. Much like a taking part in a design project, they're identifying problems, churning through failure after failure to find that most delicious outcome for you, the reader, to enjoy.

We designers may be spending more time in our kitchens making web apps and identity systems—which aren't as simple as, say, making a great crème brulée—but there are certain ingredients we can steal from the articles of CI to put that extra oomph into how we promote our design efforts to prospective clients.

Here's a taste of what I mean, broken up into the five key areas that comprise a great long-form design case study. Video and brief pictorial case studies are their own challenge, which I'll talk about at a later date. In this post, I'm describing those double-sided sheets of paper you may hand a client in a meeting to take home and peruse at their leisure, or more detailed case studies on your website. Some may argue that these kinds of case studies have gone the way of the dodo, but if you're working to be hired by a large organization with a long and elaborate sales process, you need a few case studies to pass along to all those people you don't get a chance to talk to you along the way.

Continue reading "A Recipe for Great Design Case Studies" »

A Random Walk

A random walk

"Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought." —Albert Einstein

An eternity of row houses: crumbling brick facades shadowed by rusted metal awnings painted over in a crackle of white, like giant bookshelves. A soccer ball rests in the yard, black dyed fabric panels scuffed away by Converse-clad feet scuffling across evenly measured concrete paths. Dull grey sky, lazy rain. I watch individual raindrops appearing on the windowsill, one by one, merging into larger and larger droplets.

In the back alley between homes, I can hear the chuckling of a car starter for at least fifteen minutes, over and over again—it woke me from a deep sleep. From bed, I strain my neck to look through the blinds, spying a fire-engine red Camaro, a man in a white wife-beater behind the wheel. Finally, the engine turns over, settling into a deep, saturnine roar above the constant pitter-patter of a cleansing rain. Engine purring like an overweight cat, the man eases his 20-year-old dream into reverse, slowly backs it up ten feet to block in his garage, which is overflowing with spare parts and packing boxes ever-flowing with everything from old blenders to scrap wood pieces. The engine dies.

I sit at the window, watching him stare off into space.

Continue reading "A Random Walk" »

ChangeOrder 2010 Summer Bookshelf

Summer bookshelf 10

Looking for a good book to cozy up with this summer?

I've been saving up book recommendations for this coming holiday season (much in the spirit of 2009-2010 and 2008-2009), but I couldn't wait to recommend the following books for your designery beach-reading pleasure. Feel free to also throw into your cart the pre-sale for Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, which went up on today.

Continue reading "ChangeOrder 2010 Summer Bookshelf" »

The Glass Is Always Empty

Sake Glasses

Last Saturday, I was talking with Keith, the export representative for a sake brewery in Nagoya. His day-to-day life sounded like a dream job for anyone who enjoys chatting with people and world travel. He's constantly flying from city to city, often internationally through Europe and Canada, presenting and pouring the range of high-end sakes that his brewery crafts every winter.

While he explained the flavor nuances between a junmai sake and a non-junmai sake—where the rice utilized in making the sake had its husk and 50% of its kernel polished off in the pre-fermentation process—I asked him how his job performance is measured. Does he have a sales quota? Or is there some kind of softer metric for his success for his company?

"I'm not measured on having to sell bottles of sake. It's my job to encourage people like you to come out and try sake." He held up one of the sake bar's glasses, which are traditionally made of white porcelain with blue concentric rings in the center to aid the human eye in assessing the color of the wine. "Sake is like a river that flows through Japanese culture. It could be considered holy. When a baby is born, she is brought to a Shinto shrine in her first few weeks of life to be blessed, and her lips are wet with sake. When a person dies and is buried in the Buddhist tradition, sake is poured in a glass at their grave in tribute."

"I don't imagine that would happen with beer," I said, visualizing Arlington Cemetery with a series of Miller LIte six-packs littering the otherwise pristine green grass and pure white grave markers.

"So, my job isn't to sell my employer's sake. It's to build relationships around sake." He pointed to my hand, which was clutching about 2 oz. of his employer's (admittedly) delightful junmai sake. "My traveling and holding tastings is going to encourage more people to start drinking sake. It's to encourage more people to show up with one of these sake glasses and ask for a pour. It would be foolish if I was focusing just on selling bottles, and not in the best interest of my employer."

For emphasis, he pointed to the bar's special glasses again. "If you sell someone a bottle, they will drink the bottle. But if you sell them a glass, they will always need to refill the glass."

He leaned over, his eyes twinkling behind square-rimmed, elegant Japanese glasses. "And the glass is always empty. It always needs to be filled."

Are you selling your clients yet another of these proverbial bottles of sake?

Or are they holding up the glass they've acquired from you, expecting a refill?