13 posts categorized "Events"

Thinking Outside the Elephant: Part 2

Addo Elephant Park, South Africa

This is the second part of a recap that was written over 51 hours at the HOW Interactive Design Conference, then delivered to attendees as a 45-minute closing talk. Read the first part here.

Now, for those of you that know me, I have a penchant for pushing analogies to their breaking point, until they become so absurd that they start to resemble reality. So I'm going to start visualizing for you what kind of world our elephant lives in, and what might be stressing her at this very moment.

Continue reading "Thinking Outside the Elephant: Part 2" »

Thinking Outside the Elephant: Part 1

This is the first part of a recap that was written over 51 hours at the HOW Interactive Design Conference, then delivered to attendees as a 45-minute closing talk. The second part will appear on Tuesday.

During the first day of the HOW Interactive Design Conference, I was having a conversation with Richard Hassen of To the Point Design Studio about the challenges that designers with deep expertise in print are having adapting their skills to interactive design. He said: "How am I going to bite into the elephant? It's just too big."

I loved his analogy—that acquiring the necessary interactive skills to be successful in our careers was equivalent to chowing down on a elephant, spoonful by spoonful.

What's inside this elephant? Us, of course. Then tools, clients, technologies, frameworks, methods, you name it. And this is a baby elephant, not a full-grown elephant, since interactive design is much younger than the disciplines of industrial and graphic design. (Baby elephants are still heavy, mind you.)

Based on Richard's analogy, I felt obligated to thinking about just what we were trying to eat. What follows are the four top themes from the conference that describe our proverbial elephant, and further thoughts about what forces are being exerted on our baby elephant, out there in the world.

Continue reading "Thinking Outside the Elephant: Part 1" »

Slides from "The Language of Interaction"

I was recently invited to deliver a talk at Emily Carr University of Art and Design about what interaction designers do and how interaction design factors into the worlds of design and art.

My talk "The Language of Interaction" (slides above) was my attempt to summarize the critical role that language plays in our efforts as designers and artists. In doing so, I touched upon the three challenges that all designers and artists face in trying to craft interactions:

  • Establishing a vocabulary, which allows you to articulate what discrete points of a systemic problem you may influence
  • Considering what metaphors may aid you in the modelling of an interactive product or service
  • Understanding how we weave together what we've experienced from our interaction with lateral disciplines to become better at practicing interaction design

To illustrate the last point, I created a timeline of my lifelong explorations as a designer and artist, and discussed how I couldn't have been an effective interaction designer without traveling through a range of related (and seemingly unrelated) disciplines. Over time, all of them were threaded together.

Many thanks to Haig Armen and Laura Kozak of Emily Carr, who invited me up to Vancouver, BC for this talk.

Slides from "Creative Workshop" Author's Talk at SxSWi

This afternoon I spent half an hour with a few hundred South by Southwest attendees, sharing how my book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills came about. I presented the above deck, and answered a ton of diverse questions from the audience. I've tried to capture some of the questions and my responses below.

What do you do when you get stuck? I mean, you'll always reach a wall on any design project.

Yes, there are always moments on design projects where it seems like the well has run dry. I've found that in those situations, it helps to construct situations where you have to dig even deeper in the well to find more water.

One trick that seems to help is to set a goal to come up with 100 ideas on paper in one hour. Sure, you may not reach 100, but you'll have a moment (or two) where you'll stop thinking about making good ideas and draw on your intuition and subconscious. Sure, crap happens during those moments, but so do moments of gold. The point is not to decide whether it's crap or gold until you've had a chance to get a distance from the material, and let it speak for itself.

Do different personalities or dispositions gravitate towards specific types of brainstorming methods and design processes?

I find this a fascinating question, for a number of reasons. First, designers always gravitate towards more rational or more intuitive processes, just as a matter of how they incubate and execute ideas. So if you give a fairly intuitive designer a highly rational brainstorming method, it's likely that there will be some friction and potential fireworks.

However, rote repetition rarely leads to deep design intuition. The point of exploring different brainstorming methods—especially those that oppose your everyday tendencies—is to step outside what you know and explore what you don't. Sure, failure will happen, but taking risks requires such an effort. There's nothing to be afraid of except throwing away what didn't work… so if you're deeply attached to what you create, it's going to hurt.

I'm a developer and want to become a designer. What should I do?

Be tactical, observing how the designers around you work through a design problem, from initial research to conceiving ideas. Try out activities that utilize those processes. See which ones feel natural, and generate ideas in similar manners. Take on design problems and try to solve them only on paper. Stay out of code and technical architecture, examining how things could be made if there were no reality constraints. Then, when you've started to fall into a rhythm, see what happens when you bring implementation technologies into that process.

How should designers work with project managers?

As partners, with an appropriate level of give and take. I don't mind project managers drawing wireframes on the whiteboard when the team is grappling with a tough problem. However, they should also feel comfortable if the team begins negotiating dates on the GANT chart. Essentially, a collaboration with open communication and trust, as well as some fluidity involving roles.


If you're seeking more design challenges, I've posted on Scribd 10 bonus challenges that I couldn't fit into the printed book. Enjoy!

"Creative Workshop" Author's Talk at SxSWi on Friday

Creative Workshop SxSWi Author Talk

If you'll be at South by Southwest, join me on Friday, March 11th at 5:30 PM for an author's talk about Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills. The talk will be in Ballroom G at the Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez Street, and the hash tag will be #CWBook.

Over 20 minutes, I'll share the thinking behind the book and some of the interactive challenges, then take part in a Q&A. Books will be for sale, and I'll be happy to sign a copy for you.

You can add the event to your schedule at the official event listing here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

P.S. I'll also be releasing at the conference one last bonus PDF of free material associated with the book...

Interaction 11 Recap: Thinking on the Outside

Bill Vanderplank

In early February, a number of frogs attended this year's Interaction 11 conference, sponsored by the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). Our time in Boulder began with a fresh blanket of snow and ended with all-you-could-drink absinthe at the closing night party. In my contribution for the conference, I taught a three-hour workshop called "Better Ideas Faster: Effective Brainstorming for Interaction," which focused on the unique tools and techniques that interaction designers bring to bear in translating research findings into actionable design concepts that cohere into large-scale systems.

This year's conference has been hard for me to summarize—not because of the absinthe, mind you—and in combing through my notes and reflecting on the experience, more questions have emerged than coherent themes.

Continue reading "Interaction 11 Recap: Thinking on the Outside" »

"Design Business for Breakfast" Series Returns for 2011


If you missed last year's "Design Business for Breakfast" series, this is your chance to catch it again—with a few new surprises! Here's the copy from the AIGA Seattle's site:

Many firms offer stellar creative work. The ones that survive and thrive understand how to successfully operate their business. To help you master that second skill, AIGA Seattle is proud to offer an encore presentation of Seattle designer and author David Sherwin's design business series.

Whether you work on the creative team, the account team, or are a one-person firm, this series has enough valuable content to fill books. [Like my next one coming out in 2012... details coming soon.] Covering key aspects of design practice—from project and account management to creative leadership—this 4-part series represents years of hard-won wisdom, yours to be had over a comfortable, light breakfast. And as a special bonus, the series will be kicked off with an exclusive presentation and Q&A with Ted Leonhardt on January 26th.

Here's the lineup:

Weds, Jan 26 / Ted Leonhardt: Identifying Opportunities in Your Time
Weds, Feb 23 / Erica Goldsmith: Connect with Your Clients
Weds, March 23 / Fiona Remley: Structure Your Projects and Process
Weds, April 20 / David Sherwin: Design Leadership

Tickets can be purchased individually, or for the entire series via AIGASeattle.org.

All talks start at 7:30 AM at Il Fornaio, located in Pacific Place. Parking is available in the underground ramp. Take the elevator to concourse and escalator to the first floor. If you're on foot, street access is from Olive Way and up the escalator. Doors will open at 7:15.

Your questions are welcome and invited. Send them to [email protected] or use the Twitter hashtag #DB4B.

Prototyping Interaction with Video Scenarios

At the Seattle Make-a-Thon on Saturday, November 6—a collaboration between IxDA Seattle, AIGA Seattle, and Interact—Aaron Rincover and I presented a two-hour workshop about how to prototype and communicate interaction ideas using video scenarios.

In our daily work as user experience designers, capturing the nuances of myriad types of interaction has become core to many of our client deliverables. This isn't something that is going to change. Different modes of user input will increase as more sensors and types of data become available. So the medium of video is perfect to capture, communicate, and iterate these multiple types of interaction.

Continue reading "Prototyping Interaction with Video Scenarios" »

Slides from "Designing with the Body" Workshop

Last Friday and Saturday, I taught a 75-minute workshop at AIGA Seattle's "Into the Woods" conference on how designers can incorporate prototyping practices into their design repertoire. Quickly prototyping design solutions is often the only way that a design team can discern which solution is most desirable and accessible for their intended audience. This is especially true for product, service, and exhibit design projects, which often have intangible qualities that are hard to capture in a whiteboard sketch.

In this workshop, I encouraged participants to randomly select a design challenge and then act out possible solutions to it. The challenges in the workshop were drawn from my first book from HOW Design Press, Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills. These challenges were timeboxed in a manner that forced workshop participants to learn through prototyping and improvising the use of their design ideas:

15 minutes: Sketch ideas on paper and discuss amongst the team

15 minutes: Settle on one idea and create a physical prototype of your idea AT SIZE

15 minutes: Conduct a walkthrough of your design with one of your team members, with an eye towards which of your ideas may or may not be working. Use any remaining time to add or change design elements that improve your idea.

1 minute: A person from another team will walk through a use case with your design, and you need to act out what would happen as they interact with it, swapping in the appropriate screens or being the voice of the interface. However, this does not mean that the designers get to explain what should happen. They have to sit and watch as a person with no knowledge of their solution experiences it for the first time, and voices their expectations regarding how it should work.

Since each team only had a limited amount of time to detail out the specifics of their solution to the design challenge they'd selected, they were discovering new possibilities as they prototyped their solution, tested it among their own team, and then shared it out with the overall group. And since they had to provide the voice of the interface, they began to think about how well-designed products and services speak to you from their very first "Hello."

Shown below is one of the solutions to the challenge "Touch Screen of Deaf Rock." Teams were tasked with creating an exhibit at a children's museum where deaf children could feel different types of music. To test out solutions, one of the people in the room put in earplugs and then walked through the exhibit to see how it worked. In this example, the pens dangling on strings were meant to represent wind chimes. When a person would tap them, a breeze would blow over their face.

Designing with the Body - Touch Screen of Deaf Rock Photo

Join me at Interaction 11 and South by Southwest 2011

Interaction 11 and SxSWi have both just announced their speaker lineups, and I've very honored to have been included in both. I hope to get a chance to meet many of you in Boulder and Austin next year.


Interaction 11 Conference, February 9-12, 2011

Better Ideas Faster: Effective Brainstorming for Interaction
A Workshop at Interaction 11 / Register Here

You're under the gun. Again.

Only a few days to come up with a revolutionary new feature for your Web app. Or you've been tasked by your boss to give your company's new mobile experience a little more oomph. Or you're floating in the space of a nebulous client problem that you just can't seem to pin down.

In these situations, it can be hard to focus on coming up with breakthrough ideas. But don't worry, help is to the rescue. David Sherwin from frog design, a global innovation firm, will share tools and methods that any interaction designer can use--especially those that are relatively new to the profession--to more consistently brainstorm quality ideas for creating and improving products, services and systems.

Over the course of this workshop, through active brainstorming exercises and in-depth group discussion, we'll answer questions such as:

  • How can I best structure my brainstorming processes?
  • What lightweight brainstorming techniques can I use that will inspire new, more innovative design ideas more quickly?
  • How can I be more effective in moving from project discovery to generating targeted design ideas?
  • How can our team collaborate best across disciplines to rapidly iterate any type of interactive experience?
  • How can our team best synthesize a wide range of ideas into a set of compelling client recommendations?

The workshop will also be informed by examples from frog brainstorming and David's book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills (HOW Design Press, Dec. 2010).



Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
An Author's Talk at SxSWi / Register Here

At next year's South by Southwest, I'll be giving a 20-minute talk about how interactive designers can foster their creative skills, then signing copies of Creative Workshop.

Come to the Seattle Make-a-Thon!

Make-a-Thon AIGA Website Header

Last year at the stellar Interaction 10 conference, I was having Scotch (or was it bourbon?) with the local leads of the Pacific Northwest chapters of the IxDA, and wondering how we could bring some of the flavor of some of that conference back to Seattle. 

After 6 months of ongoing dialogue amongst the Seattle and Vancouver IxDA local committees, as well as communicating our vision with AIGA Seattle and Interact, I'm very excited to announce the following one-day mini-conference! It's our hope that this will be a yearly event that serves as a local prelude to the Interaction conferences and provides a place for local designers from various design and development disciplines—not just those who work in UX—to affordably gain hands-on skills in a fun workshop setting.

We've intentionally limited the number of attendees to 100 to ensure an intimate experience for everyone involved. I highly recommend registering now. Details are below.


Seattle Make-a-Thon 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Microsoft Building 43 Meeting Rooms,
Redmond, WA

Exploring how to craft interfaces that utilize gestural and touch interaction

Enrollment was limited to 100 attendees. Sorry, it has sold out. Please go to http://bit.ly/awIHlR or http://www.seattlemakeathon.com/ for the event map and schedule.

The Make-a-Thon is a one-day event for working and student designers where we’ll explore the tools and methods that interaction designers use to create interfaces utilizing gestural and touch interaction. This event is open to all designers, including those who may not typically design for interaction but wish to broaden their conceptual toolkit.

Make-a-Thon attendees will be able to select and participate in three 2-hour workshops on a range of topics, such as:

• Arduino for Designers: An Introduction
• Gestural Ideation
• Conceptual Models in Interaction Design

• Prototyping Interaction with Video Scenarios
• Really Agile Design
• Understand It, Solve It, Sell It

• Interaction Design for Social/Mobile Innovation

Over the course of the day, participants will be able share what they learned in their workshops with a passionate group of designers and developers looking to push the boundaries of their craft.

Workshops will be led by designers from Cisco Systemsfrog designHornall Anderson (HAX); LiFT Studios, Vancouver; Pulse EnergyTeagueT-Mobile Concept Center; and the University of Washington Division of Design, Interaction Design.

Registration cost: $80 before October 15; $120 until the event. Registration fee does not include hardware for Arduino workshops—see below for more details. Registration WILL include lunch and refreshments.
This event is sponsored by Microsoft Expression, FILTER, Teague, and Hornall Anderson.

Continue reading "Come to the Seattle Make-a-Thon!" »

Upcoming Events: AIGA Into the Woods, InfoCamp Seattle, IxDA Touch and Beyond

I thought I'd share some upcoming events and conferences that I'll be attending—and a few that I'll be participating in!


Touch and Beyond: New Forms of Interaction
Thursday, September 16th, 7 PM
frog design Seattle, 413 Pine St. 2nd Floor

This free IxDA Seattle/Interact event will be a round-robin presentation of work featuring projects from: frog design, Hornall Anderson (HAX), T-Mobile Creation Center and Wirestone. All the projects will be focused on exploring the boundaries of gestural and touch interaction, grounded in actual project work. Space will be limited to the first 120 people to show up, doors open at 6:30 PM. More details here...


InfoCamp 2010
October 2–3, 2010

This unconference, focused on information architecture and user experience, will happen at Seattle University in a month or so. I'm looking forward to learning a ton from our local community, and also suggesting and leading a breakout session—which I hope to do as more of a collaborative workshop as opposed to a talk. Topic still TBA, but I've been mulling the subject of how to brainstorm interaction models...


AIGA Seattle's Into the Woods
October 15-17, 2010

This is a really cool and intimate conference, as well as a relaxing getaway to the Sleeping Lady Lodge in Leavenworth, Washington. It was a complete recharge of my creative batteries when I attended in 2007. I'm really excited to be attending this year's event and also having a chance to present the following workshop on Friday, October 15th:

Designing with the Body: If you want to find a great idea, it helps to start with a lot of them. David Sherwin of Frog Design will show you how to use techniques rooted in your physical body, elements of improvisational theater and other sense-based skills like taste and smell to generate new ideas for all sorts of creative projects. Get out of your head and into your body.

The presenters are not to be missed—such as Vivian Rosenthal from Tronic, Gail Anderson from SpotCo, Steve Frykholm from Herman Miller, and Alan Cobb from Albert Kahn Associates—as well as the other workshops through the whole weekend.

Slides from "Work in Progress: Thoughts on Design Leadership"

Here's the slides from my AIGA Seattle presentation from last week about what it means to be a design leader.

In the coming weeks, I'll be unpacking a few of these slides and sharing out some of my notes on the subject.