What Aspiring Designers Need to Know About Strategy

Segmentation strategy... for Cute Overload


This is an exclusive excerpt from my new book, Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers, which was recently released by HOW.

As I read through his resume, the designer stared at me expectantly. He had a wealth of great design projects under his belt. He had been seeking out personal projects to build out his portfolio. He had internships with sterling businesses and design studios. But there was one thing that leapt out at me from the list of core skills he’d listed at the top of his resume: strategy.

Not brand strategy, content strategy, interactive strategy, media strategy, or the MBA-land of business strategy. Just plain ‘ol strategy.

This has been happening more and more frequently, for a few reasons. In the process of providing strong service to our clients, we increase the likelihood of becoming a strategic partner. We finally have a seat at the table when the client is talking strategy—and we can offer a range of strategic services that verge outside what may be considered a designer’s core area of expertise. This is a good thing. With the ongoing expansion of design’s role in business, today’s designers are helping to solve problems that transcend mere decoration and instead impact the core functions of a client’s business.

But in our haste to be strategic partners, I’ve discovered that many designers don’t fully grasp how strategic services fit into their client offerings. And when I ask designers out of sheer curiosity how they’re functioning as strategists—what experiences they directly bring to bear on being strategists rather than having a strategic orientation—they can’t easily answer the question.

If you’re going to run a design-led business, it’s inevitable that you will need to talk strategy with your clients. So let’s explore the types of strategies you might create as a design businessperson, as well as how they may support the efforts of your clients. It’s my hope that this information will open up some new paths for you to explore in your career as a designer.

Read the whole piece on frog's Design Mind.

Design Business by the Numbers: One-Percent Prepayment Discounts

Pre-Paid

This is a post in an occasional series I'll be running on ChangeOrder about the benchmarks that design businesses use to help maintain their long-term success. These benchmarks are drawn from the research that I conducted when writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers.

In my previous post, I wrote about how it's important to encourage new clients to pay you in advance of providing design services. Many designers and studio owners struggle to put this advice into practice, as their clients often have their own accounting and bookkeeping policies that conflict with paying for services in advance of their completion.

So, how do you bend these policies in your favor? A number of studio owners shared with me the following line of text that they had included in the estimates and invoices they'd provided to their clients: "Client shall receive an % discount if payment is received in advance of date."

That's right. Many companies have policies that require advance payment of an invoice if there's a discount. It doesn't have to be a huge discount, too—sometimes as little as one to two percent off a large-ticket project can be enough to encourage advance payment. (Though I've seen it at anywhere from 2.5% to 5% in previous agencies I've worked at.)

Highlighting this clause during contract negotiations will help you, as long as you preserve your profit margin for the project if the discount is exercised.

Other posts in this series include:


Design Business by the Numbers: Extending Zero Credit

Net Zero

This is a post in an occasional series I'll be running on ChangeOrder about the benchmarks that design businesses use to help maintain their long-term success. These benchmarks are drawn from the research that I conducted when writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers.

When starting up a design studio, it can be tempting to do whatever it takes to win project work with new clients. A common mistake, however, is to extend credit to new or existing clients rather than require payment up-front for project work.

It's never a good idea to extend credit to a brand new client, and minimal credit should be extended only for long-term clients that have a strong track-record of deposits, on-time payments, communicate about honestly money, and have asked you for the privilege.

In our laissez faire, credit-saturated culture, it can seem as easy to use credit cards as it is to provide credit to others. However, as a business owner, taking on debt in order to fulfill a service isn't wise. Take a deposit on the work that you'll be completing, with a signed contract in place that outlines a payment schedule tied to your project milestones. No work should start until the first payment is received and deposited.

Running a credit check on a client isn't enough. You may discover that a client has ample income at their disposal to pay you, but that isn't the only issue. You want assurance that, as the project progresses, there will be a fair balance between what compensation you receive and the you've created that is shared with the client.

Imagine in your head an old-fashioned scale. This is the kind where you place objects on one side of the scale, then various weights on the other to assess how heavy the objects on the other side are.

Let's say the client has one side of the scale, and you have the other. On your side, you pile up your expertise, which they've hired you for. It's invisible and weightless—you haven't created anything tangible yet. On the other side, the client places their money. Oh, wait—they haven't paid you yet. So right now, the scale has nothing on it. It's in balance, right?

Wrong. Your side is burdened with your studio's operational overhead, the hours that you'll be spending working on the client's work, and the projected value of each deliverable that will be provided in return for due compensation. If you aren't paid up front, the scale is always tipped in the favor of the client. With each hour that you plan to bill and each deliverable that you provide without compensation, things are further and further out of balance. You're beholden to the payment terms you'd set up in the contract: all the time you've spent working on the client project, plus all the time it takes for them to pay you back.

The larger the client or project, the harder it is to make this happen. They may have a blanket policy for how they handle vendors, or for how payment up front should be handled. They may be under the gun and want to start the project as quickly as possible, no matter what due processes must be followed. And in some cases, they may believe that since they have the money, they have the leverage. Believe it or not, some companies have unspoken policies to drag out payment for vendors as long as possible, as they can earn interest on that large amount of money in the short term before it's disbursed.

The right way to handle the situation is to make what's on the scale even. When you start the project, the client has place a deposit on their side of the scale, and on your side, you're placing a hold on the time and materials necessary to get the work done equivalent to that deposit. If you aren't paid up front for that first chunk of work, you're the one bearing the full onus and risk.

Instead of offering Net 30 payments on invoices for work that you've fulfilled, set up a clear schedule for payment. Depending on the length of the project, split it up 50/50 (half at start, half when you're halfway done) or 33/33/33 (a third at start, a third at the first third, and a third before the final stretch of the project). If the payment doesn't arrive on time, per the terms of your contract, you stop work and there is a fee to restart the project (this is in your contract).

No matter what, ensure that your final invoice is paid before you deliver the final work for your project. This isn’t NET 15 or NET 30. It’s NET 0. Mark the final invoice "Net 0" and circulate it with them well in advance of final delivery, so you don't end up in a situation where you either withhold providing your final deliverables to the client or end up showing a "good faith" measure.

Letting invoices ride out can be "business as usual" if that studio has a strong cash-flow buffer and clients that regularly pay on time or early on those estimates. You may feel like you have little to no leverage in negotiations, especially when it comes to the size of your project fee or when you expect to get paid for the work. But it's your business, and your rules regarding how you run it and how you manage your company's cash-flow. Choose them wisely.

Other posts in this series include:


Design Business by the Numbers: The 80/20 Rule of New Business Development

Eighty Twenty Rule of New Business Development

This is a post in an occasional series I'll be running on ChangeOrder about the benchmarks that design businesses use to help maintain their long-term success. These benchmarks are drawn from the research that I did when writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers.

Do you track how many of your clients come back and work with you again? I hope so. Ideally, 80% of all new business should be repeat business. It should come from your existing clients that you're working with right now, or clients that are returning to you after a successful project in the past. This is the 80/20 rule of new business development. You should aim for an 80% retention rate for existing clients, and diversify your client base with 20% new clients and projects.

I'm not suggesting, however, that 80% of your retained client work is coming from a single source. Many design studios will end up being extremely successful with a single client, and without paying attention that client will command fifty to eighty percent of the studio's portfolio of business. (At this point, the studio needs to diversify and find new clients to help reduce their dependency on that single relationship.)

The 80/20 rule is a hard benchmark for a service business to meet, for a number of reasons:

The studio isn't tracking client retention—or retention isn't even a focus. Some design studios are so focused on getting the work or fulfilling the work that client retention is an afterthought. Just beginning to keep a metric of how many clients are retained year-over-year can send a strong message to both studio employees and studio leadership about how important it is to provide great design work AND a great client experience.

The studio isn't seeking out long-term fit when landing new business. A common reason studios don't hit the 80% retention target has to do with how they initiate relationships with any new client. Design studios in general need to put more diligence into vetting client fit when pursuing and winning project work. When submitting a proposal for any potential studio project, you should be looking closely at what long-term potential there is in working with that client.

The studio isn't providing solid client services alongside the work. If you're doing killer creative work, but every deliverable review with your client feels like another round of The Hunger Games, you're not going to build relationships that last outside of your projects and lead to future work. (This should be obvious, but I'm continually surprised to meet designers that harbor an us versus them mentality regarding how you collaborate on a client project.)

The studio isn't staying in touch and directly asking for future work.This may seem like a duh. If a project goes well for a client, you shouldn't be afraid to ask if there are any other potential opportunities to work with them in the future. You should also plan to regularly contact them just to stay in touch. It's possible that if they go to another company, they may be able to bring you business from that company. Keep in touch, and there's a higher likelihood you could start a conversation around a future project.

The studio's work isn't strong enough to stand up to competitors. Usually, we lose clients because of poor client service or project management. But if you start slacking in the quality of work that you deliver across a few projects, you can risk losing the relationship. Take a hard look at what you're delivering, and maintain the quality.

Keep in mind that not every project needs to be about the long term. Truly great projects come along all the time where we do great work, we have a satisfied client, we put the work in our portfolio, and we move on. But be aware that your studio becomes more efficient when securing new projects from return clients. Plus, working with the same clients can help contribute to the profitability of future projects, if they are managed effectively.

Other posts in this series include:


Design Business by the Numbers: 3% Proposal Percentages

3 percent proposal percentages

This is a post in an occasional series I'll be running on ChangeOrder about the benchmarks that design businesses use to help maintain their long-term success. These benchmarks are drawn from the research that I conducted when writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers.

You need to write that proposal to get the project. And you need to do a good enough job of writing the proposal to make sure your client understands why you're the right partner for it.

But that proposal isn't going out the door until it's been finessed within an inch of its life. Right?

As designers, we may be perfectionists at heart. But when crafting a proposal, we can't be carried away and lose ourself in the effort like we're polishing a beautiful design.

A useful benchmark to make sure you're not spending too many hours on your proposal is to hold yourself to a three-percent proposal percentage. This benchmark was shared with me by David Conrad at Design Commission. His studio uses this benchmark to make sure that they never spend more than two to three percent of proposed project budget to secure the project. This includes any necessary negotiation and revisions with the client through the new business process. The time spent on new business is then factored into the hourly rate and overall utilization of the studio, rather than being tied to successful project fulfillment.

Putting the hours used for writing a proposal against the future project budget is a big accounting no-no. This is a common mistake a lot of design studios make.

Why is this a bad idea? Because you are blurring the lines between the expenses your firm bills against the project budget and the expenses that your firm incurs on all the activities acquired independent of staffing those projects. You should be optimizing your new business process to acquire work independent of how efficient you are in fulfilling the projects once they're in your studio. This is the equivalent of trying to keep a monthly budget for your household, only to discover that someone else in the household has been using your credit cards and racking up debts that suddenly you're liable for. This isn't fair to anyone involved.

So get out of this "credit-card spending" mentality. You don't have an incentive to spend weeks on a proposal. You should be spending the minimum necessary effort to generate the best proposal for a potential project that you have a high likelihood of winning.

If you're going to try and keep to this percentage, here are some common issues that stand in the way of successful implementation:

You haven't set up templates to work from on your proposals. If you're generating new or custom proposal elements that can't be leveraged or updated for future proposals, you're burning time that won't make your new business acquisition process more efficient. Even if you're selling bespoke services, you can generate templates for how you sell them.

You aren't pitching a good fit in terms of subject matter or expertise. If you're conducting reams of research to figure out what to say in every proposal, you may not be perfectly suited to win the work. Be selective about where you make these investments at the proposal stage, rather than have those activities become part of the paid work.

There is too much time to write the proposal. It's important that you ask for the appropriate amount of time to craft a quality proposal. However, I've seen proposals drag out in draft after draft because there isn't adequate motivation or pressure to complete it and send it out. This is where bad habits can form. Try to hold yourself to a "shadow budget" and realistic schedule for writing, vetting, and submitting your proposal.

Other posts in this series include bid/win ratios for new business pitching.


"12 Essential Negotiating Strategies for Consultants" on FastCoDesign

12 Negotiating Strategies image from FastCoDesign

When first striking out on their own as businesspeople, many consultants and designers don’t know how to bargain or strike a deal. In this exclusive excerpt from Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers on FastCoDesign, read about the strategies consultants use to successfully come to meaningful agreement with their clients.

Check out the article here.


How Are You Using the Collective Action Toolkit?

Students at SCAD take part in Knowledge Fest activity

The SCAD graduate students split up into teams and gathered around their copies of the Collective Action Toolkit (CAT), considering their homework assignment for their next class period. Their task: To pilot the first activity they would use with local high school students as their first introduction to working together in a group. In two days, they’d have to do a dry run with their classmates. As they looked over the toolkit’s action map, they began to where they should they begin? By having a “Knowledge Fest” or a “Skill Share?” By helping their group identify a goal right away, or by having fun and getting to know each other?

The CAT has been out for almost two months, and situations such as the above are happening more and more. The toolkit is being deployed far more broadly than expected, such as in our new Chinese language edition. People are finding new uses for it, from local education to entrepreneurship in global organizations. And frog has embarked on our first educational pilot, working with SCAD’s Design for Sustainability program.

How did this happen? And in what ways can you use the CAT that you may not have considered?

Read more on frog's design mind blog: ("How Are You Using the Collective Action Toolkit?")

Read about my involvement with the SCAD + CAT educational pilot on the Design Ethos blog ("frog + SCAD Design for Sustainability pilot frog’s new Community Action Toolkit").


Slides from "Design Is Hacking How We Learn"

This past September, I spoke at AIGA Seattle's Into the Woods, a multidisciplinary retreat whose theme was "Survive and Thrive." Five speakers were asked to speak on that theme through the particular lens of their practice, on topics as varied as sustainability (Scott Boylston) to inspiration (Jeanette Abbink) to creativity (Howard Lichter) to business (Seth Johnson and Karen Kurycki). The topic I was asked to speak on was design and education.

At the event, as we participated in far-reaching conversations fueled by everyone's passion for what design could accomplish, it seemed like each night would never end. But just like a long college weekend, we would still have to drag ourselves back to class (and/or work) on Monday. And even if you haven't been to college, you know what that feels like. We've lived it, as part of our experience growing up with school.

Take this scenario. It's your third cup of coffee for the 8 AM seminar, you sit down, and the room feels like it's filled with an incandescent haze drilling holes into your cerebral cortex. The teacher is passing out a handout, you turn it over, and suddenly you realize: You've been smacked with a pop quiz!

The fog lifts as the adrenaline courses through your veins. Sure, you've watched all the lectures, jotted down the occasional notes, and maybe done some of the reading while catching up on Breaking Bad. But the information swirling in your head hasn't come into a coherent whole. Maybe this is what your professor thinks she needs the class to do to critically master the material. And if you're going to get that degree next year and stumble out into the world, this could have an impact on your GPA.

You turn over the paper and see the first question: Can design solve most of society’s biggest problems?*

"Of course! Design can change the world!" You blurt it out loud, without even thinking. Everyone in the room looks at you. Oh, this is going to be easy, you think. I’m just going to write in “Yes.” Next question.

Then, you notice the asterisk. Your eye drops to the disclaimer lurking at the bottom of the page: *Be sure to show your work.

Suddenly, this test doesn't look so easy anymore.

If you'd asked me this question two years ago, I'm not sure I would have had a good answer. It wasn’t until this point in my career, 17 years in, that I could even venture taking a shot at it. So this is the topic of this talk: answering that question. And here's the response I'm going to write on my pop quiz:

Design can solve society’s biggest problems… if we cultivate a love of learning through the design process.

So while I'd been asked to speak on the subject of design and education, my talk wasn't about educating designers. It's about how we learn. The next big disruption in lifelong learning will be by design. We are innately trained and poised to have a global impact on how other people can survive and thrive, whether they are designers or not.

The above slides are from a talk where I outlined how designers can do this better. I argue in this talk that the mode in which designers learn—with a focus on practice and reflection, supported by theory—is not limited to just designers. Taking this orientation towards learning hacks how we learn. This is an approach we can communicate to others.

I believe that anyone can adopt the range of skills that we regularly exercise, and learn about a variety of topics of value to them, without having to formally be or become a designer. This can happen not by redesigning how schools work, per se, but by looking at the design process as a form of skill development that can help people change their world. Within that process, there are simple tools we can teach others that help them to create more meaningful lives, independent of formal design work.

In the first half of the talk, I talked about what survival means through the lens of design and lifelong learning. In the second half, I shared tools I've gathered that have helped me become a more adaptive learner and designer, using the action map of the Collective Action Toolkit as a way to organize them (at the time still a work in progress).


Life at the Right Resolution

Goggi, Popplagið

"In the span of one lifetime it is, of course, possible for every human being to improve himself—within limits set by energy, time, temperament, and the level from which he begins…. But the limits within which such improvements may be made are small in comparison with the vast aspects of our nature and our circumstances which remain the same, and which will be very difficult to improve even were it desirable to do so. I am saying, therefore, that while there is a place for bettering oneself and others, solving problems and coping with situations is by no means the only or even the chief business of life….
No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along, or that the whole object of playing it is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them. The musician whose chief concern is to make every performance better than the last may so fail to participate and delight in his own music that he will impress his audience only with the anxious rigor of his technique."
Alan Watts, from "This Is IT" in the essay collection This Is IT and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience

The above quote struck me on so many levels when I read it today: as a human being, a husband, an artist, a musician, a designer, an [insert label] of who I may be in 2013.

 

The above image #3062391516 by Insousiance is shared via an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License via < href="http://www.flickr.com/">Flickr.com. It's also of one of my favorite bands, Sigur Ros.


Design Business by the Numbers: Bid/Win Ratio

Bid Win Ratio of 50 percent

Numbers surround us every day. They’re woven into the fabric of our lives, part of the advice and cliched folk wisdom that we dispense to each other: Two's company, three’s a crowd. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. And so forth. Every one of these cliches, however, started out as a rule of them, intended to help us learn from our previous positive experiences and failures. They’re patterns we can follow that can help contribute to our future successes.

I'll be posting over the coming months numbers I heard from the design businesspeople I interviewed while writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. These people had specific rules of thumb they followed as in order to ensure the health of their design business. They were either handed down to them from co-workers or mentors, or derived from hard-fought experience. I’ve added to these numbers the ones that I’ve recorded from my experience working at a range of small and large design studios.

It’s my hope that these numbers will help you establish useful guidelines that'll help you better manage your projects and operate your design studio.

Let's start things off with your business's bid/win ratio.

Anyone who runs a design business knows that if you aren't winning projects, you won't stay in business. So when you seek out new business opportunities, how do you determine which to pursue and which to turn away?

When researching Success by Design, a number that kept coming up in my interviews with studio owners was fifty. Or, to be clear, a 50% bid/win ratio for your studio's new business efforts. This is the number you should try to hit or exceed, and it correlates with how many potential projects you need to convert from proposals to paid projects every month. Otherwise, you'll be billing to much time to studio overhead (writing proposals) instead of working on paid client projects.

There are specific criteria you should use in order to try and hit that 50% number. These include gauging the following:

Dollar value of the proposal. This should be averaged over the number of staff members and hours required to fulfill the estimated scope. This assumes, of course, that you have the capacity in your studio to fulfill the work.

Level of competition. If your client won't tell you what other design businesses are in the running for the work, at least ask them how many other businesses might be in competition for the work. If you're filling out an RFP or RFI and throwing it over the wall—the odds of winning the work can be stacked against you.

Fit for the studio. Is this work that will contribute to staff happiness and morale just as much as your portfolio and pocketbook? You should determine this before you agree to write a proposal as part of your pre-qualification process. (You've got one of those, right?)

Relationship with the client. If you haven't sat down with this client and truly understood the problem they're trying to solve, you may not even be in the running at all. You also may miss nuances and politics that may be stacking the deck against you.

There are other factors to consider, but the above are mandatory considerations before you go down the path of agreeing to craft a proposal. Think about like going to a casino and choosing how to gamble your money. Say someone handed you $10,000 scot free and said, "Go bet this all on the roulette table, and if that number comes up, you get to keep the money I gave you." Would you rather put your money on a single number? Or on all odd numbers? This benchmark is intended to help you control risk and look beyond individual project possibilities to the overall impact your business development choices are having on your cash-flow. This isn't to say that you shouldn't take risks on projects that may be a great boon to your studio, per the above criteria. It's to say that your risks should be measured.

Be aware as well that when using this ratio is that you may not be winning the most valuable projects, balancing the above factors against sheer dollars and cents. If you aren't winning approximately 50% or more of the potential revenues available across the proposals in your pipeline, you may need to reassess your new business strategy.


"Micro-Networks Rise" Prediction in frog's 20 Tech Trends for 2013

I'm honored to have been able to contribute one of frog's 20 Tech Trends for 2013, "Micro-Networks Rise":

Micro-networks are intimate communication networks that people form around subjects of interest to them, whether as simple as their love of chocolate or as complicated as a shared passion for creating change in a local community. Most of these micro-networks are private, and rarely visible to the designer or trend-spotter.

These micro-networks have been fostered in local communities via face-to-face conversation or via email and phone, but just-in-time communication tools have allowed the content of these conversations to persist—and store what people are sharing over time. They encourage connection with people that had previously not been able to join those conversations.

Social platforms such as Quora and Facebook have exploited the budding micro-network trend, allowing knowledge to surface from these communities. Platforms such as Neighborland, frog’s Collective Action Toolkit, and Change.org allow micro-networks to gain momentum and grow around desired political and community change.

Identifying micro-networks and ethically researching how people participate in them will be an important part of how we design any product or service that’s meant to collect and share knowledge in 2013. By combining ethnography with an awareness of what people are doing through their micro-networks, we can gain visibility into trends that are happening, but aren’t always in public view. It can also point us to new and growing private communities that help illuminate for us emerging shifts in customer behavior.

Take a look at the whole set of trends above, or download the poster below:


Creating a Design Studio: The Elements of Design Studio Experience

The Elements of Design Studio Experience

There is a constant tension between the demands of your business—receiving monetary reward for your level of effort—and the knowledge that what you make has some form of meaningful impact. As design business owners and leaders, we wrestle with certain fundamental questions: What if I can’t earn a living running a design business? Am I going down the right path? Does this work make me happy?

Exactly how do you balance the competing demands of sustaining a profitable business with a joyful design practice? In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing the worksheets that comprise the last section of my new book Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You can use them to determine what your ideal design studio experience should be like. David Conrad (studio director of Design Commission) and I devised them, and we hope you can use them to better structure your design business to support what you love. Profitably.

The worksheet that kicks off this section of the book is The Elements of Design Studio Experience. This is a revised version of the framework I first wrote about two years ago on this blog (read more about it here).

Here's the new version of the worksheet, which you can download from SlideShare:

In the coming weeks, I'll be providing activities and accompanying worksheets that help you determine the five key elements in this framework that are necessary to create a stable design business: 1) Philosophy, 2) Customers & Staff, 3) Process & Culture, 4) Market Need & Capability, and 5) Product. By working your way from the bottom up, you’ll better understand how structure your design business to support your goals. I'll also provide you with an additional activity you can carry out to course-correct your business every three months.

Note: The worksheets I'll be sharing are covered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. For details on this license, go to creative-commons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0.


Thinking Ahead of Yourself

Amber Wave exhibit by at osecology at The Feast Conference Pavilion 2012

Another sunny Saturday morning in early fall 2001. The starlings in the nest outside our window wake us with their cassette-tape song on rewind. Stirring from sleep, my wife and I settle into one of our rituals—acquiring lattes from one of our favorite coffee roasters before the morning escapes us. Pulling on our clothes and shoes, still a bit groggy, we make our way out of our third-floor Seattle apartment. The door clicked behind us, and as we headed down the stairs and out of the building, I realized the keys were sitting on the counter inside.

My adrenaline spiked. I thought to myself, Don't panic. But I couldn't help myself. At our previous apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, we would just walk down to the management office and ask them to unlock the door with their master key. But our landlady here lives on an island, many hours away. There was no way she could help us get back in.

Mary and I debated our options. It seemed like all we could do was bring in a locksmith. But I was loathe to make the call. We had just taken a full month off for an amazing cross-country jaunt as part of our move to Seattle. Due to the impact of 9/11 on the marketing and design industries, it had been hard for me to find work since our move. Going for coffee was a splurge, and if I had to call a locksmith to open up the door, there wouldn't be any more coffee dates for a good while. There had to be a way to open this door without a key.

The solution came to me in a flash: My next-door neighbor was a mountaineer. And the door from our balcony into our apartment's living room was unlocked. We knocked on his door, explained the situation, and I asked if I could borrow one of his climbing harnesses, a rope, a belay device, and a chair.

Standing on the chair, I popped the door to the roof open. My wife and neighbor clambered up after me. We tied off the rope and tugged on it with two people's full strength to make sure the chimney could bear my weight. I strapped on my harness and threaded the belay device. With my brake hand firmly on the rope, I winded two curls of the free rope around my right leg, peered over the edge, and took a deep breath. Without giving it too much thought, I turned around backwards and backed myself out until I was parallel to the roof's edge, slowly providing slack to the belay device until I went from parallel to dropping over the edge.

With a jerk, I came to dangle five feet away from our balcony. To my right, the Olympic mountains were rimmed with liquid yellow fire, late afternoon sun painting the houses below me with golden light. I lowered myself down and untied my harness, then walked through our apartment to pop open the lock on the front door.

Problem solved… until three weeks later, I was hanging upside down from a rope tied to the chimney of my apartment building, many stories above the asphalt pavement of our parking lot, thinking to myself: How did this happen again?

Instead of the keys sitting on the counter, they were in my jacket pocket in the hall closet.

*

We can be creative about dealing with what we've forgotten. It is much harder to prepare for what we never want to forget. We are swimming through possible consequences, rather than acknowledging what’s in front of us.

Routines and systems only go so far. You can’t fully run a life on punch cards and coffee makers with timers.

My wife and I started leaving our keys in the same place—our overflowing change tray—every time we walked in the door. We made a spare copy of our house key for our next door neighbor. I kept my bag I take to work in the same place, the larder stocked with cereals and soups in the same locations. Our bookshelves, while not alphabetized, became organized by genre and when they will be read or revisited. But there isn’t a place for every item, every detail, with absolute certainty. I somehow forget the grocery list, which causes me to have to take another trip for critical staples. Or the transit checks to load onto my Clipper card. Or my phone. Or my laptop. Just this past week, I forgot my keycard for work. Twice.

I had to turn this over this habit in my mind for a long time to realize: in every one of these situations, I was one step ahead of what I needed to do, right then and in the moments before that I couldn’t recall.

What are you thinking about before you start checking your pockets, trying to find your car key so you can get to work on time? When you left the car keys on the counter yesterday? When you were driving home? We spend our time rewinding the clock, while also addicted to the adrenaline spike in the present moment. We’re addicted to crisis. The tickets to the rock concert. The passport for the international trip. Paying the monthly rent on time.

By this point, it’s too late to unfurl memories about places you don’t even remember. We think we’re taking a well-worn shortcut, only to discover it’s an even further path to the actual destination we had in mind. With the sticky note reminder on the door, we walk right past what connects our livelihood to our well being, implicitly accepting the behavior.

The hard work is not in the future. It is confronting our decisions in the here and now.


My Second Book "Success by Design" Is Officially Out!

Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers Book Cover

My second book, Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers, came out early! You can purchase it at your usual online retailers, including Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and My Design Shop. You can also grab a copy at your local fine bookseller when it arrives in stores on December 4th, 2012.

Concurrent with the print edition is the release of the eBook, which you can get for Amazon Kindle and through iTunes for your Apple devices.

Want to read a bit of the book before getting a copy? Other than clicking to look inside on Amazon.com, you can also see a preview through Google Books.

Here's how I've introduced the book on the back cover:

In your career you may have been like me: Trying to keep projects on the rails and clients happy. Digging through blogs for useful advice. Wondering if there was a better way to handle all of the demands of being a design professional and running a creative business.
The wisdom contained in Success By Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers will help you become a stronger businessperson and better plan your career path as a design leader. This book was born from in-depth interviews with a slew of successful designers, studio directors, project managers, and client service professionals across a wide range of creative industries. It contains the business secrets I needed the most when I started as a designer sixteen years ago.

If you'd like some background on how this book came about, I was recently interviewed by GraphicDesign.com about what inspired the book. In the coming weeks, excerpts of chapters from the book will be appearing here on ChangeOrder and in other publications. There are also a number of free worksheets and resources mentioned in the book that I'll be blogging about. Links to them are aggregated on my website at http://www.davidsherwin.com/success.

Here are some kind words from people who took a peek at an advance copy:

"The best design business secrets are out of the bag--and it is about time! David has found a pithy and brilliant way to share the wisdom and knowledge that most of us had to learn the hard way. I wish I had this book when I was learning to run a design business unit at IDEO."
--Dr. Kristian Simsarian, Interaction Design program Chair at the California College of the Arts and IDEO Fellow
"With your nose up against your monitor, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. This book reminds you to step back and take inventory of all of the things that impact the success of your projects, products, and teams."
--Kendra Shimmell, Director of Cooper U
"The world of design is famous for its mystique, secrecy and "special sauce" but David Sherwin breaks it all down into the three fundamentals of team, client and project management, taking out the complexity of what it's like to run a design practice along the way. He organizes the book with straightforward concepts and follows up with easy-to-understand language. But make no mistake. This is not a primer, but rather an insightful work drawn from a keen understanding that the essential element to being successful in design (and therefore with clients) is the human element."
--David Merkoski, Chief Design Officer at Greenstart
"David's comprehensive and thoughtful treatment of the business of design is an education by proxy. As any experienced consultant, he maintains a fine balance of caution and enthusiasm yet withholds nothing, offering a depth and care typically only found in the classroom."
--Christopher Butler, Vice President of Newfangled and author of The Strategic Web Designer: How to Confidently Navigate the Web Design Process

If you want to delve deeper into the book design, I've created sets with most of the chapter illustrations on Flickr and Pinterest. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

Success by Design: Accounting Spread

Success by Design: Negotiation Spread

Success by Design: Process Spread

Business Development Illustration from Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers

Freelance Illustration from Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers

Budgets Illustration from Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers


Introducing the frog Collective Action Toolkit

the frog Collective Action Toolkit

Today, frog released the Collective Action Toolkit (CAT). The CAT is a package of resources and activities that enable groups of people anywhere to organize, build trust, and collaboratively create solutions for problems impacting their community. I was part of the team that helped create the CAT—you can read about my involvement in an article posted today in FastCoDesign.

frog developed the CAT to help groups of people create positive change in their communities. Inspired by frog's collaboration with Girl Effect and the Nike Foundation (which I participated in) the toolkit provides a dynamic framework that integrates knowledge and action to solve challenges. Designed to harness the benefits of group action and the power of open sharing, the activities in the toolkit draw on each participant’s strengths and perspectives as the group works to accomplish a common goal.

While intended for use by leaders in local communities, the CAT draws from both frog's social innovation work and their expertise in encouraging grassroots innovation within startups and large-scale organizations. It can be used as an accelerant for group problem solving, whether by local community groups, schools, nonprofits, corporations, and so forth.

Here's a presentation I gave about the CAT at The Feast Conference in New York City in October to a group of social innovators:

You can use the CAT with a group within your organization or your community to: 

Solve problems: No matter what size of problem you’re looking to solve, the activities in the CAT can help your group investigate and generate solutions for community problems. For example: you might be motivated to help people around you get access to healthier food, reduce how many people are becoming sick because of an infectious disease, construct a new building, or start a small business.

Build new skills: Gain important life skills with you group and understand how to best put them to use. For example: critical thinking, listening to others, asking better questions, generating ideas, active collaboration, creating better stories, and inspiring and sustaining collective action.

Gain knowledge: By pooling what you know and who you know, you can better support each other in your group and beyond. For example: with your group, you can gain perspective on a community problem or need, as well as reach out to more people that could support those solutions.

In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing more about the Collective Action Toolkit on my blog on frogdesign.com and here on ChangeOrder—how it came about, as well as upcoming pilots that we'll be conducting with organizations and educational institutions such as Savannah College of Art and Design's Design for Sustainability program

Until then, you can download it free by visiting http://www.frogdesign.com/collective-action-toolkit.


How Do You Grow a Design Business? A Conversation with Ted Leonhardt

Ted Leonhardt quote - Your business must become your project

As part of the research for my new book, Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers, I interviewed a wide range of people who had run successful design studios. When I drew up my shortlist of who I should talk to, Ted Leonhardt was at the top of my list. Specifically, I wanted Ted's perspective on what it's like to grow a design business.

Ted and his wife Carolyn founded The Leonhardt Group, an agency that they grew to $10 million in fees and a staff of 50. In 1999, they sold their agency to Fitch. Ted went on to the position of Chief Creative Officer for Fitch Worldwide with responsibility for 27 offices from London. In 2003 Ted began his management consulting practice. Carolyn provides support while creating and bringing new vintage homes to market in St. Helena, California.

What follows is a transcript of our conversation in April 2011.

DS: How do you grow a design business?

TL: My favorite quote on this is from Michael Gerber who says, “Work on the business, not in the business.”

Design business founders who want to grow must move from being an expert in a skill area, like design or strategy, to being an expert at running their business. That's a very fundamental shift. You can't concentrate on growing your business if much of your time is taken up in project work for clients. Client work is all consuming and it should be. Great work is the result of that total focus. But, your business needs the same kind of total concentration if you want to grow. Your business must become your project. Many designer/owners are reluctant to make this necessary change.

The single most important factor in successful design businesses is the people. And the most common problem is poor people management.

Design comes from people. Great design comes from happy, committed people. Happy committed people see a bright future for themselves and are receiving coaching, praise and regular constructive feedback. If employees feel they are a valued part of a team, doing work they respect and enjoy, the firm will grow and prosper. Carolyn and I used to say: “great work plus happy people produces profits.”

Ironically, owner/designers can get in the way of growth. As a successful designer, you have insights into how things should be done. You develop a feel for how to produce great work and deal with management and client situations. As you transition other people into design leadership roles, inevitably they're not as good as you are. They make mistakes, and instead of providing clear, instructive feedback you take back authority and solve the problem yourself. Or, you see something that doesn’t work and you criticize instead of helping them understand why it doesn’t work. Over time these negative experiences turn people off, and instead of growing in their positions they begin to lose their commitment to you and your company. They lose their belief in the vision that attracted them to the business in the first place. And the result is that your business doesn’t grow.

Employees need clear positive guidance, instructive feedback and specific praise when they do something right. We all need this kind of clarity in order to keep on track and moving in the right direction. That’s what management is all about.

Owners who want to grow their businesses need to understand that the business is their creative project, and that empowering their people is the way to grow. That means that the virtual circle of the business is your job, but it’s powered by your people. It’s your responsibility to make sure there is enough work, that the work is being done well and that it meets expectations and that completed projects are turned into marketing tools that support your outbound sales effort by creating inbound opportunities. You negotiate new opportunities as they come in. The one area of expertise you can never give up is sales.

DS: What about an individual looking to grow a studio?

TL: Step One is that first hire. Look to your skill set and say: “What functional role can I give up? What role can I easily fill with billable work? Which role will relieve me from something time consuming?” Perhaps it's one of your weaker skill sets, something someone else will do better. Manage your employee, treat him or her with respect and honor. Keep things friendly, but professional. Then look for employee #2.

Second, you must learn to lead by setting expectations: creative expectations, budget expectations, time expectations and deliverables. You work with the team to make sure the expectations are appropriate. You ask questions to find out what is going on if expectations are not met. Another great rule of thumb for managers is “ask, don’t tell.”

The third factor is client management, and that means understanding other people’s agendas. The overall agenda and goals of a client project may be clear, but within the client team the goals may be different. One client may have a baby at home, and need to be home by four every day – putting unexpected time constraints on team meetings. The Senior VP may be focused entirely on a particular feature of the project rather than the publicly stated goal because he has been a champion of that feature in other products. So, he’s thinking “I must have a hit with this product feature” throughout the effort. Meanwhile the rest of the team is wondering why he continues to bring up a single issue. Understanding these semi-hidden agendas and dealing with them in a positive way is essential to your success and to growth. A common hidden agenda is the client team leader’s need to appear knowledgeable and effective to the other team members and senior management. Your job is always to help your client succeed and look good while succeeding.

For the success of a business, the most important group to be involved with is the client team, so you are in the meetings when the project is being discussed, and not relying on PDFs and emails. You must know why they are making decisions to push something this way or that. You must be there, listening, asking questions and refining your perspective on the fly.

DS: What factors or metrics can a studio owner use to monitor their overall happiness?

TL: Creative shops are happiest when there is slightly more work than what the numbers say you should take. You can calculate how many hours to expect from a billable employee — 35 hours a week x 50 weeks — to determine your revenue target and work load. Then focus your sales effort on achieving 5–10% more sales than that. Creative people like to be busy. The worst is not having enough to do. It's demoralizing, and it destroys budgets as people expand their project workload to fit their free time. Happiness comes from being busy, but not overwhelmed — a delicate balance. We always kept the staff load and head count slightly below the actual dollar count coming in.

The other number to focus on is fee revenue divided by staff size. Well managed firms in the US produce around $200,000 a year in fees per employees. In major markets it’s higher, in smaller markets it is less.


Know Thy User: The Role of Research in Great Interactive Design

At the recent HOW Interactive Design Conference in Washington DC, I gave a presentation called "Know Thy User: The Role of Research in Great Interactive Design." This 30-minute high-level talk was intended to provide conference attendees with repeatable processes that will help them integrate user research into their interactive projects. Other presenters at the conference went more in-depth into some of the methods mentioned in this talk, but I felt that it was important for attendees to understand the role of specific methods and activities within the research process on any design project.

When I started working as an user experience designer, I had a thousand questions about how to conduct research. I was lucky to have great mentors and have the chance to collaborate with outside practitioners on a variety of projects. They helped me learn how to do everything from recruiting people to facilitating activities to understanding how we could make sense of the data we gathered from them.

When I came to frog, I discovered a deep global research practice with many designers and strategists who have helped me become a more rigorous and creative researcher. I now have fewer questions about how to practice user research, so I'm doing my best to return the help I'd received over the years and answer some questions for those who are new to the role of research in interactive design.


Designing the Destination

Designing the Destination

A few years ago, I hated flying. I'd been deathly afraid of it since I was a kid.

I knew this was a completely irrational fear. I knew the odds: only a 1 in 20,000 chance that anything might ever happen to me in my lifetime. Compared to the odds of dying due to cancer or a heart attack, I had bigger fish to fry.

Flying was something I knew I needed to do, especially as I grew up on the East Coast and have lived on the West Coast for eleven years now. Whether to see family and friends or take off on an adventure, I'd have to fly. But whenever possible, I would try to avoid flying. Even for most vacations, I was content to stay in Seattle or drive to somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Last year, I had an epiphany that helped me to better understand this fear, and make some peace with it.

It was on a plane flight two years ago, commuting to Austin to help lead a work session. We were at that fulcrum point in the project, where you start moving from the initial immersion and research into full-on design. There wasn't any more work I could really do to prepare, or try to stave off how most designers feel at this point in the process: a mixture of excitement and fear.

I was staring out the window of the plane for a really long time. Just sitting with the discomfort: my fear of flying, blurring into my excitement for us to get there and start doing our design work.

At a certain point, I realized they were almost one and the same. Excitement, because we were about to create solutions that were going to help people in need. And fear, because we didn't know exactly what we were going to make yet. This fuzziness, in the journey we take when we work in a creative discipline.

When you get on a plane, it's really easy to imagine the journey. Through the magic of technology, you'll be thousands of miles from your home in a matter of hours. San Francisco to Boston. There'll be a crappy in-flight movie. Some peanuts and soda. Germs and crying babies.

My fear about flying was all about the reasons why we might not reach Boston, or Austin, or Madrid. And I realized those are some of the same hurdles that stand in the way of someone who wants to lead a design team.

When you're a design leader, you're the one getting on the plane for the trip and you're the one flying it. But it's not clear if you're going to Boston, Shanghai, Toledo, or some borderland between countries that no one has ever visited. Would you tell someone flying on a plane that's where you're going when you take off? A city that does not yet exist, with an airport that needs to be built while you're in transit.

This is the challenge for a design leader: making awesome s*%t real. You could argue that any designer is a futurist. But the best design leaders that I've worked with, the ones that inspired their teams to go far beyond what they thought was possible, were able to describe a place to travel that did not yet exist and say, "Go there." They didn't exactly know where we would end up. But they knew by attempting to get there, the right destination would emerge from the haze. That excitement and fear blurred together again, as we discovered where we could travel next.

The only risk is that where you're at in a project may not feel like a natural end. You would have to go somewhere new before you had a sense of the destination where you'd arrived.

That is the journey that we all take as leaders, and the vision that it takes to sustain that journey, trip after trip, year after year.

And you'll have the frequent flyer miles to prove it.


Rowing on Command

"Powerzaal" bij Club Gent

Four years ago, I was having a conversation with the head of client services at a large marketing studio, and somehow we ambled onto the topic of Buddhism. I mentioned that I'd been thinking about the similarities between Buddhism and design, and he said: "Well, then clients definitely make us suffer too."

We both chuckled at the joke, but there was a hint of wisdom lurking in the laughter.

We don't need clients to cause us to suffer. We do a fine job of causing suffering in our work without them.

*

To suffer is to endure, to carry forth in work and in life.

There is a constant tension between the constraints that bind us. Some are human needs: a roof over our head for sleep, food to keep us from starving. Some are more experiential, responsibilities we choose to acquire by studying trusted experts, emulating admired role models, or slogging through dogged failure. And in the domain of work we find daily tasks we hope to eventually align with our personal passions.

Sometimes we own the business, sometimes the business owns us. Or so we believe. All of our needs, responsibilities, and tasks become tangled up with the requirements and demands of business.

*

In late 2000, I landed a freelance gig at one of the top advertising agencies in America. I was thrilled I would be there for a month; I wanted to gain experience in creating high-end advertising. And though I was spending most of my time creating layouts for dog food ads, I was gleaning insight into how a large agency operated, as I had spent the previous four years working within small nonprofit organizations and design studios.

It was late Friday afternoon, and I was packing up my bag to leave. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw other designers from the production studio lined up outside the office of the creative director.

"What are they doing?" I asked the designer sitting next to me. On his screen were mechanicals for a newspaper ad that was going to run as part of a client's next campaign.

"Oh, they're getting feedback on their ads, to see if they need to come in over the weekend and work on them before they're sent out for publication next week."

Without even thinking, I blurted out, "Why?"

He paused to think, then leaned over and said to me quietly, "If they offer you a job here—and they will, because they like you a lot—decline it. You don't want to work at a place like this."

*

Earlier this week, after seeing some Olympic rowers on the TV, I ended up in a conversation about what it was like to row in an eight-person crew. First, the painful memories came flooding back. The training was intense and grueling: running 3 to 6 miles, doing weight training, doing sprints on the rowing ergometer, stretching, plyometrics, constant racing on the reservoir where we trained. It was the most extreme cross-training I've ever experienced. I once had to run backwards up a hill carrying my friend Brian on my back. All of this work, in the service of shaving a few seconds off the speed of a boat carrying eight sweaty men floating on the top of a river from Point A to Point B. I recall races where several of my teammates would end up puking into the water, because they had simply pushed their bodies too far. Seeing people doing crossfit, even after all of these years, makes me shiver.

But those memories were counterbalanced by the thrill of rowing itself. What you may not know is that those rowers are flying.

Once you've been rowing with a crew for a month or two and you've achieved a certain level of synchronicity, each time the oars dig into the water, the boat rises slightly above the river's surface. Months of hard work are made manifest: the boat flies through the air, if only for a few microseconds.

I think I only know this now that I’ve stopped rowing, but the saddest part about the whole thing is not about how much you’ll punish your body for those brief moments of freedom. It’s knowing that once your oar leaves the water, the boat will cease its flight. And though there may be another stroke which allows you to fly, eventually, the race comes to an end. Project complete.

I can't say that everything in life functions like this. People go a long way, sometime without even realizing they’ve passed their limits, to reach that moment of effortlessness in the midst of intense work. Outside of the oars and the boat, nothing else matters. Not eating, not sleeping, not friends or family.

But a life solely composed of work is like a house without flooring to stand upon. For too many years, I applied the same sporting logic to my design work. I believed that the intense suffering—the physical and mental sacrifices—was the necessary and expected effort I made in order to fly.

This was reinforced through word and deed by designers I greatly respected, some of whom I considered mentors. They said the key to success was a single-minded focus on creating excellent work. So I tried to do that, for a really long time.

After all, rowers don’t need to see where they’re going. They always have someone else looking forward for them.

The upshot was that I grew as a designer. I’m grateful for the knowledge that I gained during that time in my life.

The downside of this focus was what I'd excluded. I found myself spending more and more time with designers, talking about doing design work—often while avoiding a pile of life problems that couldn't be solved by writing a better proposal or having a killer prototype to solve a client need. I avoided those problems by digging into my team’s design work, helping others with their problems.

My fellow designers and I were all in the same boat, pulling and puking together, and we couldn’t afford to be concerned about what lay ahead. We could fly consistently together, maybe a little longer each time. When one race was over, we just went to another.

We might have caught a glimpse of something important on the shore, but only after it was passing us by. We were working.

We were working hard.

 

The above photo "'Powerzaal' bij Club Gent"/7158757302 is by E. Dronkert from Flickr.com, included via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.


Recent News: Success by Design Presale Begins, Creative Workshop Translations, Upcoming Talks

Happy Monday! Here's a roundup of a bunch of recent news about Success by Design, Creative Workshop, and some talks I'll be giving over the next six months.

Success by Design

 

Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers Presale Begins

This past week, Success by Design's print edition went on sale through Amazon.com. There will also be an e-book edition that will be available through the usual providers (Kindle, iBooks, etc.

The book is completely done, 60,000 words and 50+ illustrations later. I recently had an interview with Andy Polaine at The Designers' Review of Books about this book's genesis. Here's some tidbits:

AP: Tell me about your new book, Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. Where did the inspiration for this come from?
DS: The idea for the book came from informal group therapy. When I lived in Seattle, every Wednesday night was dubbed “Burger-Drama” – an assortment of friends and refugees from various design studios, agencies and in-house design departments around the Puget Sound region blowing off steam in the middle of their work week at a local bar and grill. Every time we would meet, there would be a point in the conversation where the “cone of silence” would be lowered over the table. While munching on onion rings and drinking IPA beers, we would share the successes, failures, trials and tribulations of running design businesses. No client secrets. No unverified gossip. Just lessons from the school of hard knocks and the occasional story of a crazy co-worker.
Over the first few months of conversation, it became apparent that the majority of our problems had nothing to do with the design work itself. They had to do with being a good businessperson. No matter how many blog posts and books we read, there wasn’t any one in-depth resource we could turn to that would help us answer our recurring questions—and especially not in a fun way!
AP: Do you follow all the tips in your book or did you gather from others?
DS: Much of what is in the book is hard-fought wisdom from my years working as a designer at studios and consultancies, but much of the text could only be written by collaborating with friends in the industry that had experiences that I hadn’t and that were crucial to understanding design as a business. I reached out to some of my former co-workers and friends in Seattle and curated a series of lectures called “Design Business for Breakfast” sponsored by the local AIGA chapter, co-written and delivered with David Conrad, Erica Goldsmith, Fiona Robertson Remley, and a fellow frog that used to live in Seattle, Justin Maguire. These were client service professionals, project managers, studio owners, and creative directors. The lectures were about providing great client service, structuring and managing projects profitably, cashflow management, how to set up a design studio, and design leadership. The series went over really well, and after spending a lot of time with the material and delivering it in person with these collaborators, it felt like it would make a good book. I just knew that it would take a solid year or so to translate the presentations into a 300-page book.
AP: And you’re doing the entire design of this book?
DS: Since I’d designed the lectures, it made sense for me to do the design. I really wanted it to balance in-depth content with visual wit and fun… This visual component is lacking in a lot of design business texts, which can be all prose or serious charts and graphs. I think that can be painful for a lot of readers who are visual thinkers.

The interview also goes in-depth about the work that went into Creative Workshop and how different readers have been using that text for their personal growth, in design studios, in corporate America, high school and undergraduate design education, and beyond.

There will be a Success by Design website to accompany the book, which will archive the worksheets and other materials referenced in the book. It will be up in late August. Also, I revised a presentation I gave last year that touches upon a few points in the book and lists out the table of contents for the book:

 

Creative Workshop Translated into Traditional Chinese

Last year, two overseas publishers embarked on creating Chinese language translations of Creative Workshop The first one was recently released in Traditional Chinese, and one in Simplified Chinese will follow later this year.

The Traditional Chinese edition is available from Flag Publishing in Taiwan, and their website lists a number of providers from which this edition can be purchased across Asia.

They've been incredibly faithful to the design vision of the English edition:

Product

 

Upcoming Talks at Conferences (and Design Drumming!)

I'll be doing some talks at upcoming conferences (and performing!) at some upcoming design events, including the following:

AIGA SF's Open Studio Tours, San Francisco, CA
Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 7-8 PM: Playing drums for frog's band The Sticky Notes at the frogSF open studio in SOMA, 660 3rd St, 4th Floor

HOW Design Live, Boston, MA
Friday, June 22, 2012: "Effective Brainstorming for Designers" workshop
Saturday, June 23, 2012: "Becoming a Design Leader" talk

AIGA Into the Woods, Seattle, WA
September 21–23, 2012: "Design Is Hacking How We Learn"

HOW Interactive Design Conference: DC Edition
September 27-29, 2012: "Know Thy User: The Role of Research in Great Interactive Design"

HOW Interactive Design Conference: SF Edition
October 29-31, 2012: "Know Thy User: The Role of Research in Great Interactive Design"