March 24, 2015

The Poetry of Mobile Experience Design

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It’s a beautiful mess out there.

A poem or song comes from a feeling and uses language, sound and touch to capture and deliver that feeling in form.

A product application generally originates from the mind of visionary. The vision eventually becomes innovation. However, for the product to live out to its greatest potential, the form and function must flow like water—browser and device independent, and with fluid and relevant context shifts in the UX. On top of that, with no compromise in security.

I applaud the developers who are writing sensory code that detects mobility O/S systems and browsers beyond the capabilities of any particular device. They work in reverse to meet older technology mark up language and run out ahead to effortlessly capture the future in Ajax and HTML5, and more.

UX/Visual designers like myself are now designing for the senses. We are considering lighting and adding various choices of backgrounds in mobile application design. We know your finger is 40-80 pixels wide and our icons need to accommodate this in all visual states. We need to never underestimate how much your mobile phone knows about you and the world around you. If you are looking for where your movie choice for the evening is playing, we need to make sure your location detection is in place so that this comes up first on your list. We are putting ourselves inside of your phone/device and anticipating the math of the senses.

We envision your content flowing like water over the rocks; (device to device) in different environmental settings with different light sources and, oh, good god what if you are a moody person? We still like you. In fact, fickle is our medium of choice. Because by giving you 2-3 choices we are up against our art and it just turned Haiku.

The poetry of mobile experience design is a dance of math and sensory listening.

An exciting time indeed!

March 21, 2015

Chalk Oil ~ The Original Crayon

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I am so curious about the art that was made for the 46 years that Crayola had the first 8 crayons. The colors were black, blue, brown, green, orange, red, violet, yellow. Limited palettes of color; well, limited palettes of just about anything can cause the mind the great relief of structured repression of choices. This can cause fantastic innovations. 1903 Binney and Smith Co introduced Crayola Crayons. Alice Stead Binney, the wife of Edwin Binney named (branded) Crayola with the French words for chalk (craie) and oily (Oleaginous).
Europe of course was the birthplace of powdered color. Think of Van Gough’s sacrifice to get a bit more of his powder fix! The substitution of wax for oil made the sticks of color sturdier for use. I personally love how un-complex the Europeans are when it comes to naming products and signage. The subway signage for example for exit says ‘Way Out’. Crayons were oil color and then with wax, color sticks. Note on the box from 1903, ‘For Educational Color Work’. Clear and straight forward.
In 1949, 40 colors were added to the Crayola brand. From 8 crayons to 48!
Things got fancy. Naming in particular. Words like ‘Bittersweet’ and ‘Thistle’ were the names of colors. I have no idea what colors those are by the name. Prussian Blue was added and changed to Midnight Blue in 1958. Indian Red (when another 16 colors were added) in 1958 changed to Chestnut in 1999. And on it goes.

Things even got political. In response to the civil rights movement, Crayola changed the name of ‘Flesh’ to ‘Peach’ to show the consumers that Crayola was aware that skin tones came in a variety of colors.

Whew! I’m begging for 8 crayons at this point on the historical timeline.
When you could buy individual crayons for a nickel and be part of a time with such passion for nature that chemical compounds to create color tools were simply magic. I’m sure 8 crayons seemed like a huge feast of invention and possibility at that time.
As product features grow, the pressure to mask the complexity of what keeps the engine running can begin to feel like a heavy, wet blanket on a steamy, hot, summer day. The design of the experience can get lost in the task of this masking becoming a bit of a digital frankenstein. At these times I like to return to the magic, elegance and innocence of it’s invention. It’s there somewhere. Even in the most consumer driven products, the original impetus, the thing that brought people to it and made a market…creating value. That seems to be where the design wants to live even as things get out of hand in our culture, politics and economics.
Simplicity never goes out of fashion. I think it should be added to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
March 21, 2015

When Teaching is Not to Teach

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The driving force of language acquisition for the Bonobo Apes comes from what they hear from those around them who mean something to them. So the way to teach them is not to teach them.

—Susan Savage-Rumbaugh. TED Talks

There are many examples of how meaning is cooked in between innovation and audience response. I paint a painting that I think is shocking or sad and I receive giggles from my audience. Something absurd hits their funny bone. And suddenly my relationship to the painting changes. My authorship becomes shared, the brand of the painting is now a living thing between us where relevant conversation takes place.
This part is a bit perplexing to my clients. When the brand is launched, the campaigns running, the words perfected, the content placed and designed for a targeted result, why then are they not getting the responses that they predicted or hoped they would. Didn’t the science work?

It seems to boil down to something purely emotional doesn’t it? While the perfect brand platform conveys a wonderful introduction to who you are, how you care about your business, your good taste in design…it’s the interaction with your promises, your offerings and the character you convey as you offer it that pulls people in powerfully. If you create an environment that says “I understand my brand is actually defined by you, my audience and customers, and I am the conduit, the atmosphere maker, the host and hostess of this house called ‘my business brand”, the response is one that invites conversation. And brands are meant to grow with input.
A brand as we know now is not just a logo anymore, it’s a cultural event.
So, enter the dance floor and be your best self and listen well. The audience, our cultural milieu is always talking to us. And when we listen, our brands grow as organically as love between people, as a garden, as the rising emotion of an audience seated before an extraordinary performance.
Brands happen in between it all. I love how Susan Savage-Rumbaugh puts it…that to teach the apes language is not to teach at all but to create a meaningful culture with people who matter to them. They learn in the listening.

March 21, 2015

Sketching to Think

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Are you someone who sketches during meetings? I am. And, I’ve been pulled aside a time or two and jabbed at. How could I have really gotten the important bullet points when I seemed miles away?

Designing for people has always been a very physical act in my world. I draw to think. I’m considering timing against information trajectories. I’m thinking through technology capabilities against business goals. I’m interested in how water looks while draining from a pipe and how to sketch the sound it makes. But mostly, I want to see for myself what’s possible by sketching whatever strikes my curiosity. If I can draw it in 960 pixel width and words are not threatening to jump out of the device because they are so squashed, then I am pleased. And, I’m ready to move onto the next possible design threat and think it through with the pencil.

Sun Microsystems had a new product launch. I tried to combine two of my favorite events in life, coffee making and new product launches. Making products while drinking coffee? Check. Coffee making as a simile for interaction with the process and attributes of a new product online? Well, it was going to be a stretch. But I had to see. So I sat in my favorite cafe fully equipped with it’s own old fashioned roaster, powered up and sketched away. Some interaction connections worked better than others. But the team at Sun embraced it. I was a bit surprised.

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eBay Hometown scenes in the above illustrations. An exploratory concept that functions like the Facebook of e-commerce. The final storyboards were digital scenes in a Powerpoint presentation for stakeholders. The sketches are subtle. I was working out the best perspective to show a single mom who was selling her stroller. Her buyer met her at Starbucks.

Conceptual Framework in Watercolor

Watercolor and pencil to help think through a 2 layer user experience in Final Cut Pro. As in the very first interface of Final Cut Pro. Likely not able to see the remnants (once there) of these sketches in the product today. What this drawing told us what that even though the floating toolbar effects of Photoshop software was cool, it wasn’t going to work for videographers. Their hands and eyes went down user the source and destination windows. The transport controls was a big focus and/ hairball of design work for this project. The edit controls needed to really stand out—to be almost in motion. A gestural interface with very simple placement. They eventually were large buttons in the middle of the editing stage.

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Screen Shot 2012-07-03 at 9.50.08 AM And that’s all folks. I hope this gave you some inspiration and ideas.

 

March 20, 2015

What’s Your Type?

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I have had a secret interest in how letter shapes have associative memory to something in the limbic brain. I don’t meet many people who consider the psychological effects of such things. I learn things from my clients everyday. They are amazing people doing amazing things.

Recently we did a paradoxical design concept for a writer of Parisian and Texan culture via the food. I was delighted to hear from this client that she identified strongly with  the signage at Charles-de-Gaulle airport. The airport itself; the entrances and exits into Paris. Her lifelong passion for Paris began at age 12 learning French language from Berlitz records. The font Frutiger has an interesting function. It was chosen over the Univers typeface because it’s angles were easier to read with people running through the airport navigating their way. The surviver font!

This excellent article covers the history in a wonderful way.

I’ve chosen fonts to convey values, principles and express something characteristic and essential to the expression of product or brand. Yet, there is something so vital to me in this client’s need and choice of a font that helped her navigate the airport that got her into and out of her life long passion; Paris. To have that font now help her readers navigate in and out of her stories of Paris and Texas! Well, that’s a font doing it’s job.

What’s your type? What font speaks to you and why?

 

September 16, 2014

The Box Has Been Recycled

Think outside the box

Think outside the box. The ‘Box’ being a metaphor for the re-use of old rules applied to an the initiation of something new that wants to emerge—from general activities to new markets.

That box is now busted up; the old rules recycled into concepts, ideas, facts, voice atoms and data that is peppered all over the internet — streaming faster than boxes get made.

It’s compelling to see how data is a driving force on the internet that shapes perception. Suddenly the breadcrumbs we leave online are forming sensory experiences in our audiences. With the consumer as part of the conversation forming new invention, it can be both confusing and exciting. There is no hierarchy if you’re cool!

Clients want a tried a true formula from me for ROI. SEO and SMO tried and true strategies. Who could blame them. Don’t we all want the secret ingredients, the quantitative formula that PR’s that new brand up the eschalon’s — from awareness, to accurate perception, to I love you, you are exactly what I need (emotional connection) and then a bit of viral magic? Yes, yes. But with the Box scattered all over the universe, it takes a channel scientist, a data sensoralist, an e-Media scatologist, a person with the instincts of a mother and the steely patience of an aspiring Buddhist to sniff out and concretize these success patterns. And then poof! The molecules move again.

The Box is not only recycled into a gazillion bits of micro meanings, but creativity as a commodity has exploded.

This is the era of ‘voice’ — the voice of each and every individual. And that’s a lot to hear, read, and listen too. It’s not just about finding those values that make the voice of your business but coming in out of the data storm and realizing that while the box has been recycled, like ant societies we amazingly put the past to good use (most of the time).

 

Recycled means taking the best of the old rules and re-using them in a diversified fashion.

 

I’m thinking of changing my job title to data scatologist.

 

July 4, 2014

WordPress for Authors

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WordPress for Authors is now published at Book Daily.

Excerpt:

For many new authors faced with the daunting task of getting a website up, they would rather sit on top of the empire state building in their underwear and eat rubber sushi while singing the national anthem backwards.

Yet, why steer the author towards WordPress? In fact, so many of the gorgeous author sites we goosh over are designed and developed from the ground up. Authors generally don’t want junky websites filled with stuff they don’t need…

More at  Book Daily.