Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, was on the TED stage talking up his booming business. He’s a little nervous, but overall the presentation is decent and informative–not exactly one of those stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks TED talks, but interesting nonetheless. I really liked how he used great visuals to support sample tweets; would make Garr Reynolds proud.
I’ve been spending a large portion of my work life lately working on a redesign of website for my organization’s largest client. Well, not exactly a redesign–originally the scale was smaller, but it’s become apparent that what we’re actually working on is essentially a phased redesign. As a colleague and I work through the process of squeezing the most out of the old site as we can while trying to reorganize the new site, I keep thinking about how a user might interact with our site and who we are designing for.
We have a lot of information on the website for basically three different audiences. A quick spin through the current site reveals that there are a lot of areas that could be improved. So we’re making design decisions based on what we think needs help and where the site’s greatest weaknesses are. This is a worthwhile exercise, but ultimately without testing our assumptions, we’re just guessing. The guesses are educated and are informed by a combined 20 years of web design experience, but they are guesses nonetheless. That’s why I’ve been advocating usability testing. Usability tests would provide us with the data we need to be confident we’re hitting the mark in terms of what our audiences need. And if you’ve read Steve Krug‘s “Don’t Make Me Think,” you’ll know that usability testing doesn’t have to be overly complicated to be effective.
In any organization there are competing interests and of course stakeholders who hold more sway than others. And when it comes to design–or communications in general–everyone believes he’s an expert. But designers, particularly of user interfaces, need to champion the needs of the audience. They, ultimately, are the only ones who matter. If the design suits a board member or your CEO, that’s nice, but if it doesn’t serve your intended audience, well, it doesn’t much matter what your stakeholders thought because, unfortunately, the design has failed.
Dan Pink, best-selling author of A Whole New Mind (a great book, by the way) has a new book out, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need. To promote it he has produced the fantastic video trailer above. This is creative, beautiful stuff. Based on this video, and on Garr Reynold‘s distillation of the book in presentation format (see below), I’ve got a copy of the book coming. I can’t wait.
In my office we have this monthly internal learning exercise where one person gives a presentation on something they are good at or, at least, know something about. It’s meant as a way for the presenter to share their knowledge with colleagues and to bring the team together for an hour to have some fun and hopefully learn something. It’s really a great innovation in our office, introduced by our newish director (she’s been with us about a year now), Corina De Guire.
Given our branch structure, I fall into the Creative Services group, which includes multimedia and web, graphic design and our distribution units. The effort from our group so far have been great, with a lot of work being put into the presentations, complete with fantastic takeaways. Recent presentations included a Photoshop tutorial, a presentation on digital photography resolution and its impact on print production, and one on colour theory. While the entire team (mostly) works with Adobe Creative Suite and we all share varying degrees of knowledge and expertise in matters of design, it’s remarkable how much you realize there still is to learn.
In a month it will be my turn to present, and the topic I’ve chosen is presentations. I’m excited by my topic because presentations and their design are a big interest of mine, and because over the last few years I’ve given a lot of them.
I won’t be dealing with the tools so much, like PowerPoint, but on what makes a good presentation. Somebody I feel a distinct connection with when it comes to this topic is presentation guru Garr Reynolds. Through his Presentation Zen blog and his recent book by the same name–which is fantastic, by the way–I’ve learned a lot and fine tuned my own design sensibilities. As a communicator, when presenting information–whether by slide, web page, text, image, etc.–it’s important to get the message across as effectively (and elegantly, in my opinion) as possible. Good design isn’t easy–no matter what some folks might say–but it matters. In fact, when we take design for granted is when we know we’ve likely stumbled upon something good.
I haven’t yet determined the specifics of my presentation, but I have to admit to feeling a little nervous with my topic. Since my topic is about something I will actually be up doing, I feel that the scrutiny might be a little more intense! Who knows. Anyway, I’m almost tempted to just play Garr’s recent GoogleTalks presentation (see the video below) where he pretty much says it all. It’s well worth watching the entire thing.
This interface is fantastic. Beautifully executed, impossible not to watch. Great use of Flash. Wow.
A little diversion for this blog, but there’s a lot of noise being made about the newly unveiled Vancouver Canucks jersey. The consensus seems to be that people hate it. Well, I’m not one of them.
First impressions: I like the colour; it’s a great blue. I like the green striping. They are using their retro colours well here. I’m not crazy about the old logo on the shoulders, but it’s not horrible. And now for the big controversy: the “Vancouver” scrawled across the front. It’s the first thing I noticed–probably the same for most people–when I first saw the jersey and right away I liked it. It’s got a vaguely collegial feel to the lettering. But it also reminds me of European soccer jerseys (see Inter Milan or Argentina). Part of me wonders if the Euro-jersey influence isn’t actually what’s really at work here. Maybe this is a first, tentative foray into stamping lettering across a hockey jersey’s front, as a way to ease viewers and fans into eventually accepting advertising like most European club shirts. First we start with the city’s name, later it’ll be Molson, or Tim Horton’s.
In the meantime, based on the photos I’ve seen, I think it’s a decent jersey. I think they could have done something to integrate the lettering and the orca logo more; right now they do seem a bit disconnected and thrown together (though the arc of the text does try to match that of the orca’s). Both elements carry similar importance and weight which creates an odd tension. I think this is what people are responding to when they say they don’t like the text. It’s easy to be an armchair graphic designer, but maybe they could have screened back the logo and made the text the dominant feature? (They did simplify the orca logo, probably in an attempt to do just this, but maybe they didn’t go far enough.) Or layered the text over the logo somehow… I’m sure they tried a ton of combinations. Anyway, we’ll see if the excitement dies down in a few days. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see the new jersey’s in person during their training camp at Bear Mountain. I’ll reserve my final thoughts until then.
It’s a goal of mine to one day get to a TED conference. I’m not sure how just yet–it costs a fortune to attend, but I’m a hopeful person. In the meantime, they have updated their website and have added even more free content from their renowned conferences. Their blog has the text of a story on the redesign from Monday’s New York Times. If you’ve never checked out TED, do yourself a favour and have a look around. Their new site is quite attractive with a clever homepage interface that serves up stories as a visual tag cloud that you can organize based on preset parameters. If you enjoy ideas, you’ll love TED.
I’ve been listening to TED podcasts since they were first offered online. They are particularly fantastic for long road trips when you can do nothing else but drive and give yourself over to the presenters. But they obviously work equally well in non-driving environments! Just be prepared to want to really listen, to set aside whatever you’re working on and surrender your focus. It’s an inevitability. The sessions are thought provoking and challenging, and often humorous. One of my favourites is Sir Ken Robinson’s talk where he wonders if schools kill creativity. A great quote from his presentation:
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original.”
This quote has more and more relevance to my work environment every day. But that’s another post. For now, enjoy.