Speaking at ‘Design Manchester’

On the 20th October I gave a talk to a group of students at Design Manchester: a festival for design and its role in the present and future of Manchester and the North West of the UK.

My talk was entitled ‘How To Make Yourself Indispensable’ and aimed to give students advice on making a success of their early career. It was inspired by my other half @amycooperwright.

Click to read a write up of the talk on Medium.


After the talk the fantastically engaged audience asked lots of smart questions generally giving me plenty of faith in the future of the design industry in Manchester and beyond.

My three favourite questions:

What is the most important skill you’ve learnt in your professional life?

One of the most formative projects in my design career was designing bus maps. The skill I used the most on that project was not a creative one, it was writing emails. Lots of emails. In fact, more time was spent justifying our design decisions than doing the original design work.

If you think that doesn’t sound like a designer’s job, but you’d be completely wrong. Having a great idea is key design skill, but an equally important skill is being able to communicate your thinking.

No piece of design speaks for itself so developing the ability to critically analyse and justify design will actually be something you do more often than actually designing. Being able to communicate is the more important skill.

I’m a graphic designer working on an architectural environment project, I seem to be doing work that moves away from graphics, is that the right thing?

In short yes!

If your research and design work is taking you to the overlaps with adjacent creative discipline don’t be afraid to go and spend time with the people in those fields.

Learn their language and tap into their expertise: there’s a chance that their deep knowledge will unlock opportunities back in your world. Learning enough about architecture, coding or data science to be able to have a smart conversation with other professionals is a core skill for any designer so the sooner you get into this way of working the better.

The only caveat is this: don’t spend too long away from your own expertise area as you risk becoming a generalist. The downside of being a generalist is that you won’t be able to offer anything back to the architect (or coder or data scientist) you’re hoping to collaborate with.

  Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 22.35.21

What skills are you looking for in new graduates?

Whatever your starting design profession is today the chances are you’ll be doing very different things in a few years.

If you’re a graphic designer today it’s safe to say that, even if it’s still called graphic design in 5 years, it won’t be the same set of skills, tools and activities as you do today. Get comfortable with that coming change: it’s an opportunity not a threat.

The skills that I’m personally interested in are informed by the fact that I’m an interaction designer and do I’m thinking about that and the adjacent disciplines. I’m always in the look out for designers who have strong coding skills.

It’s incredibly difficult to maintain deep skills in both design and coding, but those that do are in high demand. For the digital designers out there code is one of your raw materials and so at the very least you should have proficiency in some of the front end languages. If you can find a way to push both the creative and the programming forward together I’d like to talk to you. I’m also interested to see if designers start to pick up the ability to manipulate data – as another raw material to design with.

Have a look at this Medium collection that I’ve written for, if you’d like to learn more.

Design x Data

Teaching at Hyper Island – Week 4

thumb_IMG_8862_1024The final week at Hyper Island and the team’s visited the BBC at Media City in Salford. We’re very grateful for the BBC’s involvement in this project – providing a real brief and venue for the final presentations.

Each team did an amazing job and, despite each being set the same brief and taught the same methodology, came out with unique perspectives on the BBC’s challenge.

Presenting without screens

thumb_IMG_8861_1024One stipulation I made for the final presentations was the banning of screens. The teams had to be creative and hands on in order to present and think more about their individual roles.

At IDEO our equivalent mid point presentations often have the same physical design with posters and props taking the place of projectors and laptops. At this point in the process presentations should feel like ‘work in progress’ and open to questions and improvement. Screens signal completeness, worse still you’ll spend/waste time finessing the way it looks rather than what it says.

There are challenges of course: you should plan very carefully the layout of the room, and how it can support your storytelling, but generally tangible presentations better engage your audience.

Cat Buckets

The students in this year’s Digital Experience Design crew were very lucky to have Colin Burns as thier client. After the presentations he made time to review each group and gave fantastic constructive feedback.


One area we discussed was the naming of Opportunity Areas. At IDEO we use the term Opportunity Area to encompass an area rich with potential for ongoing design. We often share them at the halfway point of a project and work with our clients to pick the ones we want to dig deeper into in the second half of the project. The teams from Hyper Island were tasked with presenting their areas, but most lacked a memorable name.

Colin recommended something evocative and arresting. For example “Cat Buckets”. When you hear the phase cat buckets you’ll immediately picture something, and the chances are you’ll remember it. It’s a great example of a simple phrase that contains a lot of information. Something you should strive for when naming your own Opportunity Areas in the future.



The final thought from me is to say congratulations to all of the students for completing the Understanding People module, and good luck with the rest of the course.

The whole group was highly engaged throughout and picked up new ideas and methodologies with great skill and thoughtfulness.

I’m sure they’ll all go onto great things, and I hope to cross paths with them in the future.

Single Function Buttons

Washing Machines

As ever, a thoughtful piece of design from BERG has kicked off some interesting analysis and writing by the design community.

Sitting in a more useful corner of ‘the smart home’, their Cloudwash washing machine concept/prototype is an interesting instantiation of a ‘mod cons’ becoming connected.

Single Function Button

While most of the chatter has focused on the choice of device and what it says about men (and don’t get me wrong I think this is a tremendously interesting area of discussion, go and read Rachel Coldicutt’s post) the thing that really caught my attention was the roll of a single function button.

Single Function Buttons

In an era of touch screens the presence of buttons becomes more noticeable. The iPhone’s mute button; the turn page button on a nook ebook reader; the Nest’s dial control.

Nest Thermostat
iphone 4 volume controls and silent switch
iPhone silent switch
Nook, next page button


What do they have in common? They all represent such a fundamentally important control for the device that they get their own button. (Incidentally, I don’t include on/off buttons in this group – I’m focussing on the functionality once the device is on.)

These buttons also allow for more tactile interaction, a learnable physical behaviour. In the case of the iPhone it’s easy to switch mute on and off without even taking your phone from your pocket. On the nook my gaze never leaves the page. Click.

On BERG’s washing machine the button that is given its own sole function is the notification override. It makes a lot if sense: notifications are both very useful, yet have the potential to become a big annoyance.


Buttons for Interaction Designers

The consideration of physical buttons by interaction designers is more important now than ever before, as touch screens have become the most pervasive format (perhaps even the default format) in such a short period it’s easy to forget the point of difference that a physical button brings.

What functionality deserves a button? What type of button is best? What is the button’s default state? What does it sound like? How does it feel?

From an accessibility perspective physical buttons are also tremendously important. The reason that you don’t get touchscreen ATMs? They’d be tough to use by those with limited vision. Equally those with restricted dexterity may also benefit from something more tactile and forgiving than a capacitive iPhone screen.

But physical buttons also bring different challenges, they fail, they stick, they break. In fact, all the more reason to keep them for the most important functions. You can read more on how hard atoms are compared to pixels here.

More buttons, less buttons, no buttons

A final thought on the roll of buttons from the new product developer at BERG (and recently Luckybite), Durrell Bishop.

Marble Answer Machine

The marble phone is an investigation into an entirely physical interface to an answer phone. Each new message is stored on a marble which rolls out onto the top of the machine when a message is left. You then listen to the message by placing the marble on the playback cup.

It’s easy to see at a glance if you have messages without a little flashing light (or notification). In fact it allows the technology to manifest as a piece of sculpture.

No buttons, no screen.

Worth thinking about when you next start designing the interactions or interface, on screen or with buttons.

Interview Advice for Designers

Recently I’ve started to get involved with the Graphic Design Course at LCC, I participated in a mentoring evening where I met with second year students, and offered a little advice on both projects and careers.

I’ve also been involved in the recruitment process, interviewing potential candidates for a new job in Design Research. Also, before my current job I was freelance for about two years – so I’ve been through my fair share of interviews (successful and less so).

As is often the case with advice like this I find myself suggesting the same things to people each time, so I’m capturing it here to shape my thinking and hopefully to be a useful reference for others.

Edit: since beginning to write this post, Duane Bray – a fellow IDEO, has also posted a similar article on Core77 have a read for another IDEO perspective.

1. Choosing projects

Pick the projects that let you tell a story about yourself. Any job interview is as much about you as a person as it is about your portfolio of work, so pick out projects that show of your particular approach. In the space of an hour you’ll probably have time to talk about 4–6 projects, any more and you might be rushing. Any less and you miss the opportunity to demonstrate a breath of work.

If you think about the projects that sum you up (and not just your 5 ‘best’ projects) then you’ll see the value of a small freelance job, whilst not the highest profile piece of work it might be an example of your interest in charity work. Or pick out the 2nd year university project that taught you how to write JavaScript, talk about how it was the beginning of your coding skills. They might not be the best and brightest, but if they demonstrate your passions and skills then they’re worth putting it.

Make sure you pick out work that shows more than just a series of final deliverables, it’s important to pick pieces that show a wide range of skills and techniques. For example, I’m always really interested to see the research work that went into a project as we do so much of it at IDEO.

2. Talk about your process, including the things you left out

When explaining a project or your process a good guide for the tone and level of detail to use is to imagine you’re explaining the work to one of your intelligent friends. You won’t need to cover the basics but the more complex elements might need a little explanation.

Talk about the process of your projects – and not just the outcomes. By explaining the research you did, the refinements you made and the things you left out, you’ll be illustrating your thought processes. Designers are equally interested in the journey you took towards the final outcome as the outcome itself; the person interviewing you is trying to imagine you as part of their team and process is as important as final execution on a day to day basis. (Of course, if the beautiful work you’re proud of is important too.)

Design is a process of elimination and the things that you cut from the final design will say as much about you as the final design does. Talking about process is also a chance to show off the other skills you have, the ones that aren’t immediately obvious from the work. For example if you’re interested in working for a design company that does a lot of coding then tell a stories that let you mention the various languages you’re learning.

3. Find out as much as you can about the company you’d like to work for

Do your homework on the company and people you’re meeting. I remember when I first did this and it almost seemed like cheating, I thought it seemed really obvious when I spoke about a recent project on the interviewing company’s website. But amazingly they were very happy to hear about themselves (but then don’t we all). By demonstrating that you already spend time in their world you show that you’re interested in the same things, and that you will probably get up to speed with their world more quickly. Of course this isn’t about cutting corners or being sycophantic, but finding out about the company will help confirm if they’re right for you, and if you’re right for them.

It’s also really important to be clear in your mind about why you want to work for the company, and why you want the job title your applying for. Duane Bray’s Core77 article gets into this issue in more detail. One of the most likely questions you’ll get asked is ‘why do you want to work here?’ so you’d better have an interesting answer.

However, as a counter to the two points above, don’t just try to explain why you’d be the perfect fit for the company; it’s also good to call out the things you offer that they might not. Very few companies will want exact replicas of the staff they already have – diversity in the workforce is important to any good company – so don’t be afraid to point out the difference you might bring.

4. Ask questions, have a conversation

I’ve often found the most comfortable and flowing interviews involved the interviewee asking as many questions as the interviewer. Ask questions yourself, get them talking. It’s a basic truth of human behaviour that most people quite like telling you what they think, I often treated interviews as an opportunity to ask the interviewer to share their opinions – in essence you interview them – even if you don’t get the job you’ll learn something interesting along the way.

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to let a conversation wander a little. This is perhaps a point of personal preference, but occasionally getting lost in an interesting conversation isn’t a bad thing. (But I appreciate this isn’t to everyone’s taste).

Ask what projects are passing through their studio at that moment (I always find this a fascinating question, to ask). Ask them the areas and topics that are interesting to them. Ask what the future holds for their company. This last question is always revealing as it’s not something most people think about day-to-day, so you tend to get some interesting answers.

5. Being in the right place at the right time

I’ve sent my fair share of unanswered emails, one of the most disheartening things is to put together a CV and write a specific covering note and then get nothing back. But don’t be disheartened, this is all part of the game. Just because you don’t hear back doesn’t mean you didn’t get through, remember that the people you’re getting in touch with might be in the midst of a busy day, so don’t be too hard on them. Follow up with a phone call and remember that sometimes you need to be in the right place at the right time.

Even if you’re not lucky when you first get in touch, you might also find that after few months or years that you become that right person. Getting on a company’s radar isn’t easy but it’s amazing how, once you’re there, there’s a chance you’ll pop into their head when the time is right.

I also think a trick to being in the right place at the right time is just to be in lots of places. Follow blogs, chat on twitter, write on Medium. Being good at self promotion and socialising (both on and offline) might just mean that you pop into someone’s consciousness at just the right moment.

6. Good luck

A few final tips from me:

  • – Have an up to date portfolio online and PDF format and a cover letter ready to go.
  • – Make sure you write a specific cover letter for every person you contact. It needs to be tailored to the recipient. Every time.
  • – I found a non-linear iPad portfolio really useful. Save your projects as a set of jpegs and then keep them in iPhoto folders. This way you can jump freely between projects (rather than clicking though one sequential list). It also forces you to summarise your projects in a series of images, and not ramble on too much.
  • – Don’t rely on an internet connection to share your portfolio. Although we live in an age of 4G and wifi, it’s far too patchy to entrust with anything as important as your portfolio and future career. Save it for offline viewing, or use a PDF/Keynote.
  • – Freelance can be a great way into a company, I was lucky enough to get a shot at IDEO as a freelancer. I never Left. My thanks to Mike at Represent for that.
  • – Finally if you want a job at IDEO, follow @ideojobs and keep an eye on ideo.com/careers
  • – Good luck! Let me know how you get along.

Some thoughts on the design of a news app

Recently, some asked about the design of a news app. It got me thinking about how to tackle the problem.

An App for a Gap

Like the majority of the content I consume on my phone, I use it to fill the gaps in the day. Those moments in between: waiting for a train, sitting on the bus, procrastinating while a file downloads. When I read the news in these situations it somehow feels productive, like I’m optimizing an otherwise empty moment.

But these gaps are irregular, they aren’t always easy to plan for and my particular mood at each moment is always different. So how would you design for these pockets of time? Maybe you’d serve up content based on the time it takes to read. Or maybe each article would have would have a 1 minute, 2 minute and 5 minute summary? Or could each article be condensed to a paragraph? So I could easily digest as many articles as I have time for. Maybe the app would ask how long I wanted to read for, then serve up a selection of articles to perfectly fill the gap.

This would have a big impact on journalism itself, it would require writers and editors to be thinking in different versions for each story. Maybe a burden or maybe an opportunity.

Super Productivity

I feel most efficient on my phone when I’m re-routing stuff. Save this for later, forward that email, take a photo of my receipt. My favorite IFTTT recipe copies the link from a tweet to my instapaper account, when I see an interesting article I favourite the tweet for later offline reading. Terribly efficient.

IFTTT receipe

I want the same with my news app, but more refined. I want a button to save for offline reading, add to evernote, save to Dropbox, share with a google group. Not just a retweet button (get with it). In fact, why not just set up an IFTTT channel and let me build my own recipes.

Curated Chaos, Personalised Bubbles

“It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper” – Jerry Seinfeld

Curating the world’s news down to fit a newspaper is one thing, to further reduce to an app is even tougher. While the temptation is to skim off the popular stories from the main paper, does this give a balanced view of the news? Does this selection suit my personal taste? Is popularity the right measure for the judging which story I get served up?

Another approach is personalization. If it is curated to my personal taste (through some complicated learning algorhythm) how do I escape the bubble of my own previous preferences? Will you occasionally surprise me with a story from a section I don’t normally read? Will you preserve the editorial tone amidst the individualization?

Perhaps through the design of the content you can let me be the filter of a large number of stories; like a newspaper, as my eye skims over, it’ll catch on the headline that suits my mood.

Money Making

Newspapers are yet to crack the business model for news apps. Buying each article seems punitive, and paying for a days content at a time leaves me with the opposite feeling of buying a news paper (once I buy the paper, I can read the articles when I like).

Another direction is the spotify/netflix subscription model – complete access for a monthly fee. But this too seems wrong, perhaps because the price point for these services is close the unit price of the old media (a CD or DVD). Instinctively £10 a month for millions of CDs is a no brainer. But then these services are selling the same thing over and over again, newspapers need to generate a new collection of articles everyday.

The paywall model makes money, but it doesn’t suit the irregular reader. At least with a newspaper I buy it when I need it.

So how do you make money from a news app? Maybe you sell functionality: offline reading, summary mode, ad blocking. But this needs to be packaged in a way that feels like I’m unlocking extras, rather than paying to release arbitrary restrictions.

In App functional upgrade
The app ‘Paper’ allows users to upgrade the functionality with in app purchases. It feels less punitive.

Or maybe you make the price of content so low that people won’t even think twice about buying it. 1p per article. Unarguably good value, so low that people won’t think twice about reading a second, third, fourth article. Just one more article. Oh, go on then.

Back to productivity. I feel most efficient on my phone when I’m re-routing stuff. Save this for later, forward that email, take a photo of my receipt. My favorite IFTTT recipe copies the link from a tweet to my instapaper account, when I see an interesting article I favourite the tweet for later offline reading. Terribly efficient. I want the same with my news app, but more refined: save for offline reading, add to evernote, save to Dropbox, share with a google group. Not just a retweet button, that’s so 2012.

So Much Data, So Little Time

Is there a more frustrating feeling than watching more data flow past you than you can process? Seeing your inbox fill up, trying to get it back to zero. More tweets in an hour than a person could process in a year. A symptom of the mass media age. etc.

I’d hate my news app to give me that feeling. I feel really guilty throwing away a newspaper that i haven’t read every single part of. Another app on my home screen with waiting notifications, no thanks.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 23.17.27

Can you imagine a newspaper that fills up with new stories quicker than you can read them? At least with the newspaper i have the clear feeling of having ‘finished’ it. Is there a way that my app can convey this feeling? Is there a daily edition, or does this run at odds with the very nature of a live streaming device.

Ultimately I don’t want to be playing inbox zero with another app.

In Conclusion

These are just a few thoughts swimming around in my head, what do you think? Agree, Disagree?

From Wayfinding to Interaction Design

Originally published on Medium – https://medium.com/design-ux/3e7fef5a6512

Before joining IDEO as an Interaction Designer, I worked for one of the more influential wayfinding design companies — Applied Information Group (now called Applied). Wayfinding is the process of planning and making journeys through spaces; wayfinding design companies develop systems to help make this planning and journey-making easier. These systems come in all shapes and sizes, and can cover area naming, signage design, cartography, defining route networks and installing new landmarks to give an area more character. At Applied Information Group we worked on everything from simple internal building systems for hospitals to complex city-wide, multi-modal schemes that encompassed every mode of transport that the city offered.

The underpinning principles of the systems we designed were always the same, and we could draw on a great depth of research and academic study to inform our design; Kevin Lynch’s work on the mental models that people form when navigating the city goes back to the early 1960s. Of course the act of wayfinding is as old as the hills, so solutions were usually found in supporting innate behaviour rather than inventing new ones.

While I won’t go through all of the principles in this article, there are a few I’ve found to be useful in my move from wayfinding design to interaction design. I realise that it may not seem that a train station and a website have much in common, and so before I share some knowledge from the world of wayfinding, here are some of the similarities between the two:

1. Helping people get around complex spaces

If you break down a website, a city, a hospital, or an app, they can all be thought of as complex spaces that people travel through — spaces that are generally so complex that without some help users wouldn’t be able to navigate them confidently. A book, on the other hand, is not very complex — which is why I’m not comparing wayfinding to graphic design.

Interaction design and wayfinding design both seek ways to make it easier for people to understand these physical and virtual spaces.

2. Supporting journeys

When moving through complex spaces we make journeys made up of a sequential series of decision points — going from point A to B to C. But both interaction designers and wayfinding designers need to think in terms of journeys and not isolated points of interaction. Journeys are complex and sequential: the decision I make at point A will affect the rest of my journey (it might become impossible to get to point C for example). A journey could be the series of screens I encounter when viewing and retweeting a message on Twitter, or it could be a walk to the train station.

3. Creating solutions for a wide range of people

When you’re designing information for a transit authority, your potential audience is everyone. When designing Vancouver’s public transit system, we didn’t focus on demographics or market segments because everyone rides the bus, or at least anyone can. People with physical disabilities, young people, tourists, daily commuters, elderly people — the list is endless. For interaction designers — and the digital world we design for — the audience can be just as demanding. Though most projects and clients have a particular audience segment in mind, viewing the full spectrum of users and balancing their (often) contradictory needs is a daily challenge.

4. Prototyping and piloting

Related to all of the points above, prototyping and piloting are crucial to the design process. (I’ve also written about the importance of prototyping here.) When I talk about prototyping I’m talking about a range of different levels of detail, from the rough-and-ready cardboard mock-up to detailed near-final working versions. Problems and solutions are often so complex that you’ve got to make it real for people to be able to join the design process.

A page from the Legible London ‘Yellow Book’

What Can Interaction Designers Learn from Wayfinding?

Hopefully you’re with me about the similarities. What are the lessons to be learned from them by interaction designers? Below are some of the more interesting principles and methods that I’ve found applicable to both fields. Hopefully, for the designers out there, they will trigger some thoughts about how to improve their designs. For non-designers they should give you a glimpse into the difference between good and bad design.

1. Progressive Disclosure

If you give me every detail of a journey at the beginning, the chances are I won’t be able to process, store, and retrieve it. For example, when you ask for directions, after the fourth of fifth instruction you start to glaze over and struggle to remember what the first instruction was (Do I take the third left or the second left?).

Progressively disclosing information helps the end user by reducing the amount of information they have to deal with. The flip side is that we need to do a lot more work as designers to make sure everything fits together.

2. Consistency vs. Monotony

One of the best weapons for tackling complexity is consistency. As soon as I spot a familiar pattern in an environment, I can spend less time analysing and more time navigating. This is quite intuitive to most designers: uniform design means less “visual noise.” This becomes really important when you think about the baseline noise in a city. One of the key principles of the Legible London scheme (on which we collaborated with Lacock Gullam for TfL) was to remove signs that were made obsolete by the new system – rather than adding more and more.

But. There is a flip side: monotony. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but it’s good to remember that people may be using the service or tools daily or even hourly. So if there’s room for a little variation or even humour, then don’t be afraid of it.

3. Glanceable vs. Queriable

When I’m confirming I’m going the right way I only need to glance at information, but when I’m lost I need to query on a deeper level.

If your users will be shifting between these modes, then your interface should support them. This is the antithesis to “one size fits all.” Generally, serving up the most pertinent information in a digestible format requires a lot of analysis of what the user might actually need.

Wayfinding and Interaction Design

I expect that these points will already resonate with interaction designers, and that’s because much of the thinking involved in wayfinding is instinctive, based on the way human’s brains are wired up. Hopefully you’ll find something useful in the observations above, and at the very least they should give you some useful analogies when trying to explain your interaction design job to your friends.

Public Touchscreens and Logical Gestures

Lets gesture on it

After reading an interesting article by Neil Clavin (@neilclavin) here: http://bit.ly/GCtOGO via an urbanscale tweet (@urbanscale) I was prompted to write a little retort on the importance of understanding gestures when understanding and design interactions. And when I say gestures i’m not talking post-apple pinches and swipes, i’m talking physical behaviours that emphasise the action being undertaken. Old school gestures.

Read the original article and then my response:

Whilst I agree that public touch screens are actually a very unappealing concept when you begin to look at their day-to-day use, making the leap to “preferably touchless interactions” seems to ignore the tactile nature of being human.

I wonder if a better direction is to seek out interaction that are appropriate to the intended outcome. I’d say the reality of most touchless interfaces (such as oyster card) still involve an actual contact. In fact I saw an older woman vigorously banging her Oyster card on the sensor the other day, presumably in the hope that a bit more physicality would improve the functionality.

Above all, successful contactless systems are about a logical gesture. This is why QR is such a ‘WTF’ experience; because it doesn’t have a pre-existing behaviour attached to it (and of course the technology is as clunky as hell, and the content it reveals is usually crap).

So touchless = good. Touchless everything = no thanks.

From Adam Clavin's Walkshop: Analysing QR codes

I could also have gone into the potential difficulties that users with poor eyesight might have with a touchless interface – but this is a moot point, more so because I’ve actually got no specific evidence that it’s better or worse. My instinct is that it’s probably worse, but who knows.

What this really got me thinking about is this notion of carrying over instincts and behaviours from the old way of doing things. I’m forever debating this issue as a graphic designer; using the vernacular of the past to describe the current. Or. Using the vernacular of the present to introduce the future.

It depends on your perspective.

So using the funny visual cues of today can help people into the future, but how does it limit people? The UK road sign system icon for ‘speed camera’ is perhaps the oddest representation of a camera possible. It’s almost surreal.

And this is just visual stuff. What about gestures and behaviours? What learned behaviour do we carry forward to the post digital age? Do we invent new things? Or approximate the old? And what is the value in either?

I don’t have any suggestions yet, maybe other people do. Gesture me an answer if you know something that I don’t. Just make sure it’s a gesture I understand.

The Art Of Storytelling

Many moons ago I bought tickets for The Story conference (run by @matlock), when I first heard about it and read the blurb, something chimed about the idea of focussing on storytelling – not media, or platform, or industry, or any number of other ways of dividing and conquering, but the general idea of storytelling. I wonder if it planted a seed in someways because recently the notion of storytelling has come back to me from several different sources, in that zeitgeisty way things sometimes do

So why storytelling?

Well, for a start storytelling is quite a unique coming together of expert, audience and knowledge. Obviously there are many ways that these three things can combine – the teacher and the student, the preacher and the congregation, the singer and the crowd. But none of them are quite the same as storytelling, the art of storytelling is the transfer of knowledge along with context. In fact context often plays as big a role as the raw content. Maybe even more so…

Expert + Content + Audience

Context is all about what happened around an event, rather than the event itself, its extra data (‘meta data’, to borrow from the world of the web) and the right context can really make something relevant. Perhaps above all else the relevance of information is what makes it ‘stick’. So if you tell a good story you transmit data, and make it stick.

As a designer I deal in the communication of complex ideas to other people on a daily basis and this is where the art of storytelling comes into its own. Whilst design isn’t always about pure innovation it always includes an element of it; the process of design naturally leads new ‘things’ and new things  inherently come without context. This is when storytelling comes in; it allows you to explain something new, but with some kind of context. Context means relevance, relevance means it’ll stick. And in the best cases it sticks so well that the audience becomes the expert and will tell the story to others.

So long live the art of storytelling, especially in the world of design.



Too much design.

Make it look old, but not too old. Stamps and handwriting yeah? But done on a mass scale yeah? And don’t worry too much about the writing, just shove some hokey pseudo intellectual stuff in there.

What about the price sticker? Ah, who cares…


Resentment (advertise here)

I hate when i almost confuse advertisitng with content; making your crappy Google Ads look exactly the same as the content makes me resent everyone involved:

  1. you (the site)
  2. the advertiser
  3. and Google.

Well done, triple whammy. Everyone’s a loser.