It was my pleasure to give a mini-workshop for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication last night. We focused on using pencil on paper drawing and diagraming techniques to plan projects. Each participant picked a project they were working on. Projects ranged from remodeling a Victorian house to creating documentation for a complex technical process.
The photo above shows benefits the participants found in using this approach.
A few resources:
Books: Back of the Napkin
One of my favorites This may go into a little more detail than people want, but I actually loved how thorough it was. .
Gamestorming. This book is about using a game framework to get serious work done, and it has a great section on visual thinking, which is key to most of the the activities in the book.
The Mind Map Book. Full of useful methods for applying mind mapping to problem solving and communication. Bonus: lovely pictures! Warning: “relentlessly upbeat.”
IFVP. The International Forum of Visual Practitioners. There are several of us in the Pittsburgh area. We may start having local meetings. The annual conference is fantastic. This year it’s in Hawaii!
I am available to do more in depth workshops on using visual techniques to enhance communication and problem solving, so please feel free to get in touch if your organization is interested in learning how I can help people build this critical capacity.
This is a sped up video of me creating large scale visual notes of a keynote at a recent conference. The speaker, Chris Lehmann talked about “School 2.0,” which, it turns out, draws heavily on what education pioneers have preached for over 100 years: let the students do things that matter. The event was the Maryland Society for Educational Technology 2011 conference. Chris Lehmann is a remarkable principal who guides a remarkable school in Philadelphia. Thanks to the Maryland Society for Educational Technology for asking me to be part of this event. To hear the full length audio with my visual notes, click here.
Here are three videos of me doing graphic recording of high school principal Chris Lehmann’s keynote address at the 2011 Maryland Society for Educational Technology conference. The first video is sped up, the other two videos are the first and second halves of Chris Lehmann’s keynote audio with the visual of me creating the notes as he talks. Thanks to super producer Scott Stead for shooting the video.
It was my pleasure to create large scale visual notes at the 2011 Making Sparks event for the Sprout Fund. The event is designed to stimulate thinking and discussion to prepare people to apply for grants to develop projects “That engage children ages birth to 8 through the creative use of technology and media.” The theme for this round of Making Sparks: creativity.
First a series of speakers composed of experts and former grant recipients gave presentations about what makes for successful projects. Here are my visual notes from this part:
And here are close ups of the visual notes for a few of the featured speakers.
Sarah Tambucci talked about the natural creativity of young children and how we hammer the creativity out of them as they get older. She pointed to several of her efforts to encourage the continued creativity of young people as they get older.
Drew Davidson, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center talked about the power of STEAM education—science, techology, engineering, ART, and math. This adds a crucial letter “A” for art to the popular formulation of STEM education. He also talked about the importance of building the field of technology and media education field through various means, including a new project he is involved in called workingexamples.org
Dave English and Don Orkoskey are the awesome artists behind Schmutz Company. Among other things, they teach teachers how to do stop motion animation projects. They said their Spark grant helped them partner with organizations like the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh JCC, and the Children’s museum to reach more people in the region.
Dr Alice Wilder, who was head of R&D and producer of Blue’s Clues, has gone on to create a series of successful projects to help children learn and grow. These projects include Think It Ink It Publishing and Speakaboos, Which are both geared toward developing literacy for children. She shared her insights into creating projects with a strong educational core that make the most of their media and are ripe for brand extension into other media. We got to chat a bit during break and she critiqued my drawing of Blue from Blue’s Clues. Great meeting you Alice!
Dave Edwards of Art Energy Design brings together art, engineering, and exploration to help children learn about mechanical concepts through building and exploring with the help of a grant from the Sprout Fund.
After the presenters gave their talks, the audience split up into groups to come up with ideas for projects to pitch to judges.
Here are the visual notes of the pitches and the feedback each proposal got.
The Sprout Fund staff closed by encouraging people to submit formal proposals for Super Spark grants within the month. Audience members were encouraged to be in touch with Sprout early and often as they prepare their proposals to get advice on creating winning pitches.
Thanks again to the Sprout Fund for tapping me to visually synthesize the ideas bouncing around the event. And now I can say I have played at Carnegie Hall (Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh, that is, not the one in NYC).
Big fish: met Gregg Behr, director of the Grable Foundation. The Grable Foundation is a major supporter of innovation to support early childhood development in the Pittsburgh region.
Up and coming: Nina Barbuto, founder of Assemble Pittsburgh. Nina is a young architect who has founded a community space in Garfield/Friendship called Assemble “… a place where one can engage their intrigue through hands on activities about art and technology.” Assemble is right around the corner from where I live, so I will be over there often.
I created several pages of SketchNotes during John Thackara‘s talk at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh where he talked about appropriate use of design and technology.
What is the BEST way for designers to positively address problems? For example, he discussed how designers can contribute to make a difference in the UK regarding care for an every increasing number of adults living with dementia. Giving care to people with dementia falls overwhelmingly to friends and family and is likely to stay that way. Historically, the government approach has been to pour money into brain research and assistive technology. The problem is that brain research will not result in cures for people with dementia anytime soon, and assistive technology, it turns out, is at the bottom of the list of what caregivers say they need. It turns out that caregivers say that what would hugely help them is an additional half day off per month from their caregiving duties.
Thackara said that designers can help with complex problems, like helping caregivers of dementia sufferers, by helping connect supply to demand. They can do this by partnering with people who are in the field and through using visualization, touch point analysis, and service design to help the right people come together to create better systems. For example, helping volunteers connect with caregivers to give them a half day off a month could be a huge improvement on the current system, and designers could help communicate this message, or design a system that facilitates this volunteering.
Even though we face daunting challenges, Thackara described a kind of urban acupuncture where small actions in the right areas can greatly enhance a whole city.
“Two questions drive John Thackara. â€œWe know what new technology can do, but what is it for? And,â€ he asks, â€œhow do we want to live?â€ Author of the thought-provoking 2006 book â€œIn the Bubble,â€ and founder of the Doors of Perception festivals, which celebrate innovation in social and environmental sustainability worldwide, he has long pursued design for sustainability, social impact, social innovation, place and mobility. In 2008 he served as commissioner of City Eco Lab, the centerpiece of the St. Etienne Design Biennale Internationale in the French Alps.”
Chris Lehmann talked about education 2.0, combining the best of wisdom from years past with the innovation enabled by technology. These are the visual notes I created as he spoke, with audio. The video service plays a brief commercial first…it’ll be over in 30 seconds and then you get the good stuff.